The “I” in Wheldon

Posted by Iannucci | 4/30/2010 | , | 3 comments »
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The Kansas City Star has what would normally be considered a “puff piece” on Dan Wheldon, who won the IndyCar series event at Kansas Speedway in ‘07 and ’08. And while “puff pieces” are normally designed for people who don’t follow racing, this one might be telling something to those of us who actually know a bit about Dan’s career.

First though, note this excerpt in Robin Miller’s mailbag last week.

Q: Who will be the first driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series to be released from their current team and be replaced?
Chris Fiegler, Latham,NY

RM: I'd bet on Graham Rahal for Dan Wheldon if the contracts weren't so binding.
Of course this is taken with a grain of salt because Robin says “Graham” about every third word out of his mouth. But there is truth in the fact that Wheldon has been a highly paid driver and Panther took him on with the expectation he would be able to do win more races than the winless Vitor Meira. But after 21 races the Panther/Wheldon relationship has resulted in zero wins and, oh, notice how Dario Franchitti has taken Dan’s old ride to the ’09 series championship.

Which brings us to the curiously-titled article There’s an “I” in Wheldon’s Panther Racing Team, which features quotes by Wheldon about liking the responsibility of driving for a one-car team. Pretty much the same stuff he’s been saying since he signed with Panther, which means that’s not the interesting part. Not that would be the other quotes about Dan, which are by ...Scott Goodyear? Yes, Scott Goodyear, who is most definitely not Panther co-owner John Barnes or anyone else affiliated with the team.

It’s not so much that Goodyear had anything interesting to say, but rather that he – a former Panther driver himself – would be the only other person sourced for this kind of story. Press releases aside, I don’t remember the last time the usually talkative Barnes had anything to publicly say about his driver. He’s always talking about the National Guard sponsorship or the league officials or the 2012 chassis, but his current driver? Insert the sound of crickets chirping.

Maybe I’m wrong and maybe there’s no “there” there in all of this, but it sure seems like this summer is going to be awfully frosty in the Panther Racing garage between Wheldon and everyone else. Maybe this could all change if some sort of miracle happens and Wheldon can give Panther their first win since 2005, like say at Kansas this week, or even at Indy where Wheldon has also won and Panther has finished 2nd the last two years.

But more than likely the winless streak continues, which would almost certainly leave Dan pounding the pavement for a new ride next year. Who would be willing to pay him is anyone’s guess, it does bear noting that his reputation as an “oval specialist” seems a bit overblown. Sure, Dan hasn’t been on a podium for a course with right turns in quite a while, but in 4 non-ovals this year he’s finished between 5th and 11th in three of them - the lone exception being when his Dallara went all “Christine” in St Pete. Wheldon isn’t a threat to win on a road or street course, but if he’s finishing in the top half nearly every week then he’s certainly showing he still belongs in the series.

But it’s the former part of that description – the “isn’t a threat to win” clause – that seems to carry a lot of weight against potential employment for Wheldon. As Robin noted this week "I think you should make as many races this season as possible because Wheldon would appear to be an endangered species." (And yes, I just quoted Robin Miller twice in a single post. Cats and dogs living together.)

I sure hope he's not an "endangered species" because as a fan I like Dan even with the strangely unsettling teeth, because he’s got healthy doses of personality and talent. And I’ve watched the IRL long enough to remember he’s got gargantuan boulders in the nether reaches of his firesuit. And quite frankly, I’m not ready to see him leave the IRL for ...bobsledding?

Photo: TrackSide Online

The pressdog is deployed

Posted by Iannucci | 4/30/2010 | , | 0 comments »
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There may be some of you who don’t appreciate the more satirical pieces of work on his blog, but don’t let that stop you from catching up on the REAL REPORTING Bill “pressdog” Zahren has been doing over at his site lately. It's enough to make a fellow blogger shed a manly tear. Check out some of these recent wire-worthy works, and in doing so you may in fact learn something.

IndyCar Crap Shoot? Kansas Speedway Casino Project Includes Second Cup Race

Sister Track Presidents Say "Cookie Cutter" Label Doesn't Cut It

No Anti-IndyCar Bias within ISC, Track Presidents Say

This weekend pressdog is ON SITE in Kansas, so expect him dial up the race coverage an extra notch. Just go to and hit refresh every few seconds like me. Trust me, it won’t hurt your computer one bit, and I guarantee his site is more stable than IndyCar Timing & Scoring.

So Mr. Carroll we meet again!

Posted by Declan | 4/29/2010 | 10 comments »
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Adam Carroll really ought to be racing in Formula 1, thank goodness he's not. It is stupendously good news for IndyCar Racing that Andretti Autosport has secured his signature for a select number of races later on this season.

Marco Andretti will have few doubts about the wee man from Portadown can be competitive straight away, particularly on road courses, having spent almost a whole A1 GP season watching Carroll vanish into the distance week in week out. The Ulsterman clinched the title in the Spring of 2009 and has been in professional limbo ever since.

Danica Patrick also has more than a basic working knowledge of Carroll's ability having raced against him in British Formula Ford in 2001. The footage below is all that is left of their time together in the UK. It's nice to see Danica's mania was fully formed almost a decade ago.

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 4/28/2010 | , | 4 comments »
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"This is a really special opportunity for me - getting to drive for my cousin, getting to race on the same team with Marco, getting to work with a race team that just won a couple weeks ago and an organization that has won a lot of races. This is such a great opportunity to come here and participate in a positive way - not only from the race-team side, but also with Window World and all their great support.

"I feel a little bit like I'm 16 years old. I'm going to get out there, roll up my sleeves and maybe even reach deeper to get more and make the most of what is a short-term opportunity, but a great one, nonetheless."
- John Andretti, who hasn't been 16-years-old in 31 years, but will still be starting in his first IndyCar race other than the Indianapolis 500 since...what, 1992?

Of course, he was at Indy last year...

...which begs the question of the week: "Where's Graham?"

200% more champions, no added calories

Posted by Iannucci | 4/28/2010 | , , | 7 comments »
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By now you've probably heard that yesterday the IZOD IndyCar Series has decided to:
1. Crown separate oval and road/street course champions
2. Name the awards after two historic drivers
3. Do this IMMEDIATELY, as in this year

My first thought was "Oh, hella yeah!" if for no other reason than this finally gives me a reason to stay awake through the entire race at Sonoma. But after sleeping on it (notice how "sleeping" and "Sonoma" are totally correlated) I've decided that, yup, it is still a "Oh, hella yeah!" idea. Bravo, Mr Bernard, on putting forth a good suggestion.

Honestly (and I hate saying that because it infers that everything else I've said has been dishonest, but not enough to actually NOT say it...OK, I'm gonna just focus back here) I don't know why anyone would be against this idea. It's not like it's a total gimmick, because it doesn't actually change the racing at all. The real money is still in the championship, so this doesn't dilute the interest in that award one bit. If anything it strengthens the overall championship because these separate titles now showcase the distinction of IndyCar racing, which is a mastery of different disciplines of racing. And that, dear friends, is what is known as "accentuating the marketing angle"...or, if you're not in favor of the idea, "making up stuff as you go along". I'm in the camp of the former.

And if I may be so bold I'd like to make two quick suggestions regarding this whole idea.

First, these awards absolutely positively must be named after AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti. No slight to any number of incredible drivers named...well, I'm not even going to name them because then it start getting into an argument of who's left off the list. But I've never met an IndyCar fan who wouldn't agree that any discussion regarding the greatest driver who raced IndyCars ever requires those two to be included. They just...are. And even if YOU think they aren't, there names are so ingrained in the psyche of American racing that to ignore either of them as the names for these two awards would be, well, stupid.

Second, let me refer to a remark by BP of Drive Hard, Turn Left, who actually suggested this idea a while back.

Now, while I don't expect Will Power's wings to be polka-dotted so that people recognize him as the top street/road racer in the circuit...

Well, if you won't then I will. If the goal of this whole "championships within a championship" is to accentuate driver skills, then I say let the drivers show that skill. Just as the Tour de France has separate jerseys for stage winners and mountain climbers, the series should allow either the points leader in each respective category or the previous champion to have something signifying the accomplishment. Like a dramatically colored bar on the top of the car or one of the the wings, or a giant picture of Foyt or Andretti, or even a specific sponsor on the sidepod - SOMETHING! Let the casual fans ask "What's that mean?" and get them engaged - that's the point, right? Is anyone less interested in the series because of this? Really?

Final note: did the research and determined the following would have been champions under this new arrangement.

