Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Great IndyCar Implosion of 2009

THIS should have been the biggest disaster this week for IndyCar (really, Richmond might have been the WORST oval race ever).

But then, the tumultuous reign of Tony George ended. George was always the wrong man at the wrong time. Still, this shakeup does not say "stability," does it?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Depressing, Not-so Depressing

Yglesias brings the depressing. I suspect he's right.

Al Giordano with the not-so depressing.

Friday, June 19, 2009

So Sad, So Inspiring

Translation of the woman's thoughts (via):

Tomorrow is Saturday. Tomorrow is a day of destiny.

Tonight, the cries of Allah-o Akbar are heard louder and louder than the nights before.

Where is this place? Where is this place where every door is closed? Where is this place where people are simply calling God? Where is this place where the sound of Allah-o Akbar gets louder and louder?

I wait every night to see if the sounds will get louder and whether the number increases. It shakes me. I wonder if God is shaken.

Where is this place that where so many innocent people are entrapped? Where is this place where no one comes to our aid? Where is this place that only with our silence we are sending our voices to the world? Where is this place that the young shed blood and then people go and pray -- standing on that same blood and pray. Where is this place where the citizens are called vagrants?

Where is this place? You want me to tell you? This place is Iran. The homeland of you and me.
This place is Iran.

Dawn approaches. The world watches, and prays.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Showdown coming

Watching NBC News tonight, that's the distinct impression one gets. Tomorrow, Mousavi has called for demonstrations and a national day of mourning for those who have already been martyred (yes, martyred). There should be a ton of people on the streets.

Then, Friday prayers, given by Khamenei himself, with more huge opposition protests planned (bigger than tomorrow even). And so, that might be the day of destiny.

But maybe not. Maybe a compromise will be reached, though the longer this goes, the more unlikely it becomes. Or, perhaps, in a tale out of Shakespeare, Rafsanjani ousts Khamenei in Qom.

Whatever happens, I have two thoughts: One, this is NOT about us (in the West); it is about Iranians and their future. But that doesn't mean that we as citizens cannot morally sympathize w/ our Iranian brothers and sisters who are rallying (and dying) for those most basic and universal principles of free votes, dissent, and freedom to make one's own destiny in life. These are human principles, that do not differentiate between geography or religion.

Second, as Djerejian is the latest to note, the Islamic Republic, whatever happens, will never be the same.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Until this is over in Iran, this tiny blog will go green. We are with you. Stay safe, stay strong.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Choices, choices

In brutal fashion, the mullahs have made their choice. As Juan Cole notes, it is laughable that Ahmadinejad "won" in the fashion the mullahs claim. Seriously fellas, you expect us to buy that Ahmad won Tehran by any margin, let alone 50%? Really?

The violence by the IRGC and the Basij militias is very real. More troubling? Reports like THIS and THIS. Put this together with speculation from Trita Parsi at the end of Laura Rozen's report, and we may be seeing a full-on crack-up of the regime of epic proportions, in which hard-liners are determined to destroy ALL opposition, brutality included (though the demonstrations are also inspiring).

We've not heard the last of this. Either we will end up w/ at least a partially liberated Iran governed by moderates or a fully oppressed, subjugated populace governed by hard-line Khomenist Islamists.

The populace faces an impossible choice: Revolt and (possibly) die, or acquiesce to disaster. Unfortunately, the same choice might already have been taken from Mousavi and Rafsanjani.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stirrings in Persia?

Iranian politics in the Islamic Republic aren't supposed to be interesting. Presidential candidates are vetted by the clerical Guardians Council, a rather hard-line body (some call it a "Clerical Senate"). All candidates are supposed to support the Islamic state, and the ultimate authority of the Supreme Leader. Theo-democracies are not terribly dramatic.

Except when they are. At worst, we're seeing a rather nasty internal debate in the regime, between Rafsanjani, now with reformist alliances, and Khamenei. Fortunately, for the rest of us, those spats have become very public, leading to massive rallies and a surprising, if temporary openness. The youth have rallied to Mousavi, whose wife has become a surprising asset, and the energy is in his camp.

Which might not matter, if hard-liners rig the vote. The Revolutionary Guards are warning against any "Velvet Revolutions," a clear shot at Mousavi, Karroubi, and their supporters. This strikes me as a most unwise path for the mullahs.

Fellas, let's play this out. You've seen the same rallies we have and have no doubt watched in horror the public debates. Now, you want to put it to rest and quash. Problem is y'all let it happen. Putting that genie back in the bottle now? Yeah, good luck with that.

After all, guys, revolutions can start over much less. And unlike Chinese authorities in 1989, I'm wondering if you have the ability to quash a movement, should it start, divided as you are. Think about it fellas. Sure, the nature of your theocratic regime may need to be tweaked slightly in response to a Mousavi win, but from your perspective, it's better than blowing the whole thing up, right?

Oh yeah, the world would appreciate it too.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

About Those "Actions"

See, ultimately, Cairo's effect depends on future actions by all sides. On our side, THIS decision is almost impossible to defend. Maybe the propaganda angle works, but I don't buy it.

In the global realm, small thing. But it just makes you wonder about future choices.


Yes, yes, it's well past Sunday. Sue me.

But while I don't think it can be really attributed to Obama, March 14's victory in Lebanon allows us (me) to refocus on the speech.

It must be said that the full impact of Cairo a) won't be understood for years and b) is utterly dependent on events and actions. Great thoughts with no action mean nothing.

