"Everybody at Panther thinks the world of Hideki Mutoh and we enjoyed being able to work with him this past season. This was a good opportunity for him, but we certainly would have enjoyed having him in a Panther car. Our relationship as driver and team has changed, but I know our friendship never will. He is a phenomenal talent and an even better person. We wish Hideki and the Super Aguri Company the best in the future with their new team and we look forward to competing with them in the IndyCar Series." - John Barnes, courtesy of TrackSide OnlineThat's an incredibly classy response considering Barnes and his Panther Racing team lost not only a great young driver, but also the sponsorship packages for both an IndyCar and Indy Pro team as well.
Looks like I picked the right story by Robin to believe, since Curt Cavin now says it will be reality tomorrow.
Dario Franchitti's Indy-car ride at Andretti Green Racing is being filled by one of the sport's most inexperienced drivers.Enjoy it while it lasts, because if his ICS results mirror his Indy Pro season then it won't be long before Aguri Suzuki moves Mutoh over to his Formula One team. In the meantime, if you have a resume and sponsor at the ready then John Barnes and Panther Racing has an opening.
Hideki Mutoh, a Japanese driver with only 15 races in the Indy Pro Series, will be officially confirmed Wednesday to the team's No. 27 car. Mutoh, 25, is backed by Aguri Suzuki, a former Formula One driver who brought Kosuke Matsuura to the IRL.
(MORE from Curt Cavin/IndyStar)
Over the weekend the Indianapolis Business Journal ran a story (thank you everyone who sent this to me) that outlined some forthcoming announcements of sponsorships. Though not explicit on all accounts, they said in the next few weeks the IRL will be announcing “official” sponsorships of certain aspects like energy drink, soft drink, and motor oil. And although none of them will be providing the almighty “league” sponsorship, all are expected to be “activated” through multi-year contracts.
I’ve spent the last few days sending emails and reading stories to try to figure out the deal. Unfortunately, no one is really talking. The first announcement is in Las Vegas tomorrow, with another coming on New Year’s Day. Anyhow:
Energy Drink: This is expected to be Frank’s (no, I don’t know what that is either) with previous mentions of this being related to AGR. Speculation is that this will likely involve a national promotional deal with 7-Eleven, and we all know who drives that car. We also can see The Tongue is all over their website.
Soft Drink: This one is the big unknown, but it is anticipated to involve a race sponsorship as well – possibly at IMS. Pepsi was at one time the official drink of the IRL, and given their second-tier status with the N-Word they could be returning. Coca Cola is currently served at IMS. Beyond that – your guess is as good as mine.
Motor Oil: Indianapolis-based Lucas Oil was the likely guess, although the IBJ article indicates a denial by league officials. Today in his Q&A Curt Cavin casually drops that it’s actually a new motor oil from Peak. (Check out the ICS logo on the bottles!) Since Danica Patrick is already featured in ads involving Peak (sign up for a chance to meet her today) it’s unclear if that means additional sponsorship dollars for AGR or something more.
Tomorrow, we will all know more.
Attention, Kurt Busch: SpeedTV says Uncle Sam wants you (or at least your 2007 points).
With Sam Hornish having trouble qualifying for Cup races - he has missed all six he has attempted this year - Penske Racing may consider making a points swap to get Hornish into races in 2008.By the sound of this the options are exclusively related to the N-Word, no matter how long this embarrassing DNQ festival lingers. In the meantime I would humbly suggest that instead of “06” Sam’s car number be “0-4-6”. Just throwing that out there.
With Kurt Busch having won the 2004 Nextel Cup championship, Penske could transfer the points earned by Busch's No. 2 team to Hornish, which would lock him into the top 35 for the first five races of next season. Busch would get into those races as the most recent past champion if he failed to qualify on speed.
NASCAR officials confirmed that a move would be allowed.
"There are all sorts of discussions, and I see guys buying teams and different things," team owner Roger Penske said. "We're right now trying to focus on getting him in a race. We'll look at our options once we get closer to the end of the season."
Meanwhile Sam has already qualified for one event later this year – as Grand Marshall of the Toledo Downtown Holiday Parade. So congratulations to Sam on leading a parade, where his increased road racing skills can be put to proper use.
It looks like Happy Feet took the Napoleon Dynamite theme and ran with it all the way to the flippin' sweet shirt, although whether you watch tonight or not please start calling now (1-800-868-3409) so he won’t stand the indiginity of losing to Mr Take Your Pants Off here.
Dario Franchitti raced and lived to tell about it today at what may have been the most boring race in the history of Memphis Motorsports Park. There's a very tired flagman tonight in Tennessee because the 250-lap race on the 3/4 mile track featured 25 cautions for 116 laps!!!
That's so NOT racin'.
Mr Judd got off to a smokin' start in his first Busch race by qualifying P3 and hanging around the Top 10 most of the day. Unfortunately he brought out one of those yellow flags with about 50 laps remaining when he punted another driver, which damaged his car and brought the law down on him for aggressive driving. What? Dario getting punished for aggressive driving? Who knew?
