Some people are a bit irked at the less-than-unified IRL/CCWS re-split this weekend, but your humble host is surprisingly pumped. In previous seasons my interests on such weekends would be to watch the IndyCar race and maybe check out a bit of the Champ Car event if I remembered. I figured there wouldn’t be much passing and Bourdais was probably going to win anyway, right?
But times have changed, and an oval-headed Gomer like yours truly is all a-twitter to be watching both Twin Ring Motegi and the streets of Long Beach with great fervor. While My Name Is IRL will only have a LiveBlog for the Motegi event (respectfully leaving the final Champ Car hoorah to longtime Champ Car bloggers) the Long Beach race has grabbed my interest, because not only henceforth will this be an IndyCar event but for once I finally know a few things about many of the drivers. Like say this guy.
Meanwhile back in Japan, rain has washed out qualification so the field will be set by standings in the ICS. Right about now would be a good time to notice that Vision Racing teammates Carpenter and Foyt are P7 and P8 respectively in the standings - and that’s after a street race. Friends, is this the weirdest season ever or what?
Favorite: Dan Wheldon. Last four races here: twice first, twice second. ‘Nuff said.
Contender: Tony Kanaan. Nariz has three podiums in the last four races here and is the defending champion. Heck, he’s led at least one lap in 7 of the last 8 IndyCar events. With all four wheels on the ground he's unstoppable.
Longshot: Buddy Rice. His last four years here have all been Top 10 finishes, three of which were in the Top 6. Side-stepping an embarrassing Asian food and “rice” joke, let’s instead have some fun checking out Buddy’s Red Bull hat collection.
Driver to Watch: Ryan Briscoe. The Briscoe Inferno has flamed out with two DNFs to start his Team Penske career. Now with qualifications washed away he finds himself starting from P15 – the worst start for a Team Penske entry since Helio Castroneves started from the same position at Kentucky Speedway in August of 2005. Pardon the pun, but the Inferno might find himself in the hot seat if he can’t bring a strong performance this week.
Danica Threat Level: DanCon 2. Danica’s style of patiently waiting for those in front of her to crash out plays well at this car-eating circuit. Not only did she lead 32 laps on this track in ’05 – far and away the most she’s ever led anywhere in the ICS – but she may also have some good karma coming her way from her new ad campaign. Add to that the possibility of rain on race day and anything is possible.
Stat of the Day: Hideki Mutoh will become the sixth driver of Japanese lineage to compete in the Indy Racing League’s event at Twin Ring Motegi, joining Kosuke Matsuura, Tora Takagi, Shinji Nakano, Shigeaki Hattori and (American) Roger Yasukawa - none of whom ever finished better than 7th in this race. On the plus side, saying all of those names out loud makes one’s mouth feel taihen yoi!
Drinking Term: “Egg”. The track is shaped as such, and Jack Arute had better pull an egg out of his pocket and show it to the camera just like he does every year here. I know you’re doing the double this weekend Jack, but don’t forget the props.
Pressdog says: “With no 'transition drivers' to clip the right front, Tony, Tony Tone Kanaan cruises to victory at Motegi. In Long Beach -- since we're all one big happy family and this IS an IndyCar points race -- I'm going with Will ‘Danger’ Powers.”
It’s double the picks and double the fun, so remember how painfully long this off-season was and by all means enjoy the
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