Spend some time with Dixon

Posted by Iannucci | 9/29/2008 | 0 comments »
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You were wondering where reigning ICS Champ Scott Dixon has been, right? Well wonder know more because it looks like he returned briefly to the Shire in Middle Earth for a few days before returning to IMS for "tasting tires". Say what?

At any rate, enjoy this interview that's actually longer than 60 seconds.

Man, he sure says “Man” a lot. I guess that’s just Iceman being Iceman, man.

Best of the best

Posted by Iannucci | 9/29/2008 | 1 comments »
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From hither and yon they came this weekend, all with one goal: victory. A finer assembly of talent you might not find, as waves of talented drivers gathered in one place to test their driving skills in an endurance race unlike any other.

That place, was New Castle, Indiana. That race was the Robopong 200.

For what greater test can their be but to match men and women with nearly identical go-karts – yes, I said GO-KARTS – in a test of endurance racing the likes of which is seen but once a year. The entry list included such talents as IndyCar drivers Dan Wheldon, Ed Carpenter, Vitor Meira, Will Power, Jay Howard, AJ Foyt IV, Tomas Scheckter, Bryan Herta and everybody’s boyfriend - Mr Scott Goodyear. Indy Lights drivers Alex Lloyd, Cyndie Allemann, Logan Gomez, Phil Giebler, Robbie Pecorari, CR Crews, Pablo Donoso were there as well, as was Conor Daly, son of Derek.

And who emerged from this “who’s who” to claim the undisputed crown of open-wheel racing? (OK, maybe that’s a touch overstated.) Why none other than the Lewis/CKS Racing team of Billy Lewis and Jeremy Warren.


(Full results here.)

Quote of the Day

Posted by Iannucci | 9/28/2008 | 3 comments »
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"I don't like talking about acting because that's business and pretty boring. And politics can get you in trouble. But I'll always talk about racing because the people are interesting and fun, the sport is a lot more exciting than anything else I do, and nobody cares that I'm an actor." - the late, great Paul Newman.

Paul Newman has passed away

Posted by Iannucci | 9/27/2008 | 9 comments »
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It seems as if we've been waiting all summer, but the news finally arrived.

WESTPORT, Conn. - Paul Newman, the Academy-Award winning superstar who personified cool as the anti-hero of such films as "Hud," "Cool Hand Luke" and "The Color of Money" — and as an activist, race car driver and popcorn impresario — has died. He was 83.

Newman died Friday after a long battle with cancer at his farmhouse near Westport, publicist Jeff Sanderson said. He was surrounded by his family and close friends.

(MORE from The Associate Press)
Here are the statements from Newman/Haas/Lanigan.

“On behalf of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, my wife Bernadette and myself, I want to express our most sincere condolences to Joanne and the entire Newman family on the loss of a great human being. Paul and I have been partners for 26 years and I have come to know his passion, humor and above all, his generosity. Not just economic generosity, but generosity of spirit. His support of the team’s drivers, crew and the racing industry is legendary. His pure joy at winning a pole position or winning a race exemplified the spirit he brought to his life and to all those that knew him. We will truly miss him.”

- Carl A. Haas, co-owner of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing

"We truly lost a great man. Most of us knew him as Butch or Fast Eddie from the theater or from our living rooms at home. He was much more than a great actor. His legacy will be his five children, his wife, Joanne and all the sick children around the world who desperately needed his help. Paul was a man of character who cared about the world and the people who lived in it. Putting a smile on a young person’s face and helping people in need was a virtue he excelled at. Little did anyone realize a child born of such humble beginnings could affect our lives in so many positive ways. We should all learn to live by his example. We will miss him dearly but will never forget him."

- Michael Lanigan, co-owner of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing

A month ago our good buddy yaumb penned a salute to the man in somber anticipation of this moment. It respectfully reads:

From what I understand from friends in the know, Paul Newman won’t survive past September.

That makes me sad on so many levels. For my kids, he’s the voice of Doc Hudson from Cars. For my parents, he’s one of the greatest actors of the 20th century. For me, though, he was always the racer who let acting get in the way of superstardom on the track.

That’s not to say he wasn’t a star race driver. He was racing in the 24 Hours of Daytona until very recently, and for a septuaginarian that really isn’t an easy thing to do. But he had a passion for racing and a competitive streak a mile wide. Had Newman decided to make racing his sole career, he could have made Dale Earnhardt look like a minor star in the motorsports firmament.


She’s a Mann, baby

Posted by Iannucci | 9/26/2008 | 5 comments »
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Don’t get your knickers in a twist, but with Dan Wheldon in the IndyCar series and two more Brits in the Indy Lights program (programme?), the Panther Racing logo may as well be a Union Jack.

Panther Racing added a second English driver to its Firestone Indy Lights lineup on Sept. 26 as it announced that Pippa Mann will drive for the past series champions next season.

Mann, who competed in the World Series by Renault the last two seasons, will join Martin Plowman as part of the team's developmental lineup. She is the first female driver to sign with the team, which has won two IndyCar Series and one Firestone Indy Lights title.

(MORE from IndyCar.com)
This means either the National Guard will no longer sponsor the team or the new slogan will be Paul Revere’s cry of “The British Are Coming!”

Wheldon introduces talking head to Indy

Posted by Iannucci | 9/26/2008 | 2 comments »
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“If I see the panic alarm come up on the steering wheel, I’m not going to slow down any. I’m actually going to try to speed up.”

Watch CBS Videos Online

By the way, Russ, not to be a buzzkill but I don’t think that car is capable of going “250...280 miles an hour.” Even the awesome toothiness that is Dan Wheldon can’t get it to go THAT fast.

Stuntman to race IndyCars in 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 9/26/2008 | 8 comments »
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When you get right down to it, part of what makes any sport connect with fans is the feeling that any fool could do this. Sure, you probably couldn’t do it well, you might even get killed trying, but whether it’s running, hitting, kicking, throwing, or especially driving, you can probably handle most of this stuff. The only thing separating you from those superstars on TV is God-given talent and a lifetime of experience.

And as such there really are no set qualifications for being an IndyCar driver. The IRL is filled with drivers with varying amounts of experience and savings accounts, most of whom can drive at an elite level at which the rest of us can only marvel. But admit it, that hasn’t stopped you from thinking if you hit the lottery you could do at least as well as Marty Roth or Dr Jack Miller.

Which brings us to Stanton Barrett, whose main experience is, well, I’ll let the press release tell you.

Stanton Barrett, who after running 22 of 29 races now ranks 23rd in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings and is an accomplished stunt driver, will drive the No.98 Curb/Agajanian/Team 3G car during the team's inaugural season in the IndyCar Series season in 2009, team officials announced.

Let’s get this straight: Mr Barrett is saying that his qualifications for being an IndyCar driver are (a) that he’s the 23rd best driver in the 2nd best stock car division and (b) he’s an accomplished stunt driver. This means his areas of expertise would include things like driving cars into other cars, driving cars into things other than cars, and driving cars very fast into cars and things other than cars. Smells like the next Paul Tracy to me, folks.

Barrett will begin the next chapter of his racing career when the 2009 IndyCar season begins in April with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Because when you’ve been driving ovals for the last few years, it’s a good idea to start you IndyCar career on a street course. Although in fairness he probably drove most of those stunt cars on streets, right?

"I am thrilled to be joining Team 3G and the IndyCar Series in 2009," said Barrett. "I feel the time is right to move to the IndyCar Series. They have a lot of momentum, and I think they will continue to grow in popularity with fans and corporate marketers."

This doesn’t make it a bad decision, but maybe “the time is right” because driving in IndyCars cost about one quarter of what it does is stock cars, and corporate marketers, like the rest of us, a little strapped for cash right now.

"My Dad and my Godfather, Paul Newman, have been a huge influence in my career and they have always wanted me to try Indy Cars."

It’s important to mention that Paul Newman is his Godfather, because this is why Barrett will be racing for Newman/Haas/Lanigan next year...oh, wait. Nevermind.

Team 3G is a newly formed team co-owned by racing industry veterans Greg Beck and Steve Sudler.

"Stanton will integrate nicely with the IndyCar Series competition," Beck said. "He has plenty of oval experience from driving in NASCAR, and has road racing experience from early in his career."

Now this, this is ridiculous. Have we not learned from the likes of Franchitti and Hornish and Allmendinger and Montoya that “oval experience” does not translate across racing vehicles of different weight, downforce and horsepower? Good grief. Might as well say “he can drive fast and turn left, so he’s ready”.

"He will have to get used to driving without fenders or a roof, but his stunt driving experience should suit him well with the full fields in the IndyCars Series."

Are. You. Kidding. Me? Seriously? “…his stunt driving experience should suit him well with the full fields in the IndyCars Series.” That might be the quote of the year from a press release. Can you imagine the poor PR peon who put this together? He or she probably typed it as a joke – no doubt auditioning for pressdog – and forgot to take it out.

Look, none of this says Barrett’s going to be a bad driver, because only time will tell whether or not he can successfully compete in the IndyCar series. But this year we all watched Brett Sherman struggle to translate his stock car skills to the Indy Lights series, and with a top-notch team like Panther Racing no less. Barrett may feel like he’s ready for this, but you can’t help but wonder how long this self-proclaimed “eXtreme-sports extremist” will stick around.

On a positive note, one thing his stuntman experience gives him lots of nickname potential. Early favorite: The Fall Guy.

Cavin commends the word butchers

Posted by Iannucci | 9/25/2008 | 7 comments »
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From today’s Ask the Expert, alarmingly entitled “On Australia, Pressdog and others”.

Question: Not that you need the info or anything, but I was wondering if you ever go to any of the other IndyCar blogs or sites, like Isitmayyet, mynameisirl, 16thandgeorgetown or pressdog? (John, Indianapolis)

Answer: I do not regularly visit these sites, but I have on occasion. A friend of mine is a fan of mynameisirl and pressdog, so I look at them once in a while. They're all entertaining and good for the sport. The people who do the work are to be commended. Pressdog, for one, attends several races and from what I've seen works his tail off for his readers.
Indeed the ‘dog does work his tail off, and on his own dime no less. Big hug for giving us ink, Curt, even though you admittedly don’t “regularly visit these sites”. Ahem.