Year, Oval Champ(points), Road & Street Champ(points)
2009 Scott Dixon (406), Dario Franchitti (270)
2008 Scott Dixon (482), Helio Castroneves (233)
2007 Dario Franchitti (463), Scott Dixon (217)
2006 Dan Wheldon (415), Scott Dixon (125)
2005 Dan Wheldon (536), Tony Kanaan (133)

Does anyone have a problem with these champions? Even if you think this is all about Danica?

IndyCar to race on the oval at Daytona?

Posted by Declan | 4/26/2010 | 12 comments »
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Buried in a relatively uninteresting press Q&A, about the much needed re-surfacing of the Daytona Speedway, was a rather intriguing morsel.

Daytona Speedway President, Robin Braig, discussed the logistics and time frame for the repaving of the oval and dropped a startling bombshell with regards to the future of the venue once the project has been completed.

When Braig was asked about the potential upside (and downside) of the endeavour, he replied with the following:

The upside is obvious: a smooth track, which by the way, opens the door to Daytona talking race dates with the Indy Racing League.

We haven't talked to the folks in Indianapolis about this, but our phone lines are open. We would listen to any call they would make.

It is hard to work out exactly what may have prompted this or even if Braig was referring to the potential of IndyCars racing on the road course which will include a substantial section of the newly repaved oval. What is clear is that every element of the NASCAR's business is being battered by the combination of the economic downturn and its inability to properly react to the changing market conditions on and off the track. Is it possible now that ISC have finally woken up to the idea of working with IndyCar to promote events? The coming months will possibly provide us with an answer.

Maybe we will have to get a little bit more used to the sights like this.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 4/22/2010 | , , | 5 comments »
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What does this one say?

(In case you don't recognize him, the follically challenged skinny guy in the black shirt is Paul Tracy. The, uh, well-rounded guy in the blue shirt is Super Tex. And the guy in the white shirt is likely in possession of a different skill set than the other two.)

Photo: TrackSide Online - sign up today!

The franchise and the rival

Posted by Iannucci | 4/22/2010 | , | 5 comments »
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Now in its sixth year, Danicamania continues even though the crowds around Mrs Hospenthal seem, at least upon first glance, to be dwindling a bit. Perhaps that’s due to her lack of amassing wins, or her participation in some questionable commercials, or her flirtation with the other side of American motorsports. Or maybe it’s all that and the fact that she never really got herself a good rival get people fired up.

Goodness knows IndyCar fans have tried to tie her to a rival. First there was Sarah Fisher, who Danica had some blunt words for way back when. But Sarah hasn’t had the equipment or the schedule to really give Danica a good run. Then there was Dan Wheldon, and that was a lot of fun for about a week before everyone realized Danica wasn’t going to be able to hang with Dan most weekends so long as he was in a Ganassi car. Then there was Milka and the towel, and as amusing as that was that certainly hasn't resulted in any kind of competitive rivalry.

Now it looks like many fans are hoping Simona De Silvestro will emerge as some sort of “anti-Danica” to generate a lasting storyline. I understand why they are trying to tout this would-be rivalry entirely based on gender, but to your humble host this seems as artificial as a rivalry based or nationality or car number or hair color or whatever. Sure, I’d love to see Danica and Simona battling it out because that would be great for the series, but right now it makes little sense to pit them against each other since there’s nothing either of them has said or done anything to garner the attention of the other. It makes as much sense as saying Sarah Fisher and Milka Duno are now some kind of rivals.

However, in the quest to find a rival for Danica we might have overlooked the fact that she already has one, and that rival is not a girl. (And yet, I know at least one person who refers to this particular driver as a “girl”, but that person is also a fan of Danica’s so I don’t know what to make of that. Sorry for the non sequitur.)

My point, if I can stay on it, is there is growing evidence of a rivalry with Ryan Briscoe.

Exhibit A:

In May of 2007 Ryan was hired to drive for Jay Penske’s fledgling Luczo Dragon team, prompting Danica to offer her two cents:

"I would say this to his face, so I'm not saying anything out of line, but he crashes," Patrick told the New Jersey Express-Times.

"I've seen it before, I've been a victim sometimes when he just has some brain fade."
Ouch! At first glance that could have been just an off-handed comment from an overly-confident driver, but a year later...

Exhibit B:

You’ve probably seen it dozens of times, but the Danica v Briscoe stompapalooza at Indy in ’08 never really gets old. They both look so amusing – Danica marching through the pits like some miniature Terminator bobblehead while Briscoe hunkers remains frozen in his car pretending to be Invisible Boy.

But amusement aside, for many people this incident served as a reinforcement of Danica’s “brain fade” verbal smack down of Briscoe – one of whom most assuredly was Danica herself.

Exhibit C:

Before presenting the piece de resisitance it’s important to note a little history and context. “Danica Patrick” might be the most recognizable name that comes to mind when contemplating young ladies from Roscoe, Illinois, but second on that list would be “Nicole Manske”. Manske in fact was once on the same cheerleading squad as as the young Ms Patrick, and of their relationship Manske once said in 2005:

"Naturally, I'm supposed to be objective and treat all drivers equal, but I watch the speeds, and when I saw hers going 225, 226, 227, yeah, I cheer…I told her, 'Great job.' It's just really cool because she's the real deal. How can you not be proud of her? She's gone further in her career than I have in mine."
Keep that quote in mind, friends, because as you’ll see Manske has definitely changed her tune now that she covers N****R for ESPN. And now that she’s married guessed it, Ryan Briscoe. It’s a small world after all.

And with that we throw you to the ever exciting world of twitter this weekend, starting with SBNation’s Jeff Gluck.

Ha, @nicolembriscoe is going to get me in trouble. She wants me to comment on overhyped Danica's poor, slow qualifying effort. But I won't.
You might think he’s making that all up just to start something, except that a few minutes later Manske said...

@jeff_gluck um...think you just did. You have to speak for all of us who don't have freedom of speech!
Well then! Is it getting hot in here or is it just me?

Some of you might suddenly find your hair on fire at this because Manske is not just a driver’s wife but is also the host of a show that focuses on another racing series that now features Danica Patrick. And you have a great point and I hope you go ahead make it because I’m not going to do so at the risk of derailing my “rivalry” angle today. I am focused like a laser, but you can make of this what you want.

Like I said, my point is it definitely looks like Danica and Ryan have more than a little of animosity going on, although the one thing we're missing is Ryan saying something inflammatory. So far in 2010 he's looking like the third best driver on a two-car team, so fanning these flames might actually help raise his profile.

Regardless, these two certainly have more than a little history of dislike going on here, and that’s the kind of stuff where a real and lasting rivalry comes from. How this plays out on the track remains to be seen since Ryan and Danica haven’t exactly been racing near each other this year, but it’s something to keep an eye on because the Danica v Briscoe lack-of-love-fest has already outlasted Danica’s other contrived rivalries.

(Thanks to Jerry Wilson for recently bringing this to our attention.)

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 4/20/2010 | , , , | 1 comments »
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"The experience I’m most looking forward to is the Indianapolis 500. I continue to hear what an unbelievable and life-changing type of an event it is. I think that it’s going to be even more exciting this year because we’ll have a minimum of 40 cars trying to qualify, which we haven’t seen in almost 15 years. It shows another wave in momentum as our sport continues to grow." - Indy Racing League CEO Randy Bernard, dropping a big "four-oh" on fans of The Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

UPDATE: It's true: 40 entries, 73 cars total counting the "T"s. Bumpity bump!

Long Beach photo dump

Posted by Iannucci | 4/20/2010 | | 4 comments »
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Behold a few of the sights at the Grand Prix of Long Beach, as captured by the way-less-than-professional camera on my Blackberry.

LiveBlog: Long Beach 2010

Posted by Iannucci | 4/18/2010 | , , | 0 comments »
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Welcome to Southern California where your humble host is LIVE on site for the 36th running of the Grand Prix of Long Beach. I've had a blast this weekend talking to race fans and now I'm going to sit down and bring this week's LiveBlog coverage from the spectacular vantage point of ...the basement of the media center.

Yes, it's the dirty little secret that when in the media the choices for covering the race are either (a) in the pits watching a TV monitor and not hearing anything or (b) sitting in a media center watching the VERSUS broadcast. I chose the latter since that's where the wi-fi is.

So today we have another street race, our third in four races, and who's on the pole but none other than Will Power. Not exactly shocking since his performance thusfar in 2010 has left everyone expecting him to run away with any street race. It's gotten so bad even Team Penske's Tim Cindric, on seeing Will running 4th on a practice session earlier this weekend, said coyly to Power "You sandbaging it out there today?"

But no matter, he's still gotta run the 85-lap race and Ryan Hunter-Reay, Justin Wilson and Power's teammates will be nipping at his heels. Or at least trying their best to nip at his heels.

