Friday, August 26, 2011

JP Does Sonoma…If Delta Cooperates

SO I have a business trip to San Francisco next week…and it just happens that IndyCar is racing at Sonoma…Hmmmm
If Delta gets me in on time Saturday and I navigate traffic successfully I should hit the track in time for Quali’s and then Pix and perhaps an interview or two afterwards.  Stay tuned for updates Saturday and Sunday night.
I am interested in seeing the crowd this year.  Last year’s crowd was reported to be a healthy increase over 2009.  I have a suspicion that the crowd could continue to grow. Two reasons: 
First the hometown hero, JR Hildebrand, makes his return home with quite a bit more notoriety than his cameo appearance last year.  JR has spent the week out and about in the Bay area promoting the race, most recently showing off the whitest legs in the paddock to the crowd at the Giants game.
Second, Ho Ping Tung … Huh? What? Ho Ping Tung?  How does he move the needle?  Bear with me…
I have been the holder of a mini season ticket package for the Indiana Pacers for several years and no matter how bad the Pacers had been in recent years there were three teams that would guarantee a full house.  Lakers, Cavs and then the Rockets.  Bryant, LeBron and Yao Ming the stars for the three teams.  Yao’s army showed up in numbers for every road game the Chinese star played.  Does Ho Ping Tung have an army of followers?  While Ho Ping Tung is ethnically Chinese he is not from China, does this make a difference?  The city with the largest Chinese community in the country might give us some clues…Of course did anyone bother to tell the local Chinese media?  I have no clue.
So yeah this is a pretty lame post. Despite the available material, I just haven’t really been feeling that worked up or opinionated about anything as of late.  There was going to be another tidbit here, but frankly it is worthy of an entire post sometime when I have a little more enthusiasm. 
Enjoy the race this weekend and make sure you have plenty of beverages on hand, George Phillips suggests watching Sonoma makes him thirsty.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Looking for a Precedent...

I tweeted this earlier tonight but tweets are fickle things w/o lasting permanence if you weren’t paying attention.  Please answer this question for me: 
In a basketball game:  a referee makes a mistake and inadvertently blows his whistle, after the whistle, an offensive player takes a dribble and then hits a shot.  Does the shot count???
In Football, the play is in progress, the a defender attempts to tackle the ball carrier, the referee thinking the ball  carrier’s knee has hit the ground blows the whistle and calls the play dead.  When in fact the ball carrier’s knee doesn’t hit the ground and a split second later fumbles the ball which is picked up by the defensive team.  After 20 minutes of replay review, Who’s ball is it?
Pretty clearly we are breaking new ground here, so the best I can do is follow precedents set by other sports who have similar situations arise…All due respect to NHL and Oriol Servia, This is Ryan Hunter Reay’s race.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

2012 IndyCar to Feature New PART System to Enhance Competition

On Monday and Tuesday of this week the long awaited 2012 IndyCar turned its first laps on the track at Mid Ohio.  Amidst the hubbub over the looks, the sounds and the racing potential of the new vehicle another significant feature was overlooked by many commentators.  The 2012 car will feature the revolutionary Position Adjusted Racing Turbo System.  The PART system is designed to adjust the boost settings for each car based on its relative position on track.  The second place car will run at 5 HP more than the first place car, the third place car 10 HP more than first place and so forth on down the line.  Based on the scoring for each previous lap the PART system will update the boost allowed to each car reflecting the most current position for each car.  Expectations are that the additional HP boost for trailing cars will increase the number of overtaking opportunities at places like Mid Ohio or Sonoma and vastly increase the competitiveness of racing overall.
Asked about how the system was operating during its first test, Technical director for the 2012 car program Tony Cottman was quoted as saying “Yes it seemed to be working very well during our test.  We had some concerns as the electronics involved rely on an electronic stream of data from our timing and scoring system.  Some people have reported having issues with that stream in the past.  We have observed no problems so far, we can’t wait to get two cars on the track to test the system further”
When asked why the PART system was developed, Cottman responded, “We really want to think about the enjoyment of our fans as being vital to improving the sport.  We have repetitively heard that fans find passes made on track to be entertaining.  Our first effort at engineering additional passing into races, the Non Defense rule, has been met with only lukewarm reaction from fans”.
Perceptions of the competitiveness of racing as a sport seem to be a concern in many circles.  It seems that in the age of digitally enhanced car chases in action movies and race based video games, racing fans are no longer content to simply watch the fastest car and driver combination race off to victory. 
The first series to dabble with rule changes to enhance racing competition was nascar.  In the 80's Nascar began a policy of “Competition Yellers” to insure that if the lead car was about to lap a popular and marketable driver with a nice sponsorship package, a yellow was dropped in order to clean hot dog wrappers off the track and allow the other cars to bunch up behind the lead car again.
Champcar and later IndyCar were next to tinker with competition by introducing technology aimed at increasing competition during races.  Multiple compounds of racing tires and a various versions of a “Push to Pass” system that allows drivers to temporarily increase the horsepower of their cars by pushing a button on their steering wheel have been utilized by the league.  Additionally, the non defense rule introduced by the league makes it illegal for car a leading car to defend any racing line other than the preferred racing line.
These changes ultimately did not disturb the balance of power on the track as after the Competition Yeller, the fastest car was still allowed to drive away after the drop of the green flag and the soft compound tires and P2P’s were doled out in equal shares across competitors.  This level handed approach to increasing passing was blown out of the water earlier this year when Formula one introduced it’s new Drag Reduction System.  The DRS shifts the balance of power towards the trailing car by allowing it to reduce the drag created its rear wing down long straightaways, allowing the trailing car to accelerate to much quicker speeds than the leading car. 
The DRS has reintroduced the concept of “Passing” back into F1 after its disappearance following the arrival of Micheal Schumacher during the early 90’s.  Many fans have raved about the effect the DRS has had on the show “Wow! I saw a car go past another car! I’ve never seen such a thing before!” Said an excited Sean Clayton.
But not all fans are impressed.  “It’s horrible!  It’s not racing” said a distraught John Pembrokeshire.  “It’s like the second car was shot out of a bloody cannon and just went buggering on by the poor wanker who was leading”
It remains to see how IndyCar fans will react to the redistribution of horsepower to cars that had previously under performed.  Well known skeptic, curmudgeon and opponent of change, George Phillips was quoted as saying “It sounds like Socialism to me”.
Cottman was more optimistic when asked how he thought fans would react to the 20th place car running at 100 more horsepower than the leader, “I think when our fans see these new cars rolling into turn 1 at Long Beach with the new PART system, they will be really excited at what they see.”

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