Chat with Wheldon Today

Posted by Iannucci | 4/30/2007 | 2 comments »
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I realize it's less than an hour away, but you can chat with Dan Wheldon at at 4pm Eastern today. Click here.

CORRECTION: The chat session is TUESDAY - that would be tomorrow. Whew.

Dan, you’re such a bore

Posted by Iannucci | 4/30/2007 | 6 comments »
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Well Done, Dan, on annihilating the field in Kansas on Sunday for your third straight win on a 1.5-mile oval, but in the process you have begun to make these superspeedway races unwatchable. It’s darn near preening out there the way you dominate the field. Oh sure, your teammate tried to make it interesting, but then Barnhart flagged him for his improper pit entry and it was all she wrote.

Seriously friends, this was a case of the best driver in the best car having everything go his way. Iceman gets the penalty, Tony Kanaan had his pole winner taken down in a crew-faulted collision with his teammate, and Penske is suddenly lost on the ovals. It appears the Vision Racing team swapped oval setups with Penske Racing, but I have no direct evidence other than what I see on race day.

But Dan, really. Try to mix in a little drama for the people, will ya? Just because MoneyCJ picks you doesn’t mean you can’t make it interesting.

The Good

Well Done is looking like the class of the field, and certainly the favorite to win at Indy. Throw out St Pete and he’s led 482 of 600 laps! Good heavens, man!

Tomas Scheckter continues to get the most out of his Vision Racing equipment by snagging a Top 5 at Kansas. He’s finished no worse than 9th all year, turning in one solid performance after another.

Mr Judd landed on the podium for the second race in a row, and is now the highest AGR driver at 4th in championship points. 7th, 5th, 3rd, 2nd – that’s a nice progression leading into Indy.

Milkalicious did what she had to, which was finish the race and not wreck – thank you! That alone moved here up to 14th, where she stands alone in Bombardier Rookie of the Year standings. Hey, it’s a major award.

The Bad
With so little drama at the front, it was exciting to see Iceman pushing his teammate...until Barnhart called the illegal pit entry and threw that drama out the window. Big Chip said they told race control it was fuel-related, but they didn’t buy it. Bummer for those of us who wanted to see a close finish, even among teammates.

Sukiyaki had to park his car early. I’m sure he was disappointed, even though Jack Arute didn’t go ask him. He has not finished higher than 16th in any race this year. Ouch.

Seeing Uncle Sam sitting in the pits while his team was struggling with his setup during a race was surreal. A top driver on a top team on a track that’s been raced before in a chassis that’s been around a few years – problems don’t happen in this scenario.

I said this at the beginning of the year (and kudos to the ESPN crew was asking the teams on Sunday about this as well) but the decision to eliminate final practice seemed like a snap judgment as a result of heavy promotion by Rusty Wallace. With the Month of May upon us it might seem like a good time to review this policy for the remaining oval races, since at least half a dozen cars were encountering handling issues at the start of the race. From what I can tell the teams want some rubber on the road before the race starts, and the fans don't want to see their drivers parking their cars on race day.

The Ugly
If you worked for AGR and weren’t named Franchitti, you had a bad day. El Nariz had his day and possibly his championship hopes ruined by the pit miscue, and was unavailable for comment after the race. Even worse, Jack Arute reported that Kanaan had told his team “If this ever happens again I will never drive for you!” Heat of the moment stuff, but still unexpected from the AGR standard bearer.

Danica! also lost position in the fracas and seemed to be fighting her car the rest of the day. From what the in-car camera showed she did an admirable job fighting to stay off the wall and out of the way. Despite all this she gave a level-headed interview after the race, and although she was adamant in explaining it wasn’t her fault she was careful not to throw her crew under the proverbial bus.

And Marco, oh man. Are we done with the championship talk for Andretti 3.0 now? Once again he was quickly off the track at the super speedway, talking afterwards about feeling like the wings were upside down and the front of his car had no grip. This doesn’t bode well for his chances at the brickyard, but at least his setup appeared sound there last year.

Next up: Indy. Oh yeah!

Cheat Sheet: Kansas 2007

Posted by Iannucci | 4/28/2007 | 4 comments »
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Almost as if to prove last weekend's oval-ish victory at Motegi was no fluke, Tony Kanaan has gone and won himself the pole at Kansas. This marks the first time in 16 races a member of the Big Four/Red Scare/Red and White Brigade/Four Horsemen of the open-wheel apocalypse have not won the pole. Huzzah for parity!

This weekend also represents a different type of apocalypse as "blogger buddy" (that's Jamie Little's term, not mine) Pressdog is live and reporting from the Kansas Lottery Indy 300 this week. How he got in is not to be asked, but if you want a different kind of trackside report check out his coverage.

Meanwhile, here is the pecking order for tomorrow festival of speed from the race no longer held around Independence Day. Should be fun to see if nicer weather helps attract a crowd. Well, that and Milkalicious serving as the official ICS caboose (I'm talking about the car, boys) this weekend.

1. Castroneves - If you happened to catch the last two races you might have noticed that Spiderman pulled away from the field at the start of both events. He dinged his car at Motegi, but I'll assume he will return to the front despite finishing no better than 6th here the last 3 years.

2. Wheldon - Hold you arms as far apart as you can. OK, a little farther than that. That's about the margin of defeat for Well Done the last few races at Kansas. He led a combined 156 laps in both races, so you can assume he will find the front at some point.

3. Kanaan - Congratulations, you won the pole. Now try winning this year on something other than fuel strategy so we can all breath easier about the level of competition. Oh by the way, El Nariz has never finished worse than 5th at Kansas.

4. Hornish - He's the defending champion and even finished second twice in his Panther Racing days. But Uncle Sam hasn't looked his dominant self at all this season. Three races and the only laps he's lead were when Kanaan and Wheldon pitted for fuel last week.

5. Dixon - Don't forget that while his teammate "Captain Hairdo" was running away at Homestead, Iceman was unchallenged in P2. Incredibly, never better than 4th in four tries at Kansas.

6. Franchitti - Kanaan referred to him as his "wingman" this week, although Mr Judd will be starting a couple rows back from his teammate. Dario has two 4ths in the last three years, so he could make this a six car race.

7. Meira - Had circumstances been different, Meira might have been thought of as a dark horse. Three podiums at Kansas in his last three attempts are unmatched, but Panther has looked shaky so far and the Mirror Man is said to still have some back pain from his crash in practice last week.

8. Scheckter - Remember how all the Vision Racing entries looked so competitive at Homestead? Well, here we are again at a 1.5 mile oval and Tomas has qualified 7th - right where he finished last year at this track for Tony George's team. Let's see if Homestead wasn't a fluke and if they can keep his camera mount on the car.

9 - 18.Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Sarah Fisher, AJ Foyt IV, Darren Manning, Kosuke Matsuura, Danica Patrick, Buddy Rice, Scott Sharp, Jeff Simmons - Let's just cut the through the grabage and give a bunch of shrugs for this group. Arguments could be made for or against any of them in this race, none of them very vehemently. Just keep Spock and Sukiyaki apart if possible.

19. Roth - Different race, same Moto Marty. However, with the additional entries he's poised to become the Leader of the Back Pack.

20. Barron - Why are they still qualifying behind Marty Roth? Maybe the haven't worked out all of their mechanical issues from Homestead in the last month. Bummer.

21. Duno - Don't wreck and don't cause anyone to wreck. And be sure to smile at all those reporters who have said you shouldn't be here before you've even turned a single lap. But seriously, don't wreck.

Money Says: "Dan Wheldon will emerge victorious at Kansas. God has told me that Penske will be back....just not quite yet."

Can any among us doubt him at this point? MoneyCJ also said something about Wheldon being "hungry" although as I recall Dan shouldn't have any trouble with meals. Enjoy the show!

Riding shotgun with Duno

Posted by Iannucci | 4/28/2007 | 2 comments »
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Hey, it's all Milka Duno all week long.

Check out this video of her training here in town at the Bondurant school as you can ride in the passenger seat, watching as Milkalicious learns proper breaking technique and and chats up the camera in her most charming Charo impersonation.

But after checking all the Duno press recently it needs to be asked: does this lady only own one shirt? I know she has all these engineering degrees, but from what I can tell she's gone the Einstein route and has a closet full of the same outfit.

Duno is a go

Posted by Iannucci | 4/26/2007 | 6 comments »
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It wasn't only the month gap since Milka Duno announced she and SAMAX Motorsport would enter the IndyCar Series that had the veteran sports car racer on edge. Travel problems and rain at Kansas Speedway on April 25 postponed her much-anticipated rookie test.

