Sunday, May 30, 2010

Last Call Before The 500: ICONIC Forum, Pace Car Thrill Ride and 11 Rows of 3

So the race is barely 12 hours from the call to start engines, and while there aren’t any huge stories breaking, there are a few things that went through today that may interest you flowing into race day.

One thing that is pretty clear this season is that it’s not just IZOD bringing a full force of pull with the celebrities; but that it seems the series itself is plucking out some good ones with Jack Nicholson for the green flag and as we already knew.

After seeing her in her press conference this morning it’s clear Robin Roberts is genuinely ecstatic over just having been chosen as Pace Car Driver; and is more than eager to get on the grid and to shoot around the track “This is definitely the fastest I have gone.”

A cancer survivor and daughter of a Tuskegee Airman,  Robin had huge praise for Indianapolis and the race “Can I just say one thing? And I cannot be more sincere about this. I have been a part of Super Bowls, Final Fours, presidential inaugurations, have traveled the world. The people here at Indy and the people who run this race are so superior over any people that I have been associated with at an event. Their passion, their hospitality, their gratitude, they really get you excited about being here. Don't lose sight of what you have here and the tradition, the pageantry, the beauty, the athleticism and all of that. You are so incredibly blessed. I just really appreciate being a part of it.

This news conference was then followed by one of the best attended public drivers’ meetings the track has seen in a good while… but that wasn’t the big news to come out from this. Most every big race fan is talking about Brian Barnhart’s instructions for the drivers “We will return to the tradition of eleven rows of 3, for all parade laps and the final pace lap right into the green flag.”

This statement more than any other got the most applause and even a standing ovation from MANY in attendance. What will be interesting to watch is how well it is pulled off by a series full of drivers who are used to doing whatever they have wanted on pace laps, from spreading out, warming up tires to even jumping the starts well in advance of the green flag totally unpunished. Barnhart made it sound clear that each row will be expected to keep a set distance between each row all the way to the front straight for the drop of the green flag, no more accordion effect will be allowed.

The interesting thing will be to watch if A) Brian actually waves off anything that doesn't resemble what he described, but better yet B) if he will actually warn/wave-off/black flag Helio Castroneves when he hits the gas in turn 3, just like he’s done his entire career, right after break-checking the field.

Last of note in the mid-day was the open-mic/town-hall chassis/engine forum run by Eddie Gossage of Texas Motor Speedway to hear any ideas the fans had about the direction of the series in regards to the new chassis and engine direction.

Before even getting to the car talk, Eddie because a one man comedy act ripping off one-liners that had everyone in stitches, finishing with a story about Robbie Knievel and Florence Henderson: "I'll say this about Flo... she puts the Cou, in Cougar."

Due to the ICONIC committee’s confidentiality agreement Eddie couldn’t really tell the group anything, but that wasn’t the point of this; instead it was for Eddie to let the microphone go around and let all the fans tell him what they’d like the new direction to be.

This forum style, of course, lead to the best and worst of its style; we heard some good recommendations; like letting Indy Lights and IndyCar share the main chassis parts like the Lola proposal so people like Sam Schmidt can easily move up a level. Make sure whatever chassis direction is chosen that it can be related to all 3 parts of the ladder system (USF2000, Star Mazda, and Indy Lights). Develop a formula, rather than deciding specifically what teams will be forced to purchase and race.

We also were graced with an unexpectedly well prepared attendee in Lee Brayton (father of the late driver, Scott Brayton) who came prepared with 2 poster boards containing the diagrams for an engine he designed in the mid-90s to compete with the infamous Penske push-rod engine. Lee simply asked that, even if needed to be done through some sort of equivalency formula, to let his BRAYTON B-1 engine be legal, as it never got the chance to run because it was made illegal before it ever saw the track (click on the pictures on the right to see bigger shots of the B-1).

There were some more difficult discussions about what was more important: low cost leading to more participants or engine/chassis competition which could lead to higher costs.

There was even the extreme: one gentleman cited that being “green” should be so important that he felt victory donuts should be banned because it wastes fuel... ok then. Let us not even attempt to figure out where racing in general or everyone driving to attend a race fits into that logic...

Then of course, just as on the many radio shows, fan forums, etc. there were quite a few attendees who simply ignored or hadn’t gotten the memo on what this forum was supposed to be about, such as one gentleman who got on the microphone and complained that he thought it was the Indy Racing League’s fault that his local paper didn’t cover races or race results… …?

Gossage concluded the forum in best that: “There’s maybe 200 of you here and we could hear over 300 different opinions with just you.” This is where the direction for the IndyCar Series actually seems all the more inevitable at this point.

They simply cannot choose a chassis and an engine; they MUST choose some kind of formula or system with options, because choosing any one single specification is certain to make a lot of fans (and teams) angry; and for cost containment to work while allowing choices which brings a higher price, they MUST allow the current Dallara to remain a legal option for teams for at least 2-3 years into the new chassis becoming available.

There clearly needs to be a return to the natural life of technology, in that it must be proven to be inferior/superior, something needs to go out and beat the Dallara, and the Dallara needs to be allowed the chance to stand up and get lucky as an underdog. Which chassis and engines get the chance to do that is almost irrelevant at the core, so long as the teams, manufacturers and engineers are the ones who choose what specific combinations they want to use to attempt beating it, not the league.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Indy 500 Guaranteed Predictions

So it’s my first time in Indy and it’s been nothing short of everything I’ve been told it would be. And while I could wax poetic about tenderloins, the smell of ethanol, the sound and sights of racing, the awesome vintage cars that were on the track today, the great  (and cheap) museum… but oddly enough, the thing that stands out the most from the track experience thus far… Shirts are not required, and apparently highly frowned upon once your belly reaches a certain level of hanging-over-your-belt-ness.

