Monday, October 23, 2006

Post #2 of the day, this time for the ChampCar race:

3:07 – Back from the basement. Upside: there was still one Sam Adams Octoberfest in the beer fridge. Downside: the F1 season review is still going. With how often all of these clips are trotted out during the actual season, it seems like a bit of overkill to show them now. Shouldn’t we wait a month or two for this, when we’ve actually forgotten some of it?

3:09 – A look at the Speed boys in Charlotte! Everybody’s dressed up for the occasion today. Frankly, I usually imagine these guys sitting around in the studio watching the race in PJ’s and slippers. Maybe that’s just me.

3:13 – Now is the time for the Speedy Awards? 10 minutes after the season is over? Nothing like a little instant history.

3:14 – Can’t take much issue with any of these, except that Matchett has given the “Technical Achievement Award” to the Ferrari gearbox. Too bad this had to be taped before hand, since I’m still convinced it was acting up today, and cost Michael about three positions.

3:16 – Also, “Best On-Track Pass” could have had another contender today with Schumacher going inside Fisi into the Senna Esses. That said, Alonso’s pass of Schumacher at Hungary was pretty awesome.

3:17 – Driver of the Year to Schumacher? After purposefully blocking the track in Qualy in Monaco and losing points from wrecking at Hungary while trying to hold off two clearly faster guys? I don’t know about that. I’ve gotta go with Freddy here.

3:22 – Wow, a pretty even-handed retrospective of Michael’s career. Nice job by the Speed crew. Plus, we get some great footage of Mike in the Sauber Mercedes sports car and the Jordan F1 car in 1991. Oh, plus the Foo Fighters. Kickin’.

3:25 – And just as I think we’re about to head to Surfer’s…it’s a visit from our friend Sam Posey! Ugh. Shoot me now.

3:27 – At least we get some more Foos…

3:29 – Off to Surfer’s! And it’s time for the most jarring contrast of the year: not the performance of F1 vs. ChampCars, but the quality of the F1 booth crew vs. Derek Daly and Rick Benjamin. The over/under for mispronunciations plus mis-identified drivers plus inane comments? Vegas has the line at 124 ½. I’ll take the “over.”

3:32 – Aaaaaah. The grainy footage we always get from Down Under always makes me feel good. Makes me think of John Andretti, and of Senna winning at Suzuka and Adelaide.

3:33 – Yikes. A couple big practice crashes for A.J. and Bourdais. Were the tire barriers placed for maximum carnage potential?

3:34 – And now, we get a graphic for “Final Race Title Surprises.” Uh, guys? This isn’t the final race. I think if Bourdais starts the last two races, he wins the championship. Even if he’s last today, he’ll only need like a 14th or so in Mexico to clinch. I wouldn’t exactly start talking about championship drama right now.

3:35 – Does it make me a bad person that I chuckle whenever I see Erin Crocker in commercials for the Truck Series? I don’t care. Anytime you can make a joke about somebody sleeping their way into a NASCAR ride, I’m laughing. It’s something I’m not sure you could accuse Jimmy Spencer of doing…at least I hope not.

3:38 – Time to get some more mileage out of Katherine Legge’s massive crash at Road America! Apparently, she made appearances on 10 talk shows. OK, we’ve got that out of the way for today, now let’s let that go.

3:44 – Hey! Mario Dominguez! On your third team this year! Having a great season, though.

3:46 – NASCAR results on my phone! Great. Delete. Note to self: disable NASCAR results text messages before next season. I probably waste 3 whole minutes a year looking at those.

3:47 – What is this paddock profile with the Rocketsports guys? It started as an interview of Wario and his race engineer, and now it’s devolved into an explanation of what the buttons on the steering wheel do. Anyway, that was meandering and far-too-long bit. Less pointless stuff, more Bronte Tagliani, please.

3:51 – Now we’ve got Jon Beekhuis doing his poor man’s version of Peter Windsor. It’s kind of hard to take him serious, when instead of Flavio Briatore and Rubens Barrichello, we get interviews with Jan Heylen and a very-bummed-out Justin Wilson, missing the start today with a broken wrist. Whoever designed the tire barriers that he crashed into should be fired. Now.

3:56 – Bourdais is the only repeat pole winner this year? These are the things I forget when we go 3+ weeks between races. Let’s just say this hasn’t been a banner year for the ChampCar series.

4:00 – Good aerial view of Surfer’s. Too bad ChampCar will NEVER appear in high def. This would look 80 times better than Martinsville would.

4:01 – Will Power is on the pole today with an on-board camera that looks like it’s hanging from a crane that’s mounted on his roll hoop. Weird.

4:03 – No start? The first 5 rows looked perfect. When positions 11-17 are inhabited by Heylen, Pizzonia, Zwolsman, Wirth, Legge and the like, I’m afraid that’s as good as it’s going to get.