Announcer Marty Reid(!) mentioned that Franchitti, who finished 32nd and 3 laps off the pace, will be participating in the other three remaining Busch series events this season. Then again, Marty was so tired that at one point he read slogan for an alocholic beverage sponsor as "It's not about quality...it's about quality, not quantity." Whatever you say, Marty.
"I feel good about going to Atlanta," said Hornish. "It's the first track that I've actually been to before. So, hopefully, that'll work out for us.So of course Sam went out today and failed to qualify for the sixth time in as many attempts. That would mean Hornish still has as many Cup points as me. Or you. Or your dog. Oh, the humanity.
Crew chief Ryan McCauley will be once again leading Hornish's effort. Knowing that his driver qualified fifth for the Busch Series race, and remembering his performance in the event, he feels confident enough to back up Hornish's optimism.
"I think Sam's got a good shot to do well this weekend," McCauley said "In the spring Busch race, he was two laps down and got it back to finish 15th, the highest non-Cup driver to finish on the lead lap. His experience on the track will definitely help." (MORE from AutoSport)
I don’t know who this guy interviewing Danica Patrick is, and for all I know he may be amusing in some other venue. Like say his kitchen. But this here is just flat out dumb, because not only is she referred to meaninglessly as the “Highest ranking woman to race Indy 500” but he also keeps playing up how strong her handshake is. My, how very 2005 of him.
Right about now I’m really missing the Indy Insider. He might ask Danica if she’s ever been in a cage, but I know Arni would NEVER ask a driver such inane questions as “Have you ever crashed?” and “Does it hurt?” Does it hurt? Uh, yes, but not as much as being not funny hurts.
By the way, I think The Princess dropped one on him when she said Mr Hospenthal was “getting a ride by Michael Andretti out on the track”. Riiiiight!
Meanwhile in an only slightly less ridiculous interview, USA Today pulls the double by asking Danica about both the N-Word and the K-Word. How original. At least they managed to print her reasons why she hasn’t gone to tin tops:
"I could have made a truckload if I wanted to. But that's not where my heart is right now. I love to see the growth and expansion of IndyCar. People working hard. More people watching it."
Evidently "The Nose" needs to get out of the house and away from his crying newborn. Last Saturday Tony Kanaan not only raced for the Andretti Green ALMS entry at Laguna Seca, he helped bring the car home in fourth place.
And because drivers need to keep driving (and Little Leo is probably still wailing night and day) Nariz is going to keep heading westward from Monterey. From Crash.net:
Former IndyCar champion Tony Kanaan is to contest the ninth round of the Japanese Formula Nippon Series at Suzuka next month.Speaking of an AGR driver in Japan, now would be as good a time as any to say both Curt Cavin and TrackSide Online have confirmed the "likely" favorite for Dario Franchitti's vacated seat is indeed Hideki Mutoh. Panther Racing owner John Barnes is going to need some warm sake.
The Brazilian driver has accepted an invitation from Japan Race Promition to contest the event, although the Andretti Green Racing ace will not be eligible to score championship points.
Kanaan has already enjoyed success on Japanese soil in the past, having taken victory in the 2007 Indy Japan at Twin Ring Motegi earlier in the year.
On Saturday the Truck series race (or as P1 so bluntly labeled it: “NAPTRUCK”) from Martinsville featured not one but TWO Indy 500 champions. “Jack” Villeneuve – who if he’s changing his first name to “Jack” may as well alter his surname to the translated “Newtown”, or better yet “Newton” – spent much of the race mid-pack before wrecking out at lap 157. This isn't completely unexpected since the half-mile track is shaped like a paperclip (drag strip, left turn, another drag strip, another left turn) there is very little need for a green flag as the 35 trucks spend the entire race bouncing off each other.
Also there with Jack in his shiny red Target truck was Dario Franchitti, who suffered some damage in a wreck and then continued on before being black flagged to please exit the racing surface. Yes friends, Dario + Truck = Milka results. Put Dario and Jack together with Uncle Sam’s qualification struggles and you have weekend that erstwhile open-wheel champs would all rather forget.
Dario will be making his Busch series debut in Memphis this weekend, however there is still no word yet on a Monster Truck date for Mr Judd. Also, if anyone has more info on this notebook entry from Inside Racing News, please share.
A Bike accident resulting in rods being placed in his stomach made the new experience of getting in and out of a race car window a challenge at first for Franchitti.What a coincidence - I felt sick to my stomach watching him.
Oh for five in Cup qualifications.
Yet another DNQ courtesy of Ward Burton, who bumped Sam from the starting grid with the final qualifying run by a non Top 35 entry. As Maxwell Smart would say, "Missed it by thatmuch!"
Say, could someone get Sam one of these?
If you thought it was unsafe to go into the "Snake Pit" at Indy, check out this warning for the latest Champ Car race:
SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (AP) -- Over-exuberant fans at the Indy 300 have been urged not to cool off by jumping into the river that runs through the Surfers Paradise street course because it's full of aggressive bull sharks.Boy, times must be tough when you have to hire extra security to save your fans from suicidal acts. Sheesh!
