If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 2/27/2010 | , | 4 comments »
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What does this one say?

Tomaso at No Fenders has an idea.

(Photo: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing)

You saw them here FIRST!

Posted by Declan | 2/25/2010 | 4 comments »
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News comes from the great Adam Cooper and his blog, that life is about to imitate badly animated art!
A source close to US F1 tells me that the factory staff in Charlotte are in the process of making the toaster immortalised by a series of satirical cartoons on YouTube in recent months. And yes, I am serious…
Check it out here: http://adamcooperf1.com/

Personally, I'm absolutely flabbergasted and more than a wee bit proud of this outcome. As long as I get one of the bloomin' things when it is produced!

[Picture courtesy of http://adamcooperf1.com/]


Posted by Declan | 2/24/2010 | 10 comments »
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Hmmmm - Interesting livery

Hmmmm - Lotus coming back to IndyCar

Hmmmm - Focusing on their heritage

Hmmmm - Lets put two and two together and get 'ironing board' shall we?

It's fun to speculate!

It has been rumored for several months that Hideki Mutoh would be competing with Newman Haas Lanigan Racing in 2010, but it has also been rumored in recent weeks that the NHLR team might not be around much longer. Fortunately, the former rumor has panned out.

Hideki Mutoh has confirmed his long anticipated switch to Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing for this year's IndyCar Series.
The 27-year-old Japanese driver spent the first two years of his IndyCar career with Andretti Green.

(MORE from autosport.com)
Looks like I've got to prepare for another year of "Godzilla" references.

Viso's revenge

Posted by Iannucci | 2/22/2010 | , , | 1 comments »
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When IndyCar fans saw EJ Viso get punted both during and after the race at Toronto last year, we knew it was just a matter of time before EJ extracted his vengance. If you mess with the bull you get the horns, and if you mess with Viso you are lucky to escape with all of your vital organs intact.

The only question that remained was exactly how Viso would make Moraes pay for his impetuous transgressions. Public castration? Too obvious. Poisoned energy drink? Not obvious enough. Scalping Mario like an enraged Iriquois? That may have almost happened.

In the end, EJ got back at Mario by taking his ride away from him.

KV Racing Technology announced today that IndyCar Series veteran E. J. Viso will join the team for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season. Viso will drive the #8 KVRT entry supported by PDVSA, Herbalife, CANTV, SBA Airlines and team partner Plantronics.

“We are very excited to have E. J. join our driver line-up for 2010,” said General Manager Mark Johnson. "We have been in talks with E. J. for quite some time now and successfully tested him at Sebring. Over the last two seasons he has impressed both Jimmy (KVRT co-owner Jimmy Vasser) and I with his race craft and growth as a driver. E. J. brings IndyCar and oval experience to our team, which will be extremely valuable as we progress through the season. I would also like to welcome commercial partners PDVSA, Herbalife, CANTV and SBA Airlines to the KVRT organization. We look forward to working with all of them.”

(MORE from KVRT's Fecebook page. Yes, I said their Facebook page.)

A Swift response to the Delta Wing

Posted by Iannucci | 2/22/2010 | , , | 9 comments »
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It would appear that "Delta Wing" is the new "Tony George" inasmuch as the mere mention of the two words seems to send IndyCar fans into a frothy fit of syllable-based bomb throwing. To keep stoking this fire of conversation, the Delta Wing has been sending members of it's group out for various interview hither and yon to sell their "concept" which many race fans have mistaken for an actual vehicle. Meanwhile other would-be suitors for the 2012 IndyCar chassis have been curiously silent, saying nothing but a few humble techincal words on PDFs containing their own designs while enduring the Delta Wing full frontal assault by team owners amounting to "Take this design or shove it!"

That is (Jack Arute voice) until now.

Many of you may not realize that our buddy Bill at pressdog.com was once a newspaper reporter, which in revelation may help explain the the name of his site. (See, you CAN learn something from a blog!) Today he decided to go more "press" with only minimal "dogging" in hunting down Swift chief scientist Mark Page. You might recall Swift as the kind folks who presented this as an idea.

Show THAT to some 10-year-olds and get back to us with your survey results. But before you do, give Mr Page's interview at pressdog a read, as there is much to be gained by anyone who cares even one whit about the future of this sport. It doesn't take long before you figure out two things about Page: he's quite excited to discuss designs relatign to the 2012 chassis, and he's very eager to work with the IRL whichever chassis solution they decide.

“Whatever the IRL decides about the 2012 car, we want to be involved”
See, I told you so.

There are a boatload of issues available for discussion relating to this single interview, but three in particular seem to stick out as issues that need to be resolved before Swift, Delta Wing, or anyone else for that matter are handed the keys to the future of the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Rectangles and triangles

We started with the stated objectives from IRL. They chose to give objectives instead of specs, which gave us freedom to innovate...The car had to be a modernized IndyCar. To us, that was open-wheel, with a rear-engine, and four corners. Wings were optional.
We have heard and read many interviews with Delta Wing lead designer Ben Bowlby, and although there has been much discusses exactly none of them have involved asking the single question I would ask: Does it HAVE to be a tricycle? (I know it actually has four wheels, but those two up front are 24 inches apart, and I've read early designs actually involved a single front wheel. And it certainly doesn't have "four corners".)

