Friday, January 30, 2015

IndyCar Off To A Shaky Start For 2015

Philip Lane ‏@Re1axinmood - According to reports Brazil is cancelled - @IndyCar could at least update the website. Do they know something we don't?

IndyCar Off To A Shaky Start For 2015

This last full week of January 2015 saw more damaging action in American Open Wheel Racing off the track in two days than most can remember here in the 2010's ... maybe longer.

On Wednesday, January 28, it was announced that the committee approach that was implemented last year, which effectively diluted the strong influence of Race Director Beaux Barfirld and prompted the aforementioned Mr. Barfield to resign before the end of the 2014 season and accept a Race Director position at IMSA's Tudor United Sports Car Championship, will remain in place with the once replaced Tony George confidant Brian Barnhart as Race Director.

On Thursday, January 29, a shorter season designed to avoid, at all costs, at having IndyCar races being run during American professional football games was made a little shorter with the announcement of the first race of the season set to be run March 8th, 2015, was being cancelled by the race promoter due to track improvement delays and a change of government in Sao Paulo Brazil.

In order of actual damage to the sport of American Open Wheel Racing at the highest professional levels, the second announcement was the greater threat, but the image of IndyCar and its professional stability has taken a perceivable step backwards.

Races scheduled and cancelled at the last minute tends to speak for itself as it relates to the decision-making powers of upper-management. Stable venues are everywhere and having races run on a consistent basis year-in-year-out helps to build an audience and tradition.

Sadly, losing Brazil is just another in a long line of situations that have trashed the year-in-year-out paradigm momentum that has proven to work but is shunned by IndyCar management throughout the years.

Further, the re-appointment of, the once replaced, Brian Barnhart as Director of Race Control, when this country has about 330,000,000 (that's 330 million, or 1/3 of a billion) additional human beings living here, shows a complete lack of evolution that would be critical to building and sustaining a sport at its highest professional standards.

Lastly, the elephant that still sits in the room (because very little allowable on-track testing has taken place) - the addition of add-on aerodynamic body parts (aero-kits) to the tested and appreciated Dallara DW12 platform which has proven itself to be the only durable element in American Open Wheel Racing.

Presentation given during the the season 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series finale held at Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, California by engineers at Honda Racing HPD transport. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

This was to be the year of differentiation through the addition of aero-kits but the actual process has this competitive factor potentially diluted and equalized. All parts have to be manufactured exclusively by Dallara with the majority of the parts already deemed as standard. If the parts are standard to all cars, and manufactured by a single source, secrecy and variance are placed at a minimum. The jury has not even been formed on this season element.

On Brian Barnhart:

Second-year steward system to support race director Brian Barnhart. Image & Caption Credit: IndyCar via Twitter

This excerpted and edited from Oilpressure - 

Brian’s Song: The Return & Other Tidbits
By: George Phillips

Since the news broke less than forty-eight hours ago that Brian Barnhart would be named as Race Director for the Verizon IndyCar Series, there has been nothing but hand-wringing on social media for the past two days.

Wednesday morning – John Oreovicz, of ESPN, tweeted out a tease that Wednesday afternoon, IndyCar fans would be told news that would make us think it was either April Fool’s Day or Groundhog Day. I had no idea what it was. I surmised that either the aero kits were going to be delayed or else the opening race at Brasilia had been cancelled.
An hour or so after the teasing tweet, Curt Cavin broke the news about Barnhart. I’ve been on Twitter since 2009, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a (bleep)-storm as I saw that day. The Legions of the Miserable were out in force. One thing was apparent – IndyCar fans are still very passionate; even in January.

I will admit, my initial reaction was not much different from those I was reading – it just wasn’t as strong. I wasn’t horrified like some, but I wasn’t particularly overjoyed either. Like everyone, I’ve taken my share of shots at Barnhart – some cheaper than others. Let’s face it – he’s a very easy target.

Most people associate Barnhart with a quick trigger for penalties and a very rigid and inflexible stance. He’s been given nicknames like The Iron Hand of Justice and TGBB (The Great Brian Barnhart). Those detractors are not incorrect in that association, but my bad taste comes from a slightly different direction.

