Good morning on what is finally race day! Excuse me while I go outside and let out a big holler...(still outside)...no kids, daddy's alright...no 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!
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