D&R Hires Two Engineers

Posted by Iannucci | 10/31/2006 | 2 comments »
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Happy Halloween to Dreyer & Reinbold, who are announcing the hiring of two engineers (Chris Finch and John Dick) who have recently worked for Fernandez Racing.

Pardon me for reading tea leaves but this looks like D&R is planning on staying in the IRL. At the same time it also appears Fernandez Racing is a sinking ship.

Then again, it could mean neither of those things and simply be a coincidence.

UPDATE: D&R spokesman Klint Briney addresses today's news by simply saying "We have hired two engineers to add to our race team. At this time, we are exploring all options."

Looks like we'll just have to wait and see what happens next.

UPDATE 2: Here are some thoughts from IRL-Live.

While there have been no official announcements, rumors throughout the Indianapolis area combined with the fact that that Dick and Finch were available to DRR indicate the mothballing Adrian Fernandez IndyCar Series operation is imminent. Fernandez reportedly is holding on to some employees for his new ALMS LMP2 program backed by Acura, with the IndyCar Series program now waiting for sponsorship.

The unconfirmed exit of Fernandez from the IRL is not expected to have a direct effect on the IndyCar Series car count. Former Fernandez drivers Scott Sharp and Kosuke Matsuura have considerable personal backing and are expected to announce 2007 plans with different teams.

Sharp is expected to become a driver for Rahal Letterman Racing in a move that will also include his taking on the role of team manager. Matsuura, the beneficiary of Aguri Suzuki's ARTA program for Japanese driver development, is shopping his backing with a second Panther Racing car one of his leading opportunities.

Happy Birthday Buddy Lazier

Posted by Iannucci | 10/31/2006 | 0 comments »
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Born Robert Buddy Lazier in Vail, Colorado, on Halloween of 1967, Buddy was one of the more dominant drivers in the early days of the IRL. He has 8 career wins including the 1996 Indianapolis 500, in addition to being the series champ in 2000 and the runner up the following year.

From what I am told, he's probably skiing in Colorado today. Best wishes for a safe and happy day.

Alex Zanardi To Get F1 Test

Posted by Iannucci | 10/31/2006 | 1 comments »
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Although he never drove in the IRL, Alex Zanardi was a heck of an open-wheel driver before losing his legs in a grisly accident in Germany. Whether or not you were a fan of his exploits in Formula One or CART, Zanardi's story of survival was compelling enough to warrant following.

Now aided by prosthetics, Zanardi is racing and winning in the BMW in the World Touring Car Championship. For his efforts, he will now return to Formula One for a test in Germany.

"Of course, I know that I won't get a contract with the Formula One team," the 40-year-old Zanardi said. "However, having the chance to drive an F1 racer again is just incredible."
Amazing. Just over three years ago Zanardi actually returned to scene of his accident and drove several "ceremonial laps" in a modified vehicle. That is, if you can call 195 MPH a ceremonial speed.

Danica Finally Drives Something

Posted by Iannucci | 10/30/2006 | 1 comments »
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After a few months of promoting everything from arenas to rap stars, Danica! will finally be driving an actual race car on an actual race course. Backstretch Motorsports reports Mrs. Hospenthal will be joining Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger in testing at Daytona (the road course) for the upcoming Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series.

It's not an IndyCar, but it beats tooling down Michigan Avenue in the rain or doing donuts in a parking lot in Anaheim. Considering the good showings for Andretti Green on the road courses last season, taking a few right turns in any vehicle would seem to help Danica! notch that ever important first win in 2007.

Dan Wheldon In a Box

Posted by Iannucci | 10/30/2006 | 0 comments »
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This needs to be shared.

Dan Wheldon chuckles at memories of one particular Halloween costume he wore on the streets of Emberton, England.

“I went as dice (actually, a single die) when I was a kid,” the 2005 IndyCar Series champion said. “That was my favorite costume. My mom spent ages making the box and cutting all of the holes in it so that I would fit. That definitely is a costume I will always remember.”

It's Official: Hornish To Try Busch Races

Posted by Iannucci | 10/28/2006 | 0 comments »
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HAMPTON, Ga. -- IndyCar star Sam Hornish Jr. is the latest open-wheel driver ready to give NASCAR a try.

Hornish, a three-time IRL champion and this year's Indianapolis 500 winner, said Saturday he will attempt to qualify a Penske Racing South Dodge for the Busch Series races in November at Phoenix and Homestead. (MORE)
A related article from Motorsport gives IndyCar fans reason to delay any panic attacks.

With the recent defection of several open wheel drivers to NASCAR, Hornish was adamant that he had no immediate plan to move permanently to stock cars, "There's not a particular reason I am doing this, except to see if I can. To see if I can make a go of it, right now we are still going to focus 100% on the IndyCar side of it. I want to come out here and see if I can be competitive at it and depending on what happens, anything can happen in the future. But for the immediate future we are going to focus on IndyCar.

"Those are the things I came to Penske to originally accomplish, to run well in IndyCar."

D&R Exploring Move to CCWS

Posted by Iannucci | 10/27/2006 | 0 comments »
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MoneyCJ at So Damn Indy has discovered a nugget of info today in Curt Cavin’s most recent Pit Pass section in the Indy Star (did I get everyone credited properly?)

Robbie Buhl has explored moving the Indy-car team he co-owns with Dennis Reinbold to Champ Car, but the fact they own four IRL cars and love the Indy 500 might keep them put, he said. They visited Champ Car officials last month at Elkhart Lake.
An SDI follow up with D&R spokesperson Klint Briney yielded a big fat “no comment”.

This can’t be considered a surprise given the struggles the D&R team had recently with both succeeding at the track and with locating regular sponsorship. Recent reports indicate that it would be cheaper to field a Champ Car team than an IndyCar team in 2007, but costs are relational to sponsorship dollars.

So D&R is no doubt shopping it’s options to potential team sponsors, as well as sponsors of potential drivers. Given their history in the IndyCar series it would seem that would be their first choice, but if a fit can’t be worked out then it’s off to Plan B.

Here’s a thought: Sarah Fisher has driven for D&R and was recently paired with Katherine Legge in a karting endurance race. Given that Legge’s best finish in the CCWS this year was at the lone oval in the series (6th in Milwaukee), would it be possible to pair the two together as the first all-woman IndyCar team? D&R was a single-car operation in 2006, but surely there is no shortage of sponsors who would help to pair these two together.

I know: it would be nice to see, but easier said than done.

Hornish Testing In Iowa Today

Posted by Iannucci | 10/27/2006 | 0 comments »
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The Des Moines Register reports Sam Hornish Jr will be testing at Iowa Speedway today...in a Busch series stock car.

