Truckin'

Posted by Iannucci | 8/31/2007 | 3 comments »
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Take a look at this snapshot from Full Throttle of a guy and his truck and see if you can guess who it is. Here's a hint: he won the Indy 500 in 1995.


Memo to race fans: the Los Angeles Times says to now call him "Jack". Yeah, buddy. As legendary baseball announcer Vic Scully once uttered, "If a picture says a thousand words, that one says a million of them."

Castroneves already getting his groove on

Posted by Iannucci | 8/31/2007 | 2 comments »
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He’s already leading the Timing & Scoring from Belle Isle today (shocker!), so while waiting for the Sunday race you can check out this footage of Helio and his “Sleeping Dancing with the Stars” partner practicing their moves together. This also includes a few moments of Helio dancing with himself – that’s gotta be awkward.

I don’t know what’s more alarming about this video: the cheesy background music or the fact that he says she told him “you’re going a little too deep here in the corner?” Great horny toads!

Quote of the Day

Posted by Iannucci | 8/31/2007 | 0 comments »
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This weekend the IndyCar series turns its attention to the streets of Belle Isle, so Tony Kanaan offered his thoughts on the new course layout. From CanWest News Service:

“I think Roger (Penske) listened to me and changed the corner where I crashed twice and broke my arm so I’m feeling much more comfortable.”

Jimmy Kite to race Indy Pro

Posted by Iannucci | 8/31/2007 | 1 comments »
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If you don't follow the Indy Pro racing series - and really, you probably should since the racing has been better than the big boys as of late - you might not recognize many names. However, if you follow the Indy 500 then you'll recognize this staple of Bump Day drama: Jimmy Kite.

The braintrust at TrackSide Online speaks:

TSO is hearing that Jimmy Kite will drive a second SWE IndyPro Series entry next weekend at Chicagoland. Jimmy last drove an IndyCar Series machine at Indy where he was unable to make the field in a PDM Panoz.

This would be his first run in an IndyPro Series car, and is interesting in many ways. First, it's great that Jimmy will put his ego aside and just go drive what is available to him. Many former ICS drivers don't want to take a "step down", but seat time is seat time, and Jimmy is a race car driver - good for him.
And the best part is it's highly unlikely he gets eliminated in qualifying!

In case you were wondering what Jimmy's been doing lately, he's been running JK Hobby World - "Your source for all your hobby needs". A guy has gotta pay the bills, ya know.

Still, he won't have the most well-known name in the series. That distinction might belong to Adam Andretti (John's younger brother) who will be making his IPS debut as well. Of course, Al Unser III might also be racing at Chicagoland as well.

See, you really should be watching this series.

UPDATE: Here's video of Adam Andretti testing. Bonus footage of Aldo.

Where oh where

Posted by Iannucci | 8/30/2007 | 3 comments »
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Lost in the deluge of news this weekend was this Associated Press tidbit regarding the 2008 schedule.

IRL spokesman John Griffin said Sunday that the release of the 2008 IndyCar Series schedule is being held up pending the announcement of a new venue to replace a Michigan event.

The new event would replace the dropped race at Michigan International Speedway and would give the IndyCars another 17-race schedule.

"All I can say is that it's in the United States and it's a place where we haven't raced before," said Griffin, who added the IRL is hoping to make the announcement within the next few weeks.

Potential sites that have been at least talked about for a new street race include Los Angeles, San Diego, San Antonio and Washington, D.C.
Our sources (oh yes, WE have sources) say the site is likely to be West, but not necessarily Southwest ("It's just WEST!") citing that the smart money might be on the Dodger Stadium Parking Lot discussed last year. Insert the sound of forehead banging against desk right about...now.

Lots of ideas come to mind (Seattle? Anchorage? A mysterious island sponsored by the Hanso Foundation?), although pressdog may have stumbled upon the actual location earlier this year: Moon Base Alpha.

Hey, it makes about as much sense as racing in a parking lot.

Who wants to rock

Posted by Iannucci | 8/30/2007 | 1 comments »
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Lots of times at My Name Is IRL we sit around and lament the, uh, contributions of Gene Simmons to the Indy Racing League. You’d think a guy who has been successful as both a rockstar and an entrepreneur would be beneficial to the league, but so far this relationship doesn’t seem to be helping anyone except The Tongue. He gets paid, he gets exposure, and all we fans get are mostly static ratings and the Mindy Song. Such a deal.

I don’t know, maybe PJ Chesson benefits from this. Maybe.

So as annoying as The Tongue can be, his faults are even more obvious when you compare him to another famous rocker who has had success away from the stage. After signing on as co-owner of Team KMA of the Indy Pro series, Sammy Hagar has done more than Simmons himself has seemed willing to do: that is invest his own money in the sport.

Now you may not think of Hagar as a major presence in IndyCar racing, but the reality is he may become one very soon. In May Hagar sold an 80% stake in his Cabo Wabo Tequila business for $80 MEEELLION. He probably doesn’t want to spend it all on race cars, but with change like that in his seat cushions he can afford the hobby for as long as he likes.

Couple this financial success with Hagar’s passion for the sport and you can see the Red Rocker may soon become a major player. Listen to how Hagar recounts his reaction to the win in Nashville by KMA’s Robbie Pecorari.

Pecorari's first win of the season in July at Nashville, Tenn., was a welcome wake-up call for Hagar, who happened to be in Italy at the time.

"That was so cool," Hagar said, even though it was 4 a.m. when he got the news. "I went wahoo! Woke the wife up. That was awesome." (MORE from Marin Independent Journal)
The reason for mentioning this now is that this weekend Hagar wasn’t just watching his Indy Pro team – he was hanging with AJ Foyt in the Foyt Racing garage. While the Foyt team has regained some respectability with the addition of Darren Manning this season, it’s no secret they would like to continue their progress by adding a second car. Oh, and did I mention that Cabo Wabo is already an associate sponsor for Foyt’s #14? Yes, AJ and his crew seem to be fired up about seeing Sammy as well.

So the positives from the race were that our ABC Supply crew continued to have good pit stops — all of which were under green. Speaking of the pit crew, the back of their uniforms sported patches featuring some of Sammy's hit songs like I Can't Drive 55, One Way To Rock,Mas Tequila, Dreams and Right Now.

The song patches were the brainchild of Becky Baranouski, wife of my team manager Craig Baranouski. Becky had obtained the associate sponsorship for the team earlier in the year and worked with Sammy's people to get him out to the track. When it was confirmed, she came up with the song idea as a way to pay tribute to him. She is a huge Sammy Hagar fan so she worked really hard to make this all happen. After meeting him in person, I can see why — he's a super guy. (MORE from USAToday.com)
Is it love for Sammy? Is it begging for dollars? Probably both.

Remember that when an IndyCar team has an affiliation with an Indy Pro team they get extra practice, and as any driver will tell you those extra laps during the season are a significant advantage for any given race. Foyt has no such affiliation and neither does Team KMA, so even the simplest of deals could benefit both teams. And while there are no promises of how much additional coin Sammy is willing to invest in Team KMA or Foyt Racing, it’s a heck of a lot more encouraging to see a celebrity with pockets full of cash excited about promoting the racing instead of pimping himself.

Rock on.

It's Official

Posted by Iannucci | 8/29/2007 | 9 comments »
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I guess I have to watch this silly show now.


Two-time Indianapolis 500 Winner Helio Castroneves may not have much of an "off-season" this year, as it was announced today that the Miami resident will be joining the cast of ABC Television Network's hit show "Dancing with the Stars" for its fifth season this fall.

The 32 year old Brazilian will be paired with the winner from the fourth season, Julianne Hough, as the couple prepares to prove to the world that Castroneves doesn't just have moves on the racetrack, but on the dance floor as well.

"I'm really excited for this opportunity," said Castroneves. "It's definitely something that I never would have imagined participating in. However, now that I know that I'm going to be part of the competition, I've set my sights on winning. I know it's going to be a lot of hard work, but with our IndyCar Series season coming to a close, I'm going to dedicate the same energy that I bring to racing to rehearsing for the show. I know I have a lot to learn, but I've been told that Julianne is one of the best teachers out there, and I'm ready to get to work. Having won back-to-back Indianapolis 500's, I would like nothing more than to give Julianne back to back ‘Dancing with the Stars' titles."
So does he climb his dance partner if he wins? Just askin'.

Seriously though, as Curt Cavin notes the amount of people that watch this show is about 10 times the average viewership for a typical IndyCar race. WOW! He adds:

"If this collection of dancers is compelling enough for people to watch, this could be one of the biggest things to happen to the IRL. It's big-time mainstream, and they've absolutely got the right driver for the part."

