Welcome Back Cotman

Posted by Iannucci | 1/31/2008 | 9 comments »
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Earlier this month he was saying good-bye as the Champ Car Bringer of Law, and today Robin reports Tony Cotman will soon be reporting for duty as the IRL's new Iron Hand of Justice, Jr.

“I’m just going where I think the future of open-wheel racing is going to be,” said Cotman, who quit as Champ Car’s executive vice president earlier this month. ”It’s a good job. I’m going to oversee anything that has to do with competition, technical issues, tracks and assist Brian (Barnhart) in race control.”

“It should be a little easier in the IRL, because in Champ Car a third of the field was the series owner’s cars.”

“I think this new job will suit me and I’m looking forward to contributing to the future of open-wheel racing.”

(MORE from SpeedTV)
Cotman will be officiating Indy Pro races as well as assisting Barnhart at certin IndyCar series events, so let's hope he brought a spare black flag for the IHJ as well. THE GUILTY WILL BE PUNISHED!

The Braintrust at TSO has even more encouraging words.

With the defection of Cotman to the IRL, the question quickly becomes "what about CCWS teams?" TSO is hearing of various ChampCar teams "sniffing around" the IRL and IMS. While we don't have any concrete information of a team about to jump, several CCWS teams are certainly considering that option and may still move prior to the 2008 season.

We have also confirmed that some CCWS teams are looking at Indy 500 packages even if they don't make the full-time move just yet (and the word YET is entirely intentional).

(MORE from TracksideOnline)

Helio is HUGE

Posted by Iannucci | 1/31/2008 | 4 comments »
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After successfully busting his hump on the dance floor Helio is staring at quite the breakout year. He has now become so wickedly famous that not only has he landed a new booze sponsor (memo to Mr Castroneves: Please don't take them to ALMS) but he is also getting asked those astoundingly irrelevant celebrity questions du jour about people he doesn't even know.

Such as: Do you have any thoughts about Heath Ledger's passing?

Good gracious. If you are so inclined you can read the entire interview at the bastion of journalistic excellence that is OK! Magazine.

Big Chip weighs in

Posted by Iannucci | 1/31/2008 | 4 comments »
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I started reading a fine column by Oreo on Scott Dixon and I ended up watching a discussion about Dan Wheldon’s future. Looks like poor Iceman can’t catch a break even in his own story.

To summarize: Dan Wheldon wants to race somewhere else. No wait, Dan Wheldon wants to stay in the IRL. What say you, Mr Ganassi?

Dan and I had quite extensive conversations over the summer, and, you know, he and I decided it was probably best for him to stay in the IndyCar series for a while, and that the opportunities for him to take a jump over, you know, whatever opportunities that were there this year were certainly going to be there next year and the year after and the year after.

So these other drivers that have made the transition or are attempting to make the transition, you know, have a few more years on them than Dan does, so I think they felt their options were maybe getting fewer and far between. Dan could go to a lot of teams yet at anytime, anytime he wants. So he and I concluded that it wasn’t maybe imperative that he does it this year.

(From video linked at ESPN.com)
OK then. Wheldon may no longer be a free agent socially, but it certainly appears he will soon be one professionally. Coincidentally the intrepid Curt Cavin mentioned in his blog that Dan’s kissing buddy Tony Kanaan will also be a free agent at the conclusion of this season, so if you happen to have a boatload of cash and an inclination to start a big name racing team, well, there you go.

Are you smarter than a 2-year-old

Posted by Iannucci | 1/29/2008 | 3 comments »
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People will put anything on YouTube, and if it’s even remotely related to IndyCars it may in fact end up here. Case in point is this video of a doting mom who instead of teaching her young son to recognize silly things like numbers, letters, colors or animals has decided it's best to fill her little skull full of mush with the names of IndyCar drivers. She's Mother of the Year!

Incredibly this prodigy is culling his wisdom from a Japanese publication, so if he can learn the rest of the words in there this kid is halfway to joining the Honda Performance Development team.

And no, this is not one of my offspring. My kids can recognize Dario and Vitor thank you very much, although honestly they wouldn't know Jeff Bucknum if he showed up wearing a sign.

More than 24 hours later

Posted by Iannucci | 1/29/2008 | 3 comments »
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Here in the Valley of the Sun it's Wall-To-Wall Tom Brady Super Bowl-O-Rama, so news of this past weekend's Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona is only now reaching us.

Chip Ganassi’s Daytona Prototype team headed by Indy 500 winners Dario Franchitti and Juan Pablo Montoya finished first overall, giving big Chip his third straight victory in the event. Mr Judd joined Dan Wheldon (2005) as the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500, IndyCar Series championship and 24 At Daytona within a year. Dario also won a class event at the 12 Hours at Sebring a few weeks ago, so expect to see him testifying before Congress about performance enhancing steroids in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile a separate Ganassi entry team of Dan Wheldon, Scott Dixon and Alex Lloyd finished 44th overall, leading to speculation that Dan’s new teeth may require a separate aero package for 2008.

Also finishing well in the Prototype division was the Penske entry led by future teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe. The duo partnered with N-Word driver Kurt Busch to achieve third place in Penske’s first entry in the event since 1973. With that kind of golden touch I hope The Captain doesn’t have an entry in my son’s pinewood derby this spring.

A good show was also put in by Ryan Hunter-Reay, who’s team finished in eight place. At one point he led the field for 10 laps, but you were probably sleeping at the time.

Hot on his heels was Indy Pro newcomer Raphael Matos who’s team won the GT class and finished ninth overall. Dude has won like eight championships in ten years of racing, so expect to be reading his name a lot this year.

Also of note, Ed Carpenter, Vitor Meira, A.J. Foyt IV piloted Tony George’s Vision Racing Daytona Prototype to a disappointing 25th overall and 12th in their class. Engine failure resulted in early retirement for these guys, but all things considered it’s probably the worst thing that happened for Tony George this week.

Buddy Rice’s team finished 27th overall, while Milka Duno's SAMAX team finished 61st. A punchline would be overkill.

Black is white, up is down

Posted by Iannucci | 1/28/2008 | 10 comments »
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Excuse me, but did longtime Tony George hater Robin write these words?

(Tony) George has been beaten up constantly in this space (and rightly so) since 1996 but he's no longer the bad guy. His offer appears to have been as sensible as it was viable and nobody can say anymore that he's trying to block unification.

But the real bottom line is that racing is a way of life for George and his family. He's not going away and he's got the only open wheel race that anybody in this country still cares about. He's also got the Brickyard 400 to pay for Indy cars.

It's not a way of life for Forsythe and Kalkhoven: it's a hobby, albeit an expensive one. It couldn't be a business or else they wouldn't run it so poorly.

(MORE from SpeedTV)
I'd say we should fire up the Hallelujah chorus, but first I'm going to check outside to see if it's raining frogs or if the rivers have turned to blood.

Opportunity lost

Posted by Iannucci | 1/28/2008 | 12 comments »
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Yeah, about that recent merger frenzy? Not so much. The intrepid Curt Cavin says this deal is dead for now as he follows up in the IndyStar.

George, the IRL's chief executive officer, said that in meetings last fall with Champ Car's leadership, he offered to help its teams pay for IRL cars on the condition they participated in his series for at least two seasons. When none came forward in a timely manner, George chose to scrap his plan.

"Teams started coming to me in December and January, and there's not much I can do at that point," George said. "I needed to know earlier so we could get the cars ordered."

George said he told Kalkhoven and Forsythe in separate meetings that he would help teams acquire a new car and a used one as a backup for each full-season driver supported by a proper budget. He would not have bought the cars outright.

"I wasn't going to wholesale make that offer," George said. "I would make sure they had equipment; it would not necessarily be free."

