That'll cost a few more Big Macs

Posted by Iannucci | 7/31/2008 | 3 comments »
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You can't help but feel for Justin Wilson. As pleasant as he is talented, Wilson scores the Champ Car lottery ticket by securing the ride of the departing four-time champion, only to find out he's now a newly unified mid-pack entry on most weekends.

Well at least he can bask in a few weeks of glory after scoring his first IndyCar podium at Edmonton right?

Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver Justin Wilson was uninjured in a crash this afternoon while participating in a one-day test at the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway. It was the first test on an oval for the team since the pre-season test at Homestead-Miami Speedway March 24-25.

After completing an installation run and a subsequent pit stop to analyze the racecar, Wilson returned to the track and was near the end of his first run when he lost control between Turns 1 and 2 and made contact with the Turn 2 wall. The car, a new chassis which made its racing debut in Watkins Glen where he started second, sustained extensive damage and is unlikely to be repaired in time for the IndyCar Series Meier Indy 300 race here on August 9. Wilson’s other McDonald’s race car is being driven by teammate Graham Rahal at this test while his No. 06 Hole in the Wall Camps race car is being repaired after being hit twoseparate times in Edmonton.

(MORE from SPEEDtv.com)
At some point during this coming winter the folks at N/H/L are going to look back at their season, where they've had an owner with serious medical issues, a longtime crew member senselessly killed, any number of extended days due to repairs, and they're going to just vomit. But for now, it's back to work!

UPDATE: According to the Braintrust at TrackSide Online, Rafael Matos, also in Kan-Tuck-Kee for testing, showed why he’s in the Indy Lights series by promptly taking Tony Kanaan’s #11 for a joyride into the wall. In case you see Nariz wielding a large piece of carbon fiber and babbling incoherently in Portugese, you know why.

Disclaimer

Posted by Iannucci | 7/31/2008 | 10 comments »
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Here’s a note to “Self” and others who have graciously taken the time to comment on the “Descending into scheduling madness” post - and that includes the entire Anonymous family.

Although sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, I try to stay on focused whenever I’m posting on a subject such as the above. In that instance my point was that this is a nation more impressed with oval racing, and as such adding non-ovals to the schedule - particularly street courses - seems to be counterintuitive to the growth of the league. That was what I was trying to say, using what ratings information I could find to corroborate that.

But I’m not blind, and as much as races like Watkins Glen and Mid Ohio appear to me to have huge helpings of dullness, I recognize that they are in fact popular with many other racing fans. In my best Richard M Nixon voice, “let me make this perfectly clear…”

At no time have I EVER said the schedule should be ALL ovals.

I just wanted to get that out there, so please reference that whenever necessary. I want the Indy Racing League to grow because I think it’s the best racing on earth, and I recognize that holding races at different types of circuits can be used to draw quality owners, drivers, team members and most importantly fans to the sport. I get that.

But (big but here) I am in NO WAY a proponent of adding races for any reason other than helping to grow the series. I’m not a fan of the “50-50” racing league officials spoke of because it sounds to me that the league is on some Quixotic quest in search of the perfect track formula. We’re talking about a racing schedule, not some sort of Sudoku box that has to perfectly balance.

The realities of scheduling are that some tracks have good promoters and some have bad ones. Some tracks are in areas that can draw lots of race fans and some aren’t. Some are in places with accommodating weather and some events just get rained on every year. Some have one racing groove, others more.

This is why I have never written down my dream schedule, because it would be forever incomplete. I guess my “dream list” would include Indy, Phoenix, Michigan, Texas, Chicagoland, Milwaukee and based on this year Iowa, but beyond that the rest could be filled with any other number of tracks so long as they contributed to helping grow the popularity of the sport so that it kept those first events in existence. I’m all about viability, which seems to be related more towards ovals.

And speaking of dream schedules, let’s try not to get too carried away with making it 1995 again. Yes, the PPG CART IndyCar Series was quite popular, drawing drivers from other series around the world while hosting a roster of impressive names. It was a wonderful time, the sky was always blue and the birds sang sweet songs and never pooped on your windshield.

You know what? It’s never going to be 1995 again. Or 1953. Or whenever you harken back to as your favorite era of racing. We are never going to have another Mario Andretti who competes successfully in nearly every racing series on four wheels. We are never going to have another AJ Foyt who races competitively for 35 years. We aren’t going to have another Unser family who collectively win 9 Indy 500s. Heck, we aren’t even going to have record crowds at Carb Day since they’ve wisely capped the speeds there.

On the other hand we do have a few things going for us in the here and now. We have the opportunity to showcase great drivers of both genders. We have incredible tools like High Definition broadcasts and live telemetry to bring each of us closer to the visceral thrill of racing. We’ve got drivers bearing the names of Andretti and Foyt and Rahal who connect us with those previous generations. We’ve got an incredible number of options for future engine development. And amazingly, we have a unified series built around the one race everyone would agree to have on his or her own dream schedule.

I just wanted to these things out there before I get accused of holding any more positions that I don’t have. As much as I don’t care for street races I could handle half a schedule full of them if they somehow gave me all of the few races on my “dream list” above. But it's not for you and me to decide - it's up to Mr Market - so hopefully the powers that be can secure enough viable events wherever to help grow the IndyCar series and showcase a superior form of entertainment for 2009 and beyond.

Thanks for hearing me out, and thanks for hanging around. You may now safely return to throwing bricks at me or any other commenters.

Descending into scheduling madness

Posted by Iannucci | 7/31/2008 | 23 comments »
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At first glance there wasn’t too much that was shocking about yesterday’s release of the 2009 schedule, which of course is entirely the problem. After hearing several months about a “cleaner sheet of paper” what we got was more of the same, except the removal of one oval (Nashville) and addition of two street courses (Long Beach and Toronto). Or if you so choose, the cleaner sheet is in fact toilet paper.

”It’s a good schedule ... FOR ME TO POOP ON.” - is it May yet?

The reason for all of the shock and horror (check out your favorite message board) was in what wasn’t added. Artists formerly known as Champ Car fans were disgusted that Cleveland and Portland were excluded, longtime IRL fans were upset that possible ovals in New Hampshire or Las Vegas (or anywhere, for crying out loud) were passed over, and nearly everyone is still upset that the IRL and International Speedway can’t figure out a way to get Michigan and Phoenix back on the docket.

Add to that the horror of having the season possibly clinched in Japan and then waiting three weeks to have a “finale” in Miami on the same night the Hurricaines are hosting a football game. Splendid. Oh wait, if the stars align that could be Australia and a two week layoff, which is soooo much better.

It’s one thing to undergo an evolution. It’s another to go about it in a bad fashion. And I think the IRL is definitely going about their evolution in a bad fashion.”Indy Racing Revolution

Half road/street, half oval, no sense. Total Monkey Pig of a schedule which once again nonsensically evolves towards MORE road and street racing. Pardon me for repeating myself, but here is what I said in June when comparing the words of TMS promoter Eddie Gossage to Speed’s Robin Miller.

What a businessman like Eddie understands and a guy like Robin does not is that we can all have our personal preferences in our favorite types of tracks, but America as a nation has shown time and again to have very little interest in watching road and street racing. Why? My guess is it's because on ovals the excitement is right in front of the viewer. "Here we are now, entertain us." There go the cars, loud, fast, and passing each other constantly. The drama is evident no matter what you know about the drivers or the cars, and it’s so thrilling even your grandmother can enjoy it.

The point being that although many of you – many of us – can find lots of entertaining things about road and street courses, the average consumer here in America isn’t going to give more than about 5 minutes of attention to this kind of racing. It’s a proven fact, people. Champ Car is no more because they couldn’t connect with the wallets of enough fans to sustain the series. That didn’t make them bad or evil or wrong, it just meant they had a broken business model.


Now it’s one thing for me to say that the highest level of American open-wheel racing should be decidedly slanted towards oval tracks, but simply saying it doesn’t make it more than an opinion. How about we look at some numbers, which in this case would be the ratings for the 2008 season.

Homestead: .8
St Pete: .42
Motegi: .27 (rainout), .19 (live), .33 (re-air)
Long Beach: .51
Kansas: .74
Indy: 4.5
Milwaukee: .8
Texas: 1.0
Iowa: 1.1
Richmond: .9
Watkins: Glen 1.1
Nashville: .5
Mid Ohio: 1.5

(Source: Wikipedia, unless someone has a ratings book to lend me)

Now the first thing you’re going to say is “Look you stupid Gomer – the road courses get better ratings!” You’re going to say that because after diligently reading everything I’ve written you want me to be wrong. It’s alright, I feel the vulnerability of the fan who likes to say “chicane”. I’m sensitive to the fact that you have watched CART and Champ Car both go the way of the dodo. It’s OK. “It’s not your fault.”

The thing about ratings is they don’t occur in the proverbial vacuum. It’s not like these races were the only things on the television in the way of motorsports, so let’s compare most of these dates with any coinciding N-Word events (excluding Indy because it’s Indy and Motegi because it was hosed). Hey, let’s even throw in the ’07 ratings for these races as well.

Here are the Sunday races this year that had no competing stock car Cup event.

Mid Ohio* 1.7 in 2007, 1.5 in 2008, (-.2)
Watkins Glen 1.0 in 2007, 1.1 in 2008 (+.1)
Long Beach .65 in 2007, .51 in 2008 (-.14)
*also had the Danica-Milka towel party as a factor

Mid Ohio and Long Beach both happened on weekends where there wasn’t a Cup race and on the Watkins Glen weekend the Cup race was the day before. The first thing that jumps out at me here is the fact that on weekends where there is no N-Word the IRL has chosen to schedule non-oval races. Why the league wouldn’t at least once feature cars going at full speed is beyond me. The second thing however is the abhorrent performance of the Long Beach race, which is supposed to be the crown jewel of the Champ CART remains. Remember that .51 came the day everyone woke up and got “Danica Wins” jammed down their throats, so it’s not like there wasn’t an open-wheel awareness going on that weekend.