Finally, the team found a window in the overcast skies and Duno passed the speed-phase test for her Indy Racing League license. IndyCar Series technical director Kevin Blanch observed the activity on the tri-oval banked in the corners at 15 degrees.

She will be allowed to participate in on-track activity during the Kansas Lottery Indy 300 race weekend. Duno and 20 other competitors will participate in the first (split) practice session beginning at 10 a.m. (EDT) April 28. (MORE)
Note that in a shocking coincidence, Duno was featured in a large story in USAToday today.

It's a major award

Posted by Iannucci | 4/26/2007 | 2 comments »
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It's not THE league-wide sponsorship we were all speculating, but tells us Double A (honk honk) M-C-O has signed a deal and any corresponding checks to became the new sponsor of pole position winners at all ICS events.

AAMCO Transmissions will serve as the "Official Automotive Transmission Repair Company" of the IndyCar Series. As part of the agreement, the top qualifier will be presented a $10,000 check. The award increases to $100,000 for Indianapolis 500 qualifications on May 12.
Well, technically that is "league-wide" and the logo sure looks groovy.

BTW - The title of this post refers to one of my favorite lines from "A Christmas Story". My first fantasy team that ever won a championship was "Pink Nightmare", so be aware I will probably mix in references to that flick (Flick!) more often than necessary.

Brother, can you spare a motor?

Posted by Iannucci | 4/25/2007 | 4 comments »
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It’s almost May, so it must be time for Tony George to start wearing an “Ask me about Champ Car!” button.

Scanning the newswires I came across this story discussing possible Champ Car entries at this year’s 91st Running of the Indianapolis 500. I was shocked (shocked, I say!) to discover CCWS Overlord Kevin Kalkhoven had mentioned to the media how he recently chatted with Mr George about bringing a half dozen CCWS drivers ton compete at Indy if the IRL comp’d them some free engines.

Free engines? To drivers in another series? Excuse me?

Of course I had to solicit opinion on this subject from Mr Unification himself, our friend Pressdog. (That picture is from the rear wing window of his ride.) Experience indicates the My Name Is IRL readers are on different sides of this kind of debate, so in move of glasnost I thought it best to give voice to both sides of this idea – even though it’s got no chance of actually happening since Big Tony has already dismissed it.

Normally I’m not so self-indulgent as this, but I thought you might enjoy reading this civilized discussion of such matters while we all pass the time until the cars hit the track at Kansas.

MyNameIsIRL: did you see that KK said he made TG an offer to get some Champies at Indy?
MyNameIsIRL: "if you give us free engines we'll buy some chassis" kind of thing
Pressdog: Your favorite, Robin Miller, with a pretty good idea, I think.
Pressdog: Since CCWS and IRL fans hate each other, why not turn the 500 into a big battle royal, super bowlish show down between the two?
Pressdog: Everyone makes mongo cash off that.
MyNameIsIRL: I don't see this as a "win" for the IRL. What do they stand to gain?
Pressdog: um, tons of cash. packed IMS. increased ratings. maybe even new teams who get a taste of the IRL competition.
MyNameIsIRL: I'll let you know when I'm there, but IMS is already pretty well sold - no?
MyNameIsIRL: I mean, do the numbers bear out that there are THAT many extra CCWS fans out there who would watch or attend?
MyNameIsIRL: Doesn't it seem counterintuitive to unity if they are PROMOTING the split?
MyNameIsIRL: I mean, if there were some big name drivers in Champ Car, then I can see the benefit. But other than maybe Bourdais and Rahal, who would know the other drivers from say Jacque Lazier?
MyNameIsIRL: I can see how this would benefit CCWS, but I'm still reading to see Millers "analysis"
Pressdog: here's the main argument FOR turning the I 500 into a big Champ Car/IRL super bowl.
Pressdog: The Cowboys would not be as great a team without the Redskins.
Pressdog: A bitter rivalry increases interest. It makes fans spend their asses off to watch and root and pray that Team X beats the shit out of Piece of Shit Team Y.
Pressdog: Champ Car vs. IRL. Does it get more passionate than that?
Pressdog: Toss them together and, 1, you get MONSTER press. Bitter Rivals Square off in the Indy 500.
Pressdog: You get Bourdais the Champ Car King against Hornish/Wheldon (is there a difference?) the IRL Kings.
Pressdog: Ratings balloon. That's money in the bank for IMS.
Pressdog: If you believe that IMS sells out every year, you still putt teeth under your pillow. It doesn't.
MyNameIsIRL: ok, the rivalry argument i get
MyNameIsIRL: but that doesn't apply in this case because no one was suggesting the cowboys and redskins merge
MyNameIsIRL: and Champ Car WENT to Indy earlier this decade, and it wasn't exactly a huge ratings bonanza
Pressdog: Right now you got, um, Wheldon vs. Hornish? yeah, that's bitter. IMS is trying to get Danica vs. Sarah going, but the two are in such unequal teams that it's a stretch.
Pressdog: IRL and CCWS isn't going to merge any time soon. Accept it. KK and TG just won't do it.
Pressdog: real bumping
MyNameIsIRL: plus - and this is important - if you give them free engines AND chassis there is still no way ANY part-time team comes close to Penske, TCGR or AGR
Pressdog: That is Forsythe's point.
MyNameIsIRL: it's more like a flogging then a rivalry
Pressdog: Would having CC teams in the 500 improve it? Not make it perfect, but improve it?
Pressdog: yep
MyNameIsIRL: sure, but not to the point they need to give them free engines
MyNameIsIRL: free? come on.
Pressdog: Can TG give engines to the rival league, politically? Probably not.
MyNameIsIRL: out of pocket expense to promote another league? come on.
Pressdog: He could have done it behind closed doors. The current teams hear about it and they're all pissed about TG helping the Hatfields.
MyNameIsIRL: do you think D&R would like some free engines?
Pressdog: Promoting the 500. he's investing in improving his product.
Pressdog: How does this promote CC?
Pressdog: the run no ovals.
Pressdog: so fans from IMS are going to rush out and tune in to watch them run street races?
MyNameIsIRL: if he acknowledges CC he promotes them. he doesn't need to give them money to watch drivers from the ICS kick their tails on his track.
Pressdog: I disagree with your first sentence. It gets back to the bitter rival rationale. Both sides benefit.
MyNameIsIRL: why not give free engines to Robbie Gordon or some NASCAR driver?
MyNameIsIRL: that would have as much or more of a ratings boost.
Pressdog: how do you know TG doesn't give the equivalent of free engines to the field fillers.
MyNameIsIRL: I don't - but field fillers are not products of another racing league
MyNameIsIRL: in fact, I'm almost certain he kicks in cash to fill the field.
Pressdog: of course he does.
Pressdog: why?
Pressdog: because it's a good investment. the end product (the 500) is better for it and repays his investment handsomely.
Pressdog: what he took some of that money and gave it to KK to get the evil, hated, bastard other team to his home race? you're saying that wold be a bad business move.
Pressdog: Derek Daly put it pretty well. Unification is being held up because people are making emotional decisions rather than business decisions. Including CC in the 500 is a great business decision from both perspectives.
Pressdog: Tony gets a great show. IRL fans get a villain to hate and scream at. CC drivers get a much bigger stage than they will ever sniff in CC.
Pressdog: PLUS, CC fans get the same benefits as IRL fans. They can say "we're taking down those bastards in their own home track!"
MyNameIsIRL: I don't see how CC drivers bring that much to the table individually. first off, these drivers do not have a great deal of oval experience.
MyNameIsIRL: I mean, say what you want about Marty Roth but he has more time on ovals in the last two years than anyone in CC
MyNameIsIRL: second - individually they have nearly no name recognition among most fans. if they are simply "the CC drivers" they may as well be Tyce Carlson or Townsend Bell
MyNameIsIRL: last, this idea is counterintuitive to the ICS long term goals. it's no secret they are hoping to achieve a merger by having CC disappear, and promoting them does the opposite towards achieving that.
Pressdog: good points.
Pressdog: Sebastien Bourdais is a brilliant driver. I'm not a huge fan of his, but he's The Shit. He proved that pretty well in the 2005 500. OK, sure, he crashed, but he had moved up about 7 spots before then. Junk got taken out by Quattro or something. Not his fault.
Pressdog: So driver quality is not an issue. Tracy. Wilson. They all can wheel it.
Pressdog: You promote the rivalry. Don't even be slightly oblique about it. "Champ Car's Best INVADE the Indy 500 to show the IRL who is king of open wheel." NASCAR it up a little.
Pressdog: Your last point is the best one, I think. If Tony's strategy is to just let Champ Car gag and die, then, no, he probably shouldn't go for this idea. But, again, I don't see a lot of Indy 500 fans and viewers tuning in for a street race any time soon.
Pressdog: That's one of the reasons they moved Snorenoma from the race following the 500, to keep any viewers who tune in to the next race after the 500.
Pressdog: Street races are great and I enjoy them, but I'm among the 5% of Americans who care about them.
MyNameIsIRL: I wasn't meaning to infer Bourdais and Tracy can't drive - they certainly can - but that oval skills are different and they haven't been honing them recently.
MyNameIsIRL: The main thing for me is that the rivalry argument makes no sense. At this point it would be like having the Colts play an Arena Football League team. Two different forms of racing.
MyNameIsIRL: Wouldn't you rather see TG hand free engines to TCGR or Penske and say "pick any driver you want" and see if they can get a big name driver from ANY series in a quality ride?
MyNameIsIRL: I mean, get Michael Schumacher in here if we're handing out free goodie bags.
Pressdog: not real realistic. no champ car driver or NASCAR would be able to say yes to that deal. and it wouldn't be sweet enough to attract a Schumacher-esque driver.
MyNameIsIRL: How about Jacques Villenueve?
Pressdog: I think you exaggerate the talent/ability gap between CC and IRL on ovals. The best champ car drivers lap the IRL field fillers.
Pressdog: again, you remove the hook. "Tune in to see Villenueve challenge the IRL's best."
Pressdog: The hook is the league rivalries.
Pressdog: Like AFC/NFC. Maybe that's the key to unification. Have divisions but then have common races. So it's AFC vs. NFC all the time. Then TG controls the Super Bowl but shares a bit of the cash flow with KK.
MyNameIsIRL: I ain't seeing it.

