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DATE News (chronologically)
04/29/11
irl
IndyCar leaving inept past in dust
It is a southbound racing weekend with NASCAR Sprint Cup in Virginia and IndyCar going Brazilian with a trip to Sao Paulo. And the best one to watch will be the one where cars don't have fenders.

Trading paint in NASCAR is one thing, but it's more hairy in IndyCar where drivers have been trading carbon fiber.  It's time to give IndyCars another chance because few remnants remain from 15 nightmarish years of the Indy Racing League when the so-called league was languishing in the minors.

Turn your TV viewing into an experiment: Watch NASCAR on Saturday night, then IndyCar on Sunday, and take notes about each telecast.

The open-wheel race lasts about two hours, one fewer than Saturday's NASCAR race at Richmond, Va. The IndyCar telecast features split-screen viewing of live action during national commercials, so you rarely miss anything.

Those could be two items to consider for your report cards, and if you send them to my email address listed below they'll make up next week's Heavy Pedal blog at lvrj.com/motorsports.

A big change this year for IndyCar races has been implementing NASCAR-style double-file restarts instead of spaced-out, single-file fields parading to the green flag. That has made the first turn a likely spot for carnage, especially on road and street courses like in Brazil.

Side-by-side starts have been fun to watch, especially if you sell chassis and body parts.

Jimmy Vasser, a Las Vegas resident and co-owner of KV Racing in IndyCar, says action-packed restarts are "costing us, the owners, a little bit more money because we get bent cars and broken wings.

"It (can) produce chaos and damage, but if the fans like it, then it's going to be better for the sport."

The key being "fans like it."

And the last time "chaos" and "damage" were used to describe Indy-style racing was when the IRL was created and went on to nearly kill American interest in open-wheel racing.

IndyCar is turning corners and emphasizing the art of passing, in a proper way, of course. Al Unser Jr., a Las Vegas resident and former IndyCar champion, is one of four officials who monitor races with the help of 16 track cameras and others in race cars.

Two weeks ago, officials penalized Paul Tracy for "overaggressive" driving in his season debut in the Grand Prix of Long Beach. He was sent to the rear of the field.

Penske Racing's Helio Castroneves, however, caused two incidents in the popular street race but was not penalized. His moves behind the wheel have not been in step with his footwork when he won "Dancing with the Stars" four years ago -- or when he won three Indy 500s. Officials say he will be under more scrutiny in Brazil, though it's unlikely he'll be punished for anything he does in his homeland, for fear of causing a riot.

A possible riot? Wow, that would spur interest in IndyCar.

Controversy, on-track driver confrontations and officials making unfavorable rulings. Gee, it sounds like NASCAR but with faster, more fragile cars.

I'm not hyping IndyCar because the series returns to Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the inaugural World Championship on Oct. 16.

OK, maybe a little, but these races truly have been fun to watch.

And Sunday you can observe the hottest woman in racing. That, by the way, is Simona de Silvestro of Switzerland, who ranks ninth in season points. That's two spots ahead of racing's poster girl, Danica Patrick. Las Vegas Review Journal

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