Archive for May, 2011

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The Greatest Spectacle in Racing…and Viewing: The Indy 500

May 29, 2011

I’ve been fairly blunt about the fact that I like auto racing. Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500. Aside from a brief interruption for WWII, the race has been run continuously since 1911. It was great to see a lot of the old winning cars driven around the track in today’s pre-race ceremonies.

This year was also unique in that there were four women in the field of 33, which is the most ever for an Indy race. It’s no secret that I am not really a fan of Danica Patrick. I get annoyed by her whining, sense of entitlement and quite obvious willingness to trade on her sex appeal (and ensuing complaints that she really is more than just a pretty girl.) But I digress. I would have been thrilled to see a woman win today’s race, especially if that woman was Simona deSilvestro. She is quite the BAMF, driving this race with 1st & 2nd degree burns on her hands after this wreck earlier this month.

I turn into a baby if I accidentally touch a hot pot. I can’t imagine what it feels like to drive a racecar for hours on end with severe burns on the hands. That takes (lady) balls to do so.

This year’s race also had some added drama during qualifying. At Indy, the rule is that the fastest 33 CARS qualify, not the fastest 33 DRIVERS. I know what you’re thinking: how can that work with how driver & sponsor contracts are structured? Well, trust me. It somehow does. And usually, the fastest 33 cars qualified by the fastest 33 drivers do take the green flag on Memorial Day weekend. However, this time, we had a bit of a situation. Ryan Hunter-Reay – an American driver with a fully funded, sponsored ride at Andretti Autosport – failed to make the field. If this was any other race, RHR would be a good teammate and spend the race schmoozing in a hospitality tent somewhere. But since this is INDY and RHR has PAYING sponsors, his team owner (Michael Andretti) pulled out his checkbook and made a deal with fellow team owner (and Indy legend) AJ Foyt. Foyt kicked out his driver, Bruno Junquiera, and replaced him with Hunter-Reay. The car’s paint scheme was a combination of the two team’s sponsors.

This deal – while technically legal within the letter of the law – violated the spirit of the law. The Andretti team should have accepted their fate and learned from it. Instead, they caused a lot of ruckus and upset feelings both within the Indycar driver/team family and with the fans. Twitter this past week had been an enlightening source of discussion regarding this situation, as many drivers & fans have taken their 140 character allotment to discuss their displeasure with Andretti & Foyt’s actions. Neither Andretti nor Foyt won themselves any new fans with this maneuver.

- From the fun stats file, Graham Rahal competed today on the 25th anniversary of his father Bobby winning his only 500 race.

- After watching today’s race, I’m more convinced than ever that Scott Goodyear is the racing equivalent of Pierre McGuire. No, I don’t mean the designated short, kind-of-creepy Canadian. I mean the “hey, I’m going to say something completely redundant and obvious now” kind of broadcaster. This point was driven home when Goodyear mentioned that the cars that drove in the first 500 were vastly different from the cars that are racing today. Umm…duh? Who wouldn’t know that? That’s like me saying a Ford Focus is drastically different than a Model T. I think we’re all aware of that.

- I’m officially hating that I was subjected to a Weezer song (that I like) approximately 87,000 times during the course of this race because the song is a background of an Izod commercial. (Izod being a series sponsor, mind you.)

- The start of the race is supposed to be all cars rolling in rows of three. Well, they come close. If by three you mean two cars, then one car, then three cars. In other words, their competitive spirit got the best of them and they all forgot how to freaking count.

- I spent a lot of the (very frequent) commercial breaks reading this article from ESPN regarding the last days of Derek Boogaard. It’s a beautiful piece of writing, and really does summarize Boogaard’s troubles without venturing too far into salacious tabloid territory.

- During the first series of pit stops, a miscommunication between crew members at the front & back of the car allowed Will Power to leave the pits before one of his rear tires was fully secured. As a result, Power pulls away and the tire goes bouncing down pit road, thankfully not seriously hitting any other crew members or cars. Power is forced to limp back around the track and get a new tire. Everyone sing with me: “you picked a fine time to leave me, loose wheel.” Yea, I know that’s not an original joke at all. Deal with it.

- Poor KV Racing: the first two cautions of the race were caused by their cars wrecking. This scenario is not a new development for KV, as their drivers tend to crash more often than your average driver. I believe last year they ran through something like 40 wrecks through four drivers in a 17 race season. In other words, they rack up quite a bill for parts, chassis & tires.

- Speaking of wrecks, the drivers were darn lucky there weren’t more of them today. This race utilized a different restart procedure. Normally, any race restarts at Indy are done single file. This year, the series altered the rules to make double-file restarts the norm. This led to many drivers trying to take things 3-4-5 wide at some points, including one special snowflake who almost bounced off a stanchion that starts the wall that divides put road from the track. Things could have gotten ugly very quickly, but thankfully, they did not.

- During a long series of green flag laps, we’re told that one of the drivers in today’s race, Charlie Kimball, is a diabetic. His insulin is constantly monitored during the race, with the readouts appearing on the steering wheel. If his insulin level reaches a certain threshold, Kimball receives an insulin shot on the next possible pit stop. His tire changer, after finishing his tire changing duties, stabs a pre-set insulin needle into Kimball’s leg (through the firesuit and everything) and Kimball then goes back about his business of driving the race car. Raise your hand if you started wincing after hearing that. I hope the adrenaline from driving the car deadens the pain of the needle, as this just sounds like it would hurt. Thankfully, we did not need to see this procedure carried out in the pits today.

- Poor JR Hildebrand. He’s going to be the headline on Sportscenter tonight and for all the wrong reasons. He was leading the race, and on the final corner, while avoiding a slower car, he got out of the main racing line and took it into the wall. While he was plenty angsty on the track while waiting for a ride back to the pits, by the time he spoke with the media, he had completely regained his composure. You could tell that he was upset, and disappointed for his team, but at the same time, he took 100% full responsibility for overdriving the car right into the wall. I guess we can say that while Dan Wheldon won the Indy 500, JR Hildebrand won the Indy 499.75.

And finally, on this Memorial Day weekend, to all that have served, will serve or are serving now, I say thank you. This is the land of the free because of the brave.

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Extreme Locker Room Makeover: Sabres Edition

May 25, 2011

I know there’s not a ton going on in Pegulaville and the surrounding suburbs of Sabreland, but I do want to write a few things about the formal announcement of the team’s new locker room.

You know it’s a long off-season when a LOCKER ROOM renovation is big doings, but I digress.

- I completely understand that the circular shape of the new locker room promotes team unity and all that other caring & sharing rah!rah!-ness, but I really did like the old style lockers. It made it seem like each player had their own personal space. I wasn’t wild about the gloves & pads storage area being above the heads of the players, as it seemed like it would be at a disadvantage for shorter players like Gerbe or Ennis. (Did they have a stool? Ask a taller player for help? More importantly, why am I wondering about this?) It also was a clean look during interviews, but I could also understand how it might be awkward for reporters to interview players if they have to climb into lockers and contort themselves around walls.

- Today’s press conference is the second time in recent memory that I recall “player communication” mentioned as one of the goals. I know after this past season ended that someone remarked that the players had a goal of staying in better touch during the off-season. I remember someone saying something along the lines that the players have to do better than the occasional text message to make sure that they’re all alive. I realize that after spending the better part of 7-8 months together that they may need a break from each other, but the break shouldn’t be the entire off-season long. Relax, and then check in on each other. Talk. Whether it’s about kids, life, politics, religion, the hot barista at the coffee shop down the street, I don’t care. Just don’t be freaking strangers. Pretend that you like each other and give a flip about each other.But I digress. It sounds like management has zeroed in on a problem and is doing everything they can to fix it.

- I love Lindy’s enthusiasm about having dedicated space to review video with the team. Was it this season or last season where the press was kicked out of their room so Lindy could take over for a video session? Having a designated area with the proper equipment should make video sessions more comfortable & productive for all involved (and avoid throwing the media out into the street.)

- Granted, it’s the probably the style of the photo, but doesn’t it look like Miller had his own personal plan review with Pegula, as opposed to the group view that some of the other guys got? Is he that much more special than the other players, or is he ensuring that the goalie portion of the circle is adequately sized?

That’s it for now, but I plan to review Sunday’s Indy 500 insanity in some form, so check back at the end of this long holiday weekend.

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