2007 Schedule Update - Belle Isle

Posted by Iannucci | 9/30/2006 | 0 comments »
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Yesterday the magic day - September 2nd - was announced for the first ever Indy Racing League event in Detroit. The Detroit Free Press reports the Belle Isle road course will be a featured event for the next five years of IndyCar racing.

The track last featured "Indy-style" racing in 2001, when then CART driver Helio Castroneves won the race. I don't know if this makes Spiderman the defending champion, but at least there's some continuity. For what it's worth, Mr. Judd was second in the race, Andretti 2.0 was fourth, the Invisible Man was 15th, Iceman placed 22nd and Rocky was dead last.

As for changes to the track to improve racing:

Brian Barnhart, IRL president and chief operating officer, said improvements to the old racecourse at Belle Isle would be made, including paving the paddock area, which turned into a muddy mess during rain at previous races. He also said bridges and berms for viewing would be erected, and the track would be reconfigured to make for more passing opportunities.

...and there was much rejoicing.

The official 2007 total is now up to 14 races.

March 24 at Homestean-Miami Speedway
April 1 in St. Petersburg, Florida
April 12 at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan
April 29 at Kansas Speedway
May 27 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
June 3 at The Milwaukee Mile
June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway
June 24 at Iowa Speedway
June 30 at Richmond International Raceway
July 8 at Watkins Glen
July 14 at Nashville Superspeedway
August 11 at Kentucky Speedway
September 2 at Belle Isle
September 9 at Chicagoland Speedway

Interestingly enough, the only dates left to fill are from Michigan Speedway (yes, a second race in the state of Michigan), Sonoma and possibly Mid-Ohio. Sonoma will probably be announced in August soon, but Curt Cavin of IndyStar says there are some problems trying to get both Michigan and Mid-Ohio on the schedule. Basically, July 22 and August 5 are the dates in question, but as you can read for yourself there are some issues for both tracks in determining who goes where.

Danica Travels, Gets Blinged Out

Posted by Iannucci | 9/29/2006 | 4 comments »
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Been at least 10 minutes, what's up with the "Princess of Speed"?

I'm weary of covering Danica! and am reduced to one sentence paragraphs.

For starters, she's the cover story of Travel Girl magazine.

In a field where machismo rules, Patrick rocks. People put her on its World's Most Beautiful list, while her professional credentials would make Nascar winners swoon. No creampuff, Patrick competes in open wheel racing--one of the toughest racing disciplines. Yes, she likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain, but after she's left the boys in the dust.

Travel Girl not only profiles Patrick but gives readers a crash course in Indy racing. Admittedly, it's not the standard where-do-celebs-like-to-party fare, but it is an education. Travel Girl, as you've surmised by now, is not your ordinary travel pub.

Yes, that actually says "...crash course in Indy racing".

If that doesn't give you an aneurysm, consider Mrs. Hospenthal's upcoming stint as a runway model in Las Vegas.

For her turns on the runway, Patrick will wear the new Tissot PRC 100 Diamonds watch, the T-Touch Danica Patrick limited-edition timepiece and a T-Wave with diamonds.

The show will offer the public its first glimpse of the PRC 100 Diamonds watch, which features a dodecagon polished bezel, 60 diamonds and a red index dial. The PRC 100 Diamonds is also available in a quartz version and with a steel bracelet.
No doubt it takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

Speaking of (this would be my transition), a writer for the Elmira Star-Gazette briefly speculates that Katherine Legge's recent crash at Road America may catapult her to Danica!'s level in the public consciousness.

Thankful to be alive and healthy, she is now enjoying a mass media blitz, appearing on all three major network morning shows along with ABC's "World News Tonight" in its First Person segment. Legge also appeared on "Inside Edition," "The Insider," "Entertainment Tonight" and ESPN's "Cold Pizza." She's also appeared on television shows in her own country.

I'm sure this wasn't her preferred method of gaining notoriety, but perhaps now people will take notice of Legge, who is as talented as Patrick on the track and more personable off it.
Legge actually won some Atlantic Series races last year, but I dare say "spectacular crash survivor" is a bit lower than "fourth place at the Indy 500" on the driver accomplishment scale. Although, probably not by much.

Detroit Is Ready To Rock

Posted by Iannucci | 9/29/2006 | 1 comments »
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Remember what I said in July about Roger Penske getting what he wants? According to the Detroit Free Press the announcement will ocme today that the IRL wil be resurrecting the Detroit Grand Prix at the course at Belle Isle.

On the one hand, I'm hopeful that putting a race in the backyard of U.S. automakers will lead to one or more engine manufacturers joining Honda in the IndyCar series. Hey, doesn't Chevy have a bunch of Ethanol-powered cars out right now?

On the other hand, the Belle Isle course was an especially egregious example of a no-passing road course. Plus, the locals weren't too keen on the logistical nightmare of the course, located on an island.

The Belle Isle racetrack, pits and paddock areas were criticized by some teams as being inadequate, while many fans complained about difficulties getting to and from the island and the lack of facilities at the track.

In campaigning to return the race to Detroit, Penske, who was instrumental in the successful staging of Super Bowl XL, said he would help improve conditions on Belle Isle, including the racecourse.

Let's wait and see what The Captain says at the announcement on Friday.

Why Buy When You Can Lease

Posted by Iannucci | 9/28/2006 | 2 comments »
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The testing on the road course at Daytona is complete, and the word from TrackSide Online is the Indy Racing League would love to schedule an actual race on the circuit. With addition (or at least the intended addition) of non-ovals in Daytona, Montreal, Detroit, Southern California and who knows where else, Tony George’s new strategy appears to be the creation his own “unified” league without actually unifying.

This may or may not be a good strategy, as it remains to be seen just what percentage of America wants to watch all this brake-induced racing. But still, if the policy for the near future is to add more of these types of courses then I suggest the league go ahead and take another page out of Champ Car’s playbook.

The last CCWS race at Road America had a mere 17 cars on the grid. In an effort to combat the dwindling car counts in their series, Kevin Kalkhoven and the Champies have devised a plan to lower the cost of fielding an entry. Prospective owners may now lease both the engine and the chassis from the league instead of forking over the cash for purchases and praying they stay crash free. Hey, Paul Tracy is still in the league, so it’s a losers bet.

I know it’s a series of parades marketed as races, but if it lowers the cost of parade participation then it’s still a good idea. As such, the IndyCar series should try to the same thing in a more limited capacity.

Somewhere out there is a Panoz chassis graveyard, as the Dallara proved to be vastly superior ride for oval racing in 2006. In 2007, no one save Arie Luyendyk Jr is considering a Panoz for a fulltime ride. However, the Panoz was still used by some teams on the road courses, where it was considered the equal or better vehicle.

Panoz also seems to be at home with road courses since they will serve as the sole provider for Champ Car next year. Keeping this in mind, it may be in the IRL’s interest to keep a working relationship with the manufacturer, just in case financial considerations force a merger.

Here’s my idea: If the IRL were to purchase those new or gently used Panoz cars and work a deal with Honda for limited leasing, then they could offer very low priced “rentals” to teams who wanted to compete only on the road and street courses, which are obviously growing beyond the three in 2007. There are several motivations from the driver or team end for this:

1. The rental would conceivably be less than a full series Champ Car ride, thus undercutting the budget conscious crowd leaning towards CCWS.

2. The playing field is leveled as drivers otherwise known as “road course specialists” could compete favorably, as road course have shown to feature more than just the Penske and Ganassi teams.

3. The road courses would allow for partial series runs (read: auditions) from developing drivers seeking a full-series sponsorship – primarily but not exclusively those from the Indy Pro Series.

And what does the league get from this deal? More cars in the field, which is especially important for races in major metropolitan areas like Montreal, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Twenty cars or less doesn’t seem like such a problem when featuring races at smaller tracks like Richmond or Milwaukee, but it’s visually obvious on two-plus mile road and street courses. If you want people to come see the races again, then show them more cars and more racing.

Who knows, you may even get some “name” drivers who are trying to play their options in multiple series. You could even attract drivers who would love to race in the series but don’t particularly like racing on the high-speed ovals.

If the Indy racing league is indeed looking to add a race at an historic location like Daytona, then it makes even more sense to leverage the event by getting more drivers who would love to drive on that track but might not otherwise have the backing or inclination for a full-season IndyCar series ride to participate.

You want to see higher TV ratings? Put 33 IndyCars in a race at Daytona.

With or without Daytona, the league needs to keep exploring ways to add more cars. If they are committed to adding more road courses, this Panoz rental idea makes that possible.

2007 Schedule Update - Homestead

Posted by Iannucci | 9/28/2006 | 0 comments »
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Now we have a beginning and an end. It appears there will be no race in the Dodgers parking lot - at least not to start the season - as the IRL has announced the season will open at Homestead-Miami Speedway again. This time, the twist is night racing.

The official 2007 total is now up to 13 races.
March 24 at Homestean-Miami Speedway
April 1 in St. Petersburg, Florida
April 12 at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan
April 29 at Kansas Speedway
May 27 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
June 3 at The Milwaukee Mile
June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway
June 24 at Iowa Speedway
June 30 at Richmond International Raceway
July 8 at Watkins Glen
July 14 at Nashville Superspeedway
August 11 at Kentucky Speedway
September 9 at Chicagoland Speedway

Any other announced races will fall between March 24 and September 9.

