Get out the vote

Posted by Iannucci | 10/30/2008 | 10 comments »
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Out of respect for readers of all different political flavors, My Name Is IRL is generally an endorsement-free zone. There are enough politics in racing to discuss around here, and if you really must get into a “my party” vs “your party” conflict there is no shortage of other places to get your anger on. And might I offer my sincerest thanks to you all for your for your understanding in this matter.

However, on occasion an exception appears requiring an official endorsement and promotion, and now is such a time. Rarely does a candidate with such courage, such focus, such ability and such excitement appear in need of your vote as does this man, who I whole-heartedly back for the title he seeks.

EJ Viso for Autosport Rookie of the Year

We know Vitor Meira won’t be voting for him. Nor Graham Rahal. Nor possibly any other IndyCar regular, so your vote is of the utmost importance to young Ernesto. If your conscience does not object, please consider a quick trip over to the Autosport site cast a vote for EJ Viso as “Rookie of the Year”. As the saying goes, vote early and often.

I’m not EJ Viso, but I approve this message.

(Photo: TrackSide Online)


Posted by Iannucci | 10/29/2008 | 9 comments »
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In case you missed it, or even if you just want to watch the hilarity over and over, here as found by our buddy meesh is the Mother of All Hand Puppet Shows in all of it's glorious splendor. Now with Australian TV commentary for your viewing enhancement.

"OK, if you were one of those safety workers and you were getting yelled at, how fast would you work for her?"


Now, I realize a lot of folks have piled on Mrs Hospenthal for this apparent display of selfishness, but I for one feel a degree of sympathy. There's a frustration shown in the tragedy of her hand puppet show, which is a sobering tale about effective communication. You know that feeling when you're talking to someone who doesn't speak English, so you instinctively speak LOUDER? Well, that's what she's doing, only with her hands. MORE HAND MOVEMENTS!

Obviously the key to avoiding this in the future - other than not stalling her car - is to help our beloved 2008 Twin Ring Motegi Champion learn the proper techniques for speaking with her hands. So here are some helpful words in American Sign Language, with images courtesy of the folks at

EXCUSE: Use a small double movement

"Excuse", as in "Excuse me, I realize you're rather busy working with Graham Rahal's car for the umteenth time this year, but could I please have a moment of your time?"

HELP: The sign for "help" is made by closing your right hand. Place your right hand on the outstretched palm of your left hand. Raise both hands.

"Help", as in "Help, please, for I have inadvertently taken my foot off the clutch and stalled my vehicle on the race course like a total idiot."

CAR/DRIVE: The sign for "car" or "drive" is made by using both hands in a closed position. Move both hands as if controlling a steering wheel.

"Car/Drive", as in "I need you to help me restart my car so I can drive, which incredible as it may seem right now is actually what I do for a living when I'm not modeling swimsuits."

THANK YOU: The sign for "thank you" is made by touching your lips with the front of the fingers of your right hand. Your hand should be an "open-b." Move your hand away from your face, palms upward. Smile.

"Thank You", as in "Thank you so much for assisting me so that I may once again race behind those mother scratchers at Ganassi and Penske."

Who knows - if we work diligently, we might even get the Delphi Safety Team to one day understand these signs.

LiveBlog: Surfer's Paradise 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 10/25/2008 | 23 comments »
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Welcome to Australia, mates, where the IndyCar series hosts it's first ever meaningless race. At least in terms of the championship standings. It's still a race, and someone will still win, and that's all that really matters.

I gotta be honest with you, friends; I have no idea what to expect. As further evidence that your humble host is a bona fide IRL snob this is in fact my first time watching a race at this venue in a long, long time. Judging from what I've seen in qualifications it looks a lot like a race through a giant tunnel, as the track seems extremely narrow for these Dallaras.

No worries, though, as yesterday I heard Scott Goodyear say "these drivers race completely hard all the way around the track." Ahem.

And on that note, please welcome back Mr Judd himself, Mr Dario Franchitti!

OK, let's get locked and loaded here. As our good buddy Bash told me, "Vegemite - check. Foster's - check. (okay, so it's crap and I don't drink it.) Roos and koalas - check. Miss Indy poster - uh, no. 10s of thousands of drunk Aussie race fans - check. Let's go racing, mates!"

And with that, it's time to start.

0: Our crew today is Bob Jenkins, Goodyear, and Jon Beekhuis. Like Jack Arute at Motegi, Jan is the only one actually at the race. Unlike Jack, Jon will likely not provide us any moments of unintentional humor. Pity.

0: Unless of course you count Jon's hair. Bringing Chia back.

1: And we're green. Much short-cutting of chicanes. Moraes gets spun but he's quickly on his way. Just did a little donut in preparation for his first victory some day.

2: Will Power is pulling ahead of the field like he's got some sort of proprietary turbo installed. Fellow Aussie Ryan Briscoe is now in second. Because I'm such a wet blanket I'll note no Australian has ever won this event.

3: Vitor Meira is being shown in last place. Even on a different continent with a new team, it's still Poor Vitor.

4: It's Power (by 4 seconds), Briscoe, Dixon, Hunter-Reay (Babe), Helio. Today's underdog will be Tags in sixth.

6: Much of the telecast right now has featured an on-board camera on Briscoe Inferno's Dallara. I'd like to take a moment to say that while I don't think these cars are hideous, these "cattle guard" front wings with the vertical plates have GOT to go.

7: Judging by the graphic of the layout, this circuit looks approximately like a femur.

8: Justin Wilson passes Andretti 3.0 for 13th, on camera. Marco had previously been invisible for the last three or four races.

8: Yellow for Mario Moraes who is stalled on the course. Looks like he hit the wall and bent the left rear suspension. Hos off-season

10: Still yellow, and a few of the non-leaders pit. Meanwhile here's some lovely footage of Moraes running over your living room.

10: Fanicas, your girl is in 20th. She started 23rd so she's making like the Jeffersons and movin' on up. I can't believe I haven't said that before.

