Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thank you, Trackside!

I've gotta get in a huge, huge "Thank You" today to Kevin Lee and Curt Cavin and the Trackside crew on Indy's 1070 AM "The Fan". They very graciously hosted a group of racing's best bloggers (and allowed me in there as well) on last night's radio show, which is also available via podcast. You can either get the show through iTunes (as I do; please subscribe, as it helps their case as a viable ongoing concern and will help ensure that we get more Curt and Kevin in 2009), or you can download it in MP3 format, right through their website.

Big, big ups as well to the fellas who made the show: Pressdog (or Bill, as his friends know him; I wouldn't know, though), Jeff from My Name is IRL, Steve from Motor Racing Online, and James from 16th and Georgetown. I'm just thrilled to share a venue with all of you, even though my word butchery now extends into the multi-media arena.

Minus side: I missed a couple of words of one question that Kevin Lee asked me, and I made it sound like there is a large, impending backlash against those bloggers out there that remember to post more than once a week (namely, 'Dog and Jeff). That backlash might or might not be coming, but I can assure you that I'm not leading the charge. Too lazy.

Plus side: I then proceeded to undermine any points that I might have made or any possible threats against the above mentioned bloggers by wresting the title away from Kimi Raikkonen for "Most Uses of the Word 'Uh' by Someone Using a Monotone Voice in One Conversation". Great work by me.

Monday, November 03, 2008


I'd like to pretend that that's what I had to say at the end of yesterday's Formula 1 finale, but I'm afraid that it was probably closer to the noise that a 12 year old girl would make throughout the first 45 minutes of a Jonas Brothers concert (until they pass out of dehydration).

Through 18 years of watching nearly every major open wheel race (F1, CART/ChampCar, IRL - I've probably seen 90% or more of all of those since 1991), I have never seen anything quite like what went down at Interlagos. Yes, the IRL closer at Chicagoland last year was similar, but maybe years of 0.003 second margins of victory at the mile and a half ovals have somewhat numbed me to close IndyCar races (Scott Dixon would have had to have clinched the '08 title while sliding on his roll hoop to completely impress me). The kind of drama that we had in was written in the race review on that this would have been laughed out of Hollywood if it'd been written in a movie script, but that really is true. That sort of thing just does not happen in F1.

Over the course of the last 20 laps of the race, the identity of the champion-to-be changed hands four or five times. From Lewis cruising in 4th or 5th for most of the middle portion of the race, to falling back to 6th during the next to last round of pitstops, to being threatened by Sebastian Vettel for 5th for 10+ laps (and the lack of a margin of error that that would have meant), to the Toyotas gambling on skipping wet weather tires and Glock leapfrogging Vettel and Hamilton, to Vettel passing Lewis for 5th (due to a bizarre pass by Kubica, who was a lap down; how was he so fast all of a sudden? Was the BMW set up for the wet and that's why he was so slow in qualifying?), to...finally...the pass by Vettel and Lewis on Glock on the last lap, after Glock had started the lap 16 seconds in front... I can still barely get my head around the whole set of circumstances.

I believe that justice was served in the end. If not for the FIA's penalty on Sebastien Bourdais at Fuji, Lewis would have gone to Brazil with an eight point gap, which would have meant that 6th would have clinched just as well as Lewis's eventual 5th place did. In my opinion, two other penalties had a negative effect on the championship as well: Lewis's penalty at Spa (which I think should have been more like 20 seconds, which would have only dropped him to 2nd; that just seemed more fitting, as a real drive through penalty at Spa wouldn't have taken a full 25 seconds), and Massa's effective non-penalty for trying to take Lewis out at Fuji (it'd take me taking a long, hard look at Ferrari's data traces to convince me that that wasn't deliberate; Felipe shouldn't have been allowed to score in Japan at all after that, in my opinion). Both of those penalties, to my mind, cost Lewis two extra points worth of a lead, and so without either one (and without the Bourdais penalty), he'd have been up by ten points going to Brazil. That would have been an absolute lay-up for Lewis to win the championship, which is precisely why the FIA didn't let things play out that way.