UPDATE: Thanks to the commentor who linked the video for the announcement. However, what's wrong with this picture? Is that prankster Kanaan running production for "Good Morning America" these days?

Champ Car cancels Phoenix

Posted by Iannucci | 8/29/2007 | 7 comments »
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I haven't seen a single billboard. I haven't heard a single news report other than the coverage of the sound testing a few months ago. I even saw light rail tracks being installed on part of the circuit last month.

So it comes as no surprise that my fellow Phoenicians decided they wanted no part of this.

On Tuesday, organizers announced that they would cancel the three-day Champ Car race event set for downtown Phoenix this fall. An estimated 1,000 ticket holders would get full refunds, they said. The race could be staged next year, they said.

Grand Prix Arizona was billed as a mega-event that would bring high-adrenaline car racing downtown for the next five years with a projected $65 million in annual economic impact. The two-mile track would have snaked around Chase Field, US Airways Center, Phoenix Convention Center and other landmarks.

"The sponsorship levels didn't even come close to what we needed to be able to pull this off the way that we wanted to," said Phoenix businessman Dale Jensen. Jensen, part owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Phoenix Suns, teamed up with business partner Brad Yonover to orchestrate the event. (MORE from azcentral.com)
"An estimated 1000" means what, 34 people bought tickets? You gotta sell those folks a lot of beers to make $65 million. Good gracious, that series is a mess.

You know I've said it before: there's no need to merge with a dying product. For all of it's faults (many of which we saw this weekend) the IRL is still light years ahead of the post-CART remains.

Now is the time. Come on back to Phoenix, Tony. Big hugs all around.

Whodunnit

Posted by Iannucci | 8/28/2007 | 7 comments »
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From where I was seated I had a pretty exciting view of the madness of Lap 68. As Dario Franchitti raced in front of me towards the Chicane, I saw across the track and into the pits where Marco Andretti’s team was really busting their humps. I saw Marco fire out as Dario was approaching the start finish line, and I saw Marco climb up the left side of the hill between Turns 1 and 2 while Dario closed up on the right.

Then I saw both cars veer right, causing Dario briefly go off the track. I saw them both turn right, and then disappear save for the additional dust kicked up in the aftermath of their get together. Then I heard Mike King of IMS Radio go nuts in my headset.

I gotta say my first reaction was “Oh, Marco!” With his teammate in the championship hunt and ahead of Scott Dixon in both the race and the standings it would seem that Marco should have fallen in right behind Franchitti and followed Dario for the remaining dozen laps. But on the radio broadcast I heard Michael immediately blaming Dario for being impatient and causing the whole mess, so right away I was looking forward to firing up the DVR once I got home.

And after several views and reviews, I’m finally sure I know who’s to blame: everyone.

Blame Marco

Marco was coming out on cold tires and was racing for the win. Dario was coming around hot and was racing for the win AND the series title AND the big fat 7-digit bonus check that goes along with that. With regards to team priorities, the Scotsman clearly wins. As nice a run as Marco had up to that point, it’s unconscionable that he couldn’t be thinking about his points-leading teammate, especially given that Dario had just had two really bad weeks and hadn’t bested Dixon in a race in nearly two months. Surely Marco was aware of this, right?

But…take a moment and think about the race from Andretti’s point of view. He qualified last on his team, but had the fastest time in morning practice. He immediately got together trying to pass Ryan Hunter-Reay, damaging his steering. And from there he drove his way right up to the front, not only passing cars but saving fuel as well. (We can now discard the Herta spin conversation – if Marco can save this kind of fuel then he was going to win that race last year regardless.) So after an underwhelming campaign for much of 2007, The Young 3.0 was one solid pit stop from staring a second straight win at Infineon square in the face. If you were him – that is, a bona fide race car driver – wouldn’t you have tried to win the freaking race? Dario was a head of Dixon at that point anyways, so if Marco could manage to best them both then it’s all good for AGR, right?

Blame Dario

You would like to think with all the years of experience and all of the recent misfortune that at Lap 68 Franchitti would have been holding on to the precious lead over Dixon like he would a Faberge egg. If he saw Marco – the young daredevil who has also twice flipped this season – accelerating out of the pits ahead of him his first thought shouldn’t have been about trying to pass the kid, but rather about staying ahead of the guy behind him. THAT was the real race, and no matter how much more likely Mr Judd was to pass Marco he would have been better served to focus on the race with the guy behind him instead of the guy in front of him.

But…maybe that’s exactly what Franchitti was doing, as Dixon was right on Dario’s heels and if he lifts in that corner he may find himself quickly in third place. “You lift, you lose” can still apply to certain parts of road courses as well. Plus, as I noted before it sure looked like Marco was staying way left and giving Dario room to pass before Andretti turned to take the low line. For a split second entering Turn 2 Dario must have gone from thinking “Thanks, Marco” to “What the...!?!”

Blame Michael

What this get-together showed is that there was not any coordination between teammates, and that’s not just the fault of the individuals involved. As owner of the team Michael needs to get on the headset and tell Marco to let Dario pass him in Turn 2. That can’t be easy for an owner AND a father to do, but if he doesn’t want to execute such a decision then he should consider another line of work. Last year at Chicagoland Chip Ganassi ordered Scott Dixon to fall behind Dan Wheldon since that was the team’s best chance of a championship. That’s not a tactic, that’s being sensible.

But…if Michael is actually giving team orders then it’s a no-win situation. There’s already a perception that with four cars he’s rigging the system, and like last year he would find himself embroiled with a controversy of arguably shady team tactics. Judging from previous incidents at Kansas and Mid Ohio it would seem there are in fact NO team orders other than go out and race to win. If you’re not an Andretti-Green racing fan you would rather have that competition among teammates then watching a team-ordered block party, but if you are an AGR fan then you’re probably just shaking your head. Or screaming. Or throwing things. Or all of the above.

Blame the Indy Racing League

Hey this would never have happened if they hadn’t added all these single-groove road courses. Let’s get some actual passing lanes and let them decide the race in a proper fashion.

But…that ending sure was fun to watch from where I was sitting. Now would be a good time to also Blame ESPN for not showing Dixon and Castroneves battling for the win until the white flag flew. Helio was all over the Iceman like white on rice those final laps, but sadly those at home were treated to the extended block party instead of the actual race. You have my sympathies.


Now of course after this hullabaloo there needed to be some more blame handed out. I’m sure I know WHY Brian Barnhart didn’t have Dario Franchitti black-flagged to have his nose wing fixed after he collided with Marco – he wanted the season championship to be decided on the course. Fair enough, but what if that equipment flapping in the breeze on the #27 had broken off during the restart and caused Dixon to have a cut tire forcing HIM to pit? Would that have been desirable? I’m gonna say “no” there. He needed to tell Dario to pull in no matter how much it hurt.

As a result of this decision (or indecision) we can also talk until we’re blue in the face about Kanaan’s blocking maneuvers. Tony committed similar tactics earlier in the race, but they certainly got more pronounced after Dario was driving with a wounded car. The telecast didn’t really do it justice from the camera angles, but Kanaan was doing two things that were very unfair to competition.

Now not passing is not illegal, but both (a) pulling up next to your teammate with not intention of passing when the track is two-wide and also (b) lifting off the throttle to give some separation from the car in front of you when the track is one-wide is flat out wrong. The latter maneuver is often referred to as “brake checking” and it will get you off a fellow driver’s Christmas Card List for obvious reasons. (I’d check to see if it’s definitively illegal, but I still can’t find an IRL rule book online.) Regardless of legality this is supposed to be a race, and if things like this aren’t conducive to racing then somebody needs to get out the freaking black flag.

Speaking of the black flag, I’d like to think that would be the standard penalty for jumping the start. I don’t blame Kanaan for pulling alongside Danica Patrick since Dario TOTALLY cut her off in the last turn before the start and Tony had that lane all to himself, but come on Tony – you can’t just breeze past your teammate before the green flag flies. If the top 3 qualifiers are all on the same team then you’d presume they could decide among themselves how they’re going to start the race.

Team Orders? Pffft. Such rational communication would only dull the most intriguing team in the IndyCar series. While the four AGR drivers are trying to win races, they’re also performing a weekly episode of “Real World: IndyCar Series” for the rest of us. I’m sure it’s become Scott Dixon’s favorite show this summer.

Dancing with Castroneves

Posted by Iannucci | 8/28/2007 | 1 comments »
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Earlier this summer IndyCar magazine had an article where Helio Castroneves interviewed himself. Yes, really. They asked him to write down questions he would ask an anonymous driver, then they had him give his answers. Witty.

One of the questions was:

"Dancing with the Stars" or Grey's Anatomy"?
"Dancing with the Stars"

The editor then asked Helio if he had any plans to be on the show. "If they ask me, sure. I know samba."

