Chat with John Oreovicz
Oreovicz recently wrote about Danica Patrick's desire to win at Indy.
Oreovicz attended his first Indianapolis 500 as a teenager in 1978 and still hasn't broken the open-wheel racing habit. He has covered nearly 300 Indy-style races for National Speed Sport News and many other publications around the world and co-authored "A Winning Adventure," a history of Honda's successful Champ Car engine program. "Oreo" resides in western Indiana within earshot of his home track, the Putnam Park Road Course.
Send your questions now and join John in The Show on Friday at 2 p.m. ET!
Oreovicz Archive: Columns
John Oreovicz (1:53 PM)
Hi everybody! Thanks for taking time out this afternoon to send in your questions. It's a hot day in Indianapolis, there's a big crowd on hand at the Speedway and I'm sure there will be some spectacular sunburns by nightfall.
John Oreovicz (1:54 PM)
Carb Day has become the official 'Party Day' of the month.
John Oreovicz (1:56 PM)
Let's get down to some questions!
James Howell (Indianapolis)
Who is your pick to win?
John Oreovicz (1:57 PM)
I'm going with Helio. He just rode out the only speed bump on his 10-year hot streak and it would be too good a story not to happen. As I just wrote in my preview, he beat the Feds and he'll beat the field.
Hi John - Not too much action at the starts the past few years - any chance something this year with Tracy right behind Danica (known for conservative starts)? What are the odds he's by her on the 1st lap?
John Oreovicz (1:59 PM)
Yeah, the eleven rows of three seem to have disappeared during the IRL era. Compare a start picture from the 80s or 90s with one from recent years. They look single file. But thanks for bringing up the PT vs. Danica angle. She is known as a slow starter, so I'll say there is a 75 percent chance PT will be ahead at the end of the first green flag lap. And a 5 percent chance they'll both be in the Turn 2 wall.
Jed (West Lafayette)
Hey John. Having Richard Petty at the track on Sunday will surely create some good buzz for the 500. However, with Champ and IRL joining forces and having all the best drivers at the track, we have seen a steady improvement in not only the competition but the quality of the race. Along the lines of having the best drivers at the track, with Tony Stewart becoming a car owner and driver, could you see him getting into an Indy car again in the near future to chase the elusive 500 and become the only driver with a Brickyard and 500 victory? Also, could you see Kyle Busch making an attempt to get into Indy?
John Oreovicz (2:03 PM)
Petty was a regular here in the '70s and it gives the fans someone recognizable to cheer for. The Bump day fans loved it when John Andretti was successful at the end. I don't think Tony Stewart could fit in a current Indy car and I doubt he will run here anytime soon. I don't see Kyle Busch switching disciplines, but I wish he would because I think he would kick ass. I remember watching Kurt Busch test a Rahal Champ Car a few years ago at Sebring and he was impressive.
Bill Atlanta, GA
Paint me a picture of how Penske or Target doesn't win the race.
John Oreovicz (2:05 PM)
It won't be through an engine or tire issue because they almost never fail in the IndyCar Series. It would have to be through some fluky pit stop sequence or a 5-car wreck that takes them all out.
Matt (Dallas, TX)
What are Graham Rahal's chances of winning on Sunday?
John Oreovicz (2:06 PM)
Better than you would think for a 20-year old with about a dozen oval races on his resume. He's so smart and confident for his age and Newman/Haas is clearly catching up quickly. The core group of good people - TZ, Brian Lisles, Craig Hampson etc - is still with that team. If Graham has a solid run he will cement his status as a championship contender.
What would allow the Indianapolis 500/IndyCar Series to become more popular to the mainstream public and media?
John Oreovicz (2:08 PM)
I can't answer that one very briefly. But I think it will require a new technical formula that is open to multiple chassis that attracts major manufacturer support. The cars need to be sexy looking and fast. And the young generation of American racers - Danica, Graham, Marco, Hunter-Reay, Ed Carpenter - needs to win a bunch more races.
Martin Farragher (Limerick, Ireland)
One of the standouts in practice has been Mario Moraes, he has consistently been among the quickest drivers in addition to qualifying 7th. Is he the best chance for a shock winner?
John Oreovicz (2:10 PM)
A shock winner yes. We've learned in just over a year that Moraes is quick and KV Racing has upped its oval game this year. It's unrealistic to think that Moraes is going to have his big breakthrough at Indy. But he could post a top 5.
A.J. , Pittsburgh PA
Who's your dark horse pick to win?
John Oreovicz (2:11 PM)
Graham Rahal, if the guy who qualified 4th can be called a dark horse. I also like Oriol Servia as a dark horse.
bob b Akron ohio
When are we going to see different engine and chassis manufacturers? Too much like a NASCAR restrictor plate race. Tell Tony to go back to racing what you built, not cookie cutter race cars.