Moving on, here are the Saturday Night races so far this year, all of which had Cup races on Sunday.

Texas .7 / 1.0 (+.3)
Homestead .7 / .8 (+.1)
Richmond .6 / .9 (+.3)

All consistently rated and more importantly all improved to some degree. Now, here’s the part that matters most, because these are races that were scheduled for the same time as Cup events, give or take a few hours.

Iowa 1.2 in 2007, 1.1 in 2008 (-.1) (N-Word at Infineon)
Milwaukee 1.0 in 2007, .8 in 2008 (-.2) (N-Word as Dover)
Kansas .6 in 2007, .74 in 2008 (+.14) (N-Word as Talladega)
Nashville* .7 in 2007, .5 in 2008 (-.2) (N-Word Chicagoland)
St Pete .6 in 2007, .42 in 2008 (-.18) (N-Word at Texas)
*races on a Saturday night

Clearly all ovals are not created equal, but when placed head-to-head with a stock car race it looks like an oval IndyCar race can at least hold it’s own rating. With nearly 40 race weekends this is going to happen more and more with an expanded IRL schedule, so take a good hard look at the fact that the Iowa race going up against the Cup gets the same rating as Watkins Glen going against, well, golf.

And more importantly – no MOST IMPORTANTLY – is the obvious lack of appeal of street races. Not only are St Pete and Long Beach poorly rated but they are both DECLINING in a year in which the overall ratings are improving. That’s completely unacceptable if we’re going to grow this series.

Which is exactly why we’re adding a street race in Toronto. *slamming head into keyboard*

Seriously friends, this is absolute madness. Why in the world does the IndyCar series keep adding street races? They may be exciting on a local level and draw large crowds for “the event” but when it’s all said and done the races are losers. The events lose money. The fans who showed up don’t become racing fans since they’re just there for the local party. The ratings are horrible so national sponsors don’t feel like paying for advertising.

“The Indy Racing League Wednesday vowed to continue the Champ Car World Series' innovative strategy to drive TV ratings down as low as possible heading into negotiations for a 2010 TV package.” - pressdog

No wonder ESPN is ready to walk away from the IRL.

Contrary to what I or anyone else may think or feel, the data is obvious: Street races are bad for the IRL. Period. In case anyone at 16th and Georgetown (not the blog) is reading this: If it's absolutely necessary then go ahead and throw Michael Andretti or Roger Penske a street party here and there and spin it as “variety”, but please have the common sense to understand these events do little to expand the fiscal viability of the product. Street races have already killed two series – don’t let them kill a third.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”George Santayana

In the year 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 7/29/2008 | 33 comments »
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The Indy Racing League has scheduled a press conference or teleconference or some such exposition for tomorrow where they are expected to reveal the 2009 schedule, although not in same the way Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson did ther own "reveal" a few years ago.

At least...nevermind.

But why wait for Christmas when you can open some presents on Christmas Eve, right? First up with some goodies is the intrepid Curt Cavin, reports that we will see an "18-track lineup".

The season will begin April 5 with the street course race in St. Petersburg, Fla., and end Oct. 11 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The Indianapolis 500 will be May 24.


Not to be outdone, Chris Estrada at Indy Racing Revolution has done his own reporting (probably using a serach engine, a tool many "journalists" still eschew) and discovered that Richmond has been confirmed for June 27th.

So as of right now we have:

April 5th, St Petersburg
May 24th, Indianapolis
June 27th Richmond
October 11th, Homestead

This list will be updated as Breaking News occurs, although my first impression is that it's difficul to be ecstatic about ending the season at Homestead, where the fans often disguise themselves as empty seats. Whither Chicagoland?

UPDATE: Estrada also kindly forwarded this from ESPN.com to the Inbox.

"We are pleased the IRL selected three SMI facilities," (SMI's Eddie) Gossage said. "But we're very disappointed they didn't want the benefits they could have received from New Hampshire and Las Vegas.

"This had nothing to do with sanctioning fees. They were not interested in New Hampshire and only wanted to run the club-racing road course at Las Vegas instead of one of the most outstanding oval tracks in the country. We're weren't prepared to accept that," Gossage said.


Ack! Could someone please get Mr George a tall glass of Ovaltine? Please?

UPDATE 2: TrackSide Online (sign up today!) says:

2009 IRL INDYCAR SCHEDULE
Date Track
April 5 Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
April 19 Streets of Long Beach
April 26 Kansas Speedway
May 24 Indianapolis Motor Speedway
May 31 The Milwaukee Mile
June 6 Texas Motor Speedway*
June 21 Iowa Speedway
June 27 Richmond International Raceway*
July 5 Watkins Glen International
July 12 Streets of Toronto
July 26 Edmonton City Centre Airport
Aug. 1 Kentucky Speedway*
Aug. 9 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Aug. 23 Infineon Raceway
Aug. 29 Chicagoland Speedway*
Sept. 6 The Raceway at Belle Isle Park
Sept. 19 Twin Ring Motegi, Japan
Oct. 11 Homestead-Miami Speedway

*Saturday night


Well, what do ya think?

UPDATE 3: Meanwhile, here in 2008...Crikey!

The IndyCar Series will travel to Australia for the Gold Coast Indy 300 on Oct. 23-26 -- the first IndyCar Series event in the country. Following the event at Surfers Paradise, the IndyCar Series will continue its postseason celebration with a championship banquet in Las Vegas.

"We are pleased to announce that the IndyCar Series will hold its first event in Australia this October to celebrate the completion of a successful first season of unified open-wheel racing," said Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division for the Indy Racing League, the sanctioning body for the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights.

(MORE from IndyCar.com)

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 7/29/2008 | 17 comments »
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What does this one say?


(Photo: TrackSide Online)

Immolation

Posted by Iannucci | 7/28/2008 | 16 comments »
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Recall these words your humble host wrote just a few days ago.

...the league’s bipolar relationship with the network swings wildly from the Danica Patrick love-ins on the race broadcasts to the occasionally abusive coverage at ESPN.com. As a consequence there has been a growing movement from fans asking that the IRL consider a different broadcast partner for next year, a proposal that despite the flawed relationship I’m not going to echo. I mean, I’ve seen what happened to the National Hockey League, and I don’t want to go looking for races on Versus.

Now it appears this off-the-cuff "doomsday scenario" of a broadcast partner has an actual chance of occurring.

Conventional wisdom was that a unified open-wheel racing series would result in a more valuable media property. But five months after the IRL and Champ Car joined together, the series is seeing what has been its biggest asset — media rights — struggling to maintain value.

Both incumbent partner ABC/ESPN and suitor Fox Sports have told the circuit that they are interested in broadcasting only the Indianapolis 500. But the IRL is trying to sell a package that includes at least four other races for broadcast as well.

ESPN has been pitching the IRL on a different model, possibly based on revenue sharing. So far, the IRL is not interested in such an arrangement.

While Fox has had some discussions with the series, Versus has shown the most interest in obtaining a package, which would not include the marquee races, according to several sources.

(MORE from Sports Business Journal)
Versus? Are you kidding me? Pardon me, but I have to find a Zippo and some lighter fluid. Just in case.

(Thanks to Will at is it May yet? for sending me into cardiac arrest bringing this to our attention.)

No more guitar heroes

Posted by Iannucci | 7/28/2008 | 14 comments »
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It's official: we have seen the last of the single-grooved oval.

After eight years, the Indy Racing League will no longer be competing at Nashville Superspeedway.

"We’re disappointed for all of the fans and sponsors of open wheel racing in middle Tennessee,” said Cliff Hawks, Vice President and General Manager of Nashville Superspeedway.

“Regrettably, the IRL has chosen to structure their sanction fees at such a level that we had no choice but to re-evaluate whether they fit into our plan. Regardless, we believe the IRL had no further interest in the middle Tennessee market. We are very grateful to Firestone and their support of the Firestone Indy 200 for the past seven years."

(MORE from Tennessean.com)
Please sign your condolences (good, bad, or otherwise) in the comments section.

(Thanks to Jennifer for the alert,)

That’s why they call it NAPCAR

Posted by Iannucci | 7/28/2008 | 26 comments »
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In an attempt to remain focused it has been the goal of your humble host to limit the coverage of other forms of racing since the start of the IndyCar series racing season. Today, for just a moment, we will diverge from that goal.

Many of you were probably watching in shock and horror yesterday as the N-Word took its act to The Brickyard for a 400-mile race. Despite several sessions of testing the “Car of Right Now” (CORN) was shown to be quite incompatible with the compound provided by Goodyear, resulting in exploding right-rear tires after 10 or so laps of racing. That’s right, 25 miles and the tire is ground down to nothing but dust in the wind. Stupendous.

Of course, the N-Word solution to this problem was to throw NINE “competition yellows”, meaning every 10-12 laps of green flag racing would be met with a yellow flag to slow everyone down so they could change tires again. No matter how bad any IndyCar race has looked this season due to crashes, parades or inclement weather, none of them were as painful to watch as this debacle. It got so bad that the competitors simply slowed down, running laps in the 150s, which compared to the 220s that IndyCars run at IMS is, shall we say, unexciting.

When you find yourself watching an auto race and the most thrilling aspect is trying to determine who’s going to get their right-rear quarter panel blown to smithereens, you can’t help but wonder if the racing product has is instead been replaced by some form of terrorist drinking game. I’m sure Goodyear dealers throughout the country are utterly thrilled about their stock car affiliations today.

And as bad as was for those of us watching (and doing laundry or mowing the yard or simply napping) at home, it was especially brutal for the folks at the track. This site is fortunate enough to have many readers in the Indianapolis area, one of who was kind enough to provide a brief summary of his day at the rack. Here’s frequent commenter “J E Clerk” with the awful truth.

