:: fast in-laps ::

A place to share interesting information on auto racing, especially CART, IRL, & F1. Also welcome are any anecdotes from the club SCCA-type racing set. E-mail: ebrott -at- juno.com Pray for our troops. Read Romans 8:28.
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:: 30.5.03 ::

Wait, hold the phone! Gualther Salles is back in Champ Car racing! Seems he has taken over for Malaysian ex-F1 pilot Alex Yoong. Salles will be piloting the Dale Coyne car at this weekend's Milwaukee race. Welcome back, Gualther!!
:: Eric 30.5.03 [+] ::
Sad news in the world of motorcycle racing. David Jeffries was killed while practicing for the Isle of Man TT. Reports are that he may have ran over some fluid in one of the 160 mph corners of the 37.7 mile public road circuit. Our hearts and our prayers are for God to show His comfort and love to the friends, family members and associates of David Jeffries.
:: Eric 30.5.03 [+] ::
IRL Fantasy League Update:

The Indy 500 was pretty exciting. Or so I was told. The campground had zero television reception, save for a couple PBS and UHF stations. But I've pieced together from reading Robin Miller's recap, reading the lineup/results PDF from the IRL site, and watching "Robby Gordon's Double Duty" on SPEED. (Great show, by the way.)

As far as the IRL Fantasy League went, there was a new winner, Eppy's Roadies!

The podium for the Indianapolis 500 looked like this:
1. Eppy's Roadies
2. Lambros Entry
3. Mean Machine

Eppy's Roadies were successful by backing 2 of the top 4 drivers: Helio Castroneves and Tomas Scheckter. Always a smart move to back a Penske driver (and defending champion). Tomas Scheckter was a bit of a gamble, but it paid off big. Lambros fell only slightly by only backing one fast driver. Again, it was the 2nd place driver, Castro Neves (oops, there I go using his CART name.) Mean Machine was assisted to the 3rd podium spot by backing top Honda driver, Tony Kanaan, who coincidentally finished 3rd in the race. That's all the difference, since a good many of the other drivers we all picked ended up as DNF's. And they were some pretty promising drivers: Andretti, Gordon, Vasser, Fisher.

And now, the season tally shows the top 3:
1. Mean Machine
2. Texas Two-Step
3. Whizzing Wheels

The order at the top remains unchanged, largely because of the low number of points scored by all teams this round.

Next up is the IRL event at the Texas Motor Speedway in one week. Lineups are due Friday, June 6.
:: Eric 30.5.03 [+] ::
This Week in Racing:

Saturday, May 31

West Allis, WI - CART: Centenniel 250. The Milwaukee Mile oval. Defending champion: Paul Tracy. Also Barber Dodge

Sunday, June 1

Dover, DE - NASCAR: MBNA Armed Forces Family 400. Dover Downs International Speedway oval. Defending champion: Jimmie Johnson. Also Busch Series.

Monte Carlo - F1: Monaco Grand Prix. Monte Carlo street circuit. Defending champion: David Coulthard.
:: Eric 30.5.03 [+] ::
:: 23.5.03 ::
This Week in Racing:

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Speedway, IN - IRL: Indianapolis 500. Indianapolis Motor Speedway 2.5 mile oval. 2002 Champion: Paul Tracy...[OK, I'll stop.] Defending Champion: Helio Castroneves

Concord, NC - NASCAR: Coca-Cola 600. Lowes Motor Speedway 1.5 mile oval. Defending champion: Mark Martin.

Also racing this weekend if you can't get enough: Busch series Saturday & NHRA in Topeka, KS. But spend some time outdoors this weekend, too. (Again, weather permitting.)
:: Eric 23.5.03 [+] ::
Indy 500 Handicapper:

Sunday is the big day, weather permitting. The coverage of the Indy 500 is set to start on ABC at 11:00 am. I think this means the race is slated to start at noon, but you'd better check you TV Guide. As it is, I'm going camping this weekend (again, weather permitting). This means I'll be catching the race on a tiny 3.5" screen Watchman!! Hey, at least it's in color.

