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.


  1. John in Speedway // August 25, 2008 11:27 AM  

    I hope TG, Barnhardt, Angstadt and the rest of the gang over at 16th and Georgetown pay attention to the fans, and not morph into Champ Car. Absolute minimum 50% ovals on all future schedules. Personally, I'd prefer 66%, but I don't think that's going to happen. Snooze parades have their moments, but I spent over half the race staring at my laptop surfing the internet instead of looking at the TV screen.

  2. Carrie // August 25, 2008 2:30 PM  

    I'm not sure what's scarier. A Highlights for Children reference in mmack's race report or the fact that I got the reference.

  3. Anonymous // August 26, 2008 3:43 PM  

    @mmack: As a disenfranchised CART fan I'll say this. If your wife wanted a CART guy to win, a CART guy won. She probably meant she wants an OWRS driver to win. :P I kid!!

    @John in Speedway: Believe what I am about to say, I'm not a hopped up idealist - I've only been watching the races from the early 90's over the last couple years and they are magnificent! Don't blame the road course, races as good as Michigan '98, or Michigan 2000, Michigan 2003 or Chicago 2003 were held at Cleveland, Elkhart, and Mid-Ohio! This god-awful Dallara should take most blame. You won't be able to tell until 2011 at this rate, but one day you'll understand what all us freaky CART guys were talking about.

    I'd also like to say that OWRS Champ Car is not a representation of a typical Champ Car fan's ideal series. Champ Car was squeezed off of the ovals by the IRL, NASCAR, and Speedway Motorsports. As a result, OWRS couldn't put a proper schedule together to save their mother!

    By no means do the majority of Champ Car fans want an all road and street course schedule. We want schedules with majority or slightly more ovals, perhaps 50% to 60% ovals at the maximum. You and I are probably very similar animals but this gosh-darned split separated us.

    Good-lady open-wheel is basically in a coma right now and the two factions still divide ourselves with 12 year old philosophical beliefs standing as one of the main dividers. CART/Champ Car fans are alarmed any time an IRL fan says the IRL needs to stand by its founding principles. An IRL fan becomes alarmed by the increasing tendency for "CART" principles being used as the means of fixing open-wheel.

    Listen (read?): The way to fix open-wheel isn't through mismanagement, or 100% "street fests". Those aren't CART ideals. Let me explain CART ideals so the IRL fan can understand where we are coming from. CART ideals are seasons 1982 (some say '78) through 1993 (some might say '94 or '95). We want the Indianapolis 500 to be the centerpiece in the National Championship. We want ovals, so long as they are suitable for IndyCar! We want lower banked ovals to allow 1000hp cars with little downforce to duel at 240mph without g-force becoming a medical risk. We want 1.0mile county fair type tracks that are flat and have fantastic two-wide capability and good passing zones. We want mid-western egg-shaped ovals that provide two unique corners for drivers to go two-wide in, not flat out! Bring back the driver skill! We want classic U.S. road courses, and a few big market street courses to help the series maintain a presence in the corporate consciousness.

    As a fan of open-wheel I want to see the two fan bases genuinely unite. I frequently talk to "Champ Car extremists", guys who supported OWRS' Champ Car to the very end, some of whom won't go come over to the IRL despite not being left with an alternative. Frankly, some of those guys are hurt over the split and blame TG entirely for ruining - not CART - but, American open-wheel racing in it's prime! Those fans may be lost forever, but others don't feel like hopping on the bandwagon because of a poor technical package, too many 1.5 mile high-banked stock car ovals, and the fear that the current leadership is not concerned about fixing open-wheel. Beliefs defended by the actions of IRL leaders not the least of which being the delayed implementation of a new technical package.

    Will all be fixed with a new car, and a better schedule? No. The IRL needs to earn back the U.S. fan, and the up-and-coming U.S. driver. Kasey Kahne, Casey Mears, Paul Menard, Alex Gurney and John Fogarty are just a few drivers lost from open-wheel due to the split. oDid CART (and now do IRL) owners have the tendency beginning in the early '90's to skip out on U.S. talent in favor of funded foreign drivers? Yes, but this only diversified the field and truly put American talent in a far deeper pool of drivers. Today this is still true to an extent. If you look at the ladder systems, especially the Atlantics, you'll see the best young drivers in the world. Now with sponsorship interest waning owners are forced on many occasions to forgo the USAC dirt track route in favor of foreign go-karters. The foreign go-karters bring funding from their homelands where NASCAR isn't the 800lb gorilla it is here, where sponsors are still interested in open-wheel. This is, I believe, without going to far into the economics of autoracing in North America today the main reason U.S. drivers aren't seen in IndyCar. NASCAR for the last decade has had sponsors falling over themselves to be associated with a team. Therefore, if a kid has the money to be successful in dirt track racing but doesn't have the two million odd dollars to help fund a racing team, it doesn't matter, he can jump to the big leagues based on talent alone. In open-wheel that is not the case.