11: Back to green and Ryan Briscoe falls asleep as Power hits the throttle way early.

11: Oopsie. On the restart Helio clipped Danica attempting a pass. We'll need some new tires for Helio, new nose for Danica. Or for her car, rather.

13: EJ Viso has gone from 10th to 7th today. If you asked me to pick just one driver to follow on a street course, he's the guy. And yes, I realize that sounds like something Larry King would say.

14: It's all Power, all the time. He still hasn't made a pit stop though.

16: Holy storming Americans! From starting in the last few rows we now have Rahal in 10th, Carpenter 12th, Rice in 13th, Quattro in 14th.

17: And Will Power just clips the wall, damages his front wings and possibly his suspension, and slows to a crawl. Crikey! No yellow flag though, as Briscoe gladly takes the lead.

18: Briscoe, Dixon, Babe, Tags, Mr Judd. Viso in 6th, waiting to pounce.

20: And the Inferno pits, surrendering the lead to the world's leading fuel conservationist, Mr Scott Dixon.

21: And the Iceman pits, but he comes out behind the pace car because we have a full-course caution for...what?

21: OK, it's for an incident in turn 8 involving Ed Carpenter, Graham Rahal, and Foyt IV. Other than wing damage to the Son of Stache it appears the cars are undamaged.

22: Danica appears to be stopped somewhere else as well. Hand puppet show! Looks like she didn't hit anything, just stalled it.

23: Finally, Danicker get her car fired up. The hand puppet show was epic, though. Truly, it was.

24: Dario pits. Briscoe, Dixon, Tags, Babe and Kanaan are your new leaders. 56 laps to the podium, Alex!

25: Townsend Bell is shown in 23rd. What happened? I have no idea.

27: No change up front. We're entering a parade portion of the program. If you personally need to make a pit stop, go right ahead.

28: All right, hurry back! Dario got wrong in a turn and has spun without contact to a stop near turn five. Sadly, there are no corresponding shots of Ashley and her lovely hat collection. Full course yellow.

32: And we're back to green. Hunter-Reay all up in Tagliani's business for third.

33: Here's our first mention of Helio's tax issues. The broadcast team can't pretend this doesn't exist, but personally my viewing is not enhanced. Suddenly "I drove it like I stole it!" has lost it's charm.

35: Tony Kanaan has slowed into his pit box and exited the vehicle. Jon tells us it's right rear suspension damage due to the "concrete confines". Channeling his inner Arute there.

36: Servia is fearlessly contesting Viso for 5th, occasionally going two-wide. I guess he didn't get the memo about EJ.

40: Briscoe pits. Dixon pits. Tagliani leads with Babe right behind him Viso, and Mutoh right behind them.

42: Tags and Babe both pit, but Ryan ran into Alex entering pit lane. Minor but noticeable damage to the Ethanol car but he beats Tagliani out. Viso leads.

43: Viso pits. Now it's Briscoe, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Viso, Tagliani. Rahal now in 6th, Mutoh back to 10th.

44: The IHJ exercises his authori-tay and orders Viso to let Tagliani by. Viso was blocking.

46: We do not anticipate anymore pit stops so this is now Briscoe's race to loses. He leads Dixon by just over a second, Hunter-Reay by 7 seconds, Tagliani by 14 seconds.

49: Viso was ordered to surrender another position, this time to Servia because he cut a corner. He's now back to 6th. When I said there was one guy I'd watch I didn't realize it would be the same guy Mr Barnhart would be watching intently.

50: The Inferno now leads the Iceman by over two seconds. Fire and Ice, haha...OK, that was exceptionally lame. Sorry. If you're still awake on the East Coast you deserve better. You probably won't find it here, though.

51: Dan Wheldon is 60 seconds back, a non-factor in 12th. I'm noting this because I can't imagine going an entire IndyCar race without mentioning "Wheldon".

53: It's looking like the podium will be Briscoe, Dixon, Hunter-Reay.

54: The leaders go around Ed Carpenter, who's sporting a black and green livery this weekend. He wants to be like Viso.

55: Dixon has managed to close the gap, now just a few car lengths behind Briscoe. If you're still awake, you may get to see a race here.

56: And now..."The Ocho" cuts to commercial. You gotta be kidding me! We've got side-by-side, but come on people. Dear Versus, please don't do this next year.

57: Dixon has ceased gaining on Briscoe. Maybe he doesn't have enough car, or maybe he's going to let Briscoe win because he feels so bad about spinning and taking him out during The Brain Freeze at The Glen earlier this year.

58: Looks like both of the leaders hit some debris, but are both continuing on.

59: Ed Carpenter has spun out on the last lap. This wouldn't be the first time he's made that move to get some late air time.

60: It's Briscoe for the win, the first native to take the checkers at Surfer's Paradise. Pop open a Foster's, mate! Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Tagliani and Servia round out the Top 5.

Briscoe proceeds to do donuts in just about every turn on this track. He's feeling the Australian love. Good on him.

And just like that, that's the end. Of the race, of the show, of the season. Possibly even this event. Not much else to say except congrats to Ryan and Team Penske for the win, and to the entire IRL for a memorable season. It's late, so thank you all very much - good night!

Will Power has the pole

Posted by Iannucci | 10/25/2008 | 2 comments »
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Pole position at Surfer's Paradise, that is. For the third consecutive year.

Catch all the race action on ESPN Classic (or as pressdog likes to call it, "The Ocho") tonight at 10:30PM EDT. If you don't have it you can always get live video at the site.

Enjoy the show!

(Photo: BAM Media)

A point about points

Posted by Iannucci | 10/24/2008 | 1 comments »
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With huge gaps in reporting since the season finale at Chicagoland, you might have been wondering what happened to’s John Oreovicz. As it turns out, he’s had his nose to the grindstone, burning up the calculator. With the last three IndyCar series championships finishing so close as to remain mathematically undetermined until literally the final lap of the season, Oreo has taken the time to calculate who might have been the champion had the IRL used a different scoring method.