4:06 –And now we get a single-file start. The fix is in! There’s no other way Power leads through the first chicane over Bourdais if there’s a two-by-two start. Can somebody check Tony Cottman’s passport to see if he’s actually Australian?

4:13 – We learn from Daly that Will Power won “some very big races in Europe” before coming to ChampCar. Of course, it would be too much to ask for the commentators to do any research and find out what those races might have been. This is only their job, after all.

4:18 – A.J.’s on the juice and gets by Servia, but only after doing a little wheel banging at the first chicane. That was less than elegant.

4:19 – Katie is out. Well, I guess that the plus side of her retirements is that it ensures that she’ll get some camera time. To say that she’s been a little disappointing this year would be a slight understatement.

4:20 – OK, Will Power came from the Renault World Series. Thanks, Derek. I think it’s a fair thing to say that no NASCAR commentator would come into a broadcast and not be able to recite the past career stats of that day’s polesitter. This is why I should be calling these races remotely from my living room instead of Daly. Not because I’d be a whole lot better, but I’d definitely be cheaper. OK, plus I’d be better.

4:26 – PT past Bourdais, like Sea Bass was tied to something. Uh, oh.

4:26 – Shock of the day: “Sh***y” Dan Clarke is in the tires. Betting on that in Vegas would have won you, um, probably a hand shake.

4:30 – Good lord, melee on pit road. Fire in the Forsythe pits after A.J. takes off with the fuel hose still connected, Briscoe hits somebody coming out of his box, and Paul Tracy spears into Will Power trying to take the lead on pit lane. Moron. Shades of Cleveland in ’93 or ’94 (I forget) when he did the same thing to teammate Al Unser Jr. (taking both out), or when he did the same to Castroneves at Laguna in about 2000 or 2001. We’ll see if Paulie does the same this time around and blames the other guy.

4:33 – Let me get this straight: Tracy is allowed to come in and take tires and fuel under caution and avoid a penalty? No penalty for a malicious attempt to chop the leader in pit lane, and causing damage to another car? Sure, that makes complete sense. I thought Paul was under probation through this race. Apparently, in ChampCar, that means “do whatever you feel like, and we’ll just reprimand you again”. I think PT would have to stab somebody on the podium to get suspended for a race. At least Daly just called him “an idiot.” That cheers me up a little.

4:39 – Apparently, according to Benjamin, “Speedy” Dan Clarke has been “a thrill a minute all year.” That’s like saying Terrell Owens has “had a few personality differences with some teammates.”

4:42 – Points as they run now: Bourdais wins the championship, and Nelson Philippe and Will Power are 4th and 5th. Did my head just spin completely around? What year is this? Where am I? I think I might have just blacked out for about 4 months.

4:48 – What the hell is Katherine Legge doing? Isn’t she about 3 laps down after stalling? What business does she have muscling her way past people who are on the lead lap? I’ve got to say that this is the most disturbing trend with the latest crop of rookies in ChampCar: they have no qualms with racing with people when they are laps down. This is just unacceptable. It’s going to take somebody taking out a race leader before anything happens in the way of disciplinary action. Oh, except that Marcus Marshall took out da Matta at Cleveland last year (right in front of where I was sitting) and nothing happened. Good precedent.

4:53 – Daly calls Bourdais “un-champion-like” for his move on Will Power for the lead, damaging Power’s car. If Tracy had made that move, Daly and Benjamin would be chuckling and making jokes right now. Sure, it was dumb, but uh, guys? It’s racing. That happens. And the championship is clinched, so what did you expect from The Bass?

4:56 – Power is out. Too bad. Good drive by him.

4:56 – Footage from the Atlantic banquet. Thankfully, it’s only about 30 seconds worth, as opposed to the seven hour marathon that the NASCAR banquet has become. Who the hell watches the whole thing? I use it as a sleeping aid.

5:00 – We are told by Daly that he expects “Nelson Philippe to hit the front here.” He means “take the lead,” but I think “hit the leader” might be a little more likely.

5:02 – OK, we’ve seen Bourdais hit Power about six times now, but could somebody talk a bit more about Tracy and his non-penalty? If he doesn’t hit Power and knock off some of Power’s aero pieces, maybe Bourdais doesn’t have enough speed to get close enough to make a move. Also, Tracy is running 4th and might have a chance at the win on an alternate fuel strategy. I’m going to go throw up now.

5:04 – Philippe proves me an idiot by taking the lead and we get another helping of “what was he thinking of?” from Daly when Servia loses downforce, locks up, and nudges Philippe under braking. Derek, calm down. That was clearly not on purpose from Oriol.