John Oreovicz (2:15 PM)
I like what you are saying, Bob. Innovation is one of the bedrocks of the Indianapolis 500 and it has all been taken away in the interest of parity and/or cost cutting. We need multiple chassis and multiple engines to bring back some technical interest for the manufacturers and the fans. But it doesn't look like there will be a new engine formula until 2012, and I question whether a turbo 4 or V-6 will captivate folks. Am also hearing it will again be a spec chassis, which is disappointing.
This is one of the tightest fields in history in terms of lap times from the top to the bottom of the grid. Think the drivers with no experience racing here will cause trouble or behave? We saw a lot of them getting bit by the high speeds / the track in practice
John Oreovicz (2:16 PM)
That figure is a bit deceiving in some ways. Conditions were poor on Pole Day and perfect on Bump Day; had everyone run on the same day, the spread would have been 6-7 mph. I think it will be interesting to watch potentially quicker cars like Servia, Doornbos and Tracy as they try to move forward.
Do the drivers like all the attention that Danica gets, despite only ever winning once?
John Oreovicz (2:18 PM)
I don't think you will ever get a straight answer from them on the record, but I'm sure a few of the more successful drivers in terms of on-track performance or results grumble about it now and then. It hasn't really been an issue since the Milwaukee autograph session a few years ago when the fans were divided into "Danica" and "all other drivers" sections.
Will the IRL ever get back to it's pre-split popularity?
John Oreovicz (2:21 PM)
You mean CART's pre-split popularity? The formation of the IRL constituted the actual split. Sadly, I don't think we will every see that again...sellouts across the country at ovals and road courses, lots of sponsorship and manufacturer support, and a great mix of American stars and international drivers. It's going to take a lot of work (and investment) to get back to that.
Tyler, Jersey City, NJ
Based on Tony George's comments about folding the IRL if it wasn't profitable by 2013, is it likely that new manufacturers wouldn't want to invest their time and money on new cars and engines if there is a real possibility that the IRL and open wheel racing in North America could truly go extinct?
John Oreovicz (2:24 PM)
Those comments and the timing were very interesting.Commercially the IRL seems to be making some small gains, which is progress in a struggling market. But they have had a hard time landing a title sponsor and the 2011/12 formula doesn't seem to have attracted as much manufacturer interest as hoped for. I can't see it going extinct, but we could be back to Formula Cosworth.
What is the difference about NASCAR and IRL that makes NASCAR hugely popular in the US and IRL not as much?
John Oreovicz (2:28 PM)
I think NASCAR racing is just easier to follow; most of the races are ovals, where you can see the whole track, and the cars are big, thundering and easily identified. Speed and technology, the things that differentiated Indy racing up until about 10-15 years ago, have been legislated out of the sport. The down-home nature and sheer American-ness of the NASCAR drivers has also worked in stock car racing's favor. When Indy car racing was at its best there was a good mix of American and foreign stars and few Americans have established themselves as perennial front runners in recent years.
Do you see Helio with any leftover distractions from his trial?
John Oreovicz (2:34 PM)
No, in fact he was just cleared of the last conspiracy charge. I think he's the man to beat on Sunday.
Do you think there are too many breaks in the IRL schedule? It's hard to get into the flow of the season when they take 3 weeks off in a row.
John Oreovicz (2:35 PM)
I'd like to see them have about 5 races is fairly quick succession up to Indy. Then the long month of May kills the momentum. In the summer I think the teams etc. would be happy doing two races in a row, then one weekend off. Start the season in late February and end it October 1.
What's the best Indy race you have ever seen? From start to finish I would have to say either 1991 with Andretti and Mears or 2006
John Oreovicz (2:38 PM)
Those are two good ones, mainly because of the endings. The '95 race was solid from start to finish, and we should give props to 1990, when Luyendyk averaged nearly 186 mph, a record that may never be broken. Best Indy car races I've been at include New Hampshire '93, CLeveland '88 and Long Beach '98.
Can you see Sheckter making any noise on Sunday. He's always at the very least entertaining to watch. Yet ends up in progressively worse cars every year.
John Oreovicz (2:39 PM)
Scheckter's downward career spiral is sad because the guy can stand on the gas and he's worth watching every lap in a Paul Tracy kind of way. Was let down by his cars a lot in the early days of his IRL career and was never with the right team during the Honda era.
Is it just me or do Dixon and Briscoe have some strange things happen when they get anywhere near each other? That can take out half of the Penske and Target cars.
John Oreovicz (2:41 PM)
It is strange that they had caution period accidents twice in the last year. Not sure either of them can explain that one. The little guy proponents will be hoping for a three-peat!
