She's staying

Posted by Iannucci | 9/24/2009 | , , | 5 comments »
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Who knew this otherwise trite little tweet from Danica Patrick would foreshadow today's HUGE news:

I cant believe I have actually been sleeping well since coming home from japan. Getting my solid 8-9 hours per night!

She may be resting easy because The Worldwide Leverage Tour appears to have ended - right where it started. Curt Cavin delivers the scoop that will now allow Fanicas to exhale.

Danica Patrick is now, officially, staying in the IndyCar Series.

Patrick signed a three-year contract to remain with Andretti Green Racing during last weekend's event at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan. She will continue to drive the No. 7 car with a Motorola-based sponsorship.
Same team. Same sponsor. Very interesting.

I'm still trying to soak it in, or maybe it's dragged on so long this is all I have to say about it. I guess my first thought is whether you're elated, disappointed, or just plain shocked at the news, give a moment to thank pressdog - the WWDT project worked.

My second thought is that P1 is going to do a total Snoop Dance when I give her the news. My third thought is...what does this mean for Marco Andretti?

The Milwaukee Mile looks to be revived, but...

Posted by Iannucci | 9/22/2009 | | 2 comments »
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I'm not going to jump to conclusions, but, well, the way this is worded it sure looks like despite finding even more people to try to run the facility, those in charge of The Milwaukee Mile just gave the IRL a big fat "whatever".

It seems a resolution is near for YET ANOTHER series of folks to take over handling and promoting the facility, which is controlled by the Wisconsin State Fair Park Board. The latest deal will call for smaller payments to The Board with the option to defer some of the initial ones in an effort to offset the money currently owed to the IRL and N****R for licensing their most events.

But here are the uncomfortable parts, which are worded at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in such a way as to seem as if only tin tops may be racing there in the future.

The proposed agreement with Historic Mile appears intended to give the new group as much help as possible to stage races at the track. In return, Historic Mile also agreed to pay for improvements that sanctioning bodies such as NASCAR and the Indy Racing League might require in the future.

In anticipation of the new group reaching agreement with State Fair, NASCAR scheduled a June 18 Camping World Truck Series at the track, followed the next day by a Nationwide Series race.

However, NASCAR and the IRL are collectively owed an estimated $2 million from previous unpaid sanction fees. Asked if his group had satisfied that debt, Machi said: "We made NASCAR happy." He declined to provide further details.

(MORE from JSOnline)
OK then.

A quote attributed to no one in particular

Posted by Iannucci | 9/19/2009 | , | 1 comments »
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I just noticed I got this in the email yesterday (sorry, I was prepping for the race) which is "a statement from the Indy Racing League". I guess they got everyone in the offices at 16th and Georgetown together and in unison chanted...


INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2009 - The following is a statement from the Indy Racing League, the sanctioning body of the IndyCar Series, regarding VERSUS' coverage of the Indy Japan 300 on DirecTV:

"We have been in constant communication with our television partner VERSUS regarding its negotiations with DirecTV. Talks have been ongoing and, while we're hopeful for a speedy resolution, we do not anticipate coverage of the Indy Japan 300 on DirecTV this weekend.

"As announced earlier in the week, there will be comprehensive coverage of practice, qualifying and the race on We could not be happier with the partnership we have forged in just over a year with VERSUS and look forward to a long and healthy relationship. Both VERSUS and the IndyCar Series share the frustration of DirecTV subscribers and we are hopeful that the two sides will continue talks and that DirecTV subscribers will have the ability to view IndyCar Series coverage for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway."
You don't need a press release to tell you VERSUS and the IndyCar Series and DirecTV subscribers are all frustrated at this contractual stalemate, but let's also not forget those folks who help pay for the rides and the broadcasts - namely, the sponsors. They bought ad time and paid for snappy decals on the cars and did all sorts of other expensive things that cost money, and I'm sure they're none too pleased at this development. Especially the series title sponsor, who...oh, wait - nevermind that last bit.

Perhaps it's wishful thinking, but I have a hunch this will all be resolved somewhere before the start of the National Hockey League season, which would result in minimal damage to the IndyCar series. That would mean only the Motegi event would be unavailable, and it's not like anyone was expecting a huge audience for an overnight race in Japan in the first place. As long as the series finale, which once again will effectively be the championship match, is on DirecTV then antacid consumption around the league will decline considerably.

