Long Beach paper pans IndyCar Ed Note: This seems like a pretty critical article about IndyCar in the Long Beach paper. All are very good points and facts however.
If you were to convert the power rankings or standings for IndyCar Racing into something more familiar, like Major League Baseball, they might look like this:
1. New York Yankees, 2. Boston Red Sox, 3. Kansas City Royals, 4. Kansas City Royals, 5. Kansas City Royals, 6. Kansas City Royals, 7. Kansas City Royals, 8. Kansas City Royals, 9. Kansas City Royals, 10. Kansas City Royals, 11. Kansas City Royals, 12. Kansas City Royals.
No disrespect meant for K.C. It's a great town for BBQ and the Blues; baseball, not so much.
The only balance of power you'll find at Sunday's Long Beach Grand Prix is when Will Power is seated comfortably in his car.
Last season, Chip Ganassi's Target team won 10 of the 10 events and Team Penske, as in Roger Penske, won six. The only interloper was Dale Coyne, the veteran owner and former driver who ended a 25-year winless streak with Justin Wilson taking Watkins Glen (N.Y.). Coyne was the ultimate small-market IndyCar team, scrapping together a team from year to year and picking up drivers off the equivalent of baseball's waiver wire.
In 2008, Ganassi won eight races and Penske four. The last gasp of success for the once-great Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, which stuck with the CART/Champ Car circuit to the bitter end, came in 2008 when Power and Graham Rahal won races, and Power's was in our Grand Prix in what was the last official race for Champ Car.
Andretti Autosports, as in Mario and Michael, won two in 2008 and didn't have a finish higher than third all last season. The names of drivers Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick are a lot more familiar than the team's record of late.
IndyCar has been in the hands of a few basically since 2003. That's when the better CART teams began the move to the lesser Indy Racing League because of the sponsor-drawing power and tradition of the monolithic Indy 500. Before then, the IRL was AA racing with one old veteran, A.J. Foyt Racing, playing with unknowns and kids who couldn't find success in CART.
Scott Dixon won 21 times in the IRL after going 1-for-39 in CART. Tony Kanaan has 13 wins after a 1-for-73 career in CART.
There are 15 teams taking part in the Grand Prix Sunday. Since 2004, Andretti Autosports has 32 IRL wins, Target/Ganassi 29 and Team Penske 25. The only other active teams with wins since '04 are Coyne last year and Panther Racing in 2005 (Tomas Scheckter).
The series champ and runner-up also have come from the Ganassi, Penske and Andretti teams since 2003.
Foyt's team last won in 2002 and its best finish last year was a fourth by Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has moved on to Andretti. Dreyer & Reinhold Racing's last win was in 2000. Rahal, the son of the great Bobby Rahal, had a third for Newman/Haas last year but was let go as a free agent as the team, owned by the late Paul Newman, has downsized. He's virtually freelancing this weekend for Sarah Fisher Racing.
When Tony George took his speedway and ran away in '96, his goal was a circuit that would take the power out of the hands of the teams and enhance opportunities for American drivers. So it must be a bit mortifying for George, who was booted as IRL chief last year, that two teams dominate the sport and only four of the 25 drivers Sunday are American.
Of those, Rahal's driving on a pass, Marco Andretti doesn't remind anyone of Mario or Michael, and Patrick is still more GoDaddy than WinSister.
Hunter-Reay, the fourth American, did not have a ride at all in 2006 and competed in just six races in 2007. His career was saved by IZOD, IRL's new title series sponsor, which named him its official spokesman-not that there were a lot of other American candidates.
It's always been tough to win in IndyCar racing. There are only so many races a year, no one ever remembers who finishes second-unlike baseball or football, where the World Series or Super Bowl loser still commands respect-and unless you have a team and car that can qualify for the front of the grid, you're chasing runner-up money.
Which makes for a lot of career records that aren't easy to sell.
Marco Andretti has 19 top-five finishes in 65 starts but just one win.
Hunter-Reay has three wins but just nine top fives in 83 starts.
Vitor Meira has 27 top fives but no wins in 97 starts.
Patrick has one win and 16 top fives in 81 starts.
Sports in general like and need dynasties. But IndyCar racing is one sport that could definitely use a true underdog or longshot winner. Or as they say in baseball, go Kansas City.