(MORE from IndyStar.com)
Reading between the lines it appears Mr George was trying to secure more vehicles for the coming seasons by extending the longstanding concept of "Tonybucks" and not with gratis vehicles. George knows his contract with Honda is up in two years (what a coincidence!), so it's certainly in the IRL's best interest to elevate it's product with more competitors in that timeframe.

So if there's one thing these new details tell us it's that George is more concerned with looking after his own product than with looking after Champ Car. If there's a second thing, it's that something happened between "last fall" and "December and January" that spooked a lot of Champ Car teams. If there's a third it's that Kevin "I never, ever saw an offer from Tony George" Kalkhoven would make a fine Sergeant Schultz.

Whatever happened to Pablo Perez

Posted by Iannucci | 1/28/2008 | 1 comments »
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This six-month IndyCar winter vacation provides ample opportunity to catch up on human interest stories, like for example the latest status of Pablo Perez.

As you may recall, Perez was running near the front in his Indy Pro debut at Homestead last March when a freak accident caused his car to launch into the catch fence a pretty much disintegrate. Later reports indicated Perez had survived but his lower extremities had been greatly injured, and since then the only update had been that he was at Indianapolis in May and that people were surprised to see he still had toes.

Well, the ubiquitous Allan Brewer has finally caught up with Perez, and the story is simultaneously upbeat and melancholy. It would seem his dream of racing in The 500 is now gone, but he's still trying to find ways to enjoy a career in racing. Perez isn't too different from hundreds of other drivers who have also suffered debilitating injuries on the race track, but that doesn't make his story any less meaningful.

Read it at IndyProRacer.com.

Quote of the Day

Posted by Iannucci | 1/26/2008 | 4 comments »
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Guess who said this:

"I honestly believe the IndyCar Series is ready for a big boost of momentum...I very much enjoy driving those race cars, particularly at the Indianapolis 500. Now, they seem ready to go the extra mile and do what it takes to increase awareness. They have some good people now and have a little consistency in that. I believe and trust what they are saying.

"With (president of the commercial division) Terry Angstadt, you have somebody now with a solid focus on moving the series ahead. Having him is a help because it is stability and he understands we have to do whatever it takes. I really do see some momentum and you will hear some more positives in the future.

"And the Helio Castroneves factor (from winning "Dancing with the Stars") will be very, very good. You have to give Helio credit with the way he portrayed himself and he portrayed the IndyCar Series was very positive. I don't think anybody but him could have done as good a job as he did, which is why we couldn't give him any grief about it even though we were dying to. What he did for IndyCar's image was very important."

(MORE from IndyCar.com)
Would you believe Dan Wheldon? Man, what a week.

Kanaan looks tired

Posted by Iannucci | 1/25/2008 | 5 comments »
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This is not the bubbly prankster we know and love, friends. This is now the post-baby Tony Kanaan. We're happy for him but we also feel his pain, because we know that his head is throbbing and his body is aching and his eyeballs probably feel like stones in his melon and this pain has absolutely nothing to do with racing.

Those of you out there who are parents will know this face. It's the "I'm so happy my life has this new level of meaning but I suppose I'll never get a full night's rest again" face. Change another diaper, shake up another Avent bottle, strap the kid to your chest and get back to doing whatever needs to be done, big guy. And welcome to parenthood!

Expiration Date

Posted by Iannucci | 1/25/2008 | 4 comments »
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We’re now a few days out and the most lasting fallout from Robin’s latest merger rumor/news piece centers around this quote by Newman/Haas/Lanigan co-owner Carl Haas.

“It hasn’t happened yet but we’ve certainly considered going,” said Haas, who along with Paul Newman and Mike Lanigan own Champ Car’s most visible and successful operation. “It may not happen this year, but it’s highly probable we’ll do it in 2009 because there needs to be one series.”
As the defending championship team of the CCWS (several times over), NHL carries quite a bit of weight. Not only are they one of the few teams who has a solid sponsor in McDonalds that actually allows them to pay their drivers, but they also have been entrusted to help develop the talents of young Graham Rahal. The smart money says if they were to leave Champ Car then other teams would follow, and then there wouldn’t be much Champ Car left.

A few news sources have seized upon this as well with headlines from NHLR 'consider' switch to Haas plans to move team to IRL. Nothing like a feeding frenzy off a single quote, eh?

This shouldn’t be entirely a surprise given that Mr Haas has a solid relationship with the George family – he’s the team owner for the stock car driven by Mari Hulman George’s grandson. It’s widely thought the only reason Mr Haas hasn’t already come over to the IRL is because of the bitter Mr Newman, who may or may not be recuperating from some mystery surgery. Either way it’s Haas doing the talking and not Newman, which speaks volumes in and of itself.

The net result is that with the words “it’s highly probable we’ll do it in 2009” there may as well be an expiration date on Champ Car. If no deal is in the works for any exchange of assets by the end of their final event on November 9th of this year then the CCWS “leadership” will be faced with an exit by it’s main team and probably more than a few others. And as much passion as they have for racing, I don’t think Kalkhoven and Forsythe want to field two teams of eight cars each.

While in the past the demise of either series has been greatly exaggerated, it now looks like the clock is finally ticking on whatever leverage for a unification Champ Car may have. Either they take whatever Tony George offers in the next 10 months or they sit on their pride and watch their assets go to zero.

Is it April first already?

Posted by Iannucci | 1/23/2008 | 17 comments »
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This doozy just in from Robin:

Free cars. Free engines. Long Beach, Toronto, Edmonton, Mexico City and Australia added to the Indy Racing League’s schedule. A unified open-wheel series for 2008.

SPEEDtv.com has learned that’s what Tony George proposed to Champ Car’s ownership group several weeks ago during meetings here in Indianapolis.

George, who was unavailable for comment on Wednesday, reportedly offered to supply Dallara chassis and Honda engine leases to any and all Champ Car teams willing to commit to the entire ’08 campaign. It was also thought he was willing to move the Motegi, Japan race in mid-April back to the fall to accommodate the annual Long Beach Grand Prix.

(MORE from SpeedTV)
Good gracious, this is silly. Let me give you exactly one reason why on Earth Mr George would offer FREE rides to people who choose not to ride in his series: because he knew the CCWS "leadership" would reject it.

I mean, how would the good folks at Panther or D&R or Foyt Racing feel knowing Dale Coyne or Gerry Forsythe got free cars and engines? What are the odds Super Tex would be looking for a new laptop to toss, friends?

This is pure speculation but this seems more of a public relations salvo than a bona fide solution. Surely it was presented knowing FULL WELL it would go down in flames because Forsythe, Kevin Kalkhoven, et al, would no longer get to own any piece of that which they have already flushed meeeeeeeeellions of dollars into. So my guess is this was intended to get a few po' broke and lonely CCWS teams to consider coming to the IRL, or at least irritate them a touch more at said "leadership".

And $100M as a counter offer by Champ Car? Come on, Robin. By now you gotta know that just isn't news - it's simply more posturing.

UPDATE: After obtaining an unofficial transcript of Robin's super secret meeting with the Champ Car head honchos, the reasoning of the $100 meeeeellion dollar counter offer has finally determined.

Kalkhoven: Our early attempts at unification went through several preparations. Preparations A through G were a complete failure. But now, we finally have a working unification plan for $100 meeeeellion dollars, which we shall call...Preparation H.
[Robin snickers]
Kalkhoven: What?
Robin: Why don't you just call it operation ass-cream, you ass.
Kalkhoven: I'm sorry, did you say you want some ice cream?
Robin: Yes, I'd love some chocolate ass-cream.
Kalkhoven: Perhaps later.
Forsythe: Kevin, I love your plan.
Kalkhoven: You do?
Forsythe: Yeah. It's a really good plan.
Kalkhoven: Yes Jerry, on the whole Preparation H feels good.
[Robin resumes snickering]
Kalkhoven: What is it now?
Robin: No, I totally agree with you. Preparation H does feel good... on the hole.

