Monday, June 29, 2009

Notes from the IndyCar Series weekend at Richmond International Raceway

Well, I finally got out to my first track of 2009… wow has it really been since last July at Nashville that I visited a track!? Well Nashville as would have it, was just 1 month before I found out I was moving across the country; one move, one housing market crash, and many months later, I was finally settled and got myself to a track.

As luck would have it, fellow blog-writers Will McCarty & Chris Estrada were there too this weekend; good guys & great writers, check out their stuff if you haven’t already. Many good conversations were had, good pictures taken, and best of all, putting faces to names. Favorite quote of it all came from Will pondering about all us bloggers: “wasn’t there somebody who live-blogged the entire 24 Hours of Daytona?”

Heck yeah there was! Only the finest and craziest ideas from the folks here at FW, just wait till we announce the plans to push the envelope for Blogathon 2010!

But back to Richmond, which much resembled Texas 2009 in a lot of ways: both were at night, both had a lot of action and passing during practice, and both became parades during racetime. Many people have talked about the issue(s) & possible solutions; personally there was something at RIR things I didn’t see at Texas that tells me how bad, how dire, and how immediate of a problem this will be if it doesn’t get fixed.

While I spent Friday as a member of the media, attempting to follow the conversations of the 4 Japanese media members, I spent most of Saturday as a fan, entertaining some family & friends as guests at the race. Saturday was spent through the parking lots, front gate, pedestrian tunnel access and most importantly, with paid tickets and paid garage passes. Personally I felt embarrassed after all the excited convincing I did to get friends out there for an IndyCar Race. Lucky for me they all still had a good time regardless of the lack of track action, they were more intrigued to be attending their first race and enjoying the garage access.

They still had all had a very good time, including Mrs. Wedge who was also astonished by Tony Kanaan's current quest as a wingman, to help out his teammate; or as she put it: "Hideki is hot! How does he not have a girlfriend!?"

There was also a lot of amusement when seeing these great crews in action in the garage, and especially after learning of the IndyCar Series / Apex Brasil super secret funnel device for fueling the cars... yes, that is, in fact, a sawed off 5 gallon water jug top.

The same satisfaction can’t be said for the fans I saw leaving the track in very large numbers, with 100 laps to go! I would estimate that by the checkered flag that at least 30% of the fans had already left the track. That is NOT good.

Many drivers apologized to the fans, and did so on TV and over the PA system at the track in post-race interviews, and its great to know that they think there is an issue at hand. Surprisingly enough, Terrell Owens has not yet gone on record apologizing for it yet.

I attended the “unpassable” Nashville SuperSpeedway in 2008 and I saw MUCH more passing there than I did in Richmond. In fact the “problem” with Nashville was the track grip lending itself to act like a road course, with passes taking a few laps to setup and execute, and also loss of position if you failed to make your pass. But to say Nashville lacked passing is inaccurate, especially if you keep in mind the Indy Lights race with passing all over the place.

However, I think to say that ICS at RIR 2009 lacked any passing Saturday, it would be entirely accurate. If you remove the restarts and the 2-3 laps after each, there were absolutely 0 passes made on the track, and that is no exaggeration. No one could pass and it surely wasn’t by lack of effort, I must have watched Marco Andretti attempt the 2nd groove upwards of 50 times only to have it cause a giant wiggle and save; and the same happened to any other driver who tried, from Hideki Mutoh being unable to get past the slow Mario Moraes, to Dario being unable to take advantage of Mutoh’s failed passes and lost momentum, guys simply could not get alongside another car without losing their car.

Now I’m not going to harp on about this; we all know there’s something going on, but I will say that the USAC race before ICS had passing, some took time and setup, some happened easily, but there was passing. There was also plenty passing and action during the Indy Lights race at Nashville last year & Indy this year & Kansas this year. So we can rule out this being track issues.

So what has changed? To me it seems as simple as options being taken away. We have 1 engine, 1 chassis, 1 tire, 1 wheelbase, 1 wing angle, 1 sidepod shape and many other aspects that are mandated at certain shapes, lengths, & angles.

There is nothing wrong with formula and option regulation, but there is something wrong with too many mandated specifications. Grand Am is known as a very tight ruled series, yet teams still have over 4 chassis providers and engines to try from, and even after that, they can try many other options & modifications on the car…so how about the quick and easy ones:

1- Open up Mirror modification.
2- Inverse the pit selection
3- Go back to a wheelbase range, instead of one mandated length
4- Open up wing angles to a range instead of 1 mandated angle
5- Give teams the option to run the air-flap in front of the rear wheel or not, and modifications
6- Change the fuel knob to have only 3 settings: A) yellow, B) green full rich & C) green lean; and make sure there is a decent difference between the HP produced between B & C
7- Allow teams to experiment with exhaust exit angles/shapes

As far as pit selection goes; we know Brian Barnhart has said random selection can cause incidents; and he’s right but aren’t we all professionals here? Even if so, there is a simple solution to that. Inverse the entire field; 1st in points gets the last pit stall. It is simple, it keeps the same cars together as they are now and it could once and for all prove/disprove the 1st-pit stall assumption.

I know there are people out there who like to say that Target/Penske have faster pit times so the pit location theory is wrong, but what they fail to take into account is that a large reason for the fast pit times is short filling the fuel as a result of seeing other cars coming down the line, and then doing some fuel conservation to make up the difference; which happens quite often. If anyone is going to get a supposed advantage, let it be the teams at the bottom of the charts, who need that kind of help.

About the last one in the list, the biggest thing I noticed this weekend about the new exhaust, is how irregular it is to the aero-shape of the car. It protrudes nearly straight up (the pod, not the pipe), and there doesn’t seem to be a reason for it, maybe some guru can fill me in; but I don’t see the harm of letting teams experiment with the pipe angle and shape of the exit bump on the side pod.

