The deconstruction of Tony George

Posted by Iannucci | 6/30/2009 | 13 comments »
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Honestly, I don't know how to react. I mean, this can't be good simply because it indicates a level of uncertainty this sport doesn't need to go along with vanishing TV audience, overtaking free racing, and constant "Danica to N****R" chatter. The timing of this coming in the middle of an IndyCar season is probably the most troubling, but here IT is, in edited form.

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, June 30, 2009 – The Board of Directors of Hulman & Company and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced June 30 that a new management team comprised of veteran IMS executives W. Curtis Brighton and Jeffrey G. Belskus will head the Hulman-George companies effective July 1.

Brighton, currently executive vice president and chief legal counsel, will become president and CEO of Hulman & Company. Belskus, currently executive vice president and chief financial officer for the companies, will become president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation.

They will replace Tony George, who will no longer serve as president and chief executive officer of the Hulman-George companies but will remain a board member of the Hulman-George companies.

“Our board had asked Tony to structure our executive staff to create efficiencies in our business structure and to concentrate his leadership efforts in the Indy Racing League,” said Mari Hulman George, IMS chairman of the board. “He has decided that with the recent unification of open-wheel racing and the experienced management team IMS has cultivated over the years, now would be the time for him to concentrate on his team ownership of Vision Racing with his family and other personal business interests he and his family share.

“Tony will remain on the Board of Directors of all of our companies, and he will continue to work with the entire board to advance the interests of all of companies.

“Our family and the entire racing community are grateful to Tony for the leadership and direction he has provided since 1990. We are pleased that he will continue to be an important part of the Indy Racing League as a team owner and as a member of our Board of Directors, and we wish him every success.”
I realize some people will be all excited about this, as if their personal grudge against Tony George outweighs the stability of the sport. Others may say this is yet another example of how the sky is falling and the 2013 Indy 500 will most assuredly involve stock cars. Me, I'm still trying to figure out what tangible impact this will have. I can't tell who's in charge of the actual League now, and I'm sure teams and sponsors are sitting in the same boat of ambiguity right now. And that ain't good.

What I do know Mr George spent a TON of money trying to invest in what he thought was best for his family's speedway. Many words have been and will continue to be spent on what his motivations and results were, but now that's moot because it looks like he's been given the heave-ho by his family. How ironic that after this all started as a conflict with a racing series formed by team owners that he's now, even after emerging last year as a sort of victor in the open-wheel war, ending up as merely one of them.

Here's some more reaction around the IndyCar blogosphere:

One has to think that Tony George, the man, unburdened by the titles President & CEO, is also feeling a sense of relief tonight.

Much the same way those of us that work in racing sometimes long for the days when we we’re ‘just fans’, when we went to the track ignorant of the insider gossip & news, and just enjoyed the racing, unaware of the ugly underbelly of the industry, it will be interesting to see Tony ease into the fulltime roll of just team owner. - So, here's what I'm thinking...

As Puff Daddy once said, it's all about the Benjamins. That's why Tony George is out as CEO. He'll still be around serving on the board but the move sends a message, the IRL is now about money. - IRL-O-Rama

The other story will be what happens to the Indy Car Series. The future leadership of that entity seems up in the air. Maintaining a healthy Indy Car Series is vital. Most important, however, is IMS. Tony was a remarkable caretaker and took it to spectacular heights. The IRL? Not up to its potential. The one thing recent history has taught is that it is all about Indy, and Indy fans are hoping for the best in this transition. - Defender of the IRL

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 6/30/2009 | 15 comments »
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(Photo: Trackside Online)

Empty can of Old Milwaukee

Posted by Iannucci | 6/29/2009 | 9 comments »
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When the IndyCar series announced last week that they were planning on 9 oval courses next year the speculation began about which of the current 10 ovals would be given the axe. Speculate no more.

IRL, like NASCAR, says promoter owes it money

Like NASCAR, the Indy Racing League is still seeking all of its money from the promoter of the recent race in Milwaukee.

IRL officials would not discuss details, but Terry Angstadt, the president of the commercial division, confirmed it's an issue his staff is "working through."

(MORE from IndyStar)
It's amazing to think that a track that has managed to stay in operation longer than Indianapolis Motor Speedway would be having such troubles, but such is the case for the famed Milwaukee Mile. Hopefully this loss - if it is in fact Milwaukee - would be teporary, because this track has not only the distinction of being one of the few oval that requires the drivers to actually touch the brakes, but it's got such a huge heritage it was immortalized in Paul Neman's "Winning" about how after Indy "We go to Milwaukee".

You can read more about the whole deal from the Journel-Sentinel, including how it looks like no one is racing there in the near future.

If there is a silver lining to this it's that the IRL might have a bargaining chip in seeking an increased sanctioning fee from Texas Motor Speedway. For years promoter Eddie Gossage has been banging his shoe on the pulpit to get the race immediately after Indy for his track, and with Milwaukee teetering it appears he will finally the opportunity. It's also been rumored that the IRL wants a higher sanctioning fee for the Texas race (although after this year's stultifyingly boring race I don't see how they could request that with a straight face), but maybe the two sides can work out something to everyone's agreement.

And maybe even Milwaukee's promoter-du-jour can get things together so we can go back in 2011. It's one thing to lose an oval, but it's entirely another to lose a piece of history.

LiveBlog: Richmond 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 6/27/2009 | 18 comments »
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Welcome to Richmond, the shortest of the short tracks, where IndyCar drivers will race several hundred miles on a track that is roughly 700 yards long while making one constant left turn. Sounds unexciting, but fortunately it usually isn't.

Before we start the festivities tonight I'd like to take a moment to mark the passing of a worldwide cultural icon this week. Someone so fundamental to my generation that they will forever be remembered not for eccentricities and eyebrow-raising behavior, but for the better times when they reached a level of entertainment that few if any ever reach.

I'm speaking, of course about Farrah Fawcett. Charlie's blonde angel (well, the first one). Wife of "The Bionic Man". Unparalleled example of free and easy American womanhood in the 70s.

God knows that woman's poster was on every young man's wall during my youth. Well, every wall except those belonging to boys who grew up in strict religious households like mine. Sure, all my friends get to go to bed and wake up with Farrah every night of their youth, but all I got was a picture of Snoopy on my wall. The closest I came to Farrah was having the model of that Mustang Cobra she drove on Charlie's Angels, and admittedly it was a sweet car, but...

Back to Richmond, where the focus tonight is on Ryan Briscoe, who being the sportsman that he is has allowed someone else to win each of the last three races despite leading a bazillion laps. Nearly 40% of them this year, but he's got just one win and three consecutive second place finishes.

Meanwhile Tony Kanaan has the opposite problem going from 1st to 7th in the points in the last 4 races. Crashes, car-be-que, perhaps even plagues of locusts in the AGR garage. Tony has won at least one race and finished no lower than 6th in the standings in his previous six seasons in the IRL, so he's in uncharted territory.

And with that intro, and our final respects to Farrah, it's time to start.

0: LindyCar asks Briscoe "Are you tough enough?" Ryan says "I'd like to think so." Not exactly oozing testosterone there.

0: Dario Franchitti thanks his pit crew. Remember when he was like third or fourth on the pecking order at AGR? Mr Judd is totally loving being such a big deal at TCGR...at least until Danica becomes his teammate.

0: Can I get a filter on my TV that doesn't show Danica signing "man boobs"? Even P1, huge Fanica that she is, said "that was GROSS!"

0: D&R drivers Tomas Scheckter and Mike Conway get interviewed on air. Tomas somehow forgets to mention his email where you can contact him to help him sell MonaVie.

0: Oh, looks like it's time for a Jack Arute Interrogation with Tony Kanaan...uh, maybe not. Before it starts we get technical difficulties, then VERSUS pulls the clip. Kanaan's season is going so wrong even his Jack Arute interview crashed.

0: Hang on. Kanaan interrogation is back on. Like Tony, you can crash it but you can't stop it. I can almost smell the little brown cigarettes on Arute's breath from here.

0: Robbie Floyd is getting a back rub. For real. Can we just start the race already?

0: Some SunTrust dude just did a solid job with his "Drivers, start your engines!" Golf claps break out here in the living room.

0: Row 1, Ganassi. Row 2, Penske. Behind them Rahal, Matos, Viso, Mutoh.

1: We are green!

1: We are yellow! Jaques Lazier is in the wall, climbing out. Started way back about a half mile behind the leaders but the car went off in the first turn. Probably better for Jaques that he got that out of the way now. Definitely better for everyone else.

3: Somewhere in that brief green Marco went from 16th to 11th. As Mojo Nixon once sang, "Hey hey hey, get outta my way".

9: Back to green, and Marco jumps past Scheckter. Onboard cameras show lots of wiggles from the cars. Fruit salad, yummy yummy.

20: Marco is up to 9th, challenging his handsome Japanese teammate. Come on ladies, show Hideki some love.

28: Yellow! Ryan Briscoe will not be finishing second today. His car is bent and broken, lying naked on the floor. Just lost it coming out of turn 2. We'll have a new leader in the points standings before the night is through.

32: Pit stops! Get your ethanol! On exit it's still Dario, Dixon, Helio, Matos, Rahal. But Mutoh and Danica stayed out so they lead. Mutoh will lead his first laps of his IndyCar career. Domo arigato!

39: Back to green. And Dario quickly goes around Danica for second.

45: Dario tries to make a move on Mutoh but Hideki slams the door! Go, go, Godzilla!

52: Marco has gotten around Tony Kanaan and is up to 6th.

56: I'm ashamed to admit this but my family is enjoying watching the repeated replays of Briscoe wrecking. "Oh, look he wrecked AGAIN!" I don't know where this animosity comes from, honestly.

60: Mutoh is still leading. Check outside for rivers of blood.

69: Mutoh is about to lap Mario Jonas Moraes. There's nothing real in the world anymore. Dario is behind by a few car lengths.

76: Something must have happened because Marco is back to 10th. Leaders are Mutoh, Dario, Danica, Dixon, Helio. Matos and Kanaan right behind them. Viso in 9th, which means he's still racing.

86: P1 and P2 think "IndyCar Race Control" allows you to control the cars. "We could crash Dixon into the wall!" There's my little race strategists.

93: Mutoh still leading. Still ahead of Dario but still behind Moraes. Hideki's probably praying for a yellow right about now.