(thanks to mmack for the inspiration)

Sharp's new image

Posted by Iannucci | 1/23/2008 | 1 comments »
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It's official, and judging from this photo of his new ride from the Highcroft Racing site, Scott still will most definitely be Lookin' Sharp.

Highcroft Racing announces exciting changes for the 2008 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season. Scott Sharp will be joining the team and partnering with Le Mans-winning driver, David Brabham, with Patrón Spirits as the team’s title sponsor. Patrón Spirits is the distiller of Patrón Tequila, the world’s number-one selling ultra-premium tequila. The team will be known as Patrón Highcroft Racing. Highcroft Racing is a factory-backed team which campaigned an Acura ARX-01a in the LMP2 class in the 2007 ALMS season.

In moving from the IndyCar Series to the ALMS, Scott Sharp’s career has come full circle. Sharp began racing sports cars in the beginning of his professional career, and is returning to the arena once again. Sharp has won nine IndyCar events and has 35 top-five finishes in the Series. He holds the record of 138 consecutive IndyCar starts. In 1996, he was the IndyCar Series co-champion and also won the 24 Hours of Daytona. He is also a two-time Trans-Am champion, winning 15 races over three seasons.

(MORE from Highcroft Racing)
Despite the fact he just hit the IRL eject button and took his super swell sponsor with him, it's difficult for me to be mad at the guy. (Bobby Rahal's mileage may vary, though.) Sure there's a certain melancholy feeling in the old cockles, but there's no throw-your-hands-up-in-disgust animosity, what with Scott being a 39-year-old veteran of 146(!) IndyCar races. He's got his $10 meeeellion in career earnings and I've got enough good memories to let go.

I mean, it's not like he recently won Indy or the series championship and bolted. Ahem. Anyhow, best of luck Scott, and remember that The Bobby has an ALMS team as well.

The password is: turnstile

Posted by Iannucci | 1/22/2008 | 10 comments »
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Ladies and gentlemen, please note that this season the role of Sam Hornish Jr will be played by...Dan Wheldon.

CONCORD, N.C. -- Dan Wheldon might be driving in the Sprint Cup Series this season instead of Dario Franchitti had team owner Chip Ganassi let him.

Wheldon said on Monday he had several conversations with Ganassi about making the jump this year from the IndyCar Series, which he won in 2005, to NASCAR.

"I talked to Chip enough about it to know that for whatever reason he didn't want to let me move from the Indy car,'' Wheldon said on the first day of the 2008 Sprint Cup media tour. "He definitely wants to keep me [in the IndyCar Series]. We'll see.

"I've got some big decisions to make at the end of next season. The main thing is I need to put myself in a strong position so I can make the decision I want to make.

"At this point I'm just going to worry about the Indy cars."

(MORE from ESPN.com)
Don't think too long about those "big decisions", Dan. I mean, I'm sure you miss your buddy Big Jamie Little, but come on! Is this really the way we want to start the season? Really? Do we need to send Danica over to your trailer to straighten you out?

Well, at least we know why Big Chip decided to stash Alex Lloyd.

Beep Beep

Posted by Iannucci | 1/22/2008 | 2 comments »
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The 2008 ICS race at Kansas Speedway has lost it's lottery-related sponsor to the N-Word, but in it's place has gained a new sponsor with quite the fetching logo.

Time Warner Cable is the new title sponsor of the IndyCar Series race on April 27, which will be called the RoadRunner Turbo Indy 300. The Kansas Lottery has renewed their sponsorship agreement with Kansas Speedway and will sponsor the NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Sept. 27, which will be called the Kansas Lottery 300. After a three year absence, the IndyPro Series will return for the Hard Rock 100.

(MORE from Kansas Speedway)
Feel free to now draw Road Runner and Coyote comparisons to the state of open-wheel racing. I mean, we've got the logo now to support the analogy.

My Name Is John Oreovicz

Posted by Iannucci | 1/21/2008 | 15 comments »
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Several days ago John Oreovicz of ESPN.com posted an article which struck me as nothing short of silly. Not only was the piece yet another lamentation on the lack of an open-wheel series unification by yet another prominent auto racing writer, but the author decided he would rank the “culprits” for holding the sport “hostage”. While Oreo did put a creative spin on the “please unify now” genre, his list induced such eye-rolling that I was compelled to write my own list.

However, a funny thing happened after I posted my response. The next day an email popped into my Inbox with the subject “Greetings from Oreo”, containing several thoughtful and polite responses to my post. It seems Mr Oreovicz not only read my reply but also understood that my piece was a parody, and that despite our obvious disagreements he wanted to further clarify his views in an entirely civil way. Color me shocked, because it’s not every day a writer for ESPN.com and National Speed Sport News drops a meaningful note to your humble host.

Anyhow, since he is one of the more widely read scribes of IndyCar racing I extended to Oreo an invitation for an interview that might better allow him to personally explain his viewpoints – not just to me but to you gracious and loyal readers as well. He agreed and is eagerly awaiting your comments. Seriously, he is. And in case you were wondering, he really does sign his emails “oreo”.

Oreo very much deserves credit for answering questions that aren’t exactly softballs. For this he has my sincerest appreciation, although that certainly doesn’t mean he’s suddenly converted me to his way of thinking on road racing or Champ Car or unification. So here for your enjoyment is my thorough grilling modest discussion with the man for whom I have a newly found respect despite the fact that his nickname is indeed a four-letter word.

Q: This discussion was initiated by your “13 years held hostage” article. With all sorts of possible subjects to write about in January (Sarah Fisher’s prospects for starting a new team, Tomas Scheckter’s search for a ride, Dan Wheldon’s stunning new teeth) why did you decide to write a finger-pointing type of story?

A: This is a story that was percolating in my head for many months. I remember bouncing the idea off of Robin Miller and some other colleagues this summer, stirring them up by saying “I think I’m going to put Michael Andretti at Number 2.” FYI, Robin and almost everyone else I know thinks Roger Penske belongs as the runner up to Tony George on the list. Anyway, I never got around to writing it this summer and when the slow season really started to drag, I ended up starting to work on it between Christmas and New Year’s. I filed it at 10:46 p.m. on New Year’s Eve - the ESPN.com editors must have had a laugh at my lack of a life, on my birthday to boot! As for Sarah or Scheckter or Buddy Rice or anybody else, they’re not close enough to having a deal to talk about anything specific. And I’ll leave Dan Wheldon’s chompers to TMZ and OK! Magazine.

Q: You’ve read my reply to your article, so you know we are not exactly of the same mind on this issue. What’s the best argument you could make to me in the interest of both the CCWS and the IRL for Tony George to say “I’ve decided I was wrong with this IRL thing so I’m writing a ridiculous check to the CCWS guys, cancelling Motegi and Watkins Glen so we can take on the Long Beach and Toronto events, and sending floral assortments to all those kind folks at the Champ Car Fanatics site.”?

A: Well, that’s just not going to happen. Champ Car is not in any position to win the war. I just don’t see it happening, no matter how much of their own money that Forsythe and Kalkhoven throw at their series. The latest news (Tony Cotman quits, Rafa Matos turns down a $2 million Champ Car bonus to make a lateral move to the IPS) are just more circumstantial evidence that Champ Car is near the end. However, I do believe that to appease the CCWS hardliners (still a vocal and significant group), Tony needs to publicly accept some responsibility for the IRL’s direct role in the decline of the sport over the last 12 years. The Champ Car fan base needs to hear that so they can start the process of forgiving and forgetting. I think the absolute best thing that open-wheel fans can hope for is that Tony would help find a way to put an end to Champ Car gracefully by incorporating the best that CCWS has to offer - say Long Beach, Toronto, Cleveland and Surfers Paradise, half a dozen key teams and Cosworth engines - into the IRL. To me, the challenge is: How can Champ Car be put to rest without ruffling Kalkhoven and Forsythe’s egos. If the two sides were collectively putting effort into something like that now, they could certainly be ready to make an announcement by mid-season that open-wheel racing will be back together under the IRL banner in 2009. If the general impression that comes from that is that Champ Car lost, so be it. Because if the status quo continues, everyone involved will be a loser sooner rather than later.