What they should NOT do under any circumstance is go to a “push button power” system. That system has been tried in Champ Car & A1GP and it is not the solution. 95% of the time in those series the button is simply negated as “push to not be passed.”

And in the long term (and by that I mean between now and 2011) what needs to happen above all these; the IndyCar Series needs to openly publicize they are open to new chassis manufacturers.

The IndyCar Series can’t make chassis manufacturers magically jump in the pool, but they can definitely do they exact same thing they did last year with engine manufacturers and call a chassis summit; and find out exactly what the chassis people are looking for as incentive and make it happen. Lola, Riley, Dallara, Panoz, & many more are active in numerous series, I can’t imagine much of a reason they wouldn’t be interested in the unified series with many, many teams to align with.

Whatever is going to be done about this all; it needs to be done NOW; not with a bunch of testing of seperate things over time to see which one works best, teams need more options, and they need them now; if fans aren't waiting more than 200 laps for competition to break out, they’re not going to wait around long with only subtle changes over time.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Notes from Richmond Qualifying

-Jacques Lazier and Team 3G have a new sponsor on their sidepod, but it didn’t translate into speed unfortunately. Jacques’ 153.176mph qualifying speed was lower than all 19 other driver’s warm-up laps; and 14mph behind the pole-sitter; not sure how long Barnhart is going to let that last during the race.

-There are 5 cars between the “Big 2” and Andretti Green Racing’s Hideki Mutoh; and then another car between Mutoh and the next AGR, Danica, starting 10th with Marco & Tony Kanaan pulling up the rear in 16th & 17th. Tony had a fuel cell problem that kept him from even practice & having a setup for qualifying, but I really have no idea what snagged Marco into being a full 2mph. slower than his teammate Mutoh...?

-Robert Doornbos is definitely running a McDonalds paint scheme this weekend, for whatever reason it might be. Newman-Haas-Lanigan confirmed he’s running it but didn’t say why. If you think its confusing to tell apart the Penske cars, just wait until you try to tell apart these two, where the only difference is Doornbos running his original red/gray trimmed rear wing.

-Many props to Newman-Haas-Lanigan’s Graham Rahal who busted out as the first non-Penske/Ganassi in the field, even though he didn’t look like he had it in practice. This is certainly more of a driver's track, so here’s hoping he can keep it off the wall for this one. Doornbos also qualified a little better than his past few races with a 12th; though he is immediately followed by the aggressive Dan Wheldon and later Marco Andretti & Tony Kanaan (who had a fuel cell problem that kept him from practice).

-Dreyer & Reinbold on the rise my friends! Tomas Scheckter and Mike Conway will be starting 9th and 11th; not incredible, but certainly spots they can work with considering their aggressive styles. Especially Tomas who will likely go for setting the new all time record for cars passed in a single lap. The important thing for these 2 is that they are getting away from at least 9-11 cars that could have trouble in front of them.

-E.J. Viso was certainly a big surprise of qualifying hitting the Top 10 (7th) which may be a better sign that the #13 isn’t a complete “curse.” Race-time will tell us further about this alleged “curse.”

-Raphael Matos is one I’d look out for starting 6th. Matos may have qualified 6th, but it was largely do to a screwy first lap that was a good 3-4mph off his other 3 laps, so we know his speed is there.

-Dario is our pole winner, and he doesn’t seem at all phased by being away from this track for a year and the new distance it has now. The only concern he seemed to have in post-qualifying conference was the possibility of guys getting into single file too quickly and not rubbering in a 2nd groove, or causing the 2nd groove to become full of marbles.

-If E.J. isn’t your feel-good story, just look to Hideki Mutoh. Talk of him losing the formula Dream sponsorship/backing seem to have put some drive into him as he has now been the #1 at AGR for 2 weeks in a row, and better yet, the driving actually looks aggressive now.

-While practice and qualifying were both in the glaring sun; the teams will get a quick 30-minute session tonight so as to hopefully replicate race conditions for tomorrow night. (Green flag is at 8:45pm tomorrow night, a good 3 hours later than anything done so far yet today). It will be a definite welcome change for fans, cause it was freaking hot today, and much of the same is forecast for tomorrow.

-And in other good news for fans; I've confirmed that photographing the Vision team members in uniform does not cause mass explosion of all electronic devises, look at the car at your own risk.

A few pics between practice and qualifying

I'll have a hi-res gallery set up later, but for now... figured its not too much worth a post with little analysis, sp check out the tweets via twitter or the twitter widget to the right:

IndyCar Parity to Come Our Way at Richmond?

Well I’ve made it to the track; and the first practice is done with a few surprises. The first thing that surprised me; is just how many freaking wineries are between my place in the west D.C. area and Richmond. I kid you not I must have gone past 8 wineries. I’m not a huge wine guy, but one of them certainly sparked my interest, it was called the “Naked Winery.” I’m sure reality to whatever that really means will be a letdown, but I have to admit I’m still curious.

This being my first visit to Richmond International Raceway, I have to say it quite resembles the area surrounding Nashville & Bristol; in that it seems to be located right in the heart of a quaint little town. It was an easy drive, and an easy track to find and great foliage; it’s a bit humid but certainly nothing close to the sticky air of LSU football games.

Now onto the track activity thus far. Tows or not, this has to be one of the more surprising practice results as Hideki Mutoh topped the chart for almost the entire first hour barely edging Scott Dixon. Then after a track inspection, it looked like when everyone hit the track they went crazy in some drafting upping the earlier times but a full 1.5mph. We may have a lot of red/white Dario at the top of the charts, but its sprinkled with Matos, Scheckter, Viso, Wheldon & Mutoh all before we get to Ryan Briscoe in 9th.

