LiveBlog: Detroit 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 8/31/2008 | 26 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.


  1. Chuck // August 31, 2008 12:48 PM  

    First I was going to post something snarky about race control taking full-course caution lessons from NASCAR. But then it looked like that was a worthwhile call. Instead I'll just note incredulously that race control is penalizing Junky for 'avoidable contact', in complete disregard of the fact that the only result of the 'avoidable contact' was the Milka Duno 'inevitable spin-out'.

  2. J E Clerk // August 31, 2008 1:50 PM  

    Props to Arie Jr. for filling in for Davey Hamilton today...

  3. Doug // August 31, 2008 2:11 PM  

    Seems as if I'm watching the Commercial Marathon of Detroit. I got a 65" TV, but watching the race in a 13" window the majority of the time. GRRR!!!

  4. faniqeric // August 31, 2008 2:28 PM  

    Wow. The IRL finally grew a pair.

  5. ohthatsdoll // August 31, 2008 2:44 PM  

    Way to cut off those last two laps you morons. F--- timed races

  6. J E Clerk // August 31, 2008 2:49 PM  

    maybe i'm "too" old-school, but what the f**$ is WRONG with blocking? 'Splain that one to me. :P

    ...and this timed race thing needs to go away.

  7. Edmund // August 31, 2008 2:51 PM  

    Really? No penalties all season long for "blocking" until now? Unbe-effing-lievable.

  8. Doug // August 31, 2008 2:52 PM  

    I loved Helio's comments to Arute after the race, "I have nothing smart to say right now." I disagree, that was a very smart thing to say.

  9. Carrie // August 31, 2008 2:55 PM  

    I hate the BS blocking that does on in this league as much as the next girl but, FFS, that was nonsense. Until they start making guys and girls give up positions for every single questionable move, they shouldn't make anyone do it.

    I guess that was payback on Penske for not throwing the flag on Briscoe last week.

    I call shenanigans.

  10. redd // August 31, 2008 2:58 PM  

    hopefully the VS contract will forever end timed races. imagine that being allowed in any other sport?

    the problem with the blocking rules is consistent enforcement, maybe today will help.

    fuel knobs are anti-racing.

  11. Greg and Sheryl // August 31, 2008 3:10 PM  

    You never want to see a race determined this way, but IRL officials had to make that blocking call. While blocking accusations are rather common, we rarely see the block whenever that accusation is made. This was the first time all season where it was deadly obvious to us that a driver made a deliberate move to block. If Helio's move was not a block, then IRL drivers NEVER block.

  12. Bash // August 31, 2008 3:20 PM  

    Oh yeah, that was a "Scott Sharp runs Buddy Lazier into the grass at Indy"-worthy set of blocks. Just astounded that there was no warning. Then again, maybe there were just too many blocks in succession for even the Gentle Hand of Tolerance to stomach. Definitely a block, but one would like to see some consistency in how this rule is applied...

  13. Robert NJ // August 31, 2008 3:43 PM  

    I have two things to say:
    1) I feel like I am watching a 2002 Champ Car race with the total random blocking call.
    2) How many more hours until Vs. takes over the TV deal (did I really just type that??)

  14. Robert NJ // August 31, 2008 3:48 PM  

    Alos, not to get to Oliver Stone about this... funny how the IRL called it a times race as soon as Wilson got the lead- ensuring that his one win a year in his career streak alive.

  15. The American Mutt // August 31, 2008 4:05 PM  

    Why was Junky called for avoidable contact, but not Wheldon. Why is this the first time since Indy of 06 when there was a blocking penatly. Interesting that after a season full of blocking they do it when Dixon has the championship in hand rather than at Mil when he spent the first four laps blocking Will Power, or say Richmond when he was doing it most of the race. I'm one bad call away from being done with this series. Call it all year or not at all. Make Dixon match the pace cars speed at Nashville when he's trying to get a fuel win. WTF? This series is becoming a joke...

