He's no Penske

Posted by Iannucci | 5/31/2007 | 0 comments »
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As you may have read, Alex Lloyd and Sam Schmidt Motorsports will try to achieve an unprecedented five victories in a row this weekend in Milwaukee. Read that agian - five Indy Pro races and five trips to Victory Lane, folks. Currently Lloyd holds the record for consecutive series wins at four along with Thiago Medeiros, who first set the record in 2004.

Oh by the way, Medeiros was also driving for Schmidt.

It’s this level of success in the IPS that has folks referring to Sam Schmidt as the “Penske of Indy Pro”, but in reality Schmidt’s run the last few years is better than anything Roger Penske has going. Take a look at what Schmidt’s drivers – a different one each year – have done in his IPS entries.

2007 (Alex Lloyd): 4 races, 1 pole, 4 wins, 4 Top 5s
2006 (Jay Howard): 12 races, 2 poles, 2 wins, 8 Top 5s
2005 (Jaime Camara): 14 races, 3 poles, 2 wins, 5 Top 10s
2004 (Thiago Medeiros): 12 races, 8 poles, 6 wins, 9 Top 5s
42 races
14 poles
14 wins (33.3%)
26 Top 5s (61.9%)

Friends, his cars have won one out of every three races! Forget Roger Penske, that’s almost a Michael Schumacher level of domination. But for discussion purposes let’s still see how the Penske drivers – who have done pretty darn well themselves – stack up since 2004.

Helio Castroneves:
52 races
16 poles
(30.8 %)
7 wins (13.5%)
26 Top 5s (50%)

Sam Hornish Jr:
52 races
7 poles
7 wins (13.5%)
27 Top 5s (51.9%)

Now bear in mind those original numbers only include Schmidt’s best driver each year. His roster of drivers over this time period also includes quality drivers like Jonathan Klein (2nd in points behind Howard last year) and Christ Festa (currently 3rd in points driving for Ganassi) in other entries. Still, the amazing thing is that even with ICS ownerships like Ganassi, Panther, Andretti and Rahal joining forces with other Indy Pro teams, Schmidt seems to be enjoying his finest season to date.

Unfortunately, the downside of all this winning is that ICS teams have decied the winning is mostly due to the car and not the driver. None of Lloyd’s predecessors has raced a single IndyCar Series race, and unless Schmidt himself returns to the premier series it’s possible none of them ever will. Heck, poor Jamie Camara is about to set his own record this weekend – for consecutive IPS starts.

At any rate, it looks like Lloyd has a pretty good shot to bag his fifth straight win. Stay tuned.

Breaking News

Posted by Iannucci | 5/31/2007 | 2 comments »
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For those of you who miss the old So. Damn. Indy. web site and the regular updates from our resident oracle, MoneyCJ, well, I just got this in the Inbox:

"We’re just working out a few details, but it looks like MoneyCJ has been resurrected!"

Word is he will not be going it alone, and will in fact be affiliated with a legitimate site featuring other writers. We will inform you of updates as they occur.

That's Enough

Posted by Iannucci | 5/30/2007 | 1 comments »
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From SpeedTV:

Michael Andretti has confirmed his intention that Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 would be his last as a driver, ending a career that spanned 28 years.

Andretti finished 13th in Sunday’s race, which was won by fellow Andretti Green Racing driver Dario Franchitti. It was Andretti's second Indy 500 after a two-year hiatus in which he didn’t race. This time, he indicated he’s done for good.

”Right now I have no thought of coming back,” Andretti said Monday during a photo session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Franchitti and other team members. “I would be very surprised if my feelings changed. I’m glad I did it -- it was all good -- but I was going crazy this month.”(MORE)
Say what you will about "the Andretti Curse", but Michael still gets to walk away on his own terms instead of being driven out in an ambulance. It's nowhere near the same as having his face on the Borg-Warner, but having the lead for 431 laps without a victory at IMS may be a mark that stands for quite some time.

At any rate, thanks for the memories Michael. Even the bad ones.

Final thoughts on the Greatest Spectacle in Raining

Posted by Iannucci | 5/29/2007 | 5 comments »
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Sorry to sound like Larry King, but here are some final unstructured notes from my trip. All images contained were shot by P1 and are the exclusive property of My Name Is IRL. (I always wanted to say that.)

In a radio interview after the race Davey Hamilton said he would like to try to get another deal to run again at Indy next year. A top 10 finish has a way of raising the confidence.

Nothing like waiting out a rain delay by eating a brat out of a hamburger bun. Feeding nearly half a million people must be a logistical nightmare, but come on people.

Watched Tony Stewart’s father interviewed on local TV in Indianapolis, and he said his son still has his eye on coming back to run in the Indy 500 someday. Not sure how that will happen, but look forward to the rumors to continue for the next decade.

While staying in Terre Haute I drove past the old Tony Hulman residence. It’s not as large as you would think, and it’s located next to a mosque. The current family estate is humongous, though.

By the way, if you are ever in Terre Haute you have to snag some Square Donuts. Best. Donuts. Ever.

The most impressive thing about Jaques Lazier’s race – where he was hanging around the Top 10 much of the day – was that he did it in one of those updated Panoz chassis. That car was dialed in. Considering the Panoz was already the superior road/street chassis, it wouldn’t be entirely unexpected to see a lower budgeted team appear with a Panoz later this year.

Still, in six starts in the Indy 500 Jaques has finished behind his brother Buddy all six times.

The loudest cheer of the day was when Danica Patrick passed Marco Andretti and moved into 2nd behind Tony Kanaan. There are all sorts of reasons to like or dislike her, but if she ever actually wins the race they’re going to burn the place down (figuratively, I hope).

Saw Robin Miller being driven around the infield on a golf cart before the race. I didn’t say anything, and it appeared no one else recognized him. Isn’t he supposed to be famous?

The slowest car all day appeared to be the #50 driven by Al Unser Jr, which was quite the opposite of the 50 Years of Foyt celebration that car was intended to represent. If that was Little Al’s last run at Indy it was almost as undignified as his recent legal troubles. Must be Karma.

There is no workout quite like hauling a cooler, beer, water, soft drinks, sandwiches, chips, binoculars, scanner, headset, scanner frequency list, spotters guide, sunscreen, aspirin, ear plugs, seat cushion, hat, umbrella, jacket, and of course tickets (with ticket holder) around a 2.5-mile race track. Try this in the rain for burning even more calories.

Watching teams like Panther (Vitor Meira), Vision (Tomas Scheckter) and Rahal Letterman (Scott Sharp and Jeff Simmons) battle near the Top 5 late in the day was shocking. Not sure if it was due to the single fuel setting or a month of practicing, but for at least one race the series wasn’t just a three-team battle.

TV cannot due justice to the eeriness of 400,000 people standing silently during the playing of “Taps”.

Watching Marco Andretti’s vehicular violence on the video board made me wonder what Michael Andretti would have done had his son not walked out of the car. As a father I can’t imagine not parking the #39 and racing to the infield hospital. I also wonder if these thoughts will be in his mind between now and next May.

Maybe this is a stupid question, but why would Mrs Judd wear the Lamp Hat all day but then take it off when the rain start pouring? I’m telling ya, that girl ain’t right. And I don’t care who you are, how slow those cars are going, or what the photo looks like – get off the freaking race track, lady!

Went to the museum after the race and took the bus tour of the track. The tour was very cool, even at about 200 MPH less than the competitors. Taking this the day after the race made me realize they could raise the prize money for the race from the recycling refunds of the trash collected. Man, was that place a mess!

And after visiting the museum, I'd have to say this 1972 Mark Donohue winner looks the most "Indy" to me.

During the three-hour rain delay I recalled that no one had ever lost the lead on the last lap of the race before Marco did last year, and that if the rain had started to fall again while they were drying the track he would have repeated this embarrassing feat two years in a row. Tell me there isn’t a family curse here.