Compare this in terms of a different automotive innovation. In the mid-1990s, a particular American auto manufacturer wanted to come up with a vehicle that would meet the changing needs of consumers, that would be able to be made at a lower cost than it's rivals, and that would have unique looks that were sure to turn heads. This resulted in...TA DA!

The Ponitac Aztek was disaster as an automobile because too many consumer couldn't get beyond the look of the thing, and it provides a wonderful lesson about the concept of "the concept". Despite all the money that might be saved by the concept of the Delta Wing, the fact is it stopped being a concept for most fans when the tarp came off the thing and the simulation videos were unleashed for us to actually SEE the concept. And that's exactly the point where the air went out of the balloon, because from then on it’s been nothing but "man parts" jokes in the comments of every story featuring a picture of the Delta Wing.

While much of this could be rectified if they could just change the car to have "four corners", if you listen to Ben Bowlby on a recent Trackside show and if you read some of the information at the Delta Wing site you’ll quickly notice that one thing that holds this adventure in engineering together is that eye-sore of a front end. The 24-inch track with the lack of wings that gives the whole design its man-parts-iness are extremely critical to this entire design.

In other words, the very things that make it not so much an IndyCar to many are the very essence of what make it a Delta Wing. Bowlby didn't explicitly say it but it sounds like he can’t expand the front wheelbase without making all of the science behind the whole concept go out the window. It would be most helpful to know if this is in fact true, because if the front track could be expanded a little and the rear reduced from 70 inches then we might be looking at something that looks a bit better.

Tony Johns at Pop Off Valve shows an idea.

I can only speak for myself, but as a fan I can take a 300 horsepower engine, I can take the lack of wings, and I could even someday embrace the giant freaking airplane wing on the model. I can take the any number of radical changes presented by the Delta Wing in the name of innovation, but I simply cannot see the relevance of watching a race involving three-wheeled vehicles.

The not-so-free market

The DeltaWing’s concept of “open source” gets a little more skepticism from Page and Swift.

“There are two ways to look at it,” he said. “One is that different part makers making the same parts, therefore additional competition encourages better pricing. That’s a very strong argument. The other one is that you let competitors go into the wind tunnel and develop their own special bits -- If that extends to the entire car -- the money proposition doesn’t come close to closing.”
As I mentioneed earlier, one of the selling points Delta Wing's Ben Bowlby made was that the engineering committee for Delta Wing would take design submissions from anyone, evaluate the product, put a price on the product, and make it available to everyone. Well, it could be that the "put a price on the product" part seems like the built-in protection for higher-budgeted teams like Penske or Ganassi.

Let's say The Captain develops some super unobtanium-based nosecone that costs like $200,000 to build. OK, that's a $200,000 part that anyone can buy, but how may teams are going to buy that part? I'm thinking two.

I can't tell for sure but it appears there are all kinds of places for tweaking the "concept" or the "open source" Delta Wing, especially in technology that extends beyond the surface of the car. I don't know how much the Delta Wing would standardize, but what about computer related parts that work internally? Or gearings? Or the part that's become the most highly designed on the current car - the shock absorbers?

Please note that I'm not saying the Delta Wing should be rejected on this facet. I understand this is what the vested parties in the parts buying game - that is, the owners - are relishing, and if it significantly helps them from bleeding money like a mortgage lender then it needs to be given huge consideration.

But open source does not mean equal source, and given that for the foreseeable future some teams will have significantly more funding than others it would be disingenuous to portray the Delta Wing as some sort of great leveler of the playing field. Ultimately what needs to be addressed is not only the cost of competition but also the competition itself. You know, the actual racing product that right now produces two teams that win nearly every race.

This is not to say that Swift or any other manufacturer have the perfect solution, but Swift has also propsed a "Mushroom buster" in their designs, which shows that they are at least thinking about how to make cars that can actually pass each other. IndyCar fans have seen enough "lock step" races recently to last several lifetimes.

On a side note, between "Push To Pass" and "Mushroom Busters" it appears the future of IndyCar racing is inextricably linked to Mario Kart.

For the love of the fans

I started re-reading IndyCar articles in RACER magazine. Then we all hit the internet to see what fans were saying on blogs. Also, we received a lot of positive feedback on the FN09 car. But the most important thing was to show our concepts publicly, long before everything was set in stone. Internet blogs and polls have provided tremendous feedback. We think this could be used a few more times in the car’s development. This lets the fans direct the design. Our notion is to generate feasible options, present them to the world, and in three days you have the answer.
At somepoint all of this scientific acheivment accomplished by the new chassis design has to translate beyond concepts and become actual ticket sales and TV ratings and maybe even merchandising arrangements. And at the end of every single one of those goals is a consumer who needs to be given something of value for their entertainment dollar.

