Hello, I Must Be Going

Posted by Iannucci | 12/06/2010 |
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"If you wait, all that happens is that you get older." - Mario Andretti

Since I don't have a snappy hologram or a bunch of guys with Verizon Droids in a conference room I'll make this announcement brief. However, this isn't so much a post as a re-direct.

After six months of wandering in the desert (semi literally, since I live in Arizona) I'm ready to jump back to the keyboard. Six months is a long time to remain silent, especially when it's December and we're still having press conferences every other day.

What started out in 2006 with me talking to myself grew over the years beyond my wildest expectations, to the point that I felt like I was letting down people I didn't even know when I shuttered the joint six months ago. It pains me to say this - mostly because I stapled the notes for this post to my arm - but "My Name Is IRL" is still and forever a closed book.

However...there is a new book. And I'm going to do my best to make it the same as the old book. Henceforth, you can find me posting at my new site: One Lap Down. Well, actually it's not MY site - it's graciously located at VERSUS.com. See you there.

My letter of resignation

Posted by Iannucci | 6/01/2010 | 57 comments »
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Dearest fellow IndyCar fans (as well as anyone who arrived here via Blogger’s “Next blog>>” feature),

It is the with sincerest lack of humor that I am submitting my letter of resignation to you, my readers. For over four years (50 months and one day, in fact) I have endeavored to entertain and inform you, but recent events for me outside the world of racing have left me with little verve to provide for you the coverage of Indy Racing League news at a standard at which I am comfortable. In short, I’ve lost my mojo. So it is that I am effectively ending the run of “My Name Is IRL”, which for the record was always supposed to be pronounced like “Earl” and not “I-R-L”. (It was intended to embrace the slam Gene Simmons once said about how “IRL sounds like a disease”. In case you ever wondered.)

Rest assured my departure has nothing to do with the state of racing. Now, I would be lying if I said I was not concerned at the possibility of the sport transforming itself into a series of events featuring DeltaWings bouncing around the streets of major metropolitan areas because as anyone who has read this site would know that’s obviously (yes, I said "obviously") not what I as a fan would enjoy. But that’s not the reason, because as of right now that’s not what the 2010 season is featuring, and even though I’m resigning from the blogging business by no means am I surrendering my enjoyment of IndyCar racing.

No, this has everything to do with my life and the “Behind the Blog” episode that will never air on VH1. What I can tell you is this departure isn’t because I’m checking into a rehab clinic or battling some medical issue or anything like that, but I won’t divulge anything more than to say I’ve been struggling with some external circumstances that have gotten even more serious in recent weeks. And that seriousness has been weighing on me to the point that I don’t feel like I’m neither following the sport nor writing about it at the level your and I have come to expect. I know it’s cliché, but in this case it's absolutely true that I want and need to spend more time with my (shrinking) family.

In all honesty, I probably should have shut it down at the conclusion of last season. I was hardly posting back then, and even though I’d read innumerable stories about which I thought many of you would like to comment, I just couldn’t put the words together in a way that would make it worth your while to read. I mean, you have a lot of choices where to get your racing news, and since the whole bimergification there have been some incredible IndyCar sites popping up. In recent years the bar for online publications dealing with IndyCars has been raised considerably, and I’d rather say nothing about the topics of the day than waste your time saying something that’s not only already been said, but also been said more interestingly at any number of other sites.

And since this is the end I want to say “thank you” to EVERYONE who has helped me with this site in any capacity, although quite frankly that would be a list too long to even being to compile. That said, I’m compelled at least to publicly acknowledge my appreciation for the efforts of those who have contributed here: Declan Brennan, Dale Nixon, Shane Rogers, the MMack, and even Tony Johns who after a few posts here managed to score a gig at SBNation. (For the record, I’ve used whatever influence I have to request that the good folks at IndyCar.com to replace the link to my site with his.) And I also cannot properly express with words my eternal gratitude to my occasional landlord Roy Hobbson, as well as MoneyCJ and Bill “pressdog” Zahren for being such great friends beyond the realm of blogging ...and I have to stop there before I become overwhelmed with manly tears.

Lastly, I need to thank you, dear reader, whomever you are. When someone starts a blog they do so hoping and praying someone will eventually read it, but when the hits and comments increase to the level I’ve enjoyed here that anticipation turns into a heartfelt feeling of privilege and responsibility. And man, although I have loved having that responsibility for the better part of this run, I also have been keenly aware you deserve a lot more than what I’m able to give you right now. I hope someday the mojo comes back, but that day isn’t today.

And ...well, I guess that's it. Oh, the blog and the sidebar will still be here and I'll still be around on twitter now and then, but the posting portion of the program is now closed for business. So with that, I say to you all one last, heartfelt time - thank you very VERY much, and good night.

Your humble host,

Jeff Iannucci

Indy 500: Winners, Losers, and Some In-Betweeners

Posted by Puretone Audio | 5/31/2010 | , , , | 2 comments »
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It all started with 33 cars polished and fueled, gleaming on a grid with the highest of hopes in the air along with with news helicopters, high-wire cameras and balloons. When it ended four hours later, some of the cars were still gleaming, while others had to be pulled from the back of a tow hook.