Judging from the empty cubicles beneath the product, it appeared the Milka Duno shirts were selling as much as any other driver. Didn’t see a single Marty Roth shirt for sale, though. Go figure.

I asked P1 afterwards what she thought of meeting MoneyCJ, and she said “He’s cool!” With a Pressdog shirt and Dan Wheldon sunglasses, who could argue with her?

Speaking of Pressdog, he’s similar to Money in that he’s not nearly as gregarious in person as you would think. I’m a total spaz compared to my contemporaries, which may be why they get to hang at the speedway with Pit Hotties Professionals like Jamie Little and Brienne Pedigo. Put it this way: I bet when they order their Bratwurst they get hot dog buns.

Last observation: We were listening to Mrs Hospenthal on the scanner late in the race on the off chance she made history, and while she was ticked when the final rainstorm hit, she quickly noted "at least one of our guys won." Maybe she's not the bad teammate she's been made out to be.

Sometimes second place is NOT nothing

Posted by Iannucci | 5/29/2007 | 2 comments »
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While Dario Franchitti is out doing the talk show circuit for the next few days, it should be noted that for the third time this season Scott Dixon managed to finish in second place. Despite the fact he is winless this season, Dixon is the only driver to place in the Top 5 in all five events so far and as a result sits atop the ICS points standings.

Here’s how Iceman summarized his Sunday at IMS:

Finishing second is definitely great and means a lot coming this high up the grid at such a great place and against such great competitors.

What a day. The rain came three times and then finally ended the race. It was just frustrating, no flow to the race, a lot of back markers causing cautions, restart after restart. It's one of those days where you feel you haven't even raced, sort of like being on the freeway and watching people smash into each other.
Meanwhile, I found the online version of Dixon’s Q & A in the Indy Star this weekend where he talks about getting hugs from Chip, Dad-tipping, Darren Manning’s strippers, and why married drivers go faster. You should be clicking over there before you finish reading this sentence.

Maybe it’s time to start talking about “Icemania”.

A wee bit of rain

Posted by Iannucci | 5/28/2007 | 2 comments »
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Before the race Mike King of IMS radio called out the Scottish fellow as his pick to win this year's Indianapolis 500, and darned if Mr Judd and Mother Nature didn't make King look like a genius.

Maybe we should fire MoneyCJ and get King to give us the weekly picks...naaaah!

Despite the rain - or perhaps because of it - it was quite an exciting race. From our seats just pas Turn One we could see (and feel) every mishap of the race. Roberto Moreno, John Herb, and Phil Giebler all directly in front of us, and John Andretti lost the groove there as well before colliding with the wall in Turn Two.

No, we didn't bring magnets so you can't blame us for the wrecks. But considering that this was my first 500 since 1997 (which was delayed by two days of rain) I'm claiming full responsibility for the weather. It's all on me, the guy from the desert.

The most interesting of the accidents from our vantage was Milka Duno's, when she came rocketing off the groove - backwards. Never a good sign. When half a dozen men jumped out of the Delphi Safety vehicle to help here it looked like they we're all racing to get her autograph. Duno, who may be the most fan-friendly driver today, waved like she was royalty when helped from the car.

In all honesty, the first 40 or so laps were pretty boring. Total parade. Perhaps they were more exciting on TV, but other than the two Brazilians battling at the front it seemed no one wanted to venture to make a pass in the first two turns. After all the morning rain washed away much of the existing rubber on the track, caution seemed worthwhile.

Franchitti seemed to be the only car to get out by a substantial margin, which makes it rather ironic that he may be tagged with an invisible asterisk for winning in the rain. Sure Tony Kanaan led the most laps and looked to be the car to beat, but I got the impression that Dario's car was just as good. He just seemed content to run his race and not try to chase down his teammates.

On the other hand, Marco Andretti was driving like the world was about to end. I heard him on the scanner a few times, and he was occasionally babbling incoherently to his crew or saying "I don't know" when they asked what kind of adjustments he needed. I'm not really surprised he ended up in that horrendous wreck because he was clearly driving without a plan other than "see car, pass car".

As a side: I wasn't listening to Marco on the restart after John Andretti's wreck, but MoneyCJ was. He later told me the spotter told Marco (in 1st) that Kanaan (in 2nd) would make a move on the restart, and to let him go and chase him down later even though rain was impending. Marco obliged, but less than hap a lap in Phil Giebler wrecked and the rain started to fall. Money says Marco let out a nice long f-bomb.

The rain was annoying, but it gave me a chance to walk around and see the sights. Like drunken couples fighting, conglomerations of Japanese students gathering, as well as some dude in a shirt that said "I'm not Mr Right but I'll f*** you until he shows up." I am Mindy - HEY!

And if it wasn't for rain I'm pretty convinced Helio Castroneves would have won this race. Despite his early troubles his car was working at the end and he had done a commendable job of advancing. I like Helio, but Penske doesn't need a 15th win at Indy just yet.

The shocker of the day was Dan Wheldon, who I'm told had already been darn near intolerable this month. The TCGR greatness just wasn't there, although Scott Dixon did a fine job of hanging around into yet another second-place finish.

Extra kudos to Scott Sharp and Tomas Scheckter for remaining competitive with "the big boys" as well, although Scheckter was making some dicey passes. Wouldn't have been surprising to see him end up on the hook. Jaques Lazier was also driving exceptionally well before hitting the wall.

At the end I was left feeling bad for Kanaan, but Indy is about luck and it wasn't his day. This is what makes this track and this race so compelling - rain and all - and what makes a surprising win by a guy like Franchitti so satisfying. I'm not sure he was an underdog, but he was the closest we had.

I'll have more later, including some pics. But first P1 and I have to head back to Arizona. A special thanks to Link for hosting us and driving us around this weekend, and a safe and pleasant Memorial Day to all.

It's time

Posted by Iannucci | 5/27/2007 | 2 comments »
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The dog ate my cheat sheet where I was going to pick Dan Wheldon as the favorite on the strength of his dominant victories on ovals this year and his strong 150 laps last year at Indy that everyone has totally forgotten.

Maybe that's a bad sign for Dan, maybe not. Maybe I'm just an amateur who needs to turn it over to the oracle.

Money Says: "I am afraid that I do not have a clear indication at this point--Indy is so different from all of the others, as you know...so absent a clear indication, I will say this....it will not be any of the top three on the grid. It could well be Wheldon, but I am going to go ahead and call Mikey, just cause I'd love to see it happen. (So that means if it's Thunda or Mikey, I get credit, right?)"

If Michael Andretti actually wins...oh, man. Better pack some Depends just in case.

Talking the talk

Posted by Iannucci | 5/26/2007 | 0 comments »
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Since arriving in The Hoosier State I've been having less time near a computer and more time reading newpapers and magazines. Print - what a concept! Anyhow, here are some of the more amusing quotes featuring tomorrow's participants.

"I don't think they carry much money on trains anymore. but I'd love to have the whole Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid thing going on. It would be a lot like racing, very team oriented."
- Jeff Simmons in IndyCar magazine, on how if he wasn't racing he cars he'd like to be robbing trains

"Well of course. Have you ever met the real Dan? Dan is one of the ones who has to get online with 'Joke of the Day' web sites every morning so he can find material."
- Scott Dixon in the Indy Star, on if he is funnier than fellow Target Twin Dan Wheldon

"I have no idea"
- Helio Castroneves in IndyCar magazine, in response to a question about the cost of milk

"Nice farmer's tan"
- Ed Carpenter in IndyStar, discussing teammate Tomas Scheckter's use of a portable hot tub at IMS

"I'd banish taxes. I'd hate taxes."
- Danica Patrick in IndyCar magazine, on what she would do if she were President of the United States

"I'd never say never, but I see the rules over there are going to change. You have some owners that are going to change over there, and that might present an opportunity."
- Chip Ganassi in USA Today, on the possibility of adding a Formula One team to his stable

"Obviously I watch ESPN, the NASCAR stuff, because Jamie Little is in it now - that would be a big draw for me."
- Dan Wheldon in IndyCar Magazine, discussing his favorite TV show

A day at the speedway

Posted by Iannucci | 5/26/2007 | 3 comments »
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Oh, it's so good to be back! Being a resident of Arizona and having four little ones has eliminated my opportunities to return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for nearly a decade, but it was worth the wait once we got there. Walking up to the intersection of 16th and Georgetown, P1 nearly had a heart attack.

