If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 8/31/2009 | , , | 1 comments »
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This one says a lot of terms involving clinical diagnosis, sterilized hardware, and prescriptions for potent pain medication. It's Nelson Philippe's presentation of "My Left Foot".

Photo: Nelson Philippe twitpic

Today's Vision Racing a welcome sight for IRL fans

Posted by Tony Johns | 8/30/2009 | , , | 4 comments »
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It used to be called "Tony George's Folly." The name alone sent most wags and pundits into paroxysms of ironic laughter.

With apologies to the Monkees (and to you for bringing up the Monkees), that was then. This is now.

Vision Racing has gone from being the paddock joke to a sentimental favorite among IRL fans, and it has done so on the strength of an unprecedented and trend-setting outreach led by its crack PR staff, its drivers, and one of its owners.

All you have to do is look at the explosion in popularity of the team's "tweetups" - get-togethers at IRL events organized via the team's Twitter feed - to see how eager the team is to engage the series' fans. Starting as something of a lark, the concept proved to be so popular that the most recent tweetup at Chicago featured Curt Cavin emceeing, loads of guest drivers and personalities, and even a speaking part for "friend of the blog" Pressdog.

In the hands of Vision's PR chiefs Michael Kaltenmark and Pat Caporali, the Vision Racing Twitter feed is one of the most popular destinations of its kind in motorsports. Michael and Pat believe that public relations means reaching out to the public instead of shielding their clients from it - a somewhat old-school approach in their field these days. Vision driver Ed Carpenter has gotten into the act too, putting his Twitter URL on his helmet and making sure to tweet often.

Perhaps most intriguing are Lauren George's regular blogs at Vision's website. Frank, funny, and surprisingly revealing, Lauren's observations run the gamut from action on the track to experiences off it, all within the context of one of open-wheel racing's most famous (and, in some corners, criticized) first families. They're compelling reading, refreshing for their unexpected honesty.

Vision Racing isn't the only team doing these things but they're one of the only teams that make it appear as if the fans are partners and collaborators in their racing enterprise. In an age of red car dominance and diva drivers, what used to be an IRL irony has turned into a fan favorite.

LiveBlog: Chicagoland 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 8/29/2009 | , | 4 comments »
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Welcome to Chicagoland, located just outside the Windy City of Chicago, where it is not only windy but also cold. Or, as the locals are known to say, "butt cold". In the 50s (Fahrenheit, that is), which is substantially less than the 110-degree sunshine we're enjoying here at My Name Is IRL World HQ. We here will be sweating for all y'all at the race.

Today's big story is the anticipation of some side-by-side racing since this is not only the location of three of the five closest finishes ever, but the last super speedway race at Kentucky was decided by about the distance of Ed Carpenter's shaking arm. We just hope an underdog - ANY underdog - can make a run to the front. It's gotten so bad we're considering Tony Kanaan an underdog.

Also, for the FishHeads in the audience, please be advised that due to Dario's revolving sponsorship deal his car tonight will look nearly identical to Sarah Fisher's. If you see a yellow car near the front to not instinctively reach for a paper bag to breath into.

And with that, it's time to start.

0: We're 5 minutes into the broadcast and Jack Arute has already used the term "plummeting temperatures" several times. Smells like a drinking term, and quite frankly it looks like a little flask of liquid warmth might come in handy tonight.

0: Lindy in the sky(lair) without diamonds, but she is sporting a a big honkin' watch.

0: Robbie Buhl interviews Ed Carpenter. No offense, but this totally pales in comparison to pressdog's Q&A with Ed.

0: Arute is interviewing Kanaan in what looks like a dark alley. It's like an episode of "Cops". I kinda hope Kanaan takes off running and makes Jack chase him down.

0: Robbie is interviewing the always ebullient Helio. P1 just chirped "I know why Helio's so happy. He drinks to much coffee. Or there's something wrong with him." That's my girl!

0: Nostrabeekhuis is goving over telemetry relating to the Will Power/Nelson Philippe incident. Apparently the docs looked at the telemetry and said "Hey Will, your back is broken". Will was probably relieved, although he was also probably looking for his missing teeth.

0: We just learned Ryan Briscoe plays rugby. Riiiiiiight. I'm not douubting he loves the sport, but Ryan's about as big as me, which means he'd get snapped like a twig in the first scrum of the match.

0: Danica has a fetching beanie cap on her melon, looking like she's about to bust out a skateboard. With her contract ending maybe she's trying to suggest we start a rumor about her joining the Olympic snowboard team.

0: Why does Danica get the soaring inspirational soundtrack during her Jack Arute Interrogation? Everyone else got some creepy new-agey crap that sounded straight outta the X-Files.

0: Danica likes to drink wine. And clean the house. And pick up dog crap. For a brief moment, I was almost in love with her there.

0: Robbie Floyd just said this race will be the closest Hideki Mutoh gets to home all year. Uh, what about Motegi?

0: Robbie and Tony Kanaan were asking what kind of girlfriend he's like. "I don't care." Now, more than ever, Hideki needs to take the offer of our own Shane Rogers to serve as his wingman.

0: Let's warm up these cars and get this baby underway before it becomes a Sunday race.

0: I think Deiter from the SNL "Sprockets" skit says "Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines." Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance!

0: Warm up laps. Literally. Briscoe and Castrovenes will lead them to the green flag.

1: And we're green. Fugly. Totally spread out.

2: Kanaan is contesting Dario for third. Tony is driving the Oscar Mayer wienermobile. Has an board camera. Weiner cam?

7: Kanaan drops, Dixon moves up, and here come Ed Carpenter going after the Top 5.

8: Dixon is flying, up to 2nd.

10: Briscoe, Dixon, Dario, Helio, Ed. Help us Obi-Ed, you're our only hope.

11: Dixon contesting for the lead. If he's conserving fuel then I'm a Chinese fighter pilot.

13: Dixon drops back behind Briscoe. Now he's conserving fuel. After the season finale here in 2007 you can't say the phrase "fuel conservation" without saying "Scott Dixon".

17: Ed gets around Helio for 4th. Admit it - you're rooting for Ed tonight. It's OK, you're in good company.

24: Tomas Scheckter nearly takes the front wing off Danica. Robbie Buhl then says "The spotter is just a tool". I just spewed adult beverage all over my laptop.

29: Scheckter is on the move. He's up to 9th. Probably itching to pass 7 cars in one turn as he's done in the past.

32: Graham Rahal, battling Mario Moraes for 6th, nearly puts Moraes in the grass. Jonas Brothers song of the day:: "Hold On!"

39: Since he's been tucked behind Briscoe for 20 laps, do we really need Arute to tell us Scott Dixon is making fuel? Elsewhere, water is wet.

40: Speaking of, when are these cars due for pit stops?

44: Ryan Hunter-Reay is the first to make a pit stop.

45: And Viso. And Fisher. And Conway. And the Weinermobile. And Marco. And Scheckter.

47: Briscoe pits. So does Ed. That means Dixon will pit in about 5 laps.

49: Helio pits. And here comes Dixon and Dario. On exit Briscoe gets around Dario. Helio is behind them. It's now Dixon, Briscoe, Dario, Helio...and Scheckter!

53: Tomas is all up in Ed's business. The front four have pulled away by a few seconds but the nine or so cars behind them are, well, you could throw the proverbial blanket over them.

57: Sensing fans irritation at fuel conservation, Briscoe and Dixon go wheel-to-wheel for the lead. Briscoe's even using The Button in an attempt to get around him.

62: It took him 5 laps but Briscoe finally got around Dixon. It's Penske, Ganassi, Penske, Ganassi - but at least they're racing each other.

72: Marco has to pit because he didn't get enough fuel on his pit stop. Bummer, especially since I think I picked him in my TSO fantasy league.

76: The leaders approach slower traffic and Helio takes the lead. Goes three-wide around Easy Conweasy and Viso to take the lead.

80: Viso and Dixon are going wheel-to-wheel for the first time all year. It won't last, but we can enjoy the moment.

82: Helio, Dixon, Dario, Briscoe, Ed. Scheckter still all over him.

83: All those drivers in the second pack need a yellow to catch back up with the Big Two. Milka Duno, paging Milka Duno.

89: Still no yellows, and the average race speed exceeds 210 mph. This race might actually finish at a reasonable hour. Well, on the West Coast, at least.

92: YELLOW for Mutoh, who is into the wall. He must have thought I was talking to him when I said "Paging Milka". Skidding sideways, throwing dust and possibly marbles everywhere. Slides down the track and looks to be OK. But we're gonna bunch up on the restart.