The 2010 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race was high in spectacle and finished with a dramatic Hollywood flourish. Yet, it was still unmistakably the Indy 500.

As long as the buildup to Indy, the reality is the teams still have to pack up the haulers and head to Texas Wednesday. In between, there is the analysis of what went right and what went wrong.

Here is our own synopsis of the 33 car field by finishing position after sorting through the maelstrom of 500 miles in four hours.

1. Dario Franchitti - First turn outside pass for lead proved to be the key; running out front and stretching a lead made every other team react to what he was doing. Driver + crew both ran a perfect race. Did he have enough fuel to finish? We'll never know for sure. Chip Ganassi said yes, others said no. Best all-around driver in the IRL right now? Probably. His only hiccups during the race were a few run-ins with Graham Rahal and swigging from the milk bottle at the end. Dario v.2010 was older, wiser and at the top of his game.
2. Dan Wheldon - Panther knows Indy, Wheldon drove a strong race although he never led, he stayed out of trouble in some high traffic areas and was in position to win if Dario ran out. Fast enough to stay in the front pack. Moved up +2 in the season points standings to ninth with Texas, another strong Wheldon/Panther track, coming up next week. "I was hungry to win, but the team were getting on my butt about saving fuel those last three laps. Maybe if I was young like Rahal and Marco Andretti, myself back in the day, I would have totally ignored them, tried to run Dario down when I saw him slowing down. I knew it was close. Just one of those things."
3. Marco Andretti - Was charging at the end of the race, another where the heck did he come from suddenly from pack to podium, and very happy the race finished under yellow. "If I would have raced Dan, we weren't finishing the race. Like I said, it was very easy to ends up where Tony did."
4. Alex Lloyd - In my eyes, really the story of the race. Started 26th and finished fourth giving his career a big boost. "About 20 laps to go, maybe 15, when we started making some moves, we were coming through pretty quickly, I tell you, I started shouting in my helmet a little bit, C'mon. I was getting excited. I was really pumped up, ready to go. Not the best thing to do when you're trying to save fuel. The guys don't want that. I felt like I figured something out that I could save the fuel, make positions. I was pumped." So was his owner Dale Coyne.
5. Scott Dixon - Even before his pit road incident in which he lost a tire Dixon was seemingly never a threat to win. Lap times were solid, but unspectacular. Did the veteran decide the car wasn't perfect early and shoot for points?
6. Danica Patrick - Her finish seemed to be more a sigh of relief than a sign of a major turnaround. Patience worked, fuel strategy worked and moved up when a few cars in front of her needed more ethanol.
7. Justin Wilson - Solidly in the Top-10 for most of the race and led laps after his teammate Mike Conway pitted for fuel. Led laps 179 to 190 before a splash and go.
8. Will Power - Probably the Penske driver who looked best in the race conditions. Led five laps. A stop-and-go penalty after a pit stop refuelling incident derailed his run to the front, which was compounded when he missed his pit box later. Maintained his IZOD IndyCar Series points lead.
9. Helio Castroneves - Despite entering the race as the consensus favorite after a dominant pole position, Helio never led a lap in the race. Stalled the car on a late pit stop.
10. Alex Tagliani - The surprise of the qualifying session. Looked to have been caught out on the setup and hot track conditions, as he started fourth and went backwards from there. Still a very successful month and finish from an upstart team and driver.
11. Tony Kanaan - The de facto hard charger of the race. Passed eight cars on the first lap and worked up as high as second before a splash-and-go. Despite starting dead last, salvaged a solid finish out of a difficult month.
12. Graham Rahal - Certainly didn't make any friends with other drivers or race officials and was black flagged for blocking. Was in the middle of the action all day and still posted a solid finish.
13. Mario Romancini - Highest finishing rookie. Showed patience and aggressiveness in equal measure and probably a great boost for his own self-confidence. "The momentum was just taking me throughout the race. I didn't feel that I ran 500 miles. It was quite easy at this point."
14. Simona De Silvestro - The new darling of the female driving contingent. Rookie didn't put a wheel wrong for the whole month, and was spectacular at times in her second career oval race. Another confidence-boosting finish for driver and team.
15. Tomas Scheckter - In the thick of the action from start to finish. Led five laps. Probably off Davey Hamilton's Xmas card list though.
16. Townsend Bell - Ran in the Top-10 for much of the race, but a blocking penalty derailed his one-off Indy 500 effort.
17. Ed Carpenter - Showed speed and consistency, spent time in the Top-5 and deserving of a better finish. Wheldon wants him as a full-time teammate, we'll have to see if Panther puts him back in a car again.
18. Ryan Hunter-Reay - Made the highlight reel after running out of gas and getting vaulted by Mike Conway. Ran in the Top-10 for much of the afternoon, and is still Top-5 in points while meshing well with his Andretti Autosport teammates. Will IZOD really let their poster boy get the hook after Texas? Nobody seems to be saying anything about his status for the rest of the year, which probably isn't a good sign.
19. Mike Conway - Really opened eyes during the race with his driving and led 15 laps, unfortunately it's his spectacular crash at the end that most will remember. Probably out of the season with compound fracture in his left leg, and as bad as that sounds, he's still probably the luckiest driver in the field because he's still alive. The crash was probably the worst in an IndyCar race since Ryan Briscoe's airborne accident in Chicago 2005.
20. Takuma Sato - Struggled and finished two laps down, but still finished with the car in one piece, so the day's driving on the oval will go a long way in building experience. It will be interesting to see what he does in Texas, another track that can bite down hard on impatient drivers.
21. Ana Beatriz - Never really punched through the into Top-20 but drove well and brought the car home in one piece. Consistent through the month and probably merits a full-time ride.
22. Bertrand Baguette - Lost a mirror and spent considerable time in the pits, but brought the car home and had a good experience in his second oval race.
23. Sebastian Saavedra - Didn't make friends with the turn one wall during the month, ending two runs there. Indy can turn one week's fortune into misfortune in a hurry. At 19, he still has plenty of room to grow as a driver, but may have tried the 500 a year too early.
24. Ryan Briscoe - Never seemed to get on track during the month, and was consistently third amongst the Penske drivers, but still managed to lead five laps before ending the race in the wall.
25. E.J. Viso - Out of the race on lap 140 with suspension damage from kissing the wall. Also probably missed on the setup, as the car seemed like a handful.
26. Sarah Fisher - Was a few laps down before retiring with a broken suspension. All the credit in the world for trying but is her team trying to do too much with too little?
27. Vitor Meira - Disappointing end in the wall. Spent some time in the Top-20 early in the race after charging forward with Kanaan, but A.J. Foyt Racing never seemingly came to terms with their cars during the month.
28. Hideki Mutoh - Eye-opening speed during the qualifying sessions, but fell straight back once the race started and pulled out after 72 laps.
29. Raphael Matos - Impressive speed during the race, ran as high as third, but ended up in the wall hard. At some point he's going to have to start posting consistent finishes even with DeFerran in his corner.
30. John Andretti - Never was a factor, race in ended in wall. More ride buyer than Andretti these days, as much as that hurts to say. Will this be his last 500?
31. Mario Moraes - At some point he's going to have to stop crashing. Extremely fast when he's in the car, but suspension damage from a wall brush ended the day very early.
32. Bruno Junqueira - Big hit in turn two wall was second caution of the day. FAZZT team will have to find a way to balance qualifying speed with race setup, but they weren't the only team caught by the 96 degree temperature.
33. Davey Hamilton - First caution of the day as he ran out of real estate in turn two before he looped and ended up in the inside Safer barrier. Called Tomas Scheckter an idiot on national broadcast. Will his car be back together for Texas?

