Kentucky Qualifying Not Rained Out...

Posted by Dale Nixon | 7/31/2009 | , , , , , | 1 comments »
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SPARTA, Ky - IndyCar points leader Scott Dixon graciously emerged from his motorhome to be awarded the "pole position" for the Meijer Indy 300 after weepers, essentially underground water vents in the asphalt, washed out qualifying Friday evening. The field will start based on the driver season points standings.

Dixon will be flanked by teammate Dario Franchitti, while the Penske duo of Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe comprise row two.

With four red cars in the first two rows, Kentucky Speedway will put the new "call it what you want, but don't call it Push to Pass" technology to the test, as the oval speedway enhancement rules take effect. The team parade continues with best friends Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti in row three, while the rumored-to-be-deposed Dan Wheldon and road king Justin Wilson are in row four.

A variety of technological enhancements, including aerodynamic options and a steering-wheel mounted "Burst Button" are expected to inject some extra ethanol madness into the field. The Barnhart General has issued a warning that some passing may occur now on oval tracks, as a 5-20 horsepower gain will be realized dependant on fuel setting for intervals calibrated on a race-by-race basis. For Kentucky, drivers will have 20 presses for a duration of 12 seconds each available. No word on whether engine telemetry will be tracked in the Versus broadcast, although it seems reasonable to assume this might be the case.

The zone of excitement and pain looks be the insides of rows eight and nine, with MadDog Mario Moraes lined up in front of the volatile EJ Viso. The two drivers exchanged pleasantries on the track twice in Toronto, and were rumored to have also continued the discussion after the race sans helmets only to be separated by KV Racing team owner Jimmy "the Peacemaker" Vasser. The altercation, following a similar clash earlier in the season prompted Viso to claim the Quote of the Year crown early by describing Moraes as a "monkey with a bag of money" on his Facebook page.

Crikey - Wheldon to Ebay Driving Services Again?

Posted by Dale Nixon | 7/30/2009 | , , , | 4 comments »
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For the second time in as many seasons, Dan Wheldon may be putting his driving talents, glistening teeth and jaunty matching shoes on the open market. Unfortunately for Wheldon, that market is not exactly bustling as teams look to replace sponsors and shed expensive salaries.

Wheldon, seventh place in the IndyCar series points race heading into Kentucky, appears to be well down the road to a divorce from the mercurial John Barnes and Panther Racing. In the off-season, Barnes made heads wag in the paddock when he announced a multi-year agreement with Wheldon to pilot the National Guard car. Wheldon had just been released from a deal with Chip Ganassi Racing that was said to be in the $3 million per season range and was thought to be seeking a similar arrangement at the time, with insiders wondering exactly who Panther was bidding against for Wheldon's services.

“It’s hard to describe the level of excitement and emotions all of us at Panther have knowing that Dan has come back to drive for us,” team Managing Partner and CEO John Barnes said. “I remember watching him drive for the first time in the Indy Lights series years ago, and I knew he was going to be a special talent. Since then he’s become one of the best open-wheel drivers in the world, and for him to make his return to our team at the height of his racing career is a tremendous compliment to our team. I know he’s excited about getting into the No. 4 car for the first time and we’ve got a tremendous future ahead of us.”
That excitement has apparently lasted all of 10 races, as Barnes has soured on the the expensive English free agent and has told him to look elsewhere for a 2010 ride. The relationship peaked with the second place finish at Indy in May.

Speed's Robin Miller reported that financial considerations are involved in the issue in his weekly mailbag Q&A segment.

(Wheldon's) agents were in Toronto and there's been talk of missed payments and some heated conversations so I'd say he's out of that ride regardless of what happens in the next couple months."

Behind the scenes, the Ganassi operation was critical of Wheldon after his departure. The Brit was an enigma in non-oval events and was described as 'a prima donna who is extremely difficult to work with' by the Target crew.

Wheldon is having a remarkably consistent 2008 season with 8 Top-10 finishes through the first 11 races, but has been little threat to pull off a win unlike his predecessor, the perennial second-place Vitor Meira. Wheldon has slipped in the last three events, most notably a 14th-place marker in Toronto and 15th in Edmonton.

Possible destinations could be a problem for Wheldon, as racing program budgets continue to shrink and disappear for the 2010 season. Apparently, Andretti Green Racing is back in the mix with the pending departure of Danica Patrick for parts unknown, but that could be a smoke grenade thrown by Wheldon's camp to generate interest.

That National Guard training could come in handy.

Edmonton - the Good, the Bad, the Ugly (eh)

Posted by Dale Nixon | 7/27/2009 | , , , | 13 comments »
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Okay with all apologies to Meesh (the Patriot Act prevented our MNIIRL work visas from being processed in time for the LiveBlog), here is Il Buono, il Brutto, il Cattivo on the Rexall Edmonton Indy.

The Good:

- Will Power drove his snappy looking yellow car to a dominant victory, fending off all challenges from his own teammates and the CGR duo, along with staying well clear of the Conweasel, Mario Moraes and Rafa "the Pinball" Matos. If I was Ryan Briscoe, I'd be looking over my shoulder, mate.
- The title chase is thrown into disarray with Dario's lead deeded over to Mr. Consistency, Dixon.
- Back to 23 cars on the grid.
- Attendance looked solid once again; Edmonton might very well be the biggest stop on the schedule this side of 16th and Georgetown.
- According to the Edmonton Journal the future of the race is "promising" as the upcoming airport closure may result in a permanent racing facility on the site. The IRL's Terry Angstadt proved that he does in fact speak in marketing doublespeak 24/7 with his quote:

"What I think is still a bit of an unknown is the destiny of this specific venue," he said. "They(Northlands) seem reasonably optimistic with the information they've been given so far that we'll be able to find more of a permanent venue here. It would need to be tweaked a bit, but not only remain here, but put in certain aspects of permanently that would allow us to put a stake in the ground and be here for a long time."
In other words, a permanent IndyCar facility is a better investment for Edmonton than Dustin Penner.
- Paul Tracy (sixth, highest finishing non-Penske/CGR car) love or hate him, I'm now convinced he needs to be in a car, if only for his superior blogging and name-calling. Tracy gives the series attitude and swagger, along with a Canadian driver of note, and the occasional villain.
- For once, the IRL had the proper time zone to start completely after a N***** race ended (I'm sure it wasn't planned).
- Versus coverage was excellent, with Bob Jenkins a welcome relief after too many weeks of tedium with Marty Reid (who has hopped over to N****** Busch series).
- Rookie Richard Antinucci qualified 18th in what should probably be an engineless showcar.
The Bad:
- When the best battle in the closing laps of a race is Justin Wilson and Robert Doornbos fighting for eighth...
- Rafa Matos - There is no way a car 11 laps down should be dicing for position with lead lap cars. Barnhart should have parked him.
- Mario Moraes and Mike Conway - Unless you have Dallara stock or are cashing checks from their daddies, there's no reason to see them on the track again.
- The shotgun marraige of Ryan Hunter-Reay and AJ Foyt Racing continues to flounder. Hunter-Reay has a rep as a fast driver in a perfect car, but is not as impressive in a work in progress.
- Dreyer & Reinbold Racing overall - Tomas Scheckter put the car on a hook, Conway was umpteen laps down after more first-lap contact.
- Finishing a race under yellow is as exciting as leaving a hockey overtime tie. The IRL needs to adopt a shootout format, now that broadcast time is no longer a constraint.
- Did anyone see Dan Wheldon this weekend except Danica?

The Ugly:
- A complete lack of competition for cars that aren't rolled off the Penske or Ganassi trucks. Even slipping Dario in a blue Vaseline Car couldn't break up the 1-5 train.
- This season has gone from bad to impossibly worse for Tony Kanaan, who was passed AJIV's role as the human torch of the IRL. All joking aside, TK's quick thinking saved a major incident on pit road. One wonders if the rumored reassignment of longtime Kanaan car chief before the race Jeff Simon had anything to do with the grizzly splash and light.
- AGR overall - The inmates are clearly running the asylum. Hope Barry Green doesn't have VS on his boat, because the team is a shell of it's former glory. Not exactly presenting a compelling case for Danica (11th) to return, either.

LiveBlog: Edmonton 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 7/26/2009 | 11 comments »
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Due to extenuating circumstances there will be no LiveBlog this weekend. There will however be a searing image of Tony George, former head of the Indy Racing League and lifelong canoeing enthusiast, up a lazy river.


Life after rehab

Posted by Declan | 7/25/2009 | 7 comments »
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Good on Jack Osbourne (pictured left). He's really gotten his life together, kicked drugs and has a future in the sport. [Pic:]

New Car Fever

Posted by Tony Johns | 7/23/2009 | , , , | 9 comments »
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At one point or another, we've all seen an episode of The Price is Right. That classic of consumer lust and greed, where the great unwashed from Oxnard to Bangor can get a chance to "come on down" and grab all sorts of merchandise if they can only bid correctly.

Five days a week, breathless everymen and -women bid on all sorts of stuff, from toilet brushes to trips to tables to toothpaste. But we all know the real reason why most people watch the show.

"It's a new caaaaaaar!"