Meanwhile, I am glad that Felipe did manage to win the race, even if it meant some very bittersweet emotions for him on the rostrum and in the interview room (and he did a great job to not completely break down in tears). He deserved the race win, and if he'd been a legitimate seven points behind Lewis going into the race, I'd even have been OK with him winning the championship, too. Ferrari also did deserve to win the Constructor's title, as McLaren only managed to get both of their cars through to the end of a race without a major drama for one or the other a handful of times all season.

One thing that seemed to be missed on Sunday: Heikki Kovaleinen did the right thing in trying to tuck in behind Lewis on the start, even though he'd gotten a better start. That move meant that Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel were able to attack and pass him through the Senna Esses, but Heikki made a great exit from the Esses and was well positioned to pass both guys back on the run down the backstraight. However, after clearing Alonso, Vettel threw a gigantic block on Heikki in the middle of the straight, forcing Heikki to put two wheels on the grass (which was still soaked from the rain from 15 minutes before), which subsequently caused Heikki to be re-passed by Alonso. If the FIA actually penalized for driving tactics that were truly unsafe (as opposed to driving tactics that simply put you in the general vicinity of a Ferrari), this would never have happened, Heikki probably would have passed Alonso, Vettel or both, and he'd actually have been able to help Lewis by holding back the rest of the field. A moot point now, sure, but in view of the FIA also failing to penalize Jarno Trulli for a wildly kamikaze move (can I say that, if Jarno is driving a Toyota?) on Sebastien Bourdais, you've got to wonder what sort of tactics do and don't merit a penalty.

2008 is going to be a very, very tough act to follow. I have high hopes for next year, though. The introduction of KERS will be an interesting development, but for my money, the most important things will be which team is able to best optimize their car for the new aerodynamic restrictions which are supposed to eliminate 50% of the cars' downforce and reduce their wake-turbulence, and who can adapt to the re-introduction of slick tires. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing F1 cars on proper tires, and not the goofy grooved ones of the current era, which I never thought seemed to be compatible with a world class racing series.

Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton! He's won one of the best Formula 1 championships the sport has ever seen, and may he win many more.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Let's go!

We're almost to race time for the Formula 1 season finale at Interlagos today. So far, the weekend has played out pretty closely to how I figured it would. Felip Massa put his Ferrari on pole by roughly 15 seconds, and Lewis Hamilton is qualified in a relatively safe 4th, with what appears to be a relatively heavy fuel load. Going off of sector times in qualifying, McLaren has apparently also trimmed a lot of wing off of Lewis's car, and I imagine that the reason for that is that if he has a sub-standard start, then he'll be able to use his superior straightaway speed to pass enough cars to get back up to the championship-clinching 5th place. The real wild cards in the equation are Jarno Trulli (qualified 2nd, though I think he's running light fuel and won't be a true factor in the race), Fernando Alonso (qualified 6th, directly behind Lewis on the grid, and who has said that he's willing to help Felipe to the crown), and the dirty side of the grid, where Lewis will be starting. I think that we'll see Felipe take off at the start like he's got a Titan rocket booster strapped to the rear diffuser and take an easy victory, meanwhile Lewis will make a slow start, fall to maybe 6th or so, then leapfrog 2-3 cars at the first round of stops. This will be followed by Lewis cruising home and take home the title. What I don't think will happen (or at least, what I hope doesn't happen) is an unforced error from Lewis like we saw here or in China last year. I think (hope) Lewis has learned that it's not necessary to get all the way to the front, and that he can wrap up the title while avoiding much in the way of close calls with other drivers. I'm not going to pretend here, I'm rooting for Lewis, since I've been following him since his F3 days, and I've been a raving psychophant of his since halfway through his year in GP2.

Anyway, I'm OK with Felipe winning the race, though I wish that he'll at least have a little competition. And I'm definitely fine with Lewis being in "cruise and collect" mode today. After all, I haven't had a favorite driver of mine win a major open wheel championship since Jimmy Vasser won the CART title at Laguna Seca in 1996. That was a long time ago. Did I mention that I've been a Cubs fan since 1984, too? What I'm trying to say is that Lewis needs to win this one for me. It is all about me, and only me.