"Oh my god! Is that the pagoda? I think I'm going to faint!" What an adorable little drama queen.

Fortunately we arrived early, so we snagged some seats near the Yard of Bricks in the upper deck on the outside of the track. On Sunday, we'd have to kill somebody to get those seats, but on Carb Day we were living large.

Unfortunately the P1's camera was unavailable for Carb Day, so I can't give you the picture of the day. It would have been when the ICS teams were reading for practice and Dario Franchitti's car was dropped off it's jacks while the rear wheels were off, making a very large "CLANG" type noise. Mr Judd had been chatting with Marco and Tony, but he suddenly turned his head, mouth agape, and just stared while crew members all stood around looking at each other. Priceless.

The practice itself was uneventful except that it was very obvious Milka Duno was A LOT slower than everyone. If you have Milkalicious in your Indy 500 pool, you might be looking at "first out" money already.

Speaking of Duno, P1 and I were at the track with Link (my father-in-law), who is a longtime friend of Ron McQueeney, Director of IMS Photography. McQueeney said everyone is impressed with Duno's personality and willingness to sign autographs for hours (and hours), but that there is concern that her Citgo-related buddy Hugo Chavez might be at the Speedway on Sunday.

Personally, I can't think of a better place for this jerk ass then among hundreds of thousands of adrenalin-fueled and alcohol-powered Mid-westerners. Especially after reading this article in the Pueblo Chieftain that was forwarded by Red-Blooded American MoneyCJ. So at any rate, the Milka conundrum continues.

After testing it was time for the Freedom 100, which managed to be both exciting and boring in the span of 40 laps. Congratulations to Alex Lloyd for running away with his fourth straight Indy Pro victory, which I will always remember for something that has little to do with Alex.

The ESPN had their full crew covering the race, including the return of The Ponytail herself, Big Jamie Little. (During the day I heard the fans behind me excitedly point out three people on pit road: Mario Andretti, Tony George, and Jamie Little. It's true.) Anyhow, at the end of the race Brienne Pedigo got to handle the interview with Lloyd, and while listening to the scanner of the raw feed I heard Jamie exclaim "Oh Bree, it's your first Victory Lane!"

Maybe you had to be there, but I couldn't help thinking of the word embrace. In a related note, I did see Jamie and Dan Wheldon embrace at one point, and all seemed right with the world again.

Two of the most notable efforts in the race came from Hideki Mutoh and Mike Potekhen, who both went to the back of the pack on the first lap because of pitting but then surged in like 25 green laps to fifth and sixth respectively.

The accomplishment of the day was by Ryan Justice, who got tapped and turned nearly sideways between two cars but somehow straightened it out and saved the car without contacting anything. The crowd applauded both the TV replay and his pit entry immediately afterwards. Somebody buy that man a drink.

Afterwards was the Pit Stop contest, which was really annoying. If you go to an NBA game nowadays there is music constantly playing, as if the event needs a soundtrack. Somebody at IMS must have noticed this because they got the not-so-bright idea that the Pit Stop contest needed a DJ cranking out music with obscene lyrics that was so loud you couldn't hear the announcer of the event. You couldn't even hear the tires squealing on burnout.

And the Kid Rock concert came AFTER this.

Seriously, if the marketing folks are only going to target drunken college students then go ahead and jack the price of beer up to $7 because everyone else is leaving early.

Even more amazing is that there was no announcement over the Public Address system about what happened on the track during the Kid Rock show. They hauled out over a dozen vintage Indy vehicles and had them drive around the track, and even P1 was impressed. I'm not old enough to have heard turbines or Offys, but this was a rare opportunity to see and hear these historic cars - once they turned down the music. Why didn't they promote this? I mean, even the easily bored P1 thought it was cool.

Sincerest apologies to those folks hoping to get together with P1 and me on Firday. Link didn't want to walk anywhere and we didn't want to leave him with three coolers and a bunch of merchandise. Also a special thank you to Ron McQueeney for his hospitality, which was amazing considering he just worked 8 hours in the sun and then had to shoot photos of a Kid Rock concert on top of that.

That's it for now. We are getting our camera charged and will be back on Sunday. In the meantime, check out the real and totally unfabricated Pressdog interview with Tony Kanaan.

Indy Pro shock: 46-year old snags Freedom 100 pole

Posted by Iannucci | 5/24/2007 | 0 comments »
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Three races (and three wins for Alex Lloyd) into the Indy Pro season and it looked like this year was going to be a series of events commemorating the further greatness of Sam Schmidt Racing. But then Apex Racing showed up at Indy.

Qualifying for tomorrow's Freedom 100 ended with the Apex tandem of Ken Losch and Mike Potekhen securing 1st and 3rd on the starting grid, which is surprising given that the team that is preparing for only it's fourth IPS race. Last year these two were driving in the Star Mazda series, for crying out loud.

Losch is especially surprising, since he is a successful real estate developer in my home state of Arizona. Say what you want about the man being a ride buyer, but note that in 33 races another financially solvent individual named Marty Roth never won an IPS pole.

Meanwhile Hideki Mutoh qualified 4th for his fourth race. He finished no worse than 4th in the previous three. And friend of My Name is IRL Wade Cunningham is next on the grid, also looking to challenge Lloyd's three-race streak.

So exciting, you could cut the froth with a knife.

Jim Nabors cancels, I am tabbed as a replacement

Posted by Iannucci | 5/24/2007 | 1 comments »
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Just as we step of the airplane and set foot on Hoosier soil, this message comes over the radio.

Actor-entertainer Jim Nabors will not attend the 91st Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 27 and sing "Back Home Again in Indiana" during pre-race ceremonies due to illness.

Nabors will address the Race Day crowd on the video boards at IMS from his home in Hawaii and then ask the fans to sing the beloved song together in his place. (MORE)

Very sad news, but in all honesty, this may end up being a very cool thing.

I've been to dozens of rock concerts and above all is a single memory. In 1987 U2 opened their "Joshua Tree" tour in Arizona, but on opening night Bono came down with laryngitis. He kept running backstage every other song to get a drink or spray his throat or gargle (who knows), and when it came time to sing the choral screamfest that is "Pride (In the name of love)" it was apparent he wasn't going to get it done.

So of course 16,000 of his closest friends (including your humble host) helped him out that night, and this man of notable ego appeared truly humbled as everyone in the building - except him - was singing his song.

This is the first and last time Jim Nabors will ever be compared to Bono.

And now for something completely different

Posted by Iannucci | 5/23/2007 | 5 comments »
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All apologies for the brief operational pause, but P1 and I are heading Eastward to The Brickyard. As you can see she's not only got her custom made shirt (thanks to grandma) representing her American girls, but also her big race car driver sunglasses. She's prepped.

The updates will return as soon as Thursday Night, assuming the cooperation of American Airlines. Don't worry - the cheat sheet (with Money's surprise pick) is forthcoming.

Otherwise - see you there!

By George, It's Panther Racing

Posted by Iannucci | 5/22/2007 | 1 comments »
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Remember last year when former Heavyweight Champ George Formean was "grilling" (oh, hahaha) Michael Andretti about team ownership?

Remember when Foreman was reportedly going to become a partner with Vision Racing?

Well, Foreman has indeed signed on as co-owner of a team, but it's none of the above.

Two-time IndyCar Series champion Panther Racing announced that former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman and his sons will become the team's newest co-owners.