On Friday, race officials said extra security boats have been employed to keep revelers out of the waterways, fearing a shark attack at the prime feeding times of dusk and dawn. Fans arriving by boat and jet skis were urged to stay out of the water.
The Nerang River and many of its canals and lakes have been the site of numerous shark attacks. In 2003, two men, including an 84-year-old former athlete, were killed in attacks in Nerang River tributaries, both by bull sharks. (MORE from Yahoo! Sports)
Here’s a rumor Panther Racing owner John Barnes would rather not hear. Even though My Name Is IRL endeavors to be a Robin-free zone (still waiting on that “Dario to Champ Car” report to play out, Robin) this possibility has too many implications to ignore.
The idea that Hideki Mutoh could join Tony Kanaan, Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti next year at Andretti Green Racing may sound a little off the wall, but not if you’re Honda.Those who’ve read this site know how strongly I feel about Mutoh’s abilities, but it might be all roses if this union of Mutoh and AGR comes to pass. Despite the implication of how much Honda would love to see a Japanese driver in Victory Lane – and make no mistake, Hideki could very well do that in an AGR car – it would be coming at the expense of Panther Racing, one of the last stalwarts remaining of the pre-Big Three IRL era. If John Barnes can’t find a replacement for the Super Aguri sponsorship then his car count could reduce again despite the benefits of the new payout plan.
Since the beginning of its assault in open-wheel racing in this country, Honda has subsidized several Japanese drivers in CART and IRL with nothing approaching success.
But Super Aguri and Honda have never had a countryman in a top-shelf ride and Mutoh looks like a gasser, at least in Honda’s eyes. He was eighth in his IndyCar debut at Chicago after a couple of IPS victories. (MORE from SpeedTV)
But an even larger issue looms: Recall that Aguri Suzuki was a Formula One racer, so should Mutoh reach any kind of early success then he could very well be pegged by Suzuki – as well as Honda – to be whisked away to Aguri’s struggling (as in no Top 5s in 34 entries) “Super Aguri F1” team. As much as it hurts to lose talents to The N-Word it would be no different to see a Mutoh use successes in an IndyCar as a springboard to F1. Leaving is leaving no matter where you are going, and if that happens then AGR is left once again trolling to replace exported talent. (Presuming Marco and Danica don’t go anywhere either, which is not an entirely safe presumption.)
“Andretti Green Racing – from here to anywhere!”
Whether this deal happens or not it’s fairly certain Mutoh will be in an IndyCar next year, and that alone is worth looking anticipating. Jeff Simmons seems to be the only driver to recently advance out of the Indy Pro ranks despite there being about a half-dozen drivers right now who could be competitive in the ICS if rides were available, so the development of drivers like Alex Lloyd and Mutoh is an overdue revelation. It’s just discouraging to see the IndyCar series used as a stepping stone of driver development as well.
Then again, I probably shouldn’t put all these “if”s together from something Robin said.
“I think, definitely, NASCAR is the biggest motorsports series in America,” Castroneves said. “The popularity is huge. Drivers want to go and you want to take the challenge. Obviously, I’m dancing instead of going to NASCAR—it’s a different challenge. - Helio Castroneves (from Auto Racing Daily)For those who haven't been following (a.k.a. race fans with dignity), Helio has danced his way into the final eight. Happy Feet is so focused on performing well on the show that he has postponed his wedding until January. Given the show’s propensity for hooking up dancers and “stars” romantically, let's hope the winter nuptials include the same bride-to-be.
There was a murmur or two that this guy (along with his CDW sponsorship cash) was on Michael Andretti's short list to replace Dario Franchitti, and now it looks like he's readily available for any possible interview.
"They (RuSport) have just announced they are closing down," driver Justin Wilson tells goldcoast.com.au. "They have just told me and the crew. They don't want to carry on. This weekend I will just have to see what my options are for next year."For those of you despondent at seeing top IndyCar drivers leave for another series, please take note that at least none of the better TEAMS are vanishing. Wilson has been the best driver not named "Sebastien Bourdais" for two straight years and his entire organization - after merging with another team - is going kaput.
Wilson has been with RuSport for three seasons and currently sits second to Sebastien Bourdais in the championship. That's where he'll likely finish for the second straight year as the Frenchman needs just a 12th place showing to clinch his fourth straight series title.
"The next couple of weeks will be interesting. I just have to work out what options I have available and then make the right move." (MORE from TSN.ca)
Tune in to pressdog for continuing coverage of the CCWS deconstruction.
Chip Ganassi Racing announced the addition of (Alex) Lloyd to the team's Driver Development Program, which most likely will include a combination of IndyCar Series races, Rolex Grand Am Series races and testing. He will join a team featuring 2005 IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon and 2003 champion and '07 championship runner-up Scott Dixon.Since this is a "driver development" deal I'm obligated to work the phrase "shake it like a Polaroid picture" into the post. Hey ya!
"I can really learn the traits of the IndyCar Series and grow within the team. I feel that although I won't be doing a full season next year, the races that I will be doing I will be in one of the best cars out there with a team I've admired for years way before I came over (to the United States from England). For me, that's actually a more exciting thing than saying I'll be doing a full year in a mid-field car.