That's right. Whether it's the dingiest entry-level Ford Focus or a super-hot Corvette sitting there under the studio lights, the appearance of a new car is always the biggest moment on the show (except for those Plinko loonies... don't get me started on them).

It's because automobiles are as deep in the American vein as apple pie and baseball. Yankees love their cars so much that they are more likely to go into debt to get one than virtually anything else - including a house.

The reason I bring this seeming non-sequitur up is that the thrill people feel when Rich Fields yells, "It's a new caaaaaaar!" on The Price is Right is perhaps the one thing that can get the American public interested in IndyCar racing again.

Look - you know and I know that IndyCar racing is (at least in theory, if not in recent practice) one of the greatest forms of motorsport in the world. The Indianapolis 500 alone would make that statement true - but the cross-training aspect of IndyCar racing that include various types of oval, street, and road circuit events elevate IndyCars above other series that limit themselves to one discipline.

On paper, the IndyCar series should capture the imagination of anyone who loves automobiles going fast.

In practice, it hasn't happened that way - at least not lately. I'm not going to dig up the history of the past decade-and-a-half; it's a useless exercise because we all know it better than we know our own names. Suffice to say that the IndyCar racing we have now fails to live up to its promise - at times, it fails badly.

Why? There are so many reasons. Gene Simmons is one, not just because he and his otherworldly tongue and fourteen-volume history of STDs couldn't market their way out of a paper bag if KISS isn't involved. No, his real problem is that he tried to turn IndyCar racing into "rock stars in race cars." And that's just not going to work.

It's not the drivers' fault. To a man (and woman) they are professional, courteous, and even intriguing. But they're not rock stars - the nature of their relationships to their sponsors automatically precludes them from the kind of Lohanesque kind of misbehavior that seems to tweak the salacious public interest. Simply put, the closest they're going to get is a shoving match in the pits (and we're not going to see much of that until someone gets PT a full-time ride - hollah to Meesh!) or a temper tantrum from Danica before some PR flack gets hold of her.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that, in terms of racing personalities, this country is fixated on stock car racing and the "all-American" folks (sorry, Marcos and JPM) that compete there.

That leaves the racing. And lately, the racing has, in a word, sucked.

It sucks basically for two reasons - the inequity between the haves and have-nots, and the race car itself.

There's not a whole lot we can do about the first problem. There's only so much money in motorsports right now - actually, thanks to the recession, there's virtually no money in it - so the racing oligarchs like Penske and Ganassi are going to be able to outspend everyone else until the economy gets dug out of the giant hole it's in.

The second problem, however, is fully addressable. Now, don't get me wrong - Dallara is a very capable chassis-builder, and Honda certainly makes fine racing engines. But when you put everyone into the same engine-chassis combination, it puts the power in the hands of the rich and influential. With the resources available to them, Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi can massage and tweak their "spec" IndyCars in ways that the other teams simply can't. They have the wherewithal to work within the small margins allowed by a formula where everyone gets the same basic equipment. Hence, each IndyCar race is virtually guaranteed to have a winner driving a red-decorated race car (unless Ganassi runs one of those weird pink or green cars).

An additional problem is that the current Dallara/Honda package is not attractive. I can't sugarcoat it, people. When non-fanatics tune into IndyCar races, they see a blocky, ungainly race car that only looks fast when it's going in a straight line. On the more technical street and road circuits, the cars appear to labor in and out of the turns like an elephant performing Swan Lake. On ovals, the wake turbulence from the blocky chassis makes overtaking a rarity.

Beyond all that, though, there's no general sense of innovation around IndyCar racing anymore. The engineers out there justifiably will dispute that notion, but to the layman (or -woman) an IndyCar race has none of the technical wizardry that Formula 1 has. Americans used to tune into the Indy 500 to see what the hell someone was going to bring this year to beat the other 32 teams.

Granted, these days innovation is tough to afford. But that doesn't change the fact that the public responds to innovation. There's such a thing as "wow factor" - and the IndyCar series doesn't have that right now. The closest thing to "wow" the IndyCar series can manage is whether that zipper will go down another inch on Danica's jacket in those commercials.

That's where Rich Fields and The Price is Right come in. Since it's obvious that there isn't going to be a UFC-style three-way beatdown between Paul Tracy, Helio Castroneves and Danica Patrick any time soon, the next best thing for the IndyCar series to do is get that "It's a new caaaaaaar!" feeling back into the series.

Last I heard, the IRL was planning on a new car in 2011 (although I've heard whispers that that deadline might be pushed back with the bad economy). I hope that's true. I hope that, when it's unveiled, the new IndyCar will make people "ooh" and "aah." I hope that those manufacturer summits that were held bear fruit and more folks join the show to give the engine scene some variety.

The fame tree in IndyCars goes like this: the track (IMS) made the cars, and the cars made the stars. It's that simple. The IndyCar series is about spectacle (it's even in the Big Race's name!), and as such the series needs a car (or, even better, a handful of cars) that will create one.

Can You Say Sponsor Activation?

Posted by Dale Nixon | 7/23/2009 | , , | 7 comments »
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So now we find out the real reason Alex "Pink" Lloyd left Target Chip Ganassi Racing (and how is that Iowa debut coming along, Alex?) - he had to draw the line at prancing down Gasoline Alley in an outfit heisted from the Pink Panther.

So it now falls to Dario Franchitti to pilot the Chipster's machine this weekend at the Rexall Edmonton Grand Prix in the (ahem) proud blue and white livery of Vaseline (for) Men Lotion.

Yes, of course the official press release had the usual flowery prose about synergy and made-up-by-the-PR department quotes (Martin Truex Jr. will get the same honor in N*****), all inherent to cashing a hefty check from a multinational.

“Any time you get the chance to work with a big brand like Vaseline you have to be both encouraged and proud. We would love nothing more than to see the Vaseline MEN car in victory lane," said Steve Lauletta, President of Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, Inc.: "One of the advantages that our team has is the ability to provide a sponsor with opportunities and assets in multiple forms of auto racing thereby giving them the ability to market to different audiences. I think this is a great opportunity for both of us.”

We can think of a few other advantages for Team Chip, chapped lips not being one of the first that comes to mind.

But it brings up an interesting question, what was the most embarrassing sponsor/car combination?

John Surtees 1976 Formula 1 entry piloted by Alan Jones was sponsored by Durex Condoms, and certainly wins the pole position in the race of embarrassment. In fact, the BBC would not telecast the race from Brands Hatch that year where Jones finished second to James Hunt.

Mark Martin also spent a couple memorable seasons in a Viagra entry (and had the grey hair to prove it), and Paul Gentilozzi is said to have a had a Hustler sponsorship nixed from his CCWS partners.

But Chip's crack sponsor finders seems to have really outdone themselves this time.

Can't wait to hear Bob Jenkins sputter when the Chrome Horn "slips around" the Vaseline car.

Hopefully we won't have to worry about lock stepping with a Versus broadcast Sunday afternoon.

No IndyCar last weekend? No problem

Posted by Declan | 7/22/2009 | 8 comments »
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I have been cursed, from a very young age, with a love of pretty much anything competitive. If they keep score, I'll watch it. The only exceptions tend to be sports that involve judges, so you can keep your ice skating and your synchronized swimming.

As a kid growing up motor racing was unquestionably the most exciting thing in the world and I wasn't selective. As long as it had two or four wheels and there was timing and scoring, I was in. The World Sportscar Championship, CART, the ETCC, British F3, European RallyCross you name it I was a fan and could bore you to death with the minute details of each. I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that nothing much has changed.

So when the invitation came to spend the weekend in and around the booth at Lime Rock with my colleagues from the American Le Mans Series Radio Network, I did not need to be asked twice. What I didn't realise at the time was how much IndyCar gossip there was to be unearthed throughout the weekend. the following is what I managed to dig up during what turned out to be quite an eye opening weekend.

It all started on Thursday night with reception at Patron Highcroft Racing in Western Connecticut. The event was held in the 'lobby' of the race shop, the tequila was flowing and the food was really tiny. The class of an event is normally in inverse proportion to the size of the fare on offer. All of the food being served was what you would call 'comfort' food but in miniature! Tiny pizzas, microscopic burgers and regrettably undersized chocolate cake were being passed around at an alarming rate. I was tackling a vastly undersized grilled cheese sandwich while trying to avoid dropping miniscule crumbs into the cockpit of Mario Andretti's World Championship winning Lotus 79 which was one of the lobby 'ornaments'.

With my metaphorical IndyCar hat on I decided I needed to get to the bottom of the 'Patron Highcroft Racing' to ICS rumours. As I began to make my way to chat to those in the know at the team, fellow Acura runners, Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz arrived. Now I was in sniffing overdrive as they represent another team who could be making the jump to IndyCar in 2010. At this point it is very unlikely that we will see Highcroft racing anywhere other than in the ALMS in 2010. Acura have another year left on their contract too so this partnership will almost certainly not be moving to IndyCar. Scott Sharp, however, is likely to be seen in a Dallara for the month of May again in 2010 and the team are evaluating an entry into a 'certain race in France' as it was described by one of their executives. As for Fernandez Racing? They were in and out of the party quicker than a late race gas and go. Bugger!

