First A Rant, Then A Look At The Twins

You have no idea how good it is to be back here. Taking a week off from blogging can be therapeutic. As tough as it was to let go of this year’s Indianapolis 500, I found it quite easy once I pushed away from racing for a few days. I actually realized that I had been living in a racing bubble since before the Barber race in April. Suddenly I found all of the undone projects around my house, paid some bills and started watching news on TV that didn’t involve racing at all.

Well – after a week, I’ve had all the reality that I can stand. I’m ready to get back to talking racing. Heading into the newly created Twin-275 format is a good place to do it. Before I get into the Texas race, I want to clear up some old business from last week.

A week ago today, it was announced that the IZOD IndyCar Series would honor their commitment to race at Twin Ring Motegi in September. The only change is that they will now race on the road course instead of the 1.5 mile oval. On Twitter that morning, I lamented the fact that the series was losing another oval and picking up another road course, furthering the imbalance between road courses and ovals. This seemed like a cut and dried comment on Twitter – at least it did to me.

Throughout the day, I saw tweets mentioning me (@Oilpressureblog) that accused me of being anti-Japan, anti-earthquake victim and pretty much anti-anything decent. One person accused me of wanting to punish Japan for having an earthquake. Another said they couldn’t believe my sentiments as to be so uncaring. Then another said that the people of Japan should be let in for free, and if I disagreed, then I was obviously selfish and was unable to see the big picture. Finally there was the one that felt the need to remind me that this was not about racing, but doing what’s right for mankind.

By mid-afternoon, I got the bright idea to post a tweet essentially telling everyone to lighten up and stop painting me as the anti-Christ. I thought this would certainly diffuse the matter. Silly me. It simply inflamed things. I ultimately chose to let it drop.

But a week later, it’s still bugging me. So let me set the record straight. No, I don’t want to penalize Japan for having an earthquake. No, I’m not anti-Japan. Yes, I understand the big picture. Yes, I’m all in favor of doing the right thing – up to a point.

My comment was straightforward. I don’t like it that we’re now down to seven ovals and up to ten road courses. I understand that Honda wants this and this may be good for the people of Japan – but does that mean that I have to like being down to seven ovals? No.

And what about the participants? Curt Cavin reported earlier this week that several drivers have privately admitted to having great concerns about going to an area where radiation levels are high, but they haven’t voiced their concerns publicly – not yet, anyway. Last night on Trackside, Kevin Lee was quite clear that he had serious concerns about going. He said he thought the best thing to do would be to race elsewhere and give the proceeds to the Japanese relief efforts or simply stay home that weekend.

My comment on Twitter was not meant to give a social forum for all those who wish to show the world how compassionate they are. Unlike those who say this isn’t about the racing, that’s exactly what my tweet was about – racing. If you want to argue with me about the virtues of road courses versus ovals, I’ll gladly have that conversation all day. But please don’t portray me or anyone else that wasn’t crazy about this decision as heartless and uncaring. I’ve lived long enough to recognize that if you feel the need to constantly show everyone how caring you are, you probably really aren’t.

Now that I’ve gotten that rant out of my system – let’s talk about Texas. I’m unsure what is the best scenario for the IZOD IndyCar Series. Is it best to go race the very next weekend following the Indianapolis 500 and capitalize on the momentum or is it better to have a weekend off? While I would have loved to have a race last weekend, I also liked being able to catch my breath before focusing on another race. It’s an age-old debate.

I always look forward to Texas. It’s probably my second-favorite oval. This year has a twist. I wasn’t overly thrilled when they announced the Twin-275 format; but now that it’s here, I’m looking forward to it. The only thing I would have tweaked is making the available points for each race the same as other races. Instead, each race pays only half of what a normal race does. Apparently, winning one of the twin races does not carry the prestige (or points) that winning at other tracks. I say let each one count the same as a race elsewhere. You could see some very interesting shifts in the point standings. As it is, why would a driver hang it out on the edge to win a race paying a maximum of twenty-five points?

Regardless, they can work on that next year. In the meantime, there are thirty cars on the entry list. One of the many interesting storylines is Davey Hamilton’s return to Texas after his devastating crash ten years ago. Recall that Hamilton was to race at Texas last year, but his Luczo-Dragon Racing team had two of their three cars torn up at Indianapolis, so he had to forgo his return to the track that almost ended his driving career until this year – this year driving for Dreyer & Reinbold.

