Obstacle course

Posted by Iannucci | 3/31/2008 | 12 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Just as expected there were haves (as in speed) and have-nots on the track for this historic season opener, where despite the fact that the outcome was decided by one of the have-nots there was actually quite a bit of racing going on. Whereas last year this was a one-car race, this year there were five or six cars battling until the finish. Moreover, like final race of last season the leader with 5 laps to go was not the winner.

That exuberance is not intended to diminish the fact that the Tony Kanaan should have won the race, but given the fact that two months ago we were looking at a completely different entry list, well, this wasn’t entirely unexpected. We knew going in it was going to be an obstacle course of slower traffic, and racing being the luck-based sport that it is meant that it was highly likely a few contenders were going to get caught up in something not of their doing. And so they did, although thankfully none of the incidents were of the eight-car variety.

And really, as much as anticipation as there was in the hopes of someone, anyone challenging the three-time champion on this track, the exciting race was only marginally more important than simply making sure all of these oval newbies left the track on their feet and not a stretcher. You knew more than a few drivers would find their way into the wall since this track can be unkind to even a veteran driver, but to see so few accidents without any major damage was extremely encouraging.

Oh, and by the way it was indeed sponsored by Gainsco Auto Insurance and not XM as ESPN stated. Oops.

The Good

IndyCars, 25 of them, at night, in HD. I may never erase this from the DVR.

This was the Marco Andretti we were warned about years ago. The young, fearless, talented offspring of the offspring still has yet to win on an oval, but no one will come away with negative comments from his performance on Saturday. Even in his miraculous non-wreck of a pass of Scott Dixon to take the lead, 3.0 was showing some major improvements over last year. Is it too late to amend my “small-pox” comment about the series champion?

Much was made of Dan Wheldon – and rightfully so – for starting near the back and tracking down every driver until he finally gained the lead, but teammate Scott Dixon has now led 8 of the last 9 IndyCar series races, winning 5 of those. Read that again – he’s won 5 of the last 9, and he finished second in 2 others. The Iceman is still on fire.

And talk all you want about Wheldon moving from 22nd to a 3rd place finish, but that’s not too different from Ed Carpenter going from 24th to 5th. The Hammer has finished in the Top 6 only four times in 66 career starts, two those being his last two races at Homestead. So the historical stats say it’s only downhill from here.

Buddy Rice, quietly finished 11th. Shh, don’t tell anyone or he might actually get some sponsorship on the D&R sidepods.

Oriol Servia deserves some congratulations for being the highest finishing refugee in 12th, which in this case means finishing 5 laps back. We’ve just had one race and some testing sessions but so far KV racing and not NHL appears to be the class of the refugees.

Despite looking like the free RaceCast from last year but with the all-important driver-crew audio now added, RaceControl worked pretty well for me. I had some issues with the “telemetry” portion, but Will at Is It May Yet? had that working as well and has a nice little review of the gadget. Memo to MediaZone: can we get Marco next race? Please?

The Bad

"I was having such a great race, it was going the way we wanted it to do and I was taking my time out there, working my way through traffic, it was perfect but it's a shame I was in the wrong place at the wrong time."Ryan Briscoe, on getting collected when Milka duno spun out

"When somebody spins and he's doing 230 miles an hour, you're like, 'Where should I go?' I slowed down, he was on the bottom, so I went to the top. Then, all of a sudden he started to go to the top and I was trying to go to the bottom, so there was nothing I could do about it."Tony Kanaan, on trying in vain to avoid Ernesto Viso

"From where I was, it was green, the leaders were going, and all of a sudden everyone just checked up and I nearly got in the wall. It ruined my race. We go over and over and over it in the drivers' meeting - you can't check up once you've started. This is oval racing, not road course racing. You can't do that type of stuff. I didn't know what was up with Tony's car."Ryan Hunter-Reay, on Tony Kanaan staying out on the final restart.

"The ousted chief executive officer of collapsed brokerage Opes Prime Group, Lirim Emini, has been barred from leaving the country, while up to 1200 clients are still in the dark about what will happen to their frozen accounts." – from The Age, stating that Conquest Racing’s sponsor for Enrique Bernoldi and Franck Perera is somewhere in the neighborhood of US$950M in the red.

The Ugly

About a month ago there was no need for IndyCar fans to be concerned with the likes of Oriol Servia and Justin Wilson, but now the need is there. The race on Saturday night was well-contested throughout much of the event, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t plenty of time to squeeze in a couple of 30- or 60-second puff pieces on some of these refugees. And I mean ANY of them.

This isn’t like seasons in the past where there are one or two new faces and they likely aren’t going to be racing near the front anytime soon. Over a third of the field is new, and the only introductions we got were “there’s Graham Rahal standing next to his dad” and a post-incident chit-chat with Will Power. Meanwhile Servia and Franck Perera were moving up near the Top 10 in a race where that actually meant something.

A gentle suggestion for the WorldWide Leader: please profile some of these drivers for us. They might have been embarrassed in the season opener, but starting this Sunday their chances on street and road courses are going to be dramatically better. IndyCar fans are going to be spending a lot of time with drivers like Wilson, Power and Rahal over the next few years, so go ahead and introduce them to us at your earliest convenience. Thank you.

LiveBlog: Homestead 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 3/29/2008 | 12 comments »
Bookmark and Share

It's here - it's finally here! Six months (or 12 years depending upon your point of view) of wandering in the open-wheel wilderness and now we are back to racing! And look, we've brought lots of exclamation points!!

Welcome friends to the historic season opener of the once-and-for-all series, where the goal du jour is simply put on a good show without anyone getting the car or the driver irreparably harmed. Two words that would apply to the refugees' week were they not so insensitively correct: crash course. Let's hope for everyone's sake that we keep that simply a figure of speech.

With the announcements of Vision Racing's infractions that send them to the back of the bus we will now raise the threat level to DanCon Two. She's fast and in the front row, but history is still against here.

Also, before we drop the green flag we need to go to the mailbag.

Hey IndyCar fans, I just wanted to clarify for everyone that my little mishap yesterday was entirely intentional. I hated seeing my fellow Brits Jay, Darren and Justin in the back, and I got to thinking on the warmup that maybe I'd be a more compelling story if I started a bit further back. Chip disagrees, but what's he gonna do - fire me? See you in 300 miles! - D. Wheldon, Emberton, England

And now, it's time to start.

0: FYI, this is the XM Indy 300, not the Gainsco whatever. No wonder I have such trouble finding sponsorship for this site.

1: Start waved off. Completely lacking formation. Actual start is worse. Oh well.

4: Dixon and Kanaan battling for the lead, Wheldon already up to 15th. Sha!

8: Dixon, Kanaan...Marco, Briscoe! Danicker, dropping back to 6th.

9: Wheldon 10th, Quattro up to 14th. Beware.

14: Yikes! Kanaan and Dixon side-by-side, then they split to fly past Mario Moraes. Lapping has ensued at Lap 14.

15: Kanaan now leads Dixon, Andretti, Castroneves, Briscoe...Hunter-Reay!

17: Debris yellow, waiting for proof...and it's Budy Rice's mirror. On RaceControl audio Wheldon - now in 9th - says his "rear is a little loose". That's what she said.

20: Pit stops for everyone! Dixon noses past Kanaan to reclaim the lead, but Mutoh appears to have missed his pit or stalled. What's Japanese for "Son of a..."?

25: Restart and Power and Wilson get closer than friends. Looks like Wilson's got some damage to the left-front wheel but he's rolling off track so no yellow.

28: Power and Wilson both in pits. Day is over for both. Thank you very much, good night!

30: Wheldon in 8th behind Patrick in 7th. Yeah, baby!

31: Bye Danica. Hugs and kisses.

34: Dixon, Castroneves, Kanaan, Briscoe, Andretti. Act shocked.

39: Kanaan and Castroneves are already rubbing tires. Nothing ever changes with these two "friends".

45: Forget what I said, as Wilson is back on track getting lapped. Wheldon passes Briscoe for FIFTH.

47: Dixon, Castroneves, Kanaan, Andretti, Wheldon. Big mover now is Foyt up to 9th.

48: High refugee is Servia in 17th, just ahead of...Milka?

54: Junqueira is out. All I can make out is "REEEALLY REALLLY LOOOOOSE". Otherwise...can we get subtitles with this guy?

57: Dixon, Andretti, Kanaan, Castroneves, Wheldon, Briscoe, Hunter-Reay, Patrick. Nearly lock-stepping.

66: Marco contesting Dixon for the lead. Lifts because of lapped traffic. Meanwhile, Duno has passed Carpenter for 15th. You read that right - she's moving up!

69: Rice 11th, Servia 12th, Perera 13th. You needed to know because Marty wasn't telling you.

72: Andretti gets held up by Mutoh - his teammate - on an extremely slow pit in. Others pitting, lead is changing furiously.

75: Mutoh can not stop Andretti, as he races out and passes Dixon while both were wiggling around. Hairiness as Marco gets about an inch from the wall going around Iceman. Andretti's first lead in over year, with Dixon and Wheldon on his heels.

84: If the drinking term had been "transition" I'd already be passed out.