Feel free to add your thoughts in the Comments.

Don't know about Duno

Posted by Iannucci | 4/25/2007 | 0 comments »
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From the intrepid Curt Cavin:

The pressure is on Milka Duno and the weather today at Kansas Speedway. She did not test at Kentucky Speedway on Monday, as her team manager said would happen, which means she needs things to go well today if she hopes to compete this weekend at Kansas. Three of her four scheduled days at Kansas have been rained out, and she's had only about 140 laps in a car at the time of this writing.
I think she'd be a nice addition to the series, but so far she's only run 140 laps? Uh oh. Forgive for reminding everyone of this quote from Brian Barnhart:

"By the time she enters her first race event and races, she'll have thousands of miles under her belt."
Ahem. Reportedly Patrick Carpentier is standing by should Milkalicious fail to get up to speed this week.

Home Movie

Posted by Iannucci | 4/25/2007 | 2 comments »
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One of Panther Racing's crew members shot this home made footage of the trip to Japan last weekend and posted it on You Tube. This is exceptional not just because he spends some time talking to the camera, but also that he even posted the thing at all considering how dreadful the Panther Racing entries did on this particular weekend.

With free hosting sites like You Tube it's a wonder why more people inside the racing community don't make little "day in the life" features like this. Enjoy.

Ice Crusher

Posted by Iannucci | 4/23/2007 | 2 comments »
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Radio station X103 in Indianapolis recently asked Scott Dixon to take up arms (specifically a sledgehammer) against a microwave oven for some cheap radio guffaws. Not sure how this is worth much entertainment, but as you can tell from this video the Iceman can quickly vanquish any appliance he chooses.

Dixon's conclusion: “Maybe next time we can get a Penske die-cast car in there...”

Money in the bank

Posted by Iannucci | 4/22/2007 | 5 comments »
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You might think the Big Winner this weekend was Tony Kanaan, who deftly maneuvered and muscled for rank with fuel burning fast on an empty tank en route to victory at Twin Ring Motegi this weekend. You might think it might the Big Winner is Andretti Green Racing, who placed two drivers on the podium of a superspeedway race for the first time in a looooooong time. You might even think the Big Winner was you or me, who were treated to a race with several lead changes culminating with a victory by a car not painted red.

No friends, the Big Winner was MoneyCJ who returned to his own personal Victory Lane and has now picked 5 of the last 6 winners in the ICS. Two words: offshore casino.

The Good
The patience of El Nariz paid off, but let's give some credit to his racing team who properly calculated his fuel mileage and gave him faultless pit stops.

After a dismal start at Homestead, Mr Judd has driven rather impressively in the last two races. Despite all the hype about the Prom King and Queen of AGR, it's been these other two drivers who have been getting it done.

The radio-free head slaps made for some fun television, but Well Done showed he's always a contender on ovals. Four races at Motegi and never worse than 2nd. Well Done, indeed.

Rahal Letterman Racing played the fuel conservation game and won, slotting Scott Sharp in 6th and Jeff Simmons in 8th. That was certainly a pleasant surprise considering their performances thusfar this season.

The Bad
Andretti 3.0 struggled to tame the Motegi beast, and it pretty much shot down any 2007 championship hopes he had. Not that anyone around hear was smoking that stuff.

Danica, schmanica. For the second race in a row she underperformed compared to her teammates.

Penske Perfect became an oxymoron, as Spiderman smacked the wall and dinged what may have been the best car of the day. Later Uncle Sam appeared to run out of fuel on his last pit entry, costing himself several positions. These are the kind of mistakes that cost both TCGR drivers a shot at the title.

It's a long way from Homestead, and the three Vision Racing cars that looked competitive in Miami were decidedly less in Motegi. On the one hand they avoided accidents, but when the best car is 9th and leaving parts on the back of the track it's not a good sign.

The Ugly
Watching Sukiyaki totally lose it at the start of the race reminded me of Scott Sharp's Indy 2001 performance. Sharp was a favorite, won the pole, then lost control in the first turn and crashed for a DFL finish. Matsuura was racing in his homeland, making all sorts of appearances, even testing as high as second-fastest this week, and then goes and drives perhaps the final nail in the coffin of his ICS career. Hideki Mutoh on line one, Mr Aguri.

Matsuura's misfortune wore off on his teammate, as the Mirror Man struggled mightily with his car before parking it and taking himself silently to the trailer or tent or whatever they had there. Panther Racing's comeback is currently on hold.

Maybe this wasn't ESPN's fault, but someone fell asleep as Matsuura got loose on camera about a half lap before the race crew figured out what was going on. Pay no attention to the spinning car, folks.

Speaking of losing control, Jack Arute appeared to antagonize Matsuura. This driver just got fined for saying he was So Effing Disappointed, so of course after his mishap this week Arute asks him to "Tell us about your disappointment." That's just mean, Jack, and if Kosuke send out holiday cars you are so off the list for that.

Next up is Kansas, featuring the debut of the Milkalicious One...maybe. Hurry up and say Sayonara to Japan because the next race is this coming weekend. Woo-hoo!

Cheat Sheet: Motegi 2007

Posted by Iannucci | 4/20/2007 | 4 comments »
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If anyone other than your humble host was up watching the qualifications last night on, you were no doubt treated to quite a show – in Japanese. I didn’t understand a word of it save for the occasional mention of driver names (“Dohn-eee-kah Pah-toh-reek”) and the incessant interjection of “Hai” (Yes) by co-hosts, but I couldn’t stop watching.

Maybe it was the driver interviews in English – which always included “are you satisfied with your performance?” and were promptly translated back into Japanese. Maybe it was the Motegi girls hawking IndyCar merchandise while butchering the pronunciation of names. Maybe it was that Humpty Dumpty looking mascot dude. Maybe it was the Pokemon-style graphics with crazy headshots of the drivers. Whatever the case, it was total entertainment.

Also entertained was Helio Castroneves, who captured the pole for the Japan Indy 300 at Twin Ring Motegi. Spiderman hopes to not only repeat his winning performance in the last race in St Petersburg, but also his last race here in Japan. In other words he really wants to win, although it remains to be seen if he wants to win as much as Danica Patrick does.

Here is the ranking of this weekend’s competitors in order of likelihood to win at this notoriously brutal track. Use this list at your own peril, whether it be for betting or amusement.

1. Wheldon – Last three races here: 1st, 1st, 2nd. There’s your favorite, and let’s hope he doesn’t run away from everyone like he did at Homestead.

2. Castroneves – Only slightly less than Wheldon based on Dan’s total domination of Homestead, but clearly Castroneves is expected to be up at the front all day. He’s the defending chamion and that form has held through two races in 2006.

3. Kanaan – He’s the Vitor Meira of Motegi. Two podiums without being on the top step in the last three years here. He’s the most likely to make a challenge against the Red Scare of Penske and Ganassi.

4. Patrick – Maybe it’s this Kool-Aid I’m drinking, but that doesn’t change the fact that Danica! led 22 laps here two years ago in a 4th place finish. Strong lap times this week indicate she has as good a chance as anyone if Wheldon or Castroneves make a mistake.