95: Free ethanol for everyone! Let's all pit together, and on exit it is...Dixon, Helio, Dario, Ed, Scheckter. Briscoe stuck a few extra moments in the pits, dropping back behind Moraes and Matos.

97: Dan Wheldon appears to be done in the pits. @16AndGeorgetown says "Looks like Wheldon Schecktered his Dallara".

102: Back to GREEN, and Ed tries to get the jump on Dario. No dice. Moraes pulls along side of Scheckter, Dixon pulls inside of Helio. It's called racing.

104: Mario Moraes gets around Scheckter and Ed as well. Closing in on Dario. Wow.

106: Dear Lord, this is just beautiful.

109: YELLOW for another AGR car. Marco got up to high, left some tire marks on the wall, through some dust up, but nothing wrecked. Hey, what's another pit stop to him at this point.

110: How bad has Panther's season gone? Wheldon got interviewed for about 10 seconds before being interrupted by Marco's incident.

112: Tomas Schekcter is in third. D&R is banging on the podium for the second consecutive race. Check for a plague of toads in tiny peacoats outside of Chicago.

113: Most drivers pull off to pit again, but some don't. That means your leaders are now Scheckter, Kanaan and Moraes. Praying for rain, every one of them.

117: Back to GREEN, and Dario TOTALLY jumps the start. Or brilliantly times it. Either way he's around Moraes and into 3rd. Meanwhile Kanaan takes the lead.

120: Kanaan, Scheckter, Dario, Ed, Moraes. 14 cars separated by less than a second. Hallelujah!

122: I'm just going to sit back and enjoy this before the Big Two ruin it all.

124: That didn't last long. Dario and Dixon charge to the front and claim P1 and P2.

131: Dario, Dixon, Moraes, Kanaan, Servia. How many of you even knew Oriol was in this race?

133: Dario, Dixon and Mario Jonas are starting to separate a bit. Does this mean we all have to start rooting for Moraes?

140: I don't know how, but Marco is still on the lead lap, 2.5 seconds back, in 12th. Ahead of Helio, no less.

143: Milka is parked in the pits. Wait...false alarm, she's going back out to valiantly fall even more laps down.

148: Make that a foursome up front, as Ryan Briscoe has moved up to P4. He can't let Moraes break the Evil Empire's stranglehold on the podium.

155: Kanaan pits all by himself. Meanwhile Briscoe has vanquished Moraes to take 3rd.

157: Briscoe takes second from Dixon.

159: Dario pulls off for his final pit stop. And the tire jack gets stuck under his car, losing a precious second or two.

162: Briscoe makes his final pit stop. Dixon regains the lead.

164: Here's Ed Carpenter making his final stop. Dixon, Helio, Rahal and Danica are the last ones on the lead lap.

165: And Danica and Rahal pit. And Dixon too. Helio behind him. Dixon is out first.

166: Here comes Brisoce, around Helio, but still too far behind Dixon. After all of that it's Dixon, Briscoe, Helio, Dario, Moraes.

170: Ganassi, Penske, Penske, Ganassi - but they're aren't really close to each other anymore. I sure hope after all this spectacular racing it doesn't all go to crap in the final laps.

175: Would you believe Marco, Graham and Moraes are all battling for 5th right now? Ed's up there with them as well. Kudos to VERSUS for giving them air time.

184: YELLOW for Helio! The #3 is sliding down the front stretch. Replay shows the super perfect Team Penske car just broke. Let's bunch 'em up and take one more shot at this.

185: Dixon, Dario, Briscoe, Marco, Moraes. After a bad pit stop and grazing the wall Marco is thisclose to the podium. Impressive.

188: Arute is going over who has how many pushes of the Push To Overtake button left. I'm going to be heretical here and say it doesn't matter. In fact, it appears about as useful as the "Close Door" button on elevators. I just don't see it helping drivers actually passing each other as much as the other changes.

191: Back to GREEN! And Rahal and Marco and Moraes and Ed get back to dicing among each other.

193: Rahal gets 4th, no 3rd around Dario!

195: Dario back in third, but it's a race.

196: Briscoe pulls along side of Dixon. Rahal right behind him.

198: Three wide for the lead!

199: White flag. Rahal has deopped back, but Moraes jumps up. Dixon and Briscoe side by side and the winner is...

200: Ryan Briscoe! Years ago he left this track in an ambulance, but tonight he'll leave vie Victory Lane.

Fourth closest finish in IndyCar history. .0077 seconds. Wow! Man, after all the horrible oval races we saw this year it's great to see two straight close finishes - even if they were both won by the same guy.

Congrats to Briscoe on a race Roger Penske said was the best he'd ever seen him run. Congrats to Dixon for finishing second at Chicagoland again, as well as Mario Moraes for claiming the third spot on the podium.

Now that's IndyCar racing, friends! And on a Saturday night, no less. I'm beginning to think I need to make a pilgrimage to this track some day. I hope you all enjoyed it as well. Drive safely, thank you very much, and good night.

Can Dave Kaemmer Work His Magic for Indy Again?

Posted by Tony Johns | 8/26/2009 | 6 comments »
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At Sonoma this past weekend, a thinnish, balding guy sat at a table with Justin Wilson, Terry Angstadt, and Dallara's Andrea Toso and awkwardly introduced the IndyCar media to the next generation of "digital Indy."

I say "awkwardly" because Dave Kaemmer, CEO and lead programmer of iRacing.com, is an engineer and, like many (but not all) engineers his first and best skill is not the spoken word. Not to mention that facing a roomful of media is daunting even for practiced veterans.

What Kaemmer does best is program racing simulations. He is so good at this, in fact, that you can excuse the guy for saying, "Uh," a few more times than might otherwise be required.

Sitting in the Infineon Raceway media center, Kaemmer was twenty years removed from his first attempt to create a virtual Indy 500 experience. "Indy 500: The Simulation" - a brief promo roll of which Kaemmer played during the Sonoma press conference to chuckles and outright laughter - looks ridiculous today. Back in 1989, however, it was a staggering, jaw-dropping, incredible feat of PC simulation skill - particularly considering that this was the industry standard up until that point.

"Indy 500: The Simulation" gave gamers on the archaic, stone-aged PCs of the time the chance to not just drive virtual IndyCars, but run a four-lap qualifying session and then tackle the entire 500-mile race distance if they so chose. The number of people who could actually do this when the game was first released was rather small considering that nearly everyone had to drive the car using a keyboard.

Regardless, "Indy 500: The Simulation" sold like hotcakes, eventually allowing Kaemmer to turn his tiny Papyrus Design Group into the industry leader in racing simulation for the next decade and a half. More importantly, however, it put the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar racing into the hands of consumers more directly than anything ever had before. For the first time in history, fans could "drive" at the fabled Brickyard and see the sport from the cockpit instead of a bleacher.

Is it simply coincidence that after "Indy 500: The Simulation" and its successors, "IndyCar Racing" and "IndyCar Racing 2" were released that IndyCar racing experienced one of the biggest booms in its history? Perhaps. But I choose to believe otherwise. I'm in the camp that believes that accurate games and simulations are invaluable tools to drive interest into the sports they simulate. A good hockey or baseball manager game, for instance, can lead a casual fan to discover the intricacies of a collective bargaining agreement, the whys and wherefores of free agency and player contracts, and the joys of salary cap management; and while that may sound boring to some, to others such an experience adds depth and intricacy to sports that may seem on the surface to be superficial and dull.

Considering that racing - particularly oval racing - is often called "superficial and dull" ("They just go around in circles!"), motorsports certainly benefits from racing simulations in that people who drive them almost invariably say afterwards, "Wow... I didn't know it was that difficult!"

Kaemmer's iRacing deal with the IRL is not the first to come down the pike - several Indy racing games have been released in the past few years - but it certainly is the most detailed and realistic. In fact, according to actual race drivers who have participated in the service as testers, developers, and even subscribers, iRacing's laser-scanned cars and tracks and meticulous physics modeling is so accurate that they can actually tweak the way they drive in the simulation and then see positive results in the real world.

But beyond their utility as a training tool for drivers, the virtual IndyCar and Indy Pro Series simulations at iRacing could do what their Kaemmer-built ancestors did back in the late '80s and early '90s - increase public interest in the IRL and Indy. And let's not mince words - this is a series that needs a shot in the arm. The moribund TV ratings haven't gotten much better after the unification and the public's discretionary income is being used less and less to see races in person. Giving people the chance to experience the excitement of Indy directly, first-hand, might help spur flagging interest in open-wheel racing.

At any rate, it's a better idea than hiring Gene Simmons. Just saying.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 8/26/2009 | | 15 comments »
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What does this one say?

