A Decision Only He Can Make

Posted in IndyCar on January 21, 2022 by Oilpressure

Update: First, I’d like to give a quick update on Susan. An optimist will hear this as fantastic news. Debbie Downers like me always want more facts, before celebrating. On Tuesday, Susan was put under sedation (thankfully) and they drilled a hole in her hip, and extracted bone marrow. This was analyzed to learn the type of leukemia she was dealing with and how advanced it was. Her hematologist called Wednesday evening with her results. The bone marrow showed zero evidence of any leukemia.

Before declaring her totally free of leukemia, he is sending it off to a special lab to be completely broken down and analyzed. He said it could take up to two weeks for this to be done, before we know anything for certain.

While this is potentially good news and I should just take it and be grateful, I still want more answers. What did the biopsy show that made them want to do more blood work? What did the blood work show to make them jump to a leukemia diagnosis? I still feel like there is something going on, otherwise the biopsy wouldn’t have shown irregular cells.

For now, we’ll take this positive news at face-value, and simply be glad that the bone marrow looks clear. But eventually, I’d like some answers to some of my many questions. – GP

After I declared Ryan Hunter-Reay’s IndyCar career practically over, we learned earlier this week that an unexpected twenty-sixth fulltime car had been added to the grid. ROKiT has agreed to fully fund another car at AJ Foyt Enterprises.

This will be in addition to the No. 14 car of Kyle Kirkwood, who will drive the entire 2022 IndyCar schedule, which will also be carrying the distinctive ROKiT livery. The No. 4 of Dalton Kellett will continue to carry the livery of K-Line, his family’s company.

The third car at Foyt will carry the No. 11, and will be piloted by rookie Tatiana Calderón. The 28 year-old Colombian tested for Foyt this past summer at Mid-Ohio. We had been hearing rumblings that ROKiT may fund a car for Calderón at Foyt, but it was getting late. The season kicks off in thirty-seven days, and most of us thought that Conor Day’s news completed the fulltime grid.

Tatiana Calderón will be interesting to watch in 2022. She does not have an impressive resume. Since 2016, she has run in 123 races and has only two podiums with no wins. Was she always with bad teams in all of those junior formulas? Perhaps, but she’s not joining an IndyCar juggernaut either. My expectations are not high.

While the No. 11 will be a fulltime entry on the grid, Calderón will only be driving the road and street courses. That means there is still a shot for Hunter-Reay, or other drivers, to run the ovals – including the Indianapolis 500.

I’ve heard rumors that Tony Kanaan would be a good choice for that ride, even though he is already confirmed for the Indianapolis 500 with Ganassi. I don’t think that is a viable option at all. I don’t think Foyt would have any interest in having to run three drivers in that car for the season, because they would still have to fins someone else for the 500.

I’ve heard other names tossed around for the oval-only portion, most notably Charlie Kimball. But none make as much sense as Ryan Hunter-Reay, given his pedigree. My question is…would Ryan Hunter-Reay be best served to pursue this opportunity or would he be better off to wait for a potentially better offer for May only?

Nothing gets much lower in racing than the third car at Foyt. It pains me to say that, because AJ Foyt is my all-time favorite driver, and I always pull for his team to do well. Invariably, they don’t. The team has not won since Takuma Sato drove to victory at Long Beach in 2013. Prior to that, Airton Daré had been the last drier to carry a Foyt car to victory – in 2002 at Kansas. This century is over twenty-two years old and those two wins are the only two for Foyt since 1999. To say they are in a dry spell is an understatement.

Would Hunter-Reay want this part-time ride? I guess it depends on how bad he wants to remain semi-relevant. Some athletes choose to go out with dignity, most continue their careers long after they are competitive. When Titans running back Derrick Henry went down and missed half of the regular season, the Titans signed former NFL-great Adrian Peterson. It was embarrassing. You felt like someone in his inner circle should have told him he was tarnishing his legacy.

I can remember how awkward it was in the seventies to see Joe Namath dressed in a Rams uniform, Johnny Unitas as a Charger and OJ Simpson as a 49er. Fast-forward a few decades, when we Titans fans cringed at the sight of Eddie George and his one season with the Cowboys.

Athletes hit the wall (figuratively speaking) at different times. Ben Roethlisberger hit that wall at around 38. Tom Brady hasn’t hit it yet at 44. For IndyCar drivers, that wall can come in your late thirties or early forties, also. In all candor, Hunter-Reay has come off as a tired driver for the last few seasons. His last race win was at Sonoma in 2018. In 2021, his best three finishes were a fourth at Nashville, a seventh at Gateway and a tenth in the second Texas race. Everything else was fairly forgettable last year, as he finished seventeenth in the standings. That’s a far cry from winning the championship in 2012 and the Indianapolis 500 in 2014.