Fun stuff for wonks. Here’s what we’ve got for theoretical champions:

Old F1 (points for Top 6 only)
2006: Sam Hornish Jr
2007: Scott Dixon
2008: Scott Dixon

New F1 (points for Top 8 only)
2006: Helio Castroneves
2007: Scott Dixon
2008: Scott Dixon (tie-breaker over Helio Castroneves)

CART (points for Top 12, “most laps led”, “pole position”)
2006: Helio Castroneves
2007: Dario Franchitti
2008: Helio Castroneves

Champ Car (over-officious gibberish)
2006: Dan Wheldon
2007: Dario Franchitti
2008: Helio Castroneves

N-Word (points for all entries, “most laps led”, “any lap led”)
2006: Dan Wheldon
2007: Dario Franchitti
2008: Scott Dixon

Now, not to be ungrateful to Oreo for all of his hard work but these 2006 calculations are, well, meaningless because competition in the final race was stultified by the existing scoring system. (That’s right, I said “stultified”. I’ve got a dictionary and I’m not afraid to use.) Dan Wheldon raced to the lead at Chicagoland, but teammate Scott Dixon was ordered to yield and finish behind him. Behind them Sam Hornish Jr was content to race around in third because he would clinch the championship from that position. Once Helio Castroneves had been penalized for speeding in the pits (Helio penalized? Go figure!) and taken out of contention early in the race, it was little more than a high-speed parade for the leaders.

But on most days Oreo is a reporter, and as such he’s got some actual news tucked neatly at the end of the article. Here’s Brian Barnhart discussing how he wants to get wiggy with the current system.

"As we move toward a more diversified schedule, the IndyCar Series is the truest test of a driver in the world," he said. "We just finished rule-book meetings, and one of the things we considered is more points for pole at road and street course meetings. It may be appropriate to award points for our Firestone Fast Six knockout format, and we're looking at that as a change for 2009."

Hold the phone, Mr IHJ. You wanna do what? Fasted qualification has it’s own merits, like say starting at the front and getting a nice supplemental check, but you’re talking about giving points for something that isn’t derived from performance during the race. Come on, even the N-Word doesn’t do that.

If I may be analogous (shout out to Noah Webster), here’s why: Suppose a bunch of single buddies get together for a night on the town, and one of them comes home without so much as a phone number. Do the other hypothetical buddies give said buddy credit for having the nicest clothes or the most pleasant cologne or showing up at the meeting place first? I don’t think so.

Racing is about racing, and by racing I mean racing during the race. Giving points for anything else diminishes the objective, which is to race on race day. At least that’s the case for all of those other series Oreo listed that are currently in existence.

Welcome to Paradise

Posted by Iannucci | 10/24/2008 | 4 comments »
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After two test sessions in the wee hours of the Western Hemisphere, Will Power is dominating the early laps. Back in his home state of Queensland, Power is setting the pace for the Timing and Scoring at Surfer’s Paradise, leading the field by over a second.

Meanwhile, EJ Viso and Bruno Junqueira Mario Moraes are simply leading the Scoring.

Livin’ in the land down under…
Where women glow and men plunder.

(Photo: BAM Media)

Roth makes like a tree and leaves

Posted by Iannucci | 10/20/2008 | 19 comments »
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Without a press conference or official announcement, the Marty Roth error era has officially ended. As the Toronto Star reports, Marty has cleared out his locker, filling up a box with tattered scoring sheets, crumpled Dallara parts, and all the bitterness he can carry. Here's the story he tells to Norris McDonald.

"I actually have not talked directly to the IRL about this," Roth told me in conversation this week. "I've called; they won't call me back. But this is what happened:

"I was approached by three men at the last race in Chicago who wanted to get involved with my team – to run it and to market it. That has always been a big problem for me, a lack of budgeting. That and a lack of testing really did me in. When I could test, I did well – including on the road courses. When I couldn't test – and they wouldn't let me test most of the time – I had a hard time.

"The IRL told them that they didn't want me driving any more, that they wanted me out of the cockpit and somebody else should drive. They wanted me to just be an owner. The quote was: `His demographic is as an owner, not as a driver.'”

(MORE from
The article indicates the IRL actually considered letting Roth run a few more races before Marty himself pulled the plug on the whole thing, and Roth – as well as the article’s author – seem to think this is an issue of Ageism. Which if you read nothing but this article of sunshine discussing Marty’s qualification times would make you think it is.

But it isn’t because he’s old; it’s because Marty sucked.

When discussing Roth, who by the way is no longer listed in “Drivers” drop-down list, the first thing that comes to mind is how slow he is compared to his, uh, colleagues. And by slow we’re not talking about qualifications so eagerly mentioned in the article. No we’re talking about the kind of slow where the leaders try to avoid crashing when lapping repeatedly on race day when most fans are watching.

And speaking of crashing, that’s the second thing that comes to mind, because in four attempts at The Greatest Spectacle in Racing the youthful exuberance of Roth has managed to finish the race ZERO times. Accident, Handling, Accident, Contact - and that’s just at Indy. As mentioned before, he’s only finished 10 of all 21 ICS starts.

But those are only part of the reason for putting the kibosh on Roth’s IndyCar career. Being slow is one thing, being prone to crashing is another, but it’s how much it disrupts the other teams that gives the league valid reason for giving Roth and his racing license the heave ho.

With links mostly supplied by the braintrust at TrackSide Online, the un-official chroniclers or record of the Indy Racing League, here is the condensed version of the Marty Roth 2008 season. Check out not only how many times Marty crashed, but how many times practice sessions had to be cut short for all drivers due to his actions.

HomesteadParked after 53 laps for going too slow.

St Pete (Did Not Start) – Full course yellow in practice on Friday. And Saturday. And Sunday.

MotegiCrashed after 44 laps.

KansasParked after 43 laps for going too slow, but not before running over Luczo Dragon Racing tire changer Simon Morely.

IndyCrashed after 61 laps.

Milwaukee (Did Not Start) – Crashed in Saturday practice.

TexasFinished 22nd, 7 laps back.