(Photo: TrackSide Online.com)

The passing of Anonymous

Posted by Iannucci | 8/26/2009 | , , | 13 comments »
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Forgive the brief administrative note, but after much consideration it has been determined that the time has come to pull the plug on the Anonymous family's contributions here at My Name Is IRL.

When your humble host first started this site it was a means to a conversation, and so I figured I would allow comments from readers who wished to remain Anonymous. It's all about sharing and inclusion among race fans here, even if that means correcting the host when he is in error, and if Tony George or Roger Penske or even Jim Nabors wanted to contribute something to our discussion then I wanted to offer them an option that allowed them to add something without feeling the need to reveal their super-stardom.

Unfortunately it hasn't worked out that way. While this site has been blessed with an amazing number of meaningful contributions by those have identified themselves, those comments by "Anonymous" have all too often featured personal mud-slinging at me or others. The tipping point for this decision was a recent post that featured multiple Anonymous readers arguing ridiculously with themselves in the comments section. (Seriously. As if we don't have enough message boards in the world for that kind of nonsense.)

So, my dearest Anonymous readers, it has been a fun ride, but it's over. I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt these past few years, but from here on out if you want to continue being a nattering nabob of negativity then you're gonna need to find yourself a moniker.

The Tree Hugger returns

Posted by Iannucci | 8/25/2009 | | 12 comments »
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It's been two long years, but everyone's favorite environmentally friendly umlaut returns to the Indy Lights series this weekend.

Race car driver Leilani Münter will be back behind the wheel of a Firestone Indy Lights car at the season finale at Chicagoland Speedway on August 29. She will be driving under the umbrella of Team 3G, the IndyCar team which her driver coach Jaques Lazier races for. Her primary sponsor is Women's ExtenZe, an all natural herbal dietary supplement for women.

"I have dedicated the last two years of my life to spreading environmental awareness and unfortunately during that time, I haven't had sponsorship to continue with my racing career," said Münter, "I can't thank Women's ExtenZe enough for getting me back out on the racetrack where I belong."

(MORE from LeilaniMunter.com)
I think "Women's ExtenZe" is some kind of, uh, female, umm, pleasure enhancer stuff, uh, of some sort. Quite frankly, I think this sponsorship is all wrong, because you could put the lovely Leilani's picture on a bottle of Snake Oil for Men and brighten just about any gentleman's day.

At any rate, it will be great to see exceedingly blogger-friendly Münter back in a race car this weekend.

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 8/24/2009 | , | 4 comments »
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"We made quite a few passes on quite a few people, and at the end, Marco got into the back of me and spun me around. He came up and apologized. Definitely didn't do it on purpose. It was just one of those days. That's racing." - Scott Dixon, discussing the last-turn incident at Infineon Raceway that resulted in Marco being penalized for avoidable contact, and proving that The Iceman is either an emotionless robot or considering a ride with AGR next year.

LiveBlog: Sonoma 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 8/23/2009 | , | 15 comments »
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Welcome to Sonoma, where sadly your humble host - despite planning to the contrary - is not in fact LIVE from Infineon Raceway. Instead I am firmly ensconced in a giant green La-Z-Boy here in sweltering Arizona sipping on a glass of cheap Cabernet. Not the full effect, but close.

Speaking of full effect, we will not be starting with the full field today after a practice accident yesterday involving Nelson Philippe spinning, stalling and being T-boned by Will Power.

Both drivers suffered concussions. Power also found himself with two fractured vertebrae while Philippe had an "open fracture" of his left foot. That means a bone was sticking out of his leg, and that ain't good. Fortunately, both have been reported to be recovering and are expected to race again another day.

And for those of you who think these Dallaras are ugly, yes, they have goofy looking needle noses - but they just may have saved Mr Philippe from having a Zanardi-like tragedy. Three cheers for technology!

Meanwhile the other big story today has to do with AGR, who despite downsizing their ownership is upsizing their race team today. In addition to their (ahem!) Fab Four they have added Franck Montagny, who may or may not be auditioning for a fulltime ride with AGR next year. He's French, so he may also just here for the wine and cheese.

And with that, it's time to start.

0: This race is taking place just outside of San Francisco, which among it's many offerings is a city known for it's cable cars. It's also known for people who get testy when you call those cable cars "trolleys". I'm only saying this because Robbie Floyd on VERSUS just called them "trolleys" like four times in the opening minutes.

0: Robbie makes up for his transgression by calling Graham Rahal "Grahamburglar".

0: Mario Moraes has already made an enemy, bumping Helio Castroneves off the track during today's morning warm-up.

0: It's gone under-reported, but Jack Arute will not be returning to ESPN next year. It appears he has shaved his head in protest.

0: In a pre-race segment EJ Viso puts a giant python or boa constrictor around Jack Arute, who says he hates snakes. Jack has so much in common with Indiana Jones it's scary.

0: This is THE LAST road course race of the year. Scott Dixon won the last won by 29 seconds. Why do I prefer ovals to road courses? One reason is because it's nearly impossible to win on oval by 29 seconds.

0: @curtcavin says "Will Power had his two front teeth knocked out in the crash (yesterday)". I hope he doesn't have the same dentist as Dan Wheldon.

0: Hey, we're about to start a race. Dario starts on the pole, followed by Briscoe, Helio, Marco, and Mutoh. Yes, Mutoh. Godzilla vs the Wine Spectator.

0: Let's start this race, 50 minutes after the broadcast began, shall we?

1: And we're GREEN...and in turn two it's total mayhem. Dixon rear-ends Kanaan, Kanaan knocks Viso off course, Danica and Rahal go sliding off course. Dixon has lost part of the front wing and is stalled on the turn.

2: And we're yellow. And Danica is in the pits. And her crew has wrenches out, so that's never good.

3: It's Franchitti, Briscoe and Helio leading the field.

4: Dixon in the pits. Kanaan in the pits. Grahamburglar in the pits and out of the car. Broke the drive shaft. And Viso's car is being wheeled behind the wall.

5: Back to GREEN. Everyone through the first few turns cleanly. Scott Dixon is back out in the back on the lead lap. I'm sure you were worried.

5: 5 laps in and Milka is in 14th. Shoulda picked her int the TrackSide Online fantasy league.

6: Justin Wilson started 22nd and is already up to 11th, because on road courses he's awesome. Of course, as I type this he pits for fuel and tires, falling back behind what cars are left on the track.

8: Mutoh is in 4th, Wheldon is in 5th. Wheldon in 5th on a road course? Really???

9: @paultracy3 tweets "Holy sh-t, that was a crazy lap, all that chrome horn. I'm sure someone will say it's my fault." I never thought I'd say that, but I have to admit: I'm a fan.

14: Dario, Briscoe, Helio, Mutoh (all over his bumper) and Moraes. Guess he got around Wheldon. Would have been nice to see that.

14: Oh look, here's footage of Moraes passing Wheldon. Thanks, VERSUS.

15: @HVMracing says "13 car cannot be repaired in time to return to the race." Who else wants EJ to grab a snake and terrorizes Arute some more?

17: Ryan Briscoe is in second, happy to not pass Dario because he's gaining points on Dixon. Further proof Briscoe is the Mortal Enemy of Fun.

18: Meanwhile Mutoh is still all up in Helio's business but he can't get past him because there's like two passing zones on the entire track. That's why this track has been called "Infini-yawn" or "Snore-noma".

21: Ed carpenter is 12th on a road course. If he makes the Top 10 we may all need to send flowers and chocolates to VisionRacing.

22: Milka has fallen back to 20th. I didn't know there were 20 cars left in this race.

24: Dixon pits. Does this even matter now? He's so far back they might as well be showing my extremely distant cousin Richard Antinucci making a pit stop. And since I mentioned it, my cuz is up to 11th today thank you very much.

26: Wheldon relinquishes 6th by pitting. Gets a wing adjustment to that cattle-guard looking abomination of excessive downforce.

26: Hunter-Reay, who had moved up to 8th, pits. Having a nice run for Foyt today.

27: Briscoe pits. So does Moraes and Mutoh. All out in the order they came in but Mario Jonas almost pulled out before the fuel hose was disengaged. A split second earlier and he could have been "Burning Up". (That's Jonas Brothers humor for those of you over 12.)

28: Franchitti pits. In and out, still in the lead.

29: Hunter-Reay back in the pits after he lost some of his wing trying to get around Oriol Servia. So much for that great day.

30: Dixon and Wilson racing for position. Cameras are spinning. Tens of home viewers experience vertigo.

30: Richard Antinucci sighting! He's directly behind Wilson racing for position. Using all of the track and some of the grass.

32: Antinucci gets around Wilson for 14th! All five members of Team 3G enjoy their first celebration of the season.