85: Roth 21st, Howard 22nd, both out. As the late Doug Henning would say, "It was all an illuuuusion."

94: Andretti, Dixon, Wheldon, Castroneves, Kanaan. We are lock-stepping but Marty ain't saying "lock-step". Maybe someone had a word with him about this.

100: Kanaan charges past Helio for 4th. Patrick in 8th is last car on the lead lap. Not much gonna happen until the next pit stop festival.

105: Dixon is now a couple of seconds back in second. You think he's conserving fuel? I mean he lost the championship by what he called "a half a beer can of fuel".

111: The only non-Big Three driver on the lead lap is Hunter-Reay in 7th.

114: About Dixon - Wheldon is around him for second. So no, Scott's not conserving squat.

118: Marco pits, Wheldon and his new teeth now lead. What took you so long, Dan!

123: After eveveryone pits everyone on the lead lap maintains position (mostly). Andretti, Wheldon, Dixon, Kanaan, Briscoe, Castroneves, Hunter-Reay, Patrick. Marty is dying to say "lock-step"!

127: Milka and Briscoe got together, and not in a good way. They are out of their cars and done. Replay shows her losing it and collecting Briscoe. I had Briscoe in my TSO Fantasy League today, so...I'm not pleased with Milkalicious.

129: Listening again on RaceControl, Helio says he wants to "Peet" for fuel only, as well as "remind me to reset the fuel counter, I always forget." This is why I paid the $39. Meanwhile, the #6 is finally on the hook.

132: "Peets" are still closed, so we get to see lots of commercials. Firestone has made another solid prentation. Much Mario, so my viewing is greatly enhanced.

137: Servia 12th, Perera 14th, Wilson 15th, Viso 16th, Moraes 18th, Bernoldi 19th. As Winston Churchill said "When you're going through hell, keep going."

139: Danica employs the tactic of NOT pitting when the leaders pit...and goes a lap down. Excellent strategy there.

142: Green flag and Marco is off to a nearly two-second lead over Wheldon. Dixon, Kanaan, Castroneves are all that are left on the lead lap.

146: Scott Goodyear just used the phrase "lucky dog". Clearly Rusty Wallace has infected his brain.

153: Marty finally breaks out a "lock-step" but he does it as Kanaan and Dixon are side-by-side right behind Wheldon. Uh, that is SO NOT lock-step, pal.

158: Castroneves drops over six seconds back. Perhaps he needed those new Firehawks. This is now a four-horse race with two AGRs and two TCGRs within two seconds of each other.

160: Kanaan goes low and passes Marco for the lead. Yoda busts out some Jedi moves on the Young Skywalker.

164: Arute just called Kanaan's son "Lorenzo". I thought the boy's name was "Leonardo".

166: Marty just called the Target Twins "the dark Ganassi squad". So much for being on Big Chip's Christmas Card list.

170: Still Kanaan, Andretti, Wheldon, Dixon, 17 cars on the track. Just a few more laps and almost everyone rolls it back on the truck.

173: Kanaan pitting for the final splash, Marco and Wheldon dodging traffic.

174: Now Marco comes in. Safely. And out.

177: Wheldon in. Safely. And out. Total radio silence from Dan these last few laps. Focused like a laser, and now Castroneves is leading.

181: Helio pits, Kanaan leads, Patrick in second but she hasn't pit yet. Thank goodness we have computers to keep track of all of this.

187: Brie says "Danica is in her pit box". Hello! Meanwhile Kanaan is up over Marco, Dixon, Wheldon by a couple of seconds. Darren Manning is in 13th. I hadn't mentioned him yet but my beer somehow reminded me to.

192: Viso into the wall...and Kanaan looks like he got collected with a bent front right. Ouch! Viso climbing out safely. Sadly, no RaceControl audio of Kanaan.

194: Kanaan is still leading, under yellow, with only three wheels on the ground. Not a picture the league would market actively.

198: Kanaan peels off, we are green, Scott Dixon takes the lead over Marco and Wheldon.

199: White flag, Dixon. Marco not really close.

200: The Iceman Winith! (Sorry) Andretti, Wheldon, Castroneves, Carpenter(!), Patrick, Hunter-Reay. Kanaan in 8th, 2 laps down, lamenting in the pits.

Well, all things considered the we had a clean race, although I'm positive.. Nariz and the Briscoe Inferno would disagree. At least there was more than one car in the race in the late laps, and the winner was not named "Wheldon". Blame the teeth.

Congratulations to the refugees for hanging in and taking their beatings like men. At St Pete, they may have their vengence. As for your humble host - thank you very much! Good night, Miami!!


Posted by Iannucci | 3/29/2008 | 6 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Late-breaking news from the braintrust at TrackSide Online:

Ed Carpenter and AJ Foyt, IV have been moved to the rear of the field for tonight's race after they "failed post qualifying technical inspection."

Ed will now start 24th, and Foyt, 25th.

(MORE from TSO)
So Tony George's team was in violation of his own series rules, so consequently he finds his teams penalized in his own league. Ladies and gentleman, Brian "Iron Hand of Justice" Barnhart is back!

Fear the Panther

Posted by Iannucci | 3/29/2008 | 6 comments »
Bookmark and Share

While waiting for the IndyCar series to kick off tonight, the junior circuit had quite a go as the first Indy Pro Firestone Indy Lights race of the season provided a surprise winner.

Despite there being well over 20 entries, this season was generally considered to be a two-driver competition between Sam Schmidt's Richard Antinucci and Andretti Green's Rafael Matos. So much for generalizations, as newcomer Dillon Battistini won while his Panther racing teammate Brent Sherman finished third.

Yours truly usually watches these short but awesome races online, but this morning P2 had his first pinewood derby. If anyone has any insight from the race in Homestead beyond the IndyCar.com recap please share it the comments. Thanks, and congratulations to Panther on a solid effort.

Can you see me now?

Posted by Iannucci | 3/28/2008 | 10 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Back in the day when Tony Stewart drove a similar Menards flavor of IndyCar there was a little orange and red mixed to the livery. Absent the offsetting colors, Ed Carpenter's ride must glow in the dark when they turn off the lights in the garage.

(photo courtesy of Vision Racing)

UPDATE: I guess the color makes the car faster, because in a wacky day of qualifying Ed hammered his way up to P2!

Hey there, Rookie!

Posted by Iannucci | 3/28/2008 | 9 comments »
Bookmark and Share

The braintrust at TrackSide Online reports that the rookie list is now official, and it appears the Nigel Mansell rule of “If you haven’t been a regular HERE you’re a rookie, pal” is in full effect. The list:

• Enrique Bernoldi
• Jay Howard
• Mario Moraes
• Hideki Mutoh
• Franck Perara
• Will Power
• Graham Rahal
• Justin Wilson
• Ernesto Viso

There are definitely more proven veterans on that list of rookies, but considering the equipment handed to him I’m going to say this is far and away Hideki Mutoh’s Rookie of the Year award to lose. In fact so convinced am I of this that if Godzilla fails to claim this honor, I will personally congratulate the winner by renaming this site “My Name Is...(insert hypothetical rookie's name)” for a full week next fall. No joke.

And speaking of rookies, grizzled IRL veteran Danica Patrick has a few words of advice.

"We're going to show them the ropes," she said. "They're going to see what it's like out there. They're going to see in practice what it's like, how chaotic it can be and close we run and how often we run that close.

(MORE from Autosport)
According to the same report from TSO, she definitely means it.

Later in the session, (Franck) Perara had found some traffic, but was now unhappy with how the IndyCar Series drivers were passing him. The main issue appeared to be that when someone went around him, they would move back in to his line very quickly. He remembered from the drivers meeting that you aren't supposed to move in front of someone and take away their air.

I wasn't able to see these passes from my vantage point, so it's hard to see if this is a legit complaint, or just a different interpretation of how much room someone really needed to get cleared.

Perara was especially upset with Danica who moved in front of him after making a pass at one point.
Fronkensteen can take a number at the Danica Complaint Desk. Line forms to the right, behind the bloodied carcasses of Dan Wheldon and Jaques Lazier.

Cheat Sheet: Homestead 2007

Posted by Iannucci | 3/28/2008 | 7 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Last season your humble host set forth to try to break down the chances of each driver at every race. A noble effort, but with all of these refugees homey just don’t have the time or the knowledge to replicate this in 2008. So this year we’re going shorter, because if this is a “Cheat Sheet” it’s supposed to be short, right? Exactly.

And so with a new season and truly historic season upon us let’s all say our piece, hug it out, and get down to the business of watching some racing, the likes of which the league hasn’t offered for over six looooooong months. After having so much fun doing a LiveBlog for the season finale in Chicagoland I’ll be back for again for another on Saturday night, this time with more cars, more buzz, and even a new IndyCar Race Control thingy that I’m hoping let’s us hear drivers dropping high-speed F-bombs on each other for only $39.95. Oh yeah, bring it!

Otherwise here are the vitals for the Gainsco Auto Insurance Indy 300 to share with friends, family or even random drunkards.

