Chesson May Be Back

Posted by Iannucci | 12/28/2006 | 1 comments »
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I’ve sat on this for a week because it’s a report from Robin Miller over at SpeedTV, but since Curt Cavin gave this story a brief nod recently it’s worth noting. You might recall Mr. Miller has some credibility issues (most recently with his Mr Judd to Champ Car story) so take be sure to file this under “hopeful possibility” until a press conference is called.

It would appear that Gene Simmons and his band of merry marketers have finally managed to contribute something positive to the IRL, saving both a driver and a team in the process. Sprint car wizard PJ Chesson – who was last seen crashing into his teammate on the second lap of the Indy 500 – may be given a second chance in IndyCar with the recently shut down Fernandez Racing team. Fernandez laid off many their employees after both Scott Sharp and Kosuke Matsuura jumped ship, but it would appear The Illustrated Man has landed a sponsor to help sustain the team for 2007.

"There's a lot of paperwork flying around and it looks like a legitimate multi-year deal with a solid sponsor," said Tom Anderson, the co-owner of Fernandez Racing. "I'd say right now it's about 75-25 it's going to happen."

"Actually, Gene Simmons and Richard Abramson brought the deal to the IRL in conjunction with Just Marketing and, because of the demographics of the sponsor, they decided P.J. Chesson was their man," said Anderson.

"They were kind enough to contact us and we're hoping to get this thing finalized. We've still got all our cars and equipment and I've been talking on the phone with some of the guys we had to let go and told them 'It's getting closer.'"
Now keep in mind this is the same Tom Anderson who said in July the odds were “80% or better” that the team would retain Sharp and Matsuura, and this is the same Simmons and Abramson who actively failed to land a sponsor for Chesson when he was with Hemelgarn. Oops. It would be prudent to avoid holding one’s breath until this actually occurs.

Chesson is an energetic presence in racing, and until last year Fernandez was a competitive team, so keeping these folks around is ultimately good for the IndyCar series. That is assuming The Illustrated Man figures out how to actually finish a race.

If this deal does in fact come to fruitiion then deserved praise should be given to Simmons, Abramson, et al for matching a driver with sponsor and a team. Now if they could just lend some help getting Sarah Fisher, Buddy Rice, and Wade Cunningham into the IndyCar series in 2007 we’d be getting somewhere.

Ganassi Starts Indy Pro Team

Posted by Iannucci | 12/26/2006 | 0 comments »
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One news item that happened like a week ago (I totally whiffed this) was that announcement by Chip Ganassi that he will be firing up a two-car Indy Pro team next season. This brings the Indy Pro grid to roughly 140 entries…ok, not that much, but it should be more than the IndyCar series tally of 18-20 cars.

“I am excited about this,” team owner Chip Ganassi said. “Despite the fact that we are involved in a number of racing leagues, I am a big proponent of open-wheel racing in the U.S. I feel it is a great form of racing, and anything that we can do as an organization to help cultivate young talent in the cars and also in the garage is a benefit to us as a team and the open wheel racing industry.”
I know Mr. Ganassi was talking about investing in open-wheel racing and I don’t doubt that he means that, but part of me also knows how competitive he is and how stung he was by the marginal title loss he suffered this past season to Team Penske. And as competitive as he is I don’t think the primary goal of this venture is to win at Indy Pro, because while Chris Festa is a nice driver and Pablo (another Ganassi Pablo!) Perez could be a find he could have found more proven drivers available.

No, the creation of this Indy Pro team would seem to be a tactical move aimed at claiming the IndyCar series title. By forming the junior team Target Chip Ganassi Racing will be allowed to perform extra practice during the season at certain race tracks. This extra practice proved to be an advantage in 2006 for Andretti Green racing as the extra test time paid off in a win for Tony Kanaan in Milwaukee. So considering how damaging the poor showing of the Target cars on smaller tracks was in 2006 it would seem to be a worthwhile investment of a few hundred thousand dollars towards the million dollar payoff of a series title.

BTW – anyone else hear the phrase “Target Chip Ganassi Racing” so frequently that you think Chip’s first name is Target? Is that just me? OK, sorry.

