Some Much-Needed New Year’s Resolutions

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As we head into the New Year this weekend, many of us are thinking about New Year’s resolutions. Of course, the ones I’m thinking of don’t apply to me. Instead, they apply to many in the Izod IndyCar Series that need to turn over a few new leaves. So, in no particular order, here are some resolutions that need to be tackled by some in the IndyCar community…

AJ Foyt: While I grew up a huge Foyt fan, the man needs to make a couple of promises to himself. After promising to push away from the Bluebell Ice Cream, he needs to push away from some of the day-to-day running of his team. His son, Larry Foyt, is much better equipped to decide what is best for the struggling team. Let AJ maintain his presence on race day at most races. Then turn the reins over to him in the Month of May. The man still knows a thing or two about setting up a car to find the quick way around the Speedway. If Foyt could learn to stop meddling with the team and let Larry do his job, I think their race results would improve significantly.

Dan Wheldon & Panther Racing: I think that the poor results for Panther in 2009 were the fault of both sides. I think Wheldon over-estimated the capabilities of the underfunded team when he joined them a year ago. When it became apparent that they weren’t at the level of his two previous teams, AGR and Ganassi – he seemed to pout and give up. There was plenty of blame on Panther’s side as well. They appeared lost on some tracks as they seemed to chase the setup all weekend. When Wheldon would perform on the track, the team would fumble away track position in the pits. By late July, the only question was which team Wheldon would be moving to for 2010.

Now that they are back together by default, they need to figure out how to coexist and make it happen on the track. Both sides need to make an effort to bring better chemistry on a weekly basis.

Tomas Scheckter: The 2009 season began with Tomas Scheckter on the sidelines. He at first thought that he had the second seat nailed down at Team-3G. Mercifully, that fell through. It wasn’t until the Indianapolis 500 that he secured a ride with Dale Coyne’s second car with sponsorship from Mona-Vie. After Indy, he took the Mona-Vie sponsorship to Dreyer & Reinbold where he ran in selected races for that team.

As we approach January, Scheckter still has nothing secured for 2010. This is a driver who needs to be in a competitive ride in every race this season. There is no questioning his speed, talent and bravado. There does, however, seem to be a disconnect with Scheckter that seems to make teams steer clear of him. He has torn up his share of cars and drive shafts, but he seemed to be easier on his equipment this year. He also seemed to have mediocre finishes for the first time in his career. It could be that there was no week-to-week consistency or that the motivation simply wasn’t there since he didn’t drive until Indy.

Whatever the reason, Scheckter needs to get busy and put something together before the season starts – not only for the fan’s sake, but also for his career’s.

Tony Kanaan:  Although some of Tony Kanaan’s woes in 2009 were beyond his control, a few were self-inflicted. His crew set him on fire more than once and a toe-link broke at Indianapolis, sending into a frightening shunt into the wall. He and his Andretti Autosport team both need to focus more on the job at hand in 2010 in order to improve the team’s finishes. I think that for the past few years, Kanaan has been devoting more time to mentoring his teammates than worrying about his own career. It’s now time for Kanaan to become selfish and focus more on the 7-Eleven car and less on Danica and Marco.

Marco Andretti:  Another Andretti Autosport team-member needs to improve in a couple of different areas in order to have a successful 2010 campaign. Like Kanaan, Marco Andretti needs to improve his focus on the job in front of him. It no longer seems that his name is being mentioned for the USF1 seat, so that distraction has been removed. With a four-year commitment from Venom Energy Drink, Marco has run out of excuses. He has the talent, now he needs to show that he has the maturity and the focus to not only perform on the track, but also become more of a team player.

Jeff Belskus:  With all due respect to Jeff Belskus and his ability to streamline the budget at IMS, his interpersonal skills seem to be lacking. As much as one of his predecessors, Joie Chitwood, seemed to love the spotlight; Jeff Belskus seems to abhor it. That’s OK, because not everyone is comfortable behind a microphone and in front of a camera. But Jeff Belskus should make a resolution to find someone who is, and make them the "face” of the Speedway and the league. With Belskus’s current reluctance to make himself public, the Speedway is suffering from the perception that there is no voice for the public to hear from, on important matters as they relate to the Speedway and the league.

Dreyer & Reinbold:  After selling their rides to the highest bidder with Milka Duno and Tomas Scheckter, along with John Andretti and Davey Hamilton at Indy; it’s time for this team to get serious. Mike Conway stumbled through the first half of the season and was quite familiar with the wall, as well as the Delphi Safety Crew, by mid-season. However, he seemed to improve greatly in the second half of his rookie season. Hopefully, he can carry that momentum through 2010 and get a permanent teammate who is there to race, instead of bringing a check to help pay bills.