Oh, and thanks to "John in Indianapolis". The checks in the mail, friend.

Manning out, Meira in

Posted by Iannucci | 9/25/2008 | 8 comments »
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At times like this your humble wishes he had one of those BREAKING NEWS graphics to spew all over the front page fo this site.

Vitor Meira and A.J. Foyt have had a mutual admiration for their competitiveness and driving styles. Now they'll be working together to produce victories in the IndyCar Series.

Meira has signed to drive the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda-powered Dallara for A.J. Foyt Racing in 2009 with an option for 2010. He'll get a jump-start on the season by competing in the non-points Nikon Indy 300 on the streets of Surfer's Paradise, Australia, on Oct. 26.

(MORE from IndyCar.com)
Good for Vitor to find work within the series, although the prospects of IndyCar employement for Danger Mouse sound a touch on the bleak side.

"There's no hard feelings," said Manning, of North Yorkshire, England. "We had a good couple of years of improvements. Getting me on board was part of making his team better and I think we did that. I wish him well. We had a good relationship and I expect that to continue no matter what I end up doing."
This is purely conjecture, but you gotta think what Manning ends up doing isn’t relating to racing in the IndyCar series where at times over the last two years he has admitted to “getting knackered”. The guy can drive, sure, but you can’t substitute training in a gym with 12-ounce curls at the pub.

Then again, maybe Manning would rather just hang out on Food Network.

UPDATE: I had too many complaints about the auto-start video so I'm reducing it to a link. Click here to see Manning's culinary festival.

Mini 2008: Achievement in Televised Reporting

Posted by Iannucci | 9/24/2008 | 4 comments »
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Never underestimate the difficulty of television broadcasting. It's a difficult job involving preparation, focus, and above all a ton of assistance from a lot of people. Often the people who like you are yelling at you, the people don't like you are giving you the silent treatment, and the entire time you're trying to communicate with all of them while there's a sporting event going on. At times, hilarity ensues.

Here's a little test to see if you're up to the task of television broadcasting. Fire up a recording of your favorite race and jack the audio into a set of headphones. Next turn on a video camera and point it at the TV screen. Plug a microphone into the camera, put the headphones on your head, and start yammering away in your best announcer voice for a few minutes. Let me know how far you get before you blurt out your first "uhh..." Now, once you're done go ahead and upload it to YouTube so we can all have a good laugh.

The point is this award celebrates those moments beyond the "uh...", where the fine line between a reporter relaying the story and becoming the story gets blown to smithereens. Whether these gaffes were resulting from a lost train of thought, being caught off guard, or simply the result of an especially nasty hangover, we salute these nominees for their demonstrations of excellence in broadcasting that resulted in unintentional humor.

Jack Arute (Motegi, Day 1) - Before America awakened on a Sunday morning to hear of Danica Patrick's first IndyCar victory, IndyCar fans had to endure two separate days of broadcasting into the wee hours. Lucky for us Jack Arute was LIVE in Japan, showing us weepers (wet spots on the track) and rain ghosts (Japanese hand puppets), and getting Dan Wheldon to say "Shagalicious, baby". Now that's filler, people. In fact, before the show was postponed he'd even gotten Brian Barnhart on the air to discuss longitudinal rotations and the coefficient of friction, instantly rendering thousands of viewers unconscious.

Jack Arute (Motegi, Day 2) - The second day from Twin Ring Motegi featured less rain and more actual racing, but for the first time in years Jack didn't bring an egg to help describe the shape of the track. Pity. He did however utter a now infamous line they may forever haunt both him and race winner Danicker when he greeted her while getting out of her car by asking "When are you gonna win AGAIN?" Lucky for him she was weeping with joy at the time, overriding her natural instinct to otherwise kick him in the family jewels.

Jack Arute (Iowa) - Another victory lane interview for Arute, but this time with Dan Wheldon on the occasion of his 15th win. Wheldon was caught up in the moment of vanquishing his foes on the field of battle and felt the need to express his masculinity by kissing Jack on the head. To the shock and horror of the viewing audience, Jack kissed Dan back. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just that ... well, quite frankly there are a lot of things wrong with that.

Jack Arute (Watkins Glen) - Every once in a while Jack tries this Jedi mind trick thing with someone he's interviewing where he tries to get them to think this is a personal conversation. He's all like "Pay no attention to the screaming cars, don't mind that guy with the camera, and this microphone is just hear to help me when I'm not chain-smoking cigarettes. Really, this is between you and me - no one else will know. These aren't the droids you're looking for." At The Glen he tried to get Vitor Meira - who had just become the latest victim of the "Hulk smash!" driving techniques of EJ Viso - to fall for these shenanigans. After Meira shrugged off Arute's question about what the league would do to Viso, Jack leaned in ever so slightly and asked "What are you going to do about it?" Vitor was still unmoved, although looking back the best answer might have been "I'm going to send Danica over to kick his ass, Jack."

And the winner is...

Scott Goodyear - That's right, he said: "...he was surprised by his...boyfriend...the guy...that he had back in karting days..." In a matter of just a few seconds at Nashville, Goodyear bested an entire season of work by Jack Arute. All the hand puppets and the kissing and the Jedi mind trickery, all for naught. Oh well, better luck next year, Jack.

Tagliani joins Class of 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 9/24/2008 | 3 comments »
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Chris Estrada and Indy Racing Revolution points us to an article that finds the Conquest Racing team revealing in an oh-so-stealthy way that Alex Tagliani will be manning the helm of one of their two cars.

On page 9 of Conquest's new marketing brochure – of the kind sent out to prospective sponsors – it states:

The team "will field two cars in the 2009 IndyCar Series. With Alex Tagliani, the team will have a wily veteran with the experience and commitment to continue moving the team forward. Joining Tagliani will be a driver of equal gift and grit to round out a balanced driver package."

(MORE from The Star)
Get your water cooler ready, because the article also summarizes the following drivers as available for employment.
• AJ Allmendinger
• Sebastien Bourdais
• Patrick Carpentier
• Paul Tracy
• J.J. Yeley

So if you have a few million laying around you could always have a conversation with one of these fine gentlemen. However, it would seem the following drivers have already been drafted into full-time service for 2009.

• Marco Andretti (Andretti Green Racing)
• Ed Carpenter (Vision Racing)
• Helio Castroneves (Team Penske)
• Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing)
• AJ Foyt IV (Vision Racing)
• Dario Franchitti (Target Chip Ganassi Racing)
• Ryan Hunter-Reay (Rahal Letterman Racing)
• Tony Kanaan (Andretti Green Racing)
• Hideki Mutoh (Andretti Green Racing)
• Danica Patrick (Andretti Green Racing)
• Alex Tagliani (Conquest Racing)
• Dan Wheldon (Panther Racing)

I’m sure the braintrust at TSO will let me know if I missed anyone who has been confirmed.

(Photo by Bill Zahren/pressdog.com)

Mini 2008: Rookie of the Year

Posted by Iannucci | 9/23/2008 | 7 comments »
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With the influx of refugee drivers from Champ Car, the IndyCar series chose to pick and choose it's rookies this year based on some random formula relating to oval racing experience. Wait, Justin Wilson is a rookie and Oriol Servia is not? Whatever.

Friends, the Mini Award qualifications have decided to cancel most those "transition" folks out of the balloting. The fact is that other series was largely a parallel of the IndyCar series, but with turbo chargers, standing starts and Michelle Beisner. Beyond that, they even ran on some of the same tracks, so when we say "rookie" around here we mean "rookie" in the rookiest sense of the word. Sorry, Graham.

Being a rookie means this: (1) fretting over forgetting where your pit box is, (2) soiling yourself in Turn Four at Indy, and (3) trying in vain all year to get Danica Patrick to recognize you as a fellow competitor. With those parameters defined, here are your 2008 nominees:

Jamie Camara - This is more of a sympathetic nod to the driver who toiled away in Indy Pro obscurity for three years. Camara's finest hour in 2008 came at Richmond where he led a whopping 44 laps. However, like so many races throughout his career he managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by crashing out. And by "victory" I mean a Top 10 finish, something that eluded him all season.

Mario Moraes - His greatest claim to fame this year was that he led 3 laps at Indianapolis, which is amazing considering he was going about as fast the trucks that helped dry the track. Moraes was practically invisible all year, which is both good and bad. He placed higher than 10th just once but still managing to finish all but four races. Hanging close in the standings to his far more experienced teammate (Bruno Junqueira) is a good sign for a kid who's only two weeks older than the Son of 'Stache.

Hideki Mutoh - After a 2007 season that included a runner-up finish in the Indy Pro series and an astonishing 8th place debut at Chicagoland, Mutoh landed in one of what was considered to be the best 8 rides in the league. Sadly, he finished in 10th. To Mutoh's credit he usually kept the car clean, finishing all but four races and garnering eight Top 10 finishes. His highlight was a second place finish in Iowa, along with the fact that Danica! actually knows who he is. But again, 10th place in basically the car that Dario Franchitti drove the championship last year.

EJ Viso - Viso was without a doubt the most exciting driver in the IndyCar series. He's honest, he's fresh (I sound like Gordon Ramsay), and he drives like he's in a video game. Mash gas, turn occasionally, and bounce of other cars on your way through the field. He would be a runaway winner in this category by leading at least 9 laps in two different races for a one-car transition team, but unfortunately he wrecked in his last two races. I realize the Chicagoland incident was probably equipment related, but clearly Dallaras are not yet completely Viso-proof. Plus he contracted the mumps in the middle of the season, setting off an embarrassing league-wide hazmat warning.

And the winner is...

Franck Perera - Call his season "To Hell and Back". Fronkensteen started off the year with a respectable 14th place finish at Homestead, registering the second highest result for a driver on a transition team. He then went on to run solidly in the Top 3 at St Pete before colliding with Vitor Meira. Perera's excuse? "I was faster." He shrugged off Meira's "Look how fast you are now, dude" and hopped into a DP-01 at Long Beach for a 6th place finish ... where he was promptly FIRED and replaced by Jamie Camara and his big fat wad of cash.

