LiveBlog: Detroit 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 8/31/2008 | 23 comments »
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Welcome to the island of Belle Isle, which seems a touch redundant to say, so instead we'll just refer to this races as "Detroit". Besides, as the braintrust at TrackSide Online (sign up today!) tells us this may not be the most "Belle" place in America.

We did get the opportunity to head out last night and have dinner in downtown Detroit. We visited the Greektown area, which has a casino nearby as well as Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. While that area of town was alright at the hour we went, we have frankly seen quite a few parts of town that scared us over the weekend. There are obvious efforts at improving Detroit - this race and the restoration of the island that came along with it are examples - but there is also much more work to be done. Here's an example of what the city faces - the Scott Fountain on Belle Isle, a popular photo opportunity for local weddings that you may well see on today's TV coverage, was just recently repaired after thieves stole the copper piping over the winter.

Sounds like a party!

0: Race Contol wisely has Dixon and Castroneves this week, in addition to Danica and Babe. We'll go with Helio since he's starting second, meaning he'll be the most likely to complain about blocking.

0: Helio seems loose on camera this week. He's even sneaking over and pretending to mess around with Iceman's car. At least I think he's pretending. You can never tell because Helio, how should I say this...he goes to 11.

0: Speaking of Brazilians, how many "Portuguese flag" emails do you think Marty Reid had to endure this weekend? My guess would be "not enough".

0: In case you were wondering, Marty Roth will not be a factor today. That is all I care to say about that. And with that, it's time to start.

1: That start was a nearly perfect star if you like 'em single file. Good grief.

1: And just like that we are under yellow as Milka Duno has spun in turn three. Looks like she nestled up to Junky in the turn and got herself hip checked. Race officials are going to penalize Bruno for hitting a girl by sending him to the back.

3: Milka sustained no damage and has been refired but we are still under green. Go figure. Meanwhile both Conquest cars pull in for a splash and dash. Also it appears Scheckter has pulled in but he's not pulling away. In fact, he's getting out of the car. Bummer.

4: And now we're back to green. Dixon, Helio, Servia, Wilson, Briscoe.

8: ABC Sports proudly presents your first "if the race ended now" statistic. Meanwhile Brienne Pedigo reports that Scheckter has retired due to his third driveshaft issue of the season. Clearly he's auditioning for a spot at AGR.

11: Dixon is pulling away by a little, or at the very least Helio isn't challenging him right now.

13: Even though Scheckter is out we still got to see his "less dancing/more racing" quote from last year, complete with video of Security Chief Charles escorting a hobbling but animated (as always) Castroneves away. Timeless stuff there.

14: And here's video of street thug Will Power blowing past Danica Patrick. Power has moved up from 12th to 10th, which is pretty impressive if you're not Bruno Junqeira, who has moved from 24th to 18th despite being sent to the back of the pack.

18: Dixon’s lead is up to 5 seconds, but not for long as his teammate appears to have gotten tangled up with Jamie Camara. Not a lot of damage to either car as Wheldon starts the obligatory hand puppet show. Regardless, it’s another full course yellow.

20: Dixon pits, Helio does not. Intriguing.

21: Back to green as the new leader board reads Helio, Servia, Wilson, Kanaan, Hunter-Reay.

26: Since pitting Dixon has moved up a couple of spots but he’s currently in 15th.

28: The unflappable Vince Welsh reports that Ryan-Hunter-Hyphen-Reay-Babe wishes they would take the fuel setting “knob” off the car. You da man, Ryan!

31: Dixon is now up to 14th, right behind Alex Tagliani. Tags is everywhere. Meanwhile Servia makes a pit stop as Helio continues to forge ahead.

32: Helio and Wilson (first and second) both pit. Gotta hand it to Helio's left-front tire changer for the non chalant around-the-back flip of the equipment.

34: Action in Turn 8 as Danica and Vitor collide, sending Meira off the track. I'm sure we'll hear about this in a Panther press release. Meria is still runing but Danica appears to lose her suspension and comes to a screeching halt.

34: Elsewhere EJ Viso loses grip an hits the wall in Turn 14. Must have been partying with those baseball players too late last night. Yellow yellow everywhere.

35: Looks like Spiderman was out far enough to maintain the lead when he pitted. It's Helio, Wilson, Servia, Kanaan, Dixon.

39: Back to green. Marty Reid drops a "lock step".

40: Not a lot of action at the front but Mutoh is dropping like he's driving a golf cart out there.

42: Darren Manning goes double-wide as Junky tries to get around him, nearly ripping the nose off Bruno's car ... "And now we're hearing race control is ordering the #14 to let the #18 by for blocking". OMG!!!

44: Time for the second appearance of the "if the world ended right now" graphic, showing Helio would trail Dixon by 20 points.

46: Jack Arute brings the drama. He says Scott Dixon's 88-year-old grandmother is in failing health but has told Scott she's trying to hang in there long enough to see him win the championship. Wow.

50: Still Helio, now up by nearly 5 seconds over Justin Wilson. Servia, Kanaan, and Dixon (12 seconds back) round out the Top 5.

54: While we wait for the leaders to pit soon, let's take a moment point out that Junky is now up to 8th.

54: Will Power tries to get around Hunter-Reay but the two bump, damaging Power's front wing and Hunter's tire. Incredibly, Power is staying out to with broken wing. Downforce is for the weak!

58: Dixon has pit. Wilson has pit. Helio has not pit.

59: Helio is 36 seconds ahead of Dixon, so he pits. Servia is now the leader, 11 seconds ahead of Helio. Wilson, Kanaan and Junqueira(!) round out the Top 5.

60: So much for that lead. Servia pits, but comes out in 4th right behind Tony Kanaan. Dixon will move up to 5th, 29 seconds behind Helio.

63: Another “if everyone parked it right now” graphic showing Helio still trailing Dixon by 20 points.

65: Yellow as Wheldon has gone into the wall. It looks like Moraes is stopped somewhere else, although he is quickly refired. On the one hand this will move Dixon closer to Helio, on the other it helps Helio conserve more fuel to maintain the lead for the remainder of the race.

67: Scott Goodyear is talking about "splines".

69: Back to green with Helio, Wilson, Kanaan, Servia, Dixon. Since we're keeping tabs on him, Junky is in 8th.

71: Wilson is all up on Helio, but the #3 is throwing a huge block party. "And we're hearing that Helio is being penalized and must let Wilson by". O!M!G! What kind of bizarro universe where justice prevails have we entered?

72: Helio ain't giving up that lead.

73: Helio gives up the lead. Justin Wilson is your new leader. "If a hurricaine struck Detroit right now" shows Helio now 30 points behind Dixon.

82: Wilson and Helio are pulling away, 4 seconds ahead of Kanaan in 3rd and 16 seconds ahead of Dixon in 5th. Unfortunately, we are now in a timed race. Six minutes to glory for the Cajun Sheff.

85: Wilson has fired up the afterburners and is pulling away from Helio.

87: There's 18 minutes left before the broadcast ends but we're throwing the white flag for Wilson. This race was scheduled for 90 laps - we couldn't go the distance?

88: Wilson takes the checkers and promptly stalls the cars while trying to do some donuts on the victory laps.

Helio with Arute is smiling, but he says "I'm happy, but I do not have anything smart to say right now." Meanwhile Wilson is waiting to get his car started so he can make it to Victory Lane.

I feel for Helio. He clearly blocked and was properly told to move over, but at the same time Detroit seems like a rather random place to start calling this penalty. If Castroneves loses the championship by less than 10 points this will be all anyone talks about all winter.

Than again, it sure looked like Wilson was going to get around him at some point. At any rate, congratulations to Justin Wilson on his first win, and to Helio who trails Dixon by 30. Also, hats off to Junky for finishing an astonishing 7th place. Now we can all go argue "The Call", so thank you very much, and good night.

FLASHBACK: Anyone else remember in 2006 when Helio's shot at the championship was halted by a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pits at the finale in Chicagoland? As a result of the penalty Helio was only able to finish fourth in the race and third in the points - just THREE points behind Hornish and Wheldon.

