Congratulations Are Due

Posted by Iannucci | 4/27/2006 | 0 comments »
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While it's suddenly fashionable to talk about women in racing, the discussion is rather empty without giving a nod to Janet Guthrie. While most fans will remember her simply as the first woman driver to race in the Indianapolis 500, Guthrie also carved out a small career driving NASCAR as well.

For her troubles, she is being honored today with induction in the Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talledega. By troubles I am referring not only to the treatment she received by her fellow drivers but also her valiant efforts to drive on inferior equipment.

It's ironic that Danica! has had so much popularity while less than 30 years ago Guthrie was but a novelty in racing. Perhaps if she looked more like Jaclyn Smith she would have had a wider range of support.

What's In a Name?

Posted by Iannucci | 4/26/2006 | 1 comments »
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I was engaging in a discussion on the ESPN Message board with a Vulture about IRL drivers being in over their heads. I mentioned that I thought Scott Brayton – who at the time of the IRL/CART split was considered one of the top Open Wheel drivers to participate in the new series – was no less qualified because he dies on the track. The Vulture responded that Brayton was also unqualified.

75 starts and the best he could manage was one podium (3rd), a 5th and a couple of 6ths. 75 starts and he wrecked 11 times, including the race immediately before Indy in 1996. By that time he was lucky to have finally gotten a full time ride again after sitting out two years. Like most of the field fillers at Indy for most of recent history, he was way over his head.
Here is the where part I pull out the quote about statistics and damn lies. As anyone who was watching open-wheel racing in the mid-90s knows, Brayton was a very good driver who had a very bad engine. Here’s a nice summary from Wikipedia:

During the mid-1980s, Brayton helped introduce the powerful (but unreliable) Buick stock-block V-6 to Indianapolis. In 1985, he qualified 2nd but finished 30th when the engine expired. He would not finish the race again until 1989, when he scored his best finish at the Speedway, 6th place but seven laps down. He would equal this finishing position in 1993, driving a Lola-Cosworth.

When Buick pulled out of IndyCar racing in 1993, John Menard continued developing the engine under the Menard V-6 name. Brayton, now without a regular ride in the IndyCar series, joined the Indy-only team in 1994. Their belief in the powerplant paid off when Brayton won his first pole position in 1995, at an average speed of 231.604 mph. Again, persistent problems with the Menard engine relegated him to 17th place at the finish.

In 1996, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George established the Indy Racing League, and the Menard team signed up to compete in their first full season of IndyCar racing. Because the established "stars" of open-wheel racing competed in the rival CART series, Brayton (and rookie teammate, Tony Stewart) were considered legitimate contenders for the IRL title. After a bad start to the season, Brayton asserted his competitiveness by winning his second Indy pole after a dramatic qualifying session in which he withdrew an already-qualified car to get a second chance at taking the top spot.
It is also noted that Brayton's fatal accident was the result of tire failure during a practice run, which does nothing to support the argument that he was “in over his head.”

I decided to look up some statistics on accident percentages on current drivers and compare them with Brayton’s career. While the drivers atop today’s standings all had lower percentages, there were several who were not only worse but A LOT WORSE that Brayon’s 14.7%. Check this out:

Tomas Enge - 18 starts, 7 accidents (38.9%)
Tomas Schekter - 64 starts, 21 accidents (32.8%)
Ed Carpenter - 38 starts, 12 accidents (31.6%)
Eddie Cheever Jr - 72 starts, 14 accidents (19.4%)
Scott Sharp - 118 starts, 20 accidents (16.9%)
Scott Dixon - 52 starts, 8 accidents (15.4%)
Scott Brayton - 75 starts, 11 accidents (14.7%)
Buddy Rice - 53 starts, 7 accidents (13.2%)
Buddy Lazier - 93 starts, 11 accidents (11.8%)

Anybody else notice anything strange about this? I mean, look at the first names of the drivers. It’s just really weird how the names trend in terms of percentages. Regardless, it looks like Brayton compared favorably to two other Scotts who have proven they belong in the IRL.

Do you think the other drivers would noticeably stay away from the Vision and Cheever teams (the top 4!) if they knew these percentages? No wonder these teams don’t have sponsors.

One last item: Sure it’s a small sample size, but let’s note the guy who started the discussion.

Paul Dana - 3 starts, 0 accidents (0.00%)

Iif you’re going to make an argument about unsafe drivers then at least use the drivers who are actually unsafe as an example. Otherwise please stop the Vulture madness, and just enjoy the racing.

