Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A1GP has a new season finale... again...

As expected by everyone; A1GP has announced that they will be canceling their again rescheduled and relocated Mexico City round due to the Influenza breakout in Mexico right now. This, of course, means that overnight this weekends race at Brands Hatch in Great Britain has once again become the end of the current season.

It also means we've gone from 6/7 teams mathematically in the hunt for the championship to three: Switzerland, Ireland & Portugal. While this royally stinks for Team Netherlands, who overnight just got knocked out, it does however mean that the points championship WILL come down to the final Feature Race as none of the final 3 eligible teams should be able to clinch the championship with a Sprint Race win.

I imagine many of the teams will just be happy for this season and all its craziness to just be over; and many fans, teams and more will be very interested to see how A1GP moves forward from this horribly rocky season. Lets at least hope they are done with chassis changes (that knock teams out who don't get pieces/parts in time), and lets REALLY hope they are done with booking venues that are not yet completed; and lets look forward to one final weekend of hopefully good racing.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Filling the Spectrum of Possibilities

Ok, I was thinking all morning about how to make the appropriate Brewers joke for this piece; and after all that thinking, there need not be a joke:
The Brewers have traded a player to the Detroit Tigers in return for nothing!

No wonder their fans are pissed off when we called them good.

Now from the world of, holy cow will anything ever go right, news. We've reported here in the past on how A1GP has lost their race in Indonesia, the cars almost got stuck in Malaysia, Mexico city got double booked with a Radiohead concert, then Mexico City got canceled all together, then Canada was getting a race, then Canada wasn't getting a race, then Mexico city got a new date and track to become the new '08-'09 finale on the same day as the Indy 500.... well as you guessed, here is more silly news via A1GP.

As you may or may not have heard; there was a possible reported breakout of a bad virus in Mexico since early March; but as of yet it had not been entirely proven. Now though it seems as though officials are starting to connect the dots on some unfortunate people who have passed, from what looks to all be a result of this virus, and they are now testing more, and closing down schools, museums and beginning a giant vaccination campaign to get it under control.

In short, the motorsports world is expecting an announcement from A1GP next weekend at Brands Hatch, that the U.K. leg will be the final leg of A1GP's '08-'09 season with the cancellation of Mexico City due to the medical outbreak. At this point, one would have to assume that A1GP or at least the teams just want this season to be over with so they can wait for a more concrete, hopefully, '09-'10 season.

Last time we gave a decent report on what exactly we're going to see during the month of May in the paint liveries so far. Since then we've been happily surprised at the announcements coming in from quite a few places:

-Starting with finally getting our first look at the new #67 Sarah Fisher machine. Its not a large change from her finishing 2008 look, but does have slight different like the Direct Supply and a slight bit more of yellow, and a different coloring to the back wing end-plate. Thumbs up for a unique and good looking car, and a huge thumbs up to the team for going fully all out on bringing the livery to their trailer; nothing exudes professionalism like good looking materials.

-A move in the right direction but still a little boring is Milka Duno coming to the #23 DRR entry this week with CITGO on the side. I much better like the white lettering on the blue side, because it allows the car to be more blue than r/w/b it used to be, but I'm not entirely sure how much of it just has to do with it being the scheme they had for Darren Manning/Charter thus far, and it may even change for the Month of May.

-Next we'll follow up, and are sad to report, that Marco Andretti will not be sporting a "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" livery like we wildly theorized. Instead it looks like the team will be joining the energy drink revolution with Venom Energy Drink (Dr. Pepper's energy drink) jumping on Marco's car for a majority of the rest of the season. We're EXTREMELY happy to report that the car is not red/white/blue; and are also happy to report that it definitely is unique with its black in a red puddle of blood type look.

-Next lets take a look at... holy f'n crap, Davey Hamilton's car looks freaking sweet! Unique, yes. Good Looking, hell yes! Almost 500 times better than the boring 2008 look, and still 100 times better than the 2007 look. Personally if I were HP I think I'd want a more readable logo while its on the track but that's a small issue, purely from an aesthetic view, this is definitely Top 5 in liveries of the year so far. Only wish a paint job like this were here all year. Excellent use of the rarely seen silver color, excellent use of fading, and very excellent use of sponsor colors throughout car (# being blue in front etc). We'll be hugely happy to see this car in the field.

We'll have word on it soon, but word came out that Dario is running a blue car this weekend in Kansas sponsored by Nicorette.

UPDATE: We've got a look at the Nicorette car, pretty sweet, but then again I don't think I've ever seen a TCGR livery we didn't like.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Breaking Down the Indy 500 Entry List

Firstly; we just wanted to note that you guys may have noticed that Ron Furious hasn't posted since he left our March Madness live-blogging to go welcome a new baby to his family. Well Ron's been gone so long because he's been spending all his time either at work or at the hospital as their had been some initial complications. But we're happy to report that just short of a month old now, new Baby Furious (Alana) has finally been able to go home and is doing well. Best wishes to the Furious family and looking forward to seeing Ron back on here soon enough.