Still, I think this has the potential to be remembered as the start of a transformational moment. Why? It's not b/c of the State Of The Union-like list as the President laid out, though that matters. In fact, some of that dragged on a bit.

Instead, 3 things stick out. His thoughts on Israel-Palestine were great. There was an absolute defense of the State of Israel, with an acknowledgment of Palestinian grievances. 2nd, the line:

It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Indeed, it is. Throughout the Middle East, it is time to act in a positive way, looking forward, not back. A call for all, governments and citizens alike, to act. Good.

Finally, that idealistic ending, with an explicit call to the youth. If 20 yrs. from now, the Middle East has changed for the better, people will rightly point to this. In my mind, it was a Kennedy-esque call to my generation worldwide. I'm reminded once again that, in many ways, it will be up to us to change the world. Whether we live in Washington, Tehran, Jerusalem, or Cairo, it is now up to us. The time to act is now.

Full text.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Perspectives on Cairo

Ebullient Sully.

Pleased Clive Crook

Cautiously Optimistic Djerejian

But what if... Hezbollah wins? (Sorta)

Or should we calm the hell down?

My view? Wait till Sunday.

In Which I Argue With (and agree with) Myself

Gordon Kirby's piece this week, centered on N/H/L racing, is a must-read. Most interesting is the discussion on the future nature of IndyCar racing.

Almost everyone wants to abandon the pure spec-nature we have today. Indy 2009 showed why that doesn't work. But Brian Lisles takes it a step further:

"Today, we know how to go fast and how to be reliable and a lot of people feel racing should be about efficient use of energy. Quite how you make that into something that's appealing to the public is a difficult question. The perception is that the public will only get interested in an event where there's wheel-to-wheel, man-on-man combat, which if you look back historically is not how motor racing has ever been.

"Certainly Indianapolis used to be filled with some of the world's most boring races but the fans still came. Part of the excitement was not the man-to-man, wheel-to-wheel racing but the fact that somebody was leading in this powerful or different car that might not make it to the end. Some of the excitement was, is it going to hang together and make it to the end? But today I think everybody's got locked into the thought that you have to have wheel-to-wheel racing."

Undoubtedly true. Given that I was more sympathetic to the CART side during the split, I ought to be in full agreement. In a sense, I am. The current cars, IMHO, produce artificially close superspeedway racing and they look... less than ideal. But...

But relying on "history" here is a tricky proposition. His characterization of what Indy was is accurate, but two things stick out for me. One, it was a different time in many ways. Indianapolis had dominated the American racing scene (outside of the Southeast) since, well, the 1910's. Through the early 90's, it was, in some ways, coasting on it's history. It could do that as long as there were big name drivers all over the field. The thinning out of these drivers started in the early 90's (buh-bye Mears, Unser Sr., Mario, AJ, etc), but the big factor was the split. Today, even with Marco, Graham Rahal and Danica, Americans no longer identify with the sport. During the split wilderness, NASCAR filled the void, and the drivers of today are there (at least in terms of cultural resonance).

Which brings me to point two. The rise of NASCAR also shifted perceptions in this country as to what motorsports IS. Lisles is spot on when he notes that racing was once all about the ultimate pursuit of record speeds. That's why, in many ways, Pole Day at Indianapolis was considered by many the 2nd biggest day in motorsports (the 500 being #1).

As NASCAR rose in importance and popularity, speed and technology necessarily had to diminish in importance. Cup cars are NOT slow, but compared to the days of records at Indianapolis, speed will never be the top selling point. In terms of technology, really now, come on. If the COT is the result of all NASCAR has learned, then yes, their use of technology is impressive... for 1969.

This is not to bash NASCAR. By nature, the speeds will be slower than an IndyCar, but they're two different machines with, somewhat, different goals. As for tech, NASCAR has always felt comfortable philosophically with their technology.

No, the point is this: Is mainstream American racing (hell, racing anywhere) really about the ultimate pursuit of speed, technology, AND victory, or has NASCAR reduced or otherwise cut out the 1st two factors? I'm tempted to argue it's the latter, with driver personalities taking on more import along with close racing.

I both want, in many ways, the racing Lisles wants, yet I don't. The current spec low(er)-tech machines must go. They look lousy and, at times race that way too.

Butttt... do we want to return to the era of one car, potentially, dominating, while running speeds? I wonder if our racing culture will tolerate it. Would I tolerate it?

On the other hand, I do NOT want to simply become an OW NASCAR. Speed & technology MUST play a role.

But getting right will be tough. Unfortunately (though maybe not?), the future of the sport rests on them getting it right.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I Love Me Some Irony

Especially when it's as delicious as this: Car owners publicly backing Tony George.

But it's the right angle. IF this drama results in IMS cutting the $$ to the IRL, then the series, in this environment, is in trouble. It's also madness. IMS gains control over the sport (what it had wanted), only to throw it all away now? Huh?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Indy Wrap IV: Final Wrap and Remainders

Yes, this is late, given that Milwaukee is well underway (Briscoe, Rahal front row). Better late than never.

First, I endorse most of what Miller wrote before TG-Gate, esp. on the foolishness that is Brian Barnhart. Things will never greatly improve with him in charge. That said, I don't think the race was QUITE as awful as he thought.

Vitor Meira's horrific wreck leads to teh best pairing ever.

Tomas Scheckter lives for one more race.

Ultimately, the 500 and it's soap opera aftermath was disappointing. The ratings were HORRIBLE. The race itself was no "game-changer." And now, the fate of the sport is uncertain, according to RM's response.

