Still In the Mirror

Posted by Iannucci | 7/31/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

“With 10 (laps) to go, I thought everything was good, but I saw an orange dot in my mirror, and I couldn’t believe (Meira) caught us like that.” – Helio Castroneves
So it goes for Vitor In the Mirror, who for the third time this season was phenomenal yet finished in the winner’s mirror in second place. The Mirror Man is getting quite a bit of publicity for his run of second-place finishes, and it seems he has turned into the IRL’s version of Susan Lucci by becoming more popular by NOT winning.

What is just as impressive is that the Mirror Man has two third places to go along with his three runner-up finishes. In his career he has 21 top 5 finishes in 57 starts, which is rather exceptional when you measure him up against the titans of the IRL. Here are the current drivers' Career Top 5 finishes.

Kanaan: 42 in 61 races (68.9%)
Wheldon: 36 in 60 races (60.0%)
Castroneves: 42 in 77 races (54.5%)
Hornish: 52 in 96 races (54.2%)
Meira: 21 in 57 races (36.8%)
Dixon: 18 in 60 races (30.0%)

How you like those apples? Now look at this list with Career Wins.

Kanaan: 7 wins
Wheldon: 10 wins
Castroneves: 11 wins
Hornish: 17 wins
Meira: The Big Donut
Dixon: 6 wins

Note the others on the list have had the benefit of driving for one of the Big Three teams (Penske, Ganassi, AGR), and poor Vitor got the boot from RLR last year after Paul Dana showed up with a sponsorship in hand from Ethanol. In retrospect, this was probably a blessing, as the Panther Racing team continues to show how to compete with a one car operation. Not to get off the subject, but this is the team that had success with Scott Goodyear and Boulder Sam before suffering through two seasons of The Wrecker. Clearly John Barnes and the rest of the Panther team are showing that you don’t have to field two to four cars to be competitive.

OK, the Mirror Man has no wins, but at this point 57 races without a win – and with all those top 5s - is a pretty impressive streak. On the one hand I’d like to see him win, but like Lucci he has reached the point where he can stretch more publicity out of NOT winning. Who else is going to get repeated stories for finishing in second place?

And in case you were wondering, should the Mirror Man get into the winner’s circle, then next habitual runner-up would be Ed Carpenter George. ECG has 45 starts without a single top 5, and he has but one top 10. It appears he could go without a win for a looooooooong time.

What Roger Wants, Roger Gets

Posted by Iannucci | 7/31/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

When he's not helping Boulder Sam achieve maximum speed, Roger Penske successfully does things like help Detroit (Detroit!) land a Super Bowl. Now, Roger has decided he wants to resurrect the Detroit Grand Prix, IRL-style.

While the 2007 Indy Racing League schedule has not been completed and released, speculation is that successful testing this week in Iowa will result in the addition of that track to the schedule. The Detroit Free Press is reporting Penske has been lobbying very hard to have the street course of Belle Isle added next year as well, preferably on Labor Day Weekend.

Of course, there is also talk about adding a race around the parking lot at Dodger Stadium, but that seems to be going nowhere.

For those who do not recall, the Detroit Grand Prix was originally raced through the streets of Detroit in the 1980s with Formula One cars. A new course was built on the Belle Isle island in the Detroit river, but was not used for Formula One since they moved the U.S. operation to Phoenix in 1989. CART (Champ Car) did use the new circuit from 1992 to 2001.

Say, isn’t Gene Simmons from Detroit?

Not So Much Fire In A.J. Foyt

Posted by Iannucci | 7/31/2006 | 1 comments »
Bookmark and Share

A.J. Foyt has seen his shares of racing success and failure, and according to the Toledo Blade he's ready to start seeing less of them. A.J. is bringing his son Larry (who is technically his grandson) to run operations for his team in 2007.

"I'm not stepping down, but I'm getting him back home to help run the operation, so we can be more competitive," A.J. Foyt said. "You need to have more people involved, and I can only do so much."
A.J. has been a notorious difficult owner to work for. He IS the crew chief, he works on a tight budget and really, he's had a better career than ANY of his drivers ever will. Perhaps there will be less pressure all around if Larry takes the reigns. No one has to worry about living in the shadow of Larry's racing career.

"We've been talking about it for a while, kicking it around, but you know A.J., he's definitely not going to turn the keys over to anyone - he'll be around," Larry Foyt said.
Color me skeptical about A.J. still being around, and I can't help but wonder if this isn't intended to appease potential sponsors and fans. A.J. Foyt was a very popular driver in his day due to his fiery personality (think more "Smoke" than Tony Stewart), which has no doubt led to his continued ability to pull sponsors despite fielding a non-competitive car.

Speaking of his fiery personality, I will always remember A.J. Foyt slapping Arie Luyendyk in Texas in 1997. The Flying Dutchman was upset the race had been awarded to Foyt driver Billy Boat and tried to crash the celebration in victory lane. Bad idea, even though IRL officials reviewed the race footage and later declared Arie the winner.

It has been reported (on airwaves but nowhere I can find a link) ABC Supply is under contract to sponsor the #14 next season, and that A.J. would like to retain current driver Jeff Bucknum.

My Future's So Bright...

Posted by Iannucci | 7/29/2006 | 2 comments »
Bookmark and Share

I know there's a lot of sun at the track, but it seems the sunglasses worn by today's drivers are practically welding shields.

