Overheard in Toronto - Sunday Everyone seems happy to have Lee Diffey, Jon Beekhuis and Steve Matchett in the NBC Sports Network booth. Matchett and Varsha are excellent together for F1. Matchett knows how to keep a viewers interest. Let's hope someone is watching.
Matchett said, “I’m very excited to be joining NBC Sports Network’s IndyCar team this weekend. I’ve never visited Toronto before, and to do so at the same time as the IndyCar series comes to town made this an unmissable opportunity. I’m really looking forward to being reunited in the booth with Townsend Bell. He always brings a wealth of firsthand racing knowledge to the broadcasts, and I’m keen to learn all I can from him. The racing strategies used in IndyCar, the different technologies and the equipment made available to the teams are all new to me. I can’t wait to touch these cars and to see how everything works.”
An impressive run by Mike Conway yesterday for Dale Coyne racing. After his amazing performance in Detroit, he brought his car up from the back to finish in 7th, which is simply amazing after having qualified at the back. Sunday he starts next to last. We spoke to him Sunday morning and he said the front of the car is now planted well, but the rear end is still not sticking.
Spoke to Carlos Munoz about getting the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing ride for today's IndyCar race.
WERE YOU SURPRISED TO GET CALL FROM PANTHER?: “Yeah, I was really surprised because it was really late, and I don’t any experience in an Indy car on a road course. None in my life. I don’t even have my seat here from Indy car, from the Indy 500. I was surprised. I talked to Michael (Andretti), I talked to my engineers, I talked to some other guys, and they said you have to take this chance. This is an opportunity to get more experience, more laps.”
HAVE YOU TESTED ON A ROAD COURSE IN AN INDY CAR?: “Never. First time was today ever. The horsepower, we don’t feel it as much at the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway. But with the walls and everything, it’s much more difficult.”
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU DID A STANDING START?: “Back in the year I raced Formula 3. It was quite nice to start with the hand brake. It wasn’t tough to start. I’m not going to have a good start. I’m going to start last. The race is 85 laps. I’m going to try to make no mistakes and gain confidence lap by lap.”
ABOUT USING RYAN BRISCOE’S SETUP: “I knew Ryan did a great job in qualifying for today, so I knew it was more from my part than the car. We started, more or less, with the same car as Ryan.”
WERE YOU PLANNING TO STAY HERE, AND WHY DID PANTHER CALL YOU?: “No, my flight was this morning at 6 a.m. So I changed my flight for yesterday, later in the night at 7 p.m., they called me and said do you want to drive Ryan’s car? That’s when we started calling and everything.”
DO YOU KNOW WHY THEY CALLED YOU?: “Not really. Go and ask JB (John Barnes) about it. I don’t know.”
DID YOU TALK WITH RYAN ABOUT THE CAR THIS MORNING?: “Yeah, we talked a little bit. More or less, I had a question about what to expect from the car, what reference points he had.”
WERE YOU ABLE TO FOLLOW OTHER DRIVERS IN PRACTICE?: “Not really in the beginning. I was three seconds slower, and everyone was overtaking me. I ended up only one second and something behind, so it wasn’t a bad for a first experience for me.”
WHERE DID YOU CUT TIME FROM YOUR LAP DURING PRACTICE?: “Everywhere. Each lap I was going quicker. I have too much to learn, especially on braking, since this was my first time on carbon brakes, and it’s totally different from what I’m used to in Indy Lights.”
WHAT IS YOUR GOAL TODAY: “I said (to Panther) I would go race, but don’t expect me to do a great job as I did in Indy. My goal is to not make any mistakes. Yesterday there were a lot of crashes. I saw the race. So it’s get me out of trouble and be quicker and quicker on each lap and not make any mistakes on pit stops and to finish the race.”
HOW DOES YOUR INDY LIGHTS EXPERIENCE TRANSLATE HERE?: “Line-wise, it’s totally similar to the Indy Lights. So that helped me a lot, the Indy Lights helped me. The reference points are really similar to IndyCar.”
HOW WILL THIS RIDE TODAY HELP YOU TOWARD YOUR GOAL OF REACHING INDYCAR?: “My goal next year is to be full time IndyCar driver. This year after the Indy 500, we were working maybe to Sonoma with the Andretti Autosport team. I was not sure because we wanted to be focused on Indy Lights title because it was more important to do one full season in IndyCar than one race in Sonoma, so I think still the goal is to win the Indy Lights championship.”
We hear AJ Foyt hopes to be back at the track in Sonoma, at least that is the goal. He has to take it easy so he does not pop the hip joint out until the muscles have healed enough to support the hip. He was not taking any painkillers but now he is taking some. This enables him to work harder in rehab and not have the pain stop him. The harder he works the sooner he will be back at the track. He is getting around with a walker at home.
All the drivers are starting the race on the softer red tires except Justin Wilson, Charlie Kimball and Carlos Munoz. The key to being fast this year is keeping the tire patch on the ground as much as possible. Some teams have had to change shocks because they were not working with the new 'environmentally friendly' Firestone tire compound.
The fan pit lane walk-through just before today's race was very popular and something that should be done at every event. It puts fans up close and personal with the cars lined up in the pits.
Below is speculation on what the 2014 IndyCar schedule will be. Some races shown would be new, and we doubt they will all happen, if any. But there have been discussions.
1. March 24 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Streets of St. Petersburg
2. April 6 Honda Grand Prix of Alabama. Barber Motorsport Park
3. April 13 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Streets of Long Beach
4. April 27 Phoenix 300, Phoenix International Raceway
5. May 4 Sao Paulo Indy 300, Streets of Sao Paulo
6. May 25 Indianapolis 500
7. June 1 Chevrolet Duel in Detroit, Belle Isle Park
8. June 7 Firestone 550, Texas Motor Speedway
9. June 23 Milwaukee Indyfest, The Milwaukee Mile
10. July 6 Pocono Indy 400, Pocono Raceway
11. July 12/13 Honda Grand Prix of Toronto, Streets of Toronto*
12. August 3 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
13. August 16 Iowa Corn 250, Iowa Motor Speedway
14. August 24 Go-Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma
15. August 31 Baltimore Grand Prix, Streets of Baltimore
16. September 6/7 Grand Prix of Wisconsin, Road America
17. September 14 Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course
18. Oct. 4/5 Shell Grand Prix of Houston, Reliant Stadium
19. Oct. 19 MAVtv 500, Autoclub Speedway
Rumor has it that bold events have contracts for next year
Mark C. reporting from Toronto