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.


  1. Anonymous // April 17, 2010 2:05 AM  

    Jeff, you have over 1200 followers on twitter now?!? I'm so totally not worthy of knowing you..

    Until May, my friend...see you then.

  2. Pinkgineer // April 19, 2010 7:57 AM  

    Now that I know you love comments...

    Thanks for the shout-out!