LiveBlog: Richmond 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 6/27/2009 | 18 comments »
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Welcome to Richmond, the shortest of the short tracks, where IndyCar drivers will race several hundred miles on a track that is roughly 700 yards long while making one constant left turn. Sounds unexciting, but fortunately it usually isn't.

Before we start the festivities tonight I'd like to take a moment to mark the passing of a worldwide cultural icon this week. Someone so fundamental to my generation that they will forever be remembered not for eccentricities and eyebrow-raising behavior, but for the better times when they reached a level of entertainment that few if any ever reach.

I'm speaking, of course about Farrah Fawcett. Charlie's blonde angel (well, the first one). Wife of "The Bionic Man". Unparalleled example of free and easy American womanhood in the 70s.

God knows that woman's poster was on every young man's wall during my youth. Well, every wall except those belonging to boys who grew up in strict religious households like mine. Sure, all my friends get to go to bed and wake up with Farrah every night of their youth, but all I got was a picture of Snoopy on my wall. The closest I came to Farrah was having the model of that Mustang Cobra she drove on Charlie's Angels, and admittedly it was a sweet car, but...

Back to Richmond, where the focus tonight is on Ryan Briscoe, who being the sportsman that he is has allowed someone else to win each of the last three races despite leading a bazillion laps. Nearly 40% of them this year, but he's got just one win and three consecutive second place finishes.

Meanwhile Tony Kanaan has the opposite problem going from 1st to 7th in the points in the last 4 races. Crashes, car-be-que, perhaps even plagues of locusts in the AGR garage. Tony has won at least one race and finished no lower than 6th in the standings in his previous six seasons in the IRL, so he's in uncharted territory.

And with that intro, and our final respects to Farrah, it's time to start.

0: LindyCar asks Briscoe "Are you tough enough?" Ryan says "I'd like to think so." Not exactly oozing testosterone there.

0: Dario Franchitti thanks his pit crew. Remember when he was like third or fourth on the pecking order at AGR? Mr Judd is totally loving being such a big deal at TCGR...at least until Danica becomes his teammate.

0: Can I get a filter on my TV that doesn't show Danica signing "man boobs"? Even P1, huge Fanica that she is, said "that was GROSS!"

0: D&R drivers Tomas Scheckter and Mike Conway get interviewed on air. Tomas somehow forgets to mention his email where you can contact him to help him sell MonaVie.

0: Oh, looks like it's time for a Jack Arute Interrogation with Tony Kanaan...uh, maybe not. Before it starts we get technical difficulties, then VERSUS pulls the clip. Kanaan's season is going so wrong even his Jack Arute interview crashed.

0: Hang on. Kanaan interrogation is back on. Like Tony, you can crash it but you can't stop it. I can almost smell the little brown cigarettes on Arute's breath from here.

0: Robbie Floyd is getting a back rub. For real. Can we just start the race already?

0: Some SunTrust dude just did a solid job with his "Drivers, start your engines!" Golf claps break out here in the living room.

0: Row 1, Ganassi. Row 2, Penske. Behind them Rahal, Matos, Viso, Mutoh.

1: We are green!

1: We are yellow! Jaques Lazier is in the wall, climbing out. Started way back about a half mile behind the leaders but the car went off in the first turn. Probably better for Jaques that he got that out of the way now. Definitely better for everyone else.

3: Somewhere in that brief green Marco went from 16th to 11th. As Mojo Nixon once sang, "Hey hey hey, get outta my way".

9: Back to green, and Marco jumps past Scheckter. Onboard cameras show lots of wiggles from the cars. Fruit salad, yummy yummy.

20: Marco is up to 9th, challenging his handsome Japanese teammate. Come on ladies, show Hideki some love.

28: Yellow! Ryan Briscoe will not be finishing second today. His car is bent and broken, lying naked on the floor. Just lost it coming out of turn 2. We'll have a new leader in the points standings before the night is through.