Friday was a day of practice and qualifying for the ALMS along with the FBMW and Atlantic Series. I had a very pleasant but brief chat with Jonathan Summerton who said that he is unlikely to be back in a Firestone Indy Lights Car this year and wasn't particularly bothered by the prospect. 'If your not in an AFS/AGR car then there really isn't much point' was his forthright assessment of the situation. The weekend in Atlantics was absolutely dominated by Simona De Silvestro who was stunning in wet qualifying and utterly dominant in the dry race on Saturday. She is highly rated by the entire ALMS paddock and she is handled by Tony Kanaan's manager, Robert Clarke. Unfortunately for IndyCar and Indy Lights fans, she will probably take the $1M for winning the Atlantic series and use it to help finance a GP2 ride in 2010. She has her eyes firmly fixed on Formula 1 and has expressed a dislike for ovals.

Saturday morning began with a rather excellent chat with Lindy Thackston who "never googles herself" and she "doesn't read blogs and forums" so I can say what I like about her. She was ludicrously lovely and we ended up chatting for ages. She did reveal that Marco Andretti decided that the whole 'Danica doesn't get team work' spat after the race in Texas was her fault for asking the question in the first place! Now if that doesn't tell you everything you need to know about what is going on inside Marco's head then nothing will.

At this point in the proceedings the gossip started to come thick and fast from a variety of sources that will have to remain nameless and slightly murky. All is seemingly not well at NHLR as Graham Rahal and Robert Doornbos have what can best be described as a 'frosty' relationship. Doornbos is running out of cash and one source expected him to be gone before the end of the season with a possible replacement being Sebastian Bourdais. If Danica makes the increasingly likely jump to TCGR next season, Franck Montagny is at the top of the list to replace her at AGR. His performance at Le Mans this year was stunning and that was despite driving with a broken leg sustained in training camp 3 weeks before the race. He was consistently faster than Bourdais in the number 8 Peugeot and his talent has been criminally overlooked by both the F1 and IndyCar communities. Scott Dixon could be on his way out of TCGR to make way for Danica and despite a calm exterior, he is thought to be not too pleased about having a team mate who can beat him week in week out. The De Ferran name keeps appearing in connection with the Kiwi for 2010. A move to the fledgling De Ferran squad could see him paired with another hot shot in the shape of Simon Pagenaud. The Frenchman has been a revelation this season and has been stunningly quick at times in the Acura prototype. Much like Ryan Briscoe before him, sportscar racing has helped him grow enormously as a driver and he will be a major threat if he returns to American open wheel racing in 2010.

The prospects of multiple engine suppliers in IndyCar are diminishing rapidly. One team executive told me that the VW Group have 'gone cold' on the idea and that is partly due to the infuriating procrastination at 16th and Georgetown. There is also a major sporting brand struggle going on between VW, Audi & Porsche right now which is yet to be fully resolved and IndyCar is certainly a victim of that.

And finally, the continuing story of the 'Greatest Spectacles in Racing' or the Philippe family as they are known to most people. I had my first chance to see Wilson, the youngest of the racing brothers, race over the weekend and he's rubbish!

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 7/21/2009 | 7 comments »
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"To do the Indy 500 you have to be going at it. It would be unreasonable for me to expect to get in the car and go and win it...You have to have a good season in that kind of thing so I don't have any particular desire to do that." - Lewis Hamilton, who despite his aversion towards The Greatest Spectacle In Racing says he would like to try Le Mans, N****R, or even Moto GP. But not Indy. Possibly even funny cars, hydroplane racing, or even the Twelve Mile 500. But definitely not Indy.

World Leverage Tour amended

Posted by Iannucci | 7/21/2009 | 5 comments »
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Please be advised the Danica Patrick international dates have been canceled.

Have you at least narrowed down the series where you would drive next year?

"I'd say it's probably not F1."

You don't have any interest in this new U.S. team being formed for F1?

"Not really, and the fact that to my knowledge they've never called.

"I've had opportunities to take it a step further with Formula One, and I don't want to lead anyone down a path. It's not in my heart to go there. I've explored Europe before. I particularly like to be here and I like my family and I like my friends and I like my creature comforts of my home country."
Hey, it's an Old Glory she's got tattooed above her behind, folks - not the flag of the United Nations. Land of the free and home of the creature comforts!

If you're interested in parsing words you can read more from Danica's interview with the LA Times. Or watcher her interview with Jim Rome. Or you could leave anonymous comments about how sick you are of the entire process. The choice is yours.

Goodbye, Mr President

Posted by Iannucci | 7/21/2009 | 4 comments »
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After thinking about it for a few hours (then having a few adult beverages and thinking about it some more) I've come to the conclusion this latest news from Indianapolis Motor Speedway only leads to more questions.

* Is Joie Chitwood's resignation related to Tony George's recent resignations?

* Does this mean more high-ranking officials at IMS or within the IRL will also be leaving soon?

* Is there significance that Chitwood is going to work for the corporation that effectively controls the N-Word?

* Would this mean better or worse relations in the future between the IRL and ISC?

* Who really is "The Stig"?

Right now, I don't have any of these answers. TrackSide Online has some thoughts, though. At any rate, here is the full announcement.

New IMSC CEO Belskus will assume role

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, July 20, 2009 - Indianapolis Motor Speedway President and Chief Operating Officer Joie Chitwood announced July 20 he was stepping down from his position after this week's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard and returning to his home state of Florida. His last day with IMS will be Thursday, Aug. 6.

"This is a disappointment for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway," said Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Belskus. "Joie provided the leadership you would expect for a facility that hosts the largest sporting events in the world. With his history in the sport combined with his business acumen, Joie was well-suited for the role of president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and we appreciate how he has represented IMS. We wish him all the best."

Belskus will assume the daily responsibilities of managing the Speedway. It has not been determined if Chitwood will be replaced. Chitwood joined the IMS staff as senior vice president, business affairs Oct. 1, 2002. In December 2004, he was promoted to president and chief operating officer of IMS and oversees daily operations for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, including the Hall of Fame Museum and Brickyard Crossing Golf Course. During Chitwood's tenure as president and COO, IMS has continued to grow in all aspects of its business operations, including the addition of the Red Bull Indianapolis GP MotoGP event to the annual schedule in 2008.

Chitwood was one of the first staff members of the Indy Racing League, as the liaison to its teams, and in 2002 he had the honor of serving as Pace Car driver for the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. His family connection to IMS dates to the late 1930s when his grandfather began competing in the Indianapolis 500.

"After last fall's successful Red Bull Indianapolis GP event and the successful launch of the Speedway's Centennial Era, I began to start thinking about new challenges," Chitwood said. "Because of my family's history here at the Speedway, it was very difficult to make this decision to leave. Since my grandfather started bringing me here when I was young and knowing he raced in the '500,' I had a lifetime of memories for this place before joining the company in 1996 as an Indy Racing League employee."

Before joining the IMS executive staff, Chitwood was vice president and general manager of Raceway Associates, LLC, which oversaw construction of the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., from 1999-2002. In 2001, the track began playing host to Indy Racing League- and NASCAR-sanctioned events.

Chitwood is becoming the vice president of business operations for the International Speedway Corporation, with headquarters in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Yes, Joie Chitwood is leaving IMS to work for ISC, and thank you so much for bringing up such a painful subject like N****R. While you're at it, why don't you give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it?

Wedding Bells for Anthony

Posted by Iannucci | 7/20/2009 | 0 comments »
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Sorry ladies - Quattro has gotten himself hitched, and to a "beautiful flaxen-haired bride" no less. Congratulations to the happy couple.

Anthony (A.J.) Foyt IV and Casey Irsay were married Saturday evening in a simply elegant ceremony held at the Calistoga Ranch resort in the Upper Napa Valley wine country.

With a wedding theme of black and white, the couple exchanged vows amidst a spectacular backdrop of Lommel Lake and the surrounding canyon with family and friends attending from all over the country.

Radiant in her Caroline Herrera-designed wedding gown, the beautiful flaxen-haired bride appeared to glide to the white rose laden wedding bower escorted by her father Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts football team.

(MORE from Foyt Racing)

A brief tribute to the dearly departed

Posted by Iannucci | 7/20/2009 | 1 comments »
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As you may have heard, America's most famous TV newsman passed away this weekend. I suppose I could say spill some words of reverence since I met the man twice during my time at Arizona State's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, so I'll just say he was always nice and polite to us students. Honestly, the legendary anchor had retired from nightly newscasts, and my family usually watched NBC instead of CBS.

As you also may have heard (or even seen), 18-year-old Henry Surtees was tragically killed during a Formula Two race at Brands Hatch when he was hit by a loose wheel from another car. No matter how many technological achievements are made auto racing is and always will be a dangerous sport. Fuel, metal, and adrenaline are the same ingredients in both motorsports and modern warfare, so the tragic shadow of mortal danger is always lurking close. And it still stings when it occurs, especially to a teenager.

So what does Walter Cronkite have to do with racing? Funny you should ask (assuming of course you did, although if you didn't don't let my silly rhetorical question distract you any further.)

What is it they seek, that they are willing to face such dangers to achieve? The answer is one that no man can with certainty provide for another.

Rest In Peace, Walter and Henry.

(Thanks to our buddy Lewis Franck - who's actually a swell racing journalist - for bringing this YouTube gem to our attention.)