Champ Car vs. Tanks

Posted by Iannucci | 9/28/2006 | 1 comments »
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Well, more silliness on the Champ Car front here in the Valley of the Sun. I know as IRL fans you may not particularly care, but this is pretty amusing stuff.

As you may or may not know, Maricopa County - which includes all of Phoenix and it's suburbs - is home to the self-proclaimed "world's toughest sheriff", Joe Arpaio. Arpaio is the guy known for putting county prisoners in tents, providing them pink underwear, and feeding them green baloney. Effective or not, the guy likes publicity.

Well, Arpaio is apparently no fan of the proposed Champ Car race since the proposed downtown course will go right by the county emergency call center. The Arizona Republic reports.

Race promoters have to work with Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas to ease their concerns about the noise, traffic and public safety impact of the race.

Mary Millard, with the Communications Division of the county Sheriff's Office, said that the sheriff would "post a tank and a swat team to stop the race" if it disrupted the emergency call center.
Tank on the course? Sweet.

Seriously, I had no idea the sheriff had a tank.

Four Words: Woman Iranian Racecar Driver

Posted by Iannucci | 9/27/2006 | 0 comments »
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Man, have I been asleep at the wheel.

A week ago Marc at Full Throttle (the blog, not the drink) took my post about the would-be Danica! movie and ran with it. More interestingly, he took her quotes regarding her uncomfortablility in the race car and juxtaposed that with Laleh Seddigh, an Iranian race driver also of the female variety.

Not withstanding her “constant state of excruciating pain and discomfort,” Danica is worried about her six point harness “ironing out” a couple “things,” while (Laleh) Seddigh is racing wearing full scarf and long coat over her Nomex firesuit. Say, does anyone know of an Iranian factory that specializes in Nomex scarves amd long coats?

Somehow I doubt it.

Check the whole post and be sure to read the source articles about Ms. Seddigh’s adventures.

It is only in recent years that women have even been allowed to watch men's sports. At her first race, women spectators were screaming and climbing up the fences, Seddigh said, and that worried the organizers. "The committee said, 'Please, don't make the audience excited."' For the championship, she had to agree not to wave to the crowd, a third of which by this point was women.
Wow. Now THAT would be an interesting movie.

Racing Returns To Phoenix

Posted by Iannucci | 9/27/2006 | 2 comments »
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I live in a suburb of Phoenix, and as you are probably aware 2006 was the first time in memory that IndyCar racing was not held at Phoenix International Raceway.

And now, the Arizona Republic reports tonight the Phoenix city council approved a vote 7-1 on Tuesday to allow Champ Car to hold a downtown event next year.

I don't know if I should laugh or cry.

I remember the three years the U. S. Grand Prix (that was Formula One) was held downtown, and those cars were WAY TOO LOUD. Not to mention the fact that someone thought it was a bright idea to hold the thing in June when it's 120 degrees.

It hasn't been determined when this race will be, and I'm not sure I care.

Hello Daytona

Posted by Iannucci | 9/26/2006 | 1 comments »
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Two days of testing on the 10-turn, 2.73 mile road course at Daytona International Speedway start today. Woo-hoo!

OK, there are probably more fun things to do than sit around and watch one car at a time spin around a road course, but still it beats a sharp stick in the eye. Besides, Uncle Sam and Rocky will be rolling around using brand-spankin' new 3.5L Ethanol-fueled Honda prototype engines that all drivers in the IndyCar series will be using in 2007.

Iceman, Mirror Man and Well Done will be dogging it in ye olde 3.0 powered by the Methanol version of E10. Yeah, it's kinda technical for me too.

Anyhow, TrackSide Online promises pictures, and I'm sure Indycar.com will have a few as well. If you are in the area, head on down and buy a tour pass of the facility and watch the guys buzz down the straightaway at Daytona.

Think of it as payback for the Brickyard 400.

This Is Me, That Is Not Me

Posted by Iannucci | 9/26/2006 | 1 comments »
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In case you were wondering, this dude is not me.

However, it is highly coincidental that this fellow lives in Newburgh, Indiana. My mother lived there for 26 years and as a consequence I spent my summers there in my youth. Small world.

Come to think of it, I too am 5’ 8”, Straight, Christian, Aquarius…but I definitely have more hair than that dude. Maybe this is Bizarro me?

2007 Schedule Update - Motegi

Posted by Iannucci | 9/26/2006 | 1 comments »
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The hits just keep on comin'. For those of you planning to be in Japan next Spring, book your flights before Satuday, April 12th.

The official 2007 total is now up to 12 races.
April 1 in St. Petersburg, Florida
April 12 at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan
April 29 at Kansas Speedway
May 27 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
June 3 at The Milwaukee Mile
June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway
June 24 at Iowa Speedway
June 30 at Richmond International Raceway
July 8 at Watkins Glen
July 14 at Nashville Superspeedway
August 11 at Kentucky Speedway
September 9 at Chicagoland Speedway

What will be next?
(switching to Ben Stein voice)
Ooh, the suspense is killing me.

All About Mario

Posted by Iannucci | 9/25/2006 | 1 comments »
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Scoop Malinowski (how's that for a name?) has a nice "Biofile" on Mario Andretti at CBS Sportsline. It contains nifty information such as:

Funny Racing Memory: "Believe it or not, it was in 1977, I won the Italian Grand Prix. I fell asleep in the car on the grid (just prior to race start). We jumped in the cars, waited the five minutes for the signal. It was really relaxed. Then they gave you the 30 seconds. Suddenly everyone started their engines, I wake up, What the heck?!? It was right in that time in the afternoon -- so relaxed I fell asleep [smiles]. And I was on pole. The mechanics laughed. They couldn't believe it."
Talk about ice in the veins.

Happy Birthday Ryan Briscoe

Posted by Iannucci | 9/24/2006 | 0 comments »
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Best Wishes to Ryan Briscoe, born September 24th, 1981 in Sydney, Australia. Briscoe has 19 career starts, but his only top 5 is a third place finish at Watkins Glen this season. Of course, he's only been running at the end of the race 8 times, making good finishes difficult.

He is quickly becoming associated with the back-handed compliment "Road Course Specialist", which is better than being remembered for his brief stint as the Human Torch in Chicagoland in 2005.

Hopefully Ryan Briscoe is having an exciting weekend, considering he is known to be more than friends with a certain TV Broadcaster. Party on.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Posted by Iannucci | 9/23/2006 | 3 comments »
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Recalling a previous discussion about, well, nothing in particular, reader "Damon G" forwards this picture found on the Peak Antifreeze web site.

I guess Peak now comes with special silicone additives. Good gracious.

2007 Schedule Update - Chicagoland

Posted by Iannucci | 9/22/2006 | 2 comments »
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Another day, another confirmation. Chicagoland has been confirmed for yet another season finale. Indycar.com has the pertinent info.

The official 2007 total is up to 11 races.
April 1 in St. Petersburg, Florida
April 29 at Kansas Speedway
May 27 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
June 3 at The Milwaukee Mile
June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway
June 24 at Iowa Speedway
June 30 at Richmond International Raceway
July 8 at Watkins Glen
July 14 at Nashville Superspeedway
August 11 at Kentucky Speedway
September 9 at Chicagoland Speedway

Worth noting is that many of the possible tracks remaining are road/street courses. Belle Isle, Sonoma (which may or may not be called Infineon), Mid-Ohio and Montreal are all spoken of as possible venues in 2007, not to mention Dodger Stadium or a Long Beach double-header with CCWS or whatever they end up doing in Los Angeles. Presumably a return to Fontana is under consideration, but we won't know until they come down from the mountain with the schedule in stone.

Cheever Holds Benefit Auction

Posted by Iannucci | 9/21/2006 | 0 comments »
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Old Man Cheever may be out of IndyCar racing, but he’s managing to do some good work for charity. Cheever Racing has announced the auction of items at GoMotorBids.com to benefit The Brian’s Wish Foundation.

The net proceeds from all auctions will be donated to The Brian's Wish Foundation, which was established in honor of Brian Hall. Hall was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) at the age of 33, and succumbed to it in May of 2002. His final wish was to make the world more knowledgeable about ALS, and the effects the terminal disease has on the patient, family, caregivers and friends, and therefore to help provide more interest and funding for research facilities to find a cure for this terrible disease.

Hall was a huge fan of Indy Car Racing, and specifically of Eddie Cheever. Shortly after Cheever's Indy 500 victory, Hall was able to personally meet him, and the two became friends. At the same time, Cheever became an advocate for the Foundation. The entire Indy Racing League followed suit and the foundation has now been embraced by the majority of teams, who continue to show their support via fundraisers such as this auction.

“I never feel like we are doing enough to keep Brian’s dream of finding a cure for ALS moving forward. This auction is our way to keep the ball rolling and to encourage people to give. If we all do a little then we will be successful. I think that is the legacy that Brian wanted to leave with us,” Eddie Cheever said.
Auctions conclude September 24th, and items can be seen here.

Happy Birthday Tomas Scheckter

Posted by Iannucci | 9/21/2006 | 0 comments »
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Best wishes to Tomas Scheckter, who turns 26 today.

An IRL series regular for the last five years, the driver affectionately known around here as The Wrecker has led 1351 laps in 75 IndyCar races, but has managed only 2 wins. Here’s why:
2002: 12 races, 6 accidents (50% wrecked)
2003: 16 races, 5 accidents (31%)
2004: 16 races, 5 accidents (31%)
2005: 17 races, 4 accidents (26%)

The words “aggressive driver” sum up his career, but something clicked in 2006 as Tomas managed to go the last ten races without an accident.