Q: OK, so for just a nanosecond let’s suppose this kind of merger comes to pass and the resulting series includes Cosworth engines. As a guy who wrote a book about Honda’s racing program, how do you think they would respond to having Cosworth owners have a stake the series? The good folks at Honda have said they want competition, but there’s no way Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe would let the Cosworth look bad in a series they also had interest in, right?

A: I’m not going to try to speak for Honda, but I’m confident that they would definitely like to have some form of competition in the IRL once their exclusive supply contract ends after the 2009 season. But I doubt they are interested in battling Cosworth unless the engine is badged by a major manufacturer - and given proper marketing support by that manufacturer, because I suspect Honda is tired of carrying the IRL’s marketing load on its own. Let’s not forget that what was laughingly called the Chevy GEN-IV IRL engine (remember the IRL’s creative rule-bending that allowed GM to introduce a brand new, outsourced engine in mid-2003?) was pretty darn competitive despite being designed and built on a fraction of the budgets that Honda and especially Toyota brought to the IRL. Cosworth is an effective and efficient company and given a fair opportunity to compete, they could be right there with Honda. Even if an agreement to blend what is left of CCWS into the IRL goes down, I can’t imagine Forsythe or Kalkhoven having any kind of ownership stake in the series.

Q: Many of my readers – and surely yours as well – are college-aged or younger, and to them there is no such thing as a split. After 13 years lots of them have grown up watching only the Indy Racing League and they couldn’t care one bit about Champ Car or unification. Young people don’t drive their father’s car or listen to his music, so why should they want some facsimile of his racing series? In other words, how do you sell your idea to The Danica Generation?

A: Well as you note in your final question, you’re talking to a guy who listens to a lot of Pink Floyd and is often generally rooted in the 1970s. So I’m not exactly cutting edge to the ‘emo’ crowd - I don’t even know what the hell ‘emo’ means and I laugh out loud when I see or hear a band like Fall Out Boy. And that’s one of the problems U.S. open-wheel racing has: I’m the young, ‘new’ guy of the specialist press, and I’m 43 years old. Curt Cavin and Jeff Olson are of a similar age, but Miller, Kirby, Phillips and the other regulars are all pushing 60. I find it really sad and depressing that nobody younger or hipper has come along with a desire to cover the open-wheel scene. I gather there are at least a couple of younger writers that cover NASCAR - Marty Smith certainly seems to try hard to be cool and youthful. I don’t have any trouble relating to the younger drivers (Danica, Marco etc.), but that more than anything is because we speak the common language of racing. BTW, if your readers think there is no such thing as a split, I encourage them to learn about the history of the sport, which goes back nearly 100 years - not just to 1996. The split has been a work in progress for nearly half that time.

(Ed. Note: Somewhere young and hip Chris Estrada is furiously updating his resume.)

Q: Now conversely, how is the unification scenario better than one where Kalkhoven announces “Our accountants have instructed us to cancel everything, refund the 2008 tickets, put the DP01s on eBay, and direct Cosworth towards manufacturing engines exclusively for Saleen. So it shall be written, so it shall be done. Thank you very much. Good night.”?

A: The split has dragged on long enough now, and has created enough damage, that the sooner it comes to an end the better. If Champ Car ceased operation today, it would not result in an immediate influx of 17 additional cars on the IRL grid. But it would create an additional six to ten quality entries that would put the field size back to where it was in the ‘80s and ‘90s. A 26-car field is a hell of a lot more credible (and entertaining) than an 18-car field. Sure, I’d rather watch and hear a field of Panozes with 2.6-liter turbo motors than I would a pack of normally-aspirated Dallaras. But the configuration of the car is an extremely minor point right now, are things like the name of the series (though the insert-title-sponsor-name-here IndyCar World Series seems like a nice compromise). What the fans, sponsors and manufacturers need is simply an acknowledgment that both groups are willing and able to work together rather than simply trying to kill or outlast the other series.

Q: Totally serious question because this subject comes up quite often at My Name Is IRL: do you receive Christmas (or which ever holiday is appropriate) Cards from either the George family or the Kalkhoven family or anyone else on your “culprits” list?

A: I’m on the IRL, CCWS and IMS Christmas lists, but all I ever get is a basic card with a nice note from Fred Nation. Of course, I don’t send Tony and Kevin cards either - maybe I should.

Q: I realize that you have also written many, many positive and entertaining articles – and I’ve even read several of them – but how would you respond to the assertion that the innumerable negative commentaries by you, Robin Miller and others that repeatedly list all of open-wheel racing’s problems over the last decade have not only furthered the division between fans of either series but also have had a hand in reducing the popularity of the sport?

A: There is some merit to your point, and based his response to my split list, I think Tony George feels the same way. But I think an even bigger crime would have been to simply pretend nothing was wrong all these years, sort of like the easy ride that the local media in Indianapolis has generally given the IRL. If you got your news exclusively from Indianapolis TV and radio sources, you would think that qualifying and race day crowds are as big as they were in the ‘60s and ‘70s and that Kosuke Matsuura is the next Jim Clark. In journalism school we were taught that the media has a responsibility to be a watchdog for the public, but in my opinion, the local Indy media is more like a guard dog for IMS - and by extension, the IRL. I don’t have stats handy, but I would estimate that I write four or five positive (or at least neutral!) articles for every negative one. And times and viewpoints change - I certainly hammer Champ Car a lot more than I did five or ten years ago. But that’s because they have deserved it.

Q: Speaking of Robin, your colleague is a self-described “degenerate gambler”. How have you fared placing wagers against him over the years?

A: I’ve never bet against Robin because I’m not much of a gambler. But I’ve enjoyed numerous steak dinners with him around the world and I’ve witnessed him on a serious hot streak at the craps table. I’ll say one thing about Miller - his sunny demeanor never changes whether he’s up or down at the casino. He’s one of the sport’s all-time great characters.

Q: Perhaps it’s because most of the prominent journalists covering open-wheel racing have been doing so since before The Split, but it seems in my completely subjective judgment that many of open-wheel’s reporters and commentators carry a grudge against either the IRL or George or both. Is that a legitimate characterization, and if so should readers worry that this might cloud the journalistic integrity ever so slightly?

A: I can’t speak for any of my friends or colleagues. But I can tell you that I hold no animosity towards TG as a person. We are of similar age, and I would say that we share shyness as a character trait. So I understand that it is difficult to step up in front of a bank of microphones or a large group of people. I guess I do hold a grudge that he took the radical step of using his racetrack/event to create a series meant to go into direct competition with the series that had formed the basis of his race from prior to 1996. Much of the 500’s credibility for decades prior to that was derived from the quality of the competitors, and I think that fact (and those teams, manufacturers, sponsors and drivers) were ignored in his zeal to start up the IRL. You can’t tell me that the overall quality of the ‘cars and stars’ of the Indy 500 from 1996 to 2001 was anywhere close to what it was in any decade, whether the ‘30s, 60’s or 80s. It still isn’t, though it has advanced a long way from 1997…

Q: Given the occasional negative article that you have written, I’m curious if George or Kalkhoven or any other person at whom you’ve leveled criticism has ever responded with direct feedback, or if the personalities in racing instead become less likely to speak with you once you’ve written something unflattering. What’s has been the most frequent response?