98: First "Michael Jackson" reference. From Arute, of course. He notes that Mario Jonas-Jackson is wearing a silver glove tonight. Probably appropriate since his car is moon-walking backwards through the field to 18th.

105: Hideki pits. The end of an era. Dario reclaims the lead.

107: Dario around Moraes. Moraes gets loose and lets Dixon by as well. Mario keeps it off the wall as well.

112: Danica pits. Went 112 laps on a load of fuel. Impressive.

129: Doornbos and Hunter-Reay are pitting. Should begin "the pit cycling process".

135: Everyone but the cars at the front are pitting. I'm totally losing track of everyone outside of the Top 5. This happens on short tracks, so I accept it.

138: Yellow! Conway into the wall! It's who he is and what he does. That means Dario, Dixon and maybe a couple others have a lap on the field.

139: Dario had to go for a splash-n-go, so he'll go to the back.

140: Dixon, Dario and Rahal all pit. They're basically a lap ahead of everyone now.

146: Wave around for everyone, so they aren't a lap ahead. Giant exhale here in the living room.

149: Just aired a 100 Years of Indy package where, I swear, Juan Pablo Montoya just called the IndyCar a "eunuch car".

152: Still under caution so Arute interviews Mike Conway. I'm reminded of Roy Hobbson's remark about Robbie Buhl taking Conway out to the Denny's parking lot and having him practice hitting the wall during off weeks.

155: Finally, we are back to green.

157: A big WHOA as Moraes nearly loses the car as Mutoh goes around him. Nice save, but he's got an evil car.

160: Dixon, Dario, Rahal, Mutoh, Patrick - all on the lead lap. Helio has dropped to 6th so something happened to him somewhere.

180: So...looks like we're all done passing tonight. Thank you very much, red cars to the front please.

190: Good grief, how can NO ONE be passing for position on a track this short! Seven cars left on the lead lap. Dixon Dario, Rahal, Mutoh, Danica, Helio, Matos.

205: Just biding time until the next round of pit stops. Yippee.

210: @FuriousWedge tweets from the track "Why is this bad for ICS? I`m watching more than a few fans get up to leave with over 100 to go".

214: Mutoh pits. 9.4 second pit stops with no adjustments isn't going to get it done.

224: The coverage is getting erratic. Cutting around from pit stops to battles for position to random shots of two Target cars lock-stepping up front. I need to refill the adult beverage.

235: My kids have left the room to watch iCarly. Can't say that I blame them.

238: Replay of an amazing save by Viso, sliding up in turn 2 but missing the wall by about the width of a sheet of paper. Viso still racing, in 13th of course.

249: Yellow! For Helio! Turn 2 eats him as well. Once again three cars left on the lead lap: Dixon, Dario, Rahal. I'd say the Penske cars conspired to give this race to the Ganassi cars but that would be ludicrous.

251: Last time two Team Penske cars DNF'd was Michigan in 2007. I'm sure Roger Penske will be please to know that.

261: Back to green. Would be nice if Graham could shake this up. Would also be nice if his car could get some airtime.

263: Dixon is already ahead of Dario by a second. Three seconds ahead of Graham. Eight seconds ahead of Mutoh. That's half a lap here.

280: Dario is getting close Dixon as they work around lapped traffic named "Ed Carpenter", but it's not exactly a battle to the finish. This is Dixon and Dario, not Senna and Prost.

285: Emma Davies-Dixon, Scott's irrefutably beautiful and astoundingly pregnant wife, is reportedly having contractions at the track. Ashley Judd better be careful around this series.

294: Graham is still a second and a half back and still barely being shown on camera.

299: White flag for Dixon.

300: And Scott Dixon wins. Try to contain your enthusiasm for another amazing victory for this perennial underdog.

At least Viso finished. Golf clap from me since I'm all that's left here.

Overhead shot shows fans - what's left of them - leaving. All of them. If everyone else is leaving, I will too. This lack of overtaking on every type of course has gotten ridiculous. I'll leave you with this from Dario in a post-race interview: "I really apologize to fans because that was a dreadful race tonight."

Dear Brian Barnhart, PLEASE FIX THIS!

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 6/27/2009 | 1 comments »
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"I don't believe in numbers. I've used that one in the past and never had a problem with it. (The team) has used it and never had a problem with it. It's nothing more than a freaking sticker on the car that says a number." - EJ Viso, on how his car number to "13" has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he hasn't finished a single race since last year at in Infineon. In that time he and his HVM Racing team have suffered five accidents and had four mechanical failures, including a broken suspension, a gearbox failure and an air gun malfunction.

EJ, change the number back.

It's the thought that counts

Posted by Iannucci | 6/26/2009 | 2 comments »
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AS you might recall, Tony Kanaan is trying to get a date for his teammate. You know, the Japanese guy named "HIDEKI", who for some inexplicable reason HIDEKI has been unable to find himself a main squeeze here in the good 'ol U. S. of A. Not wanting to see a teammate have loneliness messing with his head at speeds over 200 mph, Tony has created a web address where young ladies can send emails, pics, vids, or possibly powerpoint presentations outlining how they would be an all-too-perfect match for young mister HIDEKI.

Kanaan has even put the email address on his helmet.



Anyone else think Tony needs to be checked for a possible concussion?

(Kudos to James at 16th and Georgetown for noticing this first.)

Friday Night Lights: J.R. Hildebrand

Posted by Iannucci | 6/26/2009 | 3 comments »
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Our next featured driver this week is the guy at the top of the points standings, J.R Hildebrand. J.R. finished fifth in the championship last year, garnering his first Indy Lights win in Kansas in 2008 - his first ever race on an oval.

Compared to his peers J.R. got a relatively late start in racing, starting with go karts seven years ago. He seemed to do pretty well, even winning championships in Formula Russell and Formula Ford 2000 along the way. And no, I have no idea what "Formula Russell" is, but he won it and you didn't.)

Off the track J.R. has the distinction of having a deferred acceptance to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a.k.a. "M.I.T.", or as it is less formally know, "one of the few institutions of higher learning that doesn't deal in stoopid people". Keep this in mind in case J.R. happens to offer to play you at poker or chess some day.

So please sit down and have a glass of unknown wine with NoCal's own J.R. Hildebrand, or as stock cars fans would call him, J.R. Jr.



MNII: First question that race fans want to know: What are the names behind the initials "J.R."?

JRH: I’m actually a J.R. Junior because those are dad’s initials. My given name is John Randal Hildebrand Jr., so it’s J.R. for short. We really did it to help my mom so she could avoid the confusion of which John she was calling for.

MNII: Three-time Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford also goes by "J.R.". Have you spoken to him, and has he given you approval to use the moniker?

JRH: Johnny Rutherford along with Rick Mears are guys that are always around for us to talk to. Johnny drives the pace car for our races, so I’ve had a chance to talk to him briefly and ask him about starts and restarts. I haven’t got as much time to talk to him as I like, but for a guy like me to get a chance to talk with those guys is invaluable. They are so full of experience and knowledge and they can tell you about doing the right thing or being fast on certain tracks. As for his permission, I don’t have any other name to revert back too, so I hope it’s OK with him. He’s a great guy, so I think it would be OK as long as I don’t use “Lone Star,” as well. I’d probably use something else being that I’m a California kid.



MNII: I see that you played varsity baseball in High School. What position did you play, and were you as good at baseball as you are at racing?

JRH: I’m a southpaw, so I was limited at the positions I could play. I played a little first base and played mostly left and center field. I was a pretty good player I was moved up to varsity as a sophomore for the playoffs, and I would have started the next year. I think everyone when they get out of high school says they were an incredible high school athlete, but my racing career has gone above and beyond what I did in baseball. My passion has always been cars, but I didn’t start racing until 14. For most of my childhood, baseball was my passion. I still enjoy playing and going to games and enjoying it as much as I can.

MNII: Since have a deferred acceptance to M.I.T., have you noticed if your aptitude with Math and History contributed in any way to your success as a driver??

JRH: I think it’s an intangible thing. It doesn’t relate to how fast you go or your skill as a driver, but it allows me to have a greater understanding of what’s happening as I’m driving the car and the relationship between the car, track and the changes you make.

The more I get involved with the car and what’s happening to it, the faster I’m able to go because you can work with how the car is going to function. It’s a good tool to have. I’m able to talk to the engineers in their own language and that plays a role in how good the car can be at times.”

MNII: You've only won once this year but you're leading in the FIL championship points. Do you think it's more important at this level to win a bunch of races or to be the series champ?

JRH: We certainly haven’t only won one race for a lack of trying. We’ve been really close a couple of times. If the weekend at St. Pete had gone better and we didn’t have the electrical problem we’d been in the top three for sure. To answer the question, both are important. The championship is quite strong and in the grand scheme of things that’s what were shooting to do. Winning races isn’t as easy as it’s been in the past. On the ovals there are almost 10 guys who can win the race or finish on the podium.

Right now as a driver, I’d like to be racing as if it’s “checkers or wreckers” every race. But the right now, the team has taken lower-risk options because the championship is what we’re looking for. An IndyCar Series team may be looking for guys with outright ability and the speed to win IndyCar (Series) race, but they may be also looking for guys who can make the most of a bad situation, as well.

MNII: You and Jonathan Summerton are both 21, and have both raced Atlantics, Indy Lights and represented America in A1GP. Are we seeing a budding rivalry of young American drivers?

JRH: That’s a tough question. This is the first year that we’ve actually competed against each other. We started at a similar time and been competitive in similar series, but he was in Europe while I was here in the States. That played a big role in us never really racing against each other. It’s tough to say these days. We both have the opportunity to go far in racing and to be successful. We’ll have to see how they play out in the next couple of years.

MNII: You're from Marin County, which is pretty darn close to Sonoma and Napa counties. Do you have a favorite winery?

JRH: I just turned 21 this year. You’re getting ahead of me on that one. If you talk to me in a couple of years, I’ll have a better answer for you.

(Ed. note: Groove the guy a fastball and he just lets it pass. I can't believe J.R. didn't drop an "Andretti Winery" selection since he drives for AFS/AGR, or even the award-winning IMS "Brickyard Red". These kids today.)

MNII: Presumably you've driven more than a few races times at Infineon Raceway. Would it mean more to win an event so close to home or is it just another race?