So what did a Frenchman like Perera do? Surrender? No, monsieur! He swallowed his pride and took his skills to Indy Lights. In 9 races he scored 2 pole positions, 3 Top 5s and even won one of the races at Infineon. Perera was impressive enough to do what no one else could - come back to the IndyCar series - where he took a last minute ride in a 2nd Foyt car from 24th to 15th in the season finale.

Congratulations to Franck, for showing a combination of budding ability and quiet fortitude. IndyCar fans are looking forward to your future, and we hope to high heaven you are NOT the next Laurent Redon.

(Photo by TrackSide Online)

Introducing the Minis

Posted by Iannucci | 9/22/2008 | 10 comments »
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No matter what form of media in which one dabbles, there is almost always a period of inactivity at the conclusion of the news season. Baseball season, football season, television season, political season – they all have an “off season”. IndyCars are no different, as evidenced by the huge drop in readership over the last few weeks.

Fortunately for your humble host there exists a time-tested method for dealing with this down time, for filling in a news cycle in the absence of actual news. The answer? One word: Awards. There’s no better way to recap a season full of stuff than to invent some categories, declare winners and losers, and of course wrap it all in a package bearing a snappy name.

The Oscars. The ESPYs. The Oreos. You get the idea.

Truth be told, when the 2007 season had ended your humble host had decided to hash out an awards plan for My Name Is IRL. However, as you might have noticed, that didn’t happen because the news cycle went askew. As soon as the IndyCar series season ended the two previous series champions went silly for stock cars, resulting in an unprecedented (and regrettably abundant) coverage of N-Word races. Of course that wasn’t the half of it, as even more attention was paid to the IndyCar driver entered in the nation’s most watch dancing contest, where he performed so well that your humble host was forced to briefly surrender his man card by watching every single episode. Oh, the humanity!

But today the 2008 season is over, and there is neither a second wave of IRL drivers heading to stock cars, nor is there anyone entered in any fall reality shows. It might be a year late, but ladies and gentleman it is with great pride that I announce the First Annual “My Name Is IRL” Awards, a.k.a. “The Minis”. Catchy, eh?

The categories are simple, but the process is not. OK, the process is extremely simple – I pick the winners and losers with no input from you whatsoever. Hey, it’s my site, and honestly you don’t want me handing over the duties here to entire Anonymous family. I mean, some of you might get your feelings hurt if you voted for someone and then they lost, because then you would cry foul, say the voting was rigged, and probably leave and never come back. I’ve prevented this nightmare scenario from occurring by simply “fixing” the awards beforehand. My entire personnel votes on all nominees and winners, and since I am the only employee around here I can assure you all awards will be given as a result of unanimous voting.

Here are the categories:
• Achievement in Televised Reporting
• Driver of the Year
• Moment of the Year
• Most Improved Driver
• Race of the Year
• Rookie of the Year

The nominees and winners for each category will be revealed in no particular order over the next few days, so be sure to check back to see if your favorites have won. If they haven’t, well, there’s always next year.

Requiem for a fallen site

Posted by Iannucci | 9/21/2008 | 0 comments »
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Unless you are one of the tens of fans who actually follow the Indy Lights series, you were probably never aware of the fine work of IndyProRacer.com. My friends, it is with a heavy heart that I must relay to you the news that he has "ceased publication" after three years of unparalleled coverage of the junior series of the Indy Racing League.

He was different from the rest of us, this IndyProRacer. Born with an affliction called "Indy Pro" - an ailment that separated him from the other members of the media - he couldn't go out and play with the likes of Helio and Danica. No pit crews, no records speeds, no interviews with Jack Arute. One day he asked a fellow blog "Why can't I play like Curt Cavin?" And his fellow blog said "Because these cars go slower you just have to take life slower than the others. You get to appreciate the good things in life - fields full of rookies, teams with shoestring budgets, Leilani Münter, and a handful of fans who just want to see racing without fuel conservation. Try it and you'll see." And he looked up and said, "You'd better tell Curt Cavin to slow down and appreciate the good things in life too."

Cavin never noticed them, but IndyProRacer forged ahead with news, interviews, and even blog entries from the personalities in the Indy Pro/Indy Lights series - right up until his untimely demise. And while valiant sites such as TrackSide Online and Junior Open Wheel Talent will forward future news of the Indy Lights series, the void left from IndyProRacer will remain. Rest in peace, dear site.

Crime down under

Posted by Iannucci | 9/20/2008 | 2 comments »
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Good morning. I hope you slept well, and that no one snuck into your home and brazenly stole your $100,000 watch while you were sleeping.

The theives raided high-profile Gold Coast businessman Craig Gore's home as he slept.

They are believed to have used a boat to get to multimillionaire Mr Gore's luxury waterfront villa on exclusive Ephraim Island about 4am today.

They plundered valuables including a rare watch collection, computers, jewellery and a substantial amount of cash.

(MORE from the Herald Sun)
See, this is exactly why your humble host leaves all of his rare watch collections at Dario Franchitti's house, where they're much safer.

This could have possible repercussions for the IndyCar series as Gore, you may recall, is the driving force behind the upcoming race/event/party extravaganza at Surfer's Paradise. He's also the guy who brings the Aussie Vinyards sponsorship to KV Racing's Will Power. In fact, according to his Wikipedia page he's also related by marriage to the guy who made the movie "Babe", which just so happens to be Ryan Hunter-Reay's new nickname. Oh, this is troublesome indeed.

So who wants to bet this web of intrigue leads back to the "nefarious" and "vexatious" Derrick Walker?

The brown is dead

Posted by Iannucci | 9/19/2008 | 12 comments »
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In the immortal words of some unknown mortal who has otherwise been immortalized, "Change is inevitable, except from vending machines."

Rest assured this new evolutionary version of My Name Is IRL is, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error.

Wheldon makes like a panther

Posted by Iannucci | 9/19/2008 | 7 comments »
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So Did Chip fire Dan? Did Dan leave Chip? Did Dan get Vitor fired? Let’s hear it straight from the horse’s, err, Dan’s mouth.

To be quite honest, Chip and I still have a fantastic relationship. You know, I made a decision to move on, and I think that was, that was best for certainly the two of us. But in terms of making that decision, my management had spoken to John shortly after that race we did in Kentucky. And I wasn’t sure there was the possibility of being able to drive for this team and then it turned out there was.

Translation: “Don’t hate the playa. Hate the game.”

Sam Hornish Jr, the next James Earl Jones

Posted by Iannucci | 9/16/2008 | 17 comments »
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Clearly feeling the financial pinch of a struggling stock car career, the three-time IndyCar series champion will soon be moonlighting in a different racing series. As a voiceover.

HIT Entertainment will launch Roary the Racing Car, a preschool CGI/stop-motion series from Chapman Entertainment, in the U.S. on PBS KIDS Sprout on October 13.

Roary the Racing Car follows the adventures of Roary, a bright and energetic single-seater, and his group of racecar friends at the Silver Hatch racetrack. Roary’s enthusiasm and curiosity often leads him into trouble, but he’s always willing to make things right.

The series uses a combination of CGI, stop-frame animation and colorful sets to convey a sense of speed. Sam Hornish Jr., one of the most successful drivers in open-wheel racing, makes his animation and preschool television debut as the voice of the narrator in the series.

“Sprout is the perfect television home for Roary the Racing Car, and we are thrilled that Sam Hornish Jr. was able to lend his voice talent to this production,” said Claudia Scott-Hansen, the VP of U.S. content distribution at HIT Entertainment. “This series is fun, energetic and filled with positive messaging. Through the characters and their adventures it encourages teamwork, confidence and follow-through. We are sure that Roary will be just as loved in the U.S. as he is overseas.”

(MORE from World Screen.com)
Red Orbit reports that Sam is pretty stoked.

"As a brand-new dad and a career race car driver, I was really excited when I was approached by Chapman Entertainment to be a part of this production," said Sam Hornish Jr. "Not only is Roary the Racing Car a top- quality show that I am proud to be a part of, but it perfectly marries my personal and professional life, and I can't wait to share it with my daughter when she gets a bit older!"

There’s nothing wrong with starting the kids with a steady diet of auto racing at an early age, especially with characters bearing names like “Flash”, “Zippee”, and “Tin Top” – the latter of whom spouts a catchphrase of "Tape me up, hammer me in and send me out!" Friends, that is a profound message that can serve children well for the entirety of their lives.

Ike joins list of defeated Foyt adversaries

Posted by Iannucci | 9/15/2008 | 16 comments »
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Good news from the devastation in Texas.

HOUSTON Sept. 14, 2008--In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, we are relieved to report that A.J. Foyt and his entire family, were able to get through the storm relatively unscathed.

“You can’t believe how bad this area is,” said Foyt, speaking on telephone from his River Oaks home. “This is absolutely the worst storm I’ve seen in my lifetime. We were very, very lucky and are really thankful to have gotten away with so little damage. Some of our neighbors have trees that went through their homes. The whole neighborhood looks like a war zone. It’s unbelievable.”

Tall pine and live oak trees that toppled over on the ranch in Hockley and at his River Oaks home in downtown Houston fell on the driveways, missing the homes and garages. While there are widespread power outages, Foyt is using generators at both homes to keep essentials running.

Due to the power outages, the city of Houston is under a nightly curfew from 9 pm to 6 am until Saturday morning.

Overall, Texas officials have been applauded for the way that they prepared for and handled the disastrous hurricane.
Fire, bulldozers, bees - AJ is our indestructible national treasure. However, many other folks in that area will require assistance, so please consider donating to the American Red Cross or some other charitbable agency.

Getting dirty for a good cause

Posted by Iannucci | 9/12/2008 | 11 comments »
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For those of you in Southern or Central Indiana, be sure to check out the "Race to Recovery" event at the Terre Haute Action Track TONIGHT. Why?

Nearly a dozen current and former IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights drivers will take to the dirt Sept. 12 at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track and run a 20-lap event on the clay-covered half-mile. No points, no purse, the drivers will race for the love of the sport, a trophy and to help raise money for some deserving organizations that aided flood victims in the Wabash Valley in June.

The Race to Recover was the brainchild of Davey Hamilton, who has never raced on dirt. He started talking to fellow drivers in the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights paddocks, as well as some modified team owners about using some cars, and the event came together quickly.