Santa Loves Me

Posted by Iannucci | 12/25/2006 | 0 comments »
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Season’s Greetings and I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas yesterday. I know I did, because my father-in-law got tickets for my oldest daughter – now known as “P1” – and I to go to Indy this year (woo-hoo!) and my wife and mom teamed up for some Bondurant gift certificates (WOOO-HOOO!).

Yes friends, I’m not anything close to a “real driver” but the sponsorship came through and I scored myself a ride…kinda sorta. I have several options but I think I might take a few hours out and lap the oval at PIR this February. Mash gas, turn left, repeat...right? Hey, they got a SAFER barrier so wall-avoidance is merely a secondary concern.

One weird note: my wife said the Bondurant sales rep recognized my name because he reads this site! Wow, was that humbling (although apparently not humbling enough to give her a discount). Still, it’s great to know there are actual IndyCar fans out there who take the time to read this stuff, because I would hate to think Pressdog and MoneyCJ were just making up identities and leaving comments to make me feel good.

Anyhow, this is my way of saying thanks for reading and sharing the love here – even the disagreeing kind. It’s all welcome all the time, and as a fan stuck in the desert the discussions are always appreciated.

OK, enough mush. Back to actual news.

It’s Great To Be Castroneves

Posted by Iannucci | 12/21/2006 | 1 comments »
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There are times I see Helio Castroneves and think of something similar to the words Dan Wheldon used earlier this summer while joking with a fan. “You can’t see through that act?” I mean, no one can be that happy all the time, right? It’s gotta be an act, right?

You know, maybe he is in fact just a really happy dude having a really good time. Consider his offseason, which hasn’t exactly been spent lying on the couch eating Cheetos. After finishing a mere two points short of first IndyCar series title, Spiderman experienced a similar ending as the owner of a Brazilian stock car team. (Gentlemen, start your NASCAR rumors!) Nasr Castroneves driver Hoover Orsi entered the final race in Sao Paulo in second place in the series standings before an early race incident forced a premature exit from the track. Like his owner in IndyCar, Orsi ended the season in third place.

I don’t know what is more interesting: the image of an energetic Castroneves barking directions to his team, or noting he has a driver named Hoover. Anyone else think having a name synonymous with vacuum cleaners would mean that poor guy lives through more than his share of “You suck!” jokes? I don’t know – maybe it doesn’t translate so well in Portuguese.

Still, third place is a sign of a solid season in any league, so congratulations to Spiderman on his solid year of ownership.

In other news, Mr. Castroneves will soon be sporting a Mrs. Castroneves after becoming engaged to his longtime girlfriend around Thanksgiving. They are scheduled to be married around the same time next year. Sadly there is no tear-jerking video of the event like there was for the melted Iceman a few weeks ago. In the meantime we shall wait to see if Helio and his groomsmen will climb a nearby fence at the conclusion of his wedding.

And now that all these frivolous diversions are wrapped up (come on, it’s sarcasm), Helio has gotten down to business by recently testing his Team Penske entry at Homestead. Castroneves was preparing for the season opener along with Tomas Scheckter (the not quite yet maybe still Vision Racing driver), Jonathan Klein (the still in Indy Pro for now driver), and *gasp* Danica! and her batmobile!

I can now end my hunger strike. No more Danica! driving jokes until the end of next year. Promise.

Danica Meets Chopper

Posted by Iannucci | 12/18/2006 | 2 comments »
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Well, now we know what Danica! will have under the tree this Christmas. A press release for the upcoming season of America Chopper contained the following tidbit.

Besides the production bike build-off between Paul Jr. and Paul Sr., some of the other builds featured in the new episodes on TLC include an Indy racing-inspired bike with Danica Patrick for and a Peavey Amps chopper.
I mean no offense, but is she even big enought to ride a chopper? I guess we shall find out.

While we all eagerly await this exciting episode, remember Mrs. Hospenthal has some outstanding tips for keeping your car in top shape this winter. Her #1 tip? Check the antifreeze, of course.

My favorite tip is to keep the gas tank half-full. This is very important, especially when driving in Michigan.

Another Race, Another Team For 2007

Posted by Iannucci | 12/15/2006 | 2 comments »
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Curt Cavin says not only will Cahill Racing show up in 2007 as a two-car, full-season team, but also that there will be an additional (non-points) race marketed by Larry Cahill and Marquis Sports Marketing in Biloxi, Mississippi next year. Yes, I said Mississippi.

