19 September 2009

Thoughts from Motegi (or, I'm a sponsor's dream)

Ok, I wasn't there, but I did watch the entire race last night.  How did I manage?

First, I prepared by working my full-time job - sports information directing a collegiate volleyball match.  During said match I began to drink a Venom Energy.  The Death Adder (fruit punch) was surprisingly good, didn't taste a drop like an energy drink.  Could be trouble if ever mixed with an alcoholic beverage.

Said energy drink was consumer by the time I arrived home at 10:00 p.m., leaving enough time to grab a pen and paper and a Miller Lite (the official beer of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway), enclosed as ever in my Team 7-Eleven Tony Kanaan koozie.

(Special thanks to the lady in Kansas who sent me a box of 12 TK koozies a few years ago, instead of the one I was expecting).

Point being, if you sponsor IndyCar racing in some way, shape or form, I will try your product.  Anyways, on to the race...

Let's see, Versus is channel 640 on the U-Verse, meaning I'm one of roughly 12 people in America watching the race tonight.  Your lead in to the race?  I'm not sure, but it involved a hunter chasing a turkey.  That show probably gets a .6 rating at least.  And I can buy some sick-looking bows at Bass Pro Shops.

(They don't sponsor the IndyCar Series however, so I will not try their products.  I'm that loyal.) 

Pre-race: The picture on the TV has frozen.  Great.  Time to reset the cable box.

Pre-race(5 minutes later): Box works again; back to Versus.  Hoardes of Japanese autograph seekers running towards Danica Patrick, apparently.  This leads to her black-and-white with Jack Arute (one of maybe three Versus employees in Japan).

Pre-race: Commercials!  Tony Kanaan dances for ApexBrasil.  For all the commercials Apex airs, they'd damn sure better have a race there in March.

Pre-race: You're looking live at Motegi!  Bob Jenkins speaks Japanese and it is fantastic.  Who knows if Robbie Buhl, Jan Beekhius or Bob are actually in Japan.  With no live shot, my money is on "no."  Odds are they're in a booth at Versus HQ or in Indianapolis somewhere.

Command to start engines: And we're about to go racing.  Graham Rahal has a special helmet for this race, featuring Godzilla (resisting the urge to make any Godzilla-related jokes at this time.  Maybe after a few beers).

Lap 0: Mario Moraes seems all grown up.  It's a shame it had to happen around the time his father passed away, but he's no longer the kid he wrecked on Lap 1 at Indianapolis.  He sits on the front row with The Haast Eagle.

Lap 0: Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves start in the rear of the field.  The always dangerous tandem of Stanton Barrett and Robert Doornbos are directly in front.  Should be entertaining.
  • Jack Arute says that both TK and Helio will be on the "Patrick Plan," trying to conserve fuel and move up during the race.  Good luck with both.

Lap 1: And we're green.  Franchitti moves around Moraes for second; TK and Helio begin carving up the rear of the field.

Lap 6: Marco Andretti has moved up 7 spots - I didn't see a one.  TK and Helio up 5 - Versus brought us all of those, thankfully.

Lap 10: Apparently 10 laps=commercial break.  The usual cast of characters comes out: Izod, Peak, Honda, Versus ad for UFC.

Lap 16: We're back.  The Haast Eagle still leads.  Ryan  Briscoe has no pit speed limiter - he had to disconnect it.  See if that does anything later.

Lap 22: Dan Wheldon (conspicuously missing Delphi sponsorship, but maybe that's been gone for a while) darts past Danica Patrick, who has used roughly half of her 20 overtake assists to this point.  And she's in sixth.  That's not good for DP.

Lap 22: Now that Danica has been passed, it's safe to go to commercials, again (it was 6 laps ago, people!).  Again, Kanaan dances, Boost Mobile, Firestone, and Mazda - wait, Mazda is airing an ad during an IndyCar race.  Interesting there, especially as they talk about Mazda racing.  Something to remember...

Lap 29: We're back, but not with racing.  Highlights from 1967, when Indycars first took Japan.  The dulcet tones of Tom Carnegie narrate the video.  Always good to hear Tom Carnegie's voice. 

