Overheard in Houston - Sunday
When the rain finally stopped about 90 minutes before the start of the IndyCar race the day turned out to be a perfect day for racing in Houston. As a result the fans poured in and most of the grandstands were near full. Attendance was not announced but we estimated it at about 30,000 to 35,000.
And because the temperatures were good, the fans stayed in the grandstands for the entire race, whereas yesterday the fans were cooking in the heat and by the end of the race the grandstands were nearly empty. And they want to run this race in June next year? That's the craziest thing we ever heard. The heat will kill this race.
So we went to speak to race promoter, Mike Lanigan, about it and he told AR1.com, "no matter what month we run this race in the future, we will see if we could do it as a night race like we did with Champ Car in 2006. It was not cheap to light the track, so we have to look at it."
The race has a 5-year deal with Shell Oil it should only get better in future years after the first year hiccups were worked out. As for the bumpy track, particularly in Turn 1, Lanigan said, "we screwed up, simple as that. We missed it."
But say what you want, bumpy tracks are the most entertaining for the fans and for TV.
We asked Lanigan about making this race the opening event of the season on the last weekend in January the week before the Super Bowl. With no other sports on TV that weekend, the TV ratings would be huge (remember the Disney race ratings on that weekend - very high). Lanigan said, "it's a good idea and I would support it, but I would have to discuss it with Shell Oil, they have to support that date."
We spoke with British GP3 driver Jack Harvey, teammate to American Conor Daly. He and his father Paul Harvey (no not the famous American radio announcer) were here as guests of the Dalys talking to Indy Lights teams about possibly racing in the USA next year.
Whereas Conor Daly is trying to go the other way (to Europe), why would Harvey be looking at IndyCar? When in doubt, follow the money! It takes over $1 million per year to run GP3, and over $2 million to run GP2, and whereas the Indy Lights champion gets $1 million to help move up to IndyCar, you get nothing from GP2 to move up.
Conor Daly tells us that a driver has to bring $10 million for one year with back of the grid Marussia and the cost goes up steeply from there. We mused about the cancer in open wheel racing. They are the best drivers in the world, yet they have to buy their rides, whereas sports cars, DTM and NASCAR drivers get paid to drive. There is something wrong, seriously wrong, with that picture. Why can't open wheel teams find the sponsorship and hire the best drivers? It is a cancer in the sport - it cheapens the sport and makes it look amateurish.
Regarding a rumor from earlier, Daly confirmed with AR1 that the GP2 series will not be going to Malaysia next year. But Daly is trying to put a deal together in GP2 next year, with the Renault FR3.5 series an alternate.
Did you know that Dario Franchitti has a new girlfriend? We didn't either, though one person said she has short blond hair and her name might be Pam.
On Friday morning there were reports (false we think) in the Scottish Sun-Times that Dario Franchitti and girlfriend, had been seen shopping for engagement rings. The couple was seen closely eyeing some pricey bling in a couple of major jewelry stores — especially major diamond baubles that could only be described as the kind usually slipped on a woman’s left-hand ring finger.
The newspaper also added that people who claim to be close to the couple are “convinced” an engagement is inevitable. “He's madly in love with her,” says a source. It is believed the relationship is “heating up”.
On Saturday, Dario Franchitti’s rep said “no comment” when asked whether the 40-year-old racing driver was tying the knot. AR1.com doubts this rumor is true, but we are certain Dario won't have any problem finding a new squeeze.
Why did it take four tries for the IndyCar series to finally get a successful standing start in Houston? Are the drivers incompetent? No. They need to hire the engineers from Cosworth who put a system in place for Champ Car that worked to perfection and standing starts were a huge success. As it is right now, the stalling cars on the grid makes the series look like rank amateurs. Once they did get it right, the fans stood up and cheered, they loved it and no one crashed in Turn 1. Standing starts are the most fair and all the street and road course races should be standing starts in 2014. Hearing the engines rev up and then launch from a standing start is one of the most exciting things in racing.
Did you see the shiny Strike paint scheme on the Newgarden car in Houston? It is awesome and looks like a wrap, but in fact it is a real paint. Why can't all the cars on the grid look as spectacular. Some of the IndyCar paint schemes are hideous. Is it really that hard? Mark C. reporting from Houston