Where Lies The Problem At KV?
This past Saturday, Marshall Pruett of SpeedTV.com had an excellent article about Rubens Barrichello and how he has started talking to other teams about his plans for 2013. Who could blame him?
There are three races left in the fifteen race schedule for 2012. We have no idea what will happen in those three races, but one thing we do know is that no driver for KV Racing Technologies is in contention to win the IZOD IndyCar Series championship. With only three races remaining, I think it’s safe to say that one of the biggest disappointments of the 2012 season is the underperformance by KVRT.
Following the Mid-Ohio race, Tony Kanaan is the only KV driver in the top-ten in points, sitting in the seventh spot. To be fair, Kanaan is only nine points away from fifth, while he is a safe thirty-sixth points away from falling to eighth. Barrichello is next for the KV trio, sitting ten spots behind Kanaan in the seventeenth position. Their third teammate, EJ Viso is not far behind in twentieth.
I think it’s safe to say that all three drivers had much higher expectations. So did most fans. If any driver deserves a pass, it’s Barrichello. He has been a rookie at every track this season and had no prior experience in these cars or the previous Dallara before signing with KV in the spring. That’s not to say I’m blaming any of the drivers. I‘m not. The team consists of a former series champion in Kanaan, a world class driver from Formula One in Barrichello and a fifth year driver that has quietly shown steady improvement throughout most of this season (aside from his performance at Belle Isle when he slowed up most of the field). So the problem must lie elsewhere. But where, is the question?
I don’t think team personnel is the problem either. I’m not going to sit here and pretend to know who all of the members are for each team, but I do know that they are quality personnel for the most part. Most notably, this year Tony Kanaan was reunited with his longtime engineer Eric Cowdin, who many consider to be the finest engineer in the IndyCar paddock. Cowdin was with Kanaan at Tasman Motorsports in Firestone Indy Lights, when Kanaan won the 1997 championship. He moved up with him in CART and followed Kanaan to Andretti-Green in 2003 and was Kanaan’s engineer when TK won the championship in 2004. Cowdin and Kanaan separated in 2009, when Cowdin moved to Team Penske to serve as Ryan Briscoe’s engineer. Cowdin came within a Briscoe brain-fade at Motegi of winning the 2009 championship. He stayed for two more years before moving to KV this past offseason to reunite with Kanaan. Some would say the results haven’t been pretty. Instead, I’ll submit that Eric Cowdin’s presence may be why Kanaan is doing so much better than his teammates.
Can money be the problem? You wouldn’t think. Each team seems to be well funded, although I have no knowledge how much money is behind each sponsorship program. Kevin Kalkhoven represents the “K” in KV Racing. The Australian is a venture capitalist and fiber optic mogul. Without getting into his personal worth, suffice it to say that it’s a lot. Former driver Jimmy Vasser is the “V” in KV. While Vasser obviously doesn’t have the personal wealth behind him that Kalkhoven does, he has a wealth of racing knowledge and experience. In his driving days, Vasser was always one of my favorites. He had a California style about him, on-track and off, that vaguely reminded me of a combination of Parnelli Jones and Dan Gurney. Money and leadership are not the problem.
The engine isn’t the problem. Unless Scott Dixon can jump up and steal this championship for Honda, Chevrolet will more than likely win the 2012 championship, whether it’s with Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport; or Helio Castroneves or Will Power of Team Penske. Chevrolet was the manufacturer that boasted of the strong team lineup featuring Penske, Andretti and KV; along with non-contenders Ed Carpenter Racing, Panther Racing and since Indianapolis – Dreyer & Reinbold and Dragon.
Of the three “contender” Chevy teams, I considered Andretti the weakest going into the season. But Andretti has won three races this season, while Penske has won five. KV Racing Technologies has never won a race in this series, including this year. This season, they have had a few decent moments courtesy of Kanaan and Cowdin – but the team has appeared to regress as this season has gone on. That was evident at Mid-Ohio when the three-car team qualified fifteenth, nineteenth and twentieth. Fortunately, Kanaan performed well enough in the race to finish sixth, but Barrichello and Viso were both underwhelming with finishes of fifteenth and twentieth respectively.
So what is the problem at KV? To an outsider like me – that only leaves team chemistry, which I guess really falls under team personnel. You can amass all the talent in the world; but if they can’t work together, the results can be abysmal. Witness some of the Washington Redskins or Dallas Cowboys teams of the past decade to see how money can buy talent but not championships. I’ve got no reason to think that this is the situation at KV, but what else is there? Their poor performance this season is baffling.
Tony Kanaan and Rubens Barrichello are lifelong friends. They are practically brothers. Barrichello turned forty in May and Kanaan will turn thirty-eight on New Year’s Eve. They are both nearing the end of their great careers. One would think they would both like to ride off into the sunset together. But neither driver is one to settle for just riding around. They are both still very talented and each has a strong competitive streak. Winning is still why they race. Neither driver needs the money. They do this to win.
While it would be preferred for both drivers to close out their careers as teammates – it’s not a requirement. Barrichello obviously still thinks he stands a good chance to win next year or else he would just go home to Brazil and retire. Instead, he is putting his friendship with his childhood buddy on the backburner and exploring all of his options for 2013 – which may or may not include KV Racing Technologies. After their poor performance this season, can you really blame him?
Please Note: Since the IZOD IndyCar Series now has a three-week break between races, I am going to take some time off as well. There will be no post for Friday Aug 10 or Monday Aug 13. I will return here next Wednesday Aug 15. Thanks for your patience. – GP