2006: 14 races, 2 accidents (14%)

The year-to-year trend is favorable, and if he keeps this up then he may need a new nickname. For now, history tells us he’s still a yellow flag waiting to happen.

2007 Schedule Update - Richmond

Posted by Iannucci | 9/21/2006 | 0 comments »
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Indycar.com reports June 30 will be the date for next year’s IndyCar race at Richmond, meaning all three tracks “mile or less” tracks (Milwaukee, Iowa, Richmond) will be featured in June. Kinda like the IRL’s own little World of Outlaws next summer.

Meanwhile, the Contra Costa Times reports negotiations are "optimistically" ongoing for another return to Sonoma.

Adding Richmond brings the official 2007 total to 10 races.
April 1 in St. Petersburg, Fla
April 29 at Kansas Speedway
May 27 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
June 3 at The Milwaukee Mile
June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway
June 24 at Iowa Speedway
June 30 at Richmond International Raceway
July 8 at Watkins Glen
July 14 at Nashville SuperSpeedway
August 11 at Kentucky Speedway

It also gives me the opportunity to link to this video of Spiderman’s victory and fence-climbing action at Richmond in 2005. Short but still totally cool, this little clip would make a nice ad for the league.

5 Quick Questions: Brent Maurer

Posted by Iannucci | 9/20/2006 | 5 comments »
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I know, the first thing you’re thinking is “Who in the world is Brent Maurer?” Recall that this has become “The Danica Season”, and we are bombarded by constant media coverage of her every move. While reporters have scrambled for one more interview or one last quote from Mrs. Hospenthal, one man has stood the last two years as the buffer between The Media and Danica!

That man is Brent Maurer, Director of Public Relations for Rahal Letterman Racing.

After viewing the infamous video from Michigan, it seemed like a solid idea to catch up with the poor guy who had to walk along and help pick up the cones Danica had managed to knock over. As you may have noticed, even Mr. Hospenthal was keeping his distance while Brent had to keep doing his job and remain with the driver.

Brent was kind enough to agree to 5 Quick Questions despite having a schedule that keeps him busy long after the season ends (“I have been busy working on a media stunt with Honda for early October.”) He also said that despite what Jeff Simmons PR Guru Karl Ueberbacher may say, it’s rather taboo for Public Relations folks to do Q & A. But My Name Is IRL sent a relentless stream of reporters emails until he cracked, and Brent not only answered but even provided his own introduction and disclaimer.

Thanks for this opportunity. I had to get special sign off on this from the rest of the Kangaroo Court. You should give a special shout out to Mark Robinson of Bridgestone/Firestone, Arni Sribhen of the IndyCar Series and Pat Caporali of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. They waived any PR violations and subsequent fine for this so they basically said no to a FREE steak dinner. How downright charitable of them.

Geez, these PR folks are tighter than the Freemasons. Ladies and gentleman, Brent Maurer.

1. So how did you get into this position with RLR? Is your background in auto racing PR or something else?

My background is in media/public relations. I started working in sports while I was a Radio/TV major in college. My first gig was as an intern with the Pacers while I was in college. I moved onto two years of working with the Celtics while I was in grad school in Boston. That was the late 80's so I got the chance to watch Bird and McHale play in 'The Garden' and I basically had courtside seats for two seasons.

After graduating with a degree in Mass Communication Business from Emerson College I moved back to Indianapolis and took a job with some people I knew from the Pacers who were running the Indianapolis Ice. At the end of that season I was one of four people that the owner selected to move to Columbus, Ohio to start a new hockey franchise, the Columbus Chill. I was with the Chill for six seasons handling PR and promotions. I then had an opportunity to take over as the Director of Media Relations for the American Hockey League (NHL's Triple A). I moved to Springfield, Mass and lived there for two years.

I heard through a contact in hockey about the position at Team Rahal in 1999. I sent Team Rahal a resume in February of 1999. I interviewed later that week and was offered the job two-days later. I have been with the team since.

2. Was that you in the infamous "Mad Danica" footage from Michigan this year? What were you doing when that happened and what are your usual raceday duties?

Guilty as charged, that was me. Whenever a RLR driver stops on track, mechanical or by contact I, or my counterpart who worked with Buddy Rice and Jeff Simmons, try to find the driver. It helps to have a friendly face to help them navigate to the transporter, pit lane for TV or medical center if needed. It also helps, as was in the case of Danica at Michigan, to buy a bit of time for them to cool down for their TV interview. As soon as I heard she was stopped in Turn 1 I started walking towards her. I had to wait for the race to end, but as soon as I caught up with her on pit lane she started venting.

My usual race day duties over the last couple of years has been the primary media contact for Danica. I keep a close eye on her schedule and coordinate her movements around the track for sponsor and media events and eventually get her to where she needs to be for racing. It is a balancing act with Danica to maximize the media and sponsor ops but still make sure she has enough time to prepare for the race and to compete as an athlete. I stand in the pits and feed the pit reporters and media information from the team. After the race I coordinate the media requests and make sure we take care of what we need to accomplish. After the day is over I type up the release and send it to the media and sponsors as well as post it on rahal.com.

3. What's the craziest thing you've had a fan ask Danica (or any driver) to do? Anybody ask her to autograph a Hostess Twinkie, some Secret deodorant or a gallon of Peak antifreeze?

For Danica the craziest thing might have been at Kentucky when fan came to the Meijer appearance and had her autograph his arm. The guy was covered in tattoos and he went from the autograph session and had her autograph tattooed to his arm. He showed up at the track the next day just to prove the tattoo was real.

Danica is unique in that just about everybody that comes to get her autograph has a special item to have signed. Most drivers are simply signing hero cards, but in her case she is signing Sports Illustrated, die cast cars, FHM photo's, trading cards, photos, posters etc.

I have to add that I never knew there were so many mint copies of SI around. She signs several hundred SI's a weekend and they are all immaculate. I had a rep from SI tell me that her issue was one of their five biggest selling issues of 2005.

The craziest thing I have ever seen a driver asked to sign was when I worked with Michel Jourdain Jr. We were at a Firestone appearance in Cleveland and a lady asked Jourdain to sign her dog. He initially declined, but the lady insisted so eventually he signed with a washable marker.

4. A few women have commented that Paul Hospenthal is a fine looking man. Do you handle PR for him and if so how does his wife feel about that?

I'll have his people answer this. Just kidding.

If a media outlet wants to talk to Paul I will help coordinate the interview, but am I pretty busy with the media for Danica. Danica encourages Paul to do as many or as few interviews as he wants to do.

(Ed. Note: You may think that’s a silly question, but the man is a doctor AND he marries a celebrity. He’s what every Oprah-loving mother hopes her child becomes. Paul could be next Tony Robbins. Seriously…OK, not so seriously.)

5. Let's say you could do PR anywhere other than racing. Which famous people would you like to work for?

If I could choose my ultimate PR job I would handle media for Danny Ainge and the 16 time World Champion Boston Celtics. I love working in racing, but NBA hoops is my passion. That said if I worked in the NBA it would probably ruin my love of the sport so it is probably best that I just watch the C's on NBA League Pass and stay their number one fan in Ohio.

If I weren't in sports I would enjoy working in politics. After all politics is the ultimate sporting event.

I think he’s on to something. The only thing better than seeing Brent helping Danica would be seeing Brent picking up a pylon knocked over by an angry Hillary Rodham Clinton. That’s entertainment.

Our sincerest thanks to Brent for taking the time to provide such thoughtful answers and our promises to never, ever ask any Rahal driver to sign a dog. Best of luck to both Team Rahal and the Celtics in 2007, although that’s just because the Phoenix Suns are in the other conference.

Vitor Meira + Golf Clubs = Driving

Posted by Iannucci | 9/19/2006 | 0 comments »
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PaddockTalk has the low down on a new commercial for Ping golf clubs that has begun airing on The Golf Channel. The ad reportedly shows the Mirror Man driving around Indianapolis Motor Speedway while some golfers size up some “high performance driving” on the IMS golf course, a.k.a Brickyard Crossing.

Driving a golf club, driving an IndyCar…Get it?

Anyhow, I haven’t seen any press releases, but I wonder if PING will have their logo slapped all over the sidepods of the Panther Racing vehicle next season.

2007 Schedule Update - Watkins Glen

Posted by Iannucci | 9/19/2006 | 0 comments »
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The IndyStar has a few sentences indicating the Watkins Glen race has been confirmed for July 8th. Nine down and up to eight more to go.

Here is the Official schedule so far:
April 1 in St. Petersburg, Fla
April 29 at Kansas Speedway
May 27 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
June 3 at The Milwaukee Mile
June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway
June 24 at Iowa Speedway
July 8 at Watkins Glen
July 14 at Nashville SuperSpeedway
August 11 at Kentucky Speedway

Also, from Curt Cavin's most recent Q&A:
Question: How come the IRL hasn't announced the 2007 schedule? I am holding out hope that it is delayed because there is some kind of "unification" deal in the works. What do you think? (Randy, Grand Rapids, Mich.)

Answer: The IRL isn’t waiting on unification, I can promise you that. Officials have been releasing dates as they’ve been confirmed. They want to make sure Detroit gets things lined up for a Labor Day weekend race at Belle Isle, and they want Montreal’s situation to get resolved. Mid-Ohio is a backup plan as is California Speedway.