It would seem Helio may have been dropping hints even then, as now word is leaking from places like TMZ.com that he will in fact be a contestant on the upcoming season of the show.

I've never watched the show, but I have heard it is prone to breaking up relationships. I hope Happy Helio doesn't get a little TOO happy, if you know what I mean. Here is a list of the competitors.

Aaron Carter
Wayne Newton
Mark Cuban
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Lou Ferrigno
Richard Quest
Helio Castroneves
Jane Seymour
Tori Spelling
Jennie Garth
Nia Peeples
Gisele Bundchen
Sabrina Bryan

And here I though Lou Ferrigno had died years ago.

(My thanks to SEVERAL readers for forwarding this to me. It would seem lots of folks are excited already to vote for their guy.)

UPDATE: The IndyStar is covering this as well, though hedging their bets until the official announcement. Meanwhile, Jennifer is excited.

Another convert

Posted by Iannucci | 8/27/2007 | 2 comments »
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Today has been a bit of a slog here at MNII World Headquarters, as I'm currently still reviewing the broadcast of yesterday's race. Actually I'm watching the last 15 laps like they're the Zapruder film, trying to determine who assassinated whom in Turn 2. Back, and to the left... back, and to the left... back, and to the left.

I'm also multitasking by catching up on my reading. No offense to longtime friends, but my most favoriteist IndyCar blog right now may be the IndyCar NewsStand. I don't know who Crimson Ace is or how much time a day he/she devotes to collecting the news, but for the last month the site has been updated daily with pretty much ALL of the unique news stories on the wire. Color me impressed.

Whoever they are, God bless them for saving me precious minutes every day.

Anyhow, the 'Stand found this encouraging piece about how the exciting races in the IRL right now. And, it's from a NAPCAR blog.

Far more often than not, IRL's uniform approach to equipment results in races packed with breathtaking moments of multi-car, multi-lap battles for the lead. It can put on a show to where even road courses have appeal to hardcore short-track junkies. In terms of genuine racing action, right now IRL is beating NASCAR a mile. Also, its current crop of drivers for the most part have something noticeably absent in NASCAR: personalities.
Hallelujah! And welcome to the party. Too bad you weren't watching a few years ago when things were even wilder.

Sunday at Infineon

Posted by Iannucci | 8/26/2007 | 6 comments »
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You probably didn't have the benefit that I had. You probably didn't roll across the Golden Gate Bridge en route to the Motorola Indy 300 on Sunday. You probably didn't get to see the masterful driving of Richard Antinucci in the Valley of the Moon 100 Indy Pro prelude to the IndyCar race.


No, you probably nodded off during the first 60 laps of the main event, but hopefully you woke up in time to enjoy the end of the race where everything went sideways.

Before we go any further, I keep forgetting to point out one thing. All these years I have thought of Infineon Raceway as being in wine country. Sonoma Valley certainly makes people think of Chardonnays and Cabernets, but the truth is the track - located on the side of a mountain - is not actually in the wine country portion of Sonoma. It's in cow country.


Not only that, the track plays this up. They have shirts embellished with some cartoonish cow with exhaust pipes that say "Mooooovin'". I am totally not making that up, although I refuse to disgrace the league by showing you a picture of said wardrobe.

The Good

My seats this weekend were in Section 9 which is located immediately in front of "The Chicane". This put me completely across the track from Turn 2, where the race was effectively decided by Marco and Dario getting to be a little closer than friends. I haven't seen the reply so I'll reserve judgement, but until that point Marco had been driving as well as anyone. His crew chief said the car had been damaged early, but you wouldn't know it watching him chase everyone down.


Scott Dixon won the race, largely because he was able to go longer on fuel than his competitors. This wasn't his usual domination on the road course, and late in the race it looked like Helio Castroneves would have passed him had their been any room on the track. But a win is a win, and there are no bad wins.

Speaking of Helio, he's going to win next week. He darn near won this week, although he was easily the most aggressive driver on the track. And by that I mean he dive-bombed about two or three times more than anyone else. Helio seems to be uncomfortable with holding position, and as such is one of the few drivers who can make road races exciting to watch.


Sure, there were lots of fans in NASCAR regalia, but I was lucky enough to sit behind this old school IRL fan. That was comforting.

The Bad

Don't be fooled by Sam Hornish Jr and his 5th place finish. Sam was all over the track a few times, and it was only because of some nice saves that he was able to finish where he did. That and the incredible pit stops his team gave him. His road skills have improved, but he was very fortunate to finish as high as he did.

Danica Patrick and her team have LOTS of pit issues. After all three pit cycles she lost position: twice her team's fault, then lastly her own as she stalled. You can all stop worrying about her getting her head shaved until that gets straightened out...assuming you were worried about this at all.

All weekend I saw Scott Sharp talking with all kinds of people. He had both mechanical and driving problems in practice and still he always had a smile on his face. So it is with the utmost admiration for his skills as an ambassador that I say he was driving like a TOTAL LUNATIC on Sunday. Incidents with Patrick, Hornish, and Foyt have me thinking he's going to having more than a few colorful conversations in the next week.


In case you were thinking of coming out this year - plenty of great seats were still available.

The Ugly

Should I try to debate whether or not Franchitti should have been black-flagged from his broken wing? Or that Kanaan should be chastised for blatantly blocking for almost the entire race? Or that this race had "parade" written all over the the first two acts?


Nah, I'm just bummed this whole weekend is over. Finding my rental car was no easy task (which is inexcusable since I didn't have a single $12 beer) but now it's time to rest up and fly home tomorrow.

Cheat Sheet: Sonoma 2007

Posted by Iannucci | 8/26/2007 | 0 comments »
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The best part of putting together the favorites for the Motorola Indy 300 at Infineon Raceway is that we once again get to gaze in disbelief at the final standings from the 2005 race. Tony Kanaan was the winner, but the rest of the scoring is unlike any other in recent memory.

2. Buddy Rice
3. Alex Barron
4. Patrick Carpentier
5. Thomas Enge
6. Kosuke Matsuura

Betcha didn’t have them in your fantasy picks.

In the same race two years ago Scott Dixon was 8th, while his current Well Done teammate was 10 spots ack. Neither Penske driver finished higher than 17th. Jeff Bucknum(!) was 10th, Roger Yasukawa(!!) was 11th, and Giorgio Pantano(who?) was 14th.

Heck, Ryan Briscoe actually led the race for 16 laps before an accident ended his day.

Juxtapose that with last year’s snoozefest where Scott Dixon was DEEE-STROYING the field, right up until a pit miscue dropped him down to 10th. He forced his way back to 4th, but the error likely cost him his second ICS championship.

Meanwhile, despite running low on fuel Marco Andretti notched his first win, courtesy of Brian Herta’s team-ordered spinout. (OK, I don’t know that there was a team order, and I don’t even know if it was intentional. I just know a lot of people made a big deal about it so I’m mentioning it. Please don’t ban me from the Andretti Winery for pointing this out.)

So what’s the lesson of racing at Sonoma? Consume plenty of caffeine and wait for the silliness to break out. Here are your favorites for the 2007 edition.

Dixon – Duh. He's already won at Watkins Glen and Mid Ohio. All that's left is to tell the seagulls to stay clear of the Iceman.

Kanaan – Nariz has not received the memo that he has a 1% chance of winning the title. He’s won two straight races and has no intention of slowing down now. Plus, he is NOT a seagull.

Franchitti – Dario needs to get his head out of the clouds and stay grounded. He needs to set aside his lofty ambitions for now and just keep his feet (and all four wheels) firmly planted on the ground. He’s really soared up the championship standings, but…let me know when I’ve beaten this into the gorund.

Andretti – He's undefeated at Infineon! Seriously though, it’s not really a fluke that Andretti 3.0 won last year since he’s very familiar with this track. Marco qualifed 6th and 4th on the two previous roadies this year, so expect to see him up front all day. Unless of course Kanaan hip-checks him again.

Patrick – AGR has won both of the previous races, leading 81 of the 160 total laps. Danica! finished 5th at Mid Ohio, so her road course skills from her Formula Ford and Toyota Atlantic days are re-emerging. Maybe black cars really are faster.

Wheldon – Would you believe Dan is the only driver to have led a lap in the previous two races here? Do you think that means he has any chance of winning this race? Is it possible I put him behind Danica! just because they seem to have some sort of subliminal attraction to each other? Why am I asking all of these questions?

Castroneves – At the beginning fo the season this man might have been considered a favorite for this race, but Helio is still suffering through the Year of the Pig with corresponding misfortune. One more race until Belle Isle, Helio. Just one more circuit until the race you own.