5. Rice – No, this is not a mistake. Jesse James must love the sushi, because in his last three races here he’s finished no worse than 6th. Two words: Dark Horse.

6. Hornish – There must be something about this egg-shaped track, because the Lord of the Oval Rings has never finished higher than 4th in four races here. What’s up with that?

7. Dixon – In three races the Iceman has never bested 5th place at Motegi, but the Ganassi equipment should help…yada yada yada. He’ll need to do better than that to stay atop the points standings.

8. Franchitti – Mr Judd led 67 laps here two years ago before crashing out, and he’s never finished better than 7th. On the positive side, starting from 7th is his best yet at Motegi.

9. Matsuura – The announcers were going crazy last night when he qualified P3, but then watched as he got bumped all the way down to 9th on the starting grid. In three ICS races here he’s always between 7th and 9th – expect more of the same.

10. Meira – Meira qualified in 13th and complained of a sore back from his crash earlier in the week, so it seems he’s looking to simply finish this race and take whatever points he can get on the way to Kansas. His best finish here is 10th.

11. Andretti – He was never in contention in his debut here last year and finished in 12th, last of the AGR cars. He qualified lowest of all the AGR cars this year, so this is clearly a track he’s struggling to learn.

12. Scheckter – He’s looked above-average by posting Top 10s in both races of 2007, but he’s never bested 10th at Motegi. Don’t let the qualifying fool you, as he’s started as high as fourth here in the past.

13. Sharp – The Immortal’s record at Motegi: 1st(’03), 9th(’04), 2nd(‘05), 16th(’06). Hey, it’s an odd-numbered year so he’s going to the podium - right? Yeah, sure, you betcha.

15. Manning – Danger Mouse previously recorded very respectable finishes of 4th and 8th for TCGR, but he’s not in a TCGR car anymore. Qualifying in last for Foyt Racing just threw a bucket of ice water on the feel-good story of 2007.

14. Fisher – In here lone race here in ’03 she started 14th and finished 23rd. Since here return to the ICS last year she has completed all four races, but staying on the track here will be a big test for The Queen.

16. Foyt – Quattro’s 14th here two years ago was his best, and after taking out his teammate in St Pete we can safely say the expectations are very, very low.

17. Carpenter – Highest finish at Motegi for ECG is 16th, and twice he’s been Dead Freaking Last. It would seem this track owns him, so let’s say there’s a lot of room for improvement.

18. Simmons – Simmons ended up on his head at Motegi last year, has been involved in accidents the last two races, and qualifed next to last on a tricky race track. You never want to predict a driver will have an accident, but…let’s hope he goes without incident.

Money says: “Hmmmm....I am gonna go with Kanaan.” That’s the same driver he picked as last race, so maybe this a double-or-nothing style call. Clearly his confidence is shaken after breaking the winning streak last week.

Enjoy the show!

Indy Insider does Japan

Posted by Iannucci | 4/19/2007 | 0 comments »
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Arni the Indy Insider is back and he's getting wacky with 20th Century technology. Now he's in front of a green screen to make him look like he doing weather forecasts in front a pagoda (although not The Pagoda).

He even drops a few Kosuke-bombs to liven things up (bleeped out, of course). Enjoy!

Grab your tin foil hat

Posted by Iannucci | 4/19/2007 | 1 comments »
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Do you believe in alien abductions? Do you think black helicopters are following you? Do you subscribe to global control by the Pentaverate?

If you meet any of these criteria then are no doubt going bananas over the consecutive press releases by the IndyCar series today.



Officially the four-letter network states that this rescheduling is due to recently determined NBA playoff games (Go Suns!), but I’m sure more than a few people are thinking this is the week Tony George has decided to be The Race. You know, the weekend where everyone is ordered to lift a little and let that certain raven-haired sensation make history by finally capturing her first win.

Not to sound nonsensical to the level-headed, but if you were to actually plan such an occurrence this would be the week. Motegi represents the only ICS race that is tape delayed, so much of America would wake up in the morning and read all about it in the sports page, while being told to tune into the telecast of the historic victory that afternoon. Yeah, that would increase the share of viewers just a tad. Suddenly momentum would build leading up to the Indy 500, which would encounter yet another ratings jump powered by Danica! and her newfound winning ways.

At least that’s the way the IRL would draw it up. Unfortunately reality has a nasty way of wreaking havoc with otherwise planned activities, plus best of luck trying to get the other drivers to go along with this master plan.

But it could happen, and if it does be certain that Oliver Stone will be ready to make the movie.

Calm down. It’s just practice.

Posted by Iannucci | 4/19/2007 | 3 comments »
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Alright, let’s all pick our jaws up off the floor and understand this is just practice. Some drivers are running flat out, some are testing different setups, and some just trying to recover from let lag. Don’t jump to irrational conclusions, just observe until qualification times come through.

Now that the disclaimer has been aired...Danica! sits atop the Timing and Scoring in Motegi! And Sukiyaki is right behind her!

Yes friends, she's made a few less public appearances and she just got a new house (that one commenter astutely compared to a prison), so a refreshed Mrs. Hospenthal is looking like she might threaten to win a race in Japan this weekend. This should come as no surprise because as we have all been told she just wants to win.

Meanwhile, Matsuura (who may or may not also want to win) seems charged up to be back in his homeland. His early performance indicates how much he's trying to help the league, since yesterday he declared to USAToday "All the Japanese fans will be going home early if I don't finish all 200 laps". Ahem.

Here are the best lap times (seconds) and corresponding speeds (mph) for each driver so far.

1 Danica Patrick 26.9585 / 202.979
2 Kosuke Matsuura 27.0260 / 202.472
3 Helio Castroneves 27.0496 / 202.295
4 Tony Kanaan 27.0928 / 201.972
5 Dan Wheldon 27.1639 / 201.444
6 Marco Andretti 27.1833 / 201.300
7 Sam Hornish Jr 27.2385 / 200.892
8 Dario Franchitti 27.2443 / 200.849
9 Buddy Rice 27.3435 / 200.121
10 Scott Sharp 27.3777 / 199.871
11 Scott Dixon 27.3883 / 199.793
12 Tomas Scheckter 27.4127 / 199.616
13 Ed Carpenter 27.4633 / 199.248
14 AJ Foyt IV 27.4667 / 199.223
15 Sarah Fisher 27.5707 / 198.472
16 Vitor Meira 27.6304 / 198.043
17 Darren Manning 27.8206 / 196.689
18 Jeff Simmons 27.8236 / 196.668

It should be noted that Vitor Meira is in a backup car after suffering a crash in an earlier practice session. It should also be noted this increases the likelihood of his his winless streak ticking up to 62.

Chez Hospenthal

Posted by Iannucci | 4/18/2007 | 2 comments »
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Looks like Danica! has some new digs. AZCentral says she (well, specifically a trust run by her husband) bought the most expensive house sold this week here in the Valley of the Sun, and let me assure this is definitely NOT the going rate per square foot around these parts.

The Hospenthals probably have a bigger yard than my modest residence, although judging from the Ancala site I think it’s likely to be full of rocks and scorpions. (Hey, the My Name Is IRL World Headquarters has got these nice snap dragons and arborvitae that look pretty sharp out front – lined by bricks, of course.)

A trust controlled by the husband of race car driver Danica Patrick bought a house in the Ancala community in north Scottsdale. Paul E. Hospenthal bought the house as trustee of the Spirit Productions Trust. The trust's successor trustees are Patrick, Mark Hospenthal and Kurt Hospenthal. Paul Hospenthal is listed as the beneficiary of the trust. The 7,531-square-foot home with 600 square-foot pool was originally built in 2001. Paul Hospenthal is a physical therapist and personal trainer who runs the Desert Institute of Physical Therapy in Scottsdale. Patrick made Indianapolis 500 history by coming in fourth in 2005, the best finish for a woman in the history of the race. The home was sold by Douglas S. Kane of Scottsdale.
Sold for a mere $4,065,000. Ch-ching!

Lost in Translation

Posted by Iannucci | 4/17/2007 | 0 comments »
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Sure it’s annoying to have to stay up late just to watch a live IndyCar race on the computer this weekend, but if we’re going to have a racin in Japan then at least we get to read all the fun translations on the Japanese promotional material. Check this out from the Twin Ring Motegi site:

There are two race circuits at Twin Ring Motegi; one is the oval course "Super Speedway" which has satisfied international standards, and the other is the "Road Course" with a distance of over 4.8km.

In these circuits, major automobile and motorcycle races are held, where racers from Japan and overseas compete fiercely for the top position.

A combination of the world's pinnacle machines, drivers and mechanics produces fierce and extreme races.

The stand around the circuit is filled with enthusiastic cheers.

