Archive for May, 2009

Random 500 thoughts

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Some quick thoughts on the 500,

Helio’s Day
However you look at it, in the end, it was the dancer’s day.  It was Helio’s month, in fact.  No mistakes on race day, and only a slight gearbox problem to overcome meant that the only way we got a wet track on race day was an isolated shower in Victory Lane.

Mistakes
It was for me, once you pull apart the stories of the race, a race of mistakes.

When you look at the starting lineup: Briscoe (mysterious tyre issue), Dario (pit issue), Rahal (Crash), Dixon (pit issue), Kanaan (Mechanical), Moraes (Crash), Marco (Crash), Power (pit issue), Patrick (pit issue).  Everybody else in the top 10 with the exception of Kanaan (pending an outcome of the root cause of the crash investigation), looks like a human error.  I don’t think I can recall a race where we’ve lost eight out of the top 10 like that for a while.  A real “old school” race, where you would look outside the top four for a winner because you knew that the endurance nature of 500 miles will take out half the top runners at least.

The start
Good to see BB call the start in my view for bad alignment.  Perhaps he should have called it again, because I didn’t see that the second start was any better than the first.

Blocking
It seems like to me that Brian was on the radio a lot regarding blocking.  I remarked to Curt Cavin during the week after the race that it was like a lottery, such was the frequency of the calls. Maybe Indycar should hand out bingo cards with car numbers on them to Downforce members, then they can text “bingo” to the Indycar mobile number to claim a prize during the race.

I think the “new vogue” race line, where one drives down the center of the track at Indianapolis on the main straights, doesn’t help. But I think the number of “new” drivers, and the number of drivers with European backgrounds, is also a factor.

One thing I’d like to be considered: When Brian Barnhardt makes the calls on the race management frequency (first call: warning), my understanding is that only the particular driver in the car that is effected by the call, is the only driver notified of it.  The net result of this is no other driver’s behaviour changes as a result of a call, just the car warned.

Perhaps we should consider adopting the FIA “bad sportsmanship” per-bend black and white flag, showing it for one lap, with the car number, to indicate a warning has been given regarding blocking, that way, everybody, including TV and the fans, see the warning.

It may serve as a reminder to everybody else they’re being watched, then again, with all the red mist, it may not make a difference.  Townsend Bell made it quite clear on 1070 last night that he heard and understood the instructions regarding the start clearly, but once the green flag drops, it’s every man or woman for themselves.

Either way, given some of the incidents on the weekend, I suggest there will be a good talking to given to all the drivers regarding their conduct last week. I don’t think that’s a trend I’d like to see continue.  That kind of behaviour is how these Briscoe/Brack style accidents happen.

Meira’s hit
To give you some kind of idea of how hard Meira’s hit was, have a look at this photo from Matt Dial of the Indianapolis Star.  Keep in mind that the driver is strapped in, and is wearing a HANS device, and still appears to have hit the steering wheel, such was the force of the impact.  There is little doubt in my mind that the HANS device has prevented a significant head injury (there are no permanent head or neck injuries, only fractured L1 and L2 vertebrae), and the SAFER Barrier combined with the increased frontal protection in these cars these days has reduced the probability of permanent disability by a large number.  Kudos to the IRL, Hubbard and Downing, and the SAFER guys too.

Kanaan’s hit shouldn’t be discounted either.  Remember that what you saw on TV was hit number two, and hit number one “used up” a lot of the energy absorbing material that these cars have.

Travels Indy -> Milwaukee

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Hi Everybody,

An update on the travels.

Check out of the hotel in Indy on Tuesday morning, after using Monday to recover. Grabbed the rental car (a Nissan Sentra) just before I checked out, so effectively first time on the road was when I was driving.

First day’s aim was to get as close to Chicago as possible.

Observations on US driving
Driving on the wrong side of the road is scary for a number of reasons.  I’m coping with the wrong side of the road, and generally with the intersections, except a four way stop, which to me seems utterly pointless.  My understanding is it is a substitute for roundabouts in Australia in terms of purpose.

The hard part was the concentration required to keep the car in the lane correctly.  When you sit on the wrong side of the car, you immediate instinct is to move the car to the right.  Overcoming that took at least 50 miles of concentration on the Interstate.

Speed: Speeeeeeeeed
I cannot believe how fast you guys drive on the Interstates.  I thought I just left the 500!

Speed Limit 65 (104 kph), I’m doing 75 (121 kph) and getting passed(!)  In Australia, where the Speed Limit is 100, I wouldn’t dream of doing over 105, and even then I’m taking a risk, because in Victoria, you only get 6 kph tolerance over limit, before you risk getting your photo taken by a speed camera.  At 115, you’re guaranteed to get pulled over.  Guaranteed.

Made it to Chicago
Drove up I-69 for a bit, then across through some of the smaller towns on the Northside before going up I-65 all the way to Chicago.