A: I heard from TG on the split list. The example that shook me up the most came when I wrote a piece this summer that extensively quoted Mario Andretti. Mario called me up a couple of days later, pretty upset. He felt some of the quotes I used had been ‘off the record’ and he let me know it. I disagreed, and I have the recorded interview on MiniDisc to prove it! But the story created some useful dialogue and when I saw Mario in Edmonton a couple weeks later, he smiled and shook my hand, so I think we’re cool - unless he’s pissed about me putting Michael at #2 on the split-list! Actually, I have a hunch he smiled at that…

Q: A few days ago you posted an article full of responses to comments you have received. Considering that Curt Cavin has a somewhat daily Q&A blog, Robin has an occasional chat session, and Jeff Olson has a MySpace page, have you ever thought about using any of those options to more easily connect with race fans?

A: I actually enjoy it, as can be evidenced by the fact that I am doing this e-interview with you. I’m hoping to do chats for ESPN.com this year. I think chats are good for the reason you mention - interaction with the readers - but also simply because it can help identify storylines. As reporters or analysts, we might be focused on some issues and not pick up on others. It is always good to know what the fans want to know. Looking back, I was on the blog bandwagon before they were called blogs - in 2001, we started www.oreopolis.com to chronicle my attempt at driving to every one of the races I covered in 2001 in the USA, Canada and Mexico. Those entries are still pretty well archived, but we’ve failed to update the site in about a year (having an 18-month old son will do that!). Perhaps one of these days we’ll get cracking.

Q: Last question not really related to racing, but since I’ve read that you have a huge collection of Pink Floyd concert recordings I was wondering if you have you ever exchanged tapes, CDs or mp3s with any prominent racing personalities? Like is Mario Andretti a total Dark Side of the Moon guy?

A: I don’t know if ‘exchanged’ is how I would describe it, but I have certainly provided a number of racing personalities with recordings that I made at concerts, or special shows I think they might enjoy. For example, I gave Dario Franchitti a copy of Pink Floyd’s famous concert at London Earls Court from May 19, 1973 - the day he was born. He’s also the proud owner of a copy of Oasis, NYC 6/9/01. Jimmy Vasser really likes a recording I made of Roger Waters at Portland in 2001, and he and Cristiano da Matta were highly complimentary of recordings I made during David Gilmour’s 2006 tour.

It’s actually kind of sick that the two main interests that dominate my life - open-wheel racing and Pink Floyd - have been ripped apart by a similar power struggle for the last 30 years; the Floyd ‘war’ is debated every bit as passionately as the IRL/CCWS split. I always believed that the American open-wheel scene would fix itself before Gilmour and Waters shared a stage again, but that’s now impossible thanks to PF’s brief ‘unified’ set at Live 8 in July 2005. For what it’s worth, I would much rather see the U.S. open-wheel scene come together than for Pink Floyd to do a cash-grabbing nostalgia tour. And if you know me at all, that’s saying something.

It's good to be King

Posted by Iannucci | 1/20/2008 | 4 comments »
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Maybe open-wheel racing has seen better days and maybe there are many who are struggling to make ends meet, but it's gotta be a good sign when the radio announcer for the IRL is fronting a group that is looking to purchase a race track.

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County Fair Board is still considering its options for the next in line to promote racing at the Terre Haute Action Track, said Pete Plant, who has led the search for a new promoter.

A group that includes Mike King, chief announcer for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network; Brian Dorsett, local businessman and former Major League Baseball player; and Davey Hamilton, IndyCar driver and announcer; is making its case to become the next in charge of the famed half-mile dirt oval.

(MORE from the Terre Haute Tribune Star)
No, it's not like these guys are buying California Speedway, but it's still noteworthy anytime someone from the IndyCar community looks to financially embrace the dirt-track roots of the sport. In case you didn't know they used to slide through the turns at Indy way back when. And yeah, I know this is several days old but news from Terre Haute travels slowly these days.

Your day is good by comparison

Posted by Iannucci | 1/18/2008 | 8 comments »
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Earlier today I went to see a screening of this new horror/monster flick “Cloverfield”, a movie that for fear of giving anything away is pretty much a ground-level view of an unimaginable disaster with people running around finding different ways to scream “What’s going on!?!”

Coincidentally, it’s turning out to be that kind of day for Champ Car fans. This just in from John Oreovicz of ESPN.com:

Tony Cotman has resigned his position of vice president of operations and race director for the Champ Car World Series.

As Champ Car's race day chief steward, the 43-year-old New Zealand native earned a reputation for being tough but consistent and fair, earning respect from the drivers in a series where officials were often openly mocked in the past. Cotman also streamlined Champ Car's racing and technical operations, maintaining high standards while cutting costs.

"He came back from the break and tried to get into the spirit of the offseason, but I think his heart just wasn't in it," said David Higdon, Champ Car's vice-president of strategic operations. "Tony did a great job in his many roles, and we obviously need to find someone who can handle the pressure of race control."
For those who do not follow Champ Car, Cotman was that league’s equivalent of the IRL's Brian Barnhardt. OK, that’s an over-simplification of the responsibilities of both men, so let’s just say Cotman was the man in charge of making sure the other league had a (ahem) quality product on race day. And although he hadn’t held his position at CCWS as long as our own Iron Hand of Justice, it’s never a good thing to hear from such a prolific figure that the guy’s “heart just wasn’t in it.”

Is it time to send Champ Car fans a funeral bouquet? Almost?

Adding this with the Raphael Matos defection also announced today reminds me of a point in “Cloverfield” where a character describes something (my lips are sealed) as “...it’s terrible”, and then describes another something else (seriously, lips very sealed here) as “...it’s terrible, too.” Oh, and I’m definitely not telling you or Champ Car officials how this movie ends.

Matos matters

Posted by Iannucci | 1/18/2008 | 3 comments »
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You may not know his name, but this guy is making big news in the world of open-wheel racing today. Just as the braintrust at Trackside Online predicted, Raphael Matos has announced that he will be driving for Andretti Green Racing in the upcoming Indy Pro season, sticking his thumb and two meeeellion dollars in the eye of the Champ Car series.

Matos is no ordinary driver, friends. After capturing the 2005 Star Mazda series championship, Matos bounced around in 2006 (although he managed to win 2 of the 4 Indy Pro races he entered that year). But in 2007 Matos got his mojo back and won 6 of 12 races in the Champ Car feeder Mazda Atlantics, which awarded the series champion $2 Million towards moving up to Champ Car.

Apparently that $2 Million check wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on, so now a talented young driver who had cash in hand has dismissed an immediate future in Champ Car for a chance to run in the IndyCar feeder series.

Read all about it at IndyCar.com, and welcome back to the IndyCar world Raphael!

Happy Birthday, AJ Foyt

Posted by Iannucci | 1/16/2008 | 2 comments »
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Anthony Joseph Foyt, Jr has been fond of saying if there was no Hulman-George family there wouldn't have been an AJ Foyt. The truth is if there was no AJ Foyt and he hadn't given the fledging series his unwavering support there likely wouldn't be an Indy Racing League today.

His four wins, two places and three shows in 35 runs at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing are nothing short of epic. Best wishes for 73 more years of taking on all comers, be they drivers, bulldozers, bees, whatever. You may well outlive us all.

PJ goes to the doctor

Posted by Iannucci | 1/16/2008 | 4 comments »
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As if there was anything that could be added.

Casually fighting crime

Posted by Iannucci | 1/16/2008 | 6 comments »
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It doesn't matter that he's gone to the N-Word, because if the reigning Indy 500 Champion is going to be tracking down one of the dumbest criminals in Nashville then by golly the tale of My Poor Little Husband's escapade is going to be printed here, as told by Terry Blount of ESPN.com.

Sprint Cup rookie Dario Franchitti got caught with his pants down, sort of, when he first moved to his home in Nashville, Tenn., with his wife, actress Ashley Judd.

Is this really what you want, Dario? Not "Indy 500 Champion", not "IndyCar Series Champion", but "Sprint Cup rookie"? Ack!