To some extent, this moment was inevitable. Unification was merely the 1st step. But now, we arrive (or we will) at the "sink or swim" moment. There will be an Indy 500. Will there be an IndyCar? That is what the next few years will settle.

The field at Milwaukee (post-Stanton Barrett wreck) is not encouraging.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

So, WTF REALLY Happened Today?

I think THIS AP piece sums it up. Read here, listen here (2nd link) for RM's response.

In short, I THINK, given the careful IMS wording, that Robin Miller got a lot right. Big changes are coming, butttttt he jumped the gun a little.


We interrupt the 2009 Indy 500 wrap for a bombshell: Tony George OUT at IMS! Wow. It's hard to know what to say. Yes, Miller says George will still run the IRL, given the symbiotic relationship between the IRL and IMS, I wonder how much power he'll truly have.

Personally, I wish he'd NEVER ran the place to begin with, but just in terms of IMS, he modernized the place greatly. In the process, he dealt a serious blow to the sport by forming the IRL. My only concern is that all aspects of IMS will return to utter provincialism. That would kill the sport for good.

UPDATE: Or not???????

UPDATE2- 3:15: From IMS:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

At a regular meeting of the board of directors of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday, May 26, board members asked Tony George, chief executive officer of the IMS companies, to devise a plan for management of Hulman and Company, the Indy Racing League, Clabber Girl and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that would allow him to focus on the business which requires the greatest attention. This plan is to be presented to the board at a meeting later this year.

IMS Chairman of the Board Mari Hulman George said: "There was a general discussion about the challenges and opportunities facing all of our companies and where most of our energies need to be spent. All of our properties are doing well, given the challenges of the current economy. The Indy Racing League represents our greatest growth opportunity and therefore deserves the most attention at this point."

Tony George said: "Contrary to published reports, I continue to serve as CEO of IMS. Our board of directors met yesterday, and we did discuss how to best confront challenges and exploit opportunities facing our businesses. This is nothing new and is something that we continually do as a board. But no changes in leadership or responsibility have been made. We don't normally comment on board deliberations concerning our family business. However, the widespread, inaccurate reports and rumors caused my mother and me to conclude that it was necessary to set the record straight. If changes are made in the management of the company that are newsworthy, we will announce them when they are made."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Indy Wrap III: Dan, Danica, and Townsend

Ultimately, the 2nd-place (and so on) finisher of a race is "first loser," the driver we talk to about why they didn't pull it off. This is esp. true of a race like the Indy 500. But some words about Dan Wheldon, Danica Patrick, and Townsend Bell.

Prior to Carb Day, Dan Wheldon had a sub-par month of May. He crashed on Pole Day and struggled to find "balance." Evidently, Panther found it in time. Thanks in part to phenomenal stops, the National Guard car finished 2nd for the second straight year, besting 2 Penskes and 2 Ganassis. Hell of a job.

As for Danica, I realized what struck me most. Four yrs. ago, when she finished 4th, she had NO idea how it happened. Her knowledge of the car was non-existent. Today, she's become a racer, with s much, much better understanding of what her car needs and is doing at the time. Her 3rd place run was well and truly earned.

Unfortunately for Townsend Bell, his stunning 4th-place at Indy may be his only ride of the yr. The economics of the sport just prevent some talented guys from partaking. Still, if that was his only race, wow, what a drive! More remarkably, he did it on a 2nd-week program w/ limited practice. If his pit crew had been a regular, more experienced one, he could have finished 2nd.

Indy Wrap II: WHY ABC Sucks

Versus might get a tiny audience, but we were reminded on Sunday why ABC sucks.

The (only) Good:

A decent intro honoring the 100th anniversary of IMS. Vanilla, in my view, but not bad.

Pre-race was acceptable.

Jamie Little and Vince Welch

The Bad:

Everything else. Goodyear and Cheever? Horrible and BORING. Marty Reid? Utter tool. Arute? Go away. NOW!!!

The race wasn't great certainly, but ABC made it worse by obsessing ONLY on the lead, Danica, and a touch of PT. In so doing, they missed action in the pack.

And that's the problem: ABC tries to make the racing fit their pre-conceived coverage, not the other way around. So, Townsend Bell runs in the top 10 most of the day, finishing 4th, after starting 24th. How did he get there? We don't care and none of your business anyway!

ABC has tried to manufacture stories in this sport for yrs. As a result, they will always miss the REAL stories.

Indy Wrap I: HelioX3

Let's get this out of the way: This is a different era from that of Unser, Mears, Rutherford, Foyt, Andretti, etc. Arguably, the fields aren't quite as deep with star power as those years, and the month seems diluted in comparison. We need not review the reasons for this.

Still, at about 4:30 on Sunday afternoon, Helio Castroneves joined elite company by winning his 3rd Indianapolis 500. In the final 18-lap stint, he showed the speed he had all month long by pulling away from Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick to win by 2.0 seconds. He made no mistakes all month, unlike ALL of his main rivals. To be sure, his Ganassi rivals helped him on pit road, but that's what will happen during 500 miles at Indy.

6 weeks ago, Helio was facing serious jail time, maybe deportation. Today, he's now a 3-time champion of the Indy 500, with a true chance at more. A phenomenal achievement in overcoming adversity.

Given his hyper and emotional persona, given "Dancing With The Stars," we forget, or overlook, how talented a driver he really is. I hope that ended on Sunday.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Quick thoughts

Helio wins his 3rd 500.

Congrats to Helio and Penske! Redemption.

Great, gutty run by Dan Wheldon in 2nd. In trouble for most of the month, but found it when it mattered.