  16. Jenna // August 31, 2008 4:23 PM  

    I agree with Greg and Sheryl. The IHJ had no choice but to penalize Helio, it was just SO obvious. I've been watching all season and I haven't seen a block as obvious as Helio's was tonight. Wilson deserved the win.

  17. Anonymous // August 31, 2008 4:23 PM  

    hey greg and sheryl -

    there is such a thing as too much information and your profile proves it.

  18. the american mutt // August 31, 2008 4:26 PM  
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
  19. Anonymous // August 31, 2008 4:37 PM  

    Danica! Danica! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!Stay home and bake me some cookies!

  20. Jeff Iannucci // August 31, 2008 5:09 PM  

    Sorry Mutt. Gotta pull the plug on that one. Rant all you want about Dixon or ABC, but we don't do Presidential endorsements or condemnations here. There's no shortage of political blogs for that.

  21. Dale Nixon // August 31, 2008 6:12 PM  

    Congrats to the IRL for the obvious stepping of the stage management this season.

    Now, on the Helio blocking call, it's mind blowing simply because the bar was not set any other time this season (or any other). I've never, ever, in the hundreds/thousands of races I've watched or attended, seen the leader be told to allow a car on by.

    Was Wilson faster at that point in the race? Probably.

    Does that mean without a block that Wilson could have cleanly passed Helio on the track? Not necessarily.

    Just because a car can make the move does not mean it could be completed.

    If they are so intent on seeing passing on track that it becomes mandated by the tower, they should have redesigned that freaking joke of a track that has never, ever had anywhere to pass on it.

    I guess we all know that IHJ had Wilson in the TSO fantasy pool.

    Or McDonalds' sponsorship deal is up for renewal.

  22. The American Mutt // August 31, 2008 8:51 PM  

    Sorry Jeff. The point was really me bitching about ABC breaking away, and pretending to care about one thing while clearly caring about something else. I understand though, and you need not apologize.

    Points on racing. If Barnhart is going to hand out punishments he should have punished Dixon for running away with that start. He's spent the past two and a half seasons establishing rules. Regardless of what the actual rule is, Helio acted according to the rules that Barnhart has established. I personally think he didn't want to get blamed for denying a champ car guy a win. I've wanted WIlson to get a win all season long, but this cheapens it.

    PS Dixon pulled a worse block on Dario at the same part of that track last year. He didn't get punished.

  23. Bash // September 01, 2008 1:10 AM  

    A quick follow-up to j e clerk's Arie comment - the kid did a really nice job all weekend. I loves me some Davey, but Arie Jr is a smart, articulate guy.

    Meanwhile, I have a friend in the racing scene in Oswego, where Davey started and finished 4th in the Classic supermodified race. My bud sent me some cell phone snaps over the weekend - you can see 'em if ya want by heading here:


  24. llilly // September 01, 2008 6:02 AM  

    Does anyone know if Brian Barnhart gave an on-track warning in the Junky-Manning blocking incident which resulted in the same penatly?

  25. Ansen B. // September 01, 2008 10:50 AM  

    Hey llilly...

    There was no mention of one. That was my first thought when I saw Helio pull the block - they already called one of these earlier in the race, making someone move over. Barnhart pretty much HAD to call it again if he was going to be consistent.

    I don't get it this response by (most) everyone. Everyone complains all season long that the IRL is soft and won't penalize a top 3 team like Penske, and then Branhart hands down a penalty that not only is well within the rules, but also has precedent from earlier in the race - and everyone flips out about it.

    I don't think you can argue that you shouldn't call the penalty because you don't know if Wilson would have gotten by. Under IRL rules, he at least deserves the chance to try. And he seemed pretty convinced post-race that he would've had it even before the braking zone. Obivously Helio thought the same way, or he wouldn't have blocked him.

  26. RP // September 02, 2008 6:15 PM  

    In response to robert nj - if you want to go the route of conspiracy theories, you should consider this one: the questionably long caution to clean up Wheldon's wreck ensured a timed race, meaning Dixon wouldn't have to make a third pit stop. Castroneves had nothing for Wilson and he knew it - the block was pure desperation.