JRH: It would be big if we could get the win at Sonoma. I do have a lot of experience there and it’s my hometown crowd. There will be a lot of family and friends and sponsors there. I will definitely looking to capitalize the experience there. Rafa (Matos) was fast there last year and so was I. In many ways, it’s a kin to winning at Long Beach. The two west coast races are really important in my mind and my team’s mind because our owner Gary Petersen is from Southern California. It would be nice to say I won both of those races. Also from a championship standpoint, it’s the last road course of the year. If the championship is close and with last two races being Chicago and Homestead -- where it’s more like musical chairs due their nature – a good run at Infineon would be crucial for the championship battle.

MNII: I've seen your name mentioned in random speculation about the new USF1 team. Is that something you feel ready to undertake now?

JRH: As a racing driver, particularly at this stage of a career, you have to be ready and available to do anything. F1 is an option for all open wheel drivers, but my focus now is to get to the IndyCar Series and the Indy 500. The last couple years in Indy Lights have been a huge eye opener for me. I’ve always been an Indy Car and Champ Car fan before I raced in Indy Lights, but racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Freedom 100 has shown me how important (racing at Indy) is. If other opportunities present themselves, we’ll see if we can go do them, but my focus is on the Firestone Indy Lights championship and trying to covert that in to an IndyCar Series ride.

MNII: Other than being drivers, do you have anything at all in common with Sebastian Saavedra, your teenage Columbian teammate at AFS/AGR?



JRH: Certainly not our hair or our fashion choice for that matter. Sebastian is a really good guy and a great teammate. We’re really competitive as you can see by our speed on the track, so that sets a few boundaries. We’ve got along since the beginning and I’m sure we’ll continue to do so. When it comes down to it we’re both trying to win races and doing everything we can to accomplish that goal. There’s a little common ground between all committed drivers in that respects.

MNII: Last question about Andretti Green Racing team that needs to be asked: do they let the Indy Lights team members to the parties with the girls in cages?



JRH: I’ve seemed to miss out on them somehow. I’m sure Marco has a few lined up down the road. I would expect there to be invitation offered later in the year. That sounds like something they’d do at Homestead. I’ll keep you posted.

MNII: Please do!

(Thanks to Indy Lights PR megastar Arni "The Indy Insider" for his assistance and to IndyCar.com for all photos used.)

Just a passing remark

Posted by Iannucci | 6/26/2009 | 0 comments »
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Noticed this on Curt Cavin's Q&A the other day.

Question: More of an opinion than a question but if the Barber Motorsports track gets a race it is going to be far more of an event to attend than a race to watch. The track is beautiful and there are a lot of areas to sit and watch but the only passing that occurs will be in the pits. I have been there for the Grand-Am racing, and I just don't see where the Indy cars are going to pass. Be prepared for a typical CART or Formula One follow the leader race. BTW, I will be there with cooler in hand! (Mike, Carmel, Ind.)

Answer: I haven't been there, so I'll have to take your word for it. But I'm told the IRL has asked for some passing zones if there is going to be a race there. We'll see.
Do I even dare bring this up again? ...Nah.

Beating a dead horse

Posted by Iannucci | 6/26/2009 | 1 comments »
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From Paul Tracy's twitter account.

I hope that gieco wants to do more , but they don't seem to up on versus network , just abc races
I like VERSUS, you like VERSUS, and the other 72 of us that have VERSUS all unanimously love the coverage. It seems that's not enough to help get the Chrome Horn some more races since *SURPRISE* sponsors want to see ratings higher than point-one-five.

And on this note I take partial responsibility, as I must emphatically proclaim the Chamberlain Chronicles and utter and complete disaster. Every week since Long Beach I have asked my friend if he has watched the most recent IndyCar race - and he has VERSUS - and every week he gives me the "uhh..." treatment. Read into it whatever you must.

Poor Vitor

Posted by Iannucci | 6/26/2009 | 3 comments »
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He's 0-for-97 in his IndyCar career, he's wearing a body brace recovering fractured vertebrae, and he's been reduced to assembling 2000-piece puzzles. But he's not quitting.

Temporary pause

Posted by Iannucci | 6/25/2009 | 6 comments »
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No, I'm not dead, and yes, I've been following the IndyCar news as of late. Unfortunately due to, what's the phrase..."extenuating circumstances"...yes, that's the one, due to extenuating circumstances I haven't had adequate time to put my thoughts down.



Rest assured, your humble host should return before the weekend. My sincerest apologies, and in the interim I suggest you enjoy some of the many sites published in the sidebar.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 6/23/2009 | 21 comments »
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What does this one say?



(Photo: Trackside Online)

Go green

Posted by Iannucci | 6/23/2009 | 0 comments »
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What started as satire is now all the rage.

Get your What Would Danica Think? Green Bracelet!

For just $6 (including shipping), you can play along with pressdog and support charity at the same time!


As an open-wheel racing fan, a least 43 times each day, you need to stop and ask yourself "What Would Danica Think?" After all, creating a more Danica-friendly open-wheel world is key to keeping the Indy Racing League's most valuable meal ticket rolling! So do your part by sporting a stylish green silicone wristband.

The bands feature "WWDT?" on one side and "pressdog.com" on the other side. They were inspired by a pressdog spoof article (read the original article HERE). Props to Joe from Trackside Online for suggesting I actually get some made.

Best of all, net proceeds (after the costs of bands and shipping, about $2.50 per band) go to Racing for Kids, a cause championed by former IndyCar driver and current team co-owner Robbie "Incredi" Buhl.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 6/22/2009 | 14 comments »
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What does this one say?



(Photo: Trackside Online)

mmack's nnotes: Iowa 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 6/22/2009 | 2 comments »
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(Ladies and gentleman, once again My Name Is IRL proudly welcomes guest commentary from a man who reasonably suggests the race in Iowa be sponsored by MAACO. Back home and enjoying the amenities of the comfy couch, it's the one, the only, the mmack.)

After missing the Texas race due to a birthday party (Happy 40th George, old pal) and a graduation party, I am back on the Comfy Couch for the Iowa Corn Growers 250.

Ah I-o-way! Home of Pressdog, corn, and . . . . . . um . . . . . The University of Iowa! Go Jayhawk, no, that’s Kansas. Go Buckeye, no, that’s Ohio, Go Gopher, no, that’s Minnesota, oh yeah, GO HAWKEYES! I join as the track announcer strains his voice trying to get the crowd wound up, and the pres of the Iowa Corn Growers combines a pitch for ethanol with a call to start engines. Due to rain, the starting field is set by points, so it is Penske – Penske, Target – Target, and that sexy lady what got her commercial banned from golf coverage in the top five. We see a replay of the Marco “I AM AN ANDRETTI. AND YOU WILL BOW DOWN BEFORE ME, PEASANT!!!!” Andretti \ Danica Patrick dustup at Texas for the last race, and a follow up on the karma that has affected them both: Danica goes pit crew bowling and picks up a 7 – 10 split with a tire changer, and Marco spins into the wall in practice. Jack Arute shows us the pits, except all I see is a big cloud of fog on the camera lens. Hey ABC, you might want to fix that before the race starts.

The stands are full and as I search for Pressdog, the race starts. It’s a clean start, but before one lap is complete, EJ Viso is in the wall, and he takes Doorknob, I mean Doornbos with him. The bullring claims its first victims. A replay shows Doorknob and Viso busting a synchronized spinning move, with Moraes getting all squirrelly before they crash. I see O Ryan the Hunter ducking into the pits and then undoing the belts and climbing out. The nose and right front are off of the car. ABC catches Doornbos who complains of oversteer and being hit by RHR. Danica is in for a change of tires and a splash and go.

At this point Sheckter as in Wrecked-her is up six spots and we see a replay of his BANZAI!!!!! charge up through the field. We restart and HOLY GUACAMOLE! There’s actual PASSING! Dario passes Briscoe as Dixon closes on The Dancing King and Three Time Indianapolis 500 Winner Helio Who Needs a Last Name You KNOW Who I Am. Dixon dices with Helio and then slips past into the lead. On board with Dario as he fights a BIG wiggle Holy S%$^! Moment and then YELLOW YELLOW YELLOW!!!!!!! Helio and Dixon hit, with Helio’s right front wing going skyward and Dixon’s rear tire going flat. As Dixon flies in to replace his flat, an onboard shot with Dario shows him dodging a ton of shrapnel from Helio’s car. Tthe Penske team does some race track rhinoplasty for Helio while Ryan Briscoe leads and Tomas Sheckter takes 2nd and Marco “Tomas, I AM AN ANDRETTI, YOU’D BETTER MOVE OVER YOU LITTLE WORM!!!!!!” Andretti is in 3rd.

BDC (Banned Danica Commercial) shown on ABC. As an aside, if Lexus (Slogan: The luxury car for people who don’t want TOO MUCH excitement) is scared of Danica in a 1971 – 73 “Big” ‘Stang, Ford should do an add like this: Open with the fair Ms. Patrick-Hospenthal in her “GoDaddy” ’73 drop top, and a voice over of “If Toyota is afraid of this”, then fade to a bright red 2010 drop top GT powersliding out of a turn, tires smoking rubber. Ms. Patrick-Hospethal should be at the wheel, and the voiceover should continue “Then how will they handle THIS?” Not sayin’, just sayin.

Back to the racing action AFTER ABC (Another Big Commercial) misses the restart. The Cajun Chef races Carpenter, while Rahal makes a big save. Rahal has to save his car as Mike Conway dive-bombs Danica. Someone needs to send Mike a copy of The Danica Directive, so next time he won’t be so insolent. At this point the field begins to string out.

The Cajun Chef is cooked. Today’s dish: Cracked Dallara, after Justin goes tail first into the wall. At this point the leaders duck into the pit with Ryan leading Marco and Dan Wheldon on to the track. This means DANICA!!!!!! leads the race. Take THAT, Lexus!

Interview with Justin. Seems he was trying to run a stiffi...no wait, I’m not that crass to make that joke. The front roll bar was too stiff and he lost it.

Restart has DANICA!!!! and Mike Conway (?!?!?!?!?!?!?) in 1st and 2nd, Dario 3rd. Dario almost nails Conway, then dive-bombs him to take second. Briscoe and Wheldon dice for position, as Sheckter fights Mutoh. Sheck takers Mutoh and heads for Briscoe, racing him on the outside. Further up Kanaan stalks Conway as Wheldon fights his old teammate Dixon. He passes Dixon as Tomas starts flying up to the front.