2 Plus 16

Posted by Iannucci | 4/25/2006 | 0 comments »
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Old No. 2 must be obligated to spout these online commentaries, because his latest doesn’t tell you much of what you don’t already know.

Helio's best competition right now is his Marlboro Team Penske teammate, Sam Hornish Jr., as well as Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon. Hornish, Dixon, Wheldon, and Andretti Green Racing drivers Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti are all in the same group as far as the way they are running on the track; but Castroneves just seems to be a notch above all of them right now.

Spiderman is a nose (maybe Tony Kanaan’s) away from winning all three races this season and he’s “just a notch above“ the other drivers? I guess everyone is entitled to their opinions, but right now Mr. “drive it like I stole it” has led OVER HALF (266 of 500) of all laps in the series. C’mon, that’s at least two notches, right?

I’ll spare you a breakdown of the whole piece, but here’s the money quote.

One driver to watch next month is Danica Patrick…I'm expecting big things out of her next month.

Yes, Old No. 2 has caught Danica! Fever or Mania or whatever it’s called. Either that or this is a puff piece designed to drum up support among passive viewers by mentioning the only driver they know. Whatever the reason, allow me to take Rusty’s premise of “Motegi is the best indicator for how next month's Indianapolis 500 could turn out” and compare teammates:

Driver A starts 14th at Motegi, finishes 8th, best finish at Indy was 4th.

Driver B starts 18th at Motegi, finishes 5th, best finish at Indy was 1st.

I’m no former NASCAR driver, but if I had to put money on one of those two I’d go with B as in Buddy Rice. You would think a paid analyst would point out things like “Patrick has raced well but her teammate was better” instead of this “Let’s all love Danica” drivel. Sadly, you would be wrong.

Climbing the Walls

Posted by Iannucci | 4/24/2006 | 0 comments »
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While this weekend's Indy Japan 300 at Motegi was exciting, it was kind of a boat race. Spiderman started on the pole, went essentially wire to wire, climbed the fence, and even broke out another “I drove it like I stole it” after winning. So in the end, it was an exciting race for field position other than the lead.

What made this race different from every other race was that the broadcasters were unable to control the video feed for much of the race. I am presuming Nippon TV or some such entity had all the cameras and was directing the race while Marty, Scotty and Rusty were chatting about what they saw - not unlike Myster Science Theater 3000. Also, Dr Punch was in the pits without his other two sidekicks – and really, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Anyhow, here a few things I noticed watching this really strange race:

  • The first 17 laps were gone. Didn’t happen. Perhaps someone lost the feed at ESPN, but for whatever reason the introduction and pre-race interviews were shown TWICE, then suddenly we jump ahead to the 18th lap. This was truly uncalled for since the race was broadcast on ESPN 12 hours after it occurred? How does this problem not get fixed in 12 hours? As a result, those first few laps are like the missing minutes from Nixon’s personal tape collection.

  • I was amazed at the speculation of what caused Scott Sharp’s car to spin left on a restart at lap 41, resulting in a frightening wreck for Jeff Simmons. While three separate announcers were guessing if the cause was a flat tire, a broken suspension, or oil on the track, NO ONE seemed to notice the car at the back (I think it was Marco Andretti, although the crawler indicated it was Giaffone) spin exactly the same way in exactly the same spot at Sharp’s car. I’m thinking it was probably not enough Oil Dry or one doozy of a coinicidence.

  • Speaking of the Simmons, after the week he had I’m guessing perhaps the No. 17 Ethanol car is actually cursed. Maybe it's because it's green (hey, Tony Kanaan hasn't won at Indy.)

  • As bad as it was seeing the No. 17 upside down, the scariest moment was watching Mr. Judd take out his tire changer on a routine pit entry. It was reported the victim returned to the track on crutches later, but it looked like the poor guy would have torn every CL in his leg. Mr. Judd should offer his wife for the duration of the poor fellow's recovery.

  • While Rusty was talking about Tony Kanaan’s charge to the front, the television feed kept showing Danica! in 8th place. Nice to know the mania has spread overseas as well. I would have guessed they would have kept showing homeland driver Kosuke, but I didn’t notice much coverage of his race.

