IndyCar News Week in Review: Seconds Edition

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Rahal’s Reeling ‘Em In: With his surprising hometown win at Mid-Ohio, Graham Rahal jumped to second pulling within nine points of the championship lead with two races to go. It’s been an incredible year for Rahal, who’s won twice, scored multiple podium finishes and an impressive eight top fives. At the same time, Montoya’s fading in the homestretch not even having appeared on the podium in months. JPM did win Pocono last year though, and can’t be counted out yet – no matter how much we might like to do so.

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Television Ratings Rise: For the fourth race in a row on NBCSN, viewership of IndyCar was up for Mid-Ohio. The combined numbers for the live showing on CNBC and the later re-air on NBCSN rivaled ABC races with nearly seven hundred thousand viewers. That’s the highest ever rated IndyCar race on the cable sports network, which now also shows NASCAR. For a sport where seconds count that’s an outstanding trend and one that could continue, though it’ll have to withstand a withering three week break before Pocono.

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Return of the Mad Russian: SPM announced Mikhail Aleshin will make a surprise return to the series at the Sonoma finale. Set to drive a third car for the team, Aleshin sat out the first fifteen races after suffering terrible injuries during a practice crash at Fontana last year. Reports had him back in Russia and unable to return due to economic sanctions placed on Putin for his aggression. Now Mikhail’s back in the US for a second chance and meanwhile Putin’s still in the Ukraine.

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New Series Sponsor Possibility: With Verizon in court, cellular plans on the decline and IndyCar sponsors being as short lived as they are, it may be time to consider “The Steak N’ Shake IndyCar Series.”  They’ve certainly upped their presence this year and enjoyed some tasty results. All this after what was supposed to be a partial year, five race program when it was announced before the season. If not title sponsor, then how about a second car at RLL next year? Seconds anyone?

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Schedule Speculation: Mark Miles said they’re adding two new races to the 2016 schedule and starting earlier as well as ending the season later. This comes after the series received a backlash for this year’s ill-advised and abbreviated six month, sixteen race schedule. It looks like Road America is returning with testing reportedly to take place there in September. Milwaukee‘s fate as always looks uncertain, with Andretti’s promotional arm set to pull out. A return to NOLA also looks doubtful due to Andretti’s legal imbroglio there and because well, one stop’s enough. Phoenix remains an oval track possibility with some IndyCar history to replace Milwaukee, though again this is all pure speculation except for confirmation that St. Pete will be earlier in 2016. Luckily, it’s set for March 13.

St. Petersburg, FL - March 30, 2014: Eddie Cheever, Alan Bestwick and Scott Goodyear during the 2014 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Photo by Allen Kee / ESPN Images)

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Testing Lights: Sonoma will host a test of several Indy Lights drivers on August 20 prior to the season finale. It’s an opportunity for future talent to drive the big cars and showcase their skills, providing a glimpse into IndyCar’s future. Lights drivers testing at Sonoma will include Matthew Brabham, Ryan Phinny, Ed Jones, Nelson Piquet, Jr and interestingly a fellow named Sean Rayhall. Our question is this – is IndyCar big enough for a second Rayhall? As importantly, could booth jockeys Goodyear, Bestwicke and Bell possibly handle it?

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