Of course, as it gets going good: YELLOW YELLOW YELLOW!!!!!!!!! Matos, the crashmaker! Rafa spins it and Moraes hits the wall trying to miss him. Since Mr. Matos is carrying the colors of the USMC on his car, in the spirit of R. Lee Emery from Full Metal Jacket, I ask “What is your major malfunction?!?!?” As Ms. Patrick is off sequence, due to this yellow, I imagine she will pit. She does, and TK leads the race.

I see a MAACO commercial and I think a body shop is the perfect sponsor for this race. We return and TK, Wheldon and Sheckter are in the top three, HOLY COW!!!! No Penske or Target Chip Ganassi cars in the top three. At the restart Sheckter takes Wheldon and Mutoh fights with Ryan Briscoe. Dario slips to the inside of Marco as Danica leads Dixon. Lazier spars with Rahal as Wheldon closes in on Sheckter, and one lap later Dan passes him.

Odd that the IndyCar.com commercial I see mentions everything except The Silent Pagoda. I wonder why that is?

After a long stretch in the lead, TK pits and Wheldon takes the lead. Briscoe takes second from Sheckter and them d@%nit! Tony is in the wall less than a lap after he pitted. Hits the outer wall and spins into the inner wall. Under yellow Briscoe leads Dario and Dan out of the pits.

TK gets interviewed after a trip to the medical center. He’s almost as unlucky as Viso this year. He does take responsibility for the crash.

Hey! An IZOD ad! Don’t see many of those.

Well, we WERE going to restart, except that 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place were going to pass Briscoe before the green.

Take 2, and we have a clean start. Mutoh gets around Choppers, er, Dan Wheldon as Dario slips past Briscoe. DANICA! and HELIO! battle for position. Call People magazine and TMZ.com, as the two biggest names in the IRL racing each other must be bigger than John and Kate plus Eleventy Billion Million Children. From the in car, Danica must be fighting some bad handling, but she is closing on Helio.

Briscoe is stalking Dario and OH MY GOODNESS!!! He PASSES him! It’s a cool shot on the in-car from Dario’s car. After the pass we see Dixon struggling with Mike Conway (?!?!?!?!?!?). We find out that a flat tire may not be the only damage Scott had when Helio punted him. As the race goes on Mike Conway is obviously auditioning for the role of EJ Viso with another three wide dive-bomb move.

As Briscoe aims to lap Marco, Marco reminds him “I’M AN ANDRETTI, YOU MISERABLE LITTLE AMOEBA!!!” and chops down across his nose. Ryan wisely falls back. At this point we follow Danica and find out she’s struggling with a poor handling car. Mikey tells her to hold on, they’ll pit in twenty laps. She may be lucky to make five more. As the race goes on and Briscoe gets around Marco, he starts lapping other cars and is closing in on Danica. Will we have an “OH NO, Danica is going a LAP DOWN, QUICK, I SEE DEBRIS!!!” yellow flag? As I ponder that, Dan and Ryan pit, and then Sheckter and Conway pit. Danica gets a temporary stay as Dario and Helio pit, which means Danica Leads Again! But Danica doesn’t lead for too long as she has to pit. It’s a good stop, but slower than the Penske team. Dario takes the lead and laps Mike Conway.

Banned Danica Commercial X 2

At this point I must confess I felt let down. For most of the race it was a very exciting affair, with plenty of passing and slick moves. But now it is Dario walking away and slowly lapping everyone up to his old teammate Dan Wheldon. On the white flag we find out Ashley Judd is at the track, so if Dario wins, it’s Floppy Hat Time. Mr. Ashley Judd wins and she sings the praises of her man, basketball, and Earth Worship. Ashley, I know you love him, but did you marry Dario or Mahatma Gandhi? He’s a race car driver, not a peacemaker.

Top five: Dario, Ryan, Mutoh, Wheldon, Dixon. Upon seeing Dario in Victory Lane, Mrs. Mmack wants Target to start selling the stuffed Bullseye the Target Dog in his little fire suit at their stores. We already have an idea for a children’s book Bullseye goes to Indy, so Chip, give us a call and make it so.

All in all, I give the race a B+. There was plenty of passing in the first 200 laps, but the last 50 showcased what everyone has been complaining about this year. At least there were plenty of people in the top five throughout the race who don’t normally show up there.

And with that, I’m done until Richmond next Saturday night. Unless Danica goes to NASCAR to replace Dale Jr. Then I have to comment on that.

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 6/22/2009 | 3 comments »
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"Well, Dan Wheldon certainly was a factor during the course of the race, and there was at one point where I actually thought (Panther Racing owner) John Barnes made the right call. You guys were gonna go for two stops, and the caution comes out - kinda screws the pooch on that one. What about your drive today?" - Jack Arute, interviewing Nos-guzzling Dan Wheldon and adding value to yet another IndyCar telecast.

LiveBlog: Iowa 2009

Posted by Iannucci | 6/21/2009 | 8 comments »
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Welcome to Iowa, where...what am I going to say that pressdog hasn't already said? Seriously. It's noon in Iowa and the p-dog has already posted SIX TIMES today. His coverage of his home-state race is beyond comprehensive, so rush over to his site this instant to catch up on everything.

Weather has played a factor this weekend as "weepers" - those dreaded spots on the track where moisture seeps up and causes the racing surface to become slick - have played such a factor that qualifications for today's race were canceled. As a result we have ordered the field on the drivers' points standings...oh, wait - what? We've ordered them on ENTRANT points? So Helio - 4th in the standings - gets to start from the pole position because Will Power raced so well in the #3 car at St Pete?

Did I miss the memo? Do we now have an "Helio Directive"? Good grief.

At any rate, it's time to start.

0: ESPN/ABC has a little timer "To Green" at the top of the screen. Almost begging people to not watch the next 11:48 of the broadcast.

0: ...and just like that they pulled the timer off the top of the screen.

0: Marty Reid says "Here's Danica on the cover of N****R Scene". In case you did not know, ESPN paid LOTS of money to show LOTS of N-word races. Seriously, is ESPN is trying to kill the IndyCar series? What is up?

0: "Drivers, please start your corn-fed ethanol engines". And I swear I just heard the sound of popcorn.

0: Looks like a packed house in Iowa. Ready to go green.

1: We are GREEN, and it was nearly a decent formation to start.

2: YELLOW! Viso is out - shocker, I know. Put the number '13' on your car and see what happens. Robert Doornbos is out as well. Looks like they both got

3: And it looks like Ryan Hunter-Reay - in the Foyt car for the remainder of the season - got clipped as well and is out as well. Replay showed Mario Jonas Moraes getting loose in the same spot. Is this an episode of "When weepers attack?"

6: Pitstops for Danica and some other drivers. Apparently she had a tire going down. Also a replay of an amazing move by Mike Conway to squeeze between Doornbos and Viso. Perhaps this is the start of a run of completed races by the red-haired rookie.

9: Replay of Tomas Scheckter standing on the gas and going from 16th to 9th. Become a member of his sales force today! Or not.

11: And we're back to green as Helio leads the pace.

17: Passing for the lead! Dixon looks to move around Helio on the high side but SNAP there goes parts of Helio's front wing. YELLOW! Helio has a damaged wing and Dixon has a flat tire. Dario Franchitti in a horrendously ugly green Tom Tom car will take the lead.

20: Pit stops for some of the leaders, which means Briscoe, Scheckter(!) and Marco now lead.

23: Back to green, but we're side by side. Consequesntly I can see Grahamburglar slowing but I don't know why. Meanwhile Scheckter is all up in Briscoe's business

27: Mario Jonas has received a black flag for blocking. Blocking gets called in the IRL about as often as travelling in the NBA.

28: Replay shows Son of 'Stache slowed because he was three-wide with Danica and Conway and had to lift to avoid going Rahal into the Ra-wall. Conway is everywhere today.

35: YELLOW as Justin Wilson has spun and hit the wall. Iowa speedway is chewing up IndyCars and spitting them out. We might not have enough cars to run the full 250 laps today.

37: Free corn-based ethanol in the puts so the leaders come on down. On exit it's Briscoe, Marco, Wheldon, Mutoh and Tomas. They may not be leading anymore as other drivers have elected to stay out.

38: New leaders are Patrick, Conway(!!) and Dario. Mike Conway is in second place. Time to check for a swarm of locusts.

43: Back to GREEN and Dario zooms past Conway. Setting his sights on Danica.

47: Lots of side-by-side action. I've missed this. Excuse me while I enjoy it.

50: Setting the pace are Danica, Dario, Conway, Kanaan, Helio.

54: Tomas is passing Dixon and moving up through the field. As well as Conway and Scheckter are doing it looks like D&R engineer Larry Curry did something right today.

55: YELLOW #4 as Matos and Moraes are sliding down the track. Replay shows Matos lost it and Mario went high to avoid hitting him, but unfortunately went all the way into the wall. By my count we are down to 14 cars.

57: Danica, Dario and Conway all pit so Tony Kanaan is your new leader.

60: Kanaan, Wheldon, Scheckter, Briscoe, Mutoh now lead. What, no Ganassi cars?

66: Back to Green and Scheckter quickly goes around Wheldon for 2nd. Briscoe goes side-by-side battling Mutoh for 4th. Three cheers for overtaking!

74: Wheldon works on Scheckter and takes back 2nd place. A frenzy of passing is breaking out in Iowa.

82: The lead drivers are coming up on some traffic. "Traffic" is code for "Jaques Lazier in the Team 3G entry", which amazingly is still on the track.

86: On a personal note, the best Father's Day gift is seeing P3 running around shouting "Tony Ko-nahn in the lead!!!" over and over right now. P1 - Danica fan that she is - is baking cookies right now. I kid you not.

95: Same Top 5, next five is Dario, Marco, Helio, Danica, Dixon. Conway and Carpenter are the other cars on the lead lap. Lazier and Rahal are two laps down, and that's the entirety of the field.

106: Kanaan pits and Wheldon takes the lead.

110: YELLOW for Tony Kanaan as his car slows with broken parts. Still smarting from his wreck at Indy he gets out under his own power.Third time in three tries his race at Iowa ends in a wreck. P3 pauses for a moment before saying "I'm going to cheer for Danica now".

112: Everyone - what's left of them - pits, and on exit it's Briscoe, Franchitti, Wheldon, Mutoh, Scheckter. Five different teams in the Top 5 now. I could just hug this race track.