  • Perhaps the strangest bit was Kanaan telling Dr Punch he just got off the phone with his mom and she said to thank Old No 2 for talking about him. I love my mom, but I don’t call her immediately at the end of my work day. Maybe this just says a lot about the current proliferation of telecommunication around the globe.

    UPDATE: The mystery spinner at the back of the field on lap 41 was actually Buddy Lazier.

  • Bring Out the Vultures

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/21/2006 | 0 comments »
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    While it rained enough to cancel qualifications in Motegi this week - meaning the starting grid will be based on current standing in series points - there was still time for some drivers to test their vehicles. Indeed, there was time for some to even wreck their vehicles.

    While preparing for his first race as the replacemnt for the late Paul Dana in the No. 17, Jeff Simmons touched the wall in both turn 4 and the entry to pit lane. Simmons was examined and released from the local medical facilities, but one can't help but wonder which Paul Dana Vulture wants to start berating Simmons for not being ready to drive yet.

    Smells Like Sixteen Spirit

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/19/2006 | 0 comments »
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    Lost in the endless stories of the tragic death of Paul Dana was the slightly less earth-shattering news that Danica! was pursuing the marketing of her own fragrance. That’s a perfume for those of you in the rest of America.

    Now, presumably this will not make someone smell like they just spent several hours in a firesuit on a hot summer day, but no matter the scent I’m not quite sure who would buy this. Does a guy buy it to make his girl smell like Danica? Oh, that wouldn’t go over very well now. Does a girl buy this to make herself smell like her man’s favorite reason for not spending time with her on Sunday? I’m guessing no.

    No name has been released yet – in fact, as of last month Danica! was still looking to close an endorsement deal. However, you can peruse several suggestions including "Deep Throttle," "Va-Va-Vroom," and "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines."

    The F1-Word

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/18/2006 | 0 comments »
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    While many race fans (perhaps even most) expected 2005 series champion Dan Wheldon to make the jump to Formula One this season, it turns out he was only offered a deal as a test driver. I believe that's called "dissing."

    Boulder Dan says he still has his eyes on Bernie Ecclestone's brand of racing, perhaps as soon as next year.

    Hide the Children

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/17/2006 | 0 comments »
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    Vitor Miera has 30 fans, and none of them are old enough to drive.

    When asked why Vitor was her favorite driver, one fan mentioned "the color of the car he drove last year for the Rahal Letterman team and the fact that he was cute."

    Cute car, cute driver...she'll never cheer for this guy.

    Don't Call It a Comeback

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/14/2006 | 0 comments »
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    Speaking of a never-was, Tomas Enge will be driving for the ever-busy Eddie Cheever, Jr this year in Motegi. Enge will look to build on his stellar resume of eight finishes in 17 starts.

    Are You Available In May?

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/14/2006 | 0 comments »
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    The registrations are in for this year's running of the Indianapolis 500 and right now there are 38 entries comprised of 66 cars (backups and batteries are included.) However, only 26 of those entries have drivers.

    I'm well aware the 12 driverless vehicles will not direct themselves around the track, so who knows what has-been or never-was will get the chance to drive this year. I wonder if anyone would be willing to give one of these folks a shot.

    Dodger Grand Prix

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/13/2006 | 0 comments »
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    I had to read it twice just to make sure this was real, but evidently the ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers are discussing hosting an IRL road race outside Dodger Stadium. What? Most likely nothing will come of this, but the last sentence of the article is intriguing.

    Both sides said a race could be held again at the two-mile oval in Fontana, but Griffin said the IRL is leaning more toward a street race in L.A.

    Considering that Champ Car already has the Long Beach Grand Prix, this would have to be considered the IRL's leverage against or outright denial of recent continued ongoing indefinite talks about a possible IRL and Champ Car merger.

    Note that the Dodger ownership has recently considered hosting the National Football League, so insert your favorite prostitution joke here.

    Rusted Development

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/12/2006 | 0 comments »
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    First off, I’d like to thank Rusty Wallace for showing some interest in Indy Racing. He may be contractually obligated to put together an occasional opinion piece for publication, but at least he’s sharing his thoughts on what he has seen so far.

    That said, Old No. 2 isn’t really contributing a lot in terms of substance. Since I already mentioned my opinion of him as a TV commentator, I‘ll stick with his recent turn as a web commentator. Here are old No. 2’s suggestions:

    I said this last week, but Sunday morning practices need to go away. The practice session two weeks ago at Homestead had nothing to do with Paul Dana's death. His accident could have happened on a Saturday just as easily. I just don't see any reason at all for it because it jeopardizes the starting lineup of the race. These cars are qualified and ready to go, then they go out there Sunday morning and you have three or four incidents like we had in St. Petersburg.