Have you noticed how HUGE these things are?
This outbreak in gaudy eyewear is really troubling me. These things make them look like they are all mutating into flies.Does anybody know if this is a particular brand? Are they contracted to wear them? It's rather disturbing when drivers make their heads look smaller. I hope someone out there has some answers.

As a side note - the Marco pic is from this weekend. Tell me he's not trying to look like Wheldon in the snapshot immidiately below him. I guess part of his plan to win is to LOOK like a winner.

The Invisible Man Speaks

Posted by Iannucci | 7/28/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Since this weekend the IRL travels to Michigan, the Invisible Man is getting some rare publicity. Not only is he originally from Michigan (although he says he's more of a Californian) Herta is also the defending champion, defeating then teammate Well Done in 2005 by thismuch in a trademark IRL finish.

It seems Herta has seen better days in open-wheel racing and has a few thoughts regarding a possible league merger.

"I'm one of the older guys. My first year was 1994, before the split. I remember what Indy car was like. It was a lot better."

"I haven't seen anything to tell me that it's close or imminent or that it's going to happen for next year, which I wish it would."

"I don't get a vote. I get a steering wheel and a gas pedal, and that's all I have to worry about."

And don't you forget it, pal. This gives me an opportunity to pass on some recent merger-related quotes from the Champ Car side.

"Obviously it was a big hoax. It was signed, sealed and delivered, but it was all a hoax. There's lots of things in the media that get blown out of proportion. It's going to take time. I don't see it happening next year.'' - Driver Paul Tracy

"If the driver's business card said `businessman' on them as opposed to `driver,' their opinions should be sought. But I'm not going to teach them to drive cars and they're not going to teach me to run businesses.'' - Champ Car series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven

Feel the love. Also note the Mercury News reports of strong but declining year-over-year attendance numbers for the recent Champ Car race in Edmonton, along with the hint of inflated totals.

News That Is Not Happening

Posted by Iannucci | 7/27/2006 | 2 comments »
Bookmark and Share

It appears that remarks from Bobby Rahal printed by a writer for the Edmonton Sun have caused a proverbial tempest in a teapot. After Rahal was quoted as saying “Penske, Ganassi or ourselves are probably 50-50 odds” of going to Champ Car, much speculation surrounded a possible mass exodus from the IRL. Even yours truly tried to make sense of this.

But today, Chip Ganassi put the kibosh on the whole thing.

“Target Chip Ganassi Racing has no plans nor have we entertained any plans of leaving the Indy Racing League for any other league or organization,”

And Rahal himself responded to Ganassi’s response.

“RLR, as previously stated, intends to compete in the IRL IndyCar Series with multiple entries in 2007 and beyond.”

So, a whole lot of nothing. Stick a fork in this idea, and I sincerely apologize for any part I played in this whole affair.

Don't Call It a Comeback

Posted by Iannucci | 7/27/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share is reporting that Dreyer and Reinbold Racing will have a driver for this weekend's Firestone 400 in Michigan, and that new driver is...the old driver, Buddy Lazier.

Recent speculation - OK, anticipation - has surrounded the possibility of Sarah Fisher driving the DRR #5, but in the end it just didn't pan out. Fisher is now saying she is all but done with NASCAR and wants to get back in the IRL.

No word on if Lazier will be the driver for any other events this season. Ryan Briscoe will be driving the DRR car in Sonoma, but can not participate in the other remaining events due to scheduling conflicts.

Breakfast of Champions

Posted by Iannucci | 7/27/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

For seven years (Anthony) Puma has traversed the country cooking meals in a mobile kitchen the size of an office cubicle for elite Indy drivers and their crews. Like the adrenaline-rushed, synchronized dance of a pit stop, Puma choreographs feeding drivers Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon and up to 50 others during a race weekend. That translates into almost 250 meals and snacks in less than two days.

Puma loves the rush of Indy cooking, loves having to be ready for any situation that will affect his tight schedule — yellow flags, racetrack crashes, kitchen equipment malfunctions or special menu requests . And he does it alone, including grocery-shopping at SuperTarget.

“I love the challenge of getting the food out there in time,” Puma says from his tiny kitchen on the north side of the Kansas Speedway infield during the Kansas Lottery Indy 300 held July 1-2. “I like to give the guys a lot of menu choice, and I’ve a short time — about two hours — to do it. Anything can happen at any given time, and you always have to be ready for it.”


The Blurbs

Posted by Iannucci | 7/26/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Here is a roundup of today's headlines lost amid the flurry of breathless Danica!/AGR reporting.

The Detroit Free Press reports former motorcycle racer Marty Roth - last seen spinning on Bump Day at Indianapolis - will be returning to the IRL this weekend in Michigan. The owner/driver of the #25 is attempting to showcase his talent in hopes of competing in the series fulltime in 2007...when he will be 48 years old. Best of luck, Marty.

Continuing the quest to sell their souls to Ethanol in 2007, the IRL will soon be holding tests at a brand-spankin'-new oval track in Iowa. The 7/8th of a mile track is located in Newton, which is close enough to Pressdog to get him all pumped up.

Speaking of Ethanol and pumping, if you are in the area of Ypsilanti, Michigan tomorrow then you can have an IRL driver fill your tank with Ethanol. Buddy Rice, Vitor Meira, Kosuuke Matsuura and of course Jeff Simmons (he drives the Ethanol car) will be on hand to service your car and sign your autographs. Best of all, it's only $2.20 a gallon and works with "any vehicle built since 1980".

