Latest IndyCar driver hire easy to criticize

February 27, 2014
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It would be easy to criticize the IndyCar Series and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which this week hired Jacques Villeneuve to race in the Indianapolis 500 this year.

Lots of folks thought, “Here we go again. Another gray beard for IndyCar.”

And it’s true, that at 42 [he’ll be 43 by the time the green flag drops on the Indy 500], Villeneuve is no spring chicken. He’s not likely to pique the interest of young fans IndyCar so desperately wants to win over.

Earlier this year, Team Penske was trumpeting the return of 38-year-old Juan Pablo Montoya, a former IndyCar champ who spent much of his prime in Formula One and NASCAR. The other former Indy 500 winners in this year’s race include Buddy Lazier, 46; Tony Kanaan, 39; Helio Castroneves, 38; and the youngster of the bunch, 33-year-old Scott Dixon.

Let the Geritol sponsorship jokes begin.

It must be a bit scary for Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles to wonder where the series will be when this crop of old-timers retire. The development of young drives hasn’t exactly been the series’ strong suit.

But there is an argument for bringing back and leaning on veterans. Sports franchises must think a little like Wall Street. If a team isn’t first and foremost doing the things it thinks gives it the best chance to win in the here and now, that sport starts to lose credibility.

While their bones might be a little creaky, few who know much about racing would deny that the above list of drivers has the ability—given a good car—to win at Indianapolis. And there’s still tremendous value for sponsors in being part of a winning Indianapolis 500 team.

But there also is a need for teams to develop drivers. It’s vital for the long-term health of the sport. And it’s important to remember that for every seat taken by someone like Montoya or Villeneuve, that’s one less for an exciting new driver—someone who could capture the imagination of a younger audience.

In terms of giving young drivers a chance, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has done more than most IndyCar teams.

Led by team principal Sam Schmidt and businessman Ric Peterson, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is entering its third year of competition in the IndyCar Series. In its first season as a one-car operation with Frenchman Simon Pagenaud in 2012, the team quickly made its mark as Pagenaud claimed the Rookie of the Year title and placed fifth in the series championship.  

Following Peterson’s addition to ownership in 2013, the team expanded to two cars, again capturing Rookie of the Year honors with 2012 Firestone Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier, also a Frenchman. In his second year Pagenaud placed third in the series championship with two wins. 

Yes, I’d like to see more young Americans get a shot, but there’s a solid argument that talent has to trump nationality when it comes to teams choosing their drivers. It’s certainly a difficult balance for a team that races the majority of its races in the U.S.

There’s no doubt the Penske, Ganassi and Andretti teams could do more to develop young drivers—especially Americans. It blows my mind that most IndyCar teams don’t also have an Indy Lights team to nurture their own long-term future as well as that of the sport.

Focusing on today and tomorrow is difficult enough, let alone this year and next. I credit Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for attempting that tricky balancing act. But if the series as a whole doesn’t start looking at least a little further down the line, in a decade's time there aren’t going to be any gray beards left to bring back.

And then where will IndyCar be?