"I was just sitting in the kitchen, eating a bowl of cereal in my boxer shorts," Franchitti said.

Most of us eat out of a bowl on the table, but it’s important to note these little differences that make him a champion.

"I looked up and some guy is standing in front of me. He just walked in the house.”

Yet despite being a champion, Dario apparently forgot to install locks in his swank Nashville pad.

"I really don't think I was the one he was looking for..."

The intruder was trying to track down Ashley to get his money back after seeing Bug.

...but the guy quickly turned around and ran out of the house.”

Does Dario call 911 like a sensible ninny? No, not when his inner James Bond is kicking in. Duh-duh-duuuuuuh!

He got in his car and sped off. So what did I do? I got in my car and chased him."

See here’s the best part. This trespasser thought for a nanosecond he could somehow flee the entire situation despite two very obvious facts. First, while it’s not certain which of his Italian-made sports cars Dario had at the ready, it’s fairly safe to say he was going to have a better vehicle than the would-be assailant. Second, he’s Dario Freaking Franchitti! You are not going to out run him in a vehicle no matter how many laps you throw down at the local go-kart track.

But Franchitti forgot one important thing in his quest to catch the intruder.

Lemme guess - that he still had a bowl of cereal in his boxer shorts?

"The police caught up [to] the guy before I did," Franchitti said. "And apparently some people in the Nashville media also heard on the [police scanner] about it, so they were there, too. They came up to talk to me about the time I realized I was still in my boxer shorts. I had to stay in the car the whole time."

Oh, yes, that little tidbit. Well, he's European so he can get away with that kind of attire, right? Besides, everyone knows all the best superheroes run around in their underwear.

(Thanks to reader Austin for the heads up)

Leave it to beaver

Posted by Iannucci | 1/15/2008 | 5 comments »
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Another year, another rejected Super Bowl ad featuring Danica Patrick from the pious folks at GoDaddy.com. This year it’s all about the "little engineer that specializes in building small dams." From the big GoDaddy himself, Bob Parson:

Last week, FOX network rejected Go Daddy's Super Bowl ad because an actor referred to a beaver – a replica beaver that was, in fact, being portrayed – as a “beaver.” We were told that under no circumstance could we use that word, and if we didn’t say the word “beaver,” the ad would be approved.

I withdrew the rejected ad and will instead show it on Super Bowl Sunday on the Go Daddy Web site. I've shown that "beaver ad," which stars Danica Patrick and is formally titled “Exposure," to perhaps 30 people. Without exception, everyone thought it was the best and funniest ad we’ve ever done. They all remarked: "what a shame Fox won’t let you show it."

BTW, Danica Patrick will be my guest on Go Daddy Live this Wednesday at 4 p.m. (EST) to discuss the “Exposure” ad and her feelings regarding the word "beaver." It should be a fun and spirited discussion.

(More from BobParsons.com)
Right about now I could use an Excedrin sponsorship. Please.

I Don't Dance

Posted by Iannucci | 1/14/2008 | 2 comments »
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For those of you hoping to see Danica and, say, Maksim Chmerkovskiy getting their mambo on, reader "mmack" forwards this total buzzkill from the Chicago Tribune.

But ask her about 'Celebrity Apprentice'

Fresh from winning the "Dancing With the Stars" television contest, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves recommended some other potential candidates to the show. At the top of the list is fellow IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick, already the most glamorous driver in the series. But Patrick, 25, said "no way" when asked about competing on the show, the Indianapolis Star reported. "I'm telling you, no way." Patrick doesn't think her personality is warm enough for cameras to beam her to more than 20 million people a night, and in a way, she said Castroneves proved that last fall. "His personality is so infectious," she said. "He smiles all the time, he plays to the camera, and he loves [the attention]. I'm a little too serious. People at home would be going, 'What's wrong [with her]?'"
It's OK, stewardess I speak Danica. Allow me to translate; "Am I going on Sleeping With the Stars? Are you effing kidding me? Hello, I'm married! I can't exactly afford an expensive divorce at this point in my career so, no thank you very much."

Shiny New Grill

Posted by Iannucci | 1/12/2008 | 3 comments »
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Mr Wheldon has finally set the record just as straight as his teeth.

"I'm going to be married pretty soon, so as my responsibility of fiancée I thought it might be wise to go to the dentist. It's quite a funny story. When I first turned up at the dentist, the guy first got me in the chair; he's a great guy, Dr. (Jerrold) Resnick. I sat down in the chair and he quite calmly said to me, 'So, when was the last time you were at the dentist?' I said, 'I think in nineteen ninety...'

"At that point he just shook his head and said, 'OK, don't tell me any more.' After doing a quick cleaning and a scan of what was needing to be done, I asked him about a tooth that stuck out. And he said, 'Why don't we just fix your whole mouth? And I said, 'Sure, absolutely.'

"But I didn't realize actually the pain that I was going to go through. I've been to the dentist four or five times (since), and the least time I've been in the chair at one of those appointments is 6½ hours. So it's been a lot of work but he's done a great job. It's still not finished. I still have to go two more times."

(MORE from IndyCar.com)
OUCH! If you can endure that kind of torture then I promise not to say another word about your supernova-white choppers, big guy. For now.

However, four five appointments lasting at least six hours each only serves to confirm my suspicion that the sadist dental professional serving Mr Wheldon is most assuredly a Danica Patrick fan. And speaking of Fanicas, P1's observation upon gazing at pics of Dan's extreme makeover concerned not his dental work but rather his new(est) hairstyle. "He looks like Jesse McCartney" she dryly noted.

Girls, Girls, Girls

Posted by Iannucci | 1/12/2008 | 0 comments »
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This will make three of the last four posts relating to women of the Indy Pro series. Please don't tell our buddy Leilani but I think this one might have the best chance to win this year. Seriously, the girl just got engaged and we wouldn't want to throw off her mojo.

Sam Schmidt Motorsports announced Friday (January 11th) that it has signed 22-year old Brazilian Ana Beatriz [formerly Figueiredo, pronounced Fig-a-re-doh--Editor], aka “Bia,” to drive one of its Indy Pro Series machines for the 2008 season.

Bia hails from São Paulo and has raced since she was eight years of age, meeting great success in Brazil’s karting championships and formula car ladder.

She has three years of experience in the Brazilian Formula Renault series, highlighted with earning rookie of the year honors in 2003 and having three wins and four pole positions in the 2005 season.

The São Paulo Citizen Driver Award was given to her in 2006, and she has been awarded three coveted “Gold Helmet” awards – an award considered to be one of the highest honors in Brazil.

(MORE from IndyProRacer.com)
Yes friends, not only has Bia actually won a few races, but she's racing for Sam Schmidt and she's Brazilian. That's about as close to a sure thing as you can get. Bia Believah!

Swiss Miss

Posted by Iannucci | 1/11/2008 | 3 comments »
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Because if you're a girl and you have a sponsor then we have a ride waiting for you.

Cyndie Allemann, a 21-year-old Swiss born racer who competed in the Formula 3 Euro Series last year, is the new driver for Cape Coral-based American Spirit Racing.

She’ll compete in the 2008 Indy Pro Series, the developmental circuit for the Indy Racing League, which features such stars as Marco Andretti, Helio Castroneves and Danica Patrick.

She raced 10 years in karts, winning Swiss and European championships. The past three years she has raced the formula cars at major racing venues in Europe. Her best finish was 10th last season in Formula 3.

Most of her experience is on road courses. She’s raced on one oval in her life during an event in Germany. That may be her biggest adjustment since eight of the 16 Indy Pro Series races are on the fast tracks, including the first event March 29 at Homestead.

“Indy Pro will be a lot quicker,” said Allemann, knowing she will be hitting straightway speeds of well about 220 mph on the ovals, about 70 mph quicker than what she is used to. “The big thing for me will be the (lack of) downforce on the track.”