George Foreman Jr. and brother George III serve as vice presidents of George Foreman Enterprises, the marketing company founded by their father. They also founded their own investment company, JR3, which has strategic investments in a diverse portfolio of industries including real estate, apparel, exercise equipment, sporting goods, financial services, entertainment, and music. (MORE)
Yeah, in case you didn't know he named all of his kids "George". Fits right in with Indy Racing, right?

Headline of the Year

Posted by Iannucci | 5/22/2007 | 1 comments »
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And I am not making this up.

"Patrick downplays sex, just wants to be on top"

Excuse me whilst I pick my jaw up off the floor.

At least there was a good quote from Mrs Hospenthal at the end of the article.

Asked how she would handle a duel for the championship in the final laps, Patrick said: "Say a couple of prayers, put your foot down and hope that the front end sticks."

Meanwhile, Pressdog expounds on the deeper meaning of the headline. Kinda.

Alex Barron is so Indy

Posted by Iannucci | 5/22/2007 | 0 comments »
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In case you drew Alex Barron in the Indy 500 pool this year, here are two items to perk up your day. First, Barron has actually won two races in the IndyCar series and second, he's got a really cool toilet.

Spend a weekend with Alex, in less than four minutes.

With "Friends" like this...

Posted by Iannucci | 5/21/2007 | 6 comments »
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Special thanks to reader Jennifer for pointing out that this morning the three drivers who comprise Row 1 of the field of 33 made an appearance to promote the race on the nationally televised Fox and Friends. This looked to be a fine litle feature on three very personable drivers, at least until host Brian Kilmeade opened his mouth.

"...and guess who I'm joined by? Ill-io CASTRO-Novus, Tony KAY-nin and Dayrio Fran-CHEETY."

Yes friends, this professional broadcaster butchered ALL THREE names. It only goes downhill from there as Kilmeade refers to the Indy 500 as "The Great American Race", which last I checked was the pitch line for that NAPCAR race in Florida every February.

He also concluded the interview by confusing Dario with Tony and then pitching his book. That's right - Kilmeade, the interviewer, is pitching his book. And making matters worse he talks about the the drivers mentioned in the book, like Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch...excuse me while I have an aneurysm.

Your cheatin' heart

Posted by Iannucci | 5/21/2007 | 8 comments »
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Surpise, surpise! Robin Miller decided to put down the op-ed (mostly) and get down to actually reporting news, and darned if he didn't break an intriguing bit of information.

SPEED has learned that Honda engineers caught the cheating during the first week of practice and informed IRL officials.

"All I'm going to say is that we saw methanol in the fuel and there was also some water involved so obviously it was to help create more power," said Robert Clarke, president of Honda Performance Development.

"I'm not going to say who was doing it or how they were doing it but we stopped it by removing the air temperature sensors from everybody's car.

"And we caught it before qualifying."
To paraphrase Captain Renault, "I'm shocked, shocked to find that cheating is going on in here!" Cheating? In motorsports? Who knew?

Miller outlines that one team was caught cheating, but that any punishment will be handled internally. TrackSide Online follows up on this report by detailing how the cheating occurred and notes that this is likely the reason Honda has only given teams a single fuel setting for green flag conditions on Sunday.

Neither TSO nor Miller revealed who the cheating party was, but the quote "we caught it before qualifying" will certainly lead to idiots like me speculating that this could be the TCGR team. After all, the Target Twins went from running at the top of the early T&S charts to qualifying in the second row. Just sayin'.

Miller goes on to note that the cheater will not likely be publicly identified for fear of repurcussions from sponsors. It would stand to reason that identification would likely be the most effective form of punishment, as a team would much rather pay a fine and go back to cheating in new and more creative ways - but this is open-wheel racing and loss of sponsorship for a single team could have league-wide effects, such as lower car counts or loss of a major team to a competiting series.

So don't hold your breath on finding out.

The net effect of the single fuel setting for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing could play out one of two ways. Either the cheating teams no longer have a speed advantage and the race becomes contested by more than the usual handful of entrants, or other technological advantages become more pronounced and teams that might have thought of gambling on 500 miles of fuel conservation are suddenly left with no chance.

Oh, the drama! Either way, we will all know the full effect in a week.

UPDATE: On 5/22 the IndyStar fingered the guilty party: Dreyer & Reinbold. A team official said it was just “a dumb mistake.”

The agony of defeat

Posted by Iannucci | 5/20/2007 | 2 comments »
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Well, Bump Day didn't feature much bumping. Isn't it ironic? Don'tcha think? (Sorry.)

The hardest part about watching the late telecast was seeing two teams featuring Jimmy Kite and PJ Jones trying to find enough speed to bump out Moto Marty Roth (pictured, relieved and bewildered), Backmarker Extraordinaire. Despite the endless barrage of commentary relating to mortgaged homes and maximum laps - alright, we get it - neither Kite nor Jones was going to be bumping anyone.

You know it's bad when on live TV Brian Barnhart is giving your driver instructions that do not include "give me four good one's and put her in the show", but rather he's telling you to "recognize the hand you are dealt". Ouch.

By the way, I'd like to cast a vote in favor of televising the Barnhart instructions. Sure, that could be repetitious, but from the opening scene last Saturday with Buddy Rice to Jimmy Kite's last ditch run today that was showing the viewers something they don't otherwise witness. It wasn't funny like Dario's pie-eating contest yesterday, but it was still gripping on days were there was a lot of lulls in the action.

Also difficult to handle was the total lack of extra deals. If the last year has taught us anything it's that PJ Chesson is synonymous with the words "no deal". Judging that both PJ's ran into various forms of hard luck, I would suggest to them they immediately change their names to "Buddy". Just a thought.

And in case you didn't know and are reading this before anyone else: Milka got in. Three ladies. Three Andrettis. Three feet of bricks.

3 Hélio Castroneves
11 Tony Kanaan
27 Dario Franchitti

9 Scott Dixon
6 Sam Hornish, Jr.
10 Dan Wheldon

12 Ryan Briscoe
7 Danica Patrick
26 Marco Andretti

2 Tomas Scheckter
39 Michael Andretti
8 Scott Sharp

17 Jeff Simmons
20 Ed Carpenter
14 Darren Manning

15 Buddy Rice
55 Kosuke Matsuura
22 A. J. Foyt, IV

4 Vitor Meira
02 Davey Hamilton
5 Sarah Fisher

99 Buddy Lazier
24 Roger Yasukawa
33 John Andretti

50 Al Unser, Jr.
98 Alex Barron
19 Jon Herb

21 Jaques Lazier
23 Milka Duno (R)
25 Marty Roth

77 Roberto Moreno
91 Richie Hearn
31 Phil Giebler (R)

Prelude to Bump Day, Part Three

Posted by Iannucci | 5/19/2007 | 2 comments »
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Today's goal for the folks at The Brickyard was to fill up the remaining 11 positions in the starting grid, but unfortunately that was not happening. Only 32 stand qualified, and two of those (Jimmy Kite and the ageless Roberto Moreno) are at speeds well below the projected cutoff near 218 MPH.

Roger Yasukawa in the third Dreyer & Reinbold car looked exceptional, as did John Andretti in the third Panther car as both logged qualification averages of well over 221 MPH. Little Al and Milkalicious are both in and likely safe, although who knows how many pop-up-outta-nowhere drivers will be taking a crack at these folks tomorrow.

One driver who is not in the current 32 is PJ Jones, son of racing legend Parnelli Jones. Parnelli actually took a bit of a spin in PJ's car today, and although it was most assuredly not a qualifying effort it did provide for some awesome photos (and a nice story), like this one from Dana Garrett of Indycar.com.

Safety be damned; open-wheel racing needs more goggles. Period.

Gregoire injured, needs a sub

Posted by Iannucci | 5/18/2007 | 3 comments »
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From the intrepid Curt Cavin, reporting live from a hospital bed in Indianapolis:

The fastest of the cars yet to qualify for this year's Indianapolis 500 now needs a driver.

