Standpat or Copycat

An Irish poet/playwright Oscar Wilde wrote this quote: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”

Can you imitate anything greater than 6-time double world champion, Mercedes? I’ll answer that for you, no.

For Racing Point, this is the first time since their acquisition of Force India in the summer of 2018; they seem to be embracing a new team philosophy for the characteristic of their cars. “Let’s do something different, try something different, start with a clean sheet of paper and let’s do something new.” stated Racing Point’s Technical Director Andrew Green in reference to the last year of the current regulations. “Though we were adding performance to the car [since 2014] and it was getting better, it had this underlying Achilles’ heel that we were really struggling to get rid of… the gains we were making were getting slower and slower; the fundamental characteristic of the car wasn’t changing.”

Now, referencing the featured image, I think the similarities are pretty clear. The rounded nose piece, the shape of the front wings, side pods, and even the mirrors have the same angles. The only difference I can see with my “technical expertise” is the size and shape of the rear wing.

When responding to the comparisons between Racing Point’s “RP20 and the Mercedes “W10” that won both the 2019 driver’s and constructor’s championships, Sergio Perez said, “I hope it will perform like their car, but it is still very early days.”

When questioned about the similarities, Andrew Green defended his creation by stating, “I can tell you absolutely, categorically all those designs are Racing Point from absolute scratch, there has been no transfer of information on listed parts from Mercedes. They have never contemplated it, we have never asked for it.” Green has emphasized that what is seen as similarities between the two cars is composed of photos that are accessible to everyone, and they “utilized that information.”

Racing Point has been open in disclosing that the “RP20” will be using the front and rear suspension pieces from last year’s Mercedes but assure us that the chassis is all original. Green told Autosport Magazine, “We decided that anything to do with the chassis – which is effectively a non-transferable component, a listed part – we would prefer to keep all that in house, because it’s all linked.”

This car is an original chassis that is influenced heavily by the successful Mercedes “W10” with no substantial information given to them from their technical partners of Mercedes. Now, I do not doubt that their mid-team rivals of McLaren and Renault might have something negative say about this; but if you are Racing Point, was there anything left to lose? If this works, they stay ahead of their mid-team rivals. If not, then the 2021 regulations will have everyone on a theoretical, even playing field.

The world of motorsports is a “monkey see, monkey do” business, and if the pre-season test was anything to go by, Racing Point is trying to do.

Scott Masom

photo credit: Motorsports Network

 

“But Babe, This Time It’ll be Different, Won’t It?”

IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) and the ACO (Automobile Club de l’Ouest) have announced a joint endeavor.

Yeah, don’t worry, I have some reservations as well. I’ll wait until I see both of these series on the same racetrack for an official event before I get my juices flowing as they have a long history of not seeing eye to eye.

Most recently as 2017.

The announcement today is about both series coming together to create a top international prototype class. It will allow teams and manufacturers from both series to compete in events like the 24 Hours of Daytona, as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans and collect championship points for both IMSA and WEC competition.

This endeavor will combine IMSA’s developing LMDh class, slated to be introduced in 2021, and will complete an official take over of the DPi prototypes in 2022. ACO’s much-anticipated Hypercar class is still geared for its debut this season. There will be a BOP (balance of performance) for races when both series prototypes enter into the same event.

According to an official IMSA article, “both parties were inspired by elements of both series regulations.”

The result of this convergence, the LMDh car will be :

  • Based on a new chassis common to both ACO and IMSA, using elements of the Le Mans Hypercar and LMP2 chassis, and built by the four current LMP2 manufacturers: Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic and Oreca. This chassis will also be used for the new generation LMP2.
  • The car will use a common hybrid KERS system, on the rear axle.
  • Its silhouette and design will be modifiable, developed according to the brand or style of the manufacturer which will provide the engine power for the car

More technical details will be delivered in March during SuperSebring as both IMSA and ACO officials will give a more in-depth presentation then.

The joint endeavor is fantastic news for endurance racing. Not only for the fans but drivers and manufacturers. This announcement allows for prototypes to take to the spotlight again in European racing and allows a team like Wayne Taylor Racing and their Cadillac a chance at Le Mans glory. That thought gave me some chills.

And yes, babe, for the betterment of endurance racing, this relationship needs to be different this time.