(MORE from the News-Press)
I'd say "Welcome" in her native tongue but given that Switzerland has like four offical languages I'm hold off on that. And although she may not be quite hitting 220 mph in an Indy Pro car, the lack of oval experience is a definite red flag. It's too early to pass judgement, but we certainly don't need a Milka Duno in the IPS this year.

UPDATE: IndyCar.com has their own version of the story along with a MUCH more flattering photo.

It's all becoming clearer

Posted by Iannucci | 1/10/2008 | 3 comments »
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After noting this in an internal memo a month ago, ESPN has made the official announcement that at least partially explains Dan Wheldon's extreme makeover.

JANUARY 10, 2007

IndyCar Series Telecasts Elevated to High Definition on ESPN and ABC in 2008

Fans of the IndyCar Series will be treated to a new look for event telecasts in 2008 as ESPN will televise all 16 events of the series in high definition for the first time. ESPN on ABC’s coverage of the 2007 Indianapolis 500 was the first IndyCar Series event ever to be televised in HD.

All cameras used in ESPN’s IndyCar Series coverage will be HD, including in-car cameras and those used in the pits and for other points of view. Included will be an HD onboard camera that can provide a rotating 360-degree view.

“The Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Series are very important to ESPN and our affiliates,” said Bryan Burns, ESPN vice president, strategic business planning and development. “Taking our coverage to the next level with high definition has been a priority for us and the series, and will enhance the breadth of our HD services. We’re happy that sports fans will be able to reap the rewards all season.”

The IndyCar Series will appear on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC in 2008, including seven events on both ESPN2 and ABC and two on ESPN. The networks also will cover Indianapolis 500 qualifying May 10-11 and 17-18, and high definition coverage is extending to ESPN2’s telecasts of the 16 Indy Pro Series races this season.

I don't know if the 360-degree camera is as a result of the interesting footage Dario Franchitti and Marco Andretti provided last season, but seriously...Indy Pro races too! Oh, how my DVR will overfloweth with love.

Fully Engaged

Posted by Iannucci | 1/10/2008 | 1 comments »
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First Dan Wheldon and now the Tree Hugger, although presumably not to each other. From Leilani Münter's MySpace page:

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I got engaged!

Last night after scuba diving with turtles among some of the most breathtaking coral reef I have ever seen, I got engaged to the man of my dreams on the shore of a beautiful beach in Fiji surrounded by crystal clear blue water with fish of every color you can imagine... life is beautiful. I feel like the luckiest woman on Earth. I will post some photos when I get home in a few days!



Congratülations, Leilani! And for all of you single guys out there who have your eye on a special lady, it would seem nothing captures a woman's heart like scuba diving with turtles in Fiji. Who knew?

(Thanks for the heads up, Bash.)

G. Love and Speed Sauce

Posted by Iannucci | 1/09/2008 | 2 comments »
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Hot on the heels of the Helio Castroneves’ victorious season on Dancing With Julianne Hough, here comes former F1 (and future N-Word) backmarker Scott Speed’s YouTube audition for Don’t Forget the Lyrics. At least that’s what this performance of the ubiquitous “Milk and Cereal” (Speed plays the cereal) looks like.

Yeah, I know this was posted before Helio went all Happy Feet, but still...thanks to reader Samantha for directing our attention to this time-waster.

The Blame Game

Posted by Iannucci | 1/08/2008 | 11 comments »
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By now regular readers (as well as unleaded ones) know that the official stance of the My Name Is IRL site is decidedly against the concept of The Merger. I get the impression this puts me in the minority, so if you yourself are of the mind that the IRL should combine it’s operations with a fiscally insolvent and otherwise incompatible product, and if you somehow foresee a resulting increase in value from merging with a series that has spent much of this decade pouring money into exemplifying the lack of demand for racing comprised of unknown foreign ride-buyers driving on road and street courses, then more power to you.

Understand thought that this would make you a Eunuch of Unification, although I still love you, regardless. We can hug it out.

Of course you would not be alone as the company of Eunuchs includes many beat writers who continue to lead the cry of unification, such as John Oreovicz of ESPN.com. With little or no news happening Oreo has fallen back on the old standard of lamenting that open-wheel is held hostage, listing the 11 “culprits” responsible for this interminable split. Now this may be shocking, but a former CART reporter like Oreo doesn’t exactly lay the blame equally at the feet of both CCWS and the IRL. Here’s his quantitative breakdown of those responsible for the separatism.

F1: 1 (#8)
CCWS: 2 (#4, #11)
N-Word: 2 (#5, #9)
IRL: 6 (#1, #2, #3, #6,# 7, #10)

OK, then. Evil IndyCar people. Six out of eleven. Got it.

Well, two can play at this game so how about I give Oreo the sincerest form of flattery by imitating his list with one of my own. While Oreo’s is slanted towards the poor-pitifully-oppressed-Champ-Car-series opinion, mine is of a different nature. Namely, that of the would-that-other-series-please-go-away-so-the-IRL-can-strengthen-it’s-own-product variety. So here are my 11 culprits for perpetuating a split that actually doesn’t bother me one bit.

11. John Oreovicz – So long as he continues to write articles of lamentation (what – you thought this was his first such article?) that Champ Car and the Indy Racing League should hold hands and sing “Kumbaya”, Oreo becomes the equivalent of the band leader on the deck of the Titanic. John, there are plenty of IRL rafts. Feel free to jump before the other ship completely sinks. Again.

10. Paul Tracy – If the PT Barnum show hadn’t manifested itself in conflicts with fellow Champ Car competitors both on and off the track, race fans would have no reason to avoid sleeping during the CCWS broadcasts. If Tracy were just a little less interesting there would in fact be no viewers for that other series other than our good buddy pressdog.

9. Marco Andretti – Oreo can hold Marco’s dad accountable in his list, but this merger nonsense is even less urgent when Andretti 3.0 not only nearly wins the Indy 500 in his first try, but later goes on to become the youngest winner of a top-tier open wheel event in the US at Infineon last year. (Please withhold your Bryan Herta jokes for the time being.) Now the IRL has a young American driver from a famous family who is becoming a formidable racer for a top team, while Champ Car has…

8. Graham Rahal – His father won the Indianapolis 500 and owns an IndyCar series team, so of course Graham races in the CCWS. He’s a fine young driver, but despite racing for the only Champ Car team with any money his debut season ended with zero wins and but 4 podium finishes in 14 races. Oddly enough RLR has but one car this year and is sending out press releases regarding Graham’s non-CCWS ventures. Hmm.

7. George W Bush – From what I’ve read he’s to blame for everything wrong in the world today, so you can’t have a list of blame of any kind without including him, right? Instead of invading Afghanistan and Iraq he could have stayed focused on more pressing domestic matters like the state of open-wheel racing. Come on – America first, George!

6. Paul Page – The man who in my childhood was The Voice of The 500 took a stand when the Indy Racing League formed – against the IRL. After a few years broadcasting CART races Page tried to jump ship, but his over-the-top shtick didn’t stick anymore. Now he’s calling dragsters and street luge. Seriously. Flipping through the channels the other day I was certain I heard him doing competitive eating contests as well.

5. Sebastien Bourdais – Being awesome has it’s advantages, but when you are so awesome as to win nearly every other race you pretty much maximize the boredom factor of your series. He leaves the CCWS with four straight championships but a lot less in winnings than his IRL counterparts like Scott Dixon or Tony Kanaan, although he should be comforted in knowing he was one of a handful of CCWS drivers who got paid at all.

4. Robin Miller – After years of pimping the remains of CART and slamming Tony George, Robin has now taken to slamming both series - while covering their races, of course. His passion is unquestionable, his appeal is undeniable, his reports are unverifiable, and he makes a Champ Car fan like Oreo look downright diplomatic.