Report: Buddy Rice In Next Champ Car Race

Posted by Iannucci | 10/26/2006 | 4 comments »
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Warning: It's Robin Miller, so take it with a grain of salt.

Despite being groomed for a Champ Car ride, Buddy Rice never got the opportunity to race in that series after winning the Toyota Atlantic title.

But, next month in Mexico City, he'll finally get a shot.

SPEED has learned that the 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner has been tabbed by Gerry Forsythe to replace A.J. Allmendinger in the Champ Car season finale Nov. 12 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. (MORE)

UPDATE: Autosport is reporting that AJ Allmendinger hasn't heard from Forsythe about his status for the final Champ Car race in Mexico City.

Allmendinger told autosport.com: "I haven't spoken to Jerry since Monday, when I told him I was leaving. But he didn't mention then that I wasn't going to be at Mexico. In fact, I told him I'd love to do it for the No. 7 crew, and go out with a win and show my appreciation for all their hard work for me this year.

"However, it's still two weeks to go before Mexico, so I guess anything could happen. If Surfers was my last Champ Car race, then I'm sad. It wasn't the way I wanted to leave the series. I wanted to go out kicking ass, you know?"

5 Quick Questions: Brian Barnhart

Posted by Iannucci | 10/26/2006 | 1 comments »
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Dave Lewandowski at IndyCar.com gets "3 minutes with Brian Barnhart" a.k.a. with The President and COO of the IRL. Mostly softballs, but at least the wizard comes out from behind the curtain.

I know Barnhart is a busy man, but he should try to do more of this stuff. Talking is good. One thing to note about the piece: no questions about merging.

GQ Makes a List

Posted by Iannucci | 10/25/2006 | 2 comments »
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GQ has come out with a list (I'm so not linking this) of "16 of the Coolest Sports Heroes of All Time". Based on the web page I can only determine 15 of them, but here they are.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kevin Garnett
Chad Johnson
Magic Johnson
Willie Mays
John McEnroe
Joe Namath
Danica Patrick
Manny Ramirez
Mariano Rivera
Barry Sanders
Kelly Slater
Michael Vick
Ben Wallace
Shaun White

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but what the fudge does GQ know about cool athletes? I mean, shouldn't they be doing the "16 Best Dressed Athletes of All Time" instead?

At any rate, I have decided to make my own useless list. Here are the "16 Coolest Driver Names of All Time"

AJ Allmendinger
Milka Duno
John Force
Timo Glock
Buckshot Jones
Parnelli Jones
Mikka Hakkinen
Racer Kashima
Will Power
Willy T Ribbs
Lake Speed
Scott Speed
Tora Takagi
Dick Trickle
Jos Verstappen
Stan Wattles

All apologies to Mrs. Hospenthal, and feel free to add your own.

Mario Says Marco Is Now a Man

Posted by Iannucci | 10/25/2006 | 5 comments »
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From Autosport: some doting words from a loving grandfather:

"This year Marco had his debut in the IRL, he started it a rookie and ended it a man," Mario was quoted as saying by Gazzetta Dello Sport…"He was so smart and so patient to win the race," Mario said. "He drove well above his age, but he did that all year."
Also, some confusing words from a loving grandfather:

"I have a desire to put him at the wheel of an F1 car sooner or later," he said. "If the invitations will come, I'm sure he'll consider them."
Now, I understand that Formula One racing is still considered by many to be the pinnacle of auto racing, and there is nothing wrong with aiming for the top. But does Mario not remember what happened to his son Michael when he went to Formula One? It was only 13 years ago, but let’s refresh.

In 1993 and to much fanfare, Michael left CART to join the highly competitive McLaren team. This would be akin to the Ganassi team today inasmuch as it was one of two two-car teams (along with Williams) which had a solid shot at victory on race day. Michael’s teammate was the late Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian sensation who would win five of 16 races in 1993 but finish second in the championship to rival and former McLaren teammate Alain Prost.

Michael, however, was not nearly as successful. He completed three laps in his first three races and managed but a single podium in Monza, his 13th race. The finish was unimpressive, as McLaren fired him before the end of the season and replaced him with Mikka Hakkinen.

Take a moment to consider all the great American drivers in the last 25 years of Formula One racing…OK, you’re done. There are none. Not Eddie Cheever, not Scott Speed, not Danny Sullivan, and certainly not Michael Andretti. Anyone with any eyes can see that the likelihood of Marco succeeding in F1 is pretty much zip.

Perhaps is Ferrari comes knocking Marco might have a chance to stake a claim as a solid American F1 driver, but realistically you have to ask if it’s worth it. Right now Marco may be the second most recognizable face in American open-wheel racing, but if he goes to Formula One he becomes practically invisible in his homeland. Considering the minimal probability of success in F1, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to just throw away his current momentum for the folly of competing in Bernie Ecclestone’s hyper-political series.

I’m not telling Mario or Marco what to do; I’m just trying jog their Manly memories.

Allmendinger Going To NASCAR

Posted by Iannucci | 10/24/2006 | 6 comments »
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Bummer for them.

So this leaves Paul Newman as the last American affiliated with Champ Car, right?

Why Jeff Simmons Is Probably Staying

Posted by Iannucci | 10/24/2006 | 1 comments »
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Can we just have a moment of respect for the late Paul Dana? The intellectual effort this man had to put forth into bringing Ethanol into such a prominent role in the IRL is truly mind-boggling.

I was scanning the wires and found this Press Release for an appearance in North Carolina by “Rayhal Letterman” (sic) driver Jeff Simmons. As you know, Simmons inherited not just the #17 Ethanol car from Dana but also all the required discussions of Ethanol that accompanies that unique ride.

Jeff will be at Novozymes, proud sponsor of the Rayhal Letterman/EPIC team, to discuss his career in racing, the Series’ transition to ethanol and address performance issues.

The Indy Car series has pledged their commitment to alternative fuels by transitioning the league cars to ethanol by 2007. Novozymes’ enzymes and process technology are key to the production of economically viable ethanol both from starch and biomass.

Today it is cheaper and easier to produce ethanol from corn compared to biomass. Despite the fact that biomass feedstocks (agricultural waste such as corn stover, wheat straw or wood chips) are more abundant and not part of the nation’s food chain, it is still a challenge to cost-effectively collect these raw materials, and the processing cost is significantly higher. Over time and through the use of Novozymes technology, processing cost for biomass has decreased and will continue to decrease, making ethanol from biomass competitive with ethanol from corn. The larger the investment and the greater the potential for profitable business models, the faster economically-viable ethanol derived from biomass will be achieved.
Uh, OK. My mind is boggled.

Remember when drivers used to be drivers and not biochemists? Remember when PR appearances meant chatting up girls to bring their friends? No wonder Simmons was having trouble early last year – he was probably staying up late studying research papers.