Lately, I’ve referred to this current administration as returning to the “bunker mentality” of the Tony George administration. That is what I most associate Barnhart with – that bunker mentality. In the Tony George regime, my perception was that Barnhart was Tony George’s right-hand man and that he really enjoyed being that close to the throne. The two of them pretty much made all decisions, and if no one liked it – tough! To me, it seemed that their viewpoint was “this would be a great series, if we didn’t have all these fans we had to deal with”.
When Tony George was ousted in 2009 and subsequently replaced by Randy Bernard in 2010, Brian Barnhart was operating alone without his main supporter. I am not a psychologist, so I don’t know if George’s absence exacerbated Barnhart’s behavior – but it sure seemed that Barnhart’s race officiating became a lot more visible…and more horrendous.

To make things worse, the more Barnhart was criticized – the more he dug in. His word was final, and he knew it. If anyone questioned his calls, his resolve strengthened and he turned a deaf ear to the criticism. Fans, owners and even drivers were scoffed at. They knew nothing and should not even be listened to – at least that was my perception.

After the debacle at New Hampshire in 2011, it was reported that Randy Bernard had fired Barnhart during the offseason. As it turned out, that wasn’t quite true. He was removed as Director of Race Control, but was still head of Racing Operations. Last year, he was in the rotation to serve as one of three stewards at IndyCar races.
[Barnhart's] new title effectively makes him Chief Steward of the total three stewards at any given race. It’s unclear to me if he is one vote of three or the deciding vote. Whatever the case, he no longer has the last word. That now belongs to Derrick Walker, his boss.
Once the penalty has been enforced, they can’t really give the positions lost back to the driver. I suppose that remains to be seen.
I believe in second chances and all, but I also think that it’s pretty tough to change your core personality. To quote coach Bill Parcells – “You are what you are”.
The other night on Trackside, Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee made it a point to mention that even though this is not popular with fans, no one in the paddock is complaining. Barnhart is well-respected there – which is where it counts. I always questioned the integrity of a Chief Steward that had a Twitter account and wanted to be popular.
So while I think it’s tough to change your core personality, it can be controlled with hard work and discipline. People do learn from their mistakes. Over time, it becomes easier to control your emotions and resist your natural instinct.
Now that Barnhart has returned and we lost the Brazil race, I’m hoping the aero kits are still on deck for St. Petersburg. Stay tuned.
[Reference Here]

Beaux Barfield steps aside as he sends off Justin Wilson for his MAVTV qualifying run during the season 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series finale held at Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, California. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

And this excerpted and edited from Racer - 

PRUETT: Holding judgment on Brian Barnhart
For Racer - Viewpoints: Marshall Pruett

I was hoping for Unicorn Jesus. Instead, according to the Internet, we got Osama bin Hitler.

Before we fall into familiar, time-honored roles of painting Brian Barnhart as evil incarnate—the fire-breathing hellspawn sent to earth to destroy IndyCar from high atop the Race Control tower, let’s steer the conversation in a direction that involves fewer pentagrams and scribblings of 666.

The lows from Barnhart’s tenure as IndyCar’s Race director are well known. From holding an oval race in the rain at Loudon to assigning penalties based on his ability to read minds and judge the intent of the offending driver, Barnhart’s mistakes—and limitations—have been the source of countless columns.

In the three years since Barnhart was taken off the frontline, he was retooled as a steward serving the Race Director, and by all accounts, his experience and attention to detail impressed everyone involved. Call it a private, internal career and image makeover, and with those inside IndyCar experiencing the best side of Barnhart, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see him elevated to his former position.
Do I believe, on a personal level, that he has been unfairly targeted and blamed for many things that weren’t his fault? Absolutely.
If the best referee is one who acts in the best interest of the game and rules fairly once all the facts are known, you’re left with two more examples of how not to referee. You have the guy who swallows the whistle and calls nothing or, in the case of Barnhart through 2011, the ref who carries a few extra whistles in his pocket because they explode from over-use.

That’s Barnhart’s reputation as Race Director. Penalties, penalties, and more penalties, no matter how small the crime, and to compound the problem, his past body of work involved attempts to judge the mindset of the drivers who ran afoul of his sensibilities.