But exposed bellys aside, it’s just over 30 hours away from the race (and likely less so when you’re reading this as I’m writing it at 2:00 a.m.) so let’s get to the most definitely important things.

Indy 500 Predictions Guaranteed! (To be wrong) or your money back. Take these to Vegas my friends, from what I’ve seen at the track thus far, this is what I’ve been able to learn:

First Car Out: Now… Sebastian Saavedra is in a barely put back together car, he’s green, and he even spun coming into his put twice today during practice (once dinging up the nose), he’s very young (19.. gee what were you doing when you were 19) and that’s why many people have tagged him as the contender to make his exit first. And that is why it’s wrong, it’s TOO predictable, so much so that it’s on Sebastian’s mind, he knows he needs to be cautious, and that is why the first car out will be… Ana Beatriz. I like Ana and hope she proves me wrong, but there’s a Ton of aggression there, plus she’s going to watch Tomas pass 17 cars on the first lap and then try to replicate it herself , nothing has really gone wrong yet for her which is almost the perfect storm for a rookie or better yet…

Second Car Out: Bertrand Baguette. I have no reasoning against Bertrand specifically, but we all know that having 2 true rookies lined up behind one another has never worked out to the best percentages, and he is right behind Ana and right in front of teammate Mario Romancini and surrounded by Danica “Bad Start” Patrick, that’s not a recipe for healthy containment.

Who Leads most laps: Oh of all the things I’ve seen this is the easiest one to do let’s see here according to time sheets during various weather conditions (i.e. putting Ganassi and Penske names in a hat and pulling one out) it’s totally going to be Scott Dixon. You know, lets better serve this time by looking at some of the cool antique cars that were going around the track on Carb Day.

# of leaders: While Penske/Ganassi will take the most, there will be a lot of pit strategy giving us 9 different leaders, one of which will be a rookie.

First red car out: Does it really matter, aren’t they all really the same? I’d have to go with Briscoe, simply based on the fact that of all the Ganassi/Penske guys, he’s the least robotic and the most emotional at the wheel... hey look, more vintage cars!

First celebrity shown on TV: There’s a huge push to let everyone know Marky Mark is going to be there and in the 2-seater at the start, but look for Robin Roberts (pace car driver) to be the first shown on TV with a wave at the camera.

First “celebrity” with attention brought to: This is one of those times when they put someone up on TV and Marty has to explain to us why that person is on the screen and it’s simple... “Hey there’s that Rupert guy who was on that season of Survivor once, remember that.”

Most cars passed in first 2 laps: Everyone seems to be pointing at Kanaan doing a number like 10 passes on the first lap, but I think many are forgetting two things. Kanaan wants to win the race and he knows its 200 laps long, but he’s still using a barely tested car… Tomas Scheckter on the other hand just wants to pass as many cars as possible at any time (as evidenced by his traffic citations last night) not to mention I think he did more passing in the 30 minutes of Carb Day practice he did, than the entire field of cars did at Barber; which is why you should look for Tomas to post more passes in the first 2 laps than TK.

First 'significant other' shown: the race for the most times shown will be contended between Ashley Judd and Emma Dixon with Ashley getting the slight lead at the end of the day, but neither will be first… because that privilege will be given to the entire Castroneves clan who will be shown huddled together at all times, even before the drivers get called to the grid; that how the Castroneves’ family combines their power and transmit it to Helio, giving him the ability to levitate.

How many starts are waved off: Everyone is all up in arms this year about being 3-wide at the start, but if you watched the Indy Lights race today, this answer is easy as counting the black flags given over this season for bad driving…0.

First car Marty Reid will incorrectly identify: This is THE hardest prediction to make of the year because the Penske cars now have different colored endplates which help Marty out. Which is why the honor is going to Mario Moraes… who Marty will confuse with Paul Tracy.

First Marty-ism of the race: “Ooooo, whoa… Bert---on Bagettes got a little squirrely there”  Only he will actually have been watching Mario Romancini… from a taped practice session… with the words “earlier this month” on the screen.

First pit mis-cue of the race: You want to know why roger Penske was mad when he heard pit selection would be done by initial times and not in the final 9 showdown when he was going to wait to have Helio bust out a 228mpg lap on everyone. Its because he knows what the first pit stall means. That's why on Thursday when other teams are tinkering with the cars, his team is doing full on pit stops in the garage area.

That can't be said for Conquest, who I personally witnessed attempt at least 5 full in-out pitstops on Carb Day and each time the team being visibly angry afterward... one time to the point of throwing down equipment. I really don't have a full idea what was going on (though reportedly from twitter it sounded like one time they missed a wheel-nut)... I'm no Nostradamus but that doesn't seem to bode well for once the actual real race pressure comes on.

Root beer of the race? This isn’t really a prediction, but I’m a big root beer guy, and I need to know if Indianapolis/Speedway has any good root beer from the local area, I’d like to try it out and make it the Root Beer of the race.

Rookie of the Year: Simona de Silvestro will surprise no one by taking this honor on Sunday… it will turn a few heads however when she leads 11 laps. And no, Marty will not get her name wrong anymore, that one is etched in his brain now because surely by this point he’s caught on to the fact that’s she’s the new favorite female around the track…and… that gives him the opportunity to turn any conversation about Simona into one about Danica.