Better wrap this up before the pre-race gets going (and I get my last dose of the incomparable Varsha/Hobbs/Matchett comentating team for five's a long off-season). Enjoy the race, everybody!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fantasy Racing Teaser

For all of you who might have come over here after hearing a fantastic plug for my fantasy racing series on the Live Fast Racing Podcast, welcome! And for those of you who may have stopped by on your read-through of what's current in the racing blogosphere, maybe coming over from My Name Is IRL or Starting Grid News or anybody else who might be linking to me nowadays, then welcome to you as well.

As Johnny and The Duke so generously mentioned, I'm currently running a multi-series fantasy racing league, and with 2008 drawing near a close, I'm looking for potential team owners for 2009. I have a full set of rules that I can send to anybody who is interested (don't worry, it's only about two pages with generous spacing), but here are the basics for the All-Racing Fantasy League (or ARFL, as it's currently called):

- The series that are incorporated into the ARFL sanction are as follows: Formula 1, IndyCar, ALMS, GrandAm (Daytona Prototype class only), NASCAR Cup and NASCAR Truck. The series that will be covered in 2009 will probably be similar to this list, though I'm considering other road racing series to add in to better balance the number of oval and road races. ChampCar's demise sort of messed that up for this year.

- There will be either 10 or 12 teams for 2009, depending on interest level. Each individual team consists of 14 drivers, derived via a pre-season draft. The draft will take place sometime in January in the weeks leading up to the Daytona 24 Hours, which is the first race on the ARFL schedule.

- Each week, every team owner will submit a "starting lineup" of 5 oval drivers and 5 road racers who are eligible to score points that week, and then their 4 "bench drivers" for the week. If you forget to send in your lineup some week, your previous week's lineup is carried over. This avoids any unnecessary "zeroes" which would most likely paralyze you in any one of the dozens of "pick-'em" leagues out there. Been there, hated that. Missing week 30 in a NASCAR league means that you're wasted your time for the previous 29 weeks.

- Every race is scored via a system that I've derived using the current IndyCar scoring system as a starting point. A win scores 50 points, a 2nd is worth 40 points, a 3rd is worth 35 points, and so on, plus pole position is worth 3 points, leading the most laps is worth 2 points and the fastest race lap is worth 2 points.

- Drivers can only be owned by one team at a time (i.e. 4 teams can't all have Jimmie Johnson on their team), but teams can change up their rosters on a weekly basis via trades with other team owners or through the free agency process (which sounds complicated, but I assure you is not).

- The winner is the team owner who can pile up the most points at the end of the year, plain and simple. No points re-setting or playoff system here, buster.

- This is not a profit source for me. I'm simply looking for similar-minded racing fans who imagine themselves a Roger Penske or Chip Ganassi-type who simply lack...well, a gigantic Garage Mahal, a professional racing team and several million dollars with which to run it.

That's about it, in a nutshell. Please feel free to drop me a comment using the comment form or an e-mail (the address would be andymiller23 at gmail dot com), if you're interested in playing. If you'd like to see if you'd be interested in playing a full season in 2009, there are currently three teams that I'm running to fill out the ranks this year that I'd be happy to sign over to you for the remaining 2-3 weeks of 2008.

Thanks for reading, everybody, and enjoy the races this weekend!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Don't know what to say anymore...

I'm not about to start making threats about no longer watching F1 (I don't think I could quit if I tried at this point), but it's really not very easy to be an F1 fan at this point. I'll start with this: if you recorded the Japanese GP and have not heard the results but are planning on watching the race, uh, there are going to be spoilers below.

Spoilers below!