Favorite: Dan Wheldon. Three straight victories on this track, and mighty convincing ones I might add. Yes, even nosing out Helio here two years ago seemed effortless, so unless those new teeth are an aerodynamic liability there’s no reason to think this won’t result in four-straight wins. At some point they rename it Wheldon Motor Speedway.

Contender: Scott Dixon. Wheldon’s teammate finished second last year, fifth the year before, and even won this race back in 2003. He came within a quarter of a lap of winning the series title last year, so don’t expect a lot of patience. He and Wheldon aren’t above banging wheels with each other, so look for a few cutaways to a visibly pained Chip Ganassi.

Longshot: Vitor Meira. The Mirror Man was fourth in ’05 and ’07, and now Panther Racing is back to the single-car formula that has always proven to be more successful for them. And considering he’s still never won in 76 IndyCar series races he’s probably the longest shot of all. He does however have 7 second-place finishes, so it’s not like the poor guy is untalented.

Driver to Watch: Marco Andretti. Andretti 3.0 pulled off the track last year with a bad case of “evil car”, which unfortunately plagued him more than once on super speedways in his sophomore season. Once again he’s a media favorite as an outside series championship contender, but if that’s going to happen he needs to build on his Top 5 finishes at Michigan and Kentucky late last year.

Danica Threat Level: DanCon 3. While a superspeedway in Miami seems to be just the kind of place for a Princess Party to break out, it needs to be noted that in three tries she has yet to complete this race (although in fairness one of those was due to her entry being withdrawn after the death of her teammate Paul Dana). WARNING: The slippery pit entry here makes a prime location for the “Danica Shuffle”.

Stat of the Day: Helio Castroneves now has 1 Celebrity Dancing title, 0 IndyCar series championships.

Drinking term: “Champ Car”. We expect this angle to be played up a lot by the broadcast team, especially while Dan Wheldon is lapping the field. Can’t wait to see which term (“unified”? “merged?” “absorbed?”) the ESPN broadcast team chooses to describe the festivities.

presssdog says: “Mergification, assimilation, anybody got a spare Dallara? When the yap-yap-yapping is over, look for Danny Wheldon to unleash the new pearly whites in the winner's circle. Focus the rage, Dan! Bonus prediction: The goofy 02/2 NHL/Vision situation will confuse the booth guys more than once. Big question: WHAT props will Jack The Root pull out for the race? Can't wait to see. Let's light this candle.”

Indeed. Our long national nightmare is over. Enjoy the show!

Quote of the Day

Posted by Iannucci | 3/28/2008 | 2 comments »
Bookmark and Share

"Yeah, I'd do it again. But with the benefit of hindsight I'd do some things differently. When we made bad decisions, I tried to correct them with what I thought was best as soon as possible...We shouldn't have done that." - Tony George, discussing the now infamous 25/8 rule that led to CART's ill-fated USA 500.

I don't know many who would argue with that, but in the article in the IndyStar, George also suggest, well, this:

He acknowledged that "IRL" carries a politically charged connotation with many people coming from the Champ Car side. "Maybe we could get back to 'Indy Car World Series,'." George said.

No change is expected before he secures a title sponsor.

George also would like the series champion to receive the Vanderbilt Cup, America's first auto racing trophy. The Cup has gone to Champ Car's champion since 1996, but is unavailable to the IRL until the CCWS bankruptcy case is settled.

What’s really confusing here is that the winner is acting like the loser. The IRL – silly acronym and all – emerged as the victor in the open-wheel war by the fact that it had more fans and a better balance sheet. Sure, that’s almost entirely due to the Indianapolis 500, but so what? It makes little sense to destroy what you’ve made by changing the product’s name and the product’s award, and when not doing that talk about changing the product itself just to appease your old nemesis.

If we hit the WABAC machine to 1995 we can once again read Tony George’s words.

The purpose of the IRL is to provide growth, stability and opportunity for open-wheel, oval track racing. That mission is certainly not intended to harm or control CART.

I felt the long-term protection of the "500" depended on a solid series of top level open-wheel, oval track races. To that end, this league was created because CART provided no long-term guarantees to the "500" or to oval track racing.

Forgive me for getting out of Kumbaya here, but these concessions for the sake of unification are coming at an alarming rate. If we take away the name, the award, and tracks like Phoenix and Michigan and instead add more road courses and more foreign ride-buyers then what exactly do we have? Is this Tony George in charge of CART, but without the turbo-chargers? Holy smokes.

OK, going back to good feelings now. Qualifications are happening today, video is up introducing us to some of the new drivers, and if the rain holds they shall be dropping the green flag in Miami tomorrow night.

FAQ for the Refugee

Posted by Iannucci | 3/27/2008 | 3 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Your humble host is well aware that not only have there been more than a few refugee drivers coming to the ranks of IndyCar in recent weeks, there have also been refugee fans. To you who may disagree with many of the regulars around here about the type of circuit or engine or nosecone used in the IndyCar series I offer an olive branch of sorts. We won, you lost, but that doesn't mean we're going to rub it in your face...no, that's not what I just did. Really. No, I meant that.

Please stop yelling "F-T-G" at the screen so we can continue with the post. Thank you.

In recent weeks I've received a handful of emails from former haters Champ Car fans who have asked with various degrees of, shall we say, disappointment about what in the world if anything is worth watching in the IRL. It is because of these requests that your humble host has produced this informative list of "Frequently Asked Questions" - or as the lazy kids like to say these days "FAQs" - for new fans who are only here because, in the words of Zack Mayo, "I got nowhere else to go!"

Q: The only drivers I know are Danica and Helio. Are they any good?

A: Helio has won the Indy 500 twice (sorry, Mr Tracy) and has 12 wins and 51 Top 5 finishes in 97 IndyCar races. So yes, he’s very good and a threat to win nearly every weekend. Danica, well, she’s up near the front most weekends, but right now she has the same number of wins as you or me.

Q: So he’s good and she’s not?

A: Oh she’s a good driver, she’s just not an elite-level talent yet. She’s often manages to avoid victory by using methods such as her patented “Danica Shuffle” during pit in/pit out laps.

Q: What’s the “Danica Shuffle”?

A: Right before or after a pit stop drivers have to rapidly accelerate or decelerate, right? Well every once in a while Mrs Hospenthal adds a tricky spin maneuver and hand puppet show as part of the pit-in or pit-out lap. So spin around and shake your hands and you too can groove with the “Danica Shuffle”.

Q: So who’s “elite-level”?

A: Helio, Tony Kanaan, and the two guys in the Target cars. Dan Wheldon is Lord of the Oval Rings, and Scott Dixon has won 5 of the 7 IRL road course parades. While you can’t entirely discount the chances of their teammates, barring a small-pox outbreak the 2008 series champion will be one of those four gentlemen.

Q: What about my former Champ Car drivers?

A: They will probably be competitive on road and street courses, and they have an outside shot at the crapshoot that is the Indianapolis 500. Some of them might even score a Top 5 finish on a short-oval track, but with so little time to acquire the engineering know-how required to shave those extra tenths from laps on the superspeedways they have no chance this year at places like Homestead, Kansas, Kentucky and Chicagoland. Sorry.

Q: Why do these cars sound so different?

A: The engines are without turbo chargers, just as God intended them to be.

Q: But they’re so loud I can’t hear the person sitting next to me.

A: This is a race track, not a conversation bar.

Q: Well why do they smell so different?

A: They’re running on ethanol, which is made from corn. Mmmm, popcorn.

Q: And what’s up with that ugly needle-nose car?

A: Admittedly it’s less than perfect, but at least that needle nose STAYS ON, pal!

Q: And where did the hottie grid girls go?

A: Back to work at Hooters. Again, sorry.

Q: Why should I even care about oval-racing?

A: Because - now pay close attention - there’s actual passing on the track. As a Champ Car fan you may have heard of this phenomenon but never actually witnessed it. I tell you it’s fun-tastic!

Q: Even though I don’t like oval racing, is there any event – and don’t say Indy – that might change my mind?

A: Texas. CART pulled out of Texas Motor Speedway when their turbo-charged beasts started giving the drivers vertigo, but in the wonderful world of normally aspirated engines the racing at this track is unbelievable. Especially at night.

Q: I still think road and racing is better.

A: That’s fine. Watch the single-file parade at Mid-Ohio and get back to me on that, will ya?

Q: Whatever. What’s the best non-oval on the schedule?

A: Uh, maybe Detroit. They repaved and revamped the circuit racing through Belle Isle and last year’s debut was actually quite a fun race.

Q: So a former Champ Car driver could win that race then?

A: You bet, especially if that group includes Ryan Briscoe.

Q: Well, I still hate Tony George.

A: Then take solace that his Vision Racing team has yet to win a race. In the meantime I would hope you find a driver you do like, because judging from the number of refugee teams and non-oval races in the IRL it would appear your beloved Champ Car hasn't just died - it's gone to a better place.

Minus One

Posted by Iannucci | 3/27/2008 | 7 comments »
Bookmark and Share

If you haven’t read this anywhere yet, well, read it here first!

Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver Graham Rahal, 19, will not compete in the IndyCar Series season opener this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway after his team was unable to repair damage to his car in time.