Biggest Mover of the Race: Bruno Junquiera, he will lead laps, he will contend, and may even win. Seriously, could anyone be more impressive in as little track time… Bruno will then go back to racing in Brazil for the next 340 days returning to Indy again on bump day this time without even shaking down a car, instead going straight to a qualifying run just as they finish bolting the engine in… he will put that car on the grid as the fastest that day as well.

Dark horse: If it weren’t for the fact that I made this prediction last week, I’d go with Bruno; he’s easily been the most impressive driver this “month.” But I’m sticking with my guns, and am telling you to watch out for the power of awesome Root Beer and red hair… a combination that has already cause Mike’s display car to catch fire.

Winner: While this is the only question many of you are interested in, it’s almost the least fun to pick. Unless something catastrophic happens, you need to remember Penske now has THREE cars in this race, that means he can go as far as three different strategies if he needs to. And that’s why I’m going with…. Scott Dixon. The Iceman will return, and he may even crack out some emotion… but if I’m picking a non Penske/Ganassi, my thought actually goes to a guy who always performs worlds better at Indy than anywhere else Marco Andretti.

But here’s the most important thing… what are your predictions? Let us know, get that stuff on record, right here, right now; lay down the gauntlet so that you can come back and say “told ya so!”

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Indy 500 Qualifying Confusion Seemingly Sorted

UPDATE: A HUGE thanks goes out to Trackside Online's Joe Berkemeier who has helped me sort out this whole time-line. As explained to me by Joe:
"You don't have to withdraw your times to bump back in. (once you are bumped out of the top 33) Howard did not have to withdraw his 223.824 to get back into the show, it had just been bumped by Sato."
As such I have made some edits below that hopefully will hlp just explain this whole process for anyone confused by what happened at the very end of Bump Day. If you haven't already, you should definitely subscribe to Trackside Online!


First, let’s just breathe a little bit after that craziness that was the 2010 Indianapolis 500 Bump Day. I have plenty to talk about in my run-up previews for the race; Bruno being pole-worthy, the fact that Milka is out of the race without anything sketchy needing to happen, Tracy being out, why in the world teams waste the 2nd to last hour, whatever happened at Foyt and Andretti these past two days, but really quick before that.. I have to ask…

Did the IZOD IndyCar Series just, by sheer luck, miss out on one of the biggest screw ups in officiating history and possibly a HUGE lawsuit? Turns out, no... just a little confusion for the fans who don't have copies of the rulebook.


Let’s take a look back at this chronologically, all confirmed by the official IICS qualifying reports.

In the Final Minutes

Saavedra being on the bubble, goes out for practice and crashes, but he is still 33rd

Tony Kanaan goes out and qualifies a 224.072mph which bumps Sebastian Saavedra’s 223.634mph
This makes the bottom 4 spots:

30.  Tony Kanaan (11) 224.072mph
31.  Paul Tracy (15)   223.892   mph
32.  Jay Howard (66) 223.824mph
33.  Mario Romancini (32) 223.805mph

Eric Bachelart remembering what happened the previous year, withdraws Romancini’s 223.805. This technically for the moment brings Saavedra back into the 33rd spot.

31.  Paul Tracy (15)   223.892   mph
32.  Jay Howard (66) 223.824mph
33. Sebastian Saavedra (29) 223.634mph

Romancini’s attempt comes in hot at 224.641mph putting him way up in the field and re-bumping Saavedra, which now puts Jay Howard on the bubble:

31. Tony Kanaan (11) 224.072mph
32. Paul Tracy (15)   223.892   mph
33. Jay Howard (66) 223.824 mph

Takuma Sato goes out and puts himself into the field with 224.178mph bumping Howard’s 223.824 (which would make it the alternate/34th). This puts Paul Tracy’s 223.892 on the bubble.

31. Takuma Sato (5) 224.178 mph  
32. Tony Kanaan (11) 224.072 mph
33. Paul Tracy (15)   223.892   mph

SIXTH - The NEW important lost detail!
So Howard needs to get back in the field, but since he is out of the field, he does not have to withdraw his 223.824 it lives in the land of alternate qual times it turns out.

Howard finishes 223.610, which is thrown out as its slower than his other non-qualifying time.

31. Takuma Sato (5) 224.178 mph  
32. Tony Kanaan (11) 224.072 mph
33. Paul Tracy (15)   223.892 mph
34. Jay Howard (66)   223.824 mph
35. Sebastian Saavedra (29) 223.634mph

So then, Paul Tracy not being comfortable on the bubble (and possibly having seen what Bachelart/Romancini did earlier) with barely 15 minutes left withdraws his 33rd spot 223.892. This puts Jay Howard back in the field.

31. Takuma Sato (5) 224.178 mph  
32. Tony Kanaan (11) 224.072 mph
33. Jay Howard (66)   223.824 mph

34. Sebastian Saavedra (29) 223.634mph

Tracy gets near the wall too much and kills his attempt halfway through, so technically Tracy has no time for the day. Then Lazier tries but withdraws after getting squirrely just before his attempt, then for some stupid reason Milka goes out and continues to do 4 mph too slow and gets pulled off the track….

This brings us then to the moment the TV announcers are in crazy mode wondering if Tracy can get back into the field, and then Brian Barnhart is yelling: "C’mon guys, what do you want to do?"

This is because, as TV told us, Howard was on the bubble, so they did in fact need to decide on going out to block Paul Tracy, or to let him go out and try to knock them out.. so then they withdrew the  223.824 mph which put Saavedra back in the field.