The tentative driver lineup includes Hamilton, A.J. Foyt IV, Tomas Scheckter, Sarah Fisher, E.J. Viso, Arie Luyendyk Jr., Jay Howard, Vitor Meira, Scott Goodyear and 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice.

The hope is to raise at least $10,000 for Wabash Valley charitable organizations.

For more information check out The Action Track's site. Tickets start at $10, and the opportunity of seeing Vitor and Viso going at each other on a dirt track is worth that alone.

UPDATE: In a cruel twist of irony, and even designed to benefit victims of flooding has been postponed due to rain.

The Monster Modified Classic /Race to Recover has been postponed due to heavy rains.

The event will be run on October 4th in conjunction with the Hut Hundred.

Michael Andretti is a tool

Posted by Iannucci | 9/11/2008 | 5 comments »
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A few years ago a 19-year-old phenom named Jonathan Klein was tearing up the Indy Pro Lights series, finishing 6th or better in 11 straight races and ending up a mere 4 points behind 2006 Indy Pro series champion Jay Howard. Klein’s car was sponsored by his father’s company (Klein Tools), which also served as primary sponsor for Andretti Green driver Dario Franchitti that year. With a solid season, a big name team, and a secure sponsor behind him, Klein seemed on the fast track to the IndyCar series.

Well, that kind of all fell apart. Later that year leaders at Klein Tools not only decided to oust Jonathan’s dad from the ownership of the company, but they also slashed their motorsports marketing as well. With no money he had no ride, leaving Klein to spend the next two years kicking around the Lights series with varying results.

However, there does remain one amazing remnant of the Andretti/Klein Tools relationship. For less than $50 you can own a (ahem) piece of racing history in the form of this Limited Edition Michael Andretti Side-Cutting Pliers. That’s right friends, not only does it provide you with “46% more cutting and gripping power than other plier designs”, but it also features a laser engraving of Michael Andretti’s signature right there on the pliers.

Every home should have one. Even Jonathan’s.

2008 Road and Street course results

Posted by Iannucci | 9/11/2008 | 1 comments »
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Here are your road and street course statistics for 2008, which include St Pete, The Glen, Mid Ohio, Edmonton, Infineon and Detroit. (Long Beach excluded because those were different cars with different engines, harkening to a series that has taken its place in the great beyond.) These numbers only include drivers who participated in all six events.

Would you believe:
• AJ Foyt IV led as many laps as Will Power?
• Ryan Briscoe led in 5 of the 6 races?
• EJ Viso led more laps than St Pete winner Graham Rahal?
• Justin Wilson led more laps than all four AGR drivers combined?
• Vitor Meira had an average finish of 15th despite leading more laps than all but 4 drivers?

It’s all true.

Average Finish
1. Castroneves: (2, 16, 2, 2, 1, 2) 4.17
2. Kanaan: (3, 3, 7, 9, 3, 3) 4.67
3. Briscoe: (23, 12, 1, 6, 2, 9) 8.83
4. Dixon: (22, 11, 3, 1, 12, 5) 9.00
5. Wilson: (9, 25, 11, 3, 9, 1) 9.67
6. Servia: (7, 23, 5, 5, 15, 4) 9.83
7. Hunter-Reay: (17, 1, 10, 8, 18, 6) 10.00
8. Manning: (13, 2, 8, 10, 22, 12) 11.17
9. Rahal: (1, 8, 16, 26, 8, 13) 12.00
10. Mutoh: (6, 9, 9, 27, 13, 11) 12.50
10. Patrick: (10, 14, 12, 18, 5, 16) 12.50
12. Rice: (15, 4, 20, 11, 11, 19) 13.33
13. Viso: (4, 10, 22, 15, 6, 24) 13.50
13. Junqueira: (24, 6, 13, 14, 17, 7) 13.50
15. Power: (8, 15, 4, 22, 25, 8) 13.67
16. Wheldon: (12, 24, 17, 7, 4, 20) 14.00
17. Foyt: (11, 19, 18, 12, 20, 10) 15.00
17. Meria: (19, 22, 6, 19, 7, 17) 15.00
19. Moraes: (16, 7, 24, 20, 10, 15) 15.33
20. Carpenter: (18, 17, 15, 13, 23, 14) 16.67
21. Andretti: (25, 5, 25, 17, 14, 18) 17.33

Total Laps Led
1. Castroneves (144)
2. Briscoe (113)
3. Dixon (48)
4. Wilson (44)
5. Meira (26)
6. Kanaan (25)
7. Viso (21)
8. Rahal (19)
9. Hunter-Reay (13)
10. Andretti (11)
10. Manning (11)
12. Foyt (3)
12. Power (3)
14. Moraes (1)
14. Servia (1)

I'll get the oval stats together later.

More powerful than a speeding Danica

Posted by Iannucci | 9/09/2008 | 12 comments »
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Are you familiar with The Butterfly Effect? No, not the movie with Demi Moore’s boy toy, but rather the actual principle. It states that small changes in the initial condition of a dynamic system can result in large variations over the long term. If that sentence made no sense then let’s just say it means a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world could cause just enough of a weather disturbance that would effect the dynamics of weather enough so as to result in a tsunami thousands of miles away.

Ladies and gentleman, may I present to you the potential butterfly.

Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong will come out of retirement and compete in next year's Tour de France, VeloNews reported Monday, citing sources close to the situation.

Armstrong, who will turn 37 on Sept. 18, will join the Astana team and compete in five road races, the sources told VeloNews.

(MORE from ESPN.com)
Now you may ask, “What in the world does this have to do with the Indy Racing League?” Everything, my friends. EVERYTHING.

Despite being a guy who competed in a comparatively obscure sport like Cycling, Lance Armstrong has become one of the most recognizable names in all of sport. He’s up there in the “Tiger Woods” and “Michael Jordan” level of recognition, due largely to his compelling story of overcoming a life-threatening bout with cancer and emerging victorious in an unmatched SEVEN straight victories in the Tour De France. But you already knew that.

Armstrong retired from cycling in 2005, deciding to dedicate more time to his children, his numerous charities, and any number of smitten Hollywood starlets. It’s hard work but somebody’s gotta do it, right?

By casting all of that aside in 2009 to train for a return to the Tour De France next July, Armstrong has suddenly guaranteed that millions of otherwise passive sports fans will once again be watching cycling on TV. Yes, just as the presence of “Tiger” in a golf tournament dramatically increases the TV ratings, Lance’s historic attempt to return to glory will likely provide a huge boon for the network of the Tour De France.

And that network? Oh, that would be Versus. You know, that channel that was just handed all but a handful of IRL races next year.

Maybe the popularity of Armstrong’s quest will help get Versus in those missing 20 million homes. Maybe those fans of Lance figure out what channel Versus occupies on their cable provider’s list. Maybe while watching Armstrong they get to see lots of ads for events featuring Danica! and Helio! and the rest. Maybe next summer they stop by for the cycling but stay for the higher speed racing action. Maybe all of this “maybe” stuff makes it easier for the league and it’s teams to sell all sorts of sponsorship packages.

Maybe we should get ready to thank Lance for inadvertantly becoming an immeasurable asset to the entire Indy Racing League. Excuse me - this news definitely calls for a little Snoopy Dance!

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 9/09/2008 | 15 comments »
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What does this one say?

(Photo: TrackSide Online)

Installation error

Posted by Iannucci | 9/08/2008 | 10 comments »
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Target Chip Ganassi Racing is as talented a bunch of folks as you'll find. They dedicate millions of dollars and thousands of hours to researching innovative methods for getting their IndyCars to go as fast any others on any type of track, working tirelessly so that every part is properly assembled and optimally configured.

Well, almost.

Upon review of its Timing and Scoring process following the conclusion of Sunday's race, IndyCar Series officials have confirmed that the transponder on Scott Dixon's No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car had been improperly installed, resulting in Dixon being shown in the top spot on the Indy Racing League's T and S system rather than race winner Helio Castroneves.

"The improperly installed transponder clearly affected the data we were receiving from Dixon's car," said Jon Koskey, the Indy Racing League's director of timing and scoring. "With the signal going the wrong direction, it could have bounced off of any number of things and made it difficult for the antenna to pick up an accurate signal. Because there's always the possibility of electronic equipment failing and the possibility of human error, we have multiple systems in place to insure the accuracy of the data."
Before anyone asks, this will not result in Scott Dixon having to forfeit any points or the 2008 title he won. "The Man" is still keeping Helio down.

In case you had not heard

Posted by Iannucci | 9/08/2008 | 10 comments »
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It's official.

Helio Castroneves won the race at Chicagoland.

Hideki Mutoh won the Bombardier Rookie of the Year.

And Milka Duno led more laps (5) than Danica Patrick (4) this season.

mmack's nnotes: Chicagoland 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 9/08/2008 | 10 comments »
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This week on a Very Special Episode of "mmack's nnotes", our always eloquent guest commentator reports to us LIVE from the parking lot at Chicagoland, where he and his lovely wife may in fact still be.

After two failed attempts to wake up for 7:00 AM (darn snooze bar), I finally get out of bed, shower, change into my stylish race day wardrobe (white IRL T-shirt, blue jeans, and Penske Racing hat) and go downstairs to make the coffee while I get our race day tailgating supplies together. The plan is that Maria and I will be leaving early for the track to see the Indy Lights race, while our friends will meet us later for the IRL race. Since it's just the two of us, we'll be taking the pickup. I carefully load our grill, four captain's chairs, a canopy tent, propane cylinders (for the grill), a resin table (for the grille), plates, silverware, and grille supplies in the bed of the truck, while Maria makes breakfast.

After we enjoy a delicious breakfast, the phone rings. It's one of Maria's friends calling to tell us that she CAN join us in going to the track early. Since it'll be three of us. this means we'll need the Impala and not the pick-up. I sigh as I realize I have to take everything I JUST packed in the pick-up, and put it in the trunk of the Impala. I clean out the trunk of the Impala and move everything from the pick-up. I now get the most important things (The beer, the burgers, and the brats) and pack two coolers. In the meantime I log onto the Chicagoland Speedway website to check the race times, and find the Indy Lights race has moved up from 11:30 to 11:00. As I ponder if the track management of Chicagoland Speedway has taken event scheduling notes from the justifiably defunct Chicago Motor Speedway, I realize Maria's friend won't be here until 10:30.