Townsend Bell in P4?! Wow. Great run. Ditto for Tagliani in 11th.

Wayyyyyyyy too hard to overtake. Too spec, too even, too much dirty air.

Oh, and, um, Danica, yeah, sorry about giving you no shot. Great job to finish 3rd.

Oh, ABC sucks.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thoughts and Predictions

So, it's, oh, 41 hrs. until the green flag flies for the 93rd Indianapolis 500. Let's answer some questions:

Who has any chance of winning? Helio, Briscoe, Franchitti, Dixon, Power, Kanaan, Ma. Andretti, Moraes (!), Wheldon (based on Carb Day), Rahal, and, maybe, PT. Based on speed, I'll throw Townsend Bell in as a super darkhorse.

Wh.. Where's Danica? I dunno, probably in Indy getting ready for Sunday. Ohhhh, you meant on my list. Look, rain at the right time could throw this thing wide open, so I shouldn't 100% keep her off my list. Assuming weather isn't THE factor, she's shown NO race speed, and really, all of AGR looks lost.

What kind of race will we see? See, the spec nature (Dallara-Honda) of the series means parity. Good in theory, but it's tough to pass people. Also, the Dallara's aerodynamics suck, making it difficult to stay close to anyone.

Who wins? The man/woman who finishes 500 miles the quickest. Oh fine, I'll go with, after changing my mind this week, Helio Castroneves for the 3rd time.

Outside of the winner, driver to watch? Definitely Moraes. The kid is incredibly fast and very much "on the edge." His high line could be genius, or suicide.

Better ratings: Indy 500 or Coca-Snooza 600? Sadly, the 600. And it won't be close.

Monday, May 18, 2009

In Which I Cautiously Praise ICS Thinking

It's shockingly rare that I can say this, but the IRL might be showing some innovative thinking. Though just an idea at this point, Cleveland (my home track) might return in 2010 as... an oval and road event. Wow! If they can logistically do this, I see zero downside here.

Also, an interesting note from TF on the media appearances for 5/18. As "NDFIVEFAN" points out, No Danica. Sure, that'll change during the week, but it's good that "DanicaMania" MIGHT be wearing off. The Series has needed to move beyond just marketing one gimmick for yrs. If they're learning this, well, better late than never.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hello (again) To All That

A series of decisions and non-decisions show one thing: Barack Obama is simply another pol.

Covering up a known torture? Check.

Hiding photos of abuse, 19 days after pledging to release them? Check.

Slow-walking (so far) gay rights? Check.

Disappointing. Sadly, the alternative really is worse, by far.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

First Weekend Wrap

I'm just as stunned as you that Penske's on the pole. Scroll down for full results.

Saturday's conditions were brutal. Cool and, most of all, windy, thus keeping speeds down. Even the best, like Dario were on the edge.

It's amazing what the Speedway can do mentally to a team. On Thursday, AGR seemed compettitive, though tow-enhanced. By Saturday, they seemed totally lost. Kanaan using a cobbled-together Mutoh backup was stunning. Kanaan should be a factor on the 24th, but maybe not on raw speed.

Revelations of the weekend? Well, Justin Wilson and Coyne impressed me with their speed. Mid-pack is really good for them. Rafa Matos was great on Sunday, earning the 12th spot. But KV's drivers are a huge surprise. We knew PT would be quick, but what impact would his limited budget have? Small. He starts 13th and seems confident.

But teammate Mario Moraes starting 7th?! Never would have predicted that. But if he runs the same line on the 24th, he'll kill someone.

Moment of the weekend? What else:

More on Graham... later ;).

Friday, May 8, 2009

Pole Day Predictions

Pole Day at Indy is tomorrow. First, today's speeds. Yep, the "red cars." Shocking!

Tomorrow's supposed to be verrrrrry windy at IMS, so I expect pole speed just at 225, no more.

Front row:
Dixon, Helio, Briscoe.

Does Graham make it in on Day 1? Likely. PT? 25% chance.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Requiem 2013?

Perhaps, if one buys this IBJ article. Curt Cavin calls it a "non-story." Maybe, but I'm not so sure. If the goal is profitability by '13, then uh-oh! 70% seems... optimistic to me.

The IBJ quotes others basically saying the 500 won't go anywhere. Really? This is not the 500 of 15 yrs. ago. If it was, well, this conversation would be moot, and I would agree that it will always be here.

Really, though, the Kentucky Derby (another cluster of a sport) still has more resonance than the Indianapolis 500. Others will disagree, but did you see the fallout from Mine That Bird's upset win? It was still water-cooler talk Monday, two days after the race. You think that would happen with the 500? Really? Not today, folks, not today.

In short, if the Indianapolis 500 (and all of IndyCar racing) died tomorrow, would it be missed in anything other than a passing ("Hey, remember the Indy 500? Yeah, shame what happened to it. Hey, how's Jr. doin'?") sense? I think the sporting world would mourn it's demise for all of... a day, then completely move on. The same applies to the entire sport.

The sport's biggest personality is nationally discussed... in the context of her jumping to NASCAR (awful idea, BTW). Nice, huh? But I'm hard-pressed, in this case, to pummel the MSM for reporting the angles that people are interested in.

This sport is no longer relevant, pure-and-simple.

I used to have some hope for a unified sport. I fear it all came too late. The world passed it by. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see it coming back.

Please remember this on (or around) May 25th, when I, inevitably, get enthused post-Indy. In the end, it's likely all for naught.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Another "F&%* You!"