I'm guessing Brian Barnhart is NOT on Helio's Christmas Card list.

Cheat Sheet: Detroit 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 8/30/2008 | 2 comments »
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Based on the results of last year's IndyCar series debut of (the latest iteration of) the Belle Isle track, the word that best describes the forecast for this weekend's event in Detroit is "rage".

2007 pole-sitter Helio Castroneves took himself and Tomas Scheckter out when Scheckter went so boldly out of protocol as to not let Helio pass him. Tempers flared between the two afterwards, leading to Scheckter's no immortal zinger of "Maybe he should focus more on driving and less on dancing".

Two women angered two former series champions as Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher contributed to incidents with Scott Sharp and Sam Hornish Jr respectively. To her credit, Danicker went on to finish a then-career high second place in the race.

Of course the big to-do was all about Dixon losing control while trying to pass Buddy Rice for second and then reversing course and blocking the path of fellow championship contender Dario Franchitti. The race ended with members of the Andretti Green team accusing Scott Dixon of intentionally trying to take out Mr Judd, although as we all know it proved rather inconsequential in the end.

One man who wasn't filled with acrimony was Buddy Rice, who reportedly apologized to Chip Ganassi immediately after the race for running out of fuel and inadvertently starting events leading to the Dixon/Franchitti controversy. Personally, I'd like to thank Buddy for spicing things up.

Otherwise ... anyone else missing Sharp, Hornish, and Franchitti just a little bit right now, or is that just me?

Favorite: Scott Dixon. Helio won twice here in his CART days and led 26 laps before he took himself out of last year's IndyCar race, so Dixon goes in this slot solely in the hopes he might be jinxed. Nothing personal, Ganassi fans - just trying to do my part to make the Chicagoland race that much more interesting.

Contender: Helio Castroneves. See above.

Longshot: EJ Viso. The success of the Little Venezuelan Who Could continues. He finished a solid 6th last week, he's starting in the Top 10 this week, and the over under on fellow drivers he takes out on this circuit is 2.

Driver to Watch: Justin Wilson. Perhaps feeling the angst of completing the season he was supposed to win the Champ Car title, the normally mild mannered Wilson was punting drivers left and right last week at Infineon. He's starting in the Top 4 for the fourth time this year, but the other three times all ended in finishes no better than 9th.

Danica Threat Level: DanCon Five. The monitor has been turned on if only because of the nuttiness that went on last year. She'll need similar nuttiness to compete for a win here this year.

Drinking term: "Alex Tagliani". Tags is replacing Enrique Bernoldi this week since the latter was having difficulty driving with his injured thumb. Of course, Tagliani will be driving for Conquest, and Conquest cars seem to only get air when they are stalled on the course.

Stat of the race: Only nine cars were still running when Tony Kanaan took the checkered flag at Belle Isle in 2007. Dallara parts representatives are standing by.

pressdog says: "Chippy didn't seem very jovial after Snorenoma. Dixon also had rage coming off his head like giant cartoon exclamation points after the race. AND he's probably flashing back to Chicagoland 2007 about now. Combine those factors and Dixon wins Belle Isle. Helio P3. Dark Horse -- Will Power."

Dixon and Helio are 1-2 in the standings and 1-2 for the start of the race on Sunday. There's nothing more to add to that drama, so enjoy the show!

Isn't it ironic?

Posted by Iannucci | 8/30/2008 | 2 comments »
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Following the recent news pegging Tony Kanaan with AGR for five more years of sunshine and happiness (ahem) comes word that the primary sponsor for Kanaan's ride will remain as well.

Andretti Green Racing (AGR) announced today it has reached a multi-year agreement with 7-Eleven, Inc. to extend the company's long-running sponsorship program of the #11 entry driven by 2004 IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan.

7-Eleven, Inc., the world's largest operator, franchisor and licensor of convenience stores with more than 34,600 units worldwide, has been affiliated with Andretti Green and Kanaan since the team began competing at the beginning of the 2003 IndyCar Series season.

7-Eleven will also continue to have a branding presence on AGR's three other IndyCar Series cars, which are driven by Marco Andretti, Hideki Mutoh and Danica Patrick.

(MORE from Andretti Green Racing)
Oddly enough, this comes on a weekend in which the #11 looks like this.

Thanks to the braintrust at TSO for providing the alert, the photo, and the Fantasy league in which your humble host is getting completely waxed.

Danica fights authority, authority always wins

Posted by Iannucci | 8/29/2008 | 11 comments »
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Word from TMZ indicates the world’s most exposed IndyCar driver may have a bit of a lead foot on the streets. Try to act shocked.

Danica Patrick isn't just dangerous behind the wheel of an Indy car, cops say she also posed a threat on the mean streets of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Court docs which show the race car diva was popped by Scottsdale P.D. back in January for doing 57 in a 40 mph zone. But here's the kicker -- Danica was ordered to take defensive driving school to get the ticket dismissed!

57 in a 40 – that’s it? Oh the shame Mrs Hospenthal must have felt while the driving class. 57 for a race car driver - that's not even a warmup lap. I mean, even a hack like your humble host has been busted for exceeding that, although my insurer will gladly confirm that was some time ago.

Here for your enjoyment is a dramatic portrayal of Danica’s run-in with the law, incredibly filmed years before the actual event.

Tony Kanaan will hook you up

Posted by Iannucci | 8/26/2008 | 10 comments »
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Earlier this year at the Carb Night Burger Bash your humble host had the good fortune of meeting a fine couple who had been united by Helio Castroneves. Literally.

This was news a few years ago although for the life of me I can't find a link, but the story goes that a big Penske fan went up to Helio and convinced him to help him propose to the fan's would-be wife. Long story short: Helio played the part, magically produced the ring, she said "yes", and the two are blissfully married, spending The Month of May together decked out in Team Penske gear and and chatting with IndyCar blog-types. Oh, l'amour.

And since there's such a storied rivalry between Helio and his clean-shaven countryman, well, anything Helio can do Tony Kanaan can do as well, right?

"That was my one worry, that she would think the ring was from Tony and say yes to him".

mmack's nnotes: Infineon 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 8/25/2008 | 12 comments »
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If the Food Network had broadcast the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County, he would have been the host. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome a man who will drink no wine before it's time, the one, the only, the "mmack".

Sunday around 4:00 PM Maria invited me to put down the model airplane I was working on and come out on the front patio to have a glass of wine before the race started, Borrowing Pressdog's shtick, since Sonoma is smack dab in wine country our wine of the race is a chilled Rosemount Estates Sauvignon Blanc. Around 4:30 I figured it was time to come in to 1) get the bottle to pour us each another glass of wine and 2) watch the coverage of the race on ESPN 2. So I turn on the TV and point our magical satellite TV to . . . a golf game. Goodness, what a shock.

At this point I realize that we DO have ESPN Classic, since we were watching a replay of The N-Word Wreckfest From Bristol on it earlier that day. Then I think forget this, and go back out on the patio with the bottle of wine and sit back down next to Maria. After another glass of wine and half an hour of discussing upcoming travel plans (including the upcoming Chicagoland race), I walk back in to see that the golf game has ended, and the race coverage will start. I prep a plate of cheese and olives (wine and cheese for a road race, hmm, not too stereotypical) and invite Maria to sit next to me on the big comfy couch to "watch Scott Dixon win another race". ESPN 2 jumps in at the green flag and we're off!

It's a Penske front row and that guy that won that dancin' show leaps to the lead, followed by that fellow that Danica doesn't like. No, it's not that English fellow with the big teeth, it's that Australian driver. The rest of the field strings along behind them. At this point Maria asks about the car in third place. I tell her it's Will Power and she says "Good, I'd like to see a CART driver win this race. Somebody different would be nice." I silently begin to wonder if Maria has followed the links on My Name is to Later in the race as she bemoans how boring the race is compared to an oval track, I realize she still reads your site.