Maria's friend arrives and we pack her food with ours and get in the car. I TRIPLE verify that yes, I have the two tickets my brother got for me and our vouchers for free tickets from Marlboro. We head off with Maria driving using her "secret back road path to avoid traffic and construction." Our trip to the track is pretty much trouble free and we pull into the parking lot by 11:40, just in time to hear the Indy Lights race finish. We decide to get our free tickets and amble over to the Marlboro tent.

Like Penske Racing, the Marlboro ticket tent is a model of precision and efficiency. After providing our voucher and our ID's to three different people, we are sent into the team tent where I discover I am now officially an old man.How do I know this? IT'S BECAUSE THE TENT IS FILLED WITH U2 MUSIC PLAYING FULL VOLUME MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My conversation with the very polite and professional young lady at the ticket desk follows:

She "Would you like a bag?" (you get a "swag bag" of Marlboro goodies with your tickets)
She "Would you like another one?"

Luckily we improved our conversation when I leaned in about a foot from her face and we got our tickets, a voucher for a scanner, lanyards, our "swag bag", and a frequency sheet. We stepped out of the tent and Maria and I both agreed the experience was very professional and polite, save for the ear blasting music volume.

As we walk out of the tent I see a giant cartoon character Milka Duno posing for pictures with fans. I offer to take a picture of Maria with Milka. Not surprisingly, she declines. Rather than get photographed with a giant Milka Duno, we decide to get our free scanner rental and do some shopping. We discover for some odd reason Vitor Miera and Dan Wheldon merchandise is offered at reduced prices.

At this point we take our free tickets and swag back to our car where we decide to set up our tent and fire up the old grill. At this point we discover the folks at Shanghai Tent Factory #3 forgot to pack instructions on how to put together the frame for our tent. Maria, her friend, and I lay out all the parts, consider trying to assemble the tent sans instructions, imagine the fighting that will ensue, and decide to skip setting up the tent. We unfold the chairs, fire up the grill, and our fourth attendee calls us to let us know she's at the track. After much searching and waving of arms to catch her attention, she arrives to share a brat and tell us the sales prospect she took time off to meet this morning didn't show, and didn't bother to call.

By now it's 2:00 PM and it's time to head into the track. I call Pressdog and leave a voicemail telling him to meet us at our seats, or meet us after the race. Since our seats are a few sections down from our friend's two seats, we split up with instructions to meet after the race. Our seats are in Section 420, row 1, on the exit of turn 1 and low enough to reach over the fence and slap EJ Viso for acting crazy.

Just before the race starts I somehow punch the right combo of buttons on the scanner and the IMS radio network comes up. I plug in Maria's headset and now we listen to Mike King and Co. Ladies and Gentlemen start your engines and Marty Roth is in the pits! I briefly consider a drinking game where every time Marty pits, you chug a beer. Then I realize I need to drive home tonight, so perhaps it's NOT such a great game. Then Marty charges back to his top 10(!) starting spot and gives me a reason to drink, along with several other drivers.

GREEN GREEN GREEN and Briscoe LEAPS to the lead as The Dancing King shows his fancy footwork by moving up four spots. Cars go screaming past mere feet away with no lock stepping while people slice and dice all over the track. NOW I remember why I love coming to this track!

As the race continues on just about everybody is putting the moves on somebody as Danica!, Carpenter, AJ Foyt IV (!!!), Viso and the hometown boys of Dale Coyne Racing roar around. Helio! and Viso bob and weave up to the front ten and then BOOM! Carpenter "blowed up REAL good!" I have a surreal moment where I can see Carpenter's car spewing lurid orange flames right next to the Jumbotron showing Carpenter's car spewing lurid orange flames.

After pitting and a line-up shuffle, it's back to flying on the ground as Kanaan leads and Helio! keeps clawing his way forward. After a while of slicing and dicing I can't take it anymore and tell Maria I need to hit the pits. At that exact moment, I doom Vitor's chances forever as he clouts the wall. Vitor, I am sorry.

When I and the field return from yellow, now begins the absolute WILDEST race I have ever seen at Chicagoland, much less any oval, bar none. Three wide for Helio, Wheldon, and Briscoe lap after lap, with two and three wide racing back in the pack behind them. How long can this continue? How long can you hold your breath? At this point I'm SURE we're going to see "The Big One", and I'll be nailed with a Firestone Firehawk off one of the cars. People are slicing and dicing who I've NEVER expected to see slice and dice before. AJ IV channels his grandfather's genetics and claws and elbows his way past Dixon! EJ Viso channels Tazio Nuvolari! People pass where they shouldn't pass, where they can't pass. Then Miss Terry DeBree makes an appearance and lets us fans catch our collective breaths long enough to see Buddy Rice and Graham Rahal play bumper cars in the pits. Then we go green and Sarah Fisher spins lazily to a stop right in front of us. She hops out and gingerly hops to the safety car. I figure Pressdog is mighty upset at this.

A little more green flag dueling and EJ Viso slides to a halt in front of us. In spite of what I said earlier, I don't reach out to slap him for acting crazy. I'm split on EJ: Is he crazy brave or steely nerved? Is he skilled enough to know how to make those impossible passes, or just dumb lucky? I do clap when he climbs out of his car because if he ever learns control, he'll be a winner.

At this point in the race I try to call Pressodg again because I don't believe what I'm seeing. Milka Duno leading. I need independent verification: Milka Duno leading. Really. In P1.

And at the restart, she actually stays ahead of the Penske Twins. Okay, it's only one lap, but still. Later I laugh when I realize Danica! has to pass Milka for position. I look for a white towel to come flying out of car #23 aimed at ol' #7, but it never materializes.

As the end of the race rapidly approaches, the radio staff ponder: will it stay green? As The Big Three and the smaller fish slice and dice I can almost guarantee it won't and Moraes proves me correct. At this point Dixon comes out first and I imagine some regular My Name is IRL posters are upset. One sitting right next to me sharing my scanner is VISIBLY upset. And she is VERBALLY upset, but I will not recount her verbatim and teach P1 or P2 any new words or phrases today.

Then we have a phase of Yellow - Yellow - Yellow. In addition to what Jeff posted, some cars from position 10 back had some problems with the idea of "single file restart" and pulled some penny ante junk that wouldn't fly down at the little paved bullring down in Morris, IL. Scratch that, it WAS amateur hour back in the field because we HAVE seen cleaner restarts in the bomber-stock class at Morris. And those people are racing for a $50 trophy and coupons to the local pizza place.

FINALLY we have a restart worthy of professionals and Helio and Dixon have pulled out the hammer and tongs to go at each other. At this point I know Dixon is going to take the crown. But I want Helio to win. Maria wants Helio to win. Our section wants Helio to win. People in the sections next to us want Helio to win. We are standing, yelling, cheering, stomping our feet, waving our hands, swinging our hats, urging these drivers on. GO! GO! NOW! GO! GO D@MNIT GO! We're screaming ourselves hoarse to be heard over the engines as they feint and thrust and slide searching for an advantage. One lap, one turn, the crowd yelling as one as the cars scream past. Is Helio ahead? Yes, No, Wait IT'S .... DIXON! HOLY $%^&!@#, AJ IV is sliding past us in the grass!

But How? Helio was in the lead? How did he, I mean, c'mon!

Maria and I get up to leave and I realize that even though I didn't like the winner, I have seen the race that topped The Greatest Race I've Ever Seen. That was here in Chicago in 2002, but this race tops them all. And as we wait to meet up with our friends, what's this? HELIO won?!? The League screwed up? I smile and shake my head.

We walk back to the car past rows of people who were hoping to beat the traffic, get the chairs and coolers out of the Impala, and fire up the grill to make some burgers. Just as I'm about to bite into a hot, juicy, grilled Bubba Burger, my cellphone rings and it's Pressdog. We try to entice him to stop by for a beer and a Bubba Burger, but no dice. Bill's a workin' man and has been schmoozing the drivers in the press room. Now he has to roll on to Iowa and Mrs. Pressdog.

And soon we too have to roll. In a flash it's pack up the coolers, throw out the trash, and pack the trunk before we leave. In traffic Maria pulls some EJ Viso-like moves to get us out of the lot and soon another IRL race at Chicagoland is history. A little more drama than most, but still the best one I've seen so far.

And that's it for my recaps for '08. I don't know if I can stay awake for Surfers.

LiveBlog: Chicagoland 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 9/07/2008 | 31 comments »
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Welcome to Chicagoland, where today ... oh, as if you need me to tell you what's going on here.

We are locked in and eagerly awaiting the answers to the pressing questions of the 2008 season. Will Helio Castroneves be able to go back-to-front and challenge Dixon for the title? Will Hideki Mutoh have enogh to hold off Justin Wilson for Rookie of the Year? Will Jack Arute be presenting the championship trophy for the second consecutive year?

Questions, questions, questions.

Oh by the way, we might have some rain as well. Welcome to the Midwest where the weather is always random.

0: Two things about Scott Dixon. First, he has an ENORMOUS mutant apple in his kitchen. Second, is there any way we could get his wife in a car? I mean before she starts spending lots of time haning around Ashley Judd next year.

0: Arute has the scoop that Dixon had to get up this morning at 3am to run his dog (Dixon's, not Arute's) to the emergency vet. Sounds like Helio spiked Rover's dinner.

0: Marty Roth is starting in Row 5. There's nothing real in the world anymore. Regardless, it's time to start.

0: Or not. Marty Roth has just been told to go to the back. Not sure why Probably just a safety precaution.

1: Green green green as Nariz quickly moves into third. Did I call Kanaan passing Danicker at the wire or what?

3: Dixon drops back to third as Kanaan in a yellow car is challenging for the lead. Meanwhile Helio is already up to 21st.

5: Castroneves up to 18th. Man On Fire. Kanaan and Briscoe are side by side up front with Danica and Dixon doing the same right behind them. Spectacular racing action all over the track.

9: Helio up to 14th. Meanwhile Kanaan is pulling behind Briscoe as the leaders start to pull into a bit of a single file formation.

10: Briscoe, Kanaan, Dixon, Danica, Ed Carpenter. Uh-oh, uh-oh! Here come the Hammer!