People do not only see the races but can also enjoy the various events held around the circuit throughout the year; events which people can enjoy seeing and events which people can enjoy participating in with their families.

All the races and events are crowded with people.
“Crowded with people?” “Fierce and extreme races?” “Satisfied international standards?” To paraphrase Kosuke Matsuura, I’m sofa king excited!

Meanwhile, note here that not only is one of the Official Partners “U.S. Meat Export Federation” but that one of the Promotional Partners is “Bowling Proprietors’ Association of Japan”.

Meat. Bowling. IndyCars. What could be more American?

Green Green Green

Posted by Iannucci | 4/17/2007 | 2 comments »
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Not sure watch to watch tonight? Assuming you have a cable provider, you can check out “The Green” on the Sundance Channel. Tonight’s episode will feature Jeff Simmons talking and perhaps demonstrating the benefits of burning Ethanol at 220 MPH, as well as other people who have built vehicles to run on such things as vegetable oil.

Vegetable oil. Hmmm. You think Wesson would make for a good ICS sponsor? I mean, Florence Henderson used to do their ads, right?

Then again, if you don’t have Sundance you can always watch Sanjaya on American Idol. He has nothing to do with IndyCars...thankfully.

Say Hello to AAMCO

Posted by Iannucci | 4/16/2007 | 3 comments »
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Stop the presses! has “huge” news relating to the Sarah Fisher sponsorship story a few days ago.

Sarah Fisher has supplanted fellow open-wheel racer Danica Patrick as the star of a new $30 million ad campaign for AAMCO Transmissions, which shot four spots last week in Los Angeles.

Sources tell us that while Patrick was cast as the star of AAMCO’s new campaign in a deal that would pay her more than $2 million, her Andretti Green IRL team nixed it because of a possible conflict with team sponsor Honda.

Sources also tell us Fisher got less than a quarter of what AAMCO offered Patrick to be its first spokeswoman. Still, we’ll be interested to see how much being in a high–profile campaign revs up Fisher’s image. She has competed on the Indy circuit off and on since 1999 and races for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. The AAMCO campaign should break sometime near the Indy 500.
OK, so now we really have a legitimate connection for a rivalry between these two – in the form of cash. But even bigger than the news relating to these two fine drivers is, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.

AAMCO also is expected to take a leaguewide sponsorship position within the IRL.
*ding ding ding*

If AAMCO is indeed ponying up the cash as a sponsor of the league, then this would be the biggest news of the year. Additional cash to pay at the league level would trickle down to things like prize money, which translates indirectly into more entries. Look at the evidence in the surge in Indy Pro participation since prize money has increased in that series.

It’s a far cry from the amount of cash thrown around in tin top racing, but a leaguewide sponsorship would certainly be “huge” news. Let’s keep the fingers crossed in the hope that like so many other deals in racing this one doesn’t fall through.

Just did a Google and found this on a Boston Red Sox blog(?) from last Wednesday.

I was actually in Anaheim yesterday, working as an extra in a AAMCO commercial with a country band called Whiskey Falls and an IndyCar driver named Sarah Fisher, neither of whom I had ever heard of before.
AAA, AAMCO...looks like Fisher just opened the Yellow Pages and started tracking down sponsors.

More ovulation

Posted by Iannucci | 4/15/2007 | 2 comments »
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Maybe the league can get Cover Girl to sponsor the IndyCar series. Check this out from the most recent update by the indispensable folks at Trackside Online:

With the announcement that Milka Duno would attempt to qualify for the Indy 500, talk has been about it potentially being a history making event with three women in the field. It is a long shot but Leilani Munter is hoping to throw her hat in the ring as well. Munter has been fitted for a seat and is expected to be testing soon with PDM Racing.

Munter has a background in stock cars starting in the Allison Legacy Series and moving up as far as testing an ARCA car at Daytona recently. She lists Konica-Minolta as a sponsor and had them on a car last year in a USRA Late Model race at Texas Motor Speedway where she finished fourth.

About the only open wheel connections easily made to Leilani are that she is part of the Hostess Race Divas promotion with Danica Patrick and she teaches at and is sponsored by former Indy 500 starter Andy Hillenburg's Fast Track High Performance Driving School.
Flipping over to the Hostess Divas page already headlined by Mrs Hospenthal we can read "As a college biology student, Leilani Munter was cast as a photo double for Catherine Zeta-Jone in 'Traffic' and 'America's Sweethearts'".

Google her photos yourself. This is soooo not your father's Indy 500.

Someone goes on the record for Duno

Posted by Iannucci | 4/14/2007 | 4 comments »
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As you have no doubt read over the last few weeks, reporters like Robin Miller and John Oreovicz have gone on record as saying Milka Duno has no business racing an IndyCar. For the most part they make valid points since she has pretty much bupkus experience racing on ovals no time whatsoever racing in excess of 200 MPH, but the troubling part of their arguments is always reading about "unnamed drivers" not wanting her in the league.

Seriously, if you're a driver and you're going to offer an opinion then go ahead and have your name attributed. If you don't it looks like these reporters are just making stuff up. If you truly think life and death are at stake by allowing the Milkalicious one to race in the ICS then by all means chime in and express your concern. Trust me: we will all think more of you.

And so it goes in a recent article in the new copy of ESPN magazine that arrived in my mailbox. A big splashy article on page 110 about Milka and unnamed drivers being down on Duno. But this article was different because one driver actually had their name attributed, and that driver came out in favor of Duno.

Nearly to a man, IndyCar drivers and crew members (none willing to go on record) say they fear Milka's inexperience makes her a danger to herself and everyone on the track.

Sarah Fisher disagrees. The youngest woman ever to start an Indy 500 isn't a bit worried. "With the right leadership," Fisher says, "Milka will be a great addition to our series." Fisher is confident the newcomer will be well coached, especially with hands-on help from Al Unser Sr. and Johnny Rutherford during rookie testing. "Al Senior and JR will do great work with Milka, like they did with me. Oh, she'll learn a lot."
That's one driver OK with Duno, and against we have...hello?

UPDATE: Milkalicious finally got behind the wheel and turned about 140 laps at Kansas Speedway today.

"I didn't realize how different this was going to be, but I just cut to the chase," Duno said. "I'm still learning, of course -- this was my first test -- but I am a fast learner, also. This is an advantage, to adjust quickly to changes and take the opportunities you have."

The biggest change, she said, is adjusting to the high speeds involved in open-wheel racing on ovals.

"You're going over 200 all the time," she said. "When you feel the car starting to slide a little bit, not to have nerves but to control the situation -- that's something very tough."
Didn't realize different this was going to be? Just listen to the collective groan all across this great land right now from everyone reading that.

During her big announcement in Homestead league officals mentioned the possiblity of having another car on the track with her to simulate racing conditions. While most folks thought "yeah, right", it turns out one current driver was actually scheduled to help earlier this week. Thank you very much, Darren Manning.

Marty Reid's not in lockstep

Posted by Iannucci | 4/14/2007 | 0 comments »
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Mark Decotis of Florida Today managed to track down IndyCar’s current lead broadcaster for some thoughts. Marty Reid has experience chatting up stock cars and dragsters, but the ICS is where he currently spends the bulk of his weekends. (However, we don’t know if he can match Paul Page’s resume which includes Street Luge.)

Curiously Decotis does not ask Mr Reid about the challenges of calling races on the new road and street courses or how he feels about constantly covering Danica! running in P8 or what he thought of Matsuura’s “Sofa King Dissapointed” comment. No, he does what many beat reporters seem to do in the weeks leading up the Indy 500, which is ask Read about (shocker!) open-wheel mergers. Perhaps surprisingly - or perhaps not - Reid has some honest thoughts and don’t exactly toe the company line with Tony George.

"Just personally speaking, not speaking for the network or anybody else, this issue never goes away," Reid said. "Until they find a way to bring all the best open-wheel drivers from both series under one umbrella, they're still going to have that hurdle.

"I don't know how you make two very wealthy guys with very different opinions put their minds together. It's going to be when one of them gets tired of losing more money than they want to spend.

"If open wheel can put their house in order and come under one umbrella, I think you'll see a resurgence," Reid said. "I think you'll see the whole marketing arm become the new juggernaut, because it will be an alternative to that fan who is looking for the next hot thing and there will be a reason to go back and look at open-wheel racing."
Why can’t we just talk about drivers or cars? Is that too much to ask?

Look, sincerest thanks to Mr Reid for opening up and offering his opinion of different racing leagues in a venue that does not involve an actual ICS race like others have ( *cough* Rusty *cough* Wallace *cough cough*). However, as you know I completely disagree with Reid’s assessment because having Sea Bass or PT Barnum or Unbreakable Legge in the IRL wouldn’t make much of a ratings dent. (But yes, it would be fun to see.)