Until then though, we can all marvel at the irony of how in a year DirecTV has gone from "presenting sponsor" of the series to, well, the unoffical sponsor of non-presentation.

LiveBlog: Motegi 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 9/18/2009 | , | 0 comments »
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Hello again, race fans. I realize it may be late for many of you on the East Coast as well as the tens of Indycar fans in Europe, but here in sunny Arizona it's just past dinner time.

In honor of the annual race in Japan we here at My name Is IRL World HQ are enjoying an evening of Japanese cuisine...oh, wait, we're not having Japanese cuisine? Well what are we having? Tacos? Oh, OK. I love tacos. And truth be told I'm not a fan of sushi much. At any rate, we're celebrating Twin ring Motegi with a lovely Pico De Gallo.

Tonight we will still enjoy Japanese, as there are three drivers of Japanese heritage: Hideki Mutoh, Kosuke "Sofa King" Matsuura, and Roger Yasukawa. If any of these fine young men wins today I promise to immediately run out to BevMo and down an entire bottle of Sake.

We are also at the first ever event in the history of the IRL where the defending champion is a woman. And that woman is Milka Duno...just kidding. Had to see if you were paying attention. No, all eyes will be on Danica Patrick, about whom recently much has been said and little has actually occurred. If she wins tonight I think we should all start a "Danica to Formula Nippon" rumor.

First though, a moment of silence for our friends who are subscribers to DircTV, which recently dropped VERSUS from their offerings...

...And with that, it's time to start.

0: Gentleman Jack Arute is the only actual member of the VERSUS on-air team to have made the trip to Japan. I can't believe they let him go after he practically sullied Danica's post-race celebration last year by asking here "When are you gonna win AGAIN?" I still love Jack, but I'd vote for LindyCar.

0: Moraes is starting 2nd tonight, so he's the favored underdog. Jack Arute informs us "he sat on the podium in Chicago." I guess it was his first time there, so it's possible Mario didn't know you're supposed to stand on the thing. Perhaps it's some sort of rookie hazing thing for first-timers.

0: Arute loves interrogating Danica so much there's a PART II to her "In Color" that is in black and white. Danica says she remembers women scrubbing weepers, and now I'm going to refill my adult beverage.

0: With it's odd shape Motegi is notorious for eating cars. Heck, it ate two in qualifying. First out picks tonight: Link says Stanton Barrett, P1 says Moraes (she's such a hater - she calls him "Monkey"), and I'm going with Kosuke Matsuura. May the best man win.

0: "Konichi wa, watashima Bob Jenkins"...?

0: A bigwig with Bridgestone musters his best English and tells us "Lady and gentleman, start your engines!"

0: Warm up laps are under way.

0: Arute says Danica won last year "by fuel consumption". I think he meant "fuel conservation". Or maybe he's just already overworked.

0: Coming to the green flag. I agree with Roy Hobbson - having Kanaan and Helio starting at the back makes this race about 3500% more interesting.

0: And we are GREEN. Everyone makes it through the first lap without incident.

3: Camerawork in Japan is very erratic. Thank goodness for the ticker scrolling at the top.

5: Dixon, Dario, Moraes, Briscoe, Danica. Scheckter right behind her. Marco has already moved up 7 spots to 8th, with Graham Rahal right behind him.

10: Cars are starting to spread out, with many positions already having as much as a second between them. No one is going to confuse this place with Kentucky or Chicagoland.

15: Scott Dixon is leading by about a second over his teammate Dario Franchitti.
18: In case you were wondering, Kanaan and Helio are up to 16th and 17th now. Mike Conway is next up to pass on their to-do list.

20: The Japanese delegation is bunched together in 19th (Yasuakawa), 20th (Mutoh) and 21st (Matsuura). I'm sure the home crowd is thrilled by this development.

21: Dan Wheldon goes around Danica to take 5th. This might be the first time he's been in the Top 5 since Indy. If it's not it sure seems like it's been that long.

30: I sure hope you saw that AWESOME vintage promo for early travel to racing in Japan. If not, you have my condolences.