Got to the south side of Chicago and checked in at the first hotel I saw, purely because I was exhausted.  Didn’t realise how much concentration I used up doing the drive.

Only real drama was a storm half way through.  Was the heaviest rain I’ve drove in for about 5 years, as a result, I pulled over and had a break.

Wednesday at Wrigley
Traveled from the southside of Chicago to Deerfield on Wednesday, via Wrigley Field for the Cubs/Pirates game.  Will document more about this in another post.

Thursday
Got a train from Deerfield to Chicago and spent the day in downtown checking out Millenium Park (including what we’d call the big silver jellybean), and the Sears Tower.  Notably, Sears Tower in the process of constructing a viewing platform like the Edge at Eureka Skydeck in Melbourne.

Got back from the train about 4:30 to Deerfield, and then battled traffic to Milwaukee and got in about 6:30.  Had a good sleep in this morning, and will probably go exploring this afternoon around downtown (quitely), and do the touristy things on Monday.

Looking forward to seeing the Mile tomorrow.

Oops, wrong link for the Trackside link

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Hi guys, I just realised I posted the wrong link for my guest appearance on Trackside on 1070 The Fan last week.

The correct like for the MP3 is here.

For those who are just looking for me and not Curt and Kevin’s insightful Indycar commentary, I start talking at about 26 minutes.  Listen to the whole lot though. It’s good.

Indianapolis 500 preview

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

Well, tomorrow is the big day, the number one day of the “Shane Rogers – one man stimulus package – world tour of North America”, and the world’s biggest single day sporting event.

I thought I’d write this like a form guide, we’ll see how many of these I get right:

2 Raphael “To” MATOS – Luczo Dragon Racing – Starts P12
“Future champion” says Jay Penske.  I’m inclined not to argue.  But everybody needs a learning year.  This is his.  A keep it off walls, top 8 finish is a par result, and there’s no reason from form why he can’t do that.  Five rookies this year, four have hit concrete, Matos hasn’t.

3 Helio “Not Guilty” CASTRONEVES – Penske Racing – Starts P1
His race to lose and consequently my pick to win.  Has done nothing wrong all month, on or off the track.  The feds dropped the last charge Friday, because even they think waiting to announce it until Monday given his likelihood to win isn’t a great idea.

This will be a race decided on pitstops, pit position, and track position, and Cindric is the master strategist.

4 Dan WHELDON – Panther Racing – Starts P18
Don’t let the starting position fool you.  After a tough month, Wheldon and Panther found the magic formula on Carb Day, and could give the big 4 a surprise on race day.  Unlikely to win, but a Panther Podium is a possibility.

5 Mario “FJ” MORAES – KV Racing Technology – Starts P7
The surprise packet of the month, Fast Jonas has not only been quick and stylish on the track, but undoubtedly the best looking when floating around the paddock.  Probably heard nothing of what he was told in the driver’s briefing this morning.  That’s great for us. Could crash and burn, or be the next Garza. I’m tipping a Garza and a surprise P4 for the Brazilian.

6 Ryan BRISCOE – Team Penske – Starts P2
Done nothing wrong all month, but slightly shaded by a Castroneves with a new lease on life in the past eight weeks.  Expect him to be quick and upfront on race day, keeping the Ganassi cars away from the dancer.  One more year of experience and he’ll be right for the win.  Just not this year.

7 Danica “Rainbows and Puppydogs” PATRICK – Andretti Green Racing – Starts P10
Not right up front, but that’s more the car than her.  Can threaten if strategy falls her way, otherwise a 50/50 chance for the top 5.

8 Townsend BELL – KV Racing Technology – Starts P24
Done all the right things with a second week practice program, including being a tail gunner for Moraes when he was setting the track on fire.  A top 10 result is possible, and well deserved given this months form.

9 Scott “I can’t believe Australia swapped him for Russell Crowe” DIXON – Chip Ganassi Racing – Starts P5
Didn’t have the mumbo to live with Penske on pole day, but will be there when it counts when the green flag drops.  Will keep Briscoe and Castroneves honest, but won’t have enough.  P2 this year.

10 Dario “I’m not even Irish” FRANCHITTI – Chip Ganassi Racing – Starts P3
A new lease of life after the NASCAR nightmare of 2008 sees him start front row, one of only three that can be the wicked witch in Helio’s fairytale. Trying to equal Arie Luyendyk’s record of having two different hairstyles on the Borg-Warner Trophy, but it won’t happen.

11 Tony “This bus driver sucks, I’m going to barf” KANAAN – Andretti Green Racing – Starts P6
Biggest mistake this month was early on, committing to the 11 primary for too long into the first week to threaten for pole before rolling out the Frankenstein 11T car.  Perennial placegetter who’s caught the bad luck disease from Michael, I think the bus barfing is a symptom. Due for a good one, but unfortunately I can’t see better than P4

12 Will “Toowoomba Tornado” POWER – Penske Racing – Starts P9
The perfect month.  Held back in qualifying, but will have the reins let go during the race and could be a real surprise.  Will go the alternate strategy if it’s available, and if in front with 10 to go with fuel to conserve, could surprise.  The Dark Horse, literally.