Iowa (Did Not Start) – Crashed in practice Saturday.

RichmondParked after 117 laps for going too slow.

NashvilleFinished 13th, 1 lap down, for his highest career finish.

Mid OhioFinished 21st, 5 laps back.

EdmontonOff track in morning warmup. Finished 21st, 8 laps back.

KentuckyParked after 98 laps due to “mechanical” issues.

InfineonFull course yellow in practice on Friday. Finished 25th, 4 laps back.

Detroit (Did Not Start) – Full course yellow in practice on Friday. And Saturday.

ChicagolandQualified 9th and finished 16th, but...

Marty Roth nearly ended Helio Castroneves' day before it started. Roth pitted before the start with radio issues, then zoomed around the field to re-take his ninth place on the grid. Helio did not see Marty coming and nearly collided with the Canadian as he warmed his tires. Race control tried to get Roth to move to the back but failed.
Boy, from start to finish that’s a spectacular season there friends. In 16 races Marty started 12 times and finished 6 times – never on the lead lap. Astoundingly Marty says “When I could test, I did well – including on the road courses,” despite the fact he never finished in the Top 20 on ANY track that is not an oval. How Roth can complain “When I could test...” when he personally abbreviated so many practice sessions this year is an irony rich in either dishonesty or delusion.

Author McDonald ridiculously concludes in that article that if the IRL hasn’t sent the same “go away” message to all 15 drivers who finished behind Roth in the standings (including drivers who never finished behind Roth in a race) then Marty is owed an apology. Riiiiiight.

Sorry, but for being both a moving chicane on race day as well as regularly scheduled yellow flag during practice sessions it would stand to reason that it’s Marty that should be the one issuing the apologies, and he should be issuing them to every one of his former competitors.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 10/17/2008 | 8 comments »
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What does this one say?

Team Australia IndyCar star and local favourite Will Power has today arrived on the Gold Coast ahead of his home event, the Nikon 300 on October 23-26.

Whenever he returns to the Gold Coast, Power is quick to hit the beach for a swim. This year, he was greeted by a pleasant surprise.

When members of the Southport Surf Life Saving Club heard of Power’s love for all things sand and surf, they were quick to acknowledge his passion with an honourary member of their club.

(Photo: BAM Media)


Posted by Iannucci | 10/15/2008 | 6 comments »
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I have to credit our buddy meesh for wondering this out loud last week, but lately I too have been asking “Where in the world is the Luczo Dragon Racing web site?”

At first glance it’s just plain silly that an IndyCar team wouldn’t have some kind of internet presence for fans, especially when smaller teams like HVM, Dreyer & Reinbold, and Conquest all have sites. Geez, even Roth Racing has a site (for now).

But on further inspection this becomes a bona fide embarrassment when you look into the backgrounds of the Luczo Dragon partners. From the nearly 80% accurate Wikipedia:

(Jay) Penske is the Chairman, CEO, and founder of VSI. VSI is an interactive media and technology company that owns,, MailTimes; and provides affinity web services to sports franchises, universities, large corporations, non-profit foundations, entertainment entities, and other large affinity organizations. He was also cofounder and Chairman of Firefly Mobile, Inc., a Chicago-based wireless company that develops the firefly (mobile phone) for kids, and other youth targeted mobile products. Penske also owns Dragon Books, Ltd., a Los Angeles based bookstore which sells rare and collectible books.”

Stephen J. Luczo (also known as Steve Luczo) is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Seagate Technology. He has also served on the Boards of Directors of Gadzoox Microsystems, Inc. (renamed Gadzoox Networks, Inc. in 1997, and acquired by Broadcom in 2003), Dragon Systems, Inc., Crystal Decisions, Inc. (formerly Seagate Software, acquired by Business Objects in 2003), and e2open.
Do these seem like men who would have maybe a modicum of interest in representing their business ventures online? Or should I ask, “Does the Pope wear a funny hat?”

Come on, LDR - even the most unprofessional of word butchers have web sites these days. For just a few bucks you can go right now to a major domain name registrar and in a matter of minutes you too can have yourself a merry little site. Do it.

Fantasy racing with Team Penske

Posted by Iannucci | 10/13/2008 | 9 comments »
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At the risk of inciting some possibly inaccurate rumor mongering, I’m just gonna throw two things out there for discussion.

(Roger) Penske is uncertain how to proceed for 2009 as it is unclear when (Helio) Castroneves' legal situation will be resolved. Penske plans to wait until after the Australia race to formulate a plan, and he scoffed at the suggestion that replacement drivers have been considered.

"It's way too early for that," he said. "We don't even know when this thing might go to trial. It might not even be next year."

(MORE from IndyStar)
OK. Now consider this news from the world of Formula One.

According to motorsports portal Grande Premio, (Rubens) Barrichello is now set to test an Indy car in November, possibly at the Homestead road course.

Arranged by IndyCar engine supplier Honda, the test would put Barrichello in a Team Penske car– Roger Penske’s outfit has yet to announce its 2009 lineup, and given the uncertainty regarding Helio Castroneves’ future in the wake of the two-time Indy 500 winner’s tax indictment, it’s likely to be among the last to confirm its drivers for next year.

(MORE from SpeedTV)
Before you have visions of Nigel Mansell dancing in your heads, I would advise you to keep your skepticism set to “High. Remember, it was just this last April where we heard Marco was going to F1 and Rubens was going to take his spot at AGR, and that didn't exactly happening. This doesn't mean Rubens won't be driving the #3 come 2009, but it by no means means he will be either.

Of course, if we were talking about Sebastien Bourdais going to Penske, well that would be an entirely different story, right? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Almost Paradise

Posted by Iannucci | 10/10/2008 | 0 comments »
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Sounds like the driver for the #3 at Surfer's Paradise could be...Helio!

Helio Castroneves can leave the country for an IndyCar event this month in Australia after a federal judge agreed Friday to modify bail conditions on tax charges the driver's facing.