    I know you’ve only seen two IRL races – ever – so I’ll help you out by letting you know that “three of four incidents” in morning practice are rare. These things are voluntary, and if the teams thought they were sending the cars into certain destruction they would no longer particiapate.

    Tim Cindric, the race strategist for Helio Castroneves, came up to me and wanted to know what I have seen from the IRL, having come over from NASCAR. One of the first things that I said was that there wasn't a need for Sunday morning practice sessions. He said he would rather do away with the practice, and Roger Penske and Chip Gannasi (sic) said the same thing. It seems like a majority of the people think they don't need it because the drivers all have the same engines.

    Oh, well if Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi said it, it must be a majority. After all, just because they have the Top 4 drivers thusfar doesn’t mean they wouldn’t want other teams taking advantage of using Sunday practice to try to close the gap.

    What I also noticed, was the IRL doesn't make it mandatory for spotters, like NASCAR does, at road courses. Teams should have spotters down in those blind corners so this problem that Franchitti had could have been avoided.

    I almost agree with Old No. 2 that it would be a good idea, but the “mandatory” part bothers me. Who is going to pay for all these spotters at every turn? If the teams want them and can afford them, they’ll put the spotters out there.

    Still, what happened in practice shouldn't overshadow what was a great race. Drivers were passing each other left and right, rough-housing each other, hitting each other in the rear end, knocking each other sideways. It was a real physical and tough race.

    I’m really confused. If “rough-housing each other, hitting each other in the rear end, knocking each other sideways” is your idea of a “great race” then you are watching the wrong type of racing. I’m guessing Old No. 2 would prefer watching demolition derby at the local fairgrounds to IRL racing. Somebody needs to send him the memo that unlike NASCAR racing, IndyCars have a bad habit of breaking apart when they run into each other. The drivers don’t like it. They get hurt. Sometimes very badly.

    Castroneves is really prepared and so is his teammate, Sam Hornish, Jr. They came from a program last year where the Toyota was a great engine, but it wasn't making as much horsepower as Honda. Target Ganassi Racing and Penske Racing, because of the horsepower deficit, really worked hard in all these other arenas to pick the speed back up.

    Penske, Penske, Penske…since Old No. 2 isn’t interested in full disclosure, allow me to point out that Roger Penske was his employer in his last 14 years of Nextel Cup racing.

    As a driver, I never did liked Green-White-Checkered finishes because everybody is driving beyond their capabilities to try and get to the front. As a fan, I love it. Let's face it, we're doing this for the fans, but there always seems like there is a crash or something haywired when we have green-white-checkered racing. I especially hated it at a Daytona or Talladega because you always had crashes. I wish NASCAR and IRL were the same so we could build some continuity. In simple terms, drivers don't like it, and fans love it.

    In an attempt to demonstrate his grasp of critical thinking, Old No. 2 has rambled in 5 sentences to the point I don’t know what his suggestion would be. So, which is it? You can be considered both a fan and a driver – what’s your vote? Get off the fence, man.

    BTW - “Haywired” is not a verb. Are there not enough verbs in the English language available to this guy? Maybe Marty Reid or Scott Goodyear could loan him a few for the season.

    Voices In My Head

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/11/2006 | 0 comments »
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    My friend Chamberlain and I occasionally joke about Bob Varsha’s non-call of the most important moment of the 1989 Formula One season. If you are going to be an announcer then you are planning repeatedly for your “big call”. I assure you, “Do you believe in miracles?” was not an accident. Needless to say, Varsha blew his big call. When tempestuous teammates Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost collided while trying to take the same line into a turn in Suzuka (and consequently knocking Senna out of the race and points contention) Bumbling Bob could only manage this: “Ohhh!” And that’s why you’ve never heard a replay of the call.

    Contrast this with the Paul Page’s call at the Indianapolis 500 the same year. With Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser Jr battling side-by-side (a rarity then, practically commonplace in the IRL now) Page calls out “They touch!” and proceeds to describe how Little Al slams the wall and Fittipaldi wins his first Indy 500. In spite of his favoritism and nasally voice, Page was still an accomplished broadcaster. Paul Page: B+, Bob Varsha: D

    We are two races into the season, and with some new broadcasters in place I think it’s already time for first semester grading of the current booth.

