Monday, September 1, 2014

Winners and Losers: Fontana

Here are your winners, losers, and Cone of Shame and "winner" following the 2014 MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway:

Winners

Will Power
He has finally done it. Will Power has won his Indycar Championship! He drove a world-class race, almost Dario Franchitti and Alain Prost-esque, meaning that he managed to do just enough to win, not pushing the car or the danger level and bringing the car home in one piece. Way to Power, who was easily the class of the field all season. Also, he will run the #1 next season! Respect level for him and Team Penske went up a little.


Tony Kanaan
Tony Kanaan gets his first win during his tenure with Chip Ganassi racing and not a moment too soon! It should have come much sooner, but hey, he got the win and that's what matters. Proud of TK, who had a lot of ups and downs this season.


Scott Dixon
Scott Dixon did a fine job at Fontana, finishing P2. He did an even finer job in the last eight rounds (Pocono-Fontana), finishing 5, 4, 5, 7, 1, 4, 1, and 2 respectively. What an amazing job. If he could have just gotten some better results in the earlier part of the season, Dixon could have made a case for defending champion.


Ed Carpenter
Ed Carpenter did very well again at Fontana, earning a third straight podium on the track. This is a great result for the last race under the banner Ed Carpenter Racing. A long offseason full of many tasks awaits Ed and the newly formed Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing.



Losers

Mikhail Aleshin
Mikhail Aleshin, one of my favorite drivers, was involved it what could have potentially been a fatal accident, but thankfully, Mikhail is "okay" to an extent. Some broken ribs, a broken clavicle, and a concussion renders Mikhail a lucky man. We all wish him a speedy recovery.


Carlos Huertas
Retiring for "Driver illness" is slang for "I'm not comfortable on ovals." Carlos Huertas just does not see in touch with ovals and therefore he should not be continued to be sent out there. Hopefully that changes next season.


Graham Rahal
Well, there's a lot to be said about Graham Rahal. I'll do my best to rip him a new one in my season reviews in the offseason. For now, just know that Rahal's season did not go well at all.


Ryan Hunter-Reay
Ryan Hunter-Reay was running all fine and dandy for a majority of the race before he brought out the first and only caution on a no-contact spin that sent him to the back of the field. Not a fine way to cap of his season.



Cone of Shame



Helio Castroneves 
Helio Castroneves had it stacked against him going into the race. He needed to finish first and have championship rival Will Power finish seventh or worst. In the late stages of the race, Helio made a mistake that destroyed all hopes of winning the title, crossing the white commitment line. He was forced to make a drive through penalty. I could not believe it when I saw it. It kind of sums up Helio's career, failing to come through in the clutch. Another year, another championship lost. Maybe next year...For the 18th time...


Thanks for reading them all of these years!

-Matthew Hickey

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Fantasy Indycar Awards

Another great season of Fantasy Indycar is in the books! For the first time ever, I have decided to some Fantasy Indycar awards! Here is the first ever Fantasy Indycar award ceremony!

Fantasy Indycar Champion:
     3rd place: Chris Mienaltowski
     2nd place: Sophie Hanson
     1st place: DJ Jordan


Marty Roth bottom three (from those who were involved all season):
     28th place: Justin Mann
     29th place: Emily Mugan
     30th place: James Alban


Michael Tressler Rookie of the Year Award:
     2nd runner up: Conor Daly
     1st runner up: Jake Neely
     Award winner: Sophie Hanson


Best single race performance:
     3rd: DJ Jordan (Pocono) - 346
     2nd: Mike Crawford (Fontana) - 352
     1st: Rick Snodie (Fontana) - 354


Best non-500 mile single race performance:
      3rd: Michael Tressler (Barber) - 177
      2nd: Sam Klein (Indy 500 qualifying) - 185
      1st: Sophie Hanson (St. Petersburg) - 189


Milka Duno award for worst single race performance award (excludes penalties):
     3rd: Justin Mann (Milwaukee), Mike Crawford (Iowa and Detroit #1) - 63
     2nd: James Alban (Grand Prix of Indianapolis) - 58 
     1st: Rick Snoodie (Detroit #1) - 57 


Will Power award for most penalties:
      3rd: James Sedlmayr + Justin Mann - 3
      2nd: Alana Jolly - 4
      1st: Emily Mugan - 7


Participant with most maxed out drivers:
     2nd: Chris Mienaltowski - 15
     2nd: Kieran Brughelli - 15
     1st: Alana Jolly + Mathew Gruenholz - 16


Person with least maxed out drivers:
     3rd: Chris Blackburn - 8
     2nd: Justin Mann - 6
     1st: James Alban - 4


Indycar driver most picked this season (full-time):
     3rd: Helio Castroneves - 156
     2nd: Scott Dixon - 159
     1st: Will Power - 161


Indycar driver least picked this season (full-time):
     3rd: Mikhail Aleshin - 78
     2nd: Carlos Huertas - 23
     1st: Sebastian Saavedra - 19


Thanks all for a fun season!!

