LiveBlog: Milwaukee 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 5/31/2009 | 29 comments »
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It seems like just a few days ago that we were watching the stars of the IndyCar series racing around the the most famous speedway in the world, but that was then and this is now. Today the action moves to Milwaukee, which is actually and older track that Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Speakling of old, the big story today is the pairing of Paul Tracy and AJ Foyt as driver and owner, not only because these are two of the most surly, err, self-assured drivers in racing history but also because they are a combined 114 years old. And no - the #14 is still sponsored by race sponsor ABC Supply Co and not Metamucil. Opportunity lost.

I have a confession to make: I'm hoping Paul Tracy wins today. There, I said it. Black is white, up is down, and I'm rooting for Paul Tracy. Fact is he's won here four times and AJ Foyt's team hasn't won since...I don't even remember, to be honest. Tracy has raced VERY well in two IndyCar races in the last 12 months, and...OK, I'm officially insane.

A big note for today's race is that last week's winner Helio Castroneves will be starting from the back today after crashing during yesterday's qualification attempt. Should be fun to see him march up the field in attempt to go from last to first like he most recently did in the season finale in Chicagoland last year. Yes, this Helio guy is pretty good.

We've got five different teams making up the first five starting psotion, so this will be a great chance for someone to break the Big Three grip on ovals. And with all of that, it's time to start.

0: Hey, that looks like a good crowd! Must be the $50 seats allowing all you can eat Famous Dave's BBQ and all you can guzzle beer.

0: Dario has an fugly green car, sponsored by a GPS manufacturer. On a one mile oval. Go figure.

0: AJ Foyt tells them... *crickets chirping*. No audio for the "start your engines". FAIL.

0: And look here, it's a split screen with an isolated Helio-cam. Feel the excitement.

1: And we're GREEN. Wiuthin one lap Tony Kanaan has ROCKETED to the front. Much less drag now that he's shaved his head.

3: We're 3 laps in and we're already checking in with Danica - in 9th. Ye gods!

5: Tomas Scheckter has already gone from 10th to 5th, and even more surprising is ESPN is putting him on screen.

10: Kanaan, Briscoe, Rahal, Dixon, Dario. Helio only up from 20th to 17th. And now that we've raced 10 laps we need to go to commercial. WTF?

17: And we're back. And Helio is in 18th. Being told "use your tools". Please drink responsibly, friends.

21: Paul Tracy is in last, and is getting lapped. I accept full responsibility for this since I was saying I hoped he won. Let me know who you want me to jinx next week.

26: Briscoe and Dixon - who I guess got around Graham - both go around race leader Tony Kanaan. Well, I guess I should say FORMER race leader.

29: And here's another commercial

36: And we're back. 14 laps of commercials in the first 36. So glad I tuned in to watch.

39: Ryan Briscoe is right behind his teammate, Helio Castroneves, contemplating lapping him. Decisions, decision. Meanwhile Tony Kanaan has dropped back to 9th. He was leading this race 13 laps ago.

42: Vince Welch tells us they're trying to get Tony to "work with his tools".

48: It's Briscoe, Dixon, Franchitti, Rahal, Mutoh. Yes, I said Mutoh. Helio is still at the tail end of the lead lap. And now - another commercial.

53: We interrupt this commercial break to bring you racing action.

57: YELLOW as Mike Conway has gone into the wall. He's performed this maneuver in nearly every race this year. Gave Dan Wheldon a ton of room to pass him underneath and just drifted up. Meanwhile, Helio gets a HUGE break.

59: Free ethanol in the pits and everyone is in, everyone is out...except Helio. He's stalled it in the pits so he's still the last car on the lead lap. Say, who's up for another commercial break?

62: And we're back. Your leaders are still Briscoe, Dixon, Franchitti, Rahal, Mutoh.

63: Marty Reid just "oh, by the way" mentioned that EJ Viso is still on pit road, but, hey, let's go for ANOTHER commercial break.

67: Back to THE Milwaukee mile. Marty Reid says Danica passes Hideki Mutoh on the restart but actually she was going around Rapahel Matos. You say Tah-Mutoh, I say Tah-Matos.

75: 14 cars left on the lead lap. Ryan Hunter-Reay is 14th, with Helio just ahead of him.

78: Paul Tracy is now 2 laps down. Somewhere Vitor Meira is quietly chuckling.

83: EJ Viso is getting lapped by Ryan Briscoe, which is probably OK with EJ since even though he's a dozen laps down he's just happy to be here. Seriously, his car hasn't been able to finish a race all year. We could talk about this more but it's time for another commercial.

89: Welcome back to actual racing action, or in this case Ryan Briscoe running away from everyone in an attempt to win back-to-back race at THE Milwuakee Mile.

100: Still Briscoe, Dixon, Franchitti, Rahal, Mutoh, and Briscoe is once again closing on Helio. Ryan still hasn't lapped his teammate today.

107: Less passing. More commercials.

110: On the side-by-side we see with Dixon breathing down his neck Briscoe finally laps Helio. We also see about the umteenth ad for that "Wipeout" show.

114: And we're back, and although he's been lapped by his teammate, Helio has not been passed by Scott Dixon. Racing like a fiend despite being a lap down. I'm sure he's getting blue-flagged for that, and I'm equally sure he'll ignore that command.

128: You've missed nothing, although cars are now starting to make green-flag pit stops. I'm shocked we didn't have another commercial break, though.

133: Ryan Briscoe pits, and Scott Dixon - fuel miser that he is - takes the lead. I tell ya, you haven't lived until you've seen Dixon drive in fuel mapping position 4.

135: Tony Kanaan pits and there's a bunch of smoke coming from his car, and where there's smoke there's fire. Fire up the Car-Be-Cue. Kanaan gets help climbing out as his day is done.

140: After all of the pit stops it's Dario now in the lead, followed by Briscoe, Dixon, Rahal, and Matos. Time for another commercial break.

147: And we're back, but not before P3 has started a puzzle, P1 has nearly nodded off, and P2 has gone into the other room to see what's going on in the N-Word race. Between the lack of passing and all of the commercials a malaise has set in.

154: Wake up, everyone! Briscoe goes under Franchitti to take the lead and Scott Dixon jumps in to make it nearly three-wide. Much "defending" on Ryan's part, but since he's not Helio he won't get a black flag from the Iron Hand of Justice Velvet Glove of Tolerance.

156: Wow, and exciting battle for the lead - so let's check in with Danica in 6th.

158: Thanks, Danica. Let's have another commercial break.

160: Side-by-side shows a yellow flag. For what...?

163: Commercial break has ended, and we are told the caution is for debris on the track. Looks like a giant street sweeper has joined the field.

165: Final pit stop for the race leaders and...the first six hold their position from pit entry. Briscoe, Dixon, Franchitti, Rahal, Matos, Danica. AGR teammates Marco and Mutoh right behind Bunnies & Rainbows.

171: Still yellow. Still sweeping marbles I suppose.

172: FINALLY back to green...wait...nevermind. Wave that off.

173: GREEN - and this time we mean it. By then end of the lap the fron three already pulling away.

175: Marco is moving up, going around Matos to take 5th.

178: As Marco sets his sights on Graham Rahal for 4th Marty Reid says "Let's go back and check in with the race leaders because nothing has changed up front..." For real. And look - more ads.

186: And we're back. And I'm annoyed. Sorry freinds, but this is just a horrendous broadcast today.

189: Marco is reminded to "keep using your tools". But we can't show him running more than a lap before checking in with Danica, who I should point out is behind him.

191: Looks like Viso has pancaked the wall and is coming into the pits for what looks to be another DNF. What aforgettable year this is turning out to be for EJ.

196: Marty tells us Viso is out for the day and "it's been a tough year for that team". I wonder if he even knows the team name. No matter - more commercials!

202: Back again, but not before Scott Dixon has now taken the lead. Meanwhile Danica is in 5th and Marco is in 7th. There's passing here today - we're just not seeing it.

208: Here are replays of Danica and Matos going around Marco. Marco is being told to "use your tools". I'm starting to think these pit reporters may have teleprompters.

214: 11 laps to go and P1 and P3 have been bored to the point of sleep by this broadcast. P2 is still watching the N-word race. This is unprecedented in our household.

219: Dixon has pulled way ahead but Dario is challenging Briscoe for 2nd. Try to act thrilled.

220: Graham Rahal - who's been running in FOURTH all day - finally gets some air time.

224: White flag for Dixon. Come sweet slumber, enshroud me in thy purple cloak.