LIVE Live Blog: the 2010 Indy 500

Posted by Puretone Audio | 5/30/2010 | , , , | 0 comments »
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SPEEDWAY, IN (Sunday May 30, 2010) _ Greetings from @Dale_Nixon, Live from Bloggers' Row on the fourth floor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Media Center for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing...flanked by James Black (16thandGeorgetown.com); Stef Walcraft and Paul Dalbey (Planet-IRL.com). Extra special props to Stef for the computer jumper cable; as my ACER power cord is sitting on the desk in my hotel room.

First and foremost, the crowd is mammoth and continuing to build. Sunshine with a high haze, temperature looking a little bit higher than originally predicted. I left the hotel downtown (the Comfort Suites in the shadow of Lucas Oil Stadium) at 7:02 AM and arrived at the track at 8:43AM...a physical trip of approximately 7 miles that was most spent sitting on 16th street waiting to turn off for the special super mega top secret shortcut given to me by a kind yellow shirt when I was leaving the track Saturday night. It was magic, and probably took another hour off the commute. Thanks, Mr. Gateman.

Also hazy are the recollections of last night's details. IZOD darn sure knows how to throw a party. The one thing I've always felt the Indy 500 lacked a bit was Saturday night downtown action, but there were streets blocked off, live bands playing, celebrities a plenty, and a mammoth red-carpet high dollar party at the Conrad Hotel. At least I think it was the Conrad...totally surreal - I've never seen so many well-groomed folks in the same place at the same time, and that includes South Beach. Better still, despite Jaegerbombs (not really always a good idea at 1:30 AM when you have to get up at 5:30 but c'est la vie). An extra shout out goes to Arie Luyendyk Jr. and his girlfriend, who upgraded us to full VIP status. It was the last days of Pompeii, only with with pop collar attire.

There is much pomp and circumstance at the moment. Celebrities have definitely been upgraded by the IZOD IndyCar connection. The Kardashian-Jenners, Mark Wahlberg, Jack Nicholson, Jewel, Robin Roberts in the pace car and a plethora of Hollywood illuminati. Driver interviews are rolling, introductions are pending. It's more of a Spectacle now for some of the others who aren't hard-core race junkies.

Ryan Briscoe just said "IndyCar racing is on the rise" and he's definitely accurate in that assessment. The crowd is exponentially higher than any I've witnessed thus far and there is definitely a palpable buzz in the air. I'm sticking with my Dario pick, especially with a chance of late showers.

