Days of Thunder

Posted by Iannucci | 6/10/2007 | 3 comments »
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For those of you who managed to stay up late (or at least record the race), the Bombardier Learjet 550 had everything a race fan could want - especially if you're a fan of the six-letter league.

There was the dramatic build-up between Dan and Danica, featuring Wheldon shadowboxing Jack Arute during an interview and tauntingly telling Jack "you flinched!"

There was the highlight-reel performance by Tomas Scheckter, who after being clipped by Marco Andretti marched back on to the track and threw his gloves at the boy wonder. Apparently Tomas decided he wanted to get into the stock car driver vibe as well.

There was "the big one", a pileup of Daytona-like proportions taking out many of the race leaders due to the close racing conditions. Fortunately no one was hurt, but AJ Foyt IV's errant tire took out one Brazilian (Castroneves) and nearly struck another (Kanaan). What in the name of Ayrton Senna is going on?

The Good

It's appropriate the guy with his eye on NASCAR (Sam Hornish Jr) won this race, although he clearly had the best car of the night. It was also nice of Scott Sharp to basically hand him the lead at the start. Sam makes the fifth driver in seven races to record a win this season, which is not too shabby considering only six total drivers won all season long last year.

Maybe he knows he has a baby on the way and he just learned how much all that formula is going to cost, but Nariz is driving as well as ever. That squeeze between Quattro and the bouncing tire was beyond incredible.

I have poured myself a tall glass and am staring deeply into the "Danica Patrick eminent victory Kool-Aid", because after watching her charge through traffic at the last three races it's obvious Danica! is driving as well as anyone...well, anyone except Kanaan.

With the single "full rich" setting continuing, Jeff Simmons and his RLR team seem to have found a way to stretch out some extra miles. They were pitting 5 or more laps behind some of the leaders, which may help Spock steal a win at some point this season. The Ethanol folks must be elated that THIS is the car demonstrating maximum fuel economy.

Is this Dario's year? I mean, really - he can do no wrong.

The Bad

Oh, Marco. How bad is it? In the three races she has participated, Milka Duno has completed 135 more laps (480 to 345) than Andretti 3.0 has. Oh, the humanity.

After tantalizing us in qualifying, Scott Sharp not only got scolded by Barnhart for trying to dog the start (and then apparently trying it a second time - to no avail), but he was wrestling with his car all day. Being out of position and a lap down, he also got caught up in his "Sir Blocks-A-Lot" persona by unnecessarily holding up Danica! late in the race.

The best part of "the crash" was that no one appeared to be injured. The worst part is that it took out half of the contenders, as Helio and the Target Twins were all caught up in the madness. As exciting as the finish was, it could have been that much more thrilling.

What happened to the "side-by-side" coverage? It wasn't so troublesome that there were commercials every 10 minutes (again, it was strangely NASCAR night), but with a dozen laps to go and Danica! in 3rd, Marty Reid announces she has the fastest car on the track...and then they go to commerical! Come on, people!

The Ugly

It would seem that this season - and this race specifically - has suffered an outbreak of "spotter" issues unlike any other. Early in the race the broadcast crew reported Wheldon was chastising his spotter for not being "proactive", while Spiderman said he went low like his spotter had instructed and still ended up wrecked.

I wasn't privy to scanner chatter, but I'm wondering if Young Marco is having the same problem. Was there a failure to notify him that Scheckter was still "inside" before he clipped him this week? A bit like the time he clipped Wheldon while Dan was "outside" at Indy, no?

This doesn't mean these incidents are due to the spotters, but it would seem some of these incidents could have been avoided. The mirrors are definitely getting larger, but at the same time they seem to be failing with unfathomable frequency. If their buddies upstairs can't help them out then their drivers will end up feeling more uncertain than Paris Hilton in the pokey.

No one likes to see wreckage like carnage on Saturday Night (no one SANE that is), so maybe the two weeks off can help everyone on the racing teams recharge their batteries - spotters included.


  1. Anonymous // June 10, 2007 11:16 AM  

    What I'm really enjoying about the tone of the last few races is that there's finally some driver personality and emotion coming through. How much more interesting was Wheldon's pre-race interview yesterday, as compared to the usual "we're confident that we have a good car today", blah, blah. And Scheckter's tirade was gold. Granted, from a safety standpoint he shouldn't have charged the track, but how amazing is it that IRL might actually be in the national spotlight for three weeks in a row.

  2. Jennifer Coomer // June 10, 2007 6:56 PM  

    Overall an incredibly enjoyable race, even if a Big Three won. At one point I was really feeling like, “Holy Boobies, Dancia could do this!.”

    The race was on about a 45 minute delay (Thanks so much Busch Series). Usually when the race is played on a delay they forego the Side-By-Side because they can foresee and edit so that we won’t miss something exciting during a commercial. I liked that I just used the words “forego” and “foresee” in the same sentence.

  3. pressdog // June 11, 2007 6:16 AM  

    I agree with Erika. I dig the emotion. Scheckter whipping his glove at Marco. I almost peed with delight. Gotta give it to Danica, she drove a great race. I agree with adding her to your Good column here, Jeffy. If she keeps that up, on that team, she should win pretty soon. Personally, I think she's holding out to do it in front of me at my home track here in Iowa. That's what kind of special bond we have.