As a parallel: do you think Uncle Sam has brushed up on tobacco litigation, or Sebastian Bourdais (his sponsor is McDonald’s) is ready to discuss trans fats? Just asking.

If Simmons has invested himself to the point of being able to discuss...this...as well as improve his driving performance, then I'm guessing he's still the guy for the job.

So. Not. Indy.

Posted by Iannucci | 10/24/2006 | 4 comments »
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Just so I could read follow along with any Pressdog recap, I tried once again to watch an entire Champ Car race this weekend. Here’s my brief summary of the events at Lexmark Indy 300 (yes, that’s the name) at Surfers Paradise, Australia:

Before the start they showed a drive through of the entire circuit, which appeared to be 2.7 miles of concrete-walled alley. Like a freaking tunnel. 95%of the track was able to handle one-wide. I mean, not only were they deterring passing, they were insuring it wouldn’t occur. The only part they cars could go two-wide was in the final turn before the start.

And even that didn’t happen. They cars started to bunch up in pairs to start, but only the first four rows did this as the rest of the cars were still halfway around the course. Brilliant. So they decide it better to start single-file (a.k.a. Parade Style) again and off they went. I waited nearly ten laps to see ANYONE pass.

Eventually someone pulled a fuel hose and started a fire in the pits. Someone else wrecked in a chicane. Some stalled on the course. Paul Tracy took out the leader. And I turned it off halfway through. I think some young French guy with long hair won.

Anyhow, there was more “news that is not news” from Austrailia as Kevin Kalkhoven said there is STILL no imminent merger, although he still talks with Tony George. This is like reporting the sun is STILL rising in the East, although the East and West are talking. The merger isn’t happening, and that’s a good thing.

In the course of reading a story about the “not news” and the race recap, I read this gushing profile of the dreadfully dull race from Autoweek.

Rapprochement with the IRL might happen or not; meantime, if you ask how a Champ Car World Series going it alone can possibly come up with its own signature event to counter the Indianapolis 500, you have to visit Surfers Paradise and see the prototype for yourself. Words can’t do justice to the spectacle the Aussies put on.

“Indy,” their one-word name for the four-day extravaganza, is not only five kinds of race cars roaring through concrete canyons, but exhibitions of drifting, and dragster burnouts, and motorcycle stunts as well. “The sexy, choreographed moves of the Donut King Dance Team” turns out to be girls on a flatbed truck circulating the track. Downtown is a Rio-style Carnaval plus a Miss Indy competition—and one for Mr. Indy, too. Just off the adjacent beach are races for surf rescue boats. Overhead, though not much, military helicopters frequently lap the circuit and once a day, an F-111 swing-wing jet fighter spears between the balconies at ear-splitting speed and then rears up to execute a “Dump ’n Burn,” a glorious profligacy of flaming fuel, Australia’s answer to a Space Shuttle launch. Here in Oz you get all this and a general wealth of sun, sea and smiles, plus beer and bared boobs. No, it’s not like being back home in Indiana.
Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun! Why did they bother to throw a boring Champ Car race into that party?

Seriously, this is what Champ Car does to prolong its existence: lots of flash, pizzazz, and festivity to compensate for an otherwise boring racing product. I know folks like me like to belabor the point that the IRL needs to market itself better because at it’s core it has a wonderfully entertaining racing product, but the truth is there is nowhere near this kind of festivity for races outside of Indianapolis.

I’m still totally against a merger, but I wouldn’t be against the acquisition of the CCWS marketing department. Champ Car races have no passing, no recognizable drivers, and no “I Am Mindy” song, and yet they still (allegedly) pull 100,000 fans a race. It’s like premiering a bad movie every week – if you can hype the snot out of it then you can make your money back.

The Dog Ate My Homework

Posted by Iannucci | 10/23/2006 | 3 comments »
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Allow me to offer my sincerest apologies for being so tardy at forwarding IRL news this week. This site isn’t about me, but I feel like you deserve to know that I didn’t turn into a total flake. This past week I have had an allergic reaction of some sort that left me with these annoyingly itchy blisters on my hands, which has made typing a royal pain.

For the time being, may I suggest setting aside a half hour and listening to the latest TSO Podcast with Joe and Patrick. They offer insight on the final schedule, the quietness of the Silly Season, and the absence of HDTV IndyCar broadcasts. If you’ve never heard them before, the Podcasts are chock full of with information and opinion. Although much of the time it sounds like listening to a wire tap of their phone conversation, it’s definitely worth your time to check these guys out. Even better: it’s free.

In the meantime, I’m going to slather on some more Vitamin E ointment. Ick.

Rahal Letterman Racing Adds ALMS Entry

Posted by Iannucci | 10/20/2006 | 0 comments »
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Earlier this week the intrepid folks at TrackSide Online noted earlier this sentence at the end of a RLR Press Release.

"In 2007 Rahal Letterman Racing will campaign two cars in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series and is exploring opportunities in other racing disciplines."
At the time TSO speculated this could mean Bobby was looking to front a Champ Car team, perhaps because he is doing everything he can to get his son Graham into the series. I would like to point out that Bobby said earlier this year he had no intention of owning a team that featured Graham as a driver, but I suppose people can change their minds.

Well, maybe not. Backstretch Motorsports (among others) reports that RLR will indeed be exploring other racing disciplines, except it is the GT2 category of the American LeMans Series. The team will use a new Porsche 911 GT3 RSR with an as yet undetermined driver.

Anyone need a ride? Ladies and Gentlemen, start your resumes.

Wheldon and Dixon Tour Children's Hospital

Posted by Iannucci | 10/20/2006 | 1 comments »
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Maybe I'm just a big softy, but I love reading stories like this.

Sure it's a puff piece in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, but it's the offseason and drivers like Dan and Scott could well be doing something else. Instead, they are checking out a charity (Target House) set up by their team's primary sponsor and cheering up some less-than-fortunate kids.

So, good for them.

The Dog and the Fisher Queen

Posted by Iannucci | 10/20/2006 | 0 comments »
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Read All About It.

More About That Racy Video

Posted by Iannucci | 10/19/2006 | 0 comments »
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For those who wonder why Dale Earnhardt Jr was chauffeuring around Jay-Z in that video while Danica! was driving a perfectly fine vehicle all by herself - we have an answer.


In case you didn't know, Junior's main sponsor is Budweiser. Now the Associated Press is reporting that Budweiser has named Mr. -Z as "co-brand director for Budweiser Select". So, that would explain why these two just started carpooling together in Monaco.

I don't want to spend anymore time on this, but does anyone think this leads to Beyonce (his longtime special friend) singing the national anthem at Daytona?