Danica Danica Danica

Posted by Iannucci | 9/19/2006 | 0 comments »
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Usually the end of The Racing Season is immediately followed by The Silly Season, which marks the musical chairs played by drivers and teams.

However, in 2006 a new season has emerged in between the two: The Danica Season. I know, it can be argued that The Danica Season actually goes on all year long, but in the past week we have had Danica! Unveiling the Batmobile!, Danica! on HBO Real Sports!, and now Danica! Profiled In Newsweek!

Today I guess I drive pretty fast even on the highway in my Lamborghini. I don't like to drive at enormous top speed, but I do like to drive a little bit faster than everyone else. So if everybody on the highway is doing 80, I'll do 82 or something, and if people are driving 60, I'll want to do 62. I think there's something in my blood, in my instincts, that makes me want to overtake.
Forget her blood and instinct, there may be something in her mailbox. Like traffic citations. She had better be careful rolling at 82 around here since they got these wacky photo radar devices everywhere. I'm sure she doesn't want to get stuck with 60+ tickets like this woman.

Seriously though, I don’t object so much to the coverage as the timing. It would seem this is just a convergence of reporters all wanting a piece of Mrs Hospenthal and not getting to her until the conclusion of the season, but as the word “conclusion” indicates the season is over. Consequently you can’t apply the maxim of “what’s good for Danica is good for the league”. It would be really helpful to have all this coverage in the Spring when there is actual racing occurring, but for now all this media hype is doing nothing except delighting her individual sponsors.

Please folks, save a little air time for next year.

Running In 2006

Posted by Iannucci | 9/18/2006 | 0 comments »
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Since the 2006 IndyCar series season has concluded, it’s the time of year to compile all the “best of” and “worst of” lists. I’m thinking of doing this myself, but for now I want to focus on one particular “best of” aspect no one else has mentioned in any recap of the just-concluded season: 2006 was probably the best year for safety in IndyCar series history.

Now, I’m not totally dense and I acknowledge the first thing people will recall about this season is the death of Paul Dana on the IRL’s opening day. It’s never a good thing for the league when a fatality results from auto racing (and it’s obviously tragic for the friends and family of the desceased), but what happened at Homestead was not able to be undone and like so many times before the league proceeded ahead.

However, since that fatality – which occurred during a practice session and not an actual race – it seemed there were no serious injuries resulting from accidents during the course of the IndyCar season. Just as a general perception, from what I could recall there seemed to be a lot less accidents this year than in the past.

Well, forget perceptions – I went straight to the stats.

Since the league is so kind as to publish records of what happens to all qualifiers in all races, I was able to go back and determine how many accidents occurred. Now, these statistics are tricky to deal with because you can’t really determine which results actually resulted in accidents. Sure, there’s “accident”, but there are many other results that can indicate trouble on the speedways.

For example, “mechanical” could indicate anything from a busted radio to snapped suspension resulting in a visit with the SAFER barrier. While “handling” usually means a spinout, it doesn’t always. Even something like “DNS” (did not start) can indicate any number of things, including a pre-race accident.

I don’t want to go off on a tangent here, but just trying to determine safety on the track is highly subjective. Complicating this research is the fact that in the last four seasons there have been 25 different results listed for race entries. Have a gander at this list.
• Accident
• Clutch
• Down
• Electrical
• Engine
• Fuel Fire
• Fuel Leak
• Fuel Pressure
• Fuel System
• Garage
• Gear Box
• Halfshaft
• Handling
• Mechanical
• Off Track
• Oil Leak
• Radiator
• Running
• Spin
• Steering
• Suspension
• Transmission
• Vibration
• Wheel Bearing

Maybe some gearheads can get together and condense this list, but for now this is what there is. Instead of trying to make my way through all of these results I decided to focus on one: “running”.

“Running” means a driver was still driving, and 99% of the time that means they were not involved in an accident. Even if they were involved, it clearly did not cause enough injury to the driver or the car to prevent it from proceeding in the race.

So, now that all that nonsense is out of the way, the only question was how far back to go. I chose 2003 because that was the first year the big teams like Andretti, Ganassi, and Penske had all moved over from CART. I know - Penske actually moved in 2002. Anyhow, some consider 2003 a start to an era of legitimacy for the series, and since I had to start somewhere that seemed like the right season.

OK, so here is what I found. Below is the percentage of entrants who were still “running” at the conclusion of all the races in a given season:
2003: 69.9% (251 of 359 entries)
2004: 72.5% (258 of 356)
2005: 68.1% (263 of 386)
2006: 76.7% (214 of 279)

Statistically, this was indeed a safer season to be driving, but as you can see this may be influenced by the fact there are a lot less entries in 2006. This year the starting field usually consisting of about 19 cars as opposed to the 22 cars in the three previous years, and less cars means less cars to run into. But another part of the lower entrant number is due to less races as there were 16 races in 2003 and 2004, and 17 in 2005, but only 14 in 2006.

Looking further at the statistics shows the “running” rate of most recent season was widely different when broken into three sections of time. Check this out.

Homestead, Motegi, St Pete, Indy: 59.8% (55 of 92 entries)
Watkins, Texas, Richmond, Kansas, Nashville, Milwaukee: 79.5% (89 of 112)
Michigan, Kentucky, Infineon, Chicagoland: 93.3% (70 of 75)

This season culminated in Chicagoland where all 19 cars were running at the conclusion. I don’t know if the drivers got safer pills after Indy or if something happened technologically, but that’s a tremendous upward trend in car reliability. If I had to take a guess then I would say this is related to having nearly an entire field full of experienced drivers running the whole season with each other. As drivers become more familiar with each other and their respective rides they presumably learn what to do (and what not to do) when racing within collision range of each other.

Another consideration is that as the season progressed more teams were running identical setups. Honda was the sole supplier of engines, and by the end of the season everyone was using the Dallara chassis. I would think this might play a role also, but I can’t figure out how since I’m not nearly as technically proficient in these kinds of things.

Historically speaking the unbelievable 85% (159 of 187) rate of “running” cars for the last 10 races is probably unsustainable, but as it is it would seem to be a statistic the league could use for attracting potential sponsors. Surely sponsors would be attracted to more actual racing instead of those yellow flag parades, shorter races resulting more driver (spokesperson) interviews and more sponsorship visibility on the car (since TV viewers can’t see the logos from the garage).

And one other positive for teams: lower costs. As Chip Ganassi complained last year, those wrecks tend to put a crimp in the budget.

Unlike many stock car fans, most IndyCar fans do not want to see crashes. At 220 MPH the human carnage fails to offset any visceral appeal. But if the cars keep on running for whatever myriad of reasons, then the results are all good for fans and teams alike. It’s the racing that converts and keeps fans to this league, so if anyone can figure out why there were more cars running, well, let’s see if it can be kept next season.

Danica, On Who Should Be Danica

Posted by Iannucci | 9/17/2006 | 4 comments »
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So I'm flipping through my latest copy of ESPN The Magazine and there in huge font and highlighted is this on page 38.

"I want Angelina Jolie to play me. I'm sure anyone would want Angelina. Katie Holmes would be great too, but only if I get to meet her baby." - Danica Patrick on whom she'd like to star in a movie about her life.
There are so many mind-bending questions arising from that quote, not the least of which is "who the heck is thinking of making this movie?". And yet, my first thought after reading the quote had nothing to do with movies or scientology or driving ability. If you're a man, you probably know where I'm going with this.

I'm thinking of a clear, distinct SET of differences between Mrs. Paul Hospenthal and Mrs. Not Quite Brad Pitt.

Which gives me an excellent chance to point out a truly embarrassing bet I have with an anonymous reader. I won't say who has which side of the wager, but the it's basically a bet over whether or not a certain driver has a certain surgery in the near future to enhance her, uh, womanliness.

I'm trying to be discreet here, but I know I'm failing badly.

Anyhow, the quote above makes me wonder if this is on a certain driver's mind as well. Actually, she has made reference to this before, and it was...

OK, I have to make a confession. I'm a big fan of IndyCar racing, and I, uh, actually, well...OK, I read "Danica, Crossing the Line." In fact, I own it. *gasp* My only saving grace is I got it as a free book from the Doubleday Book Club, but still, it's tucked on my bookshelf for just such an occasion as today.

Hey, I needed something to read and no one was writing books about Pancho Carter.

Anyhow, in the book the "autobiographer" says the following.

The safety belts that strap me into my car are pulled very tight across my hips and chest...I used padding in the Toyota Atlantic Series, but in Indy, you race at higher speeds and the extra padding allows for more movement in a crash, which I don't want. I want to be held in my seat as tight as possible because it's safer. So that means I race in a constant state of excruciating pain and discomfort. As for the shoulder straps? Let's just say I'm waiting until I finish my driving career to get that boob job!
For what it's worth, the book is a reasonable read for about the first 100 pages, but then it turns into this dreck about how schmoopie her husband Paul is. Like four chapters of that garbage, including lots of (go ahead and laugh) marital advice. Maybe she wanted to be in the Oprah Book Club, but as it is I took the bullet for the rest of you and read the thing.

Anyhow, now that I've totally digressed...I don't sit around thinking about possible elective surgeries of drivers, but I saw the quote and thought it worth discussing. Sorry if this entire post has become offensive, because I'm not trying to take any sides by suggesting women have/not have this kind of surgery.

However, I would highly discourage any men from considering such a procedure.

Oh by the way, So Damn Indy points out that Mrs. Hospenthal will be featured on HBO Real Sports this week. Perhaps Frank DeFord will be asking her about how tightly her straps will fit in the upcoming season.