Many, many thanks to all the readers, and especially TSO Joe who helped clarify the official rulings of the ever-changing Indy 500 qualifications. Now that thats explained, let us look forward to a great race, previews coming soon.

All pictures via

Saturday, May 15, 2010

How to Correctly Pick a Dark-Horse for the Indy 500

What is a Dark-horse?

Over the course of the past 2 weeks many people, unpaid blogging word-butchers and professional paid radio, print and TV word-butchers alike have all started to bring forth their predictions for this year’s Indy 500. This practice as usual is fun; mostly because none of them will say “I was wrong” after the race and instead talk about how they knew who the winner was going to be all along.

But one particular theme this year seems to be the practice of picking a “dark-horse.” A fun practice as it should be to try and figure out which unexpected chap may very well find his way into victory lane… the only problem is that it seems the predicting world has forgotten what the definition of dark horse is. But I’m willing to give them all a second chance…

Webster tells us that it is a: “little-known, unexpectedly successful entrant.” Emphasis really has to be put on the “unexpected” part, and this, my gambling and predicting friends, is how we need to sort out who is, and who definitely is NOT a dark-horse. So let’s find some rules.

GROUP ONE: The Non-Debatables

Rule #1:  If you’ve won the Indy 500 before, you are most definitely NOT a dark-horse.


Helio Castroneves – Dude’s got three Borg Warners

Scott Dixon – Not to mention also a Series champion and the guy who just won Kansas by about 72 car lengths

Dario Franchitti – Defending series champion, yeah that’s not an underdog.

Dan Wheldon – Some people might want to debate this, but they probably don’t realize is someone put some special stuff in their brownies, this has caused them to forget that Dan worked his way to a 500 win, and the fact that his team has come in 2nd for the past two Indy 500s

Rule #2: If your team has won 15 Indy 500s, you are NOT a dark-horse, no matter the driver.


Ryan Briscoe – he’s fast, the team is fast and he was series runner up in 2009; no... Not a dark-horse.

Will Power – Road course specialist you say? Silly you, he’s the points leader, plus he finished 5th in last year’s 500; he may also be the first person to ever have Vegemite in victory lane.

Rule #3: If you already won the Indy 500, but it was never awarded to you making you angry and vengeful to win and show everyone you should have been declared the winner back then, plus you race for the team that was third fastest in 2009… you are NOT a dark-horse.


Paul Tracy – Won the 2002 Indy 500 (I typed it like that just so I could start a flame war on our comment section, have at ye)

Rule #4: If your team has won multiple Indy 500s in the past 5 years, you are definitely NOT a dark-horse.


Danica Patrick – Came in 3rd last year, 4th in 2005, and she’s always quick at Indy.

Marco Andretti – Not only was he one conservative lap away from winning 2006, he’s also got a 3rd place to his name, and would have been a likely contender last year had Mario Moraes not taken him out at the .34 mile mark.

Tony Kanaan – would it be great to see him win after such hard luck, yes, just like it would have been nice to see Michael Andretti win after all those years… but a guy who’s led laps at Indy all except 1 year he’s run it, is not a dark-horse.

Ryan Hunter-Reay – he’s won one race already this year and he obliterated 7/8th of the field at Kansas passing all of them cause he started at the back.

John Andretti – John made Marty Roth cars look good 2 years ago putting them in the Top 10 consistently… he now has good equipment to go with his talent… nicest guy ever, yes… dark-horse… no.

Rule #5: If you finished in the Top 5 the previous year, sorry you are not a dark-horse.


Townsend Bell – Townsend is a LOT of people’s favorite dark-horse pick this year, but I guarantee you he does NOT qualify for many reasons. Townsend’s Indy 500s have gone, 22nd, 10th and 4th… there’s not only a trend going on here, but he just went from KV Racing, to an entry run by a partnership between  Sam “I can put anyone in my car and win in Indy Lights” Schmidt and CHIP GANASSI!!! Plus Townsend has Andy “freaking” Brown as his lead engineer. Not only that, he did push-ups for Jack Arute on live television last year…

GROUP TWO: the slightly debatable but not likely a true complete dark-horse

Rule #6: If your team scored multiple Top 5s in the past 2 years, you are not a dark-horse.


Mario Moraes – Mario had the speed to win it last year, the team had the speed to contend in Kansas a few weeks ago, and Mario got a podium to finish out last year… ergo not a dark-horse. Not a favorite, but not a dark-horse.

Takuma Sato – Yeah he came from Formula One, but he’s no Nigel Mansel for sure… he’s incredibly approachable and nice (rim shot). He was also hanging with the big boys at Kansas, and the team has demonstrated the ability to go fast on ovals

E.J. Viso – E.J. is one broken gearbox away from winning St. Petersburg this year. He may be the closest of this group to be a borderline but not quite definite dark-horse, but he’s got plenty experience now, and he’s always very aggressive on the track.

In fact all three of these KV guys are debatable, but see Rule 9 below for more...

Rule #7: If you’ve won the championship of the series you were racing in over 70% of your past 8 years in racing, you are not a dark-horse.


Raphael Matos – His team has been good at times, and lets see, Skip Barber champ, Star Mazda champ, Atlantics champ, Indy Lights champ, 24 hours of Daytona GT champ... I'd say he is a proven winner. Plus, what many people forget, or just don’t know, is that just before he wrecked with Vitor Meira last year, he was in a prime position to win the Indy 500. Most people don’t know/remember this, but he was the only car who could have made it the distance to the finish at the time of his crash (which made the move doubly, doh!).

Rule #8: If you’ve led laps at Indy without the benefit of convenient pit strategy, you’re not a dark-horse.