I'm beyond frustrated with the FIA, and now I'm bordering on angry. I was vehemently opposed to last year's $100 million fine on McLaren for receiving data from another team, when there has been plenty of evidence that that was far from the first time that sort of thing had taken place (or that it would be the last, since the FIA basically let Renault off the hook for a similar transgression of stealing data from McLaren later in the season). Even in the days when I was more of a Ferrari fan than a McLaren fan (this would be in the early-Schumacher days, before they were an unbeatable team-order-giving juggernaut), I thought it odd that Ferrari was let off for certain things, like the barge boards that were out of spec at Maylasia in 1999. At the time, I was happy to look the other way, since it made for a good story with the championship coming down to the last race, and Ferrari was still something of an underdog.

However, this year's events at Spa and now Fuji make it completely obvious that the FIA is biased toward Ferrari. I can even sort of understand the penalty on Lewis Hamilton at Spa. He did, no doubt, derive an advantage by shortcutting the chicane, and only by doing that was he able to be close enough to Kimi Raikkonen to attempt a pass at La Source hairpin. However, a 25 second penalty, after McLaren had been told twice by race director Charlie Whiting that he'd done enough to make up for the shortcut, is just out of bounds. An actual drive through penalty at Spa would cost a driver roughly 20 seconds, so why should the penalty be 25? My money is on "because that would drop Lewis behind Nick Heidfeld and therefore cost him two extra points." On the other hand, I'd basically been able to move on since then, since Ferrari seemed intent on making things right again with Felipe's engine blowing up at Valencia, and then the pitlane miscue at Singapore which cost him any chance of scoring points.

This weekend's Japanese GP at Fuji may have contained several of the most puzzling penalties I've seen levied on racing drivers in my 18 years of watching racing. In that amount of time, I've probably watched several hundred races; you may draw your own conclusion on how much of a life I might or might not have.

For starters, Lewis Hamilton's drive through penalty for "forcing Kimi Raikkonen wide" at the first often has that sort of incident happened in the history of F1? 200? 500? How many penalties have previously been handed out for that before, in cases when no contact was made between cars? I'm going with...none. Until now. That is a brilliant precedent to set. It's basically saying, "You may not intimidate another car or take a position on the track such that it inconveniences another driver."

Later in the first lap, there was a completely toothless penalty given to Felipe Massa after he blatantly attempted to take Lewis Hamilton out of the race. Lewis made a great move inside of Felipe, causing Felipe to carry too much speed into the corner and then slide wide. Lewis completed the pass, only for Felipe to make a stab back at Lewis. Not only did Felipe go over the curbing on the inside of the chicane, he put two wheels over the grass inside of the curbing and drove directly into the side of Lewis's car. Patrick's excellent race notes at Too Much Racing indicate that Martin Brundle on the ITV coverage claimed that Lewis had not given Felipe enough room, don't have to give any room at all when you're fully ahead of somebody and there's no realistic chance of an overtaking maneuver! Felipe was given a drive through penalty for this, but the damage was done: Lewis spun and had to wait for the entire field to pass by before resuming. Mission accomplished for Felipe. The fact that Lewis was handed his drive through penalty at exactly the same time as Felipe only served to reinforce that Felipe had gotten the better of the whole exchange, as the two drive throughs would cancel each other out, but leave Felipe further up the road from Lewis. During the Saturday qualifying show, Bob Varsha spent some time talking about how much Felipe Massa has been able to learn from Michael Schumacher over the years. I couldn't agree more.

The final "coup de gras" came late in the race, as Sebastien Bourdais was coming out of the pits after his last pit stop, directly in front of Massa. Felipe did manage to get fully alongside (though on the outside of ) Sebastien going into the first corner, but then Felipe obliviously turned into the apex, even though there was another car there. It appeared to me on the replays that Sebastien went over the inside curbing and even slowed down a little extra in order to give Felipe some more room, but in that instant, there's only so much you can do (I think F1 cars don't get a "beam up" feature until the 2025 regulations come into effect). At the time, there was no question to me that Felipe was in the wrong in this altercation, but I see that after the fact, the FIA gave Sebastien a 25 second penalty for "avoidable contact". I don't think that any even semi-impartial observer could make a claim that this was more than 50% Sebastien's fault, so where's the matching penalty for Felipe? I guess that the moral to this part of the story is "if you can even see a Ferrari anywhere near you, you probably ought to pull over and let him by before the FIA gives you a penalty for failing to do so".