2007 Schedule Slowly Announced

Posted by Iannucci | 9/16/2006 | 1 comments »
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I'm not sure if this is a marketing ploy to get attention repeatedly or simply the necessity of announcing each event as soon as possible, but either way the Indy Racing League continues to set dates for the upcoming season...one...race...at...a...time.

The Kansas City Star reports that the race in Kansas will no longer be near Independence Day, instead being bumped to April to become the race immediately preceding the Indianapolis 500. Reportedly the folks in that part of the country are pretty pleased about this new date since July tended to be a touch warm for them.

Here is the Official schedule so far:
April 1 in St. Petersburg, Fla
April 29 at Kansas Speedway
May 27 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
June 3 at The Milwaukee Mile
June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway
June 24 at Iowa Speedway
July 14 at Nashville SuperSpeedway
August 11 at Kentucky Speedway

Supposedly the estimate is 17 races, so a little quick math says we have a whole bunch more announcements forthcoming...eventually.

UPDATE: Reader "Erika" points out in the comments that I missed the Nashville date. It has now been added to the list above. The list below is the most recent estimate from the braintrust (and I mean that sincerely) at TrackSide Online.

## March 24th, Homestead-Miami Speedway
April 1st, St. Petersburg Grand Prix (Street Circuit)
## April 15th or 22nd, Twin Ring Motegi – Japan
April 29th, Kansas Speedway
May 27th, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
June 3rd, Milwaukee Mile
June 9th, Texas Motor Speedway
June 24th, Iowa Speedway
## June 30th, Richmond International Raceway
## July 8th, Watkins Glen International (Road Course)
July 14th, Nashville SuperSpeedway
## July 22nd, Michigan International Speedway
?? August 4th or 5th, Montreal, Canada (Road Course)
August 11th Kentucky Speedway
## August 19th or 26th, Infineon Raceway (Road Course) or ??Mid Ohio (RC)
## September 2nd, Detroit - Belle Isle?? (SC) or ??Mid Ohio (RC)
## September 9th - Chicagoland Speedway

## means "likely"
?? means "speculative"

I'm not going to make a habit of lifting their material, so go join today and get this stuff emailed to your Inbox before the news is made public.

Indy Star Begs For Series Merger

Posted by Iannucci | 9/15/2006 | 9 comments »
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They want the quick fix. They want the magic pill. They want to believe all of Tony George’s horses and all of Kevin Kalkhoven’s men can put the Humpty Dumpty of open-wheel racing together again.

Well, Humpty Dumpty is a fairy tale, folks.

I admit it, I am in the minority. I not only fail to follow the thinking of the idea of merging the IRL and ChampCar, but I also mock those slobbering over the idea by calling them Eunuchs of Reunification. While the Indianapolis Star takes the time today (when the IRL season is over and no one is really looking, I might add) to release an editorial pleading for a single series, I remain an Indy Racing League flack arguing against the presumed glory of the long overdue reunification.

I accept your disagreement, but please – once and for all – hear me out.

As I understand it the argument for merging the two series goes thusly: more cars in races, more combined fans, a single point-of-reference for sponsors, coverage in all markets, more money resulting from all this for everyone. Did I get everything in there? Good.

OK, to me there are three sets of issues with the whole concept of merger. The first is the issues from the fans’ point of view, and those are all the things covered above. Fans want more cars, more races, even more fans to celebrate the races and cars. I get that, and nothing would make me happier than seeing more cars, more fans, more popularity. And yet, I can’t help but think the underlying presumption is just silly. There are very LOUD fans from both series who slander the other series with various epithets (check out any IRL or CCWS message board), and though the vocal ones do not represent the entirety of the two groups of fans they show very plainly that there are distinct differences between them.

On the one hand are CCWS fans, who are largely Formula One racing fans as well. They are deeply in love with the International aspect of racing and the pageantry of racing through the streets of cities or on famed worldwide road courses. Not only do they want to see drivers negotiate chicanes, they like saying “chicane”. They even prefer to see their drivers jump back and forth from Champ Car to F1 so as to view the two series as some sort of parallel.

On the other hand are IRL fans, who do not exactly shun International drivers but generally prefer American drivers from towns with names like Defiance, Ohio. They want fast racing, loud racing, and racing where they can see as much of the track as possible. They want one thing above all else that road course driving lacks: passing. High-speed, wheel-to-wheel, three-wide passing.

Simply put the two sets of fans have entirely different ideas of what makes a good race, and given the popularity of oval-based racing in NASCAR it would seem the formula for broad appeal in America resides somewhere other than all those single-lane road course parades Champ Car features. Merging would presumably add more road courses, which is more racing Americans would not watch.

The second set of issues is the technical aspects, which are largely brushed over by the Eunuchs. While the vehicles from the two look similar, people forget these are in fact different cars. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a big deal made about a chassis, but the new Panoz DP01 that Champ Car will use next year is a superior design…for road courses. It hasn’t been tested for ovals, and Champ Car will not be racing on any ovals in 2007. So in order to merge, someone would have to convince (read: pay) all the CCWS owners to get a Dallara chassis as well in order to compete on all the ovals.

Ask yourself this: how full will the fields be if teams have to purchase TWO DIFFERENT sets of chassis to compete? Do you think Panther, D&R or Foyt can operate with those costs? Does AGR want to pay for parts and people to maintain EIGHT different cars?

The third set of issues is financial, which are COMPLETELY ignored by the Eunuchs. I’m not talking about car affordability, but rather return on investment. The main financial issue is that one series is owned by a track owner and the other series is owned largely by engine manufacturers. The fiscal commitment is totally different for these types of owners, because one needs only one race on their track while the other needs to be involved in every race.

Currently Honda is the sole supplier of power plants to the Indy Racing League. Suppose tomorrow they want to tear up the contract and walk away. There would be lawsuits and a public backlash against Honda, so there a reasonable deterrent against them proceeding down that path.

Now, suppose the Champ Car guys who own Cosworth agree to merge. Surely one of those presumptions would be that they would supply the new league with Cosworth engines. Now suppose those are inferior engines to Honda or any other manufacturer. Do the Cosworth guys quit the series knowing they can’t compete if the specifications aren’t changed? And what of other manufacturers if the Cosworths are not inferior? What is their motivation for Honda to compete in a series where the playing field will always be leveled for Cosworth since that manufacturer effectively co-owns the series?

You can not have an engine manufacturer (or chassis manufacturer) co-own a series with the expectation other manufacturers will participate. Any other manufacturer knows the rules of the game will always favor the house.

And yet, none of these issues is covered in the Star’s editorial. They want to rub the bottle of whatever Robin Miller is drinking and hope a genie comes out and grants everyone the wish that open-wheel racing will return to the days of old and NASCAR will go back to being series of Good ‘Ol Boys.

Well the genie came out in 1996 but he granted the wish to NASCAR, and you can’t put him back in the bottle. I am not happy the leagues split and I’ve watched as open-wheel racing has slid in popularity, but what’s done is done. An honest look at the facts shows there is no going back to the glory days of CART by simply unifying two series. It won’t happen, and the best path for the Indy Racing League is to focus attention on marketing and not all this unification nonsense. They should go the hard road and continue to build a fan base through marketing their best assets. Market the speed, market the wheel-to-wheel racing, and for goodness sakes market the personalities of the drivers.

Merging does none of that. It may give the illusion of more cars, but smaller teams from both series would surely go away. It may give the presumption of more fans, but the oval fans won’t watch all the road races, and vice versa. It may even give a few teams a major sponsor, but that won’t last if the television ratings don’t rise.

Here’s my editorial: If Tony George is looking at ten cars in a field and survival is the main issue than sure, merge the series. But if not, if it means tilting the series to Cosworth, if we’re talking about adding more road/street courses, and if it means creating a set of expectations that won’t be met, then please do not go into business with Champ Car. The Indy Racing League is the most exciting racing on the planet, and it makes no sense to ruin that racing in favor of an uncertain promise of a bump in viewership.

Pardon the cliche, but Just Say No.

Franchitti Not Driving Champ Car

Posted by Iannucci | 9/14/2006 | 3 comments »
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Curt Cavin 1, Robin Miller 0.

Now you see why Curt Cavin's name is all over the stories forwarded here at My Name Is IRL. Last week Robin Miller of SpeedTV was breaking the news that Mr Judd would drive the last three races of the Champ Car season for RuSport as Cristiano da Matta continued his recovery from his serious head injury.

Afterwards, Cavin's reports in the Indy Star said he heard no such word and that Franchitti told him Miller's was a false report. Well, now Crash.net reports the following quote from Jeremy Dale of RuSport.

"After investigating all of our viable options, we have concluded that it is in the best interest of RuSPORT to only compete with one car at Road America," he said. "This was a very difficult decision, but we believe it was the correct one.

"We will continue to focus on Cristiano da Matta's recovery, the da Matta family, and on our efforts to help Justin Wilson win as many races as possible for the remainder of the 2006 season."

Taken at face value the quote indicates that Mr Judd will not drive at the first of the three remaining races in the CCWS. But all indications are that he is fit to drive if he so choses, and if he isn't driving at Road America then he probably isn't driving at all in CCWS.

Since he is without a contract it he could still conceivably jump to Champ Car for next year, but Dario's future may already be decided. Given his remarks at Infineon about Herta not being around with "the team" and Michael Andretti's confirmation about running four cars again lends to the theory that Mr Judd will return to AGR for 2007.