Scott Masom

p.s. LMDh has yet to be officially defined. My best guess, it’ll mean Le Mans Daytona Hybrid. Let me know your theories in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Quick Late Thoughts on the New Owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Classes are done, grades are in, and the school semester is finally over! Which means I can get back to doing my labor of love-this blog. Now, with my volunteer hiatus over to focus on school, I’ve missed some pretty big racing news.

For example, Roger Penske buying the whole show, he got the entire chimichanga, the is eating his cake. His purchase of not only Indianapolis Motor Speedway but the series of IndyCar is nothing short of impressive. While the news of this purchase came as a massive shock to the racing world, I can not think of a better person this speedway, and series could have gone too.

First of all, he has the financial understanding needed to make Indianapolis Motor Speedway blossom into a worldwide spectacle again. He has grand plans to bring in more and doing more to elevate the speedway and IndyCar. He referenced the possibility of a 24-hour race on the road coarse that would be amazing for a series like IMSA or the WEC. Formula One is on his mind, as well as luring a much needed third manufacture for the IndyCar series.

With Penske’s purchase of both the speedway and the series, is wanting to see a true double-header between IndyCar and NASCAR. It could unite racing in America overall and something that seems to be long overdue.

But one thing that I believe everyone has overlooked with this purchase, at least to me, is more about the legacy he can leave behind for American open-wheel racing than it is about his ego. History dictates that it would be about asserting his dominance and becoming “The Captain” everyone knows from his involvement in the open-wheel civil war to the way he conducts his racing operations. But honestly, when I watched his interviews and heard the inflections in his voice, it’s of joy.

Most importantly, he understands the magnitude of what Indianapolis is. The track, series, and American open-wheel racing are in the right hands. 

Scott Masom

photo credit: AJ Mast, AP

NASCAR has Changed the Way We Should View Points Racing

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There were many stories and take-aways to have from last weekend’s NASCAR race at the Roval. Chase “From the Same Place” Elliott crashed from the lead and then won in a dominating fashion as he drove back up through the field. There was the controversy between Alex Bowman and Bubba Wallace along with the clock striking midnight on the #6 Roush-Fenway Ford Mustang.

Ryan Newman narrowly missed the next round of the playoffs by making a mistake in the closing laps that cost him the several precious points needed to advance after serving a penalty. His whole race centered around the points battle for that coveted 12th place points position that excluded you from elimination. Newman’s race concerned only those that surrounded him in points, just like points racing in any other form for motorsports.

Clint Bowyer, the driver of the #14 Stewart-Haas Ford Mustang, referenced many times throughout the year that stage points were critical for him to not only make the playoffs but advancing when in them. Jimmie Johnson, who missed this year’s playoffs for the first time since the playoff/chase format began in 2004, echoed those statements when his bid into NASCAR’s version of the postseason seemed weary.

A premium has been placed on points that I don’t believe motorsports has ever seen. Being competitive all race long at the front of the field yields your greatest reward at stage end. As earning stage points on top of your race result is the only real way to separate yourself from the pack. Teams have built their strategies for the race weekend around them.

I know, I’m preaching on a points system that was introduced in 2017, but I don’t think we as fans appreciate what it brings to NASCAR as much as we should. It creates excitement, it produces pressure, it requires drivers to be exceptional all race weekend.

I enjoy that; especially when a chance to advance forward for a championship is on the line, much like it was at the Roval.

So that is my take away from last weekend’s race. That points racing has become more than managing a gap and being happy with the finish you got. It has become about pushing on every lap and attacking when the opportunity presents itself.

You know, like racecar drivers are supposed to do.

Scott Masom

photo credit: roushfenway.com

My 5 Things to Watch for During the 2019 NASCAR Playoffs

The NASCAR Cup series has raced 26 of the 36 races for the 2019 season, but one can argue that the season has only just begun. The collection of race wins, stage wins, stage points and finishes have culminated into creating a 16-car field that will battle elimination to the conclusion of the season at Homestead-Miami.

The biggest story going into the playoffs isn’t about the drivers who found themselves in, but about a driver who found himself out in Jimmie Johnson. For the first time since the inception of the Chase/Playoffs, he finds himself on the outside looking in. A 15-year consecutive streak broken for the 7-time champion.