32: Dixon, Dario, Moraes, Briscoe, Wheldon...for now. Dan is all up in Ryan's business.

40: No change up front. Eagerly awaiting pit stops in this fuel conservation parade.

42: Dixon is lapping people. And by people I mean Stanton, Yasukawa and now Kosuke.

47: Moraes pits. Seemed to take an extra second or two trying to get the fuel into the car. Replay looks like the fuel man didn't get the nozzle in all the way until about halfway through the stop.

51: Everyone not named Dario seems to be pitting. Dixon appears to be held up by Hideki Mutoh, although I thought they're all supposed to be going the same speed.

52: Dario and Briscoe pit. On exit it looks like Dario will now be ahead of his teammate.

53: Dixon is trying to pass Dario, but it ain't happening. I'm sitting in a roomful of family members hoping they put each other into the wall. Welcome to my world.

55: Dario, Dixon, Wheldon, Briscoe, Danica. Moraes in 6th but Arute informs us he only has half a load of fuel. Heh heh - he said "load".

58: Morgan Freeman is telling me to "let your freak flag fly". Umm, OK.

65: Tony Kanaan just got lapped. Luckily P3, our resident Kanaan fan, has already gone to bed.

70: Dario is lapping Mike Conway in 15th. Helio in 14th is the last car on the lead lap. This is what happens when you have extended green flag racing.

72: Moraes has to pit. That's what a "half-load" of fuel will do to you.

75: Nostrabeekhuis is lulling me to sleep by telling me about rack and pinion steering. Six teeth versus ten teeth. Steering ratioooooooozzzzzzzz...

83: Sorry, I nodded off and suddenly Dan Wheldon is in 3rd. Mario Moraes in 19th. Just got lapped by Dario to go 2 laps down. Looks like I picked the wrong week to take Mario in the TSO fantasy league.

90: Scheckter is in the pits. And out of the car. Looks like I picked the wrong week to have him on my TSO fatasy league as well.

91: BIG moment for Kosuke. Much see-sawing of the wheel. I almost one the first out pool, but sadly his crazy mad driving skillz saved him from contact with the wall. to the surprise of no one, Matsuura coasts into the pits.

97: Dario, Dixon 2 seconds back, Wheldon 3 seconds back, Briscoe 12 seconds back, Danica 19 seconds back. Feel the excitement.

101: Wheldon pits. In and out.

102: Dixon pits. In and out.

103: Dario pits. In and out. But he's not leading because Brisoce is still out there conserving fuel like nobody's business.

106: And Briscoe pits. And Conway has gone into the wall. And Briscoe will not be penalized. AND BRISCOE TAPS THE WALL ON PIT EXIT. Oh, crikey! He's driving around with the "pit zone" cone stuck under his car.

108: Briscoe rolls through the pits for what I suppose it a penalty.

109: Uh, anyone wanna tell us if Conway is OK? That was a big hit.

110: Briscoe is still listed as the race leader but he'll need to pit. Here he comes. Change the wing, change the tires, change the postion back to third. Yes, it says third, even after all those recent pit stops. he must have been ahead by a lot.

111: Dixon, Dario, Briscoe, Wheldon, Servia. Hooray for Oriol!

112: Briscoe is back in the pits. Probably not a potty break. He's going laps down so he might as well get out and visit the restroom.

113: Arute is telling us about plastic cones, saying "I know I've hit one now and again". Memo to self: if Jack offers to give me a ride, DECLINE.

114: Briscoe is still in the pits. Somewhere Chip Ganassi is already counting the dollars for whichever of his drivers wins the 2009 ICS Championship.

118: Conway's status is still unknown. But we're back to GREEN regardless.

121: Airtime for Rafa Matos, who has gotten around Servia and has stormed up to 5th. Meanwhile, Moraes is back on the lead lap and in 9th.

124: Ryan Briscoe meekly re-enters the race. Actually he just did an entire lap on the apron before getting up to speed. Ryan is in 19th, 12 laps down. Looks like I picked the wrong week to pick Briscoe for my TSO fantasy league.

125: In case you were wondering, I think I also had Ed Carpenter and Dario Franchitti in the TSO fantasy league. I'm only mentioning this in case something happens to either of them.

