Archive for the ‘Racing’ Category

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Indy 500 Time!

May 27, 2012

Yup, I’m actually blogging today. I know, I know, it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. You can’t blame a girl for stepping away from the keyboard for a bit.  It’s no coincidence that my hiatus from blogging hit during the Sabres January swoon. There’s only so many different ways that one can say “for the love of god, these guys suck.”

So today I’m back, and I’m writing my annual live blog of the Indy 500.

11:15am – ABC is showing a tribute to last year’s Indy 500 winner, the late Dan Wheldon. Wheldon was killed in a horrible wreck in last year’s Indycar season finale in Las Vegas. The network sat down with Wheldon’s fellow drivers and widow Susie for an emotional and powerful interview to discuss his career, Indy win and life outside the track with his two beautiful children Sebastian and Oliver. I’m not ashamed to admit that it brought tears to my eyes.

11:50am – After a lunch break, I return to watch the debut of James Hinchcliffe’s ad campaign to succeed Danica Patrick on the GoDaddy homepage. (Hinch took over Patrick’s GoDaddy sponsored Indy car this season after Patrick left to chase her NASCAR dreams.) I highly approve of Hinch’s effort as this dude is charming, witty, Canadian, has a great social media presence, and has no problem making a complete and utter ass of himself. I mean, how many athletes do you know that are willing to film themselves going through a dog wash?

12:00pm – Driver introductions include a special guest – Bullseye the Target dog. I apologize to Mr. Bullseye, but he is in no way the most famous dog in the great state of Indiana. That honor goes to the tweeting bulldogs of Butler University – Blue 2 and Blue 3.

12:05pm – The persons at ABC that are responsible for the features during this broadcast deserve a ton of kudos. The visit to Arlington with a veteran’s mother to visit her son’s grave was incredibly well done. It put into proper context what this weekend is about. I would be remiss in not thanking all of the veterans out there for their service.

12:10pm – In case you were wondering, a fire suit can be made for a pregnant lady. ESPN pit reporter Jamie Little is pregnant and is wearing a maternity fire suit so she can work in the pits safely.

12:16pm – Green. green, green! The drivers make it through Turn 4 in eleven beautiful rows of three before snarfing it all up on the front stretch, as the grid becomes a free-for-all as they pass the start line. Ryan Briscoe takes the green flag in first position before engaging in quite the duel with James Hinchcliffe.

12:23pm – The first pass for the lead occurs as James Hinchcliffe passes Ryan Briscoe.

12:29pm – The first yellow occurs as Bryan Clausen spins on the front stretch on Lap 14.

12:32 – Pit road ruckus! EJ Viso punts Dario Franchitti in rear on pit road, sending Franchitti spinning into another pit box, luckily not hitting a person, just a tire. Franchitti requires extra time in the pits to put a new nose on the car. Estimated price tag of that carbon fiber nose & wing assembly: $12,000. Franchitti drops to last place on the grid.

12:36pm – The restart from this yellow flag leads to a five wide stampede down the front stretch. It’s a miracle they all made it to and through Turn 1 without someone going on Mr. Toad’s wild Ride.

12:42pm – Broadcaster Eddie Cheever gives us our first physics lesson of the day: two cars driving together move faster than one car driving on its own.

1:11pm – Brett Mussburger brings up “The Andretti Curse,” discussing the numerous ways that the Andretti family has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I feel that bringing up The Curse this early in the race is a way of tempting the racing gods. (If you think the hockey gods are vicious, they ain’t got nothing on the racing gods.)

1:20pm – More pit road shenanigans. Mike Conway comes in for a penalty after hitting two of his crewmen during a pitstop.

1:21pm – While exiting the pits after his penalty, Conway gets loose while getting back up to speed and spins, collecting Australian driver Will Power along with him. During the wreck, Conway’s car gets up on his side and skims the top of the outside retaining wall. I shudder when Indy cars get airborne, as so much of the driver’s head and torso is exposed and ready to make contact with walls, fences, etc. Thankfully, both Conway and Power are ok.

1:25pm – Conway’s car owner AJ Foyt reports that Conway got squirrelly (technical term) on the track as a result of a broken front wing from colliding with his fuel man. I guess I’m a little confused as to why Conway couldn’t come in and fix his front wing before serving his penalty for colliding with his fuel man? You would think that safety would come before penalty, but what do I know from racing rules?