Meira – Only three drivers have finished in the Top 10 in both events here. Franchitti and Dixon – who are battling for the series championship – and Poor Vitor Meira. 0 for 73 with 48 Top 10s.

Manning – He hasn’t raced an IndyCar here, but Danger Mouse has started and finished in the Top 10 at both Watkins Glen and Mid Ohio this year. He’s expected to look good this weekend, and might I recommend he enjoy a fresh Anchor Steam after a solid performance on Sunday.

Rice – Like Manning, he too has started and finished in the Top 10 at both Watkins Glen and Mid Ohio. Maybe they can just follow each other around and pretend they’re teammates on Sunday.

Hornish – Did you forget that Uncle Sam finished 2nd at Watkins Glen? Yes, you did when he his old man went ballistic after the race and Sam promptly finished 14th at Mid Ohio. Question: If we all pitched in and got Sam a Magic 8-Ball do you think we could decide this NAPCAR thing once and for all?

Matsuura – The way he’s been knocked about all year makes me think HE should have the Target sponsorship. Maybe if they paint a “Baby On Board” sign on his car the other drivers might be more cautious around him. Despite having a better than usual chance on this road course, even P1 and P2 are getting excited about seeing Hideki Mutoh soon.

Hunter-Reay – Ryan looked good at Mid Ohio and Jeff Simmons rallied the Ethanol car to 7th last year. OK, that last part has nothing to do with RHR, but we just thought it was time to say a kind word about Spock now that Silly Season has begun.

Sharp – Scott says it’s like a home town track since he once lived nearby and has races all kinds of cars here. History says he still hasn’t broken the Top 10 in and IndyCar on this track. Reality says he likely won’t do it this weekend either.

Scheckter, Carpenter –hasn’t gotten past the 57 lap mark in either attempt here, so simply finishing the race will be an improvement. Ed hasn’t broken the Top 10 either in two tries on this course, but his 6th place at Watkins Glen beats any ICS road finish in Scheckter’s career. Go figure.

Fisher, Foyt – Welcome to Sonoma!


Money Says: My pick is Dixon (sorry—no brainer I know)

No brainer indeed, unless of course a helicopter full of clowns arrives late in the race. Your humble correspondent will be “in the house” at Infineon, so for the rest of you at home – Enjoy the show!

Saturday at Infineon

Posted by Iannucci | 8/25/2007 | 8 comments »
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Well, now I know how those AGR drivers feel. Dario, Danica, Marco...and now me. Yes, I was bumped in an incident of aggressive driving by none other than Dan Wheldon.

Here's the deal: right before qualifications I was walking on pit lane, clinging to the side and staying out of the way. There were some folks standing right in front of me, so as I was walking around them I felt something brush up against my hand, then saw Wheldon bobble on his scooter and shoot me back a look. Dude, the scooter has a horn - use it!


It should be noted Wheldon qualified 10th, so as a "mea culpa" I'm posting this photo of Dan's best side for all the ladies. Meanwhile, I have not yet been summoned to have a sit down with Thunda in Barnhart's Office.

Speaking of scooters, Ryan Hunter-Reay seems to be the only driver who doesn't have one. He tools around on a mountain bike. Wonder if Jeff Simmons hasn't given the old one back yet.


Vitor Meira has one, although what he doesn't have is an Infineon girl to hold an umbrella for him. Alas, once again poor Vitor gets short-changed.


TJ Patrick (that would be Danica's very expressive Dad) is even more tightly wound than I thought. He's a conversational guy, but during qualifications he looked like a man waiting for his wife to give birth. When his daughter posted a P2 time he quickly shook his head and said "Bah! Dixon hasn't even put a good lap down yet."


I'd have bought a beverage to help Mr Patrick relax, but as you can see the beer is a bit pricey here. YIKES!


TJ wasn't the only one who was tense. Helio was a bundle of hopping energy before Firestone Fast Six portion of qualification. Just like the Firestone ad says, "...I love how you make people nervous and jittery.."

As you can see, there's excitement for everyone. I managed to talk to Curt Cavin again, who may in fact be the only reporter who leaves the Media Center. This is probably why he has all of the news. Also, despite seeing Jack and Vince of the ESPN pit crew, I haven't once caught sight of Brienne Pedigo. I don't know if she's fired or out shopping, but I just thought you should know.

Oh yeah, you can read all about the Carneros 100 Indy Pro Race at IndyCar.com. Alex Lloyd took the lead right away and held on to win despite constant pressure from Richard Antinucci, the nephew of Old Man Cheever and most certainly my distant cousin. Mike Potekhen finished third because he's a swell dude. Hideki Mutoh was charging but got spun in the final turn trying to pass Jaime Camara for fifth, and waited about 3 days before the safety team reached his car.

With delays like that Formula One would be right at home here.

And about that final turn - it's one of the few places on the track drivers can pass, and yet the only people that can see are up close are those in the media center. That's whack.


Anyhow, tomorrow is Race Day. From my seats in section 9 I can see almost the entire mountainous track, so if anything happens I'll be at the ready. You at home may be already brewing the coffee, but since I'll be smelling the Ethanol I should be able to maintain consciousness in case of a parade.

Helio loves...Country Music?

Posted by Iannucci | 8/25/2007 | 0 comments »
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After watching this video, it seems Spiderman's quote about fence-climbing from a few weeks just got a touch funnier.

"As long as they don't say, 'He's doing the Stewart move,"' (Helio) said. "I will be like, 'Hold your horses, cowboy."'
Yippe-ki-yay!

Quote of the Day

Posted by Iannucci | 8/25/2007 | 1 comments »
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From Sam Hornish Jr in the Contra Costa Times.

"There's people that feel like they ought to be winning, and maybe they're not. And they give you less room than what you need. And there's also people who feel like since they have won a couple races this year that you should just move out of their way."

...and you would be which of these this wseekend, Sam? Just askin'.

Friday at Infineon

Posted by Iannucci | 8/24/2007 | 4 comments »
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So once the plane landed, the rental car was received, and the GPS system decided to NOT divert me off into San Rafael (Garmin!) I arrived at Infineon Raceway and found that it is pretty much a WHOLE lot of up and down.

No really. If you haven't been here the TV doesn't do it justice.

Just like TV can't really help you grasp the vastness of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the elevation changes of Infineon look fractional compared to their reality. Like Turn 3 seems like it's a hundred feet above Turn 11. Remember this in case you're nodding off on Sunday and wondering why there's so little passing.

And if an Indy 500 fan was looking for a Pork Tenderloin, well, good luck.

A few things need to be said before I start name-dropping. You humble correspondent showed up at the track late (Garmins!) and pretty much was unable to locate anyone who might have had even a remote clue who I was. So of course I went straight to the source - Jack Arute.

Jack was milling about on pit row, and was kind enough to exchange pleasantries. Unfortunately he had no props like eggs or cheese graters on his person, which is a bit like David Copperfield without The Great Wall of China. He seemed to meander off into "investigation mode" from there, and went from pit to pit either speaking or hugging. Seriously, Arute is a serial hugger.

Next I tracked down Curt Cavin, who may not realize he is so huge in the IndyCar world. Cavin is totally talking to me about how his updates are so much easier now that he has a blog, and all the while EVERY FREAKING DRIVER stops by to say "Hi". Danica even gives him an arm squeeze. I tell ya, they are bowing to the real power.

Here's Cavin trying to get the scoop on "aggressive driving" fines.

In sticking with media types, I spoke with none other than Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear. In fact, I they appeared to be inseparable. Marty was very talkative about the weather, the food, whatever, while Scott was DEEPLY focused on the Timing & Scoring. SUNDAY SPOILER: Scott seems impressed with AGR teams.

I ventured over to the tech inspection station, and as you can see Hideki Mutoh's team has really taken the "Godzilla" nickname they stuck him with.

Later I caught up with our buddy Mike Potekhen, who says the Apex team will be around next year and plans to take it up a notch by adding more cars (for configuration purposes, not more drivers) to their stable. Mike had a wonderful qualification for tomorrow's race, finishing with the fourth best time behind pole-sitter Richard Antinucci, who despite sharing many vowels with me looks nothing like me. In fact, he looks a lot like Eddie Cheever's buddy Max Papis. Curious.


Lastly, I noticed Leilani Munter talking with Mike King. Not sure of which of the two to speak with I waited a while and later caught up with the Tree Hugger. (What, you thought I was tracking down The Voice?) Folks, it's true: she is really, really nice. Like to the point she doesn't seem like a race car driver. The only clue was when I asked her what it was like to go 190 MPH at Kentucky and she said "It was GREAT! I loved it!" Well, OK then.

Back at ya tomorrow.