The classic case was at Long Beach in 2011 when numerous drivers spun cars from behind in the hairpin leading onto the front straight, but only some were penalized due to the Race Director’s amazing ability to divine intent from genuine error.
This little walk down memory lane wasn’t to rehash Barnhart’s checkered past in Race Control, but rather, to illustrate the clear and easily defined pros and cons associated with IndyCar’s new chief steward. Applauded for his body of work from 2012-2014, and worrisome in the latter stages of his first go-round in the position through 2011.

It leads me to one conclusion: IndyCar knows exactly who and what they are getting, and if Barnhart is at the center of more controversy due to his trigger-happy shortcomings, blame the series.
Simply put: This dog has a history of biting, yet its owners are confident he’s been rehabilitated and no longer needs a muzzle. If they’re wrong and the paddock ends up with more puncture wounds, don’t get mad at the dog for the owner’s bad judgment.
IndyCar president of competition Derrick Walker knows Barnhart, spent time on the receiving end of Good Brian and Bad Brian as an entrant, and will play an active part in making sure Race Control is a more balanced officiating environment than the one Barnhart previously led.

If I’m wrong, and IndyCar’s officiating safeguards aren’t properly implemented, stockpile all the holy water and crosses you can find.
Until we get to the point where Barnhart has done something new to warrant a digital lynching, it might be worth putting your faith in Walker to place his new Race Director in a position to succeed.​
[Reference Here]

What is the definition of … INSANITY?

We all will be treated to MORE WILLFUL EGO from Race Control as opposed to less.

So, so stupid this IndyCar Series decision is:

A definite step backwards!

Lack of evolution and competitive maturity of the IndyCar sport – I contend, the only real aerodynamic effect that will matter in this 2015 season will be the HOT AIR of penalties emanating from the Race Control tower … not the monolithic nature found in the DW12 aero-kits manufactured exclusively by Dallara, the requested kits by Chevy and Honda (also manufactured exclusively by Dallara), and lastly, the team modified suggestions that are then fed and discussed with Chevy and Honda (also manufactured exclusively by Dallara)!

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Anyone have an “in” at the NSA?

The depth of the point being made centers around the minor variances in the nature of the aero-kits (the vast majority of the aero-kits will be standard and dictated by Dallara as per Honda engineers during the VICS finale at ACS). More races will be decided by Race Control with this latest appointment (based upon a well known history) than will be decided by the potential and perceived advantages provided through variances of the added aero-kits.

As seen on Facebook - a short dialog between one fan to another:

Laura Malone‎ to Beaux Barfield
· Des Moines, IA ·
As IndyCar goes absolutely nuts over the new race director AND has its first race for 2015 canceled, I can only imagine that you are smoking a cigar and laughing and laughing and laughing (you will be missed!)


Beaux Barfield to Laura Malone
· Houston, TX ·
I love IndyCar. And I have a lot of friends there whom I wish all the best. But none of what's happening is dire - sad and frustrating - but not dire. I am comfortable with the decisions I have made. And yes, I am smoking a cigar

    ** Erin Campbell - Said perfectly, babe.
... notes from The EDJE

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Camaro/GM and John Force Racing Are The Forces To Watch In 2015

John Force's new 2015 Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car. Image Credit: Jerry Bonkowski post on

Camaro/GM and John Force Racing Are The Forces To Watch In 2015

Congrats to GM, Chevy and JFR for putting together what many of us thought, and even more of us had hoped for. A deal between Chevy and JFR. 

This falls under the category as a "No Brainer" for both Companies. We all knew Dodge and Toyota were out there in NHRA TF Racing, but we were pretty sure, they had enough Teams already. 

With GM now having the best Hi-Performance Brands of a Production Car line-up of any American make, (Chevy SS, Camaro, Corvette, Caddy ATS-V and CTS-V) it makes sense for the best names in American Performance, and one of the best known names in the NHRA to join “Forces”.

It will be fun to be able to drive some of my GM and Chevy Automobiles to Force Family gatherings from now on. Something I wouldn't have done out of respect before.

Editor's Note: Dicken Wear, Editor-in-Chief. “The Motorsports Report”.

NHRA (Updated): After nearly 20 years away, John Force Racing returns to Chevrolet/GM in 2015
Jerry Bonkowski Jan 15, 2015, 1:33 PM EST 
5 Comments (Reposted with permission by: Jerry Bonkowski)

After months of rumors and speculation about which car manufacturer he’ll represent, 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force has made it official.