14: Helio is up to 12th, just two seconds behind the leaders. Unreal. Clearly he's spending more time driving and less time dancing.

In case you were wondering, both Vision cars are in the Top 10. Vitor too.

27: Helio up to 11th, but EJ Viso has followed him along the way and is up to 12th. You can't stop Viso. You can't even hope to contain him.

37: Yellow as Ed Carpenter pancakes the wall. His spotter calmly informs him "You gotta get out there because your car's on fire."

38: Replay of Ed is shown many times. Almost as many times as Scott Goodyear says "passenger". Scotty's blatant use of the term makes me wonder if he isn't sending coded messages to sleeper cells. You never know with these Canadians.,

39: Free ethanol in the pits, everybody! After pit stops it's now Kanaan, Dixon, Briscoe, Whelon, Patrick. Helio is now up to 8th.

43: Still yellow. For those following the ROY battle Hideki Mutoh is in 14th while Wilson is in 18th. As a footnote, Servia is in 19th.

44: It's a minor thing, but this magic ring thing with the Firestone tires reminds me how cool race cars look with whitewalls. Just one man's opinion.

47: Ed Carpenter has been checked and released. Says the accident aggrivated a finger he broke while playing volleyball. No doubt inspired by the American dominance at beach volleyball in Beijing. Ed assures us in his best Ah-nuld "I'll be back".

50: Back to green as Kanaan leads the way. Helio quickly puts Quattro away, up to 7th. This Helio guy, he's pretty good.

57: Helio around Vitor for 6th. Next in the sights is Danicker.

59: Whoopsie! Danicker has to lift, drops back, and Helio zooms up to 4th.

65: Did you know Franck Perera is in this race? He is. He's 24th.

66: Helio around Dixon and into 3rd. Briscoe ahead of him.

67: Maybe the drinking term should have been "...8th or better."

70: Kanaan, Briscoe, Helio, Dixon, Quattro. Nariz is utterly dominating this race but getting no love. Bummer for him.

74: Yellow as Vitor is in the wall. 0 for 92. He's out and walking around. There's a big THANK YOU VITOR sign in the Panther pit. I'm sure right about now Vitor is thinking "Thanks for letting me go. Have fun fixing the car for your new driver."

77: More free ethanol! Leaders pit, shuffle, and now the leader is Helio. Back to front in about a hundred miles and change. Briscoe, Kanaan, Dixon and Wheldon take their places behind him. Quattro 6th, Danica 7th, WillPower 8th, Viso 9th, Son of 'Stache 10th.

80: Wilson 14th, Mutoh 16th. For the FishHeads out there, your girl is in 17th.

83: Back to green. Wheldon around Dixon as Foyt quickly passes Danica and is now all up in the Iceman's business.

88: The leaders are the same but the top eight cars are within a stone's throw of each other. For those who wonder why some of us prefer oval racing, please look right now.

91: Ryan Briscoe has assumed the obvious "wingman" position on the right rear of Helio's car. No need for blocking right now.

93: Wheldon, oval course specialist, is not phased. He makes it three wide all the way around the track. Meanwhile Dixon has dropped back to 8th. Drama is now set to ON.

98: Viso up to 4th, Mario Moraes is up to 6th - right in front of Dixon. I'm sure the Iceman is conforted knowing that such experienced drivers are leading him around the track.

100: Helio, Wheldon, Briscoe, Kanaan, Viso. If the season ended RIGHT NOW (*shot*) Dixon would win by two points.

103: Briscoe has dropped back as Helio and Wheldon are battling side-by-side for the lead. If you happened to be at the track for this awesome action, I'm sofa king jealous.

108: Yellow for debris on the track. Looks like a mirror fell off. Belongs to Oriol Servia, who's probably on the phone to sponsor CDW to get a new one. Helio leads, Dixon shockingly in 10th.

110: Pit stop time, and it loks like Buddy Rice gets whacked exiting the pits. Might have been Rahal that hit him. Yet another frustrating season ends for the local Indy 500 winner.

111: Helio leads Briscoe, Wheldon, Kanaan and Viso out. Dixon only up to 8th. Conspiracy theorists working overtime.

115: Servia pits as his team tries to attach a new mirror. With duct tape. Hahaha! Now THAT'S funny!

117: Back to green because it takes 9 laps to pick up a mirror. Can we call a penalty on Brian Barnhart for blocking the racing action?

118: Right back to yellow because Sarah Fisher is stopped just past turn four with obvious damage. She's up and out but hopping on one leg. Somewhere at Chicagoland pressdog has just uttered numerous epithets and headed to the concession stand for a large adult beverage.

120: Wilson 9th, Mutoh in 16th. I have no idea if that is enough for Wilson to claim the ROY title because the broadcast crew seems completely disinterested in this subplot. Thanks.

125: Back to green because it takes less time to clean up the remains of Sarah Fisher's car than it does to pick up a broken mirror. Meanwhile Wilson goes around Dixon for 9th.

132: Helio either falls asleep or is distracted by fending off his teammate because Tony Kanaan just snuck under the #3, retaking the lead. Meanhwile Dixon has raced back up to 6th.

137: Yet another Yellow as this time Viso gets eaten up by Turn Four. EJ is up and out. Gives a little wave to the crowd. And I'm not just saying "little" because he's about as tall as a tire.

138: Replay looks like his right rear tire went into instand deflation mode, although to Goodyear's credit he did not say the word "passenger".

139: Hey, it's yellow so why not pit again. Helio, Briscoe, Danica, Wheldon, Kanaan. Dixon in 6th with Moraes and Marco - Marco, where ya been! - behind him.

140: Milka didn't pit so she's in the lead. Milka Duno, leading. Hang on, I gotta check outside for rivers of blood.

145: Milka AND Marty Roth lead the way *gulp* as Helio trails by an extremely comfortable margin. Meanwhile Moraes goes three-wide under Kanaan and Dixon, giving the two veterans some serious vapors.

148: Milka has fallen like a brick, back to 7th already. Nope, no rivers full of blood today.

150: Helio, Briscoe, Wheldon, Danica, Kanaan. Dixon still in 6th, which is "...8th or better."

152: Danica pinches down on Dixon, he lifts, and Moraes goes past him.

154: Dixon must be enraged enough to fiddle with "the knob" because withing a lap he shoots past Moraes and Danicker.

158: Just noticed on the crawl that Scheckter is OUT. Did I miss something? Man, I hope it wasn't a half-shaft.

160: Wilson 11th. Mutoh in 17th.

169: Mutoh is in the pits. The ROY battle finally gets some interest from the broadcast crew.

174: Wheldon has taken the lead. Dixon is in 4th. Helio is sweating. Scott Goodyear just said the circuit at Belle Isle is "impossible to pass at". That there's the problem, people.

178: Danica peels off and pits. Still two Penskes and and two Ganassis up front.

182: Yellow as Moraes taps the wall and slows. Helio has reclaimed the lead and clinched the points for leading the most laps. Everyone is tensely awaiting the final pit stop of the race.

185: And here come the pit stops. Eeryone goes fuel only with a few drivers dirt-tracking it out of their stalls on their used tires. Dixon - gifted with the front pit stall - comes out in front. Try to act shocked. Helio, Brisco, Wheldon, Kanaan follow the Iceman.

189: Finally back to green, but not for long as Rahal goes into the Ra-wall. Yellows breeding yellows. The only hope for drama now is if Dixon runs out of fuel and drops back 8 spots. Don't hold your breath on that happening.

192: Still yellow. Why?

193: Still yellow. Apparently Helio is getting too close on the restart. Tim Cindric tells Helio "Maybe we'll get the rules down for next year". Helio responds saying "He's going to slow!"

194: And finally, we are green.

196: Dixon is stuck to the low line and Helio can't get around him.

198: Helio pulls up aside Dixon.

199: Side by side for the white flag.

200: And it's Helio! Wait, it's Dixon. By one 1/1000th of a second.

Wait, the replay looks like Helio won. What the..? Meanhwhile Dixon has pulled into Victory Lane. Chatting up Arute.

Let's go to Vince Welch. "Helio, we just found out you won the race!" Helio erupts in happiness. Congratulations, you win a set of steak knives!

That's all folks from the broadcast. Meanwhile the rookie of the year is...? Hello?

Switching to IndyCar.com, which reads "After 17 rounds of tight competition, Scott Dixon clinches his second IndyCar Series championship with a victory -- by 0.0010 of a second over Helio Castroneves." Holy Dewey Defeats Truman!

In fact the Race Results are already on the site showing Dixon as the winner. Unless he was driving the car with the #3 the replay clearly disputed this. How ridiculous.

Anyhow, it looks like Wilson finished 11th (19 points) and Mutoh 22nd (12 points), so Godzilla should be the ROY winner. I think. Then again, I don't even know who won the freaking race.

Regardless of the outcome, unless he tests positive for steroids Scott Dixon has clinched the 2008 championship. Congratulations to Scott and the entire Ganassi team, as well as to Helio for winning the race but not getting to celebrate anywhere other than at the podium.

What a bizarre ending to a unique season. I guess we shouldn't have expected anything any different. Well, I need to get on the phone to bump my cable up to Versus, so from all of us here at the World Headquarters, Thank you very much, and good night!

UPDATE: From IndyCar.com. "After 17 rounds of tight competition, Scott Dixon clinches his second IndyCar Series championship with a runner-up finish. Helio Castroneves wins the race -- by 0.0033 of a second."

That means the race was decided by the 2nd closest finish in IndyCar series history. As an incredible side note, none of those closest finishes are on road courses. Go figure.

LiveThread: 2008 Indy Lights finale

Posted by Iannucci | 9/07/2008 | 4 comments »
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While your humble host will most assuredly be here at the computer for the IndyCar series race later today, other priorities will have us out of the World Headquarters this morning during the first LIVE television broadcast of and Indy Lights race since who knows when.

Right now the championship points battle looks like this:
473 Raphael Matos
469 Richard Antinucci

Should be a good battle as Matos starts from the front and Antinucci back a bit in ninth, but it's a shame that one single decision by one of these two earlier this year has prevented this from being a truly historic battle.

