Welcome to Richmond International Raceway, the third short track on the 2008 schedule and the only one of the three to blessed with conducting racing at night. Race cars always look better at night. Always.
This may be the reason why the four-letter network decided to get silly and air the commercial (like a dozen times!) for this IndyCar race during this week's heavily viewed NBA Draft. While many of the readers at My Name Is IRL have been miffed with the WorldWide Leader's overindulgence with the N-Word recently, it does bear noting that as the season progresses they do appear to be trying. More promos, more coverage of drivers not named "Danica", and even a pre-race show last week at Iowa are positive signs on the path to improved exposure.
Now if we can just get Jack Arute to stop kissing people we'll be set. And now, onward to 16 seconds lap times!
Favorite: Helio Castroneves. Helio won the pole here in '04 and '06 and won the race in '07. He's always fast on the short-tracks, he just has an occasional outbreak of "snakebit" with tires going down or wings falling off or whatnot. Today he starts 18th, which makes this pick look ridiculous. So be it.
Contender: Tony Kanaan. Stats be damned – he’s due!
Longshot: Oriol Servia. After his impressive march through the field at Milwaukee, El Matador looks to re-assert himself in the even smaller bullring at Richmond. Given the benefit of having additional “rookie” practice laps this week, I’d bet money he finishes in the Top 5. Your money that is, but still.
Driver to watch: Darren Manning. After gifting bloggers the opportunity to jump all over the word “knackered” Manning has really gotten AJ Foyt’s knickers in a twist. So much so that Super Tex is not even attending the race in Richmond this week. On Friday IMS Radio reported that Larry Foyt will be taking over for the team and has already begun arguing with Manning. I am totally not making that up.
Danica Threat Level: DanCon Three. Even the most die-hard fans would admit that for whatever reason Danicker is not running at a competitive speed. Despite scoring her first win, not making the Top 5 of any race here in North America is making 2008 look like a step backwards. But if she can keep it clean that luck could turn around tonight. Or not.
Stat of the race: Dan Wheldon is the only driver to have completed every lap of every 2008 race. Well, except for that Motegi/Long Beach weekend asterisk, but you get the point.
Drinking term: “Lift”. Fans of actual driving will be pleased to know there’s no way to go flat out all the way around this track, so this race is largely a balance of courage and judgment in the turns. However, fans of actual passing may notice that it usually takes a lot of effort to pass someone at this shortened venue.
pressdog says: “After the standard disclaimer -- Dixon is probably going to win -- I'm going to go with Tony Kanaan. He may just win on rage power alone. Dark horse -- RHR. Whew! That prediction has me totally knackered!”
And I'm knackered as well from writing this post. Enjoy the show!
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