32: Pit stops! Get your ethanol! On exit it's still Dario, Dixon, Helio, Matos, Rahal. But Mutoh and Danica stayed out so they lead. Mutoh will lead his first laps of his IndyCar career. Domo arigato!

39: Back to green. And Dario quickly goes around Danica for second.

45: Dario tries to make a move on Mutoh but Hideki slams the door! Go, go, Godzilla!

52: Marco has gotten around Tony Kanaan and is up to 6th.

56: I'm ashamed to admit this but my family is enjoying watching the repeated replays of Briscoe wrecking. "Oh, look he wrecked AGAIN!" I don't know where this animosity comes from, honestly.

60: Mutoh is still leading. Check outside for rivers of blood.

69: Mutoh is about to lap Mario Jonas Moraes. There's nothing real in the world anymore. Dario is behind by a few car lengths.

76: Something must have happened because Marco is back to 10th. Leaders are Mutoh, Dario, Danica, Dixon, Helio. Matos and Kanaan right behind them. Viso in 9th, which means he's still racing.

86: P1 and P2 think "IndyCar Race Control" allows you to control the cars. "We could crash Dixon into the wall!" There's my little race strategists.

93: Mutoh still leading. Still ahead of Dario but still behind Moraes. Hideki's probably praying for a yellow right about now.

98: First "Michael Jackson" reference. From Arute, of course. He notes that Mario Jonas-Jackson is wearing a silver glove tonight. Probably appropriate since his car is moon-walking backwards through the field to 18th.

105: Hideki pits. The end of an era. Dario reclaims the lead.

107: Dario around Moraes. Moraes gets loose and lets Dixon by as well. Mario keeps it off the wall as well.

112: Danica pits. Went 112 laps on a load of fuel. Impressive.

129: Doornbos and Hunter-Reay are pitting. Should begin "the pit cycling process".

135: Everyone but the cars at the front are pitting. I'm totally losing track of everyone outside of the Top 5. This happens on short tracks, so I accept it.

138: Yellow! Conway into the wall! It's who he is and what he does. That means Dario, Dixon and maybe a couple others have a lap on the field.

139: Dario had to go for a splash-n-go, so he'll go to the back.

140: Dixon, Dario and Rahal all pit. They're basically a lap ahead of everyone now.

146: Wave around for everyone, so they aren't a lap ahead. Giant exhale here in the living room.

149: Just aired a 100 Years of Indy package where, I swear, Juan Pablo Montoya just called the IndyCar a "eunuch car".

152: Still under caution so Arute interviews Mike Conway. I'm reminded of Roy Hobbson's remark about Robbie Buhl taking Conway out to the Denny's parking lot and having him practice hitting the wall during off weeks.

155: Finally, we are back to green.

157: A big WHOA as Moraes nearly loses the car as Mutoh goes around him. Nice save, but he's got an evil car.

160: Dixon, Dario, Rahal, Mutoh, Patrick - all on the lead lap. Helio has dropped to 6th so something happened to him somewhere.

180: So...looks like we're all done passing tonight. Thank you very much, red cars to the front please.

190: Good grief, how can NO ONE be passing for position on a track this short! Seven cars left on the lead lap. Dixon Dario, Rahal, Mutoh, Danica, Helio, Matos.

205: Just biding time until the next round of pit stops. Yippee.

210: @FuriousWedge tweets from the track "Why is this bad for ICS? I`m watching more than a few fans get up to leave with over 100 to go".

214: Mutoh pits. 9.4 second pit stops with no adjustments isn't going to get it done.

224: The coverage is getting erratic. Cutting around from pit stops to battles for position to random shots of two Target cars lock-stepping up front. I need to refill the adult beverage.

235: My kids have left the room to watch iCarly. Can't say that I blame them.

238: Replay of an amazing save by Viso, sliding up in turn 2 but missing the wall by about the width of a sheet of paper. Viso still racing, in 13th of course.

