There are three words most diehard IndyCar fans would probably like to forget but are actually going to play a major role on the 2014 season.
No, they’re not Indy Racing League.
It’s actually Boston Consulting Group.
You remember the BCG report, done back in March during the angst of the then-six-month offseason that ran from mid-September 2012 through to late March this year, right? And the subsequent response from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the AP’s reporting on the report? You don’t? Oh that’s right, the suggestions offered from the 115-page document have not exactly been front page material in the wake of what’s been a dynamic season on track in the year’s first 16 races.
But, as time has passed, and planning for the 2014 IndyCar Series season has commenced, it’s become painfully apparent there’s a lot more of the BCG report that’s entering into IndyCar’s short-term strategy.
In no official order, I’ll offer these as proof:
- Condensed schedule. The BCG suggestion was for a 15-race schedule held over 19 weeks, from April to August. Based on projections and sources, the 2014 IndyCar calendar will likely be 19 or 20 races held over 23 weeks, with three or four doubleheaders (St. Petersburg is in play to become one and/or replace one of the three existing ones from 2013). St. Pete will be held March 30 and if the plan to end the season on Labor Day comes true, that will mean a season finale the weekend of August 29-31. So there’s that. And potentially, even a greater thrash during the year for all involved with the traveling circus.
- Using Indianapolis Motor Speedway more. Well, this one’s obvious. Like it or not, an IMS road course race is coming, and will thus open the floodgates to debate over whether the last bastion of IndyCar tradition at the Speedway has been dumped like yesterday’s Fried Tenderloin sandwich from Mug ‘n Bun. From a pure numbers standpoint, even if attendance is 40 or 50,000, it’s a bottom line improvement for the Speedway compared to 7,500 or 10,000, and another race for the series at the series’ greatest race course.
- Selling the pure racing. If this hasn’t been discussed publicly, it should, and frankly needs to be in the wake of NASCAR’s Chase controversy and drudgery of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s dominance in Formula One. IndyCar’s product this year has been second-to-none with 10 different winners, 18 different podium finishers, a manufacturer battle that is tied after 16 races and a variety of circuits unmatched in motorsports. The product’s been too good to ignore … yet it’s ignored by almost all of mainstream America except for the 400-500,000 hardcores. I can dream about the prospect of some ambassadorial boots on the ground selling the product, right?
When the BCG report was revealed, it didn’t immediately scream that it needed to be implemented. But for Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, the head of IndyCar’s parent company, it’s now obvious that the report is playing into the series’ future direction. Whether it can take IndyCar to the next stratosphere it so deserves remains to be seen.
Belardi Auto Racing, which currently fields entries for Aaron Telitz, Santi Urrutia, and Shelby Blackstock in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, announced on Tuesday that USAC standout Chad Boat, son of former Verizon IndyCar Series race winner Billy Boat, will make his Indy Lights debut with the Brian Belardi led-outfit. Boat will contest the July 9 race at Iowa Speedway, a track he has previously raced on in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and will return for the August 26 event at Gateway Motorsports Park.
“We’re extremely pleased to announce the addition of Chad Boat to our stable of drivers for the Iowa and Gateway Indy Lights oval races this summer,” team owner Brian Belardi detailed. “It’s exciting to have a second-generation driver running with us, and we’re certainly looking forward to getting Chad on track in Iowa.”
The younger Boat has become a star in his own right in USAC, winning Rookie of the Year honors in both the USAC National Midget and Sprint car divisions. The 25-year-old will pilot the No. 84 entry, with sponsorship from Pristine Auction.
“I grew up watching my dad race Indy cars, so having the opportunity to run Indy Lights this year is absolutely surreal,” said Boat. “I have to thank Belardi Auto Racing for giving me a shot behind the wheel of the No. 84 Dallara, as well as Pristine Auction for their continued support in my racing career. I can’t wait to get to Iowa Speedway.”
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Pirelli has confirmed all 20 Formula 1 drivers’ tire picks for next weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, with most opting to stack up on ultra-softs.
As it does for every grand prix, Pirelli will bring three compounds to Austria next week, electing for the softest possible combination of ultra-soft, super-soft and soft tires.
In the regular pre-race release of each driver’s tire picks, Pirelli revealed that Force India, McLaren and Red Bull have gone down the most aggressive routes, stacking up on the ultra-soft tire.
Title contenders Mercedes and Ferrari have gone down a more conservative route, favoring additional sets of the super-soft compound.
Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will take seven sets of ultra-softs to Spielberg, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will have eight sets at their disposal through the weekend.
Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing faced a roller coaster of a race during the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America on Sunday.
He was a rocket off the initial start, jumping from sixth on the grid up to fourth exiting turn 1, but was almost immediately ordered to surrender a position for blocking. He quickly slipped back to sixth, and then began plummeting down the order as he battled an oversteer condition that saw his car chew through its rear tires more quickly than others.
Forced to abandon the planned three-stop strategy, he and the No. 15 Gehl Honda team switched to a four-stop plan that saw him drop well outside the top ten at times.
However, they kept plugging away and rebounded nicely in the second half of the race to eventually finish in eighth. While he would have liked to finish higher up the order, Rahal knows that he and the team got everything they could out of it.
“The car was a handful today. I knew about five laps in that I didn’t have the pace for a three-stop strategy,” Rahal revealed post-race. “We tried as best we could to work with what we had during the race and overcome it. I would have obviously liked to have finished better, but eighth is about as good as we could do today. We struggled with a very loose race car all weekend and just couldn’t put a dent in the problem. We worked awfully hard but just missed it this weekend.”
The eighth-place finish keeps Rahal in the championship hunt. Rahal now sits seventh in the standings, 11 points behind fifth-place Josef Newgarden and 72 behind championship leader Scott Dixon.
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Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones has made waves in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season with a string of solid performances that belie his rookie status.
And Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America was no different.
The 22-year-old battled an oversteering car most of the weekend at Road America, and had to navigate a little carnage late in the race as Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay both fell through the field with front wing problems.
However, Jones weathered all storms to finish an impressive seventh, his fifth finish inside the top 10 this year, and his best finish since his third place at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade MotorOil.
“It was a really tough race,” Jones said of the effort. “We had a loose car yesterday. It was loose, but fast, for qualifying, and today again the car was really loose. I was hanging on the whole race, but the team had some good pit stops and we were able to move up.
“Obviously, the strategy was pretty similar to everyone else. Everyone was aggressive out there. It was hard racing but we came out with a seventh place and we moved up a little bit in the points.”
The seventh-place run sees Jones maintain his position in the top ten in the championship. He currently sits tenth in the standings, three points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton.
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