Of course, the biggest storyline centers around Indianapolis 500 runner-up J.R. Hildebrand. Many have written him off saying he’ll never get over it. Personally, I think he is the man to beat at Texas. He has handled his situation beautifully, thus far. He has said all the right things and has tried to laugh it off. But when he straps into his car on Saturday night, I think he will be on a mission to show the world that his performance two weeks earlier was no fluke. There was a reason he was leading the biggest race in the world on the last lap. It didn’t quite turn out the way he wanted it, but I think we are going to be hearing from Hildebrand for a long time. His performance and his demeanor afterwards has made him a new hero to a lot of fans that knew little about him two weeks ago.

Other storylines include yet another revamping at Andretti Autosport. Alex Tagliani’s engineer, Allen McDonald has left Sam Schmidt Motorsports to return to Andretti Autosport. Personally, I think this is going to hurt Sam Schmidt’s team more than it will help Michael Andretti’s. Andretti had already parted ways with one of the best in the business, when they made Tom Anderson a scapegoat in the wake of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mike Conway failing to qualify at Indianapolis. Now, they’ll throw more stuff against the wall to see if it sticks. I think the problems at AA run deeper than their engineering staff. In the meantime, Sam Schmidt is scrambling to find an engineer of McDonald’s caliber.

I miss the Month of May. There is nothing like it. I miss coming home every night and listening to Trackside and then Donald Davidson and The Talk Of Gasoline Alley for a total of two hours every night for a month. But now that it’s over, I’m finally ready to turn it loose and focus on the remainder of the season. With four different teams winning the first five races, this is shaping up to be a most unusual season.

With nine years of data on these same cars, we all thought this would be another year of watching Penske and Ganassi wage their own private battle. This year has been quite a pleasant surprise. With two races coming up tomorrow night, it’ll be curious to see if the trend of new winners continues, or if the upstart teams of the spring will begin to wilt in the summer heat. Tomorrow night may give us a good indication of what the rest of the summer will hold.

George Phillips

29 Responses to “First A Rant, Then A Look At The Twins”

  1. Why do you hate Japan so much?

  2. Jack in NC Says:

    Ahh George, welcome to the world of Social media. By the way, why DO you hate Japan so much?

  3. Pearl Harbor happened a long time ago George, get over it.

  4. Is it the sushi? Did you have a bad experience?

  5. In my opinion, the poll needs another response:

    Sure it’s a gimick, but if it sells tickets and gets people to watch, do it.

  6. I had the same reaction you had, George, to Motegi’s news. And the same response to it.. Oh well. I agree, there’s nothing good about only 7 ovals in a season. That’s CART/Champcar esque. As for Texas, not a huge fan of the twin race idea only because not all Indycar teams will have a backup ready. It would be perfect for NASCAR. But still, an Indycar race at Texas is almost always good.

  7. I’d have gone about halfway between “full points for each race” and “half points for each race”, probably something along the lines of 30 for a win for each half, 25 for 2nd, 23 for 3rd, etc. That way, if you can pull off the unlikely (coming back from a random draw in the second half to win), you get rewarded for doing something that most race winners don’t have to do. Whatever, though. Minor complaint. I’m just looking forward to getting racing again on Saturday night.

  8. I’m not worried about the oval/twisty imbalance for this year. It is something I’ll be keeping my eye on for next year’s schedule though. I’ve gone from a strictly oval fan to a big fan of the mixed oval/twisty race schedule and I think it’s an important part of Indycar’s “brand.” But I certainly hope that next years schedule is more true to the original 50/50 plan.

    George. I don’t do the Twitter, but someone told me you were breaking up with Japan…

  9. Simona Fan Says:

    I don’t know why you’d pay full points in Texas for each race. That would make the Texas event worth twice what all the other events are worth. The race is half the distance, you should get half the points for winning. Pretty simple.

    With that said, they COULD give full points for each race to help offset the loss of the twin-ring. Just this year, mind you.

    I’m actually going to the race tomorrow. My first IndyCar race ever. And yes, the twin race format was one of the reasons I decided to go. Although I have an ongoing philosophy that when people bring back old ideas, they eventually find out why people stopped doing them. I’m wondering if we’ll find out why they haven’t done twin races in 18 years.

