Greetings from Newton (Update 1)


AR1's Brian Carroccio is at Iowa Speedway this weekend.

It’s about 9 p.m. local time here just outside Des Moines, Iowa. I’m back at the Ritz-Carlton Des Moines (well, not exactly) after a very nice dinner downtown, getting prepared for what will be a long day tomorrow. The Verizon IndyCar Series will have a 1 hour 15 minute practice session tomorrow, followed by single car qualifying. The teams will then have a brief half hour practice session tomorrow from 6-6:30 p.m. before the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.

I mentioned earlier that I spent some time wandering the paddock at Iowa Speedway this afternoon. Of course, the IndyCar Series is the midst of a grueling stretch of 6 races in a 22-day period. The teams are currently just over 100 hours removed from a 500-mile race, and have had to convert the cars from road course to speedway trim, and back again in the last two weeks.

I asked around to get a sense of what the past few days in particular were like. The general sense I received was that the amount of work varied depending on the standard level of updating teams had to do to the car. One team principal told me that the act of switching cars over from one type of track setup (i.e. road course to super speedway) was something that while time intensive (about 160-180 man hours) every team had the capability to perform that task. What is at premium in this condensed schedule according to many and during this grueling stretch in particular, there is a premium on advance planning. In other words, the teams that have parts prepared for certain types of races in advance, and have the capacity for advance preparation are the ones who will have advantage during this particularly busy stretch.

The cars were converted from superspeedway to road course/oval trim this past Monday and Tuesday after Pocono.

For example, let's say a team has to convert a car speedway to road course/short oval trim. The actual conversion itself is I don’t want to say routine, but something the teams can carry out with a certain number of man hours.

What isn’t routine is the knowledge of what might happen on a given race weekend. Will the team lose a gearbox? Will there be brake issues that need to be addressed? It is the unknowns that are what potentially strains the teams.

As an aside, one crewman, who contributed to the above mentioned to me that he was concerned that there haven’t been a lot of younger mechanics entering the sport in recent years. This gentleman is probably in his early-mid 30s, and said he had been working in IndyCar for about a decade. He and I then discussed how racing is not translating to the younger people as it did to people our age (keep in mind, as two people in our 30s, we’re not that old).

One crew member mentioned to Brian C. how Formula E was actively seeking to engage fans.

He then out of nowhere mentioned how intrigued he was by Formula E, the all-electric racing series set to debut in September. In particular, he noted how Formula E is developing software that will allow people to race against drivers in Formula E during the events. "That's the kind of thing that will bring young fans," he noted.

I also spent some time speaking with Chip Ganassi Racing Team Principal Mike Hull. I asked Hull about the possibility of 2013 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion Sage Karam potentially running more races later this season. Karam, of course, is signed to a long-term deal with Ganassi Racing, and made his IndyCar debut earlier in the year at the Indianapolis 500 with Ganassi’s support via Dreyer and Reinbold Racing and finished an impressive ninth.

Sage Karam was the show at this year's 12 Hours of Sebring.

As for Karam potentially driving for the team, Hull didn’t have much new to offer. "Maybe," said the longtime team principal, who added the team was working on potential financial packages, but that nothing was imminent.

Of course, Karam has run sports cars for Ganassi in 2014, with his most impressive showing coming at the 12 Hours of Sebring. As you might expect, Hull raved about Karam's performance that day, pointing out something I had not known before today.

Near the end of one stint, Karam radioed into the team that he thought his right rear tire was "going down," and losing air pressure. This radio message came towards the end of a lap, so the team did not have time to contemplate whether or not to call him in. Further, there was nothing on the telemetry that indicated something was amiss.

Nevertheless, the 18-year old made the split-second decision to bring the car into the pits. Karam gave way to Tony Kanaan, and after the driver switch was made, the team examined the right rear. As it turned out Karam’s suspicion was correct. The tire was going down, and Hull noted that not many 18-year olds have that sort of awareness in the car. After all, in this particular case, Karam read something the telemetry did not, or as Hull noted, "[Karam] was the telemetry."

Might the Ganassi organization be following a similar template with Sage Karam as they did with NASCAR rookie sensation Kyle Larson?

As the conversation continued, Hull drew a parallel between Karam and Ganassi Racing NASCAR driver Kyle Larson. Hull noted how the 21-year old spent a few years in other series developing before jumping into the #42 Ganassi NASCAR Sprint Cup car in 2014.

Now, can we infer from the above that Karam will likely be brought along slowly by the Ganassi squad? Not definitively, although I did find it interesting Hull made that parallel.

Nevertheless, there are two overwhelming sentiments I took away from my discussion with Hull in regards to Karam:

1. Yes, Mike Hull can be prone to hyperbole. However, the longtime Ganassi principal is genuinely impressed with the Nazareth, PA native.
2. Although Karam is clearly in the team’s long-term plans, the team does not seem to have a clear view year as to how he fits into those plans. And…
3. There is no rush to decide.

Check in with AR1 over the next few days for updates from Iowa Speedway.

Brian C. reporting from Iowa

07/10/14 With temperatures in the low 80s, slight humidity and a gentle breeze its one gorgeous mid-summer day here in central Iowa. The Verizon IndyCar Series teams arrived this morning and are currently preparing their cars for the weekend's events. The teams will practice and qualify tomorrow, with the Iowa Corn 300 Presented by DEKALB scheduled for Saturday evening.

Also, IndyCar is running this weekend with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The Trucks have a one show(practice, qualify and race) scheduled for tomorrow concluding with the 6th annual American Ethanol "200" presented by Enogen tomorrow evening.

As for IndyCar, we'll begin by noting a few livery changes/updates for the weekend.

#2-Juan Pablo Montoya will once again carry the PPG Automotive Finishes white, blue and black colors.

#3-Helio Castroneves is again carrying the Hitachi colors.

#10-Tony Kanaan is sporting a red paint scheme very similar to the traditional Target colors. However, TNT energy drink is the primary sponsor on the Team Ganassi Chevrolet this weekend.

#11-Sebastien Bourdais is back to the #11 Mistic electronic cigarettes colors.

#67-Josef Newgarden is carrying Direct Supply primary sponsorship on the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda with associate sponsorship from Envision.

I landed in Des Moines, sometime around 11 a.m. local time. One of the first things anyone will notice when arriving in Iowa is how friendly everyone is. Anyway, After grabbing the rental car, I went and grabbed some lunch before making my way to Iowa Speedway.

I will say that I did not see one item of promotion for either the IndyCar or Truck Series race on the 45-minute drive from the airport. Now, to be fair, this is only my second year at the event, so I don’t have a lot of reference to go on. I will simply say from that what I saw, there is generally greater visible promotion at other IndyCar venues.

One story to follow throughout the weekend will be the weather. While things are lovely at the moment, there is rain forecast for tomorrow morning and potentially some Saturday evening. We will keep an eye on the forecast throughout the weekend.

Anyway, I just wanted to drop a quick note. I recently concluded a brief stroll through the paddock, and will have a report a little later.

Brian C. reporting from Iowa

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