This year I will give you my five things to watch for along with giving you my dark horse to win it all, and of course, my pick at who will be the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion.

For context, these are the 16-drivers fighting for the championship:

1. Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing: 2,045 points

2. Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing: 2,030 points

3. Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing: 2,029 points

4. Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing: 2,028 points

5. Joey Logano, Team Penske: 2,028 points

6. Brad Keselowski, Team Penske: 2,024 points

7. Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports: 2,018 points

8. Kurt Busch, Chip Ganassi Racing: 2,011 points

9. Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports: 2,005 points

10. Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing: 2,005 points

11. Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing: 2,005 points

12. Ryan Blaney, Team Penske: 2,004 points

13. William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports: 2,001 points

14. Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing: 2,001 points

15.Clint Bowyer, Stewart-Haas Racing: 2,000 points

16. Ryan Newman, Roush Fenway Racing: 2,000 points

#1. The Team Dynamic of Joe Gibbs Racing

By far, the best team on the grid is JGR. An excellent team dynamic happens because everyone chips in for the betterment of the organization. JGR has done very well for themselves as an organization by getting all four of the team cars into the playoffs. But now the organization will splinter and turn into four individual teams for the final ten races of the season. Will teammates give an extra inch? Will there be team orders? Will there be a disfunction that causes one or more of these cars to not advance to at least the Round of 8?

I believe that at least two cars from the JGR stable will be racing in the Championship Round in Miami, the question is which two and what will their journey look like to get there?

#2. Erik Jones Will be a “Dark Horse” Contender For The Championship

 

#3. Kurt Busch Will Continue to Carry the Flag for Chip Ganassi Racing During the Playoffs

And possibly into next year?

Kurt Busch has been steady, reliable, and most importantly, a 2019 race winner. Something that his teammate, Kyle Larson, can not say. What the older Busch brother has done since taking over the #1 from Jamie McMurray is show the potential of what those cars at Chip Ganassi can do. When Kurt signed with the team, I instantly thought, “upgrade.” He will make the Round of 8 and have consistent runs within the top-10 to be a thorn in several drivers sides.

#4 The Roval

It was unknown last year, but it produced one of, if not the best, races of last season. I do not doubt that this track will continue that trend. Teams are prepared for it. Drivers know some of the secrets and the fans will be catered to the first elimination race of the playoffs. It was must-watch TV last season as Ryan Blaney took the checkered flag on the final corner of the last lap, and I assume we will have similar drama this year. Whatever you do, make time for this race. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

#5 Logano vs. Harvick

I am predicting that this will be the battle for the last spot to get into the Championship Round. They have had polar opposite starts to the season as Logano began the season strong as Harvick has just found his groove as of late.

There is history between these two, and I don’t believe the authors’ are done writing it yet. Another chapter between these two for a chance to at a championship; sign me up.

My Champion: Denny Hamlin

He is having the best season of his career since his runner-up finish of 2nd in 2010. His new crew chief of Chris Gabehart and everyone on that #11 FedEx Toyota has been on par, at times better, than his JGR counterpart of Kyle Busch.

This season will be the one that Denny puts his stamp on being a sure-fire Hall of Famer. He has two wins at Homestead-Miami in 2008 and 2013, and the path of tracks that lay between him and that elusive championship, are all in his favor with Richmond, Martinsville, and being the winner of the spring race at Texas, he has the potential to secure this championship with dominating finishes in each round of the playoffs.

The real challenge will be defeating teammate Kyle Busch who secured the regular-season champion. The reason he is 15-points ahead of Hamlin in the standings. The intensity is ramping up. The real season is starting, and for 16 drivers, it is their chance at NASCAR glory.

Scott Masom

photo credit: NASCAR

Death: The Inherent Danger of Motorsports

‘I didn’t have a Plan B in life.’ I was in pursuit of my dream from the very beginning. It’s all about desire and passion. At all costs.- Mario Andretti

Anthoine Hubert succumbed to his injuries after a lap-two incident during the 17th round of the Formula 2 championship at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. The Frenchman was 22-years old. Juan-Manuel Correa and Giuliano Alesi were also involved in the incident.