-Matthew Hickey

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Knee-Jerk

As Winston Churchill and House of Cards has taught me: To improve is to change; to perfect is to change often. This saying definitely applies to Indycar and racing in general. Those in charge of racing, like Bernie Eccesltone, Brian France, and Mark Miles, are always tasked to stay ahead of the curve and to make positive changes. Indycar, however, cannot overreact to last nights crash that involved Mikhail Aleshin, Charlie Kimball, and Marco Andretti, which left Aleshin with a broken clavicle, broken ribs, and a concussion.

Racing is a dangerous sport.

Aleshin seemed to touch the white line on the bottom of turn three, sending his car into a spin at the wall right into the path of Kimball. Aleshin, a rookie from Russia driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, was struck by Kimball and sent into the catch fence nose first, sending the car into a violent roll. Andretti arrived later and spun to miss large pieces of debris. We all feared the worst on Mikhail's condition, before we got news that he was "okay."

Racing is a dangerous sport.

Now, back to my quote about change. Is there could change that could come from this? Of course there is. Maybe one day, we can find a better solution to catch fencing. Maybe Dallara can work on a way to keep the cars grounded on a side impact (we've seen DW12s prone to lifting off the ground a bit on big impacts, though it's hard to know if Mikhail's car would have gotten airborne had Kimball not made contact). Minor changes would be welcomed by Indycar in my eyes. But....

Racing is a dangerous sport.

Any track you go to, whether it is St. Petersburg, Iowa, Mid-Ohio, or Fontana, is dangerous. At any moment, something violent can happen. Even though some places are more prone for violent crashes (Fontana, Indy, and other high speed ovals), we cannot simply just do away with the tracks or just make major wholesale changes / derail future ideas. One idea I fear might just go out the window after an incident like this is increasing the horsepower / speed of Indycars. More speed would help bring fans back and increase the excitement of the racing, but it was also multiply the seriousness of a crash and leave drivers at a greater risk. Other large scale changes are prone to happen after a massive crash like we just saw.


Racing is a dangerous sport.

Danger is just part of Indycar. It can happen at any track. A near miss happened when
Martin Plowman got airborne and nearly struck the drivers' cockpit of Franck Montangy
at Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Thankfully everyone walked away okay. But this highlights
that danger is around every corner in Indycar (Photo: Eric Anderson / Indycar Media)

I personally don't want to watch racing if it equates to the danger level of under water basket weaving. One of the allures to racing is that a driver is constantly having to weigh risk vs. reward. Sometimes, it all goes wrong. While I obviously never wish ill upon on any racing driver, the danger is something that keeps my eyes glued to the television at all times during a race, knowing that at any moment, shit could hit the fan. That's exciting. My friend Eric Hall once wrote my favorite piece on Indycar and why it is the ultimate reality TV Show. If you've never read it, please do because I often consider it my favorite blog article of all-time.

Racing is a dangerous sport.

Can Indycar make the sport safer gradually over time? Absolutely. I think anyone can get behind that. But is making a bunch of knee jerk decisions in light of what happened last night. Can change be good? Yes. Can a lot of change be good? Yes. Would changing the sport for the worse, like removing dangerous tracks from the schedule good? No. Why? Because every track has the potential to be dangerous. And no matter how many change you make to the car, track, etc., know that racing will always have that risk of going south at any moment. If you've learned nothing from my words this morning, just remember this:

Racing is a dangerous sport.


Hoping for a speedy recovery for Mikhail Aleshin and a safe race tonight. Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey

Friday, August 29, 2014

Fantasy Indycar Picks: Fontana

Here are the picks for the 2014 MAVTV 500 and the season finale! (Current championship leader highlighted in red):