Rahal, the son of three-time CART champion and 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, damaged one of the team's new Dallara chassis in a crash at Homestead on Tuesday night during the final day of a two-day test for Champ Car teams switching to the Indy Racing League. Because former Champ Car teams just recently took delivery of their new equipment, spare parts are at a premium. A Newman/Haas/Lanigan statement said that the team will focus on rebuilding Rahal's car for a test at Sebring International Raceway on April 1, prior to the St. Petersburg street race on April 6.

(MORE from Autoweek)
NHL didn’t dominate Champ CART all those years by being stupid. Rahal is undoubtedly the most recognizable name on the refugee list, so even if the team were able to cobble a car together it would make little sense to throw an unproven oval driver into an untested car. Bad things can happen at Homestead, and this timeout for Graham is undoubtedly the best option for him, his team and the entire league.

Also, Champ Car fans lamented last year how Graham's age was constantly mentioned by the media, so don't feel alone if you begin to wonder if his name is in fact "Graham Rahal, 19".

What to drink, where to watch

Posted by Iannucci | 3/26/2008 | 11 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Chris Estrada has alerted us to a potentially LARGE development mentioned in the Sports Business Journal.

Sources say the IRL is close to finalizing a deal that would make DirecTV the presenting sponsor for the league's top circuit, the IndyCar Series. It is uncertain how DirecTV would be integrated into the name and logo of the series. IndyCar still is searching for a title sponsor as well. Both the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights open their seasons Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Meanwhile, the IRL is also expected to announce this week that Coca-Cola will become the circuit's official soft drink.
If you remember "Northern Light" as the previous series sponsor when it was briefly the "IRNLS", please raise your hand...OK, now put it back down before people start looking at you.

UPDATE: As of Thursday morning the Indianapolis Business Journal blog The Score says "The Indy Racing League late yesterday finalized a deal worth $3 million annually over the next few years that will essentially make DirecTV the series’ presenting sponsor...With the massive exposure IRL officials expect DirecTV to bring to the table, Just Marketing’s hunt for a title sponsor just got easier. Just Marketing officials said they “are getting closer every day” to signing a title sponsor."

You can't believe everything you read on a blog (ahem), so let's wait for the official announcement.

Canada defeats Brazil

Posted by Iannucci | 3/26/2008 | 9 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Now that all of the Homestead testing is completed - including a minor brush with the wall by Rahal 2.0 - the final combined test results can be posted. And let me say I was unaware that we are all living in a world where Marty Roth is faster than Vitor Meira. And Helio Castroneves. And Tony Kanaan. And any other Brazilian IndyCar driver you care to mention.

Unless I have my numbers worng, here is the best of the best from this past month of tests at Homestead. As before, refugees in bold.

Name - Best Lap Time, Best Lap Speed
1. Dan Wheldon - 25.0619 seconds, 213.312 mph
2. Scott Dixon - 25.0660, 213.277
3. Danica Patrick - 25.0772, 213.182
4. Ryan Briscoe - 25.0920, 213.056
5. A.J. Foyt IV - 25.1059, 212.938
6. Marty Roth - 25.1200, 212.818
7. Helio Castroneves - 25.1211, 212.809
8. Tony Kanaan - 25.1227, 212.796
9. Hideki Mutoh - 25.1463, 212.596
10. Marco Andretti - 25.2465, 211.752
11. Jay Howard - 25.2560, 211.672
12. Ed Carpenter - 25.2691, 211.563
13. Vitor Meira - 25.3520, 210.871
14. Buddy Rice - 25.3716, 210.708
15. Ryan Hunter-Reay - 25.3934, 210.527
16. Oriol Servia - 25.4360, 210.175
17. Enrique Bernoldi - 25.4470, 210.084
18. Graham Rahal - 25.4920, 209.713
19. Justin Wilson - 25.4930, 209.705
20. Will Power - 25.5470, 209.261
21. Franck Perera - 25.5560, 209.188

22. Milka Duno - 25.5604, 209.152
23. Ernesto Viso - 25.5680, 209.089
24. Darren Manning - 25.5932, 208.884
25. Bruno Junqueira - 25.6230, 208.641
26. Mario Moraes - 25.8420, 206.873

Suddenly, Roth is a very tempting pick for the TSO Fantasy League team.

New name, new logo

Posted by Iannucci | 3/26/2008 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Judging from the air intake in the logo, these won't be turbo-charged anytime soon.

Pairing open-wheel racing's past and present to help mold the sport's future, the Indy Racing League and Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC announce an agreement which sees the Firestone brand assume title sponsorship of the Indy Racing League's official development series and re-establish the series name as Firestone Indy Lights.

"This is a fresh start driven by tradition," said Al Speyer, Executive Director of Motorsports, BFNT. "Our company has a long history of supporting the development of talent in the open-wheel ranks; this will be our 18th consecutive year doing so. With the unification of open-wheel racing, we thought it the perfect time to merge the excitement of the IRL's growing support series with the rich history of Firestone Indy Lights."

(MORE from IndyCar.com)
OK, it's "a fresh start", but is it "a cleaner sheet of paper"?

IRL Word of the Day: Robin

Posted by Iannucci | 3/26/2008 | 2 comments »
Bookmark and Share

1. a well-known and controversial auto racing reporter, who often gives opinions in place of news or cites unnamed sources for statements that eventually prove untrue
2. a statement that enthusastically presents as fact an event that has not yet happened

"My Name Is IRL totally pulled a Robin with that Pablo Donoso story."

Open-wheel veteran Pablo Donoso will compete fulltime for SWE Racing in the Indy Pro Series for the 2008 season, the team has announced.

The Chilean will occupy one of the team’s two seats beginning with this week’s season-opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the team hopes to campaign another car following the 100-mile event.

(MORE from WhoWon)

As a public service

Posted by Iannucci | 3/25/2008 | 6 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Now that the IndyCar.com site has been updated (and thanks to those folks for resisting the urge to make the video automatically start so it crashes everybody's computers) a few folks have been asking where in the world the Timing and Scoring went. I don't know where they moved it, but you can still find working versions here or here.

This racing geek has got your back.

It must be Tuesday

Posted by Iannucci | 3/25/2008 | 6 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Forgive me if I’m feeling overwhelmed, because there’s so much to talk about here with racing starting in JUST FOUR DAYS!

First off, everyone is a-twitter about Marty Roth being on top of the scoring pylon after last night’s testing at Homestead. Roth and teammate Jay Howard posted speeds over 210 mph, while none of the 8 CCWS refugee racers could manage above 209 mph. Before thinking that suddenly Roth will be running up at the front you should take a breath and look at last year’s qualification speeds, where Roth was at 209 and Dan Wheldon was over 214 mph.

So although a year later Roth has found a little more speed, this is more indicative of how difficult it’s going to be for the refugees to tweak their cars to a competitive level. All of the technology at the disposal of even the NHL team – who may or may not have skipped the Sebring test for some shaker rig excitement – can’t change the fact that they’ve only been testing these Honda/Dallaras for about two weeks. That speed just ain’t happening in a month, and those teams would probably agree it’s not worth risking the equipment to find it.

That said, congratulations to Roth for the improvement. We shall see if he can hold them off for another round of testing tonight.

Meanwhile, Craig Gore of Team Australia unleashed quite the Press Release yesterday. In summary, his response to Derrick Walker’s threat of a lawsuit is essentially “Bring It!” Gore – who took his sponsorship and Ricky Bobby look-alike driver to KV Racing Technology – not only says he’s paid Walker, but Walker owes him. Here are some fun highlights.

Derrick provided me with an unacceptable budget and costings with nefarious funding schedules to continue in 2008...

(Derrick Walker) was insistent on operating the team from Walker Racing premises and his conditions of funding were ludicrous, fanciful and self-serving to say the least.

I look forward to any court action Derrick Walker may take. I relish the opportunity to have my day in court.

(READ the whole thing)
Gore also uses fun words like “nefarious” and “vexatious”, which although colorful are substantially less than Kumbaya. Come one guys, if Rahal and Sharp can get things settled you can do the same. We’ve got a green flag to drop in a few says, so as Ari Gold says: “Let’s hug it out...”

Oh and lastly it’s Danica Patrick’s birthday. She's 26 today, and now that there is a minimum weight requirement for all cars INCLUDING the driver she can have all the cake she wants. Unfortunately, that doesn't make her happy.

"If someone's going to take the hit it's going to be me," Patrick said Thursday. "It's disappointing the league decided to do that. In so many other sports, athletes don't get penalized for being too strong, or too tall or too fast.

"(It's) just your God-given stature is being penalized. What am I going to do, though? It's not my decision. That's the people higher up (who) made their bed, and they've got to lay in it."

(MORE from USAToday)
Someone get her a hanky, please. Seriously, The Princess of the Pavement may be deeply upset about this issue but I'm certainly not. If this is what it takes to get an IndyCar driver in an IndyCar firesuit written about in USAToday then I say "Bring it!"

Talk to the Oreo

Posted by Iannucci | 3/24/2008 | 2 comments »
Bookmark and Share

ESPN.com is bringing out the big guns for opening week, as Danica Patrick's chat today will be followed on Tuesday by motorsports heavyweight John Oreovicz. Now before you scoff at that, might I remind you of Mr Oreo's words on this very site in January before the unification announcement.