Everyone Loves NASCAR

Posted by Iannucci | 10/18/2006 | 2 comments »
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He's been gone for several year, but for many IndyCar fans it still stings to see former IRL poster boy Tony Stewart tear it up with the Bumping Behemoths. Other fans are proud of his accomplishments, feeling that it reflects well on the league. Still others are just happy to not have to deal with his grumpy mug anymore.

More drivers from the open wheel ranks have followed with varying degrees of success, but the fear of losing quality drivers to NASCAR has been around for nearly as long as the Indy Racing League.

Recent reports that Uncle Sam has begun testing stock cars has brought expected dread, as we've all been down this path before. But if it's any consolation - and admittedly it may not be - know this: we are not alone.

You know that Formula One is losing JP Montoya and probably Jacques Villenueve to NASCAR.

You know that Champ Car is likely losing AJ Allmendinger to NASCAR.

What you didn't know - and I am not making this up - is USAToday is reporting that 15-time motocross/supercross champ Ricky Carmichael is going to NASCAR. Maybe he figures if Jamie Little can make the transition from two wheels to four, so can he. OK, bad comparison.

So while Uncle Sam plots a possible course to the Cup series, know that he isn't alone, and perhaps the greatest hope for keeping him in the IndyCar series may be the possibility that 43 may not be enough to go around for all the drivers clamoring for a piece of the pie.

Sorry, that's as close to good news as this will get.

That Racy Video

Posted by Iannucci | 10/17/2006 | 5 comments »
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Football fan or not, just about everyone here in the Valley of the Sun checked out Monday Night Football this week to see what new and creative way the Cardinals would find to implode. One word: schadenfreude.

During halftime, ESPN showed a music video with highlights from the week’s NFL games, and this week the musical selection (I use that term loosely) was new video from Jay-Z. Yes, THAT new video, featuring Mrs. Hospenthal.

Now, the Indcar.com piece a few days ago mentioned that Danica! would appear driving around Monaco in the video, which she was. But they failed to mention that she would be racing against a car driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr, arguably the most famous face in NASCAR. And they also failed to mention that Dale would win whatever race they had, while Mr. -Z (if that’s a surname) was riding as a passenger in Junior’s car hollering “show me what ya got” over and over.

Oh dear. Does Paul know about this? Wait, there’s more.

"Getting a chance to appear in the new Jay-Z was a pretty cool opportunity," Patrick said. "I have been a big Jay-Z fan for a long time and to part of his comeback video is a thrill!"

So not only does Danica! get to appear losing to the stock car guy, she’s thanking the rapper for the opportunity. Here you go NASCAR fans: schadenfreude.

Rahal Letterman Adds A Brain

Posted by Iannucci | 10/17/2006 | 0 comments »
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Rahal Letterman Racing announced that Jay O’Connell has joined the team as Technical Director. O’Connell will oversee all aspects of RLR’s engineering department and programs.

O’Connell brings a wealth of engineering experience in and out of motorsports to RLR. He has worked on multiple projects with the Ford Motor Company, most recently as a SVT Chief Vehicle Engineer where he oversaw 25 engineers working on the 2007 Shelby GT500 and the 2006 Ford GT.

“Jay is someone I have known and respected for a long time,” said Bobby Rahal. “His track record of success is well documented and I felt a chance to bring someone of his experience and stature into our team was an opportunity to significantly strengthen our operation. I think the addition of Jay to our engineering staff will prove to be one of our most beneficial moves of the off season.” (MORE)

Hornish To Race Busch in 2006...Maybe

Posted by Iannucci | 10/15/2006 | 2 comments »
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This isn't exactly "news", but it's getting a lot of coverage.

Earlier this weekend, a wire story reported that Roger Penske was going to get Uncle Sam in a Busch Series race this year. Maybe even next month right here in Phoenix.

On a personal note, this falls under "adding insult to injury" since the IRL pulled out of Phoenix, and now I may be subjected to watching the reigning Indy 500 champion race A STOCK CAR on my local track. Ouch.

The story cited unidentified sources as saying The Captain has a plan to get Sam up and running in Cup races in 2008.

Anyhow, Penske is now refuting the story by saying Sam hasn't even tested a stock car yet and this is all premature. They are stating that there is a plan to "allow him to race stock cars" at some point - how vague is that?

The curious part of this why Hornish or Penske will not just say outright that they are or are not looking to move to Sam to NASCAR. Everyone knows drivers like Dan Wheldon and Marco Andretti would jump to Formula One in a heartbeat if given the chance, so if Sam really wants to drive the bumping behemoths - be it for money, fame, or simply more races - then go ahead and say so. If that is not the plan, then say that too.

This super-secret plan that may or may not involve the departure of three-time IndyCar champ is extremely tedious and totally unnecessary. Of course I'd love to see Uncle Sam continue to compete in the IRL, but it's his life and he can do whatever he wants.

2007 Schedule Update - Michigan

Posted by Iannucci | 10/13/2006 | 0 comments »
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And, we're done.

It only seems like it took the whole off-season to get this all settled.

The official 2007 total is 17 races.

March 24 at Homestead-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
July 22 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
August 5 at Michigan International Speedway
August 11 at Kentucky Speedway
August 26 at Infineon Raceway
September 2 at Belle Isle
September 9 at Chicagoland Speedway

ESPN Announcer Update – Arute Stays

Posted by Iannucci | 10/13/2006 | 2 comments »
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The announcement this week that Rusty Wallace, Jamie Little and Dr Jerry Punch would move from IRL coverage to NASCAR events in 2007 was alarming. While Rusty and Dr Punch have a lot of combined history with stock cars and Jamie deserves maximum exposure, I don’t think any IndyCar fan wanted to see the network completely disassemble the current team.

Well, speculation of a total mass exodus may be premature. Jack Arute was kind enough to let My Name Is IRL know that will he return for his 91st year of IndyCar coverage (OK, maybe not that long, but it does seem like he’s covered every race I’ve ever seen – and I was born in the sixties.)

Arute says he that as far as he knows Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear will remain, and that he expects to be joined in the pits in 2007 by Indianapolis sportscaster Vince Welch. Of course, it’s not Jack's job to set the roster so anything can change (including the addition of more personnel), but the expectation of keeping solid broadcasters like Arute, Reid and Goodyear is heartening.

One other thing Jack made clear: he didn’t want to cover the NASCAR events, stating he turned down the job. Perhaps it’s because NASCAR races eleven months a year or they have 43 pit stalls to cover or their races last five hours. Or maybe Jack’s just So Damn Indy.

Speaking of, click here to read Dan Wheldon’s sadness on the loss of Big Jamie.

2007 Schedule Update - Sonoma

Posted by Iannucci | 10/12/2006 | 0 comments »
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Oh joy, another road course announcement. The 2007 Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will be held August 26, leaving only a date for Michigan International Speedway to be announced. Trackside Online thinks it's the first weekend in August, but we will wait for the official announcment.