33: After all the pits stop it's still Dario, Briscoe, Helio, Mutoh, Moraes.

34: Conway has moved up to 7th, right behind Wheldon. Might be feeling the need to wreck soon. Conway is sponsored by "TranSystems", which is quite the name to be sporting in the bay area. Those of you who live there know what I'm sayin'.

36: We're watching a battle for 11th with Doorbos and Dixon. Is it me or does it look like Doornbos ripped off Danica's livery? Is he going to be doing commercials with men in skirts soon?

38: Helio has closed in on Briscoe, but if you think he's going to pass his teammate, who's a lot closer to the series title, you're probably smoking crack right now.

40: Milka, operating in the IndyCar GT class, is slowing down various drivers. It may be unsafe, but it makes for interesting TV.

42: We're told that Power and Philippe are watching in the hospital. Here in the My Name Is IRL World HQ, Link asks "You think they're sharing a room?"

44: Franck Montagny, driving what looks exactly like an AFS/AGR IOndy Lights entry, is in the pits for an extended stay. Not a good weekend for Frenchmen in Sonoma.

45: Same Top 5 as it was 20 laps ago. Smells like an outbreak of fuel conservation.

46: OMG! VERSUS voice-over promoting the IndyCar championship battle said "Fran-chitty". FAIL!

47: Just noticed on a wide-angle shot the TENS of fans at the race. I think I can almost identify @DiecastDude.

48: Briscoe gets squirrely, threatening the lock step. Helio, loyal teammate that he is, does not pass. Lock step resumes.

51: The lock step continues, but the top three of Dario, Briscoe and Helio are so close you could throw a blanket over them. Meanwhile, Mutoh and Moraes (4th and 5th) make their pit stops.

53: SWEET MOTHER OF ATTENUATORS! Helio nearly rear ends Briscoe as Ryan slows to make a turn while Helio continues straight on into the pits. Roger Penske's hair turns another shade of white. Helio out.

54: Helio and Kanaan go wheel-to-wheel...and the director cuts away to show Briscoe pitting. WTF? Replay shows the two Brazilians bump, sending Helio into the air. Note to whoever is in charge: when Helio and Kanaan are driving together you NEVER switch cameras!

55: It appears Helio has a cut tire from the incident, but he's hanging in 3rd. Dario makes his final pit stop and keeps the lead.

56: Good news: Graham Rahal's car is back on pit road. Bad news: the team is simply practicing changing tires.

58: Helio blew a tire, pitted, and is still in third. That Penske team is something else.

59: Mutoh stalking Helio like Godzilla going after the Smog Monster. Mutoh about to pass Helio...and we cut away again to show a taped pass of Wilson getting around Wheldon. *slamming head on armrest*

60: Mutoh gets around Helio, we see it on tape delay. Passing on VERSUS is only shown on tape delay. And for what it's worth he's 12 seconds behind Briscoe for 2nd.

62: Hang on: Dario and Briscoe are closing on on Milka.

62: And she let them around. Where's the fun in that?

66: YELLOW! We got Helio parked in the dirt. Entered the first turn and the car elected to not turn. Much dirt thrown about.

66: Elsewhere on the track Ryan Hunter-Reay is stalled on the course. In car-camera (and audio) reveals a dead motor. Just died like a stricken beast. I think that's like the third Honda motor ever to give up the ghost during a race.

69: We're gonna get ourselves a restart with the leaders all bunched back up. Dario, Briscoe, Mutoh, Moraes, Conway. Wow. Even Con-weasie is up there.

70: Jack Arute just said to look for Justin Wilson to make a charge to the podioum in the restart. He's in 7th. On a road course. Arute is clearly smoking the wacky tobaccy.

70: Arute also said "Grandma, put your teeth in your pocket because it's about to get wild!" Sweet lord, I need a defibrillator.

71: Back to GREEN, and Wilson can't get around Oriol Servia. He's trying, though. And quite frankly I could kiss whoever came up with the in-car camera right now.

72: Conway gets around Moraes...and then Mutoh for third. Easy cheesy, conweasy!

73: Whoopsie! Wilson tries get around Servia, slides sideways, does not stall, and despite surrendering a couple of positions stays on course.

74: White flag. Conway all over Briscoe. Showing some killer instinct.

75: Dario wins, with Briscoe and Conway less than a car-length behind each other. Meanwhile Dixon spins in the last corner and drops to 14th. Much rejoicing among my Dixon-hating kids right now.

Replay shows Marco punted Dixon in that last turn. If Dixon loses the title this year Marco won't be tweeting anymore about "having dinner at St Elmo's with Dixie."

Ryan Briscoe finishes 2nd for the 7th time this year. He only beats little guys like Justin Wilson and Ed Carpenter. Dario is too much for him to overcome, but if he wins the series championship I'm sure he won't be terribly bothered.

Congrats to Dario, Ryan, and Mike Conway, who snuck up on everyone and snagged a spot at the podium. This should afford him a valuable opportunity to introduce himself to Dario and Ryan.

That's it for me. Dario may have gone uncontested all day but I gotta say that was actually an interesting race. Seriously, this may be the first Sonoma IndyCar race where no one here at the World HQ didn't fall asleep. That's saying something.

Take care, drive safely, thank you very much, and good night.

Good news, IRL-o-philes! Danica Patrick, erstwhile Maxim model, former winner of the informal "Most Awkward Cheesecake Photo Pose Ever," current Go-Daddy Girl and - oh yeah - racing driver, told Sports Illustrated's Bruce Martin that she is likely to stay in the IndyCar Series instead of making a rumored (and extremely ill-advised) move to NASCAR.

The onetime one-time IRL race winner and famed Indy 500 top-fiver has seen a breakthrough in negotiations with Andretti-Green Racing after it was announced this week that AGR will split its promotions arm off into a separate concern. According to Patrick, having to deal with AGR partners Kevin Savoree and Kim Green was one of the reasons why she was looking at tin-tops in the first place:

"Yes, I would prefer to talk to Mike than to Kevin because he is a larger owner in the team, and when I talk to Mike things get done... I believe his heart is in it and he has a passion for everything from the business to the driving side, and he can relate to what the driver does as well."
Reading between the lines, of course, one gets the sense that Danica's asking price of $17 million for three seasons behind the wheel likely didn't go down Savoree's craw as smoothly as it might have Andretti's. Anyone connected to the IRL knows that, for better or for worse, Danica can write her own check because of the absolutely disproportionate level of exposure she generates for the league compared to virtually anything else besides the 500-mile race itself. But it is possible that Savoree, concerned with not only the competition side of the AGR business but also with its promotions arm and other assorted responsibilities, could have seen the giant chunk of cash destined for Ms. Hospenthal's bank accounts and had a minor bout of skepticism.

Michael Andretti, of course, knows that essentially his race team's financial survival could hinge on Danica's presence therein. AGR has struggled markedly this season after the "red car" teams of Penske and Ganassi took their game to a new level, and with Tony Kanaan's bad luck streak and the invisibility of both his son Marco and Hideki Mutoh, Danica has actually been the best driver on the team all year. So naturally it is in his best interests to get Danica signed as quickly as possible.

Danica, for her part, is not stupid. The actual likelihood of her becoming a NASCAR driver was about as probable as it was the last time she was up for contract - which is to say, not very likely at all. While Danica has as healthy an ego as any superstar athlete, she is also possessed of at least a baseline amount of common sense, and that common sense says that her choices were either to be a contender in the IRL or to cool her heels in NASCAR's minor leagues for a while before "proving herself" to the stock-car community. She is no fool - she has seen what has happened to her confreres who have tried to make the Big Leap to the Big Time, and at this point only Sam Hornish looks to be within sniffing distance of success after a couple of years of struggling and dues-paying.

In short, the Fanica Panicka about her defection was likely a wee bit overblown.

Still, while it is probably not a "big public relations victory" for the IRL as Martin suggests, it's still good news that their most relevant driver will be back in their most relevant race next year. If a Savoree-less AGR can get their program back on track, she might even be a favorite to win the Borg-Warner Trophy. At the end of the day, that's what matters most to Danica.

Marco's alternative reality

Posted by Declan | 8/12/2009 | 37 comments »
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So Franck Montagny will be racing for AGR at Sonoma. The logical extension of this deal is a contract for next season replacing Danica as she departs for pastures new.
Something MyNameisIRL suggested recently.

With Simon Pagenaud also strongly tipped to make the jump from the ALMS to IndyCar with Gil de Ferran and Ryan Briscoe deep in a title hunt, it is clear that a sideways move to sportscar racing can be a savvy and fruitful career move.