Ana Beatriz currently sits mathematically eliminated in third position with 409 points, but take a moment and consider what might have been. Back in the third race of the season Beatriz was leading in the second race at St Pete when Antinucci - her teammate - punted her and sent her spinning off the track. Antinucci was penalized 10 points for the infraction, but that didn't help Beatriz who finsished in 16th despite being likely on her way to her first Indy Lights victory.

Had she held on to win that race she would have an additional 36 points right now, Antinucci in second would remain the same, and Matos would actually drop a point since he would have finished behind Beatriz in that race. The standings would then be:

472 Matos
469 Antinucci
445 Beatriz

Those 27 points would still pose a large deficit for "Bia" to overcome, but not an impossible one when you consider that her victory at Nashville is the only one by any of these three drivers on an oval this year. Just something to keep in mind while watching Matos or Antinucci claim the championship this morning.

Meanwhile, please add your race comments below if you happen to be watching. Muchas gracias.

UPDATE: It's Rafa! Matos wins the championship when Richard Antinucci goes into the wall, but the champion is upstaged as his teammate Arie Luyendyk Jr wins his first Indy Lights race in his 62nd start. Congratulations to both drivers. Smells like a party.

Unfortunately your humble host was banking on the DVR recording this, but when I got home I noticed the "IndyCar" programming turned out to be an N-Word pre-race show and bowling. Bowling? Are you kidding me? Ugh! ESPN is such a four-letter word.

Quote of the Day

Posted by Iannucci | 9/07/2008 | 4 comments »
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"I feel like it's important for the fans to know what I think about everything that has happened this last week. I didn't want to leave Panther and the No. 4 car because I know how good this team is going to be next year. I feel like I'm a big part of the foundation of this team in the new generation of the IndyCar Series. I'm sad to leave and I don't agree with all the decisions that have been made, but that doesn't change the way I feel about Panther Racing and I'll always have a lot of respect for them. I feel like I'm personal friends with every member of this team. That will never change.

I'm also happy to have had the experience with all the sponsors who have supported me, especially Delphi for the two years of support and trust. The National Guard, as an institution, and the soldiers as individuals, changed me personally and the way I look at everything. One of the key words in the National Guard is 'honor', and I'm honored to get to know every member of the National Guard and I always will be, even if I don't drive their car in the future. I will always know, no matter what, that wherever I am the Guardsmen are Always Ready and Always There.

I look forward to continuing my career in the IndyCar Series, and will share any updates as they come available."
- Vitor Meira

Cheat Sheet: Chicagoland 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 9/06/2008 | 4 comments »
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You should probably know that despite racing for years in a series packed with them, going into 2008 Scott Dixon had only won once on a 1.5-mile oval track. Of course, this season he's done it a few times, which means for whatever reason Dixon this year is obviously a different flavor of Ice.

As a result, he's won 6 of 16 races (tied for the record), led 885 laps (just 4 behind the record), and is nearly a lock to win his second series championship. In fact, the only things standing in his way are himself and his team, as evidenced by the bizarre strategy Mike Hull and company devised for Dixon in the last few races. I'm not paid to be a race strategist but it seems to me Dixon would have sewn up the championship by now had he simply followed Helio Castroneves around the track and pitted when the #3 did.

But what do I know. I'm just an unprofessional word butcher.

Speaking of Castroneves, who knows what's going on with him. He starts in the back and practically needs to win to have any realistic shot at catching Dixon. He could probably use some help from his teammate who starts right next Dixon, and I mean that in the most brutal, thuggish and destructive sense of the word "help". Team Penske is the last team one would figure to try any such shenanigans, but that doesn't mean we all won't be watching closely at the start of the race.

Heck, Helio may even try to convince Dixon's lame-duck teammate to try something. Castroneves is hoping some driver is more than a little inspired by "Death Race" and he's hoping that driver is wedged up against Dixon at some point.

Favorite: Scott Dixon. Hey, the My Name Is IRL jinx has been working so let's keep it up. Really Scott, it's nothing personal. It would just be nice to see Helio battling up front and you simultaneously trying to pass for a critical position around, say, 12th. It's all about the drama, as you and your missing "beer can full of fuel" from last year illustrated.

Contender: Dan Wheldon. Since coming to Target Chip Ganassi Racing the Well Done one has won six races, five of which were on 1.5-mile super speedways. Welcome to the realm of Lord Wheldon. Prepare to be blinded by superior driving and dental work.

Longshot: Helio Castroneves. He's certainly been up to the task of closing the gap on Dixon by finishing 2nd or better in the last five races. In fact, Helio has finished in the Top 5 in all but two races all year. So why is he a longshot? Because he hasn't won on a 1.5-mile oval since Texas in 2004, and starting at the back won't help break that streak.

Drivers to Watch: Hideki Mutoh and Justin Wilson. On the undercard of the series title bout is this fine matchup, as Godzilla leads the Cajun Sheff by a mere 13 points for the Bombardier Rookie of the Year title. I promised at the beginning of the year that I would change the name of this site to "My Name Is (driver name)" for a week if anyone beat Mutoh for this award, and honestly I'm kinda bummed that Oriol Servia - who leads Mutoh by 11 points - does not qualify in Brian Barnhart's estimation.

Danica Threat Level: DanCon Two. Not a typo. Remember, she won at Motegi just when we least expected it, and she's pretty much not even in the conversation for this race. She's starting fourth, so should something nutty occur she'll be there to conserve her way to victory.

Drinking Term: "If the season ended right now..." as astutely suggested by the most honorable Indy Insider. No further explanation should be required. Please drink responsibly.

Stat of the Race: Just 17 points separate Wheldon and Tony Kanaan for third place. Maybe we should focus on that battle instead...OK, you can stop laughing now.

pressdog says: "By race time I'll be high as a kite on ethanol exhaust, baby! Sentimental pick: Danny Wheldon flashes The Teeth in the Chicagoland winner's circle after being pushed across the line by Dixon who wins the championship with authority. Sarah finishes in front of Danica! (Insert me losing bladder control here). Enjoy (the race, not the loss of bladder control)."

Strap yourselves in and get ready for a double dose of IndyCar action, because ESPN2 will carry the Indy Lights finale LIVE on Sunday Morning. Raphael Matos leads my extremely distant cousin Richard Antinucci by four points, so unlike the later race it's literally winner take all. Welcome to the final race day of the season, and most of all enjoy the shows!

IHJ declares war on Helio

Posted by Iannucci | 9/06/2008 | 12 comments »
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We've just received word that there's been a crucial penalization during the qualifications at Chicagoland. Our good buddy pressdog is LIVE on the scene, so as Marty would say, "Bill, you've got more?"

Newsflash -- just heard in the media center that Helio is being sent to the back of the field after driving below the white line numerous times during quals. THE IHJ IS CRACKING DOWN. Barnhart allegedly told them several times in the driver meeting and then followed up with each driver before they went out: if you go below the white line, you go to the back.

Team Penske will bookend the field as Helio's teammate Ryan Briscoe starts from the pole position tomorrow - right next to Scott Dixon. Meanwhile Rod Smart is on line one, Mr Castroneves, and he's offering to lend you his jersey.

Some lovely parting gifts

Posted by Iannucci | 9/05/2008 | 7 comments »
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A couple of years back your humble host was at a baseball game for the home town Diamondbacks, and event of some significance because the team was saying goodbye to two longtime team members who had both played critical roles in the team’s World Series Championship in 2001. Both Luis Gonzalez and Craig Counsell were given pre-game speeches of love and affection, and were greeted with standing ovations each time they came to the plate. These were popular guys both on and off the field, and since they were both saying goodbye the team decided to make a big deal out of their exits.

Funny thing is, neither player was retiring, as both Counsell and Gonzalez – who are still playing today – were being replaced by upcoming youngsters who were anticipated to play better than the declining veterans. The organization made the unpopular move of not renewing the contracts of the two players, but since letting a couple of fan favorites go they thought a little goodbye party might help reduce the sting to the team’s fans.

Which is a plan not unlike the one Panther Racing is using this weekend. Browse on over the to the Panther Racing site right now and you’ll see a giant “Thank You Vitor” image along with a tribute noting the highlights of his tenure with the team, calling him “Our Winner”. It’s a nice touch, and as the team says Vitor would always be welcome back, just so long as he has a proper sponsorship package or they don’t have Dan Wheldon to driver for them anymore.

Like every other sport racing is largely a meritocracy, and the fact is that despite whatever circumstances would be to blame Vitor Meira still has zero wins in the IndyCar series. For those who haven’t been counting, that would be 15 less than Dan Wheldon, his replacement who’s going to look nothing if not interesting in a National Guard camouflage firesuit and whatever fashionable shoes he chooses. I suppose you can argue who is the superior driver, but the fact is Wheldon will bring more attention to the Panther sponsors as someone who has been an Indy 500 champion, an IndyCar series champion, and a one-time sparring partner for Danica who has made the talk show rounds. (You can also argue which of those is the most noteworthy.)

Which brings us to Vitor looking for a job and Panther looking to explain the reports that Meira was fired by email. To the team’s credit they’ve been responding to several questions related to this issue on their Q&A, saying that the email was a contractual obligation that he first receive written notice and that John Barnes called him. So be it, but it hardly softens the sting to fans who for years have seen Panther go beyond the usual accolades teams bestow upon their drivers by lavishing nothing but love on Vitor. Maybe because he hasn’t won or maybe because he’s certainly fan friendly, but I bet if you listen closely to driver introductions this weekend the cheer for Meira will be as loud as any of driver’s – especially Dan Wheldon’s.

That's the same Dan Wheldon who incidentally isn’t exactly getting a huge send-off from his current employer, although I'm sure either driver would take a signed contract over a tribute any day. Unfortunately though Vitor, like Gonzalez and Counsell, are now left with some kind words, some lovely parting gifts and some best wishes towards the future.

I was made for suing you baby

Posted by Iannucci | 9/04/2008 | 12 comments »
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Expect the IRL to get free airtime on "Extra" and "Entertainment Tonight" in the near future.

A Los Angeles man claims in a lawsuit that Gene Simmons took him for a ride on a marketing deal with the Indy Racing League.

Allan Brown on Wednesday sued Simmons and two business partners, claiming the group cut him out of a 2006 deal between the Kiss bassist and the racing league.