As I have said before, many (if not most) open-wheel fans are already divided into their respective camps. You could merge the leagues but it wouldn’t necessarily merge all of the fans. Decotis could look at responses on his own site to see how open-wheel fans are often “IndyCar” or “Champ Car” but rarely both.

Despite all of this, the most distressing part of the article occurs when it points out a recent four-letter network poll showing the NHRA as the second most popular form of racing. What? The seven seconds and no turns racing series? That’s like watching pit stops without the actual race! Excuse me while I check the strength of the rod holding my shower curtain.

It’s a Hockey Night in Indianapolis

Posted by Iannucci | 4/13/2007 | 0 comments »
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The full stable of TCGR drivers will be out greeting fans and signing autographs at tonight’s Indianapolis Ice hockey matchup against the, uh, Cedar Rapids, uh, something-or-others. Wait, the other team is the Roughriders. Isn’t Roughriders the name all the Canadian Football teams take?

OK, enough about Canada. Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon and Chris Festa will be appearing at the game tonight for your enjoyment, at the conclusion of which they will no doubt immediately board a plane for Japan and commence with their jet lag. If you happen to go and aren’t sure what to say to these most excellent IndyCar drivers, here’s a list of casual comments you could make while waiting for them to sign a hero card or t-shirt or body part or whatever.

“Met any good distractions lately?”
“So how many pairs of shoes are you packing for the trip?”
“Who is it that actually calls you ‘Thunda’?”
“What’s it like being married to Posh Spice?”
“Winning without Jamie Little isn’t the same, right?”

“Did you enjoy the women in cages at the Honda Welcome party?”
“Have you ever offered your teammate any pointers on road courses?”
“If you win, does Chip let you call him Floyd?”
“Do you realize you’re winless since getting engaged?”
“When you get to Iowa are you having a Steinlager with Pressdog?”

Quite frankly, if you even acknowledge you know who an Indy Pro driver is he’ll be ecstatic. You can read all about him here.

If you really want to do these guys a favor then offer them some Dramamine or Ambien for the trip. Better yet, just wish them good luck and safe driving.

Good news for Fish Heads

Posted by Iannucci | 4/13/2007 | 9 comments »
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Fanicas may be greater in number, but they have nothing on the passion of the School of Fish Heads.

Over the last few days I've had more than a couple Fisher fans emailing notes about her recent acquisition of sponsorships, which got my interest to the point that I had to go ahead and ask her PR Guru (the always hospitable Klint Briney) about the circulating rumors. Always a friend of My Name Is IRL, Mr Briney has thrown us a nice bone to chew on.

So here is the deal: There have already been recent announcements for Sarah's sponsorships with Tag Heuer and AAA Auto Insurance, but Briney confirmed there is going to be a sponsor that will be "huge". He didn't say who it was, but the official announcement should be coming some time next week. I hope I'm not giving away confidential info here, but he revealed the ad campaign is in the tens of meeellions of dollars.

Three commercials have reportedly already been shot for the campaign, which will also include radio an other advertising "in their stores across the US". All in all, this should be a tremendous sign for a driver who wasn't even in the ICS at this time last year.

In the meantime, Sarah is on her way to Japan to start working appearances for the race with Kosuke Matsuura. According to Briney, "the Japanese love blondes!"

There's one other bonus for the Fish Heads. Mr Briney was kind enough to forward a "behind the scenes" video of Sarah and her commercial shoot for AAA. I'm posting this as a public service, but since I have zero affiliation with D&R or AAA I'll have to take it down if I'm instructed to do so. Enjoy.

Hornish out in the cold

Posted by Iannucci | 4/12/2007 | 0 comments »
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Despite being tabbed to sell some tickets in Kansas yesterday, Sam Hornish Jr and Team Penske had to nix some testing this week at the brand spankin’ new Iowa Speedway because of…snow. Yes, snow in April. So much for global warming in Des Moines, eh?

Now, I’m presuming that’s IndyCar testing and not extracurricular Busch series lappage. Besides, those Penske cars are fast enough – they don’t need more testing, do they? Come on, Roger. Share the love, man.

At any rate, let’s hope Mr. Cold Miser leaves the Midwest soon because there’s a race in Kansas in a few weeks. It would be ironic if they suffered a cold spell after moving the race to April to escape the sweltering summer racing of previous years.

And speaking of Sam, the intrepid Curt Cavin dropped this in his Q&A blog yesterday:

Question: If there was any doubt that Sam Hornish is headed to NASCAR next year to be replaced by Ryan Briscoe in the IRL, does the announcement that Penske will essentially field Briscoe in the 500 this year clear that doubt up? (Clint, Chicago)

Answer: I've certainly been thinking this for a while, but after spending the day with Hornish yesterday in Defiance, I'm not ready to say he's bound for NASCAR.It's been a struggle for him so far.
Allow me to take this moment to clarify my viewpoint on Hornish because a few folks have commented that I am being harsh on Uncle Sam and his performances in NASCAR. Let me clearly state that I wish him well in whatever racing endeavors he chooses and by no means am I enjoying his, well, futility in stock cars thusfar.

At the same time Hornish currently represents the best of IndyCar racing, and as a fan of said glorious racing I and many like me are in a strange position. If it were up to me (and it most certainly is not) I would prefer to see him continue his incredible career in IndyCar racing, but (and that’s a LaKisha Jones sized but) I also want him to succeed because I don’t want to see the perpetuation of open-wheel drivers failing to cut it in tin tops.

So if I seem harsh it’s only because I want to see him represent (double chest thump) the skills of all Indy drivers. I know a Dodge Charger is a totally different car requiring a separate set of skills to drive, but other racing fans aren't going to allow the guy excuses. He either gets it done and does us proud (like P2’s favorite driver) or he doesn’t and returns to lots of Victory Lane celebrations in the ICS.

Either way, I will still think the world of him as an IndyCar driver. As an American he is without peer in open-wheel racing...although Marco Andretti is getting closer.

Dr McDreamy goes for a drive

Posted by Iannucci | 4/12/2007 | 1 comments »
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As you know, Patrick Dempsey is the co-owner of the Vision Racing team. Of course, owning an ICS team isn’t enough since Dempsey personally has the need for speed. From Auto Racing Daily:

One of America's favorite TV doctors will soon make a “house-call” to Homestead-Miami Speedway. On Sunday, April 15 Patrick Dempsey, who plays Dr. Derek Shepherd on the hit show Grey’s Anatomy, will switch roles to co-drive the No. 54 Supercuts Ford Mustang GT for Hyper Sport in the Grand Am Koni Challenge GS Race.

“Racing is something I really need in my life right now,“ Dempsey told Details Magazine. “The excitement of it calms me down, oddly enough. You’re in the car and you're alone. It’s a complete escape from everything“.
What are the odds he’s discussed this career path with Jason Priestly?

Speaking of TV stars seeking high-speed thrills and excitement, longtime reader Jennifer has brought to my attention to Malcolm In the Middle of a Bad Haircut. Yes friends, that Frankie Muniz is driving in the Champ Car minor leagues. Well, trying to drive. Like half the field in the Toyota Atlantics race in Las Vegas he crashed out in his debut last week.

BTW – Jennifer wants to show her support for Ethanol by knitting something with corn-based yarn for Jeff Simmons. I am totally not making that up. Give her your ideas here.

Indy Insider crashes Honda Party

Posted by Iannucci | 4/12/2007 | 8 comments »
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Well, Arni the Indy Insider managed to get some behind the scenes footage at the Honda Welcome Party in St Pete. Three words: girls in cages.

I said “girls in cages”. What in the world is going on in Florida?

And the only thing more entertaining than girls in cages is watching PJ Chesson hitting on girls in cages. There’s a joke involving the words “Chesson”, “stiffed”, “ride” and “again”, but I’ll let you assemble it yourself.

There’s also a second video, which should be entitled “The Tony Kanaan Show”. Enjoy.

Buddy Lazier returns to Indy

Posted by Iannucci | 4/11/2007 | 2 comments »
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He's got his face on the Borg-Warner and he's got a Dallara, so he's got a fighting chance.

A former Indianapolis 500 winner has teamed up with a successful Indy Pro Series team owner for an entry in the 91st Indianapolis 500.

Buddy Lazier will drive the No. 99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Tim Neff is the race strategist. Team principals made the announcement on the weekly Indy Racing League teleconference.

Lazier's 14 starts includes the 1996 victory and five other top-10 finishes. Last year, he advanced 13 positions to finish 12th in a Dreyer & Reinbold Racing-prepared car. The 2000 IndyCar Series champion has competed in every '500' since 1995. He debuted on the starting grid in 1991, when he started 23rd in the No. 71 Vail Beaver Creek Lola/Buick. (MORE)

Uncle Sam Wants You

Posted by Iannucci | 4/11/2007 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share buy some tickets in Kansas today, although he's selling more than seats to the IndyCar race.