"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." – John Oreovicz, 1/21/2008
That's right, he called his shot right on at 26 cars. Bravo Mr Oreo, or should we say Mr Oreocle? Chat is Tuesday at 3pm EST.

Nickname knickknacks

Posted by Iannucci | 3/24/2008 | 7 comments »
Bookmark and Share

There’s less than a week remaining before the season opener (hang on, that phrase requires a five second Snoopy Dance) and yet we still have some unfinished business in the nickname department. An epic surge of refugees has left your humble host scrambling, but thanks to the kind participation of the audience we are nearly mostly caught up.

With so little time remaining to help determine race-appropriate monikers for these five full-timers, an executive decision is being made to expedite the process. Sorry gentlemen, but you show up late and this is what you get.

Enrique “Rico Suave” Bernoldi – He probably started racing when the song by Gerardo was released, and since he previously raced in Formula One he needs a foreign-sounding, high-fashion-type of nickname.

Bruno “Junky” Junqueira – This one has been around a while, and when you’ve had some success like Bruno has you can get away with this kind of nickname without it being derogatory.

Mario “Eminem” Moraes – Admittedly, I know nothing about him other than he shares the same initials as Marshall Mathers. If you've got something better go ahead and throw it out there.

Marty “Moto Marty” Roth – According to Roth’s bio, from 1975-1982 he raced “various forms of motorcycles”. After nearly 20 years of open-wheel competition, Marty still occasionally gets stuck at motorcycle speed.

Ernesto “Darkslide” Viso – Watch this cringe-inducing video of Ernesto last year and tell me again how road courses are gentler on the equipment. He didn't exactly complete the skateboard maneuver with his GP2 car, but he gets the nickname for surviving the attempt.

So there we are, nearly ready for Saturday. If the comments reflect a better suggestion it will be considered by then, but for now like these drivers we’ve gotta run with what we’ve got.

New math

Posted by Iannucci | 3/24/2008 | 4 comments »
Bookmark and Share

When we last left the IndyCar series, Dario Franchitti was accepting the series championship from IRL Interim President Jack Arute right before Dario took both the ICS title and his mad driving skills to tin top racing. Little did Mr Judd know that had he remained in the IRL his win total would jump from 8 to 18 without turning another lap, placing him near the record for most wins of any active driver.

The reason is due to fact that as part of the absomergification the IRL "will purchase various non-tangible assets, such as intellectual property and historic records", which means all of those Champ Car accomplishments are now somehow affiliated with the Indy Racing League.

So as a public service My Name Is IRL has painstakingly poured through the (ahem) voluminous records, realizing that Sam Hornish Jr's IndyCar series record of 19 wins is suddenly very much in jeopardy. Here are the adjusted career stats now including both IndyCar and Champ CART races.

18 wins:
Helio Castroneves (176 starts)

13 wins:
Tony Kanaan (174 starts)
Dan Wheldon (80 starts)

11 wins:
Scott Dixon (118 starts)

8 wins:
Bruno Junquiera (105 starts)

4 wins:
Justin Wilson (55 starts)

3 wins:
Buddy Rice (81 starts)

2 wins:
Ryan Hunter-Reay (49 starts)
Will Power (30 starts)

1 win:
Marco Andretti (31 starts)
Oriol Servia (125 starts)

Ryan Briscoe (21 starts)
Ed Carpenter (65 starts)
AJ Foyt IV (65 starts)
Darren Manning (60 starts)
Vitor Meira (76 starts)
Hideki Mutoh (1 starts)
Danica Patrick (47 starts)
Graham Rahal (14 starts)
Marty Roth (9 starts)

Enrique Bernoldi
Jay Howard
Mario Moreas
Franck Perera
Ernesto Viso

For what it's worth, should Paul Tracy get a ride he's in possession of 31 Champ CART wins, which would far and away make him the IRL's active leader in victories. And I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Wake up with Danica

Posted by Iannucci | 3/24/2008 | 3 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Get ready to have a chat with Mrs Hospenthal at ESPN.com this morning at 10:30 AM Eastern today. Ask here burning questions such as:

1. What are you wearing?
2. Now that he's married, does this mean you won't be quarreling with Dan Wheldon anymore?
3. What are you NOT wearing?
4. Is it true you had Scott Sharp thrown out of IndyCar for having a better looking car than you?
5. How's the beaver?

But whatever you do, DON'T ask her when she's going to win.

UPDATE: Danica must be pumped to start the season, because she jumped the gun 10 minutes early, answering questions at a furious rate. We're talking 50 questions in a half hour. "It's a new track record!"

Of note (and I am NOT making these up):

Wendell (Liverpool, UK): How do you improve on a part of your driving - do you have any secrets?

Danica Patrick: (10:40 AM ET ) To improve, you have to focus on it and face your fears. A lot of times when you're not good at something it's because your afraid. My secret is I wash my face at night and wear lotion.

Jeff (Iowa): Danica, I bet Dan Wheldon wears lotion, too.

Danica Patrick: (10:42 AM ET ) Not sure. I do know he has an extensive of Aveda products. You can ask him.

Jordan (Slinger, WI): Would you consider being an aynalyst after your career?

Danica Patrick: (10:44 AM ET ) If it's about something in the fashion world. I have a hard time analysing or criticising things that I don't know a lot about or aren't an authority in. But who knows.

Robert (Raleigh NC): Could you beat Ricky Bobby? And if you tied, would that make 11?

Danica Patrick: (10:52 AM ET ) Ricky Bobby is mentally weak.

...oh man, is it Saturday night yet?

They are not Pros anymore

Posted by Iannucci | 3/21/2008 | 5 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Curt Cavin just casually dropped this today.

...The IRL is changing the name of its Indy Pro Series to Firestone Indy Lights. The name "Indy Lights" was used from 1986 to 2001, with Paul Tracy, Tony Kanaan, Cristiano da Matta and Scott Dixon among its champions...

(MORE from IndyStar.com)
This is probably less confusing since "Indy Pro" didn't designate the highest echelon of competition. Then again "Lights" makes it sound like they're running a bunch of go-karts, so I'll just say Thank You to Firestone for their support and leave it at that.

IPS = FIL? Man, I really dislike acronyms.

Cavin also mentioned the slogan for the IndyCar series has been modified to "I am Indy. One series. All the stars." My, how very Ernest Hemingway of them. Forgive me though if I see the inclusion of the word "Stars" and think some marketing genius thought this was a subtle way to cash in on the "Dancing With..." phenomenon of this past winter. Whatever sells tickets, I suppose.

Eight days until racing, friends.

We're all road course specialists now

Posted by Iannucci | 3/21/2008 | 4 comments »
Bookmark and Share

After Day 2 of the refugee testing at Sebring one thing is now blatantly obvious: Scott Goodyear is forbidden from ever using the term "road course specialist" in describing any driver in the IRL. Clearly there's nothing "special" about any of these drivers on road courses, since nearly all of them we brought up racing on these twisty deals for many, many years.

No, now we live in a bizarro world where we have "oval specialists" like Ed Carpenter and Sarah Fisher, for whom USAC gently weeps. Anyhow, here are the combined Sebring final results with refugees in bold.

1. Ryan Briscoe (52.4202 seconds; 114.689 mph)
2. Helio Castroneves (52.4531)
3. Oriol Servia (52.7035)
4. Tony Kanaan (52.8609)
5. Will Power (52.9451)
6. Hideki Mutoh (52.9513)
7. Dan Wheldon (53.0131)
8. Scott Dixon (53.0286)
9. Marco Andretti (53.2452)
10. Enrique Bernoldi (53.2843)
11. Franck Perera (53.3159)
12. A.J. Foyt IV (53.3477)
13. Ryan Hunter-Reay (53.4570)
14. Danica Patrick (53.5015)
15. Vitor Meira (53.5217)
16. Darren Manning (53.5611)
17. Buddy Rice (53.6051)
18. Bruno Junqueira (53.6552)
19. Jay Howard (53.8033)
20. Mario Moraes (53.9831)
21. Ed Carpenter (54.1869)
22. Marty Roth (54.4976)
23. Milka Duno (56.4081)

Lap times this close almost warrant excitement for the competitive possibilities on road courses during the 2008 season. Now, all they need to do is figure out how to pass each other.

The number 26

Posted by Iannucci | 3/20/2008 | 5 comments »
Bookmark and Share

The entry list for the IndyCar Series opener has been released, and lo and behold we have 26 cars. Oh happy day!

Of note, please welcome Ernesto Viso, who will be driving for HVM racing (a.k.a. The Artists Formerly Known As Minardi). Also notice that Milka Duno and not tag-team partner Townsend Bell will be at the helm of the second D&R entry. Ernesto and Milka are mentioned together not only because they are both hail from Caracas but also in case anyone would like to make a prediction as to which Venezuelan has the best season.

My pick is Johan Santana.