Ryan Briscoe's tenure with Penske Porsche in the American Le Mans Series was the making of him. His transformation from wild and occasionally fast to fast and occasionally wild to simply fast was due in no small way to how he was handled by Roger Penske and Tim Cindric. His immersion in the slick and ultra-professional environment of Penske Porsche as part of a platoon of drivers allowed him to develop without the pressure and reponsibility of having to do it all by himself every week.

This is something that Marco Andretti should think long and hard about. His career is stalling, if not reversing before our eyes and he appears to be half the driver he was when he entered the series in 2006. Seasoned observers of sportscar racing have seen a side of him and examples of the potential that many of us still believe is there. I wrote about this in the off season when he was struggling to get to grips with A1GP as I found it hard to reconcile this Marco with the one who caused such a stir on his sportscar debut for AGR at Sebring in 2008.

The World Cup of Motorsports has been anything but rich pickings for Marco and Andretti Green Racing through the darkest months. The race in South Africa was the fourth outing for the 21 year old and the fifth for the team with a fortunate third place as their only result of note so far. The lack of speed from the team and the seeming inability of Marco to work around set up issues have done nothing to promote the idea that Marco has a future at the highest levels of global open wheel racing. This is even more puzzling considering his performances for AGR outside the realm of open wheel racing in 2008. John Hindhaugh of the American Le Mans Series Radio Network for one has seen glimpses of his potential:

‘Standing on the outside of turn one at Sebring - I mean it's not like I hadn't seen seriously fast cars through there before, McNish, Brabham, even Kristensen were always impressive through there but the word had gone around the paddock that Marco HAD to be seen. So I dutifully pottered over on the ALMS Radio Network golf cart pulled up and waited... not for long ...as the distinctive howl of the Acura down the back straight told me the boy Andretti was on his way. There it was out of Sunset (turn 17) and on the way toward me, headlights ablaze. Then it was gone! No really just like that, almost before I could take it in.’

Andretti had taken the daunting turn one completely flat out, showing and a commitment and raw speed rarely, if ever, seen at the storied venue.

A further chat with the ALMS safety crew positioned nearby revealed that Marco had ‘been doing that since his first flying lap’. He continued to display this astonishing speed and skill throughout practice and most of the race.

With de Ferran moving to IndyCar and increasing his presence in the ALMS to two enties, this is the perfect time for Marco to move sideways for a season. He should take the opportunity to learn to race and win again in a new and, arguably, less intense environment. Gil de Ferran has proved, with Simon Pagenaud, that he can spot and nurture potential and he would be an ideal mentor for Marco. The team structure would also allow him to make a smooth transition back into IndyCar full time as and when he was ready to do so. It would also allow Marco to still run in the Indy 500 if he so wished.

So come on Marco, surprise us all and make that call! :)

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 8/11/2009 | | 10 comments »
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What does this one say?

Photo: Tony Kanaan twitpic

Mid Ohio: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Posted by Dale Nixon | 8/10/2009 | , , | 5 comments »
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(photo courtesy Dana Garrett/Indy Racing League)

The Good

- Great crowd at Mid-Ohio; everywhere the cameras roamed there were actual, honest-to-goodness spectators, unlike say Watkins Glen. And a traffic jam leaving the track.
- Another nice run from Paul Tracy filling in for Mario Moraes.
- An even better quote from the aforementioned Paul Tracy on his blog: "But at least I didn’t make mistakes; some of the big-money players like Helio drove through the gravel traps, so they ended up getting beaten by the 40-year-old driving for hamburgers." If we can't get this guy in a full-time ride, at least put him in the booth.
- Not as much of a snoozefest as the recent road course extravaganzas, although most of the action was in the middle of the field.
- +2 cars for the 2010 grid, as Gil deFerran and team manager Robert Clarke announce plans to add a two car team.
- Another strong showing by Ryan Briscoe, who is looking more and more like a robot or at least a clone.
- Dario Franchitti was notably a step off the pace all weekend, but still scored a podium finish. And at Mid Ohio, they actually HAVE a podium.
- Ryan Hunter-Reay had a very strong showing for AJ Foyt Racing, and was THE mover and shaker early in the race. “I put it together on the track and the guys put it together on pit lane and that’s what it takes. We didn’t make any mistakes. A lot of guys that are making a lot of money—veterans--made a lot of mistakes today so it’s awesome for ABC Supply and A.J. And a big thanks to ABC Supply for their support.” Note to Ryan - it might be time to update your website landing page pic, since those ethanol direct deposits are no longer arriving at the bank.

The Bad

- Dixon came as close as any driver in recent memory to lapping the field on a road course. 29 seconds? N-word would have at least thrown a phantom caution for debris. Or three.
- Captain Bland was also excited in the post race press conference:

"The Target car was great from the get-go."
"Obviously it's a fantastic milestone for myself and obviously for the team. I've achieved all of those wins with Target. Without them, it wouldn't have been possible."
"I don't really care for leading the championship now. The only time you want to lead it is at the end. If you can get a runaway now and start building some points on those guys, that's going to be important."

I'm not saying Dixon has to run the track naked after winning (a la Patrick Carpentier), but two interviews after the race showed he could even use press interaction training from a rookie like Joey Logano.
- Apparently the push to pass, Honda Power Assist Button or whatever they were calling it this week, is now being used defensively to prevent passing. Give them lemonade, and the IRL will try to turn it back into lemons.
- Not much of an impact by Robert Doornbos move to HVM. Or maybe Bobby D isn't as good as the hype would have one believe?
- Another so-so outing for AGR - with Hideki Mutoh and Marco Andretti finishing fifth and sixth respectively, despite being invisible all afternoon. TK was 10th and Danica 19th. Big three status is hereby suspended until AGR can actually challenge weekly.
- Was Dan Wheldon (16th) even on the track?
- Okay, we got it in the first 38 mentions - the Rahal family is from Ohio and thus love the track. See how easy that was?

The Ugly
- Do we start with Mike Conway hip-checking Danica into the kitty litter? Is the Conweasel going to have another race without incident in his IRL career? And why are we still talking about his IRL career in the present tense. Team owner Robbie Buhl's embarrassment oozes right from the TV speaker weekly.
- Milka Duno's qualifying time was barely good enough to win the Indy Lights pole, and she still almost decided the outcome of the race. Generally, she has done a good job staying out of the way. But even a few laps before parking can be dangerous when one car is doing 215 mph and another is doing 190. Where have you gone Marty Roth-io, Barnhart loved you more than you could know, whoa whoa whoa (For the record: Milka's qualifying lap = 109.057 mph, Saavedra's Indy Lights fastest race lap = 109.700 mph, Davison's IndyLights fastest leading lap = 109.427 mph)
- Not much competition for Scott Dixon once Justin Wilson had his pit problem. Wilson magnified the issue for small teams in the IRL 2K9 - not only do they need to drive the bejesus out of the car, but also have a mistake-free day in pit lane to even have a prayer of unseating the red cars.

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 8/10/2009 | 6 comments »
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"I’ve got to comment on Milka. She’s a disaster out there and it’s beyond even funny. Why do they give her a license? She’s what...seven seconds off me, so eight seconds off of Briscoe. That means Ryan’s gonna be lapping her every nine or ten laps if we’re green all the way! Why do they let her drive? Why does she want to embarrass herself so bad? - Paul Tracy, discussing on Saturday a possible book review for Go Milka Go!.

LiveBlog: Mid Ohio 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 8/09/2009 | , | 12 comments »
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Welcome to the aptly named Mid Ohio Sports Car Course, where the heroes of the Indy Car series will race in the middle Ohio on a Sports Car Course. Hence the name.

The big story today is that shuffling of drivers this weekend. After the passing of his father, Mario Moraes has taken leave to be with his family this weekend, handing the keys to the #5 off to Paul Tracy, who in his last race collided with Mario and sent him out of the race. Color that ironic.

Meanwhile Robert Doornbos decided he'd had enough of being Graham Rahal's teammate and decided he's be a much better fit with EJ Viso. Viso and Doornbos should provide the most exciting tag team since the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. Back at NHL, Oriol Servia has taken control of the "06". This marks rougly the 161st racing team of Servia's career.

Since this is a road course that means Richard Antinucci is in and Jaques Lazier is out at Team 3G. Stanton Barrett is still nowhere to be seen, but he might be chillin' with Tomas Scheckter and Will Power since neither of them are entered today.

And above all, Jack Arute is back.

With the lineups sorted out, it's time to start.

0: Today's sign of the Apocalypse: Ed Carpenter is being interviewed in the pre-race show for a road course race.

0: Paul Tracy is being interviewed by Arute. That KV Racing firesuit doesn't exactly have a slimming effect. I don't know about you, but I'd love to have dinner with these two personalities so long as I wasn't buying.