So the Indianapolis 500 Entry list came out today; and unlike the most recent 500s, it contains quite a few surprises & mysteries. Even a Brewers fan could see that it is a vast pot of improvement and uncertainty as we currently look at 40 entries among 77 cars.

So lets break down this list (foregoing the 21 full timers) starting with the most predictable and ending with the ones we least expect to hit the track:

#12 - Penske - Will Power: We know for sure this entry is in the 500; but according to word via SpeedFreaks, Verizon is apparently about to announce a deal to become a ICS sponsor as well as taking on Power as a driver. So the thinking goes; is that Penske simply does not have a crew ready to man that car in Kansas next week, as the Grand Am crew who did it for Long Beach will be back in action for Grand-Am next weekend. Here's where you get to be real happy; one badass looking car!

#15 - KV Racing - Paul Tracy: I like Paul Tracy for one great reason; he is great marketing. He stirs up crap with other people, says controversial things, makes controversial moves on the track, but at the end of the day; he can in fact drive a car when he wants to. The only extremely poor thing about this entry, is that the paint job sucks. Red/White/Blue blah.

#34 - Conquest Racing - TBA: This car might be TBA on that list but its Alex Tagliani; lets not kid ourselves.

Full-Timer Note Number A: We're absolutely thrilled that Luczo/Dragon's Matos entry will be showing its amazing Air Force paint livery for the 500. If you missed this paint scheme, take it from us; it is easily one of the best... ever.

#67 - Sarah Fisher Racing - Sarah Fisher: no surprises here, and no pay-evasion sponsor for Sarah; here's hoping she has a good Kansas to help them lead into a good month of May.

#16 - Panther - Scott Sharp: The gloriously awesome paint livery of Patron Tequila returns. Oh and Scott Sharp is back too; seriously though, great to have Scott back, a former pole winner, and multiple race winner; this is surely not an also-ran; and better yet; I'll be curious to see how they differentiate the livery from that of Mr. Viso's #13.

#41 - Foyt-Greer Racing - A.J. Foyt IV: This entry is of no surprise as A.J. IV has been hanging out with the Foyt team all year. What is of note is this "Greer" name in his team's title. Anyone know anything about this? And boy, we can;t wait for this boring red/white/blue predictable livery. Here's holding out a faint shred of hope that maybe we can even get the Conseco livery back to the Foyt team...

#43 - Petty/Dreyer Reinbold Racing - John Andretti: The car looks great, and its great to see the Petty connection (even if behind the scenes its in name only). Personally I wish John would go full time, he may be a little older than the young guys in the league, but he clearly proved he still belongs in an Indycar last year consistently putting the Roth Racing entry in the Top 10.

#44 - Dreyer Reinbold Racing/Kingdom - Davey Hamilton: Whatever you think about Kingdom's involvement in racing to begin with, they are really nothing more than Petty's name on the other DRR entry; only Petty's name mention garners national press. I love Davey as a racer, and he's a great analyst, a nice guy, came back from tremendous adversity and as we've said before, the Hamilton family carpooled with Mrs. Wedge growing up. Take any reason you want and root for the guy; here's just hoping his paint-livery is something worthy of HP and not the boring bland and unreadable thing he ran in 2008.

#99 - Ganassi/Schmidt - Alex Lloyd: We like it when drivers get the shot they deserve, and it is very nice to see Lloyd get a shot again. even nicer is seeing him get that shot with a Ganassi partnership with the ever-successful Schmidt team that Lloyd himself has history with, winning a Lights championship with them. As always we hope he (and Howard etc) can get themselves into full-time rides, but for now, we're just hoping the paint-scheme on this car is half as awesome as Lloyd ran in 2008.

And now for the TBAs

#8 - KV Racing - TBA: Most people are quick to put Oriol Servia in this car, as he was known to be working with KV to get in the car full time before the season. He sure is a possibility, but surely take of note that Townsend Bell was seen hanging out in the KV Racing pits all weekend in Long Beach.

#22 - Vision/Bryan Herta Autosport - TBA: We see this one happening, Bryan is not one to do anything non-committal & with a successful Lights team gaining sponsorship as they go, we don;t see any trouble for him to field this car, and especially not with Vision's assistance. (side-note: loving the Vision 20, 21, 22 # progression) Whoever may end up in this car, I'm sure we'll all be happy because Bryan isn't looking to field a ride buyer, just look at his FIL program. Personally we (and many many others) are wishing Bryan puts himself in the car; he's always run well at the 500; and he got a bum dismissal from the league to make way for Danica at AGR. And we're definitely hoping the livery for the car resembles or is at least equally as awesome as the BHA Lights entry.

