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.


  1. dylan // August 23, 2009 4:26 PM  

    This race is horrible, I just am going to use liveblogs for the rest of the race

  2. Paige // August 23, 2009 4:35 PM  

    I think it's kind of ironic right now. Just when I heard Helio had issues, Rihanna's "Disturbia" started playing on my iTunes. Song of Helio's season.

    Ready for 2010! That's gonna be Spider-man's year!

  3. Robert A. Black // August 23, 2009 4:38 PM  

    Geez, Briscoe was napping on that restart. Either that, or he's just decided to sit there in second and take the points.

  4. Waxy // August 23, 2009 4:55 PM  

    Agreed - it would be tragic if Power's dentist is the same as Wheldon's! Can't have two cartoons in one series!!!

  5. Anonymous // August 23, 2009 5:05 PM  

    2 AOW races today and 0 lead changes.

    And, we are ADDING more of these abominations to Indy Car Racing?

    The death march towards the eventual grizzly end, continues....

  6. James // August 23, 2009 7:00 PM  

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

    I saw a similar comment elsewhere about the recent VS broadcasts. I don't get it. It's like people *want* an extra half hour of Bink Winkleman showing you how to field dress a moose.

  7. Anonymous // August 23, 2009 11:15 PM  

    Start the VS broadcast about 10 or 15 minutes before the start of the race. A few initial comments, show the starting order and then drop the green rag. They probably won't do it though. Its too logical.

  8. mmack // August 24, 2009 8:14 AM  


    A few thoughts on yesterday's race, as I treated it like an NBA game (watch the first five laps to see who gets taken out at the start, and then come back to watch the last 25):

    Thank goodness Will Power and Nelson Phillipe are relatively safe, but something about that accident bothered me, and that something was reinforced with The Dancing King's off track excursion. For racing, there's a big time lapse between Nelson first spinning, EJ clipping the nose of Nelson's car, and then Will sucker-punching Phillipe's car. Did anyone see a track marshall wildly waving a yellow flag between the time Nelson spun and Will hitting him? In the replay, I didn't, but the angle of the shot (from the bottom of the hill) may obscure a marshall at the top of the hill.

    Here's why I thought of this: On Sunday, when Helio! did his final off road excursion, Versus caught the nearest marshall station in the shot, and the one marshall that came out and headed towards the wreck seemed to be taking his own sweet time to get there. To be fair, Helio's car was not upside down, on fire, or spread in tiny little pieces on the track. But still, it made me wonder about Saturday . . .

    All the talk in the IRL is about drivers needing more road course experience, and drivers are being hired (and allegedly fired) based on their road racing skills. And then you have the start on Sunday with its "Pressdogian Festival of Carbon Fiber". Part of this is a necessary urge to get to the front because of reduced passing opportunities, but I'm reminded of David Hobbs' quote after being caught up in Salt Walther's first lap crash during the 1973 Indianapolis 500: "These are supposed to be the best drivers in the world, and they can't get down the bloody straightaway!"

    To keep interest levels high, the IRL should just run these road course races for 30 laps. In my opinion the last few laps of the race were actually very exciting. That said, unless Dario really screwed up, he wasn't going to lose, but had Briscoe Inferno made one small mistake in the last two laps, perennial joke target Mike Conway finishes runner up. Ponder that with your coffee this morning. Further back, the race had parallels to the prior evening's N-word race at Bristol: You shove the car's nose in and hope the driver you're trying to pass sees you. Sometimes it works (Conway, Wilson), sometimes it doesn't (Helio and TK). Although he would disagree, it was cool to see Wilson try a little too hard to make a pass, lose it, goose the throttle, and only lose one spot. It was good to see the slicing and dicing further back in the field, and even better to have Versus focus on it. Perhaps the IRL should throw a "Miss Terry De Bris" road course caution with five to go to close up the field, but given the slamming and banging yesterday, there was plenty of carbon fiber to throw the yellow bunting over.

    Look out Jack, it's ANOTHER SNAKE!!!!!!!!!

  9. gnome // August 24, 2009 9:54 AM  

    did u see how many view that crash has on Youtube?

  10. AZZO45 // August 24, 2009 10:04 AM  

    When the H*LL did they start referring to a compound fracture as an "open" fracture.

    Add this to the every changing name game? She's not a secretary she's an Administrative Assistant . Not a used car... its Pre-Owned.

    Glad they are BOTH relatively O.K. However I say over at that one compared it to the '94 Jacques Villeneuve / Hiro Matsushita impact. Totally differnent accident, but involved much higher speeds & BOTH walked away totally uninjured.

    I hope Indycar has the new chassis supplier study BOTH eras of cars when designing the future Indycar. Good aspects of the Reynard & the "newer" Dallara should be incorporated IMO.

  11. rentzbk // August 24, 2009 8:32 PM  

    Easy on the making fun of TranSystems - they're just a transportation engineering firm ;)
    A few more laps and Conweezy (gosh, it's hard to call him that) would have been a little higher on the podium, I think!

  12. stand b // August 24, 2009 10:38 PM  

    I really enjoyed the race.

    No arute was not smokin da weed when he mentioned the possibility of Wilson moving up through the field, wilson drove a heck of a race, passed a LOT of cars in a short amount of time, and had some incredible lap times.

    what's with the not liking the pre-race coverage? one of the problems w/espn was they didn't start till 10 laps into the race and cutaway upon checker. if you don't like the pre-race coverage look up the detailed schedule on and tune in accordingly.

  13. Pat W // August 25, 2009 2:17 PM  

    Hang on a second, you are complaining because you have too much TV coverage? Is there something wrong with you?? A year ago you'd have killed for this.

  14. Unknown // August 25, 2009 2:39 PM  

    Danica Patrick has lost her mojo. She is not a contender in non-oval races. Danica is very timid on road courses. Seems to be on remote control now that her chief source of income is from promotions and not racing. Besides, AGR is not a hungry team like Penske. Its like they don't care about winning.

  15. Leigh O'Gorman // August 25, 2009 2:56 PM  

    i thought it was somewhat enjoyable - definitely the best infineon race i've see yet

    As for Anon's comment earlier, fair enough there weren't any lead changes, but if you had bothered to pay attention, you might have noticed that there was a lot of battling and passing everywhere else.

    I didn't mind the Franchitti/Briscoe/Castroneves battle, because that's what it was - a tense battle and when two of the three are in such a tight battle for the championship, you're not going to see any divebomb moves.

    This isn't just modern road racing; that's how road racing has always been - get used to it!