“Utter disgust” are two words that come to mind. My seat was surrounded by mullet heads with drinking problems, and the woman in front of me kept throwing up. Oh yes, it was a real class act. I hardly had time to notice all the green flag laps.

This morning I was watching a replay of the post-race show on Speed, and they were trying hard NOT to blame Goodyear or Nascrap, but instead they were steering the blame towards the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I can see right now they’re going to spin this so it’s nobody’s fault except the track’s, and that’s what angers me. Goodyear should have had its ducks in a row, but didn’t. Everyone was angry. I’d love to know what the drivers were saying OFF camera. If I was a driver I’m sure I would have been fined for dropping F-bombs ON camera. HAH!

I haven’t seen a Goodyear screw up that bad since Scott Goodyear passed the pace car in ’95.

mmack's nnotes: Edmonton 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 7/27/2008 | 2 comments »
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He's upstairs, he's downstairs, and somewhere in between he's jotting down his thoughts during the race. Multi-tasking. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome a man who would never EVER break The Prime Directive by punting Danica!, the one, the only, the "mmack".

Here are my notes from Upstairs, Downstairs on the Edmonton Rexall Grand Prix on ESPN. The notes aren't from the big comfy couch or chair because I had too many chores to do. I was running upstairs and downstairs in our house as I mopped, vacuumed, and washed clothes. We'll be out at a family party Sunday, so that's why I'm not sitting on my duff drinking beer and watching racing. Maria is not with me as she is out at the mall shopping with her best friend. I decided to skip shoe shopping to give you my recap:

Nice to see the start wasn't delayed for the World Series of Poker.

Gene Simmons?!?

Graham Rahal is off-roading and immediately I'm thinking Paul Tracy has claimed his first victim. I apologize Paul, it's just a force of habit after all those years watching CART.

Full course yellow for Vitor. Immediate response: "Why?"

IIRC, at a point before Mutoh's yellow they mention that they're monitoring the radio between 3.0 and Kanaan. They want Marco to let Tony past. Marco says something to the effect of "They tell me to move over one more time and there'll be trouble." Three thoughts spring into my mind:

1) When did this become F1, and when did AGR take notes from Scuderia Ferrari?
2) 3.0's act is getting insufferable.
3) Those assurances Kanaan wants in his contract? A Vulcan (Gatling Gun style) cannon installed in the nose of #11, to be used when Marco is ahead of him. Either that or a remote kill switch tuned to Danica and Marco's on board computers.

Godzilla got stomped. Of note: Jenkins says in his understated way "But the tire barriers failed to stop the damage to that car as it is heavily damaged and Mutoh's day is done." Hate to be snide, but gee, ya think Bob? Two of the four tires are off the ground at weird angles. This is way past the point of duct tape helping anything.

Hinton the Wonder Troll is wrong, as usual: NASCAR at Indianapolis is not a sign of Armageddon, AJ Foyt IV LEADING a road course race is a sign of Armageddon. Go Quattro! Nice little loop by Kanaan to give him the lead. Could AJ have pressured Kanaan into a mistake? If so, will wonders never cease.

So much for that: Moraes has to ruin the show by passing AJ and slowing him down enough so Kanaan gets past.

Well it's nice to see EJ Viso is completely recovered from the mumps. Now he's healthy enough to resume the kamikaze moves he's become famous for.

Iceman takes the lead, and I hear The American Mutt's howls of protest over the vacuum cleaner noise.

Agree with Son of 'Stache on Viso and Moraes, the latter after his move on IV. While it's nice to see The Iron Hand of Justice (TM, All Rights Reserved) do a stop and park on EJ, I can't help but wonder if a Big Three driver would get the same if he (or she) did the same thing.

Bernoldi spins. Huh, that never happens.

Like Father, Like Son: Marco pulls the "Stab the rear tire of the car ahead of me with my front wing endplate" trick out of the Andretti family playbook. Sadly for him, he breaks The Danica Directive and punts The Princess into the tires. FINALLY, some excitement! Will Mrs. Romper Stomper stomp her way into Marco's pit? And who will Michael side with, his son, or the most visible driver on the series? Oh, to be a fly on the wall at the AGR team meeting tonight.

Timed Race. Thank you ESPN, because as a Bears fan, I REALLY want to see what Brett Favre will be doing this season, so let's hurry up and get SportsCenter on.

Iceman takes it. Maria calls me about five minutes after the race is over from a restaurant where she and her friend are having a drink and appetizer. She tells me she saw some of the race on TV in the bar. Gist of the conversation:

"So is the race over?"

"Yes it is."

"Did Dixon win?"

"Yes he did."

"Damn it."

She's good at boiling things down to their essence. Now I have to take a load of laundry from the dryer. So long until Kentucky in two weeks.

Wait, that damn Pizza Hut commercial is on again!

LiveBlog: Edmonton 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 7/26/2008 | 40 comments »
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Welcome to Canada, eh?

Here at My Name Is IRL World Headquarters we will be eagerly awaiting the start of the Rexall Edmonton Indy since this is a street course featuring a dreaded First Turn of Infinite Doom. Heightening the tension is the fact that not only is the Chrome Horn (seriously, his web site even claims the name) back in action, but he's starting next to The Princess herself.

Remember, the sponsor's name sounds like "Wrecks All". Just saying.

0: Gene Simmons will give the command. Loudly. Meanwhile P2 just asked "Who's Gene Simmons?" Why, Jeff Simmons's dad, of course.

0: There's no Race Control feature this weekend. Bummer. I was looking forward to hearing Danica's first ever Paul Tracy commentary.

1: And we are green...and Graham Rahal is in the grass. Not good for the car carrying the same sponsorship as the race. Looks like the suspension is toast after getting together with some unknown red and white car.

2: Same top 5 as when we started. Briscoe, Helio, Servia, Dixon, Power. Highest AGR car is Marco in 12th.

4: Briscoe makes a mistake and gets passed by Helio, who hasn't won in like 16 months. Let's all beat that horse to death.

5: Paul Tracy is up to 11th after starting 16th. Somewhere at the track Meesh is smiling proudly.

7: Will Power had dropped back to 13th and now he's pitting. I apologize for jinxing him with the "favorite" tag.

8: And Power is back in the pits. Turns out he's got a bent wishbone on his Dallara. Eight laps in and this race for him has indeed been "the pits".

11: This race is 95 laps. How odd. I guess we lost 5 laps in the Canadian exchange.

13: Lots of coverage of Paul Tracy, now in 10th. Interview package. More coverage. He's the new Danica.

14: Speaking of Danica, she's up to 12th. I know this because I'm following with the IndyCar.com Timing & Scoring, not because ESPN has mentioned it. Yes, things are definitely done differently up North.

18: Townsend Bell hits a bump and slides but somehow keeps the car from stalling. Nice work there!

19: Full course yellow (ugh!) as Vitor has introduced the front of his car to a tire barrier. Speaking of the front of the car, those vertical flaps on the front wings do indeed look like cattle guards on a train. Those need to go along with the fuel setting knob. Please.

20: Helio, Briscoe, Servia, Dixon, Wilson. Of note, Tony Kanaan is up to 17th after starting at the back due to an engine replacement.

21: Free Canadian Bacon in the pits, so there go most of the competitors. Looks like Helio, Briscoe, Dixon, Servia and Wilson lead the way out. Camara seems to have lost a tire on exit. Tony Kanaan tried that move at Homestead, and he is Camara's mentor.

22: "Link" says Paul Tracy's car looks like his sponsor should be John Deere. Interesting observations.

23: Marco, Kanaan and Rice are leading since they didn't pit. We'll see how that strategy works out.

24: We're still yellow. Stop the insanity!

25: Finally back to green. Mercifully. Helio quickly goes around Buddy for third. Apparently Helio is the only driver capable of passing others while on camera.

28: Eminem has some bent suspension, or as Scott Goodyear says "That's what we call Canadian discombobulation". Check out Scotty getting witty!

29: Full course yellow again as Hideki Mutoh spins and seriously damages his car on impact with a tire barrier. Yes, his car is damaged (damaged) damaged (damaged) ... So how they gonna fix it, fix it, fix it?

30: Kanaan and Buddy pit but Marco does not. He's using the force.

34: We go green and Helio busts out his own Jedi in passing Marco to reclaim first place in the first turn.

38: And now Briscoe goes around Marco, who still has not made a pit stop. He may be trying to make this race on one pit stop, so we'll see what happens.

40: Nevermind. Marco finally pits, moving Dixon to third. Helio, Briscoe Inferno, Dixon, Servia, Wilson. Wheldon sneaks up to 6th.

41: P1 asks "Does Dixon have a blue car today? Why are they showing his '9' with blue?" Nothing gets past her. She's ready to call production for ESPN.

43: Bernoldi is in 7th, Paul Tracy has climbed to 8th. Meesh is probably getting silly.

44: Brienne Pedigo tells us Danica's pit crew is "yelling at her to let Tony Kanaan by." Danicker is having none of that. Feeling the AGR love.

49: Another full course yellow as Townsend Bell goes wide and finds himself a tire barrier. The Delphi Safety team is there to help, and might I point out those orange uniforms complement the William Rast car quite nicely.

51: Who's thirsty for Ethanol? The leaders all pit but several others stay out.

51: Mario Dominguez, you have a tire in Turn Two. Three-wheeled driving is not allowed, senor.

52: This just in: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is not interested in owning an IndyCar team.

55: We finally restart and Kanaan leads with AJ Foyt IV in second. Quattro in second on a street course. Believe it.

56: "We hear that Ryan Briscoe apparently spun and dropped back". Replay shows Wheldon dive-bombs Ed Carpenter, who nudged over into Briscoe. The Inferno is now in 17th but still running.