Early on Vitor drops in to the pits to try a different pit strategy and I realize that once again, Vitor will not win this race. A little later when Justin "Too Tall" Wilson tangles with Ryan "The American Ryan" Hunter-Reay, I catch the strained comparisons to The N-Word Wreckfest From Bristol. Note to the boys in the booth: If there is a seven car pile up that litters the track with carbon fiber and wheels and red-flags the race for an hour, THEN you can use comparisons to The N-Word Wreckfest From Bristol. BTW: Keeping everyone up to date, Mr. Hornish, late of the IRL, was included in that red-flag raising event.

I pour myself another glass of wine as Maria begins to start preparing dinner. Maria's mom stops by to join us for dinner after going shopping for a new storm door. Sadly I realize that talking to my mother in law about storm doors is a little more interesting than the race action at hand. Somewhere around this point I remember two things from the race that are worth noting.

The first is an almost simultaneous two car pass for position (or backmarkers) when Wheldon passes Bernoldi (I think), while Dominguez passes Meira. It's almost a text book example of "this is how to pass on a roadcourse, and this is how NOT to pass on a roadcourse" in one camera shot. Wheldon passes his car clean while Dominguez "jabs in the elbow" and forces Vitor into the dirt. All I can think of is we have a motorized Goofus and Gallant going on: "Goofus forces his way past people on the road, pushing them into the dirt. Gallant always checks his mirrors and makes sure he has plenty of room before he merges back in."

The second is a "chop-block-o-rama" that Briscoe puts on Dixon after Ryan comes out of the pits. Suddenly Ryan has to swing his car back and forth to warm those tires up, coincidentally right in front of Dixon.

Also in here EJ Viso is leading the race WITHOUT punting anybody into the tires to do so. I get up and open the back patio doors to check to see if I've been transported to Bizarro World. Hearing our neighbor's dog Louie with his incessant barking tells me I am still on my current plane of existence. I close the door and return to the comfy couch. Later on as Mario Dominquez is mentioned as being in the top five, I raise a toast to our "hometown" racing team (Dale Coyne's shop is in the next town over, literally).

Maria's mom returns to the kitchen to talk to Maria as the race goes on. I continue watching the race as Maria starts cooking dinner. At this point Helio is chasing TK for the lead and pulls a move that makes him look like a student at the Bob Bondurant School of Performance Driving, going WAY wide trying to pass Tony and failing. At this point I know 1) TK will cycle out of the lead, having to pit, and 2) Helio will get the lead when TK pits. I happily go into the basement to get a bottle of Zinfandel (from Napa Valley no less) to go with the pasta for dinner. When I come back I check the TV and see that Helio has the kind of lead where second place needs a telescope to see him. Helio makes his last pit stop and we sit down for dinner.

Not much else happens of note until the last lap, where in a desperate bid for airtime, Will Power torpedoes a tire barrier and Ed Carpenter literally "goes for a spin". Helio wins the race and searches desperately for a fence to climb. He vaults the fence and parties with the fans before vaulting the fence again to celebrate with his team. I think I see Security Chief Charles corral Helio and remind him he has a trophy to get and interviews to give. At this point Helio is so excited I wonder if he's about to go Super-Nova on us, all on live TV.

At this point Scott Dixon is big news because he DIDN'T win, and the Iceman is definitely tight lipped. And with that, the race coverage finishes, all in time for dessert.

Next, on to the mean streets of Detroit, where Maria hopes "one of those CART guys" will win.

LiveBlog: Infineon 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 8/24/2008 | 27 comments »
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Welcome to beautiful Sonoma County in Northern California, where ESPN2 proudly brings you ... the Safeway Classic women's golf event. Evidently the IndyCar race has been moved to ESPN Classic to make room for Sudden Death in the golf tournament, although I suppose the only people dying are IndyCar fans right now.

No, I don't get Classic. Insert that noise Charlie Brown makes when Lucy pulls the football away right when he's about to kick it. Looks like it's time to switch to online assistance from Mike King and the boys at IMS Radio.

0: I've already received my first email about coverage on Versus. Hopefully the 23 million of us who don't have the VS will fork over the extra cash to get the network next year. I know I will - it's the other 22,999,999 of you that worry me.

0: Optimistic thought: compared to women's golf the Infini-yawn race has GOT to be more interesting. See, it's all about perspective. Added bonus: sleeping golf fans will get included in the ratings once The Deuce switches back to racing.

0: Following up on news stories, one of the IMS radio guys was discussing Dan Wheldon's lack of a contract for next year with TCGR. Not sure who it was but the announcer just said "although he had agreed to terms Dan is back at Ground Zero." Holy mixed metaphors, Batman!

0: Huzzah! Someone just won the golf tournament, and the race hasn't even started yet.

1: And we're off. Another spectacular display of starting formation by the IndyCar regulars.

2: The two Penske cars qualified in the first row and are pulling away a little bit. You can burn their primary cars to the ground but you can't stop Team Penske. In a related note, it's Firefighter Appreciation Day at the track. I kid you not.

5: Five laps in and the only pass in the Top 10 is that Will Power got around Servia for 6th place. Who loves a parade?

6: Remember, this track has been reconfigured this year to allow for more passing. Riiiight! We'll let you know when we see some. I think I saw Viso jump some spots at the start of the race (he's up from 14th to 12th) but the camera cut away before I could see pass completed.

7: Wow, those pictures of the Char-Broiled Transport were stunning. Helio's primary car is extra crispy.

8: Marty just dropped a "Holding Station". He's brought his A-Game.

10: Vitor pits to try a different fuel strategy.

11: Dan Wheldon pits to try a different fuel strategy.

12: Dominguez, Rice, Bernoldi and Mutoh have all had pit stops to try a different strategy. In case you're wondering, I haven't finished my beer yet so I'm still up with the leaders.

13: Shocking statistic: Helio has led 377 laps this year without a win. Helio says that even though he hasn't won he doesn't feel he's had bad luck. Good grief, remind me not to go to Vegas with that guy.

15: Yellow for Marty Roth as he spins off the track. This of course will bring out a full course yellow so everyone can pit. Local yellow are only for Canadian races.

17: Still under yellow and most of the leaders pit. You'll be shocked to learn Dixon picks up a spot. However enough cars stayed out so that it's a total change in leadership. Briscoe, Kanaan, Patrick, Rahal, Moraes.

19: Finally back to green. Four laps under yellow for a guy who spun out and was refired within a lap. Shame shame. I'm even making that little motion with my fingers (and typing at the same time!)

21: Wilson and Hunter-Reay tangle, sending Babe for a little spin. I'm stunned there's no full course yellow. I'm not stunned that Marty Reid just compared it to events in last night's N-Word race.

23: Here at the World HQ, P1 and P3 have just left the room. Only P2 and your humble host remain, although P2 is nearly nodding off. In the racing world they call this a "technical challenge".

25: Ms Pedigo just said Ed Carpenter has benefited from Vision Racing's decision to hire Bryan Herta as a "road course specialist". Congrats Brie - you were the first to drop an "RCS" today.

28: The leaders have pit and your new leader is ... EJ Viso? Hang on, I need to check for swarms of locusts outside.

29: Viso, Wheldon, Dominguez, Meira, Rice. For Real. I'm speechless.

32: Enrique Bernoldi has been warned for blocking. Sure, pick on the guy driving with a torn ligament in his thumb. Sheesh.

34: Viso continues to lead so we get to hear about his unicycle exploits. As pressdog would say, "my viewing is enhanced".

37: Viso pits and surrenders the lead to Helio. Marty just said the only drivers to complete more laps than Viso this year are Helio, Dixon, Well Done and Danicker. What Marty doesn't mention is Viso skipped the Nashville race with the mumps. No, I'm not applying for the HVM PR job, sorry.

38: And now Goodyear is talking about "the knob". Ahem.

39: You know what, I think pressdog was right. I think 691 is a reasonable estimate on this "crowd".

40: Helio, Briscoe, Dixon, Wilson, Servia. No offense guys, but that other Top 5 was more interesting.