Brown is seeking unspecified damages and is claiming fraud and slander. His suit alleges he helped broker the deal between Simmons and the IRL, but was cut out of the contract while on a personal vacation.

He also claims Simmons and his business partners mischaracterized him as "lazy" and "rich" to racing league officials.

(MORE from the Associate Press)
There isn’t a whole lot of detail so far about this lawsuit, so we’ll have to wait and see what the fuss is specifically about. I don’t think calling someone else “lazy” and “rich” is a legal transgression, but if The Tongue did in fact utter those words it’s reminiscent of a line involving a pot, a kettle and the color black.

On a related note, anonymous IndyCar fans are considering a class action lawsuit against Simmons for physical and mental damages related to repeated listenings to "I AM MINDY!" during race broadcasts.

Return of Fronkensteen

Posted by Iannucci | 9/03/2008 | 7 comments »
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For the first time since Indianapolis, Darren Manning will have a teammate on a race weekend.

Franck Perera will audition for a potential 2009 IndyCar Series ride at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend in the No. 41 ABC Supply Co. Honda-powered Dallara for A.J. Foyt Racing.

Perera, 24, has made nine Firestone Indy Lights starts in the No. 55 CJ Consulting Guthrie Racing car since June, posting one victory (Infineon Raceway road course from the pole) and four top-10 finishes. He competed in the first two IndyCar Series races of the season car before sponsorship issues forced him out of the No. 34 Conquest Racing car.

(MORE from IndyCar.com)
Good to see AJ Foyt is helping to bring the French and English together.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 9/03/2008 | 13 comments »
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What does this one say?

(Photo: TrackSide Online)

Check the Inbox

Posted by Iannucci | 9/03/2008 | 9 comments »
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Curt Cavin continues to fill in the details of yesterday's game of musical chairs, adding this anecdote.

Meira said Panther officials sent him an e-mail Monday to say his contract wouldn't be renewed for the No. 4 car he has driven since 2004.

"Put two and two together," said Meira, who spent Tuesday contacting other IndyCar teams.
"To: vitormeira@pantherracing.com. Subject: You're fired." Now that's cold. Lest we forget, just two years ago Panther co-owner John Barnes famously expressed his man-crush for Meira.

"Panther can't see anybody driving the 4 car but Vitor Meira. I can tell you, it would cost me my house and home and everything else, my wife would divorce me if he wasn't driving our car. We all love him."
I'm guessing Barnes didn't have email then.

What? What? What?

Posted by Iannucci | 9/02/2008 | 23 comments »
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The braintrust at TrackSide Online just dropped the bomb.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing (TCGR) and Dan Wheldon, driver of the No. 10 Target Honda Dallara in the IndyCar Series, announced today they have agreed to part ways.

Chip Ganassi: "Dan Wheldon has done everything this organization has asked of him. (blah ... blah ... blah) Dan is a class act both on and off the track and we wish him nothing but the best."

Dan Wheldon: "I have enjoyed these last three seasons with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, but will be moving on to pursue a very exciting opportunity for 2009. (yada ... yada ... yada) I will be announcing my plans for next season in the near future. In the meantime I want to focus my efforts on winning the last race of the season. I wish the team well for 2009 and beyond."
And now ... the REST of the story.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing announced they will be adding former IndyCar Series and Indy 500 champion Dario Franchitti as a teammate of the 2008 Indy 500 winner and current points leader Scott Dixon, as the driver of the No. 10 Target Honda. In addition, Chip Ganassi Racing and Target announced the details of their joint plans to take their partnership into its 20th season and beyond.
Hang on a second, my head is still spinning.

This makes sense in some respects, as Wheldon has struggled on the growing number of road courses, but Ganassi supposedly (a) offered the job to Tony Kanaan and (b) had an agreement in place with Wheldon. Which means (c) Mr Judd was his third option after NOT having an agreement with Wheldon. Dario is probably a superior choice, but you gotta wonder about a guy who already seemed like he wanted to get away from IndyCars, don't you?

I can't wait to find out how this decision got finalized, as well as where Wheldon ends up. Wow. Silly season just got ridiculous.

UPDATE: As noted in the comments below, the Intrepid Curt Cavin is on the case.

Wheldon will replace Vitor Meira in the No. 4 car of Panther Racing. Panther officials did not renew Meira's contract, although the driver said it's still possible that he could drive a second Panther car if sponsorship materializes. Meanwhile, he is exploring his options.
Looks like what goes around comes around, as Wheldon returns to the team that brought him into the league. Wow. Dan Wheldon representing the National Guard in stylish footwear. Go figure.

At any rate, that puts Vitor on the clock in the game of musical chairs.

mmack's nnotes

Posted by Iannucci | 9/01/2008 | 1 comments »
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Ladies and gentleman, please welcome a man who's brain is so large he can connect an IndyCar race to the Scopes Monkey Trial (albeit in name only). Once again, please welcome the one, the only, the mmack.

Due to a "New Orleans Style" brunch the Fabulous Mrs. Maria threw today for us, my mother, her mom, and her best friend and her mother (on the menu: gumbo, beignets, coconut shrimp, crabmeat and sausage omelettes, Creole tomato and cheese tarts, bread pudding, mimosas, and coffee with chicory), race coverage for me starts just after the drop of the green flag. I tune in to see a golf game, sorry, force of habit, I tune in just in time to see Milka spin sideways after racing with another car. This causes an outbreak of yellow fever and Junky gets penalized for something called "avoidable contact". Hmmmmmmmmm.

A shout out to Alex Tagliani, who is replacing Bernoldi and his sore thumb. I believe Bernoldi's sore head will probably get Tags the ride for the rest of the season.

At this point the overhead shot of the field emphasizes the thin grandstands. And we replaced MIS with this why? My pondering is cut short as Wreckter pits and climbs out too early. As the field goes back to green it I'm calling it lock step before Marty can. I mean, it looks like a one lane slot car track out there. 90 laps of this?!?!?!? I've a bad feeling all the passing will be in the pits.

As for the Firestone whitewall "Magic Rings", nice bling! But no respectable Detroit land barge rolls out with just whitewalls. Where's the vinyl top, fender skirts, landau irons and opera lamps to go with? And for some of these drivers, a set of curb feelers would help too.

During the interview with Tomas, it sounds like the clutch went. I had a great joke about Tomas switching to driving automatics, then I hear it's a half-shaft. Hey ABC, how about dumping the f@#$ing onboard side-by-side when you're interviewing a driver? The race noise drowns out Sheck.

Great, an announcement of a Fuel Mileage race! By now, there's more excitement in the '07 replay of Wreckter and The Dancing King than the entire race so far.

WOW! An actual pass for position! On Danica no less! Then, Olympic Style Synchronized Spinning hits ABC as "Choppers" Wheldon and "Bitchin'" Camara loop. Hey ABC, how about skipping the damned commercials and cut to the incident?

Under yellow, Helio gets closer to Dixon than he's been all race. A festival of pitting shows Iceman and Briscoe Inferno dive in, Helio stays out. As the race restarts, Danica passes Milka. No towels are thrown. HEY! There's some ACTUAL PASSING for position! Tags goes around Carpenter, then Dixon works on Ed. Just as Dixon goes to pass Ed, we get A COMMERCIAL!

We return just as Vitor and Graham try to make a Danica Sandwich. OH NO! Vitor broke The Danica Directive and then her car breaks! Will Danica slap Vitor? While all this is happening EJ Viso gets jealous of the attention paid to Vitor and Danica and crashes to get airtime. Luckily Danica only had a flat tire, so she's in-and-out of the pits, but then gets a drive through penalty. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm, Big Three cars DO get slapped with penalties.

At this point EVERYONE passes Mutoh like an old guy on the highway going ten under, but being Detroit, there's some scary moments. Justin "Too-Tall" Wilson is looking to get past Helio as we see Junky using The Chrome Horn! Now as things get exciting I hear: Timed Race! Great! At this point I contemplate washing the dishes to fight off the "lock step" boredom.

Whoa! RHR and Will Power are, you know, ACTUALLY racing. Can a pass happen? NOPE! Power tries the old Andretti family "stick the front wing endplate into the rear tire of the car in front of me" trick and fails miserably. To be fair, it looks like RHR slammed the door without looking. Note to Scott and Marty: CMA1 -> Cover My @ss, plan 1 to use when The Iron Hand of Justice stops by. Power ducks in for a new front wing and we find out the broken wing was covering the radiator inlet, causing his car to hiss steam like an old Plymouth I used to own.

Briscoe is sent FAR away from Helio with his last pit stop. Helio does the in-and-out and Servia leads. Can he win it? NOPE! Servia ducks in for fuel and tires.

At this point, I must ask: AJ Foyt IV in eighth? Quattro in the top 10 on a street course?!?

Dixon fights with Servia and then his teammate Choppers torpedoes the tire barrier! At the same time Mario Moraes suffers brain fade and hits the run off.

With our restart, Wilson is all over Helio, then Helio throws the Chop-Block-O-Rama he learned from Briscoe at the last race. Suddenly Race Control calls blocking on The Dancing King, and tells him to let Wilson past. What the???? I was watching an auto race and suddenly I'm watching a remake of the old Spencer Tracy film, Inherit the Win.

At this point I do get up off the comfy couch and start washing dishes. Justin wins and becomes the tallest Indy Car driver to win an IRL race. To celebrate he kills the car trying to do a donut. Note to Justin: c'mon by my house, say round about December - January after it's just snowed and I'll take you out in my pick-em-up and teach you how to do a proper donut, m'lad.

Jack tries to interview Helio, but Helio gamely fights off hs anger and walks away. Interview with the winner, and then with Dixon. I have to agree with Dixon: Just WHERE can you pass cleanly around here?

So now it's off to MY HOUSE and MY RACETRACK, Chicagoland. Scott is 30 "markers" ahead of Helio. I will be reporting from on site and meeting the fabled "Pressdog" from Pressdog.com.

Oh, and Maria says be careful what SHE wishes for, since a "CART" guy won this race, and that's what she wanted for this week. ;^)

P.S. Good luck to all the folks in the path of Hurricane Gustov. Hopefully it'll miss New Orleans and Mississippi.