12:39 cars are on the grid; drivers are introduced. Jack Nicholson is saluted by the crowd as he's in the starter stand. Hard to believe Jack made the trip with his buddy Dennis Hopper passing, but the show must go on...Jack's quote “It's good to be here.” But he's mugging for the crowd and kissed the Bricks with Mario Andretti....My favorite Jack role - "Here's Johnnnnnnnnnny..." The Shining. What a movie.

Interesting quote from @CurtCavin today about new IZOD IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard: "I like that he spent $20,000 of his own dough to buy tickets and hotels for all his friends and family members. He refused to get comps. I like that."

Jewel belts the national anthem out of the park. Great, great job.

Drivers to their cars. Mark Wahlberg getting a special trip in the two-seater at the back of the field. The drama builds. All wagers must be posted NOW!

Timing and scoring is active. Broadcast is on time delay. Davey Hamilton in the wall. Tony Kanaan past eight cars on the first lap. +1 on the Indy wagers for me; push on first car out with Hamilton. Wow, Franchitti was around Helio before the flag, and leads the Indy 500.

Back to green, Lap 5....Jack won't leave the starter stand and waves it again. Nice.
Scheckter is up to P8 and was savaged by Hamilton in the interview.

Lap 8. Another wreck. Bruno into the wall and there goes a big dark horse choice in the B&W Special. Two veterans who usually bring the car home out, all rookies still in it to win it. Go Figure.

Lap 12 back to green. This ABC broadcast delay is tough to stomach when cars are thundering by me in the tower.

Lap 19 Dario, Power, Helio, Tags, Matos....holy s^%& where did Matos come from?

Lap 23 Sarah Fisher struggling to keep the pace, could be the first car lapped? Some of the red mist out there has cleared and the race pace is very fast. Ryan Hunter-Reay up to 11th.

------pause for computer battery going down-------------

Lap 70 Kanaan up to fourth, Carpenter fifth, RHR in P6...
Lap 81 - Holy penalty boxes - Graham Rahal gets black flagged for blocking. Kardashians weep and make their makeup run. Drive-thru again. Which isn't exactly a black flag. He put the big block on Wheldon and dropped to P24. Bobby is $%R$^#*$( at Barnhart.
Lap 84 - Watching the track feed with the ABC sound is impossible. ABC is on a 19 second delay. Even Milka was closer than that...give me a break.'
Lap 86 - Mad props to Paul for hooking me up with his computer. He's in his seats, photoblogging. Just received a message from IndyCar blogging forefather/legend Money CJ. He would've killed it at the IZOD party last night, because that's how we roll.
Lap 90 - Just received a text from Iannucci with an excellent point: "Dario might be the only one NOT blocking right now." Suffice to say the Franchitti-Judds won't be exchanging Xmas cards with the Rahals. Send some haggis, that will fix 'em.
Lap 95 - The crowd is eating up this battle. No one is making bathroom breaks; after the caution outbreak the pace of the race is picking up considerably.
Lap 97 - Mutoh out of the car. Sato still in. Go frickin' figure part II.
Lap 98 - How can ABC go to commercial heading into the halfway mark? We don't need Ashton Kutcher commercials; it's THE INDY 500!