Anyway, this year's grid has quite a few drivers that could potentially win this thing. Let's take a look at who's racing and who has a good chance to guzzle milk in the winner's circle.

Row 1: Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Robby Gordon - Any of these 3 could win. Helio has had a great month qualifying on the pole, giving great interviews, etc., but history says no one has won 3 in a row. Kanaan has one fast Honda and nearly won last year. Robby will run 500 miles, then hop into a chopper and go race an additional 600 miles down south. Possibly, he'll have time to grab a sip of milk in between.

Row 2: Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon, Kenny Brack - 2 rookies and a former Indy 500 winner. Actually, Scott Dixon is about as "rookie" as Nigel Mansell was in his first year of CART racing. All 3 drivers have shown great speed and have excellent chances to be successful.

Row 3: Tora Takagi, Tony Renna, Scott Sharp - Takagi has impressed with his speed this month. Scott Sharp is having a great season, but in recent years has struggled at Indy. Sharp's teammate, Renna is one fast rookie, but I'm not sure he'll be up front at the end.

Row 4: Gil de Ferran, Roger Yasukawa, Tomas Scheckter - Penske veteran driver de Ferran has the best shot of anyone in this row. Scheckter has the speed and may lead some laps in this race, but he has to prove he can keep it together for the full 200 laps.

Row 5: Michael Andretti, Greg Ray, Shinji Nakano - Mikey is the fan favorite this year without a doubt. He has led the most laps here, he has won CART championships and the most race wins of anyone out there. Will his final drive here be the one? Personally, I have my doubts. Greg Ray, like Scott Sharp, has seen his share of troubles here at Indy, but he could be a surprise contender.

Row 6: Fillipe Giaffone, Al Unser, Jr., Sam Hornish Jr. - Respectively: Has a chance, had his chance and won already, and has no chance at all. Well, if attrition plays a role, Hornish could finish on the podium,... maybe.

Row 7: Buddy Rice, Jacques Lazier, Buddy Lazier - First the two Buddy's: Rice is too young, Lazier too old. Now the other Lazier: Like Scheckter has seen flashes of brilliance but too many DNF's in his career.

Row 8: Robby Buhl, AJ Foyt IV, Sarah Fisher - Attention, rows 9 to 11: steer to the inside on the start to avoid any of these cars if they get together!! How they've managed to start the race with Foyt in the middle of the row, I don't know. If they can survive dicing at the beginning of the race, I'd say Fisher has the chance to do the best of these 3. All of these drivers should just focus on turning 200 laps as their main goal.

Row 9: Alex Barron, Vitor Meira, Jimmy Vasser - A very good trio of drivers here. Barron impressed many people with great super speedway performances last year. Jimmy Vasser is extremely good at the big ovals, and Meira coaxed the most speed out of his Chevy this month. They just need to survive any madness that may happen at the start.

Row 10: Richie Hearn, Billy Boat, Shigeaki Hattori - I'm glad to see Hearn and Boat in this race. I'll be happy if they finish on the lead lap.

Row 11: Robby McGehee, Jimmy Kite, Airton Dare - Ah, yes. The backmarkers. There was (is) a rumor floating around that McGehee will take the green flag, run around a bit and dive into the pits and park it. I hope that's just a rumor, though he didn't even have a pit crew on Carb Day. I'd say Dare has the best shot of these 3 to post a good result, but his speed was down so much on qualifying, I don't know if the got enough done over the past few days to improve his car.

We shall see. It will be an interesting race, that's for sure.
:: Eric 23.5.03 [+] ::
IRL Fantasy League

Attention Fantasy League players. You have till the end of the day Saturday to make sure your lineups are in. Good luck!
:: Eric 23.5.03 [+] ::
:: 20.5.03 ::
Dr. Jack... er, I mean Robin Miller has a good column highlighting the drivers that have the best chances for a 2003 Indy 500 victory. Go check it out!
:: Eric 20.5.03 [+] ::
Here is the complete grid for the Indy 500.