Tomas Scheckter – The controversy of 2002 between Helio and Paul Tracy is so funny in a way because neither of them was even remotely close to the fastest car, (Kanaan and Scheckter). Tomas led 83 laps in Indy, he's widely known for being fast and aggressive and passing many cars… oh Turn 4 how cruel are you…

Bruno Junquiera – We’re still not sure if Bruno will even be racing this year at Indy; but if he is, he’s no dark-horse, he’s lead many laps, and finished 5th twice, plus the FAZZT cars have looked fast thus far this year; just like Kanaan, many people will rejoice, but will it be totally unexpected if he won? No.

GROUP THREE: There is a reason Vegas is in business… they know what they are doing.

A very smart man once told me that Vegas rankings should determine college playoffs, and it makes a lot of sense; because the normal polls are control by sports writers and coaches and people that in a way don’t have a vested interest in the rankings. Vegas however have their ass on the line with their rankings and odds, and as a result you generally notice they are for lack of a better term… right. So let’s take a stroll over to the early betting odds from sports book and betUS and see who they deem to be decent enough to do one of 2 things with

Rule #9: Does Vegas A) think you are too good to include you in “the field” and B) not separate you simply because they know people will put bets on you as a long shot.


Ed Carpenter – Ed has a Top 5 at Indy, and for the time being this is his only race this year which means he’s putting EVERYTHING on the line, he lives for Indy and is always fast here, plus he’s racing for Panther who already has shown plenty speed through Dan Wheldon. Odds put Ed at +5000 while the field gets +3000. Translation, they’re too scared to put Ed in the field because they know he can win, and he’s not a long shot or his odds would be higher.

Hideki Mutoh – Mutoh has been on the podium before, he was plenty fast in Kansas, and Newman Haas has been fast on the ovals all last year and this year, Vegas is no fool which is why they’re giving Hideki +3500-4000 odds, meaning they think he will do just as well as “the field” which includes anywhere from 18-20 drivers right now.

Vitor Meira – How did Vitor follow up his 2nd place at Indy in 2008… well he was set on fire, rolled back out of the pits without losing a lap only to get his back broken from a too-ambitious move by Raphael Matos. Now he’s back and got a podium in Brazil, ran strong at Kansas, and then does triathlons on days following races halfway across the country. Vitor has a million Top 5s included two 2nds at Indy, there is a reason Vegas says he gets better odds than the field.

Alex Tagliani – Tag (or Tags depending on your preference) has had fast running cars so far this year. The team may be new but he’s not, he’s also not new to ovals; he was rookie of the year at Indy last year. I think Alex might be a borderline dark-horse… he definitely plays a good underdog… but then we remember who he’s married to. Sorry Alex, no dark-horse for you.

Justin Wilson – Mostly, it’s just hard to consider calling a 6’3” giant an underdog. Frankly Justin is as close to the line as I think I’m willing to go, and the fact is he loses out simply because he’s demonstrated some serious skill on the track. He has a victory and many Top finishes on road courses, and Indy of all the ovals is most like a road courses. While of the non-‘field’ odds he’s looks like the beginning of the Vegas ploys to get long shot bets at +6000, think about this No one will ever be surprised to see him in the front.

And with that… I present to you all


In no particular order:

Davey Hamilton – If this were the late 90s Davey wouldn’t qualify, he got a 4th at Indy in 1997, was runner up twice for the points championship and also had a 4th after that, but since the horrible Texas crash, he’s been on-off and Indy only, and his 9th in 2007 only really came from the timing of the rain. For a guy who could have been a double amputee, there’d be not a single fan who wouldn’t want to see him in victory lane.

Graham Rahal – If Graham were still running for Newman-Haas, this might not qualify; but right now he’s a one-off runner on a one-off team at a track where he still hasn’t conquered traffic and Turn 4 at the same time. If he manages to win, it would be unexpected given all the pieces of this entry, not to mention it’d probably vault both into full-time status.

Ana Beatriz – Ana is a true rookie. While she has FIL victories she’s always been on the “too” aggressive side, like the many rookies before her.

Alex Lloyd – If this were 2009, Alex would lose this distinction; but he went from running for the top team in the series to probably the lowest of low budget teams, and worse yet, he now has Milka Duno as his teammate. While Dale Coyne got his first victory last year, Indy depends too much on having a perfect day: consistent pit stops, good speed, good luck, things that don’t seem to come often for Dale, but we’d all love to see that change.

Milka Duno – Dead serious… if you went to a Vegas sports book today, and asked them to take a bet from you on 1,000,000 to 1 odds for Milka… they would take it. I think she’ll make it in at the bottom of the field this year because, like Marty Roth, she’s got the whole qualifying at Indy thing memorized. After that, look for a series of black flags and then going out due to handling.

Sebastian Saavedra – I’m EXTREMELY curious to see how Sebastian does. He’s been quick in Indy Lights, and Bryan Herta, a great driver, and even better coach (from what I hear) is making his first foray to the big leagues with the biggest race of the year. As I’m writing this, rain is keeping them off the track, but I think there are MANY of us very eager to see how this combination looks on the big stage.

Mario Romancini – Mario was very quick and aggressive for Rahal in Indy Lights, but we can’t pretend that Conquests equipment is suddenly going to be fast, not to mention this is the same team that had the HUGE brain-fade last year that knocked Alex Tagliani out of the field simply because they forgot to put in a faster time than they needed.