  • No $$$$ = No Future
    There's no one solution to solve this mess Tony George started in 1994. But, relying on old CART drivers hasn't worked (even after the 2008 CCWS asset buyout) and it will not work in the future. The IndyCar Series is vision-less. It's a forgotten entity from Sept.1 to mid-March the following year. Out of site, out of mind. It's on an unwatchable 4 tier cable outpost that no one has or wants. There's no foreseeable change in that direction for the next 5 or 7 years. No exposure equals no money which equals DEATH of the IndyCar Series due to sponsorship malnutrition. Whine all you want about Americans and young IRL coiled snakes in the grass...this series is going to die, or the IMS will die with it. Why>? Because that's how they want it, the masters of AOW at 16th and Jonestown. Mark Miles is a master, so it Mari Hulman George. This is where your leadership has gotten you...still sucking on the remants of CART for your success. Just like Villeneuve, and Montoya. Where's the Billy Boats, the Cowboy Brads, the Ricky Treadways, the Tyce Carlsons, the Joe Goseks, and all the other IRL waste products the IMS rammed down our throats? See, IMS destroyed the sport as none of them household names made it except Mark Dismore. Bwahahhahhahaha....IMS killed itself trying to save itself from what it now has and needs. How Ironic? And with the ugliest DW12 car AOW has ever seen. Brilliant!!!!~
  • Didn't Take Long For Chicken Little To Hatch
    ...but not bankrupt and out of business. Twice. There are plenty of talented on the cusp racers out there, helmets in hand, just begging for rides. The problem has almost nothing to do with IMS or IndyCar and almost everything to do with cart legacy owners who returned and again imposed their philosophies. Once again the series is top-heavy with non-ovals and aging mostly foreign drivers. The nostalgia event is in June. The big challenge for Miles is finding a way to keep the owners from killing another sanctioning organization; i.e., another brutal self immolation, make them think it was their idea, then allow them to take the credit.
  • IMS is powerless
    IMS spent $900MILLION PLUS since 1994 to secure control of AOW racing and as you have explained, they truly have NO CONTROL. They can't tell it's owners who to hire and how much to pay them. But, the truth really is...IMS welcomed them back with open arms and allowed them to do as they long as they race at Indy. With that garbage DW12 race car that is a failure. Ya know, bodykits and keeping costs down. And now, Jack Villenueve a foreign ride-buyer on a legacy IRL team owners team. Yet, bloated defenders of the league blame the CART owners that float this crap series. Again, you illustrate the failures of IMS without my input very successfully. Bwahahhahaha!
  • Indycar tribute
    Dale Jr. loves IndyCar!
  • What Does Dale Jr. Have To Do With A Jacques Villeneuve Topic?
    As usual, it is difficult to discern what the majority of your obsessive, mostly vulgar ranting has to do with the point of the blog (other than Jacques is foreign assuming Canadian counts, ride buying and cart owners vs. 'IRL' owners), but kudos for getting your key hater bullet points out there again for no apparent reason other than to continue polluting any comment section even remotely related to IndyCar with parroted obsession: A) $900 million lost (but never any sort of rationale or accounting as usual), B) You continue not to like the DW12 C)IMS is a failure, never mind the facts that they have been in business continually since 1909 under a small number of owners, have never gone out of business once much less twice thanks to the Hulman family, and have rescued IndyCar from itself on more than one occasion. After hundreds of instances of what is essentially the very same reply any intelligent adult might surmise someone that filled with that much angst and/or outright hated might find another interest. Evidently not. That is a genuine shame for adults who may be attempting to participate.
  • $900+MILLION spent
    They spent over $900+MILLIONS on the 0.18 tv ratings and the lowest Indy 500 TV ratings since TV was invented. Yep, all of that in 2013. Villeneunve is just here pick the pockets of the Hulman clan just like all ex-CARTers do. Come on Dipsicle, get with the program. HaY, they gonna have 33 this year at the 500? Which IRL bred hotshoe is gonna take all the marbles this year at the speedway? Scott Sharp? Buddy RIce? Sam HorNish? Tony Stewart? Aireton Dare? Tristen Vaultier? Sage Karam? Greg Ray? Billy Boat? Dr. Jack Miller? Hay dipscicle, where are those guys? The Indy scabs? The ones that took some of that $900+MILLIONS to the bank???
  • 25/8
    The 6 hour rain delayed Daytoner 500 had a better TV rating that last years 5 hunnert*? Snicker… How are those key metrics doing?
  • It's still the IRL, friends
    Low and behold on this fair day in early March 2014 it was revealed to me this week that JOHN BARNES and Panther Racing named the "Indy Racing League, LLC" as a defendant in a lawsuit alleging sponsorship stealing and collusion by the leadership and exCART owners in the series names "IndyCar". So, the biggest fat lie ever is the one where the IRL moniker was dead and buried. I WAS LIED TO...and I knew it all along that what parades about as IndyCar today is in fact STILL the IRL. Look it up fact finders...comb the opening paragraphs of the John Barnes lawsuit. So, Dario indeed lost his career due to an IRL crash. Incredible...this is why they deserve NO RESPECT...the IRL...err IndyCar, that is. LOL