And with that, it's time to start.

0: Cars are hot. Flyover conducted. TSO Patrick is sitting next to me chowing on some kind of Mexican meal. We are good to go.

0: One more lap to green. Curt Cavin is now down here. He's on the opposite side of the room with all those real media people, but I'm cool with that since I'm closer to "Leah" the hearing aid dog. She's staring at me, and with this Mexican food next to me I SWEAR I hear "You quiero Taco Bell".

1: And we are GREEN! Power leads the way but speaking of green Tony Kanaan jumps from 6th to 4th before the 1st turn. He's feeling the power of Brazilian fuel.

2: Power, Hunter-Reay, Wilson up front, but things get a little dicey around 9th as Tagliani cuts off Marco and appears to remove part of Andretti's front wingplate. Probably not the last piece of broken carbon fiber we'll see today.

4: The entire lap is run without any passes as the front three appear to separate from the pack. Did I mention Dixon and Franchitti are in 7th and 8th respectively. Somewhere Chip Ganassi is feeling unhappy and hugging a stuffed delta wing pillow.

6: Danica Patrick is in 20th. Even ESPN wouldn't be showing her that far back.

7: Milka Duno is at the back, 47 seconds off the pace. The lap times for the leaders are running around 71 seconds, and Milka is running 78 second laps. So she should get some TV airtime shortly.

10: Amazingly Ryan Hyphen-Reay is only 6 tenths of a second back of Power. There's a part of me that wonders if Power is sandbagging a bit conserving fuel here.

12: Milka is now 1 lap down, and since the leaders didn't pass here I'm guessing she had to make a pits stop before she became a factor.

14: Track feed shows Milka has been parked. In the pits with grooved tires now on the car. Somewhere Nicole Manske is doing a Snoopy Dance.

15: New last place car is Bertrand Baguette, 29 seconds back. If he plays his cards right this will be the only time I mention him all day.

18: Power appears to be slowing dramatically - like he missed a gear - and so Hunter-Reay and Wilson go right around him. Meanwhile, when no one was looking, Briscoe got around Helio for 5th.

20: IZOD poster boy Hunter-Reay is rocketing away and is now 1.5 seconds ahead of Wilson. Now would be a good time to mention that I'm currently wearing IZOD jeans. For real. Gotta represent the title sponsor.

21: Just checked the leaderboard. Power is still in 3rd but Dario, who's usually pretty tough on these street race deals, has dropped to 11th. Asheley can't blame that on Milka this week.

24: Here comes the strategy. Danica, Rafa and Simona all make pit stops.

25: Rafa pays the price as Hunter-Reay laps him after pit exit.

26: Dario pits. Sato pits. That can only mean one thing - he's still in the race. Other cars pit as well.

27: Finally a leader pits as Wilson makes a stop. Cleans stop, comes out on the blacks.

28: Hunter-Reay pits meaning Will Power once again leads. In and out like a professional.

29: LLoyd and Sato mix it up and Sato goes sideways into a runoff. Looks like Takuma didn't stall it so he's still racing. Meanwhile Kanaan and Helio made a pit stops.

30: Power finally pits, along with Briscoe and Tagliani. T&S indicates they were the last three to make a stop.

31: Televised overtaking breaks out as Kanaan gets around Briscoe and Helio makes a move to pass Tagliani. Top 5 are now Hunter-Reay, Wilson, Kanaan, Power, Briscoe.

32: Mario Moraes in 9th. Really? Not too shabby.

32: It's a celebration of televised overtaking, as Briscoe passes Kanaan for third and then Kanaan passes him right back a turn later through turns 4 and 5. Hooray for racing!

35: I've hear the N****R race in Texas was rained out today. Hopefully VERSUS - who graciously gave a group of IndyCar fans a tour of their trucks today - will benefit with a ratings bump. Hope springs eternal.

37: The Big Hyphen leads Wilson by over 2 seconds and Kanaan and Briscoe by over 7 seconds. Smell ya later, dudes.

38: I can't hear the VERSUS commentary, so if when Jack Arute says something memorable I'm going to be totally oblivious. My viewing is not enhanced.

40: Hunter-Reay, Wilson, Power, Kanaan, Briscoe. Simona 17th, Danica 18th for those who are interested.

43: Haven't had a yellow flag yet. Shades of Homestead in '09.

44: First to last on the track is a 48 second differential, so we aren't likely to see any lapped traffic come in to play.

46: Tagliani makes what's likely an unscheduled pit stop. Must not have gotten fully fueled on his first stop since it seemed like he only got more ethanol.

48: Evidently T&S was wrong since Hunter-Reay is now all up on Alex Lloyd and about to lap him. Meanwhile Wilson is closing on Hunter-Reay. Oh, the drama!

51: Wilson has caught Hunter-Reay, who is still battling to get around Lloyd. In fairness to Alex, he's running well and not exactly blocking.

53: And...finally Hunter-Reay gets around Lloyd. Wilson tries to duck underneath and OUCH Lloyd cuts him off and folds up Wilson's front wing. Oh, that's gonna be a pitstop.

54: Lloyd may have a cut tire as well as both he and Wilson pit. Dreyer & Reinbolds Larry Curry is shouting and finger-pointing at an official right now.

55: Hunter-Reay, Power, Kanaan, Dixon, Helio.

56: Pitstops for what seems like all the leaders so I have no idea who's leading. Maybe Dixon? Meanwhile Baguette is 11 laps off. Toasted in the pits with "mechanical" issues.

59: Dixon pits. The last driver left to make a second stop is Mike Conway. Leaders are now Hunter-Reay, Power, and Conweezy.

60: YELLOW! Rahal goes into the tires and Mario Romancini goes right into his attenuator. The Grahamerican jumps out of the car and goes over to "have words" with Mario. Replay shows Mario hip-checked Graham in a battle for 20th, and Graham got his hands off the steering wheel about a split second before incurring a broken wrist.

61: Apparently D&R's Larry Curry was not exactly pleased with race control either. He said "If Brian Barnhart won't do his job they need to get someone who can!" Much discussion regarding the concept of ordering drivers to allow themselves to be lapped breaks out all around.

65: Leaders are Hunter-Reay, Power, Wilson, Dixon, Kanaan. That yellow was good news for Justin but bad for his teammate Conway who hadn't yet made his 2nd pit stop.

66: Back to GREEN! And we are cleanly back to racing.

67: Wilson, enraged by earlier events, closes in and passes Will Power for second. Elsewhere Danica makes an aggressive more and passes Simona for 16th.

68: Hunter-Reay has a lead over Wilson of over three seconds. To quote Morrissey, stop me if you think that you've heard this one before.

69: Sato is kindly pulling aside and letting everyone not named "Milka" around him. He just wants everyone to get a better look at his stylin' ride.

72: Hunter-Reay's lead is up to 6 seconds, which may be due in part to the lapped Rafa Matos who seems to be holding up Wilson. Where's the love, Rafa?

74: Moraes is up to 6th. Really. Very stealth performance by the lost Jonas Brother today.

76: Hunter-Reay is in total control. Wouldn't be surprised if he soon starts tweeting from the car about how awesome his Dallara is handling.

79: True story: walking pit road during a practice session some guy came flying by me, tripped on the curb, and fell down. It was Michael Andretti, and in the second before he got up I momentarily panicked that he had snaped his ankle and everyone would blame me.

80: I only mention that because Andretti's team is about to get his first win in quite a few races. (Maybe Milwaukee in '08?)

81: Hunter-Reay by 5 seconds. Wilson, Power, Dixon, Kanaan. Moraes still hanging in 6th.

84: White flag. You know who by a comfortable margin. I'm sure IZOD is quite thrilled about their driver winning at Long Beach.

85: Checkered flag for Ryan Hunter-Reay, winner of the 36th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach! A few folks here in the media center declared "that's kinda nice". If you mean seeing someone other than Team Penske win this year I'd say that's an understatement.

Post-race interviews deployed: Ryan says his car was "fun" a bunch of times. Dedicates his race to his mother who passed away last year. Gets some sugar from his main squeeze Beccy Gordon. Thanks IZOD and Michael Andretti.

Meanwhile...hey, I need to get ready for the post-race press conference! Sorry to cut things short today, so thanks to all of you for enjoying the race. I've got work to do, so thank you very much, and good night.

Saturday Afternoon at Long Beach

Posted by Iannucci | 4/17/2010 | | 1 comments »
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I'll try to continue by avoiding any name-dropping today, simply reporting the news that fits. Here's what this fully sunscreened word butcher uncovered today.