130: Danica has gone backwards to 9th and is now the last car on the lead lap. She's 6 mph slower that the leaders, so she's probably conserving fuel again.

131: And Briscoe is back in the pits.

133: And Briscoe leaves again. Meanwhile Servia has wrested 4th back from Matos. Wouldn't it be nice to see this battle instead of Briscoe sitting in the pits? Why, yes it would.

139: Mario Moraes is up to 6th. Impressive.

142: @DRRIndyCar just tweeted "Mike (Conway) is back in the team offices and relaxing. Thank you all for your concern!"

145: Moraes is slowing, now back to 8th. Looks like he's trying to save fuel now. I tell ya, you ain't seen nothing until you seen these IndyCars "make fuel". It's simply breathtaking. /sarcasm

153: Dixon, Dario, Wheldon, all within a second or so, with Rahal back in 4th 11 seconds back.

154: Ryan-Hunter Reay gets airtime because no pit stop goes untelevised. Same for Justin Wilson who's running...well, he's still out there in some-teenth.

158: Wheldon pits.

159: Matos pits.

160: Dixon and Dario pit at the same time. Rahal takes the lead. RYAN HUNTER-REAY GOES INTO THE WALL. Dixon beats Dario off the line but Rahal should have a lap on them.

162: Hunter-Reay's #14 has a lot of damage. Replay shows a hard hit (is there any other kind here?) back first, but Ryan is out and walking around.

163: Rahal, Servia, Danica, Marco, Moraes and a bunch of others pit. I have no idea what's going on, but the announcers are saying the Ganassi drivers will be shown in the lead. Dixon, Franchitti, Rahal, Servia, Moraes.

167: Bob Jenkins informs us that VERSUS will now "welcome N****R" and will profile the 12 drivers in the Race for the Chase for the Cup for the...well, that's something else DirecTV subscribers can eagerly look forward to missing.

171: Back to GREEN...or not. Dixon tried to jump everyone. Jon calls it "Premature acceleration". Har har.

172: Now we're back to GREEN, as Matsuura and Carpenter inadvertantly run interference for the two Ganassi cars.

175: Moraes, Rahal and Servia are all over each other for 3rd, 4th and 5th. If you are still awake you are certainly appreciating this. And thank you VERSUS for showing the racing instead of the lock-step up front.

179: Bob Jenkins tells us Mike Conway is OK with ice on his foot. Also, Ryan Hunter-Reay is alright but he has a bruised knee. Thanks for the update.

180: I think for about the 10th time this season I'm thinking "Gosh, if you'd take the first two cars off the track this would be a heck of a race." So it goes.

190: Dixon, Dario, Rahal, Servia, Moraes. Probably going to end that way. Meanwhile Helio and Kanaan are 10th and 11th respectively.

195: Japanese driver update: Mutoh 14th, Matsuura 17th, Yasukawa 20th. Roger's 29 laps down though, so it's not a very close 20th.

198: Danica is in 6th. No repeat. I know you're all stunned, but what are you gonna do?

199: White flag for Dixon.

200: Checkers for Dixon, his 5th win of the season. Dario and Graham will join him on the podium.

It's late, so I'll let you all go to bed, presuming you all are still awake. Congrats to Scott on a solid effort and a serious dose of luck on the timeliness of the Hunter-Reay wreck. All that remains is for Scott to give a dull interview, a required follow-up with Danica, and then we get to wait to see if the ICS reached a perfect .00 in the ratings for this race.

Thank you all very much - especially the folks who've been keeping each other awake and amused on twitter - and good night.

The Sofa King returns

Posted by Iannucci | 9/17/2009 | | 1 comments »
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It's time for Motegi, which means it's time for any driver with a Japanese surname and a recent history of driving to suddenly find himself behind the wheel of a Dallara. Case in point Roger Yasukawa and Kosuke Matsuura.

Roger's a likable guy and his record at Indy is solid, but let's face it - he's never had a career moment quite like this one Kosuke had, which was the cherry on top of his odd career rivalry with Jeff Simmons. Here's to broken English, thick accents, and an honest dose of profanity that hopefully my kids still can't understand.

