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Allmendinger’s Next Opportunity

June 1, 2013 Comments off

A.J. Allmendinger finished seventh in Sunday's Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. His next opportunity will be racing for Penske in NASCAR. (Credit:  USA Today)

A.J. Allmendinger finished seventh in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. His next opportunity will be racing for Penske in NASCAR. (Credit: USA Today)

A.J. Allmendinger steps out of a Roger Penske machine after finishing seventh Sunday in the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 wondering what will be his next opportunity in racing.

The 31-year-old Allmendinger has dipped his helmet in different series throughout his 2013 racing season including the IZOD IndyCar Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. An offering he was not positive he would ever receive after his NASCAR suspension due to the use of banned substances, Adderall, in 2012 while driving for Penske.

Opportunities materialized for Allmendinger this season in open-wheel and stockcar racing. In NASCAR’s premier series, he has made the most of his chances in James Finch’s No. 51 Chevrolet with an average finish of 13.5 and worst finish of 16th.

His IndyCar performance is highly anticipated after his successful finishes of five wins in 2006 in Champ Car, but his best finish was at Indianapolis after leading 23 laps.

The rookie’s first race at Indianapolis was impressive on many accounts. He was forced to pit twice off-sequence mid-race due to a possible flat tire, and later in the race due to his racing-belts coming loose. Rallying to a seventh place finish was a success.

“With seven or eight laps to go, I thought we still had a shot to win it,” Allmendinger said. “We had just passed three or four cars the lap before and I thought we were right there. But we just didn’t have enough at the end. It was a great experience, but I really thought our car was good enough all day.”

It was not until earlier this morning that it was announced of Allmendinger’s future plans for Penske. Prior to the Indianapolis 500, he noted this could be his “last chance” and needing to make the most of it. But Penske released today Allmendinger will drive the No.22 Nationwide Series car at the road course events at Road America and Mid-Ohio Sport Car Course.

”There’s nothing I could do to come even close to repaying him,” Allmendinger said. ”So, I just try to give everything I’ve got and hopefully it’s enough.”

Allmendinger is not in a car this weekend at Dover in NASCAR, but is racing in Detroit’s grand prix in IndyCar, but look for him to only accept a competitive ride in IndyCar or NASCAR. His best option is to have a chance to win, but he has a different opinion.

“I’ve always really enjoyed the road course racing in NASCAR, so to get the opportunity to compete in two events in the Nationwide Series with Penske Racing is amazing,” Allmendinger said. ”I’m just happy to have the opportunity to drive something.”

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From the Marbles: Who is IndyCar’s Identity?

May 2, 2012 Comments off

When looking at major sports throughout the world, all have a specific name for most people who is the face of the sport. It is possible not all will agree with the same people, but for the most part it will conclude with two or three similarities.

But, if I were to ask you one name from the IZOD IndyCar Series, who would be the most popular name to arise?

The NBA will be Michael Jordan or LeBron James. NFL would have Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. NASCAR would have Dale Earnhardt or Jimmie Johnson.

These sports all have one thing in common: identifiable athletes.

Since Danica Patrick left for her future in NASCAR, IndyCar has been left with a large gaping hole. Since 2005, when Patrick came into the spotlight for being the first woman to lead at the Indianapolis 500, the series has had a name, brand willing to be the face of their sport. She left in 2011 and now the series sees what seven years of advertising one event and one driver will leave it when one ditches for another dream.

The Indianapolis 500 is still, in my mind, the most prestigious sporting event in the world. And, as of 2012 and possibly beyond, it may be the only thing IndyCar has to hold on to.

With the advancement in the new car, dealing with the tragedy of the reigning champion Dan Wheldon and more troubling news such as Jim Nabors not being able to attend this year’s 500, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is in for a difficult May.

The Speedway is obviously the biggest venue IndyCar has to offer; however, IMS cannot save this series forever when they are looking to broaden their viewership outside of just the racing fan. Losing Patrick may have been one of the more recent losses the sport could encounter, despite Wheldon’s death, but it came at terrible timing as well.

IndyCar was in prime position for a beautiful transition with the DW12 (new chassis) and returning Indy 500 champion (Wheldon) making reestablishment into the series for Andretti Autosport. Wheldon could have been the new poster boy for the sport, as he was the ambassador during his hiatus outside of the racecar.

Now it needs someone to fill in the black hole it sits in. Can it be Dario Franchitti, four-time IndyCar and two-time Indy 500 champion, or Will Power, a driver who has not won a championship or Indy 500?

Neither.

Both drivers, despite being great drivers, are not marketable material for IndyCar. Listen to an interview, they both lack personality an outside fan will want to see. Franchitti and Power are both names nobody will recognize.

That’s why I bring up two drivers who IndyCar need to distribute most of their market ability on for the upcoming years: Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti.