118: Exiting the infield medical center Kanaan says "The only good thing is we crashed on the left side. My right side is still hurting".

124: Back to...nevermind. No start. Looked like Mutoh and some others were trying to jump the start.

125: This time, back to green - and within a lap Dario takes the lead from Briscoe. Mutoh gets around Wheldon for 3rd. So much passing I can hardly take it.

128: Insert the sound of me slapping my forehead as Scott Goodyear discusses Danica, currently 7th, possibly going to N****R. We're just beyond the halfway mark of the race so I'm sure he was obligated to mention this.

138: Ryan Briscoe going wheel-to-wheel with Dario before passing Dario on the high side for the lead. I think it's safe to say there are multiple racing groves here today.

150: Just like at Texas, once Ryan Briscoe has the lead he switches to the "checking out" setting on his fuel mappings. He's ahead of Dario by nearly 2 seconds.

152: I seriously think Marty Reid doesn't know who's driving the #98. Everytime Jaques Lazier is on screen Reid calls him "traffic".

160: Shockingly we've gone 50 laps without incident. (I hope I didn't just jinx the race.)

173: Here's video of Dixon nearly taking out Marco. Conway went low on Scott attempting a pass, and Dixon, having never been passed by the #24 before, was obviously startled and moved up into Marco's line. Marco lifted and everyone survived.

183: Danica is going 7 mph slower than the leader (Briscoe). Smells like fuel conservation.

187: Apparently there is still passing going on, but since all we see is the leaders spacing out we're not seeing much of it right now.

192: Dario has reeled in Briscoe and they're both closing in to lap Danica. Amazingly, she's not 7 mph slower anymore.

195: Briscoe and Wheldon break off for what should be their final pit stops.

196: Scheckter and Mutoh pit.

198; Dario and Helio pit.

199: Dixon pits. Jack Arute tells us "He's had a slight rear end problem". Ahem.

200: Danica, the Queen of Lean, pits.

201: Leaders are now Dario, Briscoe, Mutoh, Wheldon, Dixon. Dario is closing in to lap the ever-present Mike Conway.

205: That's right, Mutoh is still in 3rd. He finished 2nd here last year, so he might have a long career as a spot driver in future Iowa races.

222: The passing appears to have completely stopped. I don't even see Jaques Lazier getting lapped anymore.

228: Hang on, Briscoe is closing in on Dario...nope, can't catch him. False alarm.

235: Dario is now lapping Scheckter and Conway, who are in 7th and 8th. Thanks for pretending the cars were easily matched earlier today.

240: Dario going around Helio. Going around his teammate Dixon who's in 5th. Busting out a huge can of whoop-ass.

245: Dan Wheldon, in 4th, clinging to the lead lap.

249: White flag. Oh the drama - NOT!

250: Dario wins. Two for two here, he is. Another win for the Big Two as well. Briscoe, Mutoh, and Wheldon follow behind as the last cars on the lead lap.

And now we rush to interview Ashely Judd. Something about "College basketball", "Beef on the track", "Elder statesmen", and "Summer solstice". I try not to listen to carefully lest I suffer permanent mental injury. More interviews follow but my head is clouded with confusion now. I thought I heard Jack Arute utter the phrase "screw the pooch" but I can't be certain.

Congrats to Dario and his obvious mastery of Iowa. It was a great race until he decided it no longer needed to be a great race. Best wishes to all of the fathers out there today, thank you all very much, and good night.

Driving with their thumbs

Posted by Iannucci | 6/21/2009 | 1 comments »
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Remember a few weeks ago when Jack Arute was pontificating about "Push to Pass" in IndyCars? Apparently, he wasn't all loopy when he said this. He was still loopy when he said everything else that day, just not this part.

Last week Brian Barnhart, IRL President of Competition (or more recently, the lack thereof) went public with the admission that "Somewhat surprisingly this year, it doesn't appear that we have raced as well in terms of overtaking and side-by-side opportunities as we have the last several years," and revealing that "We'll explore all factors and maybe it's time to give some tools and options back to the teams."

Well, now we know what one of those tools might be. The intrepid Curt Cavin has uncovered that Honda has recently conducted tests involving a "power enhancer" that would provide a temporary boost similar, hoping that it would help improve the racing.

The system has been tested at several tracks, most recently last week by Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan at Chicagoland Speedway.

Dixon said it added 5 horsepower and 200 rpms at Chicagoland.

"It works," said Dixon, the reigning series champion, Saturday at Iowa Speedway, site of today's Iowa Corn Indy 250. "It makes a half mile per hour per lap at Chicagoland."

(MORE from IndyStar)
Unconfirmed reports indicate that in addition to a button providing a temporary boost, race officials are also testing a feature that shoots turtle shells from the nose of the Dallara at race leaders, as well as a rear wing mount that deploys banana peels.

No GoDaddys shown during US Open

Posted by Iannucci | 6/21/2009 | 1 comments »
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So much for those "Danica to turn pro golfer" rumors.

According to website sales company GoDaddy.com, Lexus, Japanese automaker Toyota's luxury brand, is blocking a GoDaddy.com commercial starring Danica Patrick in a vintage Ford Mustang from airing during the United States Open. Wait, seriously? Apparently, yes.

GoDaddy was to air its "Speeding" commercial twice during the United States Open this weekend. The ad features GoDaddy gal-pal Danica Patrick in a vintage, American-made Ford Mustang. Late yesterday, GoDaddy was informed Lexus didn't want "Speeding" to air. As the exclusive sponsor of the NBC broadcast, Lexus declared no other automakers can be shown in commercials airing during the United States Open.

(MORE from Jalopnik)

To paraphrase our buddy Meesh, "I call Banana Splits!"

This has nothing to do with Toyotas and Mustangs, people. If you've ever seen a golf telecast you know that for the last few years they've been drowning their audience with innumerable ads with happy little fellows singing "Viva Viagra!" Lexus is smart enough to know dropping a little striptease action on this crowd would pretty much end their viewing window. Of course, they can't say that because, well, that would be an awkwardly worded press release to say the least.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 6/19/2009 | 8 comments »
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What does this one say?


(Photo: Tony Kanaan's twitpic)

Friday Night Lights: James Davison

Posted by Iannucci | 6/19/2009 | 10 comments »
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If there's one thing IndyCar fans love to do it's complain. Actually pretty much all of humanity likes to complain, but since this isn't a site dedicated to covering all of humanity let's just stick to stereotyping fans of open-wheel racing. All of us - yes, YOU included - like to complain, whether it be about "Danica", "ESPN" or the lack of racing.

I'm sure we're all asking ourselves far too often "Where's the passing?", "What's with all of this fuel conservation?", or "How come only two teams can win a race?", but curiously enough none of those questions can be asked of most of the Indy Lights races.

The fact is that although imperfect the junior series of the Indy Racing League is often the most exciting event on shared weekends, possibly due to the lack of pit stops, or the race-to-race contracts, or the fact that many of the Lights drivers just don't have time for this whole "race strategy" deal. Whatever the reason, the races are fun even if you don't know who the drivers are - and even that won't be a problem for long if My Name Is IRLhas anything to say about it.

While most of the IndyCar series drivers get to answer fun questions prime inquisitors like pressdog the poor Lights drivers are stuck answering questions about bland and boring subjects like lap times and downforce, and that's just not fair to these fine men and women. We need to learn more about them as people, because surprisingly enough that's what they are. Starting tonight and hopefully throughout the remainder of the race season this spot will feature a less-than-boring interview with an Indy Lights driver in a recurring series called "Friday Night Lights". Catchy, eh?

This week we kick things off with Vision Racing's James Davison, a second-year participant in the series. James has 21 starts, one win, and an intimate familiarity with the word "coxswain". Enjoy the Q&A with James...or should I say, "Skippy"!?!.

MNII: First off, it's "Davison", right? Do you bother correcting people who refer to you as James "Davidson" or do you usually just let it slide?

JD: Yes I do, it has been an issue my entire life. My suit in Star Mazda had my name misspelled on it the entire season!

MNII: You come from quite the racing family. Your grandfather won the Australian Grand Prix four times, your father raced Formula 5000, and your cousins race V8 Supercars. Did you ever feel pressured to be in this profession?

JD: Yes, my family name is prominent in Australian motorsport, much like how Andretti, Unser, Foyt is regarded here. When I did my first year of racing Formula Ford back in Australia my cousins had left a big impression on the family name so I felt I had to perform if I was going to be taken seriously. I knew I had it in me and I wanted it just as much as they did. I performed straight away which was important in gaining my father's support of my career up to this year.

MNII: Being in the U.S. so much, what do you miss most about your Australian homeland? Vegemite? The AFL? Kylie Minogue?

JD: I actually have Vegemite nearly every morning for breakfast and recently found a place that sells it here in Indy. I miss the summer beaches and catching up with my old school friends. With that said, I am very focused and determined to make it as an IndyCar driver. I don't think about what I have left back in Australia all that much. My life is primarily in Indianapolis and I intend to keep it here.

MNII: I noticed from your bio that you served as a coxswain on a championship crew team a few years ago. Could you tell us what kind of stuff does a coxswain shout to the guys with the oars? Is it similar to what a spotter yells at a driver during a race?

JD: It's not like going side by side at 200mph but it was a very good experience that taught me discipline, dedication and determination, along with waking up at 5.00am to go training! I had a very important dictator-ing role to control the eight rowers in the crew. Motivating and strategic race planning were very important to being successful. My school was like the Team Penske of school boy rowing; Big budgets, new $40,000 carbon fiber boats, Olympic gold medalist coaches. We won everything and they still dominate today.

MNII: Your team co-owner, Tony George, had a bit of a rough time with the media last week. Did you offer to give him a hug, or would that have been awkward and inappropriate?

JD: A hug was definitely in order, but I took a step back from it all. You can never be sure that you're getting the whole story from the media. Knowing Tony personally, it's difficult to see the way he is portrayed a lot of times by the media; he is a very generous, thoughtful, hardworking person who has made many tough decisions with the best interest of the sport in mind. Tony is highly important to our sport, and something like the recent rumors would have a huge impact of a lot of people's lives. This is a crucial time for open-wheel racing to rebound, and the last thing we need is stupidity that would unsettle the progress that the series has made. There has been a lot of time and investment put into the IRL, most recently with the unification of the sport, and it's going to take everyone to be united in order to recover the lost ground. I've loved IndyCar racing since I was 11 years old, and I am committed to being a part of its future.

