Saturday, June 17, 2006

Happy Le Mans Weekend to you all!

I know, in the U.S., nobody cares about Le Mans. Well, I do, so I'm writing about it. I've never been to the race myself, though my British friends tell me that actually being there is all that plus the proverbial bag of chips. Or crisps, as they'd say, if they used that phrase. I can only imagine that falling asleep (or passing out, if you're doing the full Le Mans experience) to the sound of distant (or not-very-distant) racecars, and waking up to same is pretty cool, and having a radio network completely dedicated 24/7 (or, 24/2, actually) to the race you're watching would be fairly intense, too. Or, maybe I'm just a huge geek. Hey, that's the name of this site!

Anyway, it should be fascinating to see if the Pescarolos or Courages or whatever other French prototypes that have showed up this year can run long enough to keep the Audis honest. My dough is on "no", but hopefully I'm wrong, and I'll have something to watch when I wake up tomorrow morning. And hopefully the Audis aren't 16 laps ahead by then due to only stopping once every 6 hours or whatever their increased fuel mileage will allow. GT1 ought to be pretty good, even if it's basically 'Vette vs. Aston, with a Saleen or a Ferrari as a prohibitive longshot. At least two of those four frontrunning cars ought to go the distance, so hopefully they're still duking it out into Sunday afternoon.

The obligatory Champ Car note for the weekend: Ha, ha, Carl Russo! A.J.'s on provisional pole and Cris is sucking in 10th. Guess that might have backfired a bit, huh? And yes, I'll be watching Portland after all. I know you all were on pins and needles about that one. Enjoy your weekend, ya'll.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Three notes today:

1) Hemelgarn folded and P.J. Chesson is looking for a new ride? Wha? I can imagine that losing both of your cars on lap 3 of the Indy 500 is fairly catastropic for a team that small, but when did this happen? I read nothing about it all last week, nor did I hear anything about it during the Texas IRL race this weekend.

2) Forsythe can kill two birds with one stone. Please sign A.J. Now. And thanks for getting rid of Wario while you were at it.

3) The IRL has managed to do away with thier best product that isn't named Danica or Marco: their 1.5 mile oval racing. I almost laughed during the telecast when ABC showed Scott Sharp blabbing about Texas' side-by-side, big pack racing in an inset screen while the main screen showed the Penske/Ganassi procession out in front. How many on-track passes for the lead did we have on Saturday night? To my count: zero, or roughly the same as most F1 races. I know that the one-engine program was bound to do this to some extent (not what Rusty Wallace was saying during the 500 telecast, which was that the one-engine program was "brought in to make the racing closer"; where do I start with that?), but this week was ridiculous. I fell asleep for about 20 laps at one point and didn't feel the need to rewind. That was unthinkable no more than two years ago.

OK, a bonus note: 4) Rusty, Scott and Marty are awful in the IRL booth. I've said it before, but I'll say it again, why should it take PROFESSIONAL racing commentators 12 minutes to figure out how a wave-around works? Especially when they could actually see it taking place in front of them on the track AND when they have the benefit of in-booth timing and scoring? And someone make Rusty stop spending 20 minutes of every race praising Roger Penske. We know he's a close friend of yours, and I'll give you that he's probably one of the smartest people in racing, but it does not need to be repeated at length every week. We got it. On to your next point: these hot rods are haulin'!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Are you joking?

da Matta for Allmendinger?!? To paraphrase John McEnroe, you cannot be serious. "We're going to fire the one and only American in the series and ChampCar's star young attraction in favor of a guy who might still be quick, but it's hard to tell, since he's spent the last four years 1) slumming at Toyota in F1, 2) throwing the car off the road last year at PKV, and 3) begging for money at Coyne." Well done, Carl Russo. I may own a hat that has Cris's name on it (from last year's PKV team), but you've now landed as my least favorite car owner. You shall see none of my potential merchandise-purchasing money, ever.

Disgusting. I was already considering not watching ChampCar for a while (see my last post), but now it has been wrapped up. Until A.J. lands somewhere else, or we get some other American in a seat, I'm checked out (not that I'm xenophobic; I think that a diverse background of drivers is great for the sport; it'd just be nice to have a couple home-country boys in the nation's supposed "Number 1 Open-Wheel Series") . Consider my season pass deleted from my TiVo.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Day Late

Damn, damn, damn. I just had to go check before coming here to post today. Seems Robin Miller already wrote a post-Milwaukee column, so I'm gonna look a little dumb and amateurish here. I mean, even more than normal.

Anyway, I did get around to watching ChampCar at Milwaukee on the TiVo last night. I fell asleep for a good bit of it, and did not bother to rewind. The Lap 2 dust-up between Bruno (poor guy), Mario (idiot), and Tracy (innocent bystander, for a change) was as good as billed, down to PT making thinly veiled derogatory comments about Mario on the air. Good times. All we missed was a live radio feed of Paulie Walnuts calling Mario a bleeping bleep-head without the bleeps. There will be a pit lane fight between the two of them before this season is over, and Bruno will probably drop by to hit Mario with his back brace, just for kicks.