44: A few leaders pit so it's Briscoe, Servia, Kanaan, Helio, Junky. Typical road race random leadership caused by differening pit strategies.

46: Just as Wilson and Hunter are racing against each other on the trackwe cut away to show a Bruno Junqueira pit stop. Maybe the ESPN crew is under orders to not show passes since they're only showing 5 races next year.

47: Hey, I think I just saw Danicker get passed, but we were on side-by-side so I can't tell. Drat. Meanwhile, I haven't heard "overtake" yet so I'm still fully sober.

51: I just checked the leaderboard and Dixon is in 15th, 35 seconds back. Smells like conservation. Or maybe it just smells.

55: More leaders pulled off for fuel recently so it's now Helio, Wheldon, Viso, Meira, Briscoe. Helio is 14 seconds ahead of Dan so it doesn't appear like he's "making fuel". He tried that at Kentucky and it didn't work out.

58: Helio makes presumably his last pit stop and comes out ahead of Meira. Let's hope the fences are secure at Infineon.

59: Will Power will be getting a drive through penalty for skipping the chicane three times. Cheater cheater pumpkin eater. Meanwhile a few more drivers pit and the Top 5 looks like Helio, Briscoe, Dominguez, Kanaan, Wheldon. Sing it with me: "One of these things is not like the others..."

60: And Dominguez pits, returning to obscurity. Bummer.

62: Helio is leading, Dixon is in 14th, and Marty keeps talking about this being a "Hollywood Ending" for Team Penske. "Hollywood Ending" could have been the drinking term, but then you probably wouldn't be conscious enough to see this "Hollywood Ending".

63: You are conscious still, right?

66: Full disclosure, for the first time in many, many weeks my TSO Fantasy team included Scott Dixon and not Helio Castroneves. It's looking like applying the My Name Is IRL jinx to Dixon might be enough to help Helio to victory. He's even 5 seconds up on Briscoe and 11 seconds up on Kanaan.

67: Hey, I just saw Briscoe pass Will Power. I don't think it was for position but I'll take what I can get in this parade.

69: Viso and Vitor are battling for 7th on the track. Please ESPN don't start talking about Graham Rahal in, nuts!

70: We're told Scott Dixon feels he lost a lot of positions when the other Penske driver (Briscoe) chopped him off exiting a pit stop. Once again, teamwork rears it's ugly head at Infineon.

72: Just heard Helio on Race Control dropping some F-Bombs trying to get around Ed Carpenter. I'm following along there because ESPN has been airing non-stop commercials for the last few laps.

73: On the side-by-side it appears Servia and Dominguez got tangled up on the track. Both spin and continue with no yellow. Amazing restraint shown by the IHJ there.

75: Still Helio, Briscoe, Kanaan, Wheldon, Patrick. Dixon is back in 12th. Ready the fences for climbing.

79: White flag for Helio as Will Power takes out the tires in the chicane. Maybe Ricky Bobby really does have brake problems. No yellow, all Helio.

80: With Carpenter spinning randomly somewhere on the track Helio takes the checkered flag, pumping his fist, screaming "Whooo-hooo-hoooo!" Brazilbilly style.

On the victory lap he nearly takes out the parked car of Will Power in the chicane. My, that would have been awkward. Now Helio is back to the pits, out of the car, and onto the fence. OK, it's not a fence - it's a gate to the main grandstands. If you're partying with Spiderman you're feeling fun-tastic!

We made it through. Well, most of us. P3 came back to watch with about 10 laps to go but he fell victim to sweet slumber. Congrats to Team Penske for winning despite the mid-week Car-B-Que. I don't know if we have a legitimate race for the championship yet but we do have one happy driver in Victory Lane. Thank you very much, and good night.

Cheat Sheet: Infineon 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 8/23/2008 | 5 comments »
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My sincerest apologies for the slowdown in posts recently. We've had some family members with health issues ranging from the sniffles to the serious here at the World Headquarters, but I'll spare you the details since you don't come here to discuss my family.

No, we all come here to discuss IndyCars, and personal problems notwithstanding I don't mind admitting I'm kinda bored. B-O-R-E-D. Or as that recent campaign would say, BO(RED).

Boredom happens and it's not permanent, but it's there for several reasons. Silly season didn't get that silly, largely because we can't say so-and-so is jumping to or from Champ Car. The weekly action of most of the summer has screeched to a halt in the last month, leaving us with one race over the last 26 days (although it was a darned good event). Oh, and Scott Dixon has pretty much sealed the deal for his championship season, with the only thing remaining on his IndyCar championship checklist being the obligatory N-Word rumors.

(That's a joke, people. Please don't send me emails asking what I've heard about Dixon driving stock cars.)

Topping it off we come to one of the most challenging yet passing-free courses in the world, where the professional meets the processional. At least there's AGR to keep it interesting in Sonoma. Last year Tony Kanaan threw the mother of all block parties for Dario Franchitti, trying in vain to finesse his teammates damaged car to victory. The year before it was Bryan Herta's impeccably timed spin allowed Marco Andretti to conserve his way to his lone series victory. Who knows, maybe this year Danica Patrick or Hideki Mutoh will take one for team.

Hey, we need something to get excited about here.

Favorite: Scott Dixon. He's the defending champion. He has 6 wins in 14 races this year. He has 5 wins in 9 IndyCar road course events. OK, he's been freakishly awesome, but it would be great if he could something silly like you did two years ago when he had that bad pit stop and moved up 6 spots in 15 laps by passing people on the track and not on pit stops.

Contender: Helio Castroneves. As noted earlier this week, the Dancing Champion has finished in 2nd place on 3 of the 4 road/street events this year. Two things Helio has been doing: win pole positions (3 of the last 5 races), finish in 2nd place (3 straight races).

Longshot: Oriol Servia. Just because I'm weary of jinxing Will Power and Justin Wilson. Besides, everyone knows the driver to watch this year is ALWAYS EJ Viso. Viso is more relentless than Denzel Washington in "Man on Fire", although not as judicious.

Driver to Watch: Ryan Briscoe has lead 80 of 145 laps at the last two road course events (Watkins Glen and Mid Ohio). Does he block defend for his teammate or does he gun for his third win of the year? Inquiring minds want to know.

Danica Threat Level: Pffft. The threat monitor has been turned off indefinitely.

Drinking Term: "Overtake". We need to go with a sobering term that won't be used much, because honestly, you're better off just brewing a pot of coffee this weekend.

Stat of the Race: Sunday will mark Helio's 110th consecutive IndyCar series start, which will tie Sam Hornish Jr. for the second-longest streak all time. I miss Sam, and judging from the lackluster results Sam is having in the Cup series I wonder if Sam misses us.

pressdog says: "Infini-yawn. Snore-noma. Sears Point-less. I should care about this race .... why? I guess we need a break from all the excitement of the Olympics and a lock-step-a-thon is just the medicine. Dixon has the title locked up. Look for him to drive to finish. The winner will be one of the big three, AGAIN. z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z. I'm saying a too-little-too-late win for Helio, an estimated 691 people in the stands and a TV rating nearing the illusive 0.0."

Hang on. I was there last year and I can vouch for the fact that there are more than 691 fans at the track. They're just not sitting in the main grandstands because those happen to offer the worst views of the track. You on the other hand will probably be watching at home with multiple camera angles, so enjoy the show!

Road warriors

Posted by Iannucci | 8/21/2008 | 6 comments »
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With two more twisties upon us in the coming weekends and the My Name Is IRL TSO Fantasy team languishing in 84th place, it behooved your humble host to try to figure out who exactly would fit the bill as the 2008 King of the Road. And so the data was summoned and brought forth, so with any possible typos notwithstanding here are the results for each driver who participated in the St Pete, Watkins Glen, Mid Ohio and Edmonton races, ranked by average finish.