The official 2007 total is now up to 16 races.

March 24 at Homestead-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
July 22 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
August 11 at Kentucky Speedway
August 26 at Infineon Raceway
September 2 at Belle Isle
September 9 at Chicagoland Speedway

Today's announcement brings the total number of non-oval tracks in the IndyCar series to five. This recent outbreak of right-turns has left hardcore IRL fans wondering why the league keeps veering away from its oval roots. So what gives?

In the larger sense, it’s probably part of an “acting like a winner” strategy. This past year we heard many drivers and teams (as well as reporters and fans) chirping with extra volume about the need for a merger, and perhaps Brian Barnhart and the braintrust feel that adding more road courses that feature racing that looks like Champ Car will reduce the perceived need for unification. I don’t know this for certain, but if any of you see Mr. Barnhart feel free to ask him if that is the case.

In a microscopic sense, these five races were not added without purpose. Looking at the races individually shows how each one addresses a specific interest.

St. Petersburg – This race is presented by Andretti Green Promotions, so file this under “keep the four-car owner happy”.

Mid-Ohio – With so many Honda facilities in this part of Ohio, it was just a matter of time before the sole engine provider of the league helped the league to this track.

Watkins Glen – This is for the remaining IndyCar fans in New England, after the random wrecks at Dover Downs made that track of no use to the IRL.

Detroit – Roger Penske wanted it, and he’s perhaps the most prolific owner in the history of open-wheel racing in America.

Sonoma – Highly-populated Northern California needs to be served, plus the drivers and their wives love shopping in San Francisco.

So using this logic, if Chip Ganassi wants a race in streets of Pittsburgh then we’ll get that as well.

It’s no secret I’m not a big fan of the road and street races, but if the individual events draw crowds and serve other interests in the league then I can handle them. Just like if all this Danica PR helps expand the fan base of the league then it’s worth withstanding. Longtime fans in the viewing audience are ready to take a few for the team so long as another oval race is just around the corner.

But if the overall plan is to pull the CCWS audience out from under them by having road races then the IRL is chasing the wrong dog. They may think they can scoop up whatever remaining Champ Car fans there are by featuring a similar style of racing, but those few CCWS fanatics will give up their allegiance when you pry their cold, dead league from their cold, dead hands.

No, the opportunity for garnering more fans lies in the ranks of NASCAR.

Before you laugh too hard, understand that I never expect to see open-wheel racing pass NASCAR in popularity. The advantage to NASCAR a given, especially since the difference in the number of fans is so vast. Barring a scandal of race-fixing, there is absolutely no opportunity to completely overtake NASCAR.

But the fact is NASCAR is going international in all aspects, and some longtime fans are losing enthusiasm. I’m not trying to paint the fan base as xenophobic, but it’s true that much of the popularity of NASCAR has been having Americans driving American cars on American tracks. It’s more an issue of the comfort of that which is familiar than being about hating foreigners.

Now, consider that next year NASCAR will have races in Mexico City and Montreal. Next year several teams in the Cup series will be driving Toyotas. Next year Juan Pablo Montoya and perhaps Jacques Villenueve will be driving in that series as well.

Meanwhile the IRL still has only the Motegi race outside the US, and will feature Uncle Sam as the reigning Indy 500 and IndyCar series champion. The most popular driver is that American Girl in the Batmobile, and team owners such as Penske, Ganassi and Foyt are familiar in many ways to NASCAR fans as well.

I’m not saying anything IRL officials don’t already know because they already have displayed a piggy-back strategy with the Bumping Behemoths. They occasionally feature IndyCar events with Busch series races, and they have many races on ISC tracks, which are largely owned by NASCAR founders in the France family. The fact that Barnhart and company are eyeing a road race at Daytona shows they still have NASCAR on their minds.

But the addition of all these road courses not named “Daytona” does nothing to help attract American race fans in regions away from those courses. These events not only diminish the value of the best part of the entertainment, but they also remind any fickle NASCAR fans in the TV audience why they stopped watching CART a decade ago.

Whenever someone starts talking about adding another road race, look at this quote from a writer who covers NASCAR:

Is there anything in sports more thrilling than three-wide racing at Talladega? I don't think so.
Show this guy three-wide or even four-wide at Texas or Michigan or Chicagoland or wherever the IRL features actual passing in place of the slow-moving trains of restrictor-plated beasts at Talladega and this guy may likely change his tune. American fans love this stuff.

There is no three-wide on a road course – ever. American fans hate that stuff.

I'm not trying to start a riot or anything, but if you agree with me then let the league know here. This is just too much of a bad thing.

Obligatory Wheldon To F1 Rumor

Posted by Iannucci | 10/12/2006 | 0 comments »
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It wouldn't be the Silly Season without a report of at least one Formula One team talking with Well Done. I'm not saying it's not going to happen, but it's not like we haven't heard this before.

I don't know if this is Dan's way of keeping his name alive for Formula One consideration, or if those teams are just jerking his chain. Either way, this is getting rather tedious.

Still, you should know.

2007 Schedule Update - Mid-Ohio

Posted by Iannucci | 10/12/2006 | 0 comments »
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It's been almost two weeks, but we finally have one of the final three (presumably) announcements for 2007 schedule announcements. It's another road course.

The 2.258 mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is located not just in the heart of Ohio but also near to several Honda manufacturing facilities. The date of July 22nd was previously thought to be earmarked for Michigan, so this likely means something has been worked out with Michigan Speedway to switch to a different date.

Speaking of, the Detroit News reports folks in Michigan aren't to happy about that. Looks like Honda twisted the IRL's arm to get the Ohio date, and the league twisted Michigan's arm to accommodate Honda's request. That's kind of a shame, since bad weather resulted in very few fans seeing this year's race at Michigan International Speedway (both in person and on TV) and moving the IRL race so close to not only a NASCAR race but also the Detroit race sounds like a really bad idea if even for one year.

But, I guess they gotta do what they gotta do. In the meantime, still waiting on announcements for Michigan and Sonoma.

The official 2007 total is now up to 15 races.

March 24 at Homestead-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
July 22 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
August 11 at Kentucky Speedway
September 2 at Belle Isle
September 9 at Chicagoland Speedway

Geez, don't make any plans this summer.

Dr Henry Bock Retiring from IMS

Posted by Iannucci | 10/10/2006 | 1 comments »
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Dr. Henry Bock will retire as senior director of medical services for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League, effective Jan. 1, 2007.

Bock has served in that capacity at IMS since 1982 and for the IRL since it started competition in 1996. He will remain at IMS and the IRL as a medical and safety advisor. (MORE)
No, he's not being replaced by Dr Jerry Punch.