Also of note; Tony Kanaan only turned 3 installation laps; so it looks like they'll be going full for the first time for qualifying.

Of course we all know to wait until qualifications; but Scheckter’s performance thus far is certainly worth noting. That is essentially the same car & personnel Milka kept at the back of the field; it looks like whatever adjustments were made at DRR over the last 2 weeks are working.

Picture via

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What more could I want?

Wedge, you can bet that I won't miss tonight's CWS game 2 featuring the LSU Tigers and the Texas Longhorns.

That game last night was incredible. There were great performances from both teams and some really clutch moments by LSU. LSU left fielder, Ryan Schmipf, started out the first inning much like most of his other CWS at bats, by completely ripping the cover off the ball. The rest of his at bats were a different story, however, as the strikeouts began to add up. ESPN consistently showed the impressive hitting stats of the Tigers 3-5 hole hitters but last night was a bit different. Besides Mikie Mahtook, who came through with a desperate poke single to right field and later the eventual game winning hit, LSU got big hit after big hit from some different faces, mainly in DJ LeMaiheu and Jared Mitchell. I don't know if it'll be possible to capture the same drama and entertainment in tonight's game 2, but I sure won't be dissapointed if it even comes close.

I agree with you on your assesment of the CWS as compared to March Madness. March Madness is a huge draw and gets tons more national recognition because it has become an phenomenon in and of itself, in large part thanks to gambling and the filling out of brackets. Even those who do not follow or appreciate basketball get into the tournament because of the brackets. This is not to say that March Madness doesn't provide their fair share of drama and heroics but to me, it doesn't compare to the aura and stories of the College World Series. Let me also add that I'm fully aware that if you're not a basebally fan, it's extremely difficult to watch, much more so than non-basketball fans watching a basketball game. But being a baseball fan, you're dead on when you state that there is a "Field of Dreams" blanket wrapped around Rosenblatt Stadium.

You rhetorically asked "what more could you want from NCAA baseball?" Well, I'd like a little more of the same and even moreso, another LSU win.

What More Could You Want From NCAA Baseball?

I've harped many times in the past, and will continue to say that the NCAA Baseball Tournament is the best in all of collegiate sports; much much better than the highly regarded March Madness which rarely delivers the kind of excitement and unexpectedness of the baseball tournament & College World Series.

First you've got underdogs actually winning multiple games consistently (not since 2003 has a top seed won it all); of course you have the Field of Dreams-esque feeling of Omaha always as the goal; but even this season where we are ending the tournament with the #1 and #3 seed; it still delivers.

3 non-top seed made it to the final 8 (Omaha) and one of them did it by being the away-underdog in every game it played (Southern Miss); about 80% of the games played have come down to the final innings; Texas themselves has thrice needed the final inning to come back and win and once took a game to a record 25 innings with Boston College. But all that aside for what fans saw last night:

-Texas starting pitcher Chance Ruffin struck out 10 allowing only 5 hits
-Longhorn batters hit 5 home runs!
-Texas also scored a run on a wild pitch
-Texas was 11-0 in games where they had multiple home runs
-and they were 39-0 in games when they had the lead going into the 9th inning...

...and yet, somehow they lost last night.

or better yet, LSU found a way to stay in the game all night with 2 home-runs, clutch hitting, base running and solid pitching & fielding. LSU most crazily went down to their final out before a 2-out/2-run double by D.J. LeMahieu to tie the game and solid pitching to take it into extra innings with a 7-6 win. We saw LSU's amazing right fielder Jared Mitchell hit possible the fastest triple I've ever seen sliding into 3rd base nearly 1.7 seconds after hitting the ball (ok I'm making that up, but that is what it felt like).

Any baseball fan would assume LSU has a stranglehold on the championship as Texas worked through a good 5 pitchers last night; but if NCAA baseball's tournament has taught us anything; it is to sit, watch and enjoy & wait until its all over.

I personally think LSU should have the upper hand now, but don't forget in 2008 the Georgia Bullgos, not only won the first game, but were ahead very late in the second game of the championship last year, and yet, Fesno State are our 2008 Champions.

Whatever happens, I don't think I'd miss it if I were you.

Pictures via Getty Images

Friday, June 19, 2009

Formula One Heading for Splitsville, Bittersweet Decisions, College World Series down to 4 and IndyCar's Future & Expansion

Geez, you take a couple days off to catch some breath and you get flooded with news. Firstly, don’t miss out on the Louisiana State-Arkansas (2ET) & Arizona State-Texas (7ET) rematches to decide our NCAA baseball championship match up.

-And speaking of baseball; we think we’ve found the prime definition of bittersweet. We’ve chronicled the final seasons of both the Vermont Catamounts & Northern Iowa in baseball this year; and then Ron, Deuce and I watched our hometown University of New Orleans Privateers lose their coach to a better offer from Wake Forest.

Well then it was good news to learn that UNO’s longtime assistant Bruce Peddie was pegged to take over as the new head coach; but here’s the bitter, Peddie will not be announced as the new coach yet. Why? Apparently UNO is considering ending all sports at the school as a cost-saving measure. This would be a huge shame for a school with a long history in many sports including over 15 NCAA tournament appearances in baseball; we can only hope boosters or someone gets this thing secured.

But all that news pales in comparison to the world of motorsports.