Non-fans know these drivers. They are stars outside of the racing community and people will recognize their face in public. Castroneves has had issues with tax evasion, but won Dancing With The Stars on ABC. And Marco? How much more do you need than his last name?

This year’s Indianapolis 500 on May 27 may be one of the more crucial races IndyCar will have in its immediate future. The new chassis will have story lines due to the low speeds, but IndyCar, IMS and fans need to be sure to move on from Wheldon’s passing and look toward the future with a new star.

Castroneves is chasing his fourth Indianapolis 500 to join Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser, which will boost his marketability higher than it already is. Andretti chases his first victory, in hopes to overcome what his father and grandfather couldn’t since 1969.

For IndyCar’s sake, I’m hoping for history or a new face in victory lane.

History could be made on Pole Day at IMS

May 21, 2011 Comments off

Helio Castroneves looks to set a record of three consecutives poles today on Pole Day. Credit: IndyStar.com

Helio Castroneves could be the first driver to win three consecutive poles for the Indianapolis 500, and all he needs to do is turn the fastest lap of the day during his first four lap qualification (goes 54th) and then the “Fast Nine” shootout.

Castroneves turned the fastest lap of the month during Happy Hour of Fast Friday at 228.611 mph. Teammates Ryan Briscoe (fourth) and Will Power (ninth) were also in the top-10 for speeds yesterday.

Pole Day will decide the first 24 cars entered into the 95th running of the “500.” With 40 cars taking the track today, and speeds being so close, it makes us wonder who will miss the show? Will it be a rookie such as Scott Speed? Will it be a veteran such as John Andretti?

There are a lot of fast cars this year and yesterday proved it. There were 11 cars over 226 mph, and there were seven cars over 228 mph. Good news for the fans looking for a show for the pole. Last year’s pole speed set by Castroneves was 227.970 mph, and the slowest was Simona De Silvestro at 223.634.

So who will win the pole for the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500?

Watch out for a Penske, Schmidt or Ganassi car to lead the field to the green next Sunday.

——————–

Qualifications begin today at 11 a.m. and the “Fast Nine” shootout begins at 4:30 p.m. until the track closes at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 for the day.

Fast Friday could be just as implied

May 20, 2011 Comments off

Will Power Indianapolis 500 Practice

Will Power during practice for the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 on Thursday. Power turned the fastest lap of the month at 227.778 mph. Photo Credit: Thomas Hitch

Finally, the IZOD IndyCar Series took the track for the third time out of six days yesterday, and Team Penske’s Will Power turned the fastest lap of the month of 227.778 mph.

Rain washed out most of practice days Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but teams still were hard at work in the garages without any track time.

However, rain did not scare away kids coming to the speedway for a field trip as the sun came and they filled the stands and behind pit road screaming for an autograph from drivers such as Danica Patrick, Dan Wheldon and Tony Kanaan.

Through the six days of practice, no one driver or team has taken control of the month before Pole Day on Saturday and Bump Day on Sunday. Ed Carpenter, Alex Tagliani and Power have turned the fastest laps each practice session and they all drive for separate teams in Sarah Fisher Racing, Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Penske Racing.

Dan Wheldon

Dan Wheldon signs autographs during practice for kids. Wheldon's fastest lap Thursday was 225.716 mph. Photo Credit: Thomas Hitch

Surprising there is a rookie near the top of the speed charts in J.R. Hildenbrand, and he has shown speed since the Rookie Orientation Program. Yesterday he turned the sixth fastest time of 226.527 mph.

Chip Ganassi Racing is the team that has not shown the dominance as usual so far, but Dario Franchitti is not worried. Yesterday, during and interview, he was quoted that the car was not ‘terrible, but needed work.’ Scott Dixon was eighth fastest and Franchitti was outside the top-10.

Happy Hour at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was just as implied yesterday. Within the final 30 minutes of practice, the speeds increased with Penske cars taking over three of the top four spots.

So with speeds increasing on a Thursday, what will Fast Friday bring fans?

Hopefully, more speed, drama and excitement.

Last minute announcement by Robby Gordon coming…

January 28, 2011 1 comment

Robby Gordon returns from the wind tunnel while NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers were testing at Daytona. The Daytona 500 will take place on Feb. 20. Credit: Planetrobby.com

Gamblers will want to put their money in Las Vegas casinos on the NFL Super Bowl in two weeks, but a tougher choice possibly could be betting money on which manufacturer Robby Gordon will choose to fill his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule for 2011.

Robby Gordon Motorsports has driven every manufacturer since it found its origin in 2005. Starting with Chevrolet in 2005 he blew the unreliable Menards’ engines, and in 2006 he had moderate success with Dale Earnhardt Inc. engines.

In 2007 RGM switched to Ford, where Roush-Yates engines were bought, and he posted his best point season as an owner finishing 26th.