This isn't being mentioned as a display of some massive enlightenment on my part, but rather to show how Mr Page gets this particular "concept" - the one that involves paying customers. Just as Dallara and Lola have submitted designs that have been made available to the general public, so to has Swift, and Page makes no excuses for saying that seeking feedback has "let the fans direct our design". He's no dummy, because Page knows that while the IRL principals need to meet certain thresholds of performance, safety, and cost, they also need to have something that looks appealing at first glance.

This is why it is absurd to insist we need to think about designs for a few days and only then decide whether or not they are appealing. First impressions are profound, and if the IndyCar series is ever going to grow it's base of popularity they need to have cars that on first glance don't look revolting to a significant portion of the public.

If a TV ad comes on with a car someone finds ridiculous then they won't be inclined to buy the product, and if another someone is channel surfing and finds a race with cars that they think look ridiculous they aren't going to "take a few days" to consider watching. The IRL can't afford to make a mistake here, because no amount of shoe-pounding about form over function or 10-year-olds is going to change those initial reactions.

The saving grace of this is that Delta Wing and Swift aren't mutually exclusive. While we can debate all we want about our favorite chassis "concept" submitted thusfar, there is still the chance that the Delta Wing is re-conceptualized to look more like a car and less like man-parts, and if those changes are made Page says Swift would be delighted to work with the platform. In that respect the Delta Wing COULD be the best of all possible worlds as a concept, because it allows for multiple manufacturers to compete in the series. And you probably noticed there aren't a lot of companies beating a path to participate in the IRL.

But now is the time for discussion and feedback, and hopefully ALL potential owners of the next iteration of IndyCar chassis will listen to the positives AND THE NEGATIVES of their current proposals. In Bill's words, "keep talking", because ultimately you are the one with the time and money that will help sustain and elevate this sport.

On a final note I highly urge you to leave feedback at the HVM Racing site on this subject, as well as vote in THIS POLL. I'm pretty sure it's being watch closely by officials at 16th and Georgetown. While decisions will probably not be based on this alone, it does give the league an idea of what YOU want to see in the next generation of IndyCar - and that ain't a bad thing at all.

Guess who's coming to Indianapolis?

Posted by Iannucci | 2/19/2010 | , | 8 comments »
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This particular story seems to be rumored nearly every year, but this year it may be more than just rumors. Our buddy Diecast Dude is in SoCal and found his way to the nearest race track so he could speak with some drivers. And since he's an IndyCar fan at heart, he had to ask THE question.

Ran into Robby Gordon as he was headed toward his car prior to first practice. He’s working on a deal to run in this year’s Indy 500. Nothing firm yet, and no teams ruled in or out. Don’t know if he’s planning the double by running the Coca-Cola 600 later that day. If I can find out more I will, but at least now you know the scoop.
Word on twitter is this deal involves Walker Racing (remember them!), but obviously there has been no announcement yet.

This seems like a fantastic time to relive this epic Indy 500 memory. (Well, unless your name is Robby Gordon, in which case you probably don't want to go through this again.)

If you listen close I think you do in fact hear Robby dropping an F-bomb on LIVE television. You probably would too if you were him that day.

Head count

Posted by Iannucci | 2/19/2010 | , , | 8 comments »
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We're about a month away from the start of the season, which means the shotgun-marriages that are last-minute driver deals are coming fast and furious. Or furiously. Or whatever. Months of courting by teams, drivers, and their respective financiers is finally resulting in actual paper-and-ink contracts, and since the driver count for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season has expanded beyond the number of fingers on even Antonio Alfonseca's hands it's high time we got ourselves a head count.

The latest announcement came yesterday out of Japan, where Hideki Mutoh...wait, wrong guy...I meant to say former Formula One driver Takuma Sato has inked a deal to race fulltime for KV Racing Technologies. Start your own "Has he ever raced an oval?" hysteria amongst yourselves if you want, but first here's a word from Sato.

Speaking of KV, many folks on twitter have noticed that EJ Viso seems to be preparing to join Sato, although again nothing is etched in stone. He hasn't explicitly said "I-Heart-K-V" (which in his native tongue would be more like "Yo-corazon-K-V" but with proper punctuation), but that's the impression people are getting after he tested with KV recently.

Also, it should be noted that former F1 development driver (for Honda, no less) James Rossiter is (a) on twitter, (b) following only a few people including the KVRT account as well as KV co-owner Jimmy Vasser, and (c) tweeting about getting fitted for seat and going to Indianapolis for medical evaluations. And that is all I have to say about that.

So here is the tally of FULL TIME drivers thus far.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing: Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti
Team Penske: Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe, Will Power
Andretti Autosport: Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick
Panther Racing: Dan Wheldon
KV Racing Technologies: Takuma Sato
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: Justin Wilson, Mike Conway
AJ Foyt Enterprises: Vitor Meira
Luczo, Dragon, de Ferran etc: Raphael Matos
FAZZT Racing: Alex Tagliani

So that's 13.. 14.. 15 so far, but Viso and Rossiter could bump that up to a 2008 Champ Car level of participation. Plus Sarah Fisher, Jay Howard, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Davey Hamilton have been confirmed for 4-9 races each, so it's not IndyCarpocalpse Now just yet. Also, don't forget that guys like Mario Moraes and Hideki Mutoh are supposed to be walking around with sponsorship cash already in hand, so there's little reason to think they won't be on the grid at Sao Paolo.