    Not since Bob Jenkins has the IRL had a voice of respectability like Marty Reid. After the first race in Homestead I was caught off guard at how good his race calling skills are, which was especially difficult given that he had to temper his enthusiasm due to the tragic events involving Paul Dana. After paying his dues as a pit reporter Reid has made a successful transition to the booth, and after his call in of two races in 2006 I’m convinced they need to lock this guy up for several years. Marty Reid: A-

    Scott Goodyear continues to be the best commentator no one knows. He’s not offensive, he plays it straight and he’s actually a smart guy. If they had commentators like him in football games I’m sure heads would explode. The only knock against the guy is he’s kinda dull. And while there is a fine line between being smart and sounding like a know-it-all (*cough* jackarute *cough*), I think Goodyear does a great job of toeing that line. Extra credit to goodyear for telling Rusty how Boulder Dan was waiting and was going to nose out Spiderman on the high side 10 laps before the finish in Homestead. Scott Goodyear: B+

    Of course, for whatever reason ABC has decided to add Rusty Wallace to the pair. Maybe they want someone to be like John Madden and go “Boom” or “Wham” or whatever interjection Goodyear is missing. My guess is they want Rusty be like Mr. Boogity Boogity Boogity on the NASCAR telecasts. I liked Rusty the driver, and I may even like Rusty the person were I ever to have the good fortune of meeting him, but Rusty the IRL commentator leaves a lot to be desired. He seems enthusiastic, but “Wow, they sure are close!” is not terribly interesting or insightful. If ABC/ESPN really wants someone with personality they could bring back Tom Sneva instead of someone who I really believe has never watched an IRL race before this year. Rusty Wallace: C-

    Did You Know

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/10/2006 | 0 comments »
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    While only two races into the IRL season, the current points standings provide a bit of enlightenment in the early season. The top four drivers belong to Teams Penske and Ganassi, who are no doubt thrilled to be powered by Honda.

    You probably knew that. But did you notice who is #5 in the points standings? If given three guesses would you have picked this guy?

    While Rahal Letterman has had to deal with the tragedy of Paul Dana, it is no surprise to find their drivers in the back half of the standings. But Andretti Green, who was so dominating the last few seasons they had four of the top eight drivers last year, find themselves - all of them - chasing a guy who has one top 5 in 35 starts? In fact, only Mr. Judd has led any laps of the four AGR drivers.

    But it is only two races into a 14 race season, so don't break out the sake just yet.

    Malcolm in the Marbles

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/09/2006 | 0 comments »
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    Now that the series is in the proverbial can, "Malcom in the Middle" star Frankie Muniz has decided he wants to be a professional race car driver. Seriously, he has. The 20-year-old actor who played the title character for seven years will be driving a full season of Formula BMWs in the hopes of securing a ride in next season in the Toyota Atlantic series.

    Here's hoping open-wheel racing is a lot kinder to Mr. Muniz than it was to Jason Priestly.

    The Donald and the Anderson Twins

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/08/2006 | 0 comments »
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    For those of you who have not been watching the 85th season of Donald Trump's ode to himself known as "The Apprentice," this week's episode on Monday April 10th will feature the Nariz himself, 2004 series champion Tony Kanaan. No word on whether or not he gets to fire his teammate Marco Andretti for displaying a proclivity for dismantling drive shafts.

    Also finding TV time without a helmet will be 2005 series champion Dan Wheldon. Boulder Dan (that nickname comes from Link, not me, who is is refering to the contents of Dan's BVDs) will be joining Pamela Anderson to present the Car of the Year award on SpikeTV's AutoRox awards show to be televised April 18th. Yeah, I'd never heard of it either.

    Looking Out for No. 1

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/07/2006 | 0 comments »
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    Throught the brief history of auto racing there have been distinct rewards for being the best. For a championship driver, the treasure chest of victory included a shiny trophy, a substantial check, the adoration of the fans and possibly a product endorsement or two. There was also something else in the chest, something that would serve as a constant reminder to all competitors who was the reigning kind of racing. That something was the right to bear the “1” on the racecar.

    These days NASCAR has shown the power of other numbers, making “3” and “24” more meaningful than whoever drives the “1”. And so, in other racing series the same thing is being applied, and the IRL is no exception. While this season’s champion Dan Wheldon switched teams, 2004 series champion Tony Kannan kept driving “11” due to his continued sponsorship with 7-Eleven.