UPDATE: Check out "Walter Cronkite, the race car driver" from the New York Times.

Mr. Cronkite drove several times in the Little Le Mans endurance races in the late 1950s at Lime Rock, in a Volvo PV444. He once finished as high as third over all; he took home the winner’s trophy, however, for coming in first in his class.

“He drove in the 12 Hours of Sebring once, 1959, I believe, and he filed radio reports for CBS between shifts,” [Donald] Davidson said Monday in an e-mail exchange.

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 7/19/2009 | 1 comments »
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"I might consider coming up with some sort of 21st Century "Snake Pit" because so many young people are first exposed to the 500 and to IndyCar by partying in the "Snake Pit"." - Jack Arute, mindful caretaker of traditions involving "exposure", on changes he would make to the Indy 500.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 7/17/2009 | 10 comments »
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What does this one say?

(On a side note, I swear every picture I see with Tony Kanaan seems worthy of this category. The man has more facial expressions than a barrelful of mimes.)

Photo: TrackSide Online

Everything costs more in Canada

Posted by Iannucci | 7/16/2009 | 8 comments »
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One of the recent fears among those invested in professional athletes is that that all of this new media stuff like blogs and twitter and facebook will inadvertently lead to some superstar saying or doing something that damages their career. Like "They pay my sorry ass too much" or "I hope the terrorists bomb Dallas next" or "Yo, just shot a hooker...LMAO!"

Often though the fears are that they'll say something bad relating to a sponsor. You can't be paid a ton of money from Pepsi and say "Enjoying a might fine Coke at the movies" and not expect to it to cost you dearly. Perhaps Danica Patrick might be learning this lesson soon.

It's probably disconcerting enough for potential sponsors that Mrs Hospenthal rarely mentions her sponsors in the ways other drivers do (yet another reason to think she wont be racing in N****R anytime soon) but she does come through for her sponsors in other ways. Witness the fact that her twitter account is backed by "Tissot", makers of finer watchery products.

And speaking of twitter, and of sponsors, here's what Danica said on her twitter page yesterday.

oh ya sorry for the lack of tweets.....i didnt know what the charges would be in canada?!

So I guess we just learned that Boost Mobile doesn't offer any Canadian plans.

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 7/15/2009 | 2 comments »
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"I'd say run a couple races and see if you even like doing it first, because you might get into it and you might not even like it. I'd say at least run a couple races and try it out. It's one of those things, you know.

I guess you could always go back to running IndyCars, or whatever if she didn't like it, but it's a big change. I've read a couple things about her saying how busy her schedule is, well, there's no off weekends over here. The only time that we get off, that we know that we're off, is December 22nd and January 2nd. That's it. That's the only time you can plan on doing anything all year long. You might get a couple days off here and there but the life of a Sprint Cup driver is pretty busy."
- Sam Hornish Jr, on sage advice he would give to recent stock car groupie Danica Patrick.

Hinch strikes again

Posted by Iannucci | 7/15/2009 | 3 comments »
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If you didn't get a chance to watch James Hinchcliffe wax poetic about such subjects as Chuck Norris and Nickelback then check out his video answers in the most recent edition of Friday Night Lights. It takes about 10 seconds to notice that Hinch acts like he's having more fun being a race car driver than any driver not named "Helio". And that's a good thing

Hinch is also quite the master of multimedia, filling up his spare time around the track by recording his own video features. All he needs is a two-pound sandwich, fifty Canadian dollars, and a stopwatch. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Kaaveh-yashi!

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Tomas Scheckter, twitter comedian

Posted by Iannucci | 7/14/2009 | 3 comments »
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Normally a person would be upset after experiencing a car crash, especially one said person may have caused, but apparently some race car drivers are a different breed. I don't have the full story (paging Mr Cavin, Mr Curt Cavin) but for now here's what Tomas Scheckter revealed on twitter.

Going to the pet store.

I just had a fender bender.....I was lucky the guy in front did not throw his gloves at me.

Cop would not accept "it's just racing" excuse. ;)
Yes, he really did tweet that, right down to the little winky thing. I have no idea what the world is coming to, but if you want an entire series of corresponding punchlines that follow up on this be sure to check the International Superstar's many retorts to this incident. Or even write your own.

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Danica's World Leverage Tour continues

Posted by Iannucci | 7/14/2009 | 15 comments »
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We've still got a few months to go before Danica Patrick decides if she wants to stay with AGR, or go to a different IndyCar team, or try a different discipline of racing, or become the next star of the Food Network. In the meantime her World Leverage Tour marches onward, as she goes door-to-door in the racing world to not only seek offers but to also give the appearance that offers are being given to her. It's rather savvy, actually.

Anyhow, today's stop takes her to lovely Concord, North Carolina, home to Stewart-Haas Racing.

Yes, multiple sources confirmed that the princess of the IndyCar Series wanted to take a tour of the Concord, N.C., shop. Patrick, who is currently in her final year of her contract with Andretti Green Racing, has recently expressed interest in options other than open wheel racing.

Patrick was a guest of team owner Tony Stewart last fall at Phoenix. But the two-time Cup champion was not available to be a guide Monday because he was at a Goodyear tire test at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

According to sources, Patrick was introduced to Ryan Newman, crew chief Tony Gibson, General Manager Bobby Hutchens and engineer Matt Borland.

(MORE from FoxSports)
So Danica Patrick tours a race facility and the owner isn't even there to greet her? Hmmm. Maybe we should file this under the proverbial "dog and pony show" category.

In case you were wondering about Bourdais

Posted by Iannucci | 7/13/2009 | 17 comments »
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A certain four-time Champ/CART champion might be available for hire.

Toro Rosso teammate says Sebastien Bourdais is out

NUERBURGRING, Germany (AP) — Sebastien Bourdais' stint with Toro Rosso is over, according to teammate Jaime Alguersuari.

"He's a very good driver," said Alguersuari, a 19-year-old Spanish reserve driver. "But it looks like this year he hasn't given it his all like he's supposed to give. I sincerely believe that Red Bull's decision is just, but it's never good to see someone taken off the team halfway through the season."

Spanish media reported that Alguersuari, who was promoted to reserve driver in time for the German race, would replace Bourdais at the Hungarian GP on July 26.

(MORE from AP)
It's doubtful any IndyCar team has a bucketful of money laying around to put the Frenchman in a seat this year, but stranger things have happened. Speculate wildly amongst yourselves if you must.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 7/13/2009 | 9 comments »
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What does this one say?

(Photo: TrackSide Online)

Graham tells us how he really feels

Posted by Iannucci | 7/12/2009 | 11 comments »
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Typical post-race press releases feature driver quotes so sanitized I swear team representatives simply utilize some piece of software called "Wooden Quote Generator: Millenium Edition". I mean, a driver could have one of his competitors pull alongside and throw a live cobra into his cockpit, causing him to crash into the nearest SAFER barrier and the official quote would be something like "The (sponsor name) boys gave me a great car today but unfortunately we ran into some unforeseen difficulties. It's frustrating because (current event) is such a great race, but we feel we made progress this week and look forward to the next event at (next event)."

But not Graham Rahal, or at least is team representative, who does the unthinkable: he names names. Call it brutal honesty, call it whining, or call it political incorrectness. Whatever your view, there is no denying this is a far more interesting post-race quote issued by the Newman/Haas/Lanigan team.

“It was a frustrating day for the McDonald’s boys. Right from the start the race was bad because (Will) Power didn’t try to stay in his lane on the start. It’s as easy at that; you’re supposed to be two wide and he wasn’t. He came straight across and just took off my front wing. So right away we were fighting an uphill battle and those are the worst races because it’s so frustrating when you know you’re out of the game at the start. After coming in for the wing change I just tried to recover. We had pretty good lap times but I just couldn’t hang in there being behind Danica. She would brake so early and I was bad at judging where she was going to hit the brakes because it was inconsistent, but always early and I ended up flat-spotting my tires. I tried to recover from that as well and then tried to pass Ed. Danica dove in (ahead of Ed) and Ed stayed wide so I dove underneath him and got mid-corner and he turned in while I was there. I tried to back out but I was pinched. That was it for us. I’m not going to blame him though because I should have known that’s what he would do. The whole idea today was to get some points and close on fifth place but now (fifth place) Danica gained a lot of points and moved further away.”
Graham wasn't exactly "out of the game at the start" because two other drivers forced to pit in the opening laps (Will Power and Ryan Briscoe) ended up on the podium, but don't let that get in the way of this thoroughly appreciated diatribe.

Photo: TrackSide Online

LiveBlog: Toronto 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 7/12/2009 | 33 comments »
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Welcome to Canada, where for the first time ever the IndyCar series takes to the streets of Toronto. Justin Wilson will try to win back-to-back races, Penske and Ganassi will try to make up for not winning a race in 2009, and Alex Tagliani will just try to get on the telecast.

For those unfamiliar with the capital of Ontario, Toronto is Home to the storied Maple Leafs professional hockey team as well as the Hockey Hall of Fame. The Maple Leafs though are worth mentioning because they haven't won the NHL's Stanley Cup since 1967, a fact I mention with brutal honesty because a certain Canadian is trying to take my own futile NHL franchise. Two minutes for Instigating, Mr Balsillie.