I'll probably post my thoughts on each driver's chances on Friday. (Attention: IRL Fantasy League players, please have your drivers picked out by Saturday.)
:: Eric 20.5.03 [+] ::
Bump Day Reflections:

Well, I stuck it out to watch another Bump Day. Albeit a day where there really weren't any bumps. One could sit and reflect on the great excitement of a few years back, when Billy Boat had to fight to keep a slow car on the starting grid over the onslaught of cars and drivers that sought to make the field. Somehow, it wasn't as exciting this year, sitting there and thinking, "OK, they got 30 cars,... now 31 cars,... 32, etc." Vitor Meira's run was very good, and that lent a little excitement to the proceedings. Then Mr. Jenkins, the announcer doused any flames of excitement as only Mr. Jenkins can do. He states something to the effect of "with only 90 minutes left in the day, it looks doubtful that anyone will pull their car out of line or that anyone else will attempt to make the field." I'm sure the advertisers and marketing execs loved to hear that one, as thousands of viewers (myself included) turned their focus from the TV back to doing the chores they neglected for most of the afternoon.

The big question I had was: "Where were they?" We were treated to a sad interview with Jeff Ward as he stood around in the paddock in his street clothes, looking for a benefactor. But there were quite a few other drivers notable for their absence in this year's field: Memo Gidley and George Mack in particular have a loyal fan following, and it would have been worth it for Mr. George to pony up a little cash to slide them into a couple of Chevy Dallaras and pump a little more excitement into Bump Day. It's not unprecedented (Little Al). I think they dropped the ball there.

Heck, with the field as depleted as it was for bump day, you could have almost called up a few also-rans to stick them in a seat at rock-bottom prices: "Paging John Herb, Dennis Vitolo, and Tarso Marques, blue courtesy phone. You are wanted in Gasoline Alley..."

Just a thought.
:: Eric 20.5.03 [+] ::
Three Stars

1. Vitor Meira - Vitor who? The rookie gets a star, because were it not for his four laps of clean (and darn good) qualifying, there would not be a full 33 car field. There have been full fields in every race since the end of WWII, so to have a reduced field would be a huge black eye to the IRL. As it stands, Meira should earn the star for being the fastest Chevrolet in the field.

2. Roger Penske - Roger also helped fill out the field when he leased one of his spare cars, along with some technicians and engineers to Sam Schmidt's shoestring team. Richie Hearn put in a solid qualifying effort to earn a spot on the grid in the leased Toyota G-Force.

3. Michael Schumacher - And you thought they called Mika Hakkinen the Ice Man. Schuey's car has a fire in the pits, yet he still goes on to battle with teammate Rubens Barrichelo and rival Kimi Raiknonen to win the Austrian GP.
:: Eric 20.5.03 [+] ::
:: 12.5.03 ::
Here is an interview with Zanardi from Crash.net. Great stuff!
:: Eric 12.5.03 [+] ::
David Phillips has a great write up of the Alex Zanardi event at Lausitzring. When I have more time, I'm going to add my comments on this.
:: Eric 12.5.03 [+] ::
Three Stars

Ok, it's been a few weeks since I have designated anyone with one of the 3 stars. Quite frankly, most weeks there was only one race on, and I missed it for one reason or another. Instead of just noting the three stars by their qualifying position or podium finish, I just declined to make anyone the stars.

Now, that being said, this week I could have expanded to way more than three stars. So I'll do the next best thing and cheat.

1. Alex Zanardi - Without a doubt the most spectacular performance of the week was Zanardi's. At the Lausitzring track where he suffered a horrific crash in 2001, he took the wheel of a specially prepared Champ car. The plan was that he would take the final 13 laps of unfinished business at the track where he lost both his legs. He took the first couple of laps using the hand controls to gingerly pace around the track. Then he started to get the feel of the car. Then he started to get the feel of the track. On his final few laps he was setting a blistering pace. In fact, Dave Despain would later comment on Speed News that Alex's fastest lap yesterday would have resulted in him qualifying 4th on the grid of the CART race that followed the special event.