1:36pm – Scott Goodyear continues his “Racing Commentary for Dummies” lesson by explaining that oversteer means that the back end wants to pass the front end. This insightful commentary comes during an explanation of how Brazilian driver Ana Beatriz spun out. Scott Goodyear is like the Pierre McGuire of racing, but with 50% less creepiness.

1:37pm – Its shocking to see how much of the pit road grandstand is empty. The broadcasters assure us at home that the seats were sold, but it’s just so horribly hot in Indy that people are looking for any shade possible. Now, I’ve sat in races in hot weather and gotten the sunburns to prove it. Most people don’t get up and leave, preferring instead to sweat it out, knowing that the burn of hot aluminum will be much worse than any sun, sweat or grossness that will result from staying put.

1:46pm – The camera finds Dan Wheldon’s widow Susie on pit road. She’s watching the race on a computer monitor from the relative shade of a war wagon. Good for her for making it to the track today for the race.

1:53pm – Marco Andretti reports at just over the halfway mark that it’s so hot in his car that his boot is starting to melt to his metal gas petal. The weather in Indianapolis is just over 90 degrees, and the race reporters are sharing that both the air temperature and the track temperature are increasing.

2:55pm – Ed Carpenter spins from the third position and miraculously does not hit the wall or any other cars. That spin was a “hang on for dear life and ask for a clean pair of shorts when you get back to the pits” kind of spin, as at least four cars came incredibly close to hitting him mid-spin.

3:01pm – After one hell of a chaotic restart, Brazillian driver Tony Kanaan pole vaults from 6th place to the lead of the race. He holds the lead for one lap before being overtaken by Dario Franchitti.

3:05pm – The Andretti curse strikes again, as Marco crashes hard into Turn 1. It appears that his car hit the white line and he just spun out. Marco’s wreck happened just as Tony Kanaan made a beautiful pass for the lead (and the crowd went wild).

3:12pm – The restart after Andretti’s caution allows four cars to get around Kanaan, putting him back in fourth place.

3:19pm – A battle for the lead between Takuma Sato and Dario Franchitti ends in Turn 1 of the final lap as Sato spins it out trying to make a pass. Franchitti wins the 500 under yellow for his third Indy title. That’s right, he came from DFL after the first pitstop to win the race.

3:24pm – After racing 500 miles, Franchitti’s hair in Victory Lane is perfectly coiffed. He pulls on the traditional victor’s wreath and dumps the bottle of milk over his head. As I sit here in the comfort of my air conditioned living room, I can’t help but think how nasty his fire suit has to smell between the sweat, milk and other body fluids that shall remain nameless.

3:27pm – Franchitti’s wife, actress Ashley Judd, arrives in Victory Lane for smooches & celebrations & weeping. There’s also a nice touch of bagpipers playing in the background. I would expect nothing else for a gentleman from Scotland.

I have to say that it was refreshing to see an Indy 500 without the umpteen updates discussing what/where/who Danica Patrick is doing. I’m glad to see Franchitti win even though a last lap wreck is not how I wanted to see him win.

 

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The Month of October

October 24, 2011

The  month of October is great for so many reasons: the crisp fall air, the return of pumpkin spice lattes, apples, my birthday, the start of hockey season, the baseball playoffs, Halloween and so much more. However, the month of October downright stinks for many other reasons.

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a racing fan. The month of October has just been a brutal month for the racing community. Last weekend, reigning Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon perished in a spectacularly violent crash during a race in Las Vegas. (I’m not going to link the crash footage here because it’s been all over the mainstream media. If you’re so inclined to watch the wreck, it’s easily available on YouTube.) This weekend also saw the passing of a MotoGP (motorcycle) racer during a race in Malaysia. In addition, the 6-year old son of a IndyCar team staffer lost his fight with leukemia. It’s impressive that some of these racers haven’t gone completely cuckoo for coco puffs after this past week.

And that just scratches the surface of the brutality of the month of October. Seven years ago today, 10 members of the Hendrick racing family were killed in a plane crash in Virginia. Twelve years ago, racer Greg Moore was killed in a wreck at California Speedway. As a race fan, you start to dread seeing the month of October show up on your calendar just because there have been so many horrible, terrible, no good, very bad events that happened during this month.