MNII: Vision Racing recently announced their newest team co-owner is 18-year-old Lauren George. So far would you categorize her as a harsh taskmaster or a benevolent dictator?

JD: I haven't disappointed her so far, but she won't be satisfied until we are winning races. As the old saying goes "sponsors or team owners don't care where you finish unless it's first". She is competitive and definitely wants to win, however she is understanding of the fact that we are a new team and need some time to catch our stride. We have been constantly improving on the ovals with a Top-Five in Milwaukee and eagerly look forward to the string of road courses where we are going all out to win.

MNII: Some drivers have very personal relationships with their sponsors, so, umm, pardon me for asking but do you find yourself shopping frequently at Charlotte Russe?

JD: No, I don't but I do use a People's Liberation bag to carry around some things. Ultimately the two brands reflect an 18 year old girl like Lauren, and in this economy you cannot complain about who's paying the bills! The car looks good and it is my responsibility to run up front. (People’s Liberation is our primary sponsor. Charlotte Russe was only on the car for Indy & Milwaukee.)

MNII: What's the biggest difference being on a one-car team like Vision Racing as opposed to the four-car effort at Sam Schmidt Motorsports?
Focus. It makes a difference and I feel that I did suffer from this at times last year. The key ingredient to any successful team is chemistry, and I have a very good relationship my guys at Vision.

MNII: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you did some TV work for the Surfer's Paradise race last year. How did you score that gig, and is that something you'd want to do more of in the future?

JD: Yes, it was a good experience. I grew up going to the race there and got to know many of the key personal from the event. I enjoyed commentating on what I love, however at this stage I would for sure much rather star in the race. Many commentators have been former drivers, which gives them more creditability when commentating or expressing their opinion on something.

MNII: Vision Racing has one of those FIL partnership deals that allows for extra testing time, but have they let you have a crack at driving one of their IndyCars yet? If so, what did you think?

JD: As of yet I have not driven the IndyCar, however after the season I am eager to get a chance to finally drive what I have been working toward my entire career. The budget at Vision does not allow us the leisure that AGR has to do testing miles. Right now I am focused on Indy Lights and developing with the team to a race winning level.

MNII: You raced well enough to win several races last year, but your lone FIL victory came at that bizarre boat race at Mid Ohio. Did you talk about it with Jonny Reid afterward, and did you at least offer to buy him a good stiff drink?

JD: Yes, I had a number of unfortunate incidents last year where I lead the race at Indianapolis & Nashville but ended up with zero. Mid Ohio was a very difficult race. I made a mistake early on and recovered from it. I had good speed in the rain and by the white flag I had got to within a second of Jonny. I was getting excited as I felt I was strong enough to pass him then the caution came out, which meant I was locked into finishing 2nd.....well at least I thought haha. I saw him go in the pit lane which made me stumble for a second. I exited the final turn and the guy was waving the flags at me. It was a crazy way to win however I felt I deserved some luck to be on my side as my entire season up to that point was very frustrating. Seven days earlier at Nashville when I started on the pole and lead half the race, I was accidently put into the wall by Jonny when coming up to lap him. I thought it was a convenient apology, however I really wanted to win that guitar. A couple of us had a few drinks that night back Indy and joked about it.

MNII: Last question: Do you have a nickname? If you don't you can make one up, and if you don't make one up I won't be responsible for what the readers decide to call you.

JD: I have a number; Davo, JD, Jamo, Roo, Skippy.

MNII: Hmmm. James "Skippy" Davison. That does have an excellent ring to it!

(Thanks to Vision Racing for their assistance and to IndyCar.com for all photos used.)

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 6/18/2009 | 11 comments »
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"People can say what you want, but Formula One isn't exactly stable right now. N***R, let's look at what Chevy just did, if Chevy is going to continue to cut, Dodge is going to cut. N***R is no more stable. I've got to be honest: I think IndyCar is the most stable of all of them . . . N***R has peaked, plain and simple. IndyCar racing, the quality of racing is second to none. The quality of drivers is second to none . . . I still think IndyCar racing is where it's at. I'm American, I'm biased to that, I feel that the Indy 500 is the most patriotic thing to compete in and that's where I'm focused." - Graham Rahal, proudly patriotic American, standing and saluting Old Glory while sounding just as red-white-and-blue as any N-word driver.

The games people play

Posted by Iannucci | 6/18/2009 | 4 comments »
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Longtime readers will recall that in prior years this site has featured a drinking game called "My Name Is Hurl", although given the amount of drinking suggestions any memory loss incurred would be understandable. It was, to put it lightly, far too much and has since been replaced by a single suggested drinking term for any given event. This, in deference to Jon Beekhuis and Robbie Buhl of VERSUS, has nearly always been "working the tools".

But Declan at Midweek Motorsport, fresh of his 24-hour coverage of "Luh Mawn", has come up with a far more ingenious and poingant idea of entertainment for those IndyCar fans who may feel a tad uninspired by the ESPN/ABC broadcasts.

If you can’t be there to witness the parade or watch it on TV here is how you can experience the “fun” at home. You will need a quarter painted red, one painted white, a large bowl, a stool and two posters of Danica. Go to the corner of a room and hang the two posters. Sit down on a stool facing the corner with the bowl in your hands. While moving the bowl in a circular motion, roll the quarters on their edge in the bowl keeping them going by gently sustaining the motion. Continue this while staring into the bowl until you start to feel nauseous. At this point, it is time for a commercial break. While still swirling your racers in the bowl, carefully look up at the posters and stare at each one for thirty seconds. Everyone once in a while mutter, “You deserve respect. You deserve respect.” Repeat until you lose the will to live. Stop swirling the bowl. The last quarter rolling wins. If it is red, Target Chip Ganassi wins. If it is white, Penske does. If they turn into five dimes, Danica wins. Congratulations! You have just enjoyed another ABC broadcast. Go take a walk and get some fresh air.
Well played, sir. *golf clap*

Press release gold

Posted by Iannucci | 6/18/2009 | 3 comments »
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For those who only passively pay attention to IndyCars this might not seem amusing, but for the tens of you (according to Nielsen ratings) who do this should give you a chuckle. From the latest AJ Foyt Racing pre-race notes, with bolding added by your humble host:

* Vitor Meira Update: Vitor Meira is continuing to recover in his Key Biscayne, FL home. He has not used pain medication since June 4th and an x-ray taken on Wednesday, June 10th revealed his healing is progressing as his doctors anticipated. Meira: "All I'm trying to do now is to get better soon, so my day and tasks are built all around my getting better. This means a lot of light workout and rest... it's not very exciting but it is the fastest way to get back to the car!" Currently Meira spends 20 minutes in the morning on his bike followed by time on his steering machine to maintain his arm strength. After a light lunch, he will spend another 20 minutes on the bike followed by a 30 minute walk, usually with his Mini-Schnauzer 'Quattro.' And to exercise his mind? He finished a 2000-piece Ravensburger puzzle entitled New Wonders of the World. Meira: "I have a lot of free time!"
Maybe Vitor will get another Mini-Schnauzer and name it "RHR".

The comedic stylings of Robbie Buhl

Posted by Iannucci | 6/17/2009 | 0 comments »
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Life isn't easy for a blogger, and I'm not talking about the perception of wearing pajamas and typing away on our TRS-80s down in our parent's basement. Every so often we get an inclination to flex our muscle among our peers by sending off a request for an email Q&A interview with one of the many celebrities in racing, which depending on the subject usually elicits one of the following responses (ranked in order of likelihood):
1) Deafening silence.
2) A thanks for the inquiry along with a promise to forward question, followed by deafening silence.
3) One-sentence answers obviously written by some over-worked PR person that are actually worse than any form of deafening silence.

But occasionally the Q&A requests come back with more personality than the inquisitor had ever hoped for, bearing an untold bounty of savory quoteworthiness. (Yes, "quoteworthiness" is a word, because I'm a word butcher and I say so.) Case in point the recent 16th and Georgetown interview with VERSUS talent and Dreyer & Reinbold co-owner Robbie Buhl.

16th And Georgetown: To date, it seems like the majority of fans are pleased with the job VERSUS has done. What kind of reactions have you gotten from fans?

Robbie Buhl: Fan reaction has been excellent and a lot of people have asked me for Jon Beekhuis' autograph.

16th And Georgetown: Do you feel like the move to the VERSUS booth has had any affect on the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team?

Robbie Buhl: Yes, it has really brought out our competitiveness.

(MORE at 16th and Georgetown)
Ladies and gentlemen, start your snare drum rimshots.

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 6/17/2009 | 0 comments »
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"People always talk about what's the toughest sport, and I was telling Graham my belief is it's the one where there might be bodily injury. I think football is a little bit tough, but going 230, crashing into walls? No, thanks." - Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel, on his admiration and respect for Graham Rahal (while inadvertently drawing attention to the fact that the Son of 'Stache has hit the wall in both attempts at the Indy 500).

All of you Buckeyes fans can see more of Tressel and his less-than-full-throttle two-seater ride at IndyCar.com. The rest of you can just enjoy the lovely Lauren Bohlander.

(Thanks to reader Tom for finding the article.)

Hideki is not working it

Posted by Iannucci | 6/16/2009 | 3 comments »
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Perhaps it's because he's from darn near the same timezone, but Australia's own Shane Rogers, a.k.a. "International Superstar", has been about the only person giving serious consideration to the lack of love life affecting poor Hideki Mutoh. It's like an obsession for Shane, and if he can help Hideki find true love, or at least a dinner date, it might be the greatest Australian accomplishment since AC/DC's "Back in Black".

Shane previously noted that Hideki's first order of business should be to aquire a wingman other than one of his AGR teammates, a solution to which Shane nominated himself, the Firestone Firehawk, or Jimmy Vasser. But now Shane has taken to breaking down actual footage of Hideki's failure in much the same way Bill Belichick might study members of the opposition from an up close and possibly illegal perspective. Witness Shane's notes on the following video with Hideki and the incomparable Lauren Bohlander.