225: Checkered flag for Dixon, his second win of the year and his 18th total in the IndyCar series. One behind Sam Hornish Jr, who I believe is racing on the TV in the other room. Briscoe, Dario, Rahal, Danica. Bunnies & Rainbows is racking up the Top 5s this year.

I'd congratulate some others but we have to go to YET ANOTHER commercial break before Scott Dixon climbs out of his car in Victory Lane. I'm not kidding.

Let's total the laps shown:
0-10 (10 laps), then a commercial break
17-29 (12), than another break
36-48 (12), than another break
53-59 (6), than another break
62-63 (1), than another break
67-83 (16), than another break
89-107 (18), than another break
114-140 (26), than another break
147-158 (11), than another break
163-178 (15), than another break
186-196 (10), than another break
202-225 (23), than another break
...plus another break between the checkered flag and the the Victory Lane interview.

A grand total of 12 commercial breaks that resulted in only 160 of 225 laps being shown. 65 laps of mindless ads for "Wipeout". I'm turning this TV off before I'm subjected to any more of these ads, because I'm already requiring another adult beverage - STAT.

That's it for me, friends. I've had enough of this ABC Programing Special, sponsored by the IndyCar series. Thanks for bearing with me today, and good night.

The co-ordination of spontaneity

Posted by Iannucci | 5/30/2009 | 6 comments »
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(The following is a partial transcript of the Trackside show with Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee, from a segment where Mr Lee is describing why in the world IMS officials including Security Chief Charles Burns seemed to be preventing Helio Castroneves from climbing the fence after his third Indy 500 victory.)

"I talked with some people, and this is how it was explained to me. This is from IMS people, that they had conversations about what they wanted to happen. And they had two plans. At first they were going to tell whoever won to go directly to victory lane. That included Helio, and he was told that on the radio.

"That's what you've heard, and I've heard the radio transmission. You're going to hear it again on Mike King's show on IndyCar weekly. Someone - not Brian Barnhart - was saying 'Three (Helio's car number) go to victory lane, three go to victory lane, three go to victory lane.'

"They had a second plan in the case of Helio winning, and they knew there was a decent chance that he was going to disregard that and he was going to stop on the track. As I was told, their hope and their goal was that he would go to victory lane, he would get the wreath, he would drink the milk, and then he could run and climb a fence. And maybe he would do the ABC interview first, whatever. But he would go on and climb the fence after that.

"But if he did not, the plan was then to have security out there on the main stretch to try to keep as many people - photographers, ABC doing the post-race interview - from him so then he would climb the fence and report directly to victory lane.

"I am told that the tech inspector in the yellow firesuit was not supposed to try to put the steering wheel back in his car. He was listening to the directions 'Three go to victory lane,' and took that upon himself to try to help get 'Three' directly to victory lane. So that has been conceded that that was not handled well."



(Photo: I told Meesh I wouldn't publish this photo she took, but I couldn't resist. Come on - this is an unparalleled pic of Helio, Charles, and the overzealous official.)

Overtaking talk is taking over

Posted by Iannucci | 5/29/2009 | 17 comments »
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In the week following the Indy 500 there has been no shortage of negativity aimed towards ESPN. Whether it be towards the announcers, the failure to show cars not leading, or the incessant "checking in with Danica", race fans who have been getting super-sized coverage by VERSUS this season have decided that the WorldWide Leader is just not up to snuff.

VERSUS owns the rights to ALL practice and qualifying this year, so ESPN was never able to get involved with televising Pole Day or Bump Day. However, the promotional effort compared to what VERSUS was noticeably less than, as I can attest from seeing more print and hearing more radio ads for the St Pete and Long Beach races than Indy. Given all of that it's easy to see why folks are saying ESPN/ABC is largely to blame for the ratings decline of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

But there's another thing that's contributing race fans ire, something on which commentators as disparate as Robin Miller and Chris Estrada both agree. That is, the dearth of green-flag passing during the most important race of the year.

This lack of overtaking is perplexing, because there wasn't a time long ago where green flag passing was not only prominent, it was the hallmark of the IndyCar series. I often refer people who have never seen and IndyCar race to watch the closing laps of the 2003 Chicagoland race to see how exciting the racing can be. Granted, that footage features a different course than Indy, but the fact remains that for some reason this kind of racing seems to be less and less existent, regardless of the track.

Now, there are folks that may say this is because we have a spec series where all entries in the IndyCar series are running the same chassis, engine, and tires. There may be benefits to having multiple manufactures of various parts of the car, but I'd like to point out there is another spec series that doesn't have today's lock-step problem: the Firestone Indy Lights.

WARNING - The following contains footage of actual passing. Viewer discretion is advised.



On his Trackside show the intrepid Curt Cavin mentioned that he had asked about this very issue with Brian Barnhart, who responded by saying that even though there was little passing at the front there was plenty of position changes towards the back.

I'm presuming the IHJ demurred from expressing any concern because he's been all about safety the last few years, and to that effect not having cars going two-wide around the speedway is obviously safer. Ensuring the safety of competitors makes not only moral sense, but has financial benefits as well. Not only do teams incur less expenses related to broken equipment, but the series benefits from having healthy, long-term careers of prominent drivers. Hey, who's not down with that, right?

But there is such a thing as too much of an emphasis on safety, as hopefully Mr Barnhart understands. I mean, this IS racing and it IS going to be dangerous, and although IMS could just sell tickets to watch a bunch of cars parked on pit road I suspect the ratings would be monumentally low. Even with the cars still running we may have crossed the threshold of over-officiousness that's deteriorating the racing product.

Consider for moment that compared to the early days of the IRL we now have lower speeds, more street/road courses, and green flag starts where drivers are instructed to fall behind the pole sitter. Throw in extended caution periods for pit stops and you've got yourself a high-speed parade, which under the best case scenario for excitement ends with Helio climbing the fence.

(And don't even get me started on whatever reason Security Chief Charles was instructed to try to prevent that moment - that's a whole 'nother post).

Anyhow, I don't want to belabor the point any further and I'm certainly not going so far as to call for anyone's resignation, but the fact is the last couple of years the actual racing part of the race has been obviously lacking. The good news is something is already working for the racing in the Lights series with cars that are very similar in size to the parent series, so if Brian Barnhart could please look into transferring that areo package or gearing or whatever it would be greatly appreciated.

These are challenging times for the series, but this seems like a total no-brainer. Do what you have to and put more racing back in the races, because even if the television coverage is horrendous it won't really matter much so long as the cameras are running.

FastMachines goes two-wide with podcast

Posted by Iannucci | 5/29/2009 | 3 comments »
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Chris and Josh at FastMachines wanted to discuss the Indy 500 on their latest podcast, so who do they invite? Rick Mears? Robin Miller? Jimmy Kite? No, they tabbed pressdog and your humble host. Click the logo below to listen to the madness.



Feel free to comment on the (ahem) wisdom we imparted, but before you say anything allow me to preemptively blame my long-winded answers on all of the Donald Davidson podcasts I absorbed this month. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Seriously though, thanks to Chris and Josh for sharing the IndyCar love.

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 5/28/2009 | 8 comments »
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"I don't know if they look up to me or not. I think the attitudes of these drivers has changed. When I came up, when I first started, I mean, I didn't say nothing to anybody. I looked down. You know, I saw A.J., Rick, Mario, I'd look down at the ground like a scared dog.

So the drivers nowadays have big attitudes and they're highly confident in themselves, never think they're wrong about anything. I think if I did some of the stuff that goes on on the tracks today at the age of some of these young kids, running guys, you know, down into the grass and into the pit wall, I mean, if I did that when I was 21, 22 years old to a guy like A.J. or Mario, they'd come down and pull me behind the garage and kick the crap out of me"


- Paul Tracy, reminiscing about the good 'ol days before he gets into a car to drive for AJ Foyt in the AJ Foyt 225 at THE Milwaukee Mile this weekend.

Deja Vu all over again

Posted by Iannucci | 5/28/2009 | 7 comments »
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I just read this summary of the last two Indy 500s over at Furious Wedge, and it's astounding in one of those Lincoln/Kennedy ways.