Going Back to Cali

Posted by Iannucci | 8/24/2007 | 6 comments »
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Your humble correspondent is heading off this morning from toasty Arizona to the beautiful wine country of Sonoma for some in-person racing excitement. I'll be sure to update everyone on all the happenings later tonight.

As for now, WOO-HOO!

This Blue Angel looks a bit green

Posted by Iannucci | 8/23/2007 | 0 comments »
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Clearly fed up with 73 winless races in the IndyCar series, Vitor Meira took his skills and reflexes this week to a team where they can be greater appreciated. Namely, the United Stats Navy. It remains to be seen if they’re going to call him to action though, since towards the end of the clip you can clearly see Vitor looking a bit unwell. (I suspect Dario Franchitti has also made this same face during the last two races.)



It should be noted that Vitor's seven(!) runner-up finishes have featured six different winners, so if he gets that F/A-18 fully armed he's got several choices for targets. Number One might be Dan Wheldon, since he kept The Mirror Man from victory at both Richmond in '04 and Indy in '05. Of course, Brian Barnhart might want to prepare a bomb shelter as well.

Tony Kanaan is a fish

Posted by Iannucci | 8/23/2007 | 0 comments »
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And RLR/Anderson driver Andrew Prendeville is a total shark. Just ask Michael Andretti.

JACKSON, Calif. -- Indy Pro Series driver Andrew Prendeville showed he can do more than just drive a racecar on Wednesday at Jackson Rancheria Casino & Hotel in Jackson.

Prendeville, who drives for RLR/Andersen Racing in the Indy Pro Series, displayed his poker skills by out-dueling several drivers at the inaugural Speedway Children’s Charities Poker Tournament. The event was held in advance of the Motorola Indy 300, presented by Jackson Rancheria, at Infineon Raceway this weekend (Aug. 24-26).

For his efforts, Prendeville was presented with a $10,000 check from Jackson Rancheria. The monies will go to qualified youth organizations in Sonoma County through Speedway Children’s Charities, the charitable arm of Infineon Raceway, in Prendeville’s name.

Prendeville was joined at the card table by IndyCar® Series driver Tony Kanaan, team owner Michael Andretti and Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series driver Scott Pruett, an Auburn resident. Members of the media rounded out the nine-person table. (MORE from WhoWon.com)

Ganassi hearts Lloyd

Posted by Iannucci | 8/23/2007 | 1 comments »
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This isn’t so much letting the cat out of the bag as it is indicitave that the cat may soon be in the bag. And the cat is Alex Lloyd.

We know Lloyd tested an IndyCar at Sebring for TCGR recently, but now there's more from Curt Cavin’s Q&A:

Question: So much for Alex Lloyd's Roth Racing ride for Chicago. Is he going to be yet another IPS Champ to never get a chance at a ride? (Dave, Johnson City, N.Y.)

Answer: First of all, he turned down Marty Roth's offer to run a second car at Chicagoland on Sept. 9 because he felt like it stood to do him more harm if the program wasn't stout. That's why P.J. Chesson was given the opportunity. Alex tested last week for Ganassi Racing at Sebring, becoming the first Pro Series points leader to test with one of the league's big teams. He's being invited to drive one of Ganassi's Grand Am cars, and I suspect Ganassi is going to work very hard to find a way to keep this kid. He tested very well, and team officials are very high on him.
Hmmm.

UPDATE: A reader who may or may not be Allan Brewer points out that IndyProRacer.com has a little more on this.

Organization

Posted by Iannucci | 8/23/2007 | 3 comments »
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HEY HEY! HO HO!
THIS MASS PROBATION HAS GOT TO GO!

Going along with Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti, Autoweek now reports that Tony Kanaan was also fined for “aggressive driving” in Kentucky. That means the ENTIRE front row of this years Indianapolis 500 just got sent to the Principal’s Office. I’m sure Nariz is a bit tweaked at this, but even more of interest is that in the same article Kanaan seems to be fashioning himself in the mode of Cesar Chavez.

For their part, Indy-car drivers intend to increase communication. Andretti Green Racing's Kanaan and Team Penske's Helio Castroneves want to organize an IndyCar drivers' association like the one they knew in CART.

"We'll have everybody leave (the series' regular meeting) and then we'll talk as drivers about the things we see that are problems," Kanaan said. "We'll let one guy, a veteran like Dario Franchitti or Scott Sharp, take it to (Barnhart). Right now, he's got 10 guys trying to talk to him, mostly about the same things."

Kanaan said the group will also work to build an emergency fund for injured drivers who lack the necessary level of insurance.
Some noble ideas there, but, well, let's just say good luck with that. Let’s see if this weekend Tony grabs his bullhorn and his buddy and starts marching around Infineon.

Tony (in his bullhorn): WHAT DO WE WANT!
Helio: Respect!
Tony: WHEN DO WE WANT IT?
Helio: Right now!

Speaking of those two, if you haven't ready this article from IndyCar.com take a moment and do so - if only because Tony discusses the finer points of making out with a glass. It's true.

Chesson will return

Posted by Iannucci | 8/22/2007 | 3 comments »
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Here’s some good news for the many fans of PJ Chesson – he’s coming back for a one-race gig next month. The Illustrated Man will be taking the ride that Alex Lloyd turned down, which is essentially to be a teammate for Marty Roth at the season finale at Chicagoland Speedway.

"My phone rang and it was Marty and he said, 'Hey, man, I have an opportunity for you to test a car and race in Chicago. What do you think?' I said, 'Hell, yeah, count me in,' '' said Chesson, who last competed in the IndyCar Series in the 2006 Indianapolis 500. "It's been a long time coming for me; I've been working really hard to get an opportunity and Marty put that one up for me and I took it. I'm really happy that I did.

"Marty is just so enthusiastic; you can tell how much he loves the sport. He wants to be competitive at the highest level and he's really committed to it. I wouldn't mind racing with him full time. It would almost be the preferred situation for me." (MORE from IndyCar.com)
Both Roth Racing cars will be sponsored by Dussault Apparel, designed to market the company’s new “Monster” clothing line. This deal was not only brokered by Gene Simmons, but the URL for his line of “Money Bag” clothing appears on the sidepod of the cars. Hopefully Roth Racing will not go the way of Hemelgarn after the Simmons “Car-melo” sponsorship plan.

Oh yes, you gotta see these cars. They’re either really cool or really repulsive, although the Cyclops looking helmets for Roth and Chesson are rather groovy.

Marco goes Hollywood

Posted by Iannucci | 8/21/2007 | 11 comments »
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There's nothing wrong with having an IndyCar driver turning up on the celebrity site TMZ.com (as long as said driver still has their clothes on), but how in the world did Marco Andretti get saddled with dragging former "Silver Spoons", uh, star Alfonso Ribeiro back into the spotlight?

Poor Marco looks like he's thinking "Alfonso Ribeiro? Man, I thought you said Andre Ribiero!" Notice how he ducks away without saying a word.

(Thanks to reader Jennifer for finding this.)

Leilani Munter is my hero

Posted by Iannucci | 8/21/2007 | 6 comments »
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Our buddy pressdog just posted a chit-chat with Indy Pro driver Leilani Munter, and I gotta say I am now a huge fan of the Tree Hugger.

pressdog: If you weren't driving race cars, what would you like to be doing for a living?

Leilani: A marine biologist, scuba diving instructor, conservationist or computer programmer at Initech.
Oh man, I really hope this lady turns out to be a solid driver. Anyone who can drop that kind of reference in an interview has definitely got her TPS reports in order.

Someone had to ask

Posted by Iannucci | 8/21/2007 | 1 comments »
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Given all the recent frothing that Mrs Hospenthal may soon make a trip to Victory Lane, Cam Inman of the Contra Costa Times decided to ask her to recall specifically the last time she won a race.

"Oh I don't know. Jeez," Patrick said, drifting off into deep thought. "Not in the Indy circuit these three years. Not in the (Toyota) Atlantic circuit (from 2003-04). Gosh, the last time I was first was in a pro-celebrity race forever ago in Long Beach (in 2002), and that was not a real race."
No wonder she seems unhinged lately.

UPDATE: Here's something she can win. Sorta.

A word from someone else's sponsor

Posted by Iannucci | 8/21/2007 | 1 comments »
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For all I know this has already aired a billion times in the Midwest, but it hasn't been aired in this IndyCar-free part of the world. Here's the AAMCO ad featuring Sarah Fisher first mentioned back in April, including someone who looks a lot like Pressdog in the broken down car.

Lloyd sells himself

Posted by Iannucci | 8/20/2007 | 0 comments »
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Future Indy Pro series champion Alex Lloyd sounds excited about his recent IndyCar test run for Chip Ganassi.