As for other teams...

HVM Racing - Robert Doornboos was thought to be a lock her, but on a recent episode of the Trackside radio show HVM owner Keith Wiggins seemed to be hedging away. And today his twitter status read something about a "door closing". Perhaps checks aren't clearing. Next in line would see to be Atlantics graduate Simona DiSilvestro, who has been testing for the team lately.

Dale Coyne Racing: Well, JR Hildebrand has been Uncle Dale's test driver, so this pairing could be a definite maybe. Or maybe Jan Heylen comes out of nowhere. You just never know these days.

Conquest Racing: According to my Google translator, a Brazilian report says Tomas Scheckter will soon be here, and I think it says the team may have up to three drivers. In the immortal words of Baseball great Mark Grace, "Spring hopes eternal".

Team 3G: Perhaps my distant cousin Richard Antinucci will return. Or perhaps Jaques Lazier will come back because he loves it when cars disintegrate under him on the opening lap.

Vision Racing: Umm...well, they are still collecting letters of reference. In the meantime, they're selling non-essential equipment to help pay the bills. If you are in the need for any non-essential equipment, by all means pick up the phone and give them a call.

And then there's Newman Haas Lanigan Racing, about whom there seems to be rampant speculation - all of it bad. Everything from a one-team ride-buyer program to no team at all. It would be convenient of me to not all the drivers and wins this historic organization has enjoyed, but until certain death has been pronounced the eulogy will for now be reserved. In the meantime, let's just say things are very quiet.

Which brings us to the 2010 occupant of the Throne of Injustice: former NHLR driver Graham Rahal. Last year everyone was up in arms that Ryan Hunter-Reay - who was perhaps the only driver not named "Danica" featured in an ad campaign - was without a ride. But at the last minute he got a deal with Vision, but then trouble hit and he was out of a ride, but then Vitor Meira got hurt so Tony George loaned him to AJ Foyt's team, and in the meantime we got to see that famous commercial with Ryan about 10,432 times. In the end, everything was indeed going to be alright. Heh heh.

But now the unsigned driver for whom all hearts bleed is young Graham Rahal, the Son of 'Stache who dared to win a couple pole positions and stand on a couple other podiums, often taking on the role of Ralphie while last year Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske were taking turns abusing the field like they were Scut Farkus and Grover Dill. I don't know where Graham will end up, I don't know when he'll end up there, but I do know he's definitely not going to USF1.

RLR lawyers up

Posted by Iannucci | 2/18/2010 | , | 0 comments »
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Rahal Letterman Racing still exists. How do we know? Because they're suing somebody.

According to their lawsuit, their relationship with the sponsor of their entry for last year's Indianapolis 500 has not reached a satisfactory level of monetary compensation. From Courthouse News Service:

Rahal Letterman Racing clams the Ceallaigh Group and DAFCA paid only $90,000 of the $200,000 owed for putting their logo on a car and team clothing in the 2009 Indianapolis 500, in Columbus, Ohio, Federal Court.
OK, hooray for lawsuits, but...is it me or does $200,000 seem like a ridiculous bargain to sponsor a car driven by Oriol Servia in the Indy 500? Not that I have that kind of cash to shop around for such things. Oh, most certainly, I do not.

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 2/18/2010 | , , | 24 comments »
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“Our success and whether we’re going to stay in business, in all motorsports, is determined by that 10-year old kid. It’s not going to be determined the 40-year old looking at the computer.” - Panther Racing co-owner John Barnes, explaining his enthusiasm relating to the Delta Wing tricycle concept.

Point of contact

Posted by Iannucci | 2/17/2010 | | 0 comments »
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Interested in a particular chassis design? Got a favorite race track? Have a smashing recipe for Our buddy pressdog has an excellent idea: Tell the new CEO.

Yes, while we're all still twiddling our thumbs waiting for the IZOD IndyCar Series season to start you might as well take a moment to give the new boss a few words of encouragement and/or advice since:

1. He's admittedly never been to an IndyCar race.
2. He's relying on Brian Barnhart to explain the sport to him.
3. Perhaps somewhat related to 1 and 2, he REALLY wants to hear from the fans.

All of that is 100% true. Or so I'm told. At any rate, here is your chance to make a great first impression. Pass on your sage words of wisdom by filling out this here form (yes, I have been assured this will genuinely send an email to the league Inbox)

Or send an actual letter he can hold in his actual hands to:
Andy Randy Bernard
CEO, IZOD IndyCar Series
4790 W 16th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46222

Tell him what you love. Tell him what you want. Tell him how awesome his singing is.

The truth behind the Delta Wing launch debrief

Posted by Declan | 2/17/2010 | 0 comments »
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Chip and Ben have a few words after the launch of the Delta Wing project in Chicago.