Finally, if you want to, well, sit like the pros then your time has come. For only $229 Dynamic Composites will provide for you "a high performance, race ready composite toilet seen in Indy cars and Fighter planes." No word on if you can get a SAFER barrier installed in your bathroom as well.

It's Official: Danica to AGR

Posted by Iannucci | 7/25/2006 | 4 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Finally, the story...officially.

Remember, you read it here first.

Actually, you read it here first.

UPDATE: The story and accompanying picture mention Patrick joining Kannan and Marco - that's it. It also mentions AGR's plans to field four cars in 2007, and they "currently" feature Herta and Franchitti. We know the Invisible Man is gone, but anyone want to take a guess as to Mr Judd's future?

Are they waiting for Mr Judd to commit to IRL or ALMS?
Is Mr Judd being replaced as well?
If Mr Judd is gone, who is replacing him?

Oh, more drama than 30 seconds with Jack Arute.

UPDATE II: Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star reports AGR is indeed waiting out Mr Judd's decision. Maybe Franchitti wants to be a drama queen like Danica! has been this month.

UPDATE III: Cavin has added some quotes from Bobby Rahal to the story.

“We’re just going to have to prove to her that she’s made a mistake. We’re going to have to beat her.”

Well, you can't beat her if you are in a different series. That sounds like an answer to the earlier question, meaning that wacky Canadian writer will have to find a new Champ Car rumor to start.

Also, So Damn Indy takes issue with Rahal's words. I guess Bobby wasn't the source for his big story a few days back.

What Big Jamie Little Said

Posted by Iannucci | 7/25/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

First off, it’s off topic but I need to mention that Big Jaime Little looks to be about a foot and a half taller than Danica!, so why they still have “the girl reporter” interviewing “the girl driver” is beyond me. I want to see The Root (thanks, pressdog) throw his mad stats at Danica! and have her give him a “whaaaateverrrr” look and say “Root, your skin looks like leather – have you seen a dermatologist lately?”

Just keep BJL for interviews with Well Done. There's tangible sexual tension there, and it adds more to the broadcast than any other canned interview. Especially if Well Done is wearing those wacky white welding glasses. Get Jamie a pair and see what happens.

OK, as Big Jamie Little pointed out during the broadcast in Milwaukee this week, Danica! leads the IRL in most positions gained. In other words, you could make a statistical argument that Mrs. Hospenthal is either the best driver or the worst qualifier. You would probably be wrong on both parts, but that’s what statistics are for – allowing you to make up stuff with supporting information.

As you may recall, I love statistical analysis. So I decided to follow BJL’s lead and run a little analysis on who actually has the best Positional Movement (PM) score for the 2006 season. Yes, I’m inventing that term myself. If you have a better term then please feel free to let me know.

The PM is calculated by subtracting a driver’s final position from his or her starting position. For example: say Danica! started in 15th place, but finished in 10th – she would have a +5 for that race. Say also Spiderman won the pole but finished in fourth – he would have a -3 for said race. Pretty simple.

Having nowhere to go but down, pole winners are likely to be poor performers in this category, so take it as just a tool. It’s not the be-all, end-all of statistical analysis, but it is useful to see how well drivers in the middle of the pack fare. For the record, here are the leaders in Average Positional Start, also know as Drivers Who Won’t Be On The Next List.

1. Helio Castroneves (2.4)
2. Sam Hornish Jr (2.6)
3. Scott Dixon (4.6)
4. Dan Wheldon (4.9)
5. Tony Kanaan (5.4)

No huge surprises there, but two things caught my attention here. First, The Kiwi has qualified better on average than Well Done, which I would not have suspected. Second, the #6 guy on the list is Vitor In the Mirror, but he’s way in the mirror at 8.8.

Alright, back to the subject at hand. Here are the total PM leaders for the 2006 season.

1. Danica Patrick (+44)
2. Eddie Cheever Jr (+20)
3. Buddy Lazier (+18)
4. Felipe Giaffone (+16)
5. Vitor Meira (+16)

This means Danica! has moved up 44 positions more than she lost. And remember, that’s only in 9 races since the RLR team skipped out on Homestead. I’m sure you noticed that three of the top five are no longer participating this season, meaning they were moving up but not that much. Still, it is interesting to note that Danica! is so far out in front of the nearest driver in this category.

And how about Vitor? He’s 6th in qualifying and 5th in movement, and that’s including his wreck this weekend. Makes you wonder how this guy never wins, since all he does is go fast and pass cars. (I know, he needs to go faster and pass more cars.)

Just for kicks, let’s weight the races by miles. This results in higher scores for longer tracks where more racing is done.

1. Danica Patrick (+10790)
2. Buddy Lazier (+6512)
3. Eddie Cheever Jr (+6256)
4. Jeff Simmons (+3677)
5. Ed Carpenter (+3227)

Look, my new friend Jeff Not Gene shows up, as well as ECG. Still, two drivers there without rides, so I’m not sure how significant this end up being. Judging from the group in this category, Danica! is simply looking like the tallest midget (no pun on her height intended).

I’m sure Old Man Cheever would disagree with my characterization, since he won an Indy 500.