Seeing Katherine lead somewhat comfortably for a time was fun, even if it was ruined somewhat by Derek Daly wishing that Bourdais would "just let her lead for a while." OK, #1) that's a dumb thing to say, #2) he was just unlapping himself, and #3) there's no way she keeps Seabass behind her under any circumstances at this point in their careers. It was another tour-de-force by DD and Benjamin, with mis-identified drivers, self-interrupted thoughts and stories and non-sequiters galore. How do these guys keep getting work? And why did we have to wait until 18 minutes into the broadcast to find out why Tags was a non-start? How is that acceptable?

Anyhow, as bad as the telecast was, the worst part of the whole thing was that I finally focused on how desperate things have gotten for ChampCar this year. When a crash happens that takes out two of the top guys, or Dominguez forbid, three or four, the rest of the field is horrendously depleted. Having six (or nine, if you count the PKV guys, er, uh, birds, plus Tagliani) frontrunning seats with only five qualified drivers (Seabass, Bruno, Wilson, A.J., Tracy) is bad, bad, bad for this series. The only way we get interlopers in the top five is when one team nails a setup (like HVM did with Ryan Hunter-Reay's setup from two years ago for Philippe, who I still don't believe in) or there's carnage at the front. Fully eight of the drivers in the series are no-hopers right now, though Andrew Ranger, Will Power or maybe Charles Zwolsman could win races someday in the right equipment. (And don't bring up da Matta at Coyne; that's not working, especially when you get interviewed for 8th place and have to beg for sponsorship on the air as Cris did in Monterrey.) Everyone else should stay home. Including the fans. A merger is never going to happen unless it really comes into focus for Kevin Kalkhoven what is going on. Let's just say that I'm not going back to Cleveland this year to bake in the sun and watch Nicky Pastorelli and "Sh***y" Dan Clarke crash into each other.

Wow, didn't mean to get quite so negative today, but apparently this has been building for a while. But, who knows? Maybe Memo Gidley, Alex Barron, Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty will all get offered rides from Portland onward to take the place of all of these current guys who I've never heard of before this season (and I still don't know where you came from, Jan Heylen), and we'll get Patty Carpentier back from Montreal onward. Also, I might be fielding a Formula 1 team next year out of my garage. It's about as likely to happen.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Speedgeek Fallenback

I invoke the name of my favorite ex-NASCAR driver-turned-TV commentator (since Kenny Wallace actually counts as a still-active driver), since I just got around to watching Monaco and Indy on the TiVo this weekend. IRL at the Glen and ChampCar at Milwaukee await for tonight.

Anyway, for starts, Indy was awesome. The world's most improtant race (I still do believe that, even though Rusty Wallace actually referred to it as Daytona at the end of the race before correcting himself) under the most difficult of conditions (everybody was sliding around to some extent on a hot, slick track) made for a great race. Everything was in place: defending race champ and his ex-series champ teammate vs. dominant polesitter vs. girl wonder vs. comeback legend, legend's kid, another ex-series champ, and Mr. Ashley Judd, and all on a variety of strategies. Riveting stuff. And it actually came through on the telecast, despite the best attempts of the guys in the booth to screw it all up.

I've read a couple of people who have said that the worst outcome of all those potential 8 winners was Sam Hornish Jr. winning the race. I completely disagree. People who tuned in casually and saw Marco and Michael Andretti battling for the win will also remember that guy from Ohio who actually won, I think. How can you not, when Sam made such a decisive, lightning fast and smooth move to win (though Marco cost himself the win by butchering turns 3 and 4 on the last lap; his entry to 3 was from the middle of the track, so it's no wonder that his lap 200 speed was 7 MPH slower than Hornish's)? I don't buy that the IRL absolutely had to have either Marco or Danica win. Uh, people will eventually have to find out that there are other drivers in the series, and why not learn who Sam is, since he's a 2-time series champ who drives for the IRL's New York Yankees? I think that most people know who Roger Penske is, so it might not kill the League for people to know who his drivers are and follow them to get into the sport. My $0.02.

Also from last weekend: Michael Schumacher is a dumbass. Competetive and masterful, yes, but also a dumbass. You've gotta know that you're under the microscope for anything sketchy that happens after Adelaide '94 and Jerez '97, so why push the issue and park in the middle of the track? Yes, it was a split-second decision to park, but it's not one that should ever come into your head at all, if you're worth half a crap as a driver. Too bad that that probably cost us any chance of a decent fight for the World Championship, since Alonso will never lose a 21 point lead this far into a season.

As for this last weekend, I'm stoked to watch the ChampCar race, since I understand that Tracy gets into it with Dominguez. Delightful. I'll go on record as saying that there'll be a pit lane fist fight between the two of them before Edmonton. Can't wait.