Friday, October 24, 2008

Fantasy Racing Teaser

For all of you who might have come over here after hearing a fantastic plug for my fantasy racing series on the Live Fast Racing Podcast, welcome! And for those of you who may have stopped by on your read-through of what's current in the racing blogosphere, maybe coming over from My Name Is IRL or Starting Grid News or anybody else who might be linking to me nowadays, then welcome to you as well.

As Johnny and The Duke so generously mentioned, I'm currently running a multi-series fantasy racing league, and with 2008 drawing near a close, I'm looking for potential team owners for 2009. I have a full set of rules that I can send to anybody who is interested (don't worry, it's only about two pages with generous spacing), but here are the basics for the All-Racing Fantasy League (or ARFL, as it's currently called):

- The series that are incorporated into the ARFL sanction are as follows: Formula 1, IndyCar, ALMS, GrandAm (Daytona Prototype class only), NASCAR Cup and NASCAR Truck. The series that will be covered in 2009 will probably be similar to this list, though I'm considering other road racing series to add in to better balance the number of oval and road races. ChampCar's demise sort of messed that up for this year.

- There will be either 10 or 12 teams for 2009, depending on interest level. Each individual team consists of 14 drivers, derived via a pre-season draft. The draft will take place sometime in January in the weeks leading up to the Daytona 24 Hours, which is the first race on the ARFL schedule.

- Each week, every team owner will submit a "starting lineup" of 5 oval drivers and 5 road racers who are eligible to score points that week, and then their 4 "bench drivers" for the week. If you forget to send in your lineup some week, your previous week's lineup is carried over. This avoids any unnecessary "zeroes" which would most likely paralyze you in any one of the dozens of "pick-'em" leagues out there. Been there, hated that. Missing week 30 in a NASCAR league means that you're wasted your time for the previous 29 weeks.

- Every race is scored via a system that I've derived using the current IndyCar scoring system as a starting point. A win scores 50 points, a 2nd is worth 40 points, a 3rd is worth 35 points, and so on, plus pole position is worth 3 points, leading the most laps is worth 2 points and the fastest race lap is worth 2 points.

- Drivers can only be owned by one team at a time (i.e. 4 teams can't all have Jimmie Johnson on their team), but teams can change up their rosters on a weekly basis via trades with other team owners or through the free agency process (which sounds complicated, but I assure you is not).

- The winner is the team owner who can pile up the most points at the end of the year, plain and simple. No points re-setting or playoff system here, buster.

- This is not a profit source for me. I'm simply looking for similar-minded racing fans who imagine themselves a Roger Penske or Chip Ganassi-type who simply lack...well, a gigantic Garage Mahal, a professional racing team and several million dollars with which to run it.

That's about it, in a nutshell. Please feel free to drop me a comment using the comment form or an e-mail (the address would be andymiller23 at gmail dot com), if you're interested in playing. If you'd like to see if you'd be interested in playing a full season in 2009, there are currently three teams that I'm running to fill out the ranks this year that I'd be happy to sign over to you for the remaining 2-3 weeks of 2008.

Thanks for reading, everybody, and enjoy the races this weekend!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Don't know what to say anymore...

I'm not about to start making threats about no longer watching F1 (I don't think I could quit if I tried at this point), but it's really not very easy to be an F1 fan at this point. I'll start with this: if you recorded the Japanese GP and have not heard the results but are planning on watching the race, uh, there are going to be spoilers below.

Spoilers below!

I'm beyond frustrated with the FIA, and now I'm bordering on angry. I was vehemently opposed to last year's $100 million fine on McLaren for receiving data from another team, when there has been plenty of evidence that that was far from the first time that sort of thing had taken place (or that it would be the last, since the FIA basically let Renault off the hook for a similar transgression of stealing data from McLaren later in the season). Even in the days when I was more of a Ferrari fan than a McLaren fan (this would be in the early-Schumacher days, before they were an unbeatable team-order-giving juggernaut), I thought it odd that Ferrari was let off for certain things, like the barge boards that were out of spec at Maylasia in 1999. At the time, I was happy to look the other way, since it made for a good story with the championship coming down to the last race, and Ferrari was still something of an underdog.