Paul Tracy had a presser announcing what everyone anticipated would be a three or four race deal. Turns out it's an Indy-only fourth car with KVRT. The Canadian fans may now gasp in horror and cancel their Geico insurance. Assuming you can get that in The Great White North.

TSO Patrick (do sign up) asked the first question to team co-owner Jimmy Vasser: "How are you fixed for stuff since some of the KV equipment has been torn up this year?" Paul responded first saying "I asked the same question!"

Also, someone asked if Vasser's success today in the Pro-Celeb race (shameless plug: read all about it at The Silent Pagoda) made them think about entering a 5th car at Indy. Co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven quipped "Have you seen Jimmy's waistline? He'll fit in a (pro-celeb) car, that's it." (Note: Kalkhoven actually said "Toyota", but the pro-celeb cars are Honda Civics, and I didn't want to get Kevin in trouble with Honda since they are the sole engine provider of the IndyCar series...and maybe I just did.

(Ed Note: turns out Kalkhoven was right - those were Toyota Scion TCs in the pro-celeb race. My bad. Now we know why Kevin owns a race team and I own a blog.)

One final note relating to the Pro-Celeb race: beforehand they had a singing of Our National Anthem, and I noticed a few foreign drivers rolling by on their scooters as many Americans stood at attention. It doesn't bother me too much me since after all, it's not their country. But ONE foreign driver not only stopped walking back towards the trailer, but also removed his hat - Scott Dixon. Respect.

I walked around a bit to watch qualifications later in the day, but really there's not much to report. The smell of racing fuel and tires is awesome, but you don't need me to tell you that. Mostly though I was in the bowels of the media center writing that post for Silent Pagoda. However, I did attend the subsequent interview with the participants in the Firestone Fast Six - none of whom drive for Chip Ganassi.

Press conferences are always more lively with this many drivers, but with Helio and Tony Kanaan sitting at the same table it's practically begging for distraction. These two were clowning around the whole time with hand gestures and whispering and laughing - honestly kids, go to the back of the class until you can conduct yourselves better! (And by that I mean thank goodness for entertaining guys like these two.)

Seriously, at one point Kanaan had his hands under the table and looked like he might be tweeting. I can't confirm that though.

Asked about Will's run of success this year Kanaan said "We (other drivers) wake up every morning thinking about him...wondering what are we gonna do to beat him." Did anyone suspect Will Power would be getting into other drivers head this season? Other that Shane Rogers, that is.

It's gotten so bad that Helio joked "We just and to take one read tire from him," and I think Justin Wilson said "yeah, the left front". Even Ryan Briscoe, who wears the expression of the 3rd best driver on a 2-car team, said half-jokingly in response to a question of Rick Mears assistance to the Team Penske drivers "He's helping Will too much".

Lastly I found Robin Miller (does that count as name-dropping?) because I had to ask if that Facebook page was actually his. His response was that someone - he doesn't know whom - set it up and he only found out about it when he started getting emails with questions from Facebook users. But he doesn't use it at all otherwise. In fact, of the new media he said "I'm too old for that s--t", adding "nobody picks up the phone and just calls anymore".

Blogger victory of sorts, I suppose.

Saturday Morning at Long Beach

Posted by Iannucci | 4/17/2010 | , | 3 comments »
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Good morning from beautiful Southern California, which because of the proximity to the beautiful Pacific Ocean will always be just as beautiful as any other universally-proclaimed beautiful facility elsewhere.

After re-reading my own post from last night (yes, I do read my own press - ahem) I realized it was sorely lacking in any journalism-ish-ness. So today I decided to represent THE FANS by speaking truthiness to power, or whatever that phrase is, and taking off my shoe and pounding it on the table of the braintrust and demanding to know what in the world is UP with Timing and Scoring being all effed up much of the time.

And by shoe-pounding I mean humbly asking in polite and respectful tones.

Turns out these folks actually should have some sympathy for the predicament, because they're trying to bring the data that anyone walking pit road can see to the internet without the benefit of having a stable and proven interface. In simple terms, it's kinda like they're trying to teleport the Jeff Goldblum scoring data and putting him all back together covered in flies. And as you've seen, the results can be a bit grotesque.

As it was explained to me, all of the scoring data is collected by an application known as "Result Protocol", which is fantastic for providing trackside information but has no compatible web interface. Due to constant feature updates this tends to wreck the interface that the people use on the web site, and you the consumer suffer the consequences. All this time everything looks wonderful for race teams and IRL officials.

The solution likely will be to find some type of scoring system that already has a designed and supported interface (wait...I see your glazing over again). Let me try that again - they need to have someone who can properly control both telepods, flies and all. In the meantime know they are "getting hammered" from people complaining, and are trying to constantly monitor every session, even entering manual codes to try to correctly display stuff during sessions. And as an IT guy by trade I can tell you "manual" is a practically four-letter word.

Bottom line: it's not the fault of the web sites designers - it's someone else's for buying a timing and scoring solution that doesn't "solve" all of the IRL needs. With several thousand fans following even the Lights events the web presence is only going to be leaned on more and more by fans. And if the sport is ever going to have data shown on other sites (i.e. VERSUS or ESPN) this issue might want to be bumped up in priority.

In the meantime, they appreciate your feedback and believe me they're fully embarrassed and not happy with the situation.

Friday at Long Beach

Posted by Iannucci | 4/16/2010 | | 2 comments »
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It's been a while since your humble host was actually in attendance for an IndyCar event, but after last year's enjoyable time wandering around the IMMENSE grounds at Long Beach I decided I had to come back. Mind you, I'm not beating the path to try to find actual news, but to try to bring you something interesting you won't get elsewhere. I have no idea how your favorite driver did in practice today (unless your favorite driver is Ryan Hunter-Reay or Milka Duno, who were fastest and slowest respectively), but hopefully some of this otherwise lengthy post will prove worthwhile.

A word of warning - I'm not a big name dropper, but I'm about to drop enough names to make the floor shatter worse than Lindy Thackston's iPhone. And yes, this is actually Lindy's phone (first name dropped - BAM!) and yes it actually works. I have no idea how she tweets on that thing without shredding her fingers like one of Tomas Scheckter's former half shafts.

Jack Arute - Lindy's co-host Jack Arute was sighted, with lighter and little brown cigarette tightly gripped in his left hand. Lucky for me I caught Jack before he smoked it, because I'd forgotten how much of a close talker he is. Seriously, I've had dentists work on me from greater distances. I'll give Jack this - it might be the tan he's aquired from the surface of the sun, but he really does have thick skin because he told me how much he enjoys the fun us bloggers poke at him. Either that or it's reverse psychology. Oh, and Jack couldn't contain his enthusiasm for telling me how much he loves reading "pressdog". Of course.

"Leah" - Back in the "deadline" media center, an unnamed member of the regulars has brought along a hearing-assisting dog to the races this year. (Note: this media member insisted their hearing loss was NOT due to attending too many loud-ass street races.) Anyhow, I've never heard of a dog in a media center before, so I had to say hello to "Leah", a tiny little chihuahua, who immediately jumped in my lap and decided I was the coolest person in the world. I'm thinking I should bring her a chalupa tomorrow.

Graham Rahal - Alright, I didn't actually talk to Graham today. And if I ever do I'd have to say "Hi, I'm the guy that wrote the 'obviously' post and I suppose you want to punch me in the face", but what I did see was Graham sitting outside the Sarah Fisher Racing trailer talking to his dad, then a few minutes later The Grahamerican was in the Newman Haas Lanigan area being handed a phone that some other guy dialed, then a couple minutes later jumping onto his scooter and being handed a FedEx envelope from some mystery man. I swear, this all happened. Could mean nothing, but I remind you all Tony Soprano was never actually declared dead in that final episode.

Side note: speaking of scooters, the Luczo Dragon one is a simply beautiful display of total chrome. I coudnlt determine if it was Autobot or Decepticon, though.

Paul Tracy - I noticed Paul in one of the KVRT pit boxes. As you can see, he appears to be losing both weight and hair. Still fully stocked with attitude, as anyone who follows his twitter account can confirm.

James Hinchcliffe - Hinch, a fine young driver who knows not only understands how to use new media (see Hinchtown) but also can tell a story, explained what happened after that crazy first lap incident with Phillip Major at St Pete. Hinch said he was really PO'd at Major, who's his roommate in Indy, after the incident, and was ready unload after the wreck. But Major came up to him first and was so sorry he was nearly in tears, to which Hinch said "So then I was twice as mad, because not only did he take me out but he deprived me of my moment of rage, but then you can't yell at a guy when he's so sorry he's crying." They went back, grilled some steaks, and it's all good.

