LiveBlog: St Petersburg 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 4/05/2009 | 28 comments »
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It's race day! HALLELUJAH! I got my upgraded cable package, my pressdog "Cue the circus music" t-shirt, and my fully-charged laptop. I am so excited, and I just can't...possibly make a Pointer Sisters reference.

Yesterday Graham Rahal went out and claimed the pole in his preparing to defend his victory here at St Pete. Last year there was much tongue-wagging that the victory was a fluke since it was aided by both fuel strategy and a time-shortened race, and now it seems his claiming of the pole this year shares a similar controversy. Says Rahal's former teammate Justin Wilson - who qualified 2nd - "I was robbed."

Should make for a fun first turn. Wilson's position is reportedly the best ever for a Dale Coyne car (previously 7th). This Wilson guy is pretty good.

Before we start, here's a quick congratulations to Junior Strous, who swept BOTH Firestone Indy Lights races in St Pete this weekend. Keep an eye on the young driver from the Netherlands, because he accomplished this feat without driving for one of the big FIL teams like Sam Schmidt Motorsports or AFS/AGR.

Also, kudos to VERSUS for the coverage provided during yesterday's qualification. The broadcast team this year is HUGE, and I'm especially looking forward to having Dreyer & Reinbold co-owner Robbie Buhl in the booth. Best moment: when D&R's Mike Conway wrecked and Jon Beekhuis asked "How much is that gonna cost?"

One last note for the tens of you who were greatly anticipating the My Name Is IRL "Cheat Sheets" provided in previous years: they're gone. They've been replaced by the "Pay Attention" feature over at Silent Pagoda. Yes, I'm spreading myself too thin by moonlighting at another blog, but in these trying times we all need to kick the efforts up a notch.

The kids (P1, et al) are here as well as father-in-law Link. And with that...it's time to start!

0: First thing to note - SUNSHINE! No rain this year. Quite the opposite in fact, as we might have some extra sliding on the heated surface.

0: FREE IndyCar Race Control is DOA. Hope they didn't spend too much on those ads promoting the feature on VERSUS.

0: Also, cars have the vertical flaps on the front wings. Cattle guards have been deployed.

0: Conquest Racing says "In each of their (two) previous participations at the 14-turn street course, Conquest Racing has finished with one car in the top five." We'll try to keep an eye on Alex Tagliani, and we'll check to see if "participations" is a word.


0: Important news item from the intrepid Curt Cavin: Roger Penske says of Helio: "If he's cleared, he's going in...We can run three."

0: Encouraging words from reader Nancy. "The word from St. Petersburg is MORE! We came here expecting less...not as many vendors, fewer attendees, a scaled down event. We got here late on Friday afternoon, and found a crowd we would have normally expected on Saturday."

0: Jack Arute has no firesuit today, but he does have a podium. He's now Vice President of Package Introduction.

0: P2 just got his first glimpse of Dario and his new hairstyle and asked "Who is that? Jeff Simmons?"

0: I just realized - I'm NOT watching women's golf. Huzzah!

0: Dan Wheldon says his newborn son Sebastian tinkled on him several times during "Daddy Pit Stops". Dan, with boys you gotta drop the defense shield (a.k.a. The Wipe) IMMEDIATELY after diaper removal. You're welcome.

0: Kinder, gentler Danica. She just told Arute "I love you." Link just asked "She on Xanax?"

0: Why we use Twitter. From @VisionRacing: "Vision drivers have um... Taken care of business (aka gone potty) and are now at their cars. TMI?"

0: Full disclosure - I don't have a favorite driver, but as long as he's in the race I'm unabashedly hoping Justin Wilson and Dale Coyne can win today. An underdog voctory like that would be epic. I realize I probably just jinxed Justin into wrecking in the first turn, but I thought you should know.

0: "Drivers...start your Honda engines!" Excellent use of audio by VERSUS. I'm getting a little choked up with excitement.

1: And we are green green green! ...And just like that it's amateur hour in turn one. Rahal slowed down and got turned around in the first turn. Conway seems to have run off as well.

2: Replay shows Tagliani running over the front of Rahal's car. Kanaan also needs a new nose cone as well. Are these DP01s?

4: Still yellow. Wilson, Franchitti, Briscoe, Power, Manning.

5: We're back to green. This time clean restart.

5: Kanaan and Rahal already moving up from the back. Credit newcomer Stanton Barrett for getting out of their way without incident.

7: We go to commercial - Side-by-side! Hooray again for VERSUS!

8: Programming note: P1 is also "live blogging" in her journal. She just called that GoDaddy ad "the stupidest commercial ever".

9: Looks like Wilson on The Reds is pulling away from Franchitti. Over a second. three seconds back to Briscoe in third.