Lap 100- Dario, Helio, Briscoe, Carpenter (!!!), Kanaan (!!!!) - TK started 33rd after shifting from his T car to his primary. He's playing this track like IRacing. Could it be the day that Indy pays back TK for some misery?
Lap 105 - Yellow - Vitor is slow on the track. Bit the T2 wall. T4 is clean thus far; too bad for Vitor, he was pretty optimistic about today's race.
Lap 109 - Cattle call on pit road. Scheckter stayed out and leads, Kanaan up on the radio - he's too busy passing cars to enter.
Lap 111 - Sato gets a stop and go for hitting pit lane personal. Sayonara to Japan's Indy 500 hopes this year.
Lap 113 - Dario by Tomas into T1 - TK into second, Scheckter dropping like a wheel on pit lane as everyone else has fresh tires. But do they have MonaVie airtime? Townsend Bell up to P8, hustling along and keeping his nose clean (knocks on formica)
Lap 125 - The lap counter is clicking by...track temp announced at 131 degrees - easy greasy. Kanaan & Scheckter are the current stories as Franchitti is rollin'.
Lap 129 - It's almost too remote up here in the Media Center - isolated from the noise and the rumble - I think I'll go out on the deck for a while. I expect to see Dario applying sunscreen as he drives down the front straight.
Lap 131 - Marco is flying, but he's used 10 of his 15 push to passes charges. Maybe he can buy John Andretti's unused ones?
Lap 134 - Sarah Fisher is out, P25, but the car is in one piece and that's important. She just couldn't find the speed this month. Maybe it's time to retire her car "Old Faithful"? Media Center hordes descend on the ice cream bin like Mongols on Eastern Europe.
Lap 140 - Green flag stops. Already had a day's action in the pits. Sixty laps to go. Dario is up by 9.77 seconds and has set the cruise control. No use of the phrase "making fuel" yet, but I can't imagine he is chugging the ethanol. Ana Beatriz hanging in there P19, while Simona de Silvestro is motoring in P13. Rookie of the Year battle looks to be those two ladies. Really impressed with both, considering they were in the fray.
Lap 144 - Helio stalls it in pit lane. Now he can just charge by everyone like all the predictions. As much as Indy is speed, it's also attrition and concentration for drivers; one small mistake like that can totally wreck your day.
Lap 147 - Briscoe stuffs it in the wall. Not a picture perfect day for Roger Penske, not by a long shot. That was a big hit out of turn four, reminiscent of Sam Hornish Jr.'s crash in 2004.
Lap 150 - At the three-quarter mark, Dario leads the procession under yellow, followed by Marco,Kanaan, Scheckter and T Bell. That top five is pretty much the opposite of what we all expected to be a Penske-Ganassi train. But it is amazing how much can happed in such a small window of time; seven cautions already in the books.
Lap 155 - Helio tops off. Briscoe mea culpas. Everyone hits the button on the restart. Speedi Dry flies. Dario is almost making it look too easy. In half an hour, we might have an answer.
Lap 159 - Bell black flagged for blocking Ryan Hunter-Reay. Barnhart means it today.
Lap 160 - Saavedra into the wall. He'd been staying out of trouble before that and doing a pretty good job. It's a long race, 500 miles, not 402...
Lap 162 - Mileage numbers are crunched. Danica in ninth, ESPN's producer is excited.
Lap 163 - Dixon released right into Ryan Hunter-Reay's path. Not good for RHR's car, Dixon probably escapes damage. He's not been a factor at all today, which is somewhat to very surprising, depending on your point of view.
Lap 170 - Mike Conway leads out of the yellow, followed by teammate Justin Wilson. Fuel strategies are thrown in the air. Helio third with Graham Rahal in front of Franchitti yet again. More haggis is ordered.
Lap 177 - Laps are clicked off. Mention Dad's Root Beer, for crissake. Conway has been leading 15 laps.
Lap 182 - Justin Wilson leads; apparently that's not a great story for ABC as they keep cutting to commercials. D&R is flexing their muscle today. Watch out for Dan Wheldon; he's lurking in the typical Panther last 20 laps spot of seventh.
Lap 189 - Fuel is pumped. More numbers are crunched, sorting out the fuel is interesting. Does Helio have enough after that top off? Helio and Dario are abcked way off to save ethanol.
Lap 192 - Helio is in. Dario is winning, both are running in conserve mode, not sure how they can conserve for eight laps.
Lap 194 - I'm going to the window to watch the real deal live. Wheldon has enough fuel, same with TK. It's going to be interesting. Energy efficiency is the mode du jour.
Lap 200 - Dario Franchitti wins the 2010 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race under yellow; Dan Wheldon second, Alex Pink Lloyd with the drive of the day for third place. Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay in a serious dustup on the white flag lap, with Conway up into the fence. Scott Dixon fourth, Danica with a well-earned fifth. Conway is okay, as is Hunter-Reay.

Franchitti celebrates. Great job by the crew, can't imagine there are more than two drops of ethanol in the tank as the bagpipes blare in the background.

* addendum number one - Latest report is Mike Conway has a broken left ankle from his savage crash. Ryan Hunter-Reay accepted responsibility for the wreck as he slowed suddenly after running low/out of fuel.

** addendum number two - Three cars were ruled to have passed Marco Andretti under the yellow; so move back Alex Lloyd (fourth), Scott Dixon (fifth) and Danica (sixth) in the official running order and put Marco on the podium in third.

Vitor Meira Ready to Shed Bridesmaid Role

Posted by Puretone Audio | 5/29/2010 | , , , , | 0 comments »
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If there is ever an IndyCar recasting of the Katherine Heigl romantic comedy 27 Dresses (and why would there be, but stay with me for a second), Vitor Meira would have to be cast in the leading role.

No driver in the modern era has romanced the podium so many times without walking down the aisle himself. Meira has a stellar career record that features 15 podiums and 42 Top-10 finishes but never a trip to the top step in his 98 starts.

A career-defining win at Indy would certainly change his status in the sport and the history books. And that's not to say Meira hasn't been close. He's been very close.

The Brazilian veteran has finished second in the Indy 500 twice (in 2005 and 2008, and has finished in the Top-10 at the big race in five of his seven starts. His 2009 race ended in a spectacular fashion when he locked wheels with a charging Rafael Matos in turn one on lap 174, and the subsequent crash shelved him for the remainder of the season with two broken vertebrae.

Paired again with A.J. Foyt Racing for another shot in the 2010 race, the ever-upbeat Meira has shaken off a disappointing qualifying setup that resulted in the 30th slot. He vows that starting in the back end of the grid won't be a problem, and he figures to be a driver to watch slicing through the field like a lawnmower along with fellow Brazilian Tony Kanaan.

"I can guarantee you that - that's how it worked out and it's going to pay off," Meira said. "Everything's looking good. We're prepared, the car is ready and it will be a big one"

Driving for Super Tex can be a double-edged sword, particularly at a track like the Brickyard where he has probably discarded more information than most drivers learn in their careers. The four-time Indy 500 winner is known to be a particularly demanding
boss, but many longtime fans were shocked to see Foyt reduced to tears when Meira finished third at the season-opener in Sao Paulo.