The loss of Wheldon was particularly brutal because it was such a violent wreck that happened on live network television. For the drivers, he was everyone’s younger brother that they never asked for. For the fans, he was that nice, charming British guy with the adorable children who always stopped and made time for everyone. He was also a talented, experienced driver, not this naive, inexperienced racer that some postmortem articles tried to portray him as.

For many of the drivers on the track with Wheldon last Sunday, this was the second time they’ve lost a friend on the track, as they were competing the same day Greg Moore passed in 1999. (Unlike this past Sunday, when Moore passed, the race continued on. The drivers were not told of the death until they exited the cars at the end of the race. The fans at home and at the track were made aware of his death. The team owners wanted the drivers to finish the race.) I feel like this death hit many of these guys harder than Moore’s in 1999. With age comes wisdom, families, kids and whatever else that makes these drivers turn inward and wonder if the need for speed is really what it’s all about.

It was also tough watching the broadcasters cover the waiting period between the wreck and the official announcement of Wheldon’s passing. Just listening to their voices, you could tell that they knew the worst was coming and were trying to manage their own emotions while keeping a stoic face for the public. This is one time where media detachment and impartiality went right out the window and it was completely warranted.

During yesterday’s NASCAR pre-race show, ESPN paid tribute to Wheldon. The tribute was led by ESPN anchor Nicole Briscoe, whose husband Ryan was one of the drivers on track with Wheldon last week. While Mrs.Briscoe was clearly emotional during the segment, her professionalism compelled her to finish paying tribute to her friend. No one would have blamed her for handing off that segment to one of the other people in the booth, but she chose to continue on and carried herself with class & dignity.

Speaking of class and dignity…One thing that happened in the immediate aftermath of Wheldon’s passing was the tremendous outpouring of support for Wheldon’s two young sons, Sebastian and Oliver. Fellow driver Graham Rahal announced he was going to auction off his race worn shoes, helmet and gloves. That snowballed into the rest of the Indycar community throwing items into the auction pot. Then the NASCAR drivers started contributing memorabilia. Then the NFL teams showed up to the party. Then Hollywood came a’calling with their donations. As of Saturday, quite the list of memorabilia had been accumulated with more coming in every day. (I’m totes in love with the Paul Newman signed “Winning” movie poster.) I’m really impressed that Rahal has continued to manage this whole fundraiser even as it takes on a life of it’s own. His parents did a quality job raising him into a fine young man.

Thank you for bearing with my rambling tonight. I promise there will be some hockey talk around here again. I have tickets for Thursday’s game, so there will be some thoughts on that at some point.

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A Melancholy Stroll Down Memory Lane

July 19, 2010

I was watching the Honda Indy Toronto on Sunday and realized that it had been over 3 years since I had last been to a racetrack. I started getting a little melancholy about what fun I had down at the Grand Prix of Cleveland at Burke Lakefront Airport.

A race in Cleveland was awesome for several reasons, but the track location was the true star. Burke is located right on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland. (It’s about 1/2 mile down from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, just to put things in perspective.) The airport was shut down Thursday night and was ready for racing on Friday morning. Because it was an airport, the track was completely flat, and you could see any corner of the track from the grandstands. It was also a nice view out to the water.

This was taken in 2006. You can see the sailboats out on the lake in the distance. In the six years I attended the race, no car ever ended up in the water, but there were rescue crews on hand just in case the unthinkable happened.

I miss it.

Really. I do.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that there’s two perfectly cromulent races up at Watkins Glen and in Toronto, why don’t you just attend those? That’s easy. It’s because it’s not the same. The drivers may be somewhat the same, but the cars & atmosphere are not.

- I miss the smell of methanol in the morning and picking tire grit out of your hair & ears for days after. (Current Indy Cars run on ethanol.)

- I miss riding down the 90 on Friday morning and hearing the hum of cars riding around Burke as soon as you entered the main downtown area.

- I miss the lovely hum of 20+ turbocharged engines heading towards turn one (and the inevitable carnage that would ensue from the fact that three cannot go where only one can).

I love this video because you can truly see how wide the track is and just how narrow it gets as they head into Turn 1. I think of the six years we attended the race, there was a clean start once.

– I miss the glorious pop of a pop off valve indicating that the driver was pushing the car to the max.

- I miss sitting in the stands having conversations with people you’ve never met before but you’re united in your love of racing, seeing those same people again next year and catching up. Not to mention meeting people you’ve met online through forums and discovering that they’re just as entertaining and wonderful in person as they are online (kind of like hockey fans).

- I miss being able to wander the paddock. Unlike NASCAR, where garage access is limited to the chosen few, in Cleveland, any fan with a ticket had garage access. You were able to step right up to the temporary garages (nothing more than awnings hanging from the team transporter) and watch the crew at work. All they asked was that you got out of the way when they brought the car in and out. No one cared that you were taking pictures (of course the super secret bits were under tarps), and the drivers would come out and sign autographs and pose for pictures when not on the track or in meetings. All that separated you from the team’s workspace was some bunting and a metal pole or two.

I think they were trying to put the kniffling pin into the connoculator valve.

- I miss being almost run over by Paul Newman in the paddock while he was toodling around on his scooter, stopping to chat with those few fans that recognized him. He did incognito very well.

- I miss watching the drivers clown around like idiots in the paddock, knowing that despite what happened on the track, they could get along off of it.

- I miss sitting in the stands before a race and watching drivers clowning around by shaking a port-a-loo relentlessly while a fellow driver was inside.

- I do not miss going through a metric ton of iced tea and water because it was so blessed hot in the stands (despite the wonderful lake breezes.)

- I miss the sunkissed glow that a weekend at the track gave me for the remainder of the summer (despite excellent sunscreen usage).

- I miss the ability to make the weekend truly a sporting dream by catching an Indians game.

- I miss the fact that the Cleveland police knew how to keep a goat rodeo from happening when the race fans were exiting E. 9th Street at one end and Indians fans exiting the Jake at the other end.

- I miss the pulled pork & sweet potato chips at Fat Fish Blue, and the truly awesome circular parking ramp next door to the restaurant.

- I miss there being sponsors other than Ethanol, Izod, Target, 7-11 & GoDaddy.

- I miss when it wasn’t all Danica, all the time.

- I miss having a Chief Steward that had the cojones to park an underperforming and/or misbehaving driver, not letting the almighty dollar dictate his actions.

I miss all of it. I want it back. I’m not getting it back. Current series management has not indicated that Cleveland is part of their long range plans for the series. It’s a damn shame, because it’s a fine track with a great racing history.

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Liveblogging the Indy 500

May 30, 2010

It’s the greatest spectacle farce in racing! It’s the 94th Indy 500! I watch this stuff so you don’t have to!

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Fools Rush In Where Angels Fear to Tread

March 8, 2010

Both the NHL and NASCAR have come under fire in the past 24 hours for reasonably blatant – and pretty dangerous – rules violations. The NHL was thrust into the spotlight when Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke – a player with a history of making questionnable hits – knocked Boston’s Marc Savard into next Tuesday with an ill-advised shoulder to the head. NASCAR made the news when Carl Edwards intentionally wrecked Brad Keselowski as payback for an earlier wreck and sent Kesolowski flipping into the air. Both leagues/sanctioning bodies are going to be under a microscope for their responses to these two incidents.

In the case of the NHL, this is just the latest in a long list of questionnable hits to the head in the past couple of years. We don’t need to read the Reggie Fleming report to know that hits to the head and brain injuries can lead to pretty significant physical and mental issues. The league needs to step up and find its balls and figure out some way to eliminate these massive hits to the head. Why not utilize something similar to the international hockey rules and make a hit to the head and ejectionable offense? Sure, accidental hits will happen, but much like accidentally high sticking someone in the face, you do the crime, you pay the time. It will eliminate some of the more “devasting, crunchy” hits that the hockey purists love, but at the same time it should make players more aware about their surroundings on the ice and their body positions as they skate around. And who knows, it might even improve the game of hockey in the long run.

What sucks is that there is no one answer that will make all the major constituent groups – players, management, media and fans – happy. But I would rather watch a game with less hitting as opposed to a game where a crunching body check leaves someone severely injured, paralyzed, or god forbid, dead.

On the NASCAR side of things, racer Carl Edwards wrecked fellow driver Brad Keselowski as payback for an incident last October. The video of yesterday’s incident can be found HERE, starting at about the :40 mark.What’s so appalling with regards to this situation is that Edwards admitted that it was intentional, and that he didn’t mean for him to get airborne. You see in the video how close Keselowski came to hitting the catch fence. He hits that fence the wrong way and I’d be writing a different blog today.

In the past, NASCAR has almost turned a blind eye to this “rubbin is racin” attitude. However, when one driver blatantly admits that he did something, and the fans, media and drivers are in effect calling for the head of John the Baptist on a platter, they have to do something. On the other hand, if they do something, then they’re seen as “wussying” up the sport formerly occupied by hard drinking and hard living guys. But if a fan or driver gets seriously hurt as a result of a retaliatory effort down the line, NASCAR has a massive liability issue on their hands.

It’s kind of an uncomfortable position between a rock and a hard place, isn’t it?

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I Suppose I Should Write Something…

June 3, 2009

- I really expected more from the Penguins in Games 1 & 2. With how quickly they dispatched the Hurricanes, I thought that they would be able to handle the Detroit juggernaut. Yeah, I was wrong. There were breakdowns all over the ice and Fleury had more than a couple shiny object moments leading to Detroit goals.

I did like Geno being all spunky and taking on Zetterberg at the end of Game 2. Where the heck did Geno get the spunk from (that’s what she said)? He looked so adorkable pulling away from Zetterberg clutching both of their jerseys in his hand. It was almost a “what…how did these get here?” expression on his face. Then again, that might have just been Geno’s usual expression.

I did have to laugh at the non-call on the too many men on the ice penalty during last night’s game. I thought Doc and Edzo were going to have synchronized aneurysms over the fact that the Red Wings and the refs never noticed that there were six Penguins (and Fleury) on the ice for 25-30 seconds.

If the Penguins that showed up for last night’s game show up for the remainder of the Finals, we just may have an interesting series ahead of us.

When I compare Pittsburgh’s parties outside Mellon Arena to the Sabres Parties in the Plaza, I think the Sabres win by a landslide. The Sabres pack them in and really celebrate. While there was a considerable crowd outside Mellon, it looked nothing like what was outside the HSBC.

- Finally, Patrick Lalime shows himself to the world and proves that he’s not dead, he’s just resting. Turns out that he was having a sports hernia repaired followed by an arthroscopic repair of his hip. Poor little French Canadian button. Based on Lalime’s age, you do have to wonder if Darcy is considering whether to buyout Lalime’s contract and go after a free agent goalie or will he keep Lalime around and have Enroth as the safety valve?

- Speaking of Enroth, he was taken in the KHL Entry draft. While it’s unlikey that he would leave Portland to go play in Russia, you have to wonder what promises are being made to him behind the scenes to keep him in the Sabres organization. If Lalime hangs around another year, is Enroth being told that in two years he’ll be brought up to Buffalo to back up Miller? Which then begs the question: would he settle for being a backup goalie for four years, since that would be the length of Miller’s current deal? And what’s to say that the Sabres wouldn’t re-sign Miller for a year after that? Eh, this is why I am not in hockey management.

- Continuing on the goalie discussion, there’s some fascinating rumors coming out of Philly. Puck Daddy cites that Ray Emery could be the answer to the Flyers goalie problems, while CNNSi had a rumor that the Flyers were interested in making a deal for Roberto Luongo. And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that the Flyers need a backup goalie, as both Marty and Nittymaki are UFA’s this year.

- Meanwhile, Danica Patrick is doing some pretty nice backtracking on her comments to Dan Patrick (no relation) that she would take PEDs if they would help her win the Indy 500 and she wouldn’t get caught. Princess, I’m not sure what PEDs would do for you in the racecar, but you have to be pretty bleeping stupid if you think that a comment like that wouldn’t draw attention in perhaps one of the most read magazines in the world. While her league hasn’t made any formal statements on the situation, I have to wonder whether Princess Permapout is going to be coming under more scrutiny in the world of “random” pee tests.

- I’m getting a very nice giggle out of the fact that my search terms this week included: “Daniel Paille injured at Sears Portrait studio.” All I have to say is that whoever was assigned to babysit young Paille was not doing their job very well if this is true. Heh.

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Indy 500 Live Blog

May 24, 2009

This is my attempt at liveblogging the Indy 500. If I make it through the race without hurling something at my TV set due to the overexposure of Danica Patrick, the shameless weeping of Helio Castroneves over being acquitted on tax evasion charges based on the “my client is a fucking moron” defense, or any other story that ABC chooses to beat into the ground, it will be a good day.

And away we go..

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