1. Kanaan: (3, 3, 7, 9) 5.50
1. Castroneves: (2, 16, 2, 2) 5.50
3. Manning: (13, 2, 8, 10) 8.25
4. Hunter-Reay: (17, 1, 10, 8) 9.00
5. Dixon: (22, 11, 3, 1) 9.25
6. Servia: (7, 23, 5, 5) 10.00
7. Briscoe: (23, 12, 1, 6) 10.50
8. Wilson: (9, 25, 11, 3) 12.00
9. Power: (8, 15, 4, 22) 12.25
10. Rice: (15, 4, 20, 11) 12.50
11. Rahal: (1, 8, 16, 26) 12.75
11. Viso: (4, 10, 22, 15) 12.75
11. Mutoh: (6, 9, 9, 27) 12.75
14. Patrick: (10, 14, 12, 18) 13.50
15. Junqueira: (24, 6, 13, 14) 14.25
16. Wheldon: (12, 24, 17, 7) 15.00
16. Foyt: (11, 19, 18, 12) 15.00
18. Carpenter: (18, 17, 15, 13) 15.75
19. Meria: (19, 22, 6, 19) 16.50
20. Moraes: (16, 7, 24, 20) 16.75
21. Bernoldi: (5, 21, 26, 16) 17.00
22. Andretti: (25, 5, 25, 17) 18.00

(Results from the Long Beach event were excluded because of the difference in race cars, as were results for drivers who only participated in some of these events. Sorry, Mr Tracy.)

As you can see there are a few drivers outside of the Big Three who have excelled on road courses, although the two that jump out are Darren Manning and Ryan Hunter-Reay. When bimergification occurred earlier this year, the conventional wisdom then was that the refugee, err, transition drivers would be able to hang or possibly even better the IRL regulars on the road and street courses. Well, wisdom rarely is conventional, and aside from Graham Rahal’s win at St Petersburg the fact is the former Champ Car teams haven’t exactly set the world on fire on the non-ovals. Oriol Servia notwithstanding.

Still, the road courses have resulted in an unusual jumbling of the regulars. You cam make your own case for which is the most unusual result so far.
• Darren Manning, surprisingly in 3rd?
• Scott Dixon, slumming in 6th?
• Marco Andretti, dead effing last?
• Dale Coyne’s Bruno Junquiera, bettering a Ganassi driver (Dan Wheldon)?
• EJ Viso, tied or ahead of three AGR drivers?
• Graham Rahal, having progressively worse results?

Take your pick, and pick your fantasy team accordingly.

Up in smoke

Posted by Iannucci | 8/20/2008 | 11 comments »
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Holy Infernos! The braintrust at Trackside Online informs us that Team Penske just suffered their worst fire since Indianapolis in 1981.

The Penske Racing transporter taking Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe's primary cars to Infineon was destroyed in a fire early this morning in Wyoming.

Apparently a wheel bearing caught fire and when the truck drivers were unable to extinguish the flames themselves, they eventually retreated and unhooked the tractor - watching the trailer and its contents burn - including the cars.

Team president Tim Cindric told Robin Miller in a story that the loss is at least a couple million dollars. The team immediately began to ship more cars to Sonoma from their North Carolina shop.

Those cars however are currently set-up for oval racing. Helio's back-up road course car had been used in testing at Sonoma last week and it is apparently still in California - where it now becomes his primary road course car.

Well, Helio wasn't going to catch Dixon anyways, was he?

UPDATE: Robin reports that Team Penske President Tim Cindric cited the lack of telephone coverage as contributing to the disaster.

"It was about 2:30 in the morning and they had no cell phone coverage but somebody finally saw it burning and eventually the fire department showed up. Obviously, it was too late to help."

Fun fact: one of the Penske stock cars is sponsored by a cellular service provider. How ironic.

"Thank you. Drive safe."

Posted by Iannucci | 8/18/2008 | 16 comments »
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Danica Patrick: so powerful she can use her awesome telekinetic abilities to close car windows on your head. Be afraid, Milka. Be very afraid.

Oddly enough, this probably isn't too far off the Hosepenthals' honeymoon festivities. Or so I'm told.

Have you seen this guy?

Posted by Iannucci | 8/15/2008 | 12 comments »
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This may or may not be a coincidence, but reader Jennifer seems to have stumbled on to a phenomenon I too have witnessed. In no way does it stereotype all fans of this particular driver, but it does seem that individuals who match this description seem to be cheering for the same dude.

Every year we go to the Nashville race … okay, so ever year we went to the IRL race. There is always “that guy” who stands up every time Tony Kanaan comes through the front straightaway. I mean, every time. Every single lap “That Guy” will stand and point and holler and root TK on in a near violent way. “That Guy” may even flip off the other drivers as they go by. “That Guy” may even turn around and try to get others to hoot and holler for TK. Well, this year there was more than one of them. There may have even been three in our area.

The photo has been provided by reader John in Nashville (I know - more readers named John) who has also been witness to this type of individual. And a monumental discovery like this demands it be plagiarized immortalized in song.

Bud Light Presents Real Men of Genius
(Real Men of Genius)

Today, we salute you, Mr. S**t-Faced Tony Kanaan Fan
(Mr. S**t-Faced Tony Kanaan Fan)
They say those who can't race have to take a seat.
Apparently those who can't sit proudly stand,
Intoxicated and shouting obscenities.
(Thats right, motherf****r)
Thanks to you,
Tony constantly receives vital race-winning encouragement
Like "Get around that b***h",
And "Out of the way, a**holes".
(Shout it out now)
Bud Light, check.
Cigarette, check.
Percentage of Tony’s winnings, no check.
(Beer ain’t FREEEEEE)
So here's to you, oh sultan of shouting.
We're all clear on who your favorite driver is,
But as long as you keep swearing at him,
We'll keep staring at you.
(Mr. Sh**-Faced Tony Kanaan Fan)

Staying Up to Speed

Posted by Iannucci | 8/14/2008 | 17 comments »
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Last year Arni the Indy Insider utilized the power of YouTube to shamelessly poke fun at both the Indy Racing League and himself, exhibiting raw an unadulterated awesomeness in his race previews. However, for 2008 the powers that be decided to go with a more subtle and aesthetically polished approach, replacing the ambiguously-aged Arni and his handheld camera with snappy graphics, groovy background music, and the lovely and talented Lauren Bohlander.

Make that lovely, talented, and inquisitive, as Bohlander has done a wonderful job of asking hard-hitting questions, like “boxers or briefs?”

Because you can't get enough Bohlander, here is a list of the interviews she has conducted for "Up To Speed" (U2S) thusfar, along with some of the revelations she has uncovered by using subtle, time-tested interrogation techniques such as running her hand through her hair, laughing, and focusing her big hazel eyes at her guests.

Marco Andretti - Marco, like Danica, drives “commando” style.

Townsend Bell - Townsend and his family live in an empty house.

Ryan Briscoe - Ryan can detail your car and has a thing for vinegar. “Veen-eee-guh”

Helio Castroneves - Helio is a Brazilian “redneck” (Brazilbilly!) and he'll be your chauffer.

Scott Dixon - Scott must enjoy hanging out for adult beverages because he mentions bars twice in four minutes.

Sarah Fisher - Sarah has seven employees for her race team, which is less people than Danica! has for hair and makeup. Or so I’ve heard.

Tony Kanaan - Tony is currently negotiating sponsorship for his newborn son.

Vitor Meira - Vitor has a pet parrot that speaks foul (fowl?) language.

Graham Rahal - Graham has an iPhone, a Corvette, and lots of Facebook friends.

Buddy Rice - Buddy likes to do burnouts in the street.

Oriol Servia - Oriol has sung on stage with Lionel Richie.

EJ Viso - EJ can beat any driver using just one wheel and two pedals.

Justin Wilson - Justin can’t bench press more than 120 lbs because it would make him too huge.

All fun chats, although the search party has not returned from the quest to uncover the missing AJ Foyt IV interview that mysteriously appeared then disappeared earlier this season. In the meantime, Lauren has also interviewed a number of Indy Lights drivers,

Richard Antinucci - Richard likes to surf badly and walk the Target dog.