The operative term for Meira this time around isn't charge, it's patience.

"Patience - it is a big word. Always. It's 500 miles. Patience and attacking at the right time," Meira said with a veteran's confidence. "It all depends on where you're starting and what you want to accomplish. A Top-10 is really realistic. Anything better than that we need things to happen that we can't control, but a Top-10 is pretty realistic."

Of course, Meira would be the last one to complain if he ended up winning. Heck, it'd probably even make the boss shed a couple more tears and certainly earn Meira a lifetime supply of Foyt's famous homemade beef jerky.

Even the bridesmaid has to get married sometime.

While sitting here and scanning driver tweets during the Public Drivers Meeting (yes, we all know you are at the Driver's Meeting - say something interesting!) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, my colleague Paul Dalbey from Planet-IRL.com and I have come up with a brilliant idea - betting on the Indy 500. Super Bowl-style, no-holds-barred sports betting.

We've devised a list of 33 Sports Wagers related to the Indy 500. Hey, if the Super Bowl can have it (can I type Super Bowl without someone suing?), why can't we....it's the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, let's also make it the Greatest Spectacle in Race Betting.

Here are our 2010 Inaugural 33-Bet Indy 500 Field, feel free to post your own picks in the comments section.

1. Winner - Dario Franchitti (DN); Ryan Briscoe (PD)
2. Rookie of the Year - Bertrand Baguette (DN); Simona DeSilvestro (PD)
3. Hardest Charger - Vitor Meira (DN); Bruno Junqueira (PD)
4. Halfway Leader - Scott Dixon (DN); Dario Franchitti (PD)
5. Most Laps Led - Helio Castroneves (DN); Dario Franchitti (PD)
6. Highest Finishing Female - Simona DeSilvestro (DN); Ana Beatriz (PD)
7. First In Class (Highest Finishing non-Penske/Ganassi Car) - Ryan Hunter-Reay (DN); Hideki Mutoh (PD)
8. Fastest Race Lap - Ryan Briscoe (DN); Will Power (PD)
9. First Pass on Lap 3 - Marco Andretti (DN); Tomas Scheckter (PD)
10. Highest Finishing American - Ryan Hunter-Reay (DN); Ed Carpenter (PD)
11. Highest Finishing Full Season Firestone IndyLights Alum - Alex Lloyd (DN): Rafa Matos (PD)
12. Highest Placing Non-Tweeting Driver - Dario Franchitti (DN); Will Power (PD)
13. First Post-Race Tweet - Mario Moraes (DN); Graham Rahal (PD)
14. First Driver to Whitewall Out of Turn 4 - Graham Rahal (DN); Mario Romancini (PD)
15. First Stall on Pit Lane - Tomas Scheckter (DN); Sebastian Saavedra (PD)
16. First Rookie Out of Race - Takuma Sato (DN, PD)
17. First Woman Out of Race - Danica Patrick (DN); Sarah Fisher (PD)
18. First Driver to Be Lapped - John Andretti (DN); Sebastian Saavedra (PD)
19. First Mechanical Out - Mike Conway (DN); Bertrand Baguette (PD)
20. First Driver in the Wall - Takuma Sato (DN); Mario Moraes (PD)
21. Danica's Position After Lap 10 - P19 (DN); P21 (PD)
22. Overly Optimistic Move of the Race - Raphael Matos (DN); Dan Wheldon (PD)

23. Average Winning Speed +/- 152.056 MPH (Under DN); (Over PD)
24. Margin of Victory +/- 1.5 seconds (Under DN); (Over PD)
25. Number of Cautions in Race +/- 7.5 (Over DN); (Under PD)
26. First Caution Lap +/- 13.5 laps (Under DN); (Over PD)
27. Penske & Ganassi Combined Laps Led +/- 190 laps (Over DN, PD)
28. Leaders Green Flag Pit Stops +/- 2.5 (Over DN); (Under PD)
29. Number of Passes by Tony Kanaan on Lap 1 +/- 4.5 (Over DN); (Under PD)
30. Number of Penske & Ganassi Cars in Top 10 (*including Townsend Bell) +/- 3.5 (Over DN; PD)
31. Number of Crashes by KV Racing Drivers +/- 1.5 (Over DN; PD)
32. Lap Number of Marco Andretti Crash (*can be caused by other driver) +/- 124.5 (Over DN; PD)
33. Number of Laps Completed by Graham Rahal +/- 74.5 (Under DN); (Over PD)

To check out what an actual sports book line for the Indy 500 looks like, we found this one on Bodog.com. We didn't really look at this until after completing our own 33-bet field; so the comparisons are interesting.

You can check out Paul's article here at Planet-IRL.com.

The No Sponsor Left Behind Program

Two sponsors who had hard luck stamped all over their Versus airtime on Bump Day have found new homes, as Service Central, who were on Jay Howard's sidepods, have found a placement on the second FAZZT Racing Team entry of Bruno Junqueira (it's a yellow car, so no alterations were necessary to the color scheme). GEICO, the longtime backer of KV Racing's Paul Tracy, are now in the primary spot on teammate Mario Moraes' car. It was a bad week for the insurance giant, as they also missed the field for the Coca Cola 600.