As the Wheel Turns

Posted by Iannucci | 2/17/2010 | , , , , , | 8 comments »
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Last summer much was made about Gil de Ferran - excuse me, 2003 Indianapolis 500 Champion Gil de Ferran - as he spoke of shuttering his ALMS venture and moving towards assembling an IndyCar team. Names of drivers like Rahal and Dixon were frantically churned through the rumor mill as possible drivers even though the team hadn't so much as a single Dallara for anyone to pilot. At Indy much was also made of de Ferran hanging around with F1's Takuma Sato, but as the year drew to it's close there was still no team, no IRL equipment purchased, and certainly no verified reports of signed drivers for de Ferran.

Well, finally de Ferran has a team. It's not exactly his own, but...

Steve Luczo and Jay Penske, co-owners of Luczo Dragon Racing, and Gil de Ferran, owner of de Ferran Motorsports and former Indy 500 winner, have merged their two businesses to create a new cutting edge motorsport venture that will leverage technology and science to compete at the highest levels of the IZOD IndyCar Series, it was announced today.

De Ferran, the 2003 Indy 500 winner and two-time IndyCar champion, will serve as co-owner, President and Managing Partner of Luczo Dragon Racing/de Ferran Motorsports.
Tony Johns says pairing guys with Penske ties is a recipe for success, but I just want to note that while these gentlemen have every right to be impressed with themselves it would be incredible helpful if they could check their egos at the door and come up with a team name that isn't so freaking long? Sheesh. (And I know "Penske" isn't in the name, but "Dragon" is because that was the name of one of Jay's other business ventures, and perhaps also because his father threatened to cut him out of the will if Jay thought the universe was big enough for another race team named "Penske".)

But this should make this team better, and in terms of driver news the press release explicitly states that Rafa Matos is still the guy for...uh, do we call them LDRdFM? (Obscure musical reference: anyone else think that acronym looks like the result of Lords of Acid merging with KMFDM? Is that just me? OK, then excuse me while I remove my Doc Martens.)

Right now, we are running one car with Raphael Matos, but are working hard on expanding our program as this will increase our ability to improve and to extend our resources. We hope to have those details ironed out very soon.
So Rafa's their man while they are "working hard" so that he might soon have a teammate. Could it be Sato? Well, my ability to conjugate Portuguese verbs leaves much to be desired, but Brazil's Grande Premio indicated Sato either will be signing or has signed with...KV Racing Technologies? OK, show of hands - who saw that coming? I think the same article indicates Mario Moraes will also be returning, but again none of this has been confirmed.

Meanwhile, in recent days KV Racing was conducting a test...with EJ Viso. Hey, why not - right? I say get a guy that speaks Japanese, a guy that speaks Portuguese, and a guy that speaks Spanish and let 'em all throw broken English at each other. Besides, they all speak "Speed", right?

Finally, speaking of guys who speak "Speed" and "English" proficiently, "Captain America" JR Hildebrand has also been testing for the currently driver-less Dale Coyne Racing. Coyne made an announcement that the team now has sponsorship from Boy Scouts of America, so from a promotional standpoint Hildebrand definitely falls under the heading of "synergy". And as those that saw him in Firestone Indy Lights have seen he's a really good driver, so that helps as well.

And yes, I'll soon get around to discussing actual drivers who have actually been signed to actual contracts once there's a break from talking about Delta Wings and Danicas and Dragons and such.

Danicamania, the sequel

Posted by Iannucci | 2/13/2010 | | 9 comments »
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In 1988 I was a freshman at Purdue University, and yes, I realize those nine words just lost me half of my readership. Anyhow, on an otherwise unremarkable day I recall sitting in my dorm room in Wiley Hall watching a news cast where the talking head revealed how the St Louis Cardinal football team was packing up its truckload of losing seasons and heading West to my home state of Arizona.

The room next to mine was occupied by two fine young sports fans from St Louis, and within mere seconds of the airing of this announcement one of them got up, walked over to my open door, stood there and said simply to me “You can have ‘em.”

That pretty much sums up my feelings about the media coverage of Danica Patrick’s first official N----R race tomorrow. It’s not that I want her to be gone from the Indy Racing League – goodness, no – but that now some other group of sports fans has to deal with the media circus and all the skewed coverage that goes along with her involvement with motorsports.

"I can't believe I'm getting interviewed today. She must have finished early." - Tony Stewart
For all the coverage that Danica has brought to the IRL over the last few years, I would say more than not has been coverage brought to herself. That's not necessarily her fault as I don't think her intention was to ever overshadow her sport, but as a fan who has watched five years of races where every driver not named “Danica” has be ignored for what seems like half of the broadcast.

I once asked a representative of ESPN if he realized their coverage seemed to focus half of their broadcast on a single driver, and he earnestly replied that was correct, and that their studies or surveys showed that HALF of the audience is watching only to see Danica. It was quite the "jaw meet floor" moment.