Team 3G:  Where do I begin? Perhaps they should just take a page from the George Costanza playbook and make a resolution to do the complete opposite of what they did in 2009. The results are bound to be better.

KV Racing Technology:  Do what it takes to find the necessary funding to get Paul Tracy in a ride for the full season. Yes, PT is a little overweight and probably past his prime. But he still adds a ton of excitement both on and off the track, and his presence is good for the series.

Rahal-Letterman Racing: Ditto for this once-proud team to find funding for a full-time ride for Oriol Servia. They seemed to gel pretty nicely at Indy last year. He is a talented driver who deserves to be in the series and RLR needs to get back to full-time status this year or I think you can kiss them goodbye for good.

I’m sure there are more, but these are just a few people/teams that need to take some needed steps in order to have an improved 2010. Some will and some won’t, but that’s why we keep following this sport – to see who steps up and who doesn’t.

George Phillips

* - Please note: There will be no blog this Friday Jan 1. I will be in Atlanta cheering on my Tennessee Volunteers in the Chik-Fil-A bowl on New Year’s Eve night. I hope everyone has a safe New Year’s celebration and a prosperous 2010. I’ll return here on Monday Jan 4.

Happy New Year!

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19 Responses to “Some Much-Needed New Year’s Resolutions”

  1. My New Year’s resolution is to get George to run for Mr. Twitter January. And also to quit chewing tobacco. But mainly the Mr. Twitter thing.

    • Whoops. I didn’t mean to imply that George chews tobacco — which is how it came across. I do. For another 31 hrs., 29 min. Not that I’m counting and/or beginning to shake. Carry on.

  2. Brian McKay Says:

    Thanks for observing, thinking and writing, George. I’m so glad to have something to read in the off-season.
    Go Vols!

  3. timnothhelfer Says:

    T IICS has some great product…..time to make the most of it. Do some bold things, give us food for our imaginations….

  4. Resolution to Danica, try and win a couple races, non fuel miliage!

  5. I agree with all your resolutions, George. Some of the wounds you mentioned are self-inflicted, others outside of the control of the parties, but they all need fixing for their sake as well as that of the IICS.

    In regard to your Jeff Belskus resolution, I would nominate Helio. He has the personality to be a perfect public face for the IICS if he wants to and would be asked/allowed to do so.

    Also a resolution to find a seat for Ryan Hunter-Reay and J.R. Hildebrand if that can be done. Hopefully Dale Coyne can find the cash. Also, Please get Simona De Silvestro and Ana Beatriz in the series, and give Sarah Fisher and Jay Howard some good performances.

    • Someone mentioned on Trackside during the year that John Andretti would be a great spokesperson and that’s something that I would back.
      He’s done well in Indycar and Stock Cars and has a massively familiar name. He also comes across as very likable and as someone that can do a lot for the series.

  6. As I comment Andretti Autosport leads the “Needs Improvement” poll :!: WTF :shock: :?: :?: This team finished 5th, 6th, & 8th in the IRL Championship in 2009 & this team is on the crap-list :?: Really???

    AJ Foyt Racing won Indy Lights & IRL championships. Driver Kenny Brack won Indy… now look where they are. AJ told PT that his team was NOT worth of him :!:

    Look where Panther Racing was. Sam Hornish took on Ganassi & Penske …& WON :!: The fall Panther has experienced is worthy of a helluva lot of New Year’s resolutions

    Team like 3G & D&R have always been field fillers… they fly under the high expectations “radar” IMO (so I understand their low vote totals)

    • Yeah, but they failed to win a single race between 4 differant drivers!

      • ~agreed
        (a) The Andretti-Green armada failed to pluck a single win in a season in which Dale Coyne Racing won.
        (b) AGR set Tony Kanaan aflame more than once.
        (c) Tom Anderson has been hired to right the ship.

    • Justin Wilson won that race… NOT DCR stellar prep. Sorry JMP :idea:

      Yes, AGR had 4 drivers… Mutoh was never a treat to win & Marco has been disappointing for several seasons. That leaves Danicaa & TK…. who finished 5th & 6th right behind the Ganassi/ Penske red cars (despite some issues) :idea: :idea: Tom Anderson should help…

      … so many other teams deserve to be leading the “needs improvement” list. Some must agree AJ & Panther have gained votes since my last visit

  7. Trick Dickle Says:

    My New Year’s Resolution would be for Eddie Gossage take the reigns of this sport and most of these sports car/F1 wannabe’s go away and find another form of racing to screw up.

    Its past time to turn this sport back into what it SHOULD be….An American racing series with American drivers DRIVING the cars racing in front of American racing fans. With the Indy 500 as the sport’s centerpiece. Continuing to stumble along, just hoping to survive for another month/year, with the same cast of characters involved who have already PROVEN they are clueless on how to sell the sport and grow the sport, is just a recipe for disaster.