In the end, it’s pretty clear Danica! is doing a good job of moving her through the pack while avoiding accidents that drop a driver way down in this type of scoring. Of course, if she was qualifying faster she might be higher in the points standings and lower on this PM list.

And if a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his rear a-hoppin’. Back to you, Jamie.

Ball of Confusion

Posted by Iannucci | 7/24/2006 | 2 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Once again, I am not sure what to make of the writer in Edmonton who again today suggests Bobby Rahal is considering taking his team to Champ Car next season. But the whole thing is rather confusing, to say the least.

It’s all but announced that Danica! is leaving the RLR team for a competing IRL team next season. Even though we have no announcements, we have reports of reasons for the unannounced departure. One of them is that Bobby has been spending a lot of time with his son Graham during his burgeoning open-wheel career in Formula Atlantic. Graham has been nothing short of spectacular, winning 3 times in 8 races. He also won the pole and finished second in an IndyPro race earlier this year at Indianapolis.

So here’s the rub: PaddockTalk reports that Graham – who has stated he wants to drive Formula One – has tested for the Newman/Hass Champ Car team and is highly likely to drive for them in 2007. Knowing this, which option do you think Bobby takes:
1. Keep a team in IRL, the competing series to his son.
2. Move his team to Champ Car and compete against his son.
3. Pack up and become a spectator.

Judging from what we’ve seen (or not seen) of Rahal trackside this season, it’s doubtful any marquee drivers would want to be hired for an owner who will be missing during Champ Car events. And if he has an IRL team, what happens when Newman/Haas brings their drivers to compete against him in The Month of May?

Competing against his son in Champ Car seems even less likely, and for the record Bobby has stated he does NOT want to hire his son so Graham can retain "credibility". Not sure that’s a problem for Andretti 3.0, but OK.

Anyhow, I’ll guess along with you as to Bobby's plans. Regardless, this doesn’t look to be the best of days for anyone trying to decide on their future with RLR.

Congratulations I'm Sorry

Posted by Iannucci | 7/24/2006 | 1 comments »
Bookmark and Share

While all the news from Milwaukee was either how El Nariz finally snagged a win in 2006 for AGR or how Danica! sneaked into fourth again, little fanfare was given to Jeff Not Gene and his third straight Top Ten finish. I can’t believe what I am seeing.

Now, I’m not above (or is it below?) humility, because several weeks ago I suggested RLR should get together with Ethanol and find someone else for that car. Simmons looked lost on the racetrack, which is not a safe thing when you are traveling towards 220 MPH. I actually suggested the car might be cursed, only half kidding since even The Wrecker rarely crashes out of three straight races.

Simmons was switched to a Dallara chassis in Texas, where he finished but then wrecked in Richmond. Since then he has been no worse than 10th and he actually led a lap yesterday – right before botching the turn into his pit box. Sure, with 18 cars the odds are with you to finish in the top ten, but Jeff Not Gene’s teammate The Rainman has failed to crack the top 10 in all five weeks he’s had a Dallara.

Really, it goes beyond the top ten finishes. This week’s race in Milwaukee was on a tight one-mile oval that requires as much driving as any oval. You can’t just mash the pedal and point the car, as in a race such as next week in Michigan. So for Simmons to navigate through traffic – from the suddenly speedy AGR cars to the incredibly underpowered D&R disaster Ryan Briscoe was, umm, driving – demonstrates at least a nominal ability to participate in the IRL. In short, no one is going to suggest he doesn’t belong. Well, at least I won’t.

Simmons is still a rookie, and as such he will make rookie mistakes like that pit stop fiasco, but it appears he is starting to do right by Ethanol, which could help secure him a ride in 2008. And since I was so hard on him, I thought I would be the first in line to congratulate his small accomplishment.

I know, how big of me.

The Blurbs

Posted by Iannucci | 7/23/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

The Indy Star has a little more info on what may be the slow demise of the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team. It turns out they will at least have Ryan Briscoe racing later this year at Sonoma, but past today all other plans are doubtful.

A columnist for the Edmonton Sun intimates Bobby Rahal may take his team to Champ Car next season and speculates Roger Penske could follow suit. Huh? I don't know if that is real news or wishful thinking, but I suppose anything is possible.

Lastly, while watching the Penske Boys charge from the front row today, remember Roger's nightmare last year at The Milwaukee Mile.

No Fishing

Posted by Iannucci | 7/22/2006 | 1 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Despite running practice laps for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing this week in preparation for the July 30th race in Michigan, the Indianapolis Star reports we are unlikely to see Sarah Fisher returning to the IRL this month.

Sarah Fisher had hoped to make her return to Indy-car racing next weekend at Michigan, but she said that's unlikely now. There's no time to test -- her last IRL race was a one-off at Indy in 2004 -- and she doesn't have the sponsorship money it takes.

That isn't to say she can't be returning next year (or whenever) as it seems she is becoming disgruntled with her prospects for NASCAR. D&R's #5 has featured Buddy Lazier and Ryan Briscoe this season, and judging from this episode they would probably stick you are me in the car if we could get proper sponsorship.

UPDATE: The IRL web site has more info on this. It turns out Ryan Briscoe has commitments for the remainder the remainder of the season beyond Milwaukee.

So any eligible driver with helmet and sponsorship check in hand should apply.

And you probably thought I was kidding about letting anyone with sponsorship drive the car.