Then again, when the ratings for an ARCA race on SPEED basically doubles (or triples, or quadruples) that of every IndyCar race other than The Indy 500 last year, it's hard to argue with that.

"According to the 'media' not only is Danica the most amazing racing driver since Dale Sr. but she is also related to Jesus lol." - Scott Speed
Of course, if broadcasters are going into the event thinking that one competitor is responsible for half the audience then they're most assuredly going to play it up. The "Jesus" comparison isn't beyond them because for years Danica was proclaimed as the savior for the IRL. And to some extent she may have been, as soon after her arrival the IRL ownership purchased and bimergified with Champ Car.

But there is also the possibility that for all the fans she added that there were others who stopped watching altogether what had effectively become the DaniCar series. I won't suggest that it's an equal amount to those she added, but it's not exactly a secret that over the last five years the ratings and attendance for many events has gone DOWN, not up.

"We've never had a female -- in my era -- that's been competitive. I think most of them have just been here because they're female. I think Danica's the first real female racecar driver that's coming in here. I'm not saying she's going to be competitive overnight but she's the first one who's got any sort of credentials that should be racing cars." - Kevin Harvick
Perhaps the most annoying aspect of having Danica involved in any racing series is the endless chatter of how well she compares to other women drivers, as if that were some other form of driving class. We're often told the car doesn’t know the gender of the driver, but innumerable race fans with their Swimsuit Editions stashed at their bedside most certainly do.

It's only human nature, I suppose, to be fascinated with women in what has for so many years been a men's sport, but at some point it would seem this has to end, right? I mean, at some point between Jackie Robinson and Barry Bonds we stopped saying "black baseball player", so there has to be a point where Danica and other drivers without the Y chromosome are simply "drivers". Obviously though, we haven't reached that point. It would seem we're not anywhere near it.

As I said before when I suggested she was undoubtedly the IRL’s “Driver of the Decade”, Danica’s participation in any motorsport event fundamentally changes the coverage of the sport. There will ALWAYS be more cameras and microphones pointing to her before, after, and most distressingly during any race in which she participates. It’s because a huge portion of the viewers wouldn’t be watching the race if she weren’t in it. Yes, I get that, even though I personally would prefer to watch footage of actual passing on a race track than Danica Patrick driving around by herself.

But now it’s time for stock car fans to get a taste of this. They thought they were getting a nice 10-ounce Daytona sirloin this week, but instead they’re being served 72 ounces of wall-to-wall coverage of a driver who isn’t even racing in the main event. I can’t revel in schadenfreude here because after years of this I know the feeling all too well. At first it’s so seductive to think of the interest of having a capable and fetching young lady competing in your sport, but before you know it every other person in your sport is rendered to near insignificance.

"Maybe ESPN could cover Danica on ESPN2 and the other 50 plus cars on ESPN Classic or something." - Regan Smith
Yup. Welcome to our world, stock car fans. I hope you enjoy the show.

The Delta Wing thing arrives

Posted by Iannucci | 2/10/2010 | , , | 32 comments »
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In 1963, Craig Breedlove set his first land speed record at the Bonnevile Salt Flats in one of his series of "Spirit of America" vehicles. Here is one of those vehicles.

Curt Cavin first mentioned the relevance of this epic car to the future of IndyCar a few weeks ago, and today, nearly 50 years after the first record-setting run, this "Spirit of America" design has been applied to the "Delta Wing" IndyCar design as a sign of unprecedented innovation. Behold that which might possibly be the future of IndyCars.

In my less-than-esteemed opinion, it's soaking wet bag of mess. The unsightly offspring of a dragster and an F-16. A high-speed tricycle, and according to several IndyCar fans, a phallic tricycle at that.

It's a steaming pile of retro-inspired junk, summarized ironically by the Delta Wing site when it read, at the expiration of it's longstanding countdown, "Sorry, you're too late." Really, at best this is very Colonial Viper, circa 1978, but flattened and encumbered by wheels.

Maybe I'm off my rocker but I thought in addition to speed and innovation IndyCar racing is supposed to also be about aesthetics and, in recent years, safety. This new design might be fast, but as a race car that would be required to turn is looks ridiculous. As bad as you might think the currently well-aged Dallara design is, can you tell me you'd rather watch this instead?

Really? That doesn't look - forgive me for saying this - utterly laughable to you?

Before I ruffle too many feathers here, I want to say that I do appreciate the "boldness" of the design, and I understand that designer Ben Bowlby has put a lot of thought into this.

“Looking radical was never the objective – the Delta Wing shape is simply the outcome of addressing performance targets. Approaching it as an engineer I was most aware of safety, performance and efficiency and its relevance to the auto industry and also cost. It’s not about making a cheap race car, but there is the issue of cost vs. value for money. This car is high-tech but simple. The parts count is way down and that helps keep it inexpensive and easy to maintain compared to the cars of the last 20 years – and we have a great deal of visible signage area!