Stephan Gregoire, a seven-time starter in the 500, suffered a fractured bone in his back during a crash in Thursday's practice. He was held overnight at Methodist Hospital for observation.

"It's too sore," said Tom Chastain, who owns Chastain Motorsports. "He can't do anything; he can't move around." (MORE)
Reports from Trackside Online indicate unsigned drivers like PJ Chesson and Alex Barron already have rides being prepped for qualification this weekend, so perhaps this is the big break (albeit in Gregoire's back) that one of the Indy Pro drivers like Jay Howard or Wade Cunningham might get.

Then again, Chastain might consider giving Arni a ride...just kidding!

UPDATE: TSO says Roberto Moreno will substitute for Gregoire.

Indy 500 flashback: 1939 and 1941

Posted by Iannucci | 5/18/2007 | 3 comments »
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It’s rewind time again, and today's feature is an awesome set of newsreels from the 1939 and 1941 Indianapolis 500s. Incredible to think that is the same track they race at today, considering how much construction has gone on since the Hulman family took possession of the property.

It would also appear the Delphi Safety Team has greatly improved as well.

The 1939 clip features three-time winner and former IMS President Wilbur Shaw, but it’s the 1941 clip that provides a glimpse into one of the speedways more noteworthy races. Mari Rose wins the first of his three Indy 500s, but he did so by taking the helm of Floyd Davis’s Wetteroth/Offenhauser with 128 laps to go. How did this happen? Did Rose just walk over and say “Excuse me sir, my car broke down and I was wondering if I might drive that fine machine of yours to Victory Lane...?”

Maybe Dan Wheldon should have tried this with Scott Dixon last year. Maybe not.

A case could be made for Rose being the most dominant driver in Indy 500 history, because although he only had three wins those came in ’41, ’47 and ’48 – and there was no racing from 1942 to 1945 due to World War II. As it was he finished in the top 3 three other times in his 15 races at The Brickyard.

More bad luck for Jon Herb

Posted by Iannucci | 5/17/2007 | 0 comments »
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As if wrecking in practice last week then getting bumped out of qualification on Sunday weren't bad enough for Jon Herb and his Racing Professionals team, this news is released today.

Veteran racing mechanic Willie Ator, a member of the crew for the No. 19 Racing Professionals Dallara driven by Jon Herb, was severely injured in a traffic accident on May 13 near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Ator, a longtime open wheel mechanic from Jacksonville, Illinois, was injured at the intersection of West 16th Street and Lafayette Road when a car turned in front of his motorcycle. Ator, who had just left IMS following Sunday's qualification session, suffered several broken bones and is recovering at Methodist Hospital. "Our team is praying for Willie. He is a good guy and a talented mechanic who will be missed by the whole team," said Herb.
Geez, louise. Best wishes for a hasty recovery.

You go, girlfriend!

Posted by Iannucci | 5/17/2007 | 2 comments »
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Check out these two fine ladies yucking it up this weekend, courtesy of the Associated Press.

I wonder which entry on My Name Is IRL they were discussing.

Hey, Rusty might know THIS guy

Posted by Iannucci | 5/17/2007 | 0 comments »
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After watching last year’s Indy 500, where with a handful of laps remaining an Andretti was running in first and another Andretti was running second and NEITHER of them ended up in Victory Lane, it wouldn’t be totally unreasonable to conclude you could put 33 Andretti family members in the Indy 500 and still have no one win the race. Yes, I mean that – and I’m one of the masochists cheering for these poor people to win at Indy.

Now, if the race were shortened to 400 miles (or even 499)then they might stand a chance.

Regardless, former NAPCAR (not a typo) driver John Andretti has returned to the Brickyard after formally agreeing to a deal placing him in the third Panther Racing entry. John is the son of Aldo Andretti, who happens to be Mario’s twin brother.

Whenever I see the name Aldo I think of this friend of my late grandfather named Aldo Scarpone. Mr Scarpone was a soft-spoken gentlemen, but for years I never met him and envisioned this man with a name like “Aldo Scarpone” to be some kind of intimidating hitman. I was so impressed that years later I sometimes make dinner reservations in this name.

Sorry for getting off topic there. Andretti will be driving the #33 car this month.

The No Fun League

Posted by Iannucci | 5/16/2007 | 3 comments »
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Colts have no problem with Peyton Manning starting the Indianapolis 500. They just don't want a Colts car running in the May 27 race.

Paul Diatlovich, the primary owner of PDM Racing, said he had asked permission to paint Jimmy Kite's No. 18 car in the Colts team colors -- dark blue and white -- with a message on the car's sidepod that read simply "Go Colts."

Indianapolis officials nixed it because of sponsorship concerns.

"I'm extremely upset with the narrow-minded, pinheaded leadership of the Colts team and the NFL," said Diatlovich, who lives in the city. "It's inexcusable. All we're trying to do is say thank you." (MORE)

Indy Insider compares himself to a pig

Posted by Iannucci | 5/16/2007 | 1 comments »
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Lots more drivers in this one - including Little Al, who says his wife has a bit of a shine for Arni. OK then.

Seriously, the Mari Hulman George interview is priceless, as is watching Helio Castroneves refer to Ryan Briscoe as "from Japan". Must be the Luczo Dragon deal that threw him.

One more Sofa King joke

Posted by Iannucci | 5/15/2007 | 0 comments »
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This has nothing to do with the ICS, but considering Dan Wheldon's dominance, his excellenct chances at Indy, his...Britishness, well, let's just say this story needs to be brought to your attention.

The UK Sun gleefully reports that in Leicestershire (which I believe is pronounced something like "Lester Sheer") Marek Turowsk has broken the fastest furniture land speed record by piloting this Sofa up to a striking 92 MPH. And as you can see he even had sponsorship on his sidepods.

What's more unbelievable - the fact that there even IS a "fastest furniture land speed record" or the odd realization that the British are using Miles Per Hour instead of kilometers?

Meanwhile there are unconfirmed rumors that Japanese engineers at Honda have undertaken a secret project involving an ethanol-powered barcalounger.

Yasukawa gets ready to bump

Posted by Iannucci | 5/15/2007 | 2 comments »
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Dreyer and Reinbold has finalized their deal for a third entry featuring Roger Yasukawa, which means we have at least 10 drivers competing for the last 13 spots.

Come on - we need at least four more participants if we're going to enjoy watching someone's hopes and dreams being crushed LIVE and in High Definition this weekend.

Here are the challengers thusfar:
Milka Duno - SAMAX Motorsports
Stephan Gregoire - Chastain Motorsports
Phil Giebler - Playa del Racing
Jon Herb - Racing Professionals
PJ Jones - Team Leader
Jimmy Kite - PDM Racing
Jaques Lazier - Playa del Racing
Marty Roth - Roth Racing
Al Unser, Jr., - AJ Foyt Racing
Roger Yasukawa - Dreyer and Reinbold

More, please.

UPDATE: I meant 11 positions remaining (3 times 11 = 33, usually) but for some reason the number 13 was stuck in my head. It has been removed (the number, not my head) and corrected henceforth.

But still, we are still at only 10 entries for 11 remaining spots.
11 remaining spots.
11 remaining spots.
11 remaining spots. (Set memory to ON)

Drinking and Driving

Posted by Iannucci | 5/15/2007 | 3 comments »
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As many of you know, there isn’t much love around here for drivers who happen to tip back a few too many before getting behind the wheel of any vehicle – no matter what that driver may or may not have accomplished on a race track. Sure a DUI is a mistake anyone can make, but if you are a professional race car driver you should seriously make a concerted effort to avoid this particular citation.

Speeding, that’s understandable. Bar fight, maybe once or twice. But driving while impaired should be taboo, especially when some drivers are sponsored by alcoholic beverages. As a driver you don’t just represent yourself but also your team and your sport. Don’t send the wrong message and don’t mess with our sport by being a drunken fool.