"I'm happy they have given me this opportunity to be able to drive for them, and get some races in and see how that progresses in the future. I'm sure over the next four to eight weeks we'll have a clearer idea what our plan will be. I'm looking forward to get going in whatever aspect that might be." (MORE from IndyCar.com)
On Friday Helio Castroneves joined six other IndyCar drivers for some testing at Barber Motorsports Park. Not a bad day for Helio as he was challenging Tony Kanaan atop the leaderboard (all 7 drivers shattered the track record), as well as testing some groundbreaking equipment. Like paddle shifters. Ahem.
So here we are on Monday, which means it's time for him to trade the nomex for spandex and start sweatin' to the oldies. As this is being written Helio has just finished spinning around in a white suit like Puff Diddy Daddy Dude, although the scores for his Waltz this week are solid.
(Aren't waltzes supposed to involve some sort of classical music in the background? I swear one of the couples this week was dancing to "You Spin Me Round". Oh, the humanity.)
I missed Helio's performance last week, but at least one IndyCar regular did not. A hat tip to the 'Stand for uncovering this nugget about the St Petersburg Times' newest dancing expert.
We've enlisted St. Petersburg resident and former Indy Racing League champion Dan Wheldon as our informal fourth Dancing with the Stars judge, just to provide us with some extra critique on his IRL colleague, Helio Castroneves. Dan has been known to get down, get down, get down, get down, every now and again. Time to show Helio some love by calling 1-800-868-3409.
"Helio was a 7 this week. He wasn't quite himself. It wasn't his best performance, so in true Helio fashion he went for the sympathy vote. Good job!"
Scott Sharp is exploring options in sports-car racing, but he said it's not at the expense of his Indy-car program.Not only did Sharp win the prize this year for being the most successful driver not racing for the Big Three (a.k.a the "Tallest Midget Award"), but he also eclipsed $10 Meeeelion in career earnings. Now, if he can just figure out what to do about all these blasted road and street courses...
Sharp, 39, is the oldest driver in the IndyCar Series and will return to Rahal Letterman Racing in 2008 with Patron sponsorship.
"We're committed to the IRL for another year, at least, although we might add a sports-car race here or there," he said. (MORE from IndyStar.com)
As the list of open-wheel stars moving to NASCAR grows, Sam Hornish Jr. remains undecided about his future.This brief quote doesn't do justice to the entire article. Towards the end Sam gives some the most thoughtful quotes on his racing career, actually making some sense on issues of career longevity and choice. It's just an ironic shame these words had to come via the humiliation of not being able to race to get him to open up like this.
He's had tremendous success in IndyCars -- winning three championships and last year's Indianapolis 500 -- but his tryout in stock cars hasn't been nearly as smooth. He's still trying to make his first Nextel Cup event, and dropped to 0-for-4 after failing to qualify for Saturday night's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
"We knew it was going to be difficult coming in," Hornish said Thursday. "We'd like to have been racing a couple times so far, but we knew this was a possibility. We knew this was going to be tough, and that's why I said I wanted to do this." (MORE from Associated Press)
House aides visiting racetrack advised to get immunized...can't...stop...LAUGHING....
WASHINGTON --NASCAR fans might seem rabid, but are they actually contagious?
Getting a hepatitis shot is standard procedure for travelers to parts of Africa and Asia, but some congressional aides were instructed to get immunized before going to Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord and the racetrack in Talladega, Ala.
(MORE from the Charlotte Observer)
CONCORD, N.C. (October 9, 2007)-On the heels of Dario Franchitti’s successful stock car debut in the ARCA race at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (CGRFS) announced today the reigning Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series Champion will continue his development program in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Franchitti will qualify the No.41 Target Dodge Ram next Saturday at Martinsville Speedway.Nothing like making your first truck ride at the half-mile thumpfest at Martinsville. Maybe there are bumper cars at the Dave & Buster's in Concord to help prepare him.
The Cunningham Motorsports-owned truck will be led by Ganassi Crew Chief Brian Pattie and his CGRFS team, who guided Franchitti through his ARCA debut last weekend. (MORE from Chip Ganassi Racing)
Check this footage from a recent V8 Supercar race from Bathurst in Australia, where additional fencing may be required to deter uninvited guests. I don't think Cristiano da Matta will be racing here anytime soon.
At least the Dog of '98 wasn't on the track during hot laps (unlike some rabbits, but that's another story for Donald Davidson to discuss.)
Sorry for the down time, but I had to go back to beautiful Northern California for a few days of decompression. That translates to taking a vacation without the kids, consuming deliciously over-priced meals, and sampling free beverages at the glorious Anchor Brewing Company. Mmmm, Anchor Steam beer.
We now return to our regularly scheduled updates, already in progress...
From the world of tin tops: Say what you want about Indy 500 winners shifting to NAPCAR en masse, but you can’t deny that
Jacques Jack Villeneuve represented well this weekend in his first Cup race at Talladega. Not only did he qualify sixth(!), but during warm up laps he voluntarily dropped back to the back so as not to play a factor in the race and the championship. Respect. He eventually finished 21st, still on the lead lap.