    By the way, Godzilla called and wondered if you and he could be Facebook friends. You know, since you both hate Japan so much…

  10. Just speculation here, but I would guess that Indycar is awarding half-points for each Texas win because doing otherwise raises a lot of questions:

    Should full prize money be paid for each race?
    Should TMS pony up double the sanctioning fee?
    Should competitors pay double the entry fee?

    Otherwise, where does the extra prize money come from? Is it fair to owners and drivers who choose not to enter Texas that one race weekend could pay out double?

    I don’t have any answers, I’m just thinking out loud. Maybe same prize money, but with Speedgeek’s “points and a half” system would be best?

  11. Also, I’m not bothered by the Japan race (I posted to my blog explaining as much), least of all by the oval/road course imbalance. I’ll be the first to admit that I like road courses, but I also like ovals and understand everyone else who does and wants to see more of them. The thing with Motegi, though, is that the series is not permanently replacing an oval race with a road course-this is an expedient for this year, after which we won’t have to worry about this track or staying up late to watch the race. Whether or not the race is run this year as an oval or a road course has no bearing on the oval/road course schedule balance for future seasons.

  12. Christopher Meyer Says:

    One major problem I would have with Texas paying double points would be that it would make it more valuable than Indy. Why prep all month of May for a great Indy 500 car and then have the following race on the schedule be worth more? The 500 should be the highest points paying event of the year.

  13. billytheskink Says:

    If Motegi was slated to be on the schedule beyond this year, I’d probably have a problem with IndyCars running the road course. Since we know this is the last year, it doesn’t really bother me.
    I would prefer that IndyCar give that date to any other oval they could drum up, but I also prefer the Motegi road course to no race at all. IndyCar has contracts with the track and with Honda and I can’t blame them for not wanting to step on their toes, especially in light of already announcing earlier this year that this would be the final IndyCar race at Motegi.

  14. billytheskink Says:

    As far as the Texas Twins are concerned, I did not like paying only half points for each race when it was announced and I don’t like it now. I don’t think IndyCar should imply that each of the twin races are somehow less of a race than any of the others, regardless of the fact that they are part of one “event” and likely pay only one set of winnings.

    Awarding half points for a twin is unprecedented.
    USAC and CART awarded full points for each of their twin races, though all of these except CART’s 1981 Atlanta twins were scored under the old USAC points system (that CART used in 79-80) that awarded different point totals based on race distance.

    Perhaps more relevant, and certainly more recent, is the fact that both Atlantics and IndyCar-sanctioned Indy Lights have awarded full points for each race of the “doubleheader” events that they have contested in the past few years.

    That said, I’m not really unhappy with what we have, I just think awarding full points for each race would be an improvement on it. I’m very much looking forward to attending both races tomorrow night, it should be great racing.

  15. Brian McKay - in the legion of the hopeful Says:

    While I missed reading them, I guessed that Pressdog and George had been enjoying well-deserved time away from their keyboards.
    I didn’t know that George was on Twitter!
    I have nothing novel to say about the Texas twins or Motegi. I’ll enjoy viewing the 24 Heures Du Mans and TMS double-header on teevee this weekend!

  16. OK, enough teasing… I admit I was far from thrilled with the announcement too. But like several have mentioned, knowing that this is the last time we’ll have to suffer through a Japan race, I can accept it.

    I think the bigger issue may be the lost opportunity for Indycar if the NFL Lockout is still in place. Several bloggers have touched on it, but this is a GREAT chance for Indycar to bring in the casual fans, and gain wider sports media coverage. Sadly, we’ve got the Baltimore Street course on Vs. Sept 4th, 2 weeks off, then Motegi on Vs. in the middle of the night, followed by another 2 week break.

    They don’t run on a oval until Oct 2nd when they run Kentucky (sadly, 2 pm on Vs. again) and the Oct 16th Vegas finale on ABC @ 3 pm.

    Seems like a lost opportunity to gain maximum exposure. I had been secretly hoping that Motegi would be replaced by a U.S. Oval in Sunday Primetime. With NBC losing out on Sunday Night Football, I was dreaming of an Indycar return to Texas on a Sunday night in September.

