30 April 2010

Take Scott and Dario on the Road with You

I have no idea where this sits on the Störtebeker-Ganassi Scale of Badassery (copyright The Silent Pagoda) (I would go low on the scale, personally), but you can now take Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti on family vacation.  While the kids stare mindlessly at their PSP or the video on the TV screen (whatever happened to books and the license plate game?), the Haast Eagle and Sideburns will gently guide you to your destination via TomTom, spouting off phrases like, 
Toll charge.  This is nothing - you should see what an Indycar costs.
Regardless, it's good to see Target-Chip Ganassi Racing using a sponsor to market their drivers, even if I'd rather here Chip's voice guiding me on the way:
No, no, turn around!  The 21st Amendment is back there.  You'll need tequilla - lots of tequilla - for the massive party we're going to.  And cigars.  Big fat, expensive cigars.  And models.  Do they have models in 21st Amendment?  See if that St. Pauli's Girl is in there.  Aww, hell, never mind, I know where to go to find the women.  We'll need two for each arm - don't worry about how many seats are in this car, they'll fit - you're rollin' with the Chipster.

27 April 2010

Coincidence? I Think Not

Back in January, I wrote this, suggesting that the IZOD IndyCar Series adopt a means to recognize the street/road, oval and overall champions of the series.

Now, while I don't expect Will Power's wings to be polka-dotted so that people recognize him as the top street/road racer in the circuit, it is nice to see that (perhaps) someone is reading this blog.

Because, today, the
IZOD IndyCar Series announced that they will do just that and honor the top points-winners on both street/road circuits and ovals.

According to the intrepid Curt Cavin at the Indianapolis Star:

The name on the trophy for ovals -- likely A.J. Foyt -- will be revealed during the June 3-5 event at Texas Motor Speedway. The road course honoree will be named during the July 3-4 event at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.
The A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti trophies?  Those would be two historic, and fitting names for the series.

22 April 2010

Sums It Up

The Boa Constrictor himself, E.J. Viso, pegged himself in a story on Indycar.com.  Viso, speaking to Dave Lewandowski, brought up a visit he made to his old school in San Pedro, Calif.

Viso, on his favorite type of surfing:

I’m not a surfer, but I know how to surf. I do kite surfing, and I think that’s more fun because you can do more tricks and go faster. Surfing, you have to be more patient and have to wait for the right wave to come. I’m not the most patient person.
Indeed, E.J. isn't known for his patience in an Indycar, either.  But the man who brought the fear of God into Jack Arute's eyes last year with his pet boa constrictor is seemingly made for the exciting world of oval Indycar racing, due in part to this lack of patience.

In other words, Kansas cannot come soon enough.

21 April 2010

The Yellow Pennzoil Machine Returneth?

Prior to the beginning of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season, Penske Racing announced that it was ending their relationship with Philip Morris (Marlboro), leading to a redesign of the teams' cars.  For years, the orange and white of Marlboro was synonymous with Penske, even if the sidepods of the cars read "Team Penske."

Now, according to CNBC's Darren Rovell (via
twitter), Mobil1 is ending their 19-year relationship with Penske after the 2010 season.

As you can see from the photo, Mobil1 occupies a fairly high-profile position (though not the highest-priced placement) on the Penske Indycar, but in all actuality, it stands to reason that most of ExxonMobil's sponsorship dollars were spent on the NASCAR side of Penske Racing.  In fact, Mobil1 is the primary sponsor of two-time Indy Racing League and 2006 Indianapolis 500 champion Sam Hornish, Jr.

One wonders how that will affect Sam's program moving into 2011, and if he cannot find enough funding to return to NASCAR (that acronym again!), does the IZOD IndyCar Series become a possibility?  It's a long shot, given Penske's willingness to run cars with his name stamped on the sides, but when one considers Hornish's four-year run in the fender series, maybe a return is not out of the question.

Just a random thought for the day.

UPDATE: The Indiana Business Journal says ExxonMobil is leaving Team Penske because Shell is coming on board.  Per the release posted at PenskeRacing.com, Kurt Busch moves from the No. 2 to the No. 22 (with Shell sponsorship), with Brad Keselowski moving from the No. 12 to the No. 2 (Miller Lite).  So where does that leave Hornish, I ask you?  Still without primary sponsorship, it would appear.

According to the release, Shell will have: associate sponsorships promoting Shell V-Power with IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Ryan Briscoe.


As part of the alliance, Pennzoil will become the "Official Motor Oil" of Penske Racing in 2011 which includes ... the IZOD IndyCar Series. For Pennzoil, returning to Penske is a homecoming of sorts as Pennzoil first aligned with Penske as part of its IndyCar teams in 1983 and won the 1984 and 1988 Indianapolis 500 Mile Races with driver Rick Mears.
Now if Penske can go retro for a few races and bring back the yellow livery of Rick Mears, that would be awesome. 