Also, please note a foul needs to be called on the N/H/L team for taking the numbers "02" and "06" for their entries. Guys, this may not be Champ CART but it's still very much open-wheel racing; save the aught-anything numbers for the N-word. Really, this is no way to start our Kumbaya, especially when "12" and "16" are not being used.

As fans we implore you to please rectify this situation before we find ourselves referring to your drivers as Dale Rahal Jr and Buckshot Wilson. Thank you.

In case you have $1.2M to spare

Posted by Iannucci | 3/20/2008 | 9 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Forget what you have heard about ride-buying, ride-auctioning is the wave of the future. Check this eBay listing .

ATTENTION MOTOR ENTHUSIASTS AND MARKETING STRATEGISTS!!! This is a once in a lifetime offer to own an Indianapolis 500 race car driven by motorsports hall of famer Jeff Ward. IMS llc would like to offer the 2008 Indianapolis 500 as an international marketing opportunity for you or your company at a fraction of the price it would normally cost to be involved. This is a special ONE TIME APPEARANCE by Jeff Ward and by far the most visible open wheel race of the season. This opportunity would be similar to backing a NASCAR for the Daytona 500 race only or advertising in the Superbowl as opposed to the entire NFL season.

Our driver Jeff Ward has finished top three 3x's in his career... almost winning it his last year and being Rookie of the Year previously. Currently, new circumstances have enabled Jeff's team to be very competitive. There is a very good chance Jeff will win the race this year.

In addition, you or your company will receive a VIP hospitality suite. Pick what you would like here and let us know http://www.imshospitality.com/500/ : Along with the VIP experience you will also receive 600 tickets to the race, a tour of the paddock to meet and greet the drivers, and KEEP THE CAR!!! Don't let this opportunity pass by... imagine an actual V12 engine Indy Car in your driveway painted to your specifications.... or how about taking it for a spin with potential clients at the local track? The marketing capabilities are endless.. Please Message for any additional information.
Umm, excuse me while I scratch my head in confusion. It appears you get to back the driver, but there's no way you would get to "KEEP THE CAR" he runs this year. Well, maybe you could retain the Dallara chassis, but not leased Honda motor (which by the way is a V8 and not a "V12"). That's not how Honda rolls.

Perhaps the keeper car of which they speak is the G-Force/Oldsmobile pictured here that Ward drove to a 24th place finish in 2001, and by the way Jeff actually finished in the Top Three twice, not three times. He did make the Top Five three times though ('97, '99, '00) which is none too shabby for a motocross racer. But let's not let facts get in the way of an excitingly confusing marketing strategy, OK?

Buy It Now price is US $1,200,000.00 - just be sure to ask for clarity on what is included for that gracious sum. Especially that part about a "very good chance" to win.

UPDATE: Well, after a few hours the auction has been removed. Guess we'll have to spend that money on getting a life.

My viewing is enhanced

Posted by Iannucci | 3/20/2008 | 14 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Looks like there's a promising replacement this year for The Indy Insider called "Up To Speed", and to paraphrase Helio Castroneves, "THEES EES WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT!!"

I about fell over when she asked Arni "Are you mad that I took your job?"

You can check out the new IndyCar.com of which she speaks here.

The horses are on the track

Posted by Iannucci | 3/19/2008 | 15 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Today marks the first day of refugee Dallara testing at the road course at Sebring, so if you have nothing better to do you can follow along online with Timing & Scoring at IndyCar.com.

Note that the esteemed Newman/Haas/Lanigan team with drivers Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal will NOT be participating today, allegedly because of a parts shortage. That's definitely not a good sign considering the season starts in 10 days. 10 DAYS, PEOPLE!

For now an eye will be kept on the happy six drivers actually there. The less Champ-ish IndyCar teams practiced earlier this month on the same track, so just for reference here were their top lap times.

1. Ryan Briscoe (52.4202 seconds; 114.689 mph)
2. Helio Castroneves (52.4531)
3. Tony Kanaan (52.8609)
4. Hideki Mutoh (52.9513)
5. Dan Wheldon (53.0131)
6. Scott Dixon (53.0286)
7. Marco Andretti (53.2452)
8. A.J. Foyt IV (53.3477)
9. Ryan Hunter-Reay (53.4570)
10. Danica Patrick (53.5015)
11. Vitor Meira (53.5217)
12. Darren Manning (53.5611)
13. Buddy Rice (53.6051)
14. Jay Howard (53.8033)
15. Ed Carpenter (54.1869)
16. Marty Roth (54.4976)
17. Milka Duno (56.4081)

Yes friends, the Briscoe Inferno is already heating up.

UPDATE: As of the lunch break the best time is by Oriol "El Matador" Servia at 55.3853, which would be directly behind Marty Roth(!) on the speed chart. It appears only Servia and Bruno Junquiera have come close to honestly attempting a lap thusfar.

At least the refugees have some fetching paint schemes.

UPDATE 2: As noted in the comments, Ricky Bobby was in "Shake and Bake!" mode, besting even the Target Twins on his first day.

Will Power (52.9685)
Bruno Junquiera (53.2339)
Oriol Servia (53.6035)
Franck Perera (53.6456)
Mario Moraes (56.6644)
Enrique Bernoldi (no laps)

It's encouraging and not entirely unexpected, given similar performances by Darren Manning and Ryan Hunter-Reay in recent years that show the equipment doesn't have to provided by Penske, Ganassi or Andretti for a driver to be competitive on the road circuits.

That said, expect a completely different comparison when these teams practice next at the superspeedway at Homestead. Not only will many of these drivers be getting their first taste of oval racing, but they may dial it down a touch just to avoid bringing the car back on the hook.

If you drive a car I'll tax the street

Posted by Iannucci | 3/19/2008 | 8 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Zappatista has pointed out an eye-opening article in the Indianapolis Business Journal that explains how the property taxes in Marion County, Indiana are getting more than a little wacky.

In 2005, assessors valued the 559-acre Indianapolis Motor Speedway at $34.4 million for property tax purposes. According to the latest figures from the Marion County reassessment, it now has a market value of $170 million.

If the new assessment stands, the track’s annual gross property tax bills would increase fivefold, to more than $5 million, assuming tax rates remain constant.

Track spokesman Fred Nation expressed surprise that Marion County had assigned a $170 million property tax value to “a piece of land with a bunch of grandstands around it.”

(MORE from IBJ.com)
Five million bucks would just about pay for another race team. Just sayin'. Anyhow, if you notice things being a little more expensive for your annual trip to IMS, now you have a better idea why.

Oh Canada

Posted by Iannucci | 3/18/2008 | 7 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Well, this is interesting.

Andretti Green Promotions, LLC announced today it has signed a letter of intent to purchase the assets of the Grand Prix Association of Toronto Corp.

The letter, which is dated March 14, 2008, runs through a period ending on April 30, 2008.

Andretti Green Promotions, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Andretti Green Racing, will begin a process of due diligence immediately to determine if it will proceed to the next step, which would be to enter into a purchase agreement with the Grand Prix Association of Toronto.

The Grand Prix Association of Toronto owns and operates the Grand Prix of Toronto, which has been a mainstay in the North American Indy racing landscape since 1986 and also saw events in 1977 and 1978.

While many of you may know that Andretti Green Promotions is responsible for putting on the IRL shindig on the streets of St Petersburg, you may not know who comprises Grand Prix Association of Toronto. I believe that association would include Mr Kalkhoven and Mr Forsythe, two names you you have seen more than a few times in recent weeks.

Is this a case of selling a less-than profitable event to pay some other bills or is it simply another form of divesture from open-wheel racing by the former "leadership" of Champ Car? Hey, I don't know - I'm just a blogger.

What I do know is if Andretti Green Promotions agrees to purchase those assets then you can pretty much bank that the event will be on the 2009 docket. That would bring us that much closer to that 50-50, twisty-oval schedule we keep hearing about.

Conquest Racing, Grand Prix of Toronto...what league is this again?

UPDATE: pressdog reports on the streptoroadacoccus outbreak.

Another Conquest

Posted by Iannucci | 3/18/2008 | 10 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Send another free basket of goodies to the Conquest Racing team, this time in the name of Enrique Bernoldi.

The former Formula One driver will join Franck Perera for testing on the Sebring International Raceway circuit March 19-20, the team announced.

Bernoldi will drive the No. 36 Dallara/Honda/Firestone, beginning in the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Perera was named last month to drive the No. 34 car for the team that is transferring from the Champ Car World Series.

(MORE from IndyCar.com)
That F1 experience includes 28 starts in 2001 and 2002 with a highest finish of 8th. And in case you were wondering, yes he's Brazilian.

This brings the official refugee total to eight. Is eight enough?

The more the merrier

Posted by Iannucci | 3/17/2008 | 7 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Looks like another media announcement is forthcoming this week.
Dale Coyne Racing will announce its 2008 driver lineup Wednesday, March 19 during an Indy Racing League teleconference that also features ESPN/ABC announcers Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear, IMS Productions President Charlie Morgan and Indy Pro Series driver Richard Antinucci.

Dale Coyne Racing will field a two-car team in the IndyCar Series in 2008 after competing in Champ Car since 1984.