Randy Bernard - If you read one thing this entire post, this is it. I was standing outside of the "deadline" press room where word butchers sneak into and pretend they're cool, and new Vice President of the IndyCar Universe Amy Konrath came over and personally introduced me to The 'Nard Dog himself. It's moments like this I really wish my site had a more authoritative name, like "Indy Racing Times-Chronicle". Oh well.

I figured I didn't have a lot of time, so after exchanging pleasantries and saying he's making a great first impression I asked one question about an answer he gave in an interview about the importance of developing the IndyCar ladder series. He said he's been speaking with Mazda, Ford and several other manufacturers and reached out to every karting series he can find to see what it's going to take to organize a clear path for would-be IndyCar drivers here in the US. He noted that there are not only tens of thousands of kids in America who race some form karting but also around half are from ages 21-32 and are above average in income. His point was there are people with both passion and disposable income on the sport without ever making a connection to the IndyCar series.

He wants to see if there can't be more commonality among series, like say having portable chassis so costs aren't completely sunk from year to year. He wants to try to set up regional clinics organizing the series and presenting them together at IndyCar-related events involving IRL personalities. He wants to have a publication that goes out to all participants that keeps them connected and involved.

He was throwing so much stuff at me I couldn't keep up. And all this was just from a single question. I was kinda overwhelmed to think that this guy, who's been on the job just a few weeks, was already informed and putting together a plan for trying to connect the sport with a fiscally invested base. He even clarified to say he wasn't necessarily looking at N****R but other sports to see how to best emulate the development and retention of talent. I know, I'm like the bazzilionth person to say this, but color me extremely impressed.

Al Unser Jr - I will never live this down, but every bit of it is true as Stephanie Wallcraft of Planet-IRL, who was standing next to me at the time, can attest. Little Al's gracious wife, Gina, has been sending me complimentary "tweets" on twitter for some time, so when I saw the two of them walking by I just had to say "Hi Al! You know, I totally rooted against you when you first raced but I really grew to like you and appreciate all that you've done and continue to do for the sport. But if you don't mind I have to introduce myself to your wife..." And so I did, much to his confusion.

Lastly, not famous to you but to me, thanks to the wonderful Stephanie, Marc, and Terry for inviting me to some great dinner conversation tonight. It was good to talk about racing in person with folks I otherwise only know digitally.

Final caveat: Golf clap to Rachel of Swift Engineering (a.k.a. @Pinkgineer) for going the extra mile to have pink eyebrows.

Until tomorrow, friends...

PS - if you're left asking "but what about the cars, the times, the track..." I suggest you subscribe to TrackSide Online right now. Best $22 you'll spend all year.

The hometown underdog

Posted by Iannucci | 4/15/2010 | , , , | 0 comments »
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Forgive me for invoking the name of the heroic Butler Bulldogs in this post, but the comparison in this case might be appropriate. For most of nation, Butler's story this year was that of a relatively unknown who managed to scrape their way to play for the win in their hometown. It was a feel-good story that ended when some other school that always wins everything managed to beat them by one point, depriving us from what could have been the best sports movie since, well, since that last movie about about a basketball team from an unknown school in Indiana.

And while Butler's 2010 season may be concluded, feel-good stories of unheralded underdogs will forever continue to bubble to the surface in every form of competition. Except tennis. Roger Federer has single-handedly ruined that possibility. But we're not talking tennis - we're talking IndyCars. Indy Lights, to be specific, and without any embelishment from me here is an exceptionally interesting press release for one Joel Miller of SoCal, who many of you might end up cheering for this weekend at Long Beach.

Joel Miller's talent in pushing the pedals and cranking the wheel were important of course, but pounding the pavement is what got the 21-year-old from Hesperia, Calif. a ride in the Firestone Indy Lights race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, April 18.

Miller lives about 70 miles from the street course in Long Beach, Calif., and he's been dreaming of competing there since he attended his first Long Beach Grand Prix a decade ago, when he was 11.

He's paid his dues.

He's racked up all sorts of accomplishments in karting, Skip Barber, USF2000 and Star Mazda. He's a past winner of the Team USA Scholarship and the John Gorsline Scholarship. After earning the championship in the BF Goodrich Skip Barber National presented by Mazda in 2007, he earned yet another scholarship from Mazda that helped pay for a full season of Star Mazda
competition the following year. He made good use of it, finishing second in the Star Mazda championship in 2008.

The following season he got picked up by Andersen Racing of Palmetto, Fla., a team that has rewritten the book on driver development. It has its own 1-mile road course test track; a regional, national and international karting team; its principals run the USF2000 National Championship presented by Cooper Tires and powered by Mazda; and it fields multi-car Star Mazda and Firestone Indy Lights teams.

Andersen Racing ran Miller in the Star Mazda series in 2009. (He finished fifth.) It tested him in a Firestone Indy Lights car twice; once in 2008 at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla., and again last December at Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Fla.

The team co-owners, brothers Dan and John Andersen, liked what they saw. They wanted Miller in Firestone Indy Lights and he desperately wanted to run one of their cars in that series, which is the final step before the IZOD IndyCar Series in the Road to Indy program. As is often the problem in such an expensive sport, however, money was the stumbling block, and it kept Miller parked.

He didn't like it, and on Monday he'd had enough. With a gulp of air for confidence and a smile on his face, he took all the tenacity he could muster and jumped in his 2006 VW GT1 (which has over 100,000 miles on it but is paid for), and hit the road.

"I literally just took off driving from home to Long Beach, and I visited every single company and person I knew along the way," Miller said. "I started when the first place opened and I stopped when they were closed. My dad has a little electrical contracting shop, and he has been keeping people informed about how my racing has been going. Even if I didn't know them but Dad did, I stopped by.

"You can't walk into a small company and throw a big figure at them and expect them to be able to do anything with you," Miller said. "But with smaller amounts from a lot of different companies and individuals added together, by the end of the day I was able to get close enough to call Dan and say I think I can do it. I still have some more calls to make, but I feel confident I'll have enough by the race weekend."

What was his sales pitch?

"I just asked them if they would help a local kid," Miller said. "I'm a local guy, and there were only two Americans who ran in the season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla. - Jonathan Summerton, who is from Florida, and Charlie Kimball, who is from Camarillo, Calif. Charlie is local too, but I really want to drive at Long Beach. I came up through the local karting ranks just like Joey Hand did. He got to drive Atlantics at Long Beach and we all looked up to him for that. Now I'm out of karting, and I want to be able to drive at Long Beach too."

Now he's going to, thanks to the following people and companies: Doug Mockett of Mockett and Co., John Wilkins of Rancho Motor Co., Vance Mitchell of The Mitchell Co., Seers Lumber Co., Daniel Singh, Joe Phillips and Greg Ewald. "Doug Mockett is a long-time supporter; he's helped me since I did Team USA," Miller noted.

Miller is still soliciting other companies and individuals for funds to help make his appearance at Long Beach - and hopefully other races - a reality.

He knows how to add it all up. He took some time off from school to pursue his racing career, but he's currently a junior mechanical engineering major at the University of California, Riverside. Last quarter he recorded a 3.1 grade point average. When he was graduated from Hesperia Christian School High School in 2006, he did so as the salutatorian of his class with a 4.0 GPA.

But racing is still his career goal. "This is a one-off ride now, but I hope to turn it into more," Miller said. "This will be the only street course race I've done except for the airport course at Cleveland, if you want to call that a street course, and Trois-Rivieres in Quebec. I did those races in Star Mazda."

If the course and the series will be knew to him, he'll have some familiar faces in the paddock and pits. "I'll be working with Yancy Diotalevi, who was my lead engineer on the Andersen Racing Star Mazda team," Miller said. "It's great for me, because Yancy and I already know each other and get along. And there are other people on the Andersen Racing team that I'll get to work with again too, so that'll be great!"

One challenge has already cropped up, though. "I'm trying to find tickets and passes for all my sponsors," Miller said.
For more on Joel check out Junior Open Wheel Talent's post on this story.

(Press Release: Andersen Racing, Photo: Joel Miller Racing)

A brief Q and A with Bob Jenkins

Posted by Iannucci | 4/14/2010 | , | 5 comments »
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There aren't too many interviews done here at My Name Is IRL, but when the opportunity to have a little electronic chit-chat with VERSUS announcer Bob Jenkins comes along, well, saying "no" isn't really an option.

Here's his resume for those who may not know: Jenkins has 30 years of professional experience as covering motorsports, conducting either host or play-by-play duties for innumerable IndyCar and N****R races. Many of those were on ESPN, where he was one of the first announcers hired in the early 1980s. He even serves on the public address staff at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a position which I would surmise every young Hoosier aspires to at some point. And he's awesome.