Prosecutors argued the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner has ample reason to run and the assets in Brazil and elsewhere to facilitate such a move. But U.S. Magistrate Judge William Turnoff said he was convinced that "the dumbest thing Mr. Castroneves could do" would be to flee to his native Brazil and not show up for court, given his lucrative racing and endorsement career based in the U.S.

"You have much to lose by not complying with conditions of release," Turnoff said at a hearing to Castroneves, who nodded vigorously in agreement.

(MORE from AP)
Roger Penske, the ball is now in your court.

Friend finder

Posted by Iannucci | 10/10/2008 | 8 comments »
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In me you see a man alone
Drinking up Sundays and spending them alone
A man who knows love is seldom what it seems
Just other people's dreams.*

Last week the tales of Helio Castroneves IN CHAINS took up most of the air time for IndyCar fans, drowning out a story by Curt Cavin discussing everyone’s favorite dental patient, Mr Dan Wheldon. It seems that Dan’s longtime friend Tony Kanaan is no longer on speaking terms with the Well Done one, and that’s kind of significant since there aren’t a lot of folks to pall around with Dan. I mean, it’s not like Vitor Meira is going be buying the man drinks anytime soon.

As you know Dan’s kind of an all-about-me guy, which is entirely acceptable considering he’s fully confident, talented, outgoing, and possessing of the right shoes for any occasion. Sometimes – OK, lots of times – this just happens to rub people the wrong way, because not everyone is comfortable with his super coolness. And this, dear friends, is a burden that Dan must sadly bear.

Now, as some of you might remember, Dan personally tried to run your humble host down in 2007. No matter now, as I’m sure I’m barely worthy of leaving a mark on the underside of his scooter. In fact, I’ve been thinking about poor Dan, and how he’s got a new wife and a baby on the way, and I completely empathize with the fact that while it’s all lovey dovey with the wife now he’ll soon find himself needing not only to get out of the house but also a friend with whom he can have some manly conversation.

Am I volunteering? Pffffft, not! But I am starting a list of possible folks Dan might be able to ring up, go down to the local pub, and chat up on topics other than soiled diapers, late-night feedings, and lactation issues. Someone who’s not just equally famous, but also enough of an all-about-me guy as well so as not to be threatened by Dan’s aura. Here are some suggestions.

Donald Trump – Billionaire developer, known as much for his shameless self-promotion as he for hating on Rosie O’Donnell.
Talking Points: How to woo famous women, aggressive real estate investment advice, thoughtful opinions relating to hair styling.
Conversational Cul de Sac: Probably not a good idea to strike up a friendship who’s trademark phrase “You’re fired!”

Jack Nicholson – Movie star so uniquely fascinating they give him front row seats to the Oscars every year.
Talking Points: How to woo famous women, creative uses for golf equipment, thoughtful opinions relating to sunglasses.
Conversational Cul de Sac: Not sure how much Dan wants to discuss Kobe Bryant.

Lance Armstrong – World-class cyclist who will also be featured on Versus next summer.
Talking Points: How to woo famous women, rewards of charitable work, thoughtful opinions relating to blood doping.
Conversational Cul de Sac: Lance might be a little too busy to hang out for a beer right now.

Hugh Hefner – Ageless ladies man who lounges about his mansion in silk underwear.
Talking Points: How to woo famous women, insight into publishing, thoughtful opinions relating to photography.
Conversational Cul de Sac: At what point is it no longer cool to be hanging around with 19-year-old girls?

So, any other suggestions? Perhaps Steve Jobs? Bono? Oprah Winfrey?

(*Yes, this is indeed the second Sinatra reference this week. So sue me.)

Meet Matos

Posted by Iannucci | 10/10/2008 | 0 comments »
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And Jay Penske too.

"Nine out of the last eleven seasons he's won the championship in the series in which he's competed in ..."

If anyone has a nickname suggestion please come forward. I know he goes by "Rafa" but that sounds way too close to "Raffi" to be taken seriously.

BONUS: Chris Estrada has just posted a Q&A with Raphael Matos.

Feeling taxed about Helio

Posted by Iannucci | 10/09/2008 | 4 comments »
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There’s nothing funny about having a two-time Indy 500 winner hauled into Federal court in handcuffs and leg irons, but there is a fair amount of mild amusement to be had at reading the recent reactions of those who’ve been not just shocked but darn near insulted at the prospect that Helio Castroneves may in fact be cheating on his taxes.

Again, not to downplay the severity of the charges or especially the penalties involved – both in court and to a lesser but more likely extent in the racing world – but it’s not terribly difficult to imagine a multimillionaire in any industry trying to cheat towards a financial gain. This isn’t to say everyone in or above Helio’s tax bracket is in fact cheating, but rather that folks at that level of monetary compensation have lots of available influences and opportunities for such shenanigans. Like say agents who help set up Panamanian shell companies.

In the days following the announcement I’ve been marveling that much of what passes for commentary on this sad subject is nothing less than self-examination. Truly, it’s amazing how many people are not only shocked that Helio could possibly be trying to squirrel his money away from the ever-prying fingers of the US Government, but are also all too eager to tell you how and why they are surprised.

"Maybe I’m hopelessly trusting or naive, but this is something I just cannot picture Helio getting involved in knowingly. Trusting an accountant to find legit tax loopholes only to find to his chagrin that some illegitimate ones were employed, yes. Knowingly and intentionally engaging in tax fraud, no." - Someone who is in fact hopelessly trusting and naïve.

"If he has a criminal mind -- a dark side -- I haven't seen it. If he is dangerous, conniving, greedy and deceitful, he certainly has fooled me." - A prominent reporter who is so absolutely flummoxed that he unpacked his adjectives.

"I really hope these tax fraud charges aren't true! Helio is adorable and seems like such a sweetheart. That smile of his is absolutely charming, and I loved watching him on "Dancing with the Stars." Hopefully he doesn't turn out to be just another crook." - Yet another writer who believes criminals are incapable of exhibiting charming smiles.

