Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Stars aligned in open-wheel world

(by John Oreovicz espn.go.com 11-26-09)

There's a tendency in life to focus on what's wrong with things, and racing is no exception.

But in the spirit of the holiday season, here's a look at what's right. In other words, a few things to be thankful for in the world of open-wheel racing.

Everyone involved with the IndyCar Series is thankful that Izod has come on board as a title sponsor that will aggressively market the series.

Izod and IndyCar officials are thankful that Danica Patrick will concentrate primarily on open-wheelers for the next few years. But they wish she and her handlers would finally get around to announcing it.

A lot of people who spend time at IndyCar races are thankful for the quieter exhaust system Honda Performance Development created for the Honda Indy V-8 -- not to mention Honda's continued support of American open-wheel racing.

All the IndyCar Series drivers appreciate the consistent excellence of the Firestone tires they race on, and are also thankful for the introduction this year of red-sidewall alternate tires for road and street courses.

Speaking of road racing, the vast majority of the IndyCar field is thankful that additional road races (Brazil, Barber) are popping up on the schedule.

But I'm sure I wouldn't be the only thankful person if somebody figured out a way to solve the Milwaukee Mile's financial problems so Indy racing's century of history at the historic venue could be extended.

I don't think I am alone in wanting to see Cleveland and Road America on the IndyCar slate as well.

I'm glad that Indy car racing still attracts world-class drivers like Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves.

I'm thankful that Juan Pablo Montoya is starting to show NASCAR and the world that former Indy car drivers really can adapt to stock car racing.

Franchitti and almost every other IndyCar Series competitor are thankful that the ever-slow and always-erratic Milka Duno didn't ever sweep them into a crash.

Another world-class Indy driver, Will Power, is thankful that Roger Penske is stepping up to run a third car for him in 2010.

I'm thankful that the broken back Power suffered (and the broken leg sustained by Nelson Philippe in the same practice crash at Infineon Raceway) was the worst injury of the IndyCar season.

I'm also thankful that I got to witness Justin Wilson's victory for Dale Coyne Racing at Watkins Glen -- one of the best racing stories of the year. A surprisingly long list of drivers out there is grateful to Coyne for his 25 years in the sport.

I'm hopeful that the next wave of American road racing talent -- including JR Hildebrand, Jonathan Summerton, John Edwards, Alexander Rossi and Gabby Chaves -- gets a fair shot at competing in the IndyCar Series, or even F1.

Speaking of F1, world champion Jenson Button is thankful that Red Bull Racing didn't get its car sorted until midseason.

Kimi Raikkonen must be ecstatic at the thought of being paid an eight-figure salary to watch F1 from the sidelines next year.

Felipe Massa is thankful for the safety advances in modern helmets -- as are the Brazilian's legions of fans.

A lot of people remain happy that a few traditional F1 racetracks like Spa, Monza and Suzuka continue to endure the onslaught of fabulous yet characterless Hermann Tilke-designed facilities.

Finally, I'm thankful that my 3-year-old son, Patrick, seems to enjoy watching just about any form of racing as much as his daddy does.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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