To the IRL, for this boneheaded idea:

The scuttlebutt is that IndyCar has told Cleveland promoter Mike Lanigan he could have a race again next year but maybe it needed to be an oval. Lanigan declined to discuss it last weekend at Kansas City.

This was going to be tried in 2000. It was utterly laughed out of town. Hey TGeorge, don't screw up my home race! The stupidity of ruining one of the best road races in America is... astounding.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


From ESPN, on the 'Dega wreck:

Johnson's right, and the other TWO "big ones" prove it. Bring the banking down to, oh, 20-24 degrees, and make it a true test of man and machine.

John Darby's response?

"The most exciting races that we have today are both at Daytona and Talladega," Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said, according to The Associated Press. "I think there's more value in continuing the [safety] efforts ... than turning those two very historical, very exciting racetracks into flat parking lots."

Hey John, how should I say this? I dunno, how about "Fuck You!"?

"Flat parking lots?" Hey asshole, no one's suggesting anything like that. We don't want a new Pocono (not that there's anything bad about that). But hey, you tool (and the NASCAR braintrust), what could possibly go wrong w/ this insanity? Yeah, nothing big.

Sadly, too many seem to enjoy this manufactured game of Russian Roulette (just look at the comments on YouTube), so NASCAR idiots like Darby will do nothing useful and keep babbling about "excitement." They ignore the fact that 90% of the drivers loathe plate racing (Junior, who'd be nothing w/o them, excepted) b/c it's "exciting. Well, when multiple spectators are killed b/c of this madness someday, thus potentially crippling the sport, you'll need to look in the mirror for blame.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

State of Play: IndyCar

First, the micro analysis:

As noted previously, St. Pete was an entertaining, if sloppy, race. But, as it turns out, a mere 233,000 households watched on VERSUS. Sure, the coverage was quite good. But when you're on a minor-league network,...

More uplifting news from Curt Cavin: Indy car count could reach 40. Even Robin Miller, who was quite gloomy weeks ago, seemed optimistic on WindTunnel. In this economy, 40 entries would be, yes, quite astounding.

That said, some notes of caution: The Rahal stuff is pure speculation at this point, and the 3rd (?!) KV is really wild. I fully expect a 2nd Coyne car and the 2nd KV entry (w/ PT!) will be announced Friday. As for the rest, just guessing, but we WON'T see a 5th AGR car (though from a quality POV, they could use it), a Herta entry or another Vision machine. I'm dubious on a 2nd Conquest entry, though I won't rule it out. Despite my above comment, I think Rahal WILL run a car. Foyt obviously will too, along w/ a couple others.

But was some of this optimism based on hopes the economy had bottomed? If so, the numbers the last few days are mixed, at best. That, and as a TF member posited, the atrocious ratings on Vs. might be scaring sponsors and $$$ away. One wonders if THIS depressing news is a result.

Now, to the macro, which started, in my mind anyhow, with the following Cavin Tweet

Note the irony: As Helio waits for jurors, national tax day looms and Paul Tracy lands an Indy 500 ride.

Indeed, it is. '02 was a critical year in the split. Honda jumping to the IRL effectively ended CART as we knew it. In theory, the split should have ended then. But the aftermath of that 500, and articles like THIS, stirred even more anymosity, esp. between the fans, and, more importantly, exacerbated fundamental differences in the visions of the sport.

On one side, we had the Indy-centric IRL, founded, in truth, to preserve the 500 and IMS dominance of the sport. The other side, road/street course-heavy CART/Champ Car, began to feel that breaking from Indy was the way to go. The end of the split speaks to the efficacy of such thinking.

But the issue remains: Does Indy dominate the sport to a detrimental end? Look, we have TWO full races before the Month of May, and what's the talk? Car count for the 500!

I found THIS thread interesting for many reasons, but for now, we'll focus on Malone's commentary. To which most IRL fans would respond, not without merit, "Without Indy, you have no sport." That overstates it (Milwaukee is OLDER than IMS), but only by a little. Beyond the obvious, like "It's called 'IndyCar!'", this sport IS different, in history, than NASCAR. The latter always had an important presence in Daytona Beach, but it was also based in the Carolinas, Virginia (Martinsville) and all over the Southeast.

Perhaps because it has been around since 1909, and the fact that the first 500 really was something revolutionary, IMS became THE center of what evolved into American open-wheel racing. It became the thing that animated the sport (for a time, most of American racing) and utterly dominated it.

CART's formation was meant to put a dent into this. To an extent (a small one), it did. Prior to it's formation, the other races on the USAC Trail were just that: "other races." Part of this was the usual USAC incompetence, but another part was mindset: The 500 is the center upon which all other races revolve. Dan Gurney and crew fundamentally disagreed with that (as they would have seen it) "extreme" notion.

Events like Long Beach, Michigan and others seemed to prove their point. They became important, well-attended events, moving beyond, seemingly, a "just Indy" mentality. Or did they?

If the split taught us one thing, it's that within the shrinking world that is open-wheel racing, Indianapolis is the Alpha Dog of the sport. CART had the teams, drivers, and most of the tracks. It did not have the Indianapolis 500. You know the end result, but let's break it down.

Despite numerous efforts, CART never found a signature event to hang it's hat on. W/o that, it's hard to gain real traction. Why did they fail? Several reasons come to mind. For one, it's true, as many Champ Car fans allege, that Penske, Ganassi, and others ALWAYS had "Indyitis," a desire to return to the 500. Initially, they all thought they'd quickly dispatch Tony George and the IRL. Mistake #1 in an endless litany of post-split CART fuck-ups.