ZZ Top Rocks the Pagoda, Much Beer Consumed

Just got back from wading into the crowd at the Miller Lite concert stage. ZZ Top piloted the good ship buzz over a MASSIVE crowd in the former F1 infield circuit; and the beer bongs were out in force in an episode of IndyCar Fans Gone Wild. The requisite Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers were joined by bad tattoos and future melanoma cases, with the primary attire being sunburn, not sombreros. Asked about the attendance, no one was willing to put a estimate on the record, but most in the Media Center reckoned it was certainly biggest Friday crowd in the last 10-15 years. So "frickin' big crowd" will have to suffice as the official descriptive.

Helio Wins Pit Stop Challenge, Media Center Yawns

Not content being defending race winner and present pole sitter, Helio Castroneves' Penske Racing crew added another trophy to the case with a convincing victory over the upstart Newman-Haas crew of Hideki Mutoh in the Pit Stop Challenge. Penske has won the last five Pit Stop Challenges.

"You saw it out there, they do an incredible job. I do believe all winter work, it’s paying off today. Not only today but every race when we’re out there. Yes, sometimes I overshoot and I make mistakes but they never see that way, they see it as a good practice to be ready for anything. And today in the pit stop it was just an incredible job," Castroneves said. "So proud of these guys, so honored to be working with this organization and these guys. So today is their day. I just have to sit down and drive the car. But it certainly is great to carry this momentum to the race. Because I know when I go out there, I will rely on these guys and normally, I’m sure we’re going to succeed as well."


Isn't That Grandpa's Delta Wing in the Case?

The Daytona 500 trophy made a special trip to the Brickyard for an interview and mutual admiration society meeting of the (only) two Daytona 500-Indy 500 winning owners, Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi. It was set up next to the Borg-Warner Trophy on the media center dais and positively Delta Wing-esque.

"Actually, it's great to be here and obviously the guy sitting next to me is the one that we have to beat every weekend whether it's here at Indianapolis or certainly at Daytona or Charlotte. But I've never seen these two trophies side by side. I just asked Chip which one does he want because I don't care if I get two, I'd just like to have one. Anyhow, it's great to be here, and we've had a great month, very competitive," Penske said. "As I said to a number of people in the last few days that something's different here this year. We have a sponsor, we have four women in the race, the field is probably as tight as it's ever been and the great thing was we had bumping on the second day which I think brought a lot of interest to the sport, a lot of notoriety. So we're going to have a great race. To me this is the guy I know we've got to beat for sure."

There was no talk of who thought who was, uhh, supposedly bending the rules to their advantage, just some back-slapping frivolity between the two biggest check writers in the IZOD IndyCar series.

Hunter-Reay Hopes He's Home To Stay

Posted by Puretone Audio | 5/28/2010 | , , , , | 0 comments »
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The migrant racing career of Ryan Hunter-Reay has already taken more twists and turns than a blind man trying to navigate the Long Beach Grand Prix circuit.

Three different teams in the Champ Car World Series, with a pair of wins; a Rookie of the Year award and a race win (Watkins Glen) in the Indy Racing League with Rahal Letterman Racing, followed by a split season last year with Vision Racing and A.J. Foyt Racing.

IZOD factory backing helped Hunter-Reay move to Andretti Autosport over the winter. After a long and sometimes strange trip, he seems to have found a permanent home, in the car and out. Or should it be he hopes to have found a new home? Permanence in racing is about as long lasting as sponsor dollars keep hitting the direct deposit at the bank.

"It's been excellent - we've been on the podium half the time we've worked together and we've already won a race," Hunter-Reay said after Friday's drivers meeting, referring to his emotional victory at the Long Beach Grand Prix.

The 29-year old Florida native is one of a select group of drivers to have won on an oval, road and street course at the elite level of American open wheel racing and is the only active American driver to have done so. Adding an Indy 500 victory would probably raise his status from star to the superstar level.

After a sixth-place finish in his 2008 Indy 500 debut earned him Rookie of the Year honors, Hunter-Reay ran the 2009 race with Vision before replacing the injured Vitor Meira with Foyt. The game plan this time around is to be aggressively patient, if there is such a beast when the red mist triggered by the green flag starts flowing.

"We're going to just go out there and try to be aggressive, but we're going to let it come to us," Hunter-Reay said. "We're right in the middle of the pack so it'll be interesting to see where we are halfway through (the race). We've gotten great (pit) stops so far and the team has given me great race cars."

While Hunter-Reay is content to focus on the big race, it's hard to believe that the spectre of an uncertain future still does not tap him on the shoulder from time to time. The deal with Andretti technically runs through Texas, and despite numerous rumors of a contract extension to finish out the season, nothing has been confirmed.

Andretti has already announced plans to run A1GP champ and Formula 1 test driver Adam Carroll in select races, but no one seems willing to define whether it will be as Hunter-Reay's teammate or his replacement. Winning on Sunday would go a long way toward cementing a future with the team, as it is difficult to imagine IZOD wanting to see their poster driver rideless again, but stranger things have happened in the topsy-turvy world of big money racing.