One Inch Closer To Merger

Posted by Iannucci | 7/21/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

All season long there has been hopeful talk of an IRL/Champ Car merger, and while nothing merger-related has been announced yet there has been some quiet maneuvering towards series consolidation.

The Houston Chronicle reports Champ Car has secured a late April date for the 2007 Grand Prix of Houston, which is three weeks earlier than the race occurred this year.

(Michael Lanigan, the Grand Prix promoter) said that the Champ Car schedule, which has not been released, will have not have events after the first weekend in May next year. Theoretically, that will allow Champ Car drivers to have the opportunity to practice and qualify for the Indianapolis 500 throughout the rest of May.

This is significant because Champ Car realizes they will have more exposure for their drivers at Indianapolis after racing this entire season in relative obscurity. More exposure means more sponsor dollars. More sponsor dollars means more racing.

Participation at Indy is a double-edged sword for Champ Car. If they ignore the Brickyard, then they avoid the biggest stage for their drivers (and sponsors) to appear. If they go to Indy, they strengthen Tony George’s leverage by adding the Champ Car audience to the biggest event in the IRL. Presumably the Champ Car sponsors have expressed displeasure with the non-Indy returns of this season.

Having Champ Car drivers at Indy is nothing new, as this year was the first time in recent memory Champ Car teams like Newman/Haas failed to field an entry. Still, it’s anyone’s guess as to how many Champ Car teams will be actually be able to afford the Dallara/Honda setup and participate in The Month of May, but it’s safe to say it would be most of the 18 drivers.

Keeping an eye on the ongoing war of marketing, expect Champ Car series owner Kevin Kalkhoven to field his drivers, including Katherine Legge. Regardless of whether or not Sarah Fisher gets a ride, it appears we might finally hear the phrase “Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!” at the Brickyard.

No doubt that thought makes ABC Sports executives do the Snoopy Dance.

UPDATE: I apologize for my failing memory. Lyn St James and Sarah Fisher both participated in the 2000 Indianapolis 500. My bad.

Seeing Less of the Invisible Man

Posted by Iannucci | 7/21/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Reader TML speculated in the comments of a previous entry the Invisible Man would be leaving the Andretti Green IRL quartet and moving to American Le Mans Series in 2007. Today’s news all but confirms this as AGR announces it will team with Acura to field an ALMS entry in 2007. According to the article from (love the name):

XM Satellite Radio, which has backed the AGR IRL entry of Bryan Herta for the past few seasons, will support the move into sportscars.

Invisible Man was an ALMS driver in 2002, and XM - his current sponsor - will be sponsoring the ALMS car. It doesn't take too much imagination to see what is going on here. Every day it seems even more obvious AGR is making room for someone else.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

Posted by Iannucci | 7/20/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Not to leapfrog news of this weekend in Milwaukee, but a little blurb appeared in the Detroit Free Press today. An observation this week at Michigan International Speedway, location of Firestone Indy 400 on July 30th:

Sarah Fisher is set to return to the series at MIS in a Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entry.

The prodigal daughter has returned - if only for one race - and we're going to have TWO women in an IRL race.

Sarah Fisher gained fame in 1999 as the third woman to drive in the Indianapolis 500, and many hoped in 2000 she and Boulder Sam would be the future of the IRL. They were half right. Fisher has finished as high as second (Homestead, 2001) in her IRL career, but she has only raced in one race since the end of the 2003 season. She has since gone on to try her hand at NASCAR, although she has yet to start even a Craftsman or Busch series race.

It's Like Danica, But Even Smaller

Posted by Iannucci | 7/20/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

This kind of thing happens at minor league baseball games all the time, but now the bobblehead phenomenon has hit the IRL.

The first 10,000 fans through the gates for the ABC Supply/AJ Foyt 225 IRL Indy Car Series race on Sunday, July 23, will receive this limited edition Danica Patrick collectible.

Judging by the pic, it looks more like Gene Simmons than Danica!, but I suppose like Christmas gifts it's the thought that counts.

UPDATE: There's already one available on eBay. I'm sorry, but that is one scary looking bobblehead. You would have to drink a lot of IRL Lager to think that looked like Mrs. Hospenthal.

Green Day For Wheldon

Posted by Iannucci | 7/20/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

As you can see, Well Done’s #10 will be sporting a decidedly different paint scheme for this weekend’s race in Milwaukee. The good news is you won't confuse it with his Kiwi teammate's #9. The bad news is you might mistake it for El Nariz’s #11.

Considering he's winless since the first week, Well Done would probably drive a pink car if it would get him another checkered flag.

I guess green cars are no longer considered to be bad luck.

Slave To Fashion

Posted by Iannucci | 7/19/2006 | 2 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Just following up on an earlier wardrobe story. Now we can see what the firesuit/jersey looks like, and $12,000 for charity is a nice day's work no matter what you are wearing.

She made a comment about being cold, not suprising since she was wearing a denim skirt and flip-flops.

UPDATE: Make that $70,000! Way to go, Rockford!

Good News for Fernandez Racing

Posted by Iannucci | 7/19/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

USAToday has an article stating not only is it likely Fernandez Racing will field both Scott Sharp and Kosuke Matsuura again in 2007, it is also convinced they will both carry the same sponsors - Delphi and Panasonic, respectively. Co-owner Tom Anderson puts the odds at "80% or better."