Bertrand Baguette – Add the above qualifications that Romancini gets, but then add to it that Bertrand is still quite new to this whole oval thing. If they painted the center pod of this car to look like a piece of French bread, he would instantly be the most popular guy in the series. Or if he drove the F1 car made of bread you see to the right, either would suffice.

A.J. Foyt IV
– The team has shown some good speed with Vitor this year, and while Vitor is no dark-horse, Quattro just hasn’t really ever shown speed; in fact his best finish (3rd at Kentucky in 2007) came from the timing of a yellow flag that put him in a position to not need to pit when no one else had yet. He has yet to crack the top 10 at Indy, and I’m sure no one would love more than to have a Foyt back in victory lane.

Jay Howard – I’m never really sure where to put Jay these days. He’s basically right there with Alex Lloyd and Townsend Bell… guys who killed the competition in Indy Lights, seriously the things Jay did for Schmidt that year were unreal. But he never got a fair shake at the big leagues. Jay out performed his teammate Marty Roth for that ill-planned contract where Marty decided to remove Jay from the car, rather than himself, but now I think Jay’s time has been so sporadic that when he gets in the car he’s so anxious that he’s overly aggressive.

Sarah Fisher – The one person everyone would love to see in victory lane. Small business owner, personable, put Graham in a car earlier this year, and did it all on her own. Now if the cars could just find some dang speed, we know she has the skills to win, she’s come so close many times.

Simona De Silvestro – I almost didn’t put her in the dark-horse list simply because I feared that she might crush my mind with her Jedi mind skills. I don’t know where HVM would just suddenly find the speed they’ve always lacked on ovals, but if they did, that’s the only thing missing for this entry to be a contender.

TBA (Yasukawa, Antinucci, the Brothers Lazier, Servia etc.) – I don’t know the possibilities of any of these entries happening, but any of them would be too little too late to in my opinion to contend. Can they make the race? Sure… but I don’t know how they’d be able to contend unless it was Roger Penske that at the last minute decided to throw a new car into the race.

And with that, I’ll finish this entry with my dark-horse pick…

Drum roll please..........



Mike Conway
Yes, there I said it; Mike is the perfect storm that every die-hard race fan knows happens in a driver’s life. He is incredibly aggressive, and has a history of crashes in his first year, and easily knows the quick way around tracks, but like all rookies, he’s been hampered by the learning curve... walls. Sometimes he’s too aggressive which has caught him in the marbles trying to pass people, or slapping a wall on a road course trying to make room to get around people, BUT none of his crashes have been unexplainable, they’ve all made sense, in fact almost all of his crashes have come from when he was passing other cars. He’s had speed on both road and ovals, and he’s now had enough time to suddenly explode onto the podium on a regular basis, plus he has Larry Curry, a guy who (regardless of other past history) knows how to make a car go fast.

Mike is getting +8000 to +10,000 odds right now!!! He is the worst odds you can get right now, over triple what the “field” is getting, it almost makes you wonder why Vegas has separated him from the “field”… and that’s why I wondered… Vegas knows what they are doing… they know he shouldn’t be in the field because he’s the perfect storm of potential. He’s a young, bright, kid, very personable, aggressive on the track, quick at times, he’s been on the podium before and has won at other levels so contending is not foreign to him. Then on top of it all he’s got a sweet looking car with a sweet sponsor. Plus this gives me an excuse to post a link to this picture of Mike.

And that my friends is a dark-horse.
So who is your pick??? Let us know in the comments, I think we can easily accept anyone in group 4... and with some convincing, maybe take a group 3 driver, but you're going to have to make a seriously convincing  case for a Group 2 driver, but that is what the comments section is for.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Repeating high school? No thanks!

I bought the book High School Confidential a few years ago. As a teacher, I could've told author Jeremy Iversen what he was going to find. While it sounds like a fun experiment to go back to high school as an adult for a few days... think about it. High school?? Again?? For a whole semester?? No way!

Which is why it's pretty insane to me that this 22-year-old duped an entire town and school, pretending to be a 16-year-old, just to play high school basketball again. I know this says a lot about our society and the way we worship athletes, as early as when they are in junior high and sometimes earlier. Sure that is enough to make someone consider doing something like this. But to actually attempt to pull it off? Like no one would notice?

If your goal is to actually have a second chance at stardom and fame and all that comes with it... don't you think you'd be recognized eventually? Still, I'm hoping that's what this was. A silly plan that was just carried out without much thinking involved.

Because the alternative is even more preposterous! Would this guy actually want to just relive high school? Attempting to fly under the radar and not really be noticed just to be a kid again? That sounds more like a nightmare to me. Again, I understand wanting to be adored. But chemistry class? Running laps at practice? Dressing out in gym class? Lunch time? Homeroom? I'm actually pretty sure Dante's version of hell would be different if he were alive writing his Inferno today.

But it's obvious his plan was a lot closer to my first scenario. He was playing AAU, trying to get noticed, trying to become a star. And he got noticed!

My only question for him would be this: Don't you think you could've found a high school that was a little more low-key? If I were going to attempt to illegally attend high school again, I think I would try to pick one that has not been thrown into the national spotlight due to a book, movie, and television show.

Then again, I'm not the brightest either. I had a little trouble with high school calculus. But at least I'll never try to sneak my way in to take it AGAIN!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

a few things...

I love how people are saying Jamarcus Russell is a bust and he was paid $100,000 per completion. Like that's all he did. Showed up for games, completed a few passes, got $100K for each one. No training camps, no mini-camps, no practices, no work-outs, no meetings, etc. Just a few completions and a few million bucks.