Correa’s impact of Hubert happened at high-speed after cresting the uphill turn of Raidillon. Hubert’s car careened off the wall after trying to avoid Alesi and came back toward the racing line. Correa had no time to react to Hubert, and the impact split Hubert’s car in half as the monocoque separated from the chassis. According to an FIA statement, Correa was sent to Liege hospital “in stable condition.”

Giuliano Alesi was deemed fit at the track’s medical center.

The race was not resumed and the Formula 2 race for that following Sunday was canceled out of respect for Hubert and his family. The FIA is currently investigating the incident. Hubert’s passing is the first death due to an incident since Jules Bianchi succumbed to his injuries from the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix. Bianchi passed on the following July.

Racing is dangerous. Always has been and always will be.

I admit that as a current fan who has grown-up in arguably the safest time in motorsports, I tend to forget this. The advances in safety in the last 20 years have been incredible. Unfortunately, this is a sport that is continuously reactive instead of proactive when it comes to saftey. Notable required safety items like the HANS device, SAFER barriers, and HALO have all be a direct effect from death within the sport.

Often, this reaction happens after losing the sport’s biggest names.

My thoughts are with Anthoine Hubert, his family, and friends. He was a young talent that was taken too soon.

But that doesn’t ever make the pill easier to swallow.

Scott Masom

photo credit: Anthoine Hubert’s Twitter

 

 

 

Understanding Life Through My Favorite Racing Quotes

School starts for me this week, and I didn’t want to miss a chance to create one more post before it got going.

I love quotes. They can be snippets of clarity and inspiration or moments of cloudy judgment or anger; there seems to be no in-between when it comes to them, and that is what makes them great. 

I want to share some of my favorite racing quotes that I have come across over the years that have given me some real inspiration. 

“Sometimes you’ve just gotta lick the stamp and send it.”- Daniel Ricciardo 

A daring move, late on the brakes to pass Valtteri Bottas for the top step of the podium during the 2018 Chinese Grand Prix is what concocted this beautiful quote from the self-proclaimed “Honey Badger” of Formula One. 

This quote is my absolute favorite. It inspired me to branch out and apply for other jobs and be more daring in my writing. This quote is about having the right mentality, and when he saw an opening to pass Bottas, he took it. He didn’t know if it would work at the time, but he took the chance anyway.

Take a chance. Lick the stamp. 

“When you put on your helmet… you’re invincible.” – John Force

Is this the thing that has kept John Force racing for so many years? Achieving his 150th NHRA win at the age of 75, one might argue that it is. 

When you are genuinely in your environment, whether as a professional or as a hobbyist, there is no better feeling, I’m starting to find mine within this blog, and it is something I hope everyone can discover for themselves. 

“You will never know the feeling of a driver when winning a race. The helmet hides feelings that can not be understood.”- Aryton Senna

We revere our favorite race car drivers as genuine heroes-they are the men behind the mask that wheel machinery only a few can fathom. 

We do not see the fear in a driver’s eyes, nor do we see their confidence. Only the driver knows the truth of their emotions. Winning is everything to these drivers; it is the purest form of validation. 

Only you know your genuine emotions. Only you know when you’ve achieved validation. 

“If you don’t come walking back to the pits every once in a while holding a steering wheel in your hands, you’re not trying hard enough.”- Mario Andretti 

It is okay to give everything you have and still fail because failing is a part of life. It is better to try for more than never to try because being content is not acceptable when you can do more; be more. 

Sometimes, you’ve just got to leave it all on the track. 

“Simply racing a Formula One car is an achievement”- Sebastian Vettel

It is essential to have a perspective on life. We all have plans to become the best in our fields. We want to become the race winner, the champion, the legend. In our endless pursuit to try and be the best, we often forget that what we have achieved is monumental in itself. 

I have a medium to express my thoughts on motorsports, and for right now, this is a considerable achievement. 

Scott Masom

Pocono, Pocono, Wherefore Art Thou Pocono?

Pocono, for the second race in as many years, is clouded by controversy.

The subject of this controversy is another lap one incident. Felix Rosenqvist found his NTT IndyCar flying through the air and sliding atop the SAFER barrier after being collected into the wreck going 200+ mph. To everyone’s relief, Rosenqvist did not get into the catch fence. He walked away relatively unscathed, as did the rest of the drivers involved, including championship contender, Alexander Rossi.