    Also, I hate the Japanese people. (I’M KIDDING!!!!!!)

  17. The Lapper Says:

    I agree, George, about running the road course at Motegi. A bit of background first: I have enjoyed the beautiful view of the surrounding mountains ever since the first race. That has to be a wonderful place to sit in the stands to view a race. Motegi has had some big moments in the series’ history with Danica winning her only race. The Japanese are in my thoughts, too, but i was looking to see INDYCAR replace an oval with an oval. Well, it is not to be, so let’s get on with it, cheer Motegi and throw a positive vibe out there and hope for a quick recovery to our friends of the Rising Sun. By the way, I like the suggestion of letting the citizens of Japan in for free.

  18. If anyone were to ask my opinion about how to run two races on the same weekend, I would suggest running one on Saturday and the other on Sunday. Have each race about 75% of the laps that one race would have.
    Award full points for each race. Have one-day and two-day ticket packages. Pay a purse to the competitors of 130-150% of the purse for one race.
    So far, on one has asked for my advice.

    • I like that idea a whole lot, Mark. Only question is what venue could theoretically pull in a big enough crowd for a 2-day show. Iowa, maybe (raising my hand to drive over for the full weekend)? Maybe when ratings are better in a couple of years and crowds are a little more reliable than they are now, this is the sort of thing that we can ask for.

      • As I consider my suggestion above further, I would add to qualifying session on Friday. First an afternoon session to qualify for the Sunday afternoon race. Then, in the evening, a second qualifying session for the Saturday night race.

  19. Ron Ford Says:

    Oh George! I am so disillusioned. Twitter? You do Twitter?! Would Norman Chad do Twitter? Would A.J. Foyt do Twitter?

    Your family or your family of readers need to do an intervention.

    I’m sorry you hate foreigners so much. Can’t we all just get along?

    OK, all seriousness aside, it is good to see you up from your nap.

    Tags takes the pole again! Awesome!

  20. JHall14 Says:

    Well said George !!!!! Let’s get Texas in and go to Milwaukee with plenty of cars still in 1 piece.

  21. I like thw Teaxas Twin 275s and after watching the qualifications this evening (thank you DVR) I wish I were there. The qualies were fantastic and I can’t believe that an Eddie Gossage event didn’t have more people in the stands. The INDYCAR qualifications are getting better and better. Seeing Ed Carpenter, Cunningham, TK and Sato do as good as they did was pretty awesome. And Tags! Maybe he can hold on to the finish of race 1 and duel it out with Franchitti.

  22. I don’t have a problem with the idea of running the Motegi road course for the Japanese event; the road course is a little-bit stop-start but it should provide some overtaking opportunities, which is always a good thing.

    Re: the alleged oval/street-road imbalance. I don’t have a problem with the decision at all. Normally, I agree for the most part with what George writes, but in this case, I feel you may be a little bit myopic in your view. First, INDYCAR has a contract to race at Motegi; contracts cannot simply be discarded based on the whims of people, especially those outside the frame. To those who are upset, get a checkup from the neck up, please! This may come as a shock to some of you, but INDYCAR is a business, and businesses don’t stay in business by catering to the views of a few, regardless of how much noise you make. Your opinions matter to you, but some of you seem to believe that your opinions should be adopted chapter and verse by INDYCAR, and I have news for you: IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!!!!!. It’s not about what YOU want, it’s about what’s best for the SERIES. That means going where INDYCAR is wanted, can draw the best crowds and get the highest sanctioning fees, not where YOU want to see a race. If you have issues with that-and obviously some do-then my advice to you would be to grow up, realize that YOU aren’t going to get everything you want and INDYCAR-nor anyone else for that matter-will never come to you personally and ask you what you want. That is not how business works. If you have a problem with that, that’s YOUR problem. It’s you who need to have a philosophical change, not INDYCAR.

    Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, on to a more pleasant topic. This week’s races. I personally would like to see full points awarded for both races, and I would have preferred a blind draw to invert some of the positions in the second race, similar to what the BTCC does. But INDYCAR didn’t come to ask me what I wanted, and that’s perfectly fine with me. Unlike some of you, I put the best interests of the SERIES ahead of my own selt-interest.

    That’s my rant and look at the twins.

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