  • Interesting read about Franchitti
    and how his Indy career ended.
  • Interesting read about John Barnes
    and how his lawsuit against The IRL, Rahal and the Government will continue to show how poorly run IMS and the series is run.
  • Villeneuve
    It shouldn't be up to the teams to develop younger talent for the series. Their job is plain and simple to win. Schmidt went with the young rookie Vautier last year and it didn't work, this year they are going with Villeneuve. Emmo was 43 when he won his FIRST Indy 500, and 47 when he won his second, both coming at times when the cars were faster and more difficult to drive and the competition stiffer. How quickly people forget about Emmo when criticizing Villeneuve.
  • Yep, people forget
    how Emmo was considered one of the 'emasculators" in CART, drinking orange juice in victory lane and belittling Indy tarditions. And how Jacques Villeneuve degraded the IRL with just about every word he could from 1995 through 2013...when at age 42 he got the brilliant idea to cherry-pick the lightweights in the 2014 IRL Indy 500. So yeah, IMS and Indy-centric revisionists have REAL short term memories.
  • What are they worried about
    it can't no worse. Really. Cause if they shut it down, it would be better.
  • FYI Chief
    I have it on good word the Sisters don't mind one bit TOney spending all their money
  • it doesn't pay
    for team owners to care about the future of hulmancar racing. They cared once when they had skin in the game. But, since the h/g clan own 100% of the sport, and pay the losers the same pittance as the winners, the only way to keep your head above water is to find any sponsorship you can (for whatever some sucker is willing to give you) and take on a pay driver. -------- Lights teams cost money, and don't train drivers as well as European feeders series do. Add in the fact that the European driver brings money the lights driver will never have, plus is trained better than the lights driver, and it easy to see why the .1rl ladder leads to nowhere, and why nobody cares about the future of the .1rl.
  • Whoa!
    Interesting read on John Barnes...he apparently was the behind the scenes force in getting Randy Bernard fired. Wow...IRL insiders looking to take down the whole series and IMS! Awesome! Such intrigue. Mark Miles is boring by comparison,.
  • A dying sport
    It seems to me, this sport is in the final years. There is just not enough interest out there amongst the general public for it to sustain by all evidence. Further,there appears to be ineptitude at the management and ownership levels to function in a manner consistent with growth. Bad decisions. Unappealing cars. Drivers with little or no name recognition. And so on. There is seldom an encouraging word. Also, the fan base that does exist seems filled with angst and vitriol, contentiousness, and mean-spiritedness (as evidenced here between Chief and Disciple) and that is a turn-off to potential newcomers and sponsors, I think. Remember we read here once that a sponsor said no to IndyCar because of the angry fanbase? If that is so, how sad, indeed. Indy Car racing is no longer a sport of national interest and I firmly believe we are seeing the final days of the once-great Indianapolis 500. There is just far too much negativity.
  • I won't apologize
    because I want AOW to return to greatness. Everything this goofy clan touches turns to rust. I shall continue to advocate for the sport, any way I can. Dipscilce's problem is he's two faced...he hates what's happened to the sport too although he's under contract with the IMS to only speak nicely about IMS on the blogs. I am bound by no contract, nor am I a paid speedway propagandist like the Dipscicle is. That's why my opinion is honest.
    • $1,000 For Proof
      ...that I am paid by IMS or IndyCar for anything. Do you go out of your way to hurt your own credibility? LOL.
    • Get professional help
      The one burning question I as a casual reader want to know - who is this "Chief" person and who and In what way was he hurt by Tony Hulman, the George family, IMS and or any entity tied to IndyCar, the IRL, Cart etc Someone must have done something that has taken many thousands from you or caused your life / family to be hurt Otherwise, no normal, sane individual would spew such unabated hatred towards a racing series / company / person etc as you do That you care, although I don't believe it, about the 500, the series etc. doesn't matter. No normal man has this much hatred bottled up inside Someone's really hurt you, and now all who read here have to suffer Too bad the IBJ doesn't follow the procedures as the Indystar and most others do by forcing you to come out in the open so you can't hide behind your keyboard I implore you, get professional help with your anger before you lash out and hurt someone and get arrested for it Get help
    • The duck goes QUACK