Al Unser was still competitive in his early fifties – at least at Indianapolis. Mario Andretti was certainly slowing down in his early fifties, but he was still competitive at tracks like Indianapolis and Michigan. For the most part, AJ Foyt was not competitive in his fifties. He somehow managed to qualify on the front row for the 1991 Indianapolis 500, but if I’m being honest – AJ hung around too long. It was hard to watch.

Does Hunter-Reay really want to extend his career by driving the ovals for one more season in the third car at Foyt? Only he can answer that. If he chooses to, I hope he does well. I cringe at the thought of something similar to Vinny Testaverde playing for the Carolina Panthers in 2007. The 1986 Heisman Trophy winner was signed out of desperation when Panthers QBs Jake Delhomme and David Carr both went down. The statuesque Testaverde looked like an ad for Advil, as it appeared arthritis had taken over his aging body. He was not agile.

If I’m Ryan Hunter-Reay, I might want to salvage a little dignity and see if a better 500-only ride comes along. For the second week in a row, the guys on Trackside floated the idea of Team Penske running a fourth car for Hunter-Reay in this year’s Indianapolis 500. I’m not sure why Penske would do that. As I said Wednesday, it makes no sense for Roger Penske the team owner, but it does make sense for Roger Penske, owner of the Indianapolis 500. We’ll see.

If Hunter-Reay can hold out for a possible one-off at Penske, Rahal or Coyne – I think that would be his best bet. Let a younger driver try to build a career in a slower car, rather than extend what has been a successful career that is obviously winding down.

This is easy for me to say in my sixties, sitting in comfort from behind a keyboard. If Ryan Hunter-Reay wants to drive in all of the ovals in 2022, he should do it. But if his friends and family are trying to convince him otherwise – maybe he should listen to them.

George Phillips

The Fulltime Grid is Now Complete

Posted in IndyCar on January 19, 2022 by Oilpressure

After sharing our personal news on Monday, I am now behind on commenting on the IndyCar news that has suddenly started flowing. I’ll spend today and Friday catching up. Early last Friday morning, right at 6:00 am CST, Ed Carpenter Racing (ECR) dropped the news on social media that Conor Daly would be driving the No. 20 car fulltime this season in the NTT IndyCar Series. On Friday, I’ll discus the third car at Foyt, and other news we’ve learned from IndyCar Content Days.

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An Unexpected Gut-Punch

Posted in IndyCar on January 17, 2022 by Oilpressure

As a note of fair-warning, this post has absolutely nothing at all to do with racing, but has everything to do with news we received in our household on Friday. If you only want to read about racing here; come back Wednesday when I’ll offer my thoughts on Conor Daly securing his fulltime ride with Ed Carpenter Racing. If you are concerned about our news, keep reading.

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A Good Problem to Have

Posted in IndyCar on January 14, 2022 by Oilpressure

Help me solve a dilemma. I have a friend who is a racing fan in Indianapolis. He goes to the Indianapolis 500 annually, as well as one or two other races each year – but usually those at IMS. He sent me an e-mail earlier this week saying that he wants to take his teenage (early teens) son to one of two races – Road America or Nashville – and wanted to know what I thought.

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The Times They are a-Changin’

Posted in IndyCar on January 12, 2022 by Oilpressure

With apologies to Bob Dylan, don’t be misled by the title. This post isn’t that deep. This past Monday, NBC released the start times for the 2022 IndyCar schedule. The press release said that IndyCar and NBC announced the times, but I’m not sure how much input IndyCar had in this. I think once the dates and weekends are secure, IndyCar pretty much hands it to NBC and they take over from there. I could be wrong, but that’s my impression.

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Revisiting an Old Argument

Posted in IndyCar on January 10, 2022 by Oilpressure

Sometimes meaningful topics for this site in early January are hard to come by. While admittedly searching for a topic for today, I was scrolling through the Racer Mailbag hoping that something would make my ears perk up. I did. It is not a topic that is even new for this site, but things change and it is occasionally worth revisiting an old topic from time to time.

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Sour Grapes

Posted in IndyCar on January 7, 2022 by Oilpressure

I realize that Sour Grapes is an odd title for a racing post, but stick with me on this. The term “Sour Grapes” is defined as having a negative or resentful attitude toward someone, because they have something that you can’t have. Keep that in mind. What do you expect? It’s the offseason.

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