IMS road course race: The glass half-empty outlook

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On the fence about how to feel regarding an IndyCar road race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Feeling overly positive and need a sprinkle of negativity in your coffee? Or vice versa? Here’s some potential upsides and downsides of the first race to be held next May. We touched on the positives, but if you’re hankering for some pessimism, look below. Feel free to add more in the comments.

NEGATIVE ARGUMENTS

  • Tradition. To many, this is the last erosion of tradition being wiped from the Speedway. “The Indianapolis 500 is the only thing IndyCar should do at the Speedway!” they say. There are others who argue “tradition” went out the window the second NASCAR raced at the track. Times are changing and IndyCar needs to change and make big moves to stay relevant.
  • Attendance. This is a toughie, because for the Speedway bottom line, any crowd the road course race gets will blow the usual number for a practice or Opening Day in modern terms out of the window – think 7,500 to 10,000 now and likely 50,000 or more for a road course race. But it will pale greatly in comparison to the 250,000-plus on race day for the ‘500. What the Speedway will need to do is isolate the fans for this race into fewer sections to at least give the feel there’s still a decent crowd, and potentially sell banners that can be draped over the aluminum seats. It’s not going to look pretty, but if it can look fuller than the Nationwide races at IMS, it will have done its job.
  • It’s IMS, and not another track we’re clamoring for. I’m not going to argue that this doesn’t suck, at least a little bit. Right now it does give off, in part, a bit of desperation from the series standpoint that it is using its own backyard as a stop-gap while other races in other parts of this country or other countries meet their demise. Yes, it’s not Road America or Circuit of the Americas, or another oft-remembered track from the past (Portland, Cleveland, Phoenix or Michigan, anyone?). But I fail to see how another IndyCar race is a bad thing? And the potential drama of it carrying over into the ‘500 a bad thing?

My (hoping for the best) take: All I want is for the race to have a chance to be successful instead of dismissing it in advance. If it proves a bad proposition, either from an optics or business standpoint, then you dump it. But otherwise, it’s here, and ideally can grow from its inaugural running.

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F1 drivers split on new ‘shield’ protection

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) Formula One drivers are split over plans to test a new “shield” device to protect against flying debris.

The FIA will trial the transparent screen in the coming months for a potential introduction in 2018, as it pushes for greater head protection for drivers. Recent years have seen major head injuries in several motorsport series.

“I wouldn’t mind trying out the shield, seeing how is the visibility,” Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas said on Thursday. “In terms of safety it would be a good step compared to what we have now.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was another supporter, saying “we’ve still got to see a bit more, but first impressions seem OK.”

The FIA previously seemed to favor a metal frame known as the “halo,” which was designed to stop a flying wheel hitting a driver’s head but was criticized by some drivers on aesthetic grounds.

Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat said on Thursday he was “quite against” the shield and the halo. “The way Formula One should look should remain the same,” he added. “We have enough protection.”

Romain Grosjean of Haas voiced concern the “next step” would be completely closed cockpits.

Recent years have seen several high-profile head injuries, including the deaths of Formula Two driver Henry Surtees in 2009 when he was hit by a loose wheel and IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, who was struck by debris, in 2015.

In Formula One, Brazilian driver Felipe Massa missed the second half of the 2009 season when a loose spring from another car hit his helmet, leaving him needing surgery.

Haas changes F1 brake supplier ahead of Russian Grand Prix

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Haas has switched from Brembo to Carbon Industrie brakes ahead of this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix in a bid to remedy its long-running braking issues in Formula 1.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous operation onto the F1 grid in 2016, with Romain Grosjean scoring all 29 of its points through its debut season.

Grosjean and then-teammate Esteban Gutierrez had their efforts spurned on a number of occasions by brake issues which continued to arise through pre-season testing in 2017 and the early races.

Haas pushed to remedy the issue by testing new Carbon Industrie brakes in the post-Bahrain Grand Prix test, with Grosjean and new teammate Kevin Magnussen conducting running.

The team duly decided to fit the new Carbon Industrie brakes for this weekend’s race in Russia, with both VF-17 cars to run with them from Friday onwards.

“To be fair to Brembo, the last update in brakes we had that arrived in China were much better. It took a long time to get them,” Grosjean explained.

“So then I was not screaming to change to Carbone Industrie but it was in the pipeline, so we tried them, and both drivers were pretty pleased with them. We felt like we had more control under braking.

“I’m very sensitive to my left pedal, so I really need to get good brakes to get good confidence and push the car to its maximum limit. So we are going to run them here.

“There is still a little bit of work we need to be doing around the mapping and finding the solution around those brakes but I think yeah, definitely it’s going to help me a little bit to find the last few hundredths.”

NHRA: Chad Head to substitute for Alexis DeJoria in Charlotte

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Alexis DeJoria will miss this weekend’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, with her Kalitta Motorsports team confirming DeJoria will need to tend to a family matter.

Chad Head, Kalitta Motorsports Director of Safety, will step into the Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry this weekend. No timetable was given for DeJoria’s return; after Charlotte this weekend, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues for its third consecutive race weekend next week in Atlanta.

This isn’t the first race DeJoria has had to miss recently, as she also was diagnosed with a concussion and missed the 2016 NHRA season finale in Pomona.

F1 Paddock Pass: Russian Grand Prix (VIDEO)

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Following his victory in Bahrain two weeks ago, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel arrived in Russia on Thursday targeting a third win of the year to extend his lead at the top of the Formula 1 drivers’ championship.

Not since 2004 has a Ferrari driver made such a good start to a season, putting Vettel in contention for a fifth world title this year – although with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton hot on his tail, it will have to be a hard-earned success.

The fourth round of the year sees F1 head to the Olympic city of Sochi, which hosted the winter games back in 2014. The Sochi Autodrom played host to its first grand prix the same year, and is now a key part of Russia’s post-Olympic legacy.

Bringing you all of the latest news and interviews ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, Will Buxton brings you Paddock Pass.