2008:
* Polesitter wins Indianapolis 500 by 1.7498 seconds.
* Panther National Guard #4 is second place car
* AGR car finishes in third place
* Graham Rahal crashes in 4th turn on lap 36
* Tony Kanaan exits race in 3rd turn incident on lap 105
* 8 cautions for 60 laps
* No green flag pit stops for the leaders

2009:
* Polesitter wins Indianapolis 500 by 1.9819 seconds.
* Panther National Guard #4 is second place car
* AGR car finishes in third place
* Graham Rahal crashes in 4th turn on lap 55
* Tony Kanaan exits race in 3rd turn incident on lap 97
* 8 cautions for 61 laps
* No green flag pit stops for the leaders

Might I also note that in 2008 Scott Dixon appears at Curt Cavin's Carb Night Burger Bash and finished 1st, and in 2009 Dan Wheldon appeared and finished 2nd. Three other drivers who shall remain nameless said they would appear in 2009 but did not, and all three ended up in the wall. It's true.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 5/28/2009 | 12 comments »
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What does this one say?



(Photo:Danica Patrick/twitpic)

IMS: Tony George still our CEO, for now

Posted by Iannucci | 5/27/2009 | 23 comments »
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(The following is a statement issued today by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

At a regular meeting of the board of directors of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday, May 26, board members asked Tony George, chief executive officer of the IMS companies, to devise a plan for management of Hulman and Company, the Indy Racing League, Clabber Girl and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that would allow him to focus on the business which requires the greatest attention. This plan is to be presented to the board at a meeting later this year.

IMS Chairman of the Board Mari Hulman George said: "There was a general discussion about the challenges and opportunities facing all of our companies and where most of our energies need to be spent. All of our properties are doing well, given the challenges of the current economy. The Indy Racing League represents our greatest growth opportunity and therefore deserves the most attention at this point."

Tony George said: "Contrary to published reports, I continue to serve as CEO of IMS. Our board of directors met yesterday, and we did discuss how to best confront challenges and exploit opportunities facing our businesses. This is nothing new and is something that we continually do as a board. But no changes in leadership or responsibility have been made. We don't normally comment on board deliberations concerning our family business. However, the widespread, inaccurate reports and rumors caused my mother and me to conclude that it was necessary to set the record straight. If changes are made in the management of the company that are newsworthy, we will announce them when they are made."


ELSEWHERE: SPEEDtv has moved Robin Miller's article that started all of this off the front page of SPEEDtv's website, changed the URL, and had the content updated. Bruce Martin's story at SI.com has been completely redone and no longer includes the portion quoted earlier.

Vitor Meira goes home

Posted by Iannucci | 5/27/2009 | 0 comments »
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Good news, race fans. Today Poor Vitor was released (from the hospital, not from AJ Foyt Enterprises) and is now walking around while sporting a very fetching back brace.

Robin: Tony George fired from IMS board

Posted by Iannucci | 5/27/2009 | 19 comments »
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All is not bunnies and rainbows in the Hulman family these days.

The controversial, ground-breaking, tumultuous 20-year reign of Tony George at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is over. SPEEDtv.com has learned George was voted out of power in a Tuesday night board meeting in Indianapolis.

A source close to the situation confirmed that the 49-year-old grandson of Tony Hulman would no longer be CEO of the Speedway after a vote of the IMS board of directors which includes mother Mari, sisters Josie, Nancy and Kathy, attorney Jack Snyder and George.

Calls to Snyder and Fred Nation, IMS vice president of communications, were not returned and George did not respond to an email.

(MORE from Robin Miller/SPEEDtv)
Before we go too far in speculation, please note Robin's disclaimer that this report hasn't been confirmed and that both TrackSide Online and IndyChannel have published that they have also failed to get this confirmed, so there is a chance this is all a very late April Fool's Joke.

Then again maybe it's true, so let's get on with the rampant speculation.

If this were news from a press release from the dead of winter the news wouldn't seem to be such a big deal. Tony George has been involved in governing the speedway, the IndyCar series, and his own IndyCar team, so relinquishing leadership of any one of those would allow him to focus on the others. But this isn't the dead of winter - it's three days after the Indianapolis 500. This isn't just a simple transition.

Now before anyone thinks this means Tony George is free to backpack around the world and hang at hostels please note he is still a very busy man, as his various duties were summarized recently in a response by Terry Angstadt, president of the IRL's commercial division, on Michael Knight's SpinDoctor500 blog.

On the perception (at least by me) that Tony George is disengaged from IRL decision-making after reunification: "That’s one (question) I haven’t had, so that’s always good. My best response is I think Tony, you’re right, for a couple of good, identifiable reasons, and I’m not trying to pat my management team on the back, but I know Tony has expressed his confidence in the direction we’re going. Like any good CEO, what he did was he gave us, the management team, the platform, the opportunity, with unification, where he had to be absolutely embroiled in that, the opportunity now to work with a (unified) property. I think he has a confidence level, and I check in with him on a very regular basis, to make sure we are setting the right course and executing as he wants us to, but, that doesn’t require him to look over our shoulder every day. And I mean that in a good way. I know he loves running Vision Racing, so he’s not only got CEO of the League, CEO of the Speedway, CEO of Clabber Girl Baking Powder and all the initiatives they have, a couple of bank Boards, I mean, this is a busy guy. I think he feels, 'I’ve got my check-ins and check-outs, but I don’t need to be doing that every day of my life.'"
But Robin's report gives the impression that this ousting - again, which is unconfirmed - is due less to Tony's other commitments and more to the fact that Mr George has spent more that $600M over the last 13 years in his endeavors relating to both IMS and the Indy Racing League. That number is probably unconfirmed as well, but it's still likely a large tab. It isn't entirely unbelievable that given the minimal Return On Investment from that gi-normous amount that other members of the Hulman family have seen.

One consideration that may have also factored into this is that Tony George has opened up the speedway to other forms of racing. Massive changes were made to upgrade the Pagoda and build a road course for a Formula One race, and as you may have noted there is exactly zero revenue coming from that stream currently. A Moto GP race is held on the road course now, but it's too early to determine if that will retain profitability in coming years.

Of course, the big addition was adding the Brickyard 400 stock car race, which for years was believed to have provided the revenue that allowed the Indy Racing League to continue to function. However, ticket sales from that race may be going the way of that final Formula One race at Indy after last year's "10 laps and everybody change tires" debacle. You can't expect fans to cough up good money in these hard times to see seven-minute segments of something masquerading as racing.

Which may explain the biggest rumor of all: Tony George's replacement may be former Lowe's Motor Speedway promoter "Humpy" Wheeler. I kid you not. The fact that he was seen at Indianapolis this weekend only furthers the chance that this longtime N-Word guy may now be in charge of the famed speedway. We'll see if that pans out, but for the moment his name is the only one being mentioned currently.

Meanwhile, it looks like Tony George is still in charge of the Indy Racing League and Vision Racing, able to reap all the (ahem) profits they can generate.

UPDATE: The IndyChannel article has been pulled, but Indianapolis Business Journal is confirming all of this.

A racing industry source told IBJ that Tony George's mother and sisters became fed up with the financial losses incurred by the Speedway and Indy Racing League.

George's dismissal comes less than one month after his wife, Laura, was removed from her job as staff adviser at the IMS.

IMS officials were not available to comment this morning, but sources said that the IMS board hopes to talk to H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, one of the foremost promoters of NASCAR and former president of Lowe's Motor Speedway in North Carolina, about a possible management position.


CONFLICTING SECOND UPDATE: Tony George tells WISH-TV he's still CEO, but SI's Bruce Martin says the official announcement of his removal as CEO from the IMS Board is coming later today. Good grief.

An announcement by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation will be made Wednesday afternoon that says George's tenure is over after he was voted out of power in a board meeting Tuesday night. The IMS board of directors includes George's mother, Mari Hulman-George; sisters Josie, Nancy and Kathy Conforti, Indianapolis attorney Jack Snyder and George.

IMS officials have not issued any comment on the matter but a Speedway source said an official announcement will be made later Wednesday.

CURT CAVIN THIRD UPDATE:The intrepid Curt Cavin puts down his cellphone - which is probably burning hot right now - in time to get in his report.

According to the report -- which came from an online media company, and was picked up by two local news outlets -- a decision to dismiss (Tony) George came at Tuesday night's board of directors meeting. George, however, described the meeting as "typical," as did his mother, Mari Hulman George, who is chairman of the board.

Hulman George also said there was no call to oust her son, who has held leadership positions at IMS since 1990.

"There haven't been any changes," she said. "We just discussed things like we usually do and how to make things better."

(MORE from Curt Cavin/IndyStar)
OK, so either Tony George is unaware of his own position with IMS or Robin Miller and Bruce Martin just REALLY stepped in it.