There are still two other CCWS races remaining in which Franchitti could participate, but for now it appears I may have been mistaken for believing Miller's earlier report. It would seem he was reporting "wishful thinking" instead of actual news.

AJ Foyt's Season, In His Own Words

Posted by Iannucci | 9/14/2006 | 2 comments »
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The season ended with our race at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday afternoon and I have to admit, I'm glad this season is finally over. It's the shortest season we've run since 2001 but it felt pretty long to me and our ABC Supply team.

It was what I'd call a transition year if I had to describe it. We changed drivers, we changed engine suppliers and we changed most of our crew. About the only things that remained the same was our sponsor ABC Supply and our car chassis Dallara…and me, of course. (MORE)

RLR Likely To Downsize in 2007

Posted by Iannucci | 9/13/2006 | 0 comments »
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ESPN.com has an interview with Bobby Rahal where he talks about his difficult season and discusses plans for next year.

"Being a three-car team has got its pluses, but there's a lot of challenges to that. I think a two-car team is a lot easier," Rahal said. "I think we'll just stay [with] two cars, maybe think about doing a third car for Indy, but only if that was properly funded and we got the right person and staff, then there's no point in just doing it. My sense is that we'll be a two-car team unless those criteria are met."

Translation: unless Scott Sharp and his sponsors want join us, we're going to be a two-car outfit. Finding sponsorship for one car is hard enough.

The article also mentions the team is negotiating with Jeff Simmons to continue as the driver/spokesperson for the Ethanol ride.

Just For Johnny Livengood

Posted by Iannucci | 9/13/2006 | 2 comments »
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For those who haven’t had the time to read every single item on My Name Is IRL, Johnny Livengood is a frequent commenter on stories about his favorite driver. I’ll let you look at his MySpace site and figure out who that driver is.

Anyhow, if you haven’t gotten enough saturation of yesterday’s unveiling of “The Batmobile”, click here for a link to video of the rainy drive through Chicago. It was probably due to the inclement weather, but Mrs Hospenthal did not look very happy behind the wheel.

See, money can't buy happiness.

The link also has video interviews with the driver, the boss and a Motorola rep, who talks about how Danica! is “changing the rules of the game of the sport she operates in”. Other than Robby Gordon’s complaint about her near weightlessness, I’m not really sure what Fudge Brownie this poor lady is talking about.

The Silly Season

Posted by Iannucci | 9/13/2006 | 2 comments »
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Well, now that Danica! has unveiled her new ride for 2007 it’s time for the Silly Season to begin. With more drivers than teams, it’s like a big game of musical chairs this year. Make sure you have sponsorship when the music stops.

As far as teams and cars go, it’s up in the air. There is no word to indicate that Penske of Ganassi will add beyond their two cars each, and Andretti Green appears to be planning for four cars again. Rahal Letterman is a big question mark as they have one car (the Ethanol) with sponsorship, but will field more if other sponsors arrive. Fernandez Racing should have one car, but could more or even none.

Certain one-car teams such as Panther and Foyt Racing are considering adding a second car in order to increase their competitive abilities. There is no word on Vision Racing, but without sponsorship it seems unlikely they would add a third car. Other teams such as Dreyer and Reinbold and the oft-forgotten Helmegarn Racing may or may not be around in 2007. Roth Racing should be expected to continue to, uh, race next year.

So right now, it’s a big lump of goo.

As for the drivers, here are their plans for 2007 (as far as I know). This first list is of drivers who aren’t going anywhere.
Marco Andretti
Helio Castroneves
Ed Carpenter
Scott Dixon
Sam Hornish Jr
Tony Kanaan
Dan Wheldon

Take a moment and let that soak in. Six of the top seven drivers are known to be returning to the same team, which is a fantastic sign for all of those worried about any “abandon ship” experience other series not named NASCAR are suffering. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see all of the top ten drivers this year return to the league for 2007.

As a bonus, I’ve even got nicknames for all ten drivers.

The point is the year-over-year retention of drivers bodes well for the league as continuity is a HUGE factor when attempting to expand the fan base. It’s a lot easier to sell the same personalities every year as rivals instead of trying to market new ones. Not that Danica! and Andretti 3.0 haven’t made an impact, but it’s much nicer to have them as additions instead of replacements.

Speaking of Andretti, an AGR representative has confirmed Michael Andretti is considering another run at Indy in 2007. Keep hope alive.

This second list is a bit uncertain. There has been some information published in reports by the Indy Star and TrackSide Online (sign up today), but for many of these drivers the future is still unknown.

Ryan Briscoe – based on his latest comments, it sounds like Ryan is done with ovals. A betting man would have him trying out for Champ Car (a.k.a The Dark Side), but he may find it difficult to get a ride there as well. If he is unsuccessful, he could appear for teams seeking the proverbial “road course specialist” for a few IRL races.

Jeff Bucknum – Earlier in the year it appeared Foyt Racing was excited about Jeff, who is no youngster at age 40. Recently though things have been mum about the team’s future, although that may be partially due to the overhaul the team is undergoing by selling their stock car assets and assigning management duties to Larry Foyt. It would appear Foyt Racing is Bucknum’s only chance at returning to the IRL.

Sarah Fisher – She did what she could with the two D&R entries she had in 2006 despite a two-year absence. It sounds like D&R would love to have her back, but I’m sure she would prefer to move into a better funded team. Still, if one can’t be found this team may stay together.

Dario Franchitti – Who knows. Mr Judd will be driving somewhere – barring further concussions – but that somewhere could be in the IRL or CCWS. Reportedly Dario does not enjoy racing on ovals, but expect him to follow the money wherever it leads. Besides, he would be a nice filler for one year before Jonathan Klein arrives (see below).

Bryan Herta – All signs point to the Invisible Man disappearing completely from the series (oh, har-dee-har) and reappearing in the American Le Mans Series. Danica showed up yesterday with a #7 on her new car so he's 99.9% done with AGR, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

Kousuke Matsuura – For a guy who was fifth in the points after the opening weeks of the season, Matsuura’s stock has fallen like a brick. Reportedly Panasonic will sponsor the #55 for Fernandez again, but there may be a different driver (most likely a Japanese one) in the car.

Vitor Meira – Panther Racing and Vitor really want to stay together, and barring a complete failure to land sponsorship this team will stay together. Panther is reportedly looking to add another sponsored driver.

Danica Patrick – No mystery here. She’s the new darling of AGR, although probably third on their totem pole. Still, Motorola’s 21 Meeeellion Dollars will help buy her the best team available.

Buddy Rice – He sounds upbeat about his prospects and he probably does more league promotions than any other driver, but The Rainman has finished 15th in the points standings for two straight years. Yuck. Sure he won the Indy 500 in 2004, but he needs to find a sponsor who can remember that far back.

Marty Roth – Marty will be Marty, driving in his own series until he decides he no longer desires it.

Tomas Scheckter – It is thought he will return to Vision, although I am not sure if he is or is not a free agent. Regardless, he will be somewhere, although the Vision team seemed like a good fit for him this last season.

Scott Sharp – Here’s the guy who controls everything. He’s got sponsorships, although how much money is behind them is anyone’s guess. He could stay with Fernandez Racing, leave for another team or even start his own team. Once Scott decides where he is sitting, the rest of the chairs will start getting filled.

Jeff Simmons – He took over a unique situation with Ethanol as driver/spokesman after the death of Paul Dana and promptly crashed in four of his first five races. But Simmons turned it around and finished with six Top 10s in seven races, which may be enough to put him back in the Ethanol car for 2007. Then again, they could pick another driver.

Now, there are two other sets of drivers out there to consider. There are up and coming drivers like Jay Howard, Wade Cunningham and Jaime Camera who would make the jump from Indy Pro if they can find sponsorship. Based on what he has said, Indy Pro series runner-up Jonathan Klein wants to have another go at that series in 2007 before presumably moving up with the #27 Klein Tools IndyCar ride.

The other set is, well, has-beens. Drivers who have proven their abilities on the track but aren’t the flashy commodities they once were. This would include the Lazier brothers, as well as Arie Luyendyk Jr and Anthony Foyt. There was talk of putting Arie Jr in an inexpensive Panoz chassis with a low-budget team next year, but that has not been made official yet. Foyt could conceivably go back to driving for his family, but then again maybe not.

Of course, PJ Chesson is still out there.

If there is any information on any new teams or even a Cheever Racing resurrection, you know I’ll pass the word.

Hornish Is On Letterman Tonight

Posted by Iannucci | 9/12/2006 | 1 comments »
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Wanna bet Dave asks Uncle Sam if he wants to switch to RLR?

The New Danica Is Revealed

Posted by Iannucci | 9/12/2006 | 2 comments »
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Hopefully a picture is forthcoming, but Danica! consummated her lucrative relationship with Motorola and Andretti Green Racing today by showing off her new ride for 2007. Here are some interesting points from the press release.

"Danica Patrick is changing the rules in motorsports by proving a female driver can be a consistent threat to win at every event," said Kathleen Finato, head of North America Marketing, Mobile Devices, Motorola, Inc. "As innovative, stylish and edgy as she is, she's the perfect ambassador for the Motorola brand."
I don’t think they are paying all that cash for her to be a “threat”. Still, this confirms the earlier report that she would be the perfect choice for hawking Motorla products.

In addition to Motorola's major sponsorship, Team Motorola will also include sponsorship backing from XM Satellite Radio, Argent Mortgage, Go Daddy.com and AirTran Airways.
Note that Argent Mortgage is sponsoring her, which does not bode well for Rahal Letterman Racing prospects. Good for Danica!, but geez, leave some sponsors for the other drivers.