(I know, it doesn't actually say "awesome" on his resume, but it should.)

So without any further unnecessary gushing on my part, please enjoy this little Q&A with Mr Jenkins on subjects like booth monitors, basketball, and the infamous "brassiere".

MNII: Since you’ve been announcing all different kinds of motorsports for decades you’re one of the few qualified to answer this question. What’s more difficult to follow as an announcer – 24 IndyCars in street races or 43 stock cars on an oval?

BJ: It's all the same, because I never look at the track. Once in a while I'll get up during a commercial break and stretch my legs and will glance at the track, but for the most part we all watch our monitors. In a normal IZOD IndyCar Series race on VERSUS, I have at least six monitors in front of me, the main one has the "air" signal on it, that is what the viewers at home are seeing. We concentrate on talking about what is on the air, so as not to confuse the viewers. Some of the races, such as those in Japan, Brazil and Edmonton, we call from the studio. Although it's nice to be at the venue, it's just as easy to call a race from studio since you're only talking about what's on the screen.

MNII: Have there been many names during your career that have been troublesome to try to pronounce? Like Simona de Silvestro or Thiago Medeiros or Dick Trickle?

BJ: My biggest problem was when I was doing a few Formula One telecasts, and also "SpeedWeek". Although I took four years of Spanish in high school and college, I was never good at French names. With a few minutes of practice, I can usually pronounce them correctly.

MNII: Your biography lists lots of experience covering auto races, but haven’t you announced other sports? Surely a good Hoosier such as yourself has covered at least one basketball game during your illustrious career.

BJ: You're right, basketball is the sport in Indiana. But I never was much of a basketball fan. I didn't play in either high school or college. I attended Indiana University and of course have always supported and rooted for the team, but this year I couldn't help but "fall in love" with the Butler Bulldogs. I think they stole the hearts of many fans nationwide.

The only other sport I ever covered was a track meet in Syracuse in the early 80's. But only one, I must not have done a very good job. The other sports I enjoy are hockey and baseball but have never done play-by-play for either.

MNII: Last month there was a very humble apology appearing at the TrackForum site under your name, saying that your announcing during the epic 2010 opener in Sao Paolo was “awful”. From what I could tell the only thing viewers noted was your one-time pronunciation of “Brazil” as “brassiere”, and most of them were amused and not upset. Was that message actually from you, and if so what prompted it?

BJ: I don't take criticism well but I should since I've been the subject of lots of it over the years. The "brassiere" thing upset me so much, I just felt I had to say something. When I go on the air, I want to do a better job than the time before and then when something like that happens it really bothers me. I feel it's very important to maintain a close relationship with race fans and that was my way of reaching out to them. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm just a race fan who got lucky and have the job that I dreamed about when growing up.

MNII: You once said in an interview that if you could broadcast any Indy 500 it would be the race from 1960, which you said you attended as a boy. This brings to mind an endearing image of a 12-year-old Bob Jenkins developing his craft by sitting in Turn Four talking into his track fries. When did you start thinking about being an announcer and was there anyone you wanted to emulate?

BJ: The 1960 race that I attended with my father ranks as one of the two most memorable days of my life. The other being a USAC "Championship" race at the Dayton, (Ohio) Speedway when I was 8. The 1960 race was one of the most competitive races, and I think I would have enjoyed working it. On the other hand, I would take nothing for the day with my father, who passed away in 1988.

People kept telling me in high school I had a good voice. So it was then that I started thinking about broadcasting as a career. My second passion besides racing is 50's and 60's music. I guess initially I saw myself as a "disc jockey", but in college I began to consider the possibility of combining broadcasting with my love of racing. That began to happen in 1972 when I moved to Indianapolis. Through the help of many people I was able to do that.

MNII: The fan reaction still appears to be positive to the VERSUS broadcast booth team that pairs you with Jon Beekhuis and Robbie Buhl. Despite his incredible on-air composure, does Robbie ever just go off or start throwing things off-air when something happens to one of his Dreyer & Reinbold cars?

BJ: The only time that Robbie has physically expressed emotion was during qualifying at Indy last year. It was the day that nothing was going right for D & R. At one point he had to get up out of his chair and walk it off. But I don't think it was obvious on the air. He's able to separate his job as team owner and broadcaster very well. I couldn't be happier with the two guys with whom I work in the booth.

MNII: Last question: With all of your experience do you ever get butterflies in your stomach, and if so are you more likely to feel them staring into a camera speaking to a faceless audience of millions or speaking into the public address system before hundreds of thousands at Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

BJ: I've been at this job since 1979. I feel as if I have encountered every conceivable on-air situation during that time. So I don’t really get nervous anymore, believing that whatever happens I've dealt with before. I don't think about the hundreds or thousands of people to whom I'm speaking. It's just me and you, one listener or viewer.

The only race that makes me very emotional is the Indy 500. During the 20-minutes directly preceeding the command to start engines, I think about who I am, how lucky I am, my dad, family, friends and my heroes who are about to run the most important race of their lives. I'm not ashamed to say that many tears stream down my face during that time.

(My sincerest thanks to Mr Jenkins, as well as Leslie Byxbie of VERSUS for assisting with this interview.)

In other news....

Posted by Declan | 4/13/2010 | 8 comments »
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Quinn's worth a look:

If PBIR's latest recruit, Niall Quinn, makes the Indy Lights podium at Long Beach do not be surprised. He was born and raised in Dunboyne, County Meath, a town whose streets were the backdrop for the historic Leinster Trophy Races for a decade from 1958 to 1967. Racing through the village predates Ireland's first permanent race track by one year and the town and event is held very close to the hearts of a whole generation of racing fans in Ireland.

Starting on Martell Brandy was probably not best idea when it comes to street racing.
[Pic courtesy of Dunboyne Car Club]

Quinn became a member of Red Bull's Junior team after winning their 'High King of Karting' title in Ireland in 2005. He was thrown into the cauldron of UK Formula BMW in 2006 and the German Series in 2007 where he showed flashes of his potential without consistent results. Since the end of the 2007, Niall has not had a full-time seat but he was the reserve and test driver for A1GP Ireland and ran in some Asian F3 races in 2008. As a fellow Irishman, I'm thrilled to see him land a ride for the rest of the season and Indy Lights is improved by his presence in the series.

JK Rolling on:
Being a Red Bull Junior program drop out is not always a sign of a lack of talent. Just ask JK Vernay who has just taken the opening two rounds of the Firestone Indy Lights Series. With three years in Euro F3 Vernay is arguably taking a step down in class and performance to compete in Indy Lights. Anyone who can boast a win in the F3 Grand Prix on the streets of Macau (the qualifying race in 2009) and has finished on the podium there is an elite talent. Just look at the following list of winners and podium finishers in the former Portuguese colony.

Ayrton Senna [Winner, 1983]
Mauricio Guglemin [Winner, 1985]
Michael Schumacher [Winner, 1990]
David Coulthard [Winner, 1991]
Jacques Villeneuve [3rd, 1992]
Jarno Trulli [2nd, 1995]
Darren Manning [Winner, 1999]
Jenson Button [2nd, 1999]
Takuma Sato [Winner, 2001]
Lucas Di Grassi [Winner, 2005]
Mike Conway [Winner, 2006]

The streets of Macau was the birthplace of the one of the greatest rivalries in Grand Prix racing. It was there that Michael Schumacher first got the better of Mika Hakkinen through questionable driving tactics. It would most certainly not be the last.
Vernay, now holds the outright lap record on the 'Guia Circuit' at Macau and has the chance to add victory at Long Beach to his impressive list of performances on the World's greatest street circuits.

Half a World away:
The VLN Championship is an endurance series for GT cars run exclusively on the Nordschliefe, the old, dangerous and spectacular Nurburging track. Porsche is using this series to test its latest creation, the 911 GTR Hybrid. The success of this car may have some significance to the future direction of IndyCar racing. On Sunday the car, driven by factory drivers, Joerg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler finished in third place. The immediate impact of this event on the IndyCar Series is minimal, but the longer term prospects are significant and extremely exciting. While the Delta Wing concept has all of the divisive qualities of a Tea Party gathering, it has become clear that it has re-ignited the potential interest in a number of European (and particularly German OEM's). The broad concept is a perfect fit for more than one of the brands currently under the Porsche SE umbrella (particularly Porsche, Audi, VW & Lamborghini). Ben Bowlby spent a not inconsiderable amount of time with Audi's Dr Wolfgang Ulrich at Sebring in the days following the 12 Hour race there in March and DW CEO, Dan Partel, has built his reputation on providing an international motorsport platform for European based manufacturers.