#19 - DCR - TBA: Before last week we'd have put this entry lower on the list; but with Z-Line Designs coming back on board with DCR to sponsor Justin Wilson for the full season; we really like the chances of seeing a Sonny's BBQ #19 out there, and most likely with Bruno Junquiera; as Paul Tracy (the only other driver we know of Coyne talking to) is already signed, plus Bruno and Coyne's history.

#23 - Dreyer Reinbold Racing - TBA: Just about anyone would normally dismiss the idea of DRR going from 1 full time to 4 cars for the month of May. Think about that, it sounds silly; but because of a couple things we see it as pretty likely. First, Roger Yasukawa is already signed to run with DRR in Motegi, and said he was close to securing sponsorship for a 500 run. Second Darren Manning has already run 2 races with the team, and the car had sponsorship on it for both races. Third.... Milka... like it or not; while she may not have the money to run a full season with Newman/Haas/Lanigan, she very likely has all the money she needs to fund a Month of May (probably without even needing a sponsor); and she's definitely got the history with DRR.

Full-Timer Note #B: Marco Andretti is listed as "Andretti Green" right now. Does this mean Marco may actually be unsponsored for the 500? No way right? I have a feeling they're waiting to unfold the new Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen car. Seriously, would that surprise anyone? It'd be his 3rd movie car, and better yet would work nicely with the new VERSUS transforming IndyCars intro.

#25 - Roth Racing - To Be Announced as Marty Roth: Seriously who does Marty think he's kidding? He's funded his own racing career for years, he threatened to pull his team when he was getting black flagged, and its known he likely pulled the 2-car team out of the series full time to get revenge for a rumor of black flagging him for some races in the season. Are we seriously to believe that entry is TBA? Besides, Marty's got to keep going in setting the record for most Last Row Parties.

#36 - Conquest/Rubicon - TBA: Normally I'd just slot Buddy Rice here because of his previous agreement with Rubicon; and the talk that Rubicon likely came to Conquest's services with Buddy attached; but remember none of that has been reported in stone. I'd still lean to Buddy Rice being 80% in that entry with Jaime Camara at 20% due to his history with the team and that his amount of money attached in sponsorship may very well be enough to bring for a Month of May.

#48 Foyt - TBA: and now for the unexpected. We knew Foyt would put up an entry for Anthony IV; but surely no one expected a 3rd Foyt entry, right? Foyt is definitely not one to waste money on throwing in an entry, and surely not one to throw in an entry for both a car and a backup. So I'd expect this one to show up at least as a 2nd weeker, likely with Jeff Simmons who Foyt has a little relationship with; and beyond that maybe some up and coming driver to surprise us or Indy Lights driver Pablo Donoso, who if we all remember was announced in South America to be driving full time for Foyt last year, though it never happened.

#52 - Roth - TBA: Roth putting up the familiar #25 entry is not a shock in the slightest. However given the crap treatment he gave Jay Howard, dropping him mid May and then sweeping out the rug for the rest of the season; this 2nd entry sure is out of left field for us. Could this entry be an apology to Jay Howard? Will howard be doing the Freedom 100/Indy 500 double, that to date, only Jeff Simmons has attempted? John Andretti is already taken, so other than Jay, we really have no reading whatsoever on this entry.

#91 - Hemelgarn - TBA: If history tells us anything, its that Ron Hemelgarn doesn't screw around with the entry list. He means it, even if they only enter one car without a backup. We'd also expect to see Buddy Lazier in this entry, and we'd even expect to see it in the traditional 91 purple with yellow/white.

#68 - Fisher - TBA: Of all the entries that show up on the list, this one has to strike me and the most surprising. Sarah herself is only doing 4-6 races as it is, and I can't imagine they already have many spare tubs to sacrifice a practice crash befall them. That said, they put up the money it takes to at least get this entry on the list. So who can you see in it? Anyone I guess; she was talking to Darren Manning pre-season, but Darren A) doesn't bring a check, and B) may likely be in the DRR #23. Your guess is as good as mine as to who ends up here.

#17 - RLR - TBA: And finally, the Rahal Letterman "entry". Now while many people might think we're silly for putting this one last on the list of probability, think about the following.
A) Bobby Rahal over the past 4 years, would rather watch his son race than run his team; not that its a bad thing.
B) RLR clearly is not in this just for the love of motorsports; what do we mean? RLR is not going to field an entry if it doesn't make financial sense.
C) While RLR has majorily been supported by driver-sponsorships, they have never really run a driver simply based on sponsorship alone; e.g. a ride-buyer. And I really doubt RLR is suddenly going to bring in a Milka just to have an entry in the field.
D) When's the last time you remember a RLR driver running under a sponsorship of RLR's doing? Hunter/Reay & Simmons both ran under EPIC that the late Paul Dana brought to the team; Scott Sharp brought Patron; Danica brought Argent Mortgage that covered her and buddy Rice; Vitor brought along Menards & Paul Dana had EPIC. So before all that was Centrix maybe?