0: And by my count we have just witnessed the 10,000th airing of that IZOD commercial. * blows kazoo *

0: The supremely talented Lewis Franck observes: "Does Dale change his shirt or is he like Adrian Monk when it comes to wardrobe."

0: Discussing tires, NostraBeekhuis just told me I'm breathing 78% nitrogen. I suddenly find myself coughing uncontrollably.

0: Was that footage of Graham as an infant? If so, why was he dressed like a girl? Should we start calling him "Grahamica"?

0: Thank you to those of you on twitter who informed me that was Graham's sister Michaela in the girly outfit. Order is restored to the universe.

0: Footage show that Danica and Milka had a little side by side incident on the track during practice just as they did last year. Sadly, no post-practice discussion involving towels this year. Don't hate me but I was kinda hoping they'd go after each other with folding chairs this time.

0: At some point this pre-race show turns into an actual race, right?

0: On a personal note my offspring, all fans of various (winless) AGR drivers, have just informed me they are all on the Justin Wilson bandwagon today. I'm sure they aren't alone, especially since the the man they lovingly call "Freakishly Large" is starting in the front row next to "BOOOO! Briscoe".

0: Graphic shows Scott Dixon has 19 career open-wheel wins. AJ Foyt has over 60. 'Nuff said.

0: I think some librarian just plainly stated "drivers start your engines". Get that woman some MonaVie!

0: And starting on the backstretch ??? we are GREEN!

1: Briscoe leads the field, followed by Wilson, Dixon, Dario, Rahal.

2: Tony Kanaan has a little braking issues at "the keyhole" and does a little off-roading. Avoids hitting the tires or stalling the car, so the "TiKi Torch" soldiers on.

4: Not much passing happening, althbough Graham Rahal has done a little lawn mowing here and there. Still in 5th with Helio well beind as the front five start to pull away.

6: After running up all in his attenuator for most of the race, Justin Wilson pulls up alongside of Ryan Briscoe, noses beyond, and...got him! Dale Coyne car "flips the script" and takes the lead.

8: Justin is now up by over two seconds. SEE YA!

10: Wilson now ahead by nearly four seconds. He's not a "road course specialist", he's a "road course ass whoopin' machine".

13: On a side note, Servia is 11th while Doornbos is 16th. If you're not paying attention to that I'm pretty sure folks at HVM and NHL are.

16: Wilson by over fives seconds, making it look easy. According to Dale Coyne he's also conserving fuel. Probably brewing some tea in the cockpit as well. Politely lapping Milka - the first lapped car of the day.

19: And now in the span of about 30 seconds Briscoe, Dixon, Dario, Rahal all lap Milka. It looks like she just pitted a lap ago, so she's been lapped TWICE so far.

24: Leaders should be making pit stops soon, so we'll see if Wilson's massive lead holds up.

26: Just noticed that Dan Wheldon is in 20th, the last car on the lead lap and one spot ahead of Milka. These road courses may have completely killed his career.

28: Paul Tracy is all up on Viso for 8th. This is gonna be awesome...and we cut away??? Ack! Wilson pits and surrenders the lead.

30: Helio and Rahal made pit stops. Apparently Tracy got around Viso. Would have been nice to see some passing.

31: Briscoe and Dario pit, and coming out Wilson gets around them.

32: Scott Dixon - the current leader - pits, exits, and is promptly passed by Wilson. Because Justin is that awesome.

35: Gil de Ferran on screen talking about his soon to be IndyCar team and Jack Arute drops a new name on him: Will Power.

36: Dixon is hanging in there, less than car length behind Wilson.

37: Milka Duno sets a nice pick on Wilson and Dixon gets around them both and takes the lead. It's not enough to be slow, now Milka has to help Dixon to the lead. Time to start throwing things.

41: YELLOW! Helio loses the rear of the car and slides into the dirt, then pulls back out. So why do we have a full course yellow?

42: Dixon, Wilson, Briscoe, Dario, Rahal. Hunter-Reay is in 6th in an AJ Foyt car.

44: Back to GREEN, and in the first turn Rahal gets around Dario for fourth. Rahal feeling the hometown love.

45: YELLOW! Danica is sliding backwards in the dirt. Car is covert in dust. Such a dirty little girl. Replay shows she was totally punted by Conweas, err, Conway.

47: And Danica is dragged out of the bunker, re-fired, and on her way a couple laps down. Could use a car wash though.

49: And once again we go GREEN, but with no passing this time. Mike Conway has to serve a driver-through penalty, though he's still getting the better end of the deal because he's well ahead of Danica.

52: Dixon is now leading Wilson by over a second. That giant sucking sound you hear is the fun leaving the track.

56: Milka is now FOUR laps down, even with the yellows.

59: Dixon ahead by SIX seconds over Wilson.

60: Mutoh is in 7th? When...how.. did this happen??!?

61: Rahal pits for the final time today, moving Hyphen Reay to 5th.

62: Hunter-Reay pits, putting Mutoh in the Top 5. Hideki is in the Top 5 and we haven't seen him all day.

63: Wilson pits, but appears to go REALLY slow entering the pits. Gets fuel and tires and STALLS the car!!! Gets it back together but not before he makes a 30 second pit stop. Others pitting and leaving around him. Much wailing and lamentation by fans of the underdog.

64: Dixon pits, six point something seconds and he's back out. Still leading, but now Marco is in second. Briscoe in third. Marco still needs to make another put stop so don't get too excited.

65: Justin Wilson has dropped back to 15th. Dixon, Andretti, Briscoe, Dario, Rahal. Hunter-Reay and Mutoh appear to be a few tenths of a second apart, battling for 6th, so that might be kinda nice to watch Mr Broadcast Director.

69: We have been informed that Scott Dixon, now leading by 10 seconds over Marco and 13 seconds over Briscoe. And he's run the fastest lap of the race. And I might go make myself a sandwich.

70: Graham goes dirt tracking, but does not stall and gets back on the track.

71: Coochie Cam. This would be more meaningful if the drivers had to touch the clutch to shift gears. But they don't, so it's not. At least to me.

73: Milka appears to have been finally parked. From @DiecastDude
76: Marco has made a pit stop, and now the leaders are Ganassi, Penske, Ganassi. Hunter-Reay and Mutoh round out the Top 5.

77: Finally we see Mutoh. Right behind Hunter-Reay, battling for fourth. Meanwhile we can clearly see VItor Meira sitting in the pits next too AJ. Seeing Vitor is probably the best thing I've seen all day. No witty comment required.

79: Dario trying to pass Briscoe, with both of them doing a little sideways dirt track action. Still no passing though as they run in 2nd and 3rd about a day and a half behind Scott Dixon.

82: And...not much happening. I'm sure you'll be thrilled to learn that Wilson is back up to 13th. Also, Servia 11th and Doornbos 14th.

84: White flag, symbolic of how much more we can take of watching Dixon lead by 27 seconds (literally).

85: And it's win #20 for Scott Dixon. Let's wait for the others...waiting...still waiting...and it's Briscoe with Dario still stuck behind him. Then Hunter-Reay and Mutoh.

Congrats to Scott Dixon and his entire Ganassi team. They pretty much flawless today. Briscoe is in second yet again, because that's something he does well - finish in second to Ganassi cars.

Kudos also to Hunter-Reay and Mutoh for valiant Top 5 finishes today. Take what you can get while the Big Two continue to invade podiums all across North America.

The next race will be in Sonoma at Infineon Raceway, where your humble host will be LIVE on the scene. But that's two weeks from now, so in the meantime, take care and drive safely. Thank you very much, and good night.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 8/07/2009 | | 13 comments »
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What does this one say?

Photo: TrackSide Online

Name dropping as a business model

Posted by Iannucci | 8/06/2009 | , , | 3 comments »
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A while back we first heard the name "Takuma Sato" mentioned in connection with a potential IndyCar team headed by Gil de Ferran. Then it was "Scott Dixon". Now he's supposedly talking to "Graham Rahal". We don't know if this is serious because we don't know if there are any actual sponsors involved who would help pay for these drivers, but give Gil credit for mastering the USF1 method of dropping names to generate publicity for a team that doesn't actually exist yet.

So which name is next to appear in a published de Ferran rumor? Danica Patrick? Sebastien Bourdais? Dr Jack Miller?

Oh, and in case you've wondering where I've been the last few weeks I've been preparing to start my own IndyCar team. I'm considering partnering with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett as potential investors.