-First a bit of seemingly small news that I’m still not certain how it manages to be overlooked. I’m not saying this has big implications and all but when I hear that Chip Ganassi has hired BOTH Kyle Busch and Scott Speed, I think I’d pay a little more attention. Yes Chip is doing just that, as an extra entry for his Grand Am team at the next race in Daytona. Yes Chip has not stolen them for NASCAR, and no they haven’t said they’re switching series or anything; but the most important implication here; A) Joe Gibbs is lenient enough to allow Kyle to do this. B) Kyle is truly able to back up his assertion that he wants to try other forms of motorsport.

This isn’t like drivers jumping in for the Daytona 24 hour’s all-star type event; this is just another Grand-Am race. Take that for what you want, but if this is the case, how long is it then that we see Kyle do more one-offs of other series that do not have date-conflicts with his NASCAR commitments? I’m glad that in the world of even lesser crossover, there seems to be a new guy willing to try it.

-But now…obviously if you are a racing fan and you’ve been awake & alert, you have heard the news that Formula 1’s teams are planning on splitting and starting their own new series, without nut job leadership and ridiculous rules that they have absolutely no say in. I could tell you all about the similarities this has to the history of IndyCar racing in North America, but the lads at BritsonPole have already done it; and I could go into thoughts and details about what a split may do for Formula 1, how nutty the FIA has to be to not have learned from history, and implications for European/Brazilian/Asian fans; but again, many other people have already done so.

What I will do however is connect the dots to what we spend the majority of our motorsports coverage on here: the IndyCar Series.

-Whatever is happening in Formula 1, will in whatever small/slight way, give IndyCar an added chance to grow, and coincidentally, Chris Estrada found an article out of Richmond, VA pretty much confirming what we all figured was happening with the IndyCar Series going to Brazil. Chris went on to continue a point he made earlier about why he thinks this (international expansion) is all a bad idea. I understand his (and many other’s) thought process about this issue, but I have to disagree; especially in light of the above bigger story.

Overall it’s a yes & no thought on international expansion; India would be a bad idea; China’s not great but understandable with Japan already there, and in my opinion Brazil is a great idea; however one that needs to be tweaked slightly.

Firstly on the difference between what should and shouldn’t be done; I’ll start by saying that the IndyCar Series has something no other series has, and can continue to build. It has diversity, not only in tracks (F1, GP2, A1GP, ALMS, Grand-Am = all road, NASCAR, USAC = 99% oval), but in drivers, teams, backgrounds… the whole lot.

Drivers come from road racing, go-karts, sports cars, dirt tracks, even some from motorbikes, and last I checked, almost 13 or more countries are currently represented. Why then would we want to pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist? We use a Japanese engine, in an Italian Chassis, using both Brazilian and American fuel; American electronics; truly it is the flavor of world harmony, regardless of what any idiot (and I'm not talking about Chris here) might say about this series NEEDING to be all American. I’m sorry, but the outside world does exist; and people like Shane Rogers & Michelle Beer prove that IndyCar racing spreads further than the borders of the U.S.A.

And with that out of the way, lets talk about profitability & logistics.

-Brazil is in the general same time zone as the U.S.A. populace, meaning no concessions need to be made on the part of fans of Television & internet coverage; especially if it brings in a big sanctioning fee. starting in Brazils early weather also gets the season started earlier, which many fans (myself included) have been harping on the league to do. More importantly Brazil the country presents numerous parallels to American fans; the biggest in that we have, from time to time, 7-10 Brazilian drivers in the 2 IRL leagues. Add that on top of a BIG Brazilian sponsor giving fuel & potential car/team sponsorships when the race comes around, and I think fans easily take on a new Brazilian race(s).

My only problem with the plan in-action for Brazil is that it looks like they intend on starting the season with 2 road courses; and that to me is the bad part of the idea. Like I said above, the one thing IndyCar has that NO ONE else has is diversity/parity in the competition, tests and tasks, and they should be flaunting it.

The brilliance of the Homestead/St. Petersburg back-to-back start was that it essentially flaunted two of the best tracks on the schedule on two of the most different types of tracks as the opening act. And starting this year we’ve lost it and if they go Road-Road to open in Brazil, I think it will continue this mistake.

Yes teams like it when similar setups can be used in consecutive weeks; however teams have always acknowledged the beginning of the season to be a showcase of the difference to be expected in the year. Waiting 3-4 races to find out who is good on ovals and what oval competition looks like is too long, especially when you figure there will be a break after the first 2 weeks of Brazil AND that Long Beach, St. Pete & likely Barber as an addition will be in their normal early Spring slots.

That is just TOO much road/street before Indy if only Kansas is there (and rumored possibility of Phoenix). If Brazil truly wants 2 races to be the opening act, one of them NEEDS to be an oval, no matter the size and banking. IndyCar needs to flaunt what they have, the only true racing series that tests ALL the skills of the drivers, not just turning left, and not just road/street.

-China on the other hand is one I’m not particularly open on, for the exact reasons Brazil make great sense (and the same reason Canada, Japan & Australia do/did).

We have no Chinese drivers, or history of Chinese drivers, or Chinese owners or Chinese manufacturers & parts, unless I’m totally missing something. We have tons of connectivity in Brazil, and tons of connectivity in Japan & Canada; but I’m not seeing China’s connection for fans. The one connection it does make and this might be the decider for the Series: money they are likely willing to pay.

Since the majority of travel cost is happening on the way to Japan as it is, China can piggyback and the league may likely be able to collect a very large sanctioning fee. Other than that, I don’t know of a Chinese fan base, or a good crossover time zone to make China work.

-India... ? Now take the large sanctioning fee China is likely willing to throw at the IRL away, and you have India. India makes no sense; absolutely no crossover with any technology, drivers, fans, and likely no money to go with it. But at the same time I don’t think the series is truly considering it.