I'd love to be proven wrong, a lot of people speculate that Buddy Rice may end up back in this entry, and that'd be great because Buddy didn't leave on the best of terms, but lets wait until it happens before we start discussing it. If this entry does end up happening though, We'll be very curious to see what the car looks like because one thing is for sure, RLR has never given us a boring paint scheme.


So with all of that said, what is the most surprising thing to us? There is no 2nd Team 3G entry? It could mean many things, 3G only has a 'T' car to put Tomas Scheckter in? 3G and Tomas have called off all talks? Tomas has moved his/Rockstar's money/negotiations to another team? Rockstar has dropped Tomas altogether? Who knows, but unless 3G plans on dropping the T car into an entry for Tomas (which can be hard on teams at times), its curious to know what's going on there...

The best thing to note from all of this? We have 28 confirmed combinations as it is, and 6-7 more that will likely be confirmed in the next week without surprise. If both Milka Duno and Marty Roth or anyone else who some feel are questionable in talent they will have nothing to complain about. With at worst, possible 3-4 cars vying for that final spot, and at best a possible 7-8 cars going for it; there will not be anyone making it in the field by default.

And at the end of the day, that's something I think we can all enjoy.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Beauty of the Interweb: Driver Trash Talking & Wagering               and the Possibility of Tony Kanaan With an Afro

We here at FW embrace just about most parts of the Internet and especially Web 2.0; through this site itself, but also Twitter, RSS feeds, and of course tracking all our sports and athletes, drivers, writers and more...

And this kind of thing, my friends, is the epitome of what it is all about: drivers trash talking through their online blog/journal/column & now bets! In this case its friends Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti, and every bit as entertaining as we start with Tony:
"One of the guys that got by me near the end was my old friend Dario. That guy…

I was at dinner with him the other night, and somebody approached me at the table and asked me for my autograph, and he didn't even recognize him sitting next to me.
I said to myself, 'Come on, this guy is Dario Franchitti. The Indianapolis 500 champion, Series champion, and he’s Ashley Judd’s husband.'

So that made me wonder,
'What's wrong with him?' And I’ve figured it out: It's his bloody hair! So my plan is, and I'm going to reveal this here to my readers…I’m going to pull a ‘Jackass’ move on him. I’m going grab my clippers and approach him on the drivers meeting and just go, BAM, right in the middle of his forehead. A big patch of hair, GONE! And then he's going to have to cut it.

Right now he's using a 3X helmet just because of the freaking hair. I'm going to take care of that.
It's not going to be with scissors either, because it would take me too long; it's going to be the clipper, the same way I do my hair. I’m going to get him.

You know, even better, I'm going to propose a bet between me and him that we’ll probably switch: The first time he wins a race he has to shave his head, and the first time I win a race I won't cut my hair until I win again."

Followed by Dario's accepting:

"Finally, I see my little Brazilian friend is talking trash about me in his column. You sure want to make that bet, TK? You’ve heard it here first, I accept. Absolutely. It’s on!

The thing is, you guys have all seen me with a shaved head but you've never seen Tony with his full afro. When Tony lets his hair grow he's got the world's biggest 'fro. A giant disco afro, at that. It’s unreal. Looks like an oversized costume wig.
I’m definitely going to go win this one."

I don't know about you guys; but I'm hoping Dario wins this one so we can get some Kannan-Afro. And now with Dario, Kanaan, Justin Wilson AND Will Power all doing journal/columns, plus A.J. Foyt too!! Then add in Hunter-Reay, Mario Moraes, Tomas Scheckter, Vision, HVM, Conquest, Rubicon with Twitter accounts and Stanton Barrett with a blog too; what could possibly be next...?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Increasing Bump-Day Stress

In the past weeks we've certainly fielded news and rumors about possible teams participating in the IndyCar Series. In the past week though, we've gotten 3 more confirmations of Indy 500 "one-off" entries.

#1 Came from IMS Radio Driver/Analyst Davey Hamilton, who confirmed on Mike King's weekly Trackside radio show that he will in fact be participating in his 3rd straight Indy 500 since coming back from his horrific crash. While he didn't name the team, he did assert that his deal is signed and confirmed, and the team will be announcing the deal next weekend at the IndyCar race in Long Beach. Lets hope whoever it is; has some more artistic touch than his last car with Vision Racing (See above right); and hopefully at least as good as his first one with Vision (see left).