Despite starting off with some ridiculous comparison to convicted dog-fighter Michael Vick(!), Bob Kravitz gets closer to the real problem here for many of us who follow IndyCar racing, and to a larger extent sports in general, which is we only know that which we see. And since that which we see is usually only a couple of hours on a handful of weekends we should reasonably expect to presume that we don’t know a whole lot.

I've got news: We don't know these athletes. We don't know any of them, not really. We talk to them at news conferences, trade witty bon mots in locker rooms, but we don't really know them. I hear over and over, "So you know Peyton, huh?'' And I answer, "I talk to Peyton, but I don't really know him. I don't know what's in his heart. I don't know what he does when he's not answering dumb questions in a locker room, or how he likes to spend his free time when he's not watching film. And I don't care to, for that matter."

(MORE from IndyStar)
And that, dear friends, is the source of consternation here. It’s not that we didn’t know this could happen, but that we’ve invested so much in who we want people like Helio to be that don’t want to imagine these drivers that we might think we know as being anything less than outstanding role models. Drivers sign autographs, chat with fans, race around at 200 miles per hour, talk in an animated fashion during interviews, then repeat the process in a different town, and because we’ve seen many of them do this every weekend we’d like to think we know them, that they’re good guys and girls, and that they would NEVER get caught up in criminal activity.

Part of this is because as fans of racing we’ve been spoiled by the comparatively good behavior of our competitors. On any given day it seems you can read about some other type of athlete shooting up a strip club, beating his wife, or getting busted for a drug possession. Sure there’s an occasional DUI (which is arguably a more egregious crime than tax evasion) but for the most part the dependency on sponsorship compels drivers to keep themselves from running afoul of the authorities.

But the truth is these are real people just as capable of breaking the law as anyone, and on the rare occasions they do the story gets plastered everywhere and talked to death by respected journalists and word butchers alike. So while obviously there are numerous detriments associated with the idea of Helio going to jail or Team Penske cutting ties with the talented driver, there is also the subconscious effect of an incremental increase in cynicism among the fans.

Which is why I completely disagree with Robin, who absurdly states that the damage could have been worse.

I would think his career could be in serious jeopardy, depending on what kind of morals clause he has with Roger Penske. But I don't think it's going to hurt IndyCar in the long run. Had he been the 2008 champion, yes, then it hurts on several fronts.

Yes, thank goodness it was 2008 Champion Scott Dixon who charmed millions with his weeks of superlative dancing. And boy, are we lucky that it’s Scott Dixon who’s been asked to host shows for entertainment programming. Yes, if it had been Mr Fun-Tastic Scott Dixon who had a tax issues, boy then that would REALLY present an image problem for the Indy Racing League. Oy.

Seriously though, I know what he’s saying here – that if Helio had been the champ then it would be compounded. But that’s bogus because the ICS championship is rather irrelevant to Helio’s celebrity status. He’s famous for many things and winning the title wouldn’t have suddenly made him more famous or more relevant, and the damage to the league is going to be significant regardless. (Not to be tangential but it would have been more astute to say “Had this been Danica Patrick…”)

Look, you don’t need me to tell you how you feel, because barring the unlikely event of a negotiated settlement to simply write a check this is going to leave a very bad taste in your mouth and you’ll probably not look at Helio the same way again. Seeing news reports concerning possible felonies committed by one of the two drivers who are so recognizable outside of racing as to be one-name personalities is in no way a positive promotion of the sport, a sport tht has enough promotion-related issues thank you very much. It’s possible that should legal problems linger that morbid curiosity might compel people to watch more races in which Helio is entered, but even that idea is far-fetched. I mean, would you watch more drag races if Ashley Force was hauled into court for some white-collar crime? I doubt it.

There remains legal ramifications, racing implications, and all sorts of personal reactions, but just as discouraging as all of these is the total loss of opportunity from a year in which the celebrity value of “Helio” was built up to a level enjoyed only by “Danica”, a level that is backed up not by swimsuit exhibitions but by years of wins and accompanying fence-climbing celebrations. For the first time in nearly 20 years we nearly had a bona fide poster boy for our sport, a talented, squeaky clean, barrel full of giggling monkeys type of guy to represent open-wheel racing not just to sports fans but to people who otherwise wouldn’t care a whit about racing. Now that’s likely all gone, and even though we still (for now) have a driver who can win just about any race and excitedly climb the fence like he did at the Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta last weekend, it’s just never going to be the same.

The sound of my voice returns

Posted by Iannucci | 10/08/2008 | 4 comments »
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As if reading this site isn’t enough, you can once again hear me discussing IndyCars at the latest episode of the marathon discussion that is the Live Fast Racing podcast. Simply click the "Live Fast Racing" image to the right for literally hours of entertainment.

Just like last time it’s a two-fer as both pressdog and your humble host take turn answering questions, although there’s more of me than the ‘dog because the Chinese were in fact messing with his connection. I swear, everytime he said “ethanol” the line got dropped. As a result many of his entertaining responses, along with the strange spaceship sounding noises emitting from his connection, were edited out.

My sincerest thanks to Johnny and The Duke for giving your humble host the opportunity to sound so pompously unfunny. You can always enjoy their full catalog of podcasts here.

Jay Howard will gladly take your calls

Posted by Iannucci | 10/07/2008 | 5 comments »
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A lot of folks have taken the time over the past few seasons to, how is it said, “politely asked” Marty Roth to pull over as a driver and devote his resources to being a team owner. In fact, after the season finale at Chicagoland, Auto123 reported that IRL officials had said as much to Roth.

After last weekend finale at the Chicagoland Speedway, many drivers are left with an empty feeling, realizing that their future in the IndyCar series is uncertain despite having had a strong year. Like always, sponsorship rather than performance will be the key to their comebacks for many of them.

One of them, Canadian Marty Roth, who had the good fortune of having a lot of personal financial resources but not as much talent, has been politely asked to confine his involvement to managing his team next season instead of pursuing a career of trying to be a moving chicane at each event.
This always seemed to be a strange suggestion, since there’s nothing to indicate Marty every got into an IndyCar because he wanted to be a championship owner. As a guy who had previously raced vehicles with two and four wheels, it seems a safe bet that he was just here for the driving. And while IRL officials had embraced his self-financed field filler in 2007, the newly bimergified series rendered obsolete the necessity of Roth Racing.