3. Paul Newman – My mother always says “When you hate, the only person you hurt is yourself.” Newman would be Exhibit A. Love the salad dressing, like the movies, hate strongly dislike the fact that despite being such a huge racing fan he’s so filed with Tony George Derangement Syndrome he won’t ever come back to Indy. No one wants to see you die a bitter man, Paul.

2. Judge Frank J. Otte – In 2004 the good judge decided that despite having the higher bid for the remains of CART, Tony George’s offer for purchase would be disallowed in favor of the lesser one from OWRS partners. George was reportedly offering $13.5M for the rights to selected races, while OWRS – comprised of three team owners – ended up paying $3.2M for the entire series. And at that price for a debt-ridden, cash-bleeding, race-cancelling mess of a series, it’s been a total bargain. For Tony George.

1. Danica Patrick – Had the raven-haired beauty not had those, uh, interesting pictures taken, and had she not held it together enough to get herself in the lead of the Indianapolis 500 with but a handful of laps to go, and had she not consequently appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated...well, there might have been a sound fiscal argument for merger, right? What’s done is done, and her popularity has made the need for unification rather irrelevant. Rather like these kinds of silly lists.


Posted by Iannucci | 1/07/2008 | 1 comments »
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Champ Car fans can take heart this week because Paul Tracy is not leaving Forsythe or the Champ Car World Series. Rumors abounded in recent weeks that Tracy was headed to the IRL because Jerry Forsythe and his new partner Dan Pettit had asked the 39-year old Canadian to renegotiate his five-year agreement with Forsythe and accept a big pay cut.

But Tracy met with Forsythe last week and emerged from the meeting happier than he's been in a couple of years with the setup at Forsythe. Equally important to Tracy, the question of renegotiating his contract was never raised by Forsythe.

"The result of the meeting is that Kenny Siwieck is now in charge of my car and everything is squared away with me and Jerry," Tracy reported. "Everything is fine between us. I went into the meeting believing that Jerry was going to renegotiate my contract to a very low amount or I would leave. And the conversation never even went that way. It was never brought up."

(MORE from GordonKirby.com)
Thanks to reader Ronald for forwarding this directly.

I'm Not Saying Anything

Posted by Iannucci | 1/07/2008 | 12 comments »
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I'm just posting two pictures.

One of which is courtesy of reader Nancy who recently ran into the one with the whiter teeth at the Rolex testing event in Daytona this past week. She mentioned he was quite friendly and witty, even though something about him looked a bit different.

Quote of the Day

Posted by Iannucci | 1/07/2008 | 2 comments »
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"From the outside looking in, it might look like 'Huh, what are they doing [at RLR]?' But as I said, I'm as excited as I've been in a long time." - Bobby Rahal in Autoweek.

Can't argue with the first part.

Bringing Up Baby

Posted by Iannucci | 1/04/2008 | 3 comments »
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Ed Carpenter hardly ever says anything, which is a bit of a shame since he’s part of the family that owns Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League and he’s probably more wired into IndyCar doings than any other driver. But for whatever reason the IRL stallwart hasn’t been a very talkative guy, at least not publicly. Who knows, maybe he was soured by that whole Danica/Time of the Month debacle.

All of a sudden Ed’s a daddy and a proud one at that, because The Man Who Would Be George has dusted off his keyboard and is flapping his digital gums by setting up a blog about his new daughter Makenna Alayne. Not only that, he’s added LOTS of pictures that look straight outta your family album, if of course your grandpa was Tony George blowing out candles on a birthday cake while holding your newborn self in such a way as to no set your precious little melon on fire. (I’m sure the Delphi Safety Team was at the ready, just in case.)

Seriously though, good for Ed who’s busting out the wit ghostwriting for his daughter.

After only 12 weeks of being in this world, I experienced my first New Year. I heard that New Year resolutions were what you were supposed to do, so i have decided that my resolution is to move out of my bassinet in my parents room, and move into my own room. We will see how it goes, I am a little worried that my parents may get lonely without me next to their bed.
Ed, you big softy. Now we all get see you’re spending the winter strapped with the Baby Bjorn, which is probably not all that different than having an IndyCar strapped to you. Except of course the weight is in the front and the smell can be worse. Oh yes, as a father of four yours truly is quite familiar with the awesomeness of the Bjorn, so you have my sincerest respect for not only exercising your fatherhood but also posting otherwise embarrassing pictures of you and your family in pajamas as well.

Thank you for sharing, Ed. We sincerely appreciate this. Now just tell us why Grandpa Tony is called “H” before someone turns that into an unpleasant epithet.

Oh Canada

Posted by Iannucci | 1/04/2008 | 3 comments »
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Considering this site is entitled My Name Is IRL it should be entirely understandable why there isn’t terribly much discussion of things related to Paul Tracy. The Indianapolis 500 notwithstanding the Canadian driver has never driven in the IRL, and he has never publicly expressed an interest in driving in the IRL. Quite the opposite in fact, and that’s putting it VERY lightly.

But there have been notes made by racing regulars like Robin and Oreo that Tracy has been told by his Champ Car employer that his five-year contract is not likely to be paid (would you please renegotiate, sir?) so the 39-year-old driver is exploring his options. And now Panther Racing says that those options most definitely include the IndyCar series.

Q. John Oreovicz at ESPN has said that if Paul Tracy were to switch to the IRL, Panther would be one of the viable options for him. If PT were to switch, would you guys be interested?
A. (1-3-08) Would we be interested in Paul Tracy? Absolutely. But the word on the street is PT has his sights set on another team, should he elect to join the IndyCar Series. What fans need to keep in mind, though, is that PT is under contract right now.

Q. Any interest in having Paul Tracy in the Panther stable? What are your thoughts on the rumors of him coming over to IRL?
A. (1-3-08) Absolutely we’d be interested in Paul Tracy. But he is under contract with another team. I think his move to the IndyCar Series – with Panther or another team – would be a major score for open-wheel racing and the Indianapolis 500. The biggest question would be: How quickly could the Indy Racing League organize an event in Canada?
Considering he’s quite a bit long in the tooth, the smart money would say Tracy has his eye on a Big Three team. But also considering their rosters are full, the smarter money says he isn’t going to be racing with one of them. As the Panther folks wisely note he is still under contract with Forsythe in the CCWS, so maybe this is just a legal issue that needs to be handled and all of this IRL sniffing is merely to be used as leverage by the only driver of any recognizance in the Other series.

With little else to talk about it’s some fun gossip, but I need to completely disagree with beat writers. If (and that’s a mighty big if) Tracy were to become an IRL regular in 2008 then it would indeed sting the CCWS, but it won’t be the death knell. And conversely while reporters and talking heads would chat up a Tracy defection, when the season got under way the topic would more often than not quickly return to Danica and Helio and Marco and Dixon and Kanaan. Sorry, but unless he does something stupid – and granted, that’s much of where his fame comes from – Tracy would have too much competition for the publicity to be a top name in the IRL.

Perhaps he should consider remaining the big fish in the shrinking pond.

Ten Ways to Beat the Boredom

Posted by Iannucci | 1/02/2008 | 3 comments »
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Happy New Year...and there's still no news. So as an act of commumity service yours truly has found 10 proven ways pass time while sitting at work waiting for the boss to come back from vacation. Enjoy!

1. Find Harry Potter on the Panther Racing site.

2. Marvel at the comprehensive analysis of Bill Vukovich’s death.

3. See how many drivers you can get to be your friend on MySpace.

4. Check out pressdog’s Wishes for 2008.

5. Look for Sammy Shammys or Hornish bobbleheads on eBay.

6. Let Jeff Olson explain why race car drivers make great role models.

7. Listen to super brain Donald Davidson in the WIBC archive.

8. Surf the internet for enjoyable pictures of Julianne Hough.

9. Read Chris Estrada’s heartfelt post about Scott Sharp’s departure.

10. Just watch it all over again.