Imagine if we did this for other jobs. Let's just pick a random career and choose one of their many tasks and then make it look like they get paid some stupid amount of money for doing a small amount of work.

If a teacher's salary is $50,000 then they are being paid $25,000 for every semester exam they make! I can make a semester exam for $25,000. Give ME that job!

Did Russell's performance match his expectations? No. Did Tom Brady and most other starting quarterbacks get paid less per completion? Yes. We get it. It's still a stupid thing for sports media to concentrate on.


Have you seen ESPN's 30-for-30 series? Maybe I'm just really behind here (what's new?) but I really like the show and topics they're covering. I've seen two so far: the one about Len Bias and the one about Reggie Miller's rivalry with the Knicks.

This was like re-living the mid-90s for me. I graduated in 1995 and was really into the NBA at this time. Just before graduation I wrote a research paper on Len Bias. And we were always playing Live 95 and Live 96, hitting three-pointers from half court with Reggie Miller. I can remember watching the game when he scored 8 points in the final seconds against the Knicks. This was a great topic for ESPN to cover. If you were an NBA fan around this time, I highly recommend checking this out.

I want to see Ice Cube's show about the Raiders now.


How about I close with a fairy tale?

Once upon a time, there was a manager named Wakamatsu who lived in the magical town of Seattle. One day he needed a left-hander to hit against the evil right-handed relief pitcher.

"Bradley!" he called out, looking for outfielder Milton Bradley. Only Bradley was nowhere to be found after temporarily abandoning his team to deal with emotional stress by attending counseling.

The manager had no fear. "Where's The Kid?" he barked, referring to town hero Ken Griffey Jr. No one could find Griffey.

Wakamatsu was running out of options and the right-hander on the mound was smiling, tasting victory. The manager asked three of his trusted men to go to his lair, the locker room, and search for Griffey. He sent Ichiro Suzuki, Chone Figgins, and Jack Wilson.

The men walked into the room and immediately came upon their chairs.

"Someone's been sleeping in MY chair!" said Ichiro. "And it's broken!" The handle which allowed the chair to recline was lying on the floor.

"Someone's been sleeping in MY chair!" cried Chone. "And eating too! There are cookie crumbs all over and I'm gonna have to vacuum!"

But Jack wasn't listening to either of them. Instead, he stared, frightened, at his own chair until finally whimpering, "Someone's been sleeping in MY chair. And he's STILL HERE!"

The men looked and there was Ken Griffey, sleeping in the middle of his team's baseball game.

Meanwhile, the game proceeded, without Griffey. Wakamatsu, out of left-handed options as two of his stars sat in counseling and recliners, sent a right-hander to bat instead. His team lost, remains in last place and we doubt seriously that any of these people will live happily ever after as long as they play for Seattle and are teammates with Milton Bradley.

The End

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Notes and Lessons from the Kansas IndyCar Weekend

A lot of people are coming out this weekend’s Kansas IndyCar race with a lot of instant problems, solutions, opinions and conclusions as human nature dictates: Kansas stunk, boring race, drop Kansas, it’s impossible to pass in the series, lapped cars should get out of the way, Kansas can’t put fans in the stands, “push to pass” stinks and many others. Generally most as per usual.

Initially it’s easy to understand how these conclusions are come to; but I think many might be missing that some of these conclusions might be misguided, not because they are overtly wrong, but simply because they are only symptoms of different problems; one of them slight, and another that is bigger, and luckily for the Indy Racing League, both are ones that Randy Bernard does have some say-so in:

Let’s start with Kansas Speedway and its general lacklusterness in crowd/support. Is Kansas dying, should it be put out to pasture, did the crowd generally suck? At a glance yes… to all of those… but simply ask this; how would any other race on the schedule do if it were moved to 1pm Saturday afternoon for the first time? Now I’m not going to defend Kansas here, because while we truly don’t know who came up with the idea to move it to that day/time, the track agreed to it.

We can’t just stick that Kansas has a bad time of day and day of the week; I’d stretch it to say Kansas is simply on the wrong month. Take a look at 2001:

That’s a packed house; it was July, and granted that was their first race, it stayed that way for quite some time, almost up until 2007 when they decided to leave July for April. Crowd aside, the weather had been a nightmare at Kansas since moving it to April/May; so much that the IRL pulled Indy Lights off the docket for 2010 due to the high amount of crashes in the past years, an issue they didn’t have when starting the season at Homestead?

Should Kansas be removed? I don’t know the answer to that, but I’d like it to stay, but simply be moved to sometime after May and given a shot to thrive on a time better suited to the area. The track produced a LOT of great racing this past weekend, a statement which might have many of you readying your keyboards to tell me I’m nuts and that the race was ultra-boring. But this brings me to the bigger problem the series faces right now: ABC/ESPN coverage of races.

No one will argue that Versus doesn't do an incredible job on race coverage, and to compare what Versus does for race coverage with the same amount of staff and camera against what ABC stumbles through should be embarrassing for ABC/ESPN; but for some reason they’ve continued to do this for 5 years now without any shame, and it is hurting the sport from capturing fans.

Marty Reid can’t even pronounce names correctly: “Silv…es…tra….de…Simona”, (and that’s when he hasn’t miss-identified a car/driver altogether for the 20th time), the cameras do nothing but follow the leaders, and they cut to commercial almost every 7-8 green flag laps (I counted); and the worst part; the entire on-air crew teaches the viewer NOTHING. I’m not saying that announcers need to be intellects, but they need to be interested in what they are coving, and we’ve all watched Marty long enough to know he’s not interested. Al f’n Roker was on the Kentucky Derby coverage this past weekend, and I assume he knows little to nothing about horse racing, but you know what he was when he was on camera; genuinely excited.