TONY GEORGE FOURTH UPDATE:

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 5/26/2009 | 3 comments »
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"I'm very disappointed and feel very bad that we didn't finish. I also feel bad that Vitor got hurt. He's my friend and I respect him a lot. I talked to him and his wife last night. My family didn't tell me that he had been taken to the hospital because they knew I would be upset. I called his phone later and his wife answered. She was on her way to the hospital and told me he was out for the year. That really hurt me. All the preparation we do and he's so dedicated, it's just very unfortunate. When I talked to Vitor he asked how I was feeling, I told him my knees hurt and I had a headache. We talked a little about what happened. I would never try to pass on outside of turn 1, not with less than 30 laps and with all the marbles. I'd never do that." - Raphael Matos, sharing concern for his fellow countryman as well as race strategies he would or would not apply. By the way, Rafa's got another smokin' livery for the ABC Supply/AJ Foyt 225 this weekend.

Beer, brats, and Paul Tracy

Posted by Iannucci | 5/26/2009 | 5 comments »
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Have you had enough of Paul Tracy yet IndyCar fans? No, you have not. Today AJ Foyt Enterprises announced that they will be hiring Paul Tracy to drive the #14 at The Milwaukee Mile this weekend in place of the injured and convalescing Poor Vitor Meira. This makes for not a pairing of two of the most outspoken characters in open-wheel racing, but also two of the oldest. Not that either of them is mellowing much in their advanced age.

"When I started my career, I competed against A.J.," said Tracy, a rookie in 1991. "He was one of my idols growing up. I haven't told too many people this, but he was one of the guys I modeled myself after. I'm a little rough around the edges like him and I say what I feel. There's no b.s., and that's one of the things I've always admired about him."

(MORE from Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel)
Recall the Chrome Horn already has deals in place to race in the Canadian events for KV Racing, so for now this is a one-race deal. However, it's pretty impressive as one-offs go considering that Tracy has victories at Milwaukee in CART/CCWS events in 1995, 1999, 2002 and 2005. That probably played into the hire since this race is sponsored by ABC Supply Co, which is the primary sponsor of Foyt's team.

In a related note, check out this stunning picture from Matt Dial of The Star of Vitor Meira's impact on Sunday, noting that his helmet is where the steering wheel should be. This work should be entitled "In celebration of the HANS device."

More Power to Penske

Posted by Iannucci | 5/25/2009 | 3 comments »
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The intrepid Curt Cavin notes that Will Power's 5th place finish at Indianapolis has been enough to earn him some more races.

Team Penske owner Roger Penske said today that he will field the Australian driver in more races this IndyCar Series season, but not at this weekend’s event in Milwaukee.

“We can’t do that,” Penske said as his primary driver, Helio Castroneves, was being photographed with his winning car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “But we’re going to run him more.

(MORE from IndyStar)
Note that Power currently sits 8th in championship points despite not racing at Kansas. This is pretty amazing, although he has a teammate (Julio Something-or-other) who also missed a race but is 2nd in the points.

Also, if Team Penske is set to enter Will Power for even a few races, that would seem to take him out of the running for replacing Vitor Meira at Foyt Enterprises, right?

Meira done for the year

Posted by Iannucci | 5/25/2009 | 6 comments »
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Poor Vitor has been defined his entire career by his valiant inability to win races. Now, after being lit on fire and crashing hard into the wall in Turn One (in separate incidents, no less) it appears for the remainder of 2009 he won't even be able to enter races, much less win them.

The intrepid Curt Cavin has now busted out his twitter and told us "Vitor out 4-6 months, but he and Matos have reconciled things. Anthony is 50-50 as choice at Milwaukee." Fractures in the L-1 and L-2 vertebrae are the culprits for the demise of his season.

I know that Anthony, a.k.a. AJ Foyt IV, is family, but considering how badly the pairing of Foyt and Foyt went a few years ago this might not be good idea. Regardless of who fills the seat, our thoughts and prayers for as speedy a recovery as possible go out to the Vitor during his convalescence.

We feel your pain

Posted by Iannucci | 5/25/2009 | 3 comments »
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From Tony Kanaan's always active twitter account.

Hi guys, I'm sorry for all my fans but I'm glad I am ok.I have a lots of bruses but no broken bones. (2:08 PM May 24th)

Rugh morning guys very, very sore. Just for back from the hospital need some more X Rais tomorrow morning. I think I have some broken ribs (about 8 hours ago)

Spend all day in bed resting trying to feel better. A lots of Ice and Vicodin. Back to terapy tomorrow. (13 minutes ago)


Hitting the wall at 195 mph is not for the faint of heart. Or the faint of body.


UPDATE: On Tuesday Morning Tony got it checked out:

Great news guys Dr Tremell just called no broken ribs just soft tissue soreness. Feels like is broken but it's not so. Great news

LiveBlog: Indianapolis 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 5/24/2009 | 11 comments »
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Florence Henderson, Jim Nabors, Taps and "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES!!!" It's time.

0: Drivers are off on parade laps. Arute sums it up: "God, don't let me be the one to screw up."

1...no 0: Start waved off! Not good enough!

1: The green flag waves as we start the...and we have contact! Mario Moraes is into the wall, sliding down the track with a broken suspension. Looks like Marco was coming on his outside and and Moraes came up into him.

2: Marco has pulled into the pits, taken off the steering wheel and climbed out of the car. Insert obligatory "Andretti luck" reference.

4: Marco says "Kid doesn't get it...he's clueless." Not feeling the love.

4: Mario Moraes says he's going to talk to Marco. Media center ERUPTS in cheers.

5: Oh, it's Helio, Dario, Briscoe, Dixon, Kanaan at the front.

7: Back to GREEN and Dario times it perfectly, taking the lead from Helio. Woo-hoo for overtaking!

8: Alex Lloyd had to pit for a minor repair but he lost a lap. Meanwhile Ryan Hunter-Reay has moved from 32nd up to 26th.

14: Lock-stepping around right now. Back a bit Raphael Matos has moved from 12th to 8th, Vitor Meira from 14th to 9th, Ed Carpenter from 17th to 13th. Looks like the Vision cars are moving well.

20: Top six are separating. Dario, Helio, Briscoe, Dixon, Kanaan, and Graham Rahal.

21: YELLOW for Ryan Hunter-Reay, sliding into the wall on pit road. Out of the car but it is TOAST. Got high in four and BAM! into the interior wall leading into the pits. Ryan has literally left his mark at The Speedway.

23: Everybody into the pits. Seven seconds of love and it's back out. Dario, Helio, Briscoe, just the way we came in. Back further Townsend Bell nearly took out Nelson Philippe on pit exit. Probably because Nelson has a ridiculous looking car.

24: Chaos in the media center as channels are being changed from the live track feed to the ABC feed, which is mute. No audio. Much grumbling among the masses. The bloggerati remain silent, however. We're just happy to be here.

26: Sound is on. Marty Reid ringing in our ears. Crisis averted.

28: Back to green and...Helio, we're going back to green. Why are you dropping back to 4th? Ganassi, Penske, Ganassi, Penske at the front. Try to act shocked.

35: Looked outside and saw Lloyd getting the blue flag, being told to let Matos by him. Quit trying to get your lap back, young man.

40: Still Dario, Dixon, Briscoe, Helio, Rahal. Running last lap around 217 mph. Smells like fuel conservation.

45: Now it's a group of seven pulling away at the front, with Kanaan and Matos joining the front five. Danica seems to be feeling pleasant hanging around back in 9th.

48: Now Lloyd, still a lap down, is being shown the blue flag to let Will Power by. Not the kind of day the folks in pink were hoping to have.

50: Say it with me: Dario, Dixon, Briscoe, Helio, Rahal.

51: Doornbos gets a little loose, goes dirt tracking, over-corrects, and nicks the wall. Nothing broken, but he still slows into the pits to have it checked out.

52: Check that - Bobby D is done.

53: Holy shades of Sam Hornish Jr! Ryan Briscoe slingshots around Dario on the front stretch to claim the lead.

54: Scott Sharp just made a pit stop. Nelson and John Andretti coming in behind him.

56: YELLOW for Graham Rahal, into the ray-wall in Turn Four. Skidding down the front stretch outside our window. "Hi Graham! Sorry about the bent car." Rahal is out, but he's done, and Troy Ruttman's record is safe.