Photo: Dan Smith

The newest Mortal Enemy of Hope

Posted by Iannucci | 8/06/2009 | , , | 8 comments »
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On the surface sports is about winning and losing, but what makes sports resonate deeply are the stories behind the victories. Fans want some kind of drama from sporting events, and the preferred drama involves and underdog overcoming some kind of adversity on the way to victory to show us that no matter what even the most lofty dreams are attainable. It's called hope, and it's the reason we enjoy multiple viewings of "Hoosiers" and "Rudy" and would never imagine watching 10 seconds of hypothetical flicks like "The 72-Win Bulls" or "Belichick's Brilliance".

Who among us wants to watch the favorite win every time? Who wants to see a lifetime of dreams vanquished in an instant? Who wants to watch the underdog get beaten down and put back in his or her place? Ryan Briscoe, that's who.

A few weeks ago I was glued to my TV watching 59-year-old Tom Watson lead the field through 71 holes of the British Open. The record for oldest person ever to win a major PGA tournament is 49 years, and here was a guy 10 years beyond that on the cusp of claiming a tournament he had last won 26 years prior. But fellow American Stewart Cink sunk a birdie put on 18 to put the pressure on Watson, who despite needing only par on the 72nd hole was unable to get up-and-down from about 20 yards out - and Tom is literally the guy who wrote the book on getting up and down. Watson finally began looking all of his age in the playoff, and Cink went on to win easily and destroy the hopes of every middle-aged golfer in the world.

Earlier this year I was similarly gripped by the Super Bowl, which featured my local Arizona Cardinals in their first appearance in the NFL's championship event. This is a team that has suffered such incomprehensible futility they had won exactly one playoff game in 60 years! But this year they had magically won their division, rolled through the playoffs, and scored 16 points in the final quarter of the championship game to take a 23-20 lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers with two minutes and change remaining. However, the Steelers subsequently marched down the field, and with 35 seconds left Santonio Holmes made a mind-boggling, foot-dragging circus catch in the end zone to give Pittsburgh the lead for good, crushing the long-held dreams of the 46 Cardinal fans in existence.

And while an IndyCar race in Kentucky has nowhere near the significance of the British Open or the Super Bowl a parallel still exists. Ed Carpenter, who because of his stepfather and his futility in nearly 100 IndyCar races, has spent most of his racing career as some kind of open-wheel punchline, but for one brief and glorious moment last Saturday night he had enough of both a car and good fortune to find himself leading in the waning laps of a race. As improbable as it may have seemed, there he was - a winless driver on a winless team, suddenly hurtling headlong towards an epic victory on a day when all cars looked more equal than they have in years.

I'm guessing most of you have at one point have made a disparaging comment about Carpenter, and I'm guessing that same lot of you were standing and shouting "COME ON, ED!!!!" every one of those last dozen or so laps in the hope of seeing a victory by the underdog. Every one of you that is except Briscoe and the Team Penske bunch, who for the second time this year crushed what could have been an amazing story. Recall the last few laps in St Pete, where had he not been passed by Briscoe on the final restart Justin Wilson would have kicked off the 2009 season with a win Dale Coyne's first win. It may sting a little less that Wilson and Coyne later got their first win at Watkins Glen, but don't forget who was lurking in second place at The Glen as well. That's right, Mr Briscoe.

Ryan Briscoe is a professional and he's paid to win, just as Stewart Cink and Santonio Holmes are, and in no way am I suggesting that any of these fellows should have stopped trying to win. A victory that is not earned is hollow, so by all means gents keep on trying. But know that sometimes the circumstances of victory comes at a cost, and for each of you that cost is that you are now forever known as a killers of dreams. You are the Mortal Enemies of Hope. You are, henceforth, "the bad guys". This is the path you have chosen, and unless you cure some form of cancer or dedicate your life to saving children sold into slavery you need to accept your role.

Sorry, Ryan. You once had our sympathy as a guy who overcame a giant ball of fire and a few years out the IndyCar series to become a championship caliber driver, but since you've decided to start vanquishing the likes of Wilson and Carpenter instead of Dixon and Franchitti you're no longer the lovable little Aussie we thought you were. You still seem like a nice enough guy, but you selfishly went off script and crushed our vicarious dreams in a completely unnecessary fashion. Congratulations - you're the bad guy now. BOOOOOO!!!!!!!

A quiet nod to Mario Moraes

Posted by Iannucci | 8/05/2009 | | 3 comments »
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On behalf of the entire My Name Is IRL family of word butchers allow me to offer our sincerest condolences to Mario Moraes and his family. Official word from KV Racing is that his father has passed away after a lengthy illness, and unofficial word is that Mario will not be driving at Mid Ohio this weekend.

Mario Ermirio de Moraes, father of KV Racing Technology driver Mario Moraes (Mario Ermirio de Moraes Filho) passed away late this afternoon in Brazil at Hospital Beneficencia Portuguesa.

Mario Ermirio de Moraes was born August 1, 1958. He is survived by his wife, Nidia Maria Faustino de Moraes, son, Mario Ermirio de Moraes Filho and daughters Fabiana Faustino de Moraes and Natalia Faustino de Moraes.
Those who follow Mario on twitter know he has been spending much of his free time this year keeping vigil by his father's bedside. Even though the young man often drives like a lunatic we will still keep him and his relations in our thoughts and prayers. We can't add much more than what was already said in the heartfelt sympathy expressed by our buddy Meesh.

I turn my back for a minute and look what happens!

Posted by Shane Rogers | 8/05/2009 | , , , , | 3 comments »
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Crikey! I turn my back and look what happens! The Iron Hand of Aerodynamic Assistance has crunched the numbers and rolled midnight, and at the same time all of the sudden Australians are the new Brazilians.

While Will Power’s win given his part-time status on the trail has grabbed the headlines, it’s Disco Briscoe’s win on the 1.5 that might be the turning point in 2009, and perhaps even in 2010 and 2011.

Ryan’s win at Kentucky is his first win on a cookie cutter, a significant step in his career on the western side of the Atlantic. While the oval purists (me included), lament the perpetuation of the road course reality that is 2010 and beyond, there are still a significant portion of 1.5’s in Indycar racing. While that is the case, putting numbers in the W column on the 1.5’s is still a prerequisite for a championship. Can that be this year? Well now, I think it can.

On the other side of the Penske transporter, our friend from Queensland who’s so bright pilots are using the bloke as a reference marker, is not doing too shabbily either. I hear rumours# that if Roger doesn’t renew his contract, he could line up for a guest role as the third banana in the Australian children television show Bananas in Pyjamas#. Will Power as B3 next year; you heard it here first.

This is what Will Power might be doing next year, if Penske doesn't renew his contract. No suit change required.

Unencumbered by the burden of conservatism in chasing for the points title, the Toowoomba Tornado touched down with destructive force in Edmonton, the final stint reminiscent of Rahal’s display the latter stages of St. Pete last year. With the proportion of road courses is this game only set to only increase in the coming years, Power could well have the series in a few years time come to him. Remember, in 1995, only six of the 13 races were ovals…

And the other person that deserves some love from the latest race, and that’s the IHJ himself, Mr Barnhart.

It’s credit on a number of levels. As most people have acclaimed, it’s credit to the Indy Racing League for getting it right.

It’s also credit to the IRL for not overreacting. It would have been easy to make a more sweeping change. The racing in Richmond was bad. Really bad. More bad than the Richmond Australian Rules Football team, and that’s saying something. Remember the Colts when they were really bad: That’s Richmond.

Doing “something” was always going to happen after that. The question was “how much of something is enough?” It would have been very easy to move into early-2000’s pack racing territory, with a technical decision in excess of what was required.

Additionally, it’s credit to the IRL for fostering the right relationships with their partners. Honda was lent on by the IRL for a push-and-maybe-if-you-breathe-in-at-the-same-time-you-might-get-past system and Honda delivered what appears to be a flawless system that exceeded expectations first time out. Firestone brought a good tyre# too.

I still think the root cause of the aero malady had something to do with the new exhaust design. Kanaan didn’t get as close as I expected him to in the last few laps given Carpenter wasn’t taking the shortest route round in defending Briscoe.

Whatever the problem, it seems like for now, the IRL have found a solution, which is good, because plan B was dictating to all drivers that they run a Sebastian Saavedra high downforce haircut setup. That thing generates some serious downforce, and while Tony Kanaan doesn’t approve, it might at least get Hideki some action given his poor pickup technique.


International CelebrityShane Rogers is a 32-year old Indycarologist from Kangaroo Flat, Australia, whose main motivation for working for his current employer us because they’re they only people he knows that gets the channel that has Indycar racing on television there. He has worked for the Australian Motor Sport governing body, CAMS, and served on their National Track Safety Committee. He eats Vegemite on toast for breakfast, unlike Pressdog who has not “had the courage to taste the stuff.”

