The First Battle of Bull Run

Posted by Iannucci | 11/12/2007 | 3 comments »
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Now that I have finally overcome the two-hour delay just to retreat from the parking lot at Phoenix International Raceway...On a day when three Indy 500 champions battled to see how they would fare against the finest taxi cab drivers in the free world, it can safely be said that when Sunday’s N-word race here ended the “Northern Aggressors” had pretty much had their collective tails kicked. Every one of them.

Yeah, it’s not usually a good idea to judge everyone by a single race, but this is PIR – a relatively flat track that has no two turns a like. It’s like a street course except shorter and with all of the turns are being left-only. Sorta. To the point, this is the kind of track where actual driving is required, so those in the open-wheel “mass exodus” should have had above-average odds to put together a good show.

(And off topic, if there are any writers out there I’d respectfully suggest using a term other than “mass exodus”? That’s just factually inaccurate, since it’s neither in “mass” nor is it a synchronized “exodus”. Montoya and Allmendinger left last year, Franchitti, Hornish, and Villenueve left this year, and Carpentier actually stopped racing open-wheel cars several years ago. And while it may be noteworthy to point out the last two Indy 500 champs are simultaneously leaving, it would be far more devastating to the IRL if Danica Patrick, Helio Castroneves or even Marco Andretti were to go to the N-word. So seriously, crack open the thesaurus and find a new term.)

OK, here’s the view from my vantage point in the Section 3 grandstands.

Montoya – Pablo is wrapping up a relatively successful year, and most would agree he can certainly hold his own as a stock car driver. And I’m not just saying this because he spent the first half of the race trading paint with “Junior” Earnhardt. Shocking to see Montoya driving aggressively, I know. He finished 17th, and Ganassi starts running Chevys instead of Dodges that’s probably going to be as good as it gets for him.

Hornish – If you ever saw any episodes of “Driver X” last year then you will understand Sam’s problem: like many of the contestants on that show, Sam hasn’t figured out how a 3500-pound car with minimal downforce deals with it’s tires. Every time there was a pit stop Sam – being a few laps down – would be placed next to the leaders on the restart, and he would drive right with them for a handful of laps before dropping like a stone. To his credit, he finished the race without incident in 30th.

Carpentier – Same problem as Sam, but worse. Not only was he struggling with grip a few laps after each pit stop, but the side of his car kept taking on more of the blue paint of the SAFER barriers at PIR. Puh-TREEK ended up 33rd.

Villenueve – “Jack” spent much of the day racing alone, but when he did get in traffic he had disastrous results. Just as much blue paint as Carpentier, right up until the time he wrecked himself into the Harry Potter lookalike in the #9 car. Say hello to 41st place.

Sam also raced in the Busch series race on Saturday, going about 20 laps before losing it and wrecking. Dario Franchitti was a non-factor in the same race, but did manage to make a HUGE save after being tapped by another driver. His car immediately spun a 360, but Mr Judd saved it from ever touching the wall or leaving the track. So as long as those behemoths don’t get up in the air he should be alright.

And although it’s not a sign of doom for the N-word, there were noticeably less sponsor promotions than last year. For example, one branch of the US military had a rock wall for kids to climb last year that was gone this year, and while there were previously a half dozen “get your picture in the car” deals there were only two in 2007. Granted it’s still light years ahead of the sponsor activation in the IRL, but it would seem the N-word has reached it’s acme of popularity.

This may be partially due to the fact that the events are still far too long. If you’re going to race four hours with only one on-track lead change then it should be expected that at least a third of the crowd will be gone by the time the race is done. Then again, extrapolating that out indicates if they made the races EVEN LONGER it might help smooth out the traffic situation out next year.


  1. Anonymous // November 12, 2007 2:42 PM  

    Great idea! Longer races to min traffic hassles. I like where you are going with this.

  2. Johnny // November 13, 2007 6:45 AM  

    Ah, you gave yourself away with the title. South of Maryland, that incident is known as "The First Battle of Manassas."

  3. mmack // November 13, 2007 12:03 PM  


    To be fair, the back half of the field in the N-word racing series needs new drivers too.

    (snark off)