The big news in the IZOD IndyCar Series world today is that KV Racing has signed Takuma Sato and E.J. Viso to drive for the team again in 2011.
Wow. Break out the champagne. Happy days are here again.
The fact that neither one of those two guys will ever win a race in that series, or capture the imagination of the viewing public, seems to have been lost completely on the owners of that team, multimillionaire Kevin Kalkhoven and former driver Jimmy Vasser.
There’s an unintentionally funny line in the press release, the one that says (quoting Sato): “Everyone back in the shop worked really hard to push the performance up over the winter.” Translation: the team spent the winter building dozens of replacement parts for the car Sato drives in anticipation of all the crashes he’ll have this year.
What are those two doing even driving in that series?
I know I'm beating a dead horse here, but guys who own Indy cars and Indy car teams really don’t get it. This series has the potential to explode in the next two or three years but only if there’s an almost wholesale change of drivers beyond the top 10 (the Powers, Franchittis, Patricks, et al).
Ride-buyers like Sato and Viso, or retreads like Sebastien Bourdais, just aren’t going to do it.
This is not Xenophobic. Like most people, I want to see the best drivers in the world in Indy cars. But there’s something seriously the matter when talented and capable domestic drivers (and by domestic, I mean North American) are consistently overlooked in favour of drivers from overseas, particularly when domestic teams have domestic sponsors.
I mean, look at Dale Coyne, who’s tested Bourdais as well as Alex Lloyd and Martin Plowman, both Brits. His primary sponsor is the Boy Scouts of America. This is as cockeyed as having Englishman Dan Wheldon driving for a team whose primary sponsor was the U.S. National Guard. These things just don’t compute.
(There’s nothing new here, by the way. When the IRL was invented in the mid-90s, Tony George and Cary Agajanian had to BEG John Menard to put Tony Stewart in his car. You can look it up.)
What got me started down this road was the post below, particularly the portion I devoted to a discussion of Newman-Haas Racing’s apparent (nothing is cast in stone, but you know how these things go) inclination — if they only have enough money to run one car — to go with veteran Oriole Servia instead of Canadian newbie James Hinchcliffe.
Now, I like Oriole Servia. I remember being in the infield at Nazareth Speedway on the Friday of the CART race there in 2000 (that was the one that got snowed out; it was gorgeous two days before) and I'm looking at Paul Tracy and Little Al Unser and all those guys out practicing and there's someone in a yellow car with no sponsor, just the number, who's just BOMBING around that place.
I was really impressed, and had to find out who was in that car and it turned out to be Oriole Servia. So he can drive. But that was then and this is now and – with all due respect – he will be of absolutely no use going forward as the face of the “new and improved” IZOD IndyCar Series.
His presence in the Newman-Haas car won’t sell any tickets for next July’s Honda Indy Toronto, that’s for sure. Kevin Savoree, Kim Green (owners of the race) and their GM, Charlie Johnstone, have a really big job ahead of them to re-awaken the interest in that race, which is about nil in this town at the moment, and it would be in their best interests to encourage car owners and IndyCar officials to go after new blood like Hinchcliffe.
To be frank, Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani are not going to do it either.
But “Hinch,” Robert Wickens, Daniel Morad, Alex Ellis, Andrew Ranger, Gianmarco Raimondo, Jonathan Summerton, John Edwards, J.C. Vernet, Pippa Mann, Brian Clauson, Dakoda Armstrong and Otto Sitterly MIGHT! But it's never going to happen if those drivers are on the outside looking in.
Do I get worked up about this stuff? You betcha.