The 'very ordinary looking' 911 GT Hybrid, yesterday

In separate conversations recently, both parties have described to me how energized the major players in Europe are about the potential future direction of US Open wheel racing. Both Porsche and Audi see that there is an opportunity to develop an inexpensive production based engine program for IndyCar that translates directly to their offerings in the show room and this includes the diesel and hybrid technologies that both marques currently race. While the look of the Delta Wing may not please everyone, the fundamentals behind the design have, without question, an important part to play in the long term growth and well being of IndyCar racing.

Quote of the day

Posted by Iannucci | 4/12/2010 | , , | 0 comments »
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"I wanted to see what happened in the first race and I had heard there wasn’t going to be any passing but I saw plenty of it out there...I intend to sit down and talk with the IndyCar people but really, I don’t think we need to change a thing." - George Barber, owner of Barber Motorsports Park, on his commitment to racing excitement at his beautiful facility.

Simona flashes mutant superpowers

Posted by Iannucci | 4/12/2010 | | 3 comments »
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In case you missed it, here's Simona De Silvestro demonstrating her freaky inhuman visualization skills this weekend. Clear the space in front of you for when your jaw inevitably hits the floor.

I'm told Professor X strongly disapproves of this kind of public display by any his pupils.

LiveBlog: Barber 2010

Posted by Iannucci | 4/11/2010 | , , , | 7 comments »
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Welcome to Barber Motorsports Park, also known as "a beautiful facility". A gorgeous road course with a spectacular museum that, if previous auto races are any indication, promises to feature virtually no passing whatsoever today. But it's the "Augusta" of road courses.

Today's race features a compelling storyline of Will Power attempting to suffocate any hope for anyone else winning any races the rest of the year. The Toowoomba Tornado has won the first two races and starts from the pole today. Rumors are running through the paddock that he's a cyborg from the future sent to destroy Scott Dixon for the sake of humanity.

Meanwhile Mike Conway has qualified second, meaning he has two choice today. One: he can follow Power around all day and finish on the podium. Two: he can try to jump Power at the line and take an early lead, only to panicked into a mistake at some point later in the race. Choose wisely, anonymous redhead.

And with that, it's time to start.

0: Jack Arute is back, interviewing Helio. Jack was not part of the broadcast team for the last event for the St Pete race, one of the few IndyCar races he's ever missed. And of course the St Pete race was rained into a Monday morning. Coincidence? I think not. Somebody check Arute's home for sorcery paraphernalia.

0: Mike Conway is starting second, so he's getting an on-air interview for something other than a mid-race, post-wreck chit chat. And I could swear that Leona Lewis is wearing an IZOD firesuit and standing behind Conway during the interview.

0: Will Power enjoys his vegemite, so he's a bona fide Australian cyborg.

0: Marco Andretti has giant sunglasses with red lenses, smartly co-ordinated with his red and black firesuit. He's finished 23rd and 12th in two races this year, but despite that he's still exceptionally fashion conscious.

0: Justin Wilson says "a common misperception about me is that I'm tall". He made a funny. On a more serious note, if he can find a place to pass he could give Dreyer & Reinbold it's first win since 2000.

0: Jack Arute asks the burning question: "How do you pass when you can't pass?" It's not a real IndyCar race if Arute isn't making my brain explode with his mind-bending madness.

0: Charles Barkley's in the house. The Team Penske paddock, to be exact. Insert me imagining him telling their drivers "Paul Tracy is a knucklehead".

0: Now Barkley is talking to EJ Viso. EJ is about as big as Charles Barkley's leg.

0: Here's a perfectly-timed ad for Brazilian coffee. I think we all agree we're gonna need a whole lotta that beverage today.

0: We've gone 37 minutes into the broadcast and I don't think I've heard the name "Danica" mentioned once. How can this even be an IndyCar race with such an egregious omission?

0: Barber owner/president/overloard George Barber says "Ladies, gentlemen, ya'll start these engines." And the rows get "hot".

0: Power, Conway, Helio, Marco, Dixon and Sato will lead the way into the first turn. You don't need me to tell you first turn on a road or street course is often an improptu re-enactment of "Death Race".

1: And we are GREEN! And we are CLEAN through the opening turns.

2: Clean first lap. Everyone in single file formation. Apparently Dixon jumped the start (shocking, I know) and had to surrender back the position back to Marco. Power, Conway, Helio, Marco, Dixon lead the field.

6: Other than Dixon's jumped start we've had no televised passing yet. *sighs* Where's my coffee.

8: Timing and scoring indicates some passing back in the, wait, that's just because Tagliani is pitting. Nevermind.

10: Romancini and Wheldon pit, trying to get off sequence. It's a celebration of pit strategy today. I tell ya, when you those IndyCar teams plan fuel strategy it's breathtaking wonder to behold.

12: YELLOW! Sato and his glorious Lotus livery is stalled on the course. This is happening during a GoDaddy commercial, which is the first appearance of Danica all day.

12: Delphi Safety team out to perform AAA duties and give him a tow to the nearest pit stall.

13: Lots of cars pit. Not all though. Helio, Marco and others stay out. And it looks like Conway has bested Power to the pit out line...wait, replay says NO! Power by a couple inches.

14: Now it's Helio, Marco, Dixon, Dario, Simona. Yet another Simona sighting near the front.

16: Back to GREEN! And Marco is all over Helio...hang on...maybe..maybe..YES! A televised overtake as occurred! Marco takes the lead, nearly running Helio into the beautiful grass at this beautiful facility.

18: Meanwhile Power and Conway are 13th and 14th respectively.

19: Holy smokes! Wilson just got around Hunter-Reay ON TV for 17th. And right after that Briscoe goes around Romancini for 15th. VERSUS is showing the passing but Jenkins and team are talking about something else. And now we go to commercial. *banging head on laptop*

22: Twitter is all abuzz with word that Taylor Hicks referred to this on IMS Radio as a Formula One race. FOUR TIMES.

23: Speaking of the number four, fourth televised overtake as COnway goes wheel-to-wheel and gets around Briscoe for 14th. I guess Power got around him at some point, but it was not suitable for television.

27: Marco is still leading. He has gone 54 INdyCar races since his lone series win. Calls to mind the Rocky Bobby line "If you ain't first, you're last".

28: In a related note I think this is Vitor Meira's 100th race. All winless. A moment of silence for all those second place finishes by Vitor.

29: Marco will pit. From red to black sidewalls. Helio assumes the lead.

30: I think Tagliani just got around Wheldon for 8th. There was a replay of a pass earlier so now we're up to SIX televised overtakes. I'm giddy like a schoolgirl.

31: Helio pits. This is a 90 lap race so he may try to go the distance on two stops. Comes out in front of Dixon, who was in 2nd. The leaders are now Marco, Helio, Dixon, Kanaan and Power. Looks like the fuel strategy by Kanaan and Power isn't looking so hot right now.

35: Tagliani and Hunter-Reay make pit stops. That's about all that's happening.

37: Hang on. Matos and Vitor are battling. Replay shows Matos nearly taking out Tagliani on pit exit. And back to live for a LIVE overtake of Matos by Vitor. Like Jack Daniels, that's Number 7!

41: Bob Jenkins tells us Takuma Sato is back on track. He's 21 laps down so I guess he has been for some time. I know, I really should look at the ticker on the screen more often.

42: Power, Conway, and Briscoe all pit. Haning together on a renegade pit strategy. Top 5 is now Marco, Helio, Dixon, Dario, Simona. Swiss Miss is all business today.

45: Replay shows Wheldon, Tagliani and Matos all passing Milka in one turn. Sorry, but passing Milka doesn't count as a televised overtake.

46: Mutoh, Sato, Rahal, and others are now going around the friendly moving chicane that is Milka Duno. Immediately afterwards Mutoh goes wide on exit or a turn and does a little lawn mowing. Nothing serious though, surrendering just one position.

47: Danica around Viso. Overtake number eight!

49: Timing and Scoring indicates not only has Alex Lloyd's car not failed him yet, but he's up to 8th. I sincerely hope I didn't just jinx him.

51: I'm a little disappointed they haven't said anything about the new guy named Baguette yet. Arute could go to town with that name.

53: Helio is all over Marco's rear bumper. Not passing though. Might not need to since if there's no yellow Helio could be the only car to go the distance on two stops.

54: Looks like Power got around Simona for 5th. Didn't see it though. Her crew says she will be 2 short of going all laps on one more stop. Life is 2 short.

55: Wilson around Lloyd on the replay. Number nine. That was for 10th so Alex has dropped a couple spots.

57: Marco into the pits. Helio leads again. After the stop Marco only drops to 4th. Dixon and Dario ahead of him.