5:07 – We go to commercial and find out that Andreas Wirth is in 7th. Wha? He had a decent year in Atlantics, but I don’t think anybody thought that this was going to happen. You might want to pick up some Powerball tickets when you get back to the states, Dre.

5:13 – A.J. accepts at least half of the blame for his accident that was assisted by the gearbox acting up. I’m not sure that that interview would have gone quite the same with someone like Tracy.

5:17 – Tracy appears to have pitted and rejoined in front of Philippe. Now he’s in the catbird seat for the win. I may protest and not watch Mexico City if Tracy is allowed to win this race.

5:21 – I’d like to point out that we’re almost 90% of the way through the Surfer’s Paradise ChampCar race and we haven’t seen a single shot of a bikini clad girl on the beach. Have the political correctness police gotten to the SpeedTV guys, or have they just forgotten who their target audience is?

5:22 – A flurry of activity during the commercial: Servia has retired with a gearbox problem and Heylen and Katherine have hit various things. Daly: “I think Katherine’s had about six incidents today.” Ladies and gentlemen, ChampCar’s answer to Danica Patrick!

5:23 – Look, don’t get me wrong, I like Katherine Legge, and I think she’s a decent driver, but she clearly came up to ChampCar at least a year too soon. She’s been in way over her head all year, and the improvement I’ve been hoping would be gradual over the course of the season has been non-existent. She’s just as capable of rearranging tire barriers at any given moment now as she was at Long Beach. I can only hope that they can give her about 10,000 more testing miles over the winter, and maybe some time doing wheel-to-wheel stuff in a shifter kart or something.

5:26 – We learn that Derek Daly gets all of his “insider information” from You’ve got to be kidding. Why bother earning your salary as a TV personality by talking to actual people in the paddock, when you can sit in your hotel room and surf the ‘net?

5:28 – For the record, I’m very excited about the new Panoz ChampCar. It looks great, and should put on some fantastic racing next year. It’s just too bad that there might only be a few legit championship contenders left (Tracy, Bourdais, Wilson) after Allmendinger goes to NASCAR and Bruno gets fired in favor of Graham Rahal.

5:33 – Huh? Tracy and Wario have to trade places? Too bad we don’t have any footage of the pass under yellow. And why isn’t Pizzonia getting out of the way of the leaders here?

5:35 – Daly claims that Wario is one of the “great late brakers.” Ha! Can we just simply call him a “late braker,” please?

5:37 – Philippe, Dominguez and Tracy do their best to make a three car pile-up and give the win to Tags, but fail and continue driving. Too bad.

5:38 – Tracy has to get behind Tags to “give back the time”? What? Since when is this a rule? Tracy short-cutted the chicane, and fell back in behind Dominguez, exactly where he was before. Believe me, I’m not bashful about asking for Paul Tracy to be penalized for things, but this is bullshit.

5:41 – This race has officially attained “train wreck” status. Inexplicable penalties and non-penalties, lots of incidents, most of which took place off camera, and a weird leaderboard. I know that this tends to happen in Australia, but this seems worse than usual.

5:44 – We learn that Dominguez needs “an extra brake pad,” because he’s such a late braker. Um, that’s not a good thing. That means he overdrives his equipment.

5:51 – One lap to go and Wario is close. Plus, he’s got some juice left. But, he just spun the wheels coming on to the backstretch when as Daly says, “the traction control didn’t take off there.” Of course, these cars haven’t had traction control in three years, but who’s paying attention?

5:52 – The win goes to Nelson Philippe! He’s far from my favorite driver, but I guess he deserved this one. When you can stay out of trouble on a day like this, you deserve to wind up in the top five.

5:53 – And a quick championship montage for Bourdais, set to some 1988 vintage Van Halen. Good times. It bothers me, though, that they keep comparing his run of three straight championships to Ted Horn’s. I can’t imagine that this crop of drivers is quite as deep as what Horn had to beat. Nowadays, apparently any dork with a million dollars can be a ChampCar driver.

5:58 –Jon Beekhius: “Nelson Philippe, you’ve joined the ranks of such illustrious company of John Andretti and Mario Dominguez as a driver who has won his first career race at Surfer’s Paradise. How does that make you feel, to follow in those guys’ footsteps, knowing there’s a better-than-good chance that your career will follow the same arc?” OK, maybe that’s just what I’d have asked.

6:00 – Well, it’s been an up and down day. Alonso and Bourdais did manage to sew up their respective championships, and we’ve had a couple of novel winners in Massa and Philippe. Oh, and the most prolific winner (note how I did not say “greatest driver”) in Formula 1 history retired. I’m feeling a little unfulfilled after all of that. Good thing there’s more Labatt’s in the fridge. Enjoy the three week break until Mexico City. And don’t forget to keep ignoring NASCAR. Just remember that it’s for the good of racing.

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