Driving at Indy should be a privilege and not a right – even if your name is Foyt or Unser – and being cited for a DUI should mean safeguards are in place to verify that if a driver is never ever even suspected of driving in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

There is no personal grudge here towards Al Unser Jr or Anthony Foyt IV, because I hope they never have any substance-related legal issues ever again. On the contrary, I’m thinking about the other guys they will be competing against, which is why it is totally insane to think that Al Unser Jr has NEVER been tested for drugs or alcohol before a race.

Take it away Bob Kravitz:

Incredibly, Unser has never, ever been subjected to an Indy Racing League drug and alcohol test. He was tested by his former boss, Roger Penske, during a time in the late 1990s when Unser's excesses were common knowledge. But there was no IRL test after the 2002 incident. And there was none after his most recent run-in with the law, which occurred in January.

After Sunday's qualifying, a day in which Unser was bumped from the bubble and forced to re-qualify next weekend, race steward Brian Barnhart was asked, why hasn't Unser been tested?

"How do you know he hasn't?" he responded.

Barnhart was told Unser had said he had never been tested. (MORE)
This doesn’t need to be a story, folks. A little testing would solve this problem right about now and keep the sauce in the stands and off the track. That way we can cheer or boo whomever with a clear conscience and let the other racing stories come to the forefront.

Looking Sharp

Posted by Iannucci | 5/14/2007 | 4 comments »
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The qualification process wasn't as exciting as Saturday, but as Brian Barnhart noted it wasn't supposed to be. The best part of qualifications on Sunday - a.k.a. Bump Day Lite - was that a couple more teams got up into the speeds to make fans think that maybe they might also be competitive.

For the first time all season, the entries from Rahal Letterman Racing were turning laps in a snappy fashion equal to that of their snappy cars. Scott Sharp's time would have placed him 9th on Saturday, but 12th isn't that far behind. Meanwhile, teammate Jeff Simmons looked like he might be getting the Ethanol-sponsored car out where people can actually see it in something other than replays of a crash.

The rest of the Vision Racing team not named Scheckter also qualified well, including sentimental favorite Davey Hamilton. However, Hamilton reportedly appears to not be a warm and fuzzy story to at least one former Indianapolis 500 entrant. Mr Scott Pruett offered his thoughts.

"The IRL has been struggling ever since 1996. And this year they're going to have a hard time finding 33 cars--33 good cars--to put in the race. Look at Davey Hamilton, I feel sorry for the guy. I think he shouldn't be out there. I know what it takes to get in those cars. And there comes a time when you just don't have it. Things can be really bad if you crash."
Yawn. I'm not sure "what it takes to get out there" but I am sure Hamilton just qualified for the race. Pruett's best finish at Indy was 10th in 1989. Hamilton finished 6th in '97 and 4th in '98. Not that this has anything to do with anything.

Also note that Darren Manning had his Foyt machine up in the 223-ish range. The Dreyer and Reinbold tandem of Rice and Fisher were a tick or two behind but qualified, as were the Panther's Matsuura and Meira. Buddy Lazier rounded out the top 22.

Buddy actually won the Indy 500 once. Seriously. You could look it up. In fact, both drivers named Buddy have their faces on the Borg-Warner. What are the odds of that?

What does it mean? I don't know, but I'd start calling my favorite driver "Buddy". At least for the Month of May.

At any rate, Sunday provided little drama except for poor Jon Herb who kept getting bumped all day. Next weekend is looking good for him though. And speaking of bumping, there are at least 16 drivers competing for the final 13 spots, and that doesn't even include any folks waiting in the wings for last minute deals.

Helio feeling Polish

Posted by Iannucci | 5/12/2007 | 8 comments »
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It looked like Dario Franchitti's average of 225.191 MPH was going to hold up, but then a couple of Brazilians decided to take the last two runs. They had it made in the shade, and the Brickyard drama of the new qualification format finally unfolded.

The good news for AGR is that all five of their drivers got the top 11, as Scott Sharp and Darren Manning were unable to best Michael Andretti's 226.789. The bad news is that Helio Castroneves snagged the pole from Franchitti and Tony Kanaan's subsequent run faltered on the final lap in what looked to be the best run of the day.

Observers will note that Hornish probably could have had the pole were it not for bobbles inb both of his attempts. He can take solace in knowing it's just qualification.

The best part of the broadcast was watching Ashley Judd (and her big hat) explain that it's not her job to calm her husband down, as the camera panned over to Dario in some sort of zen-style sitting position. This my friends is a fun couple - we need a reality series here, ABC.

The surprise of course was that after dominating for much of the week, the Target Twins both qualified only in row two. Chip will be on suicide watch (kidding!) while Danny White Shades will probably be wound tighter than usual the next few weeks (not kidding!).

Ryan Briscoe qualified in 7th, which is spectacular news for his team since he has to be racing elsewhere next week. That was the lowest qualification of the three Penske cars "Penske" cars - try to act shocked. Also, Tomas Scheckter again quietly got the job done by taking the 10th starting position. Solid.

1-11 are in the books. Tomorrow the next 11 are in. Dig it.

1. Helio Castroneves 225.817
2. Tony Kanaan 225.757
3. Dario Franchitti 225.191
4. Scott Dixon 225.122
5. Sam Hornish Jr 225.109
6. Dan Wheldon 224.641
7. Ryan Briscoe 224.410
8. Danica Patrick 224.076
9. Marco Andretti 223.299
10. Tomas Scheckter 222.877
11. Michael Andretti 222.789

Oh, by the way - the cars looked smashing in HD!

Bobby's Feeling the Indy Love

Posted by Iannucci | 5/11/2007 | 0 comments »
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We know Bobby Rahal has recently endured horrendous seasons in the ICS, and we know he's been absent from his team while watching his son Graham race in other series during that time. We even know some yahoo in Canada tried to get him to talk about jumping ship to the CCWS.

One other thing we thought we knew was that Bobby didn't want his son Graham to be racing ovals or racing for RLR. But then yesterday Bobby said this (from IndyStar):

Rahal said no thought was given to bringing Graham to Indy this year, but he'd like to see it in 2008, preferably with Graham's Newman-Haas-Lanigan Champ Car team.

"If it works out next year that they bring Graham here, I'd be very, very happy," Rahal said. "If they're not going to do it and release him (for the month), then I'd love to have him here running for us."
This is meant as no disrespect for the drivers participating this year, but having Graham at Indy would make for yet another compelling storyline in 2008. Heck, having Newman-Haas back would too, but don't hold your breath on that one.

This is just a heads up, and we now return to Fast Friday already in progress.

Super Dave

Posted by Iannucci | 5/10/2007 | 2 comments »
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Every year you give up a few dollars and get in the office Indy 500 pool, hoping your name gets attached to an Unser or a Penske driver or some hot shot Brazilian or for crying out loud someone you've heard of before. Even a cursed Andretti would be fine, but despite all your pleading with uknown forces you pull up the final sheet and see that this year you get...PJ Jones.

With only 20 or so regulars - and some of them are even hard to pick out of a lineup - it's generally accepted that half of the field will be made up of different drivers of the has-been or never-was variety that you know nothing about and will likely not see much of on that glorious Sunday in May (unless of course they manage to clip the wall or stall on the back stretch).

But this year there will be at least one of those "happy to be here" drivers who utterly demands your attention, if not your affection. If you have listened to IMS radio broadcasts then you know him as Mike King's sidekick, and if you've been a fan of the IRL since the turn of the century you remember him as the Vitor Meira of his day. His name is Davey Hamilton, and his story is so good everyone is rushing to tell it.