Stability is good but surprising in today's racing environment. Although they have sponsored Sharp throughout his entire IRL career, I'm sure he was concerned when Delphi filed for bankruptcy last year.

Something to notice in the article is that Fernandez Racing is approaching sponsors with two plans relating to the possible IRL/Champ Car merger. "When we talk to potential sponsors, we have to present a plan for two paths. One, if the two sides come together, and the other, if they stay separate," said Anderson.

Honda: Kiss And Make Up, Please

Posted by Iannucci | 7/19/2006 | 1 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Since May – well, really for the last 10 years – fans of open-wheel racing have been pining for the day of reunification between the IRL and Champ Car (nee CART). As I said then, the issue will not be easily resolved because the IRL does not need Champ Car to continue. Sure, more qualities drivers and teams with deeper pockets would add to the appeal, but the IRL has leverage (read: the Indianapolis 500) over Champ Car and will only agree to merge on its own terms.

Now Honda is giving their two cents worth. The have agreed to supply the IRL with engines through 2008 and they would like to see their investment paid off by being involved when the two series merge. However, series chiefs Tony George and Kevin Kalkhoven have made no announcements of late, meaning there will be no unification in 2007. Robert Clarke, president of Honda Performance Development, expressed his own frustration.

"As much energy as we've put in to understanding the needs of both sides and trying to push this thing, that decision has to be made by Kevin and Tony, and they have to do it at their own pace," Clarke said. "Neither of them embraces (the need for unification) at the level we do, I can tell you that."
Since the day he created the Indy Racing League Tony George has been involved in a staring contest with the rival league. I don’t think he wants a merger; he wants absorption. He tried to buy the rival league in 2004 for the purposes of shutting it down, but was thwarted. Champ Car now has some deep pockets and is trying to expand their schedule of races, so they are actively taking steps to protect their investment. Heck, they even have their own Girl Driver.

Speaking of Girl Drivers, the 105 lb gorilla in this equation is Danica!. Let's suppose she actually wins a race or two, or she even manages to win at Indy. You can imagine the additional press coverage she would receive (yes, it's possible for her to receive more press), the increased IRL viewership, and more importantly the giant sucking sound of sponsor dollars going from Champ Car to the IRL. True, she could in fact never win or jump to NASCAR, but Tony George probably knows he has her and her marketing bonanza in his series for the rest of the Honda contract.

So unless one series gets down to only a few races or loses their chassis and/or engine provider, don’t expect an immediate merger. Just sit back, watch the races, and enjoy the rides.

Get Into Danica!’s Clothes

Posted by Iannucci | 7/18/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

All Danica!, all the time…

Signing autographs is one thing, but I don’t think any other IRL driver gets a promotion like this. Danica! will be at tonight’s Rockford RiverHawks baseball game, where the home team will be wearing “jerseys modeled after the Roscoe native’s racing suit.”

OK then. Not sure how that’s going to turn out, but after the game the jerseys will be signed and auctioned off to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

A word to the wise: Gentlemen, DO NOT buy one of these jerseys for your lady friend and tell her it will start your engine.

Hornish Gives President Helmet

Posted by Iannucci | 7/18/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

As the winner of this year’s Indy 500 – and an American at that – Boulder Sam was granted a brief meeting with President Bush today. Sam knows that when you meet with a Head of State, you either:
1. Give a Gift
2. Receive a Gift
3. Sign Terms of Surrender

So Sam decided to give Bush one of his old helmets. It probably wasn’t this one.

"Hopefully, if he decides that he needs to go fast, he'll be properly equipped anyhow" - Sam Hornish

The Commander In Chief might actually use the helmet, considering his exploits on bicycles and Segways.

Our Lips Are Sealed

Posted by Iannucci | 7/18/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

According to Speed TV, yesterday's Breaking News about Danica!'s move to Andretti Green Racing elicited a huge amount of silence from all of the involved parties.

Patrick's publicist, Brent Maurer, said Sunday night that Rahal Letterman Racing would not comment on the matter. AGR officials could not immediately be reached Sunday night.

Don't expect any announcements until the conclusion of the 2006 season. These folks don't want to think about someone having short-timer's disease at 220 MPH.

Speed TV also mentions the initial report from WXIN said the Invisible Man will be given walking papers. No word on Mr Judd's future with AGR, and I would presume there wouldn't be any unless and until he lines up his own sponsor for 2007.

Also, a big thank you to Jalopnik for the link to yesterday's story. We're feeling the love.

2nd Report: Danica moving to AGR in 2007

Posted by Iannucci | 7/17/2006 | 1 comments »
Bookmark and Share

A busy day for Danicamania...

As reported earlier today by So Damn Indy, Danica! is driving her last races for Bobby Rahal. Now Indianapolis TV Station WXIN is reporting Danica! will be moving to AGR for the 2007 season.

Note Mr Judd and Bryan Herta (the Invisible Man) have expiring contracts at the conclusion of this season. It kinda adds a nice subplot to Danica!'s blocking of Mr Judd this weekend.

El Nariz, Andretti 3.0 and Danica! - not too shabby, Michael.

It should also be of note that unlike Penske and Ganassi, AGR does NOT have a NASCAR team...Jack Roush should be pleased.