At the end of the 2007 season, Gordon decided to merge with Gillette-Evernham Motorsports including a switch to Dodge at the beginning of the 2008 season. That season he struggled with the technical-manufacturing-marketing alliance to drop to 33rd in points.

After finishing the 2009 Budweiser Shootout, Gordon ran through 2010 with Toyota logos where he finished 34th in both seasons in owner points.

Yeah, I agree not too impressive. Only a few top-fives and a few runner-up finishes to show for it.

Now we sit in 2011 and fans who follow RGM are wondering, to which manufacturer will he return? Dodge and Chevrolet will be the final choices, but what is the more logical answer?

Dodge has only two teams remaining in the Cup Series, and they have said they would prefer to support three teams. Penske Racing has two teams this season with Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski after releasing Sam Hornish Jr. due to lack of sponsorship.

Gordon was close to merging with Penske in 2007 after he dropped the merger with Gillette-Evernham, and after announcing his intent to run the 2011 and 2012 Indianapolis 500, Penske would be a great beginning for his future endeavors. In addition, he would not be far down the line in engines as he would if he had an agreement with Roush-Yates who provides for over five race teams.

All seems great, having an engine lease agreement with Roger Penske, right? Wrong. Penske has only won four races over the past two seasons with Kurt Busch. Looking long term, Penske has the opportunity to switch manufacturers at any point and have major support; however, RGM does not have the resources, let alone money, to switch manufacturers every season and continue to survive.

Chevrolet seems to be the answer fans will receive when Gordon hits the track for Speedweeks at Daytona in two weeks. Leasing engines with Earnhardt-Ganassi or Richard Childress Motorsports will more than likely be the outcome.

Switching to the most winning manufacturer over the past decade, and being provided one of the top-five fastest, reliable engines in the garage will only help the company strive to a better-finishing season and future.

Gordon will then continue to race a shorten season due to lack of funding, and the desire to race in more forms of motorsports to promote his new energy drink company SPEED Energy.

The most important fact for fans of Robby Gordon is he is locked into the first five races of 2011 and will be competing Feb. 20 in the Daytona 500.

SPEED Energy hauler returns to RGM from the wind tunnel. Credit: Twitter via @SPEED_Energy

Success and failure may make 2012 interesting

November 13, 2010 Comments off

Credit: ESPN.com

Open wheel racing was always thought of as an outlet toward IndyCar racing; however, NASCAR seems to be where more drivers tend to direct their futures.

There are many names that have grown up racing open wheel on dirt and asphalt that have moved to stock cars as their primary source of racing.

John Andretti, Dave Blaney, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart are names that have entered the stock car ranks and have had successful careers in open wheel.

Stewart was one of the names who dipped his feet in IndyCar before heading to NASCAR where he owns two Sprint Cup Series championships. Stewart was one of the most successful open wheel drivers when he raced in USAC and became the first to win the ‘Triple Crown’ which set his future toward IndyCar.

Stewart was the ‘poster boy’ for future open wheelers who want to transition to NASCAR.

A.J. Allmendinger, Dario Franchitti, Patrick Carpentier, Sam Hornish Jr., Scott Pruett and Jacques Villeneuve have come from Champ Car, the IZOD IndyCar Series or Formula One and have not been successful.

Allmendinger and Hornish are still running full-time with limited success. Villeneuve and Carpentier occasionally race in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at road courses.

One of the few drivers who have transitioned well is Juan Pablo Montoya. Formula One was a successful avenue for the Columbian where he recorded seven victories and 30 podium finishes. He has won three times on the NASCAR circuit all on road courses, but he has established himself as an oval racer as well.

Montoya might possibly be the last driver with enough talent to overcome the difficult transition from open wheel to stock cars. Stewart and Montoya have some of the best talent in the garage area, and yet other drivers still come trying to make the transition.

Travis Pastrana
will enter the NASCAR ranks next season for 11 races in the Nationwide Series racing for Pastrana-Waltrip Racing. His first race is yet to be announced, but sources say Phoenix in February is where he will attempt his debut.

Pastrana has 11 career X Games gold medals and has won four consecutive Rally America National Championships between 2006 and 2009. He also broke the world record for ramp-to-ramp (of 269 feet) in Long Beach, CA in a stunt to celebrate New Year’s 2010.

Pastrana will be the next victim to enter the NASCAR ranks. Luckily, he will also be able to find funding, such as Ricky Carmichael and Danica Patrick, to continue his career in NASCAR until he realizes that he will not be successful at the Sprint Cup level.

The transition from IndyCar to NASCAR will hopefully become an ending fad. It would be great to see talent such as Allmendinger, Hornish, Carpentier, and Patrick race IndyCar and make the series better than it has become since the IRL-Champ Car merge.

There is one great thing about so many open wheel drivers in NASCAR and Chevrolet supplying engines in 2012 in the IndyCar Series.

The $20 million prize for winning the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in 2012 is a possible feat.

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