One wonders what would have happened had 1996 gone differently. What if that U.S. 500 had not started w/ a massive pileup?

What if it had been a classic, or at least a solid show? Would that have, eventually, challenged the supremacy of IMS? We'll never know, so it IS moot, but I'm not sure how much different things would have been.

It goes back to historical connections. The sports history, for good or ill, has been interwoven with Indianapolis. During the 80's and early 90's, CART managed to build up other events, but whether subtly or explicitly, it did so in part on the back of the 500. The "Cars and Stars" of Indy, if you will.

But once Indy was taken away, CART's identity, whether they knew it or not, was gone. They tried Michigan, Long Beach, and a couple others, but no event ever caught fire. Even in the case of Long Beach, which started as an F1 race, the history of the events lacked the depth of the 500 and the meaning they had once Indy was gone.

Yes, Long Beach was always well-attended, but like many street races, slowly lost its national resonance.

Then, of course, began the trickle of CART teams back to Indy and, eventually, the IRL. CART, as we knew it, was finished. Champ Car, some will say, could still have survived w/o Indy. Those who believe this will, essentially, argue that CC should have ignored Indy and the IRL and stopped competing with them. Instead, chart out a new, road/street-oriented path.

Indeed, that WOULD have been truly revolutionary. A vision of the sport totally independent of IMS had never been tried. And, on the surface, they did just that. By '07, the series raced on no ovals and used radically different (from the IRL) machines. But the hearts of the new management never seemed fully devoted to... well, much of anything (Witness the on-again, off-again talks with the IRL).

It's hard to judge whether this could really have worked due to the litany of..., er, fuck-ups by management (the presence of Paul Gentilozzi speaks to this). Could a more devoted management team have made it work?

That's the fundamental question, still unsettled, that hangs over the sport today. I, myself, go back-and-forth on this. Which brings me back to Sean Malone.

Should the rest of the season be promotedly more independently of Indy? Though regretably incomplete, history suggests to tread carefully. I submit that you CAN promote the events themselves, but eliminating the ties to the 500 and not mentioning the 500 is a mistaken strategy. Finding that balance, esp. w/ IMS in charge, is the trick. The sport's future hinges, in part, on just that balance.

It's all the more complicated because the 500 is not, nationally, what it once was. Can you/should focus primarily on building that up, in the hopes it will carry everything else with it? Or does that have it backwards? Is there a middle ground?

Good questions.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Am-Can Analogies, Ctd.

Following up on my brilliant post yesterday, some clarifying thoughts:

Arguably, the most analogous moment between Bush & Harper was... Terri Schiavo. That was never about governing. It was a cynical pander to fundies.

Finally, Obama must be careful. I fear, esp. like Harper, the party/Admin. will be "all about him." That's dangerous.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

American-Canadian Analogies

OK, I'll admit to my fetish: Canadian politics. Westminster/parliamentary systems utterly fascinate me and, frankly, I'm amazed how little attention we pay to our friends up north.

Anyway, some similarities struck me between Tory PM Stephen Harper and our previous GOP administration. For years, both were seen as political pitbulls who were savvy tacticians. Governing for both, however, proved tricky, mostly because neither was truly interested in doing so. Gaining/retaining power? Now THAT motivated them.

And it worked... for awhile. For George W. Bush, the reckoning came in the floods of New Orleans and bombs of Iraq. Now, well the GOP is what it is.

History might show Nov. 26, 2008 as the beginning of the end for Harper. This Maclean's piece is really well-written and a great chronicling of events. He threw aside governance for pol. gain.

Funny thing though. Harper's standing today? Been better.

Governing matters. The North American right must learn this. Now.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A "Smashing" start to the '09 season

Literally. Congrats to Ryan Briscoe & Team Penske. It was a wreck-fest at times (apparently watched by no one on VERSUS*), but it was still an interesting, entertaining race. Maybe THIS and RHR's 2nd (!) helped.

*That said, the coverage was 10,000% better than ABC/ESPN.

Friday, April 3, 2009

So it begins

The IndyCar season, that is, at St. Petersburg, FL. With 22 cars.

This is down, of course, from last year's non-Indy 500 range of 25-28. Furthermore, names like Buddy Rice, PT, Bruno Junquiera, and Oriol Servia are MIA.

Still, given the recession, 22 cars (23 at Long Beach) is NOT awful. So, the predictions:

Series champ: My heart says young Rahal. N/H/L is more familiar with the cars, and he is too. But he's still 20. Instead, I'm picking... Ryan Briscoe. Post-Indy, Ryan found his groove in IndyCar. Expect that to continue.

Indy: We'll know more in 5 weeks, but my hunch? Briscoe again.

Most out-of-their-depth: Stanton Barrett. Just watch him.

Enjoy the season!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Most Destructive Man In American History

Richard B. Cheney. That's the only conclusion one gathers from reading that opinion from Sully and THIS.

I pray history does not sugar-coat this era.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It all looks so familiar...

Over the years, I've been a big fan of Robin Miller and his work (going back to his time at the Indy Star). During a period full of nothing but laughable spin from everywhere, Miller cut through the bullshit from both sides. Yes, he ended up being quite negative much of the time, but guess what, there was little to praise.

With that said, I bring you Robin's 3/4 Mailbag. Look familiar? How about the 2/17 edition? Or the 2/11 version? You could practically cut & paste every week. It's the same thoughts.

It's not that I disagree, but jeebus, we get it already! Write something new already.

