Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dixon Escapes Mid Ohio with Indy Racing League Win - Marco's World Upside Down Again

Scott Dixon managed to snag his third Indy Racing League win in a row, missing Marco Andretti's first lap tumble and prevailing with crafty pit work over Dario Franchitti. Dixon continues to chip away at Dario's season points lead and one DNF by Dario coupled with a strong run at Michigan could vault Dixon into the series lead. It was obvious to me that Dario was running conservatively, but after seeing three of his teammates almost take each other out at the start, who wouldn't?

Speaking of vaulting... Poor Marco. On his head for the second time this season, and neither time was his fault. I heard him say in the post-wreck interview that Danica had bounced Kanaan into him but my photos show TK's left front wing under Danica's right rear tire, lifting her off the ground and sending her into the grass in the esses. I stayed on Kanaan as he started to get sideways and Marco dove to Kanaan's right and got launched into a wild ride. Dixon and everyone else skated by and Tony stormed back through the field from there, passing more cars than anyone else to take 4th. Helio was fast early and took third while Danica recovered from her off for 5th. Darren Manning showed he was in his element and really benefited from the first lap mess for 6th and Ryan Hunter Reay had a really nice drive to 7th in his first race since replacing Jeff Simmons, even considering his trip through the sand trap in the morning warmup.

It was a beautiful weekend at Mid Ohio with perfect weather conditions and huge crowds both Saturday and Sunday. Corner workers were saying it was the biggest crowd Mid Ohio had seen in quite some time and it was clear that the combo of the American LeMans Series and Indycar brought the road race fans out in droves. I'm sure Honda buying 15,000 tickets for employees and their families (as the rumor at the track went) helped also. Who cares? Saturday the Acura banners were everywhere. Sunday they all said Honda. If more manufacturers supported racing like that, we'd all be the better for it. I've been going to Mid Ohio for years and the crowd reminded me of the old days before the split, as the motor homes were plentiful, the camping area by the keyhole was full, and families were on every hillside. And what a gorgeous track it is. Having gone through the Acura high performance driving school there last summer, I especially like shooting there now since I can remember the feelings I had going through the corners (albeit much slower) as I frame each shot through my Canons. I can't wait to go back.

This weekend I'm tied up at the Brickyard 400 at Indy and then go to Michigan for the Indy Racing League 400-miler next weekend. Michigan is another track I love as it shows the true form of the Indycars where two- and three-wide racing is common and the speeds are high. I'm an oval fan at heart, but from a photographer's perspective, road courses are lots of fun as the vantage points are numerous and you can really see the drivers working the steering wheel. So this season has been great for shooting a wide variety of cars, tracks and series. I'm thankful that American Motor Journal has been giving me the opportunity - you all should subscribe!

I'll be back with comments and pix from the ALMS race soon so check back. See you at the races!


Thursday, July 19, 2007

More Tales From the Ville - Simmons Out at Rahal Letterman

On the road back from Nashville last weekend, I had lots of time to think about where this whole blog thing started: towns ending in -ville in Indiana. And I was struck that Hoosiers aren't the only ones so inclined in naming their towns. Along I-65 in Kentucky of course there's Louisville, but there's also Munfordville, Bonnieville (must be a pretty place), and Shepherdsville for starters. But the most interesting town name I encountered on the trip was "Halfway", Kentucky on US 231. Halfway to where is anyone's guess but it must have meant something to someone once upon a time.

Now as I prepare to go to Mid Ohio again for this weekend's IRL road race, the silly season news is kicking off with the firing of Jeff Simmons who is to be replaced at Rahal Letterman by Ryan Hunter-Reay. Too bad for Jeff but he just wrecked too often, and could have been seriously hurt at Nashville after overshooting the warmup lane and sliding up into Kosuke. This picture of Jeff was taken prior to the race Sunday and Jeff seems to have his hands full with silly putty or something stringy as introductions were about to start. I think he already knew this was going to be his last race and he was just trying to hard for a good finish. Maybe he can latch on with another series and find his way back to Indy someday.
Hopefully I'll be able to post from the media center again this weekend, or at least from the hotel Saturday night after the American LeMans Series Race so come on back. I would have to say that Scott Dixon is the man to beat again this weekend, and I look forward to seeing the open wheelers run at Mid Ohio again for the first time under the IRL banner, and my first time since before the IRL-CART split. So it will be good to be back. See you in the esses!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dixon Takes Nashville by Storm

Despite a late race caution that threatened to make the final re-start interesting, Scott Dixon had the field covered today at Nashville Superspeedway. The track was hot and slick and in the post-race interview room, Dixon said the track got worse as the day went on but the team had put more downforce in the car after the rainout Saturday night. The race itself was not one of the better IRL races I have been to, but it was interesting and an adventure for me, as I had no place lined up to stay last night but found a room in nearby Lebanon, Tennessee. When I get back to Indy, look for more here and pix on my flickr page at www.flickr.com/photos/indyjay42.

Y'all come back now, ya hear?


Nashville Indy Racing League Washout - Racing Sunday

Writing this morning from the Nashville Superspeedway media center after a very soggy Saturday evening. The IRL pre-race preliminaries were all done and the drivers were ready to climb in their cars when the heavens opened up. An hour or so later, the track was almost dry but the skies opened up for good and forced everyone to wait until today for the big show.

The Indy Pro Series race was won by rookie Robbie Pecorari after six contenders were taken out in two separate multi-car wrecks. Race leader at the time (and season points leader) Alex Lloyd ran over debris from the second accident and needed a new nose cone to repair the damage, or he would have probably won again to continue his dominance for the season.