59: Pit stop for the leader and LOOK OUT as Justin Wilson does a little half-donut in front of his pit stall. Didn't hit anything or anyone, but he'll drop down to 20th as the last car on the lead lap.

60: After pit stops it's Briscoe, Dixon, Dario, Kanaan, Helio. I think these were the original picks by the intrepid Curt Cavin as "the five drivers who can win the race".

61: 28 left cars in the race and at the back is EJ Viso, three laps down.

63: Back to green and Dario BLASTS past Briscoe. In fact EVERYONE is going by Ryan. Matos and Danica up into the top 5. That's right - Helio is down to 6th.

64: HOLY MAYHEM as Dan Wehldon takes a group from 7-10 FOUR WIDE on the front stretch. Is this lap 199?

65: Briscoe has made a pit stop and he's now a lap down in 24th.

70: Pressdog reports that Tony Kanaan's pit is telling him to "think about fuel". He's currently pondering how to solve the sudden spike in the price of oil as well as options for renewable fuels.

72: After the pit miscue "Bad Ass" Wilson has already moved up to 15th. The nickname says it all.

74: We were just told "Graham Rahal has been checked, cleared, and released to drive." Unfortunately for him the only place he's driving today is back to the hotel.

77: Front three of Dixon, Dario, and Kanaan are separating from the rest. Meanwhile Dan Wheldon has marched his camouflage car up to 8th and breathing down Will Power's neck. Or rear wing. Or whatever.

80: Lead group of three is moving through slower traffic, posting laps around 204 mph. Probably thinking about fuel as well.

82: YELLOW as Davey Hamilton slows leaving a big strip on the wall. Got high in Turn Four and up in the marbles. Turn Four claims another. Much disappointment in the media center as Scott Goodyear fails to say Davey is "just a passenger".

85: Everyone into the pits fro some thirst-quenching ethanol, and on exit it's Dario, Dixon, Kanaan, Helio, Matos. Danica drops back to 7th. KV teammates Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell still hanging around in 9th and 10th respectively.

90: Back to green and once again the leader is a sitting duck as Dixon swoops past his teammate to take the lead. It's safe to say they're both trying to win the race.

95: Just noticed Marco's car has been fixed and he's back on the track. Of course I noticed this as he's pulling back into the pits so he might be done again.

98: YELLOW as Tony Kanaan is into the wall, trailing fire behind him. Collective groaning in the media center. Missing a few wheels. He's out and once again IMS takes his hopes, wads them up in a ball, and throws them in the trash. Replay shows something broke on the car out of the blue. The streak of leading races is also over, not that it matters now.

99: Scott says Tony is "just a passenger". Shazam!

100: And your leaders at the halfway mark are...into the pits. On exit it's Dixon, Franchitti, Power(!), Matos, Helio. Ryan Briscoe now up to 18th.

102: Oriol Servia is off the board. Anyone know what happened? I'm in a roomful of media and I still don't know.

103: Looks like Dixon's team found a six inch piece of shrapnel stuck in one of his previous tires after that last pit stop. Good thing he came in. It's better to be lucky than good, but it's even better to be both.

106: Tony emerges limping from the infield medical center. He was treated for minor injuries. "It looks like I got beat up." Zero for eight, so the poor guy is likely getting accustomed to being beat up here. Wants to tell his young son he's OK.

107: Brienne let's us know Servia had a fuel pressure loss. Thanks!

109: Back to green and although Dixon holds the lead, Helio goes around Matos for 4th.

111: Mike Conway is not only STILL in the race, but he's in 12th. Don't tell anyone.

114: A hundred and fourteen laps and Sarah Fisher finally gets some airtime. Battling in 16th.

115: Dixon, Dario, Power, Helio, Matos in the top five. Right behind them are Wheldon, Bell(!), Carpenter(!!), Tracy and Danica. All spaced evenly apart running around 219 mph.

124: Lloyd got his lap back and is in P22. His wife is having contractions but she's fine and says she'll wait for the end of the race to go have a baby. Much laughter in the media center at Samantha Lloyd.

127: Lloyd just made a pit stop and gave that lap back. Maybe he's just checking in on his wife. As you can tell from the pink suit, he's a very sensitive guy.

132: YELLOW for Nelson Philippe who brushed the wall exiting Turn Four. Turn Four is a maneater today. Chewing them up and spitting them out. He's lucky to have emerged with all four wheels from that demon.

133: Standing ovation for Kanaan at the IMS after concluding an interview seen on the video monitors. The track may not love him but the fans do.

134: Everyone comes in to pit and suddenly Vitor Meira is ON FIRE! Quickly extinguished with help from Will Power's pit, and amazingly he pulls out to a HUGE ovation from the crowd. Now giant Sham Wows are being applied to the pits to absorb the liquid in the pits.

135: Oh, Dario had some trouble in the pits and dropped back to 8th. Ganassi pit circus leaves the fuel hose in but it doesn't rip out. Leaders are now Dixon, Helio, Power, Tracy(!), Wheldon. Tracy in 4th, Meesh considering a small happy dance. Pressdog offers to throw water on her.

139: Matos comes in to top off. He drops to 21st but he's still on the lead lap and will try to go the distance without another stop. Jay Penske rolls the bones.

141: Back to green and Dixon as the leader is a sitting duck. Overtaken by Helio, who regains the lead.

142: Townsend Bell makes a brave move around his teammate Paul Tracy. Meesh covers here eyes. Two-wide into Turn One but amazingly everyone comes through unscathed. No team orders at KV either.

146: Danica lays down the law. Tells race control Briscoe jumped the start so, the the IHJ DEMANDS Briscoe drop back behind the Bunnies and behind the Rainbows.

150: Helio, Dixon, Power, Wheldon, Bell. Tracy is dropping like a stone down to 8th.

155: Will Power makes a move and gets around Dixon for 2nd. Two Penske cars up front, and Ryan Briscoe in the third one is already back to 8th. Team Penske is INSANELY adept in this race.

159: Will Power has thrown out the line and is reeling in Helio. Closing in on his bumper as the two pull away from the field.

160: YELLOW as Justin Wilson spins and lightly hits the wall. Not too much damage but he'll done for the day.

163: Everyone pits, including Matos. So much for that strategy. On exit it's now Helio, Briscoe, Wheldon, Bell. Power had a minor delay but came out 6th. Matos, strategy cast to the wind, is now 17th.

165: What's wrong with this? @DanicaPatrick just tweeted "my crew is awsome!!!!!!! P4 with 37 laps to go."

166: Matos come in to top off again. Hey, at this point, why not?

167: Back to green and Helio keeps the lead. Team Penske gave Ryan a short fill to get him to position so he will require another stop before the conclusion of the race today.

169: Jack Arute to Panther Racing's John Barnes about Dan Wheldon in third. "Can you go the Distance?" Barnes: "I'll tell you later."

170: 22 cars left in the race, all on the lead lap except for Milka Duno who is 1 lap down.

173: Holy roller coasters! Vitor Meira is sliding along the wall, backwards, sideways, a full 10 for creativity. No idea how that didn't flip over. He collided with Rafa Matos entering Turn One, and now they're both out. Eddie Cheever wryly notes of Matos "Fuel is no longer an issue." Ouch!

176: Matos is out but limping, but no view of Vitor. Far angle may have shown a backboard being deployed. TSO Joe says "It snowed Meira debris in T1. Very small flakes."

177: Sonny the Welder is hard at work in Turn One!

180: Pits are open and only Ryan Briscoe comes in for fuel. We're all going the distance from here.

181: 20 cars left on the track, which means Milka Duno has clinched a Top 20 at Indy. That is all I have to say about that.

182: The leaders are Helio, Wheldon, Danica, Bell(!), and Power.

183: Back to green and Helio takes a HUGE lead. Might have jumped the start but I'd expect to see Tony George turning water into wine before seeing Helio getting a penalty today. Danica and Dan go side by side but Dan maintains second place.

188: Vitor has been transorted to Methodist Hospital, complaining of "some pain". Can't tell you because that would be a HIPAA violation.

190: Ganassi teammates Dario and Dixon are battling furiously for 6th, but you're not seeing it on TV. Pity.

195: It's just a formality now. We're looking at a fun-tastic finish. I'm going to step outside to the patio and absorb it all.

199: White flag in the 93rd Indianapolis 500.

200: HELIO!!!!! THREE-TIME INDY 500 CHAMPION!!! And you know there's no chance that car fails tech inspection.

