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.

14 comments

  1. Demond Sanders // August 11, 2008 2:44 PM  

    I'm with you all the way. Especially #3 and #4.

  2. Jenna // August 11, 2008 3:41 PM  

    It was kinda funny how crazy everyone went when Vitor passed Dixon for the lead around lap 45. But I think everyone knew that it wouldn't last. Poor Vitor..

  3. Carrie // August 11, 2008 4:44 PM  

    It's Loren/Lauren Wallace. I say this laughingly because when the kid first showed up in those commercials no one could figure out if it was Warren or Loren.

    http://www.geicogarage.com/

    Make sure you check out the geicogarage.com commercial down at the bottom for a special cameo.

  4. meeshbeer // August 11, 2008 5:14 PM  

    Gosh I was wondering when the hell you boys were going to post your race notes!! (am I the only one that attempts these things live?!)

    anyway, funny as hell as usual... but... I believe and I may be wrong... (it has been known to happen...) but I believe that Mr. Meira is the proud owner of 90 winless starts now.

    (oh and I knew some of you would eventually come around to EJ! hehe! Love that kid!)

  5. Jeff Iannucci // August 11, 2008 5:23 PM  

    Indeed - Vitor's streak is at 90, which is obviously much higher than I can count.

  6. Anonymous // August 11, 2008 7:18 PM  

    Uh... the somewhat odd Mr. Chavez is no more a dictator than George W. Bush. Sorry. Furthermore, he's a hell of a lot more popular in Venezuela than Bush is here in the United States.

    Unless, of course, by "dictator" you mean "guy who charges tax on barrel of Oil and uses it to improve lives of Venezuela's poverty stricken and very large lower class, but refuses to buy U.S. securities and fund our huge budget deficit like the Saudis do, thereby pissing off Oil men from Texas and bankers from New York."

    In that case, yeah, he's a dictator.

  7. Michael // August 11, 2008 7:19 PM  

    getting rid of fuel mapping wouldn't solve the fuel mileage "problem." There was no mapping for the 07 season, and it wasn't any different.

    Fuel mileage races are ok by me. That was a hell of a finish yesterday because of said fuel mileage, just like Chicagoland last year.

  8. Jeff Iannucci // August 11, 2008 8:19 PM  

    I'm so glad there's a socialist in the audience to pull one word out of a post about a race in Kentucky and turn it into a commentary on the sitting US President.

    OK fine, I'll bite. In this country we have the option to take out the trash every 4 or 8 years, but everything I've read about Chavez over the last decade indicates he's really keen on keeping Venezuelans from unseating him as their fearless leader. If he's looking to personally control of a nation for life then I got two words for him: Dick. Tater.

    But seriously, you realize this site is about auto racing right? Please take your George Bush criticisms over to Daily Kos or the Huffington Post where they belong.

  9. Tabernerus // August 12, 2008 6:45 AM  

    Ooh, ooh, a political debate! Sweet! And from a guy who posts anonymously! Awesome!

  10. Tabernerus // August 12, 2008 6:50 AM  

    I think the problem I have with the fuel knob vs. last year, when drivers were trying to save fuel by simply driving more gently, is that the latter method takes touch and skill. Dixon lost the championship because he failed to roll out of the throttle early enough in the corners, not because his fuel mapping computer could only dial it back so far. The human element is a big part of racing for many folks, so anything that removes or minimizes that element is annoying. Also, since it comes on every engine, it isn't even something that reflects on the mechanics, like choosing a taller high gear before the race.

  11. Anonymous // August 12, 2008 7:40 AM  

    Uh, Fill me in on fuel mapping please. Thanks.

  12. Carrie // August 12, 2008 7:50 AM  

    I hate fuel mapping, too. It's one thing to earn it with your foot and another thing to earn it because some super computer says you can make it.

  13. The American Mutt // August 12, 2008 8:38 AM  

    Not that I wish to further some political debate, but ethanols production is about as socialist as it gets Jeff. Without tax subsidies it wouldn't be here...just sayin'.

  14. Diecast Dude // August 14, 2008 8:59 PM  

    Admit it, Jeff. You put "Danica and Sarah touched" in your post just to see if Google would pick it up and you'd get about 30,000 feverish hits from people who would quickly leave, highly disappointed there were no pictures.