Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spiderman Climbs Fence and Races to Long Beach

America's favorite dancing racer and friendly neighborhood fence climber has scaled his biggest career obstacle yet and climbed back into the cockpit of his Penske Dallara this weekend for the IRL's Long Beach Grand Prix. It is great news for Helio Castroneves, the Penske team and the Indy Racing League. Julianna would be proud of her partner's fancy two-stepping through the IRS legal maze. The grandstanding prosecutor in Florida has been booted off the show for cause and should check his credentials before lining up another celebrity tax case that seems to have been pursued for political objectives. That's just speculation on my part, but how can a guy like Madoff be allowed to keep his assets and someone like Helio be led to court in shackles? It just never made sense and apparently the jury thought so too. I'm glad they were sensible - must have been some race fans (or dancers) on that panel.

While my picture is from Chicagoland last year, my guess is that Helio will look much the same today in Long Beach, where his qualifying crash yesterday will undoubtedly fuel his Brazilian fire to go to the front during the race. Congratulations to Team Penske and to the entire Castroneves family and crew, who have all been acquitted. Godspeed today Helio.

Unfortunately, I don't think he will win today: too much rust and too much emotion. I hope the red mist doesn't descend on Helio too badly during the race, but mostly I hope the boys (plus tail-ender Danica) show a little more restraint today than they did at St. Pete two weeks ago. I think the most motivated driver in the paddock today will win: Will Power! I'm normally not a Penske fan (Except for Rick Mears and Sam Hornish) but this tax deal has been a blessing (for Power) and a curse (for Helio) so I see Will rising to the challenge today and winning from pole position. It will be an eventful day I am sure, with Viso and Matos in the first two rows, but if Power can get through the first turn without being taken out, then he should have an advantage in clean air with an open track ahead of him.

And what in the world is going on at Andretti Green Racing? They look like they are in complete disarray and I don't think they get along too well. Nothing can compare to good team chemistry but when there are so many egos involved as at AGR, that looks like a tall order. Maybe they are just spread too thin. All that aside, my sleeper choice for a win today is Dario Franchitti. It should be fun and I'll bet the weather seaside is a whole lot better than it is in Indy today!

Next up: Kansas. Then Indy, and Pole Day is less than 3 weeks away. I can't wait.

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