So it should come as a total surprise to no one that Marty Roth (21 races started, 10 races finished) may be taking his toys and going home. From the braintrust at TSO:

TSO has learned that Roth Racing laid off most of their employees today. Word is that a very small skeleton crew has been retained (three people), and that Roth is looking at various options for what he will do in 2009.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that Roth Racing as an IndyCar entry is dead, but let’s just say somewhere a Dallara sales representative is silently weeping.

It was a very good year

Posted by Iannucci | 10/07/2008 | 4 comments »
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When I was twenty-six
It was a very good year
It was a very good year for racing cars
With many victories
I raced and as I pleased
Oh yes, I got my kicks
When I was twenty-six

Since turning 26 on August 28 of 2007, Raphael Matos has had a most extraordinary year. OK, maybe slightly more than a year has passed since that day, but it’s been quite an eventful time for Matos. And by eventful I mean successful.

After winning a stunning 6 of the first 10 races of the 2007 Atlantics season, it was clear that Matos would emerge as the champion and the latest beneficiary of the $2M bonus towards a Champ Car ride. Matos however was not excited about the possibilities, so he effectively ripped up the check and took his driving skills to the IndyCar series, agreeing to drive for Andretti Green in the Indy Lights in 2008.

Matos then went on to win 3 races in the Indy Lights series, but more importantly he claimed another series championship. This shouldn’t be such a surprise because Matos won the Star Mazda series in 2005, which means he has won 3 championships in 4 seasons. As if that isn’t enough to pad the resume, he also managed to mix in a couple wins in the Rolex Grand-Am series as well.

And today the payoff, from Curt Cavin.

Raphael Matos is finally moving to the top of open-wheel racing's ladder.

The champion of the top U.S. development divisions -- Champ Car's Atlantics in 2007 and the Indy Racing League's Indy Lights this year -- has landed a ride in the IndyCar Series for next season.

Matos, a 27-year-old Brazilian, will drive the No. 12 car of Luczo Dragon Racing, replacing Tomas Scheckter, who does not have an IndyCar Series ride.
Driving for Jay Penske’s budding team? Oh yes, a very good year indeed.


Helio pleads “not guilty”

Posted by Iannucci | 10/03/2008 | 12 comments »
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This story confirms that Helio will not be participating in the Surfer’s Paradise event later this month, although that’s kind of a minor issue given everything else.

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and TV "Dancing With The Stars" champion Helio Castroneves pleaded not guilty Friday to charges that he used offshore accounts to evade U.S. taxes on more than $5 million in income.

The 33-year-old race car driver, who appeared in court in handcuffs and leg chains, was ordered released on $10 million bail. His lawyer, Mark Seiden, said Castroneves would depart later in the afternoon for a weekend race in Atlanta.

"We would enter a plea of not guilty," said Seiden, standing alongside a visibly shaken and frowning Castroneves.

Terms of Castroneves' release allow him to travel for work in the United States but not abroad, meaning he will likely miss a race later this month in Australia, Seiden said.

(MORE from Associated Press)
Excuse me, but what did that say? Not to discount the severity of the felonies for which he stands accused, but $10 million for bail and leg chains for tax evasion? Good grief, this is Helio Castroneves, not Jeffrey Dahmer.

As if this isn't enough for race fans, those of you who also happen to watch stock car races should be aware of the following.

Jimmie Johnson said Friday he was “shocked” to learn of the tax-evasion charges made against his friend and attorney Alan Miller.

Miller, a prominent attorney who represents several NASCAR drivers, including Johnson and Casey Mears, was indicted Thursday for allegedly helping IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves hide millions of dollars in income.

(MORE from SceneDaily)
I'm sorry, I can't muster any humor right now. Your humble host needs to fall back on the Cohen Brothers at a time such as this.

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 10/03/2008 | 1 comments »
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“We intend to have Helio Castroneves continue to drive for Penske Racing including in tomorrow’s race here at Road Atlanta as the matter proceeds in court.” - Bud Denker, Penske Racing spokesman

This is not fun-tastic (UPDATED)

Posted by Iannucci | 10/02/2008 | 19 comments »
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You can drive fast and climb fences, but you can’t escape the long arm of the law.

Helio Castroneves -- winner of both the Indianapolis 500 and reality TV show Dancing with the Stars -- will soon be doing the tango with the IRS over multimillion-dollar tax-evasion charges in Miami federal court, U.S. authorities said.

The famed Brazilian driver, who owns a Coral Gables mansion sporting his auto-racing trophies and two checkered flags from his Indy 500 victories, was indicted along with a relative and an Ohio attorney on Thursday, authorities said.

The 33-year-old Team Penske star is charged with failing to pay more than $5 million in taxes over a four-year period, authorities said. His sister, Kati Castroneves, and his lawyer, Allan Miller, are accused of assisting him in the alleged tax-evasion scheme.

(MORE from the Miami Herald)
$5 Meeellion? Wow, that'd buy a lot of dancing shoes. I don't know how this is going to go over with The Captain, though.

"Helio, what's all this tax evasion nonsense about?"

"Roger, I have nothing smart to say."

Thanks to several readers for the alert.


The indictment alleged they used a Panamanian shell corporation to fraudulently conceal from the Internal Revenue Service income received from Penske Racing and another company. -

“We knew about it, obviously, in advance,” said Bud Denker, the executive vice president of Penske Racing. “As a result of that, we will get (the indictment), review it and move forward.

“Right now we’re business as usual.”

They are accused of trying to "conceal and disguise" Helio's income. One of the charges -- that Helio received $2 million in salary from a Brazilian trading company but made it appear that he only received $200,000.

The Conspiracy and Tax Evasion charges are each punishable by a maximum of 5 years in federal prison.