Meanwhile, Uncle Sam is now 0-3 as he DNQ’d again. Unless The Captain buys a Top 35 spot (yes, you can do that in the N-word), Hornish is looking like he will have lots of time to ponder decisions on Sundays next year. Or just hang out at the track. Or even watch IndyCar races.
Speaking of fenders, here’s the Quote of the Day:
“You speak English?” – unnamed ARCA official to Dario Franchitti before his first stock car race last FridayIn actual racing news, the ubiquitous Allan Brewer says Buddy Rice will be rolling in A1GP in the Czech Republic this weekend after finishing in 13th in the Netherlands in late September. Check out the picture of Buddy at A1GPTeamRacer.com and tell me Buddy doesn’t have an Evel Knievel vibe going. I mean all he needs is the cape.
From news of the Happy Feet variety, Helio Castroneves was apparently Dancing well again despite suffering some sort of injury. I haven’t seen the footage yet so I can’t confirm if he blamed this on Tomas Scheckter’s inability to get out of the way.
For what it’s worth, Champ Car’s premier team issued this entire press release: "Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing is committed to the Champ Car World Series." OK then.
And lastly congratulations to Tony George on becoming a (step-)Grandpa. According to IndyCar.com Ed Carpenter and his wife Heather “welcomed Makenna Alayne, early Oct. 9. The vitals: 7 pounds, 1 ounce ... 20.5 inches long.” Also, Indy Pro dominator Alex Lloyd and his wife Samantha welcomed a daughter named Ava, on Oct. 5 at 6 pounds, 11 ounces. In other words, these two young ladies are already nearly as big as Danica!
In case Sunday rolls around and I haven't said a peep about Jacques, Sam or any other (former) open-wheel driver's weekend in Alabama, rest assured it isn't for lack of caring. No, your humble correspondent will be taking a few days off and away from the My Name Is IRL World Headquarters, returning late Monday - just in time to vote for Helio.
Besides, no one reads this site on the weekends anyways.
At any rate, please excuse the absence while you pass the time by catching up on all the other worthy sites. If that won't do then just stare at this wonderful memory from one of the few Indy 500s I was lucky enough to
be rained out of attend in person. Yes, I was gifted with some great seats for the "Dog of '98", and it was about the most exciting thing I got to see at IMS that year. Two days, 15 laps, and this crazy pooch.
From the IndyStar:
"When good drivers are available, I think you have to look at them and take them. You are doing your team an injustice if you don't...I am not raiding the IRL. Nobody is a bigger supporter of open-wheel racing than me." - Floyd "Chip" GanassiAhem.
European Open Wheel invasion is coming to Alabama, as Dario Franchitti will be starting 6th and High Fashion Scotty Speed is right behind him (or back and to the left) in the 7th position for today's ARCA RE/MAX 250 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Tune in live on SPEED at 5pm ET if you so choose, and wear your best hat.
UPDATE: After being forced to start from the back for changing his engine, Mr Judd ran around 10th to 20th all day before finishing a relatively clean 17th. He was gleefully interviewed by SPEED both before and after wearing what looked to be Dan Wheldon's firesuit. No joke.
Meanwhile, High Fashion Scotty completed his debut in 7th despite "lift-drafting" another competitor off the track late in the race. There were no interviews of the Formula One castoff despite the impressive finish, so either he was too busy fussing with buckles or he's already alienated the media from ever even pretending to like him. Perhaps both.
Double fresh, double good,
Come on and double it...
Some of the best things in life come in pairs, so accordingly here are (not one but) two posts guaranteed to make you laugh - or your money back!
CDC Investigates Outbreaks of N-Virus from pressdog
Exactly How Do These People Walk And Breathe At The Same Time? from Restrictor-Plate This
If you ever wondered what your humble correspondent sounds like, well, wonder no more. Johnny and The Duke invited me to the discussion in their
weekly monthly third Podcast, and I happily babbled on all sorts of IndyCar topics. Hey, who needs actual racing to have something to talk about?
For the record, I never once uttered the N-word.
You can catch me about 20 minutes into the program (on Episode #3 HERE). These two fine gentlemen are worth listening to beyond my small contribution, so feel free to listen to their takes on all sorts of motorsports. Or just listen to my part of the podcast and make a drinking game of how many times I say "you know".
Oh, and before you comment - I realized afterwards it was Charlotte and not Atlanta that had the tragic fan fatalities. Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.
I’ve been holding off while others analyze the new TEAM plan, which annoyingly involves not only an acronym but also the word "Matrix". I mean, I thought no one can be told what The Matrix is.
Silly name aside, I’ve noted before that this new plan isn’t about socialism but rather the encouragement of more participants for the betterment of the product the Indy Racing league presents. A lot of numbers are thrown around, but here are three things to focus on...before you nod off to sleep from trying to analyze the mathematics.
1. Overall the payouts are MORE. There’s and increase from around $25M to potentially (meaning more participants) $36M for total series competition, and Indy 500 purses are up from around $10M to $13M. Greed is good. Greed works. Or so I’ve heard.