In the end I see Brazil as a great idea, but wherever the IndyCar season starts it needs to start with Oval & Road courses back to back to flaunt the diversity; & going to Brazil, Canada, Japan flaunt (but don’t go overboard) with the worldly collectiveness the series has more than any other. I also worry about the series starting to head into an unbalanced schedule favoring road/street. Maybe adding the Rockingham oval could be a way to do both? I think 50/50 or 60/40 in way of ovals is where it should truly aspire to be to please all fans and truly do the one thing no other series does.

Crown a true world champion, tested in every way, show quick ovals, long endurance ovals, streets, natural roads & against drivers of every background.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Windy City Series: RBI 3

It's been a while since we had a good prediction based on my playing video games to determine the outcome. And since last night's Cubs-Sox game was rained out, I did the only sensible thing... played RBI 3 on my NES.

We all know the original RBI is the best baseball game created prior to EA Sports' Triple Play 98. However, RBI does not have all of the rosters, so I couldn't have a Windy City match-up and instead elected to play RBI 3. I did not play this game much growing up (it must have come out very close to the release of the Super Nintendo, I'm assuming) but it is very similar in play to the original. You still control like 8 guys at once, but you also get to make your fielder "dive" or "jump" to get to those hard-to-reach hits.

I was the Cubs (of course) and started Greg Maddux. He was dominant! For 2 innings. By the 3rd inning, his fastball had gone from about 95MPH to like 72MPH. I had a 7-0 lead when the Sox came up to bat in the bottom of the 3rd, but then Sammy Sosa (great timing, huh?!) and Ivan Calderon both beat out infield singles to set-up Carlton Fisk's bases-loaded triple. He came in to score as well, but then I brought in Mike Bielecki and the Sox didn't score another run.

My offense was led by my all-time favorite player, Ryne Sandberg. He was 5-5 with FOUR homeruns and eight RBI. I had 6 homeruns total, with Shawon Dunston hitting the other two.

In fact, something strange happened at the end. I was winning 14-4 with two outs in the TOP of the 9th. Dunston hit a 3-run HR and made it 17-4. Then the game ended! In the middle of my at-bat in the top of the inning. That doesn't make sense. Even if it were a 10-run rule, I was already up by 10 runs before Dunston came up and shouldn't the other team get to bat? Maybe it's a 13-run rule no matter who is batting. Weird.

Either way, I think it's safe to assume that, based on my game of RBI 3 last night, the Cubs are going to dominate the Sox today.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

UFC 99 Preview

UFC 99: The Comeback takes place this Saturday, June 13th, in Cologne, Germany. Let's be honest here, we can pretty much call this PPV a "filler" event after last month's LHW championship bout between then title holder Rashad Evans and new champ, Lyota Machida, and next month's monumental card featuring Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Georges St. Pierre, Michael Bisping, and Dan Henderson. That being said, this PPV, despite having what some fans are calling a "weak main event" and no titles on the line, does have some intriguing match-ups.


Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (6'2" 220 lbs, 24-6-2, 1 NC) vs Mostapha Al Turk (6'2" 242 lbs, 6-4)
This fight will mark the return of Cro Cop after a nearly two year absence from the Octagon. Cro Cop was once one of the most acclaimed heavyweights in the world but suffered devastating back to back losses to Gabriel Gonzaga and Cheick Kongo following his debut win in the UFC. After his two losses many speculated if Filipovic would continue fighting. He seemed disinterested in the sport and unmotivated but he has been given a rare opportunity; a one-fight contract from UFC president Dana White. Cro Cop has claimed that he's focused, motivated, and has been training hard, even adding a few pounds to his frame for his bout with Al Turk. I'm hoping that the Croatian Parliament member returns to form with an impressive win and reclaims his status as one of the top heavyweights in MMA.


Spencer Fisher (5'7" 155 lbs, 23-4) vs Caol Uno (5'7" 155 lbs, 25-11-4)
After leaving the UFC in 2003. Uno has been fighting for K-1 and DREAM. He's 3-3 in his last six fights dating back to 2006 and will be looking to start a new winning streak. Uno, a grappler, will be taking on a pure fighter when he faces Spencer Fisher. I don't know enough about Uno to break down this fight but I'm blindly predicting a win for Fisher.

Marcus Davis (5'10" 170 lbs, 21-5) vs Dan Hardy (6'0" 170 lbs, 21-6)
Davis is 8-1 in his last night fights with the only loss coming to fellow UFC 99 competitor Mike Swick. Both fighters are quick and have wins via KO so this could be an exciting bout. I'm looking for Davis to finish Hardy and take the win.

Mike "Quick" Swick (6'1" 170 lbs, 13-2) vs Ben Saunders (6'3" 170 lbs, 7-0-2)
Mike Swick is one of the most entertaining, explosive fighters in the welterweight division. He's 8-1 in the UFC and has a knack for finishing fights very quickly. Another win or two and he should be fighting for the welterweight title. I'm a fan of Swick and hope to see him continue his rise towards the top of this division.

Cheick Kongo (6'4" 240 lbs, 24-4-1) vs Cain Velasquez (6'1" 240 lbs, 5-0)
Velasquez has looked like one to watch in the UFC heavyweight division. He's been impressive in his last few wins and looks like he may have what it takes to establish himself as one of the better heavyweights in the UFC. He's still fairly young (26 years old) and will face a veteran Cheick Kongo who's battled some big named veterans such as Mirko Cro Cop (win via unanimous decision) and Heath Herring (loss via split decision). Kongo can end a fight with one strike, whether it be his hands or feet, but Velasquez is well rounded and has the skills to outlast Kongo. I don't know if Kongo can ever reach and maintain the level of Mir, Nogeira, or Couture, but I think Velasquez can and will. I'm pick Velasquez to win this fight and continue his undefeated streak.