Ana Beatriz - Ana, like every other woman, really enjoys shopping.

James Davison - James feels confident on ovals (so perhaps he’ll sign The Petition).

Arie Luyendyk Jr - Arie Jr has a real estate license so he sells houses.

All Bohlander. All the time.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 8/13/2008 | 18 comments »
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What does this one say?

(Photo: TrackSide Online)

His name is Vitor, not Victor

Posted by Iannucci | 8/12/2008 | 7 comments »
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There is no way to deny the compelling drama of Vitor Meira’s winless streak. His record-setting and ever-growing “oh-fer” has become his claim to fame, inspiring fans everywhere, as well as race announcers, to ask almost reflexively “Will this be the day…?” whenever Meira takes the lead in an IndyCar race.

Which only goes to show that we’re looking at the wrong number by focusing on the “0” instead of the “90”, because in order to not win 90 races a driver has to be in 90 races. To date, the streak includes:
• 2nd – 8 times (once by .0051 seconds)
• 3rd – 6 times
• 4th – 5 times
• 5th – 8 times
• Laps led: 421

That’s 27 times in the Top 5 (30%), a percentage bested by only a handful of his current competitors. Not too shabby. After thinking about this, the comparison of Vitor Meira to the Chicago Cubs is all wrong, because baseball is an entirely different type of sport to measure against. Teams only compete against each other in pairs, and as such no team has managed to go winless for more than 20 or so contests.

So in the interest of relating apples-to-apples, the comparison for Meira and his epic 0-90 career turns back towards racing. I’ve tried to research this but statistics are usually kept for accomplishments and not, well, non-accomplishements, so I may have missed some competitors. But after a little bit of searching I’ve uncovered a few record holders and hopefully some milestones for Vitor to aim. Not that he should try to lose, but a streak of any kind is a beautiful and precious thing. Most people focus on winning streaks, but losing streaks (or in this case a “winless” streak) have their place in our collective hearts and memories as well.

The all-time champion of winlessness in racing would appear to be JD McDuffie. By most accounts McDuffie was the prototypical “Good ‘Ol Boy”, racing predominantly in shoe-string budget entries in the Cup level of stock cars from 1963 to 1991. That’s right – 28 years! In that time McDuffie went without victory a mind-boggling 653 times, a number so staggering in scope that it is difficult to grasp. To try something 653 times and come up short everytime is somewhere between insane and hilarious. Let’s call it insanely hilarious.

Then again, poor McDuffie was killed in a violent crash at Watkins Glen, so maybe it’s not so insanely hilarious. Let’s have a moment of silence for the late record setter ... *pause* ... Alright, God rest his soul, but we’re back to the living.

Unfortunately for Vitor, even the title of “most winless open-wheel driver” seems to have out of Meira’s reach. That mantle is likely to be claimed by claimed by Andrea de Crasheris, err, de Cesaris, who in the cutthroat world of Formula One managed to accumulate 214 starts without a win between 1980 and 1994. At the current schedule of races still quantifying in the teens it would take Vitor well over a decade to get to that number, so the likelihood is Vitor will fall short of the record for falling short. Oh, the cruel irony.

However, the good news is there is an American racing legend who’s record Meira has a legitimate shot at equaling, and that legend is Zippy Chippy.

Zippy Chippy is a thoroughbred horse that managed to go 0 for 100 in a racing career that became a national sensation a few years ago. Technically speaking Zippy Chippy is not the “losingest horse ever” as racers such as Thrust (winless in 106 races) and Haru Urara (without victory in 113 races) have greater records of futility, but Zippy Chippy was notable because he was from a line of proven race winners and lost that 100th race only four years ago. And he finished second eight times just as Vitor has done. And the name “Zippy Chippy” conjures fun mental images of the car owner otherwise named “Floyd Ganassi”.

So here’s to celebrating Meira in his march towards Zippy Chippy and the century mark. With a little (bad) luck and some help from Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan, the Mirror Man can reach this monumental goal. And if by chance something goes incredibly right for Meira one race weekend, there are pretty good odds that Ed Carpenter (0 for 79, 3 laps led EVER) can make a run at whatever record Vitor leaves.

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 8/11/2008 | 17 comments »
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"NASCAR's Sprint Cup schedule is easily the most diverse and demanding challenge in the motorsports world. Nowhere else will you find such a varied combination of tracks, from Bristol to Texas to Talladega to Pocono, and no two tracks are exactly alike -- even the so-called cookie-cutters have their own unique characteristics. Formula One, World Rally and other global series typically focus on a single type of circuit and stick with it all season long (although IndyCar's '09 schedule is shaping up to provide much more balance than in the past)." -'s Ryan McGee, revealing how he erroneously thinks the words “diverse” and “varied” are simply synonyms for “awesomest” and “ultra magnificent”.

(Thanks to reader Ansen for finding this amusing quote.)

10 things I loved about this race

Posted by Iannucci | 8/11/2008 | 14 comments »
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My sincerest apologies for not having a LiveBlog this weekend. There were some technical difficulties at the My Name Is IRL World Headquarters that prevented your humble host from the glorified stenographer duties, but rest assured the issues will be rectified for the upcoming race at Infineon (or as Will says, “Infini-yawn”.)

However, despite being off the grid I was still able to see the Meijer Something Or Other 300 Presented By Someone Else (a.k.a. “the race at Kentucky”), which I found to be wonderfully entertaining despite the fact that Bob Jenkins had morphed back into Marty Reid. Not like Chicagoland 2003 entertaining, but an enjoyable show nonetheless. Here are 10 Things that made this race worthwhile, because a list of 10 Things is a cheap and easy gimmick to facilitate a post.

10. Ed Carpenter is money on the big ovals. You want an easy pick for your TSO Fantasy team? Take Ed on the big ovals. In seven races on ovals larger than a mile (Homestead, Motegi, Kansas, Indy, Texas, Nashville, Kentucky) Ed has made the Top 10 every time. He’s awesome! Well, except on every other track not on that list since those are his only Top 10s for the season.

9. Drivers never cause accidents. Follow the pattern here: Driver crashes, driver gets checked out and released from the ubiquitous infield care center, driver gets interviewed and INVARIABLY says either “(so-and-so) just (insert verb) into me” or “something on the car just broke”. Since we’ll be moving expanded coverage on Versus next year I’d like to propose a weekly game show for these drivers called “Something Just Broke”. This week’s contestant was Mr Will Power, who’s repeat appearances on this hypothetical show are so numerous as to be closely approaching those of Graham Rahal and Jamie Camara (although in fairness Marty Roth and Milka Duno would be featured more often if they did not have scheduling conflicts back at the transporter.)

8. Vitor Meira’s streak is a live and well. Zero for Eighty! NINETY!! I’m sure Vitor probably disagrees with me on this but I’m at the point now where I don’t want him to win anything until the very last race of his career. Here’s a guy who’s clearly capable of winning on any track, but for whatever reason he’s never able to take the checkers in first place. Ironically, the fact that he hasn’t won is exactly why so many people find themselves cheering whenever he’s in the lead. If he does something silly now like actually winning then suddenly he turns into Airton Dare, and no one wants that. As long as he keeps missing it by thismuch he’ll perpetuate his popularity as the Chicago Cubs of racing.

7. There is no substitute for the unintentional comedic stylings of Jack Arute. Every race Arute surprises us with something so mind-bending it’s beyond human comprehension. All you can do is laugh and act like you knew what he was talking about. This weekend Jack continued to show that he’s a true asset by declaring “Good news! Helio can finally report there is something wrong with his car!” ... I did say “asset”, right? I’d hate for that to turn into an abbreviated typo.

6. EJ Viso is the most interesting driver in the IndyCar series. His competitors complain about him and his sponsor is a dictator, but I can’t seem to muster any semblance of hatred for a guy who races with such, uh, determination. Despite regularly interchanging aggressiveness for aggression, Viso has crashed out of only one race this year – the season opener at Homestead. Not only does he drive like Warren Wallace, he’s probably about the same size as well.