Kansas Speedway has “hired” three-time IndyCar Series champion and defending Kansas Lottery Indy 300 winner Sam Hornish, Jr. to work in the Kansas Speedway ticket office. Hornish replaces NASCAR driver Greg Biffle, who had to leave the position due to his racing schedule.

Hornish, who is the only driver to win the IndyCar Series championship three times and also won the 2006 Indianapolis 500, is scheduled to work in the ticket office on April 11 from 4 - 5 p.m. Fans are encouraged to buy their 2007 RPM season tickets from Hornish either via phone or in person at the Kansas Speedway ticket office. Hornish, who is running a part-time NASCAR Busch Series schedule, will also be selling Sprint Fan Walk and Pit Stop Pub tickets.

“He may not be completely familiar with our grandstands yet, but he knows his way around the race track, which will enable him to help fans pick out their favorite spots to watch the race.” (MORE)

Check out the Indy 500 Entry List

Posted by Iannucci | 4/10/2007 | 0 comments »
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The Brickyard has released the entry list for the 2007 Indianapolis 500, and maybe I’m on glue but it looks like 33 cars will not be a problem. Check out the PDF for yourself.

The first thing that jumps out is that Ryan Briscoe is in, and he’s driving for Penske. Well, sort of. Read this SPEED report for an explanation of what may or may not be an evaluation on Briscoe’s chance at taking Uncle Sam’s seat, should Hornish go for broke in NASCAR next year.

It also looks like veterans Stephan Gregoire and PJ Jones are scheduled, as well as a whole bunch of guys named TBA. Oh wait, that’s a bunch of teams that haven’t named drivers yet.

If you act fast you too might be able to get in this year, although most good rides are no longer available. Please note remaining options are mostly Panoz powered. Operators are standing by.

Don't call it a comeback

Posted by Iannucci | 4/10/2007 | 3 comments »
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My sincerest apologies for “going dark” for the last few days. Contrary to unsubstantiated rumors I was not in Las Vegas checking out Champ Car’s Easter in Sin City extravaganza – although I did read Pressdog’s recap of “Prison Rules racing.” Sounds like even the dog is down on the opening round of last vestige of CART.

Also note that I was not in Nashville this weekend, where Sam Hornish Jr continued his “extracurricular activity” in Busch series racing. Hornish finished 25th, four places behind Kyle Krisiloff. For those keeping score in the head-to-head matchup, that’s Mari Hulman George’s grandson 3, Hornish 1.

BTW – I didn’t see the race, but Hornish is listed as having “no sponsor” for the race. Can that be right?

The truth is I was at home while my wife and P1 returned from a few weeks overseas with our brand new P4. I got a full starting grid now, and I thought I would take a few days away from the computer. All is good, although P1 was disappointed her girls didn’t do better while she was away. After I told her how Danica! and The Queen fared in Florida she asked “Where’s the Target shirt? Is that Dan Wheldon?”

Ah, the fickleness of youth. I can’t wait to see what shirt she will be wearing when Motegi rolls around. One shirt she doesn’t have is John Herb, although I don’t know that I’ve ever actually seen a John Herb shirt. Herb announced yesterday that he and his Racing Professionals team have “made a commitment to enter in three races” this year, and that if additional sponsorship comes through they could be participating in even more. However, it looks like Herb will start the season at Indy.

Herb is 36 and will be returning from a layoff much longer than mine – he has not raced IndyCars sinced 2002. In 13 career starts he has finished just four races. Ahem.

Michael pimps his ride

Posted by Iannucci | 4/04/2007 | 1 comments »
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Today was Media Tour day at IMS, and one of the most eye-catching sights was Michael Andretti's ride for this year's Indy 500. Looks like he got sponsorship from the same folks who help his other AGR cars.

More pics here.

The redder the better, right? Hey, you gotta do whatever you can when you have 15 starts, 430 laps led and no face time on the Borg-Warner trophy. Seems to work for Hornish, Wheldon and Castroneves, who all won Indy in red cars.

My Name Is Hurl – 2007 Edition

Posted by Iannucci | 4/04/2007 | 3 comments »
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After suffering through consecutive weekends of watching a single driver dominate, it has become glaringly obvious that something needs to be done to spice up IndyCar racing. Since the League is unlikely to change the rules of competition, we the fans have to take matters into our own hands.

Yes friends, it’s time to resurrect the Unofficial IndyCar Drinking Game.

As I first noted in the 2006 edition, this is a work in progress. I have altered this a bit from last season, largely because we no longer have Dr Punch or Big Jamie Little around. That alone is reason enough to stare somberly into a tall cold one.

The game has also been tweaked to accommodate reader suggestions. If you have something to add then by all means share it with the group in the comments. The only rule is no drinking for crashes – that’s The NASCAR Way.

Also note that you are not required to consume Alcoholic beverages to participate, and are in fact discouraged from doing so if you are pregnant, under age, or named Al Unser Jr.

1 Drink
Drink term: “Dirty Air”
Name Drop: Tony George
Arute mentions something someone told him before the race
Any driver is asked about Danica!
Scott Dixon actually smiles
AJ Foyt sighting
Danica!’s winless streak is mentioned

2 Drinks
Drink term: "Marbles"
Name Drop: Brian Barnhart
Arute uses the cutaway car
Any driver complains about blocking
Scott Goodyear actually smiles
Mario Andretti sighting
Mirror Man's winless streak is mentioned

3 Drinks
Drink term: "Lockstep"
Name Drop: Patrick Dempsey
Arute holds something up to the camera
Any driver refuses to be interviewed by a pit reporter
Roger Penske actually smiles
Rick Mears sighting
The Fisher Queen’s winless streak is mentioned

Finish the Bottle
Drink term: "Champ Car"
Name Drop: PJ Chesson
Arute mentions an animal (dogs, birds, rabbits - you know he will)
Any driver drops an On-Air Expletive
Tony George actually smiles
Al or Bobby Unser sighting (hey, they would finish the bottle for you)
Ed Carpenter George’s winless streak is mentioned

Empty the Bar
Drink term: "Blog"
Name drop: Willy T Ribbs
Danica! mentions a sponsor
Scott Goodyear makes a joke
Brian Barnhart actually smiles
Marty Roth finishes on the lead lap
Any driver gets his/her first career IndyCar win

Forgiveness is an “F” word too

Posted by Iannucci | 4/03/2007 | 3 comments »
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Despite pleading his very mostest sincerest apologies for using foul (with a capital F) language in some post-wreck interviews on Sunday, Kosuke Matsuura has been judged by the Iron Hand of Justice.

IndyCar Series officials have fined Panther Racing's Kosuke Matsuura an undisclosed amount for using inappropriate language during live broadcast interviews April 1 during the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Matsuura was penalized for violating Rule 8-3-A of the IndyCar Series rulebook (regarding improper conduct). He issued an apology through a statement released by Panther Racing.

"I really wanted to apologize for what I said during my ESPN and IMS Radio Network interviews," he said. "I was upset about the crash, but I didn't need to use the language I did. Since the next race is at my home country, I wanted to return to Japan with good result and enjoy the Indy Japan race, so I am very disappointed with what happened in the first two races. I want to apologize to my sponsors, ESPN, IMS Radio Network, the IndyCar Series an all the race fans who were watching on Sunday. Everybody on my Panther team was frustrated, but I should have expressed my disappointment in a better way. I'm sorry."
I’m curious what kind of “better way” Matsuura is allowed in accordance with the cryptically named Rule 8-3-A. Previous experience suggests:
• The “Foyt” method of going over to the RLR pits and slapping Jeff Simmons in the face.
• The “Danica” method of stomping away without an interview.
• The “Little Al” method of making hand gestures towards Simmons (oh wait, he did that).

My suggestion: start swearing in Japanese. As if any of us would understand.

The Nose knows noses

Posted by Iannucci | 4/03/2007 | 0 comments »
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Tony Kanaan has discovered a new way to go faster – apply bandages to the nose of the car. After crushing the left front of his Dallara during the Fast 6 portion of qualifying this weekend, Kanaan’s team spent nearly 10 hours working on the vehicle. Had they not, El Nariz would have started at the back of the field in a backup car. Even then it wasn’t enough just to make the repairs, as Mark Decotis of Florida Today details.

"You know me. I went back there (after a sponsor dinner), the guys were still here. I looked at the guys and said, 'We have a mechanic, Steve Price, he's always hurt.' If you see him, he always has a Band-Aid or something like that. This weekend I had Band-Aids all over the place. I had a problem with my back . . . so my arm was a little sore so I had the same thing, so they start to make fun of both of us.