57: Meanwhile, Kanaan also spins and loses position so that means Quattro is leading. A street race. There's nothing real in the world anymore. Does it even matter who is behind him? It's Kanaan, Dixon, Rice, Helio trailing Foyt.

58: We go to commercial, but when we come back Foyt is now in third. Order is restored to the universe.

60: Full course yellow for Rahal, sponsored by "Wrecks All". Replay shows Viso brutally sideswiped him into a tire barrier. EJ continues to win friends and influence people.

62: Kanaan and Foyt pit, probably for the last time today. Now it's Iceman, Helio, Nariz, Well Done, and (drumroll) the Chrome Horn. Meesh is gasping for air.

64: Son of 'Stache is saying "Viso and Moraes don't even belong here. They're out of control." Vitor Meira would buy Rahal a beer, but he's not old enough to consume alcoholic beverages. Jenkins follows up the interview by telling us Viso will re-acquire the mumps be held in the pits for 15 seconds by the IHJ.

65: Back to green and Bernoldi spins. Excellent choice of drinking term if I do say so myself. Up at the front Tracy moves into 4th.

78: Not much happening...until Marco drives into the rear tire of Mrs Hospenthal, sending her spinning and damaging his front wing. What!?! So much for teamwork. Marco pits and Danica gets refired. Indeed.

80: Meanwhile, Helio continues to trail Dixon by less than a second. Can't pass him though, and whoever is in third (Wheldon?) is way way back.

81: Looks like Wheldon had to brake to not hit Marco, and Servia ran right into the back of him damaging his wing. What looked to be a good day for KV will be anything but.

82: We are timed, with 8 mintues to go, so why show racing when you can go to commercial. Ack! Is it me or does that guy stalking the woman in the Edmonton commercial look like that creepy Brad Dourif dude?

84: No offense to Dixon, but is there anyone NOT hoping Helio can pass him in the remaining 6 minutes?

85: Well if there is you'll be pleased to know Helio just had to brake hard after losing it going into Turn One. He's still racing in 2nd but he drops way back behind Dixon.

87: Dixon, Helio, Wilson, Servia (still out there with the damaged wing), Tracy. Probably not going to be much of a change there in the next 3 minutes.

89: Oh, Canada! With 15 seconds left Marty Roth spins out and stalls in his homeland. He was thisclose to finishing a road/street race.

91: Dixon takes the checkered flag, and everyone here at the World Headquarters comments using the word "boring" towards another win. No love for the Iceman here today. P1 even asks "Is Dixon cheating?" Hush, child.

Congratulations to Dixon for his 216th win of the year. Helio finishes second again. Wilson will join them for his first podium. And lo and behold Tracy gets around Servia late for fourth. Meesh is unconscious.

Servia finishes 5th and moves ahead of Marco for 8th in the points. Highest position of any non-"Big Three" driver. Also Darren Manning is 10th, so that's four straight Top 10s for Danger Mouse.

Danica finishes in 18th, one spot behind Marco. If she wants to have a talk with him after the race she doesn't have far to stomp.

Thanks again to Bob Jenkins for showing us how it's done. He even did the impossible today by getting Scott Goodyear to lighten up a bit. In fact, I didn't hear a single "enough downforce to fly upside down" or "one thing to catch but another to pass" or "just a passenger" today. Hooray!

That's it from here, so have a nice weekend. Thank you very much, and good night.

Cheat Sheet: Edmonton 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 7/26/2008 | 2 comments »
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Get your visas and your “Bob and Doug McKenzie” references ready, because this week the IndyCar series makes it’s first ever trip to the Great White North. Check out this very important video to help get you in the proper Canadian mood for this festive occasion.



This is the week the “transition drivers” (a.k.a. “refugees”) get their best chance to stick it to the ones who’ve been handing out the regular beatings show their skills on an equal playing field because they are the only drivers who have raced on this Edmonton airport circuit. There’s no substitute for experience, and no one in the Top 8 in the points has any at this track.

And really, after the road course naps and short-oval demolition derbies we’ve had this month we could use some fresh and new right about now, even if it means a dreaded street race. It might be a parade, but at least it will feature some new faces up front. (Not to mention Bob Jenkins and Jon Beekuis).

Speaking of faces, Milka Duno has been replaced by Townsend Bell and his super cool Flourescent Assault Vehicle. Sadly, Milka won’t be able to ride the wave of publicity generated by her post-practice towel throwing exercise, so she won't be able to answer questions from Jack Arute (also missing this weekend) after he went off the deep end and compared her to a chihuahua.

"Milka, yip yip yip?"

"Jack, we talkin’ about PRACTICE.”

Ah, what could have been. Oh, well.

Favorite: Will Power. Ricky Bobby three wins in his brief Champ Car career all came on street courses, so he maybe we should call him a "street course specialist". Yeah, that sounds catchy.

Contender: Justin Wilson. The Cajun Sheff has never finished worse than 4th in three career starts at Edmonton. He won this event in 2006 and finished second to the SeaBass last year. He's ready to flash some Big Mac action all over Edmonton.

Longshot: Mario Moraes. Earlier in the season he was a punchline, but lately Eminenm has looked like a contender. He was 7th at The Glen, 10th at Nashville, and even led a lap at Mid Ohio. We may have to start paying attention to this kid.

Driver To Watch: Paul Tracy. Whether you want to or not. Especially going into the first turn, next to Danica!.

Danica Threat Level: DanCon Five. Lowest level, which might be a good thing since a lot of frothy viewers will only be tuning in to watch her get angry at somebody. The likelihood for a win is low, but the increased potential for incidents have the Manica Hand Puppets on high alert.

Drinking Term: "Spin". If you've seen footage from practice this weekend then you know what this is all about.

Stat of the Race: Darren Manning has finished in the Top 10 in each of the last three races. Think about that for a moment.

pressdog says: "I'd love to have Paul "Chrome Horn" Tracy win entirely because it would touch off such a grand mal froth in and around the league. But you can't just put him in a crapwagon for the first time and expect he won't be, ah, crappy. So I'm calling it for Will Power to win, challenged by Justin Wilson. Dark horse is Jeff's beloved Son of 'Stache to place."

"...Jeff's beloved...?" What? 'Dog must be hitting the Labatt's early to have me confused with that other blogger. At any rate, enjoy the show!

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 7/25/2008 | 7 comments »
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"It was pretty easy to decide on the number that my all-time hero had ... A.J. and I, we always like to stir everybody up. We like to do things the people say can't be done and we're definitely not going to be spokesman for Jenny Craig anytime soon." - Tony Stewart, revealing his affections for Super Tex, the number “14”, and Fresh Fit sub sandwiches.

Four-letter word

Posted by Iannucci | 7/25/2008 | 11 comments »
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If I had a dollar for every time someone has ranted against ESPN or one of their employees in the glorious comments section here at My Name Is IRL I’d probably have enough to pay for my annual trip to Indy. The World Wide Leader has steadfastly stood by and paid the series to televise their races, but at the same time they have infuriatingly pre-empted races, abruptly ended broadcasts, and even subjected us to the horror that is Todd Harris.

You don’t need me to tell you this because the league’s bipolar relationship with the network swings wildly from the Danica Patrick love-ins on the race broadcasts to the occasionally abusive coverage at ESPN.com. As a consequence there has been a growing movement from fans asking that the IRL consider a different broadcast partner for next year, a proposal that despite the flawed relationship I’m not going to echo. I mean, I’ve seen what happened to the National Hockey League, and I don’t want to go looking for races on Versus.

Which brings us to, well, let’s first set the WABAC machine to 1999, after an errant tire from a crash at IRL race in Charlotte left three fans dead.

When the most influential sporting publication in America, the weekly Sports Illustrated ran a story and graphic photographs of a fatal accident of an IRL race on May 1 in Charlotte, the president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway banned the writer, Ed Hinton, from covering the 500.

His story, headlined "Fatal Attractions", was accompanied by a gory, colour photo from Associated Press showing one victim with a leg protruding from under a sheet lying on blood-covered grandstand steps. In the picture was another sheet-covered body. Since this was the magazine's auto racing section, there was a linked full-page advertisement facing the story. Unfortunately, the ad, for Valvoline oil, showed a group of young men hovering over an engine under an open bonnet, with the words, "You're born. You die. In between you work on cars. We should all be so lucky."

Both Valvoline and Sports Illustrated apologised for the ad's placement. "But they never apologised to the family or their readership," said Indy Speedway spokesman Fred Nation. He added an SI apology "would be a good place to get back in the track's good graces". An SI editor, Jose Assad, responded: "By no means are we going to allow them to dictate how we cover events." Hinton, a respected journalist, of course had nothing to do with the photo or headline, but he took complete responsibility for the text.

(MORE from the findarticles archive)
Ahem. Long story short, Hinton, who was Senior Writer at SI, eventually got his credential back after other writers threatened to not cover the race, and everyone went back about their business. Since then Hinton has worked all over the place, including SPEED where his bio brazenly states “He also wrote that IRL and CART should stop racing on high-speed oval tracks” as well as asks the open-ended question “Does Hinton deserve some credit for wheel tethers and taller and more sturdy catch fencing?”

Yes, even bios have become editorials. But I digress.

Fast forward to earlier this month, when ESPN.com gleefully announced the hiring of yet another racing journalist who isn’t on Tony George’s Christmas Card list. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because after years of browbeating us with their tales of woe about how Tony George has torn asunder the heart of open-wheel racing, it appears this whole unification has finally turned the hearts of these scribes away from vitriol and back towards covering racing.

So we’re all singing “Kumbaya” now, right? Wrong.

Evidently there are no worthwhile stories going on in stock car racing, because in his very first article for ESPN.com Hinton has decided the best way to cover the annual N-Word race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is by writing disparagingly of Mr George and his racing series.

What was Tony George thinking, allowing stock cars onto his family's storied racetrack? What would his grandfather, the late beloved Anton Hulman, have thought?