13: The crew is talking about Manning and Tagliani and Doornbos. I'm in shock.

15: No change in the leaders but Franchitti is closing in on Wilson, who's led every lap. A Dale Coyne car has led EVERY lap. Bruce Willis is readying to be sent to a meteor.

18: No passing anywhere unless you count Stanton Barrett being lapped. We should have pit stops soon.

19: Mutoh pits early. Looks like he was passed by Matos and Moraes. If your surname starts with "M" you've got a leg up on being an IndyCar driver.

21: After going to the back on the first lap Tony Kanaan is back up to 15th. Graham Rahal, not so successful today.

23: Kanaan up to 13th. Come one, VERSUS - show the guy who's passing people every lap!

25: Rahal has gotten it together. He's right behind Kanaan and they're both on camera. Thank you, VERSUS.

29: Nice battle between Moraes, Kanaan and Rahal. More than one block party being thrown. If Helio was in there we'd probably see a black flag.

31: Up front, Wilson has grown his lead to six seconds. Ganassi and Penske cars behind him must be switching to the dreaded "fuel strategy". Don't fall for it, Justin!

32: Looks like Tags has a flat tire. Dropping like a stone.

32: Yellow! Matos and Moraes and Danica are all wrecked. Danica was talking to Matos, probably asking if he saw her. Looks like Matos didn't have the position to make that move.

33: Tagliani's tire got cut by Vitor's front wing.

33: Also Mutoh punted Moraes and sent him int the wall. Amazingly Justin Wilson avoided getting caught up in that.

35: Everyone pits. Holy Ganassi Pit Circus! Dixon just had like a 20 second pit stop. Power had some issues in front of him, Dixon stalled, got out of position...these things tend to snowball.

37: Briscoe, Wheldon, Viso, Hunter-Reay, Doornbos - Wilson now 7th? What happened?

38: Let's talk to Danica. "It's not exactly the ideal spot to pass." No real disparaging comments about Matos. Link says "She's DEFINITELY on Xanax."

40: Back to green. Much passing. Justin Wilson up to 5th, even around the ever dangerous Robert Doornbos.

41: Justin inside of Hunter-Reay, now up to 4th. EJ Viso ahead of him. Proceed with caution, Mr Wilson. Franchitti makes some moves to get up to 6th. Rahal 7th, Kanaan 8th.

42: Dan Wheldon is in second. Have we even seen him since the race started? I hope he gets a little more air today than "my son urinates on me".

45: Arute is talking to Oriol Servia. Servia's probably the current guy sitting on the Throne of Injustice (best unemployed driver). Bob Jenkins like the way he rolls his "R"s. For real.

50: We're halfway through and Briscoe still leads. Wheldon, Viso, Wilson, Hunter-Reay. I sincerely hope this isn't another time-shortened event.

52: Wilson finally around Viso. Fellow Englishman Dan Wheldon is next for Wilson.

53: Stanton Barrett is noticeably slower, but he's doing his best to get out of the way. He's the GT2 car out there today.

55: And just as I say that Barrett is stopped on the course and brings out a full course caution. Why is this a full course yellow?

57: Back to green and Wilson is all up in Wheldon's business. Can't get around him, though. Not yet at least. Briscoe, Wheldon, Wilson, Hunter-Reay, Franchitti. Rahal and Kanaan right behind them.

58: For a guy who just got in the car, Hunter-Reay has been the most impressive driver today. Hopefully IZOD is pleased.

64: And, we're in full "parade mode".

65: This just in: Scott Dixon is in 14th. He'll be listening to that "Had a bad day" song on his iPod tonight.

67: I have a 55" TV and I can' read that lap indicator. Can anyone else read that?

68: Briscoe, Wheldon and Kanaan pit without incident. Wilson assumes the lead again.

69: Who's this courteous guy driving in the HVM car?

70: Graham Rahal is suddenly losing position all over the place.

71: Wilson makes his final pit stop and comes out ahead of Briscoe. Got cold tires so Briscoe Inferno is all over him. WARNING: actual racing, viewer discretion is advised.

72: Looks like Ed Carpenter is in the wall. Local yellow only, thankfully.

73: Nevermind - full course caution. Wilson, Briscoe, Wheldon, Hunter-Reay, Franchitti.

74: Hideki Mutoh is in 8th. He nearly took out the race leader earlier but he's right behind his teammates Kanaan in 6th and Marco in 7th. Meanwhile Scott Dixon is in 11th behind Robert Doornbos.

75: EJ Viso is in the pits and it doesn't look like he's leaving anytime soon. Gotta say, though he was near the front EJ was a tad boring today. Brian Barnhart probably appreciates it, but I sure don't.