UPDATE: No pic yet but GoDaddy.com has released a press release.

"Danica thrives on competition, speed and power. She is edgy, innovative and fun! All qualities we identify with at Go Daddy," said Bob Parsons, CEO and founder of GoDaddy.com, the world's No. 1 domain name registrar. "She is redefining racing and is appealing, no doubt about it," Parsons grinned.

Parsons promises, "You can expect to see Danica starring in a Go Daddy commercial early next year," but he wouldn't speculate about the Super Bowl®.
Oh, brother. And no, that was not a repeat - everyone thinks Danica! is "edgy and innovative".

UPDATE 2: Finally a pic. She's Back in Black and bearing Herta's #7.

UPDATE 3: Indycar.com has the full story as well as a better pic showing the black scheme has some sort of design. The article also includes a quote from The Princess of the Pavement saying the car looks like "The Batmobile". Man, I'm gonna have like a thousand "Catwoman" references if she's gets a black Nomex suit next year.

My Nickname Is IRL

Posted by Iannucci | 9/12/2006 | 1 comments »
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One thing that nearly everyone asks about My Name Is IRL is the driver nicknames. If you ever wondered about these then today is the day for answers, and even a few updates.

The deal is I think the league does a MISERABLE job promoting the personalities of the drivers. When drivers are stuck in a helmet and a car it’s really difficult to gather any personality traits. But that should be the focus of any sports league – the personalities. One of the reasons fans like me started tuning out CART/Champ Car was because it became totally populated by foreign drivers who barely spoke English. As a consequence fans knew very little about these guys, leaving the colors of their cars as the only distinguishing difference between them.

And as I’ve noted before: fans cheer for people, not paint.

When the Indy Racing League was formed it was almost exclusively American drivers. That had a certain appeal, because if nothing else fans could be regionally affiliated with a driver. But soon enough foreign drivers were taking seats from American drivers, and the process started all over again.

To be fair, many of these imports are very personable fellows. I wouldn’t trade Castroneves, Kanaan, or Wheldon for any of the dull NASCAR poster boys. In addition to talent these IndyCar guys have actual personalities, and every week I sit and scratch my head wondering why the league doesn’t take advantage of them.

So instead of just whining about it constantly, I decided I would try to help things along. I crafted some nicknames to help passive fans remember some characteristics of the drivers. Since then I’ve been told the nicknames “sound like a bunch of superheroes”, which is exactly the point.

Some nicknames are easy to remember, like Spiderman is the guy who climbs the fences. I know I didn’t invent that one, but note the Marvel comic is “Spider-man”, and since Helio dehyphenated his last name from Castro-Neves I thought I would go along similarly.

Others involve a little more fun.
• Sarah Fisher has always been popular among fans, so playing on an old movie title makes her The Fisher Queen.
• Dario Franchitti is known mostly for his movie star wife, which makes him Mr Judd.
• Bryan Herta – the often forgotten and rarely seen fourth driver of AGR – is the Invisible Man.
• Vitor Meira drives exceptionally but is always behind someone else at the finish line, ergo In the Mirror.
• Danica Patrick is not only a one-name wonder, but also a constant reason for excitement for the media – hence, Danica!
• Buddy Rice is The Rainman because has only three wins, but one was a memorable, rain-shortened Indy 500.
• Tomas Scheckter has the highest career accident rate of any regular, so he’s The Wrecker.
• Dan Wheldon is not just an incredible driver, he also gets especially burned up when he loses races he was leading – Well Done covers both attributes.

And so they go. However, marketing groups have been known to rethink their strategies and I’m inclined to review mine every now and again as well. I suppose if Scheckter has another season like this one he may no longer be “The Wrecker”, but for now I’m going to limit the nickname updates to the following three drivers.

Sam Hornish Jr – I’ve been referring to him as Boulder Sam as an homage to my father-in-law, who for years has testified to Sam’s ability to fearlessly, skillfully, and winningly drive wheel-to-wheel better than any driver an the league. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “He’s got some boulders in his pants”, but it was enough to warrant the nickname. This year Sam finally won the Indy 500 and clearly established he is still the man to beat, despite facing a tidal wave of foreign-born talent. Throw in the fact that his birthday is only a couple days from Independence Day and there is only one possible outcome: Uncle Sam.

Tony Kanaan – After several successful years in the IRL it’s as obvious as the nose on his face that Kanaan does more to promote positional change on the course than anyone. Every race sees him all over the track defending or attacking, and often showing a nose for the lead. “El Nariz” is Portuguese for “The Nose”, but after displaying endurance both on the track and off (he’s a triathlete) and fiercely competing as an undersized (or underpowered) driver with a reputation for entertainment, it’s time to take his nickname up a notch. Recall the pushups after his win at Infineon in 2005 and you get the obvious: Rocky.

Scott Dixon – “The Kiwi” is plain enough to represent Dixon’s near-introverted personality while still defining his place among his peers. However, two things have changed. First, with the near dominance of Indy Pro by countryman Wade Cunningham’s (he had two less races than everyone else and still nearly repeated as champion) Dixon will soon no longer be the lone New Zealander. Second, after two sub-par seasons, Dixon returned in 2006 not only as a contender, but also perhaps the most well-rounded driver. After watching how calmly he held off his much more widely publicized teammate in Nashville, Dixon will now be referred to by his more commonly known nickname: Iceman.

Now, despite all this there are still some drivers who are long overdue for nicknames. As an off-season project, I’m going to solicit your help on naming the nameless in the coming weeks. Comments will lead to votes, and hopefully we can add some more personality to the characters of the league. The only rules are nothing demeaning and nothing vulgar. Otherwise, I don’t care how ridiculous they are, provided an explanation is given.

Ask not what your racers can do for you.
Ask what you can do for your racers.

Fisher Resolves Rusty’s Confusion

Posted by Iannucci | 9/11/2006 | 0 comments »
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Attention Rusty Wallace: the answer to the mystery is contained herein.

After spending THE ENTIRE season bemoaning the dreaded morning practice of IndyCars on raceday, Old No 2 might want to take a look at this quote from The Fisher Queen. Fisher finished way back in 16th at Chicagoland, but she said her car was driving much better as the race progressed. Why?

"The first third of the race we were really struggling in traffic. We were planning on doing all our in traffic stuff this morning. That was our plan for this morning's warm-up. Not having that warm-up really hurt us. At the end of the race we were racing Tony Kannan and Bryan Herta; basically all the Andretti Green cars. In the end, not having the morning warm up really killed us. We had planned on working on our in-traffic stuff this morning. We ran some different pieces that made it a little harder for being in traffic. Overall, we did a really good job. We just needed that extra 30 minutes this morning."
I counted at least five references to “morning warm-ups” there, almost as if Old No 2 had asked her the question himself. Does that clear up the issue, Rusty?

Speaking of Fisher, it turns out her hard-working Public Relations pal at D&R is actually working even harder than we thought. Not only is Klint Briney moonlighting with the MTV crowd, he’s working them to get The Fisher Queen a sponsor for 2007! Get the full scoop on this highly-motivated individual from the Peoria Journal Star.

Three Men and a Champion

Posted by Iannucci | 9/11/2006 | 0 comments »
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Forgive me for sounding bitter, but whoever threw the black flag yesterday to Spiderman for speeding in the pits deserves a big pie in the face for sucking most of the drama from the end of the season. While there was some good racing and a field full of tense drivers trying to beat the projected rainfall, the season finale in Chicagoland was unable to live up to the hype as a furious battle among four drivers turned into a three-man parade.

Around lap 120, Well Done logged his 101st lap led, clinching those precious points for the race. At that point, the championship drama was lost as three leaders cruised and lapped nearly the entire field. In first was Dan Wheldon, who although doing everything within his control to win the race was all too aware that he needed a Penske mechanical failure or an unlikely one-car accident to secure the championship. Behind him was Scott Dixon, finding himself facing the double whammy of not only being statistically unable to win the series, but because of that fact he was essentially told to let his teammate lead and win.

Meanwhile, Sam was in cruise control enjoying 200 victory laps.

Deep (like 15 seconds deep) in fourth place was Helio Castroneves, who IF ONLY he was up with the lead group could have provided the missing drama. If either Penske car had finished ahead of the other and in at least third place, then the championship was theirs. Running over half a track behind his teammate wasn’t going to get it done for Spiderman.

Imagine if Helio had been up there in the lead group pulling away. While the Ganassi cars were cruising 1-2, Hornish and Castroneves would have been engaging in a surreal deathmatch for third place. Even more tension would be brought at the thought of them possible wrecking each other (they did it last year) and allowing the Ganassi cars to duel it out for the win as Wheldon would have clinched the title in such a scenario.

But it was not to be, as the black flag left Castroneves waaaaaaay off the pace for most of the day. A glimmer of hope was raised at the last yellow for debris (and damned if they didn’t actually show a piece of something being picked up be the track worker) which allowed Spiderman to close the gap. He quickly made work of the lapped cars ahead of him, nearly pushing Kanaan into the grass and Carpenter into the wall. But soon enough, Castroneves clipped something and started dropping back behind the lapped cars, and the drama was effectively over.

Like the race in Kentucky, the real battle was for fifth. As Tony Kanaan and Scott Sharp made strong bids along with rookie (for the last time) Jeff Simmons, it was Ed Carpenter George who finally secured a top 5 in just his 48th race. Statistically speaking, he was due.