"Then we looked at the car, first thing I say, 'It looks like Steve.' It was all banged up, different colors. One of the guys said, 'We are missing some Band-Aids' so I went and got some and put them on."

The plastic strips were applied and one nearly came off during the warm-up.

"I was very upset," Kanaan said. "When the car is good, you don't touch it. So I'm a bit superstitious so I said, 'Let's put clear tape over those things.' And we left it there. I hope the car feels better now."
Quick, someone check Helio’s car to see if he had any of these.

A hearty farewell

Posted by Iannucci | 4/02/2007 | 1 comments »
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Even though I have already sent a brief note of congratulations, it still bummed me out today to receive an email announcing the departure of Brent Maurer from the PR department of Rahal Letterman Racing.

As you may recall, Brent was kind enough to grant me a thoughtful interview a while back while he was still conducting his two year tour of Danicamania. And while "My Name Is IRL" has helped put me in contact with lots of really cool people, don't think for a moment it grants me all kinds of access to IndyCar insiders. I'm just a fan like you who happens to yap in a public forum, so it's not like I have the ear of Tony George. (Although my wife helped Tony George's bride buy her wedding dress MANY years ago, but that's a story for another day.)

Anyhow, not only did Brent take time from his exceedingly busy schedule, but since then he's always returned my messages when asking about RLR news - although truthfully the discussion almost always turns to basketball. Go figure.

Now he's off to handle Public Relations for Barbasol. (That's the shaving cream, not the dead horse.) I'm sure Brent knows what he's doing, but for some reason I feel like suggesting he resurrect this little diddy.

I have a sad story to tell you.
It may hurt your feelings a bit.
Last night when I walked into my bathroom,
I stepped in a big pile of ...

Shaving cream, be nice and clean.
Shave everyday and you'll always look keen.

Think happy thoughts

Posted by Iannucci | 4/02/2007 | 3 comments »
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A few folks have been kind enough to gently point out that I sound (well, read actually) like some kind of crank in my little synopsis of thoughts on the race in St Petersburg. If you will afford me just another moment of your time I will attempt to reassure that I am not at all dismissive of a race that included many highlights. Truth be told I didn’t get a chance to watch the race until late last night, at which point I sufficiently primed for “nodding off”.

My concern with the street course races – and to a similar extent the road course contests – is the vast reduction in passing lanes. The narrow courses with many kinks challenge the drivers, but with only three or four places on the whole course wide enough for passing the actual racing gets clogged up. Drivers can pass each other on pit stops or when someone spins or wrecks, but otherwise it’s just a total blockfest.

And I’m OK with that as long as there is some drama somewhere on the track. Unfortunately that drama wasn’t at the front, where Scott Dixon chased Helio Castroneves all day long. Sure, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti went to the back and worked their way up, but much of whatever passing they were accomplishing wasn’t televised.

So with that said I’m going to instead list a bunch of things I truly enjoyed about the race telecast and not even once mention my untimely nap.

• Anytime Helio Castroneves wins I look forward to his post-race antics. At some point in time it will get old, but I appreciate his bubbly exuberance in this era of so many dull corporate race car drivers. It may be a total act but I like the act, and it’s the kind of act that appeals to the casual race fan.

• Speaking of winning, I thought it very cool to have Vince Welsh interview Spiderman on the track after the race. No need to wait until victory lane when your reporter can just get out on the pavement and interview the winner as soon as he climbs down from that fence.

• Also, the helicopter camera was great for making the cars look fast. Those long shots down the runway, err, front straightaway made them look school-zone slow, but the overhead shot revealed what 160 MPH is supposed to look like. As Pressdog is fond of saying, “Get the cameras up in the air.”

• Darren Manning made my day. Not since the days of Kenny Brack has the Foyt entry looked so solid, and I will completely admit this usually neutral observer was pulling for Danger Mouse. No one wants to see a legend like Super Tex humiliated, and seeing the Foyt car near the back for so much of the last few seasons is just painful. I sincerely hope this performance is a sign of a turnaround and not a fluke.

• When I heard Kosuke Matsuura’s started speaking in R-rated language, my first thought was “What did he just say?” But my second thought was “Does he know you don’t say that on TV?” Maybe living in the racing world he thinks everyone talks like that all the time. It’s not like he gets a lot of interviews to practice his English. When was the last time this guy got air time? I remember during the rain delay at Michigan last year he was just standing around while everyone else got interviewed. Well, now we’ll remember him.

• You can’t say enough about the recovery of Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti. To go backwards on the first lap and work back into a Top 5 is nothing short of incredible for both of them. One can only wonder how their day would have gone had they not had that early collision.

• Not only did Sarah Fisher finish her first street event, but more important was that she didn’t disrupt the race. Like Marty Roth on an oval, her goals were to keep the car in one piece and to avoid taking anyone else out of the race.

• I don’t know if this as an ESPN thing or if this is the league’s doing, but I’ve noticed this year the “I Am Mindy” segments actually have drivers with faces and names in them. THANK YOU!

• A big thank you as well for keeping the side-by-side commercials, no matter how dull the racing is. While NASCAR fans are treated to studio breakaways during green flag racing, IndyCar fans get all racing all the time.

• And not only that, but I would almost enjoy watching that Firestone commercial no matter what’s happening in the race. I almost cried the first time I saw it, and I haven’t cried at anything like that since the end of “Babe”. (OK, too much information.)

• The one drawback about night racing is that we don’t get to see Dan Wheldon’s crazy white sunglasses. This is just a personal game I play, but whenever he’s on screen wearing those things I start humming Elton John’s “Rocket Man”. One day my kids will appreciate this, right?

• And finally: kudos to Dixon for not wrecking Castroneves. His frustration could have come to a desperate move late in the race, but he showed his professionalism in defeat. As much as the actual result was boring, I would still prefer boredom to a last lap crash taking out the two best cars of the race.

This is probably my most boring post yet, but I'll rest easier knowing it's up.

'07 is the new '06

Posted by Iannucci | 4/01/2007 | 6 comments »
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It's deja vu all over again. Again.

For the second time in as many races, the '06 winner led from nearly start to finish this year. Helio Castroneves led for 95 of 100 laps at Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg, tying last week's winner (that would be Danny "White Shades" Wheldon) for second on the all-time ICS win list with 12.

The Good
Scott Dixon logged his second straight runner-up performance, which now puts him atop the ICS standings.

Sam Hornish Jr finished 7th, remaining in contention for much of the day. What are the odds he finishes this high in a Busch series race this year?

Darren Manning was running between third and fifth for much of the day before a late spin. In a world dominated by Penske, TCGR and AGR, Foyt Racing and Danger Mouse were riding the "Underdog" vibe.

Brienne Pedigo performed well in interviewing the usually fuming AJ Foyt after the spin. This may well have been the team's lone shot at a podium all year, and yet the rookie was given the task of interviewing Super Tex. Despite the fact that AJ didn't start cursing, it may have been the bravest move of the day.

Speaking of cursing, Kosuke Matsuura dropped a heavily accented F-bomb on (but not at) Vince Welsh right after giving some hand-gestures to Jeff Simmons. Sukiyaki had every reason to be upset, and showing it live gave an emotional connection to a usually non-descript driver.

The Bad
Oh sure, the non-ovary laden AGR team members all finished in the Top 5, but there's no excuse for the first lap collision between Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti. Quit acting like Champ Car drivers, guys.

Speaking of teammates, Ed Carpenter and AJ Foyt IV got tangled up as well in a wreck that sent ECG up, up, and away and out for the day.

Danica Patrick was unable to capitalize on the Power of AGR, finishing in 8th. And not a close 8th, I might add.

Due to accidents that weren't necessarily their fault, the Panther drivers finished 16th and 17th. Yuck.

Either Wheldon had a bad car, sore hands, a new distraction, or who knows what, but he just wasn't the same guy he was last week. Helio may have punted him on a restart, and it may have even been intentional, but Dan wasn't dominating anyone with anything other than pit stops.

The Ugly
My greatest concern with any road/street course is that I'm going to nod off to sleep. When no one is passing - or even threatening to pass - I totally become disinterested. If the cars aren't passing each other then it's not a race.

And although Castroneves and Dixon were nose to tail for much of the race, that's pretty much where they stayed. All day long. Nose. To. Tail. (Dare I say "lockstep?")

On an oval this would have been fantastic racing, but today both drivers were good enough and the track was tight enough that there was nowhere for Iceman to get around Spiderman. So around, and around, and...around...and...a...round...zzz.

I see waves, sail boats, dolphins...Kosuke, wake me when we're in Japan.