"It was a great feeling for me to have my first IndyCar test with Target Chip Ganassi Racing," Stated Lloyd. "The cars are a big step forward in terms of power and downforce compared to the Indy Pro Series car. This meant the driving style differed slightly. To have Scott Dixon's data to compare myself to was invaluable and helped me a great deal."

"I am extremely pleased with how the test went. I was able to contribute to the test program for the day and my times were right there. This confirms what I already believed, that I am ready and capable to win in the IndyCar Series. I learned a huge amount in the test and can't thank the whole team enough for this opportunity. I am looking forward to getting back into an IndyCar in the near future, in my quest for a front running drive in the 2008 IndyCar Series." (MORE from Auto123.com)
"...and I really think 'Chip' would make a fantastic name for my first born - boy or girl." OK, he didn't really say the last part. At least if he did it wasn't quoted in the press release.

Speaking of Lloyd, Allan Brewer broke out his Excel spreadsheets for some statistical analysis of Indy Pro drivers versus the teams for whom they race. His conclusion: Lloyd and Wade Cunningham are in fact very good drivers.

Amazingly, Lloyd has linked the analysis at Alex-Lloyd.com.

Time to pay the piper

Posted by Iannucci | 8/20/2007 | 1 comments »
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From IndyStar.com

Chief steward Brian Barnhart said Franchitti will be fined for running into Kosuke Matsuura after the race was over. The contact launched Franchitti's car in the air.

Barnhart called the veteran's lack of focus "less than impressive."

Helio Castroneves, a two-time 500 winner, also ran afoul of Barnhart's new law -- all drivers were put on probation before the race -- and he will be fined for running into Tony Kanaan.
Maybe Panther Racing should get that money to help pay for mechanical repairs. And for Kosuke's psychological pain and suffering.

Thinking about 25th

Posted by Iannucci | 8/20/2007 | 3 comments »
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On Saturday Sam Hornish Jr started 21st and finished 25th, running near the middle of the pack for the entire race. Apparently this satisfying to Uncle Sam.

"The best part about today was having the opportunity to run as many laps as we did and finish the race," said Hornish. "What we came here to do was run a bunch of laps ... obviously we would have loved to finish higher, but we just didn't have the car to do that today. But we brought the car back without any damage, we put it right on the trailer and that's a big positive.

"For as many times as we've gotten caught up in stuff this year, anytime we can run clean, run to the end and get seat time, it's very good," added Hornish. (MORE from Defiance Crescent-News)
Geez, talk about lowered expectations.

A new team in '08, Lord willing

Posted by Iannucci | 8/18/2007 | 10 comments »
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From the Houston Chronicle:

Kingdom Racing to join IndyCar Series — It was announced Thursday that Kingdom Racing would begin operations with the goal of racing in the 2008 IndyCar Series season. Kingdom Racing is owned by Houston businessman George Del Canto and a team of racing, financial and sports marketing professionals.

The team's premier focus will be to win on the racetrack, create value for its sponsors and change people's lives through on-track ministry.

"The team's vision is to deliver the word of God through motor sports," Del Canto said. "To reach this goal, we must field a championship-caliber race team, as only front-runners earn credibility, and deliver the value to the sponsors' investment."
Umm, OK. It beats having Hugo Chavez as a backer, but do you think Gene Simmons will be helping them find sponsors? Could be awkward.

You can read more about them at the Kingdom Racing web site, which by having an internet presence already puts them ahead of other would-be teams. Judging from the graphics it would seem they would like for their cars to look a lot like Chip Ganassi's. They probably want them to go just as fast too.

The next to NASCAR is...Franchitti?

Posted by Iannucci | 8/17/2007 | 5 comments »
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Pressdog forwarded this to me, just in time for the weekend.

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- The next prominent open-wheel driver to break into NASCAR could be Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti.

But don't expect to see Ashley Judd flitting along the frontstretch in sundresses just yet. Franchitti is friends with Nextel Cup team owner Richard Childress, who's had preliminary discussions with the 34-year-old Scotsman about possibly piloting a fourth car for Richard Childress Racing next season.

"If you watch him race, he races every lap just as hard as he can," Childress said Friday at Michigan International Speedway. "That's what impresses me about him. A lot of open-wheel guys have come here and tried it. I think if there's a guy who can do it, it's him. He's really level-headed, and he's really a hard racer. Whether he's ready this coming year or whenever he's ready, he'll be able to do it."

(MORE from NASCAR.com)
Be careful, Dario. Those cars flip over too. On fire, even.

Speed on the base paths

Posted by Iannucci | 8/17/2007 | 0 comments »
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This article from the Cincinnati Enquirer is more noteworthy for the part that says Sarah Fisher was misquoted in an AP article earlier in the week when she said "It's tough to show your capabilities when you're not in good equipment." Yeah, she’s probably not going to be back at D&R next year.

Anyhow, further down is an interesting vignette about Fisher’s current teammate. Now some fans may know Buddy Rice played on his high school baseball team here in Arizona, but since Mr Peabody hasn’t fixed the WABAC machine we can’t tell how good he was. But...

A promising baseball prospect at Shadow Mountain High in Scottsdale, Ariz., before he decided to pursue racing, Rice made an impression during batting practice with the Indianapolis Indians in 2004. Cecil Cooper was the team's manager.

"I was in street clothes, didn't have cleats on or anything," said Rice, who counts Hall of Fame player Robin Yount as a longtime friend. "At first they were throwing me lollipops. As I kept hitting, they started throwing live BP to me. (Cooper) said if I wanted to, I could come back for a walk-on tryout.

"I hadn't even been in a cage in maybe almost a year. A batting cage, not live BP."
I know they’re leading the division, but Buddy – have you seen the Diamondbacks offense this year? They’ll find a spot in the order for you.

Knights of the Oval Table

Posted by Iannucci | 8/17/2007 | 0 comments »
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Here to stifle your bordeom, we offer another exciting chapter of Great Moments in Fat Chewing. This time MoneyCJ laments the cold shoulder of AGR, your humble host tries to convince them to watch Indy Pro races, and Pressdog gets black flagged by the IHJ. As in, his access is denied!

We're ALL on probation at Money's place on FastMachines.


If you're not yelling at the screen then we're not doing our jobs. Enjoy!

Quote of the Day

Posted by Iannucci | 8/17/2007 | 1 comments »
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From the legendary AJ Foyt in his weekly USA Today column.

I flipped a car once after the checkered flag but that was because I was ticked off and really chunked it into the turn and hooked a rut. I learned my lesson and I'll bet Franchitti has learned his, too.
OK, but is flipping a race car at 150 to 200 MPH scarier than, say, overturning a bulldozer in a lake? Thankfully we have AJ around to help resolve such questions.

Corn futures are up

Posted by Iannucci | 8/16/2007 | 0 comments »
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Despite having some inital difficulties with everything from proper downforce to traffic control, the Iowa Corn Growers have agreed to support IndyCars at Rusty Wallace Speedway for 2008 AND 2009.

OK, it's not really called Rusty Wallace Speedway - but with all the statues and pictures of Super Deuce the Iowa Speedway in "tony Newton" might as well be named accordingly.

From the Des Moines Register:

The Iowa Corn Indy 250 will be held on June 22 next year. A 2009 date hasn't been specified.

"It's an honor for us at Iowa Speedway to continue our relationship with a primary sponsor like Iowa Corn and, of course, the Indy Racing League," speedway designer Rusty Wallace said.

Terry Angstadt, the president of the IRL's commercial division, said it is hoped that next year's race will be televised live on ABC, as this year's inaugural event was. That race, held June 24, was won by Dario Franchitti before an estimated 35,000 fans.
In the words of Pressdog, "What's an 'estimated fan'?"

Catching up with Salt Walther

Posted by Iannucci | 8/16/2007 | 5 comments »
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You may or may not recall David “Salt” Walther, and if you do remember him it’s likely for either being the only man to finish Dead Last three times at the Indy 500 or for surviving a spectacular crash at the start of the 1973 Indianapolis 500. He also raced everything from stock cars to hydroplane boats, so if you’re old enough you may have seen him at any number of events.

Wonder if Salt ever got to meet former Memphis Showboats coach Pepper Rodgers. Does anyone else think about things like this?

At any rate, Salt’s goin’ to jail. Attention Deadbeat Dads: better pay that child support.

Former Indianapolis 500 driver David Walther has been sentenced to 26 months in prison for nonsupport of dependents and violating terms of an earlier sentence.

The 59-year-old owes more than $21,000 in child support, according to the Warren County prosecutor's office.

Walther, who raced in the Indianapolis 500 seven times, had earlier convictions for nonsupport, child endangering, and charges related to painkilling drugs. (MORE from ESPN.com)
And you thought Little Al had problems. Sheesh.