All Hail the Sofa King! Tens of race fans will be downing coffee and eagerly awaiting his inevitably candid 2am interview with Gentleman Jack Arute at Motegi this weekend.


Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 9/17/2009 | , , | 2 comments »
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"When I made the deal with Ryan, I had told him he'd have a ride for the rest of the season because I didn't really know if Vitor would be ready. And even though Vitor has been cleared to drive, the more I thought about it, I don't think having his first race back being at Miami is the best thing for Vitor. There's a lot of risk and not that much to be gained. We want to get a good start on 2010 with Vitor and do more testing over the winter so I think it's in all of our interests to have him focus on next year." - AJ Foyt, signaling the official end to Vitor Meira's season, and saying that if the #14 is going to get wadded up at Homestead then he'd much rather have Vision Racing's Ryan Hunter-Reay in the cockpit.

How to fill a void

Posted by Iannucci | 9/16/2009 | , , | 2 comments »
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At this time your humble host is not able to comment on my conspicuous absence over recent days, however I will categorically deny certain vicious rumors I have read. Let me say in no uncertain terms: I did NOT fall into a crushing state of depression over LindyCar Thackston stealing what little readership I had at Silent Pagoda, I did NOT have my password to my site hijacked by M.I.T. Pre-Emeritus Interuptus JR Hildebrand after I off-handedly called him "Jimmy Neutron", and at NO POINT was I chained as a love slave in the basement of Lauren Bohlander's lounge. (I might strongly consider applying for that position, though.)

Despite my absence it seems I haven't missed too much because almost all anyone has been talking about for the last week and a half is innumerable sentences containing the words "Danica" and "N****R". It appears to have all started with an article at ESPN, which led to several blog posts, as well as poor Curt Cavin having to answer daily questions on something that hasn't actually occurred.

# Sept. 3: On Danica and Alex Lloyd - 09/03/09
# Sept. 8: On Danica and IMS surface - 09/08/09
# Sept. 9: On Danica and Grand Am - 09/09/09
# Sept. 11: On Danica and Osama Bin Laden - 09/11/09
# Sept. 13: On Danica and Kanye West - 09/13/09

I can see how a lot of people want to chatter about such a subject, but again - NOTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENED. To recap: Tony Stewart says he talked with her, that she's looking to run some stock car feeder series in the next year or two, that she really wants to race tin tops for a living, and all of a sudden it's IndyCarmageddon. No contract was signed, no official announcement was made, and most importantly no new sponsors were hooked up to Danica's gravy train. All that happened was that Smoke said she "looked him in the eye" and told him this is what she wanted to do.

How is this news? As if anyone on a job interview - and when you think about, the Danica World Leverage Tour was a lot like a prolonged one-woman job fair - would say something different. As if we didn't already know Danica and her mysterious cadre of handlers haven't already been publicly talking up the idea of her in the most widely watched racing series in America? As if we're all suddenly shocked, SHOCKED that there's gambling in Casablanca.

Yet poor Bob Kravitz, who I last saw sleeping on Race Day at Indy this year, went into his best Chicken Little impersonation, saying nonsensical and contradictory things like her departure "won't kill the sport, but it will deal the open-wheel types a painful and possibly even fatal blow."

I'm not sure that was actually Bob, but before we all get navel-gazing about what the A.D. (After Danica) era would be like we need to remember she's still probably going to be in the IndyCar series for the immediate future. Yes, someday soon Danica may find herself elbow deep in studies similar to the Sam Hornish Jr Stock Car Education Curriculum, and she may have some as yet unknown fairy sponsor drop a $30 meeeeelion dollar package into her lap to jump to the Cup series, and she may find herself racing around for 30th place not because she can't drive the car but because she can't drive as well as the other 42 more experienced drivers. Someday. Not today, probably not this year, and maybe even not next year. But someday, maybe.

Friends, the WWDT mission has not failed. Not yet, at least. Somebody tell Hitler to take a breath and chill, because no matter how much wanderlust Mrs Hospenthal might have currently she will still for the foreseeable future be stuck with us and we will be stuck with her. Just remember this in case the three-week delay between Motegi and Homestead gets filled with even more hysteria.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 9/03/2009 | , , | 9 comments »
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What does this one say?

