It has come to my attention that I have a racing-themed blog that I write from time to time. It seems that I had forgotten about it for, oh, about three months now, and now that I do not have an actual steady-paying job, I have no excuse for not writing. So, thoughts from the last three months:
- ChampCar blows. Maybe I'm not one of those hardcore ChampCar fans, the type that you see on the telecasts who incorporate Bruno Junquiera into their marriage proposals and what not, but I feel like I've been a pretty faithful fan for the last 16 years. Granted, during that time, I probably haven't been to more than 8-9 ChampCar races, but I've been an unfailing television race watcher. Allow me two more notes of preface before I get into the main gist of what I'm going for:
1) The new Panoz is a major improvement over the old Lola, in terms of appearance and performance, if not safety (sorry, Paulie "Walnuts" Tracy) or reliability (sorry, most of the field at Vegas and Houston who had problems with the refuelling rigs).
2) The TV coverage is 20 times better than it's been for the last five years. Even if 2/3rds of the crew is normally a NASCAR crew, at least they seem to care enough to do a bit of research (like, say, learning the drivers' names) before showing up at the track. More than you could say about Derek Daly and Rick Benjamin.
With that out of the way, here goes... The level of competetion seems to be even more lopsided than in years past, due to the fact that the big teams (OK, Newman-Haas-Lanigan, and nobody else) have learned the new car quicker than the smaller teams. Plus, the other big teams (Forsythe, um...PKV? Ru-ocketSport[s]?) don't seem to understand that driver and crew stability is the only thing that will close the gap to Seabass and company. Call me cynical, but I don't see Paul Tracy, a substituting (though deservingly taking over a full time seat from Mario Dominguez, now that Tracy's back) Oriol Servia, Will Power (I'm not sold on the Aussie team joining the big boys yet), Justin Wilson (the whole RuSport mess was an absolute catastrophe, as far as trying to win the championship goes), or anybody else seriously challenging for the championship. I think we might see quite a few guys winning races this year (namely, the guys I just listed, plus maybe Graham Rahal and Neel Jani), but nobody is going to touch Bourdais for the title.
Other Champcar thoughts: other than Rahal, Jani and Doornbos, I'm not really feeling this year's rookie crop. Simon Pagenaud? OK, you won last year's Atlantic championship, so you can stay. Dalziel, Figge and Halladay are hopelessly overmatched, due to their teams. Tristan Gommendy? Please. I know that a lot of people complained when Juan Pablo Montoya was given a ride in ChampCar, but by the time he came to the states, I'd been watching him closely for five years. Gommendy? Not so much. Let's just say that when my buddies and I go to Road America this year, we might be bugging out after the ALMS race, and skipping ChampCar on Sunday. Even five years ago, that would have been unthinkable.
Also, the schedule is a mess. It's been so long since there was a race, I had to look up the driver lineups in order to complain about them. OK, enough said on that topic.
- The IRL is better than it's been for a while, but it's not good enough. Storylines abound in the IRL, with Mr. Judd winning the 500, Danica and Wheldon throwing down in pitlane, Penske cars inexplicably breaking rear wings while in the lead, Marco Andretti's inevitable nasty contract dispute at the end of the year when he tries to leave AGR to drive for Honda in F1, Rusty Wallace thankfully being banished from all non-Indy broadcasts, and much more. Unfortunately, as some of my favorite writers continue to point out, Nielsen ratings still hover in the sub-1.0 region. That's a shame. There's way more going on here than any fabricated nonsense that's happening in NASCAR right now. Speaking of which...
- Dale Who? I think I'm the only person on the planet who doesn't really care where Dale Jr. winds up next year. Frankly, I think that Rick Hendrick is lying (shock horror!) when he says that all four of his drivers will be returning next year. Let's be serious. Casey Mears is going to drive for Ginn and Dale winds up in the 8/25 car (depending on if DEI holds the rights to the #8) with Bud sponsorship. The nice thing for them there is that if Dale drives the #25, Hendrick probably has two warehouses of leftover #25 Budweiser merchandise from the Ken Schrader/Ricky Craven Era. Airbrush Dale's face in, and you're sitting on a gold mine. Also, it'll be fun to watch all of the Jeff Gordon haters'/Dale Jr. fans' heads explode when Dale is protecting Jeff's bumper as Jeff makes a championship run next year (I still don't believe that Dale is consistent enough at all types of tracks to win the Cup).
What else? Hmmm...well, I oughta go comb the job boards again. Gotta do something to pay for race tickets, after all...
More soon, I promise.
For real this time.