      I agree with you...I wish the IMS and IRL Series would consider professional help because the rubes running it stink. The Boston Consulting Group cost $1.2Million to tell them to race on the road course (which cost $5 million more) and race in Europe. So you think I'm crazy, huh, do ya Indynative? Ya, here's what's crazy...IMS introduces the DW12 in 2012 and the TV ratings for the series and the 500 have dropped precipitously ever since. Why is that important? The car is ugly, underpowered and dangerous. The IMS has failed the ICONIC principles set forth from day one. I'm not the one who should seek professional's the rubes who continue religiously to digest this IRL regurgitate that needs professional help. As an Indy native how is my perspective wrong? Better yet, if I'm wrong do you really believe my opinion is in some way dragging this dreck lower? I'll tell ya what, if they just tried a different approach it could work. But they won't. Moooooooo.
    • Bad decisions, lack of insight
      I tend to agree with those who submit the big power brokers that run the sport are short-sighted and bad business people. An example: In the face of plummeting interest, to the point the sport seemingly no longer exists when stacked against other sports, the big decision makers decided to cure the ills by having two, over 40 has-beens race in the Indy Car Series without realizing they were two of the most unpopular winners of the "500" in the races history. Both took a nonchalant attitude toward the race. That is a sin to Indy 500 lovers. Both are smug, cocky, arrogant. And over-the-hill. One had to lose 40 pounds! These are not the Lloyd Ruby's, Danny Sullivan's, Tom Senva's, and Danny Ongais' types that fans loved. No. No. No. Two pompous guys that helped drive people away in the first place. Might as well bring Emmo back to guzzle OJ. The big shakers on this game are bad at the right calls. And people see it for what it is. Bad. They even hired a Russian driver. Nice timing! Honestly, seriously, I tend to agree with the detractors who feel the sport is bad voodoo. It may not make it and for good reason, the tea leaves are telling me. And that is the scoop from a 35-year-plus fan from next door Ohio who once played 18 holes with the Gas Man and shot pool with Salt Freaking Walther. That kind of fan with the skinny on why the big Indy 500 is not a good place for old NASCAR and F1 washouts and guys from Russia and Colombia who buy their rides with the papi's check books. It is sinister snooker, this outrage of a sport that masks itself as top drawer, baby. Top drawer. Well, they can't even maybe keep Long Beach with the Simon's and Sebastain's and daddy's boys and old fat, formula oneers. Bernie is actually the one who will close it out and the Indy 500 will be a one-off jazzy car show off event. Why do you think they want a 34th garage? It's comical like country music these days, the drum-banging that goes on to blow the smoke and mirrors and make it all seem like rainbow warriors on the level fast track. This kind of cholesterol is no good for the old racing spirit so it must be purged. Too bad it stinks so much.
    • Thanks to the DEfenderciple
      a once vibrant and thriving sport is now not
    • I can see how Chief may be mistaken
      Paying Defender to drive fans away does sound like something this woebegotten league would do
    • Hot news!!!
      Kurt Busch to run the 500! WooT! I hope he wins it. With Rahal National Guard money too. CYA John Barnes....don't let the IRL door hit ya on the backside! Bwahahhahhahaha! What makes this even greater is Kurt probably won't have to struggle to get in to the field with maybe 32 or 33 cars automatically getting in. the 500 is a joke of epic proportions.
    • publicity stunt
      just a publicity stunt by nbcsn to get attention for the failing irl series. no different that smoke suiting up on fill the field day or danica her whole career. more futility aMplifIed.
    • How much OW single seater rear engine formula experience
      does Kurt Busch have?
    • Driver Moves Are Having The Desired Effect
      Regardless of anything that happens in the 500 these driver moves have drawn the rapt obsession of even the most vociferous and often barely literate fans in the sport today. Is that not obvious?
    • Right
      Any other obvious observations you wish to point are real sharp. Too bad no one knows when the series starts or should I say, cares about when it starts. I can't wait for Kurrt to strap in the IRL rocket at Homestead for the IRL opener on April.
    • Emphasis on 'barely literate'
      You are spot on...
    • THe best part of your comments ChiEf are
      ! Bwahahhahhahaha - and they are the only ones that make sense. Now put more fries down!
    • Send in the clowns - again
      Any column Anthony writes about IndyCar is guaranteed to receive the back and forth drivel of hatred and defense from the usual suspects. This predictably vitriolic interchange every time tends to drive away new posters who might have unique perspectives and maybe some good ideas to share with readers who care about fresh thinking.
    • Miller
      Chief, your arguments and sentiment sure sounds like one of Mr. Robin I would imagine he'd sound without the sensors at WFNI having their fingers on the bleep button in case he really goes off. Just a guess. :)
    • 39 races in my 50 years