Photo: Nelson Philippe twitpic

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 9/03/2009 | , | 0 comments »
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"I’m not his father, but I feel the same level of pride...There have been several teams interested in doing a program with Alex. Frankly, he couldn’t have signed with a more competitive and professional organization. We look forward to the fantastic results we know he is capable of achieving." - Sam Schmidt, beaming with pride that his former driver, 2007 Indy Lights Champ Alex Lloyd, is getting a one-race deal with Newman/Haas/Lanigan for the season finale at Homestead.

Oriol Servia's father figures were unavailable for comment.

Random silly season thought

Posted by Iannucci | 9/02/2009 | , , | 11 comments »
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As Dale noted a few weeks ago, it's that special time of year for drivers to start shuffling around and making plans for next season. Looking to 2010 the uncertainty is even swirling around a former series champion like Dan Wheldon, who according to random speculation has already worn out his welcome with Panther Racing in his first season. A driver with as many wins as Dan came at a steep price for Panther, but aside from a 2nd place finish at Indy (and in truth, if you're going to have one podium finish the money involved makes that the place to get it) there hasn't been a lot of Return On Investment in the Wheldon contract other than that chortle-inducing "Do you think I'm your mother!" commercial.

Panther's sponsorship arrangements with the U.S. National Guard and others put them in a rare position of being able to actually select a driver entirely on merit, and presumably with Wheldon they thought they were getting the best available driver. He was certainly the one with the most wins available. However, with the IndyCar series schedule taking a right turn towards a majority of road and street courses, Dan's actual value as a driver - while still above average - looks to have declined almost as much as the Nielsen ratings for IndyCar races.

This is not meant as any offense to Dan who over the years has demonstrated ample skill and tire-thumping bravery, nor to Panther Racing who have made a successful career out of doing more with less, but any honest assessment can see this relationship ain't working for either of them. When the winless Vitor Meira years are looked upon as the good 'ol days you know the results are not meeting mutual expectations.

They don't ask me about these things, but if Panther Racing is going to continue with their National Guard sponsorship I'd like to suggest they take a long look at finding a talented young American to drive that car. Not to open a up a xenophobic can of worms here, but if the sponsor is a branch of the American military service it can come across as just a bit odd to ask a non-citizen to represent them. It's not inherently wrong, but it does run the risk of confusing the marketing message a touch.

So which young American does your humble host think Panther should zero in on for 2010? Well, Graham Rahal appears to have a good thing going with N/H/L, Marco Andretti probably wouldn't leave the family business just yet, Ryan Hunter-Reay is still under contract with Vision Racing, Ed Carpenter is...not going anywhere, and Danica Patrick is WAY outta their price range. Fortunately, there is one young American who's smart, personable, immensely talented on both road and street courses, and fits the National Guard demographic. He's even got an all-American name like "J.R.".

Oh, and his current team busts out this little "Captain America" doll after he wins.

Yes, I'm talking about the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights champion, JR Hildebrand, who just became the first American to win that series title in 7 years. Again, I have nothing against foreign drivers (foreign drivers are FUN-tastic!), but this sponsorship and this team - who once featured an enormous American flag on their IndyCar - seem to be a little more focused on their American-ness than most others. If they can successfully develop a guy like Sam Hornish Jr into an ICS champion then they could do wonders developing the skills of JR, who might already a better road racer than Sam has ever been.

Just sayin' some things make too much sense. Quite frankly, Hildebrand looks like a special driver who shouldn't have to suffer the same career stall as many other former FIL champions. And as for Wheldon, I suppose in a perfect world he'd get back together with Tony Kanaan at AGR someday. But this is quite the imperfect world, is isn't it?

(Photo: TrackSide Online)

A weekend to remember and other thoughts

Posted by Declan | 9/01/2009 | 2 comments »
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I ventured directly into the belly of the beast last weekend. On reflection, with both Grand Am and Nationwide series racing in Montreal, I was in the belly of both beasts or possibly in the two separate bellies of one enormous beast.