2. Sebastien Bourdais, Mario Dominguez, and Michel Jourdain - Almost to prove that the IRL has not cornered the market on close oval finishes, these 3 pilots put on a spectacular showing at the German 500. The final ten laps had Bourdais and Dominguez slicing back and forth and side-by-side. I really thought Dominguez was trying to "sell" the outside pass in order to take Bourdais on the inside with 1 or 2 to go. But the Frenchman wouldn't take the bait and slid back and forth to keep the Mexican behind him. Jourdain stayed #3 through the whole thing, but he was always just off the gearbox of the two drivers as they diced back & forth.

3. Helio Castroneves - On a gusty Indianapolis Mother's Day, Helio was able to negotiate 4 laps at an average of just over 231 mph to post the pole position for this year's Indy 500. The intense wind gusts were difficult for many to deal with as it blew Scott Sharp into the barrier, and A. J. Foyt IV into an amazing pirouette. Nearly all drivers related that they had to deal with strange cross-winds at times. Team Andretti Green did very well also, with 3 of the top 5 times. The lone exception was Michael Andretti, who was only able to scrape together the 13th best time.
:: Eric 12.5.03 [+] ::
:: 9.5.03 ::
Robin Miller on Tora Takagi:

Going into Saturday's opening round of qualifying, Takagi is very much a player in the race for the pole. He's been among the fastest drivers all week and was one of only two to top 232 mph.

I think he could be on to something, here. Go get 'em "Tiger".

:: Eric 9.5.03 [+] ::
"Fastest lap at Indy since 1996"

Don't look now, but Indy rookie, Dan Wheldon drove his Andretti Green car in practice at 232.202 mph! This is the fastest lap at Indy since '96. You remember '96, the year everyone in the field was driving CART chassis and turbos from 1995? I knew you did...
:: Eric 9.5.03 [+] ::
Indy Qualifying Notebook:

Well, it's one day until Pole Position is determined for this year's Indy 500. And everyone's wondering who has the best chances at making the front row of this year's event?

Good question. If you have any thoughts on the matter, give me an e-mail shoutout. I'd love to hear from you.

Here are my opinions on the matter:

First, take any ideas that Sam Hornish, Sarah Fisher, or anyone else with a Chevy bowtie on the engine cover will be on the front row, and forget about it. Toyota and Honda have leapfrogged over the Chevy teams by about 40 hp. All Chevrolet teams are looking for reliability runs and avoiding the SAFER barriers to give them success on Memorial Day.

Chances are quite good that for another year the driver on the pole position will be one who made a name for himself running the CART circuit. Helio Castroneves (who started in CART as Helio Castro Neves) and his teammate Gil de Ferran have the Toyota powerplants and have been sorting out which chassis (Dallara or G-Force) will give them the faster times. In my humble but biased opinion, they are the favorites for the pole.

But there's also that Honda team of drivers, Andretti Green racers. Tony Kanaan's recovering from his wrist injury and looking good. Michael Andretti could pull it off (maybe). And who knows? Robby Gordon knows his way around the squared super-oval better than anybody and could surprise as the fastest. Having his Winston Cup vacation the same week as Pole Day could be a real stroke of luck for him this year.

It's probably not out of the realm of possibility that a rookie or 2nd year guy or even a former Indy winner takes the pole as well. Look for Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon, and Kenny Brack to set a blistering pace on Saturday.

Of the IRL regulars, Scott Sharp has the best chance to take the pole. The Laziers, Jimmy Kite, and arguably even Tomas Schekter will all have decision to make after Saturday. Do they scrap their time and try again on Sunday? Do they put in another week's testing and prep for Bump Day? Are Billy Boat, George Mack, or Memo Gidley going to get a call to grab a helmet and go?

We shall start to see this weekend. Stay tuned...
:: Eric 9.5.03 [+] ::
This week in racing

Saturday, May 10

Indianapolis, IN - IRL: Indianapolis 500 Qualifying. Pole day. Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 2002 Pole winner: Bruno Junquiera.

(CBS Broadcast, Taped from last Monday race.) London Champ Car Trophy, Brands Hatch road course. Inaugural event

Sunday, May 11

Lausitz, Germany - CART: German 500. Eurospeedway (Lausitzring). 2001Champion (no race 2002): Kenny Brack.

No NASCAR event: Mother's Day, you know. You don't know? Well, get shopping!!
(Actually, there is a Busch event at Gateway International Speedway, this Saturday, if you're going through stock car withdrawals.)
:: Eric 9.5.03 [+] ::
:: 7.5.03 ::
The Dangers of Dealing with the Boss Dept.

I don't post much on NASCAR, but I do find this a bit interesting. After Kevin Harvick nudges teammate Jeff Green out of Saturday's race, Green storms from his spot in the paddock over to team owner Richard Childress and gives him a piece of his mind regarding the incident. Days later, Jeff Green has been released from his contract with Childress Racing. Hmm... Be careful when you blow your stack at the boss, I guess, huh?

More musical chairs, as Steve Park is let go at DEI. This is unfortunate. He was a promising driver up until his crash in practice at Darlington in 2001. His performance seemed to be picking up a little this year, although he only had one top 10 so far. Green will take over his seat for the remainder of the season. Hopefully, Park will land another ride soon.
:: Eric 7.5.03 [+] ::
More seat-hopping at Indy:

Scott Meyer did not pass his rookie test at Indy, so IRL veteran Jimmy Kite will take the PDM seat. So that adds one more to the field.

But wait:

Hattori spun and wrecked during practice breaking a finger. It probably won't affect his making the field. So I guess he's in the field, too.


Tony Kanaan turned some laps at nearly 230 mph and says he feels fine to qualify this weekend.

So how many racers will turn the 4 laps to qualify this Saturday and Sunday? How should I know. Let me get back to you on this. Probably on Monday or so...
:: Eric 7.5.03 [+] ::
It looks like Warren, MI native Bryan Herta will fill in for Dario for the two races following the Indy 500. This is good, I guess, but it begs the question. Why not plop him in one of the T cars and put him in the grid for Indy? If Ganassi can enter four cars in Indy like he did a couple of years ago, why can't Michael start himself, Kanaan, Wheldon, and Herta? C'mon Mikey! Make it happen!!

Just trying to help make Bump Day a bump day this year...
:: Eric 7.5.03 [+] ::
Indy Notes:

Robin Miller has some interesting observations regarding qualifying at Indy, which starts this weekend.

Hopefully, some money-bags sponsors will step up to put more drivers in cars for this year's Indianapolis 500. It'd be a shame if there were fewer than 33 cars in the field. What exactly would be the purpose of Bump Day this year? Maybe they can call it Cash In Hand Day. "And look, here comes Steve Jobs with a briefcase and a new Dallara Chevy for Billy Boat..."

It's pretty sad that open wheel racing in the U.S. has gotten to this point. Many drivers who could take the squared-oval at Indy by storm are off in Europe for most of May. Some of the big names will be back in time to qualify a car for the back of the grid (Vasser, Fernandez (maybe)). But the cost of a new chassis and motor for one race is too much for some teams to come up with. Tony George will no doubt be beaming about the "spectacle" of his race, but he shouldn't bring out the "We're beating CART" bottle of bubbly just yet. Not until he can comfortably count more than 34 drivers and cars in Gasoline Alley.

Thanks for your time.
:: Eric 7.5.03 [+] ::
:: 2.5.03 ::
This week in racing

Saturday, May 3

Richmond, VA - NASCAR: Pontiac Excitement 400. Richmond International Raceway oval track. Defending champion: Tony Stewart.

Sunday, May 4

Kent, UK - CART: London Champ Car Trophy. Brands Hatch road course. Inaugural event.

Barcelona, Spain - F1: Spanish Grand Prix. Catalunya road course. Defending champion: Michael Schumacher.

:: Eric 2.5.03 [+] ::

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