77: That's quite a nasty blister on Viso's hand. Maybe his agent can get him a Band-Aid sponsorship.

78: Back to green, and Wheldon and Franchitti just lost a bunch of positions. Not so magically delicious.

79: Wilson, Briscoe, Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Franchitti. Wheldon back to 6th.

81: And Dixon is out, hard into the wall. Not the way to start a title defense.

82: Looks like he tried to take Mutoh and Godzilla came down and ate up the front of his left-front suspension. Full course yellow once again in effect.

83: I don't know what pressdog's beer of the race will be, but I'm having a tasty new batch of Mr Beer right now. Times are tough, people, and we need to make our own beverages.

83: I swear that in that shot where he's lying on the floor, that WEC fighter named "Torres" looks more than a little like Wade Cunningham.

85: 15 laps to go. Still yellow. Still Wilson. Dale Coyne is probably popping Rolaids like they're M&Ms.

86: Back to green and Briscoe gets past Wilson. Great move by Ryan. Both Ryans, actually, as Hunter-Reay got around Wilson as well.

86: Trouble down the track. Wheldon and Doornbos touch. Wheldon into the wall, Mutoh into Wheldon. Andretti into Mutoh. They'll all be done as we're back to another yellow.

90: Still yellow. 10 laps to go. 13 minutes in the broadcast. Don't time me, bro.

92: Back to green. Hunter-Reay on The Reds is all over Briscoe, who's on regular tires. Wilson a bit back in 3rd. Pity.

96: Yellow! I guess Marco wasn't done, but he is now as he and Tagliani tangle, send Marco spinning on the track. Tags tried to pass without passing, which rarely works. Hunter-Reay should get one more shot at overtaking Briscoe on a restart.

97: Restart and no one passes anyone. We're down to 12 cars. Sheesh.

99: White flag for Briscoe. Expect little passing for the last lap.

100: And Briscoe takes the win for his first points victory on a street course. Hunter-Reay second and Justin Wilson third for an extremely surprising podium group. They might all be eye-level. Congratulations to them all.

High marks also for Tony Kanaan, who went from the back to 5th. He's pretty good.

Also, shockingly, Stanton Barrett got back on the track and finished 12th. 12th! Robert Doornbos also got back on the track and finished 11th. Good showing for those rookies, even though they were both 4 laps down.

We've run long in the broadcast window and WE'RE STILL GOING. Big hug, VERSUS. Above-average show today, and I hope the ratings reflect that. I'm going to start wading through the comments and see what Chris and Meesh had to say. And of course the world-famous pressdog recap.

Program note: For the next race I may or may not have a LiveBlog because I'll be LIVE FROM LONG BEACH. My first time to the famed event, so I'm all tingly. The IndyCar coverage will resume tomorrow, so for now - thank you all very much, and good night!

28 comments

  1. Demond Sanders // April 05, 2009 11:04 AM  

    "You wanted more coverage and you're going to get it."

    Hell yes! About time.

  2. Anonymous // April 05, 2009 11:07 AM  

    about time for sure !! no interruptions because of girls basketabll it's race day I'm jazzed !

  3. Anonymous // April 05, 2009 11:09 AM  

    where's Digger ??

  4. SandWedge // April 05, 2009 11:12 AM  

    p.s. word from earlier today is that Arute is going to be following some of the teams Twitters during the broadcast

  5. will-isitmayyet.com // April 05, 2009 11:16 AM  

    "festival of speed" count = 1

  6. chrisestrada // April 05, 2009 11:19 AM  

    Took them almost 20 mins to get to Danica...gotta say that's refreshing.

    Cheap plug: Check out www.mvn.com/indyracingrevolution during the race, post your comments, and let's chat a bit.

    This is going to be fun.

  7. Carrie // April 05, 2009 11:20 AM  

    Danica claims to have taken a chill pill. Ha! I'll believe it when we make it thru the race without a hand-puppet show.

  8. Demond Sanders // April 05, 2009 11:20 AM  

    I love Danica, but this kind of feature just seems slutty...

  9. Bash // April 05, 2009 11:26 AM  

    Package introduction...Gotta get my mind outta the gutter! Jack is slightly browner today - still not oompa loompa spray tan orange. Versus demanding authenticity from its pit crew? :)

    Euro-hair Dario = HOT HOT HOT!

  10. Anonymous // April 05, 2009 11:27 AM  

    Is there a "drinking term" for the race today?

  11. Bash // April 05, 2009 11:36 AM  

    Meesh recommended a drinking game around "reds"... Could be dangerous!

  12. Bash // April 05, 2009 11:53 AM  

    Pressdog, turn up the circus music. please... :-/

  13. pressdog // April 05, 2009 12:11 PM  

    i am listening to circus music ... goes along with the parade.