This was Anton Hulman George at 32, in just the second year of his reign over Indy. Upon his ascension to the throne in 1990 at age 30, he'd told Indy's inner circle, according to insiders of the time, "For 80 years this place has run on tradition. From today forward it will run as a business."
I know purists were upset at the time, but is there still anyone out there that recoils in horror at the though of The Brickyard 400? I mean, the cars are slower, the race is shorter, the event is only a week and the crowds are smaller, so for many, many reasons it’s inherently inferior as an event to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, right? Wrong again, according to Hinton.

But the success of this marriage has aided and abetted the devastation of the lovely old American institution called the Indianapolis 500. Emboldened by the enormous revenues from his NASCAR race, George could afford to found the Indy Racing League and go to war with CART, to return control of Indy car racing to Indy.

A few years ago, as CART teams began defecting to the IRL, George indicated to me that he'd poured about $250 million of the Hulman-George family fortune into subsidizing the IRL, and that without question, the huge profits of bringing NASCAR to Indy had enabled him to fight.

Then just this spring, after George had won his war and surveyed the barren outcome, IndyCar racing was reunified. No telling when, if ever, the 500's original prestige might be restored.

So the advent of NASCAR to Indy was surely the event that shook the roots of American motor racing. And now, 15 years on, "it is what it is" in NASCAR jargon: Enormous, by popular demand.
Stock car racing at Indy is what “shook the roots of American motor racing”? “Barren outcome”? “Devastation of the lovely old American institution”? You’ve GOT to be kidding me.

The point here isn’t so much that this piece (of whatever) is insanely inaccurate, but that it is being published by the IRL’s broadcast partner. I’m not saying that ESPN reporters shouldn’t be critical (feel free to write about the overuse of the yellow flag and the under use of the black one) but when a featured writer dedicates his first article to talking down the product you’ve got to ask “what’s up”?

Now, I’m not suggestion censorship or firing Hinton or whatever because as I’ve said before I’m not a torch-and-pitchfork kind of guy. I’m not saying they should do something counterproductive like revoke his press credential again. I’m not even suggesting you my dear and cherished fellow fan should send nasty emails to Hinton’s Inbox as edward.t.hinton@espn3.com.

I’m just saying that when a more vociferous guy like Defender of the IRL says that ESPN is trying to “kill the (IRL) brand” that the evidence here serves to support this theory.

Oh doctor

Posted by Iannucci | 7/24/2008 | 2 comments »
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The cars are on the track for practice in Edmonton, but so far no one has either done or said anything noteworthy. Pity.

While we wait, here’s a little bit of weirdness I keep meaning to pass along. This is from an issue of ESPN the Mag a few weeks ago.

How’s this for coincidence? IRL driver Justin Wilson and his wife, Julia, welcomed daughter Jane Louise on April 12 in Lafayette Colorado.

One of Julia’s doctors, Peter Kim, made the connection that his dad, Moon Kim, was the physician for Bobby Rahal in Columbus, Ohio.

Turns out that 19 years ago, the elder Dr Kim delivered Graham Rahal, Wilson’s teammate at Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing.


For get the coincidence - how about the fact that Dr Moon Kim is an Obstetrician? I mean, if Bobby has his own OB/GYN then, well, we can only conclude that The ‘Stache gave birth to his son. Who knew?

I am legend

Posted by Iannucci | 7/24/2008 | 16 comments »
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“Legend tells of a legendary driver whose racing skills were the stuff of legend… “

If someone were to as you to name some Indy racing (or open-wheel racing, if you prefer) legends, which ones come to mind? Names like Andretti and Foyt (or Foyt and Andretti, if you prefer) are going to be there as will Unser and Mears. There will be other ones that arise depending on your age and favorite type of races, like Vukovich or Fittipaldi or Luyendyk or Parnelli Jones or whoever else you care to add.

But would you have “Castroneves” on your list?

Sports luminaries and philanthropy icons will be recognized when they gather at the 23rd Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner on Monday, September 22, at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

The 2008 Great Sports Legends are:
• Andre Agassi
• Jerry Rice
• Scottie Pippen
• Joe Gibbs
• Helio Castroneves
• Richard "Goose" Gossage
• Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini
• Angelo Dundee
• Gabrielle Reece


“Legend” is a big word for anyone to carry around, much less someone who is still competing, but at the risk of inflating egos further let’s compare Castroneves to his peers to see if he’s at least statistically legendary.

Combining his CART and IndyCar records, Helio has won 18 of 188 (9.6%) races, which is good, but legendary? His contemporaries Scott Dixon (15 of 130, 11.5%) and Tony Kanaan (14 of 186, 7.5%) are in the same ballpark, as are Paul Tracy (31 of 261, 11.9%) and Dan Wheldon (15 of 92, 16.3%) who have excelled in one series or the other, so this isn't exactly rare air he's breathing.

However, Helio has two wins at Indianapolis – as many as thos other four drivers combined – which may be the penultimate measure of a “legend” in this form of motorsports. In fact, he’s got a 2nd, a 3rd, and a 4th there as well, making 5 Top 5s in just 8 attemtps at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Being your best on the biggest stage is definitely a trait of legends.

Then again, all of those drivers above not named “Helio” has won a series title, which should be a minimum requirement for any legend. And no, Dancing titles do not count in this discussion. At least I hope they don’t.

So the question to the peanut gallery is two-fold: would you consider everyone’s favorite fence-climber a “legend”, and if he’s not then does anyone else currently racing in the IndyCar series qualify for that title?

(Photo courtesy of TrackSide Online, and thanks to the Diecast Dude from bringing this to our attention)

Arute speaks his mind

Posted by Iannucci | 7/22/2008 | 21 comments »
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At the risk of beating this further into the ground, here is Jack Arute's rather unique view of the whole Danica/Milka kerfuffle.

All that Danica did was what hundreds of drivers before have done -- asked a fellow driver what they were thinking or doing out on the track. There was no confrontation ... initially. Danica was asking Milka if she saw DP.

But, out of the blue, Milka went "Charo" and started yipping like a Chihuahua. Go ahead. Go to YouTube and listen carefully.

D.P. - "Did you see me out there?"

M.D. - Yip, Yip Yip ...

D.P. - Did you see me?

M.D. - Yip, Yip


Jack is totally wrong. Everyone knows it's Shih Tzus that go "yip yip yip". Chihuahuas ennunciate clearly and say things like "Yo quiero Taco Bell".

More fun with press releases

Posted by Iannucci | 7/22/2008 | 7 comments »
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From the PCM announcement entitled “Dominguez Stays in the Race Despite a Wild Day at Mid-Ohio”:

Mario's Travel Tip for the Day: "Next time you visit Mexico City, you must check out the gardens and canals of Xochimilco. I recommend packing a picnic and floating the canals. If you are lucky, the floating Mariachi’s will pass you. It is a lot of fun."

Personally I try to avoid “floating the canals”, since that usually means I’m face down and unconscious. But to each his own, right?

Anyhow, here’s a “tip” to all of you PR gurus out there: take this ball and run with it, and show your creativity by spicing up those otherwise droll releases with “tips” from your drivers in their areas of expertise.

For example:
• Helio Castroneves, on dancing
• Milka Duno, on makeup
• Tony Kanaan, on practical jokes
• Darren manning, on beer
• Hideki Mutoh, on sushi
• Danica Patrick, on anger management
• Will Power, on wine
• Graham Rahal, on golf
• EJ Viso, on making friends
• Dan Wheldon, on dental hygiene

The possibilities for unintentional humor are endless.

What about Bob

Posted by Iannucci | 7/22/2008 | 9 comments »
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Next up on the schedule for the IndyCar series is one of the few bimergified events, the Rexall Edmonton Indy taking place over yonder in the Great White North. And in the spirit of the unification (or more likely due to the late scheduling of the event) the broadcast team for ESPN will feature a distinctly different lineup.

Out for this weekend is Marty Reid, who along with Jack Arute and Vince Welch will all be covering N-Word related festivities. In Marty’s place will be Bob Jenkins, who has been patiently toiling away in the Indy Lights series, trying desperately to remember the names of the weekly ride buyers.

However, as exciting as it will be hearing the unflappable Jenkins again call IndyCar races, he will still be paired with Proud Canadian Scott Goodyear in the booth. As I mentioned a month ago at this prospect:

Jenkins is the consummate professional who probably should be calling the IndyCar series races anyways, although having him call a race with the Canadian Dry that is Scott Goodyear could turn out to be sleep inducing.
Let’s hope I’m wrong. If you have read the Cheat Sheets then you know it happens a lot, so the odds are good.

Also, former Champ Car newly unified fans should be excited to learn that joining Briene Pedigo in the pits will be none other than Jon Beekhuis. I can’t account for the whereabouts of Rick Benjamin or Michelle Beisner (she might be on the NFL Network), but I can assure you that Rick DeBruhl is safe and sound here in Arizona doing consumer advocacy reports for the local NBC affiliate. No joke.

Life of Bryan

Posted by Iannucci | 7/21/2008 | 1 comments »
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While it solicited a few chuckles, the photo used last week in a My Name Is IRL post about Bryan Herta was obviously less than flattering. He may be a geek who studied Economics at UC Irvine and Ohio State, but he’s not THAT geek.

So in the interest of fairness to the Invisible Man of motorsports let’s all enjoy a very different photo of Bryan, shown here performing at Carb Day a few years back with Kenny Brack’s band. I believe Herta is belting out the lyrics to a little ditty called “Anarchy in the U.K.”


(Photo courtesy of IndyCar.com/Ron McQueeney, with a tip of the hat to reader Dan Layton.)