2. Full time series participants will get $1.2M for simply racing in every event, whether they finish Sixth or Dead Freaking Last. Same money for all spots except the Top 5, which pay a $10-35K more. I don’t think drivers will suddenly have no incentive to race since the purses are nearly equal; they still want to win, or at the very least finish ahead of the driver in front of them.
3. Indy only participation: from $153K to 270K. This should be the most significant part of the plan, considering last year it cost around $230K to put a “bump day” deal of chassis-engine-tires together. Do the math – it’s Bring Your Own Driver, and potential sponsors should now have a better selection of talent to represent them at The Greatest Spectacle In Racing – thus increasing the likelihood of drama on Bump Day, if not also the quality of competition.
(By the way these numbers come largely from the braintrust at TrackSide Online. Their calculators are far greater than mine.)
In many ways this plan is an experiment, but it’s an honest effort to reduce one of the perenniel complaints from motorsports fans; it’s trying to level the proverbial playing field. Turn on an F1 race and you’re likely going to see a McLaren at the front. Checking out the N-word? Look where the Hendricks cars are. CCWS will likely have a Newman/Haas/Lanigan car up front, assuming the race isn’t cancelled. Even IndyCar hasn’t been any better, with only three teams accounting for nearly all of the wins in recent years.
But at least the IRL is trying to change that. By flattening the payouts the plan is to decrease the likelihood of a team simply buying a victory. It may also increase the likelihood of buying a ride, but if all riders are equal then the race itself becomes more of test of skill than a judgment of who can purchase the greater technology. It’s now easier for skilled drivers to “buy rides”, and in a series that features standardized engines, chassis and tires the emphasis on driver ability is greater than ever.
Of course by “greater than ever” I don’t mean to say driver ability is all that matters, since some equals will still be more equal than others. The Big Three will continue to have more financially involved sponsors, thus increasing their likelihood at claiming victory at Indy or the series championships. But so what? This isn’t supposed to eliminate the possibility of dominance, but rather reduce it.
And one other thing: While many race fans are hoping this will be somehow draw Champ Car teams to the IRL in some kind of de facto merger, I'm looking instead at how many Indy Pro teams it helps to make the jump up. Remember, the IPS went from around 16 regulars to 24 in 2007, and many of those teams would like to move to the top level in 2009. This plan gives them a year to shop for sponsorship that will allow them to do so, because when talking about improving the overall health of the series it's far more meaningful to advance IndyCar talent then try to schmooze some guy away from somewhere else.
The bottom line is the success of this plan will be based on two factors: An increase in participants, and a more competitive balance. If there are more than 18 regulars in the next few seasons, and if someone outside of The Big Three can garner some wins (or at least frequents to podium enough to make them nervous) then it’s off to a smashing success. If it fails to facilitate new entries while the likes of Dixon, Wheldon, Kanaan, and Castroneves continue to account for all of the wins then it’s a load of horse manure.
Poor pressdog - he gets some prominent IndyCar drivers to come to his town to test the track that ate up half the field last season, and the media decided to ask them all about NAPCAR.
No really - there's no sarcasm this time. It's true. There's even video.
Looks like Dan's hair is all messed up from slapping his forehead.
It's not that so many open-wheel drivers are making the jump to tin tops that's alarming as much as how suddenly it's just so fashionable (well, unless you're Scott Speed).
Case in point: former IndyCar regular Patrick Carpentier, who after putting the wraps on his IndyCar career in 2005 decided to go back home to Canada and try fendered racing. Carpentier will soon be testing with Gillett Evernham Motorsports, which AutoWeek informs us:
With his organization's sponsorship prospects an issue, NASCAR team owner Ray Evernham freed driver Scott Riggs to find another ride for next year. Gillett Evernham Motorsports (with three teams) and Petty Enterprises (with two) are talking about merging, meaning GEM would have to drop a team to reach NASCAR's upcoming cap of four teams under the same ownership umbrella.So not only is yet another furriner heading to NAPCAR, but one of French-Canadien upbringing. Which means Patrick and "Jack" Villeneuve can now battle over who gets the Perrier sponsorship.
Even so, GEM seems intent on signing Canadian driver Patrick Carpentier to join Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler in Dodges. Riggs is the leading candidate to replace Jeff Green at Haas/CNC Racing.
It’s official. Chip Ganassi has wasted no time in announcing today that Dario Franchitti will be driving for his N-word team next year. The plan is NAPCAR only – no IndyCars or any other series that doesn’t involve racing sedans. Most of all, no defense of Mr Judd’s 2007 Indy 500 victory.
Indy-car star Dario Franchitti has only one major regret now that he signed to compete in NASCAR for Chip Ganassi/Felix Sabates Racing: not defending his 2007 Indianapolis 500 and Indy Racing League titles. "That was the hardest part of this decision," Franchitti said today (Oct. 3), when his move from the IndyCar Series to NASCAR was confirmed. "It'll be tough not defending those championships. I'll have my hands full with this new challenge, so it'll be impossible to run the 500." (MORE from AutoWeek)It’s hard to fault Franchitti for leaving AGR, where the long-term relationship quickly soured with Dario’s success in 2007. Perhaps Michael Andretti was bitter that after years of paying Dario well for mediocre results he cashes the chips all in for tin tops. Perhaps Dario was dismayed that despite his career year his team owner was more concerned about every other driver on the team. Perhaps both. Or neither. Whatever.