      I do enjoy seeing the comments good or least that shows concern...My daughter is 14-she has a dream to drive in this race..If it was not for me taking her to races or getting her started in GoKarts, she would be cheerleading or something else..Indy does nothing to build these dreams of these kids..back in the day I remember me wanting to be AJ and my next door neighbor always wanting to be Parnelli..Now days the problem is that the speedway or rule makers are larger than the drivers in image. I do agree that the DW12 car is as ugly as they get-Why can't this series find some way to allow for the differences in motors and chassis? When I was in high school, I was a Scottie Brayton fan and a stock block V6 Buick fan as well..boy I remember the day he died all too well! I think that while the speedway is trying to make the fan experience at IMS better..they miss the point on every other race and therefore it doesn't grow. WHo can remember when if you had an extra ticket in the past, you actually could go and sell it at the track?..Now you cannot give it away..No value anymore. Like sheep to slaughter, I will be there once again sitting in turn 4 with my gang of 8 but only longing for better looking cars and consistency id the drivers names from one season to the next. I think the best part of this year will be the chance to catch the vintage races in June with the older Indy cars classed by decade!
    • Tickets here, tickets there, tickets every, every where
      Last year we bought five tickets on race day morning. That was unheard of years ago, unless you paid double or triple face-value to a scalper. This year, we will do the same. Buy a cheap, walk-up ticket. Last year there were thousands of empty seats at IMS during the race. Thousands. There is no way that can be spun as a positive. The Indy 500 has diminished so greatly it is no longer a big deal, even here in Indianapolis. People seem to have just up and left it. It is no wonder there was talk about reducing seating capacity to 150,000. Even at that, I am not sure they will be able to sell out. Skinny was last year there were less than 200,000 there. If true, my oh my how the mighty have fallen.
    • Mr. Obvious
      Is this phenomenon unique to IMS? Further, and related to the point of the blog, what effect will the additionally diverse set of drivers have?
    • @Trish
      That's the IRL; driving fans away for 18 years
    • More posiTive
      mark Miles has this thing headed in the right direction....apparently the IRL IndyCarz are moving 500 qualification coverage to ESPN3. What channel number is that? Bwahahhahhahhahaha!
    • And Now, Actual Reality
      The primary qualifying periods of Saturday and Sunday along with the road race and the 500 will all be on ABC. Pesky facts. Meanwhile, back on topic, it will be interesting to see how the Villeneuves, Montoyas and Busches do.
    • ESPN3
      ABC 2hrs on Bump Saturday, 2 hrs on Pole Sunday. All the rest to ESPN3 for qualifications. The big story here is will the Villeneuves, Montoyas and Busches be able to decipher the complex convoluted qualification rules for the 500. Its apparent to me these rules changes have totally ruined whatever connection to the legacy 500 quallies ever were. Silk purse from sow's ear. And now on ESPN3 too...thats an internet only espn channel for those not trying to conceal the impact of this new IMS failure.
    • Additional Actual Reality
      I can hardly wait to read the spin on a what a horrible deal a $100 million Verizon title sponsorship is.
    • Ok Kreskin
      Verizon is stupid to even consider it, but maybe smart because IRL's so devalued that it's a great deal for them. But that's why they call them dreams, Dipstickle. get yer Verizon right here on ESPN3. (ESPN3 available as internet only through various cable providers nationwide. No cable? Tough luck pal, no Indy for you). Bwahahhahahhaha! Too funny! Don't do it Verizon, 0.18 tv ratings going lower each year by 25% or more.
    • Defenderciple delusion continues
      that's what makes the IRL grate. Delusional people can find a home.
    • Conor's Hope dashed while IMS conducts the ride buyer affirmative action project. Good thing IMS is right on top of it all. Bwahahahha! Read about it too Derek...
    • Tickets Available
      There are tens of thousands of seats still available for the 2014 Indianapolis 500. Go check it out. Fact. What giveth? Disciple? You are an insider. I thought this race was a big deal and all was rosy? Yes? No? Maybe tens of thousands of people are awaiting race day morning to get tix from a scalper for 50 to 75 percent of face like they reportedly did last year? Is that it, Disciple? Where did they sit, though, because around us were thousands of empties. Could it be the Tristan's, Simon's, and Michel Putin Jr. or whatever the Russian kid's name is ain't getting it? What good does the Whackforum angst about 33 starters do if 32 of them are drivers NOBODY else cares about or has even heard of? Bbbbbbwwwwaaaahaaaaaa!!!!!!!! Quick, Disciple, go to the Mall and randomly ask who the Russian kid is. Heck, randomly ask who Will Power is. Bbbbbwwwwwaaaahhhaaaaa!!!! 2016 might just be it. IF THEY MAKE IT! The Indianapolis 500 is all who cares now!

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    1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

    2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

    3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

    4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

    5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.