    And Marco Andretti has great talent? Really? I think the kid has proven to be very average in some of the best equipment/team personnel available. The only place he seems to ever race well at is Indy (which is a good thing actually). I truly wonder if he actually even wants to be a race driver. He seems much more interested in the “other” aspects/perks of being a race driver then the actual racing part of it. Maybe he will bounce back and show something this year. But we have all been waiting for him to “bust out” for a few years now and been thoroughly underwhelmed.

    Also didn’t like the insinuation that Davey Hamilton and John Andretti were merely “ride buyers” for D&R. Both of those cats are REAL RACERS. The fact that in current-day Indy Car Racing, the only way either one can get into a Indy Car is buy bringing a sponsor is not their fault. Its the flawed business model that has killed Indy Car for a couple of decades. You could (and with Conway and Donuts, they did) do MUCH worse for a Indy 500 driver, then those two. D&R is no different then most any other team now….all they are looking for is a check. Talent truthfully is just a nice bonus.

    • oilpressure Says:

      Sorry if you thought I was implying that they were ride-buyers. Looking back, I guess that IS the way I worded it. You’ve been commenting here for a while now, so you probably know I am a big fan of both.

      But Davey Hamilton has the HP sponsorship and shopped it around. The same for John Andretti and Window World. He also brought Richard Petty along as a figure-head. But you’re correct that they would both be good picks for Indy. In fact, I’ve said before that if I won the lottery and was able to put a race team together, John Andretti would be on my short list. — GP.

      • Trick Dickle Says:

        I really didn’t think that, but it was worded as such in your synopsis. I agreed with much of what you said in the blog entry, BTW.

        While both are long in the tooth, both are still real racers and have proven their worth in many forms of racing (and at the Indy 500). But without the funding they bring or have brought recently, they would be out of luck. Just like so many others, young and old. And when the talent level is arguably “shaky” (to be kind) in the sport and many drivers ONLY here because of either family connections or the check they write, it becomes truly frustrating year-after-year.

        Actually what is even more damning (potentially) is right now Hunter-Reay only has a 4 race deal for 2010. After being saved from unemployment by TG and Foyt (thanks to TG) last year. How bad is it, when a guy your series title sponsor has a spokesman, can’t even get a steady ride? That’s bad.

    • Must disagree slightly – if anything the IRL was at its weakest when it was a mainly American driven series, but I do dislike the nature of ride-buying in the series – it is something that may fix itself as the economy improves.

      The series can succeed when it has the best drivers possible and let’s not forget there are some high quality US drivers coming through too, but to disregard drivers because they came from Europe or otherwise is just silly.

    • There’s a series for that, it’s called NASCAR. Indycar should be the top American road racers, USAC stars, European/Brazilian/Japanese Open Wheeler’s battling for wins on the most diverse mix of tracks in any one series. That’s what makes Indycar special, compared to other series.

  8. The IRL needs Paul Tracy. While I admire the skills of the drivers, they all seem to toe the company line a bit too much. Tracy brings history, rebelliousness and a little fun to the equation. Happy New Year all.

  9. At the risk of being pelted by cyber snowballs (oh wait, that would only happen at the pagoda), I voted for Andretti Autosport. Sure, they had three of four cars in the top 10, but they were never championship contenders this season. Something needs to turn around there because they’re joining the ranks of teams that only hope to be able to compete with Penske/Ganassi. Those other teams need improvement, but AA needs it most because they have the resources to compete and, apparently, can’t. To me, that’s a bigger problem than not having the resources and being unable to compete because they’re misusing their resources.

    • Well the addition of Tom Anderson SHOULD help AA. As for AGR/ AA having stellar resources (to compete with Penske & Ganassi) I must disagree :!:

      Sure, Danica had strong support brom Motorola/ Boost Mobile & Pimp Daddy . TK’s 7-Eleven sponsor package gave him a well funded team. However FORMULA DREAM wasn’t exactly an economic powerhouse sponsor… it was a glorified Honda schorlarship program :idea: Marco’s budget looked big, but in reality Snapple Group’s VENOM Energy Drink is no Red Bull or Monster (in terms of $$$ they spend on sports sponsorships) Meijer is a midwest chain that probably will NOT be back in 2010

      AGR’s “top teams” finished 5th & 6th… but we will never know how much of their $$$ got funneled to Marco & Mutoh. An argument could be made for AA to only run three cars & refocus. they are losing badly to 2-car teams.

      Having said that… I send out Best Wishes to Danica, Tony, & RHR (I can’t stand Marco) & Andretti Autosport in 2010 (despite their size) :!:

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