Ryan Briscoe, Champ Car Sub

Posted by Iannucci | 10/10/2006 | 1 comments »
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Ryan Briscoe must be pretty excited, not just because he gets to audition for a possible Champ Car job by driving for RuSport in place of the injured Cristiano da Matta, but because his debut will come in his native land of Australia.

"Because my official start will be in Surfer's Paradise, it will be a very special race for me," said the Aussie. "It's been my goal since the beginning of the year to race in Champ Car, and I'm with a top team, so it's a really exciting opportunity for me. I'm hoping we can get off to a quick start and get some good results right away."
Do you think Dreyer & Reinbold knew his goal "since the beginning of the year" was to race Champ Car?

Sharp Test Drives For Rahal

Posted by Iannucci | 10/09/2006 | 2 comments »
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Well, the source was mostly right.

Jeff Simmons was reported to be in attendance, but the Rahal driver joining Panther's Vitor Meira at Iowa Speedway today was actually the man rumored to be Jeff's teammate in 2007 - Scott Sharp.

Indycar.com had coverage in a story that freaked me out because it started with a description of a guy named Tom Enge who is NOT the former driver. Weird.

The Des Moines Register had more, including this sentence:

Sharp, who expects to sign with a new team in the near future, shared Meira's assessment.
Gee, I wonder which team THAT would be.

OK, if Scott is going to be the next RLR guy then we can all put on our thinking caps and surmise who might be able to land the coveted second driver at Panther Racing. If anyone will, that is.

Storm Clouds On a Sunday

Posted by Iannucci | 10/09/2006 | 2 comments »
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Now that the IndyCar season is over, I have all kinds of time on Sunday afternoons to do yard work. You should see how nice my lawn looks, especially since the frost will probably kill it all off next month. (Yes, it will get to freezing overnight in Phoenix – but it’s a dry cold.) However, yesterday I didn’t get do much more than mow the front yard.

As luck would have it, some ominous, lightening-spewing clouds rolled out shortly after I commenced my yard work. Instead of possible electrocution, I opted to go inside and experience the less-painful option of watching the conclusion of the NASCAR race at Talladega, which had an official sponsor that no one bothered to mention. NASCAR is all about sponsor names, but if the race is at either restrictor-plate haven of Daytona or Talladega then it’s sponsor be damned.

If you don’t know how the race finished, then just wait for the DVD of Pixar’s “Cars”. It’s very much the same ending, but with the addition of beer bottles being thrown on the track.

So why am I talking about NASCAR? Because other than the absurdly silly finish on Sunday, the big news in stock car racing was the performance of two open-wheel drivers.

Juan Pablo Montoya has the distinction of having the perfect IndyCar record (one race, one win at Indy), but he has spent the last few years scuffling around Formula One because he isn’t Michael Schumacher. This weekend Montoya drove in his debut ARCA race, which is his way of warming up to running in NASCAR next season for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Montoya is a quick learner and he showed he is still a pretty talented driver by finishing third in his debut.

As a side note, I have nothing against the Columbian-born Montoya or Target but wouldn’t it make sense to get this guy sponsored by a coffee-related company? It just makes too much sense.

Anyhow, while much of the focus on up-and-coming drivers was on Montoya, many missed the performance by Champ Car’s AJ Allmendinger. Allmendinger finished fifth this weekend in just his second Craftsman Truck series race, which is considered a higher level than ARCA. AJ’s top 5 may start scaring the you-know-what out of the CCWS folks since he is the only American in the series, and at second in the series championship standings he’s fine one at that. If he can fit a few more finishes like this in the final weeks of the Craftsman season, then it can be expected that he would skip Champ Car altogether next year.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m not happy about this migration to the Bumping Behemoths, because I’d rather see these guys stay in open-wheel racing. I would definitelyly prefer to see a quality American driver like Allmendinger in the IndyCar series. But as the level of competition rises for jobs in NASCAR, my hope as a fan is that IndyCar regulars like Uncle Sam will think twice before venturing into the ever-crowded pond of stock car competition.

Cue the storm cloud analogy.

Rusty, Jamie and Jerry Go NASCAR

Posted by Iannucci | 10/07/2006 | 4 comments »
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And to think, we were worried about Uncle Sam going to NASCAR. From the Charlotte Observer:

Dr. Jerry Punch, NASCAR veteran Rusty Wallace and former NASCAR champion crew chief Andy Petree are expected to take prominent roles in ESPN’s return to NASCAR coverage, The Charlotte Observer has learned.

Among the others taking part in the networks' race weekend and daily coverage of the sport are Allen Bestwick, Dave Burns, Jamie Little and Mike Massaro, multiple sources confirmed Saturday. Bestwick and Burns work with NBC currently, while Little and Massaro both work with ESPN. Little works with the Indy Racing League and Massaro with NASCAR.

ESPN and ABC are expected to officially introduce their team of on-air talent and producers during a news conference Thursday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.
I'm presuming this means they will not be covering IRL races in 2007, but you never know. Some folks work all over the place for broadcasts. It would be sad to no longer enjoy the company of Dr Punch and Big Jamie on race day.

At the same time, Rusty can go to where he belongs. I seriously doubt he would reciprocate in 2007 by busting out with "I tell you what, this is totally different from driving an IndyCar..."

Iowa, Meira, and the Unknown Driver

Posted by Iannucci | 10/06/2006 | 1 comments »
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The Des Moines Register says folks can head on over to the brand-spankin’-new Iowa Speedway this Monday to watch some testing by The Mirror Man and a driver to be named later.

Vitor Meira of Panther Racing and a driver representing Rahal Letterman Racing will drive Iowa Speedway's 7/8-mile asphalt surface Monday as part of an Indy Racing League tire test.

The public can watch the testing — slated for two sessions, 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. — from a viewing area situated near the northeast corner of the Newton track.
We just had Jeff Simmons conduct some tire testing at Indy for RLR, but to not specify the driver four days before sounds odd. This ambiguous announcement could mean they’re going to spring a 2007 contract announcement on us, or it could be they’re trying to talk someone into testing for them.

Simmons, again?
Graham Rahal?
None of the above?

Hey, if you can create suspense in the off-season then more power to ya.

UPDATE: I have received word that the RLR driver in Iowa will be Jeff Simmons. The source also said RLR is in negotiations with Scott Sharp and is leaning towards a two-car team with those two drivers in 2007. This is unconfirmed, preliminary, and you didn't see anything.

Kinda Like a Merger, But Better

Posted by Iannucci | 10/06/2006 | 5 comments »
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I have no idea what the 200 Mile TaG Endurance Race in New Castle, Indiana is (perhaps Joe from Trackside Online can shed some light in the comments), but the race will feature several former, current and future IndyCar series drivers.