This first lap incident was shocking to many, especially after what happened to Robert Wickens the year prior at the same point of the race track.

Alexander Rossi was very adamant about who was to blame for the lap one incident:

“I can’t even begin to understand how, after last year, how Takuma thinks that any sort of driving like that is acceptable,” said Rossi. “I mean, to turn across two cars at that speed in that corner of a 500-mile race is disgraceful, upsetting and might have cost us a championship. It’s upsetting, this team works too hard to have something like that happen.”

James Hinchcliffe, remembering the impact of last year’s lap one incident had this to say:

“It sucks. I’m glad everyone’s OK but I don’t know how many times we have to do this before people figure out that you can attack all you want, but it doesn’t give you a chance to win if you’re in the fence. It’s just crazy, man. It’s just such a waste of time and money to come out here for a 500-mile race and half the top 10 end up in the fence at Turn 2.”

At the time, Takuma Sato took the blame for the incident but claimed: “I kept the steering wheel straight but unfortunately it looked like we tangled together,” said Sato.

On Sato’s official twitter account the following day, he shared a video from the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team’s onboard camera. It revealed that he indeed did not turn the wheel deliberately to the left and into Rossi like many belief.

My initial response when it happened was that Sato was solely to blame for the incident. But after reviewing footage and reading multiple sources, my take on the incident is that this was a racing accident. It just happened to be at 220 mph at a race track where track position was absolutely crucial.

There is no better time to gain a position than at starts and restarts.

I think what is forgotten, but it is necessary to talk about is that dirty air can push and pull race cars. It was no secret that Sato was trying to capitalize on the draft of Scott Dixon. Dixon jumps up half a lane to get away from towing his championship rival of Rossi and jumps into Sato’s line. When reviewing the onboard camera of Sato’s car, his wheel never turns to the left. Yet, his car does drift to the left and into Rossi.

It reminds me of driving down the highway, and a being behind 18-wheelers. The tug and pull your car can feel as you switch lanes. Or when a 18-wheeler is heading the opposite direction of you at full speed, the wind pushes you over to the other side of the road. Now, imagine that scenario but traveling 200+ mph while dealing with a bumpy race track.

Robert Wickens was quick to add his opinion on Twitter after the accident. He posted: “How many times do we have to go through the same situation before we can all accept that an IndyCar should not race at Pocono. It’s just a toxic relationship and maybe it’s time to consider a divorce. I’m very relieved (to my knowledge) that everyone is okay from that scary crash.”

This incident questions not just racing at Pocono, but superspeedways and high-speed ovals in general. I’ve mulled over this topic since Wickens’s accident. I wondered if the Indianapolis 500 should be the only oval on the schedule. Should ovals be taken off as a whole or should they only run on ovals that restrict their speed naturally like an Iowa or a Richmond due to their size?

I say yes, ovals do need to be a part of the NTT IndyCar schedule because that is what makes IndyCar unique above all other open-wheel disciplines. It isn’t enough to be good at only road courses, but a driver needs to be great at all disciplines IndyCar offers to become a champion.

I believe there is no doubt that we need to make superspeedway racing safer. The cars are more advanced and more reliable than ever. The drivers are perhaps the most adept they have ever been in IndyCar history.

So what else needs to change? To me, it always goes back to the speed that these cars are traveling. We’ve seen numerous adaptations in motorsports to restrict speed like restrictor plates, drag-inducing systems like larger spoilers, or simply lowering the horsepower of the cars.

There is no reason why we can’t do this to IndyCars. And I’ll use this time as a friendly reminder that speed does not equal great racing.

If IndyCar does not derive a solution to making oval racing safer, does this hurt their perspective crops of future drivers? We’ve seen the young talent of Max Chilton opt-out of driving ovals the rest of the year. One has to ask, what are the chances of more younger drivers opting out as well.

Not to mention, IndyCar owners seem to be going international with their driver findings with Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist as prime examples. Many of whom have never driven ovals before. Do these incidents deter established international drivers from thinking about a career in IndyCar? It would be a shame to have a few full-time drivers because of this.

At some point, IndyCar needs to refill the driver pool. Names of Dixon, Power, and Bourdais are not getting any younger, and we need to explore if this really is becoming a problem in gaining and developing IndyCar talent.