As for the racing, today's drivers to watch will be Graham Rahal (starting 3rd) and Robert Doornbos (7th). The N/H/L team has won seven previous times with 16 podiums in 23 races in Toronto, and with stats like that I'm starting to doubt my picks in the TSO Fantasy League.

At any rate, it's time to start.

0: Holy plateful of poutine, it looks like the entire population of Canada has signed Paul Tracy's uniform.

0: Will Power in the house, starting 2nd in that very fetching yellow and blue machine.

0: Helio was pretty upset during qualifying, feeling like Scott Dixon held him up. "I'm like, dude! Keep going!" Helio, channeling his inner Keanu Reeves, will start back in 10th today.

0: Get your red tires and blue tires ready, because we're about get this party started Canadian style.

1: We are GREEN! Just as the flag waves Will Power pulls of into the runoff. After about a minute the broadcast team realizes one of the drivers in the front row is missing. Send out recon!

2: Vince Welch FINALLY says Will got a cut tire for some other car. Has to pit so he'll drop to the back. Worst part is Will just got one lap out of a precious set of Red tires.

3: Leaders are Dario, Tagliani(!), Doornbos, Dixon, Conway. Graham Rahal had to pit as well with nose damage. Wanna guess who hit Will Power?

7: Seven of 85 laps down and we are lock stepping all over the place.

8: YELLOW! Dan Wheldon has spun and is stalled on the track. Tried to share the space with Richard Antinucci and that never works out. Wheldon's car is a different shade of camouflage this weekend, a color scheme I will call "Vomitoria".

9: Speaking of color schemes, Mike Conway is in blue with green trim this weekend. Ed Carpenter is in a grey and orange livery, Tony Kanaan is in baby blue and white, and Marco is in black with blue trim. Ironically, Dario Franchitti is actually in a red Target car.

12: Back to green, and within a few turns Scott Dixon has gotten around Doorknobs for third.

12: ...and back to YELLOW as Ed Carpenter has spun on the course. Oh, this is going to be a long day.

13: How shall we pass the time today? I know - I'll pass along some "1st draft movie lines" from the amazing Ken Tremndous, formerly of "Fire Joe Morgan" fame.

14: "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. Are you interested in taking a free stress test?"

15: Back to GREEN, and when you weren't looking Paul Tracy is up to sixth.

15: Both Conway and Tracy go around Doorknobs. Maybe this won't be another epic day for N/H/L after all.

16: "Life is like a box of random objects, varying in size, shape, and material. You never know what you're going to get."

17: Justin Wilson has vanished to 13th. Ryan Briscoe is back in 18th. At a street race? My reality is altered.

18: "I could've been somebody. I could've been a contender. Instead of a nurse practitioner, which is what I am."

19: I bet Will Power is having some great battling for position right now while we watch the leaders go round and round. Guess I'll never know.

21: "1.21 jiggawatts?! The only thing that could create that much energy would be...the power of dance."

22: Dario Franchitti has pulled ahead by over 3 seconds over Alex Tagliani.

23: "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was when he put a handkerchief in his fist and he opened it and it was gone."

24: Vince tells us "Tomas says the car has had a very sensitive rear end". Don't we all?

25: Pit stops starting for race leaders. Dario first, and OOPSIE! It's the rerutn of the Ganassi Pit Circus. A problem with the right-rear tire costs him a few extra seconds.

26: I guess the other leaders are staying out. Tagliani leads! Dixon, Conway, Tracy and Moraes follow along. Meanwhile, Ed Carpenter has gone off course and once again will require assistance.

30: Dixon peels off for a standard pit servicing. Taglinai and Tracy - two Canadians - are now battling for the lead in Toronto. Is David Stern running the IRL now?

31: Will Power is up to 10th. Would have been nice to see how that happened.

32: Tracy pits. No issues.

33: Tracy back on the track, battling Mick Conway. ISSUES! Tracy gets around Mike but Conway appears to have a tire go down and BAM he slaps the wall hard. It's just not an IndyCar race unless Mike Conway's car gets up close and personal with the wall. No caution flag as Conway's car limps back towards the pits.

34: Tagliani finally pits. Leaders are now Moraes, Scheckter, Matos, Helio, Power. Power is back up to 5th and we haven't seen a single bit of it.

39: Joe Jonas pits. Tomas Scheckter leads on a street course. Really? Maybe there's something to that MonaVie stuff after all.

41: Will Power is up to third and HOORAY we get to watch him racing.

42: Scheckter pits. Revolving race leadership is now Helio, Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tagliani, Wilson. I'm so confused.

43: Will Power peels off. BAD pit stop as the air gun gets stuck to the front-right tire. So much for Penske Perfect.

46: Marty says "We've learned that Richard Antinucci's car has been taken behind the wall". Sounds like they're going to put it down. About time.

47: Danica "foot cam".

48: Helio pits and hands the lead back to Alex Tagliani. Alex, Tracy, Dixon, Moraes, Dario now lead the way.

55: Battle for fourth shown. Televised contest for position - what a concept. Dario is all up on Moraes and...they cut away. Is there a rule that we're not allowed to see any actual passing?

57: Paul Tracy pits for the last time today, getting a fresh set of Reds.

59: YELLOW! Rahal in the ray-wall. Looks like this time it might be Ed Carpenter's fault, as the grey and orange car let two cars by but probably didn't see the third (Graham).

59: Dario was in the pits when the yellow came out but he's okey doke. Still gets to make his stop without having to drive through and come back again. I thought that was a no-no, but perhaps these rules are open to interpretation.

60: Everyone's going to make their final pit stops - except Dario, Tracy and maybe some others.

63: Back to green, and Helio is you leader with Dario and Tracy right behind him.

63: Passing! Danica around Hideki Mutoh. Then a few more around Mutoh. Even the now notorious Ed Carpenter.

65: Dario around Helio in a televised pass for the lead! Excuse me - I need to take a drink.

66: Drama alert! Tracy tries to get around Helio for second. Pulls alongside Helio going two-wide through the turns, they touch, then BAM Helio puts Paul into the wall! Day OVER! Oh, of all the people to take out Paul...

66: Helio pulls to the pits, gets out of his car, and get some serious catcalls and booing from the Canadian crowd.

67: Helio says "Honestly, I need to see the replay. He would be the last guy I'd want to take out in Canada." Apologizes to Canadian fans. Replay looks a lot like Helio squeezed him into the wall after they bumped tires.

68: Paul calmly says "I think it was a racing deal." Is it wrong that I was hoping for a little animosity leading to an epic throwdown? If it is, please forgive me.

69: Leaders are Dario, Briscoe, Wilson, Power. I think I have these four on my TSO fantasy team this week, so bully for me!

70: Back to green and Tony Kanaan has damage from some incident we may never see. Looks like it might be the end of the day for him as his car rolls towards the pits.

71: Will Power, Street Thug, goes around Wilson for third. They need to play the theme from "Jaws" whenever they show Will today.

72: Mario Moraes punts EJ Viso into the tire barrier for a local yellow. Ed Carpenter would be glad to learn it's now officially an IndyCar race.

74: YELLOW as there's a parking lot in Turn three. Scheckter, Tags and Moraes tried to go three wide on a street course, and that NEVER works. No violent contact but ther might be some damage to Scheckters front from tapping the tire barrier.

75: Tagliani has a broken front wing. Tomas stands on the track and unleashes the patented Scheckter glove throw at Alex as he goes by. I think Scheckter wants to shove that wing up Tagliani's backside right about now.

77: Dario, Briscoe, Power, Wilson, Dixon lead the field towards conclusion.

78: Marty Reid just confused Tagliani's white car with Viso's dark grey car. Can we get a sobriety test in the broadcast booth?

79: Dixon around Justin Wilson for fourth. Now he's closing in on Will Power.

80: Scheckter says Alex mad a "non-brain move" when he punted him in that three-wide accident. That's a new one.

81: Unless Dixon can get around Power we may be done with passing.

83: One last one from Ken Tremendous: "You take the blue pill, you wake up and believe whatever... No -- wait, that's the red pill. I think. S**t. Let me call my guy."

84: White flag for Dario. Ganassi, Penske, Penske, Ganassi - even on a street course.

85: Checkers for Dario for his second win on a street course this year! And now...cue the Ashley Judd hat cam!

This week with Ashley: "I'm a bit of a texting fiend...went to the port-a-potty...whatever is gonna happen is gonna happen...he loves to work special to win in Canada...more podiums than Montoya (in 1999)...a win is huge." There's no other moment in sports comparable with a post race interview with Ashley.

HOLY BLOOD-THIRSTY VENGEANCE, BATMAN! Replay shows after the race Moraes pulling alongside EJ Viso and colliding with him, wrecking both cars. Double-U-Tee-Eff, Mario?

Mario says: "I was trying to overtake Viso and he was blocking everyone on the track...he broke my front wing...after the checkered flag he saw me, closed the door, broke my car."

EJ says: "He just hit me once and I got a puncture...didn't respect my line and he just hit me...the second one was the most idiot one...I was opening my visor I was drinking water ant he hit me in the back. I don't know what he was thinking about, I don't know if he didn't see the checkered flag or what...he needs to go to the doctor's."