    Another evolution in the numbers of racing is granting the number right to the owner. So it is that the 2005 IndyCar Series champion may in fact not be Dan Wheldon, but Andretti Green Racing owner Michael Andretti. Following this logic all the way through you can now see how a driver who hasn’t raced in three years will be driving with the big “1” come Memorial Day weekend.

    Also of note, should Michael’s son Marco qualify he will become the fifth Andretti family member to participate in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

    Out with Danica! In with Katherine!

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/06/2006 | 0 comments »
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    For those of you not in the know, the CART season kicks off this Sunday with a race in Long Beach. Actually, the series is no longer branded as CART but rather Champ Car World Series, which goes to show how much I follow the thing. I only mention this because, well…what would happen if you merged Dan Weldon and Danica Patrick? Perhaps you might end up with photogenic Brit Katherine Legge, who will try to ignite the racing passions of whatever testosterone-fueled race fans remain among the following in Champ Car. Legge now has a full season ride in a car owned by former Champ Car Champ Jimmy Vasser and current series owner Kevin Kalkhoven.

    Legge’s credentials seem solid, but I’m sure her hiring has just as much to do with her marketability as her racing acumen. I wish her the best, although given Danica!’s unparalleled popularity I can’t help but wonder if racing teams in different series are looking for attractive ladies who just happen to drive cars well. As much as a victory on any track by Danica! would help the popularity of the IRL, drivers need to be drivers first and marketers second. I’ll stop there before I turn into a Paul Dana hater.

    In truth, if Legge is a primarily a marketing hire then the gimmick is working since I probably wouldn’t be watching the Champ Cars this weekend were she not racing. So for now, the only sexist comment I will muster is “Gentlemen, start your engines.”

    Somwhere "Over the Moon"

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/05/2006 | 1 comments »
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    Rahal Letterman officially announced that Jeff Simmons will take over the No. 17 Ethanol ride for the remainder of the season. That would be the car Paul Dana drove. Simmons appeared at a press conference with new teammates Buddy Rice and Danica!, whom Simmons reportedly met 5 minutes beforehand for the first time. Sadly, it was not reported if he is any relation to “I Am Mindy” composer Gene Simmons.

    Speaking of Dana, two notable IRL journalists – and really, there aren’t that many – have taken the opportunity of Dana’s death to trash him as a driver. Robin Miller of SpeedTV says Dana was “over the moon to be running an Indy Car,” while John Oreovicz of writes Dana was not “skilled enough to compete in the IndyCar Series.” Oh, how hindsight is 20/20, where an author can write about how obvious something was to everyone even though no one had previously mentioned it. I realize these guys have a vested interest in looking smart, but the fact is neither of them published a piece about Dana’s inability to drive BEFORE his fatal accident.

    And really, that’s what happened on March 26th; Dana had an accident. A lapse in judgment, a brain cloud. And as Brian Barnhart pointed out similar lapses have occurred in the heads of Indy 500 champions like Jacques Villeneuve and Mario Andretti. Also, no one seems to mention that Dana hit some debris 30 yards before striking ECGs car, which may have turned an otherwise close call into a fatal mistake.

    I don’t know whether or not Dana was “skilled enough” to drive in the IRL, but I do know before March 26th enough people had decided he was. So for now let’s just stick to facts. Did he fail to slow down when other cars did? Yes, that was clearly his mistake. Did it cost him his life? Sadly, it did. Did a single mistake make a him an unqualified driver? No. Did he get his ride in the No. 17 because the sponsor wanted him? Of course, and you can be quite sure that Jeff Simmons was given the nod by Ethanol before the press announcement.

    Miller and Oreovicz are otherwise fine writers, but with these pieces they are no more than vultures picking over Paul Dana's remains…and for what it's worth, I haven’t yet seen any articles from either of them about how unqualified Simmons is to be racing in the IRL.

    Oh, Danica!

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/04/2006 | 0 comments »
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    In case you did not know, Danica! is releasing a biography, which is slightly troubling since she should be out making history instead of recollecting it. She’s not the only person to conform to the excersice known as “cashing in,” and it’s a perfectly sound financial decision with the Indianapolis 500 approaching. It’s not as bad as back in 1996, when a 13-year-old gymnast wrote a biography that no one was particularly clamoring to read.