It is believed that Coyne will announce two drivers for the entire ICS schedule, and those drivers will be Bruno Junqueira and Mario Moraes - both of who hail from (where else) Brazil. It is not believed that "Mario Moraes" is actually Paul Tracy in disguise.

(Thanks to Will at Is It May Yet? for the alert.)

Sorry Ladies

Posted by Iannucci | 3/17/2008 | 4 comments »
Bookmark and Share

This just in: Dan Wheldon is now a married man.

...but not to this young lady, who is already married to someone else.

Perhaps the hyper-competitive Well Done one made this decision after noticing he finished fourth in the 2007 ICS championship to Dario Franchitti (married), Scott Dixon (engaged, now married) and Tony Kanaan (married). Then again, maybe it's true love.

At any rate, congratulations to the happy couple!

Say My Name

Posted by Iannucci | 3/17/2008 | 10 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Thank you all for the entertaining suggestions, and I'm glad to see you have as much fun with these as I do. Here are the winners, and we expect the ESPN and IMS Radio people to adopt these immediately...right!

Jay “Hot Rod” Howard – Not only because it invokes the Rod Stewart vibe, but also because every sporting series needs a guy nicknamed “Hot Rod”.

O-Ryan “The Hunter” Reay – Because that’s about as good as this will get.

Hideki “Godzilla” Mutoh – Self-explanatory, and for the race at Motegi it will be changed to “Gojira” because we’re culturally sensitive like that.

Franck “Fronkensteen” Perera – When ESPN does his bio they need to have Edgar Winter playing in the background. This is not open for discussion.

Will "Ricky Bobby" Power - As appealing as "Willpower” is, you can't deny he does in fact look more than a bit like the Will Ferrell character. Plus I can feel the comments section filling up with "Shake and Bake!" and "If you ain't first you're last!" already.

Graham “Rahal 2.0” – If for no other reason than it indirectly manufactures a rivalry with Andretti 3.0. And besides, as someone in the comments pointed out he’s probably heard “cracker” since he was in grade school, which admittedly wasn’t very long ago. Now, if we can just get him to grow a mustache.

Oriol “El Matador” Servia – El matador ha perdido muchas veces, pero él todavía compite admirable.

Justin “The Cajun Sheff” Wilson – He still resembles a giraffe, but the fact that he was born in Sheffield sealed the deal.

As an addendum, Mr Carpenter will henceforth be referred to as “Hammer” because his hobby is rebuilding houses and he’s had prominent collisions with popular series starts like Helio and Danica. And considering the possibility that he’s going to run the league someday, it’s probably in our best interest to give him a name with some authority.

Also, as tempting as it is to stick Helio with “Happy Feet” or “Twinkle Toes”, he’s still "Spiderman". Scaling the heights is his thing, as evidenced by the fact that when he won the National Dance-Off the first thing he did was climb the nearest large object, which just so happened to be Cameron Mathison. It’s who he is, and it’s what he does.

Love and hate in the time of Ethanol

Posted by Iannucci | 3/17/2008 | 4 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Sherman, set the WABAC machine about 10 years to when the IRL was in it’s infancy. Check out the standings for the 96-97 extended season or the 1999 season and you’ll see the drivers at the top were powered by one of the dominant entries of the league’s infancy: the Menards team.

Yes Menards, the same hardware store that now sponsors the founder’s son Paul in a racing series to be discussed later. Now Robin says Menards is coming back to the IRL as a sponsor (though not a team owner) and will be backing Vision Racing’s Ed Carpenter in 2008. It should be noted that Tony George’s Vision Racing employs Larry Curry as a Team manager, because:

Curry went to jail for embezzling Menard’s money in the late ‘90s.

“He (Curry) apologized and I think he meant it,” said Menard.

(MORE from SpeedTV)
That would be embezzling to the tune of one meeeeellion dollars, friends. Does "apologized" mean paid back, or does that not matter so much when you’re already a billionaire? If there are any billionaires in the audience please enlighten us.

Also, it should additionally be noted Ed was also sponsored by Lowe’s in 2007, so the odds are ACE Hardware is readying for a 2009 package.

In decidedly less happy news, Robin also notes that Derrick Walker will be unleashing the legal dogs on Kevin Kalkhoven’s new sponsor, which is Walker’s old sponsor who allegedly forgot to pay the bills.

“We gave him (Craig Gore of Team Australia) in writing an opportunity to settle this and not go through a legal dogfight,” said Walker, who formed Team Australia with Gore three years ago. “It’s up to him to respond by tomorrow so if there’s no response or no effort to resolve, then Tuesday I start building my case.

“There’s damages, money owed and I’ve got a huge paper trail. I have no hesitation going into court to prove our case.

“He took my driver, my engineer and completely submarined us, so it’s pretty shabby to say the least.”
Gentlemen, start your lawsuits!

Congratulations and I'm sorry

Posted by Iannucci | 3/16/2008 | 10 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Good news for Sam Hornish Jr, who used his 7th place start to drive to an authoritative (ahem) 29th place finish...and that's a good thing, because according to the unofficial standings Sam is now ranked at the golden spot of #35 thereby guaranteeing him a spot in every Cup-level N-word race for the remainder of the season.

Unfortunately, Dario Franchitti struggled yet again and now sits in 39th, meaning he must now attempt to qualify on speed for one of the 8 up-for-grabs spots at any given race.

Just as a side note, has anyone else thought it odd that the N-Word is using that "Let's See How Far We've Come" song so much? Did they bother to notice the rest of the lyrics?

The cars are moving like a half a mile an hour if that,
and started staring at the passengers who're waving goodbye
can you tell me what was ever really special about me all this time?

But I believe the world is burning to the ground
oh well I guess we're gonna find out
let's see how far we've come
let's see how far we've come

Well I, believe, it all, is coming to an end
oh well, I guess, we're gonna pretend,
let's see how far we've come
let's see how far we've come

And you thought the Mindy Song was bad. Yikes!

Now barring spectacular news, My Name Is IRL will cease coverage of stock car racing for the next six months. I promise, because we're all about to hold hands in Miami and start the unification sensation.

Talk Talk

Posted by Iannucci | 3/14/2008 | 6 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Thanks to Johnny and The Duke of Live Fast Racing for welcoming both pressdog and your humble host for a post-unification chit-chat podcast. Download all 90-plus minutes(!) of the discussion here, which hopefully you will find up to their usual entertaining and informative standards.

WARNING: There is not a single “who-gives-a-monkeys” to be heard. Pity.

If nothing else this should serve as absolute proof that Bill and I are NOT the same person. Bill’s the heavy breather, and I’m the guy saying “...you know...” every other sentence.

The check cleared

Posted by Iannucci | 3/14/2008 | 5 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Call off the lawyers.

Hilliard, Ohio (March 14, 2008) – Rahal Letterman Racing, Scott Sharp Sports LLC, Scott Sharp Inc. and Scott Sharp, joined by The Patrón Spirits Company today announced that the parties have reached an amicable settlement in their breach-of-contract case claims against each other.

Terms of the settlement are confidential and will not be released.

“We are pleased to put this mutually unpleasant matter behind us. We now can look forward to the start of what promises to be a successful 2008 season.” said Rahal Letterman Racing co-owner Bobby Rahal. “I appreciate Scott's and Patron's commitment to creating a fair and equitable settlement in this matter and I wish both Ed Brown and Scott the best of luck in their racing endeavors this season.”

“We’re glad that Rahal Letterman Racing and Scott Sharp were able to mutually agree upon a settlement and move forward,” said Ed Brown, president and CEO of The Patrón Spirits Company. “Bobby Rahal, not to mention the entire Rahal Letterman organization, is one of the premier names in motorsports – we have a tremendous amount of respect for their professionalism and talent, and we wish them a successful 2008 IndyCar season.”
Good to see this didn't drag on, and right about now I'm feeling total compassion for the poor PR people who had to shovel all of this sunshine.

And though it only raced one season, I'm still gonna miss that snappy-looking Patrón car.

We've found Jimmy Kite

Posted by Iannucci | 3/13/2008 | 1 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Apparently folks in Argentina are a bit skittish at seeing the loveable IndyCar driver. What's up with that?

A TOWN in South America is living in fear after several sightings of a 'creepy gnome' that locals claim stalks the streets at night.

The midget - which wears a pointy hat and has a distinctive sideways walk - was caught on video last week by a terrified group of youngsters.

"One of my friends was so scared after seeing that thing that we had to take him to the hospital.”
Check out the full story and unbelievable video at The UK Sun.

Audience Participation Required

Posted by Iannucci | 3/12/2008 | 42 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Since the peanut gallery is justifiably complaining about the lack of representation in the Class of 2008 sidebar, it’s time for me to come clean and admit I’m still trying to find some discernable personality traits to determine nicknames for some of these new guys. Now it’s best to leave scheduled part-timers like Alex Lloyd and Townsend Bell for another day, because right now we (yes, WE) have got to get down to brass tacks for helping out the many gentlemen below.

So it is with all sincerity that I am pleading with you for your assiastance. If you’ve ever wanted to do something for me (I mean, other than checking out the FINE advertisers at the top of the site) then please by all means toss out a nickname or two in the comments to help get this class fully enrolled. The only rules are it can’t be (too) demeaning, and it has to be FCC appropriate. Otherwise, show me what ya got.