After further review, that's ALL on Mario. In car camera shows EJ had lifted his visor right before Mario drilled him. I can't believe EJ was thinking about any shenanigans at that point. Time to send Mario to the corner of the Pagoda and make him keep his nose to the wall for a few hours.

Helio v Tracy, Scheckter v Tagliani, Moraes v Viso - what's with all the rage today? Two words: Blame Canada. Try to drive home sefely folks, especially if you're near the streets of fury in Toronto.

Congrats to Dario and all the other competitors who managed to not make any enemies today, especially Ryan Briscoe who finishes second YET AGAIN. He's as predictable as the sun rising. Should be one giant lovefest for the next race in Edmonton. Thank you all very much (especially the folks who are already lighting up the Comments section) and good night!

The International Superstar reflects

Posted by Iannucci | 7/10/2009 | 1 comments »
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Ladies and gentlemen, Shane Rogers has left the building. And that's a shame, because while we've been belly-aching about two-team dominance, single-file racing, and the possible loss of yet another oval this fellow from Australia has been traveling to every race from Indy to The Glen, cheerfully tweeting and blogging with undaunted fervor about the entire experience.

But now he's gone home to resume his life as something of a digital pit boss, sadly leaving us here in North America with a void. I know - he's just one guy, one fan - but if you were fortunate enough to meet him you'd realize in about the time it takes for an IndyCar to make a pit stop that this guy has a passion for the sport that stands as a solid measure for the rest of us.

In other words, he never shuts up. So why let the fact that he's gone back Down Under stop him now. Ladies and gentlemen, here are some parting observations on the America, the IRL, and being Hideki's invisible wingman from Shane, a.k.a. "the International Superstar".

MNII: First off, how did a guy from Australia become such a big IndyCar fan?

SR: The earliest memory I have of Indycar racing is the 1985 Indianapolis 500. I can remember watching it, but it can’t have been live, because I wasn’t allowed to stay up to watch Formula 1 races until 1986.

Oval racing was a completely new concept to me, and the mystery of it at the time was probably the greatest attraction.

Once the Gold Coast event started here in 1991, the interest started to peak, although I didn’t have the series accessible on TV for me until 1992 being in regional Australia.

Once I saw a few of the races in 1992, I was hooked. It was hard work during the split to keep an eye on the IRL, because there was no coverage at all, but once the Internet got up to speed it got easier.

MNII: What made you decide to make this massive multi-week trip?

SR: I needed to see the Indianapolis 500, and I had the opportunity. Do I need another reason?

Originally it was going to be six weeks, but the budget situation and the leave situation at work improved, and with the schedule stacked like it is, it was an attractive proposition dollar wise to get in as many races as possible.

MNII: Curt Cavin wrote a story about you in the IndyStar, there was much discussion about you on blogs and twitter, and just last week you were featured on IMS Radio. Was this total media domination part of the plan for your summer?

SR: (laughs) No! To be honest I’ve been totally taken back with the attention and response that I’ve received.

Granted, I’ve got passion for the sport and a degree of insight from some of the stuff I do in Australia, but really, the only difference between me and 5,000 other people at every event is that I’m geographically disadvantaged compared to them and when you say “Too-Mutoh”, I say “Too-Matos”.

I have to say, all the media I dealt with was fantastic. Curt Cavin was fantastic in helping me out while I’ve been here, he could have got his story at Indy, and left me to my own devices, but he went out of his way to find me with advice on places to go when I was at each venue. That info was invaluable to a first time tourist.

MNII: Near the end of your trip you “tweeted” about being recognized in the Memphis airport. (In my best Jack Arute voice) Describe the feeling of transforming from “Shane from Australia” to “International Superstar”?

SR: Ha (laughs again). T.J. from Bloomington; good bloke too. I had to catch a flight, would have loved to have a proper chat.

Given you started this International Superstar thing, maybe you should be explaining it! It’s odd. It’s gratifying to know that people actually enjoy what you say and value your opinion. I live in a bit of a vacuum here being an Indycar fan, people here just smile and nod when I go on a Donald Davidson style motor racing tangent.

So to be able to interact with fans was fantastic. I hope they got as much out of it as I did.

The nickname is a good laugh, I’m already getting picked on about that. I suspect I may not live that down here.

(Ed Note: It's true - I kinda made up that moniker, but Curt Cavin carried that water to justify it as much as anyone. Still, when Shane decides to release "International Superstar" gear I'll gladly take accept a marginal percentage of the proceeds.)

MNII: Did you get a chance to hang with Ryan Briscoe, Will Power, James Davison or any other Australians?

SR: No, not really. Really only because I was always running around and so were they. Will hasn’t forgiven me yet for perpetuating the “Toowoomba Tornado” nickname. I don’t blame him. I said congrats to Ryan for pole as he wandered past at Milwaukee.

Would have like to have seen James, he’s from my part of the world in Melbourne, maybe next time. I did some volunteer work last year for the Australian Motor Sport Foundation (, when he was a funded driver for them, he’s a good kid, they should have funded him another year.

One of my drinking buddies in Melbourne was running around for NHLR while I was here, so we caught up.

MNII: How about Hideki Mutoh? Does he know about your relentless efforts as his invisible wingman, and was it a successful endeavor?

SR: Never heard anything from Hideki, so I don’t think he’s using any of my techniques. I saw Lauren (Bohlander) with Hinchtown (James Hinchcliffe) on Up To Speed, she wasn’t interested, she was dreaming of Hideki. Ball’s in his court there.

MNII: Did you find that IMS was all that it was billed to be? What was most striking to you about The Speedway or The 500?

SR: Absolutely. The standard of the facility and the event is phenomenal. The thing that impressed me about the track was the standard of maintenance for a race circuit. I understand why they have so many staff now. Most football fields in the area here would kill their grandmother to have that much green grass. And the architecture is amazing. The pagoda is a beautiful building.

The Race Day atmosphere and pre-race was an awesome experience. That 45 minutes before the green flag went like a blur. It’s a very special time.

MNII: Which other tracks/events left the biggest impression on you?

SR: All the tracks had elements that surprised me in some way. The event I’d like to check into luggage was Iowa. When people outside Iowa say “why are all you media guys excited about this race with only 40-odd thousand people?”, they’ve obviously never been there. The track is awesome, the crowd is very knowledgeable and “into it”, which produces a unique atmosphere. One that you don’t get when half your crowd is there purely to get the full value of their NASCAR based season ticket.

MNII: You actually traveled over a good portion of North America. Which spot was your favourite?

SR: Gee, that’s a hard one. I loved Indy. I know full well that this opinion is biased towards the fact that the racetrack is there, but I really enjoyed Indianapolis.

But really, there weren’t many places I didn’t like. Milwaukee, Iowa, I really enjoyed the heartland America experience that these places delivered. New York is great, but frankly, standing in Times Sqaure, you’re as likely to learn more about Scandinavian culture than you are American culture if you start a conversation with the person next to you. I feel I got a far more genuine U.S. experience compared to your average tourist, and that aspect I really enjoyed.

MNII: What was the final verdict in your Hot Dog comparison?

SR: There was little doubt about Milwaukee’s position in P1. There was some serious taste action there. The middle four were close. Indy’s were passable, and so were The Glen’s, but the Glen’s did well to come in at two dollars. Richmond was the Dale Coyne of the bunch, they didn’t look like a Penske on paper, but surprised. Texas was disappointing given Eddie’s attention to detail.

MNII: How would you characterize today's IndyCar fans? Are we excitable die hards or a bunch of unappreciative whiners or what?

SR: All of the above perhaps? I don’t know. The split has done some weird things to the fan base that we had, say 20 years ago. I think the fanbase is a lot more segmented than it used to me.

We have some very unique markets now, for example, we have a bunch of Canadian fans, who haven’t seen much of the IRL on ovals, because they’ve been on the Champcar side of the segmentation. If you ask them what the key brand values of this series are, you’ll get some significantly different answers from somebody say, in the Iowa market.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the people that watch the series regularly are knowledgeable. Combine that with the segmentation, and the IRL have a tough time keeping everybody happy.

MNII: Taking a month off was probably a pretty pricey venture. Will you be trying this again anytime soon?

SR: Yeah, we’re still pulling apart the budget figures now, but it’s five figures in Australian Dollars, and some. Without finalising a number and a grand plan for the next tour, I’m thinking the new car would be the right time to do it again, which means 2012 from what I’m reading.

Of course, if I could figure out a way to feed myself and watch Indycar racing, that’s possible too. I’m not averse at this point in my life to going overseas to work, and I’d like to think I have some skills that would be useful to some people in the paddock. I think if I want to broaden my knowledge of racing, working in a different series is something I have to do.

MNII: Final question: what moment will be your biggest lasting memory from this summer?

SR: Oh, that’s a hard one. (pause) The last bars of “Back Home Again in Indiana” being drowned out by the roar of the crowd are something that every sports fan should experience in person.

But, you know, I had so many great experiences, both within and outside the confines of Indycar racing. Fantastic doesn’t do the experience justice. Can’t wait to do it again. I’ll be back. I have to come back; I have to find out if pressdog has eaten any of my Vegemite.

(Thanks to Shane, and IndyCar superfan and all-around great guy, for agreeing to this magnificent recap. I'm trying to talk him into being a guest writer at My Name Is IRL, and not just so we can have alternate spellings of and "finalising" and "favourite".