This would be probably a good time to mention that last month Al Unser Jr pled “no contest” to his DUI in Las Vegas back in January, and according to his lawyer (and ESPN.com again) “He hasn't had a drop of alcohol since this happened.” So see, there is some good news after all.

Tony George discusses shrinkage

Posted by Iannucci | 8/16/2007 | 8 comments »
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Joel at IRL-O-Rama discovered an AP story that quoted Vision Racing leadership about possibly dialing down to two cars next season, largely because they have been running AJ Foyt IV without a primary sponsor in 2007. Thus sayeth Tony George:

"It was one of those deals where I felt like I had made a commitment to AJ, put the infrastructure in place and the league needed to have committed teams for the season so we just went forward," George said. "It did stretch it. It taxed us greatly without having the funding in place. We're running on tight money and everyone at Vision is working hard knowing how we have to do it."

George would like to keep three cars on the team next year, but admitted it could be difficult if another sponsor doesn't come on board.

"Hopefully, it's not all about performance anymore that sponsors consider," he said. "But showing we're capable of competing at the top level is important." (MORE from Metronews)
Before you laugh at his suggestion regarding sponsorship not being all about performance, bear in mind that two drivers who are heavily sponsored are Danica Patrick and Scott Sharp – and between them they have one win in the last three seasons. This is not to say performance is meaningless – and the Vision Racing triplets have been “up there” on ovals all year – but if Tomas Scheckter, Ed Carpenter and AJ Foyt IV were able to show some more personality it would make it a lot easier to sell them as drivers.

Either that or they can conduct some photo shoots appearing in scant clothing. Apparently that works as well.

Gentlemen, start your lawyers

Posted by Iannucci | 8/15/2007 | 5 comments »
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Attention everyone – this picture here was photographed by Edward McCain. It is being linked from a story on Portfolio.com about how Edward McCain has NOT RECEIVED A DIME from pictures like this one – of course, photographed by Edward McCain – because it was included in Press packets by Rahal Letterman Racing and Argent Mortgage when they signed the subject of this picture in 2005. Did I mention this photo should be credited to Edward McCain?


If you see this picture or any pictures that look like this then know they were photographed by Edward McCain. We do not want him to sue My Name Is IRL for millions of dollars like he’s suing Time Warner, USA Today, even the groovy guys at Jalopnik for uncredited use of this photo, which is of course entirely the property of Edward McCain.

There’s like $35 in the Google Ads account for this page, and we’re saving that to buy P1 a new Danica team jersey when covering the Motorola Indy 300 at Infineon later this month. So please don’t sue. Thank you.

Hornish still thinking

Posted by Iannucci | 8/15/2007 | 2 comments »
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Looks like someone recently asked Uncle Sam to give five reasons why he would stay in the IRL and not go fulltime with the tin top racing. Lo and behold he quickly dropped 5 reasons on them...although I can’t believe “the Indy 500” was fourth. Hello?


Meanwhile Sam is prepping to run this Saturday in a Busch series race at Michigan International Speedway, which would be his third race at the track this summer. Back in May Sam piloted an ARCA car to second place at MIS – battling not quite racing legends like Erik Darnell and Erin Crocker to a second place finish.

This weekend Sam competes against several Cup series regulars jumping down to Busch (known as “Buschwhackers”), such as Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Mark Martin and Greg Biffle. (Yes, that’s just like putting Hornish, Dan Wheldon and Tony Kanaan in an Indy Pro race.)

Those who will attempt to follow Hornish’s Further Adventures in Contemplation can take heart in knowing this race is only 250 miles, so it should be limited to around 6-8 yellow flags.

The Brazilian Cage Match

Posted by Iannucci | 8/14/2007 | 5 comments »
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Ever since Emerson Fittipaldi emerged victorious from Al Unser Jr’s game of “chicken” at Indy in 1989, race fans have come to realize that no matter how enjoyable Brazilian drivers are with their helmets off they are all freaking demons on the track. All of them. Just ask Little Al.

Like rabbits these Brazilians have multiplied in the IndyCar series, and now we have three solid drivers who compete in every race. These guys vary in personality, from the ebullient and gregarious Helio Castroneves, to the impish prankster Tony Kanaan, to the laid back cool of Vitor Meira. All very likeable, all very skilled.

However, recent events have had folks up in arms at the aggressive driving of all three, noting that they are showing no love towards their fellow countrymen by each attempting stock-car like moves towards one another. They may be from south of the Equator, but this is North America and we’re going to settle it our way. My friends, now that we have an off week it’s time to lock them in a cage and decide who is the Baddest Brazilian of All.

Helio Castroneves
Height: 5’ 8”
Weight: 147 lbs
Record: 94 starts, 12 wins (2001, 2002 Indianapolis 500 champion)
Special Skills: Helio plays a lot of tennis, especially against women. Ahem. He also owns a stock car team in Brazil, which kinda offsets the tennis. Sorta.
Aggression: At Kentucky, Helio nearly bumped race leader Tony Kanaan into the wall despite being a lap down.
Allies: Danica Patrick, whom he singled out as never causing him any problems on the track. She may be small, but we know she can take on Dan Wheldon.
Other Enemies: Ed Carpenter, who twice had racing incidents with Castroneves in 2006 that ultimately contributed to his third place finish in the series championship.

Tony Kanaan
Height: 5’ 5”
Weight: 147 lbs
Record: 78 starts, 11 wins (2004 IndyCar Series champion)
Special Skills: “An accomplished triathlete, Kanaan has completed half-Ironman events.” He also likes to play with pies.
Aggression: Last year at the season finale at Chicagoland Tony nearly drove Helio Castroneves onto the grass and off the podium
Allies: Dan Wheldon, his former AGR teammate with whom is so often seen exchanging congratulations in Victory Lane it’s confusing as to which one of the two actually won the race
Other Enemies: Kanaan was speared by Dario Franchitti at St Petersburg, had a pit incident with Danica Patrick at Kansas, and flipped Marco Andretti upside-down at Mid Ohio...and those are his teammates! He’s also had recent issues with Sam Hornish Jr, so “most popular driver” is going to be his award this year.

Vitor Meira
Height: 5’ 7”
Weight: 141 lbs
Record: 73 starts, 0 wins (ICS record holder for futility)
Special Skills: Meira is also a triathelete and avid cyclist, having the stamina of an Iditarod sled dog
Aggression: At Michigan Vitor pinched down on Helio Castroneves, sending them both into the outside wall
Allies: Come on, EVERYONE loves Vitor.
Other Enemies: Brian Barnhart, who’s Timing and Scoring minions lapsed in Texas, costing Meira an extra lap and a possible win.


Let’s go out to Marty Reid, Scott Goodyear, and Jack Arute for the call.

Marty: It’s a hot today here in Miami and the tempers are even hotter inside. Welcome everyone to the My Name Is IRL Brazilian Cage Match, where we the action will be as fast and furious as IndyCar driving. Right Scott?

Scott: That’s right, Marty. We have three fine drivers of varying accomplishments, but today isn’t about racing – it’s one thing to race against a fellow Brazilian, but it’s quite another to smash his face to mincemeat.

Marty: That sounds like great fun, Scott. We do have a quick announcement before we start. It appears Brian Barnhart has indicated that Vitor Meira be disqualified for an unspecified reason. Let’s go to Jack Arute who’s following this story closely.

Jack: Marty, the “Iron Hand of Justice” as he is known online is currently apologizing the Panther Racing team for having to disqualify Meira. He said he’s very sorry but if Vitor actually won something he’s been told by other league officials the world would tilt off its axis. Now as you can see from this egg I’m holding, the axis of the world...

Marty: Thanks, Jack. We’ll get more on that egg later. It appears the bell is ringing and this fight is on. We are...green?

(long pause)

Marty: And it appears Tony Kanaan has taken the early lead, slapping Helio upside the head just like he slapped Sam Hornish Jr at Watkins Glen. They are lock step.

Scott: It’s one thing to slap Helio on the side of the head, but it’s quite another to knock him down.

Marty: Helio appears to be retreating, no he’s climbing the fencing of the cage! He perfected this maneuver during his many victories, oh…airborne! Helio Castronves has jumped on to Tony Kanaan, but TK is so short we can’t tell if he’s actually fallen or not! And now we are holding station once again as the drivers battle.

Scott: If I’m seeing this correctly I think Kanaan may be reaching for a pie very soon.

Marty: And indeed he is, as Kanaan is throwing pies at Castroneves at a frantic pace. But Helio is having none of that for desert today, as he deflects the flying confections with his Baby Borg Warners. He’s got one in each hand and he’s not afraid to use them. Once again we are lock step.

Scott: This has got to be demoralizing to Tony. It’s one thing to win an IndyCar championship, but quite another to win the Indy 500.