5. Helio is happy even when he’s upset. Last year Scott Dixon lost the championship when ran out of fuel at the end of the final race, but this year Helio Castroneves has managed to pull the same trick TWICE at Motegi and Kentucky. In fact, he’s now been second SEVEN times, which means I’m completely abusing my CAPS LOCK. Does this bother the driver who climbed fences before he started not winning? If it does he’s not letting on, because when he climbed out of his car and had a microphone stuffed in his face it was obvious Helio was laughing. Laughing! Here’s to the goofy grin that says “I can’t win a freaking race this year because Scott Dixon is incredibly awesome and ridiculously lucky, but you know what – I still feel FUN-tastic!”

4. Jack Arute and Scott Goodyear took time out of their busy schedules to point out that Scott Dixon has an obvious advantage during yellow flag pit stops. Hooray! No slight to Dixon and the Ganassi team who continue to take full advantage of that last pit box, but if Brian Barnhart is going to be reviewing ways to make races more interesting here’s an obvious one – stop letting the team with the most points pick pit stalls. Competition is a good thing, so please consider making 2009 the year the ICS starts randomizing pit assignments for all races. I mean, for crying out loud, even Scott Goodyear is calling the league on this.

3. Marco hates fuel conservation in racing as much as I do. Just a guess, but Andretti 3.0 probably could have won this race had he simply sat behind Iceman and drafted him most of the day and “made more fuel” than Dixon. But that’s not how Andretti rolls, because he probably burned off a good half dozen laps worth of juice trying to take the lead while Dixon was stuck to the low line. And you know what? Good for Marco for racing and losing instead of giving us lap after lap of lockstep madness. Memo to Brian Barnhart: encourage actual racing by getting rid of the fuel mappings.

2. Danica and Sarah touched. It didn’t result in words or towel throwing or mud wrestling, but the highlight of the race occurred when the Fisher Queen made a move to pass Danicker on the high side. It looked like Mrs Hospenthal tried to throw a little block party, but Fisher, having none of that, held her line and banged wheels without lifting to complete the move. Oh yes, Sarah Fisher can still race the ovals, friends.

1. The guy who ran on fuel strategy lost the race. “The Tortoise and the Hare” is a great children’s book but a horrible template for auto racing. It seems too many races of late have been determined by who could go the slowest and avoid an extra pit stop, but in SPARTA! the winner was a driver who’s only conservation seemed to come from his right foot. Those of us not named “Chip” would love to see Helio or anyone else make the 2008 championship a contest, but how is a fan supposed to get excited when we’re all wondering if Helio set his onboard computer to slow his car enough to save the necessary fuel? To repeat that memo to Brian Barnhart: encourage actual racing by getting rid of the fuel mappings.

Cheat Sheet: Kentucky 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 8/08/2008 | 21 comments »
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This is SPARTA!!!!! Kentucky, that is.

When we last left our beloved IndyCar series, Scott Dixon had notched his 5th win of the year up in Canada, Paul Tracy had driven the wheels of his “crapwagon”, and Andretti Green Racing had quarantined themselves for an in-house Celebrity Deathmatch. Good times for all!

Since then we’ve had an eventful couple of weeks, including announcements of a, uh, “balanced” 2009 race schedule, and a, um, “interesting” new TV package, along with an “intriguing” Robin Miller story that turned out to be wrong. And this is consider “downtime”.

(I have now nearly exhausted my quotation mark quotient.)

Seriously though, who could forget the weekend at Kentucky last year? Not AGR. Tony Kanaan won the race from the pole, keeping his slim hopes of a championship alive. Marco scored a rare Top 5 on an oval. Danica Patrick spun on pit out, flat spotted the tires, zoomed back up to speed, suffered a blowout, spun into the wall and nearly struck the safety truck. Topping it off, Dario Franchitti had the mother of all brain fades by not realizing the race was over and driving up over the back of Kosuke Matsuura’s rear wheel for an epic somersault into the post-race festivities.

And just to add a twist, Hideki Mutoh - who now resides in the AGR stable of drivers - that night in the Indy Lights race won in his Panther Racing entry. Godzilla vs Sparta! Ah, the memories.

Favorite: Tony Kanaan. Last year Nariz won the pole and the race, and other than 2005 he’s never finished worse than 6th here. In 5 years he has led 285 laps at Kentucky Speedway. Can you say “Kan-To-Ky”?

Contender: Dan Wheldon. Despite leading 176 laps in Kentucky, Well Done has never finishing better than 3rd.We still don’t know if the signatures have been applied to his 2009 contract yet, but a win this weekend would go a long way towards completing a deal.

Longshot: AJ Foyt IV. Quattro shocked the world with a third place finish last year, presuming the world is still capable of being shocked after so many “shocked the world” moments in sports over the last couple of decades. If his crew can keep from lighting him on fire – literally – he should be up front again.

Driver to Watch: Sarah Fisher. New and improved, now with real sponsorship added! Sarah returns to Kentucky, a track where she finished 3rd in 2000 and started from the pole in 2002. A lot of time has passed since then, but at the risk of jinxing her let’s note that Sarah has completed well over 1100 laps here without crashing. Of course, she’s never raced here against EJ Viso before.

Danica Threat Level: DanCon Four. Since claiming the pole position for her first start here in 2005 Danicker has had, well, sucked. Two 16th place finishes and an 8th make Kentucky the one super speedway she’s never had any luck at. That is, if you don’t count her incredible near-miss of the Delphi Safety Truck last year.

Drinking Term: “Sarah Fisher”, of course.

Stat of the race: Scott Dixon has never won at Kentucky, finishing 2nd in 2003, 2006, and 2007. Longtime My Name Is IRL reader and noted Dixon antagonista “American Mutt” regularly attends this race. Coincidence?

pressdog says: “Dan Wheldon crawls out from underneath the bus where Chippy tossed him and wins. Dixon does what all fans pay money to see -- plays it safe. Helio challenges but fades at the end. Sarah Fisher gets into a pit brawl with Danica during which I drop my water and pass out.”

Alrighty then. Ready your best "300" references for the comments section, and by all means enjoy the show!

Robin says Kanaan's the Target

Posted by Iannucci | 8/07/2008 | 14 comments »
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Warning: Robin Miller's mic is set to “on”.

Tony Kanaan is the most valuable player at Andretti Green Racing, but he’s also the most valuable free agent in American open-wheel racing and Chip Ganassi is poised to snap up the 2004 Indy Racing League champion. has learned that Ganassi has made a multi-year offer for Kanaan to join Scott Dixon at Target/Ganassi Racing starting in 2009 and the 33-year-old veteran is expected to sign the contract in the near future.

(MORE from SpeedTV)
While this isn’t exactly a far-fetched idea, by no means has this been confirmed as fact. However, just to entertain the idea – and it is very entertaining – consider the following fallout:

- For the series it would be 2006 all over again, as AGR is probably out of the championship picture without Kanaan. It’s not so much that the remaining Andretti Green drivers are untalented, but that they have a combined two wins among them.

- Kanaan’s replacement could come from within the Andretti Green family. The AGR team already has talented young drivers in Raphael Matos (Indy Lights) and Franck Montagny (ALMS), but if they really want a driver they’re familiar with they could always go with the ageless John Andretti. Not that we should hold our breath on that one.

- Dan Wheldon goes…where? His lack of success on non-ovals could prove to be his undoing at TCGR, although for all of his struggles he still finds a way to be in the Top 5 in points. If he doesn’t bring any sponsorship his only hope would be that Roger Penske would take Dan over Ryan Briscoe. Briscoe has looked better on road courses and is probably cheaper, but Wheldon has won at Indy. Otherwise – pick a team, any team. Just not one of the Big Three.

- The AGR humor quotient goes to zero. Remember that goofy bunch in 2004 with Franchitti, Kanaan, Wheldon and Herta? Yeah, that would close the book on that. When Danica Patrick is the most amusing member of your race team, well, you’re not very funny.

- What about Alex Lloyd? Does anyone remember him?