For the most part Franchitti has been a class act in open-wheel racing and he’ll certainly continue to be an asset wherever he races, but let’s not forget he made this decision willingly. Dario is in the enviable position of leveraging his recent successes, so he actually gets to decide to race however he chooses on this continent – and that choice does not involve activities in Speedway, Indiana in The Month of May. Judging from his actions it’s now “been there, done that” for Mr Judd.
You can’t fault the guy for taking the money and the challenge of stock car racing, but you can remember he did so by stomping on the hearts of fans of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Yeah, I’m just a little bitter, but not so much I can’t wish him good luck. Welcome to the N-word, Dario; small fish, meet big pond.
Oh, and tell Ashley to watch out for Greg Biffle’s woman.
The Birmingham News reports that several IndyCar teams will soon be participating in a testing session at Barber Motorsports Park, which begs the question: which is more likely to raise your eyebrows?
That a track in Alabama would like to host an ICS event?
"It will be the first step for exploring a possible event in 2009," (Zoom Motorsports President Gene) Hallman said. "It's early but we want to know what it would take to accommodate the IRL. It is the premier open-wheel series in the U.S. and it draws tremendous crowds."Or that Uncle Sam is practicing his IndyCar skills right in the middle of his N-word endeavor?
Indy Racing League stars Sam Hornish Jr., Dan Wheldon, Danica Patrick and Helio Castroneves are among 12 to 15 drivers scheduled to take part in an IRL testing session at Barber Motorsports Park on Oct. 12, track and IRL officials said Monday.I'm gonna go with the latter. So is Ryan Briscoe.
OK, who saw this coming?
Andretti Green Racing announced today that Brazilian Vitor Meira will join drivers Bryan Herta and Tony Kanaan behind the wheel of the #26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01a in this weekend's Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.This is just for the weekend as an ALMS replacement for Dario, but it is silly season...you never know. Now that Dario is gone, it's pretty much every man (or woman) for himself (or herself) in attempt to score that open AGR ride.
Meira is replacing Dario Franchitti, who was released yesterday from his Andretti Green Racing driver agreement.
Ladies and gentleman, start your resumes. Vitor Meira will be starting from the pole position.
The press release from Andretti Green reads simply "Andretti Green Racing announced today it has released Dario Franchitti from his driver agreement. The team's agreement with Franchitti was set to expire later this year."
Not Indianapolis 500 champion, not 2007 IndyCar series champion - just plain old Dario Franchitti. After nearly a decade of service with Barry Green it's pretty much "Thks fr the Mmrs". The Associated Press picks it up from there.
Dario Franchitti's much-anticipated move to stock cars will begin Friday with an ARCA race at Talladega Superspeedway, the Associated Press has learned.Clearly they have been speaking with Dario's father George (I'm kidding...at least I think I'm kidding.) Stay tuned for official announcements on Wednesday.
The 2007 Indy 500 winner and IndyCar Series champion has agreed to a multiyear deal to replace David Stremme in the No. 40 Dodge for NASCAR's Chip Ganassi Racing, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who requested anonymity because the deal had yet to be announced.
An official announcement is expected Wednesday at Ganassi's race shop in North Carolina.
A few days ago I received link to a photo discovered by John C, who’s been know to leave a comment or two at My Name Is IRL. The picture linked below is of Bobby Unser at IMS in 1971, and for some reason there’s a bird on the front of his car. A very dead bird, at that.
Neither of us knew the story here, so of course when you need to know something - anything! - about the goings on at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the first guy you should ask is the track historian, Mr Donald Davidson. If you’re around Indy at any time during The Month of May you’ll likely find Davidson and his pleasant lilt on local radio or TV, answering all sorts of questions about Indy racing just as he has since 1965.
With that voice, he really should read children’s stories. “Once upon a time there was a little man named Mario...”
Anyhow, I fired off an email to the esteemed Mr Davidson hoping that he might not only know the deal behind the dead bird, but that he might also answer a question outside of May. It took him all of 15 minutes to respond.
I remember this like it was yesterday. He hit the bird on a qualifying run and it damaged the brake line. The officials did not charge him with an attempt, and after some minor repairs were made, he went back out for a successful run. Wags started calling him "The Birdman of Albuquerque." The bird was either lodged in the suspension or else had gone in through an opening in the bodywork.OK, I’m impressed. It's definitely time to give a plug to Mr Davidson’s “Official Illustrated History of the Indianapolis 500”. Buy it for that special someone on your Christmas List. Like yourself. Or Arni.
Week Two of “Dances With Helio” and I can already tell you I am SO thankful to whomever invented the DVR. I was able to watch the epic 163rd baseball game – all 13 innings of it – and then quickly breeze through DWTS at a much more tolerable pace.
