No. 959
August 15, 2018

About The UjianNasional

Author, commentator, influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. Editor-in-Chief of .

Peter DeLorenzo has been in and around the sport of racing since the age of ten. After a 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising, where he worked on national campaigns as well as creating many motorsports campaigns for various clients, DeLorenzo established on June 1, 1999. Over the years DeLorenzo's commentaries on racing and the business of motorsports have resonated throughout the industry. Because of the burgeoning influence of those commentaries, DeLorenzo has directly consulted automotive clients on the fundamental direction and content of their motorsports programs. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the sport today.

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By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. With the start of the new IndyCar season upon us (Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Noon, Sunday, 3/12, ABC), I have more than a few things to say about the state of the sport.

First of all, we are in another year of being in a holding pattern with the current cars and manufacturer-supplied aero packages. The initial idea behind these aero packages from Chevrolet and Honda may have come from a good place of reasoned thinking, but the reality of them left a lot to be desired when it came to the actual racing (not to mention the piss-poor aesthetics). As for lessons learned, the 2018 cars appear to be very promising in terms of looking like proper open-wheel racing cars, whatever the definition of that is these days. (I admittedly abhor the look of the current cars both in IndyCar and F1, but I am encouraged by the clean-looking conceptual designs brought forth by IndyCar for 2018. It remains a giant "we'll see," however, as far as I'm concerned.)

In terms of the schedule, I will speak the High-Octane Truth here, which won't be very popular in some circles (as if that has ever stopped me before). I am not a fan of the St. Petersburg course - at all - but it clearly has become poisonous for any Indycar driver to speak negatively about anything, so I will do it for them: It's a Mickey Mouse layout that does the performance potential of the cars no justice whatsoever. I am not a fan of Long Beach either (I know, blasphemous!), because it qualifies as another "CSS" event (as in actual, real live paying customers "Can't See Shit"), which celebrates the "happening" rather than the quality of the circuit itself. I do love the Alabama race (no, I'm not giving all of the official titles of these sponsored events, so sue me) at Barber Motorsports Park, because the cars are an absolute handful there, placing a premium on mental toughness and supreme car control.

Phoenix is another old-timey venue that racing veterans insist that it's important for IndyCar to be racing there, but I have never liked the circuit, allegedly improved or not. The IndyCar Grand Prix on the road circuit inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is an interesting diversion and a good idea schedule-wise, but no one is going to stand up and say that it is a great road racing layout. At least no one who isn't being paid by The Speedway anyway.

The Indianapolis 500 should need no introduction at this point. It is simply the greatest single motor race of any kind in the world and it's unquestionably IndyCar's raison d'etre. I cannot possibly convey what it's really like to go to the Indy 500 and experience all that it has to offer. Suffice to say, if you've been there you know what I mean and understand what a rush and how special it is. And if you've never been, you simply have to go once in your life. The start of the Indianapolis 500 remains the single most electrifying moment in all of sport.

From the sublime high point of the IndyCar schedule we end up in RidiculousVille, aka the doubleheader IndyCar "CSS" weekend on Belle Isle in Detroit. I am so politically incorrect in saying this - what with me being from around these parts - but I don't care: One race on the temporary Belle Isle road course is plenty, two is flat-out absurd. You have to understand that this event is a political happening as much as it is race weekend, because it's tied into the perpetual, recurring "renaissance" theme of Detroit and everyone involved insists that it is an essential part of Detroit's way forward. I'm sorry, but it just isn't. The powers that be at IndyCar simply don't have the guts to make this a one-race weekend, but they should. Until that time the misery will continue, which is too bad.

From there it's off to Texas Motor Speedway, the one event where I hold my breath the entire time IndyCar runs there. I am just glad when it's over, and thankful when no one gets seriously hurt. Next up is Elkhart Lake's Road America, the other pillar of the IndyCar schedule (along with Indianapolis). "America's National Park of Speed" is the spiritual home of IndyCar road racing, with a history that dates way back to the scintillating days of F5000 (look it up if you're not familiar with it). Along with Indy, Road America is the other can't-miss event on the IndyCar schedule.

Iowa is the surprising stop on the IndyCar schedule where it all works, and knowledgeable enthusiasts come together in the middle of nowhere to celebrate witnessing the blinding speed of the Indy cars. Toronto is a "happening" CSS event, Mid-Ohio is another natural-terrain circuit that is sorely needed on the schedule (although they should cut the race distance), and Pocono is the tri-oval that requires big balls, big horsepower and big speed.

And having been to Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois, for the last Indy car event run there, it should be a fine addition to the schedule. The final two stops on the IndyCar schedule at Watkins Glen and Sonoma - two more natural-terrain road circuits - are essential to the schedule (although I wouldn't end the season at Sonoma, I'd move Road America from its June date and make it the final race of the IndyCar season).

As for the driving talent in IndyCar it is clearly the deepest field in years, an exciting mix of veteran stars, rising talents and ultra-promising - and lightning-quick - rookies. Yes, Team Penske, with Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden (with Juan Pablo Montoya for the Indy 500 only) - with Chevrolet power - has to be considered the team to beat, again, but Chip Ganassi Racing with Scott Dixon, Charlie Kimball, Tony Kanaan and Max Chilton will be formidable competitors as always, and they're back this year with Honda too. And Andretti Autosport counters with Ryan Hunter Reay, Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato and of course, Marco Andretti, also with Honda power.

Other teams include Dale Coyne Racing (Sebastien Bourdais and Ed Jones; Honda); Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (Mikhail Aleshin and James Hinchcliffe, with Jay Howard for the "500"; Honda); A. J. Foyt Racing (Carlos Munoz, Conor Daly; Chevrolet); Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Graham Rahal, joined by Oriol Servia for the "500"; Honda); Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (an Indy 500 entrant only with driver Sage Karam); and last but not least, Ed Carpenter Racing (Ed Carpenter - with Spencer Pigot on the road and street courses - and JR Hildebrand; with Chevrolet).

Make no mistake, this is a terrifically talented field of drivers and I believe it's the deepest driver lineup - from top to bottom - in the history of the sport. Do I have any favorites for the title? The usual suspects - Team Penske, Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport - will contend for the title, but of those I'll watch for Newgarden, Pagenaud, Power, Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon in particular to be at the front. As for the rest, I expect strong runs from Rahal, Aleshin, Marco, Hinchcliffe, Chilton, Daly and Jones; and I really expect great things from JR Hildebrand, who, given a much-deserved full-season ride, should be a real contender. Hildebrand is just too good to be considered a dark horse, but I expect him to be one of the stories of the 2017 season.

And that's the High-Octane Truth for this week.

(Shawn Gritzmacher/INDYCAR)
JR Hildebrand will wheel the No. 21 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing.



Editor's Note: Many of you have seen Peter's references over the years to the Hydrogen Electric Racing Federation (HERF), which he launched in 2007. For those of you who weren't following AE at the time, you can read two of HERF's press releases and . And for even more details (including a link to Peter's announcement speech), check out the HERF entry on Wikipedia . -WG


Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Courtesy of the Ford Racing Archives)
Indianapolis, Indiana, May 28, 1978. Al Unser (No. 2 Chaparral Racing First National City Travelers Checks Lola/Cosworth) on his way to the win in the 1978 Indianapolis 500. Pole-sitter Tom Sneva (No. 1 Penske Racing Norton Spirit Penske/Cosworth) finished second and Gordon Johncock (No. 20 Pat Patrick Racing North American Van Lines Wildcat/DGS) was third. Watch an extended race video .

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