Lap 30: Apparently, nothing has changed up front: Haast Eagle, Genteel Scot (I made that up - Dario needs a cool nickname), Moraes, Briscoe, Wheldon.  Glad I made time to get another beer.

Lap 32: Wheldon stalking Briscoe now.  Panther is looking racy early on here - good on the boys there.

Lap 36: Briscoe shuts the door on Wheldon - well that was fun.

Lap 37: Versus, satisfied they showed an attempt to pass, goes to commercial (last set of commercials came 8 laps ago).
  • Honestly, who wears the "Live Large" t-shirt Enzyte promises to send?  And who writes those commercials?  Good grief.  

Lap 41: We're back! Only 4 laps worth of commercials - not too shabby.  Though we missed the leaders in traffic, apparently.  The Haast Eagle-Barrett battle would have been worth its weight in gold, I'm sure.

Lap 43: Beekhuis thinks the pit window is around laps 48-50; Buhl says closer to 45.  Whoever is wrong will have to stick their hand in a pot which may or may not have a live cobra inside.  Should be interesting.

Lap 45: Kosuke Mastsuura is in to pit.  Score one for Buhl.

Lap 47: Moraes is in, just like Beekhius mentioned roughly 10 seconds before it actually happened, citing his lack of fuel conservation skills.  Not bad work there, Jan.
  • Moraes with a fuel hose issue.  Not good.  Maybe half a tank of fuel gets in the car.  Maybe.
Lap 50: Everybody in to pit, essentially.  Jan and Robbie agree that "they're both right." No one will stick their hand in the jar.  Unfortunate for all.

Lap 51: The Haast Eagle comes down pit road.  Hideki Mutoh appears to be going roughly 17 mph in front of him.  Dixon flashes the talons and Mutoh disappears into his pit.

Lap 52: The Genteel Scot comes out ahead of The Haast Eagle, courtesy of Mutoh.  Wheldon moved up to 3rd during that round of stops.

Lap 55: I smell commercials (it's been 14 laps of live racing, after all).  And here they are.

Lap 62: I've been handed a gift from the racing gods - Homestead falls on the 10th of October, a day in which my sports information directing responsibilities are slim.  Good.  I was worried I'd be following the race while making sure scorer's table were lined up properly.

Lap 64: Ed Carpenter is struggling mightily.  Unfortunate, especially after Vision Racing did so much work helping us all understand what goes into preparing for this race.
  • Franchitti puts TK a lap down.  So much for the "Patrick Plan."

Lap 68: Jan brings up what I've been pondering - would it be better for Target-Chip Ganassi Racing if Dixon wins, so as to bring them both within striking distance of Briscoe?

Lap 69: And with that thought, back to commercials (I sense a pattern: 7 laps of green-flag racing, commercials, and repeat the process).

Lap 72: Moraes in to pit - only had 19 laps worth of fuel, apparently. Not good for him as he plummets from 5th to a lap down.
  • Something about pinions and racks works its way in here, but I didn't catch the whole segment, though it looked interesting.

Lap 77: The Scot puts Helio a lap down and Bob Jenkins tries to jinx the race by telling us there hasn't been a caution yet.  Cagey one, that Jenkins.

Lap 81: 10 of the 23 cars are on the lead lap.  I thought the Target cars struggled at Motegi.  Not this year.

Lap 84: The Scot saddles up behind Moraes, trying to put him 2 laps down - Mario was just in 5th roughly 12 laps ago.  The lesson, as always, hit your marks in the pits.  You can apply that to real life, too.

Lap 85: After showing us The Scot nearing Moraes, it's time for....commercials!

Lap 90: Now only 9 cars on the lead lap.  Why?  Scheckter is in the pits.  Tore up the gearbox, says Buhl.

Lap 93: During commercials, there was a "moment," says Jenkins.  Who?  One of the leaders?  No, Kosuke Matsuura.  Maybe because he hasn't driven an IndyCar since 2007.

Lap 98: Second round of pit stops.  Ryan Hunter-Reay is in, so let's take an opportunity to say get well to A.J. Foyt and Vitor Meira.

Lap 103: Briscoe stays out while everyone else has pitted.  He's your leader at the moment.
  • Lap leaders: The Scot - 53, The Haast Eagle - 49; Briscoe - 1

Lap 106: Briscoe in to pit.  Yellow!  (Jenkins is the magic man, at the expense of Buhl) Conway into the wall, hard.  Did Briscoe make it into the pits in time?  Yes, says Arute.
  • Briscoe pulls away, and dear God, pulls a Briscoe of 2005, cutting it into the pit wall as he pulls away.  Ran over the "End of Pit Speed" Cone and put the left front into the wall.  Not good.

Lap 108: With the cone under the car, Briscoe drives through the pits.  Jack says no major problems so far, but maybe they'll give it a new nose cone.  You think!? The man just punted himself into a wall.  That left front looks damaged to me.
  • Can we get a replay, Versus?

Lap 109: The replay comes.  Just put it left after gunning it out of pit stall.  Buhl says the car must be off, as it took a big lick on the left side.

Lap 109: Now we see Conway's wreck.  Sorry to see Conway go - he'd been racing better (i.e., no crashes) of late.

Lap 110: Briscoe in to pit, along with Castroneves.  Is Helio supposed to help Briscoe, somehow?

Lap 110: Commercials! (and a beer run)

Lap 112: Briscoe back to the pits.  What's going on?  Who knows, as we're in IndyCar Side-by-side.  So here's my take (in full pit reporter voice):  
They're looking at the left front of Briscoe's car, trying to see if the suspension was damaged when he hit the wall.(Insightful, no?)

Lap 113: The Izod/Indianapolis Centennial Era remembrance: Danica in 2005.  Yes, we know, she finished 4th.
  • Seeing IMS reminds me that I need to renew my license plates.  Crap.  Looks like I'll be getting up early on Saturday.  Wait, it is Saturday.  (And yes, they're the IMS plates - again, I'm a sucker for Indycar sponsors/IMS.)

Lap 114: Jack is back to give us the low down on Briscoe, who is 2-laps down.  He's changing the full left side after a "close encounter of the concrete kind."  Clever.
  • The Haast Eagle and The Scot are each 5 points down to Briscoe at this point.  

Lap 118: More replays of Briscoe's crash.  And Oriol Servia is up to 4th.  Not too shabby.

Lap 120: Briscoe is in 19th, just ahead of Stanton Barrett.

Lap 121: Back to green, and Raphael Matos is in 4th after passing Servia.  Hadn't heard of Matos all day, until now.

Lap 124: Briscoe is testing the car to see if it's raceable.  Not right now, it's not.

Lap 128: Marco gets around Danica.  Honestly, finishing 3rd for AGR right now would be like a win.  That's sad.

Lap 131: Briscoe pits.  Roger Penske looks on.  Already planning for Homestead, my guess is.

Lap 133: Commercials!  You know, for the hype behind the Izod-IndyCar line, I saw those shirts at Macy's for 50% off back in July, I think.  I'm not sure they were the biggest sellers.  Maybe because they had giant numbers on them.  If they'd sell the more normal shirts that IndyCar personnel wear, perhaps those would sell better.  Just a thought.

Lap 138: Points update - The Haast Eagle is now your current points leader, with The Scot 5 points back and Briscoe 8 points behind.
  • Moraes is back on sequence and in 6th, somehow.

Lap 145: Well, now he's in 8th, as Matos and Danica pass him.

Lap 145: Since you've seen passing in the last 7 laps, you get commercials.  Enjoy.

Lap 150: Race recap - Briscoe turned left early, hit a pit wall.  That's about it.

Lap 153: Bob Jenkins tries to hype Dan Wheldon in third place.  Ain't gonna happen, Bob.  No way anyone other than a Target car wins barring something extraordinary.

Lap 155: Commence pit stops (Ryan Hunter-Reay and Justin Wilson).

Lap 157: The Haast Eagle further crushes Briscoe's spirit, putting him 16 laps off the lead.

Lap 160: Target cars come to pit road.  Graham Rahal (Godzilla!) to the lead.  Yellow!  Hunter-Reay hard into the wall.  Target boys were already in the pits, just as Briscoe was before. Now if they can just not crash in the pits.  The Haast Eagle comes out first, followed by The Scot.  No crashing.

Lap 163: The Haast Eagle claims the bonus points for laps led.  Now, if he wins, it's a maximum points weekend.

Lap 164: Wheldon, who pitted on Lap 158, is the unfortunate victim of the crash.  Back to 8th as Rahal, Servia, et al, pit under yellow and don't lose a lap.  And it's off to commercials (and another beer)...

Lap 166: Hockey starts on October 1?  Goodness, it just ended on June 16 or so.  Someone needs to tell hockey it's a winter sport - start in October, fine, but be done by April 10.

Lap 167: Bob Jenkins gives us the "good news" that Versus and NASCAR have teamed up to bring us a feature on the drivers in the Chase (contrived setup to manufacture a champion over the final 10 races of the year).  Color me not excited.

Lap 169: Your top 3 - The Haast Eagle, The Scot, Godzilla.  Unless Dixon goes all 2008 at Watkins Glen (or 2005 at Indianapolis) on us, he pretty much has this one in the bag.

Lap 170: "Premature acceleration" waves off the restart.  There's a joke in there somewhere, especially with all the Enzyte ads run tonight.

Lap 171: With Godzilla in 3rd and Servia in 4th, I wonder, has Newman-Haas-Lanigan Racing overtaken Andretti Green?  It's close, but right now I'd say yes.  NHLR is trending up, while AGR is sliding back.

Lap 174: Per Jan, Rahal just gave Servia a 'Hi-ya!'  Not sure if that's PC or not, but if Jan is broadcasting stateside, it's late and he's bound to be a little punch-drunk at this point.

Lap 175: Good battle between Moraes and Servia for 4th.

Lap 180: The Haast Eagle has this in the talons.  All that's left is for him to devour the carcass.  Jenkins tries to comfort us, saying that Target-Chip Ganassi has finished 1-2 five times.  This year?  It feels like it.  No, just all time, apparently.

Lap 181: Buhl, playing the director, calls this race early - "the real battle is for third with Rahal, Servia and Moraes."

Lap 183: Marco in front of Wheldon.  Versus desperate for passing.  Marco's sponsor today - Venom Energy Drink, which has held up well.  Started drinking it at 6:30 and not feeling tired at all at 12:43 a.m.

Lap 184: Off to commercial-land.  Jenkins promises these are the last ones.

Lap 189: Saw VI is coming out?  That's not excessive at all...

Lap 189: IndyCar Series wins by teams: Penske-35; AGR-34; Target-33 (well, it will be).

Lap 191: This race is fairly boring.  At least I had beer the whole time.

Lap 199: White flag for The Haast Eagle.

Lap 200: A maximum points weekend for Dixon, who moves into the points lead, by 5 over The Scot, who finished second.  5 wins for The Haast Eagle gives him the tie-breaker on The Scot as well.

Post-race: The weakness of The Haast Eagle?  Apparently it's the sun, as Dixon dons a huge pair of sunglasses, despite the absence of sun.

Post-race: Franchitti says "Dixie is buying the beers tonight.  Beers in Japan cost roughly 97 yen, or about $1.06.  It's dollar beer night every night in Japan!

Post-race: Rahal happy with race, thanks Godzilla for pushing him to front.  Up to 7th in points, at the expense of TK.  Looking to get up to 5th after Homestead.

Post-race: Briscoe looks stunned talking to Jack Arute.  Trying to figure it all out.

And now we re-renter into the world of IndyCar withdrawl, where the IndyCar Series attempts to get us through the next 3 weeks with the energy captured at Motegi, along with a points race.  Well, at least there's a points title still up for grabs.  And I wouldn't bet against The Haast Eagle, who crushed everything in site at Motegi. 

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