How much truth to the rumors that Danica will switch to Nascar next year. She's the only reason I watch Indy Cars (besides my fiance's racing obsession)! I don't want to switch to watching hillbilly's drive taxicabs!
John Oreovicz (2:43 PM)
I think that Team Danica is certainly putting in their due diligence with regard to NASCAR. Would NASCAR or a NASCAR team hire her for her driving skill, her promotional value, or purely to devalue Indy car racing? My gut feeling is that she will remain in IndyCar, but I wonder what team will be willing or able to pay the price she will surely ask.
I like Matos and Wilson as dark horses. What do you think about the two of them?
John Oreovicz (2:45 PM)
For Matos the key is to finish, period. If he does he will be in the top 8 or 10. Wilson could be a real surprise on race day and I would love to see him and the Coyne team achieve a good result.
Luke (Snake Pit)
Who will be the first driver in the fence on Sunday?
John Oreovicz (2:45 PM)
if danica leaves for nascar i have read atricles about the concern of indy's last non die hard appeal leaving, do you feel this is a vaild concern its hard to hear about anyone other than her
John Oreovicz (2:48 PM)
I am constantly astounded by the size of Danica's audience and I hope that they will remain interested in IndyCar racing if she moves to NASCAR. Her fan base should also be prepared for some disappointment if she does make the move, because more successful and arguably more talented driver such as Hornish and Montoya have struggled to adapt to the strange, front engine tube frame cars.
What about Milka? I pick her to win you Yankee dog!
John Oreovicz (2:49 PM)
I pick her to win first out. That usually gets you your dollar back in the office pool.
Luke (Snake Pit)
How much benefit to do you think Marlboro gets from sponsoring Team Penkse despite not being able to have their name on the car? Don't you think casual sports fans have no idea that their suppose to think of Marlboro when they see that paint job?
John Oreovicz (2:52 PM)
They are not getting the obvious benefit of having the brand name on the car. But they are obviously still marketing, based on the number of red hats you see in the stands that are obtained from PM redemption sites. I believe PM uses the program as incentive for its employees - they can get access to the Penske hospitality area at races etc.
Joey Linder Littleton CO [via mobile]
I love nascar
John Oreovicz (2:52 PM)
Lots of people apparently do.
Jon (Des Moines, IA)
Why is Road America off the schedule? And when will they consider going back? I know the drivers like the course. What's the deal?
John Oreovicz (2:53 PM)
RA was one of the tracks that missed the cut during the so called unification of 2008. I'm sure they are trying to be in the mix for the future but it doesn't look optimistic. One of my favorite tracks in the world.
As an IRL fan, I'm totally sick of Danica. Why does ESPN think she's is the only driver in IRL. Can they please stop showing her picture ALL the time?!?!
John Oreovicz (2:54 PM)
Hopefully there is a TV producer following this chat who can note your concerns. I'd like to see her win some more races to merit the amount of attention and focus she receives.
Jay (Paducah, KY)
How many races will the non-Penske/Ganassi teams win this season?
John Oreovicz (2:55 PM)
I'd put the over/under at 3.5.
Jim, Chino, Ca
Do you think Marco Andretti can lift the curse?
John Oreovicz (2:56 PM)
Eventually yes. But AGR hasn't been on the pace for the most part all year, and certainly not at Indy. Marco has a long career ahead of him.
Eric (New Salisbury, IN
Speed used to be the inovation that sparked manufacturer interest in Indy. Due to fan and driver safty speed is limited now. What inovation could spark the interset of the auto manufacturers in the sport.
John Oreovicz (2:58 PM)
I believe with better cars and the SAFER barrier, they should open up the rules again and let them run 240 at Indy. I think the new formula is going to have a big fuel efficiency element. Maybe getting as much speed out of a stricter, fixed amount of fuel would stimulate some manufacturer interest.
When do you envision the IRL finally coming up with a new chassis
John Oreovicz (2:59 PM)
2012. And it's probably going to be another Dallara spec chassis. Hopefully a better looking one.
Mark (Littleton, CO)
Who's win in the 500 this year do you think would be best for IndyCar? I say Graham.
John Oreovicz (3:00 PM)
I agree. Smart, personable, articulate, American.
Jay (Paducah, KY)
How did you become an IndyCar fan?
John Oreovicz (3:01 PM)
Richmond is the best short oval, Kentucky is excellent, I also like Milwaukee. Edmonton is a great stadium atmosphere for a road course. The Toronto beer gardens are trackside so you don't miss a thing.
John Oreovicz (3:02 PM)
OK gang, I'm going to move on to the next phase of Carb Day - It's Marco vs. Helio in the finals of the Pit Stop Contest.