I am disappointed not to get to shoot the Indycars under the lights this year, but it should be a good, fast race today and I am excited to be here. Of course, I am pulling for Sam Hornish again, but I think the Andretti Green guys are going to be tough to beat. Danica could come through for her first win, although she isn't starting up front. I think it will come down to Franchitti and Kanaan at the end, as this track is tough to pass on and marbles may be a factor as the backmarkers have to move up high to let the faster cars through on the preferred bottom groove. I'll be busy from start to finish so I'll be back again soon.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Formula One Says Goodbye to Indy - Indy Racing League at Nashville

Well Old Bernie has finally done it. He completed his self fulfilling prophecy by pricing the USGP out of the reach of Tony George and simultaneously slapping US F1 fans in the face. Better make your reservations for Montreal next year folks.

Better yet, come to the MotoGP race and show Mr. E that he got it all wrong. Now I don't often agree with Indianapolis Star writer Bob Kravitz, and I even wrote here awhile back that the USGP belongs at Indy more than anyplace else, but right now I find it hard to disagree with Bob's column in today's Star.
Meanwhile, I am packed and ready to roll south on I65 to Nashville for the Indy Racing League event and apparently Target Chip Ganassi is still on a roll too, since Scotty D was fastest in practice today according the the IRL website. Qualifying is this evening so that could change of course, but last year's event was highly competitive, with Dan Wheldon and Vitor Meira waging a lengthy battle after Hornish crashed out early in the race. The concrete usually seems to have a lot of grip and the stands are always packed at Nashville, so I'm anxious to see how they handle themselves tomorrow night. You can bet the TV coverage will focus on the Hornish-Kanaan dust-up at the Glen last week, but there's no room for contact on Nashville's banks. Sparks will fly with the cars on full tanks and I expect a good show before they switch back to road course gear and head to Mid Ohio next week. I'll be there too, for my second visit in the last month, but for the first time to watch open wheelers since before the IRL began. It should be a great 8 days of racing, especially since the American LeMans Series is running next Saturday on the IRL undercard.

See ya soon. Don't forget to go to www.flickr.com/photos/indyjay42 for action pix from these events.

Woo-o-o-o racin!


Monday, July 9, 2007

IRL Tussle at The Glen - Nashville Concrete Next

While this picture was taken at Indy in 2006, I can imagine the Captain has had a similar huddle with his star driver Sam Hornish, Jr., after all the fuss at the Glen this weekend. Too bad for Helio that he couldn't have been more patient and tried to work on the car some more but he never made it to his last two stops and mirror-driving led him into the tire wall. Of Course Scotty D was the beneficiary and with Sam driving with gusto barging past TK with a bump & run move suitable for the fendered series, my man had his best ever IRL road course finish. Now if they can just keep Sam Senior out of harm's way, everyone might not be happy but at least we won't have any wrestling matches breaking out at a perfectly good race!

Naturally there are some who might say that any publicity is good publicity, so I wonder how the shoving match played out nationally. In Indy it was big news as one might expect, and after the Danica-Wheldon "discussion" at Milwaukee earlier this year, it's clear that tempers are short with so much at stake. I'd like to know who the AGR guy was who cold cocked Sam Sr. from behind though; I'm sure Mr. Barnhart knows and will deal with it appropriately before Nashville this Saturday night. While I could not get to the Glen, I will be in Nashville this weekend and hope that cooler heads prevail on the quick concrete there. Nashville Superspeedway is a great little race track and I am looking forward to getting back there this year. Pick up a copy of American Motor Journal at your local race track and look for my race photos there. I'll be posting others here and on my photo page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/indyjay42as well.

BTW - is it just me, or are there more marbles on the race tracks than ever before? It could help explain some of the one-groove racing we've seen at IRL events this year, and why the only people I can remember spinning were rookies at Indy (Giebler and Duno) and vets on cold tires at Iowa (Wheldon and Kanaan). Every other oval track wallbanger I can recall has been where someone got high in the toolies and pushed up into the fence. If Firestone can overcome this marbling and we can get back to more of the side-by-side battles the IRL is known for, this fan and photographer will be one happy camper. Either that or they need to take some of the downforce out of the cars so the tracks aren't acting like cheese graters and chewing up the tires so much. But what do I know? I'm just a hoosier.

See ya'll at Nashville.


Sunday, July 1, 2007

Franchitti Dominating Indy Racing League

Now that the 2007 IRL season is past the halfway point, it's becoming make or break time for the Penske and Target Ganassi teams, as the Andretti Green Racing bunch, lead by Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti, is on a serious role. He thoroughly dominated Richmond last night (who needs qualifying anyway, right?) and has won three of four starting with Indy. Kanaan and Patrick were also strong last night, while Dixon and Wheldon fought over second for Ganassi. Penske was nowhere to be found, beginning with Hornish's spin coming to the initial green flag and penalties on Helio later for passing violations. True to racer's form, Penske's guys didn't think Helio's "issues" were their fault and Dixon whined about Hornish holding him up late in the SunTrust Indy event at Richmond. Boo hoo.

So Watkins Glen is next, where Scott Dixon is two-time defending race winner. Marco won't have Cheever to contend with this year, and TK and Wheldon should be very strong. I've had the weekend off and can't get to the Glen, but I'll be at Nashville, Mid Ohio and Michigan for the next three races after that, so stay tuned for words and pix from those events. The season is in the balance over the next month and by the time the IRL has finished the Michigan 400, the championship may be all but decided unless Penske and Ganassi can mount a charge. Franchitti has had all the racer's luck lately and if that streak continues, he will be hard to beat. My guess is these next races will be hard fought affairs, although I don't expect a crash-fest like at Iowa. Most impressive to me the last couple of races have been Buddy Rice and Scott Sharp: maybe the Dreyer & Reinbold gang is getting it together and it looks like Sharp's tequila money has started to pay dividends for the Rahal Letterman team.
Come back soon boys & girls. See you at the track.