19 April 2010

Race to the Party Indeed

Since IZOD became the title sponsor of the IndyCar Series on Nov. 6, 2009 (henceforth, we should refer to the years in the IndyCar world as P.I. or A.I.), they've stepped up the marketing of the series and drivers in ways an IndyCar fan could only dream of during the barren years of little to no title sponsorship.

(Don't believe me?  Just take a look at the
Silent Pagoda's comparison of IZOD's work this weekend to that of Northern Lights and PepBoys.  It's good stuff over there.)

While IZOD has put on events for the series everywhere it has gone, the marketing geniuses there put the series on display all weekend in Los Angeles and Long Beach,
shutting down Hollywood Boulevard for the majority of Thursday and getting late-night attention via Jimmy Kimmel.

Getting an actual celebrity to be the starter in Mark Wahlberg and somehow convincing P. Diddy to ride in the two-seater is just one example of IZOD's pull.  And to be honest, it sure beats having soap opera stars getting red carpet treatment (let's hope that ends at the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500).

Then to top it off, a packed house in Long Beach sees one of their own (kind of) in Ryan Hunter-Reay win the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.  In dominating fashion.  With an IZOD livery.

Honestly, the IZOD IndyCar Series cannot ask for a better buildup and groundswell of excitement than what they've had through the first month of the season.  The racing has been exciting (for the most part).  Judging from the TV, crowds have been up and energetic.  Multiple teams have made runs at wins (though Penske has three of the four).  And an American driver won a race.

About the only thing that would create a bigger stir heading into Indianapolis would be for a certain driver with the initials DP to win at Kansas in two weeks.  Whether or not she'll be competitive on the ovals remains to be seen.

But I do know one thing - with Kansas Speedway sitting 30 miles from Kansas City, Mo., the potential for a
party in the Power and Light district is high.  And with IZOD marketing the series so well right now, I would fully expect them to have a presence in the City of Fountains, which is exactly what fans are beginning to expect in every stop the IZOD IndyCar Series makes.

No longer is the IndyCar Series just another race, with drivers topping 200 mph (which they don't do anywhere in that other series except for two tracks - stop the lies, people!).  With IZOD on board, the IZOD IndyCar Series is making itself known for big events, big parties and exciting racing.  And that's a clear-cut recipe for success, now and in the long term.

18 April 2010

Good Grief

From Curt Cavin's Indianapolis Star recap of Will Power's pole-winning performance at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach:
Power's pole-winning lap was 1 minute, 9.3185 seconds. Milka Duno was last among the 25 drivers and was held out of qualifying because her time in practice wasn't within 107 percent of Power.
Good grief.  I wasn't pleased when Nicole Manske-Briscoe took it upon herself to start the #ParkMilka movement via her husband's twitter account (something about her being a journalist didn't sit right with me), but I agree with the sentiment.

It's time.  Maybe the new IndyCar technical advisory committee can do something about the chicane on four wheels that is Milka Duno.  

12 April 2010

One of these does not belong on the header advertising the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.  I'll let you figure it out.

UPDATE: According to Indycar.com, Johnny Utah/Shane Falco/Computer jesus/that alien dude in that disaster movie is back to defend his title.  Among his competitors, The Tick/David Puddy, Brian Austin Greene, Adrien Brody and Christian Slater.

And, as I've said, Keanu needs to drop some Point Break quotes into his interviews this weekend.  
For instance, in tribute to Patrick Swayze, he could bust out a “Little hand says it’s time to rock and roll,” before the race.

(Tthis quote may need to be used before any IndyCar race from now on.)

Upon passing someone, Keanu needs to drop a “Vaya con Dios, Brah.” (Note: I could also see Marco Andretti doing this.).

And if Keanu won't do it, Point Break quotes need to be worked into Versus’ coverage of Long Beach.

11 April 2010

My History with Penske

With the Yankees winning a World Series last year, the Lakers taking a NBA title and Duke claiming the NCAA Championship, it only seems fitting that a Team Penske driver would be dominating the IZOD IndyCar Series.  Since the team has taken the first three races of the season after Helio Castroneves' win on Sunday, I wanted to take a look at why I've never really cheered for Penske, but I can't really seem to find a reason to cheer against Will Power.

First, I suppose I should start with my childhood, as it relates to open-wheel racing.  Despite growing up in Indianapolis, I wasn't completely exposed to IndyCar racing as a youth; my parents bogarted the Indianapolis 500 tickets when I was young, going with my relatives or taking friends.  Still, I distinctly remember my dad's favorite driver being Rick Mears, who as we know, drove for Team Penske.

I was too young too realize that my childhood favorite, Danny Sullivan, drove for Penske from 1985-90.  Maybe if I'd had more of an appreciation for it then, I would have stronger feelings about the team.

My first Indianapolis 500 came in 1993, when Team Penske was dominant, as Emerson Fittipaldi led the final 16 laps of the 500 to claim his second win.  As a 10-year old, I was a novice when it came to Indy 500 traditions, but I knew that the winner always drank milk.  And when Fittipaldi pulled out some orange juice prior to the milk, I lustily booed from my perch in the paddock, along with the rest of the crowd.

(And 1994 brought karmic revenge upon Fittipaldi, as he literally did not turn left on lap 184, crashing into the outside wall after leading 145 laps.)  However, the resulting winner was still a Team Penske driver, as Al Unser Jr. claimed his second 500.

Now, no one in my family was an Unser fan - maybe Al Unser, but my mom could not stand neither Bobby Unser nor Little Al.  I'm not sure exactly why, but she wasn't a fun, and therefore I wasn't either.  (In 1994, I went so far as to trade Al Unser Jr. for Jacques Villeneuve in the 500 pool.  Which would have been fine, if Little Al had not won.)

Shortly thereafter, Penske was gone from the IndyCar scene, moving to CART in the split.  As someone who grew up in the middle of it, Penske did not hold the mystique and historical reverence for me at the time.

And with Helio Castroneves' win in 2001, it felt more like a mercenary's win, especially coming on the heels of Juan Montoya's win the year prior, with a full-time CART team.

By the time Penske returned full time to the IndyCar Series (Indy Racing League) in 2002, it was not so much that I disliked them due to their move to CART, but I'd formed ties with other teams, and my memories of the team from 1993-94 were not positive.  I'd focused attention in the meantime on the Indianapolis 500, and the likes of Tomas Scheckter, Eddie Cheever, J.J. Yeley, 
Kenny Bräck, et al. (I will admit, it's not exactly a murderer's row of people to follow.)

With two more wins in 2002 and 2003, Penske began to take hold of the Indy Racing League, and for a while, it seemed as if you could plug in anyone and win a race, so long as they were in a Penske car.

Combine this with me being in college, and the counter-culture nature of it (i.e., disliking successful things - Duke, the Yankees, etc.), it stands to reason why I would not care for Team Penske.

Despite the fact I went to a successful high school and college, Team Penske just didn't cut it.  And in many regards, they still don't.  My relationship is similar to Wes Mantooth's when it comes to Ron Burgundy: "I can't stand you, but damnit, I respect you."

But for some reason, Will Power is different.

09 April 2010

It's (one of) the Most Wonderful Time(s) of the Year

The warm weather is upon central Indiana.  Baseball season has started, grass is growing, leaves are appearing, and soon enough, the calendar will flip to May (and it can't come soon enough, as Milka Duno is this month's "racer" in the Sam Schmidt calendar).  With it, comes the opening of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

IMS released their
calendar for the month of May today, highlighting their 12 days of on-track activity; while 12 days may seem a little small for some fans, those 12 days promise to be action-packed, beginning with Opening Day on Saturday, May 15.

Prior to practice, the hot-air balloons will once again race from IMS, on May 8.

A week's worth of practice will set up Pole Day on May 22, where 24 spots in the 33-car field will be filled; and, according to various reports (Curt Cavin's is
here), the final hour or two of Pole Day could see a variation of the Firestone Fast 6, giving the top of the field one more chance at the pole.

(And if you want to try and win free Pole Day tickets, but Miller Lite - they usually have a ticket promotion during May.)

Sunday will feature Bump Day, and with the
potential for 40 cars attempting to qualify, it could actually be one of the more exciting bump days in recent memory.

The week following will feature the
May Indy Tweetup, which will run into the weekend of the 500, which kicks off with Carb Day (and ZZ Top) on May 28, followed by Cavin's Carb Day Burger Bash at 96th Street Steakburgers that evening.

The 94th running of the Indianapolis 500 will be on Sunday, May 30.

So begin your preparations accordingly.  

06 April 2010

Off Script

I worked at the Final Four.  You know all those mundane, arcane notes you would see in the newspaper, or on TV and wonder, "Who in their right mind finds these things?"  That answer - me.

I grew up in the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood.  Attended Butler baseball and basketball camps when I was younger.  Applied to Butler and chose to go much further away for college than three blocks (closer to 950 miles).  So Butler making the Final Four was a big deal to me.

And while they didn't win the title, their run was inspiring, especially as someone who works in the athletics department with an even smaller budget than the Bulldogs.  Butler will be back; this program has been building to  this over the last 20 years - I've seen the foundation laid with my own eyes, from the time Thad Matta was a young assistant pranking young camp goers, until now.

Gordon Hayward's final shot gets a little closer to going in every time I see it, but I try not to focus on it; instead, when you watch this video, watch Matt Howard's screen just before.  It will bring a smile to your face every time.