#2 Comes from a guy just as likable as Davey, in that of John Andretti. Andretti will be racing a Richard Petty/Dreyer & Reinbold partnered car. Now whether or not you want to debate how involved Petty really is, is a matter of 'who gives a crap'. John Andretti proved time and again last season that he still has what it takes by contending in the Top 10 on multiple occasions in the not-as-prepared Roth Racing 2nd car. To boot, the car itself looks amazing (even if it doesn't have the traditional STP sponsorship to go along with the day-glo red and Petty-blue.

#3 Very much like the Andretti-Petty entry will bring some great paint-livery-uniqueness in the return of a Patron Tequila sponsored car, with driver Scott Sharp being announced as a 500 teammate for Dan Wheldon. Sharp will still be doing the ALMS race at Miller Motorsports Park (as Briscoe did in 2007) so its good that he's with a Panther than an also ran, because he needs to be qualifying in the 1st weekend. With talk that Scott, Gil De Ferran and Adrian Fernandez are all considering leaving ALMS, or at least expanding their racing orginaztions, to run full time in IndyCar; this announcement just gives creedence to the notion as we are likely watching a testing of the waters.

With the down competition in ALMS and the still randomness of their TV broadcasts being delayed and all over the networks; sponsors like Patron may be looking at the amount of VERSUS ICS coverage and wanting to go where the stability is, while the manufacturers would sure not like to be in 2 series with no manufacturer competition; and if they had to pick one, I'm guessing they'd like to at least be in the one with at minimum 22 cars in competition on the track while the ALMS Prototype classes are fielding a whole 3 per class.

All that said, I'm just curious how the Panther/Patron car will look as E.J. Viso's new ride does somewhat resemble the old #8 Patron car. Plus... this announcement gives us an excuse to attach this video:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Look at IndyCar's Weekend in St. Petersburg

What a great weekend to start the 2009 IndyCar Season! Rather than wax poetic, lets just get right into our notes from the weekend:

-Only one ‘Junior’ has won this year and it wasn’t the one making all the dough. Congratulations to Junior Strous, and car owner Paul Diatlovich, for winning not one, but both of the Indy Lights races in St. Petersburg. Neither win come by fruition of a pole position or superior car; but they do definitely give him a pretty substantial 28 point lead over 2nd place Jonathan Summerton and 3rd place James Hinchcliffe.

-There were two key overtones this race weekend; one we’ll get to later; but the second most notable thing… parity at last! Congrats to Ryan Briscoe and Team Penske, slightly familiar for sure but.... while there are many races to go, including the aerodynamic ovals; take this in for a second: The IndyCar Top 10 included 9 different teams! Some of it was a result of on-track incidents, but it was pretty clear that more than even 7-8 non-Big 3 drivers are serious contenders on, at least, the road courses.

-No timed races! The official time of the race was 2:12:01. What does that mean? That means had this run through ABC/ESPN the race would have ended somewhere near the 70-80 lap mark instead of the full 100. Just another reason to shake VERSUS’ hand.

-Sunday’s track action was certainly a change from Friday and Saturday. I’m not sure if it was the heat and humidity; or simply pent up aggression, after a long off-season, but there was certainly a lot more sliding & colliding in Indy Lights and IndyCar both on Sunday. Saturday’s Lights race saw only 2 caution flags for a total of 6 laps while Sunday’s race had 6 cautions over 18 laps. The trend continued in IndyCar with 7 cautions over 28 laps.

There were certainly more ‘marbles’ on the course than usual which was most attributed to the brutal heat/humidity; but there were also some curious moves by some very antsy drivers; to which we can only say to IndyCar: start the season sooner so these guys don’t get so bottled up!

Some incidents can easily be chalked up to “racing incidents” like the first turn melee; and some might even be able to justify Matos’ attempt on Danica, even if it was too late in the turn; but I just don’t know what Alex Tagliani thought he saw when he booted Marco Andretti in the late race incident.

-Robert Doornobs recovered from an earlier tangle suspension problem, to pass Stanton Barrett on the final lap to take the Rookie of the Year points lead. Yes that’s how crazy drivers got. Slow, steady and learning Stanton Barrett managed to finish two spots outside of the Top 10 simply by finishing! To all those aggressive guys out there, the energy and aggressiveness is great but remember, in order to finish first; first you must finish.

-For those who missed the post race interviews, Darren Manning finished the race on a flat tire!? Please note that Darren did not finish last in the running order. That is to say, Darren held off Vitor Meira with a flat tire; how’s that for sticking it to the team that let you go? We can only hope that Darren, arguably the funniest driver in IndyCar since Bryan Herta, can turn that Top 10 into another race, and another race, and another…

-Speaking of post-race, lets get to what was clearly the star of the show on Saturday and Sunday. VERSUS has, in one race, become a contender for the best motorsports coverage, period.