249: Yellow! For Helio! Turn 2 eats him as well. Once again three cars left on the lead lap: Dixon, Dario, Rahal. I'd say the Penske cars conspired to give this race to the Ganassi cars but that would be ludicrous.

251: Last time two Team Penske cars DNF'd was Michigan in 2007. I'm sure Roger Penske will be please to know that.

261: Back to green. Would be nice if Graham could shake this up. Would also be nice if his car could get some airtime.

263: Dixon is already ahead of Dario by a second. Three seconds ahead of Graham. Eight seconds ahead of Mutoh. That's half a lap here.

280: Dario is getting close Dixon as they work around lapped traffic named "Ed Carpenter", but it's not exactly a battle to the finish. This is Dixon and Dario, not Senna and Prost.

285: Emma Davies-Dixon, Scott's irrefutably beautiful and astoundingly pregnant wife, is reportedly having contractions at the track. Ashley Judd better be careful around this series.

294: Graham is still a second and a half back and still barely being shown on camera.

299: White flag for Dixon.

300: And Scott Dixon wins. Try to contain your enthusiasm for another amazing victory for this perennial underdog.

At least Viso finished. Golf clap from me since I'm all that's left here.

Overhead shot shows fans - what's left of them - leaving. All of them. If everyone else is leaving, I will too. This lack of overtaking on every type of course has gotten ridiculous. I'll leave you with this from Dario in a post-race interview: "I really apologize to fans because that was a dreadful race tonight."

Dear Brian Barnhart, PLEASE FIX THIS!

18 comments

  1. Tabernerus // June 27, 2009 5:38 PM  

    Jeff, sorry you were deprived of your right to *ahem* scenery as a kid. That's a rough deal, man. :-)

  2. Bash // June 27, 2009 5:56 PM  

    not man enough

  3. Demond Sanders // June 27, 2009 7:23 PM  

    iCarly is on? See ya.

  4. Carrie // June 27, 2009 7:26 PM  

    Oh god, I have tears streaming down my face. I've never seen that "let a fan beat Dixon at something" commercial before LOL.

  5. BP in Louisville // June 27, 2009 7:33 PM  

    New IRL drinking game terms for the remainder of the season: 1.Cookie dough, 2.Dr. Feelgoods, 3. mention of a drivers wife practically popping out a baby at the speedway.

  6. redd // June 27, 2009 9:16 PM  

    If so many people who love open-wheel are down on the IRL, what is it about the league that could make the average sports fan watch it? It's sort of depressing.

  7. Anonymous // June 27, 2009 9:38 PM  

    Thanks for the play-by-play, Jeff...I fell asleep once my excitement over seeing both Penske's out was totally overshadowed by another blow-out by the other "super team." Pretty bad when even a top finisher feels it necessary to apologize to the fans. Now, not only are the two teams still dominating (ok, one team tonight), but now the streak of little or no passing continues. Wake up Brian...wake up Tony...what we are watching is the slow demise of Indy car racing and whatever meager fan base there is left!! Who wants to watch everyone race for 5th place?!
    And, come to think of it, there IS more action on the average ICarly episode!

  8. Mark // June 27, 2009 9:38 PM  

    Our drinking cue is the IZOD commerical, so I just woke from being passed out by lap 50, guess I didn't miss much.

  9. AZZO45 // June 27, 2009 9:42 PM  

    For all the people who lose their Monday Moanin' Minds over post race Ashley Judd interviews...

    VERSUS supplied you with a mid-race Emma Dixon chat & the now traditional post race wife interview!

    Please stop B*tching & Moaning about the IRL promoting some Access Hollywood agenda... its just a programing trend (& it was proved tonight)

  10. Mike R // June 27, 2009 11:12 PM  

    Two interesting bits there, Jeff.

    First: "Sounds unexciting, but fortunately it usually isn't."