Helio pumps the fist. Helio does the victory lap. Helio parks the car just beyond the start finish line. Helio gets out and climbs the fence. His whole team climbs the fence. And the crowd goes wild!

In Victory Circle he's overcome by tears. Again. Needs a Kleenex sponsorship BADLY. Sending out mad love to the fans. "You don't understand. You guys are the best! You kept me so strong!! Let's celebrate now!!!!! YEAH, BABY!!!!"

Congrats to Panther Racing who finishes second for the second year in a row. Dan Wheldon is cool with second, probably because he's won here before and 2nd place still has a huge check. Three words, Dan: Burger Bash Karma.

Danica finishes in third, her highest finish ever at Indy. She'll take third and the MASSIVE airtime given to here by ABC. Might need to add a "D" to that network to account for the excessive coverage to Mrs Hospenthal.

Townsend Bell finishes fourth in a one-off. Wow! Finished 10th in a similar deal for D&R here last year. That's just a little impressive for a guy who doesn't drive fulltime.

Will Power finishes fifth today. He might have been leading in the championship points if he ran at Kansas. Sorry, Will, but thank you for driving. Please exit the vehicle and return the keys at the checkout counter.

Dixon, Franchitti, Carpenter, Tracy, Mutoh round out the Top 10. Tagliani in 11th is the highest finishing rookie, although it remains to be seen if a guy who didn't qualify can win the Rookie of the Year award.

Well, that's it for me, race fans. I'm kinda gassed. Thanks so much to the INCREDIBLY HOSPITABLE group in the IMS media center. I am in utter awe at both your graciousness and efficiency. Time for me to grab a deliciously disgusting Pork Tenderloin downstairs so thank you very much folks, drive safely exiting the Speedway, and good night everybody!

Over the wall

Posted by Iannucci | 5/24/2009 | 5 comments »
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Don't tell anyone, but word butchers with cameras are running amok today.










What's the story?

Posted by Iannucci | 5/24/2009 | 1 comments »
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Your humble host arrived just as the mortars were firing at IMS, and the media center is already buzzing with low talking chatter. Not a lot of shouting, since most of the folks in here are head down over their laptops and already churning out stories for the Indy 500.

One of the new arrivals here in Blogger Row "F" is Ben from Jalopnik, which is probably the coolest auto enthusiast site ever. Ben's not a big IndyCar fan, but he's looking for angles on stories. Of course, the first thing he asks me about is Danica and the N-word, since that seems to be a popular storyline. I think my exact qupte to him was, "if she's not in this race next year I'll eat my shoe." Bunnies and rainbows, and leather soles for lunch.

But I'm all about sharing, so I gave him some possible ideas for stories. Jalopnik has WAY more readers than My Name Is IRL so if I can help Ben find some storylines to keep his interest on race day then it will probably be my biggest contribution to racing all year. Anyhow, here's what I told him:

* Helio Castroneves is running the mother of all hot streaks. Pole, pitstop, and courtroom accomplishments are coming fast and furiously this month. Everyone knows Helio, make a few dancing jokes, and watch as he tries to get Roger Penske his um-teenth victory at The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

* Scott Dixon is obviously the defending champion, but in a way so is his teammate Dario Franchitti, who took a year off to get wrecked in taxi cab races. First time ever having the last two Indy 500 champs on the same team. Ben asked if the team might favor one driver over the other, to which I assured him "This isn't F1 - it's every man for himself".

* Michael Andretti is co-owner for the team his son Marco drives for, but he's calling race strategy for Danica. Might be a little conflict, might not. At the very least it's a story about Danica that doesn't involve stock cars. Plus AGR is always good for a story, since it isn't always bunnies and rainbows over 500 miles.

* Alex "Pink" Lloyd is getting crazy mad airtime for wearing girly threads. You can make all the pink jokes you want, and Alex and the entire Sam Schmidt Motorsports team will laugh at everyone of them, but the fact is no driver in a one-off is getting anywhere near the coverage as Lloyd. Ben couldn't believe the drink was actually called "HER".

* There are three drivers who could become the youngest winner ever, and all of them are starting in the front 11. Graham Rahal's who father has won here, Marco's grandfather won here, and Mario Moraes has been at or near the top of the speed charts for the last week. These kids are looking forward to drinking some milk today.

* Paul Tracy returns to the scene of his greatest victory that didn't happen, driving in his first Indy 500 since 2002, which we all know led not only to a much-discussed controversy, but also stunning Jack Arute interrogations seven years later.

* Tony Kanaan is 0-7 here despite leading every ract, and now he's gone to the extreme of growing his hair out. Last night at the "Tony Kanaan Clambake" I heard more than a few "Ch-ch-ch-chia!" outbursts. Alcohol will make people do that. The crowd here loves Tony, as he's now the new Lloyd Ruby. Who's Lloyd Ruby you say, why just look at Tony Kanaan and there's your answer.

I know there are others, but I tried to stick with the major stories to follow. My hope is Ben will be watching with eye for something other than the first driver to complete 800 left turns.

Saturday in Indianapolis

Posted by Iannucci | 5/23/2009 | 2 comments »
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Thanks to all who came out to Curt Cavin's awesome Burger Bash last night, which Curt says raised over $5000 for various charities. It was such a great time even Shane Rogers, International Superstar enjoyed it. Good food, good racing talk, and a visit by Dan Wheldon as well. We tried as a group but we all lost count of Dan's excessive use of the word "fans".


Once the fun died down it was time for all good word butchers to get some rest. You can read all about our accommodations straight outta 1961 over at pressdog.com. They are less than enhanced, but we were undeterred and were up early enough arrive before all others in the mammoth media center.


Don't be fooled into thinking IMS was empty, as outside the masses were gathering just to catch an autograph or two with the fine members of the Field of 33. It's an arduous day for the drivers: an hour of autographs (and if you're Milka Duno, posing for random pictures with middle-aged men), waving for two hours in a parade, then even more hours of glad-handing with various sponsors. Let's not forget, they have to drive at over 220 mph tomorrow with those hands.



Oh, and they all had to attend the annual public driver's meeting, which basically consisted of Andy Granatelli talking about drinking STP (for real), Scott Dixon expounding upon winning here last year, and driver introductions which were met with varying levels of applause. And of course, the time-honored and ceremonial Shooting of the T-shirts over the Borg-Warner trophy.



For those conspiracy buffs out there - you know, those of you who might get the nutty idea that Helio Castroneves is predestined to win because he won the pole position, the pit stop competition, and the Trial of the Century - take note of this tape marking that indicates "Brazilian Media" in a premier spot in Victory Circle. You people go right ahead and wear your tinfoil hats to The Speedway tomorrow.



Also noticed Alex Lloyd's pit box sign. It's...very...interesting.



Lastly, we leave with this image to sleep on. Here are six combined Indy 500 victories discussing something that would probably be way over my head.



Sure, they may have been chatting about dinner plans, or hotel preferences, or the improbable win by Kris Allen on "America Idol", but it doesn't matter because the conversation involved two men who've done more here than the rest of us can ever dream. And with that thought I wish you all sweet dreams tonight, because *Jack Arute voice* tomorrow is the day we've all been waiting for.

Your Saturday evening entertainment

Posted by Iannucci | 5/23/2009 | 0 comments »
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For those who enter the Silent Pagoda, you have already booked your reservation for Tony Kanaan’s Pre-Race Clambake™ for this Saturday Night. If you were unaware, this event may or may not feature an appearance by Tony Kanaan, may or may not involve a clambake, but most definitely will feature the live entertainment of The Samples.

Now, I realize you have many choices for your pre-race entertainment, so before you book your reservation let's consider what those choices are.

* Tent Party at Mudsocks Grill. You can probably go to a grill anytime, but this evening Mudsocks features "Lee Brice". In his picture he looks a little like former American Idol contestant Bo Bice, which is not a good thing. Honestly, I have no idea who this guy is, so he could be a comedian or a singer or possibly a mime. Ambiguity reigns, so if Russian Roulette is your idea of entertainment then maybe this might be the show for you.

* The Race Party. This would be Saturday night’s official Playboy Pre-Race Party, hosted by Extra TV’s Carlos Diaz and eight(!) Playboy Playmates. Excuse me, but this is Indy, and you don't have to go to an expensive party just to see some fake racks; they're literally roaming in pairs by thousands everywhere around Speedway this weekend, with the possible exception of the men's room and the media center. Nevertheless, if you are Pauly Shore you will probably try to break into this party.