Rich "Ace" Franklin (6'1" 195 lbs, 26-4, 1 NC) vs Wanderlei Silva (5'11" 195 lbs, 32-9-1, 1 NC)

Both of these fighters are at a bit of a crossroads in their respective careers. After 2 greuling attempts to knock off middleweight champ, Anderson Silva, Franklin has decided to make the move to light heavyweight (205 pounds). Silva is 1-3 in his last 4 fights in the UFC and is thought to be on the decline of what has been a very impressive career in MMA, dating back to his wars in PRIDE. This match takes place at a catch weight of 195 lbs as Franklin is on his way up to light heavyweight and Silva may very well be on his way down to middleweight (185 pounds). Silva, as always, will look to finish this fight viciously, while Franklin will likely play the safer game and get ahead on the judges scorecards while avoiding as much of Silva's strikes as possible. I expect Franklin to win this fight but will not be dissapointed at all if Silva shows us a glimpse of his former self.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tim Floyd - Will he coach again?

OK, if you've been following the FW closely (and I mean besides the racing stuff!) then you'll know I'm a Tim Floyd fan from back in his days at UNO. He led the Privateers to national rankings, NCAA and NIT tournaments, and 20-win seasons. I could usually get in the games for $5, if not free, and even got tickets from Floyd himself once. It was a fun time and I'll always admire him for what he was able to do in New Orleans.

All of that aside, though, you don't have to be a Floyd fan to admit that he is a good college basketball coach. He is not Coach K or Roy Williams, but he usually gets sufficient production from the talent he is given and rarely ends a season with disappointing results.

This is why I was pretty shocked while listening to PTI today. They were discussing Floyd's resignation from USC (who's gonna coach Lil' Romeo??) and Michael Wilbon said, "He's done." As in done coaching. He clarified this by saying Floyd would never coach division I basketball again.

I find this very hard to believe. First of all, we don't know if the allegations are even true. Yes, it's odd that a Mississippi paper broke this story and that he hadn't allerted coaches and players that he was resigning, leaving us to believe there are most certainly details that we do not have yet.

But let's assume that the allegations are 100% true. I don't know what the penalty would be, and I assume it would include some type of suspension for Floyd. But if that happens, when that suspension is over and if Tim Floyd wants to coach again, are you telling me that no D-I team would offer him a job? That is ludicrous.

Even if he were a terrible person, as an above average coach, he will have a job. Michael Vick will play in the NFL. If Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa were 10 years younger, they would be on Major League teams. Surely Tim Floyd will coach D-I basketball again. If he wants to.


Fun game:

In the comments section, list a coach or player that has done something worse than paying $1,000 for a top recruit and was then given another chance.

Twitter Breaks News Once Again; Giving Credence to Rumors?

We've talked many times in the past about both, our love of great paint schemes in racing, particularly Alex Lloyd/Sam Schmidt/Ganassi bright pink HER car for this year's Indy 500; and also talked about the recent lack of Indy Lights/Atlantics winners & contender's ability to move up into the top ranks.

While it is slow progress, it is still progress in seeing Raphael Matos in a ride full time and contending already; and then recently in this week we've seen Richard Antinucci announced for at least one race with Team 3G with publicly stated desire of both team and driver to work on something full time for the 2010 season.

And while the last one isn't an announcement of any deal or progress; Alex Lloyd did announce via twitter today:

"So I have decided to leave Ganassi Racing. I need to explore my options and get into a race car and to do that I need to be a free agent. CGR have worked hard to find funding and I appreciate their efforts, I need to get back behind the wheel and this gives me my best chance."

While we can currently only hope this means he has something in the works for a IndyCar Series ride; we'll just have to wait and see.

The following is ALL speculation: What makes this move interesting is that a few sources have reported the rumor about Scott Dixon talking to Gil De Ferran for joining Gil's new team for 2010. IF that were actually happening, whether on good terms or bad for Dixon/CGR, you would imagine that Chip is already working on the replacement.

So this would make me think of a couple scenairos; 1) if Chip is actively searching for a replacement, its apparently not Alex & Alex is tired of waiting around for his contract to turn into an actual ride. 2) Again all speculation, but if this were the case, it would give credence to the other rumors out there that Chip is interested in/talking to either Justin Wilson, or bigger, Danica Patrick. Again all speculation, but I have a feeling that with Dixon, Patrick, Hunter-Reay and many other driver's heading into the end of contract years; we may already have the beginnings of a BIG silly season between 2009-2010.

Now if the CGR movement is not happening after all, we have still learned that Alex is done waiting around for his CGR ride. And while I've heard no talk about this at all, I'd love to see Sam Schmidt decide to move up to the big boys using the driver he now has plenty experience with.

Whatever happens, I don't know a person out there who doesn't want to see Alex Lloyd land a full time ride!

The Loss of a True Racing Expert

When it comes to stories and experience in the way of motorsports; I am only as much a fan and expert as growing up & living far from racetracks 95% of my life has allowed. I don't have the stories and experience of attending Indy 500s all my life. In fact, though I've watched every one on TV since I was old enough to remember(1986 maybe?) I've attended ZERO to date.

As the internet is only recently, truly reaching a higher potential for information and connectivity; I can't tell you I grew up listening to radio calls, taking trips to tracks, reading Curt Cavin columns or listening to Donald Davidson's Talk of Gasoline Alley (though I'm trying heartily to catch up via podcasts). However, in the past decade, with the true advent of the Internet, I've been better able to attempt filling my fascination and fandom. Over the past years just as the Furious Wedge was starting, I developed a cycle of authors and sites for information I'd visit regularly.