Throwing in the towel

Posted by Iannucci | 7/21/2008 | 13 comments »
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Well, here it is in all of it’s glory so you can watch it over and over. And personally I have, because no matter what you think of anyone in the video the fact is this is quite the display of personality by everyone involve (including the stoic members of the Dreyer & Reinbold crew). Sportsmanship? No. Tact? Absolutely not. Entertainment? You betcha, and don’t ever forget that auto racing is an entertainment product no matter how deeply attached we are to those involved.



On the broadcast yesterday Scott Goodyear said Danica Patrick had every right to be upset at Milka Duno but that Danicker shouldn’t have approached Milkalicious publicly. Color me contrarian but I couldn’t disagree more with him. Patrick had really no reason to be so upset at Duno because practice issues happen all the time, and considering no one broke any equipment it should have been one of those moments where the drivers just let it go.

But, since Danica was so infuriated at this minor transgression, taking it up publicly was a brilliant idea, especially since there was a video camera rolling nearby. Danica is in the business of Danica, and the Danica brand is, according to her GoDaddy sponsor, “edgy, innovative and fun!” And what could be more fun that two women conversing about the benefits of gender equality in motorsports?

Come on, this is a race track, not a chapel. Cheer her for being feisty or mock her for being petulant, but don’t get too bothered by Danica either way. Not when this story is making the headlines at major news sites and getting played every hour on SportsCenter. If it was up to me the next race broadcast needs to start with Danica bellowing out “Are you not entertained? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? Is this not why you are here?” This needs to happen, just for the sake of clarity.

So high points to Danica for remaining calm throughout the towel throwing exercise. She has inadvertently answered the question about what would have happened had she reached Ryan Briscoe at Indy, and we now know it would not have involved punches. It would however have included many F-bombs. Also, kudos for her exasperated declaration of “It’s not my fault that you’re slow”, which would have been an infinitely better exit line than spouting something about complaining to Daddy, err, Brian Barnhart.

Unfortunately, Danica gets points deducted for not only for unnecessarily flipping off one of the D&R crew members – that’s weak – but also for saying afterwards she just wanted to have a “conversation” with Milka. Danica, who’s less than chipper demeanor is more and more resembling Wednesday Addams, entered the #23 pit saying “you have no f***ing idea what you’re doing out there”. Miss Manners strongly disapproves of that introduction.

And don’t worry Milka fans, because your driver did you proud. Throwing a towel in the face of (Romper Stomper? Grumbelina? Little Miss Sunshine?) was a savvy career move, as now Duno is officially known worldwide as “the other female driver”. Unfortunately no one could understand her through the thick accent, so in the future Milka should consider turning this to her advantage by simply reciting relevant quotes from “Scarface”.

• “Hey baby what is your problem? Huh, you got a problem? You're good looking, you got a beautiful body, beautiful legs, beautiful face, all these guys in love with you. Only you got a look in your eye like you haven't been f***** in a year! “

• “You think you can take me? You need a f****** army if you gonna take me! “

• “Why don't you try sticking your head up your ass? See if it fits.”


But that’s just my view. Here are some others to enjoy.

Let's be clear here — we'd call it a "cat fight" even if the two drivers screaming at each other were men rather than the twin female towers o' power of IndyCar. - Jalopnik

While the fact that she merely threw a towel at her only further serves to prove just how classy Milka is (I will be sure to go out of my way to tell her so next weekend) part of me wishes she had thrown a punch and knocked that petulant little bitch on her ass on behalf of all the guys she has confronted, as she is the only one who would actually be able to get away with it without legal/social ramifications. - meesh

Later Milka told The Media basically that if Danica wants to GO she knows where to find her and that she won't have to restrain herself like a man would when confronted by the Spark Plug. Dude, Danica-Milka cage match undercard would guarantee a sell-out at Texas Motor Speedway. After the race they could just go at it. Track dude Eddie Gossage is working on a plan right now. - pressdog

I hate the modern world of keeping people calm and respectful. I want an on-track incident tomorrow and a full blown cat fight in front of national television … I don’t particularly care who wins, but as the old saying goes, "any publicity is good publicity". People may hate Danica’s attitude and confrontations, but they draw attention. - Is It May Yet?

ADDENDUM: Upon further review, it appears Mrs Hospenthal can be absolved of throwing the bird. Though the angle makes it appear improper, her simultaneous words "happened three times this weekend" indicate she's probably holding up three fingers. You just can't see the other two.

mmack's nnotes: Mid Ohio 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 7/21/2008 | 7 comments »
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Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the man responsible for teaching Milka Duno how to properly use a towel, the one, the only, the "mmack".

Here are my notes from the big comfy chair on Mid-Ohio. I'm in the big comfy chair as Maria is ill and resting on the big comfy couch as we watch.

I'd like to start out by saying I enjoyed seeing some world class road course racing with excellent camera work, good coverage of close battles throughout the field, and top notch announcing. It was very exciting and completely kept my interest.

Except it was on Fox, it was from Germany, and it was the Formula One race. Apparently ABC decided a 12:30 CST start for the Mid Ohio coverage had to wait for coverage of the British Open.

Note to ABC Sports, and feel free to cut this out and paste it everywhere in plain sight: Golf without Tiger Woods = Dull.

So we missed the start (because really, who needs to see a field line up or the actual start) to see someone at ABC try to make golf's version of a Firestone ad using the British Open. It worked about as well. I'm starting to agree with one thing the author of the Defender of the IRL blog keeps posting: It may be time to look at other broadcast partners.

Miera up to the lead early: Well, I know how this is going to end. And I don't think it's going to be Vitor doing the "hat dance" in Victory Lane.

Nice "Pas De Deux" with Rico Suave and O-Ryan the Hunter. Thanks for not breaking in to show us what happened ABC.

Ah, after a year + of teasing Mrs. Duno ("I thin, but Milka Dunno . . . . . . "), I must issue an apology. After giving Princess Romper Stomper the Latin version of "talk to the hand, girlfriend 'cause the face don't wanna hear it!", she gets Danica! to basically say "I'm telling Brian Barnhardt on you!" Of course, a lot of Danica's dialog was bleeped out, so I'm kinda guessing here. I do agree with Scott Goodyear (GULP!) that Milka should have moved it on over, but Danica! did herself no favors by being Danica! It was fun to see Milka not back down. What's the Spanish equivalent of "Oh, PUH-LEASE!" ?

AJ Foyt IV had a problem in the pits? Huh, that never happens.

Justin, Mario, Mario, Justin. Dan, Justin, Justin, Dan. Dan, Marco, Marco, Dan. AJ? How'd AJ get in here? I guess they ARE right, yellows breed yellows.

Given that just about everyone they mention goes off track (Hunter Reay, Wilson, Andretti, Rahal, Moreas), I'm thinking either Marty or Scott is the equivalent of the Sports Illustrated cover curse.

In honor of pressdog: Briscoe folded the wings back and went full afterburner. I guess I didn't miss that F1 race after all.

Maria recovered enough by the end of the race to give her congratulations to Briscoe Inferno, and wish that "some of the other cars could have gotten in front of Dixon so Helio could get closer in the points."

Wait, I think Dominguez is spinning again!

LiveBlog: Mid Ohio 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 7/20/2008 | 9 comments »
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Right now you're tuning in to watch an IndyCar race, hoping for a fun show of speed and racing. After an exciting opening act featuring wins by Danica Patrick and Graham Rahal, you've probably felt a bit down at the last few races because things like crashes, yellow flags, and crashes during yellow flags have meant the last few events have left you with a below-average in entertainment value.

Well, today might be the equivalent of "you ain't seen nothing yet".

While a parade was initially aniticpated at Mid Ohio today, we may in fact be wtinessing something different. The Indy Lights race this morning had a forceful but brief shower before the start, and the result was the most ridulous race your humble host has ever witnessed. There may not have been an entire lap completed without a local yellow due to spinning, as every driver had at least one incedent going off the track. Spin spin sugar.

And topping it off, the last lap was under a full course yellow and the winner inexplicably brain locked and drove into the pits before taking the checkered flag. But you can read about that elsewhere.

The point being, a similar burst of showers that let loose before the start of the IndyCar series event today could prove to be a great equalizer. With the possiblity of sliding all over the place existing at every turn, this may be another day that we see another first time winner.

So break out your rain slicks and water repellent, because it's time to start.

0: But first, we have to crown a champion for the British Open golf tournament. Savvy move by the IRL to boost ratings, because everyone knows a certain percentage of viewers doze off during these whisper-fests. Sleep well and leave those TVs on, golf fans.

0: Per suggestion, today's Drinking Term has been changed to "Local Yellow". Please drink responsibly.

0: And we're still waiting, as Padraig Harrington personally thanks everyone in England in his acceptance speech. Try to stay awake, friends.

0: Gonna be a quick start because Race Control is already showing drivers on warm up laps. We've got Dixon, Rahal, Helio and "Babe" today.

1: Well, we're green on Race Control but there's still commercials on ABC. Ugh!.

2: ABC has finally gone live as Justin Wilson has worked his way up to second. Helio is still leading but Will Power has already pitted to change tires.

3: Marco is up to 4th as Briscoe drops back into fifth. Still green though so everyone is behaving.

4: Lots of pitting for tire switching, but on the track Justin Wilson has taken the lead.

5: And Mario Moraes gives us our first spin for a local yellow. Yay for local yellows!

6: Justin Wilson just pitted for slicks and promptly goes off the track. No spinning though as he ponly looses position. The leaders are now Briscoe, Meira, Manning, Power, Helio.

7: Penske cars pit and now it's Meira, Manning and Power. You probably didn't pick that as your podium.

7: And Mario Dominguez is into the kitty litter. That's really a nasty term if you think about it.

8: Babe just dive bombed Bernoldi, and around they both go off the track. What in the world was Hunter-Reay thinking there? This one requires a full course yellow.

9: Excellent view of the truck hauling away Hunter's car on Race Control. Now we see the Delphi Safety team inspecting his car. And firing him up.