* Fantasy 500. This could be fun stuff, with Arie Luyendyk Sr, Ryan Hyphen Reay and LindyCar in attendance. However the host is Mario Lopez, and a good rule of thumb is to avoid anything that could lead to a "Saved By the Bell" flashback, because then you start thinking about Elizabeth Berkley, and then you start thinking about "Showgirls" and next thing you know you're face down over the commode hearing Screech in your head and...I need to take a moment and collect myself.

* Camp and Brew. Well, Camp and Brew is pretty awesome...but that's going on all the time.

So if you aren't hanging with friends at C&B, your choice is clear. You simply must swing by Tony Kanaan’s Pre-Race Clambake™, because it is CLEARLY the best place for an IndyCar fan to be seen. Not only is it the best choice for entertainment, it's also benefiting Tatum's Bugs of Fun, a foundation dedicated to children with long-term diseases. Even if you can't go, please make a modest donation if you are able. Because Tony Kanaan said so.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 5/23/2009 | 6 comments »
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What does this one say?



Photo: KV Racing

Friday at Indianapolis

Posted by Iannucci | 5/22/2009 | 2 comments »
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Welcome again to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the day in which the speedway is overrun by scads of attractive, scantily-clad women, and an even greater number of unattractive, scantily-clad women. To remedy this, beer is readily available for all.

Speaking of attractive, this is parked next to my piece of crap rental car. I fully expect Jack Arute to shove a microphone in my face asking me to "describe the feeling" at my unworthiness.



But that's not what I'm here for - I'm here to represent to the masses, all alone in Blogger "F" row of the media center. Well, not entirely alone, but at some point I thought pressdog would be here.

First off your humble host is putting this media credential to work by speaking to other members of the media. And by "other members" I mean people who have no idea that I'm not important. One of those people was Victor from Grande Premio, which covers auto racing for the fine folks down in Brazil. Victor says there will almost certainly be a race because Apex Brasil really wants one, but he thinks it won't be next year because they would want to build a course somewhere. Interlagos, where F1 races, is not in the best part of the country, and he thinks they would want a better area to showcase the event. He also says "motorsport is almost as popular as soccer", to which I replied "really?" For real, he says.

Before the Freedom 100 I finally got joined by a fellow member of the Bloggerati, Tom Harader of No Fenders. Tom is incredibly knowledgeable about all kinds of open-wheel racing series, but you may have noticed that the words he uses on his site look kinda funny. The reason for that is because Tom is nearly blind due to Retinitis Pigmentosa, and the words in his posts are actually created by speech recognition software. To be honest, I'm a little in awe that he writes despite not being able to see his stuff.

Tom and I took in the Indy Lights race, which was INSANE. Lead changes nearly every lap between Sebastian Saavedra, JR Hildebrand, Mario Romancini, and eventual winner Wade Cunningham. Ana Beatriz got tangled up with teammate Gustavo Yacaman and she ended up hitting HARD in the interior wall where there is no SAFER barrier. She got taken out on a backboard but fortunately X-rays were negative. Congrats to Cunningham though, who drove impressively in his second victory in this race.

After the race Tom and I went to walk around the garages, where all kinds of acts against nature were not only visible but being avidly photographed. Welcome to the infield. I don't how to transition from that, but we managed to find Paul Page, who was happy to be having lots of fans shake his hand. After introducing ourselves as bloggers Paul, noting his own site, loudly proclaimed "EVERYBODY has a blog!" Paul says he will be serving as "essayist" during the IMS Radio coverage of The 500.

Not much else happening in the garages, although the Foyt team was out there pretending to work on their cars. At least hey looked impressive. Also saw Oriol Servia sitting in the RLR garage, working away at the Blckberry. Is Servia on twitter?



Meanwhile at the Conquest garage, Eric Bachelart was attending to more important matters. Specifically, where are we going to put this "All Sport" decal. Good to know as an owner he has such an attention to detail.



We got back in time to catch the Pit Stop competition, which was won be Helio Castroneves. He won the pole, he won the Pit Stop competition, and word is now that prosecutors have dropped the final charge against him. You might say he's having a good month.



Still waiting on pressdog, though. He has informed me he is on the grounds wandering around in search of a credentials. I need to go round him up so we can hang with all of you race fans at Curt Cavin's Burger Bash.

Carb Night Burger Bash invitation

Posted by Iannucci | 5/22/2009 | 1 comments »
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Would you like to meet the intrepid Curt Cavin? Would you like to meet a driver or two who will be participating in this year's Indianapolis 500? Would you like to have a fine hamburger, fries and a shake?

Of course you would, but here's an even bigger question: Would you even like to gaze in wonder at actual members of the IndyCar bloggerati? Well you can do all this and more, because YOU my friend are invited to attend Curt Cavin's second annual Carb Night Burger Bash this very evening. Here are the details:

* What: Free gathering of Indianapolis 500 fans.
* Where: 96th Street Steakburgers, 4715 E. 96th Street, Indianapolis.
* When: 6-10 p.m.
* Program: 7 p.m., featuring special guests and a live auction.
* Food: Restaurant's famous burgers and milkshakes for purchase.
* Donation opportunities: Autographed hero cards from Indianapolis 500 drivers, milkshakes in event cups, live auction.
* Benefitting: St. Joseph's Institute for the Deaf, Indianapolis; U.S. Army, 82nd Airborne Division, 2nd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery (send-off event for Afghanistan-bound soldiers and their families); Bags of Fun: The Gabby Krause Foundation (making a difference in lives of children fighting cancer); Mooresville Christian Academy, Mooresville, Ind.

There is no admission as this costs nothing, and you can donate simply by buying milkshakes if that's all you can afford. However, if you're loaded (in the financial sense) you can bid on auction items as well, which may or may not include a life-size cardboard stand-up of Jimmy Kite, a certified Verizon Curt Cavin Omniphone prototype, and as "a day with pressdog". See you there TONIGHT!

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 5/21/2009 | 10 comments »
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What does this one say?

Thursday in Indianapolis

Posted by Iannucci | 5/21/2009 | 12 comments »
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Welcome to Indy. After parking between Turns Three and Four, then walking back to the Administrative offices outside of Turn One, then trekking back to the MASSIVE media center I have taken my place in Row "F" where the bloggers will be kept under close observation. Yes, "F" me, thank you very much.

I can't complain, because this is an awesome facility with awesome hospitality, and the most awesome almond cheesecake served in the media deli. I'm not worthy of any of this, but I take comfort in the fact the fact is none of us here are. This is Indy, and we are all guests to history.



As you can see, there's not much going on in here today, although a handful of diligent folks including the intrepid Curt Cavin were here. Curt didn't have his cell phone in his ear, so I'm pretty sure that nothing is happening today.

In the meantime, I decided to roam the hallowed grounds. Good thing too, as I was able to meet up with a handful of the fun and interesting individuals who make Indy such a special place.

Brandon Barnes - From the best I can tell, Brandon is the other "blogger" here today, roaming the garages and talking with racing teams. Ironically, he's probably the only blogger who does NOT have a credential. He does however have a degree in Criminal Justice, so I'm sure he an and will find a way in. He may also be on apprenticeship with Security Chief Charles.

Shane Rogers - Two words: International Superstar. Shane has traveled all the way from Melbourne, Australia to enjoy some IndyCar action this summer. I have determined at some point I must tip pints with this fellow until he busts out a "fair dinkum".

Jim Michaelian - Jim is THE MAN in charge of the Grand Prix of Long Beach, which is an AMAZING event featuring six different series of racing, a giant convention center full of cars, and tons of other really cool stuff to do if you aren't trying to track down news about Helio Castroneves' acquittal. Jim said having the IndyCar series this year helped bump sales up despite the bad economy, including an estimated attendance of 50,000 on the Friday before the race. Sounds like bunnies and rainbows in SoCal.

Michael - a.k.a. "IndyCar SuperFan". Been coming here since 1992, and been working on his enhancing his appearance every year. This year he's sporting a blue Colts mustache, which speaks volumes to his level of dedication. Someone in Indianapolis needs to hand this man the keys to the city.

There weren't many folks hanging out in the garages, as most teams had everything dialed down in anticipation of tomorrow's festivities. I did notice that Paul Tracy has a new sponsor - a bar named "Rehab Vegas". Let's see ...Lindsay Lohan? Amy Winehouse? Jessica Sierra? I can't decide which joke to write.