“It’s an integrated approach. It’s not JUST the car. It’s the technology, spectator and industry appeal and engagement, combined with the car. What we have proposed for the car is not a styling exercise…. Form has followed function.”
Fine, but let's talk about that form for a moment. I'm not engineer, but what I am is - like most of you - a fan. And I'm certain that even though I feel like this makes about as much sense as an IndyCar as a Kia Sedona does as a Cup entry, I fully acknowledge there are at least some of you who love this thing like it was warm and gooey chocolate chip cookie. And to the extent that it should be given consideration to race against designs already presented by Dallara and Swift - as well as some lovely designed paragraphs from Lola - I say fine, by all means let 'em race.

Except here's the rub: right now the series, in an effort to contain costs, claims that there will be only one chassis design for 2012. As Marshall Pruett has noted amidst some senseless name-calling and mistaken comparisons to a Spike Lee flick, this is a design supported by many IRL team owners, and as such it is has been submitted under the guise of a veiled threat.

It’s sad, lame, and plays into the partisan politics that have no place in a series as fragile as IndyCar. I don’t know if he (Brian Banhart, whom Pruett refers to as "Kee-Rock") realizes just how close he keeps pushing the Delta Wings to a point where they decide to form their own series.

Jackass moves by USAC spawned CART. A jackass move created the IRL. Maybe this latest jackass move will cause the Delta Wings, an ownership base mostly free of jackasses, to take their fire elsewhere.

I can hear it now…“I’m a caveman, and I’m frightened by your strange Delta Wing machine…”

If Kee-Rock keeps it up, he could find himself with an empty paddock in 2012 and no one to drive his new Dallara.
This, from a man who earlier in the same article suggest all parties involved should "Put aside your differences, whatever they may be, and work together." Really? Working together, you say? By calling those who disagree with you names?

But I don't want to be distracted here because this isn't about Mr Pruett or Mr Barnhart, but about the rest of us who dedicate our time and money to this sport. The FANS. And this is the part that as a fan I start swearing, throwing small appliances, and threatening to take up blogging about some other sport. We just got bimergified two years ago after years of insistence by these very owners, and now all of a sudden it sounds like they're ready to tear it all apart again over some stupid-looking car. Excuse me, but anything associated with another open-wheel split is certainly not going to be described as "innovative".

And aside from the baggage that already accompanies this car there are some very real issues based on the prototype revealed today. On first glance it looks to me like that car has no mirrors, probably because they'd have to go directly in the driver's line of sight. Couple that with the extremely narrower wheelbase in the front and it would seem drivers would be more likely to run into each other with those big backsides.

And speaking of running into each other, the Delta Wing also has an extraordinarily exposed tub without protective sidepods that makes me wonder if anyone gave Alex Zanardi a consultation. Oh, and it's got fenders, which call me crazy seems antithetical to "open-wheel" racing. Then again, if the wheelbase variance makes collisions more likely then fenders may be warranted. At this point I ask in earnest, "What exactly were you designing here again?"

Early reaction from IRL drivers was mixed - Graham Rahal digs it, Justin Wilson does not, Alex Lloyd is diplomatic - and since these are the people that would have to actually drive the thing they should certainly be allowed some input. As it is, you can sell me on the innovation but not on the aesthetics, so excuse me while I dump a bottle of Hater-ade all over that...thing.

We need the late Rod Roddy

Posted by Iannucci | 2/04/2010 | , , | 6 comments »
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Because what do we have to bid on today...A New Car!!!!

That's right friends, Dallara has released the first image of what could be the 2012 IndyCar design. Let's let Patrick of TrackSide Online describe the four-wheeled scrumptiousness.

It looks somewhat similar to a current IndyCar Series machine, though it has a roll hoop instead of an air scoop. Also the car has much smaller sidepots and very rounded edges petty much everywhere. The main visual difference is the large vertical fin running to the rear wing.
But wait there's more, because this showcase also includes...another new car!

Looks a lot like the model we all saw at Indy with a very angular design. The sidepods run almost from the ground to the driver's helmet. The tub looks pretty traditional, it is everything that hangs off of it that looks far more futuristic with lots of angles and a smaller fin. Like #1 it is still a winged car though the rear wing looks very small.
Now hold on before you bid, because this package from Dallara also features...you guessed it, another new car!

Kind of looks like a few of the cars that ran Indy in the 70's, but taken to a new level. The front wings actually have big aero ramps to move the air around the tires. The sidepods start at the driver but angle back a lot to the rear tires, which again are nearly shielded from the air. The rear wing is one element mounted at the outside to something that pretty much covers the entire rear of the car - including the tires. Tire to tire contact would be hard with this one, though I don't see much crush space right next to the driver's compartment. If viewed from above, it kind of looks like a triangle from the driver on back.
"OK, Bob, I'd like to bid...uh..."

(looking nervously at pressdog holding up all his fingers)


(trying to see how many fingers Declan is holding up)

"...OK, I'll...I'll say...uh..."

(notices Roy Hobbson passed out in his chair, clutching a pint of turpentine)


Seriously friends, why do we have to pick just one of these designs? To paraphrase Rodney King, "Can't we just get them all...along?" Forgive me for wondering aloud (or at least in print) why we can't we have all of them and have, you know, different looking cars at every race. Wouldn't that be just a little more interesting than watching Floyd and Roger out-tweak everyone else every year?

