Unpredictability, first-time winners make IndyCar’s 2013 one of the best in years


Here’s how unpredictable this 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season has been:

You have had four first-time winners – James Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato, Simon Pagenaud and Charlie Kimball – emerge from the pack and take the next step in their respective careers.

You had a guy in Mike Conway who was basically left for the IndyCar scrap heap after deciding, and bravely I might add, he didn’t want to race ovals anymore. Then he came into the most heavily derided car on the grid (Dale Coyne’s second car) without so much as a test day and kicked ass in Detroit.

And you have the championship rivals of 2010 and 2011 – the champion, Dario Franchitti and the challenger, Will Power – having gone winless thus far in 2013.

What do you make of the nature of this topsy-turvy season where predictions are about as reliable as a weatherman’s in the Midwest?

Is this level of parity, and unpredictability, good for IndyCar or is it a sign where the current car allows drivers who might not be considered top-shelf, top-caliber pilots to punch above their weight?

Those questions I’ll leave for the comments section. But speaking objectively, having followed this series since I grew up following IndyCar in the 1990s and having covered it since 2006, I have to rank this season top three in the last 20 years. And we haven’t even got to the climax of the final few race weekends yet.

The nature of this field – compared to Formula One’s for example – is that you have a legitimate 15 or so contenders on any given weekend, depending on the track. Nine different drivers from seven teams have won in the 14 races. Seventeen different drivers from nine teams have scored at least one podium finish. The ones who haven’t yet have threatened the establishment at at least one race this year.

And for once, to this point at least, you don’t have the political morass or B.S. of off-track attempting to weave its way in and interrupt the on-track product. Way too often, it seems the permeating stench of politics and agendas seeps into the paddock, leaving media, competitors and fans disgruntled.

When the worst things off-track are questions over aero kits and changing the engine formula to just twin-turbos, rather than the usual leadership tumult at the top, it’s not a bad year. There remain challenges going forward, as always, but the on-track product has quieted the angst for most of the year.

I tweeted after the Indianapolis 500 that when Tony Kanaan won, on a day he was reunited with three of his best friends, Franchitti, Max Papis and the incomparable Alex Zanardi in Victory Lane, that it felt like 1998 all over again.

These are the new glory days in IndyCar. Enjoy the ride.

Get your motor running: American Flat Track’s new season premieres Sunday on NBCSN

Photos courtesy American Flat Track
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If you like racing two-wheel style, make sure you catch the debut of a new multi-year TV broadcast deal featuring the American Flat Track motorcycle racing series on NBCSN.

The 18-round series debuts this Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN with the season-opening race that was held at Daytona International Speedway on March 15.

Going forward, all 18 rounds of the series will be televised on NBCSN in highly-coveted weekend afternoon programming slots without two weeks of each event.

Last season, AFT drew nearly two million viewers on NBCSN with regular primetime coverage on Thursday nights.

This season, the one-hour, tape-delayed telecasts will be part of NBCSN’s regular weekend programing, following or preceding coverage of NASCAR, INDYCAR and Pro Motocross.

AFT is now in its 65th season, with two distinct classes: powerful, twin-cylinder rides in the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines division, and the competition in the 450cc AFT Singles division.

“We are very excited to kick-off our second season of AFT on NBCSN,” NBC Sports Group Senior Director of Programming Jeff Macaluso. “The 2017 season provided us with some incredible racing and showed us how passionate the riders and fans are of this historic sport.

“The move to weekends this year, around other marquis motorsports properties, is sure to raise the level even higher.”

Here’s the 2018 AFT schedule on NBCSN:

Round Track, Location Track Type Premiere Time (ET) Time (PT)
1 Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL TT Sun, 3/25 2:00 PM 11:00 AM
2 Dixie Speedway, Woodstock, GA Short Track Sat, 4/14 5:30 PM 2:30 PM
3 Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, TX Half-Mile Sun, 5/06 4:00 PM 1:00 PM
4 Calistoga Speedway, Calistoga, CA Half-Mile Sun, 5/20 12:00 PM 9:00 AM
5 Turf Paradise, Phoenix, AZ Mile Sat, 5/26 3:00 PM 12:00 PM
6 Cal Expo, Sacramento, CA Mile Sun, 6/03 2:00 PM 11:00 AM
7 Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, IL Mile Sat, 6/09 5:00 PM 2:00 PM
8 Red Mile, Lexington, KY Mile Sat, 6/16 12:00 PM 9:00 AM
9 Remington Park, Oklahoma City, OK Mile Sat, 6/23 5:00 PM 2:00 PM
10 Allen County Fairgrounds, Lima, OH Half-Mile Sat, 7/07 2:30 PM 11:30 AM
11 Weedsport Speedway, Weedsport, NY Short Track Sun, 7/15 6:00 PM 3:00 PM
12 Buffalo Chip Campgrounds, Sturgis, SD TT Sat, 8/11 12:30 PM 9:30 AM
13 Black Hills Speedway, Rapid City, SD Half-Mile Sat, 8/18 2:00 PM 11:00 AM
14 Peoria Motorcycle Club, Peoria, IL TT Sat, 9/01 3:00 PM 12:00 PM
15 Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, IL Mile Sat, 9/22 2:30 PM 11:30 AM
16 Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg, PA Half-Mile Sun, 9/23 5:00 PM 2:00 PM
17 Canterbury Park, Shakopee, MN Mile Sun, 10/14 5:00 PM 2:00 PM
18 Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford, NJ Mile Sun, 10/21 2:00 PM 11:00 AM


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