Anyhow, flap you gums about the possible repercussions of this at your own risk since Kanaan could still stay at AGR.

(Thanks to pressdog - who has Robin on speed dial - for the tip.)

FLASHBACK: From July 12th, at

Wheldon plans to remain with Ganassi Racing

Dan Wheldon said Saturday that he has agreed to terms with Chip Ganassi on a multiyear contract that will keep them partnered in the IndyCar Series for 2009.

The document with Ganassi Racing has not been signed, Wheldon said prior to the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway, but he is confident it will be soon.

"It's just a matter of the lawyers putting it on paper and getting it signed," he said.

Ganassi declined comment.

UPDATE: The intrepid Curt Cavin says "The Question is Moot!"

Tony Kanaan signs five-year contract with Andretti Green Racing

So much for the Versus jokes

Posted by Iannucci | 8/07/2008 | 35 comments »
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It's for real.

The IndyCar Series will return to ABC-TV for five races in 2009, including the Indianapolis 500, but the rest of the races will move from ESPN and ESPN2 to Versus, series and television officials confirmed Wednesday.

Versus, which is owned by Comcast and is home to the NHL and the Tour de France, will carry a minimum of 13 races next year in a multiyear agreement.

The IndyCar Series is counting on additional programming on Versus, including pre- and post-race shows, extended broadcasts and specialty shows that will be detailed today in a teleconference.

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(Thanks to Bash for being the first of many to send this to the Inbox.)


The multi-year partnership with VERSUS calls for the network to televise at least 13 races per year for the next 10 years, with each telecast lasting a minimum of three hours and includes extended pre-race coverage. VERSUS also will air a one-hour preview show the day before each race that will feature qualification highlights and all of the relevant IndyCar Series stories of that weekend. Additionally, the network will feature extensive coverage of all the qualification days at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway leading up to the Indianapolis 500.

VERSUS will feature at least 10 hours of IndyCar Series ancillary programming each season focused on the drivers, teams and tracks as well as allowing for extensive coverage of the Centennial Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Further, VERSUS will have IndyCar Series re-airs in the week following every race as well as the Firestone Indy Lights schedule highlighted in weekly 30-minute telecasts.

Against all odds

Posted by Iannucci | 8/06/2008 | 5 comments »
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While the is trying desperately to spin some tale about there being six drivers mathematically eligible to win the IndyCar series championship this year, the fact is this thing is over. This is not to say that there’s no reason to watch anymore, but the drama surrounding the championship is almost to the point of being unnecessary.

Consider the following: In addition to winning 5 of 13 races this year, Scott Dixon has finished on the podium 10 times. That’s a lot of bottles of champagne, and mind you those are those super crazy big “spray everyone silly” bottles he’s been handed. And while it doesn’t mean Dixon is already intoxicated beyond belief from his winning ways, it does mean that with only four races left it’s going to be nearly impossible for anyone to catch a guy who’s getting at least 35 points nearly every time he races.

How impossible? Well, according to Sports Club Stats there’s a 98.3% chance that Dixon wins the championship. Let’s put that another way: there’s a less than 1 in 50 chance that someone not named “Scott Dixon” wins the IndyCar series in 2008.

Still not sure about this? Fine, let’s take a look at Sports Club Stats results of 20,000,000 possible outcomes and translate them to reality for the men chasing Dixon.

Helio Castroneves (65 points back):
• Odds of Helio developing hemorrhoids: 1 in 28
• Odds of Helio winning the IndyCar series championship in 2008: 1 in 59
• Odds of Helio being on plane with a drunken pilot: 1 in 117

Dan Wheldon (115 points back):
• Odds of Dan getting injured using a chain saw: 1 in 4464
• Odds of Dan winning the IndyCar series championship in 2008: 1 in 7065
• Odds of Dan's wife having triplets: 1 in 8100

Tony Kanaan (118 points back):
• Odds of Tony falling out of a building: 1 in 6422
• Odds of Tony winning the IndyCar series championship in 2008: 1 in 9116
• Odds of Tony winning an Academy Award: 1 in 11,500

Sorry friends, but it looks like it’s all over but the cryin’.

(Thanks to IRL-O-Rama for the links)

Old guys rule

Posted by Iannucci | 8/04/2008 | 5 comments »
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This is for you, Nearly Old Guy. You know, the guy who blows out his Achilles trying to get out of bed to take a leak at 2 am. The guy who watches SportsCenter and realizes most professional athletes are young enough to be his kids. The guy who subscribes to “Men’s Health” hoping they’ll inform him of a way to get six-pack abs that doesn’t involve actual exercise.

This weekend Nearly Old Guy got a new hero: former IndyCar driver Jeff Ward. You may remeber Ward as a guy who after years of success in motorcycle racing decided to give open wheel a try back in the 90s. Although he only won 1 IndyCar race in his career (hey, that’s one more than Vitor Meira) Ward drove well enough to go from wannabe to Chip Ganassi Racing driver, scoring three Top 5 finishes at the Indianapolis 500 along the way.

Ward was already into his 40s when he raced his last Indy 500 in 2005, and upon concluding her entered into the retired portion of his racing career. Or so I thought until I happened to see him televised at the X-Games this weekend.

Jeff Ward, a Newport Beach resident, showed Saturday that he still has what it takes to win, even at age 47.

Ward captured the gold medal in the Moto X SuperMoto event in XGames 14 at the Home Depot Center

Ward, who became the oldest gold medalist in the XGames two years ago, took home the silver medal last year.

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Ward was already a pretty cool guy for a number of reasons, like naming his twin boys “Ayrton” and “Alain”, but this is incredibly impressive. As best I can tell, Supercross is a combination of racing a motorcycle through twists and turns in a parking lot and then back into a stadium where the course turns into 20-foot dirt moguls. This is seriously bone-jarring stuff. Your humble host happened to catch this, and what’s most impressive is that despite competing against a bunch of guys in their 20s, Ward led nearly every lap he raced.

So let us all raise a glass of Metamucil – just don’t actually drink the stuff – and toast Jeff Ward, who joins AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti as well as other sports legends like George Foreman, George Blanda and Satchel Paige in the Pantheon of “Old Guys Who Never Got Tired Of Kicking Young Punks’ Behinds”.

(Photo: Paul Buckley)

Fear factor

Posted by Iannucci | 8/01/2008 | 3 comments »
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One of the greatest disappointments of this week has been the lack of any recent podcast from the Braintrust at TSO. These otherwise dedicated racing insiders have now gone over a month without an audio offering, and as a consequence your humble host is going into withdrawal. There’s no race this week and as such I was looking forward to spending some time listening to Joe and Patrick hash out the real issues of IndyCars in their distinctive quaalude vs caffeine styles. Sadly, that ain’t happening.

Fortunately one person who was ready to chat it up MP3 style this week was none other than everyone’s favorite hand puppeteer, Mrs Danica Patrick. Danicker took time away from her intensive pit road lecture series to spend some time with ESPN’s own “Sports Guy”, Bill Simmons, who knows about as much regarding IndyCars as I do about La Crosse. (And just to belabor the point, I don’t even know if I spelled “La Crosse” correctly.)

Give Simmons (who’s relation to Gene or Jeff remains in question) credit though, because in the course of his conversation with (fill in your own nickname for her) he managed to get Mrs Hospenthal to admit to having more than her share of fears. This list includes but is not limited to:
• Tripping in high heels
• The dark
• Dark water
• Bugs
• Heights
• Towel-throwing Venezuelans (OK, I made that up. Still...)

Congratulations Danica haters, because you now know you can now get your jollies by standing for hours in the autograph line and “accidentally” dropping rubber spiders on the table while Danica! is signing one of her billions of daily autographs. She might jump, you might laugh, but remember that it probably ends with Security Chief Charles all over you like a bad rash.

And as someone who has seen the man mountain that is Charles from just a few feet away, let me tell you - that’s what I’m afraid of. Give me bugs in dark water over Charles any day. At any rate, listen to the entire interview here and find out who “Ricky Bobby” is.