This championship has been tampered with by the FIA. There is no doubt about that anymore. If there is any justice in F1 at all, Lewis will still pull it out in the end, and Ron Dennis will be accepting the Constructor's Championship trophy from Max Mosley at the FIA awards banquet. Lewis and McLaren have had far from a perfect season, and Lewis has been responsible for a lot of his own problems (ahem, Canada), but right now he's not just trying to beat the Ferrari team. He's also trying to beat the FIA Stewards and rulemakers, who've done a masterful job this year of making up new pro-Ferrari rules as they go. It's going to be an interesting last month of the season, but let's just hope that it comes down to what happens on the track, and not in the race control booth.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Some weekend, huh?

Well, how's about that for a weekend of racing? Petit Le Mans was as good as billed, though I think I managed to singlehandedly curse a couple of cars myself. Seems that two of the only four teams to get a mention in my last post met untimely ends, with one (the B-K Lola-Mazda coupe) crashing in the morning warmup and not even making the start and the other (the Zytek hybrid) having an early contretemps with a Turn 12 tire barrier (hint: the mostly immovable object won). Oops. My bad. Just don't send me the bill.

Anyway, Petit came right down to the last dozen or so laps with the outcome yet to be decided between the two Audis and the Peugeot. The Peugeot obviously had the superior speed, though for whatever reason, they decided to have Christian Klien in the car for the last couple of stints of the race. This decision came in the face of his having had no previous experience with the Road Atlanta track, and his only previous night driving experience coming at Le Mans this year. Meanwhile, Nicolas Minassian and Stephane Sarrazin (two of Peugeot's regular drivers in the Le Mans European Series, and both blindingly quick) just had to sit and cool their jets and think about what the new Peugeot hybrid will be like to drive at Sebring next year while their team choked away yet another major race. At the same time, Audi smartly went with Allan McNish in the #1 car, who promptly diced Klien up on a late race restart and drove off into the distance (I'd say sunset, but the actual sun had long since set by then). Great racing, though. Also, big ups to Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves on their P2 class win, coming just one day after Helio...uh, appeared in court in chains.

On the down side: GT1 was only attended by the two Corvettes, as the Bell Motorsport Aston Martin decided to sit this one out. I never heard quite why that happened, as the Aston has made it to the last few races and did not sustain any visible damage at the last round at Detroit. Very much on the downside: the P2 class championship is over, with Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas clinching after Scott Sharp crashed the Highcroft Acura and then walked away from the car...which is against ALMS rules. Instant retirementfor you. Oops.

I've been told that NASCAR was also in action this weekend. OK, that's a lie. I actually managed to catch about 30 laps worth of the fall Russian Roulette 500 from Talladega. As always, the action did not disappoint. Or, I should say, it did not disappoint anybody who likes lots of wreckin' and some shoddy rule enforcement by the sanctioning body. There were several big pileups this time around, but none bigger than the one caused by Carl Edwards stupidly attempting to bump draft his teammate Greg Biffle in Turn 3. Refresh me here, but I thought that NASCAR very publicly came out a couple of years ago and threatened draconian penalties against anybody who bump drafted outside of marked zones on the backstraight at both Daytona and Talladega. What happened to that? It appears to have been no more than big talk from Mr. Helton and the NASCAR Hauler Boys. Good work there. Also, when this happens again in the future, I want the accident to not be called "The Big One", but instead dubbed "The Dumb One".

Last NASCAR thing for now, promise: how about that last lap selective rules enforcement? Tony Stewart throws the mother of all block parties (thanks, Pressdog!) for Regan Smith and gets no penalty, while Regan gets called for improving his position and is docked back to the last car on the lead lap? Believe me, I'm a Tony Stewart fan from back in his pre-IRL days, but that was nonsense. To Stew's credit, he probably had a hunch that a driver who's in the middle of NASCAR's contrived "Chase" wouldn't get called for anything short of stabbing a guy during a round of yellow flag pitstops, so good on him for playing the system and scoring his first win of the year. Sorry for you, Regan Smith. Better luck next year. Oh, unless your team can't come up with a sponsor and goes out of business.

Hey, hey, F1's back in action at Fuji again this week! I absolutely love the Japan races. There's something about being able to actually stay up and catch a race live instead of having to get up early and watch at 6:00 AM. Of course, I don't really do either of those anymore, since the advent of TiVo and DVRs, but still. Also, it's rainy season on the Pacific Rim, which means a high probability of another fantastically entertaining wet race. Watch it. You won't be sorry.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Petit Preview

Hey, all! Time for a quick update this morning, in the hour before the Petit Le Mans starts up. It's going to be a great one this year, with three (ridiculously fast) cars from two teams going for the P1 and overall win, a few other P1 cars vying for top-5 and top-10 spots (including one with a hybrid Kinetic Energy Recovery System), nine top level P2 cars fighting for the class win and even top-5 overall positions (though I sort of doubt that any of the P2 cars will be able to touch the Audis and Peugeot for the overall win today), and 16 GT2 cars from seven different manufacturers. Qualifying results this morning indicate that the pole speed by Stephane Sarrazin in the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP is actually the fastest lap of Road Atlanta ever, faster than the 1992 pole speed by Davy Jones in the Jaguar XJR-9. That was in the days before there was a chicane at the bottom of the hill at the end of the paraphrase our good friend Rusty Wallace, "These cats are flyin' around here in these hotrods!" Ugh. I've got to go take a shower now.

The first couple of hours kick off here on SpeedTV shortly, and then there's a few hour break before the last 4 1/2 hours of the race is shown in its entirety. Whoever you're rooting for, Audi, Peugeot, Porsche, Acura, or even Mazda (as I am; love the new coupe, guys!), it's going to be an all-time classic. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Buckle up!

OK, get ready 'Geek fans, it's time for my second post in one month for the first time in 2008! Yes, it's a big day at Speedgeek HQ.

Anyway, as I mentioned last week, I did go to the ALMS race at Road America last weekend, and I feel like I need to extol the virtues of sports car racing, as the crowd was definitely less than what it was for the ALMS/ChampCar weekend at Road America last year. I would have to argue that the ALMS guys put on a better (read that: more spectator friendly) show than the ChampCars do at RA, or even what most series put on at most tracks in North America. There are several reasons for this:

1) The ChampCar races (and now, the combined IndyCar races) are guaranteed to be over in right around two hours, whereas the ALMS main event race is a four hour timed race. The extra two hours are exactly what the doctor ordered for being able to walk around the track, hit five or six different vantage points, and be able to have enough time to settle in and see how all of the different cars behave. I suppose that places like St. Pete or Mid-Ohio can get away with 2 1/2 hour races, being more compact venues, but the four hour event is absolutely necessary at Road America. My group was able to spend the first three laps at turn 1, then head back to the Hurry Downs for about 45 minutes, then spend a half an hour inside turn 6, then a half an hour on the hillside between turn 6 and turn 13, then a half an hour walking through the paddock looking at the merch trailers, then the last 45 minutes of the race in the woods just before turn 5. Perfect.

2) As I mentioned before, it's mandated by the series to have all of the drivers available for autographs for at least an hour per weekend. Kids love that stuff. OK, who am I kidding? I love that stuff. I decided to limit the amount of potential for "fawning fan-boy" talk (I get like Chris Farley on the Chris Farley show: "Hey, Randy Pobst, remember when you passed four guys on the start at Sebring this year? That was awesome."), and only hit a couple of the autograph tables, but I did get signatures of this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans GT2 winners, Jamie Melo and Mika Salo, and autographs of almost 50% of this year's Speed World Challenge drivers. I don't know if the all of the drivers' smiles and general friendly demeanor is also a series-mandated thing, but they all seem pretty psyched to be spending time with people who know who they are, and can appreciate that they drive in a series where you don't have to throw your HANS device at other drivers to get a round of applause from the crowd.

3) I don't care what people say. Multiple classes in one race is a good thing. When the Audis, or Acuras, or Penske Porsches or whoever check out at the front of the overall field, it's a nice thing to be able to watch the Corvettes trading the lead in GT1, or see who is is at the front of the very tight pack of GT2 cars. Yes, watching sports car racing requires the fans to use their brains to think about what's going on on the track. Heaven forbid. That would be awful. Of course, that does not stop a certain number of the fans from getting completely hammered and obnoxious, as I found out in turn 1, where a drunk guy was complaining loudly about two people who'd leaned their bikes against the first row of the grandstands. Where nobody was sitting anyway, because you couldn't see anything from there. I guess there's one dumb drunk guy in every crowd. Anyway, I digress.

4) Multiple fundamentally different cars on the track at once is a very good thing. Think about it. Just about every other type of racing showcases cars that are not terribly different from one another. NASCAR? Glorified spec series (where people complain about Toyota having a 14 horsepower advantage). IndyCar? Actual spec series, though if you have a bottomless pocketbook, you can find advantages in fan-intriguing areas like rear-view mirrors. Ooooh. F1? For now, until next year's introduction of KERS, more or less a spec series, with everybody's engines putting out within 20-30 horsepower of each other and copycat aerodynamic developmets. ALMS, on the other hand, have cars from nearly a dozen different manufacturers, and each of them are distinctly different from what each of the other manufacturers have. So the Acuras and Porsches are way better than the Audis through the twisties? Watch the Audis claw back the deficit down the straights.

5) This seems kind of dopey, but it's another reason: ticket prices. How much is it to get a grandstand seat at the average NASCAR race? $80? $90? How about IndyCar races? Just less than that? For the Saturday at Road America, tickets were $55, and that got you access to just about everything but the hot pits and the team transporters. Oh, and you also get to come down on to the grid before the race and mingle with the crews, and if you're so inclined, you can get onto the main straight after the race and take your picture next to any of the winning cars. Try that at Bristol or Darlington.

6) With races being 2 1/2+ hours, if your significant other, or the rest of the family isn't as much of a super fan as you are (hard to imagine, I know), they can go take a nap in the car or prop themselves up under a tree with a book for an hour or more. I don't get it either, but I'm just throwing that out there.

7) OK, maybe this is more of an endorsement for Road America itself, but can you beat this? You can fill out the illusion by putting a bratwurst in one hand and a New Glarus Spotted Cow Ale in the other as you look at it.

Now, doesn't that beat sitting shoulder to shoulder with sweaty race fans in some aluminum grandstand that could be at just about any track anywhere? Yeah, I thought so.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hello and Good Day!

The 'geek has returned. That was a fantastic 24 Hours of Daytona, huh? Next week's Daytona 500 ought to be a pretty good one as well, don't you think? What's that? You say that it's not early February anymore? Oops.

Several things have happened recently which have inspired me to dust off the ol' internet soapbox, and write a bit more. One: I've come across some quite talented bloggers who I read regularly, and I'd feel remiss if I didn't chip in my $0.02 as well. Namely, the fellows at and at Pressdog are quite good, and very well informed. In fact, I met Jeff from MyNameIsIRL at Indy this year, and I told him that reading his stuff had inspired me to get behind the keyboard again. Of course, now that it's been two and a half months since the 500, it's high time. Second: a fantastic trip to Road America this last weekend for the ALMS race got my fan-juices flowing anew and I once again think that racing is awesome. I guess I hadn't really forgotten that or anything, but there's nothing like standing in the woods and watching sports cars rip by at 150+ mph, and only 50 feet away, to bring things into pretty sharp focus. Racing rules, just about all of it. Though I do still believe that some forms rule more than others...

Which brings us to today's quick-hits! You can read that as "the 'geek hasn't written in 6+ months, so here are several underdeveloped thoughts to get back up to current events."

- Reunification has gone pretty well

I'm obviously thrilled that IndyCar has one and only one series again. Not everything has gone perfectly, but it's actually gone better than I thought it might. A couple of ex-ChampCar teams are in the top-15 in points, and haven't been completely at sea all season, and the racing on track has usually been pretty good. Every statement has its exceptions (ahem, Nashville) but overall, it's been a good season and bodes well for a great 2009.

- The 2009 IndyCar TV package is good

I'm not scared of Versus. People who are already fans of IndyCar will find it (believe me, I'm one of those people who tried to swear off back in the Fox Sports Net/Eliseo Salazar/Buzz Calkins days; it didn't take), and I actually think that a growing network that is willing to spend a bunch of programming time on developing the league's personalities might be just the thing that could foster new fans. Casual fans can see some of the races on ABC, and those who are open minded toward non-NASCAR racing will tune in to Versus, same as they could now for the races that are on ESPN/ESPN2.

- I'm thoroughly enjoying the Kyle Busch Era

Anybody who is willing to stand up in front of 80,000 boo-ing Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans and take a bow after he's won a race is OK in my book. Yes, he's a spoiled Busch kid, who may be prone to throwing tantrums when things don't go his way, but he's an entertaining spoiled Busch kid. And that counts for something.

- Big league sports car racing is the best thing going

I was able to stand in line for 5 minutes or less to get the autograph of just about anybody in the Road America paddock last weekend. Try that at any NASCAR race, or even an IndyCar race (unless you pony up an extra $25 for an IndyCar pit pass, which is more than you can say for NASCAR, where pit passes are as rare as dodos). You'll be stuck behind a chain link fence for hours and probably come away empty handed. I got to see several ex-F1 and IndyCar drivers (Salo, de Ferran, Pagenaud, Brabham, Sharp, Magnussen, Fernandez, Montagny) up close and tons of guys who've won races all over the globe (Luhr, Werner, Leitzinger, Smith, O'Connell, Beretta, Gavin, the Franchitti brother who isn't married to Ashley Judd), and you really get the impression that if you stopped any of them in the paddock to chat for a minute, they'd be happy to shoot the breeze for a second and take a picture with you. I couldn't recommend catching one of these races highly enough.

That's about it for the moment. Yes, I've said this about a dozen times before, but like Mr. Burns and his beloved teddy bear Bobo, "I'll never leave you behind again." Of course, I'm referring to you, my three faithful readers, and not a stuffed animal. Oh, and sorry about the silence again. That darn coma...

Saturday, January 26, 2008


The 24 Hours looks awesome in HD! Too bad it'll just be the first hour and a half that gets the hi-def treatment, but I'll take whatever I can get.

Enjoy the race, folks! The season has started!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

'08 is Live!

Good day, race fans. Or, good evening, I guess, as I write this. Anyway, Happy New Year to one and all. Here's hoping that the new year will be as entertaining as last year was, racingwise, though I couldn't in my wildest dreams hope that anything as delightful as The War at Watkins (i.e. Kanaan vs. The Hornish Family) will happen this year.

I just wanted to weigh in and say that I actually just experienced one of my favorite racing moments of all of 2007 last week: the black flag period during the Formula Continental race at the SCCA Runoffs. Usually black flag periods (when all cars have to come into the pits for track cleanup, in SCCA parlance, not what Milka Duno gets around lap 40 of every IRL race she enters) are deathly boring, but not so much this time around. In the able hands of Mike Johnson and Chris Neville, Speed's pit reporters for half of the Runoffs races, we got a clinic of what on-the-scene race reporting can be. Working with each other, and with one fleet footed camera man, we got to see Johnson and Neville have a quick word with each of the drivers in the top-10 in the space of about two or three minutes. It was awesome watching the two of them leap frog each other, one guy running behind the camera man while the other talked with a driver on camera, then the camera man running down to the next car. Making the whole thing even better was the fact that Johnson and Neville knew exactly what was going on with each driver in the race (or, at least the guys feeding them info through their headsets did), and all of them were asked interesting and pertinent questions regarding tactics to that point or what we could expect after the restart. It was fascinating to watch the whole thing, leaving me wondering how this has only shown up at an "amateur" event, and why we haven't seen anything similar on a starting grid in any other form of motorsport. The tape of the FC race should be required watching for anybody involved with TV production for any series in North America.

That's all for now. The Daytona 24 is in 24 days!