(1) Girl leans over to show interest (at 0:23)
(2) Girl plays with hair (at 0:32)
(3) Girl gets into your personal space with her hands (1:39)
(4) Girl laughs at jokes that are not really funny. (this especially applies when you laugh after joke, in the hope that she laughs back.) (1:45, 2:41 and 3:05)
(5) Girl completes your sentences for you (1:58) (heck, my ex-wife wasn’t that good!)
(6) Girl asks if you have a girlfriend (2:06)
(7) Girl asks if you hang out with another chick a lot, especially one that looks a bit like her. (2:28)
(8) Girl shows interest in knowing who or where you’re hanging out tonight (2:35)

Hideki, mate. For goodness sake: GO IN FOR THE KILL! You can’t expect your pit crew to make up places for you here, you’ve got to try and make a pass!
For what it's worth I've seen Lauren up close and she's simply stunning. Despite what advice Shane offers, I assure you he'd possibly be deer-in-the-headlights as well that close to her.

Talking the talk

Posted by Iannucci | 6/16/2009 | 11 comments »
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This may be hard for you to believe, but apparently some people are getting a little tired of the repetitiveness of Helio Castroneves and his post race enthusiasm. ESPN's John Oreovicz, who has been around Helio for over a decade, has proclaimed himself "tired of Helio Castroneves' over-the-top -- some might say forced or fake -- enthusiasm".

His exuberant personality hasn't changed since then, and people who are close to him say that's the way he has always been.

In fact, a few years ago, Helio's longtime friend Tony Kanaan jokingly (I think) even listed Castroneves as his "Favorite Actor" in a press-kit bio.

But that's no excuse for the way Helio makes the EXACT same speech after every win -- bouncing off the walls like a kid who downed a 12-pack of Red Bull, spouting clichés like "pedal to the metal," "drove it like I stole it" and "keep working hard." You don't have to attend a press conference to obtain postrace quotes from Castroneves because they never change.
I'm guessing the reason he didn't mention my personal favorite, "fun-TASTIC!", is because that one NEVER gets old.

Look, I understand how some people who may be tasked with having to write deadline stories about racing might get a little bothered by the overuse of certain phrases after every event. I've been in the media center; I've dined on the free food and drank the free drinks and sat through the press conferences, and I can see how this can all become a bit repetitive after a while.

So Helio, if you happen to be reading, here are some tips to freshen up your post-race celebration. Keep climbing the fences if that's what the fans want, but Oreo may be right in that it's time to get away from the boring corporate clichés. I'm not talking about changing up the ones you have for new ones like "Pushing the envelope" or "Racing on the razor's edge" or "Giving a hundred and ten percent" because that would be, in a word, lame. No Helio, since you're an international sensation you need to speak the international language: Movie quotes.

Take this list for starters and try to incorporate them into your interviews with the ever-huggable Jack Arute as much as possible. Trust me, it will win you more fans both inside and outside the media center.
  • "How you like them apples?"
  • "I'm the king of the world!"
  • "I feel the need, the need for speed!"
  • "Hasta la vista, baby!"
  • "Show me the MONEY!" (On second thought, let Danica have that one.)
  • "Say 'Hello' to my little friend!"
  • "You can't handle the truth!!!"
That's a good list to start, although when those become tired and abused you can start to work in some quality Monty Python quotes. For now though let's take it to the next level (without actually uttering the hyper-cliché "take it to the next level") and start with some basic "Napoleon Dynamite". I would be willing to change the name of this site to "My Name Is Helio" if you would just bust out the following slightly altered movie quote.

"First off at Team Penske we use the buddy system. No more flying solo. You need somebody watching your back at all times.

[pats Will Power on the back]

"Second off, you're gonna learn to discipline your image. You think I got where I am today because I dressed like Peter Pan here?

[points to Tony Kanaan]

"Take a look at what I'm wearing, people. You think anybody wants a roundhouse kick to the face while I'm wearing these bad boys? Forget about it."

Penske's display of Power

Posted by Iannucci | 6/16/2009 | 8 comments »
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USA Today's Nate Ryan has reported that Will Power, driver in exile, will be taken out of mothballs and dusted off for five more races this IndyCar season. The Captain hasn't announced which races but James at 16th and Georgetown logically surmises they will be Richmond, Toronto, Edmonton, Kentucky and Infineon. Regardless, as good as it is to see a solid driver like Power participating here and there, this decision to enter him in just a few races is a bit confusing.

Had Penske decided upon Helio's exoneration to run Power for the entire season it would have made sense since at the time Power was 2nd in the championship points and the winner of the championship gets a little less than a gazillion dollars. Had Penske instead chosen to hand Will a clipboard and told him to wait until Helio or Ryan "I'm No Robot" Briscoe was unavailable that would have made sense because running a a third car - and a third Penske car, no less - is not the most economical of endeavors.

But neither scenario is what happening, so now it's time to play guessing games.

Possibility #1: Roger Penske is pre-empting Chip Ganassi. As you may have seen at any number of word butcher outlets, speculation is rampant the Ganassi racing empire may next year feature a third IndyCar with Danica Patrick. On the off chance there are in fact 50% more Ganassi entires on the horizon, Penske may be looking at having to elevate his game as well by increasing his stable. Letting Will get out and run some solid races is a shot across Chip's bow leting him know that anything he can do Roger can do better.

Possibility #2: Tony George is behind this. As you may have noticed, Vision Racing recently subtracted their number of entries this year. Mr George is always mindful of car counts, so perhaps he had a discussion with his buddy Roger and said "Say, since you're paying the guy, you're paying the racing team, and you have a spare car, how about you run him a few more times and I'll cover any crash damage?" It's totally far-fetched, for sure, but it's still cheaper than running a second entry for his team.

Possibility #3: The Captain is messing with our heads. A few years ago Penske started covering the mirrors on his IndyCars, an act that was met with much intrigue as to what he had done to them that was so worthy of secrecy. More experienced race fans instead wondered if the covered mirrors were intended to divert our attention from some other more significant change to his race cars. Could having Power race a few more times be simply for in-race testing of new Penske designs?

Clearly, I have no idea. This is what he does and this is why he is Roger Penske, and why you and I are not.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 6/13/2009 | 13 comments »
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What does this one say?



(Photo:TrackSide Online)

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 6/13/2009 | 1 comments »
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"I’m kind of doing it all myself. I have an attorney who’s involved in the racing world, and who’s been there as an advisor, I suppose, but having been in the IndyCar and Indy Lights paddocks for a few years, I kind of know everyone there, and I know how to put a deal together...If I didn’t have anything, it would be very tough to see where I could end up, because there are very good, established drivers out there like Paul Tracy and Oriol Servia who are available. But, I think I’ll have a budget, and I think that gives me an advantage. At this precise moment, I don’t have the backing fully sorted – I probably need a month or so – otherwise I could have been in a car as soon as Iowa." - Alex Lloyd, who certainly sounds like he had a sponsorship package of some kind behind him when he told Chip Ganassi to Take This Job and Shove It.

Kudos for the new guy

Posted by Iannucci | 6/13/2009 | 4 comments »
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Over the last year or so it seems the number of IndyCar blogs has doubled or tripled, and that's a good thing. If there are things to be said and points to be made then the more the merrier. My only hope is that each person has their own voice, their own outlook, and their own j'ne sais French something.

While many of us relay stories with snark or satire there is one new blog that is dealing in the ancient art of thoughtfulness. And quite frankly, he's making many of us look bad. If you haven't seen it yet it's the site "Oilpressure" I find myself absorbed with every post.

Take for example yesterday's work, which made an extremely convincing case that Ryan Briscoe is no Robot.

Earlier this week, I was going through some web sites trying to get a feel for the general opinion on the race at Texas. A surprising theme that caught my eye was how relieved people were that Ryan Briscoe didn’t win Saturday night. We all have drivers we pull for and, yes…pull against – that’s the joy in sports. But some of the comments I saw regarding Briscoe were either downright wrong, or I’ve missed something along the way. Instead of the terms that I would apply to him like nice guy, humble, championship contender — I saw words like robot, loser and idiot.

I’m always open to listen to both sides (well…not really), but I don’t see where this hatred of Briscoe comes from. I saw one exchange where a Briscoe defender asked why they were blasting him. The response indicated Briscoe wins too much. Let’s see…he has one win this year and had two last year; which DOES disqualify him from “loser” status, but hardly makes the point of him winning all the time. He finished fifth in points last year and is the current point leader for 2009, which DOES qualify him for championship contender.

America is usually a nation that loves comeback stories. Quite honestly, I think Ryan Briscoe’s story is nothing short of remarkable...

(MORE from OilPressure)
Read the rest of it just so you'll get all the "maintaining eye contact" references that are soon to follow. George Phillips is definitely raising the bar for the rest of us, so do yourself a favor and check out his site.

The Ryan Hunter-Reay shuffle

Posted by Iannucci | 6/12/2009 | 15 comments »
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Call this subtraction by addition. Via their Facebook page, Vision Racing has just announced that driver Ryan Hunter-Reay has been, uh, loaned(?) to AJ Foyt's team for the remainder of the year.

Considered a win-win situation for all involved, Vision Racing driver Ryan Hunter-Reay will be taking over piloting duties of A.J. Foyt’s ABC Supply entry for the remainder of the 2009 IndyCar season beginning at next weekend’s Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway on June 20-21.
In the respect that Vision had a driver without a sponsor (personal IZOD contract notwithstanding) and Foyt had a car without a fulltime driver (Vitor Meira's recovery notwithstanding), perhaps this can be considered a "win-win" situation...except for the fact that it's a NET LOSS of an entry for the remainder of the year.

Here's how Vision owner Tony George explained the reasoning behind the handing of Ryan to another team.

“We knew there would be challenges bringing Ryan (Hunter-Reay) on board at such a late juncture, but we did so knowing the benefits it would have to our program on the long term,” explained Vision Racing owner Tony George. “My commitment remains with keeping Ryan Hunter-Reay in the series and with Vision Racing for the long term. We had high hopes that we’d be able to attract the primary sponsorship necessary to continue through the course of the season and into the future. While those efforts have been rewarded with some positive developments and opportunities which we are actively pursuing and developing, it did not provide for the short terms needs and our ability to ensure a successful program for the balance of the season.”
The obvious thing that jumps out is that in so many words Mr George is saying "We thought we might get some sponsorship for Ryan, but we didn't, and an extra car is pretty darn expensive." Now, people can spend all day bleating about how millionaires are supposed to spend their money, but most millionaires try not to be in the business of losing money for any extended period of time. No one wants to see the car count creep down any further, but if downsizing the team allows George and his peeps to focus on finding sponsors for the league instead of a single car that would eventually be a "win-win" I suppose.