However, this year's events at Spa and now Fuji make it completely obvious that the FIA is biased toward Ferrari. I can even sort of understand the penalty on Lewis Hamilton at Spa. He did, no doubt, derive an advantage by shortcutting the chicane, and only by doing that was he able to be close enough to Kimi Raikkonen to attempt a pass at La Source hairpin. However, a 25 second penalty, after McLaren had been told twice by race director Charlie Whiting that he'd done enough to make up for the shortcut, is just out of bounds. An actual drive through penalty at Spa would cost a driver roughly 20 seconds, so why should the penalty be 25? My money is on "because that would drop Lewis behind Nick Heidfeld and therefore cost him two extra points." On the other hand, I'd basically been able to move on since then, since Ferrari seemed intent on making things right again with Felipe's engine blowing up at Valencia, and then the pitlane miscue at Singapore which cost him any chance of scoring points.

This weekend's Japanese GP at Fuji may have contained several of the most puzzling penalties I've seen levied on racing drivers in my 18 years of watching racing. In that amount of time, I've probably watched several hundred races; you may draw your own conclusion on how much of a life I might or might not have.

For starters, Lewis Hamilton's drive through penalty for "forcing Kimi Raikkonen wide" at the first often has that sort of incident happened in the history of F1? 200? 500? How many penalties have previously been handed out for that before, in cases when no contact was made between cars? I'm going with...none. Until now. That is a brilliant precedent to set. It's basically saying, "You may not intimidate another car or take a position on the track such that it inconveniences another driver."

Later in the first lap, there was a completely toothless penalty given to Felipe Massa after he blatantly attempted to take Lewis Hamilton out of the race. Lewis made a great move inside of Felipe, causing Felipe to carry too much speed into the corner and then slide wide. Lewis completed the pass, only for Felipe to make a stab back at Lewis. Not only did Felipe go over the curbing on the inside of the chicane, he put two wheels over the grass inside of the curbing and drove directly into the side of Lewis's car. Patrick's excellent race notes at Too Much Racing indicate that Martin Brundle on the ITV coverage claimed that Lewis had not given Felipe enough room, don't have to give any room at all when you're fully ahead of somebody and there's no realistic chance of an overtaking maneuver! Felipe was given a drive through penalty for this, but the damage was done: Lewis spun and had to wait for the entire field to pass by before resuming. Mission accomplished for Felipe. The fact that Lewis was handed his drive through penalty at exactly the same time as Felipe only served to reinforce that Felipe had gotten the better of the whole exchange, as the two drive throughs would cancel each other out, but leave Felipe further up the road from Lewis. During the Saturday qualifying show, Bob Varsha spent some time talking about how much Felipe Massa has been able to learn from Michael Schumacher over the years. I couldn't agree more.

The final "coup de gras" came late in the race, as Sebastien Bourdais was coming out of the pits after his last pit stop, directly in front of Massa. Felipe did manage to get fully alongside (though on the outside of ) Sebastien going into the first corner, but then Felipe obliviously turned into the apex, even though there was another car there. It appeared to me on the replays that Sebastien went over the inside curbing and even slowed down a little extra in order to give Felipe some more room, but in that instant, there's only so much you can do (I think F1 cars don't get a "beam up" feature until the 2025 regulations come into effect). At the time, there was no question to me that Felipe was in the wrong in this altercation, but I see that after the fact, the FIA gave Sebastien a 25 second penalty for "avoidable contact". I don't think that any even semi-impartial observer could make a claim that this was more than 50% Sebastien's fault, so where's the matching penalty for Felipe? I guess that the moral to this part of the story is "if you can even see a Ferrari anywhere near you, you probably ought to pull over and let him by before the FIA gives you a penalty for failing to do so".

This championship has been tampered with by the FIA. There is no doubt about that anymore. If there is any justice in F1 at all, Lewis will still pull it out in the end, and Ron Dennis will be accepting the Constructor's Championship trophy from Max Mosley at the FIA awards banquet. Lewis and McLaren have had far from a perfect season, and Lewis has been responsible for a lot of his own problems (ahem, Canada), but right now he's not just trying to beat the Ferrari team. He's also trying to beat the FIA Stewards and rulemakers, who've done a masterful job this year of making up new pro-Ferrari rules as they go. It's going to be an interesting last month of the season, but let's just hope that it comes down to what happens on the track, and not in the race control booth.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Some weekend, huh?

Well, how's about that for a weekend of racing? Petit Le Mans was as good as billed, though I think I managed to singlehandedly curse a couple of cars myself. Seems that two of the only four teams to get a mention in my last post met untimely ends, with one (the B-K Lola-Mazda coupe) crashing in the morning warmup and not even making the start and the other (the Zytek hybrid) having an early contretemps with a Turn 12 tire barrier (hint: the mostly immovable object won). Oops. My bad. Just don't send me the bill.