Scott Dixon
Sarah Fisher
Jay Howard
Arie Luyendyk Jr
Robby McGehee
Tomas Scheckter
Jeff Simmons
Rick Treadway
Dan Wheldon

Pressdog has fallen all over himself because because The Fisher Queen has been paired with the Dame of Destruction, Ms. Katherine Legge. Yes, the IRL and Champ Car working together, as only ladies can. Can I get a team shirt for my daughter?

Doing Doughnuts Without Winning

Posted by Iannucci | 10/06/2006 | 1 comments »
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While several other drivers were conducting tire tests, you know who was off doing the PR thing in Anaheim to "christen" the Honda Center. I guess the term "christen" has been watered down to mean just about anything.

At any rate, Danica! made a grand entrance by doing doughnuts in the parking lot in perhaps her final ride in the Rahal Letterman Racing #16 car.

“It’s such an honor to be asked to help open Honda Center,” Patrick said. “Anaheim Arena Management has a great partner in Honda, as we’ve learned from their association with the IndyCar Series. If you want me back for more doughnuts, I’m fine with that.”
I know everyone has a different opinion of Danica!’s abilities, and as such related discussions are always fun. I try to categorize my opinions of her exploits as either The Celebrity or The Driver, not letting my view of one affect the other. I don’t think less (or more) of her as a driver just because she’s in every other commercial on raceday. However, there is one thing I’m noticing in the first month of the off-season that is making me simultaneously consider both sides of Mrs. Hospenthal.

What was heard repeatedly (and mocked repeatedly) at the press conference announcing her deal with Andretti Green Racing was that “she really, really wants to win”. OK, that’s fine. I neither doubt that nor think that makes her particularly special. But there has been testing in Daytona and Indy and there will be testing at Iowa Speedway, and there is no mention whatsoever of Danica!’s participation in any session.

Now, I'm sure a lot of this has to do with contracts. It's my understanding she's got a few more days as an RLR employee, and they probably don't want her on a track when they can have a guy like Jeff Simmons simultaneously test and audition. But the old axiom of “practice makes perfect” applies to drivers as well, and it would stand to reason that Mrs. “Really, Really Wants To Win” would be spending her fall and winter chewing up practice laps in her new Batmobile or a shifter kart or whatever four-wheeled vehicle she can find.

And yet, all I read lately of Danica! involves her doing interviews or PR events, which may be necessary but they do nothing towards the goal of helping her actually win a race.

Compare her to Uncle Sam, who is trying to log all the miles he can on road courses to make up for his few deficiencies even if it means driving ARCA cars. Sam doesn’t need to tell anyone because his actions let us know he really, really, REALLY wants to win. And he’s already proven to be capable of winning.

There are still several months of testing ahead, but I would think soon enough someone from AGR or Motorola would ask her if she would like to take a moment from pushing product and refine her driving skills before March. Otherwise she’s guaranteeing herself to be a bad investment, and will no doubt lose value as both a spokesperson and a driver.

Which means Danica! won't be doing any doughnuts in 2007.

Whenever, Wherever...Whatever

Posted by Iannucci | 10/05/2006 | 2 comments »
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The Los Angeles Times has a very uninformative story about the lack of series merger in 2007, as if this is news. You can read it at your own peril, but the one thing that caught my eye was the Champ Car schedule for next year provided at the end of the article.

I won’t reprint the full agenda, but I will say that for a series looking to lower expenditures the CCWS seems to be going crazy with their geography. They have 15 races in total, and seven of them are staged in the “Western” United States of California, Oregon, Nevada, Texas, Arizona and Colorado. That makes sense for them, but being in a Western state it bothers the snot outta me.

However, the rest of the schedule is literally all over the map. The only other US races are in Wisconsin and Cleveland, essentially conceding the majority of the country to other forms of racing. The rest of the schedule has three dates in Canada, as well as Mexico City, Australia and China.

This strategy reminds me of “Risk”, where you load up your armies in one or two regions (in this case the Western US and Canada) and then hold one piece of land in every continent so your opponents can’t fortify every round. Kevin Kalkhoven and his buddies may be good at that game, but this seems like a silly idea for a racing series that’s two years removed from bankruptcy.

Which is not to say the IRL is behaving very differently. Their 2007 schedule will focus most races in the Midwest while hosting a few events in other parts of the US as well as one in Japan. Still, the IndyCar series does have exposure in New York, California, Florida, Virginia and Texas, which means they haven’t yet conceded any heavily populated portion of the homeland.

Furthermore, Champ Car has the Australia date in October and the China date in May, which means TWO trans-Pacific trips. Far be it from me to tell these people how to run their series into the ground, but if they really intend to reduce costs that just seems like a really expensive idea.

For what it’s worth, that China date is May 20th – the last qualification day at Indy. There are no other CCWS dates between April 22nd and June 10th, so teams will conceivably have the choice of taking a crack at Indy or a slow boat to China. I know China has a billion people, but it would be folly to think many of them will be watching a Champ Car race. If you had a CCWS team with sponsorship from McDonalds or Wal-Mart, where do you think your sponsors would prefer you race in May?

Help Me, I've Been Hijacked

Posted by Iannucci | 10/04/2006 | 0 comments »
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I had no idea the name would be this popular.

OK, it's bad enough that some dude took a MySpace account using "My Name Is IRL", but now some clown is posting on the IndyStar message boards with the moniker.

Irl 2007

It's starting to look an awful lot like CART, minus the sponsors, talent, sexy cars, etc.

At least the IRL is finally proving that its creation was nothing more than a power-grab by Tony George. I can't wait to see the local short-track racers get their shot to race at Belle Isle.

Regular readers of this site know I would NEVER, EVER say anything so mindless. Please be aware that just because someone may post as "My Name Is IRL" on a message board, it doesn't necessarily mean it is from me, Jeff Iannucci.

Silly Season Update – Nothing To Report

Posted by Iannucci | 10/04/2006 | 0 comments »
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While drivers and teams continue their silly season courtship of looking for dance partners for the 2007 season, race fans are sitting around wondering where half the drivers from last year will be. While some drivers (Jeff Simmons, Dario Franchitti) are likely to return to their teams, others (Kosuke Matsuura, Buddy Rice) face uncertain futures. Negotiations are sensitive and ongoing for next year and still, one man holds the key to the future of every unsigned driver.

That man is Scott Sharp.

Scott is the lone driver with enough personal sponsorship backing to choose his future, and what racing team he joins will say a lot about how he wants to end his career.

Let’s face the fact that Scott is in the twilight of a very successful career. He’s no longer considered one of the top drivers, and rarely is he considered a serious contestant for victory lane. He has only two victories in the last five seasons, and his chances of adding a tenth career win seem slim. However, he’s still a good driver, and if he were to get with the right team he could return to the upper echelon of competitors.