    Second: "149: Just aired a 100 Years of Indy package where, I swear, Juan Pablo Montoya just called the IndyCar a "eunuch car"."

    From what I observed tonight, I'd say that the use of the word "usually" in the first portion serves as the disclaimer and covers the fact that it was pretty terribly boring.

    Regarding the lap 149 "eunuch" comment, I'd say he was right on target (unintended pun, HAR). Compared to CART's cars which he'd been racing prior to running/winning Indy, the IRL cars were certainly a castrated version of supposed top-level open wheel cars.

    It seems the two items are probably inextricably linked when you think about it.

    "Pretty bad when even a top finisher feels it necessary to apologize to the fans." Well said, Anonymous.

  11. stand b // June 28, 2009 4:44 AM  

    the only thing worse than no on track passes for position is the fruit salad yummy yummy song in your head all day.

    thanks a lot my name is irl

  12. JE Clerk // June 28, 2009 4:47 AM  

    That race needed "Fred Figgilhorn" [http://www.youtube.com/user/Fred] to get things going. Or Jack Arute could have inhaled helium all night long. That would have been interesting.

    The race, however, wasn't interesting.

    So....bad.....

  13. Scott // June 28, 2009 11:53 AM  

    "I'll leave you with this from Dario in a post-race interview: "I really apologize to fans because that was a dreadful race tonight."

    Dear Brian Barnhart, PLEASE FIX THIS!"

    If Barnhart is the beacon of hope for change here, we've got a big issue. Does he care at all about passing? If he does, you would think he'd drop the hammer on the horrendous blocking going on out there.

    This series is dead.

  14. The American Mutt // June 29, 2009 10:42 AM  

    Scott,

    Not dead, but on life support.

    barnhart isn't the saviour, he's the cause. Between his inability to do anything about blocking (Moraes gets a drive thru, top teams have to give up the spot...WTF!?!) to his constant restrictions on the cars. It's clearly been coming to this situation for awhile. Don't give me this, they've had the car since god was a kid stuff, sure that doesn't help, but Penske and Ganassi only got the honda engine in 06 and it's been coming to this since then. There were only two races won by someone other than Penske or Ganassi that year as you may recall. (a side note as I sit outside and top this, the plastic walmart bag is the tumbleweed of suburbia) Furthermore, it's TIME TO RIP OUT THE EFFING FUEL KNOB. Drivers want to win the race on fuel strategy so be it, make them do it with their right foot. I'm firmly convinced we'd have had a different champion last year if they didn't have the knob. How on earth could they even conceive that the fuel knob is going to raise the enjoyment factor for the fan?

    Three words about Richmond. Worst Race Ever.

    I'm done rambling.

    Wait, one last observation, Dixons only two wins this year are a result of a crash in the pit cycle. Why compare him to Hornish who actually beat cars to the line? I may not like Hornish, but at least he came by his victories on the track.

  15. Roger // June 29, 2009 11:37 AM  

    " Last time two Team Penske cars DNF'd was Michigan in 2007."

    Wasn't that when the rear wing collapsed on both Penske cars? HMM. Perhaps the rear wing mounting was a little bit too light? As I recall, Helio was leading when his collapsed.

  16. mmack // June 29, 2009 2:21 PM  

    Wasn't that when the rear wing collapsed on both Penske cars? HMM. Perhaps the rear wing mounting was a little bit too light? As I recall, Helio was leading when his collapsed.

    Roger, that was actually Milwaukee in 2007. Proof here, in the My Name is IRL archives

  17. Lucy // June 30, 2009 3:20 AM  

    Hey, just stumbled on your blog. great account of race, I shall be following.

  18. The American Mutt // June 30, 2009 7:32 PM  

    Roger,

    Furthermore, Hornish finished that race in a car with a struggling rear wing, something I thought Barnhartt shouldn't have allowed, BUT he did finish the race.