And furthermore, sorry, there's a contradiction between wanting USACers and a 50/50 oval/road split. If you hit everything juuuuuuuusssssssst right, maybe you can create a car that accomodates both. But I doubt it.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Year 8(?) of Pook's genius plan to save CART

Ahhhh, memories. Remember when the possibility of CART becoming a top feeder to F1 was just a dream? Only brave interweb warriors like Mark "No really, a race in China!" Cipolloni boldly predicted the truth. TGeorge never stood a chance!

Remember this when you hear those Prancing Horses in CART this year.

Mark C. and Chris Pook: Genius beyond worldly (well, our world, anyhow) understanding!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Genuine surprise

Really, this is a multi-pronged surprise. According to Robin Miller, Justin Wilson is the newest Dale Coyne Racing driver. Beyond that shocker, which I scoffed at days ago, there's this:

"I met Bill (Pappas) yesterday and Dale seems very intent on being competitive so I intend to make the most it." Coyne admitted some new sponsor opportunities were on the horizon but soundedlike he was prepared to spend his own money to get to the front.
If you follow the sport, you know that DCR is the king of shoestring, ridebuyer-financed operations. If he's really going for it, then the sport will truly benefit. Good for all involved


I think it's vital for liberals to challenge Obama when needed.

To wit, two disturbing decisions. The Bagram decision is indefensible. Try these 4 men, please.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Random Notes/Thoughts

First off, ICS silly-season. We can now, finally, confirm Robert Doornbos for N/H/L. Many of us had begun to question whether this was real or not, given multiple delays in the announcement. Thankfully, it is real. Interestingly, as I'll elaborate on shortly, Milka Duno might NOT be in at N/H/L. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

More info/specualtion is courtesy of a post at TrackForum. That's the 2nd place where I've read the Duno rumor. As for the rest, look, I'm sure some of it is optimism on Cavin's part. I hope RHR really does end up at HVM and that Rubicon ends up running, but really, I'm not counting on stuff like that. The Rahal stuff reads like wishful thinking, no? Oh, and DRR a 3-car team? Uh, no. But I really hope PT somehow, someway gets that KV ride.

I watched in a combination of bemusement and horror this Rick Santelli rant. Bemusement b/c as a trader, this is not exactly Main Street USA. Horror b/c I fear too many folks will buy into it.

I must say I find the grassroots conservative opposition/protest, noted HERE, interesting. On the one hand, it IS very American. Folks peacefully expressing their political views is healthy. On the other hand, it's one month in, and we're seeing protests?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

One story we can rightfully dismiss

With his outstanding 3rd place run in the Daytona 500, I think (hope?) that THIS story is now moot. I'll put it this way, it would be a travesty if he does not run the whole year.

Another note: AJ got a ton of heat from former Champ Car fans, who accused him of being a traifor to the sport that "made him," in pursuit of money. They mocked everytime he missed a show (which, let's be clear, was a frequent occurrence thru the 1st 1/2 of '08) and assumed he'd never amount to anything in NASCAR. Long-term, maybe they're right. For this week, though, silence, and nothing more

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why, Mr. President?

Why did you needlessly protect the indefensible? Why did you, in this act anyway, break faith with those who value the Constitution? Maybe you have a reason, sir, but I'd like to hear it.

Oh yeah, why did Tim Geithner speak and say nothing?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Things that impressed me

Pres. Obama: He's no George Bush. That's certain. See what happens when you attempt to treat people like humans.

Claire McCaskill has a genuine Twitter.

Lebron James.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

N/H/L visits the sublime and ridiculous

By signing Robert Doornbos.... and Milka Duno!

To which I can only laugh. That, and sigh.

I'm thrilled Bobby D. has a good ride, paired with Graham Rahal. But Milky Doughnuts? To N/H/L? Well, I guess it's money that will make the other two more compettitive, but still.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Inevitable Happens

So, the "Mexico City" policy has been reversed. This is not, in anyway, surprising, but unfortunate, IMHO, nonetheless.

Still, contra Patrick Appel (subbing for Sully), I think Amy Sullivan made an important and valuable point. Methinks it is not coincidence that the President chose to do this quietly and the day AFTER the Roe anniversary. Doing it yesterday would indeed have demoralized those pro-life Americans on a tough day for them anyhow. In other words, he DID NOT rub it in anyone's face. On policy, it makes no difference, but the symbolism is much more reassuring.

On to different matters, please identify the difference in the following two stories on Obama's "I won" remark. First, Politico; now, the Wall Street Journal. One tells us what the comment was in regard to (ideas that were thoroughly debated this election) and also notes that aides say it was NOT as partisan as it looks. Normally, I'd think the WSJ was lacking this info, but not this time. Nope, Politico gets the award for most incomplete journalism of the day. Congratulations!

To be fair, Politico also notes, importantly, that the President was indeed receptive to several ideas put forth by Cantor and the House GOP. So, it wasn't a meeting derailed w/ partisanship.

At any rate, memo to the House and (not as bad) Senate GOP: You did lose! Sorry. Now, that doesn't mean the President should never try to bring you guys in. Besides, that's not his style. But, umm, this won't be the bill you'd write. Nor should it be.

This is separate from the Congressional leadership, buy only to a point. I think they SHOULD be a bit more bipartisan, but there are reasons you guys (GOP) are the minority. My point is this: Push when needed; do NOT push your luck.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

America's Back!

That's my reaction to THIS.

Meanwhile, today is an awkward day for us pro-life Democrats. Slightly heartening that the "gag rule" was not reversed immediately.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

From Peak to Pathetic- March 14, 2005

March 14, 2005. It was only a little under four years ago, but it must seem to many, especially the Republican Party, like an entire world away.