    One last point, the fear that IRL owners have of young American talent not adjusting successfully to road racing is unwarranted. Those kids can handle 900hp on dirt. They can pick up road racing, they are talented enough! If anything, a go-karter picking up oval racing is harder. The setup basics of oval racing are so backwards and strange to a karter it is hard to be able to adjust your base setup from feel without having loads of laps experience. Additionally, driving style is harder to adjust to - braking techniques are contrary to what a karter has been taught in terms of corner entry. Steering input of a karter has to adjust(he even has to adjust to road racing in cars). Momentum, drift and chopping or biting as a method of steering is not ideal. In oval racing one singular smooth motion on the wheel at turn in is necessary, chopping will result in a spin... but I've gone on a long rant, and I digress.

  4. Anonymous // August 26, 2008 4:45 PM  

    Well said, Chris. One of the few times I've seen a post that actually went into the facts surrounding it all, and a good, fairly thorough, explanation of what we CART people were 'on about' all these years. I've said it before in other blogs...CCWS was the very hacked-up remains of what was the best racing series (CART, circa 1990-ish) the world had ever seen. Too bad "they" don't seem to remember how many ovals...GOOD ovals (Phoenix, Indy [obviously], Milwaukee, Michigan, Nazareth), were a part of the landscape in those days. We had it all, and we had the whole world watching.

  5. Anonymous // August 26, 2008 6:51 PM  

    I appreciate the comment Mr. Rice. I read it over just now and noticed a couple typos. Regardless it expresses a lot of what I wanted to say and it was a relief to get it off my chest. I hope it made sense to everyone and you can appreciate where I'm coming from.

  6. Anonymous // August 26, 2008 8:47 PM  


    Well said. Indy was my favorite track, Cleveland was my second favorite, and here's hoping it ends up back on the schedule.

    I kind of felt like the biggest problem with CART was team owners running the series. By default they're going to be looking after their own interests in the matter. One entity should own a series, not a committe. As to whether or not Tony George is the man for that...well time will tell. People would also do well to remember that Tony George had the marquee event in the series, and was marginalized by the cart owners. He too was looking after his own interests, and shouldn't be the only one exclusively faulted in the matter.

    This car wasn't built for right turns. We need a new one. We all know it. Why does it need to be said repeatedly?

  7. Anonymous // August 27, 2008 5:25 AM  

    American Mutt, I think it needs to be said repeatedly because the IRL is making a dire mistake in delaying the new car for the 100th anniversary. The IRL should have done more to capitalize on the momentum of ending this war. The multitude of fans lost in the split still exist. They were lost for a multitude of reasons, some of which I listed in my long post. I think the IRL fans (all of us) need to unite and push the series in a direction where positive strides are being taken. I realize that a new technical package COULD come with a great cost, especially a package where technological competition and development is allowed. If the IRL could somehow contract Panoz Motorsports, Dallara, and even Lola to build new chassis and invite Cosworth to supply it's turbo motors as well as allowing Honda to develop a motor, turbo charged or not, to compete with the 750+hp Cossie.

    If you look at the ALMS as an example of "if you build it they will come", the IndyCar series could build it... and they (manufacturers, sponsors, fans) will come. What they have now won't be able to win back fans, even Champ Car fans... hardcore open-wheel guys. That's why we, as a unified group, need to keep saying it!

  8. Anonymous // August 27, 2008 7:01 AM  

    Are we seriously doing this tired old argument again?

  9. Anonymous // August 27, 2008 8:49 AM  


  10. The SpeedGeek // August 27, 2008 10:18 AM  

    Hey, I don't think there's much of an argument with a lot of what Chris and Mutt said up there (and said quite well, I must add). Say what you will about the '09 schedule, whether you like it or not, but I think that the current cars are the main offenders of why the racing isn't very good at certain places. I think that even places like Sonoma, St. Pete, and Toronto (not Belle Isle, though, that place is useless, even with the changes that Penske made) could be good venues that show what a nimble, high-powered open wheel car is capable of. I think it's extremely unfortunate that more focus wasn't put on getting the new technical package on the track in 2010, and then imagine what kind of a season the Centennial Year would be after having a full season to work the kinks out. After all, the Panoz ChampCar wasn't exactly bulletproof last year. Why should we expect the next-gen car to be? I just hope that it's well sorted out by the 500 in 2011. Imagine the backlash if race day is littered with engine failures or wheel bearings burning up...

    Ha. I have enough time on my hands to worry about things that are three years away. I need more hobbies...

  11. Anonymous // August 28, 2008 6:44 AM  

    You and me both aspeed!

  12. Anonymous // August 28, 2008 11:58 AM  


    The DP 01 didn't produce much passing either. Without Push to pass gimic I don't recall there being too many dry track passes. I only watched a half dozen or so races last year though.