• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM: IndyCar opener observations -- 1. Aero kits are not friendly for sponsor ID in an already sponsor-challenged series; 2. All those bodywork bits and pieces could increase the number of debris cautions; 3. Aero kits did nothing to improve the showbiz value of a too-long event; 4. How many more people will buy a ticket, or watch on TV, because of aero kits?

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Welcome and thank you for returning for my sixth calendar year of blogging. My first "official" post for 2011 will be next Monday -- a big-picture look at the year ahead -- but here is some breaking news that can't wait:

Forget all that happy talk about Jimmie Johnson driving in May's 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500. He says "no." I sat with the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion for over 20 minutes late Wednesday afternoon in a Casino Arizona club lounge -- he was in Scottsdale to help bang-the-drums for Phoenix International Raceway's new Feb. 27 Subway Fresh Fit 500 date.

The link to my Arizona Republic story is at the bottom here, but I didn't have room for this nugget. During our conversation, Johnson said he originally thought Indy Cars would be his career path. I took advantage of him opening that door to ask if he'll drive in the I500. All of Johnson's quotes that follow are word-for-word, as transcribed by me from my recorder.

"I don’t have anything working, so I’d say no for this year."

I then asked Johnson if Chevrolet's return to the series could present an opportunity in 2011.

"It could. It’s been a hurdle in the past. I just don’t know if it’s the smartest . . . my wife and I have discussed it for a long time. She knows how bad I want to do it. We, together, thought if I could run that race before we had kids, it makes sense. Those days are long gone.

"If a legitimate opportunity comes along, the first place I start is with my wife, make sure she’s comfortable with it. From there, I still have quite a few hurdles: Mr. (Rick) Hendrick, Chad (Knaus), Lowe’s. I enjoy making it public knowledge that I am interested, so, if one day I do go to Rick or Lowe’s, they’ve heard of it before.

"I just don’t know. I have (talked to Hendrick about it) in years past when Chevy wasn’t a part of it. He’d say, ‘Look, contracts exist, you can’t drive a Honda-powered vehicle.’ So it’s eliminated the opportunity. Since GM has announced it’s coming back, I have not spoken with him about it."

What does he think about Indy rulemakers going to a NASCAR-like double-file restart rule? Unlike NASCAR, however, supposedly lapped cars won't be positioned behind the front-runners.

"I think we’ve proven it in our sport, lapped cars should . . . you need to let the guys racing for the win and those positions have their space. I’ve never been in an Indy Car. I’m not comfortable watching them side-by-side on TV (laughter). I can only imagine what it would be inside the car."

[ more next Monday . . . ]