Recall, if you will, that George W. Bush had been reelected in Nov., with a slightly strengthened GOP majority in Congress. Weeks later, the “Orange Revolution” in the Ukraine had seemingly, and stirringly, ended Russian influence in that country. Iraq had just gone through “successful” elections. These events, combined with Bush’s second Inaugural Address which stressed the pursuit of freedom in almost radical ways, seemed to be proof of the ultimate wisdom of Bush’s “Freedom Agenda.” March 14th seemed to be the final nail in the realist/anti-Bush movement.

You’ll recall that over 1,000,000 Lebanese jammed Beirut on that day. Syria’s occupation/presence would soon end. History was on an inevitable march to freedom.

But it wasn’t. Four years on, Lebanon is a mess, having gone through one war and seeing Hezbollah gain much power. The Ukrainian Orange Revolution is pure dysfunction. In the Palestinian Territories, freedom led to… Hamas. In short, the world is a mess.

We couldn’t have known that 4 yrs. ago. But then came Terri Schiavo, Katrina, and the ultimate mess of Iraq. March 14th was the Bush Presidency’s peak. It’s fall was swift, sudden, but warranted.

Rick Santorum


Read it all. Remember, GOPers working with Dems.=BAD. LOL.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More "Silly" Thoughts

Following yesterday's post, some additional thoughts:

Paul Tracy to KV Racing? It might happen. To which I say F#%*ing Awesome. If Bourdais AND PT are in, that's 2 villains (not counting Danica) in the series. And PT in a good car can still be fun as hell.

But there are some unfortunate downsides to the recent news. If Tracy gets that ride, then that leaves Oriol Servia, Justin Wilson, and Ryan Hunter-Reay all without rides. That is downright criminal.

Servia was the most consistent of the drivers that came over from Champ Car, Wilson WON a race (Belle Isle) and RHR was great all year (one win-The Glen- and ROY at Indy). But in the economy of IndyCar racing, none of them might have an ICS ride (ALMS and Grand-Am may benefit, though).

So where does that leave us? Well, if even 2 out of those 3 get rides, combined with everything else (Reminder: Some of this is bound to be vaporware), this will all end up being a considerable net gain. If not, it might just be a push, at best.

UPDATE: Also remember that McNulty's reliability can be spotty.

UPDATE2: Read THIS RM piece on Power's actual status at Penske. My guess? He runs the full year.

But it does remind me that simply losing Helio (though he annoys me) will really hurt.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

In Which We Discuss Silly Season

Ahh, "Silly Season." For years, it has been nothing short of farcical in IndyCar/Champ Car racing. Why?

In short, due to the "troubles" facing the sport the last decade-plus, it has become, outside of the already funded teams (few and far between), an exercise in ride-buying. Talent is a secondary (if that) consideration. If you have money/bring money, you'll have a ride.

Given the dire economic conditions, this isn't changing. Example? Mario Moraes. Is Moraes on the Dennis Vitolo level? No, he does have some talent. But, really. he's only getting the ride for one reason: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. All of which means no ride for Will Power.

Wait, hang on! Nevermind! Will, with the best name in all of racing, is Penske's new hire. Justin Wilson and RHR were also contenders and, sadly, both are likely out of rides altogether in 2009. As for Power replacing Helio, 1) it has to be done; RP can't count on someone facing possible deportation, and 2) Power's an interesting pick. He's plenty fast, but he must learn to harness it, particularly on the ovals. Of course, having Rick Mears as your tutor won't hurt.

A day earlier, Robin Miller gave us other interesting newsbits. The possibility of BOTH Doornbos AND Bourdais joining N/H/L is, great, but to novices, also curious. After all, they couldn't afford Justin Wilson, but CAN take on both Doornbos and Seabass? Well, Bobby D is supposedly bringing along $$ (ING) and given his connections, Seabass might too. In this case, there are two ride-buyers I'd heartily support.

The "Team France" tidbit is... interesting. I was one of many who mocked Nelson in his 1st year. Mea culpa. He's damn good and SHOULD be in this series. Still, like others, this smells of "vaporware," i.e. something that won't really happen. I'd love to be wrong.

Finally, this interesting news. Let's be honest, ever since the 60's (Winning, Grand Prix, and Le Mans), racing-oriented films have, ummm, what's the word, SUCKED. Seriously, you need to watch Driven to appreciate how awful it is.

This film, should it really happen, could, could be different. For one, the film will deal explicitly with the Indy 500, and it's origins. Interest in the modern 500 might be at an all-time low, but it still resonates (well, it's past) in the American sports world. Portraying, in dramatic fashion, the first Indy 500 in 1911 starts with compelling possibilities. Furthermore, period films, like Cinderella Man, can be far more compelling to a larger audience. It goes without saying that Ray Harroun is no Jim Braddock, and despite Escue's hopes, you won't be seeing a Russell Crowe anywhere near this film.

Still, if done well (and Pizzo's presence gives me some hope), it could, at worst, be an interesting "sports movie." The fact that racing in 1911 was an altogether different, more dangerous venture that had no idea what boundaries it could break gives filmmakers the potential to create an almost mythological air. I wish them well.

Bonus funny note: While looking at pages discussing racing films, Super Speedway. It remains a truly stellar look at the sport (though given the timing of it's production, it depresses me whenever I watch it. The crowds! :sigh:). Anyway, after some exploring, I found... A Teacher's Guide to the film. Really? I know there is tremendous science involved in the sport, but LOL, a teacher's guide? OK.