And finally, brace yourself for this, from this FoxSports/AP.

The indictment charges that Castroneves illegally concealed income from Penske Racing Inc. and the Brazilian firm Coimex International S.A. Neither company is charged with any wrongdoing.

In Penske's case, prosecutors say Castroneves was to be paid $5 million in exchange for rights to use his name, likeness and image. The money was initially supposed to go to a Panamanian shell corporation, but then was diverted to a Dutch entity called Fintage Licensing.

Fintage was set up as a "deferred royalty plan" in which U.S. tax payments can be delayed, which is only legal if Castroneves had no relationship or control over it. Prosecutors say he did have control and that false statements were made to Penske about the relationship.

Coimex paid Castroneves $600,000 between 1999 through 2001 for sponsorship contracts, but he only paid taxes on about $50,000, prosecutors said.

Katuicia Castroneves transferred some of the hidden money to a Swiss bank account she controlled with her brother, court documents show.
Is it too early to say "Drivers, start your résumés"?

Here is what the indictment looks like, courtesy of WTHR.

Mini 2008: Moment of the Year

Posted by Iannucci | 10/01/2008 | 0 comments »
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All apologies for the temporary delay in results from the First Annual My Name Is IRL “Mini” Awards, but last week the results mysteriously disappeared from the otherwise reputable firm of Dewey, Cheatham, & Howe. The massive financial resources of this site weren’t enough to hire a world-famous Private Investigator like Tom Selleck or Bruce Willis, but it was able to land some guy who goes by the name of “Wombat”. After some diligent work Wombat was able to trace the trail to North Scottsdale where he found the tattered ballots dangling from the passenger door of a double-parked Lamborghini Murcielago. No further details were given, but at least we have the results back in hand.

Our next award is for Moment of the Year, which is pretty significant since this year was quite full of moments. Obviously the “bimergifiation dinner” between Tony George and Robin Willi, err, Kevin Kalkhoven would be the most important moment of the season, but since this IS a racing site the award will be, uh, awarded for going-on at an actual race track.

And even confining it to the track eliminates some otherwise fascinating moments. Marco and Babe driving Brazilian style at Texas, Danica and Sarah doing the same at Kentucky, Dixon’s brain freeze at Watkins Glen, Helio getting busted for his block party at Belle Isle, Vitor Meira’s General Lee-style flight at Milwaukee, AJ Foyt IV catching on fire more than once. All worthy contenders, but not quite as memorable as these nominees.

Graham’s win at St Petersburg - What started off as a rain soaked debacle on the flooded streets of St Pete turned into a star-making performance for a second generation IndyCar driver, as Rahal’s team set him up with a good car and a fuel strategy that worked perfectly in what turned out to be a timed race. Hey, a win is a win right? Unfortunately for the Son of ‘Stache, he never finished higher than 8th in any other race the rest of the year, cracking the Top 10 just 3 times in the remaining 14 races. Yuck.

Danica’s win at Motegi (or as Meesh likes to call it, “Japanica”) - Speaking of fuel strategies, there was much to talk about as Patrick benefited in Motegi from an outbreak of synchronized driving. Switching to fuel position “solar power”, Danica! was able to best her competitors on a gamble that there would be no yellow flags for the final 50-some laps of a race at Motegi, a track so cruel Dallara probably has a parts warehouse just outside of Turn One. After winning she wept, hugged, smooched, got a huge trophy, and resurfaced on nearly every talks how in existence. Her Q rating rose so much some TV producers even considered bringing back “Donohue”, although the kibosh was eventually put on that after realizing she wasn’t finishing higher than 5th in any other race.

Vitor’s pass at Indy - Simply awesome. In the future when the machines rule the earth they will get the most out of humans by constantly barking at us in voices that sound exactly like Pancho Carter. CLEAR! CLEAR! CLEAR!

Helio edging out Dixon at Chicagoland - We could probably flood the category with Helio moments this year. From running out of fuel in Kentucky, to climbing the fence guardrail and jumping around with all 22 people in attendance at Infineon, to telling Jack Arute “I don’t have anything smart to say” after Belle Isle – and that’s just the month of August! However, nowhere was Helio more entertaining without a yellow zoot suit than at Chicagoland, where despite knowing he was likely going to lose the championship he raced Scott Dixon to a razor-thin victory by like 1 billionth of a second. The moment couldn’t have happened without Dixon, who without a care risked wrecking and losing the championship by going wheel-to-wheel with Castroneves, proving that Iceman is indeed one of the first scientifically engineered robots sent from the future to defeat humanity.

And the winner is...

Milka and her towel want none of your "show" - Have you seen delightfully hideous waste of two-plus hours that is “Speed Racer”? Of course not, but despite that wise decision on your part you’re still likely aware that Milka Duno has a small part in the flick. In the interest of research your humble host sat through it (summation: think “Tron” meets “Driven”) and I can tell you two things about Milka’s role: she’s on the screen for like a total of 10 seconds, and she didn’t let that slight prevent her from trying to kill off the title character.

Call it art imitating life, because Milka hails from none other than Caracas, Venezuela – a.k.a. the Murder Capital of the World. Sure, Milka and fellow Venezuelan EJ Viso seems like charming people, but don’t be fooled; these folks would just as soon put you into a wall then put up with your sassafras. Indeed, the entire episode shows that Danica Patrick either possesses a naivete about these folks or is one of the most fearless people on the planet.

"It's not my fault that you're slow..."

Check the video. There was Danica – no helmet, no balaclava, probably no underwear either – facing the gaping maw of death and destruction that is Milka Duno. Challenging Duno, pushing her buttons, using language normally reserved for blogs. Milka, consumed with fury, throws her towel once, then twice, and you and I know there wasn’t going to be a third time. The fiery Duno was was thisclose to taking that towel and jamming it so far down Danica’s throat it would pass through her poor, beloved Husbandthal. Mark my words – the next time Danica tries to confront Milka it’s going to end with blood-curdling screams, a plateful of fava beans, and locks of black hair in an ebay auction.