  14. billycoy // April 05, 2009 12:34 PM  

    bugaboo !

  15. Billy Coy // April 05, 2009 12:36 PM  

    I love the Firestone commercial !

  16. Bash // April 05, 2009 12:49 PM  

    Everyone sing now: "Take me out to the brickyard..."

  17. Anonymous // April 05, 2009 1:05 PM  

    hey ! I had the star of spider man 1, 2 and 3 in my fantasy league

  18. JOWT // April 05, 2009 1:16 PM  

    I'm really surprised that Stanton Barrett didn't opt for a few Indy Lights races to start 2009 as originally planned. His best lap today was 1:06.7008, the fastest Indy Lights lap today was 1:07.2141 by Sebastian Saavedra. The comparison isn't exactly apples to apples, but it's fairly apparent that he's not ready for IndyCar.

  19. Dale Nixon // April 05, 2009 2:05 PM  

    All I can say, thank VS for Bob Jenkins, so we did not have to endure the mellifluous excitement of Scott Goodyear during the extended carbon-fiber recycling segments.

    *(note to "street festival" promoters, buy/rent/hot wire some of those Formula 1 cranes to yank disabled cars off the track. Fat tow truck drivers in yellow shirts getting paid hourly don't cut it.

  20. Anonymous // April 05, 2009 2:26 PM  

    Way to f$%# up the Indy Lights Race for us! How about a spoiler warning since those races will not be televised until tomorrow?!?

    Great blog, but giving out spoilers on a completely different race is stupid. At least I now know not to visit your blog on raceday when Indy Lights races the same weekend!

  21. Iannucci // April 05, 2009 2:31 PM  

    Great blog, but giving out spoilers on a completely different race is stupid.

    VERSUS may be tape-delayed, but I'm not.

  22. meeshbeer // April 05, 2009 7:39 PM  

    Also, shockingly, Stanton Barrett got back on the track and finished 12th. 12th!

    haha! not to belabour the point, but there were only 12 cars running at the end.

    He was a moving chicane at best, but at least he moved out of the way cleanly while being repeatedly lapped. (that stunt driving experience comes in handy I guess)
    I have to agree with JOWT. He should have cut his teeth in Lights first.

    I too was brimming with emotions as the green flag neared.

    Xanax... LOL! Docile Danica was impressive. Let's see how long the Passive Princess Act lasts...

  23. Grizzlor // April 05, 2009 7:47 PM  

    Excellent race, outstanding coverage from Versus. Can't believe they went 20 minutes overtime!

    Note to the track officials: Do not put Porto-John's next to race track wall!

  24. Anonymous // April 05, 2009 7:47 PM  

    I LOVE VERSUS!!

  25. Roy Hobbson // April 05, 2009 8:09 PM  

    VERSUS may be tape-delayed, but I'm not.

    That's some Wyatt Earp gangster shit right there.

  26. AZZO45 // April 05, 2009 8:35 PM  

    Dammn!!! I was hoping that Justin Wilson or Ryan Hunter Reay coulda been my BrawnGP style IRL story

    BOTH didn't really have secure rides weeks ago & BOTH almost beat the series big dogs @ St. Pete

  27. Chuck // April 05, 2009 10:13 PM  

    I don't want to have to say "I told you so", but darnit I've been waiting all offseason for it.

    I told you so. Where are the Versus naysayers now??

    Such joy! This Indiana boy is unspeakably happy. Jack Arute's new role is brilliant. I've missed Bob Jenkins getting into the action so much. The booth crew is incredible! Bob, Robbie and Jon in the booth have a million times more personality than Marty and Goodyear -- no, that's a lie; a milllion time zero is still zero. So MORE than a million times! The "green" crew in the pits, holy crap, where have they been? They know what they're doing! The shot with Mr. Man-whose-name-I-don't-yet-know explaining he thought the tire had blistered but instead it'd flat spotted down to the cords, and there was the dude explaining that with the tire and the flat spot and the cords...

    To quote Howard Dean: ARRRRRRRRRRRRRGHH!

    And the Firestone "Brickyard" spot makes me miss Indiana. I can't believe it. Goosebumps.

    Thank you, IRL, and thank you, Versus. My job now is reporting on N-word, but (perhaps aside from the Truck series) you've proven to me where good racing AND good TV coverage lives in the US. Bravo, and encore!

  28. Anonymous // April 06, 2009 5:53 AM  

    One day closer to the Month of May. Donald Davidson's IUPUI class starts tomorrow night and all is becoming right with the world.

    Chuck, that Firestone ad might be my favorite commercial of all time. Awesome.