I know, I know, everyone within a 500-mile perimeter of Brian Barnhart SWEARS to me the cars would absolutely cost more if entries in the series used more than one design, but the current cars cost around a quarter of a million off the shelf already, so how much more is more? Is having competing chassises, chassi, or whatever the plural of "chassis" is, as impossible as getting an IndyCar race here in Phoenix? Really?

Well, fine. I'll go with Concept #2 then. What about you?

UPDATE: Changed my mind. Forget these concepts - I'm going with the "Gray Ghost" design from that Milka Duno movie.

The new boss would like a word with you

Posted by Iannucci | 2/03/2010 | | 4 comments »
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He wants to talk with you. Yes, YOU! Gaze lovingly into his unblinking eyes as he whispers sweet f-words ("fans"!) into your ears.

A yardstick for Danica? That sounds like a good swap!

Posted by Declan | 2/02/2010 | 1 comments »
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So it's almost upon us. For most of you, its the most anticipated ARCA race in history. To be honest, nothing will top last October's season finale at Rockingham which featured the most brazen piece of effective race fixing I have ever witnessed. But that is another story. Back to this weekend and Danica's debut (don't forget Nelson Piquet Jr and Ricky Carmichael too).

There is little or no doubt that the arguments will rage as to how good, bad, indifferent, epoch-creating, space time continuum shattering it will be, so I thought I would give the whole exercise a little perspective to help everyone out. And let's not forget too that there is a more than decent chance that she may not get to the finish through no fault of her own. The 2009 race (below) was a perfect example of that.

This particular path has been well worn by open wheel drivers seeking a new direction in their sporting lives. An ARCA start on a super speedway serves two purposes. The first is the very obvious track time and race experience it offers but is also fulfills NASCAR's licensing requirements allowing them to start a Truck, Nationwide or Sprint Cup sanctioned race at Talladega or Daytona.

So who has come before Danica and more importantly how did they perform? Hopefully this data can provide us with an International Standard Performance Co-efficient which will keep all debates short and halt all arguments in their tracks. Or, it will just muddy the waters even further, who the feck knows?

Juan Pablo Montoya:

ARCA Debut - Talladega Superspeedway, October 6, 2006

Qualified P2
Finished P3

He qualified second, led the first nine laps, and finished third when the race was called after 79 of 92 laps. You know the rest.

Scott Speed:

ARCA Debut - Talladega Superspeedway, October 5, 2007

Qualified P7
Finished P7

Did not lead a lap. He ran very well all day and his highest position was 3rd. He went on to complete a full season of ARCA in 2008 finishing 5th in the standings with 4 wins and 3 pole positions.

Dario Franchitti:

ARCA Debut - Talladega Superspeedway, October 5, 2007

Qualified P6
Finished P17

He made his debut in the same race as Scott Speed. He raced solidly bit found the pit road procedures a 'bit of a struggle' and it cost him valuable track position during yellow flags. His team ran out of cash in 2008 and again, you all know the rest.

Michael McDowell:

McDowell was a very promising Champ Car World Series rookie in 2005 as a twenty year old. He ran two races for Paul Gentillozi's Rocket Sports outfit and finished in the top 12 in both. The money simply ran out and like many before him, he turned to stock cars.

ARCA Debut - Milwaukee Mile, August, 2006

Qualified P15
Finished P34 (Crash on lap 120/200)

After an exit on lap 6 in Chicago, he finished the last three races of the season with sixth, fifth and fourth. He was runner up for the series title in 2007 to the great Frank Kimmell. To put that in perspective, Kimmell is such a legend in the sport that he was invited to compete in the 2006 IROC Series!

Parker Kligerman:

Who? I thought you'd say that. 19 year old Parker broke all of Colin Braun and Marco Andretti's track records in the Formula TR 2000 Series on the west coast. His dreams of moving to the hotbed of single seater racing in Europe were dashed by a severe lack of finance and yet another very young and very talented open wheeler was lost to stock cars. Parker was picked up by Roger Penske and is now part of his stock car driver devlopment program. He narrowly missed out on the ARCA title in 2009.

ARCA Oval Debut - Toeldo (.5 mile), October, 2008

Qualified P16
Finished P9

Parker was cruelly robbed of the 2009 ARCA title by some astonishing gerrymandering by his main rival, but that did not prevent Roger Penske signing him up to a program of Nationwide races in 2010. Parker stunned the Nationwide series in a one-off drive Kansas last season when he put his Penske Dodge on pole alongside Kyle Busch. He is a name we will all be hearing a lot more of and he has stated that he would very much like to compete in the Indy 500.

So there you have it! I'm none the wiser either but based on the quality of her team and equipment, she should be looking to qualify in the top 15 and a similar finishing position would be a good solid start. A little bit of good luck would not go amiss either. Check out Montoya's debut in 2006 (above) for a prime example.