Two Plus Two Equals Ford

Posted by Iannucci | 7/17/2006 | 1 comments »
Bookmark and Share

While much of the racing world spent the week breathlessly speculating on whether Danica Patrick would be switching to a NASCAR team next season, most IRL fans were scratching their heads. Sure, she hasn’t won a race, but she carries so many personal sponsors she could very nearly pick the IRL team for whom she wants to drive in 2007. Why in the world would she want to jump to NASCAR when she still has much to prove in open-wheel racing?

I have read a few columns by other racing commentators, but most are giving guesses about her potential chances of success in NASCAR. No one seems to look beyond the events of the last week to find coincidences that may yield the true answers to Danica's future.

Based solely upon reading the frenzy of reports this week, these are the five things we know.
1. Danica has only raced open wheel cars her whole life.
2. She has never previously said she wanted to race NASCAR.
3. Her father met with Roush Racing last weekend.
4. Her father said he had previously met with Roush Racing.
5. Her contract expires this season.

OK, that’s really the whole scope of reporting thusfar, but note there are gaps such as:
Why is there talk of switching series now in 2006?
Why is there only talk with Roush Racing?
Why is there no reason to think she’s being courted by Champ Car?

To answer these questions, here are five things you did not see reported.
1. Roush Racing features Fords (Jack Roush was a former bigwig there).
2. Ford has a program called “Women’s Driver Development Program”.
3. The goal of the program is to help a woman driver win a NASCAR Race.
4. Danica Patrick previously was sponsored by Ford when she raced in England.
5. Danica for the most part speaks highly of her Ford sponsorship in her recent book.

If we start connecting the dots then it’s pretty obvious the driving forces greater than Danica. It is not too far fetched to think Ford Motor Company is more than a passive observer in the conversation between its most famous Development alumnus and its most successful NASCAR owner. Considering Danica’s marketing appeal and that an estimated 40% of NASCAR’s audience is of the female variety, it’s also not too far fetched to see the value of Danica successfully driving a Ford Fusion every week.

And I case IRL fans didn’t notice, Dodge is thinking the same thing. Two words: Eric Crocker.

And something else to consider is that Ford Cosworth engines are the exclusive motor of Champ Car. Removing the most popular driver from the IRL would be a serious blow to their fan base, and what’s bad for the IRL is probably good for Champ Car. Remember Danica was plucked from the Toyota Atlantic series, which is effectively Champ Car's minor leagues.

So clearly, Ford has a whole host of reasons to get Danica Patrick in with Roush Racing. There are still a lot of ifs in the equation before it happens (such as which Roush driver would be let go to make room for her), but the whole would indeed be greater than the sum of the parts for Ford. Considering all that Ford stands to gain, expect to see the words “Danica” and “NASCAR” inevitably together at some point in the coming years.

Report: Danica! Done with RLR

Posted by Iannucci | 7/17/2006 | 1 comments »
Bookmark and Share

I'm sitting here typing an entry on what I think is going on with Danica! when I was just notified of Breaking News...

So Damn Indy (SDI) is reporting that and "unimpeachable source" is definitely leaving Rahal Letterman Racing at the end of the season. I don't know who qualifies as "unimpeachable" (anyone other than Bill Clinton?) but this doesn't seem too much of a strech to believe. Danica! wanted a more competitive team and Rahal may be planning to bring his son Graham into the fold next year.

If Danica! has indeed informed RLR that she has no interest, then it says she has already reached a verbal agreement to race for a more competitive IRL team next season. She has said she wants to continue in the IRL in the near future, and a more competitive team means either Penske or Ganassi, perhaps Andretti Green - and that's it. No one else (save perhaps one-car team of Panther) can put a car on the track that can win, and considering Danica! knows she's worth more as a winner to the IRL, MASCARA and any sponsors then presumably her fourth place performance this weekend has convinced a top team to bring her onboard.

BTW - If you haven't already checked it out, then link over and bookmark SDI. He's a true IRL fan with a colorful yet comprehensive approach to reporting. Be sure to check out the live blogging on race day - it's a real hoot.

Panther Hopes Revived

Posted by Iannucci | 7/15/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Vitor Meira and the Panther Racing team have been competitive but without a win, holding form with Vitor's career record of 54 races without a win. The real problem for Panther though has been sponsorship, after Pennzoil pulled out at the conclusion of last season.

So after racing well for much of the 2006 season, the folks at Panther have been rewarded with a sponsor. Revive USA ("a Dallas-based nutrition and beverage company") will have their logo slapped all over the already orange and black Panther car for the remainder of the season.

So if you live in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa or Louisiana - do Vitor a favor and go buy some of their products.

The Old Man Is Down the Road

Posted by Iannucci | 7/14/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Stick a fork in him - Old Man Cheever is done. Due to lack of funding, Eddie Cheever Jr has disbanded his IRL operation consisting of a single unsponsored car.

"We will continue to look for partners to participate in the IndyCar Series,” Cheever stated.
...and continue to not find them, I might add. I know he is an Indy 500 champion, but come on - he hasn't had a Top 5 finish since 2002. It's time to move on.

No doubt a few drivers will feel a bit safer this weekend.

Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind

Posted by Iannucci | 7/14/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

What a difference a week makes. After her dad was seen hanging with paint-traders of NASCAR and complaining to not have NASCAR-type luxuries like a private plane, Danica! has changed her tune.

Now her talk of NASCAR is in the past tense, and the not-so-near future tense.