10: Footage of the Great Danica and Milka Debate! That's ratings gold, friends. It will be all over SportsCenter tonight. Danicker looks rather calm despite having the towel thrown in her face TWICE, and Milka doesn't want "the show". Oh, you're getting the show, Milka.

13: Bernoldi is "retired", possibly in more ways than one. Next out poll: P1 says Rahal, P2 takes Roth, Humble Host is going with Moraes. Feel free to play along with us.

14: Back to green and it's Meira, Manning, Power, Marco, Helio. Briscoe is all the way back in 16th.

20: No changes up front. Assuming parade formation behind Mr 0 for 87.

24: And if you picked Mario Dominguez in the "next out" pool then you were correct. Dominguez had a rear wing failure in a straight away and then was no longer on the straight away. Didn't touch anything other than dirt but he is stalled. Replay shows the wing was probably damaged when Dominguez took his first excursion off the track. The net result is another full course yellow.

26: Free slurpees in the pits so here come most drivers. Looks like Power edges Helio by inches off the line, followed by Dixon, Meira, Manning. Meanwhile Quattro is stalled with a hose hanging from his car. DOH!

27: Some folks did not pit so the new leader is the Cajun Sheff. I guar-on-tee! Then Wheldon, Camara(!), Briscoe, Carpenter. It's like every few laps they're drawing numbers out of a hat to determine position.

30: Dominguez has already reached his pit to have his wing fixed, so why are we still under yellow?

31: Back to green as Wilson shows us how it's done. No foot dragging here as he launches immediately to a significant lead.

32: Marco is off the track in the carousel (love the turn names on road courses), but since he didn't stall it he pulls back behind everyone else and continues in 20 something-th but still on the lead lap.

35: While Wilson does his best SeaBass impersonation by pulling ahead by 5 seconds, let's take a moment to note that Danica is 18th and Milka is 23rd. Safely separated.

36: It's Wilson, Wheldon, Briscoe (8 seconds back), Moraes (12 seconds), Camara (18 seconds). WOW!

38: And Milka spins and stalls on the track, bringing out a full course yellow. So much for that huge lead by Wilson. Wheldon has to get a "safety splash" so he doesn't run out of Ethanol and consequently drops a few positions.

40: Wilson pits and falls all the way back to 16th. New leaders are Briscoe, Moraes, Power, Helio, Dixon. Over/under on turns it takes Power to pass (get it?) Moraes is TWO.

42: Again, Milka was refired long ago but we're still under yellow. Maybe it's time to yellow flag the folks in race control.

43: Back to green and BAM! A huge wreck involving Wilson, Wheldon, Marco and Foyt IV. Oh, the humanity! Replay shows Wilson clipped Dominguez trying to go around Mario. Lots of airtime for "Visit Mexico City" today.

45: Marco is done but the others are refired. Reports are that Dominguez was supposed to let Wilson by on the restart and Dominguez has apologized.

47: Back to green so suddenly? OK then. Briscoe leads Moraes, Power, Helio and Dixon. Mirror Man and Danger Mouse are right behind them.

50: Parade formation, but Graham Rahal has a really cool helmet featuring movie posters from Paul Newman's career. It will be auctioned off after the race since Graham's kinda using it right now.

52: Rahal spins and lightly touches the wall. Local yellow only. Puppuet show by Graham. P1 may or may not have won the "first out" contest here. Meanwhile my pick (Eminem) continues in 2nd.

53: Scott Goodyear, speaking of Ryan Briscoe, just uttered something about "... get himself serviced." Nothing about boyfriends though.

54: Briscoe pits to "get himself serviced". Ahem. Say it with me friends, "Mario Moraes is your race leader."

56: Jack Arute is on the cutawy car and Mario Moraes is into the pits. Your latest random leader is Ricky Bobby himself, Mr Will Power. Shake and bake!

57: It took a while but Marty Roth has finally spun. Local yellow.

58: Dixon gives Vitor a nudge and a wave for fourth place. It's an actual on-track pass, sorta, but expect the Panther post race release to say something about it.

59: Power pits so Briscoe leads again. Behind him is Junqueira, 5 seconds back.

61: And now Moraes has spun and stalled in the sand, bringing out a full course yellow. Replay shows he just lost it. With 23 laps remaining that probably guarantees a timed finish.

63: Briscoe, Junky, Helio, Dixon, Power.

64: Marty says that EJ Viso is out with a gearbox issue. Except for the fact that he's on the track right now. Oops. Quick, go to an entertaining package with Helio!

65: Back to green and Briscoe launches away from the field.

70: Briscoe up by 7 seconds. Not much else happening.

73: 12 laps to go, 9 minutes of air time left, and we still don't know if this is timed? Laps take 70 seconds so you do the math.

75: I guess ABC has been cleared to go long because they said we're going the distance. This means that Junky will be short on fuel and not finish in second. Pity.

77: Bruno pits and falls back to 11th. Bummer for him. At least his sponsor got lots of air today. Meanwhile Team Penske has reclaimed the two positions at the front where they started today.

80: If you were Penske, would you consider having Briscoe slow down to let Helio win this race so he could make up more ground in the points standings? Just asking. Because I'm bored.

84: Briscoe takes the white flag and is ahead by nine seconds. I'm so glad we went long to see this single-file excitement.

85: Ryan avoids a Jonny Reid mistake and claims his second win of th year. Helio, Dixon, and the KV duo of Power and Servia round out the Top 5. If you're still awake to see this then you've got some mighty fine coffee.

One positive of this race is we didn't have the carnage that has afflicted the last few races, but beyond that we didn't have much else for people who aren't Penske fans. Congrats to the Inferno who ran as strong as anyone. Thank you very much, and good night.

Cheat Sheet: Mid Ohio 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 7/19/2008 | 2 comments »
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I love a parade,the tramping of feet,
I love every beat I hear of a drum.
I love a parade, when I hear a band
I just want to stand and cheer as they come.
That rat-a tat-tat, the blare of a horn.
That rat-a tat-tat, a bright uniform;
The sight of a drill will give me a thrill,
I thrill at the skill of everything military.
I love a parade, a handful of vets,
A line of cadets or any brigade,
For I love a parade


And with that, we welcome you to Mid Ohio. No, it's not that it isn't a beautiful course or a well supported event - it is, and it is. The problem is that as road courses go the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course (MOSCC - go ahead, say "Mosque") seems to be much narrower than the other scheduled road courses, which means that passing among the leaders will only occur in the pits.

I realize being an uneducated neanderthal of an oval fan I say this at nearly every road course, but this time I really mean it.

Favorite: Dixon, blah blah, winner last year, blah blah, incredible road course record, blah blah blah.

Contender: Team Penske. Finding the speed to take the top two starting positions bodes very well for Castroneves and Briscoe. Especially on a course where there's hardly any passing on the track.

Longshot: Justin Wilson. He's the longest driver there is. *rimshot* Seriously folks, he's got to break through at some point - he's just too good not to finish well at one of these road course dealies.

Driver to watch: Graham Rahal. For all intents an purposes this is his home course. He's been at this track more than a few times, so he's well versed with all two or three places that passing can occur. Plus, expect ESPN to break out cute pictures of baby Graham at the track.

And no, N/H/L hasn't put me on the payroll this week.

Danica Threat Level: DanCon Four. Despite a gaffe at the start by a few closely packed AGR cars that sent her backwards (as well as flipping Marco on his lid), Danica! actually marched back through the field here last year. Unforutnately she's starting 20th this year and she doesn't get Power To Pass back there.

Stat of the race: Helio Castroneves is the only driver running at the finish of every race in 2008, and yet he still hasn't won a race. Let me know when this horse is beaten to death.

Drinking term: "Pit stops". Get ready for excitment in 7-second increments, followed by much lock steppage. Marty will by dying if he can't drop a lock step Sunday.

pressdog says: "Call me a freak, but I'm going to triple dip this week -- first, Dixon will probably win. That's the standard disclaimer although he's looked human recently. But I'm going to instead call it for The Tall Polite one, Justin Wilson. Finally, rounding out my podium of picks, is dark-horse Marco Polo. If he's not on his lid by Lap 4, he may win it."

The entire My Name Is IRL family will be live in the living room on Sunday, trying to come up with games to make the race more interesting so we can all make it through this together. Join us, and enjoy the show.

Next on Danica's enemy list is...

Posted by Iannucci | 7/19/2008 | 9 comments »
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“She came to my team and our pit box in a very bad way with bad words,” Duno said. “If you come in a nice way, perfect, we can talk. If you come in a bad way, you are going to find my bad side.

“I don’t like drama, and I told her ‘go away, you are not welcome.’.”


Those would be the words of Milka Duno, everyone's favorite fan friendly actress and author who happens to drive around during IndyCar races. She was less than pleased at being visited by the world's fastest Motorola representative after an on-track incident in practice on Saturday.

Yes, the Danica Pit Invasion tour continues, although this week she reportedly stayed on the proper side of the pit wall this time. According to the intrepid Curt Cavin, who is certain to be nominated for a Pulitzer for this work, Milka did not hide in her car or try ot walk away. No, she not only remained in her pit box during the invasion, she reportedly threw a towel in the face of Danicker during the latest outbreak of anger management.

Mee. Oww.

And why would Milkalicious dare to throw a towel, and probably a sweaty one at that, in the face of the open-wheel's beloved swimsuit exhibitionist? Let's go to Mrs Hospenthal.

“I wanted to know if she saw me (on the track) ..... it’s hard to locate people once they get away from their car,” she said. “I stayed behind the wall. I just wanted to ask what happened.

“Unfortunately, things involving me tend to evolve. I’m on the hot seat when I do something and when others do something (connected to me). It’s kind of the line that I walk because I’m popular.”