Marty: You’d know a thing or two about that, wouldn’t you?

Scott: Shut up, lock step boy!

Marty: Well, it’s getting hot up here and hotter in the cage, as Helio is using his amazing powers of loquaciousness now. It looks like he’s talking so much he may be deafening Kanaan. Tony is also shielding his eyes from Helio’s blinding smile.

Scott: Whatever. Are we holding station yet?

Marty: Helio! With a tennis racquet to nose! Oh the humanity! But wait – it doesn’t faze Kanaan. Kanaan is back on the attack as Helio appears to have lost his voice.

Scott: We could only hope the same happens to you.

Marty: Huh? Jack Arute has more.

Jack: Guys, it appears Helio has burst a larynx valve. As you can see from this cutaway model of the human throat...

Marty and Scott: Ewwwwww!

Jack: ...back to you.

Marty: What? It’s over? Something has happened and Tony Kanaan appears to be the winner.

Scott: As we look at the replay, we can see that Tony used a hip check similar to the one he applied to Marco Andretti at Mid Ohio. Once Helio was flipped over this cage match was called.

Marty: Indeed it was, Scott. It appears Dan Wheldon is pushing Jaime Camara out of the way to congratulate Tony. But what’s this! Danica Patrick! With a folding chair over Dan! He’s down!

Scott: Even though Danica is a female she has improved her fighting skills greatly. You can see she has learned a lot from her new teammates this year.

Marty: It’s bedlam outside the ring as now all of the AGR teammates have appeared and are fighting amongst themselves! What is going on?



Maybe we need another cage match to find out. Meanwhile, the winner: Tony Kanaan. You can’t stop the nose – you can only get out of the way.

Change your underwear

Posted by Iannucci | 8/14/2007 | 2 comments »
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I try not to show crashes too often, but this YouTube clip from a fan in Turn One at Kentucky Speedway is just stunning. It's one thing to watch Dario go airborne from the comfort of your living room, but quite another to have it heading in your general direction.

Do you think these folks in Kentucky will be renewing their season tickets?

The guilty must be punished

Posted by Iannucci | 8/14/2007 | 2 comments »
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I have tremendous respect for the thankless job Brian Barnhart has to do, but I need to discuss something about him on the pulpit for a moment. Before the race on Saturday the IndyStar reported that the Iron Hand of Justice had effectively come down on every driver, placing them ALL on probation. I don’t know if this is the double-secret probation Milka Duno is under, but nevertheless a few days and a fun race have now passed yet this edict only grows in ridiculousness.

It’s no secret that drivers are being aggressive, and part of that is because perennial front runners like Hornish, Wheldon and Castroneves are completely out of championship contention. In the middle of har-luck seasons they are racing solely to win because scoring a few points for a Top 5 is totally meaningless. “Ooh, with a little luck we can move into fourth place. Woo-hoo.”

So with less reason for conservative driving the drivers are of course being less conservative, and many of them are now hellbent on nothing but the checkered flag. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because racing is what this entertainment is all about. We don’t need another “lock step” finale like last year’s Chicagoland race where Sam Hornish Jr sat back in third with no competition behind him and no need to try to pass the two Ganassi cars ahead of him. Total yawn.

But for all the good the IHJ is attempting to do with this blanket probation, the entire approach is rather feckless for a number of reasons. First of all, why on earth is “everyone” under probation? Go ahead and single out the offenders instead of coloring the driving of someone like Dan Wheldon the same as Sarah Fisher. Dan is still a phenomenal talent but does anyone still think he didn’t “aggressively” slide up and inadvertently cause Dario Franchitti’s first aerial launch? What has Fisher or Manning or Foyt IV or the newly licensed Ryan Hunter-Reay done to cause such a calamity this season?

I mean, come on. We know which drivers are causing these problems.

Second it’s way too late to try to crack down on aggressive driving that has been happening for w ahile. Did Barnhart not notice Franchitti ramming Kanaan at St Pete? Did he not see Kanaan nearly taking out Castroneves despite being lapped at Chicagoland last year? How about Hornish and Scheckter at Indy this year? These incidents were MONTHS ago, and yet no one was penalized or placed on probation. Now that a particular Scotsman is flying through the air Barnhart’s suddenly feeling the urge to crack down.

And speaking of flying cars, what happens to Mr Judd? With all drivers on probation he committed the most egregious driving maneuver on Saturday, not just to himself but also to Kosuke Matsuura. When Paul Dana roared into Ed Carpenter last year several prolific “journalists” said it was because Dana was in over his head, but what is it when the reigning Indy 500 champion has a similar high-speed brain fade into a slowing vehicle? Is Dario in over his head? Is he out of his head, perhaps suffering from a concussion? Would the IHJ say Mr Judd was so caught up in “aggressive driving” he failed to acknowledge the conclusion of the race?

More importantly, will there be any repercussions for Mr Judd? How about a penalty for Spiderman who returned the “I may be lapped but I’m not letting you pass me” bump to Kanaan this weekend? Yeah, we’ll be waiting a while on those I suppose.

If the IHJ really feels compelled to curtail the aggression then he has a more formidable weapon at his disposal. It’s called the Black Flag. If he sees aggressive driving that can cause an accident – or better yet if he hears from several teams about a particular driver – then he throws a black flag during the race and tells them to take a pass-through lap. It’s that easy. If you can’t play nice then you can’t play at all.

Unfortunately Barnhart has a bit of a conundrum because hasn’t been applying a black flag policy since the beginning the year, so if he breaks it out now it not only seems capricious but it could also suddenly affect the championship. If Scott Dixon shoves someone out of the way at Sonoma does he get a black flag penalty that could effectively kill his season? What about Kanaan or Franchitti, who could find themselves trying to help each other out by applying the wheel-to-sidepod technique against Dixon or some other driver en route to their championship hopes?

More importantly, does he risk upsetting Michael Andretti or Chip Ganassi by penalizing them from a six-figure championship check? Boy, that’s the million-dollar question, literally. I’m sure Barnhart doesn’t want to make that kind of decision in the coming weeks, and slapping a $10,000 fine means nothing to a team trying to win that series bonus check. The IHJ has to penalize on-track infractions with on-track penalties. I mean, we are trying to keep the drivers safe here, right?

Look, it’s been a fun season so far but the carnage from all of this unfettered aggression has been left at tracks like Texas and Michigan. Those were exciting races, but they could have been epic finishes if a few more competitors had been around at the conclusion. Heck, maybe Iowa would have been a better event if everyone had used a little more sense – parking issues not withstanding.

The bottom line is these flying cars aren’t just the result of crazy driving. Brian Barnhart has kept his penalties to himself and therefore has a part in making this mess. And although I appreciate that he’s trying to clean it up it would seem he isn’t going about the solution in a meaningful way. Probation means nothing if it isn’t backed up by something more substantial, and right now we have people talking about this being an “all hat, no cattle” situation.

Stop throwing around this general probation nonsense and just throw the black flag.

Godzilla strikes again

Posted by Iannucci | 8/13/2007 | 3 comments »
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After Tony Kanaan had won Dario Franchitti completed his post-race aerobatic show on Saturday night, the remaining fans at Kentucky Speedway were treated to a tightIy contested Indy Pro battle among Hideki Mutoh, Wade Cunningham and Alex Lloyd. Hideki "Godzilla" Mutoh raced to his first oval victory in the first ever Indy Pro night race, as Lloyd squeaked past Cunningham late to garner second place.

Stupid question, but how is this the first night event for this series? This is America, where people flock to local tracks on weekend nights all the time. I don’t care if some Japanese prodigy is winning, let’s get these races under the lights as often as possible.

Also, normally I would insert an obligatory commentary for promoting the three aforementioned drivers to the IndyCar series, but Motorsport says:

Hideki Mutoh is schedule to compete in the IndyCar Series season finale at Chicagoland driving a third entry from Super Aguri -- Panther Racing. Alex Lloyd confirmed that he would not be behind the wheel of a Roth Racing IndyCar Series car at Chicagoland, instead opting to test with Ganassi Racing at Sebring later this week. Scott Dixon is expected to participate at the same test.

Oh, really! Well then, which rumor for 2008 do you like the mostest: a third ICS entry for TGCR, Dan Wheldon to NAPCAR, or Lloyd and/or Scott Dixon forming a new Ganassi Formula One team? I tell ya Big Chip is getting wackier every day.

Also of note, Leilani Munter made her debut at Kentucky. She qualified 5th(!) and raced near the Top 5 before she was collected in an accident by Ryan Justice. As planned she will not race again until the season finale in Chicagoland. Pressdog will be frothing hovering near her pit box.

Check out Allan Brewer’s place for a splendid recap of the Kentucky 100.