    Nonetheless, you would think since Danica! was taking up a serious endeavor such as writing that she would attempt to portray herself as a serious figure.

    Instead, she has elected to portray herself as having a serious figure. I repeat, this is supposed to be 200+ pages of a biography, although in judging a book by its cover “Crossing the Line” looks more like a pictorial calendar. Maybe, deep down she really wants to be a Bond girl.

    We ARE all writers now, but some of us look better in evening gowns. Then again, I don’t think that outfit is fire retardant.

    I Am Not Mindy

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/03/2006 | 0 comments »
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    I assume by now everyone has heard the “I Am Indy” song(?) more than a few times while watching the racing. If not, you can go over to the IRL web site and watch the video if you feel so inclined. Now, I appreciate the league is trying to increase it’s visibility, but this is just way wrong in so many ways.

    1. In all truth, it sounds like “I am Mindy,” which unless you are Pam Dawber makes no sense to chant repeatedly.

    2. There are apparently no words other than “I am Mindy,” which renders the song boring even during a 30 second clip.

    3. If you are going to pay Gene Simmons – who no one will ever confuse with Cole Porter – an unknown gob of cash to write a song, you should make sure you get an entire song. If there were 3+ minutes of material here you might be able to get some radio airplay, but as it is you just get spot material.

    4. Does anyone know the name of this band that, uh, sings this? Dirtbag? Feedbag? Who are these guys?

    5. A few years ago John Mellencamp had a little tune they featured in their spots, but that didn’t exactly boost the popularity of the series. Explain to me how Gene Simmons – who hasn’t had a hit in 20 years – would work instead.

    I’m not in charge of IRL Marketing, but how about this for an idea. Have you seen those American Express commercials where Robert Deniro, Ellen DeGeneres and M. Night Shyamalan make their own spots? Well, those work really well. How about you get Simmons, Mellencamp, 3 Doors Down (who were inexplicably performing “Kryptonite” during driver introductions last year at Mindy, er, Indy) and any other band to do their own songs and videos with IRL clips? Surely that would be a lot more interesting than the Mindy song.

    I know we’re only a few races in, but can we lose the tune before May? The passive, Indy 500-only fans are going to laugh at this Mindy nonsense…except, of course, Pam Dawber.

    Raceday at St. Petersburg

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/02/2006 | 0 comments »
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    Road courses are always odd to watch in the America since the cars are seriously under-powered compared to the insanely supercharged Formula One racers. Sure, it’s a better test of driving skill to have to brake and make right turns, but it’s like having the NFL incorporate a few Soccer games in the schedule. Something just doesn’t seem right.

    For anyone who has ever asked me my opinion on the subject of a CART/IRL merger – all 3 of you – I have suggested having parallel series with a defined Oval and Road course schedule. Drivers could participate in one or both, and you would award best driver award in each category as well as an overall award. It’s not perfect, but it beats what NASCAR does by having a couple races to make most of their regular drivers look silly while guys like Boris Said run rings around them.

    Anyhow, race is on ESPN today at 3:30pm EST. Mr. Judd has the pole.

    The World Famous Ed Carpenter George

    Posted by Iannucci | 4/01/2006 | 0 comments »
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    Good news for Ed Carpenter-George, who has been released from the hospital. Bad news for ECG is he will not be racing this Sunday in St Petersburg. It’s probably for the best since ECG should avoid the race this weekend and should attend his religious institution of choice to thank the Almighty he was not killed by an errant Paul Dana last week.

    Also, in case you did not know the immortal Roberto Moreno will be piloting ECG’s ride this weekend. Longtime race fans will remember Moreno as being very old. In fact, having both Moreno and Eddie Cheever Jr running laps this week begs the question: Is Danny Ongais not available to drive?

    Regardless of how ECG spends his weekend, I have to wonder if he won’t appear at a booth selling these. If I were to ask the casual IRL fan – for example, my six-year-old daughter – to name some drivers I’m sure I would hear Danica!, Spiderman, Sam, and maybe That Guy With The Accent Who Won Indy Last Year. Which would explain why all four of those racers have merchandise sales at the IRL Store. But ECG shirts? Come on, his sponsor is his stepdad.

    I still can’t tell whether or not he’s a good driver since he seems to have inferior equipment, but if the good folks at the IRL are going to be hawking ECG shirts then they should do Scott Sharp or Dario Franchitti the honor of offering their merchandise as well. You know, they have actually been to victory lane a time or two.