Mr George is, we are led to believe, on a tightened budget these days.

The other thing that struck me was that Mr George made certain to show his "commitment" to Ryan "for the long term", which gives every indication that he wants to have him back with Vision Racing in 2010. Of course, if there is no sponsorship next year then Ryan's position becomes not much different than Alex Lloyd's for the past few years as a rideless driver on the payroll, but I suppose it's the thought that counts. Especially if IZOD is going to continue to bombard us with that same commercial over and over and over.

"Everything gonna be all right...hehe..." We can only hope.


ADDENDUM: Foyt's press release on the subject clarified any possible conflict with their current convalescing driver.

Meira is expected to return for the final race of the season in October, when, if he has recovered fully from his injuries, Foyt will run two cars at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 6/11/2009 | 16 comments »
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What, umm, does this one, uh, say.


(Photo: Bash)

Danica and my crystal balls

Posted by Iannucci | 6/10/2009 | 37 comments »
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We all have seen the failed prognostication attempts of IMS Radio lead MIKE KING and his crystal balls. It takes a lot for a guy like KING to repeatedly go out on a limb with predictions, especially when one risks risks having the failed attempts repeatedly brought up by some crazed word butcher. I admire him, but I've also noticed he's not made many predictions in print as of late.

Well, your humble host has decided to gaze into his own crystal balls to derive the future, because I have finally cracked at reading the umteenth "Danica to N-word" articles. Is it even a story to have a marketing rep throw around random unquantifiable numbers by saying that if she decided to race stock cars it would bring $50 Million to Brian France's series? Apparently so.

Enough is enough. We're still in wild speculation mode, but since everyone else is speculating and a few of you have been asking me my opinion via emails and tweets it seems I need to write this post answering the question "Where do you think Danica will be next year?" Not to impress you with my ability of foretelling of the future - I'll leave that to NostraBeekhuis - but rather in the interest of public service. You see, I'm not going to just tell you what I think, *dramatic Jack Arute voice* I'm going to show you WHY I think it.


So here is the evidence for answering the question "Where is Danica going?".

Exhibit A: During her racing career Danica has said about a billion times "I want to win". Actually it's usually been more like "I really, really want to win", because without the "really"s she sounds like Hideki Mutoh or Oriol Servia. You need to add the extra adverbs to show you're a top tier driver.

Exhibit B: Danica is not just a driver; she's also a brand. This is the single most important consideration, because if you think about how Danica has gotten to where she is now it's been significantly more because of her brand than her driving. Not to slight (much less enter into a debate about) her driving ability, the fact is she's spent nearly her entire IRL career in top-level equipment despite having a single win. That's the brand talking, or rather paying for her opportunities, and it's on par with any other driver in this country.

In order for the brand to continue though she has to win more races. She's doesn't necessarily have to be the most dominant driver on the track, but she needs to continue progressing by winning races because without the wins the brand diminishes in it's ability to attract sponsors who will help pay the racing bills.

It's important to look at these two Exhibits first, because this is how even Danica has said she's going to determine where she goes. As someone who already has a pocketful of sponsors it doesn't seem likely that she's looking for her next ride as simply a cash grab. Granted this is a huge presumption on my part, but this isn't Sam Hornish Jr who we're talking about. This is the driver in every other commercial in IndyCar races.

Exhibit C: And with that I present to you something I came across entirely by accident. On the flight to Indianapolis this year the guy next to me was reading the May 2009 issue of "N****R Illustrated". When he was done he asked me if I wanted it, and I would have declined were it not for a picture in the upper right of you-know-who asking "Danica Patrick: N****R bound?". Here's one important quote from the article:

NI: What are the key issues you have to consider (for future racing commitments)?

DP: The most important thing is that I know where I want to be and what I want to be doing. Then it comes down to where I have the best option of running up front. It has to be a very competitive team.
OK, Danica Patrick has spent her entire life in open-wheel racing, from go-karts to IndyCars. Never driven so much as a bomber on a Friday night. What would be the logical presumption of "what I want to be doing"? I'll let you figure that out, and while you think about let me note that only once in the interview does she use the word every other open-wheel jumper used - "challenge" - and in that context she notes "anything new takes time".

So you think the "Danica" brand could wait a few years while sponsors wait to see if she can learn how to drive sufficiently with a loose 3500-pound stock car? Me neither.

Exhibit D: By the way, if you need more proof about "what I want to be doing" is, check this from a recent interview of Danica's with the intrepid Curt Cavin.

"From the first time that I came into IndyCar, I think (I've wanted) to win races as much as possible, to win the Indy 500, to win a championship," she said. "Those are all goals for me from the beginning, it's just that they're probably more realistic now.

"I can't say they're any different; it's just that they're happening."
That seems to speak for itself.

Exhibit E: Alright, suppose if we will that Danica Patrick has decided to race stock cars in the hopes it will bring her a bazillion dollars. For which team would she drive? Sprint Cup teams are limited to four drivers, and there are no more than three or four that can actually put her in a contending ride.

Hendrick is is stocked with Johnson, Gordon, Junior, and the recently renewed contract of Mark Martin. Jack Roush has five drivers for his existing four cars. Joe Gibbs is already developing Joey Logano, so the odds of him taking on two development project seem slim. Perhaps Stewart-Haas would take her, but is a development project something Tony Stewart wants to take on in his second year as an owner?

Suffice it to say right now there isn't an obvious stock car team for Danica.

Exhibit F: Meanwhile, the IndyCar series, where she has already demonstrated to be an accomplished driver, has but two teams that can win races. Team Penske though has two cars and three drivers, and even if they were interested in starting a third team it would be awkward for Penske and his longtime sponsor. Imagine the possibility if Danica won more races than the nameless cigarette company driver did. It's unlikely, but these are the scenarios Roger Penske prepares for every waking hour, and his best preparation is to leave well enough alone.

The other team though is Target Chip Ganassi racing, and that dear friends is where things get interesting.

Exhibit G: Robin Miller says Scott Dixon is talking to Gil de Ferran about joining a new IndyCar team headed by de Ferran. Now why on earth would Dixon be looking at different teams when he has an entry that could put him in Victory Lane in any given race? Well, Chip sorta gave a reason in the most recent issue of ESPN the Magazine.

No wonder team owner Chip Ganassi was, shall we say, less than enthusiastic when Dixon and wife Emma announced they were expecting their first child right around the same time as the July 12 Streets of Toronto race. "I've seen having kids slow down more guys than I've seen it speed them up," Ganassi says. "The guys at the top, the great drivers, seem to slow down."
This could be posturing because Chip (or as other have called him, "Cheap") Ganassi doesn't want to pay Dixon a huge amount to drive for him. Or it could be that Chip has another more cost-effective driver in mind. Or it could be that Chip's longtime sponsor is possibly expressing an interest towards a particular driver. Or it could be all of the above, none of which seems very far fetched.

Exhibit H: As you know, My Name Is IRL has a few sources. Back in March I got an email from one of them that quoted an AGR crew member as saying Danica's people were already inquiring with Chip Ganassi. This isn't evidence of anything since it's like fourth- or fifth-handed info to you, but since that email it has been obvious that Danica and her new marketing team have been working on her, uh, display of personality. Bunnies and rainbows, to be exact. Danica's even baking cookies, which for all I know means she's trying to garner a Betty Crocker sponsorship to help pay for her racing endeavors, but if you were an IndyCar driver walking around with an unparalleled pocketful of sponsorships you'd probably be taking that money to buy the best ride you could find. And we've already determined who would be on that short list.

Exhibit I: Did anyone else notice Marco getting tense with Danica after racing each other late in the race at Texas? Yes? All of you did, right? When was the last time an Andretti got that riled up about a member of the AGR team? That would be the next to last race of '07, when Marco and Michael expressed how upset they were with Dario Franchitti...right before he signed with Chip Ganassi to drive stock cars.

And that was going to be the end of it all, until this afternoon when I found this story brought to our attention by Will of is it May yet?.

Exhibit J: From, of all places, BevNet.

On the heels of a successful Indy 500, HER Energy has partnered with Grocers Supply Company, Inc. for distribution, covering all of Indiana and four surrounding states. The new distributor supports key regions where the beverage is already found at select Target and SuperTarget stores, enhancing the brand's Midwest presence. This expands HER's availability from select Target stores in 37 states, distribution by Viking Beverages in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Albertsons in Florida and boutiques and C Stores throughout Southern California and New York.

HER sponsored an Indy car in this year's Indy 500, qualifying on Day One and finishing the race in 13th place. "May was a great month for the brand and one of the great things to come out of it was a new partnership with Grocers Supply. We were impressed by their enthusiasm and experience, and their ability to act as both a wholesaler and distributor" noted HER CEO Brett Jacobson.

HER expects to run a full season in the Indycar series for 2010.
Let's see: HER is an energy drink for women sold in Target stores. This sounds like excellent news for HER drive Alex Lloyd. Oh wait, he announced he has resigned from Ganassi's team today. Well then who could possibly be in line to drive a HER car?

So based on the evidence that's what I see right now. Maybe she goes to drive stock cars, maybe she stays with AGR, or maybe she decides to take up Bassmasters fishing. The evidence points to one team that already is capable of winning, one that meshes with her lifelong training, one that would give her sponsor awareness in one of the biggest retailers across the nation, and one that gives her a very real chance at winning three or four races per year. I believe they call that "synergy".

And if I'm wrong then I'll join MIKE KING in the fortune-telling unemployment line.

UPDATE: About six hours after I posted this, Robin Miller jumped into the discussion.

INDYCAR: Danica Negotiating To Drive For Ganassi?

Chip Ganassi loves to shock the racing world, as he did by snatching Juan Montoya out of Formula One and bringing him to NASCAR three years ago.

But Ganassi is closing in on a deal at the moment that would not only keep open wheel racing's biggest name away from the clutches of NASCAR, it would likely advance her ascention in Indy cars.

And the 'ol Chipster would be a hero in the IndyCar marketing, public relations and promotions departments.

SPEEDTV.com has learned that Ganassi is in negotiations to sign Danica Patrick for a third car on the Target team for 2010, joining Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.

(MORE from SPEED)
In the immortal words of John McClain, "Welcome to the party, pal!"