Tony George not feeling the love

Posted by Iannucci | 7/10/2009 | 4 comments »
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As many of you saw today, Tony George released a statement on the new and improved Vision Racing site that was "in response to the June 30th announcement by the Board of Directors of Hulman & Company". It was was a tersely worded exercise in restraint, bordering on a sterile description

Fortunately your humble host speaks "sterile press release", so allow me to give you a taste of the unsanitized version.

“Nearly 20 years ago, I was asked by my family to represent our business as President and Chief Executive Officer. Since accepting that position, I have served at the pleasure of the board and, in doing so, I enthusiastically agreed to commit myself to stewardship of a great institution. While my service as CEO has now ended, I consider my stewardship to be a life-long appointment."
Translation: My sisters aren't the biggest racing fans in the world so they asked me to take over. And why wouldn't I? I get to be in charge of the biggest, most awesomest motorsports event in the world. Would YOU turn that down? As if.

At a board meeting a little over a month ago, the Board of Directors of Hulman & Co. and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway asked me to propose a management reorganization that would focus my duties exclusively upon the operation, promotion, and development of the Indy Racing League, which I founded in 1994 and have overseen the development of since 1996.
Translation: In the first paragraph this was "my family", but here in the second paragraph where they decide they don't want me near IMS anymore I think I'll just refer to them "the Board". You want business? I'll give you the business.

Don't expect any Christmas cards this year, and don't bother bringing that nasty ambrosia to our Thanksgiving get together either. You think after you kick me out, after I've spent the last decade and a half being blamed for everything wrong with open-wheel racing, that I'm going to put up with your culinary disasters? Survey says "BUZZZZZ"!

At a board meeting last week, I was asked to continue as CEO of the Indy Racing League, reporting to a new President and CEO of IMS. In my view, this would have created an unnecessary bureaucratic layer between the people in the operations of the IRL and the CEO of IMS that had not previously existed. From the perspective of my experience as President and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I am acutely aware that the interests of IndyCar racing as a sport, the IRL as a league, and the most important motorsports race in the world, are mutually dependent and inter-connected, both now and in the future. I did not feel that a subordinate position as “CEO of the IRL” was a management vehicle which would allow me to accomplish the objectives that the family and the board requested me to pursue. I declined that position.
Translation: I don't know what crawled up their collective yahoos, but out of the blue my fam, err, "The Board" decided to give me the boot. They're all like, "We wants to get PAID" and I'm telling them "You're going to get paid" and they're still like "WHEN are we gettin' PAID" and I'm saying "I'm WORKING on it!" What is up?

On top of that they go telling me I'm supposed to run a 13-year-old racing League without having the money from the century-old Speedway. Like you would tell your 13-year-old "sorry, but we've spent too much money on you so you're on your own." Apparently "The Board" forgot how many decades it took to get our magnificent Speedway to the great financial footing it's at today, but it looks like history lessons aren't my problem anymore. I did what I thought was best for all of us, but if they don't like it then so be it. I'm not going to be "CEO of the IRL" just so they can jerk my chain the next time they get in a tizzy.

Screw you guys, I'm going home to my racing team.

(MORE from Vision Racing's Tony George)

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 7/10/2009 | 0 comments »
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"So what’s this about my old enemy, Sebastien Bourdais, huh? Someone asked me, I guess just for a joke, whether I’d like to see him back over here in the series. I said, “I’d like to see myself back in the series before I see him here.” In my opinion, it would be a criminal act to have him just walk back into the series and welcomed with open arms and an open seat, when I’ve had to lather everyone up with lotion to get what little I’ve got." - Paul Tracy, thinking happy thoughts about one of the lost rivalries of motorsport.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 7/09/2009 | 14 comments »
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What does this one say?

(Photo: Indy Racing Experience)

20 million reasons to love Brazil

Posted by Iannucci | 7/09/2009 | 11 comments »
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Indy Racing League officials seem to be pretty excited about this prospective race in Brazil, especially when word comes from TrackSide Online that teams traveling to the race will each get north of $125K each - and that's on top of the TEAM money which already pays teams around $1.3M for a full-time entry. But how does this phrase strike you?

"For Indy, Ribeirão Preto pay $ 20 million and will have a street circuit."

Furious Wedge has more from a Brazilian news article, translated from Portuguese, but as he notes "With that money (likely somewhat dispersed to teams as well in sponsorship & travel costs) this race could be even better for the IndyCar Series than a title sponsor."

Seriously. Twenty meeeeeeeellion dollars! That's F1 money.

Yellow Power

Posted by Iannucci | 7/08/2009 | 7 comments »
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James at 16th and Georgetown has uncovered Will Power's new color scheme. It doesn't have as much to do with Verizon Wireless anymore.

It does however harken back a bit to a previous Penske car that had some notable success in 1987s.

I'm guessing most of you will greet Will's new livery with approval.

One thing I'm still wondering about is the reasoning for Will's part-time schedule that The Captain has prepared for him in lieu of the Helio Castroneves acquittal (and subsequent outbreak of hugging and crying). Running a third car at Indy makes complete sense since the purse is so significant, but for all other races Team Penske has more to lose than gain (at least in a financial sense) by fielding Will. The only explanation is that Team Penske is preparing to be a three-car team in 2010.

If that's the case, would that be a good thing because it's one more full-time car or a bad thing because it's one more full-time car for one of the two teams that win nearly every race?

(Photo: IMS)

Indy 500 champ takes on X-games

Posted by Iannucci | 7/08/2009 | 1 comments »
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Wanna guess what the winner of the 1999 Indianapolis 500 is up to this summer?

Drivers Kenny Brack, Tanner Foust and Brian Deegan will drive rally-prepared Ford Fiestas in competition at X Games 15 in Los Angeles in late July.

The Fiestas will be fielded by Sweden's Olsbergs Motor Sport Evolution. That is the same group that is bringing rally-prepped Fiestas to Colorado's Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in July.

Brack is the 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner. He will drive a three-door Fiesta in the X Games, his first time at the event. Brack retired from pro driving in 2006 to pursue a music career, but he still participates in special events.

(MORE from AutoWeek)
He probably still participates in motorsports because his music career, launched with a song about AJ Foyt of all things, never really took off.

No word yet on if Jeff Ward, who has no music videos but is still hero to Nearly Old Guys everywhere, is returning to the X-Games to defend his Moto X SuperMoto title.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 7/08/2009 | 11 comments »
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What does this one say?

FYI - That's Robin Miller in the black shirt.

(Photo: Trackside Online)

It's a girl

Posted by Iannucci | 7/08/2009 | 1 comments »
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Congratulations go out to Scott Dixon and his lovely wife Emma on the birth of their first child. The little daughter was born Sunday after Scott returned to Indianapolis from his 3rd-place finish at Watkins Glen.

The Dixon family waited nearly a day to reveal (or possibly to decide) on a name for their little girl. The final verdict: Poppy Davies Dixon.

I presume that's after the flower and not a tribute to Michael "King of Pop" Jackson, but you never know.

Two stories about the 2-seater

Posted by Iannucci | 7/07/2009 | 3 comments »
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Since I mentioned pressdog in the last post (heck, I mention him in nearly every post just in case Paul Tracy reads this site) I wanted to point out what was and will be his best post of the year before it gets lost in the shuffle. It's about his ride in the IndyCar two-seater around his local venue, the Iowa Speedway.

About half way through lap two while sitting in the back of the Indy Racing Experience two-seat Dallara, an unexpected thought crossed my mind: "faster."

I certainly didn't expect to become Mr. Need-for-Speed going into my June 19 (the Friday before the Iowa Race) track debut as "just a passenger" in the Indy Racing Experience two-seater at Iowa Speedway.

I expected to crawl from the car, apologizing for both hurling AND crapping my pants.

(MORE from pressdog)
Do yourself a favor and take a read the whole thing. You might be ready to sign up for the few minutes to Indy Racing Experience yourself.

Bill's story reminded me of a story about the two-seater that I forgot to post almost a month ago. It seems Davey Hamilton was at the helm and was giving rides to members of the Toronto media as a promotion for the race coming up this weekend. Mike Strobel of the Toronto Sun described who was checking out the modified IndyCar during his trip around the block with Davey.

You got your wannabe paparazzi sticking their phone cameras out their minivan windows.

You got your crackheads, pill-poppers, dopers and boozehounds, wondering if that last dose spawned the monster that just sped past them.

You got your suits, pretending not to notice.

You got your daycare kids pointing and squealing.

You got your cops?
Yup, Ontario's Finest pulled them over. Read all about it in the Toronto Sun, and after you do be sure to check your mud flaps.

Paul Tracy loves pressdog

Posted by Iannucci | 7/06/2009 | 3 comments »
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It's true.

I guess that’s it for today. I’ll pad this out a bit more by picking today to say thanks to all of you who’ve been writing in response to these blogs. It’s good to know there are still some fans of mine out there. And thanks also whoever it is at who’s been sending readers over to these blogs. Malsher at RACER tells me pressdog’s play-by-play notes after the Richmond race were funny but sad at the same time. I guess we all have a bunch of theories about how to fix the series, and media guys can only report on what’s happening – or not happening – out there on track. The decisions about how to improve the racing have to come from further up the line.
Better get a mop, because I guarantee Bill just dropped his water.