This was the final year of a three-year contract between Pocono and IndyCar. For some, the race should continue. For others, Pocono may have outlived its usefulness for the series. For me, let’s come back to the historic track when we can slow these cars down.

Scott Masom

photo credit: motorsport.com

Should We Develop a Hard Criteria for the NASCAR Hall of Fame?

“Hall of Fames” are cliques.

And with any clique, it is governed by the select few that hold the vital power of inclusion. For many, it is exclusion. Nominations not based on any set of fixed criteria like championships or individual records, but made with subjectivity and prejudice to particular individuals. Look no farther than Major Leauge Baseball and the way they conduct their Hall of Fame voting.

I bring this topic to the forefront of this blog as I was thinking about NASCAR’s recently voted 2020 Hall of Fame class. The names of Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, Buddy Baker, NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs, and crew chief/engineer Waddell Wilson will become the eleventh class to be inducted.

With no hard criteria, what makes a driver worthy of a Hall of Fame induction? Or for that matter, a person who is a contributor like a car owner, crew chief/engineer, or broadcaster? If we are to commemorate those that mean something to our sport, then I believe that we need to create specific criteria that Hall of Famers need to satisfy even to be considered for a nomination. It is the Hall of Fame; not the Hall of “ok, good, or possibly great.”

Every time someone questionable gets inducted, the Hall of Fame loses credibility. At this point, NASCAR has not had this problem due to it still being relatively new.

I once heard that if you are going to induct a person into a Hall of Fame, then you need to ask yourself a simple question. Can you tell the history of the league by excluding that individual’s career? If you can’t, then they should be a Hall of Famer.

But does that statement only count for classic stick and ball sports? Where there is only one league, like the MLB or NBA, to measure your dominance? A place where development and previous successes in the minor leagues do not matter when that player arrives in the big leagues?

Take, for example, Greg Biffle or Carl Edwards. Both drivers had fantastic careers in the lower levels of NASCAR. During Biffle’s meteoric rise through the ranks, he claimed a Truck and the now Xfinity Series championship. Edwards dominated the Xfinity Series by collecting 38 wins and a 2007 championship. But when both drivers arrived in the Cup series, championships escaped them.

Should we count their entire NASCAR career as a whole that makes them bid worthy to the NASCAR Hall of Fame? Or does not achieving a championship at the Cup level, the highest series within NASCAR, ultimately blemish their careers despite their previous achievements?

What level of NASCAR should we be emphasizing for those that are lucky enough to make it to the Cup Series full-time? After all, that is the end goal, and I think their Cup career should take the first priority when thinking about nominating someone to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Those two drivers are no doubt fan favorites but should that be enough to get you into the Hall of Fame? Yes, I’m referring to a 15-time fan favorite, Dale Earnhardt Jr. A two-time Xfinity Series champion in ’98 and ’99, he too, never captured a title at the highest level. I do not doubt that he will get into the NASCAR Hall of Fame due to his enormous reputation. I ask, will it be because he was a great driver or a popular one? Without his last name being Earnhart, would we adore him in the manner that we do?

Statistical benchmarks need to be set to achieve a Hall of Fame status. As a sporting community, we tend to view three statistical references as the most important across all various forms of sports: wins, championship(s), and longevity. So for NASCAR and their Hall of Fame, where should these benchmarks be placed?

For wins, thirty should be the minimum. When looking at the all-time NASCAR win list, there is a division at this number that separates the good from the great. Names above that line are Dale Jarrett, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, and Kevin Harvick. The driver who currently sits at the thirty win-mark is the 2010 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Champion, Brad Keselowski. Those below the mark? Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, and the one and only, Dale Jr.

One of the strangest questions to me is, “should championships matter?” I mean, that is the ultimate goal every season when the engines fire up for Daytona, is it not? Can you have a fantastic career but never capture a championship? Yes, Mark Martin is the shining example; that is perhaps the most significant stain on his career.

But when talking about the greats in any sport, their championship count matters. We refer to Jimmie Johnson as “7-time”. Looking outside of NASCAR and into other forms of motorsports, Scott Dixon has 5 IndyCar championships. John Force claimed 16 NHRA titles. Michael Schumacher found himself on top of the Formula One world 7 times.