Cahill Racing has signed sports car driver Milka Duno, a female from Venezuela, and is nearing a deal with sprint car driver Jeff Matrisin.
Merry Christmas, everyone!

UPDATE: It appears Mr. Cavin has a typo that I copied over. The other driver is probably Jeff Mitrisin of Oskaloosa, IA - nicknamed "The Magician". As someone who has had his name chopped up more often than not, I sincerely apologize.

AGR Sponsor In Trouble

Posted by Iannucci | 12/15/2006 | 3 comments »
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Crain’s Chicago Business is reporting that Richard T. Klein Jr has been ousted as chairman of Klein Tools. Reportedly Klein was told last August by board members that include his brother and cousin that he needed to resign his post from the family-owned company. Klein says he was told his management style was creating a stressful workplace.

The article states that the company “is known in racing circles for sponsoring a successful IndyCar team”, but that’s only part of the story. Klein Tools has not only served as the sponsor for the fourth Andretti-Green car for a number of years, but also as sponsor for Indy Pro series runner-up Jonathan Klein – son of Richard T. Klein.

It would appear this corporate upheaval is what is delaying the announcement of the fourth AGR IndyCar entry, which is believed to again feature Dario Franchitti. This boardroom chaos could also throw into question sponsorship arrangements for Jonathan Klein, who is planning to return to IndyPro in 2007 in search of his first victory.

The elder Klein has reportedly filed a lawsuit against Klein Tools for conspiracy, breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation. He is seeking $25 million in damages, so there might be a few less presents among members of the Klein family this holiday season.

Happy Birthday Marty Roth

Posted by Iannucci | 12/15/2006 | 1 comments »
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Best wishes to Marty Roth on his 48th birthday, born December 15th of 1958 in Toronto. Seeing Roth in the IndyCar series this past year always made me think of this song by Cake.

Reluctantly crouched at the starting line
Engines pumping and thumping in time
The green light flashes, the flags go up
Churning and burning they yearn for the cup

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank
Fuels burning fast on an empty tank
Reckless and wild, they pour through the turns
Their prowess is potent and secretly stern

As they speed through the finish, the flags go down
The fans get up and they get out of town
The arena is empty except for one man
Still driving and striving as fast as he can

The sun has gone down and the moon has come up
Not long ago somebody left with the cup
But he's driving and striving an hugging the turns
And thinking of someone for who he still burns

He's going the distance
He's going for speed
She's all alone, all alone, all alone in a time of need

Because he's racing and pacing and plotting the course
He's fighting and biting and riding on his horse
He's going the distance

No trophies, no flowers, no flashbulbs, no lime
He's haunted by something he cannot define
Bowel shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse
Assail him and bail him with monster truck force

In his mind he's still driving, still making the grade
She's hoping in time that her memories will fade
'Cause he's racing and pacing and plotting the course
He's fighting and biting and riding on his horse

The sun has gone down and the moon has come up
Not long ago somebody left with the cup
But he's striving and driving and hugging the turns
And thinking of someone for who he still burns

'Cause he's going the distance,
He's going for speed
She's all alone
All alone
All alone
In a time of need

Because he's racing and pacing and plotting the course
He's fighting and biting and riding on his horse
He's racing and pacing and plotting the course
He's fighting and biting and ridding on his horse
He's going the distance
He's going for speed
He's going the distance

Quote of the Day

Posted by Iannucci | 12/15/2006 | 1 comments »
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From Andretti 3.0, courtesy of PaddockTalk.

"To win the world championship in Formula One is the thing I desire the most...In a perfect world, with the last two years of my contract with Dad, I would like to win the Indy 500 and then come to Europe."
Well, good that we've cleared that up. I've already offered my thoughts on the subject so no sense in stirring the pot again.

Panther Hires Second Aguri Driver

Posted by Iannucci | 12/14/2006 | 0 comments »
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It would appear that despite going winless in 2006 John Barnes and the Panther Racing Team have now conquered the nation of Japan.

In addition to landing assistance from Aguri Suzuki AND the Panasonic sponsorship AND driver Kosuke Matsuura they have now also produced a partnership with Aguri to develop another of his drivers: Hideki Mutoh. From the press release:

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 12, 2006) – Super Aguri Panther Racing announced today that it has signed 2003 Formula Dream Champion Hideki Mutoh to drive its Indy Pro Series entry for the 2007 season. This marks Panther Racing’s return to the Indy Racing League’s developmental series, after the team won a dominant championship in 2003 with Mark Taylor, who won seven of the 11 races in which he competed that season.

Mutoh, a 24-year-old from Tokyo, Japan, is a veteran of the Formula Ford, Formula Dream, Asian Formula 2000 and the Japanese Formula 3 series. Most recently, in 2006, Mutoh competed in both Formula Nippon and the Super GT Championship, where he started from the pole and won his final race at Fuji Speedway.
You think Kosuke might have some job security issues? It's one thing to know you could get fired for underperforming, but it is entirely another to have a guy working for the same boss being groomed to replace you. Chances are Matsuura has decals on his mirrors reading "OBJECTS ON TEAM ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR".

Still, it's good to see more teams like Panther conducting dual participation in both series in the IRL. Any of the tens of people who watched the Indy Pro races this past season would tell you they were often more exciting than the IndyCar features.

Possible Scheckter News

Posted by Iannucci | 12/14/2006 | 0 comments »
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I was perusing the preview for the Snap On Stars of Karting All-Star event today (featuring Bryan Herta, Buddy Rice, Anthony Foyt, Bryan Herta AND the world-famous Memo Gidley) in Orlando when I saw this line.

Tomas Scheckter from the IndyCar Series was originally slated to be aboard a First Kart, but was called into testing action for Vision Racing.
Hmm, maybe the Wrecker was called to renew his contract as well. Maybe I'll check the Vision Racing web site to see if...oh wait, they don't have a site. I will now resume banging my head against the wall.

Bring Back Tony Stewart (the Owner)

Posted by Iannucci | 12/14/2006 | 1 comments »
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Forgive me for a moment but I’m about to ask a really stupid question. I read this story about how Tony Stewart is partnering with Chevrolet to sponsor his USAC and World of Outlaws teams, and it correctly points out Stewart’s longstanding relationship with General Motors. Tony’s cars in the IRL were powered by Oldsmobile and since switching to NASCAR he has driven Pontiacs and Chevrolets.

Note the Indiana native made this announcement at the Brickyard. So here is the stupid question: Could Tony Stewart be worth more to the future of the Indy Racing League now than he ever was as a driver in the series?

Maybe my memory has gone fuzzy, but it’s been a long time since I recall reading about any kind of partnership between an engine manufacturer and a driver. Sure, NASCAR has flagship owners like Evernham for Dodge and Roush for Ford, but there is no such marquee driver for the auto makers. I understand that this sponsorship is strictly for Stewart’s non-NASCAR teams and not really an endorsement of him as The Official Driver of Chevrolet, but still the relationship exists and goes beyond simply a Cup series champion and a manufacturer.

And with good reason, since Stewart is one of only a handful of drivers who exist in the upper strata of NASCAR personalities. In fact, he probably brings an exceptional amount of attention to his personal teams just on name alone. Which brings me to the IRL. I would venture to guess that despite all the publicity around Danica!, should Stewart decide to do something freakish like announce he wants to race IndyCars next year he would instantly become the most popular driver in the series. Mrs. Hospenthal has lots of exposure, but her appeal pales in comparison those of drivers like Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhart Jr.

Now, before you think I’m going batty I will fully acknowledge there is ZERO chance of Stewart switching series. That’s not what I am getting at here. However, if a good Hoosier boy like Tony is willing to invest in a World of Outlaw team and a USAC team as an owner then it’s not completely inconceivable to think he might at some point invest in an IndyCar team - which is where I am going with this. He was a previous owner in the dismal Tri-Star racing, but as they say with mutual funds past performance is not indicative of future results.

Surely someone has asked Mr. Smoke recently, but it would be nice to know if Stewart would consider using the leverage of his name and fan base to stake out another presence in the IRL. And even more so, perhaps he could be the kind of guy to talk General Motors into considering returning to the league. If he can talk them into sponsoring his other rides then you know he at least has their ear.

I have nothing against Honda and think they have been spectacular for the series, but it would seem a stretch to consider them delighted with the idea of being the sole engine manufacturer for years to come. Companies get into these leagues to compete against other companies and not just themselves. I’m also all too aware that not only did GM cite a lack of return on their previous IRL investment when they departed in 2004 but also the current financial problems plaguing domestic auto manufactures.

But I can’t stick my head in the sand and wish any current problems away and at some point the IRL will need another type of engine. GM seems a logical possibility.

Maybe I’m reading too much into Roger Penske’s successful campaign to add an IRL event in Detroit, but perhaps the man who owned several Indy 500 winners powered by GM is trying to woo back the engine manufacturer himself. If that’s the case then it is possible a guy like Stewart could help seal the deal.

Of course, my whole premise is predicated on the belief that both Stewart and GM would want to come back to IndyCar racing and neither is very likely at this point in time. Without any real fiscal incentive it would be folly to believe they would. But still, a fan like me can dream.

Marco Gets Honda Formula One Test

Posted by Iannucci | 12/11/2006 | 0 comments »
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LONDON, England -- A third generation of the Andretti motor racing dynasty is set to make his mark in the elite world of Formula One.

Marco Andretti, the 19-year-old grandson of Mario Andretti and son of Michael, will test for Honda in Jerez, Spain this week.

"It will be a pleasure for us to give him the chance of his first experience of Formula One," Honda team sporting director Gil de Ferran said.(MORE)
As they say on TV, "This is only a test. If this had been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed to tune to one of the broadcast stations in your area."

Michael Andretti Thinking Indy Again

Posted by Iannucci | 12/11/2006 | 0 comments »
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Now this is good news.

Over the weekend Indy Star and Yahoo Sports both revealed that Michael Andretti is all but announced his entry for the 2007 Indy 500. Buoyed by his third-place performance last year, Andretti 2.0 is looking to lock up sponsorship to help him get back at the brickyard.

Finding a sponsor for Michael’s car could be a problem since AGR already has acquired every possible sponsor on the earth…sorry, I thought I was Pressdog for a moment there. Seriously, given his connections and recent performance Michael should have his sponsorship deal settled by lunch.

As much as I would appreciate a victory by any driver, it would stand to reason the IRL will secretly be hoping that one of three AGR drivers will be guzzling milk at the conclusion of Indy 500 next year. The best possible news for the league would be a victory by either Marco, Michael or Danica!. Should any of those three drivers win that particular race then it would be front-page material for all sorts of publications – but you already know that.

Alright, I’m usually an impartial observer, but as I noted in May it’s no secret I’ll be cheering for those drivers at the brickyard.

TSO: Cabbie Racing To Announce Entry

Posted by Iannucci | 12/11/2006 | 0 comments »
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Trackside Online is reporting that Cabbie Motorsports is close to announcing an entry for the 2007 Indy 500. The team is expected to be backed by Sirius satellite radio, which brings up a possible duel of radio on the track with Andretti Green’s XM sponsorships.

MoneyCJ at So Damn Indy is crossing his fingers that PJ Chesson will be their driver. Chesson would make sense on a personality level and is certainly a marketable driver for the network of Howard Stern, but he definitely would need to improve on his one lap and out performance last year at the brickyard.

Bigger (And Later) In Texas

Posted by Iannucci | 12/08/2006 | 4 comments »
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One of the best things about the 2007 season is the conversion of several events to night time features. Racing under the lights makes a lot more sense at most venues because it provides more palatable temperatures for fans in attendance during summer races, it puts the race on during prime-time viewing, and darned if it doesn’t make the cars look faster.

And one of the best tracks in the entire IRL schedule is Texas Motor Speedway, which has always been one of those places where cars can go three-wide around the entire course. Texas has been home to some of the most exciting races in the 10-year history of the league and is probably my favorite track for televised IndyCar races not named Indianapolis.

So why am I down about the recent announcement expanding the Texas race in June by 28 laps? Because you can get too much of a good thing. As much as I would love to see more racing at Texas or a night race, I am not thrilled at all about getting both. I don’t know who came up with this idea, but to me this seems horribly wrong-headed.

Here are the facts: the race is already 200 laps, which means at least a couple of hours of racing. Throw another 28 laps in and you’ve got another 15 minutes. By moving the race to night time in Texas the race will start at 8pm – which is 10pm on the East Coast where most people on the continent live (present company excluded). That means for many fans the race will most likely be finishing on Sunday.

Am I missing something or is there a Great American Slumber Party going on in the second week of June?

Look, for years professional sports like Major League Baseball and the NFL have been chided for starting games so late that no one sees the conclusion. This is especially troublesome to parents (present company included) who share the races with their kids. With viewership nowhere near those two sports the IRL needs to be a little more accommodating when it comes to race times. It makes NO SENSE to have one of the best events of the season at a time when much of the potential viewing audience will soon be heading to bed well before the conclusion of the race.

Maybe the advent of DVRs like TiVo have made this a non-issue. Maybe they can’t start any earlier because the sunset in Texas would be a substantial racing hazard. Maybe most folks really would rather stay up late on a Saturday watching an IndyCar race.

Or maybe this is indeed a mistake that will be corrected after 2007.

Jay Howard To Test For Forsythe

Posted by Iannucci | 12/07/2006 | 1 comments »
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News like this may ultimately mean nothing but it still makes me feel uneasy. Indy Pro champion Jay Howard – who can be seen lifting weights in yesterday’s IndyStar – will be in Houston next week testing a Lola for Champ Car’s Forsythe Championship Racing.

While Howard will be joined by two other drivers, it’s still disconcerting to see one of the true stars of the IRL’s developmental series being courted by a CCWS powerhouse. There are too many drivers to go around for all the teams so this kind of thing is bound to happen, but it’s still a crying shame that guys like Howard and Wade Cunningham can do all that is asked of them at Indy Pro and then get stiffed for an IndyCar series ride.

By the way, as talented as Howard has shown homself to be I think it’s safe to say Cunningham is the more polished driver. Had he not had appendix issues in 2006, Wade would have easily repeated as series champion. And I’m not just saying that because he was kind enough to discuss his hair with yours truly.

In the end this paring of Howard and Forsythe may not last beyond the test, as several other drivers like Buddy Rice are already on the team's radar for 2007. It’s my understanding Sam Schmidt (the “Penske of Indy Pro”) is helping Howard personally with his career, so there is hope his ties to the IRL keep Jay in the league.

But talented racers like Howard have to eat too, and if there are no rides in IndyCar then he's off to explore his options.

Congratulations Scott Dixon

Posted by Iannucci | 12/06/2006 | 2 comments »
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The Iceman thaws to the warmth of his lady.

Watch the video.

You the man, Scott. Best wishes for the two of you.

Danica's Racy Image

Posted by Iannucci | 12/05/2006 | 0 comments »
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Oh my goodness, my head hurts. Today's press conference shows this whole GoDaddy/Danica! pairing is either the perfect match for two publicity hounds or a sign of the apocalypse. Only time will tell which it is.

Bob Parsons, the unnerving CEO of the internet domain supercenter and Mrs Hospenthal were formally announced today with mind-numbing quotes in tow. Here's what I read out of this Adrants summary.

One reporter wondered whether GoDaddy's "racy image" might scare off other Andretti Green racing sponsors. Patrick was unconcerned citing the plethora of sponsor logos already covering her car.
"Racy image" - oh, I'm sure that pun was unintentional. Har. Dee. Har. And yes, "plethora" is the perfect word to describe her sponsorship. Darn near a cavalcade.

And slapping down any notion she might be in any way compared to Michelle, Patrick wryly added, "I don't look like Candice. [It would be] "hard to pull that off."
Wow, double-entendre there. Just lovely. Can I get some aspirin?

Patrick also tossed off worries about GoDaddy turning her into an object of desire, becoming a bad role model and sending the wrong image to young girls saying, "I'm not concerned. I'm not going to do anything I'm not comfortable with."
Well if FHM didn't "turn her into an object of desire" and such then I don't know what any GoDaddy ad is going to do.

Look, this is exactly the kind of thing that makes people scoff at whatever abilities she has. She's making a name by trading earned credibility in her line of work for pure publicity. And in truth it's working. From what I can tell she seems to be a solid driver, but who cares when you garner all those sponsorships and media airtime?

Hey it's her life and her paycheck, and publicity for her is publicity for the IRL. Love her or hate her, she's out there in the public eye. People pay to see her drive more than any single driver, and that's with or without a check from Bob Parsons.

But at the same time I know whatever ad she's in will appear during the Super Bowl, which is not only watched by a zillion people but also airing at the end of January right before the IndyCar season ramps up. A lot of eyeballs at the right time of year. If this this ad campaign is done right then it will likely provide more exposure (pardon the pun) then the IRL will generate for itself.

And yet, this is still GoDaddy. I have visions of Danica walking around in Daisy Dukes or some such embarrassment. I just hope the finished product is an ad with Danica! driving something during the nonsense instead of being the nonsense that is the hallmark of GoDaddy commercials.

Three More Years of Dixon and Ganassi

Posted by Iannucci | 12/05/2006 | 1 comments »
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“If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it.” Words Chip Ganassi has decided to live by in extending a three-year deal to the Iceman for being an all-around swell driver. No doubt the New Zealander was concerned about his future prospects after two years in Toyota-powered purgatory, but Dixon put all that misery way behind him after remaining in contention for the IndyCar series championship until the final race in Chicagoland in 2006.

The contract contains an out-clause for Dixon should he decide to hook up with a Formula One team. The odds are probably against that, although considering how consistently competitive he has been on the few road courses in the IRL it’s not a totally far-fetched possibility. Near-fetched, perhaps, but still unlikely.

For many reasons it's always good to see any of the previous series champions stay in the league. It means stability for the series and safer driving on the tracks. It also means another recognizable face for the casual fan. Rookies are fun, but you don't want half a field full of some other series.

And even though he’s a comparatively low-key personality, Dixon is no less of a presence due to his skills as a driver. He’s arguably the best all-around driver in the series, and along with Tony Kanaan he’s tied for “Best Current Driver Who Hasn’t Won the Indy 500”.

Kodak To Sponsor Penske Cars

Posted by Iannucci | 12/04/2006 | 0 comments »
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Pressdog will be happy to know that Danica! has not secured ALL possible sponsorships, as Team Penske will be partnering with Kodak in 2007 in the form of an associate sponsorship. Still can't wait to see how Phillip Morris works their non-smoking ads onto the rest of the car.

And in the perfect segway to a discussion of photos and Penske drivers, the Defiance Crescent-News is offering photo book of the career (thusfar) of Uncle Sam just in time for the holiday season. You or someone you love can decorate their coffee table with this 136-page photo album for just $29.95 plus shipping, handling, tax, title and doc fee. Click here to order.

GoDaddy and Their New Spokesperson

Posted by Iannucci | 12/04/2006 | 2 comments »
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Tomorrow internet behemoth GoDaddy will hold a press conference to talk about their upcoming sponsorship deal with Danica! and perhaps even drop some hints about their next Super Bowl ad. Do yourself a favor and make a drinking game out of the word “controversial” when reading any related stories.

I saw a related story on the wire about this and had to roll my eyes, as it refers to Mrs Hospenthal’s “sleek breasts”. I hardly subscribe to political correctness, but that’s just awful...and yet I still link this pic like a big hypocrite. Go figure.

Speaking of Danica!, she’s also brought along her Meijer sponsorship to her new team. Perhaps the reason the sidepods on her new ride just have the Motorola “M” logo instead of the full name is to make space for all the other sponsor decals.

A Look At Safe Drivers

Posted by Iannucci | 12/04/2006 | 0 comments »
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As I mentioned previously, the irony of the season that started with the tragic death of Paul Dana was the 14 races in 2006 featured significantly less accidents then previous seasons. Analyzing the overall numbers at the driver level reveals who specifically were the best drivers at bringing home the equipment in one piece.

Last season only one driver started and finished every race. Wanna guess? Here’s a hint: he was one of the Big 4. Here’s another hint: Ice cold, baby.

In fact the Ganassi team of Dixon and Wheldon paired together had but one accident between them, and that was the yellow flag passing fiasco with Uncle Sam in St. Petersburg. This is a HUGE improvement over the 13 accidents Dixon, Darren Manning and Ryan Briscoe compiled for Team Chip in 2005.

Among other drivers who started at least half of the races, there were three others who were not listed as retired due to Accident for any race: Mr. Judd, Danica!, and Buddy Lazier. Many had one or two accidents consistent with the statistical average, but there were three drivers who had at least three Accidents: Matsuura, Simmons and Buddy Rice. It should be noted Jeff Bucknum had only two wrecks in a mere seven races.

