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.


  1. Jennifer Coomer // August 24, 2008 4:32 PM  

    (go helio go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

  2. Unknown // August 24, 2008 4:37 PM  

    As a huge Helio fan, I am currently planning a trip to somewhere between Sonoma and Detroit where I can set fire to Penske's Transporter this week.

  3. Jennifer Coomer // August 24, 2008 4:38 PM  

    If Helio wins this race I may just cry

  4. John in Speedway // August 24, 2008 4:45 PM  

    It's a Hollywood Story Book Ending! Ha. Let's hear it a few more times from Scott and Marty.

  5. Jennifer Coomer // August 24, 2008 4:46 PM  

    YAY HELIO YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Unknown // August 24, 2008 4:48 PM  

    Certainly we could find a better fence to climb. LOL

  7. Anonymous // August 24, 2008 4:49 PM  

    Well I will leave the live blogging to you jeff because we here at the planetirl world headquarters are exhausted from trying it

  8. Jennifer Coomer // August 24, 2008 4:49 PM  

    Watching Vince Welch run after Helio there may have been one of my favorite moments of the season.

  9. Nan S // August 24, 2008 4:50 PM  

    Hey, did you know that Brazilians use a Portuguese flag?

  10. mikebdot // August 24, 2008 4:53 PM  

    That is the most exciting pit strategy race I have ever seen.

  11. Iannucci // August 24, 2008 4:58 PM  

    The dirty secret about Live Blogging is that you miss about half of the race. I'm fortunate enough to have a quality team in the comments section to keep me aware of the stuff I miss.

    Thanks guys - I'm going to go climb my counch.

  12. Carrie // August 24, 2008 4:58 PM  

    I never in a million years thought I'd say this but thank you, Helio. At least he's keeping the championship winner in doubt for another week.

  13. Anonymous // August 24, 2008 5:04 PM  

    ...put 18 of those on the schedule and I'm breakin' out my old Dick Trickle t-shirt.

    ...they sure could use 18 more drivers with the skill and personality of Helio.

  14. Anonymous // August 24, 2008 5:33 PM  

    I guess if your name is Marty you are just an idiot... as Helio jumped into the "sold out grandstand" Marty Reid said he was given the Portagese flag...umm Marty that is the Brazilian flag, you know the national flag of Helio's home land.
    I am starting to this the $49 a month go get Vs. next year might be worth it.

  15. Fred Hurley // August 25, 2008 5:40 AM  

    Three comments:

    1.) Told you! Now what happens when Marco dives under Dixon going into turn 1 at Detroit, a track where Helio figures to run well? When Dixon spins into a Jersey barrier, this whole thing gets mighty interesting. And Marco, Viso, and Marty Roth are all going to be involved.

    2.) I liked that Jack Arute mentioned that HVM is the old Bettenhausen team, bought by Wiggins and kept going after the original owner's passing. It was a nice tie-in to the past, and one I'm sure some fans appreciated.

    3.) Thomas Scheckter dropped out, the reason listed as "mechanical." I know it's blasphemy, but did a motor let go, or was this another steering rack issue? It was just weird that he was running, and then he was out, and there was no mention, and now all we get is a "mechanical." Huh.

  16. Unknown // August 25, 2008 7:46 AM  

    I found the lack of air for Scheckter was curious as well. Did he get a mention even once?

  17. The American Mutt // August 25, 2008 2:40 PM  

    I have an idea. Lets nullify Dixons pit stall benefit by having mostly green flag pit stops. Lets have a mostly green flag race so that he can't do the short fill pit won strategy, and then lets see how he finishes...oh wait we just did.

    For those keeping track--his finish average on tracks Not Full Out (which was already worse than sixth) just got much worse, but yeah--keep telling yourselves he's the best driver.

  18. Anonymous // August 25, 2008 2:47 PM  


    Who is the best driver then? Championship-less Helio? Close-but-no-cigar Kanaan? Road course wunderkind (but not really) Wheldon? Because this technically could be Dixon's second title in a row and third overall, so you're gonna have to look far and wide to find a driver with those kind of credentials in the series. I'm interested to hear your response though, I'm sure you'll come up with something.

  19. Iannucci // August 25, 2008 2:49 PM  

    I'm no race strategist but it seems odd Dixon finished as far back as he did. Since Helio is the only driver with anywhere near a chance to catch him it would stand to reason that Dixon should have simply pitted whenever Helio did. With Helio winning the race that strategy should have put him in a Top 5 finish, right?

    Or did I miss something?

  20. Anonymous // August 25, 2008 5:31 PM  


    Helio has an average finish of fourth (which was only that high due to mechanical issues beyond his control at the Glen) on courses requiring more than full out--in other words more than the fastest car.

    Dixon has a an average finish of 7.125 on the same courses. One of those being a win during a needlessly timed race in Edmonton where his pit crew left tires out making it as difficult for Helio to get out of his pit as possible, and suprise suprise, took the lead from Helio in the pits. You could argue that three road races screw his average because he finished badly, but all three of those were his fault.