Of course, I fire up the DVR and see Curt Cavin sitting in the front row - comforting, assuring. Kanaan and Wheldon need to get down there as well.
Here’s what I know: Helio got the most points of anyone, besting even the Spice Girl and the Cheetah Girl. I don’t know much about dancing, but Helio actually looked like he does this for a living. His “mambo” was freaky good.
DWTS expert Jennifer says: Wow. Seriously. Wow. Helio was hot, he was sexy, he was full of energy, and he was having fun out there on the dance floor like the mambo is something he does to just blow off steam. What great showmanship! I think the judges were so overwhelmed by how good Helio was that they laid off on the bad race lingo analogies. My favorite moment was that back bend move Helio did. I guess climbing in and out of those racecar cockpits makes one mighty limber!
As silly as all this Dancing madness may seem to race fans, one striking thought occurred to me last night. Helio is good enough that he’s going to be around a while, and viewers – presumably not racing fans – will get to know the guy. It’s a safe bet to say he'll snag some personal sponsorship or endorsement deals out of this as a result of his bump in popularity, which would make the IndyCar series the only sport in the world that would have both a recognizable male (Helio) and female (Danica) participant who regularly compete against each other.
What that means in the long run, I don’t know. But it's pretty cool.
So I’m checking out Cavin’s Blog and he’s talking about being in Hollywood for “Dances With Helio” tonight. I don’t think Cavin will be covering the IndyCar testing in Milwaukee, Iowa or Birmingham, but come hell or high water he’ll be checking out Spiderman’s dancing moves. In person.
Which brings us to the fact that Curt posts just one reader question today.
Question: Hey, mate. Just a note to say Hi and tell you that Helio wasn't the first Indy-car driver to do "Dancing with the Stars." I did the Chilean version and lasted until the fourth show. Damn tango got me out. Check Eliseo Salazar El Baile on You Tube but don't laugh too hard. BTW: I read the blog every day. (Eliseo, Santiago, Chile)So of course, I checked it out. And what do you think was one of the songs Eliseo Salazar danced to in this Chilean version? Forgive me for posting another dancing clip, but this is un-freaking-believable!!!
Seriously, watch the first 20 seconds and you'll be spitting beverage on your computer screen. I promise.
Monday Night means “Dances With Helio” on ABC. Or football. Your choice.
Regardless, Tony George must be placing some heavy bets lately, as Gambling911 has the dancing driver listed as the current favorite to win the, well, whatever award he and his dancing partner would win. You could say being the favorite is like winning the pole position for this week, since it really means nothing once the rubber sole hits the...oh goodness, I can’t finish this simile and still retain my dignity.
Thanks to reader Bash for the awesome graphic. If you so chose, you can vote for Castroneves using the same digits as last week - and you don't even have to watch to do so.
Text: Vote 3409 (AT & T Customers only)
Things have been rather silent around here lately, with what news there has been being relatively un-newsworthy. In the past few days the IndyStar ran a story about Sarah Fisher, which basically said she was teamless but looking to participate next year – something I think we all figured was the case.
Meanwhile Penske Racing is preparing for it’s (nearly) imminent future, as Curt Cavin reported that Ryan Briscoe joined “Happy Feet” Castroneves for testing at THE Milwaukee Mile last week. Again, Briscoe preparing for the second Team Penske car is no surprise. Nicole Manske is already taking “smile and wave” pointers from Crystal Hornish.
In other forms of racing, 1995 Indy 505 winner Jacque Villenueve finished 21st in his Truck racing debut. Jack says “We learned a lot tonight; we had a lot of pit stops.” If over the weekend he had gone bar-hopping with his friends, got liquored up and tried to hit on every girl in sight, would he end up saying the same thing?
Anyhow, no news with Dario Franchitti since AGR is holding him to contractual obligations. And no other driver news, silly season or otherwise. And nothing officially announced with the “Value” plan. And the 17th race of 2008 on Moon Base Alpha has not been announced.
Quite honestly, the most interesting read hasn’t had anything to do with IndyCars. It would appear F1 castaway and N-word wannabe Scott Speed has redefined the term "Prima Donna", judging from his shock and horror at the policies of American tin top racing. From SpeedTV.com:
“In open-wheel racing, you always have someone on the team who buckles you into your seat. I got into my seat today waiting for someone to buckle me in and then after awhile realized I was supposed to buckle myself in. I’m not used to bringing my own helmet to the car either!I’ll let Marc from Full Throttle express the sentiment:
“[But] the most surprising thing is that I just don’t dress like these people yet. I got harassed by some of the ARCA officials for my shorts – which I wasn’t supposed to be wearing in the garage – and for my hat because it’s what Europe would call high fashion, but I guess it’s not considered that here...”
Would it be uncalled for if I suggested they left him unbuckled and sent him on his way?
And I suppose sending Speed out without his Brain Bucket and only protected by his “high fashion Euro-hat” would also be classified as way out of line.
I tend to agree it is out of line, but there it is on digital paper and I have no intentions of removing it. In fact I have something to add; Just shut up and drive (assuming you can) you arrogant, spoiled pompous ass!