Name Twitter Handle                                             Sonoma
Alan Stewart _alanstewart Helio Power Carpenter RHR Pagenaud
Alana Jolly alanajolly Sato Kimball Carpenter Huertas JPM
Amy Woedl OpenWheelMom Josef Carpenter Hinch Pagenaud Huertas
Andy Nagel Gabbahey75 Helio Power Josef Briscoe Carpenter
Chris Blackburn  chblackburn23 Power Helio Kanaan Carpenter Andretti
Chris Mienaltowski CPMski Carpenter Helio JPM Kanaan Munoz
Conor Daly conordaly22 Helio JPM Power Dixon Pagenaud
David Leiting Jr. Dlite_47 Carpenter Helio RHR JPM Power
David Redner IndyCART Dixon Helio JPM Kanaan RHR
DJ Jordan djordan3223 Carpenter Kanaan Munoz Andretti JPM
Emily Mugan emyrmalee Kanaan Carpenter JPM Sato Wilson
Eric Hall Erock_in_Indy Andretti JPM RHR Helio Carpenter
Gina Navarra  gmnavarra Carpenter Power Andretti Hinch Rahal
Jake Neely indycarfan25 Helio Munoz Kanaan JPM Hinch
James Alban TheKing0fSwing RHR Andretti Helio Power Aleshin
James Sedlmayr dfd827 Helio Power Dixon Pagenaud JPM
Jason McVeigh jasekm Helio Kanaan Kimball JPM Carpenter
Jerry Cruz Indycar_Raider JPM RHR Carpenter Briscoe Kanaan
Jessica Baker bakerjm13 Power Helio Kanaan JPM Carpenter
Justin Mann mannbeast Carpenter Andretti RHR Kanaan Power
Kieran Brughelli  kieranbrughelli Andretti Carpenter Josef Kanaan Power
Kyle Lewis kylelewis1 Dixon JPM Carpenter RHR Power
Lynn Weinberg lynnweinberg Helio Kanaan Carpenter Bourdais Rahal
Mathew Gruenholz IndycarSTIG Carpenter Kanaan Helio Sato Andretti
Matthew Hickey Indycar_MN Carpenter RHR JPM Aleshin Kanaan
Mike Crawford 7BigMike Kanaan Briscoe Carpenter Hinch JPM
Rick Snodie  rickfromwi Helio Carpenter JPM Kanaan Dixon
Sam Klein sklein31 Helio Dixon Carpenter JPM Munoz
Sophie Hanson Sophie_Hansons3 Helio Dixon JPM Carpenter Briscoe
Steven Jenkins ukindyfan JPM Carpenter Andretti Helio Josef


Penalties: N/A

Top three most picked: 1) Ed Carpenter - 25 2) Juan Pablo Montoya - 20 3) Helio Castroneves - 19
Not picked: Sebastian Saavedra and Jack Hawksworth


Who's going to win the title?! It'll be close!

-Matthew Hickey

Monday, August 25, 2014

Winners and Losers: Sonoma

Here are your winners, losers, and Cone of Shame "winner" following the 2014 Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma:

Winners

Scott Dixon
Scott Dixon can surely hold his head up high with the performance he has put forth in the second half of the season. Two wins in the last three races has vaulted the legendary driver into the top-five in the championship.


Ryan Hunter-Reay
Ryan Hunter-Reay salvaged any hope at winning the championship with a second place finish at Sonoma. Whether he can win or not is still a long shot, but Ryan certainly did himself some favors with a great result this weekend.


Will Power
Despite not winning with the best car in the race, and spinning on his own, and passing some cars controversially at the end of the race, and surrendering points to championship hunters Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud, Will Power can come out of Sonoma with his head up high. He is still in prime position to win the championship.


Simon Pagenaud
Despite having a terrible weekend leading up to the race, Simon Pagenaud came through and claimed a podium when it counted. Not only did he do well, but Simon gained points on championship leader Will Power. Simon is still alive in the championship.



Losers

Graham Rahal
Graham Rahal strategerized (that's a word) his way to the front, and then fought his way to P1, only to end up short on fuel. He then proceeded to cut a corner and speed in the pits, which kind of put some salt in the wound. A win would have gone a long way to 'wooo' a sponsor next season.


Tony Kanaan
Tony Kanaan was in the same boat as Graham Rahal. A great race ruined by the inability to save enough fuel. Tony still does not have a win with the Chip Ganassi outfit, which has come as a surprise to many. Fear not, there is still one race to go this season.


Ryan Briscoe
Ryan Briscoe pretty much had his result ruined right away by Sebastien Bourdais in the second corner of the race. His race was thrown for a loop and a string of good results was ruined for Briscoe. He can still end his season on a high note.


Mike Conway 
Mike Conway literally ran out of fuel one turn away from the championship, which has to be a bummer. Although he didn't have the best car in the race, Conway managed to get to the front. A great result would have gone a long way to a new deal with Carpenter next season.



Cone of Shame



Helio Castroneves
The only driver in championship contention to surrender points to Will Power was Helio Castroneves. Not only did Helio give up some ground to Power at Sonoma, but he has not lost points in the last three races. A subpar effort at Mid-Ohio and a bad race at Milwaukee last weekend coupled with disaster at Sonoma has put Helio in a serious hole heading into Fontana. Helio was wrecked in turn two on lap one and made a self-inflicted error later on in the race, limping home to a P18 finish. Helio has failed in the clutch so far. Can he bring home a championship next weekend?


Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey