Cheat Sheet: St Petersburg 2007

Posted by Iannucci | 3/31/2007 | 2 comments »
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Welcome to the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg (Florida, not Russia) where this weekend the finest drivers in the IndyCar series will attempt to do their best Formula One impersonations. Or at least look enough like Champ Car to create questions about the relevance of that other series.

All kidding aside, throwing a bunch of right turns into an IndyCar race usually means one thing: it’s time for Scott Dixon to start making everyone look silly. In early practice the Iceman was nearly three quarters of a second faster than everyone else, which means barring some timely yellow flags this oval-racing enthusiast might unintentionally nod off.

Alright, that's not totally fair. Spiderman and the AGR cars are are looking strong as well so it shouldn't be a total runaway for anyone. Promise me a good race, drivers. If anyone gets too far ahead just throw a 20-second pit stop like Wheldon did last week, OK?

Remember fans, this is an Andretti-Green event and AGR cars have done quite well here. Expect them to be near the front, although whether or not they can catch Dixon will be the dominant story line. Other things to watch for include:
• Will Sam Hornish Jr chase down a Top 5?
• Will Marco Andretti driver well enough to impress F1 teams?
• Will Darren Manning get the Foyt team back on the podium?
• Will Danica Patrick keep pace with her teammates?
• Will the Vision drivers surprise for a second straight race?
• Will the real Helio Castroneves show up?

Here are the notes for this week organized by likelihood to finish in Victory Lane. Yeah, Money and I both got Wheldon right last week, but that was the easiest pick of the year. These tidbits are for amusement purposes only unless you are working a race broadcast, in which case they are a vital part of your show prep.

1. Dixon – Iceman has never finished worse than 7th on an ICS road or street course. Wheldon survived the Ganassi Pit Circus last week, but Dixon may not be afforded the same margin of error.

2. Kanaan – The only driver to appear on the podium in both of the previous races here. The Nose knows St Pete and will be in the thick of the AGR charge.

3. Franchitti – He won the pole in last year’s race and led for 14 laps before a wheel bearing problem ended his day. Get the Ashley cam ready.

4. Castroneves – Helio looked lost at Homestead, but he is the defending champion on the Streets of St Petersburg. Maybe this is his world.

5. Meira – Color him consistent – fifth in ’05, fifth in ’06. With a little luck he could make it three in a row.

6. Andretti – The kid has demonstrable skills on road and street courses, but he has also had some accident/mechanical issues on them. He’ll either end up on the podium or not finish the race.

7. Wheldon – Sure Well Done won here in 2005, but that was with AGR. Since then he hasn’t managed better than 6th on a twisty, and in last year’s race he crashed under yellow in a bizarre incident.

8. Hornish – Noted for his non-oval struggles, Uncle Sam drove impressively for much of this race last year. Don’t act totally shocked if he squeezes into the Top 5.

9. Patrick – AGR finished 1-2-3-4 in 2005, and had their two running cars finish in the top 4 in 2006. Last year Danica! worked her RLR Panoz up to 6th, so there’s every expectation she will maintain that level in an AGR entry this year.

10. Rice – Rice finished 7th here in ’05 and led 8 laps in the ’06 race. In fact St Pete and Watkins Glen were the only races he led last year, so he’s earned the back-handed “road course specialist” label.

11. Scheckter – He’s the best chance for Vision to show last week was not a fluke. A solid performance this weekend puts The Wrecker in *gasp* championship contention.

12. Manning – Road courses should be his specialty, and if pre-race times are any indication then Danger Mouse is the dark horse this weekend.

13. Matsuura – Finished 7th last year, but his weekend revolves around Hideki Mutoh’s performances in the two Indy Pro races.

14. Simmons – It’s Spock’s first ICS race here, but he finished 2nd and 4th in two Indy Pro races here last year. Not sure that counts for much, though.

15. Sharp – His best finish on a non-oval is 9th, and he finished 10th last year where only 11 cars were running at the finish.

16. Carpenter – The good news is ECG finished 19th here in 2005 and didn’t start last year, so he’s guaranteed to have a career best finish.

17. Foyt – His lone ICS street/road race was here in ’05. He finished last. Things can only get better.

18. Fisher – This will be her first road race in an IndyCar. Keep it clean and enjoy the ride.

Money says: "Tony Kanaan. He's looking solid in practice, has a BIG hard-on for a win."

I think Money means that figuratively. At least I hope he means that figuratively. Enjoy the show!

Look what you've done

Posted by Iannucci | 3/31/2007 | 0 comments »
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Ethanol demand boosts corn planting

(AP) DES MOINES, Iowa - An ethanol-fueled boom in prices will prompt American farmers to plant the most corn since the year the Allies invaded Normandy, but surging demand could mean consumers still may pay more for everything from chicken to cough syrup.

Farmers are expected to plant 90.5 million acres of corn, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual prospective plantings report released Friday. That would be a 15 percent increase over 2006 and the most corn planted since 1944. (MORE)

Castroneves is a busy man

Posted by Iannucci | 3/30/2007 | 0 comments »
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We know Spiderman was off playing tennis right before the race at Homestead last week, but I neglected to mention that he was also hosting a pre-race bash. The reason for this omission is that I forgot to set the DVR and tuned in for only the last 20 minutes of this ESPN special. Totally my bad. (Memo to the four-letter network: please re-air these types of things again around 2am on the Deuce for stoopid people like me. Thank you so much.)

Seriously, I would have brought this up because despite the poor video quality you can still tell that Helio was a total natural interviewing his competitors.

"You like my hair?'s sharp."

Now that alone wouldn't make a guy like him tired, but adding the tennis and some boxing (boxing?) on top of this surely just wore the guy down.

Judging from the fact he turned the best lap of the day at St Petersburg today, I'm thinking he's rested and ready for improvement.

Latest on Pablo Perez

Posted by Iannucci | 3/30/2007 | 0 comments »
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Several media sources are saying IPS driver Pablo Perez has now been moved to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Perez has been placed under the care of Dr. Kevin Scheid, the Indy Racing League's orthopedic consultant, and by my count of news stories has now undergone three or four reported surgeries.

Reports have him slated for "additional reconstructive procedures" before beginning rehabilition with no specific timetable for recovery. Read into that what you may.

If you have not seen the crash, it's here. It's truly a testament to the safety of everything from car design to HANS devices that Perez is even alive.

If you would like to send cards or notes they can be passed on via email to, or otherwise to:
Target Chip Ganassi Racing
7777 Woodland Dr.
Indianapolis, IN 46278

The site has a special page for wishes as well - here. It's really awe inspiring to see all the encouragement from so many people - many of whom you might notice as his fellow competitors - for a guy who was competing in his first Indy Racing League event.

Well then, that explains it

Posted by Iannucci | 3/29/2007 | 2 comments »
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ESPN's John Oreovicz has a possible explanation for Dan Wheldon's Total Domination of the field at Homestead: monkeying with the downforce. He explains using some revealing quotes from TCGR engineer Andy Brown.

A year ago, Brown revealed his secret for success at Homestead, and it sounds as if the Indy Racing League's move to increase the rear wing angle -- adding downforce -- for 2007 played right into the Ganassi engineering chief's hands.

"The history of the IRL has always been dictated by the way the rules put a lot of downforce in the cars," he said. "That's what makes for such great racing. The minimum downforce that the IRL specifies is more than enough to get around the track, but at Homestead, that wasn't the case. The old track in particular was very flat with not much banking and whilst the minimum downforce levels were great for qualifying, we always felt there was no way you could race like that.

"People would kind of put their hands on their mouths and laugh at us when they saw our wing angles and our wickers, but tires got hot, the track gets hot and we just sort of drove away from everybody."
Anyone else think it's awfully unusual that an engineer would be speaking so candidly about this? Maybe I've got my tinfoil hat on, but it seems this matter-of-fact discussion serves only to mask some other massive cheat technical advancement.

Then again, maybe Wheldon is just that good and is inclined to bust out a can of whoop-ass in Miami once a year. Oh well.

Totally off the subject, you may or may not know my oldest son (referred to as P2) is inexplicably a stock car fan. Actually P2 is a fan of Home Depot and Lowe's, and they both have shiny stock cars on display every Sunday. Anyhow, P2 also loves Target so in an effort to properly align his racing preferences I bopped on over to the TCGR store and ordered some $5 kids shirts featuring Target IndyCars.

Today I recieved the order - it was all good - and it had a catalog and some hero cards for Wheldon and Dixon. On the Wheldon card it says his nicknames are "D-Dub" and "Thunda".

Thunda. Thunda? I can't even say that with a straight face.

OK, sorry for taking the extra time with the personal story. Maybe someday I'll expound upon other paternal challenges like how P2 always asks "Who's the 3 car?" (and no, he's not talking about Helio Castroneves.)

Game On!

Posted by Iannucci | 3/29/2007 | 0 comments »
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Want to kill some time? Check out this groovy little online game where not only do you get to race Danica! using airport equipment (the Luggage Carrier must be a Ganassi vehicle), but you also get taunted by her during your duel.

“Grandma? Is that you?”

Nice. To top it off, you can also score some free airline tickets. Feel the love.

AirTran Airways, a subsidiary of AirTran Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AAI), announced today that it has teamed up with IndyCar superstar Danica Patrick to launch a brand-new online game called AirTran Raceway, the first-ever video game to star Patrick. The airline, a sponsor of Andretti Green Racing and Danica Patrick, will reward online gamers with airline tickets for logging the fastest time at Players can choose to race "Digital Danica" on four different track options - all of which are set at an airport - and in a number of airport-themed racing vehicles such as a supercharged luggage truck.

AirTran Airways will link its game with Danica's IndyCar Series schedule by rewarding the fastest racer on each of the game's four tracks with a round- trip ticket on AirTran Airways at the end of every IndyCar Series race week - 16 weeks total. To race Danica and compete for one of more than 60 free* airline tickets, participants need only sign up for AirTran Airways' award- winning frequent-flier program, A+ Rewards, and start racing at (MORE)

Can We Talk?

Posted by Iannucci | 3/29/2007 | 2 comments »
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As The Voice of IMS Radio Mike King has handled his share of interview with folks in auto racing, so this week on King has a piece discussing the different reactions to interview requests from two frustrated AGR drivers

First is Marco Andretti, who had a handling problem with his ride in Homestead.

You could probably have fried an egg of Marco Andretti's forehead after handling problems forced him to park the NYSE car after completing just 53 laps. It's no fun to open the season with a car that you can't drive and a last-place finish. But after a couple of minutes, Marco did try to explain to fans watching on ESPN2 and listening to our broadcast on the IMS Radio Network what went wrong. He even differed with race engineer Eddie Jones on what went wrong. Jones said they missed the setup. Andretti insisted they would find that something on the car had broken.
Then he juxtaposes this with the reaction of Andretti’s teammate, Danica Patrick.

anica got out of the car, never took off her helmet, waved off any and all comers that attempted to ask what had happened, and disappeared into an AGR transporter.

Was she wrong?

I mean, it appeared Danica had just cost herself a chance at a top-10 finish, so she had good reason to be ticked off. What if she had said something, but it turned out to be the wrong thing at the wrong time? Isn't it better to walk away and hold your tongue, rather than say something in the heat of the moment that you might later regret?
Ever the diplomat, King doesn’t pass judgment on either driver, saying “sometimes walking away, while unpopular, just might be the right thing to do.” This is true, but it should also be noted there were a few differences in the two situations.

First, Andretti’s frustration was more than likely due to something out of his control. It’s a lot easier to talk about a problem when you didn’t cause it, and it’s definitely less difficult when you didn’t make contact with anything. At the same time Andretti 3.0 probably had a lot more riding on the Homestead race with expectations of being a championship contender, so one could make the argument he was more emotionally invested.

But even if the pit-entry accident was completely Danica!’s fault (and considering that other drivers have had the same problem previously at the track it’s not entirely certain it was), she doesn’t need to be afraid to say “I screwed up”. Wade Cunningham owned up to his accident this weekend in the IPS, just as Dan Wheldon did when he wrecked in testing a few weeks ago. As long as a driver isn’t saying it every week, telling the fans you goofed isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, most of us actually like it when drivers appear human every now and then.

If a driver needs a moment then that’s perfectly understandable as long as said driver comes back and talks within a reasonable amount of time. Last year (I think it was at Milwaukee) an obviously disgruntled Helio Castroneves stormed passed Big Jamie Little into the Penske trailer, only to emerge a few minutes later and give a clear-headed interview. Forgive me for speaking for all of us, but I think Spiderman demonstrated what fans and sponsors expect.

Everyone grasps that IndyCar competition is insanely intense, so if a driver is too wound up for a little chit chat then no one will fault them for taking a moment to collect his or her self. (Well, no one except the broadcast producers. You KNOW a big reason for having pit reporters is just so they can catch someone in emotional moments like this in the hope that they drop an F-bomb or start slugging someone live and in your living room.)

It’s impressive if a driver can keep a level head in a heat-of-the-moment interview, but it’s also acceptable to get a little hot under the collar. Just look at the popularity of such hot heads as AJ Foyt and Tony Stewart, or notice the positive comments folks gave after watching Juan Pablo Montoya tell off a clumsy cameraman. Danica! has always appeared to be rather intense at the track, but no matter how intense any driver is most people are not going to be thrilled about watching someone whine or pout or generally ignore the folks indirectly helping to foot their bills.

The Indy Insider

Posted by Iannucci | 3/28/2007 | 4 comments »
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There’s this young IndyCar fan – Arni – who put this video on YouTube last week. In the clip he’s basically devoting a couple minutes to talking about the IndyCar news of the last six months while littering it up outside of The Brickyard. It’s a nice attempt at mimicking the Bob Dylan “Subterranean Homesick Blues” video, but he forgot to use cardboard backing on his pages. Trash making aside, it was actually kinda funny.

Well, after a few hundred views he’s feeling empowered and has put up another clip featuring a bit more editing as an “Indy Insider” (although he should probably go by “Indy Outsider” since he’s outside the track). I don’t know who this kid is – maybe some Danny Ongais love child - but he’s still a hoot.

Here’s his report for this week.

Wheldon gets personal

Posted by Iannucci | 3/28/2007 | 5 comments »
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This past Saturday, Pressdog noted some interesting quotes from Dan Wheldon.

Pre-race: "I got rid of a big distraction Friday evening."

Post-race: "I got something out of the way Friday that's been bugging me."

So what was it Wheldon was talking about? The intrepid Curt Cavin asked him after the race...and got nowhere.

I'm still not sure what he meant, and he isn't saying. Here's what he said today when we spoke on the phone.

"It's personal," he said.

I asked if it had anything to do with racing, but he held his ground.

"I always tell you what's going on, but this is personal," he said. "I had something to clear up, and I did that. (Referencing it on TV) was my way of making a point."
Later Cavin updated his blog further.

I pushed him every which way during a telephone interview on Monday, but he wouldn't budge, insisting it was a "personal" situation. But he made it clear that he used his media time to make a point to someone.
Great. So now Dan is using his precious media time - in Victory Lane - to make a personal shout out dissing some peeps.

It's probably good to know he got rid of a "distraction" that had been "bugging him", but the mind boggles at what on eath this could have been.
• A girlfriend
• A lecherous relative
• An embezzling accountant
• Two girlfriends
• A mole near his collar
• Memories of an alien abduction
• Contractual sponsorship with Ben Gay
• A bunch of girls who wanted Marco's phone number
• Hemorrhoids

We may never know the story behind these comments, but we can all rest easy knowing Dan won't be driving angry anymore.

Miller down on Duno

Posted by Iannucci | 3/27/2007 | 3 comments »
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This is going to come as a shock, but the Robin Miller has a problem with something - or rather someone - in the Indy Racing League. Hard to believe. Yes friends, not only is he greeting Milka Duno and her recent IndyCar announcement with skepticism, he's pretty much saying she should be out of a job.

...the thought of Milka Duno driving an Indy car next month in Kansas City is frightening.

The reality is that she's not very good and not very well regarded by her sports car brethren.

This is one of those situations that the racing fraternity embraces publicly, but privately knows is a recipe for disaster.
On the one hand I'll at least give him credit for saying he thinks she's unfit to drive, even though he can't identify anyone else who agrees with him. I've always thought it was annoying that people spoke of Paul Dana's poor driving after his death. If you think someone is unsafe then state your case before something happens, not after. (And I've beaten the Dana discussion to, umm, death. Sorry.)

On the other hand this is incredibly ironic. Isn't this the same guy who constantly complains that Tony George had him fired from the Indianapolis Star? Now he's out campaigning against Duno in her employment quests. Oh, how rich.

Here's the deal with Miller and why he's such an easy target: this guy is known for going off half-cocked at anything without actually paying attention to what he's saying. Check these three consecutive paragraphs.

Barnhart also said she's going to have to pass a driving test under the critical eyes of Rick Mears or Johnny Rutherford or Al Unser. So, obviously, there's no guarantee she'll make the grade, although there was a dentist of similar ilk who became an IRL regular in the cars way too easy to drive on the huge high banked tracks.

Hopefully, Duno will scare herself so badly in her first test at Texas that she'll come to her senses, realize she's out of her depth and give the car to Carpentier.

Because Indy cars aren't fun and games and photo ops. They can be life and death. And having desire, a pretty smile, a good PR machine and a sponsor aren't good enough reasons to merit a ride.
Dude, which is it? Too easy to drive, or not fun and games? This doesn't make any sense. Then again the fact that I keep reading what Miller says doesn't make any sense. And maybe the fact I keep writing about what he says does make any sense.

Ugh, my this makes my head hurt.

Look, if Milkalicious looks unsafe in her first race or during her testing then by all means call it as you see it, but at least give her and the rest of those evaluating her talents (stop snickering, boys) the benefit of the doubt until she actually gets in the car. This premature judgement is silly because this is the reason they have the Rookie Orientation Program in place - to find out if a prospective driver can competently drive.

I'm pretty certain Brian Barnhart and others are excited to have Duno in the league, but I'm also fairly confident they don't want to risk her taking out someone else if it looks obvious that she has no business driving at Kansas.

AJ Foyt is The Terminator

Posted by Iannucci | 3/27/2007 | 2 comments »
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I was familiar with many of the notes about AJ Foyt mentioned in this piece from the St Petersburg Times (all over them today, eh?), but I had never comprehended just how many near-fatal or otherwise serious mishaps SuperTex has managed to survive.

You know that saying about “When it’s your time to go...”? AJ is the opposite, proving that when it isn’t your time to go you can survive anything.

The man has lived through numerous crashes, fires, being stranded at sea, choking on mud, being attacked by lions, being attacked by bees, being prescribed horse medication...just read it.

They want to be a part of it

Posted by Iannucci | 3/27/2007 | 2 comments »
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The St Petersburg Times has the inside scoop on a possible location for a future IndyCar race – New York City!

Indy Racing League CEO Tony George is conducting informal discussions with New York City officials about the possibility of running a race within the five boroughs.

George said the probability of a New York street race is not great and would not divulge details of his talks. But one concept discussed would have IndyCars racing on Governors Island, a 172-acre parcel south of lower Manhattan in the East River, accessible only by ferry and run by the National Park Service and a preservation and educational program.

"Everybody's trying to crack the New York market, so that's kind of an ambition of ours, a project that we work on in our spare time," he said.
OK, so it might be NYC, it might be New Jersey, and “the probability is not great”. It’s an interesting story and I’m glad this is relegated to “spare time” but it would make more sense to devote spare time towards a race (or races) in the Southwest. Watkins Glen seems to adequately service what racing fans there are in New England.

Besides, this can’t be too serious an idea if the course is “only accessible by ferry”. Yikes!

Things that make you go “hmm”

Posted by Iannucci | 3/26/2007 | 4 comments »
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This weekend’s racing festival on the streets of St. Pete features not just an IndyCar race, but also two Indy Pro races and an ALMS race. As many of you know, a few of the more prominent ICS teams have ALMS teams that will be competing. Teams like Penske Racing.

Take a peek the Penske Racing site and hover over the “American Le Mans” button. Notice that one of those listed drivers is a former IndyCar series driver. Someone who is still relatively young but has 19 career starts. Someone who managed to take a D&R car to the podium at Watkins Glen last year.

Could Ryan Briscoe be the guy set to replace Sam Hornish Jr? Just asking.

The new guy

Posted by Iannucci | 3/26/2007 | 1 comments »
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Look what slipped through the cracks in all the frothing excitement of the opening weekend. Motorsport says Brian Barnhart has a new best friend, and his name is Terry Angstadt.

Brian Barnhart will serve as president of the Indy Racing League competition and operations division, and Terry Angstadt will serve as president of the Indy Racing League commercial division, effective immediately, IRL Founder and CEO Tony George announced March 23.

As president of the commercial division, Angstadt, currently the vice president of marketing for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will have responsibility for sales, marketing, public relations, broadcast relationships, business planning and development, and organizational operation of the IndyCar Series. Angstadt joined IMS in 2001.

Angstadt, a graduate of Indiana University, has a distinguished marketing and general management career. Immediately before joining IMS, Angstadt was executive vice president of Cyrk, an industry leader in brand building and marketing solutions working with major clients that included McDonald's, Philip Morris, Coca Cola and Caterpillar. Before that, he was president, CEO and a member of the board of directors of Fila Sports Inc, a leading international brand of active sportswear and athletic footwear.
Sure these guys are in the business of speed, but excuse me while I raise an eyebrow at an exceptionally fast process that resulted in an internal hire. Perhaps the promotion of an IMS guy was for the best, but if that is the case then it’s a bit curious why the hiring process was even news.

Anyhow, good luck Terry and let us know if you need anything. We will always help carry the proverbial water, which in this case is more likely ethanol.

The discomforts of street racing

Posted by Iannucci | 3/26/2007 | 4 comments »
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This week the action in the Ganassi Indy Racing League moves to St. Petersburg for the lone street circuit of the season, where some folks are not exactly marching around chanting “I am Mindy. HEY!” Tampa 10 news says those folks would be lawyers.

'We can't get back and forth to our office. We can't use the telephone. We can't work on the computer without being more than annoyed. The noise is amazing,' says Lydia Castle of Gulf Coast Legal Services. Her office sits right on First Street South, and her desk is just feet from the street.

'The cars are just so close to us. You just can't concentrate,' she says. 'When there are cars with huge engines zipping by at ungodly miles per hour, it's almost impossible to get work done.'

Her colleague, attorney Kathlyn Mackovjak, found it nearly impossible to carry out a business meeting at the Starbucks down the street.

'In general, it's very distracting. It's loud, it's very noisy and it just goes on forever,' Mackovjak says. 'I'll be glad when it's over.'
OK, I can appreciate how lots of loud Honda engines can make business conversations difficult. But come on, people – this will be the third year of this event. Maybe by now you can find somewhere else to chat other than the corner Starbucks, no?

What’s really fascinating is that THIS is the type of news being reported about this event. You would think the TV stations would be all giddy to get footage of cars screaming around the town, but instead they go out and find some sourpuss who hasn’t had her daily triple half-caff no-whip mochachino.

Here is the reality: for better or worse, this is the future of open-wheel auto racing. They won’t be building too many more ovals tracks when they can throw some barricades up downtown at a fraction of the cost. For all of their faults Champ Car manages to attract fans in Long Beach and Toronto with exactly this kind of event, and with ICS cars now featuring baffles for regulating the noise you can expect they are intending to add more of these types of courses in the future.

It smacks of heresy when compared to the Tony George manifesto of 1995, but the times are always a-changin’. Despite the fact a fan can only see one or two turns at a time, it would seem the braintrust of the IRL is bent on adding a few more of these types of races in the coming years. Street courses cost less, don’t destroy a lot of cars, and attendance figures indicate lots of folks dig the festival atmosphere.

In other words, a high-speed parade. It’s like twice the fun of oval racing, but without all that messy passing.

In the meantime, maybe someone could have the ever-charming Dan Wheldon drop by Gulf Coast Legal Services and hand out some free tickets. If nothing else, they could send those hard-working folks an IndyCard for their troubles.

Pablo Perez update

Posted by Iannucci | 3/25/2007 | 0 comments »
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The news today doesn't sound very encouraging for the Ganassi driver who launched into the fence at yesterday's Miami 100. From PaddockTalk:

Medical update from Dr. Michael Olinger, IRL medical director provided a medical update last night on the condition of IRL Indy Pro driver Pablo Perez:

"Pablo Perez is in serious but stable condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital. He is undergoing surgery on the lower extremities of both legs below the knee and will undergo a CAT scan later tonight. His injuries will be evaluated following surgery and the CAT scan."
Robin Miller of SpeedTV has more.

The 24-year-old native of Argentina was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital and undergoing surgery on both legs Saturday night. His lower extremity injuries were termed “gruesome” by an observer in Turn 2 and it was believed surgeons are fighting to save both legs.

UPDATE: This afternoon Associated Press (via Sports Illustrated) had some more information.

Pablo Perez was in stable condition Sunday after surgery to remove shrapnel from his legs following an accident in the season-opening Indy Pro Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Car owner Chip Ganassi said Perez is scheduled for more surgery on Monday and doctors hope to transfer him to a hospital in Indianapolis as soon as possible. He was awakened Sunday by doctors who asked Perez to wiggle his toes, and the driver responded.

"He's made tremendous progress," Ganassi said from the NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway. "From where we were 24 hours ago, he's doing remarkably well."
Well, at least this means he still has toes.

Total Domination

Posted by Iannucci | 3/25/2007 | 7 comments »
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It's not so much that Dan Wheldon led all but 21 laps of the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 Saturday Night, it's that the majority of the laps he didn't lead were spent mowing down the competition. That 20 second pit stop midway through the race was almost like Dan was throwing his own "debris yellow" to let the field catch back up. As it was, he lapped all but 4 cars!

Pardon me, Helio, but I think Dan's the one who gets to say "This is my world."

The Good
The TCGR cars looked way ahead of everyone else. It's just one race and the road courses will be closer, but please tell me we didn't wait six months to see this turn into a two-driver battle.

Aside from having Quattro caught up in Spock's mystery spin, Vision Racing looked almost as good as the Penske Racing cars. I can't believe I just said that.

Vitor was up racing with anyone without a Target on their car. He and Panther are going to contend all year if he can finish every race.

Kanaan made like twenty pit stops and still finished fifth. Impressive hustle.

I always hate to see pit stops determine a race, second pit stops ROCK! Nothing like watching a half dozen guys furiously scramble around like mad fools. Right-rear tire changers now get their time to shine.

I know the rain delay was annoying, but having an hour before the race to talk with all of the drivers and teams was actually kinda nice. Right up until they started talking about Penske and Ganassi's jets.

The Bad
Dreyer and Reinbold held together and finished, but they don't look nearly as strong during the race.

Rahal Letterman still has issues. Lots of issue. I missed not seeing more of their stylish rides.

It's only one race, but it would appear Brienne Pedigo is no Jamie Little. Maybe it's me, but it seemed like the last 50 laps were all Jack Arute. Maybe he scared Brienne and Vince when he declared "When you go hunting a rabbit, you need more than a rabbit's foot."

Helios Castroneves...paging Helio Castroneves...your season has begun...paging Mr Helio Castroneves...

The Ugly
Oh, Marco. Everyone wants to crown you champion and you finish Dead Freaking Last. At least it was enjoyable to watch you argue with your team to let you take the car back out.

Moto Marty about took out Sheckter, and possibly a few others. Going slow is one thing, but drifting all over the track is inexcusable.

Danica! nailed Franchitti's tire and his tire changer in the pits before busting her car while entering the pits late in the race. Afterwards she didn't allow post-race interviews.

The ESPN2 production team kept beating the Patrick vs. Fisher thing to death. Folks, you can't manufacture a rivalry, and you can't keep referring to them as "females". Did AJ Foyt start the race with "Females and gentlemen...?" Of course not.

Anyhow, it's good to be back with racing. Especially if your name is Floyd.

Same car, same result

Posted by Iannucci | 3/24/2007 | 0 comments »
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Alex Lloyd picked up where 2006 series champ Jay Howard left off in today's Miami 100 IPS race. Driving the same Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt entry, Lloyd won the first race of the Indy Pro series season after accidents forced a timed conclusion.

Ganassi's Chris Festa finished second, although all concerns now are focused on teammate Pablo Perez. When Perez drifted up into Sean Guthrie on lap 47, Guthrie's car angled and served as the perfect launch pad for Perez to go into the catch fence. Perez's car completely disintegrated with the cockpit slamming down hard against the track.

A final mention over the internet broadcast said Perez was awake, alert and being transported to a nearby hospital with "orthopedic injuries". That sounds better than life-threatening ones, which wouldn't have surprised anyone who saw the accident.

Meanwhile, Hideki Mutoh finished third for Panther's IPS re-entry, and Jaime Camara went all the way from 24th to 4th. These two have above-average chances of jumping to the ICS in the future.

One other item of note: there was an accident around lap 26 involving Wade Cunningham that collected Ryan Justice. Justice hit the wall in Turn 2 hard and was reportedly knocked unconscious but is said to be fine and "under observation" now.

Oh by the way, Cunningham was leading at the time of the accident. Leading is what he does. He also admitted in a post-race interview that the accident was likely driver error on his part.

Cheat Sheet: Homestead 2007

Posted by Iannucci | 3/23/2007 | 3 comments »
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Good morning on what is finally race day! Excuse me while I go outside and let out a big holler...(still outside) kids, daddy's really, don't start crying...OK, everyone back inside.

The big news from Trackside Online today is that the RLR team was bumped to the back of the pack as a penalty for a rules infraction. (What is this, CRASHCAR?) This should make for some drama once the green flag flies as Simmons and especially Sharp were considerably faster than the first few cars ahead of them.

Ah yes, drama. One of the great things about last season was the safer races (Paul Dana's mishap aside), but I have a feeling this year will be different. Having about 15 cars within a third of a second per lap means a lot of tight racing, and one mistake may take out more than a few cars. C'mon SAFER barriers.

Speaking of Dana, I believe his widow is scheduled for an interview on ESPN's Sportscenter today, where she will talk about the birth of their baby boy a few months ago. Ladies an gentlemen, start your hankies.

Enough weeping, the racing is coming up today. Here is one man's ranking of who is most likely to find Victory Lane today.

1. Wheldon - Not only has he won the pole this year, but in three career races at Homestead Well Done has finished third, first and first. So yes, he's the favorite with little else to say.

2. Hornish - In the last three years Hornish has finished first, second and third. I'll take the average over the downward trend.

3. Castroneves - In five career starts here Poor Helio has not won despite never finishing worse than 5th. That's Vitor-esque.

4. Franchitti - Since 2004 he has qualified no worse than fifth here, so if he avoids trouble we'll get lots of anxious Ashley video.

5. Dixon - Iceman won this event in 2003, which was his first ICS race ever. Not so much luck since then.

6. Meira - In 2005 he qualified 2nd and finished 4th. Don't let the 11th place qualification fool you - he will find a way in or near the Top 5.

7. Kanaan - There's nothing spectacular in his history here, but it's not like the guy can't put a good car up front.

8. Scheckter - With three different teams he's managed to finish in the Top 10 here. How dark of a dark horse would you like?

9. Andretti - Don't buy the title talk until he does well on an oval not named "Brickyard", but don't think he won't improve on last year's 15th either.

10. Fisher - Break out your history book and notice she finished 2nd to Uncle Sam here in 2001. Of course, that was six years ago.

11. Patrick - Lost in the RLR tragedy last season was that Danica! had the third fastest pre-race lap. Different story this year as she tries to get things clicking with her new team.

12. Rice - His car looks good so far, but his best finish here is 7th in 2004. A 16th, a 18th and a DNS. Yuck.

13. Sharp - Maybe this infraction is what led to his unexpected qualification of 7th. He's never been considered patient, so we shall see how he goes early in the race.

14. Matsuura - Sukiyaki finished 6th here last year, but the competition seems much stronger in 2007.

15. Carpenter - Everyone forgets his pre-race wreck triggered the events leading to Dana's tragedy, so hopefully ECG can keep it together

16. Simmons - Starting at the back won't help, but Simmons won the Indy Pro event here last year. Not that it means that much today.

17. Foyt - Still a racing enigma after only one ICS race last season.Nice qualifying run, but he's got a lot to prove today.

18. Manning - Manning seems to be encouraged about his chances, but results so far indicate he's either delusional or full of it.

19. Roth - His sponsor is a boat. That fits.

20. Barron - It's not so much the driver as the fact the team didn't get driver and car together until this weekend.

Last season saw the emergence of a clairvoyant figure in the IRL, as MoneyCJ of the late So Damn Indy blog unbelievably predicted the winner of the last three races (yes, Marco included). His opinion is now held in such regard that it will be featured at the conclusion of every cheat sheet.

Money says: "Dan. F@#$ing. Wheldon."

Way to go out on a limb there, pal. Enjoy the show!

Wheldon, Hornish snag front row

Posted by Iannucci | 3/23/2007 | 1 comments »
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This just in: Dan Wheldon and Sam Hornish Jr are pretty good at gaining speed in an IndyCar. Here are qualifications for tomorrow night's XM Satellite Radio Indy 300, by team, along with car number and qualifying speed:

Andretti Green
3 Dario Franchitti (27) 213.714
4 Tony Kanaan (11) 213.474
5 Marco Andretti (26) 212.754
14 Danica Patrick (7) 211.431
OK, AGR is back. Danica! has been noted to have a tendency of moving during races - meaning she starts towards the back.

Dreyer & Reinbold
9 Sarah Fisher (5) 212.501
13 Buddy Rice (15) 211.549
I don't care who you are cheering for, this team deserves a round of applause. Fisher had the 4th fastest time in practice - I'm speechless. Now, let's see how they do in the race.

11 Vitor Meira (4) 211.771
18 Kosuke Matsuura (55) 210.179
Please be aware that Panther/Aguri's Hideki "Godzilla" Mutoh qualified 3rd for the Indy Pro race this weekend - his first oval race ever! Kosuke, we hardly knew you.

Penske Racing
2 Sam Hornish Jr (6) 214.298
8 Helio Castroneves (3) 212.599
Sam. Is. Ovals. Maybe Helio was hampered by a little tennis elbow, but 2 MPH behind his teammate is a bit concerning.

Rahal Letterman
7 Scott Sharp (8) 212.623
16 Jeff Simmons (17) 211.104
The Immortal qualifies ahead of Spiderman - is this gonna be a fun season or what?

Target Chip Ganassi
1 Dan Wheldon (10) 214.322
6 Scott Dixon (9) 212.733
It's not the qualifying that worries TCGR, it's the pit circus routine. Watch closely.

10 A J Foyt IV (22) 212.008
12 Tomas Scheckter (2) 211.596
15 Ed Carpenter (20) 211.325
Just a tick behind the leaders, but the nice run by Quattro will definitely raise some eyebrows.

(Single-car teams)
17 Darren Manning (14) 210.226
19 Marty Roth (25) 209.498
20 Alex Barron (98) 207.633
Enjoy the drive, fellas.

Milka Duno is in. For real. Seriously.

Posted by Iannucci | 3/23/2007 | 1 comments »
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Milka Duno finally has a ride and will begin her ICS career by racing at Kansas next month. In her announcement today it was outlined that she would be running 10 races this year, although the 10 races seemed a rather odd bunch. She's racing the sub-mile oval at Iowa, but not Milwaukee (maybe due to a narrower track?) She's targeting Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen, but not Sonoma (perhaps she has a wine allergy?)

As you can see from the picture, the Milkalicious firesuit sports some very fashionable bell bottoms. Oh wait, my bad.

As you can also see, Duno is carrying a big sponsorship from Citgo. Most people tend to associate Citgo with Venezuelan fill-in-your-own-blank Hugo Chavez, who is not exactly high in the domestic Q rating.

I can understand that a lot of people might be a bit peeved at this sponsorship, and with good reason. Personally, I don't care. I don't buy Citgo gas, and if Dunohappens to win (which is not very likely) it doesn't directly profit Citgo. If this were a league sponsor (of which there currently is none) I might get my proverbial panties in a bunch, but for now I'll just sit back and watch the racing.

Besides, it's not like we're going to get a lot of shots of her car during the races. Based on her resume I wouldn't expect her to be confused with Uncle Sam or Well Done any time soon...although she does have the read and white paint scheme going.

More racing from Fisher and Roth

Posted by Iannucci | 3/22/2007 | 2 comments »
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The transports have rolled into Homestead and for some drivers the good news is rolling in as well.

According to IndyStar, Sarah Fisher will now race at all ICS events – twisty tracks included – for Dreyer and Reinbold. We can’t determine if Fisher has ever driven a vehicle of this horsepower on a road course, but we do know she’s pretty successful with the go karts. I have already received notification from the Number One FishHead noting his excitement.

Likewise, Trackside Online is saying Marty Roth is also looking to be on the track all season. We don’t know if that’s just the ovals or what, but it’s still more than was previously reported. TSO says Roth only has three (three?) full time employees, so I suspect if you have any proficiency with changing tires or pumping fuel you could send him your resume.

UPDATE: TSO says it’s likely just the ovals.

Also of note, IPS runner up Jonathan Klein has joined the ranks of the employed. The young man who recorded ten (ten!) Top 5s in his rookie season will race the nine road courses for Moore racing. Team co-owner Tom Wood will race the ovals.

Amazingly, Buddy Lazier is still without employment.

Use the Force, Marco

Posted by Iannucci | 3/22/2007 | 6 comments »
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Preseason predictions for 2007 ICS champion thusfar:
Jack Arute says Marco
Scott Goodyear says Marco
Curt Cavin says Marco (well, as a darkhorse)

Of course my thinking is the kid will finish behind six other drivers, so it would seem I’ve gone off the reservation (and really, I’m not on their reservation anyway.) I know he’s very good, but I’ve been trying to figure out why it is everyone is so fascinated with Andretti 3.0 over all the other drivers.

Well, I’ve figured it out: it’s all about Star Wars.

Young Skywalker (Marco) realizes his planet (AGR) has been conquered by the reigning forces of the empire (Penske). He seeks training from a wise, experienced, small, green Jedi (Kanaan) and sets forth to save the universe (IRL). He is aided by both a princess (Danica) who turns out to be his sister (well, teammate) and a rogue mercenary (brogue mercenary – Dario).

Crazy, isn’t it? Did you know Danica!’s parents own a Jabba the Hut, err, Java Hut? It’s true.

I know Roger Penske can’t get in the headset of Andretti 3.0 and say “I am your fah-thah”, but recall that Marco’s grandfather Mario was once a Penske driver - from 1976 to 1980! File that under “You don’t know the Pow-ah of the dark side.”

And while I wouldn’t compare Ashley Judd to Chewbacca, she could probably portray Danica! in whatever movie about her gets made. I mean, is the tantrum in Michigan not Oscar material? Oh, the anguish! The pain!

Everybody loves Star Wars, and everybody wants to watch the young Jedi blow up the Death Star. But I want all of those wonderful folks covering the league to remember one thing: Skywalker isn’t a Jedi until his third movie (season).

Letterman too sick to interview Danica

Posted by Iannucci | 3/21/2007 | 2 comments »
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Remember a few weeks ago where they did the pre-Oscar thing of having movie stars interview each other? Well, that’s what happened last night on the The Late Show.

Reportedly David Letterman developed a mysterious illness right before his show yesterday, so instead of getting a last minute replacement they just let the guests handle the show. So Adam Sandler was interviewing Don Cheadle (and vice versa) and then Sandler took a stab at interviewing Danica Patrick.

Anyone ever hear of the phrase “inmates running the asylum”? Sandler said of the whole thing "I was just babbling and the poor girl was staring at me, like, 'where's Letterman?'"

It wasn’t just her, Adam. IndyCar fans were sadly deprived of whatever playfulness or real tension might have occurred between former employer and employee. I can’t imagine that Dave would chicken out on this interview, but I can imagine that he might have intentionally set her up for this disaster.

Jack Arute calls out Marco

Posted by Iannucci | 3/21/2007 | 3 comments »
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We are but a few days away before the start of the season and everyone is getting out their super pointy prediction hats (present company included). Now it’s time for Jack Arute to give us his insight.

Arute has been covering IndyCars for so long he probably parks in his own pit stall. His longevity is likely due to his ability to simultaneously inform, confuse and entertain every time he gets his 10 second pit reports. Ask him about IndyCars and he starts talking about eggs or airplanes or who knows what – you can’t fall asleep on Arute.

So when giving his opinion on who’s going to win at Homestead, it’s completely logical that he starts talking about scoring at night clubs.

So who wins Saturday night?

I love chaos so I'm going with Andretti. He's moved down to Miami, he says to work out with fitness-obsessed teammate Tony Kanaan. He's never suffered from a lack of confidence, but I think he'll win just so he can stroll over to South Beach after the race. Things don't start rolling in South Beach's clubs until after 1 a.m., so that won't be a problem and he will lead the league in ladies.
Just to clarify: He won’t be old enough to drink until next year, but Andretti 3.0 is still predicted to win Saturday night and “lead the league in ladies.” Aye aye aye. I love this league!

He was ready to climb the net

Posted by Iannucci | 3/21/2007 | 1 comments »
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Looks like Spiderman was out pimping IndyCar to tennis fans, dressed in his Wimbeldon whites. From

Helio Castroneves got a little more than he expected as he joined top women's tennis player Kim Clijsters for an exhibition match at Crandon Park in Miami.

The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner is a amateur tennis player but had enough game to compete against the former U.S. Open champion, taking a few points from Clijsters in a 12-point tiebreaker.

But he quickly turned the tables on her as the two also "raced" IndyCar Series simulators, claiming victory with a friendly taunt to Clijsters: "This is my world."
Nice. Way to talk trash to a girl tennis player, Helio.

Jay Howard returns to Indy Pro

Posted by Iannucci | 3/20/2007 | 0 comments »
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Poor Jay Howard. A guy goes out and wins a series his first time through, and what does he get for all his efforts? Another pass through the same series. With another team. For three races.

Sheesh - why bother trying?

Jay Howard, the 2006 Indy Pro Series champion, will return to the series for at least the first three races driving for SpeedWorks. The agreement puts Howard behind the wheel of the No. 44 car for the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 24 and the doubleheader weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., March 31 and April 1 with the possibility of extending the deal for the remainder of the season. (MORE)

Roth secures a sponsor

Posted by Iannucci | 3/19/2007 | 3 comments »
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Oh sure, it’s easy to poke fun at Marty Roth and his slower method of racing, but believe it or not the man has secured a sponsor. It’s true. is reporting Roth’s shiny red car will be supported by Fountain Powerboats at the season opener this weekend.

"I'm really excited to have Fountain Powerboats on my car for the Homestead-Miami race," Roth said. "I can say based on first-hand experience that Fountain produces absolutely first-class performance boats that are spectacular to drive."
I’d personally like to support the sponsor but unfortunately I live in the desert. However, I still want to do my part to show appreciation for the commitment to Roth, so as long as Fountain Powerboats is “on board” with Moto Marty I will be sure to not only indicate his speed in knots but also his distance in nautical miles. Maybe even fathoms.

TV timeout

Posted by Iannucci | 3/18/2007 | 0 comments »
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Here comes the season, and the pre-season interviews.

First, Vision Racing chief Tony George (I think he may have some other titles as well) will make an extremely rare interview appearance on SPEED's Wind Tunnel today.

Also, March 20th marks the televised reunion of Danica! with her former employer - Mr David Letterman. Yes, that means Mrs Hospenthal will be appearing on The Late Show. I wonder if Scott Sharp will make a guest appearance as well.

Hornish looks better in yellow

Posted by Iannucci | 3/18/2007 | 1 comments »
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Maybe it was the fact that he was driving a yellow Penske Trucking car instead of his usual Mobil One ride, but whatever the reason Sam Hornish Jr qualified 5th and finished in 15th at his latest Busch series race at It-lanta yesterday.

Might have been a little better day if he had avoided the penalty for speeding in the pits.

"That’s really my first green-flag pit stop in these cars and it takes some getting used to," said Hornish, who qualified fifth for his fifth Busch Series race. "It’s more difficult than what we have with Indy Cars. Of course, we drive Indy Cars in there a lot harder and they slow down quicker, but you have the pit speed limiter. It was real close, but I knew there might be an opportunity to get black-flagged there."
Qualifying 5th and finishing 15th is probably the worst day he could have in the IRL. But this is NASCAR where these numbers mean a good day. Not only did he avoid a crash, but for the first time all season he finished ahead of Kyle Krisiloff.

2007 Season Cheat Sheet

Posted by Iannucci | 3/16/2007 | 3 comments »
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It only seems like an Ice Age ago, but the IndyCar season will begin at Homestead a mere 6 months, 14 days, 3 hours, 27 minutes and about a dozen seconds (give or take) after the checkered flag fell on the 2006 season. The time is at hand to fire up the Ethanol and get those Honda-powered Dallaras back to racing.

Here are the facts you need to know about the drivers for the upcoming season, noted in order of predicted finish in the final ICS championship points standings. Bear in mind I’m considering not just the finishes last season but also the addition of two road courses in Detroit and Mid-Ohio as well as the new short track in Iowa. Also note that predictions are for amusement purposes only – don’t blame me for your problematic gambling habit.

1. Spiderman – Were it not for a couple of run-ins with the Notorious E.C.G. last year, Castroneves would have delivered Roger Penske his first ICS championship. Don’t think that doesn’t burn him up, because the series championship is the one accomplishment Castroneves has yet to achieve in an IndyCar. A talented driver on a mission with top notch equipment looks like a winning combination.

2. Iceman – Many people conclude that Dixon’s mastery of road courses means he’s an inferior oval driver. Umm, no. Dixon – who won the series title in 2003 when there were NO ROAD COURSES – was one bad pit stop at Infineon from winning the 2006 title. Two more road courses this year play to his strength, so expect him to content until Chicagoland.

3. El Nariz – Kanaan was the ICS champion in 2004, runner-up in 2005, and AGR engineering victim in 2006, but still managed to win at Milwaukee. He’s generally regarded as the master of restarts, but there were so few yellow flags last season that he was unable to capitalize on this skill. Not only do early results from testing at Homestead look like the engineering gap has closed between AGR and the Red and White Brigade, but Kanaan should also be able to capitalize on all three of the new courses.

4. Well Done - Wheldon won the series title in 2005 and tied for the title in 2006, so he’s the odds on favorite to reclaim the title in 2007, right? Wrong. His average finish on the road courses is 12th, and the Ganassi record on short tracks is bewildering. Those new tracks will hurt his title chances, although he’s still a contender in every race he enters – especially at Indy.

5. Uncle Sam – Hornish won the 2006 series title by tie-breaker over Dan Wheldon, and finished only a few points ahead of Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon. The 2007 season features two more road courses, where Sam’s average finish is 11th. Other than repeating at Indy, winning on a twisty will be his 2007 challenge. He needs to dominate at the 12 ovals to have a shot at repeating as champion, but with other teams closing the gap it will be more difficult than last season.

6. The Mirror Man – Meira is so due for a win it’s not even funny, garnering six (six!) podium finishes last season for a one-car team. He may be 0 for 59 in his ICS career, but only Scott Dixon had more points after Indy last year. Panther is back with sponsorship cash and a two-car team, so Meira is going to make more noise in 2007. Too bad for him all those other drives are returning as well.

7. Andretti 3.0 – He’s very young and he’s very good – especially on road courses – but don’t get carried away with the hype. Aside from a Top 5 at Milwaukee (where all four AGR drivers finished in the top 7), Andretti managed no better than 8th on five of the last six ovals last year. Experience will help him improve on that and his desire to race in F1 make success on non-ovals a priority, but don’t expect miracles this season.

8. Danica! – There are many things Michael Andretti is not. He’s not tall, he doesn’t have his face on the Borg Warner trophy and he’s not stupid. Aside from doing everything he can to help his son win, he knows the priority for both his team and the league is to get Patrick in Victory Lane. Super speedways are her specialty (what weight advantage?), and if she can improve at qualifying then she might finally snag a “W”.

9. Jesse James – Instead of closing up shop or switching to Champ Car (isn’t that the same thing?) Dreyer and Reinbold hired more engineers last winter. The cars are faster and now they have an experienced winner in Rice to help turn around their fortunes. After two years of Distractionica, Rice is ready to show everyone he still knows how to drive. He’s also another driver who will benefit from the additional road courses.

10. Mr. Judd – Despite all of his skill and credentials, this season Franchitti may end up relegated to the Bryan Herta role of Test Driver for AGR. If he is it would be a shame since he’s still a good driver on ovals and a really good one on road courses. Expect another solid, consistent but unspectacular season from the Scotsman as well as more fun interviews with his wife.

11. The Wrecker – His wreckage level went way down last year, but the Vision team will need a whole lot of luck for Scheckter to come anywhere near victory lane this season. Perhaps having an inferior ride is teaching him patience, which is a trait that can often lead to random top 5 finishes for a driver of his skill level. But inferior is still inferior, and cracking the Top 10 at any race will be incredibly difficult.

12. The Immortal – After separate forgettable seasons for both Sharp and Rahal, the two have united in the hopes of improving each other’s fortunes. This will be easier said then done, since the stiff competition this year gives them little margin for error. As he proved in Kentucky in 2005, Sharp is still capable of winning a race with competitive equipment. However the season is long and there is much work to be done.

13. Spock – How is it a driver can finish in the top 10 in six of the last seven races last year and be predicted to finish 13th OVERALL? The other drivers are that good. Simmons is perhaps the last driver on the list who could actually win a race in 2007, but that doesn’t mean he will. While he appears to be comfortable with his Ethanol sponsorship, a solid season could place him in contention for replacing any possible NASCAR exports from the more successful teams.

14. Sukiyaki – In the song “Sukiyaki” Kyu Sakamoto sings “Looking up while walking so tears won’t fall.” While no one ever called Matsuura a crybaby, he’s probably feeling somber about having a talented driver like Hideki Mutoh auditioning in Indy Pro for Matsuura’s job. With Panther engineering it is conceivable for Matsuura to sneak into the top 5 at any given race, but this is probably his farewell tour through the ICS.

15. Ed Carpenter George – After wrecking at Motegi last season, Carpenter managed to finish in the top 12 in every race except Milwaukee. It’s true. He still only has eight Top 10s in 48 starts, but six of those came last year. Michael Andretti is a better bet to win a race in 2007, but Carpenter is no longer a punchline with his career finally on the upswing.

16. Danger Mouse – It could be safely said that you could return AJ Foyt to his prime as a driver and put him in the current Foyt entry and still struggle to make the Top 10 at any point this season. The difference between the #14 and the others above is so significant that being passed on ovals will seem like Groundhog Day to Manning. That said, the road courses will provide him a better opportunity to show he has improved from his 2005 Ganassi Festival of Carbon Fiber.*

17. Quattro – In 48 career starts Foyt has finished in the Top 10 exactly 3 times. Combining him with a struggling Vision team won’t make for a promising season, and he’s also got that little run in with the law to deal with at some point. But hope springs eternal, right?

18. The Fisher Queen – Running only the 12 oval races will kill her standing in the championship points, but at least her D&R team looks like they’ll be putting better cars on the track. In two races last year Fisher drove to her car’s potential and brought the equipment home. Simply doing that should allow her to snag some top 10s this season and get her IndyCar career back on track.

There are other drivers who will likely show up somewhere with a ride, but for now they will be considered as footnotes for the upcoming season. Included in this list are:

Marty Roth’s speed (specifically his lack therof) may be suspect, but last season he appeared to be no less safe at the track than other drivers. It’s reported that Roth will only race the domestic ovals before and including Indy before possibly calling it quits.

Buddy Lazier currently has no ride for 2007, but he’s too skilled to not resurface at Indy. Should a new team appear during the season, his name will most certainly be on any short list.

PJ Chesson continues suffer hard luck both on and off the track. After reportedly having a full season ride in place he’s back to pounding the pavement for sponsorship. He certainly gets a lot of coverage for a guy who races so infrequently.

Milka Duno keeps getting linked to possible teams, and having sponsorship in hand means she will likely appear somewhere in an IndyCar this season. If (likely when) she does get a ride, expect lots of frothing male fans as well as backmarker finishes.

Alex Barron has a ride for Homestead. It's a start, but it's more likely to be closer to the finish to his ICS career.

Davey Hamilton...I'll reserve judgement for now. He was good driver a decade ago, but it's been a while since he has raced at these speeds.

*Bona fide Pressdog catch phrase.

Alex Barron gets hired

Posted by Iannucci | 3/15/2007 | 1 comments »
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TrackSide Online says Alex Barron will be returning to the IRL behind the wheel of the #98 Beck Motorsports entry at Homestead. Davey Hamilton is still slated to take over after that, unless Alex does something silly like win the race.

Can Patrick Carpentier be far behind?

Milkalicious news, and more

Posted by Iannucci | 3/15/2007 | 4 comments »
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While the hopes for a Cahill racing team this year slowly fade, one of their would-be drivers has gone out and made her own luck. The IndyStar is reporting that Venezuelan hottie driver Milka Duno will be driving at some point in the IRL this year for SAMAX Motorsport, the team that also owns her current Grand Am ride.

SAMAX director Peter Baron said a car has been acquired -- league officials said it came from Hemelgarn Racing -- and a crew is in place, but he would not confirm additional details about the program.

A formal announcement is expected later this month, he said.
“A car” sounds like Duno may be looking to first demonstrate her road skills, perhaps as soon as St Pete. It would appear she has no previous experience with oval racing, but that hasn’t stopped any number of other drivers in the past. Duno would give the ICS three female drivers, which exponentially raises the number of “what’s it like to drive against (insert other female driver)” questions in post-race interviews.

Does anyone ever ask Helio Castroneves what it’s like to compete against other Brazilians? It would make as much sense.

It should be noted that the 34-year-old Duno would be the second oldest driver in the series, younger only than The Immortal Scott Sharp. Clearly they both have been enjoying clean living. But separately though – I don’t want to start any wrong-headed rumors. Besides, the Duno/SAMAX deal has yet to be formally announced.

Also in the same story, Curt Cavin details how Beck Motorsports has submitted an entry for Homestead. One catch: they have no driver.

You may ask: How is this possible? Reportedly the team tabbed 44-year-old Davey Hamilton to drive...but he’s not ready. So they have an entry at Homestead with no driver, although one would think there should be plenty around. Buddy Lazier? Felipe Giaffone? Jay Howard?

Ah, the chaos of multi-million dollar racing.

Deja vu all over again

Posted by Iannucci | 3/14/2007 | 3 comments »
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It would appear the race to be the 2007 Indy Pro champion is over before it begins. In case you did not know, "Wade Cunningham" is Māori for "ringer".

Wade Cunningham, the 2005 Indy Pro Series champion who finished third in 2006 as the first champion to return to defend his title, will return to the series with AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing, contesting the 16-race schedule in the No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc. entry.

"I'm excited to be coming back," said Cunningham, who missed repeating as champion in 2006 by 11 points after missing two races due to appendicitis. (MORE)