I noticed that Vision Racing Indy Lights team is now being run by Lauren George and is sponsored by People's Liberation. Although we're getting closer to having an IndyCar race in China, it's important to note this is a clothing company and not the People's Liberation Army.



That's it for today. Tomorrow is Carb Day, which means the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race, the pit stop contest for IndyCar teams, and 100,000 of your drunkest friends slurring the words to songs by "3 Doors Down". And hopefully more delicious cheesecake.

The Curious Case of Will Overhead

Posted by Iannucci | 5/20/2009 | 3 comments »
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(The following is a guest post from beloved Commentator Emeritus, "mmack".)

File this one under “If it’s in the paper, it must be true.”

Mine That Bird’s 50-1 long shot victory in the Kentucky Derby has inspired many to wonder if the Indianapolis 500 can have its own dark horse winner this year. The little team that could, coming out of nowhere to beat the mega-buck super teams while running on a shoestring budget and a ghost of a chance, is a staple of sports movies and fervent wishes everywhere. Well, here’s a story about the absolute darkest of dark horse winners in Indy 500 history. Not only wasn’t he entered in the race, he never even drove in it. In fact, this winner never even existed, except in Walsenburg, Colorado.

If we lament the loss of ESPN and Versus coverage of the IRL, imagine trying to follow the Indianapolis 500 in 1933. No internet or television, no radio coverage, and only day old newspaper reports for anyone not at the Speedway. At the Walsenburg World-Independent, a new employee was monitoring the Associated Press wire for the daily news on Memorial Day, including the results of the Indianapolis 500. He had the story typeset, and all he needed was the name of the winner and the paper could go to print.

Due to the terms of the World-Independent’s contract with AP, the wire service would be shut down for the day well before the race was finished. However, the World-Independent paid a fee for a special late wire service to cover the 500. An AP editor in either (depending on who tells the story) Chicago or Denver sent a telegram to the World-Independent reminding the paper to look for another telegram with the name of the race winner. Using the standard newspaper lingo of the day, the telegram read:

“Will Overhead Winner of Race”

That meant the editor would telegraph, or “overhead”, the winner’s name to the World-Independent.

Except the new employee took the telegraph and ran with it, producing the headline

Overhead Wins Indianapolis Race

And the lead:

Indianapolis, Ind. May 30 (AP) Will Overhead won the Indianapolis Memorial Day race today. At the two hundred fifty mile post, Babe Stapp was leading the string of roaring cars, but gave way to Overhead on the last half of the 500 mile grind.

Not exactly Dewey Defeats Truman, but infamous enough that AP reminded editors in 1934 that “Will Overhead is not in Kentucky Derby” and “Will Overhead is not in Indianapolis 500”.

So take heart Milka, Ryan, John, and anyone else Curt Cavin didn’t pick. If a figment of someone’s imagination can win the biggest race in the world, there’s hope for us all.

More Chrome Horn for Canada

Posted by Iannucci | 5/20/2009 | 1 comments »
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Good news for Paul Tracy fans, as he continues progressing towards becoming a fulltime IndyCar driver by the time he's 50.

KV Racing Technology will field a car for open-wheel superstar Paul Tracy at the two Canadian races on the 2009 IndyCar Series schedule.

Tracy, the 2003 Champ Car World Series champion, is one of the most successful and exciting drivers in the history of open-wheel racing. The a native of Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, will compete at the Honda Indy Toronto on July 12 and the Rexall Edmonton Indy on July 26.


Sadly Tracy's press conference was cut short when reporters discovered that this very morning Helio Castroneves had saved a cat caught in a tree, formed a foundation for dyslexic children, and began dating Jennifer Aniston.

(No, not really - but I'm sure Tracy wouldn't have been surprised if it had.)

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 5/20/2009 | 0 comments »
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“I was winning races and things were going well, but a few of my friends -- guys I was working with at the race school -- thought that I should have gotten more publicity for the job I was doing by winning all those races. They said I was too nice and said I needed to ‘mean-up’ my image and maybe that would help me get more coverage. From that day on, they just decided to start calling me ‘Bad Ass’ and it just stuck.” - Justin Wilson, on the importance of recognizable monikers in sport, no matter how laugh-inducing they sound.

Indy’s Greatest Ride Buyer

Posted by Iannucci | 5/19/2009 | 3 comments »
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(The following is a guest post from beloved Commentator Emeritus, "mmack".)

The recent machinations at Conquest Racing with Alex Tagliani and Bruno Junquiera have spurred much commentary on driver substitution and ride buying. Many posters and bloggers have pondered the ethics of the switch, while IRL detractors have pointed to both practices as “proof” of the shallowness of the series’ talent pool. IRL apologists have responded by pointing out that the practice started in the CART era and is nothing new. Many “old hands” lament an era when drivers “made the show” on their talent and not on the size of their bank account, or complain about sponsors calling the shots for race teams.

Readers, meet Joel W. Thorne, Indy’s greatest ride buyer. Who, you may ask, is he?


Joel Wolfe Thorne Jr. was the scion of New York’s Thorne family. When his father, Joel Sr., died in 1924, 10 year old Joel Jr. became heir to his father’s considerable ($38 million in 1924) Chase Manhattan and Pullman Railroad derived fortune. Even though the money was placed in a trust, Joel worked hard at spending every penny he got from it. He was a playboy, when the word meant a rakish young man living the life of the idle rich by lavish partying and chasing socialites, and not a magazine with great articles and some pictures of naked women.

In an earlier era Joel might have owned race horses and wiled away hours at the track winning and losing a fortune through betting. But this was the 20th Century, and the internal combustion engine had proved more than a passing fad. So Thorne bought motorcycles, speedboats, airplanes, and cars. But he didn’t just buy street automobiles. Joel fancied himself a racer, and began buying and racing cars in the mid 1930’s. By 1937 he brought six cars to Indianapolis for the 500, including one for himself. When qualifying ended, three Thorne Racing cars were in the field, but Joel’s was not. His car was second alternate, 35th fastest.

When owner Phil Shafer withdrew the first alternate car driven by Emil Andres, Joel hatched his plan. He overheard owner George Lyon saying his car that Cliff Bergere qualified wasn’t capable of finishing better than fifth. Thorne either offered Lyon fifth place money to withdraw his car, or offered to buy the car outright so the car would be withdrawn and his car would be in the race.

Back then, the AAA (Yes, the same AAA that hands out highway maps and tells you how much gasoline will cost this Memorial Day weekend) sanctioned the Indianapolis 500. Various AAA officials heard that Thorne was planning to buy Lyon’s car to withdraw it. They pulled Thorne into a meeting and informed him that under no circumstances would an alternate be allowed to start the race. He could serve as a relief driver for any of the three cars he had in the field, but he could not start the race.

That didn’t sit well with Joel Thorne. In a flash of youthful impetuousness (he was only 22 years old) he announced that if he couldn’t buy one car and withdraw it, he’d buy the entire field and withdraw every car. He then stormed out of the office and strode towards Gasoline Alley.

The AAA officials did what every board and committee since the beginning of time has done: they held a meeting. During the meeting they considered that Thorne was rich enough to buy every car in the field. It was the Depression, and solid money from a multi-millionaire could sway some owners.

The officials walked over to the garage area to warn the owners and found out that not only was Joel Thorne very rich, he was very quick on his feet. He’d already visited many of them and made offers. Some owners had even accepted. The AAA officials then summoned Joel for a second meeting. During this meeting they reminded him they could revoke his competition license forever, and that he’d better forget buying up the field and concentrate on the three cars he had in the race. Joel got the point, and focused on his three remaining entries.

Joel Thorne would qualify for four straight Indianapolis 500 races from 1938 through 1941, without needing to buy his way in for any of them. Perhaps his greatest legacy is founding Thorne Engineering, and hiring talented Art Sparks to build cars for him. The 1946 Indianapolis 500 winner, car number 16, was one of the cars Sparks built for Thorne. If you stop by the Hall of Fame Museum, take a look at it and ponder the owner’s legacy as Indy’s Greatest Ride Buyer.

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 5/19/2009 | 13 comments »
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"She needs an exciting guy, like a race-car driver. I think she needs somebody who cherishes her, but also somebody who's going to give her a run for her money...She should find somebody who is really hot, who's not in show business. Somebody with a lot of money, and she should live the large life and forget about these (expletive). She's a great girl. She's got everything going for her." - Bette Midler, on who her good pal Jennier Aniston should be seeking as a romantic companion. Does anyone have any suggestions?

(Sweet mother of misery, I just quoted Bette Midler!!!)