My favorite ABC moment in each race broadcast is the pit stops: “(Insert driver here)’s team has him in, and they filling it up changing tires, making a turn on the wing, and he’s away.”

Wow, that’s amazing… glad you were in the pit for that… Here’s an idea, get a 2nd camera on the person he’s closest to on track and see who comes out ahead of whom when they re-meet on the track. How about getting a little more in-depth on the timing or mileage, or best yet, only do a PIP for that leaving the main video back on the race…

With that said, I will do one thing many people don’t; I’m going to defend Scott Goodyear. What many don’t realize is that right now Scott is the only thing holding that broadcast together; just like Frank Mir is holding WEC broadcasts together and how Mice Tirico holds Monday Night Football together. Many people complain on about how Goodyear uses the same generic lines constantly and doesn’t go too in-depth; but I guarantee any of you in the world that if you put Goodyear in the booth with the Versus crew he’d be a totally different man. With Marty asking stupid questions and getting things wrong constantly, Goodyear has no choice but to stay at that level, constantly explaining and re-explaining basic things… just like he was forced to do with Todd Harris, and as Frank Mir is forced to do now with Harris on WEC broadcasts.

As for the on-track product, I had the luxury of having both TV and computer this past weekend and I saw over 30-40 passes online with Race Control. I saw maybe 10 total on ABC. So what’s the solution to ABC? It’s tough because it depends on contracts and marketability, if there’s even a chance to get NBC interested; otherwise Randy will sending demands to deaf ears at ESPN as evidenced from the past 5-6 years of shitty broadcasts.

And with that here are the short notes from the weekend:

So should lapped cars be moved around before a restart? Hell no; if we wanted "Lucky Dogs" we'd go to NASCAR; we all love IndyCar because its a pure form of competition, not a pre-packaged guaranteed close finish. Should lapped cars maybe be more courteous? Probably... but if anyone is fighting someone else for position with point differentials and you're behind them, too bad, find your way around. Besides, no one was catching Dixon last weekend anyway.

"'Push to Pass' stinks and they should get rid of it cause it does nothing." I'd actually just submit you stop calling it 'Push to Pass' and just call it power assist, or better yet just don't talk about it. I'd also suggest ABC do the same because its only meant to be a slight assist, which is why the amount is so small. Covering in any other many is just misleading.

In a new interview with Holly Cain, Tony George says he wanted Terry Angstadt to be his successor as IRL CEO; which explains some of the friction and “hurt feelings” going around earlier this year with Randy Bernard’s selection.

While I don’t know much about what Angstadt does behind the scenes, I know just about everything he did publically, and the same for Bernard’s short tenure, and think many fans would agree they’d much rather have Bernard.  Angstadt probably does great work behind the scenes, why else would he have a job there; but a guy who has NEVER hit a single significant date or promise made to the press (and the one who seemed to be the focal point behind turning down SMI for Vegas and New Hampshire) would not have been good for the league as official front-spokesman.

Mark my words: Takuma Sato and E.J. Viso will both get podium finishes this year.

So there are rumors now about many tracks coming and going in 2011…

Kansas Going? As I said above, I’d like to give it a chance back in summer or fall; it’s a good track and area.

Homestead going? Too many people don’t realize how good of a track this is for racing, but season finale it is not; it NEEDS to move back to the opening oval spot at night between Sao Paulo and St. Pete; that’s the only time it makes sense, and it’s perfect for off season testing. Unless Phoenix magically comes back, the league NEEDS Homestead/Miami, because having Indy as the first Oval is NOT a good idea.

Chicago going? I’ll believe this one when I see it, the race does too well on the track and in the stands, but it MUST go back to being a night race; that was half the mystique of this race.

Watkins Glen going? Again believe this one when I see it, it does too well and makes too much sense.

New Hampshire adding?
My gosh, we all certainly hope so. If Jerry Gappens can forget how Terry Angstadt and some former IRL’ers slapped him in the face saying they didn’t trust him to sell tickets; this would do great. Good area, another oval, and one that is technically different meaning even more track diversity. Yes please.

Vegas oval adding? This will require testing as the banking is much different than the last time IRL was here; otherwise it’s a no-brainer that they should have the season finale here, at night with IZOD and all these celebs suddenly jumping on the promotional stuff. It’ll also give the series another big oval again; and if it were the season finale, it should also be at least 400 miles. If this one happens, I’m buying tickets the moment they are available... and I live in D.C. The season needs to close in style, and no one has higher potential for style and theatrics than Vegas.

Nashville returning?
I attended this track’s finale, and I’ll say this, aside from the on-track action everything else was A++. Great crowd full of IndyCar apparel wearing people, packed stands, easy track to access and leave, and good tailgating. But if they do re-add it, it MUST come with pre-season testing to figure out that whole passing thing.

Baltimore adding? From sources I’ve talked to, this is basically a done deal… and it should be; the layout that I’ve seen looks good, and better yet, it’s an easy to recognize area on TV and runs through the actual downtown, not 40 miles from downtown; and in a significant city.

Lastly: If I’m Bryan Herta, Sam Schmidt, Vision, Sarah Fisher or anyone considering team expansion in the IndyCar Series, I’m wasting no time calling John Andretti to drive or at least mentor my young driver. The guy put brand new Roth Racing cars in the Top consistently, and just took half the league to town with a whole year out of the cockpit. He’s good with fans/sponsors and most importantly, with the cars.

On to Indy!!

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