# (sic) Australian spelling alert.

Things are starting to get Silly

Posted by Dale Nixon | 8/04/2009 | , , , , | 12 comments »
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It's that most magical time of the year.

No, not Christmas.

August officially marks the start of the silly season, that time of year when racing seats can be had for a much smaller bag of sponsorship dollars, and drivers that were seemingly happy with their teams a week ago no longer have cars to drive.

Robert Doornbos, aka Bobby D, has seemingly run out of money and thus his prized seat at Newman-Haas-Lanigan Racing. Doornbos leads Rafa Matos in the Rookie of the Year standings, inexplicably qualifying for "rookie" status despite years in Formula 1, A1GP and CCWS, despite his best finish being ninth place (I'm not going to go off on that tangent again, although I am also on the record as stating that RHR should not have been RoY even if the alternative was giving it to Milka).

"We had the option to leave the team after 12 races which I made use of. I want to stay in IndyCar Series and I will announce my future plans very soon. I like to thank the team and especially Mike Lanigan and Carl Haas. I wish them a bright future."

Notice how he didn't mention teammate Graham Rahal, who apparently didn't share many McDonald's apple pies nor setup notes with the Flying Dutchman.

Doornbos is tipped by Robin Miller to join EJ Viso at HVM; although I'm not sure how possible that is if the Bobster is indeed out of euros. The fate of the N/H/L seat is also unclear, with former shoe Sebastian Bourdais hitting the open market after his release from Scuderia Toro Rosso; although the return of the SeaBass would not be a cheap fix for the gang; he'd demand to be paid. Like say, Mike Conway.

LATE EDIT: The word on the street as of Monday evening is that Oriol Servia will be in the other N/H/L car at Mid-Ohio, proving once again that the CCWS was the ultimate recycling program.

Also in the full-blown silly mode are Conquest Racing, who split from Alex Tagliani in favor of Nelson Phillipe and old friend Kosuke Matsuura for Motegi.

Finally, Gary Watkins at Autoweek lifts the lid on the silliest thing of all - three new Acura teams in the IRL next year. The much rumored deFerran Motorsports switch appears on, and Gil will apparently be joined by Connecticut-based Highcroft Patron Racing and Scott Sharp (who could end up with a native Connecticut teammate in free agent Jeff Simmons), as well as Adrian Fernandez's squad I've been told by a reliable source that contrary to many reports, F1 refugee Takuma Sato will not be in the IRL unless as a last resort; Sato's people apparently are looking for a placement in one of the new F1 teams.

The defection of Acura does not bode well for the ALMS, which has been teetering with low car counts as it stands now, and increasingly vocal criticism from team owners about the payouts.

Stay tuned for more silliness, after all it's only August 4.

Live Blog Courtesy the Weather Channel and Kentucky

Posted by Dale Nixon | 8/01/2009 | , , , , | 14 comments »
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Accelerated schedule seems to be the buzzword this weekend.

This live blog is sponsored by Doppler Radar, as @curtcavin just tweeted that Barnhart is calling for rain by 9:30.

What a total salad this weekend has been so far, with one hour of practice time in the afternoon topped by Scott Dixon. Surprises included Mario Moraes (on top of the board for a while), Ed Carpenter and Sarah Fisher, who was pretty comfortable around P10 for much of the session.

Beer of the race is Berkshire Brewing Co.'s Traditional Pale Ale. Fresh and bold with a hint of hoppiness, and a deep copper color. As Pressdog said yesterday, everything is better with beer.

The big question today is not whether a Penske or Target car will win, but will the race finish at all. Sir Jackie Stewart is in attendance, many years hearing him call the I500 on Wide World of Sports brings back memories. Hopefully Sir Jackie also brought the oval intermediate tires.

Terry Angstadt talks about series value. Uhh, explain it to New Hampshire, Terry. Somewhere TG is chuckling.

Over/under on yellows in the first 30 minutes, +6...get ready for burst buttons pushed at the wrong time, like lap one, turn one...

uh oh - radar is menacing...

oof...Dario backed off and the start is scratched...right pedal, Dario!

Mario Moraes challenging for ninth. Hmmm wonder where PT would be in a car like that...

Lap 6 - Fast cars in practice looking good Mario, Ed, Tomas Scheckter...

Lap 10 - Commercial break - Dixon, Dario, Briscoe, Helio, Danica, Moraes. Those who Apex and Izod in the first commercials take a drink.

Lap 15 - Helio past Dario; Mario past Danica and still moving! 16th to fourth...

Lap 23 - Sarah is going in the wrong direction; back into Milka/Jaques Lazier land (P21)

Lap 26 - Danica is holding up Marco again. "DAAAAAAAAAAAAADDDDDDDDDD"

Lap 32 - Ed and Mario are dicing for fourth. Those P2P thumbs are starting to get sore.

Lap 38 - Scheckter in with a squirrely car. They eat squirrel in Kentucky, even with MonaVie

Lap 41 - Dixon is walking, with Briscoe and Helio in tow. Nice commercial with more of Radio Birdman's New Race. Whoever picked that song for VS should get a free case of Berkshire.

Lap 48 - Marco and Danica in...

Lap 50 - Moraes and Conway t-boning in pit lane. Surprised? Didn't think so.

Lap 55 - Dixon is on cruise control. Saving fuel.

Lap 60 - Justin Wilson is the last lead lap car (P13)

Lap 65 - Dixon .32 over Briscoe, Eddie C another second behind in third. Apex Brazil needs to update their commercials with the Torch, TK.

Lap 72 - Dixon marches on, still no yellows. No more predictions, but we should have an official race in about 10 minutes at this pace.

Lap 82 - Wilson down a lap. Ed, Helio and TK have to remain within striking distance of the leaders, as they are a couple seconds back.

Lap 86 - The Penske boys are saving fuel according to Sir Jackie. Power and Briscoe can't find the P2P button, or haven't needed it yet. Banzai charge later?

Lap 97 - Briscoe takes the lead, but Dixon right in there as lap traffic continues...

Lap 99 - Team with the best weatherman wins? That counts out AGR.

Lap 104 - Second round of pit stops, as Dixon peels off the sidepod of Briscoe for ethanol replenishment.

Lap 107 - Briscoe and Dixon in front after the cycling of stops, followed by Eddie C and the Torch.

Lap 114 - Doornbos out. Somehow Conway is still in the race, -8 laps. Why do I have a feeling that might be a problem at some point?

Lap 122 - Yellow for some reason. Hope it's not moisture. Wilson slow on track. Phew. Everybody brought their A game.

Lap 124 - Mutoh and Power stay out. Maybe they know where the storm is?

Lap 127 - Green green green Dixon jumps the restart and drops back Carpenter sets off after Power, TK in there as well. Briscoe with a BIG tankslapper.

Lap 133 - Just checked the weather, 94% humidity, barometer falling. Ed might want to think about taking the lead now. It's coming.

Lap 140 - When was the last time we saw two YELLOW cars fighting for the lead? Maybe 1989?

Lap 144 - Ed takes the lead at the line. .02 seconds between he and Power. Some sore thumbs at the moment, no doubt!

Lap 151 - Lindy says Power due in Lap 155. Everybody else was Lap 123. Where's that weather update?

Lap 158 - Eddie Carpenter out in front. IM from Ianucci "No Ganassi car in Top 5, check for swarm of locusts" I'm sure Chip is dispatching someone under the track with a two liter bottle of H2O.

Lap 167 - Eddie leads Helio. Wonder what Ed's victory celebration is? Dixon fading, Dario up there. Final stops looming.

Lap 170 - Tweet from @jpmontoya - he's watching the race. He should be here, in a car. Back in plenty of time for Pocono.

Lap 175 - The Vision boys NAIL the pit stop. Nice work, makes it count. TK right there too.

Lap 179 - Green stops cycling. Looks like we will get a full 200 laps. Eddie C first, followed by TK.

Lap 181 - @visionracing tweeting up a storm. Ed has paid his dues, he's deserving. Lots of late nights in dirt at place like Whip City on the way up.

Lap 185 - Eddie and Tony. Great point by Beekhuis on strategy for the finish.

Lap 191 - Eddie fighting it out with Briscoe, swing low, sweet chariot.

Lap 197 - Briscoe's timing him...TK can decide the winner with who he has...

Lap 199 - Ed, you better hit that freakin' button NOW!

Lap 200 - Briscoe by a nose. The Evil Empire triumphs. Ed C second, followed by TK, Helio, Graham, Dario and Dixon. Shake up in the points again. Seventh-closest finish in series history.

Great race - I ran out of beer before the last pit stops and I didn't want to go downstairs for the next bottle! Thanks everyone!