While a large majority of the Internet is filled with people who just like to shout things; one great place I got attached to quickly a few years back was an auto racing blog run through Bloomington, Indiana's Herald Times; run by writer Kurt Van der Dussen. Kurt's blog, to date, stands above all others! As I have never lived in Indiana, nor read the Herald Times; it came as quite a shock when I loaded up "Auto Racing with Kurt Van Der Dussen" today to learn that Kurt passed away after a long battle with lung cancer.

While I only know about 3 of Kurt's 30+ year career, I can tell you, in that short time Kurt was the best I read on the matter of motorsports. Kurt wrote about all forms of racing, and he wrote what he thought; but did so in a way that was not insulting or using wild thoughts & accusations. In fact, Kurt like many, may have harped on Milka Duno being a driver in IndyCar over other drivers, but many times repeated that he wanted her to prove him wrong.

Kurt didn't rant, he analyzed; and that is something I feel is truly missing from a lot of bloggers/writers/commenters out there who use the internet as a means to just shout thoughts and words without putting the thought or research behind it. Even moreso, Kurt took the time to add revisions, do a little research & talk back and forth with the commenters of the blog in the same calm and intelligent manner.

Clearly Kurt's life and career go much further than 3 years of keeping an auto-racing blog, but that is where I knew him from, and I just wanted to say, like I am sure many others, I'm going to miss Kurt's writing & insight; that same brilliant insight he filled what was his final in-depth blog, about Helio Castroneves winning the 500: Faith is the Victory.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

No More Split Personalities

For all you great people out there who follow our silliness, adventures, opinions and more via Twitter; you've witnessed a failed attempt at a bright idea.

"Let's just use the same account" - I said.
"How will that even work?" - Ron queried.
"We'll just put our names in front of our tweets" I proclaimed.
"Ok" Ron nodded.

Only we're very bad at following that plan. So to help all you great followers out there; Ron now has his own separate twitter account, appropriately named: FuriousRon. And I'll be sticking to FuriousWedge.

(now if only we could get our rare once in a blue moon poster Deuce to follow up with a FuriousDeuce, we'd have the trifecta)


So it is written. So it shall come to pass."

Deuce has joined The Furious Wedge Twitter brigade: @FuriousDeuce

Monday, June 8, 2009

I'm retiring.

Yeah, I just can't do it any longer. Between my job and my family, I just don't have the time that I'd like to commit. As much as it hurts to say it, I think I'm done. It's time to retire... from the NFL.

"The NFL??" you're thinking. "But Ron, don't you have to actually PLAY in the NFL before you retire?"

Well, that's what I thought too! But then agent Drew Rosenhaus announced today, via Twitter, that LB Dan Morgan has decided to retire. Again!

See, Morgan signed with the Saints last March, only to retire two months later. He had played in 4 games over the previous two seasons and had only played more than 12 games in a season once. At some point he told the Saints he wanted to play again but has apparently changed his mind again.

I've played as much NFL football as Dan Morgan over the last couple of years. And he's retired twice. So I figure it's time for me to quit as well. Consider me retired.

However, if the Vikings called, I'd answer my phone...

Tom Glavine

Wow, that was a pretty good sports weekend, especially yesterday. My Cubs knocked off the Reds in the 14th in Cincy to take the series. Furious Wedge Alma Mater USM upset Florida to get to the College World Series. The Lakers beat the Magic in OT to take Game 2. Some dudes drove cars really fast, some dudes punched each other in the face a lot, and some dudes played what I thought was called tennis, but was apparently a "different sport" (some lady on ESPN Radio) because the ground is different. (Wedge and I agree that it would only be a "different sport" if there were marbles on the ground and various linemen could sack the tennis players.)

But my favorite story of the weekend has to be the Tom Glavine story. Now, I like Glavine. I grew up as a Cubs fan, but watched a lot of Braves with my Grandpa. Greg Maddux is my all-time favorite pitcher and I really appreciated what the Braves, especially those pitchers, were able to do for 15 years or so. But Tom Glavine, to me, is being a BABY right now.

In that article, AP Sports Writer Charles Odum writes: "Glavine said Friday he believes he was released for financial reasons." What? Really? That might be the dumbest thing a professional athlete has said in like... a week! Of course it's financial! If Glavine refused his salary, I'm sure he'd have a much better chance of staying on the team. That article refers to a $1 million bonus but the total deal for the season could've been worth over $3 million. If you replace him on your roster with a rookie or another player with much less experience, of course you are saving money.

Tom Glavine: If someone had offered me a Lexus for the price of my Kia, guess what I'd be driving right now!

So now Glavine may file a grievance. (By the way, Tom, that doesn't sound very scary or intimidating or at all like a good revenge plan. Joining the Cubs and leading them to a World Series would be much more effective.) I think the Braves should file a return grievance at Tom Glavine for two reasons:

1. Glavine left the Braves for FIVE SEASONS.

2. He came BACK to the Braves last year and posted a 2-4 record with a 5.54 ERA in only 63 innings.

Seriously, I heard Glavine compared to Cal Ripken this weekend. And I guess I just forgot that Ripken played for the Yankees for five seasons before coming back to the Orioles. Only he didn't, cause that would be ridiculous. But Glavine DID do that. He left for five seasons, came back, pitched terribly, and now is crying about loyalty.

That's it. I've had it. The Furious Wedge (if Wedge agrees) officially files a grievance with Tom Glavine for being a sissy baby baseball player.

(I will remove the grievance when Glavine signs with the Cubs as a reliever/emergency starter.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Is Jaques Lazier an injury substitution at 3G? and Other Replacements & Rumors for IndyCar's weekend at Texas

As you may or may not have seen by checking out the IndyCar Series entry list for Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, we already have 3 announced driver changes with Milka Duno returning to Dreyer & Reinbold's #23 (Scheckter out), A.J. Foyt IV in at Foyt with Tracy out; even though according to Tracy, he wanted to finish the entire season with Foyt. Lastly we got Jaques Lazier replacing Stanton Barrett at Team 3G.