We got the appropriate amount of pre-qualifying & post qualifying coverage; 45 minutes of pre-race and 20 minutes of post race for an already overtime race. Not too much that it got boring (See NASCAR’s over 4 hours of pre-race), and not too little that we begged for more. I counted post-race driver interviews all the way down to 8th place; and those weren't a rushed quick comment type either.

The crew on the microphones hit maybe one or two snags here and there working out some audio bugs, but overall it was Grade A work, from the great discussions between Buhl and Beekhus or from Jenkins being comfortable enough to let the technical experts be the experts yet expressing the excitement of the action, to the ‘new’ pit crew proving to everyone that they have the chops to do those jobs even if the internet hadn’t “heard” of them before.

The video itself was stunning, in a better HD format than I’ve seen any other racing done; and they did the one thing so many people can’t figure out; they covered ALL the action of a road course race from all the angles that made sense and really got the sense of the action across to the viewer. Reportedly VERSUS brought somewhere near 21 cameras to cover St. Pete; and they used them all extremely well, with shots lower and in spots I’d never seen before from ABC/ESPN; my particular favorite was the flyover shots that followed the field. I don’t think there was a track incident that didn’t have a camera on it, and most action had 2 and 3 angles.

The general best part of the coverage is that from the cameramen, to producers, to the announcers; everyone with VERSUS is genuinely excited to be covering races, and it shows. Versus president Jamie Davis was actually on hand and had this and much more to say:

"When I walk around, watching the excitement and passion the fans have for the sport, it gets my adrenaline going to want to jump even higher and go even deeper to really give (the series) coverage like it's never seen before, that's why I think it's only the beginning because as we start doing this I think the fan base will continue to grow more and more, and as it grows that will get us going even faster to build that enthusiasm."

IndyCar Series and fans… congratulations you have a great partner.

Pictures by

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Coloring Up For The Start of IndyCar Racing in 2009

For those not so familiar with the term, in the great game of tournament poker; players are always amassing great amounts of chips as other get eliminated. But as the tournament goes on the chip stacks get very big and start to get cluttered and disorganized as players want to bet $10,000, but are tired of needing to use 100 of their $100 chips. So tournament officials will stop the tournament for a 'color up' break & organize everyone's chip stacks and get rid of 100 of those $100 chips and in place give the player a new $10,000 chip. With IndyCar news being amassed with all the constant news and reports from twitter, messageboards and the like; we could use a little coloring up of our own as team trailers start to arrive in St. Petersburg for the opening weekend.

--So first things first: We've learned via Brant James at the St. Petersburg Times that Milka Duno may likely be done in IndyCar for all intents and purposes as it looks as though Citgo has told her no mas. Now of course Milka may find new sponsorship elsewhere and be able to go shopping with that, but until that happens its extremely doubtful any team would want to hire a 37 year old driver who still needs quite a bit of development without a big check coming in to the team.

--From that same report we can also learn that it looks like Rahal-Letterman Racing may not even be at the Indy 500 due to lack of sponsorship. Some might be shocked, but honestly, with most of RLR's previous history of sponsors coming via their drivers, and the many bridges that seem to be burned when drivers come out of RLR, maybe it shouldn't be too shocking?

--Via way of Conquest Racing's official team Twitter, we've learned that Alex Tagliani will be the pilot of their car in St. Petersburg. Does it mean he's got the full season? Is Northlands going to be a sponsor for the whole season? Not sure really as the release only says for St. Pete. I have a feeling that Conquest 2009 may look a lot like Panther Racing circa 2006; not only with rotating sponsors & a great veteran driver... but orange car to boot!

Considering Panther took down seven Top 5s and three 6th places that year; and also transformed the team into what it is now with full sponsorship in ICS and Indy Lights, I don't think Conquest would mind mimicking Panther's 2006.

--Adding another car to the ICS field at St. Petersburg will be Dreyer & Rienbold Racing with vetern driver Darren Manning. So far this is for one race, but no matter the circumstance its great to see Darren Manning in the field after he proved he's still got some chops at this years Rolex 24 of Daytona. Its also interesting to see Panther and D&R going to all British line-ups.

--We also learn from Curt Cavin's report that while Tomas Scheckter will not be making it to St. Pete, he will be making the rest of the season, starting with Long Beach, with Team 3G alongside new rookie teammate Stanton Barrett; which will ikely give Stanton a much needed teammate to bounce questions off of and help speed up his learning process.

--The one (and maybe only) unfortunate news to not come through in time for the season is the lack of Rubicon Race team with driver Buddy Rice, who they were looking to run for a full season this year after merging their operation with Pacific Coast Motorsports.

--The most notable things about St. Petersburg's opening weekend? The Indy Racing League is bringing 50 cars with its 2 series this weekend! If anyone is disappointed in that kind of showing, they are crazy. In the Indy Lights we are getting -28 Cars/drivers! -18 rookies -25 different hometown cities represented -13 nations & 6 U.S.A. states represented. And with a gigantic smorgasbord of sponsors including Le bleu, National Guard, Lucas Oil, Healthy Choice, Shell & Celebfilms, we are sure to get a great variation in paint schemes on the cars.

The IndyCar Series is looking at one of its strongest ever fields in depth of talent. From top to bottom, I would not be at all surprised with any driver in the field pulling off a win this year, with the exception of maybe Stanton Barrett. 15 of last years Top 18 in points are returning (with 2 likely returning later in Helio and Rice) and 3 in the rookie class are winners in multiple of their former series.

And for the people who might be quick to associate Stanton Barrett as a Roth/Duno type; I'd quickly point to how well he did at his Homestead testing & stock car experience... and if you check out his great blog at Interush Racing you can see he is not only eccentric, but a quick study and very enthusiastic about the opportunity. Give that team Tomas Scheckter to help with car setups and pointers for Stanton, and he should be off the bottom of the stack occasionally sooner than later.

--And speaking of social networking; it is great to see so many teams, drivers, tracks and more embracing twitter. We get to learn neat things from what Vision & HVM Racing were working on during testing, to what guys are doing on their days off; from Mario Moraes taking in some tennis at the Sony Erikson Open to Bryan Herta's profound "So far, BH 2, fish 0".

If you are interested in following any of these guys; just head on over to the Furious Wedge twitter page and check out who we are following and add us & them.

--And speaking of the depth of talent of the IRL, it looks as it may continue to go up. We've recently reported on Gil De Ferran admitting he is likely to go IndyCar racing in the near future; and we can now add Adrian Fernandez Racing to that list (along with Patron/Scott Sharp). Adrian Fernandez is an incredibly nice guy and a great driver.. and past winner. On top of all that though, I'd really look forward to any car he brings back into the series and we all know he has always sported some of the best looking cars in any series.

Update: I'm not sure what happened to the first link about AFR; it looks like that site is down, but I've updated the above to include just the one working link also covering the story. Unfortunately that article is considerably shorter and lacking as many details and quotes but still something.

And speaking of paint schemes on cars; lets get into the pun part of our headline; and do our annual Furious Wedge traditional season preview of the most important things... what exactly you are going to see: the cars and their paint jobs.

Ryan Briscoe & Will Power Penske Racing's #3 & 6: Few would argue against the similarities between Penske Racing and the New York Yankees. They are both quite consistently winners and contenders, and both are heavaily steeped in traditions. When you play for the Yankees, you lose all your facial hair and don the pinstripes; when you race for Penske you loose those crazy color schemes on your helmet for the Red and White. Some may call it boring that you do not see variations in the paint schemes, but you will always know which cars are the Penskes, and which team is the Yankees.

Scott Dixon & Dario Franchitti: Ganassi's #9 & 10: Red & White AND Green and White!? If Penske Racing is the Yankees, surely Target Chip Ganassi Racing is the Red Sox. A team with much history, but never afraid to throw in special days, like the green Red Sox uniforms or TCGR's Energizer/Polaroid paint jobs.

While we commend TCGR for giving one car white endplates and the other red normally, they could always use something, and we're doing absolute flips over the newly announced Green and White AirWick paint job that Dario will be sporting this weekend! We look forward to that and hopefully many more race specific paint from Polaroid, Energizer and more to get us a fresh look from the constant red and white.

ARG's Tony Kanaan #11, Hideki Mutoh #27, Danica Patrick #7 & Marco Andretti #26: While 3/4 of the AGR lineup is holding to a similar if not exact scheme from 2008, we do still expect some variations from the #11 just as we got last year with the fun blue and yellow liveries. Danica's paint job is still one of the most distinct in the field and looks good, while Mutoh's is a bit on the bland, blah red/white/blue; its not terrible; but luckily for him some of the past r/w/b cars seem to be changing up a little.

Marco Andretti however is going to be sporting a whole new look... which was quite common for him as he went through maybe 7-8 different looks in 2008. We're not sure if they were inspired by the A1GP Team USA car but unfortunately in our eyes, the car has succumbed to the spell of Red/White/Blue; and we've yet to really see it on the track when they get blurry, but at least standing still you can tell a difference; for now not quite a thumbs up, but more positive than negative.

Dan Wheldon #4 - Panther Racing: I'm already struggling to remember that Dan is in the #4 this year and Vitor is not, but one thing is for sure. Of all Red/White/Blue paint jobs, this one is clearly the best one ever done. Firstly they've gone for the navy and crimson sharper colors than the bland and basic blue and red, secondly they evenly apply all 3 colors. My favorite part about the new 2009 look is the return of the actual panther to the engine cowling. Maybe it's a sign of this team's return to championship contention.