Umm, no. It ain't misfortune, ma'am. Those are your two feet and that's your mouth, and ain't nothing going on with none of them that you can't stop or start. It's OK if you want to go argue something with some other driver - in fact, it's kinda fun to watch - but don't make it sound as if your public discussions are a byproduct of popularity. Please. Own your feelings and the expression thereof.

And now we're at the part where your humble host has to pull this set of quotes out again from the one-time kinder, gentler Danica.

"I realize, over time now, how unproductive being angry all the time is and how it doesn't really do any good for my driving ... I think that being positive does."

"But I'm trying to grow up. I'm trying to be better all-around for all kinds of reasons: for myself, for the people around me and for the people I don't know who are around me."


Uh huh. Keep trying there. At any rate we shall see on Sunday if this "evolves" into a high-speed version of roller derby.

In case you see the Invisible Man

Posted by Iannucci | 7/17/2008 | 8 comments »
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Oreo briefly mentioned this in his loving article about Ed Carpenter (for real!) earlier this week, but the Vision Racing preview for Mid Ohio makes it official.

The team is pleased to welcome IndyCar Series winner and auto racing veteran, Bryan Herta as a road course consultant for the remainder of the 2008 season. Herta's expertise and vast experience will be put through the paces beginning this weekend at Mid-Ohio as he will offer advice to Carpenter, Foyt and the engineering staff. Herta, who most recently drove this year for Andretti Green Racing in the American LeMans Series, has two career IndyCar Series victories and is one of only three drivers in history to win a race in the IndyCar Series, the ALMS and CART.

BRYAN HERTA -- Team Road Course Consultant: "When Tony called me I was really impressed by his dedication to taking the steps to build a top level team. I was flattered that he considered my road course experience an asset to his team and I certainly look forward to sharing it with Ed (Carpenter) and A.J. (Foyt IV) in the coming weeks starting in Mid-Ohio and hope to help the team move forward in their objectives for the season."
Not a bad move by Vison since Carpenter and Foyt are still trying desperately to compete on the twisties against a field full of road course specialists, although if Herta had a bigtime sponsor he might actually be racing one of those cars. Usually the phrase “impressed by his dedication” translates to “amenable to the compensation offered”, so after he was recently given the boot from his ALMS ride Bryan is probably fine with whatever racing-related work he can find.

That other guy Vision hired this week – Paul something-or-other – might also be able to offer some expertise on driving those courses as well. Advice like, if you’re getting into a fight after crashing into a competitor, be sure to remove your helmet first so you’re more recognizable when they show the fight on SportsCenter.

(Ridiculously nerdy photo of Herta courtesy of BBC.com)

Viso healed

Posted by Iannucci | 7/16/2008 | 1 comments »
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In case you haven’t noticed the entry list for the Mid Ohio race this weekend, the name “EJ Viso” is included.

Of his former affliction, the Center for Disease Control says:

The mumps virus replicates in the upper respiratory tract and is spread through direct contact with respiratory secretions or saliva or through fomites.

The infectious period or time that an infected person can transmit mumps to a non-infected person is from 3 days before symptoms appear to about 9 days after the symptoms appear.

The incubation time, which is the period from when a person is exposed to virus to the onset of any symptoms, can vary from 16 to 18 days (range 12-25 days).


Which means that after having two weeks off the Indy Racing League’s newest driver to lay claim to the moniker of “Mr Excitement” is no longer under quarantine and is clear to race.

As a public service message for those who may find themselves working with or around Viso this weekend, please be careful since the CDC also notes that mumps can cause “inflammation of the testicles” or “deafness” – symptoms that the Panther Racing team would say Viso has already exhibited with his driving this year.

Babe

Posted by Iannucci | 7/16/2008 | 7 comments »
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ESPN may have devoted too much time to televising the leaders blocking each other at Nashville last weekend, but darned if the WorldWide Leader didn’t try to make the event entertaining in other ways. Not did we “go down to Jack Arute” about fifty times (half of which were breathless weather reports), and not only did Scott Goodyear drop the now infamous “boyfriend” remark, but as pressdog captured in his Nashville Notes they also snuck in an amusing radio transmission from the RLR channel.

Lap 37: ... Replay of Bobby Rahal on the radio pre-race. "Babe, be smart and strong and go have a good race, babe."

That’s right, Rahal called Ryan Hunter-Reay “Babe”. Twice! And that’s just from five seconds of conversation, so who knows how many other times he dropped a “Babe” on Ryan.

This smells like a nickname adjustment for The Hunter. Recall that the movie “Babe” is the story of a pig that overachieves by avoiding the slaughterhouse and training to become more than just a plateful of bacon. The flick culminates with a victory in a contest in the closing scenes, so considering what pigs the RLR cars had been considered to be until Hunter-Reay put one in Victory Lane at The Glen earlier this month there may be good reason for the ‘Stache to call him “Babe”.

Let’s all sing along with pressdog’s lyrics.

I know it's true we ain't got it all
Look out baby, I'm in the wall.

Babe
I got you babe
I got you babe

Big Fish

Posted by Iannucci | 7/16/2008 | 9 comments »
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When we last left Sarah Fisher she was exiting the infield medical center at IMS in dismay, fearful that a crash in the Indianapolis 500 had ruined her family investment in the fledging Sarah Fisher Racing entity. Sarah openly wept, as did many FishHeads.

Well turn that frown upside down because Sarah’s got some new sponsors – including an unbelievable deal with Dollar General – and is ready to get back on track.

Though Fisher wouldn’t comment on the value of the deal, sports marketers said it is likely a low to mid six-figure deal. Fisher said it is a deal for a “primary sponsorship” that will allow her to race aggressively and not worry about crashing the only car she has.

“We’re not going out there to just run around in circles,” Fisher said. “We have to have a good result. And we have to make sure Dollar General has a good experience.”

Fisher said money is built into the deal that will allow any fixes necessary, and since there’s a month between her two races, that allows plenty of time for repairs.

The deal is structures somewhat like Chip Ganassi’s deal with Target, Fisher said, with product makers landing shelf space at Dollar General co-sponsoring the effort. Fisher’s car is co-sponsored by Dollar General’s vendor partners, Arm & Hammer, Band-Aid, Clorox, Colgate, Kraft, Lysol, Reese’s and Slim Jim.

(MORE from Indianapolis Business Journal)
It would seem that losing that beverage company deal wasn’t the worst thing in the world for SFR, because, well, check out the size of those sponsors! Ahem.

Oh, and for those of you that wrote checks or simply handed cash directly to Sarah back in May when she was experiencing a more dire financial situation, rest assured she has not forgotten you.

Fisher has sent more than 100 notes of gratitude and included a piece of carbon fiber from her Indy 500 car, damaged in a crash.

"It's like a wedding," says Fisher, who was voted the Indy Racing League's most popular driver for three consecutive years. "You get all these people sending money, and I had to send thank-yous. It's only appropriate. One fan even said they would frame (the piece) as a souvenir."

(MORE from USAToday)
If you ever wonder why Sarah’s maintains her popularity despite her recent struggles on the track, then observe how sending “thank you” notes and a piece of the car works towards energizing the fan base. Sarah Fisher the driver may be scoffed at by others, but Sarah Fisher the brand is unmistakably formidable. With a deal like this one involving so many sponsors it's possible that a comparison to Ganassi – who as a driver had a less spectacular record than Sarah’s – will one day prove to be prophetic.

Less fanfare, more surprise

Posted by Iannucci | 7/15/2008 | 7 comments »
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Way back when your humble host was merely an undergraduate word butcher at Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, there was a big event announcing Bill Frieder as the new basketball coach for the Sun Devils. The hiring was problematic inasmuch as Frieder was still contractually the coach of the highly-ranked University of Michigan squad who was expected to participate in the upcoming NCAA tournament. Long story short, Michigan didn’t want a lame-duck coach so they axed Frieder before the tournament, the Wolverines went on to win the championship with an interim coach, and ASU never really did much in the Frieder era. Karma.

Why is this relevant? Because the press conference introducing Frieder at ASU began with the school’s Athletic Director plainly stating “I’d like to say a word about timing ...” And so with that quote in mind we come this Forsythe Racing press release on “Paul Tracy Special Announcement Day”.

The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights Series will see the return of Forsythe Racing Inc. to the grid as the championship winning outfit announced today its intention to compete in the official feeder series to the Indy Racing League from next season onwards.

“The opportunity to return to Indy Lights is obviously one that we’re relishing,” said Neil Micklewright, Vice President of Operations at Forsythe Racing Inc. “This is an extremely exciting time for Forsythe Racing as we’re once again in the thick of a title battle in the Atlantic Championship while we’re also looking to further bolster our race programs, starting with our Indy Lights announcement.

(MORE from Forsythe Racing)
Yes, very curious timing indeed given the shotgun marriage of bimergification left Mr Tracy with a long-term contract to a no longer existent Forsythe Racing team. I’m sure Tracy is absolutely thrilled that on the day he finalizes months of work for a one-race ride his old employer decides now would be the PERFECT time to reveal their intention to finally do something involving the Indy Racing League. Yes, Paul and Gerry are most certainly meeting at St Elmo Steak House for shrimp cocktail right now.

Then again this could just be posturing because it doesn’t take a great deal of resources to simply say an organization is intending to start an Indy Lights team next year. To the point, allow me to also take the opportunity to announce that My Name Is IRL has a similar “intention to compete” in the 2009 Indy Lights program – just don’t hold your breath on seeing us at too many events.

But if Forsythe’s intentions are genuine, Indy Racing Revolution notes this jump into the IRL pool would lend credence to the theory that Gerry and Kevin Kalkhoven are looking to sell the Atlantic series. It remains to be seen if anyone out there is in the market to buy a feeder series that feeds into nothing, but maybe that guy that bought all of those DP01s is interested in making another deal.

Should such a transaction occur, we can look forward to some interesting timing on that announcement as well.