Now, I understand that I am referencing some of the greatest to ever strap into a race car. The importance of having at least one championship means that you were, at one point, undoubtedly the best in your field.

So, yeah, having a championship(s) should matter.

It isn’t enough to have one or two strong seasons and be mediocre for the rest of your career. Those that we consider greats in our sport dominated an era and continued to win in the subsequent years after their period of dominance. When viewing a driver’s length of dominance, I find that most lasted around five years throughout various disciplines of motorsports.

For instance, Dale Earnhardt’s dominance of the late ’80s and into the early ’90s; Jeff Gordon picked up that torch of dominance into the ’00s. But these drivers continued to win. They continued to be in championship conversations, which help in preserving their longevity in the sport for at least a decade at the highest level.

Again, I have to reiterate the highest level because NASCAR is very open in its interpretation and requirements to get into the Hall of Fame. This isn’t a knock to drivers that found themselves in stable careers at the Truck, Xfinity, or lower levels. In fact, I think much of the same hard criteria should apply to those drivers if we are to recognize them as being outstanding during their tenures at that level for NASCAR.

The requirements for drivers currently are to have at least a ten-year career in NASCAR and be retired for two. For those that aren’t a driver, they need to have worked in the NASCAR industry for at least ten years.

The Hall of Fame is the ultimate achievement an individual can have. And yet, it is ultimately decided on the subjectiveness and prejudice among those we deem worthy to justify their greatness. Instead, I urge that we start to use hard criteria to let drivers fully validate themselves by their on-track performances.

Remember, it is the NASCAR Hall of Fame; not the NASCAR Hall of “ok, good, or possibly great.”

Scott Masom

New Kids on the Block: Arrow McLaren SP

We finally have it after all the months of speculation. The continuous “no comments” from both Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports and McLaren about an incurring deal with the European motorsports outfit, and the wishy-washiness of McLaren CEO Zak Brown about a full-time IndyCar entry for the 2020 season, we have an official answer.

McLaren will be on the grid; full-time.

McLaren failed to qualify for this year’s Indianapolis 500 as an independent team. It was apparent that if they wanted to go IndyCar racing, that a partnership with an existing team would be the preferred way to do it. I wrote my blog posting of “#fastest33” about the future of McLaren in IndyCar. I stated that it would not be surprising to see an announcement between McLaren and SMP on a joint venture in the future as Arrow sponsored both outfits. Well, fast forward two and a half months, and it seems as though this partnership has come to fruition.

An integral part of this partnership is the commitment SPM is making in switching engine manufactures from the Japanese powerhouses of Honda to the American bowties of Chevrolet. It appears that the messy recent history between Honda and McLaren will continue to spill over into IndyCar. Which brings to question what their driver line-up will look like in 2020?

Announced for 2020, Arrow McLaren SP would field only two cars; currently James Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson pilot those two cars. For fans of Robert Wickens rest easy, as his seat is assured with the team when/if he decides to come back to IndyCar.

Ericsson signed a one-year contract before the 2019 season started and is looking to secure his place on the grid for next year. Does this new partnership secure his future within the series? I believe it hurts Ericsson more than anything. Especially with Alonso, the two-time Formula One Champion not having any concrete plans for his racing future. Remember that he is still associated with McLaren and is still searching for his Triple Crown.

As for Hinchcliffe-a Honda Ambassador-stated earlier today after the official announcement from the team, through his various social media outlets, that he is excited for what 2020 will bring to him and Arrow McLaren SP. His contract with Schmidt-Peterson expires at the end of next season.

But will Honda let Hinchcliffe go so quickly to the manufacture of Chevrolet, even if it is only for a season to finish his contract? Will Arrow, who has been a sponsor of Hinchcliffe since 2015, let him walk away from their brand? Does Honda try to find Hinchcliffe a seat at another Honda team like Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing? They have been rumored in the last several days to be in the works for adding a third car to their stable. Will Chip Ganassi have a chance at snatching one of these drivers if they become available?

Don’t forget about the implication that this deal has for Mayer Shank Racing. With Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports switch in engine manufacture, MSR’s partnership with them effectively comes to an end. MSR is partnered with Honda’s luxury brand Acura in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

One thing is for sure, IndyCar’s silly season is in full swing and McLaren has thrown their monkey wrench.

Scott Masom

photo credit: Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports