Jim Nabors won't be here today, but he prerecorded Back Home in Indiana and the recording will be played just before the race begins. We hear Nabors will be getting a heart valve replacement this coming week. We wish him well.
Don't look for IndyCar to return to Surfers Paradise anytime soon. We hear the new light rail train system going in cuts the length of the circuit considerable. As for those rumors of Perth being interested, well our Australian sources say don't hold your breath. We still maintain that Adelaide would be the best place for IndyCar to race in Australia, but the V8 Supercars have a lock on that street circuit and we doubt they would let IndyCar in on their party. Would Adelaide run two race weekends a year?
Randy Bernard tells us that in about 14 days a final solidification of the agreement should be done that would allow the China IndyCar race to proceed as planned. "I met with the new mayor the Friday before Long Beach. The new mayor had a couple of concerns that Tony Cotman has addressed. There still are a couple of issues we are addressing. They love international television and they really want to have an IndyCar race. It is just a matter of time and getting a comfort level with the mayor and his people. We met with him and other government officials at 8 PM on a holiday over there, that is how important the race is to them," said Bernard.
Esteban Guerrieri, the Indy Lights ace from Argentina who won the Freedom 100 on Friday, is hoping to win the championship this year and move up to IndyCar in 2013. He stopped by the media center Sunday morning and we had a few minutes to chat with him. If he can win the Indy Lights championship he will get between $500K and $1 million to move up to IndyCar, depending on whether the team that picks him up is already in the Leader Card program or not. Esteban used to race against the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Kamui Kobayashi in Formula 3 before running out of money and coming to the USA to race. He would love to see a race in Buenos Aires and thinks a back-to-back weekend race with Brazil makes perfect sense. 90% of the population of Argentina lives in Buenos Aires and its surrounding suburbs, so the race would be huge. F1 is also eyeing a race in Argentina, but Bernie will fleece their pockets. Recall that Champ Car was looking seriously at doing a street race in Buenos Aires years ago.
As for the rumored 2nd race in Brazil, Randy Bernard tells us that with the three big name Brazilian drivers currently in the series (Barrichello, Kanaan and Castroneves) it makes sense to look at a 2nd market in Brazil, but currently there is nothing imminent.
And all the talk that a return to Pocono could be in IndyCar's future raises a few eyebrows in this camp. Having attended every CART/IndyCar race ever held at Pocono we can tell you that the #1 problem with that 2.5-mile oval is the viewing for the fans. With the angle of the grandstands, it's hard to see the cars on the main straight except for a split second when they pass in front of you and on the backstraight they look like small dots because the cars are so far from the grandstands. However, the track is much nicer today than it used to be and with enough large screen TVs/Jumbotrons, the viewing issue could be mitigated. The only issue is how do you get enough fans in the massive (made for NASCAR) grandstands to not make your series look like a loser. We would run the Pocono race the weekend before Baltimore and move the Sonoma race to April and run it back-to-back with Long Beach. The Poconos are a big vacation destination during the summer months and you would not want to run the race before Memorial Day or after Labor Day (after kids return to school) if you want to draw a crowd. But NASCAR has two Sprint Cup races at Pocono, in June and early August, so late August would be tight. Could they sell enough tickets to three races in a span of 2.5 months? We doubt it.
Word is that the engine refresh all the teams received on Friday saw the Honda make gains on the Chevy, and Honda drivers ran 1-2 on Carb Day so hmm……..
Speaking of engines, word is that the engine manufacturers taking a hard look coming into IndyCar include both Ford and Dodge. We believe the only teams that have multiple year engine contracts are the anchor teams – one for Honda, Chevy and Lotus. The rest are said to be on one-year deals allowing new manufacturers who want to enter the series to have plenty of teams to choose from.
Josef Newgarden and Bryan Clauson are teammates at Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, but both come from very different backgrounds – Newgarden from a rear-engine road racing background and Clauson from a front engine dirt track background. Clauson said his goal is to make Newgarden a true Hoosier by having him race on a dirt track. The Chili Bowl in Tulsa, OK in the off-season was suggested.
Can talented American rookie Josef Newgarden pull off an upset today? On the track, Newgarden ran some very fast laps in practice. He qualified seventh on the inside of row 3 which makes him the fastest rookie. He's also the fastest driver of a Honda car as well. He communicates well with the fans, even if they don't all know who he is yet, they soon will.
"I don't know what it is. They just seem to love our team and I think that's great," Newgarden says. "They're working hard and I think all those cheers go for our guys working on our car and the mechanics and all the hard work that goes in there. So, it doesn't hurt. It gives you a little extra motivation to go out there and do well for everybody."
Alex Tagliani is coming out with a peanut free line of cookies. He has a severe allergy to peanuts and is certainly not alone. Likewise, soy allergies are becoming more prevalent with people now because Americans put soy in just about everything and our bodies just can't take it anymore. You hardly can buy bread, dessert, or any packaged goods in the USA that does not have some form of soy product in it. Near 100% of chocolate made in the USA has soy in it, forcing Americans allergic to soy to have to buy chocolate made in Belgium.
Television ratings for the Indianapolis 500 have been trending down for several years, from 6.5. in 2005 to below 4.0 in both 2010 and 2011. A boost for TV ratings today should come from a weak sports schedule. There is only one NBA playoff game and it will feature two small-market teams (Oklahoma Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs). And with the New Jersey Devils ousting the New York Rangers in the sixth game of the Eastern Conference Finals last night, there is no Stanley Cup action on Sunday.
IndyCar announced an extension of their agreement with ApexBrasil through 2014. The deal brings money into IndyCar in exchange for Brazilian companies getting a platform to expose their products in the USA. Since 2008 the relationship has generated $2 billion in new business for Brazilian companies. Mark Cipolloni reporting from Indy