So while he was driving as well as ever, Well Done – sniffling nose and all – seemed doomed to merely a win (I know, like half the field wouldn’t give some fingers and toes for a mere win). The Kiwi tried to make it entertaining by fighting his teammate for the lead, but eventually cooler heads prevailed and Dixon fell in behind Wheldon. And to think we were one black flag – or even a mid-race yellow – away from a race to remember.

Congratulations to Sam Hornish Jr on his third series championship, and to Dan Wheldon for his second win to bookend the 2006 season.

Ganassi Wins a 2006 IRL Championship

Posted by Iannucci | 9/10/2006 | 0 comments »
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Sorry about the misleading title, but this story showed up while waiting for the rain to cease in Illinois. The morning warmup is cancelled, which makes Old No 2 happy but gives me more time to go find obscure stories.

PaddockTalk reports Chef Anthony Puma of Target Chip Ganassi Racing won the league's annual Chili Cookoff, his second win in three years. The cookoff was part of a chartiable event, including raffles raising proceeds for IRL Kids, which provides child care of Indy Racing League and team personnel at venues.

Some of that chili should help clear up Dan Wheldon's sinus "bug" for the race. No truth to the rumor Roger Penske has offered Puma a multi-million dollar contract.

Attention IndyCar Race Fans

Posted by Iannucci | 9/09/2006 | 0 comments »
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As you may have noticed, I don't make predictions. Before races I like to go over driver or team records at a given track or review their performance over the last few races, but I am no Carnac the Magnificent. Besides, MoneyCJ did a fine job predicting Infineon.

However, I will make this prediction: in two days, after the four-way battle for the series championship at Chicagoland, you will start jonesing for more IndyCar excitement. You'll try to watch Champ Car, but the lack of passing will put you to sleep. You'll try to watch NASCAR...nah.

My friend, I have just the cure for you. Set your DVR, VCR or whatever to record ESPN2 this Thursday, September 14th, at 2pm Eastern for some EXTREMELY exciting Indy Pro action. If you haven't had the opportunity to watch these races populated by tomorrow's IndyCar drivers, then this should be a perfect introduction.

The Indy Pro cars go about 90% of the IndyCar series, but that's till 190 miles per hour. This weekend, most of the race involved having about eight cars within a half second of each other. Let me put it another way: about half the field was bumper-to-bumper, three wide, and everyone was passing everyone else! I was watching online thanks to Indycar.com, and I can tell you it was INSANE.

Yes, the hyperbole is deserved. The high-speed, wheel-to-wheel action that defines the Indy Racing League was on full display almost the entirety of today's Chicagoland 100 and I cannot make any greater recommendation that to simply say watch this race.

The broadcast will probably last only an hour, as the race is about 100 miles and has no pit stops. As an added bonus, one of the series championship contenders wrecks with another car and a Champ Car race, err, fight freaks out. The end is probably the most boring part, but the race still serves as another fine reason to have these contests broadcast. Quality racing all around.

And in case you want to cheat or impress your friends, you can find a nice race summary for Trackside Online here. Suffice it to say the league should do whatever it can to secure futures for Wade Cunningham, Jay Howard, and Jonathan Klein. These guys are incredible drivers, and you would do well to catch them in action for the last time this year.

Dario Has Lost His Mind

Posted by Iannucci | 9/09/2006 | 0 comments »
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As you can see from the pic provided in the article from SpeedTV, a lot of damage was inflicted to the vintage Jaguar Mr Judd was racing in over the weekend. While he's feeling "OK but tired" right now, Dario has given some more disturbing information about his concussion.

"I don’t really have any memory of the accident or about an hour leading up to the accident, so obviously it was a hard hit to the head.”
Mr Judd was still able to pump some E10 for folks yesterday and will be hanging with his teammates this weekend at Chicagoland, so here's to a continued speedy recovery.

5 Quick Questions: Marco Andretti

Posted by Iannucci | 9/09/2006 | 1 comments »
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It seems Indy Star reporter Curt Cavin enjoyed his 5QQ feature for My Name Is IRL so much he's using the format himself. No worries. I didn't invent the concept, and to be honest Cavin's probably better at it than me.

Take a moment to check Cavin's "Quick Questions" with Andretti 3.0 here.

Red Alert

Posted by Iannucci | 9/08/2006 | 2 comments »
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You can see why they call her “Red Hot Roni”.

While one Australian (Ryan Briscoe) appears to be done with the IRL, another is starting her career with the league. Indycar.com is reporting Veronica McCann, the, uh, attractive redhead from Down Under will be making her Indy Pro debut tomorrow in the Brian Stewart Racing #3 entry.

If you have stopped staring at the picture, here’s another with her bio. When you are done with that I’ll tell you McCann has twice finished third in the Western Australia Sprintcar state championships. And yes, she’s yet another graduate of the Lyn St. James’ Driver Development program.

Danica Sings, Aspirin Sales Soar

Posted by Iannucci | 9/08/2006 | 1 comments »
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Where is Simon Cowell when you really need him?

It wasn't quite as bad as the time a seemingly drunken Ozzie Osbourne (I know, that's redundant) took the microphone at Wrigley Field, but when Danica! took her turn on "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" on Thursday it was EXCRUCIATINGLY off-key.

Indycar.com covered the event. Listen, if you dare.

“I grew up a Cubs fan,” she said. “The promotion for the Chicagoland race and the series is great, but this is an opportunity I really wanted to do just for fun.”
Cubs fan, eh? No wonder she's able to take these winless races in stride.

Ryan Has a Different Hope

Posted by Iannucci | 9/08/2006 | 1 comments »
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Well, we may have seen the last of Ryan Briscoe in the Indy Racing League. According to CarsGuide.com, the 24-year-old Australian still has his eyes on Formula One, and he doesn't think driving on oval speedways is the way to get there.

Briscoe says he will not turn to the oval-based IRL series unless it is with a top team with the engineering brains needed for success and safety, but is also ruling out any full-time move to V8 Supercars in the immediate future.

"I am still committed to open-wheel racing in the US," he says.
Thank you very much, Dreyer & Reinbold, but see ya later. Considering last year he was FIRED from a top team (Ganassi) after crashing in 7 of 15 races, it seems highly unlikely he will get hired by one for 2007. One can only conclude he wants to spend his Sundays following the SeaBass in that other league.

The Fourth Was Not The First Choice

Posted by Iannucci | 9/08/2006 | 0 comments »
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Inside Track is reporting that former Indy Racing League regular Patrick Carpentier declined an offer to race for an IRL team this weekend in Chicago, and it doesn’t take too much deduction to figure out which team was asking.

Carpentier, currently associated with Mecachrome International, placed on hold an invitation to race with a top notch Indy Racing League (IRL) team this weekend in Chicago in order to pursue his dream of racing stock cars.

"Lately, I have been telling everyone that my future in racing lies in stock car," continued Carpentier, who will fly to Las Vegas this Saturday in order to enlist his daughter in primary school.

"I would have probably accepted the IRL team invitation, but I also had the opportunity to race again with Jacombs Racing. Between the two, I opted for the stock car event, but in the end, it simply did not work out. We tried every which way. I even delayed for a couple of days the enlistment of my daughter in school in order to try and race at Saint-Eustache."

This begs the question (which we will never know the answer) as to how many drivers declined to drive for Andretti Green Racing before AJ Foyt IV was given the ride. Not to slam Anthony, but there's no shortage of available skilled drivers who might have been better served to take that ride. Buddy Lazier, Stephan Gregoire, Ayrton Dare, Alex Barron, Felipe Giaffone, Max Papis - hey Andretti, Max is Italian for crying out loud!

PJ Chesson, PJ Jones, PJ Harvey...

More troubling is that a guy like Carpentier - who never finished higher than third in 17 IndyCar starts - would turn down an above-average car in order to keep his options open in CASCAR (that's not a typo). I suppose it's safe to say he's closed the door on his open wheel racing career.

I haven't seen the movie, but I am familiar with the French stock car driver "Jean Girrard" portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen in "Talladega Nights". With French Canadiens like Carpentier and Indy 500 winner Jacques Villenueve working towards NASCAR, this character is quickly going from absurd to prescient.

Teleconference Fun

Posted by Iannucci | 9/07/2006 | 0 comments »
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Every week the league provides Q & A teleconference sessions with drivers, engineers, or whoever where members of the press get to ask questions and participants get to give dull answers. This week was different, as all four of the IndyCar series championship contenders gathered in the same room, providing this memorable exchange. (Full transcript is here.)

Q. For Wheldon, of the two of them, given Sam's experience, is he the one to beat at this point in your mind?

DAN WHELDON: Helio is going to be mad at me because he can hear me say this, and he's right across the room from me. I think so personally. (Sam’s) very good on one and a half mile tracks. He's somebody I've raced with a lot on the one and a half mile tracks this year.

If I was a betting man, I'd be putting my money on him. At the same time with this track, you know, you never know because it can be so close.

Q. Dixon, if you could follow up on that question. If you were putting your money on one of those Penske guys, would it be Sam?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Scott, I can share with you the prize money if you have the right answer.

SCOTT DIXON: I don't know. Both of them are obviously very competitive.

Q. Come on.

SCOT DIXON: Over the past, it's got to be Sam, I think. Sorry, Helio.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: No faith in me, OK (laughter).

DAN WHELDON: Sam is giving us half a million each, so we're looking good.