"It's going to be a heck of a race all the way down to the finish. It's the best race in the world, it's going to be tight."

At this point, it's hard to say whether Hunter-Reay was referring to the upcoming Indy 500, or perhaps alluding to his career trajectory. Some strange trips never end.

Carb Day - Anticipation Builds, Conway Late For Class

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Ever had one of those days when you walked into a final exam only to find that it had started an hour earlier and was almost over?

And had the whole class turn and look at you as the door opened?

Dreyer and Reinbold Racing sophomore Mike Conway had that red-faced, pit-of-the-stomach feeling Friday when he arrived well late to the mandatory pre-Indy 500 driver's meeting.

But better late than not at all.

To his credit, Conway didn't blame the traffic, which was prodigious and still building for the Friday Carb Day morning session. He was filled in on the fine points starting etiquette by Professors Brian Barnhart and Al Unser Jr (see photo).

Those admonitions were still ringing in Conway's ears when the door opened. Patience is not just a virtue at the Indy 500, it's mandatory equipment. Conway started 24th and finished 18th in his rookie outing, and says the lessons learned in the 200 laps will go a long way for the second time around. He will start on the outside of the fifth row in the 15th slot Sunday which is either closer to the front or in the middle of a very long accordion, depending on your perspective.

"Obviously, like last year, it's a long race - you've got plenty of time - you just need to make to make your decisions," Conway said Friday morning. "And at the end of the day make sure you're there for the last 50 miles and make sure you're in a good position."

For drivers and crew alike, Carb Day represents a welcome relief to stop answering the same questions for the thousandth time, pull on the gloves and helmet, and get back in the car. Conway said there is separation anxiety for both driver and machine.

"Yeah, it's great. It feels like it's been a long time and it was only Sunday," Conway said. "We've kept busy and we're looking forward to getting out there today."

Carb Day practice starts at 11:00 AM and represents the last time for drivers to get on track before Sunday's race.

#SPEEDWAY, IN. _ I've got to compliment everyone here at IMS on the flawless check-in and credentialing process (as usual); I think I set a new personal record with about 15 minutes total from picking up the passes to parking in the media lot. Heck, it took longer to turn left at the 16th and Georgetown traffic light than it took to get situated.

Thursday at the Indy 500 is probably the best day to just cruise the pits with impunity and get closest to the action. It doesn't have a catchy name, but all of the teams and drivers were in evidence hammering out that last bit of prep work prior to Carb Day.

And what a time to arrive, as Sam Schmidt Racing's Pippa Mann blistered the track for a two-lap average speed of 187.989 mph to claim the first pole of her Firestone Indy Lights career for Friday's 2010 Freedom 100.

Blistered being the operative word, as Lights qualifying saw with an ambient temperature of 92 degrees and a scorching track temp of 126 degrees. If the reaction on pit road was any indication, Mann proved a popular choice as the second-year British driver had to negotiate as many congratulatory pats on the back from other team crew members as she did from the trackside media and fans. In the process, Pippa became the first female pole winner in the hundred year history of the Brickyard.

“I just went out there and did my best to pedal it. This afternoon when it got hot, we went to work on speed. We found some things that really helped," Mann said. "We found some things that made my life more difficult but made the car quicker. For this afternoon, we decided to rein it in a little bit so it would come home all in one piece. Whatever they reined in, they did it perfectly."

For the sake of comparison, Mark Martin's pole winning time in another series-that-shall-not-be-named (this week, at least) was 182.054 mph in 2009. FIL veterans Wade Cunningham (187.742), Charlie Kimball (187.375) and Martin Plowman (187.209) filled out the remainder of the first two FIL rows.

Starting on the inside of row 3 is a familiar name to IndyCar fans, as veteran Jeff Simmons made a welcome return to the series after a sabbatical in 2009 in the Team E Zymol car. Although the qualifying time was a bit slower than Simmons had hoped after he posted the fastest time in the Friday morning practice, it was hard to tell from the smile on his face after the session. A fuel pickup issue was later diagnosed by the team that slowed Simmons' car noticeably on the backstraight in the second qualifying lap, but the contagious grin was there under some new facial hair.

"I'm glad I didn't forget how to drive, it felt great to be out there," Simmons laughed. "As long as nobody calls me old; I prefer experienced. Honestly, I'm having fun out there. The Team E Zymol car is fast in traffic in practice, and that means we should be pretty fast in the race."

Friday is shaping up to be a barnburner at the Brickyard, with the Carb Day festivities highlighted by what promises to be an intense IndyCar practice session as teams rush to make their last bit of track time before the big dance count, followed by the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 and last, but definitely far from least, a concert by that lil' old band from Texas - ZZ Top.

Guitar slinging ZZ mainman Billy F. Gibbons, a motorhead of the first order and a long-time hot rod freak, actually threw the green flag on the first Freedom 100 in 2003.

Speed, Indycars, beards, beer and rock - does it get any better? Best bring the sunscreen.