Duno is explainable as a cash flow issue, and A.J. Foyt himself said he does not want to put Tracy back in the car because it brings a lot of attention to them when they do so "embarrassing" (his words) like they did at Milwaukee. Honestly I think I'd rather have Tracy, not for the attention, but the guy has history, and I'd much rather have him hashing out problems with a car at this point; its odd because Foyt's quotes almost read as if he simply is getting Tracy out of the car so people won't pay attention to how bad they might be doing...

Now lastly, a lot of people are calling the move of 3G to Jaques Lazier, a smart move to get the car set up by a veteran; which it may very well be. But for everyone out there, get one thing straight. Barrett is no Milka Duno or Marty Roth; first, unlike Duno he owns a part of the team, and second he's shown some real signs of talent. That said... it looks as if Stanton's being replaced might not even be a driving issue after all so much as a injury substitution, as we hear from Stanton himself:
"Unfortunately it (Milwakuee practice crash) was such a heavy impact we were not able to repair the car at the race track and was not able to race this weekend. I have been very sore from the impact and taking some time to recover. Not certain what the next weekend is going to bring with regards to running the IndyCar. I have to make sure my back is not as sore as it is now to be able to race those cars. It is really unfortunate because it might keep me from running in a few races."
Whatever the reason might be, that is an interesting development; almost as much as the choice of Jacques over the likes of Townsend Bell, Servia, etc. Jacques is a great driver and has won before, but hes at least 2 years removed from the cockpit. I'm just hoping something can show up on 3G's sidepod; or really hopefully a return to the great white/blue paint scheme!

Then we get to twitter nation, where in the past 2 days both Tomas Scheckter and now Alex Tagliani have said they are heading down to Texas, or excited to be heading to Texas. Specifically:

Tomas: "Looking forward to texas."

Tags: "Round 'em up... we're off to TX this weekend. yee haw!"

yet niether can be found on the entry list. Now one can easily assume Tags will be the Conquest TBA driver, but as of yet all we have is a rumor that Scheckter will be in a new 3rd Dreyer and Reinbold car. If he is or not, it'd I hope all is well behind the scenes, because to the public, all we know is that first practice is tomorrow.

Pictures via

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tony Gwynn Jr. traded

Well, I'm going to see the Nashville Sounds tonight (well, I'm actually going to watch the Cubs) and for the first time since I moved here, Tony Gwynn Jr. won't be in the outfield. He was traded to the Padres recently, although when you receive Jody Gerut in return, it's really more of a give-away than a trade. The Padres have Gwynn on their Major League team and in 29 ABs, he's hitting .310 with 8 runs scored.

So let's take a look at this... the Brewers didn't want Gwynn. And now, feeling the need for a left-handed bat off the bench, have called up Frank Catalanotto. Really?

Either way, Brewers fans... even if Gwynn turns out to be terrible, your team still got stuck with Gerut.

Kimbo gets Ultimate Chance

Kimbo Slice will finally get a crack at the UFC. It was reported yesterday that Slice (real name: Kevin Ferguson) is slated to compete as a contestant on season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter (SpikeTV). The show will feature 16 heavyweights competing for a six figure deal in the UFC. There will be a slight difference this time around from the last few seasons of TUF; the fighters will not be requried to fight their way into the house. The 16 fighters that will appear this season have already been chosen for the series.

UFC president Dana White has repeatedly bashed Slice in the past claiming that he was not a real fighter and would get absolutely murdered if he competed against the UFC's competition. Well, Dana has found yet another win-win situation for himself and the UFC. If Slice fails on the reality show and is beaten by fighters with sub-par skills compared to those at the top of UFC's heavyweight division, White is completely justified in his past remarks. If Slice has improved over the time since his embarassing loss to Seth Petruzelli and fights his way into the finale, White has an excuse to sign what is sure to be a huge draw to his MMA franchise. I despised Slice, not because of what he was trying to become, but because unknowledgable, casual MMA fans saw him as the face of MMA. I still do not believe that he belongs anywhere near the discussion of legit heavyweight fighters and the sham that was his Elite XC career did not help him, but that being said, I'm not rooting against him. Will a little part of me smile inside if he gets embarrased by someone noone's ever heard of? Maybe, it wouldn't be the first time it happened. I can't really say, but right now, I'm hoping that he has improved and can legitimately compete in the UFC. His appeal has worn off since his first bout with Elite XC but there's still the possibility that he brings more attention to one of the fastest growing sports in the nation. That's good for the UFC and it's good for its fans.

Season 10 of TUF: The Return of Rampage and Rashad

Season 10 of the UFC's very reality show is already causing quite the stir. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson has opted to forgo a title match with new light heavyweight champion, Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida, and instead declared that he'd like to be a coach, for the second time, on The Ultimate Fighter. Jackson will be coaching against "Sugar" Rashad Evans, the man he was supposed to fight for the LHW championship before a lingering jaw injury (suffered at the hands of Wanderlei Silva) kept him from action. Evans won season 2 of The Ultimate Fighter as a heavyweight and is returning to the show for the first time, following the loss of his first title defense against Machida. Both men are still very much in the mix for the UFC light heavyweight championship and the winner of their December bout, following the finale of season 10 of TUF, will most definitely get their shot at the title. The fans are already gearing up for what could be the most watched season of TUF since its inception. Between the mystery of Kimbo's inevitable rise or fall and the fireworks between these two coaches, I know that I'll be tuning in.