Breaking down the numbers at the career level is even more informative. Note the stark contrast between the guys on the top of the list versus the bottom.

Driver Starts Accident Accident%
Dan Wheldon 63 2 3%
Bryan Herta 58 4 7%
Marco Andretti 14 1 7%
Helio Castroneves 80 6 8%
Dario Franchitti 50 4 8%
Vitor Meira 60 5 8%
Tony Kanaan 64 6 9%
Felipe Giaffone 61 6 10%
Sam Hornish Jr 99 11 11%
Buddy Lazier 98 11 11%
Scott Dixon 63 8 13%
Danica Patrick 30 4 13%
Buddy Rice 63 9 14%
Scott Sharp 129 21 16%
Sarah Fisher 50 9 18%
Eddie Cheever Jr 77 15 19%
Kosuke Matsuura 47 10 21%
Ed Carpenter 48 12 25%
Tomas Scheckter 75 22 29%
Jeff Simmons 14 5 36%
Jeff Bucknum 11 4 36%

Four of the top five are current or former Andretti green drivers. Wow. Also, I’m willing to bet The Wrecker’s 22 Accidents are a league career record, but I don’t have the initiative to actually verify this. Still it should be noted that he only had one accident in 2006 so maybe he’s, umm, turned a corner.

And as I said before, it’s really creepy how drivers with similar names compare.
• Buddys Lazier and Rice, 11 and 14% respectively.
• Scotts Dixon and Sharp, 13 and 16%.
• Ed and Eddie, 25 and 19%.
• Jeffs Simmons and Bucknum, 36% each. (Good thing I’m not a driver.)

For viewing problems (accident or otherwise) in a larger sense, there is the rate of simply completing races. A look at the stats for Running At Finish show results similar to the accident rate but with some shuffling around.

Driver Starts Running Running%
Helio Castroneves 80 70 88%
Tony Kanaan 64 55 86%
Dan Wheldon 63 52 83%
Bryan Herta 58 47 81%
Sam Hornish Jr 99 80 81%
Danica Patrick 30 24 80%
Marco Andretti 14 11 79%
Vitor Meira 60 47 78%
Dario Franchitti 50 39 78%
Felipe Giaffone 61 47 77%
Scott Dixon 63 47 75%
Buddy Rice 63 46 73%
Scott Sharp 129 94 73%
Buddy Lazier 98 69 70%
Ed Carpenter 48 31 65%
Jeff Simmons 14 9 64%
Kosuke Matsuura 47 30 64%
Eddie Cheever Jr 77 45 58%
Sarah Fisher 50 29 58%
Tomas Scheckter 75 41 55%
Jeff Bucknum 11 5 45%

To be fair, some of the more experienced drivers like Sharp, Lazier and Cheever are probably penalized a bit more than their contemporaries. The hardware in the IRL seems to be more sound these days, as evidenced by the lack of engine failure in the Hondas used recently.

Still, it looks like if you want to keep your high-speed billboard on the track you should consider a Brazilian. Five of the top seven drivers in Running At Finish are current or former AGR drivers, and the other two are current Penske employees.

So how important are these stats? You be the judge, but remember Penske and AGR drivers have combined to win 24 of 31 races in the last two seasons.

Cavin Asks, Barnhart Answers

Posted by Iannucci | 12/01/2006 | 2 comments »
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Read this not-so-creampuff interview from the Indy Star with IRL President Brian Barnhart. Two specific responses made me perk up this morning:

Q: The season doesn't start until March, but there are no more than 16 cars at the moment.

A: We've got conversations with four to six people that have potential of fielding teams, including one that was here before (Larry Cahill trying to assemble a package for female sports car driver Milka Duno).

Q: What is the league doing specifically to attract teams?

A: We continue to do everything we can to control expenses. That's No. 1.

We're trying to maximize their value: What you get for what you spend. We make them realize the value of our television relationship, which is clearly the best television package available to open-wheel racing.

We talk about our retention of all 14 events from 2006 to 2007 and the growth of the new markets we're going in with Mid-Ohio, Belle Isle (in Detroit) and Iowa. I think we're on track something like 20 of 25 weekends next year (with Indianapolis 500 activity included). That's somewhat unprecedented. When you're running that often it's much better for the fan to follow the story line that's developing.