Anyway, Petit came right down to the last dozen or so laps with the outcome yet to be decided between the two Audis and the Peugeot. The Peugeot obviously had the superior speed, though for whatever reason, they decided to have Christian Klien in the car for the last couple of stints of the race. This decision came in the face of his having had no previous experience with the Road Atlanta track, and his only previous night driving experience coming at Le Mans this year. Meanwhile, Nicolas Minassian and Stephane Sarrazin (two of Peugeot's regular drivers in the Le Mans European Series, and both blindingly quick) just had to sit and cool their jets and think about what the new Peugeot hybrid will be like to drive at Sebring next year while their team choked away yet another major race. At the same time, Audi smartly went with Allan McNish in the #1 car, who promptly diced Klien up on a late race restart and drove off into the distance (I'd say sunset, but the actual sun had long since set by then). Great racing, though. Also, big ups to Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves on their P2 class win, coming just one day after Helio...uh, appeared in court in chains.

On the down side: GT1 was only attended by the two Corvettes, as the Bell Motorsport Aston Martin decided to sit this one out. I never heard quite why that happened, as the Aston has made it to the last few races and did not sustain any visible damage at the last round at Detroit. Very much on the downside: the P2 class championship is over, with Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas clinching after Scott Sharp crashed the Highcroft Acura and then walked away from the car...which is against ALMS rules. Instant retirementfor you. Oops.

I've been told that NASCAR was also in action this weekend. OK, that's a lie. I actually managed to catch about 30 laps worth of the fall Russian Roulette 500 from Talladega. As always, the action did not disappoint. Or, I should say, it did not disappoint anybody who likes lots of wreckin' and some shoddy rule enforcement by the sanctioning body. There were several big pileups this time around, but none bigger than the one caused by Carl Edwards stupidly attempting to bump draft his teammate Greg Biffle in Turn 3. Refresh me here, but I thought that NASCAR very publicly came out a couple of years ago and threatened draconian penalties against anybody who bump drafted outside of marked zones on the backstraight at both Daytona and Talladega. What happened to that? It appears to have been no more than big talk from Mr. Helton and the NASCAR Hauler Boys. Good work there. Also, when this happens again in the future, I want the accident to not be called "The Big One", but instead dubbed "The Dumb One".

Last NASCAR thing for now, promise: how about that last lap selective rules enforcement? Tony Stewart throws the mother of all block parties (thanks, Pressdog!) for Regan Smith and gets no penalty, while Regan gets called for improving his position and is docked back to the last car on the lead lap? Believe me, I'm a Tony Stewart fan from back in his pre-IRL days, but that was nonsense. To Stew's credit, he probably had a hunch that a driver who's in the middle of NASCAR's contrived "Chase" wouldn't get called for anything short of stabbing a guy during a round of yellow flag pitstops, so good on him for playing the system and scoring his first win of the year. Sorry for you, Regan Smith. Better luck next year. Oh, unless your team can't come up with a sponsor and goes out of business.

Hey, hey, F1's back in action at Fuji again this week! I absolutely love the Japan races. There's something about being able to actually stay up and catch a race live instead of having to get up early and watch at 6:00 AM. Of course, I don't really do either of those anymore, since the advent of TiVo and DVRs, but still. Also, it's rainy season on the Pacific Rim, which means a high probability of another fantastically entertaining wet race. Watch it. You won't be sorry.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Petit Preview

Hey, all! Time for a quick update this morning, in the hour before the Petit Le Mans starts up. It's going to be a great one this year, with three (ridiculously fast) cars from two teams going for the P1 and overall win, a few other P1 cars vying for top-5 and top-10 spots (including one with a hybrid Kinetic Energy Recovery System), nine top level P2 cars fighting for the class win and even top-5 overall positions (though I sort of doubt that any of the P2 cars will be able to touch the Audis and Peugeot for the overall win today), and 16 GT2 cars from seven different manufacturers. Qualifying results this morning indicate that the pole speed by Stephane Sarrazin in the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP is actually the fastest lap of Road Atlanta ever, faster than the 1992 pole speed by Davy Jones in the Jaguar XJR-9. That was in the days before there was a chicane at the bottom of the hill at the end of the paraphrase our good friend Rusty Wallace, "These cats are flyin' around here in these hotrods!" Ugh. I've got to go take a shower now.

The first couple of hours kick off here on SpeedTV shortly, and then there's a few hour break before the last 4 1/2 hours of the race is shown in its entirety. Whoever you're rooting for, Audi, Peugeot, Porsche, Acura, or even Mazda (as I am; love the new coupe, guys!), it's going to be an all-time classic. Enjoy!