Canadians, and in particular, the Québecois, love their racing. I thought I understood that prior to my trip across the border. I knew I knew it before the first hot lap of the first qualifying session of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series on Saturday afternoon. JR Fitzpatrick was the first guy out of the pits and was the first driver to hit the turn one complex on a hot lap. He missed his braking point and went straight on, the packed grandstands around turn one/two exploded with delight. Fitzpatrick is from Ontario and I don't think he speaks French. I have never seen a 'play off' atmosphere like this at a racing event and especially not after precisely no hot laps of qualifying. It was the Canadiens versus the Maple Leafs (or possibly the Bruins). In reality these guys were only getting warmed up. I stood outside turn one as the second practice session began, hometown heroes and US open wheel refugees, Alex Tagliani and Andrew Ranger were on track and the stands were on fire (not literally, that would have been terrible)! This was qualifying for a support series and it was magnificent!

Andrew Ranger is 22 years old and a veteran of two full seasons of the Champ Car World Series. As an 18 year old rookie he stood on the podium in Mexico in 2005 racing for MiJack Conquest, beating IndyCar pilots Alex Tagliani, Justin Wilson, Ryan Hunter Reay, Paul Tracy, Oriol Servia and Nelson Phillipe in the process. His loyal but limited backers simply could not provide enough funding for him to run in the series as it moved to the new Panoz chassis in 2007 and Ranger made the brave and pivotal decision to concentrate on tin top racing in his native Canada. He won the Canadian Tire Series in his rookie season and is likely to take the title again this year. He is a big star here and it doesn't do him any harm to race with a very large '27' on the side of his car either. It was his father's number and, of course, the number globally synonymous with both Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve. His third place performance in the Nationwide Series on Sunday could easily springboard Ranger into a lucrative Sprint Cup career. Sadly, it looks like another massive young talent and North American star has slipped through the open wheel net directly into the clutches of NASCAR.

Ranger (right) is funded fully for Canadian Stock cars
but that same budget would have been enough for about three races in new Panoz Champ Car in 2007.

Everywhere one looked at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve there were CART/CCWS/IndyCar refugees. The Nationwide series had Alex Tagliani, Max Papis, Patrick Carpentier, Jacques Villeneuve, Andrew Ranger, Stanton Barret and Michael McDowall while Buddy Rice was pedaling a Daytona Prototype in the GrandAm race on Saturday.

Running the Penske DP car, Will Power's IndyCar crew were embroiled in a tremendous battle with the Stallings team throughout Saturday's race. I was able to have a brief word with Penske's pit entry spotter (no other team had one) who was confident that Will Power would be back with the IndyCar team in 2010, which is very good news.

Sunday's Nationwide race was ruined by the weather, the insanity of the governing body and a handful of inept drivers who have difficulty turning both ways even before adding precipitation to the equation. The decision to halt the race in order to let the teams change to wet settings was as tedious as it was hilarious. By the time the teams made the changes, the rain had stopped. Unleashing 40 plus cars into turn one on a damp track was an absolutely insane decision and destroyed the race as a spectacle. In the end almost half the race was run under caution. Think of that the next time you hear the phrase 'the 43 best drivers in the World!'

I enjoy stock car road racing a lot and it can to be hugely exciting watching those big cumbersome cars negotiate their way around a great road racing facility like Montreal. But NASCAR seems to constantly come up with elaborate new ways of opening themselves up for ridicule from the open wheel community and rightly so. 'Plate racing' on super speedways has long been an object of mirth amongst many IndyCar fans but one has to be careful. The recent oval races at Kentucky and Chicagoland were wonderful spectacles but fundamentally IndyCar on these tracks is simply restrictor plate racing with open wheels, contrived and quasi-fake. That is not to say that it is not enjoyable but it really should not be what this series is all about. This particular form or racing is also massively dangerous, something explored by the excellent James Broomhead in a blogpost here.

The all-oval IRL had racing like this week in and week out along with low ratings and poor attendances at many venues. Reverting to this formula when the series has smaller crowds and even less media visibility is not the answer. Sadly the answer is multiple engine and chassis choices and a variety of answers to the same technical question but that is so far in the future, there is no point in talking about it right now. At this point I would happily take a V6 Honda Turbo with another 300 hp which would at least reduce the amount of 100% throttle racing we have now.

Until then, I'm not sure any of us can accuse NASCAR of artificial competition and/or spectacle. Although almost all of the IndyCar drivers can cope with a little bit of rain.