59: Very brief mention of The Grahmerican. He's in 17th.

60: Another bunch of overtaking of Milka. Meanwhile Viso spun for some reason, but doesn't stall and soldiers on. No replay on what happened.

60: Dixon pits. Dario must have pitted earlier. Helio is ahead of them all by over 20 seconds. Laying the smack down.

61: Helio rolls into the pit box. Here comes Marco and...Marco will get ahead of him. Dixon, Power and Dario now round out the Top 5.

62: Wilson carefully overtakes his teammate Conway for pass number 10. Rejoice.

65: Quick math: Helio went from 32 to 61 on a tank, all green flag laps. He's gonna cut it real close to finish without pitting again. Not impossible though.

66: Meanwhile Marco will definitely be a couple laps short on his current fuel. Where's a spinning Bryan Herta when you really need him?

67: Milka goes off course but no yellow. Replays show Marco's strategist Kyle Moyer shouting "Crash! Crash!" at the monitors. Insert me spewing coffee on my laptop.

68: Danica tries to help her teammate by hip-checking Alex Lloyd into a spin. No stall and no yellow, though. Sorry, Marco.

71: Up front Helio is all over Marco like a cheap suit, trying to force him into a mistake. Meanwhile they're closing in on Marco's teammate and Helio's rival - TOny Kanaan. Gird your loins, fellas.

72: Behind Marco and Helio, Dixon is about a second back. Meanwhile Dario is 17 seconds back in 4th. Power is 27 seconds behind the leaders in 5th.

75: Andretti Autosport has not won in 27 races (Richmond '08). Without a yellow it's going to be 28. We're just waiting to see if there's a yellow in the4 next dozen laps at this point.

78: Marco is right behind Rahal right now. Massive airtime for Sarah Fisher Racing and Dollar General.

82: Drama averted as Marco pits. No tires, just fuel.

83: Helio and Dixon go around Rahal, so that's a dozen televised overtakes. It's Helio, Dixon, Dario, Power, Marco. I think the Ganassi cars need to pit, but I could be wrong.

84: Wilson around Kanaan. 13 televised overtakes, roughly half of which are by Justin Wilson, now in 7th.

85: Simona is stalled on the inside of turn for a local yellow...wait, now it's a full course caution. Time to bunch them up.

86: Arute reminds us at the start of the race at St Pete "Marco carved himself like a hot knife through butter." Ouch!

87: I guess the Ganassi cars don't need to pit, which means we can look forward to watching Dixon try to jump the start on Helio. That would be a nice bookend to this event.

88: Back to GREEN! Both Helio and Dixon are "on the button" so no passing occurs up front.

89: White flag for Helio, who probably furiously mashing the Push To Not Be Passed button.

90: And Helio is your winner, meaning Team Penske is now 3 for 3 in 2010. Dixon, Dario, Power, Marco round out the Top 5. Now we get to see if they have any fencing in Alabama that's suitable for climbing.

Yup, they got fencing for Spiderman to climb.

Post-race interviews deployed. Scott Dixon is complaining "I think the officials screwed us at the start". Don't be whiny, Scott. Not after driving so well today.

Meanwhile Helio is talking about his baby daughter. Looking into the camera at me in my living room Drops a "fun-tastic" in there for good measure. He's giving a master course in media savvy.

Marco has put the shades with the red lenses back on. Sounds low-key, but glad to be in the Top 5. Somehow his hair is still vertical despite wearing a helmet for the last two-plus hours. Impressive.

Well, that's it for me. I counted just 13 televised overtakes, although if you include the times Milka Duno got passed that number easily doubles. Congrats Barber on your beautiful facility, to Marco for making it interesting (sorta), and to Helio and Team Penske for getting it done today. Thank you very much folks, and good night.

If a picture says a thousand words

Posted by Iannucci | 4/09/2010 | , | 10 comments »
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What does this one say?

(Photo: AJ Foyt Racing)

Rico Suave

Posted by Iannucci | 4/08/2010 | | 0 comments »
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This week, the #10’s livery is all about Dario’s magnificent hair.

Suave will serve as the primary sponsor of the Target Chip Ganassi Racing No.10 Honda Dallara for reigning IZOD IndyCar Series Champion Dario Franchitti in Round 3 of the series at the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy Credit Union at Barber Motorsports Park this Sunday, April 11 (3:00 p.m. ET, VERSUS).

(MORE from
Toiletries and sundries are lovely, but I'm still hoping for another Target sponsorship crossover with Guitar Hero. But that's just me.

Yeah, I know, I’ve been gone a while. I could try to explain my absence but there’s little fun in such, much as there’s little fun in explaining how Butler missed defeating Duke by roughly the same margin Ed Carpenter missed defeating Ryan Briscoe last fall. (DAMMIT!!!)

It would be more exciting to envision my departure as a 10-day penalty served for an inadvertent word butcher attack on Graham Rahal. And an involuntary departure at that. Say, something like I was rendered unconscious while out for a stroll, waking up a dozen hours later in a dumpster in Columbus with the word “OBVIOUSLY” tattooed on my forehead. But that didn’t happen, I swear. Speaking of, pardon me while I take care of an administrative requirement once and for all.

Dear Mr Rahal,
Please accept my apology as I sincerely promise never to make light of any words you may or may not overuse. You are a fine young driver with a great future, one in whom Americans will take great pride for many years. In fact, to represent this I will heretofore refer to you most respectfully as “The Grahamerican”. And I’ll never, ever, EVER mention the O-word again.
Sincerely, Iannucci

OK, with that out of the way, the IRL is now rolling along towards race number three, which in all likelihood will have difficulty living up to the excitement of the first two. Brazil – which by the way is having even more calamitous weather problems than it did last month – was an unprecedented festival of street race passing, and the subsequent race in St Pete was a spectacle of the future of racing. Marco and Viso each led, The Grahamerican and Simona were racy near the front, and Rafa notched another quality finish that has him 5th in the championship standings. If only these drivers could start winning some races we’d be on to something.

However, race number three appears like it might well be the first snoozer of the season. Oh, there’s a beautiful track with a beautiful museum smack dab in a part of America that isn’t known for it’s IndyCar fanbase (Will McCarty aside). There’s even a chance that bona fide “road course specialist” Justin Wilson could give Dreyer & Reinbold their first win since the Clinton Administration. But there’s little if any chance for passing, as I may have mentioned a year ago and Dylan is mentioning now. With the track’s current configuration it looks nothing will help - not Charles Barkley, not Taylor Hicks, not even that creepy giant metal spider that lurks at the facility.

But no matter, because today’s news relates to a better place, as fan-friendly Vision Racing has announced a partnership with Panther Racing that will allow Ed Carpenter a chance to extend his streak of two-straight top-8 finishes at IMS. (And yes, two can be considered a streak.) Added to last week’s announcements of John Andretti’s ride with his cousin’s team and Alex Tagliani’s über-classy addition of Bruno Junqueira the total number of entries for this year’s running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing looks almost...quantitative.

Here’s the unscientific but up-to-the minute tally of entries:
5 from Andretti Autosport (M Andretti, J Andretti, Kanaan, Hunter-Reay, Patrick)
4 from KV Racing Technologies (Moraes, Sato, Tracy, Viso)
3 from Target Chip Ganassi Racing (Bell, Dixon, Franchitti)
3 from Team Penske (Briscoe, Castroneves, Power)
2 from Dale Coyne Racing (Duno, Lloyd)
2 from De Ferran Luczo Whatever (Hamilton, Matos)
2 from Dreyer & Reinbold (Conway, Wilson)
2 from FAZZT Racing (Tagliani, Junqueira)
2 from HVM (Baguette, de Silvestro)
2 from Panther Racing (Carpenter, Wheldon)
2 from Sarah Fisher Racing (Fisher, Howard)
1 from Bryan Herta Autosport (Saavedra)
1 from Conquest Racing (Romancini)
1 from Foyt Racing (Meira)
1 from Newman/Haas/Lanigan (Mutoh)
1 from Walker Racing (Gordon) – this could partner with another team

That’s 34, and that doesn’t even count the The Grahamerican, who at the very least has GOTTA be with a Rahal Letterman entry. Add another from Team 3G for my very distant cousin named Antinucci, a ride for AJ Foyt IV at grandpa’s team, and maybe a third D&R car for Ana Beatriz or Tomas Scheckter and we’re up to 38 – and a very probable 38 at that. We’re just a Roger Yasukawa and an Oriol Servia away from 40.

And (Jack Arute voice) this is one of the rare instances in life when it’s considered good to be over 40...and yes, that punchline totally deserves an eye roll and a groan.