The short version is that Hamilton never won an IRL race but was twice the series runner-up. He was a solid competitor until a freak accident race at Texas Motor Speedway in 2001 threw his car nose first into the catch fence, shredding both of his feet. After 21 (21!) operations and two years (two years!) off what as left of his feet he undertook years of rehabilitation that brought him to here, in 2007 with a Hewlett-Packard sponsorship and a ride in Vision Racing's fourth entry.

Hamilton shares that he has learned a lot being outside the car, although he has given up a lot to get back inside. From the IndyStar:

"Really, I've learned that family has to be No. 1; the job, which is racing, has to be after that," he said..."I guess I've learned you can have two things that are important," he said.

Hamilton, who can't even jog with his fused ankle, added that he had to come back to the sport to complete the family circle. His father is still racing sprint cars at age 66; D.J. is racing go-karts.

Hamilton's determination can't be overstated. He had to return a six-figure portion of his disability insurance check to get coverage for this effort.
Darned if that doesn't bring new meaning to the phrase "ride buyer". To fully grasp the extent of Hamilton's injuries, take a visit to a site by Marshall Pruett who was on Hamilton's team when that fateful crash occurred.

It was then that I heard the IRL officials call out a variety of emergency response commands that were different than what I usually heard in the event of an accident. Whatever code words they used, I knew they weren’t good code words.

We’d soon learn that if Davey had just enjoyed any form of luck, it was that his 200mph impact into the steel pole was somewhat a glancing blow. Instead of it being a pure side impact, he hit at about 45 degrees, with his momentum pulling the car slightly back and away from the pole (towards turn 3.)

This miracle meant that while Davey’s legs were almost entirely exposed to impact the pole once the chassis had broken away, the car had continued away from the pole somewhat, leaving his left leg just below the calf to impact the pole. In that whipping motion, his right ankle and foot were also free to impact the pole. This whole ordeal left Davey with two crushed feet, some lost toes, parts missing from his feet, and a lot of carbon fiber shards embedded in his lower extremities. The steel cables had caught and ripped everything they could off the car, and the pole, showing signs of the initial impact, had been bent about 3″ to the left like a horseshoe where the car hit. For steel, that’s a lot.

Davey’s condition wasn’t immediately released, but I did grill the tow truck driver that had returned the car to us as to Davey’s state. He said he was unconscious, and his lower legs were obviously in horrible shape, but that he seemed to be in stable condition when he was airlifted out. It didn’t make the job of wiping a few pints of Davey’s blood off the car any easier, but it was helpful to know our friend was going to hopefully survive his injuries.
Before you reach for a bucket, take a moment to focus on the present and what Hamilton hopes his return means. ESPN.com has more on how Hamilton see the bigger picture and is hoping in some small way to refocus attention on open-wheel racing.

In short, Hamilton believes, it's about creating heroes again. He grew up idolizing Rick Mears, but doesn't see any polarizing characters in the current IndyCar Series field.

"I don't think we're making heroes anymore," Hamilton asserted. "I can't think of anyone in the series who is a hero right now. Guys like Sam and Dan are breaking records, but they're not becoming household names and heroes. I can tell you we need to get it done, but I don't know how. It would be great to see short-track guys get a shot."
I can think of one guy, Davey. No matter what happens on May 27th we will all be applauding you and your unbelievable effort and passion. Here's to one underdog we can all hope to have the honor of drawing out of the hat.

Here comes the rain again

Posted by Iannucci | 5/09/2007 | 0 comments »
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Looks like rain has started to fall on Day two of practice at Indy, which is fine so long as it doesn’t keep pouring up through the opening round of qualifications this weekend. According to The Weather Channel the uninvited storm will be gone by then, although for today they suggest those in Indianapolis “watch for lightening”. I would be inclined to proactively seek shelter instead of standing around watching for it, but that’s just me.

As for racing, yesterday was a different story as the sun was out and most teams were able to get out and run some laps. Dan Wheldon set the pace as the only driver to record a lap under 40 seconds with a top speed of 225.074 MPH. In other news, the sun rose in the east.

Behind “Thunda” Dan were Castroneves, Scheckter, Kanaan, Dixon and Patrick, who were all able to top 224 MPH. While at first glance this looks encouraging for those hoping for a competitive race, it should be noted that not all 224 MPH runs are created equal. TrackSide Online noted that Scheckter’s time came courtesy of a tow from Tony Kanaan, while My Name Is IRL reader David shared similar observations while watching the action from turn three (set jealousy to ON).

All of the AGR fast times today were with a tow so I don't know what to think of them. That tow appeared to be worth about 2.5 MPH. Ganassi drivers did their times without a tow.
So other than Castroneves, no other team was really close to the TCGR drivers in the open road. Oh, goody. You gotta hand it to Wheldon though, because not only did he top the leaderboard but he also started dishing out the smack. From TSO today:

Dan Wheldon upped the Pole Speed ante a little yesterday as he suggested 232 is a possibility. He also hinted as to why we haven't heard a whole lot about speeds when he noted that Brian (Barnhart) will not be happy with him for talking about running over 230. Apparently that is a line in the sand they would prefer not to see crossed. Wheldon also said they were nowhere close to being trimmed out and that Chip would kill him if he was running trimmed out on the first day.
Show off.

Tony Kanaan does it all

Posted by Iannucci | 5/08/2007 | 5 comments »
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There is no substitute for a teammate who knows his shizzle.

Those following the Timing and Scoring on the first day of open practice at Indy will note the busy morning for El Nariz, who was pretty much saving half his team from possible Indy obscurity.

#11 Tony Kanaan has the first lap over 222 mph this month.
2007-05-08 12:26:30

Tony Kanaan will be shaking down the #26 car.
2007-05-08 12:52:01

Tony Kanaan quickly takes the #26 car over 223 mph.
2007-05-08 12:54:51

Tony Kanaan will shake down the #7 car.
2007-05-08 13:05:44

#26 Marco Andretti is over 222 mph for the first time.
2007-05-08 13:19:41

#7 Danica Patrick is quickly over 222 mph.
2007-05-08 13:45:42

Hmmm. Let's guess which Andretti (father? son? grandpa?) suggested this idea after all the handling issues the #26 had at Homestead and Kansas. As for his excursion in the #7, maybe that was so Danica! could do a few more interviews.

It should be noted Marco's father Andretti 2.0 and Mr Judd were able to shake down their own cars in excess of 221 MPH. Meanwhile the TCGR teammates were in excess of 224 MPH.

UPDATE: As if this isn't enough, Kanaan will be posting daily blog entries at MyRacer.com. From yesterday's first post:

Every year on the day before we start practicing for the Indy 500, the drivers go to the grocery store to stock up for the month of May. Almost all of us stay here at the Speedway in motorcoaches in the infield, so, just like everybody else, we have to fill our refrigerators.

But, unlike everybody else, we usually don’t shop for groceries, so this little trip is always an adventure, as it was Sunday night when Dario Franchitti, Marco Andretti and I piled into my car and went to a nearby Meijer store. Four paragraphs into my first blog and I‘m plugging sponsors. Once we got there, we bought Oreos and M&Ms and Coca-Cola and Canadian Club and Jim Beam while talking on our Motorola phones. I cannot believe I just typed that with a straight face.
If Tony ever wants to quit his day job and take over My Name Is IRL, it's his. I'm totally serious and I wouldn't hesitate one nanosecond.
While we were in the store, I noticed about 55 photos of Danica, one of Dario, and none of me. Funny enough, a guy came up to me at the checkout lane and wished me luck. He said he would be cheering for me and loved the Indy 500. Dario and Marco were standing right next to me, but the guy didn’t recognize them at all. He didn't even acknowledge their existence. I felt good about that. My picture isn’t everywhere, but people recognize me. I’m telling you, it’s the nose.
Nariz! Tony, this probably doesn't mean much, but if we ever actually had something to sell we would most assuredly be posting your proboscular mug all over our products.