“I wouldn't say it was that big of a chance (of going) next year, but I'd say it's a fairly larger chance in the future," she said Tuesday from Los Angeles.”

And here I was hoping she could trade paint with a Richard Petty Racing car in the near future, for obvious reasons.

Just curious, but what was she doing in Los Angeles? She’s got a race in Nashville this weekend.

This is just an idea, but…the IRL schedule ends 9/10 in Chicago, but the NASCAR Busch series runs until 11/18. It’s entirely possible that Danica! – or any other IRL driver – could spend a few weeks testing and perhaps get entries for the final 3 Busch series races in Texas, Phoenix, and Miami. Those three are all tracks the IRL has raced (they pulled out of Phoenix this year), and driving in Busch would give a driver a feel for the car without having to contend at the highest level of the Nextel Cup.

But what do I know? I’m just some dude with a computer.

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Posted by Iannucci | 7/13/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

"I think Danica's pretty aggressive in our cars...I mean, you know especially if you catch her at the right time of the month, she might be trading plenty of paint out there." - Ed Carpenter George

Proving not only can he not drive ineffectively, ECG opened his mouth to demonstrate he is also unable to productively speak as well. Is this guy a sponsor's nightmare or what?

At least Danica! had the wherewithall to take the comment in stride.

"That sounds like a good joke to me, it's pretty funny to me...No big deal. Ed is a really nice guy. There's no drama there. I think it's funny. I'm glad he's showing some personality."


AGR spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E

Posted by Iannucci | 7/12/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

"We've got two guys racing and two guys driving for a paycheck" - unnamed Andretti Green team member.

It doesn't take a race analyst to realize the two guys "driving for a paycheck" are Mr Judd and Bryan Herta (always the forgotten member of the AGR quadruplets). Herta's and Franchitti each have a mere 3 top 10s in 8 races this year with Franchitti having the highest finish with a 3rd place finish in Richmond.

Meanwhile, Kanaan has been no worse than 11th in all but one race.

Andretti 3.0 has the veryclose 2nd at Indy and a 4th place at Richmond, but has not finished better than 9th in any other races. Mechanical failures - reportedly due to his own mistakes - doomed him in his first two races, and he suffered an accident with Old Man Cheever at the Glen, but for the most part he has been a rookie driver learning to drive over 200 MPH.

Statistics for finishes aside, it isn't a stretch to believe the comment. Anyone watching the races can tell you only Kanaan and Andretti have been driving with intent to pass. But to see a quote like that tells you there is a rising level of frustration at all levels of the team. Perhaps it is not so much at the drivers as the inability to compete with the Penske and Ganassi teams, who between them have accounted for all 2006 IRL wins.

Ins and Outs

Posted by Iannucci | 7/11/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

It is the All-Star break and baseball teams are negotiating midseason trades, cuts and acquisitions to help their outlook for the remainder of the season. IRL teams are doing the same thing.

Ryan Briscoe will be replacing Buddy Lazier (that's the Lazier that can actually drive) for the remainder of the season in the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing vehicle.

Also, AJ Foyt has given walking papers to Felipe Giaffone. A replacement has not yet been named, but I head Buddy Lazier is available.

Additionally, the Helmegarn "Car-melo" team so widely touted before the season is now defunct. Apparently Carmelo Anthony was just a showpiece to attract sponsorship...that never came. PJ Chesson and his tattoos have not raced since wrecking early at Indy, in case you didn't notice.

Father Knows Best

Posted by Iannucci | 7/10/2006 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Today’s lesson should be entitled “Never underestimate the power of opportunism”. We actually saw this demonstrated this last year – for umpteenth time – when speculation was rampant that Boulder Dan Wheldon would bolt the IRL in favor of Formula One, or even NASCAR. Why would he do that when he was on top of the IRL world? Two words: cashing in.

So while you might think that all is right in the world of Danica!, TJ Patrick (her father/manager/bus driver/oracle) has a decidedly different view. None too pleased that his daughter has spent the year driving sub-par equipment, TJ spent his weekend in Chicago. And not just because it’s outside his hometown of Roscoe, Illinois; no TJ was talking up his daughter and gauging interest from the many NASCAR teams gathered for the Sheetrock 400. Specifically, he was talking with Roush Racing.

Bobby Rahal is no doubt concerned, since Danica!’s contract expires at the end of this season.

On the one hand, I have a hard time thinking this is much more than leverage against possible IRL suitors. She’s made her name in the IRL, and she’s basically driven to the capabilities of her equipment. If she could find herself driving for Penske, Ganassi or even Andretti Green then she would be in the hunt every week. Considering she has made her career driving open-wheel cars, it’s a massive change to move to NASCAR. She would be driving more than twice as many races (more if she races Busch series events) against twice as many competitors in a totally different vehicle.

On the other hand, the marketing impact alone would be phenomenal. No woman has raced competitively in NASCAR in recent years, and if she were able to drive for Roush she would definitely have a top 10 car every week. It’s actually plausible, considering Roush recently signed Sondi Eden to a developmental contract.

Most likely it’s all smoke and mirrors to get her a big fat IRL contract with a better team. We’ve seen this ploy in recent years with Sam Hornish and Dan Wheldon, and they have proven more successful at the IRL than Danica!...then again, Danica! is a rather rare driver in terms of popularity. Either way she’s gonna get paid, and it probably won’t be from Bobby and David.