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 7/06/2009 | 3 comments »
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"This year, with my luck, if I had a duck it would drown." - AJ Foyt, owner of an IndyCar team that after a 9th place finish at the opener at St Pete has finished only three races - none higher than 15th place. Be careful because he may soon throw a bulldozer at somebody.

LiveBlog: Watkins Glen 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 7/05/2009 | 30 comments »
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Welcome to Wimbledon, where Andy Roddick and Roger Federer are locked in possibly the most epic tennis match in history. Do I like tennis? No. Does it matter? Hell no! Even I know that when were in the fifth set and it's 11-11 it's something worth watching.

Maybe this is what the IndyCar series is missing: a personal battle between 2 particular combatants, going at a record-setting pace. Maybe if Helio and Dixon each get over 20 wins and keep trying to best the other on the all-time list it might be a semblance of this tennis match I and probably many of you are watching. 12-11 Federer.

Meanwhile the IndyCar series travels to Watkins Glen for a road course event after a series of dismal oval events. I don't know if there will be more passing, but there can't be any LESS overtaking than we've seen the last month or so. Aside from the first few laps at Iowa it's been a slog for fans. Roddick equalizes at 12-12.

Alright, I owe it to the tens of My Name Is IRL readers to to switch over to the IndyCar race. But it's a bitter sweet decision because as much as I look forward to any IRL race I know history when I see. Federer retakes the advantage at 13-12.

But at Watkins Glen, it's time to start.

0: Ryan Hunter-Reay, as defending champion here, is getting lots of pre-race airtime. I don't remember the last time I saw an AJ Foyt driver get so much time on camera. Might have been AJ Foyt himself. Twitter followers inform me "Roddick in trouble in his service game but held for 13-13".

0: Change up in some color schemes today. Dario is in a fetching black Polaroid livery and Dan Wheldon has returned to camouflage. It's slightly different than the camo scheme he had at Indy this year. More stripes so it looks like an older military scheme. Meanwhile, 14-14 at Wimbledon.

0: Am I the only person who gets annoyed that Scott Goodyear and Marty Reid both keep saying Dario like it rhymes with "stereo"? Maybe I'm just sensetive at how often my name keeps

0: Front row is Briscoe and Justin Wilson. Dale Coyne car may get actual airtime today. 15-14 Federer.

1: And we are Green with possibly the best start to an IndyCar race in years.

1: Carbon fiber is in the air as Hunter-Reay is shown driving with a bent front right tire. How did that happen? No video, so we'll have to wait for the press release.

2: Wilson is trying to get around Briscoe but Ryan is "defending" all over the track.

3: Finally get a replay of the RHR accident and it looks like he got into the back of Rafa Matos, sending Matos spinning. Presumably Matos recovered because he's still racing.

3: Wilson finally gets around Briscoe, making the top 5 Justin, Ryan, Moraes, Dixon, Conway. Conway? Yes, Conway.

4: Federer finally breaks Roddick's serve and wins 16-14.

5: Marco has slowed and appears to have a flat tire. Viso tried to dive bomb him in a turn but only got his front wing next to Marco, clipping Andretti's right-rear tire.

7: Marco gets his tires changed but comes back out right in front of the leaders. Marco battles to stay on the lead lap but in half a lap gets passed by Wilson and Briscoe. Thank you all for not wrecking.

9: Rahal pits off sequence. This brings my extremely distant cousin, Richard Antinucci, is up to 14th in his IndyCar series debut.

13: Judging from the scoring it appears drivers are changing position but I an't seeing any of it. I guess we'll have to wait for pits stops.

14: Marty Reid sees Paul Tracy making a pit stop and asks "Did they put fuel in?" Is he trying to direct the audience or is he just dense?

17: Wilson leads Briscoe by less than a second, but Moraes in third by over 8 seconds. Dixon in fourth 12 seconds back.

18: After that early spin Matos has worked up to 10th.

18: Wilson pits, surrendering the lead to Briscoe. Danica and Helio pit as well.

19: YELLOW! My cousin Richard is stalled on the track. Briscoe can't make a full pit stop with the pits closed buyt he has to come in for a splash and go. He'll lose a position if the other leaders don't pit under this yellow. Moraes now leads

20: Dario, Dixon, Kanaan, Briscoe, Moraes and others all pit and fall back.

22: Still eallow. More commercials. No idea who's leading. I thought Wilson would cycle to the lead on the pit stops but it appears ABC is listing Briscoe as still leading.

23: I was right. Wilson, Conway, Rahal, Mutoh, Helio are the leaders. Back to green and Rahal quickly zooms past Conway and up to second.

23: Yellow! Dario in the kitty litter in the bus stop. Locked it up and did a little half spin into the sand.

23: Replay shows Mario Jonas Moraes running up into Ed Carpenter going through the same turn. Much bouncing and bumping like a couple of teenagers on the dance floor. No parts flying off but either car could be damaged.

25: Rahal pits to change tires. He's off on his own pitting sequence today.

25: Moraes will get a drive-thru penalty for aggressive driving. He has to go to McDonalds and get a Big Mac and fries for the IHJ.

26: Back to green. Wilson, Conway, Mutoh, Helio, Wheldon. In the last few weeks Mutoh has clearly become the stallion of the AGR stable.

28: Wheldon around Helio for fourth. Is it me or is Dan doing better on non-ovals this year despite moving from Ganassi to Panther?

29: Moraes is back in the pits so something might have been damaged after his incident with Ed. Not shocking. Meanwhile Viso and Paul Tracy are battling for some-teenth position.

31: YELLOW as Paul Tracy is backed into some armco. Replay shows he just lost the rear grip and spun it exiting a turn. Not Viso's fault.

32: Don't look now but Marco appears to be back on the lead lap in P14. I have no idea how, but there it is.

32: Graham Rahal is complaining that his teammate Robert Doornbos is blocking him and nearly put him in the grass. Not feeling the love.

33: With all of these extended yellows the leaders will likely only need one more stop to finish the race. Bully for Justin Wilson.

34: Back to green. 15 cars on the lead lap.

35: Interview with Paul Tracy who busts the deep line "We were hoping for some yellows but I ended up being one of them." Admits fault, which seems to be a rarity these days. We'll see him racing next week in Toronto.

37: Justin Wilson is still in first. Mike Conway is still in second. Graham Rahal is still behind his beloved teammate. No one passing anyone, so it smells a lot like the pungent odor of fuel conservation.

40: Wilson and Conway pit. Helio inherits the lead. Drama as the race appears to be down to the Coyne and D&R crews. Wilson out in front on the red (faster) tires. 20 laps to glory for Dale Coyne.

41: Helio pits, and on exit the camera switches BEFORE WE SEE IF HE CAME OUT IN FRONT OF WILSON!!!! AAAAARGH!!!!

42: Briscoe pits, and I think Wheldon did as well. Dixon is now the leader, conserving fuel all over the course. Pretty sure he can't go another 18 laps.

44: Dixon pits. Comes out behind Wilson. Marco is leading now.

45: Marco pits. Leaders are now: Wilson, Briscoe, Dixon, Helio, Conway.

47: In case you did not know, Wilson's Dale Coyne team has never won an IndyCar race. I don't think they've ever won anything. Not even an office pool.

48: The broadcast is now showing an in-car camera of Danica's feet. Got to give Danica her requisite coverage.

50: 10 laps to go. Wilson hanging on with Briscoe, Dixon, Helio right behind him.

52: YELLOW as Mutoh appears to have wrecked in the same spot and manner as Paul Tracy did earlier. Remember how Briscoe inhaled Wilson on the last restart at St Pete? I really don't need to see that again.

54: Back to green and Wilson is ON IT! No passing in the first turn this time. Go Justin Go!

55: Wilson is driving like a man possessed, leading by around a full second over those red cars.

56: This is turning into an annihilation. Wilson is taking a Dale Coyne and expanding the lead to three seconds. He's not even in the camera frame for the cars behind him.

57: It will take an act of Satan to prevent Justin from winning.

58: Lead is around 5 seconds. Years ago one of Justin's teams nicknamed him "Bad Ass". I think that accurately describes his performance today.

59: White flag for Wilson. The only question now is if Jack Arute will make Dale Coyne cry in a post-race interview.

60: Checkered flag for Justin Wilson and Dale Coyne Racing! Check the health of your first born.

Justin's pit crew erupts in celebration hanging on the pit wall. Brienne Pedigo asks Dale how it feels to get his first win. "It took too long."

Elsewhere Ryan Briscoe finishes second like he has so many times this year. Dixon third. Helio fourth. Marco Andretti appears to have gotten around Mike Conway for fifth. Nice recovery from being a lap down after suffering a cut tire early in the race.

Well, that's it from Watkins Glen. Someone has finally broken up the reign of terror of the Big Two, and it turns out to be the last guy to win a race not driving for Penske or Ganassi: Justin Wilson. I still can't believe a Dale Coyne car won, and in dominating fashion no less. There's nothing real in the world anymore.

Congrats to Justin Wilson on a remarkable performance today, slaying the monotony of '09. Thank you very much, folks, and good night!