Indy 500: HD or not HD

Posted by Iannucci | 5/07/2007 | 7 comments »
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It's pretty obvious that because NASCAR makes a zillion dollars they can get their races shown in High Definition broadcasts on Fox or NBC or whoever. And while the ICS is lagging behind in terms of national interest, when things like Competitive Eating show up on ESPN in HD it's hard to understand why the network can't get some cameras out to the IndyCar races to make those fast and shiny cars look that much better.

If nothing else, they should be able to do this at Indy, right? That's what Trackside Online thinks, and in covering this weekend's refresher course at The Brickyard for rookies (and might-as-well-be rookies) they started asking around. The conclusion was:

We were unable to get any confirmation on this year's Indy 500 being in HD, but we also weren't able to disprove the initial information we got. So, for now, file it as a rumor we feel pretty good about.
Come on, ABC/ESPN. You got three women in the race, you got drivers with names like "Andretti" and "Foyt" and "Unser", and you will no doubt be marketing the whole extravaganza as "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing". Please don't leave it as The Lowest Resolution in Racing.

Or are you waiting for Kobayashi to get a ride?

UPDATE: Woo-hoo! On Tuesday the IndyStar revealed that HD at Indy is green-green-green!

The change required a significant financial investment, perhaps as much as twice that of the standard equipment. Fifty-three cameras will be utilized.

His name is Carpenter after all

Posted by Iannucci | 5/04/2007 | 2 comments »
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Congratulations today to the Ed Carpenter who snagged not one but two major sponsors in Hitachi Power Tools and Lowe's (Lowe's!) Home Improvement. Indycar.com gives the impression that all that talk of home improvement by Ed helped seal the deal. Check out his new paint scheme.

It seems the sponsorship for the Notorious ECG is just for the Month of May, but hey it beats nothing. Well, maybe not entirely since that grey and sky blue color scheme he'd been running this year was pretty sweet. But the Hitachi Green will work fine as well.

Kenny Brack rocks a little

Posted by Iannucci | 5/04/2007 | 0 comments »
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Didn’t the guy on lead guitar once win the Indy 500?

Here’s the band Bräck with their song “Legend of the Speedway”, a tribute to longtime track announcer Tom Carnegie...oh wait, my mistake. It’s a tribute to the former employer of Brack (the driver, not the band), four-time Indy 500 winner AJ Foyt.

UPDATE: Tried to embed the video but it ate the site. Must have sense the copyrighted term "IRL" and hosed the bits up. You can watch the video at the here.

I don’t want to see him naked either

Posted by Iannucci | 5/04/2007 | 5 comments »
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Question: Bear with me, Curt, there is a point at the end of this:

Which driver winning the 500 benefits the 500 and the IRL most in terms of publicity? The answer: Danica, Sarah, Milka, Al Jr., Marco and Michael.

The problem is, these aren't the IRL's top drivers (Kanan, Wheldon, Hornish, Helio, etc.). My point is, the top IRL drivers need some off-track buzz. They need to each wake up and do something. Get into trouble, date a model, say women can't drive, start a fist fight, pose naked, yell at a reporter ... anything to get some national talk radio and print buzz going about these guys. The rest will take care of itself. Any publicity is good publicity.

Answer: I see your point, but yelling at a reporter isn't my preference, and I'm not interested in seeing Kanaan naked.
Oh haha and har-dee-har, Mr Cavin, although this is beginning to look like the message du jour for this year’s Indy 500. The author of Cavin’s question isn’t credited, but by coincidence an entire article on this sort of thing has recently been penned by ESPN.com’s John Oreovicz. One of those top drivers – specifically Tony Kanaan – recently spoke with league officials about the current marketing strategy for the ICS.

"We can make it better," Kanaan said. "I talked to them because we do a lot of driver appearances during the year and I wanted them to hear from me, from a driver's point of view, about some of the promotions and driver appearances we do. And I wanted to hear from them what they have in mind for the future.

"There was no big concern or complaint. I just wanted to understand the approach. I feel that to make the series grow, we need to sit down and talk, and I suggested that they talk to other drivers as well."

Indy Racing League vice president of public relations John Griffin said the league's national marketing campaign is based around four drivers -- Patrick, Dan Wheldon, Sam Hornish Jr. and Marco Andretti.
Boy, isn’t this the conundrum for the league right now: They have more than a handful of marketable personalities but officials are only able to provide exposure for a few. You can’t put everyone in an ad because people get confused, and quite honestly the general sporting public doesn’t know who most of these drivers are anyways. Even Gene Simmons knows it is a lot easier to focus on selling just a few drivers in a 30-second commercial or a newspaper ad.

So do you sell the “marketable” stars like the ladies or the Andrettis, or do you push guys like Wheldon, Castroneves and Kanaan who are actually winning races? Sure the former are easier to sell, but the casual fan will get quickly disappointed if the hyped drivers don’t win some of the upcoming races.

While no specifics were mentioned, Kanaan was probably pointing this very thing out – that he and others are actually winning while others (like say his American teammates) are getting all the hype. Kanaan likely feels a lot like Matt Kenseth or Kevin Harvick, who despite their on track successes spend weekends driving in between innumerable Dale Earnhardt Jr commercials. You gotta think there’s some palpable frustration that such successful and personable Brazilians like Helio Castroneves and himself are getting the short end of the promotional stick, since they pretty much do it all except be Americans.

Then again, I do see a bunch of black “3”s on cars and trucks all the time. I tell ya Helio is HUGE!

Looking deeper, there may be a logical explanation for marketing someone other than El Nariz and Spiderman. Check out this 1998 CART spot featuring our favorite Brazilian racers and decide for yourself if this is really the marketing angle you the IRL should take.

Vintage Indy: 1982

Posted by Iannucci | 5/03/2007 | 1 comments »
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It can’t be said it enough: it’s the Month of May. As a public service please be aware that if for any reason the news spigot gets turned down you can get your Indy fix right here with vintage Indy 500 moments. Today’s feature includes the final laps of the 1982 race, where Rick Mears closes ferociously on Gordon Johncock. At the time this was the closest finish ever with the cars finishing the race nearly side by side. Mears was thisclose to being the only five-time winner of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

It’s almost laughable how two years earlier Mario Andretti and Bobby Unser were debating infractions relating to the victory of that Indy 500, because this race featured as much below-the-line racing as you will ever see. Mears almost overtakes Johncock when the white flag is thrown, only to be nearly put into the infield grass in turn one. As they say, that’s racin’.

Please don't drink to this 50th anniversary

Posted by Iannucci | 5/02/2007 | 0 comments »
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This would be more exciting news were it not for legal circumstances.

Al Unser Jr. will tote six Indianapolis 500 driving victories and a lot more history when the No. 50 A.J. Foyt Racing entry makes its qualifications attempt for the 91st Indianapolis 500.

Unser, a two-time winner of "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," is joining forces with A.J. Foyt Racing and its full-time IndyCar Series driver, Darren Manning, for the Month of May. Their Honda-powered Dallaras will take the track for the first time May 8. The run for the AAMCO Transmissions Pole Award is May 12.

The No. 50 car is in recognition of Foyt's 50th anniversary in Indy car racing. The 91st Indianapolis 500, scheduled for Sunday, May 27, will be Foyt's 50th in a row as a participant. He won in 1961, 1964, 1967 and 1977 as a driver and in 1999 as a team owner.

Unser will be the 50th driver – and second Unser -- to run for Foyt since he began owning race cars in 1965. (MORE)

So would that be a six-pack of victories? Just askin'. Meanwhile...

A lawyer for Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. entered a not guilty plea on Unser's behalf Wednesday to charges including driving under the influence in a January crash on a southern Nevada freeway.

Unser, 45, of Henderson, did not appear in person before Justice of the Peace Stephen George, who set trial for July 11.

"There's a chance it might get resolved before that date," Unser's lawyer, Andrew Leavitt, said following the brief court hearing. Leavitt declined to address circumstances surrounding Unser's Jan. 25 arrest. (MORE)