Now is the time to decide what he wants to do with his remaining laps in the IndyCar series.

If his main motivation is to try for another IndyCar win, then his best shot is forming a second team with Panther Racing. Although winless in 2006, Panther showed to be the most competitive team for the Red and White Brigade of Penske and Ganassi drivers.

If he wants to add to his financial future, then he might be better served forming his own team. Scott is talented enough to safely run with a low-budget team, and as someone who has been around the IRL since it’s inception he would appear to be a likely candidate for becoming a team owner.

If he wants to stay loyal, then he can remain with Fernandez Racing. There is a dollar value too comfort, and if he enjoyed the staff from this past year he may return if he isn’t overwhelmed with an offer to go elsewhere.

If he wants to take a shot at returning a big name team to excellence, then he should go with Rahal Letterman Racing. Rahal had a horrendous series of bad luck last season, and Scott could choose to lead the RLR resurgence to contention.

It would stand to reason Scott is still considering all of these options, but in doing so he is keeping many other drivers in a holding pattern. Just about all of the free agents would love to get an agreement from any of these teams, and yet those teams probably have Scott at the top of the “best available” list of free agents.

So Scott, can we get this ball rolling? I don’t want to rush you, but it’s October and there are careers hanging in the balance. If you don’t make a decision soon then other drivers with uncertain futures may decide to take offers to drive in a different series.

And from a purely selfish standpoint, it would give me some actual news to report. As it is I have to sit around and waste a few hundred words by discussing what is NOT happening.

Happy Birthday Sarah Fisher

Posted by Iannucci | 10/04/2006 | 1 comments »
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Best Wishes to Sarah Marie Fisher, born October 4th, 1980 in Commercial Point, Ohio.

2006 saw the return of the Fisher Queen to the IndyCar series, and hopefully she can secure some sponsorship from companies that realize her durable popularity. We need you back in 2007 to help offset all the coverage of that other driver who happened to start next to you twice this year.

How Roger Gets What He Wants

Posted by Iannucci | 10/03/2006 | 0 comments »
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If someone were to ask how a guy like Roger Penske can just get a race added at Belle Isle while no one was really asking for another event in Michigan, you would probably say "money talks".

You would be right. Mike Brudenell of the Detroit Free Press explains.

Council members made it clear the city would not be the scapegoat if there was a shortage of money once the IRL left town for the next race.

Penske, owner of this year's championship-winning IRL team, looked council members square in the eye. He said he'd cough up cash of his own toward the race, which, he said, would cost the city $1.5 million. He'd help with Belle Isle improvements and would go to Lansing, if necessary, to lobby for funds for
the race.

It's amazing what people will do if they think it won't cost them anything. I'd love to see a successful race next Labor Day weekend, but for now I'm looking at that date with a bit of skepticism. As has been noted before, the Belle Isle was previously home to some pretty dull races.

Let's hope The Captain gets it right and doesn't have to "cough up the cash".

25 Quick Questions: Jamie Little

Posted by Iannucci | 10/03/2006 | 0 comments »
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MoneyCJ of So Damn Indy has a nice, long Q & A with the ever-popular Big Jamie Little. Pour yourself a glass of Chardonnay (her beverage of choice) and spend some time with her.

Here's my favorite sample for obvious reasons:

SDI: As you have (Ed Note: unfortunately) learned, there's a small, dedicated, and growing cabal of INDY bloggers out there...do you ever read the blogs? Does anyone else in the league read them as far as you know? Do they love us or hate us?

JL: To be honest, I'm always scared to read blogs whether it be motorcycles or IndyCar. I just hate reading the negative stuff that has my name attached to it!!! But I like reading it with other people's names!! It's like reading US Weekly! Once you start reading, you can't stop!! Yes, I can say people who are "inside" the league read the blogs and often times, they take the opinions of those writing seriously. If you guys say you like something or hate something from the broadcast, one way or another it will get back to us. Weird how it works but I think bloggers (and people who voice their opinions in magazines or other forms of racing-related media) are the voice of the average fan.

Much love, and a big hug.

Meira Doing What Meira Does

Posted by Iannucci | 10/03/2006 | 1 comments »
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If there is a podium, the Mirror Man will find it in 2006.

Fresh from last week’s IndyCar testing session at Daytona, Vitor Meira joined Highcroft Racing team owner Duncan Dayton and former IndyCar driver Memo Gidley in finishing third at this weekend’s Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta Motor Sports Center. Auto Racing Daily provided coverage of the 10-hour race, which was televised live on SpeedTV for those who wanted to experience their own form of endurance.

Meira's podium was even more remarkable, as he'd never even seen an ALMS race before this weekend, nor had he ever been to Road Atlanta. He only did one stint, albeit a double, but the Indy Racing League IndyCar star from Brasilia, Brazil and Indianapolis went home a podium finisher in the top class in one of endurance sports car racing's premier events.
Is there anything this guy can’t drive well? If he can just up and drive to third place in an endurance race of a series he has never before SEEN, then I’m thinking he’s good for a medal finish driving for a Brazilian bobsled team.

Like John Barnes, the owner of Meira’s Panther Racing #4 said:

"Panther can't see anybody driving the 4 car but Vitor Meira," Barnes stated. "I can tell you, it would cost me my house and home and everything else, my wife would divorce me if he wasn't driving our car. We all love him. We definitely think he'll be in the car for us next year."
Reviewing again: Despite being winless in his career, Meira finished on the podium six times in 14 races in 2006. He also finished sixth or better in nine of the last ten races.

Ethanol-Powered Testing at IMS

Posted by Iannucci | 10/02/2006 | 0 comments »
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Jeff Simmons and Tony Kanaan got to test the new 3.5-liter, ethanol-only Honda engine today in Indianapolis, and it sounds like everyone is pleased with the new engine.

“There’s a difference, and it’s all been positive so far,” Simmons said. “It’s great to be one of the guys to have the chance to run the new motor next year with the 100 percent ethanol.

“It seems to me, so far, we’ve got a broader power band. We’re going through the corners better. It allows us to do some things with gearing whereas you had to be really precise with the gearing last year. We’re able (today) to pull some really good speed even if we’re a little off on the gearing.”
This from a guy who despite his teams best efforts was spending a lot of time behind other cars.

Dan Wheldon and Helio Castroneves were also making test runs, although they were using last-year's 3.0-liter engine. Wheldon got dramatic with his description of the Brickyard.
“I’ve seen this place (the Speedway) be absolutely great to me, and I’ve seen it wrench my heart from my body,” Wheldon said. “Hopefully it won’t do that again, and this (test) is a good step for making us competitive for next year.”
He's a regular Robert Frost with the words, that guy.