Name: Jay Howard
Team: Roth Racing
Facts: The 2006 Indy Pro champ was largely unemployed for 2006, perhaps due to the fact that his driving though skillful can become as wild and erratic as his hair. Also, he bears more than a passing resemblance to a young Rod Stewart.
Possible Nickname: “The Mod”

Name: Ryan Hunter-Reay
Team: Rahal Letterman Racing
Facts: A talented young road racer with a handful of Champ Car starts to his name, Hunter-Reay was handed the reigns of the Ethanol ride after Jeff Simmons was abruptly let go mid-season. Ryan performed well enough to keep the job, ironically scoring two of his three Top 10 finishes on ovals.
Possible Nickname: (O-Ryan) “The Hunter”

Name: Hideki Mutoh
Team: Andretti Green Racing
Facts: Last season IPS runner-up, Mutoh’s Panther Racing team learned that Mutoh’s car #55 can be said as “Go-Go” in Japanese. Reminding them of the “Go Go Godzilla” chant in films, the Panther team adopted the nickname, even going so far as using a Godzilla plush during car inspection. Mutoh is no longer #55, but his 8th place debut in the ICS finale shows he’s still a fire-breathing beast.
Possible Nickname: “Godzilla”

Name: Franck Perera
Team: Conquest Racing
Facts: Perera has been moving up the ladder from Italian Formula Renault to F3 Euro to last season where he was the runner up to Rafa Matos in the Atlantics series. Other than that all I know is he’s French and his name sounds like “Fronk”.
Possible Nickname: supposedly he’s “Fearless”, but aren’t they all?

Name: Will Power
Team: KV Racing Technology
Facts: He’s pretty good, but his is name is Will Power. For real! What more do you need to know?
Possible Nickname: “Willpower”

Name: Graham Rahal
Team: Newman/Haas/Lanigan
Facts: He is The Bobby’s son, and The Bobby has not been afraid to let his team know this as he boarded planes to go watch Grahmam race. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. He ascended to Champ Car straight outta high school so he might be the next great American driver. Then again he might not be.
Possible Nickname: “Rahal 2.0”

Name: Oriol Servia
Team: KV Racing Technology
Facts: The 33-year-old Spaniard has raced for many, many teams in his Champ CART career, accruing a total of one win and 16 podiums in 126 starts. I don’t know what’s more impressive – that he has 126 starts or that he has 126 starts with such a record of futility. Other than that, the poor guy has a name that sounds like something your drunken roommate would mutter right before he/she ralphed.
Possible Nickname: “La Cucaracha”, which admittedly is a Central American song, but this career truly resembles an indestructible cockroach.

Name: Justin Wilson
Team: Newman/Haas/Lanigan
Facts: After a stint in Formula One, the 6’ 3” giraffe-like Wilson went on to a successful Champ Car career – if there exists such a thing. Wilson finished in the Top 3 in series points each of the last three seasons, twice being the best driver not named “Sebastien Bourdais”. He’s also known to be extremely polite off the track, like Vitor Meira but taller and with a British accent.
Possible Nickname: “Leaf Eater”, although because he shares the same name “The Cajun Chef” is also being considered

OK friends, have at ‘em. If you like them say so, if you don’t say so, and if you have a better idea then PLEASE say so.

KV Racing finally revealed

Posted by Iannucci | 3/12/2008 | 5 comments »
Bookmark and Share

From the press release:

KV Racing Technology co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser announced today that the team will campaign two cars during the 2008 IndyCar Series season.

"Jimmy and I are very pleased to announce a new chapter in the history of our team which will campaign a two-car effort during the 2008 IndyCar Series season," said Kalkhoven. "In conjunction with our commitment to the IndyCar Series we have re-branded the team as KV Racing Technology and agreed to a sponsorship arrangement with Aussie Vineyards Team Australia. This will allow Will Power to join teammate Oriol Servia in what I believe will be the most competitive and exciting open-wheel racing series. We want to welcome both Aussie Vineyards Team Australia and Will Power to our team and we look forward to a very successful season in 2008 and for many years to come."

KV Racing Technology is entering its sixth year of competition and its first in the IndyCar Series. Servia, who came to an agreement with the team earlier this year, will be behind the wheel of the KV Racing Technology #32 Honda/Dallara//Firestone entry while Power will pilot the KV Racing Technology #8 Aussie Vineyards Team Australia Honda/Dallara/Firestone machine.
Wilson, Rahal, Perera, Power, and Seriva - that's five. Yee-haw.

And Willpower now has Scott Sharp's #8...*sniff sniff*...I promised I wouldn't get emotional...

Minardi takes a sabbatical

Posted by Iannucci | 3/12/2008 | 4 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Cancel the Minardi name from the guest list, as autosport.com says team owner Paul Stoddart has decided against fielding the team in the IRL this season.

When asked by autosport.com, he said: "I did enough tugging round at the back to know I don't want to do it again. I had a taste of victory last year and it was very nice, so I'll just take a sabbatical and see what happens.

"I think realistically 2010 is the first opportunity for Champ Car teams to become competitive, when the new car comes."

"What happened was good for North American motorsport, it had to happen. But it wasn't beneficial for any of the Champ Car teams. In anything like this there are winners and losers and all the Champ Car teams were the losers.

(MORE from autosport.com)
A good competitive streak by Mr Stoddart is appreciated, and truthfully there are huge hurdles the CCWS refugees have to overcome in a very short time. But that being said, don't whine about not being able to win. I mean really, take a number for that line.

Losing is frustrating and knowing you're probably going to lose is taxing, but using either of those as an excuse to leave the track is weak. If you want to race, then race. Period. Besides, with what looks like eight non-ovals on the schedule this year Minardi's odds wouldn't have been all that bad to put together a few very good finishes.

I don't know Mr Stoddart or his level of pride but maybe what he says and what he means are two different things, and that like so many other would-be competitors this is ultimately an issue of insufficient funds. I do know that even with a new chassis design on the horizon that up and joining the series in 2010 is still not going to be any easier. Might as well start getting track experience and technical data now while the free basket of goodies is sitting on the table.

UPDATE: Hold the phone!

"We're taking delivery of our car today," team owner Keith Wiggins said Tuesday. "I won't deny that it's a struggle, but we're doing our best to get one car on the grid for the first race."

Wiggins, whose principle partner in the Champ Car team, Paul Stoddart, has left, will carry on with the team that doesn't even have a name yet. Stoddart took the Minardi Team USA name with him and Wiggins said he will likely go back to the team's previous name - HVM Racing.

But, whatever the team is called, he's determined to keep it going and to eventually be competitive.

"We all know it's a tough deal, a lot of scrambling because of timing and the situation," he said. "But the bigger picture is where the significance of what happened is pretty dramatic.

(MORE from Canadian Press)

When quitters quit quitting

Posted by Iannucci | 3/11/2008 | 3 comments »
Bookmark and Share

It would seem Gerry Forsythe isn't taking ALL of his toys and going home.

The continuing saga of Forsythe Racing took another unexpected turn Tuesday with the announcement that the team, which announced last month it would not make the transition from Champ Car to the unified IndyCar Series, entered into a “technical partnership” with another former Champ Car operation which is making that transition. Eric Bachelart’s Conquest Racing announced the association with with Forsythe Performance Research, a wholly owned subsidiary of Forsythe Racing Inc., which Conquest says will provide its team with technical and engineering resources for the 2008 season.

Unfortunately this article does not address the obvious: does this mean Paul Tracy - who TSO says is still under contract with Forsythe - will be driving for Conquest? Captain Crunch isn't exactly what one would consider a "technical and engineering resource", but if you're paying a guy to drive you'd likely want to get him in a car.

That is, presuming he would be willing to drive for Conquest. OH, the drama!

STP comes to Indy

Posted by Iannucci | 3/11/2008 | 15 comments »
Bookmark and Share

Sorry, it’s not THAT STP. This STP rumor was first brought to our attention a few weeks ago by TSO, but today brings the official announcement that Stone Temple Pilots will be the musical act for this year’s Miller Lite Carb Day Festival of Drunken Music Lovers.

Rock superstars Stone Temple Pilots will be the headline act for the popular Miller Lite Carb Day Concert on Friday, May 23 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IMS officials announced March 11.

The concert is free to all ticket holders for the final day of on-track activity before the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race on Sunday, May 25. Tickets are just $10 each, with children 5 and under admitted free.

(MORE from IMS)
Carb Day rocks, although in 2007 it may have rocked a bit too much.

Last year I side-stepped the Kid Rock “Baw wit da baw” not only because I no longer live in a mobile home but also since it was occurring while a host of vintage IndyCars were touring around the track. Color me old school, but I’ll choose turbines and Offys over screaming F-bombs most days.

This year might be different, as P1 has discovered her inner rockstar thanks to Guitar Hero and now wants me to plug everything from Guns N Roses to Killswitch Engage into her iPod. STP might be a relatively safe show, but then again it could be awkward if Scott Weiland starts shooting smack in between “Plush” and “Creep”.