Graham Rahal #02 & Robert Doornbos #06 - Newman Haas Lanigan: Graham Rahal has simply moved to the 02 car with the McDonalds livery. It looks good, unfortunately is covered in red, but at least its accented with yellow and quite a distinguishable logo. Robert Doornbos on the other hand is really a question mark. We're not really sure what is going to be on the car. It had "Bobby D" and a basic color for the Homestead test, but we'll wait until we see a car in St. Pete to add him in.

Ed Carpenter #20 & Ryan Hunter-Reay #21 - Vision Racing: Some may think of the #20 as ugly and blinding, but here at FW we LOVE it; it has the 2 most important things we look for: it is a unique idea, and it is definitely distinct from the competition! One thing is certain.. no one will EVER mistake Ed Carpenter's car for another in the field. Menards sponsored cars have always had their share of the day-glo yellow; but never has one been so covered in it. However for 2009, with the loss of DirecTV and the addition of Eli-Lilly & SONAX to the car the car's blue accents have become red.

I liked the blue a little better but it is nothing too drastic; and does it really matter anyway? Will anyone will even be able to see the red in motion while scrambling for their sunglasses to not be blinded by the eclipse? RHR's car is honestly a mystery as they are said to announce sponsorship after St. Pete, so it looks like St. Pete will simply see Vision's former #2 Gray and Red with the vision logo; its clearly boring, but here's to hoping that once the new sponsors are announced the car gets lively.

Mario Moraes #5 - KV Racing: Moraes moves into the #5 this season and not much has changed with the car itself except for the addition of Vorantim as a sponsor on the engine cowling and wings. I still like this paint job, as it is both unique and distinct.

#13 E.J. Viso - HVM Racing: The car will look roughly the same as it did in 2008, which is great, its clearly stands out from the rest; but with one great change, no more #33, instead now #13. Viso wanted the #, because he doesn't consider it bad luck, and we love nothing more than when people go against the #13 superstition. From the conflicts over last year the #13 is almost perfectly appropriate that E.J. likes it yet all his competitors want to avoid the #13; now they get another reason to avoid the #13.

#2 Raphael Matos - Luczo Dragon Racing: We're not entirely sure if this will be the same car is was in 2008 with the great yellow and black look with Symantec sponsorship. If it is we will continue our approval; but with the car going all black and then red in testing, we're not really sure what to expect; but are really... really hoping it does not go the way of red.

#14 Vitor Meira - A.J. Foyt Racing: One thing is for sure when it comes to the #14. It's boring, its plain and hasn't changed in quite a while. I miss the days of the Foyt White/Red/Orangish cars. Its not that the paint job is entirely boring on its own, its just that there is nothing really distinct about it except the logo on the side pod. I guess you could at least attribute the sameness in a category with Penske and Target & most AGR's in that we definitely know which car is the Foyt each year. I'm mostly worried about this car and Marco's new livery together ont he track.

#19 Justin Wilson - Dale Coyne Racing: I know what you are thinking "ugh another red and white" yes true, but let me tell you why I like this car. It is covered in white with red accents, and I have never mistaken this car for another in the field. So while I forgive them for giving in to the susceptible red and white, I will always take the Sonny's Bar-B-Q white and red with much more ease than say adding another car to the field covered in red, lets just hope they don't get the idea to add a splash of blue.

#34 Alex Tagliani - Conquest Racing: Like some others, we're not entirely sure what this car will look like, but if it resembles what they had in testing (see top of article), we'll take it ok. The orange look certainly worked for Panther as noted above; and it would be easy to tell the car from others, but lets hope with their sponsors it might bring in some styling/stripes etc.

#24 Mike Conway - Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: D&R for many years as fallen victim to the horrible red/white/blue monstor of non-defined cars. Year in and year out I had no idea how to know the difference in all the r/w/b cars and D&Rs. D&R not only broke the spell cast on them of bland, blah cars, they told r/w/b to shove it with this awesome new bright blue covered and yellow Dad's Root Beer logo. I love me some root beer, as it is, but if Dad's is responsible for breaking the r/w/b spell at D&R they deserve congratulations even much more! We can only hope the 2nd D&R entry for Darren Manning loosk half as good.

#98 Stanton Barrett - Team 3G: Greg Beck is no stranger to racing, and certainly no stranger to giving us pretty distinct looks, so when coming back to IndyCar full time, why would it be any different now? As far as being distinct and unique, this bright & clear livery is almost the class of the field. We got a preview of this look last Motegi, and with some slight changes, and much better use of the Interush logo, you will surely know this car on the grid. We'll even give them bonus points for the red tip either signifying the need for red or maybe even symbolism of the blood of the red cars on their nose.

We are ready to crown the #98 Interush Racing - Team 3G entry as the class of the field for now (subject to further change as we go through) for now let us open up the 2009 IndyCar Season... finally!

Pictures by & Speed Realm Photography