Force announced Thursday in a teleconference that after nearly 20 years with Ford as the manufacturer of record on his Funny Car and those of daughter Courtney and son-in-law Robert Hight, John Force Racing has now switched affiliations and will return to Chevrolet, where the winning-est driver in drag racing history began his professional career more than 30 years ago.

We signed the deal right before Christmas,” Force said. “That was the biggest Christmas present I’ve ever gotten.”

Force, his daughter and Hight will drive Chevrolet Camaro Funny Cars in the 24-race 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. Force’s other daughter, Brittany, will also carry Chevy sponsorship on her Top Fuel dragster. 

I get the opportunity to go back to my roots,” Force said. “It’s personal for me. I got my first (NHRA) win with Chevrolet, my first championship with NHRA and six (championships) overall with GM. 

People wanted to know ‘where’s he going with the manufacturer?’ Everybody told me they wanted me to stay with Detroit. GM was where I wanted to land. 

At the end of the day, if you don’t have a manufacturer, you’re in big trouble. … It’s a change and change is good. I’m ready to go drag racing. It’s an exciting time.”

With no other Chevrolet-branded Nitro Funny Cars in the sport, John Force Racing will essentially have the Chevy brand exclusively all to itself.

That was it,” Force said when asked by MotorSportsTalk. “That was key with my past with GM. We got an exclusive. … We’re just getting started. This whole thing, you don’t do all this change overnight. We’re going to hit the track running.  
We’re going to have our first test at Phoenix next Monday. I have great financial backing with GM. … We have an exclusive and that makes it great. Ain’t nobody that loves drag racing more than I do. I feel like a little kid, I feel like I’m 16 all over again. But in that race car, I’m 21 again and I’m a bad hombre when you put me in a firesuit.” The agreement between JFR and Chevrolet is a multi-year deal.

It’s a big day for the sport,” NHRA president Tom Compton said. “Welcome back, GM. We’re really proud to work for you.” Ford announced near the end of the 2013 season that 2014 would be its last with Force, choosing to allocate resources in another direction in its motorsports program in 2015. Ford followed Castrol Oil, which had sponsored Force for the last 30 years, in leaving the Force camp at the end of the 2014 season to go in another direction.

I was in trouble and dancing like a mad man (for funding),” Force said. “We did approach others in the industry, but my heart’s with Detroit. My company is called ‘John Force, American Made.’ It’s where I needed to land. My other partner (Ford) was great, but this is a new relationship.”

Initial reports had John Force Racing potentially signing with Dodge to represent its HellCat R/T Challenger or Charger. There were also reports that Force was also talking with Toyota.  

However, Force rival Don Schumacher Racing has four drivers (Ron Capps, Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr. and defending 2014 Funny Car champ Matt Hagan) that will drive 2015 Dodge Charger R/Ts, but they won’t be the more vaunted HellCat. The HellCat is the most powerful stock street car built in the U.S., with 707 horsepower under the hood. 

At the present time, no NHRA Funny Car team has affiliated with the HellCat. Despite all the rumors and media reports, Force surprised those on the conference call when he said, “I never had a conversation with Dodge.”

Toyota, meanwhile, has Alexis DeJoria, Cruz Pedregon, Chad Head, Del Worsham and Tony Pedregon in its own Funny Car lineup. My conversation with Toyota, we had a brief conversation, but nothing in writing or on the table,” Force said. “This is where I wanted to land. I’m back to my roots, back to where I started. This is an easy transition for us.”

Chevrolet won 11 major championships in five different forms of motorsport in 2014 (including Erica Enders-Stevens winning the NHRA Pro Stock championship) and looks to have Force to win a record 17th Funny Car championship in 2015. 

We need John Force Racing, every person in the organization, to focus and win races and championships for us,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet Vice President for Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “We’re excited about getting to the race track, John, and welcome home.”

NOTES: Because a new primary sponsorship will likely not be announced until after the season begins, Brittany Force and her Top Fuel dragster program could potentially miss the season-opening Winternationals (Feb. 5-8) at Pomona, Calif., and perhaps the next few races before an anticipated new primary sponsorship begins at the March race in Gainesville, Fla.
Follow me on Twitter: @JerryBonkowski

Reposted with permission: Dicken Wear for The Motorsports Report.