    Your point doesn't in any way disprove mine--in fact to a large part it strengthens it. Dixon won a championship in 03, and as of yet has not. The year he won saw very few tracks that weren't full out the whole time. The point I'm making is that Chips got the fastest car, and is in large part only winning because they won't randomize the pits. They even pointed out that they've been shortfilling Dixon all year by watching the teams behind him and dropping him when they drop. Take away his yellow stops and he finishes twelfth.

    Both Dario and Hornishes championship seasons were based more on bad luck for other people than dominating performances out of them. With this new schedule full of right turns Hornish would be screwed beyond compare BTW.

  21. Anonymous // August 25, 2008 5:34 PM  

    OH and Jeff,

    They did pit at the same time. I did my best to keep track of the pit strategies because I thought that aspect of the race was cool. Three different packs on three different strategies. You could argue that it didn't matter because of the podium, but after the podium the differing strategies paid huge dividends to the rest of the top ten. Wheldon and Danica started what....sixteenth and eighteenth or something and finished out the top five.

  22. Anonymous // August 26, 2008 9:15 AM  

    WOW!!Great race,and no crying from danica!Her not having to fight or blame someone is amazing!Was she even in the race?

  23. The SpeedGeek // August 26, 2008 2:34 PM  

    There's still a couple of holes there, though. Helio gets a free pass for a mechanical DNF at The Glen, but Dixon doesn't for the same at St. Pete? Two of Dixon's three wins in '03 were at Pikes Peak and Richmond (where he led every lap). Those are not flat out tracks. Last year, he won at non-flat out tracks at The Glen, Mid-Ohio and Sonoma, and missed the championship by what, a quart of ethanol? All of those things add up to "Scott Dixon only wins because he's lucky and the rules are unfair"? You talk about finishing position on non-flat out tracks, but what does that matter in the end? There are a lot of high speed tracks on the schedule, so Ganassi developed the car for them. Are you suggesting that we put an asterisk next to Dixon's championship (given that he wins it), because he had a car advantage?

    Championships are won when many things add up. Luck, skill, and almost always, in every type of motorsport, having the best car. Believe me, Dixon is not my favorite driver (he's maybe 8th or so for me in the current batch of drivers), but even given the inequality of some things (his car's relative speed on superspeedways, his pit placement), I don't think you can really argue what he's getting done on the track. This week was an off week. It happens. You win championships when it happens to you less than everybody else. Oh, and winning a third of all of the races helps, too.

  24. The American Mutt // August 26, 2008 5:17 PM  


    St. Pete was his fault for going into a corner to hot, getting on the curbing, and busting his suspension. Otherwise all good points.

    I don't like the man--that's no secret--I think he's a passive aggressive arrogant...I'll refrain from anymore as Jeffs kids read this.

    What I'm mostly saying is that I could take this "great" season of his a lot better if he'd race for the lead and win on the track. Generally if he passes a car it's going the wrong direction, and then he just waits for the yellow. He's not really racing anyone, just holding steady and waiting for the pits. They've been racing from yellow to yellow all year, and since they didn't get any at Sonoma he finished poorly.

    It'd also be nice if Barnhart would treat the whole pack the same. Briscoe didn't block him (it takes two moves not one), but do you suppose Dixon even got the warning?

  25. The SpeedGeek // August 26, 2008 7:28 PM  

    I'm starting to see what you're talking about. I'd forgotten about St. Pete. Also, point taken on waiting for yellows. However, I think that that's something to be laid at the feet of the League, for the most part. It's obviously true that the Big 3 have an advantage over everybody else, but I think that the massive amount of downforce (and the corresponding turbulence) that these cars make is not as condusive to passing as we'd probably all like. The relative lack of power doesn't help the equation, either. Why pull out to pass someone, when there's a good chance they'll block you and then you get passed by two or three cars yourself? I hope that that's a balance that they address for the 2011 cars, though I wish they'd reduce the downforce even before then.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly about the enforcement of blocking, though. How many "warnings" for blocking have there been this season? 200? More? How many people have actually had to serve penalties for blocking? 2 or 3? And how many of those were from the Big 3? I'll guess 0...

  26. Anonymous // August 26, 2008 8:53 PM  


    The last time I recall a blocking penalty actually assessed was Dixon at Indy in 06 (when I still liked him). It cost him the race too. There'd have been no Marco Sam finish. Wheldon and Dixon ran block step all day (in one two), and it was a fair penalty. I don't recall a major penalty baring blend violations and pit road speed infractions assessed on anyone since. If anybody else remembers by all means tell me.

    Something else that I thought interesting was them saying something about Barnhart telling the drivers to stay out of the way of the top four, but then WHeldon knocks Junky off track and that's ok.

  27. Anonymous // August 28, 2008 5:23 PM  

    I watched half this race while in China on a business trip. The commentators were Gary Lee and Larry Rice. It was the return of "Saturday Night Thunder!" I thought it was great to listen to a couple of guys who actually know the sport.