13 E.J. “Total” VISO – HVM Racing – Starts P29
Viso is Lithuanian for total, which is rather approriate seeming that’s what it looks like he’s going to do every lap, but somehow he manages to save it with supreme car control.  Or is it insanity?  We haven’t figured it out yet.  HVM have been playing catch up since #00 hit the wall, and haven’t really had it since.  Not a threat to the engraver.

14 Vitor “AJ says no loving anymore” MEIRA – AJ Foyt Racing – Starts P14
Has flown under the radar with an unassuming performance, but unassuming means “not very fast”, and unlike last year where a win was possible, a top 10 is a good result here.

15 Paul TRACY – KV Racing Technology – Starts P13
All sports needs villians, and the Thrill from West Hill still illicits boos from the IRL followers despite the fact their God put him in a car for a few races last year.  Has the ability to come off the couch, get on the Jimmy Vasser diet, and do the business. Top 5 possible.

16 Scott SHARP – Panther Racing – Starts P20
Panther’s tough month, combined with some tough scheduling, has made this not the easiest month for Sharp.  Race day won’t get any easier

17 Oriol “Pleased to” SERVIA – Rahal Letterman Racing – Starts P25
Second week starter for cash strapped organisation.  Bob and Dave’s excellent adventure are making up the numbers until they find a sponsor and do some R&D.  A shame, they’re a great mob.

18 Justin WILSON – Dale Coyne Racing – Starts P15
When you consider where the other “transition teams” are, a fine effort given the budget.  Top 10 is the race day goal.

19 Tomas “I’ve been everywhere, man” SCHECKTER – Dale Coyne Racing – Starts P26
Also a P10 chance, which is a good result for a week two program.  Won’t get an opportunity like 2002 tomorrow though.

20 Ed CARPENTER – Vision Racing – Starts P17
Goes well here, but never seems to reach the position on the pylon where he should.

21 Ryan HUNTER-REAY – Vision Racing – Starts P32
Lucky to make the field given he’s in the 34th fastest car here.  Will not feature other than in the IZOD commercials.

23 Milka DUNO – Dreyer and Reinbold Racing – Starts P30
Did nothing wrong in getting the car into the field.  Top 15 is best result.

24 Mike CONWAY – Dreyer and Reinbold Racing – Starts P27
Challenging month for Conway, who’s biggest problem is not acquiring the same reputation Briscoe got in 2005 for crashing. He’s a better driver than his result will show tomorrow, because he’ll be focussed on getting the distance. And making sure he brings his accrediation, as they don’t let people who look like 16 year olds into race cars without it.

26 Marco ANDRETTI – Andretti Green Racing – Starts P8
Beginning to show the signs he can be one of the leaders at AGR with a solid P8 on day one of qualifying.  Hasn’t stood out enough for mine to be a threat, but a top 5 is a 50/50.

27 Hideki MUTOH – Andretti Green Racing – Starts P16
No mistakes, but nothing else of note either. Top 10.

36 Alex TAGLIANI – Conquest Racing – Starts P33
Only mistake he made in qualifying was being in the wrong car at the wrong time.  Deserves a start here, but my prediction is they won’t give lapscorer tennis elbow I’m afraid.

41 A.J Foyt IV – AJ Foyt Racing – Starts P19
Great qualifying effort to get in on Day 2, but that will be the month’s highlight

43 John ANDRETTI – Dreyer and Reinbold Racing – Starts P28
Last attempt, last minute qualifying effort electrified the crowd like no other at a bump day for a very long time.  Sponsor’s bills paid with the exposure on Versus, a top 15 is a bonus.

44 Davey HAMILTON – Dreyer and Reinbold Racing – Starts P22
Not bad for a bloke that hasn’t driven for 12 months.  The old dawg’s still got it. Deserves a good finish for a disciplined month.

67 Sarah FISHER – Sarah Fisher Racing – Starts P21
Her best month here. Team has stepped up a couple more notches from last year, doing things right, rather than right now.  Top 15 easy.

99 Alex LLOYD – Chip Ganassi Racing/Sam Schmidt Motorsports – Starts P11
Doesn’t need twitter, you can see what he’s up to from Google Earth. Been the talk of the month with the Pink Car, but what we really should be talking about is the day one qualifier, and the best of the one off starters.  Inexperience at this level may hurt him tomorrow, but for the future, will stand him in good stead.  Could jump in the #9 or #10 tomorrow, and be a contender.

00 Nelson PHILIPPE – HVM Racing – Starts P31
Concerns about ability to qualify after accident and tough task getting back up to speed.  Just needs to keep out of trouble and gain experience this year.

02 Graham RAHAL – Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing – Starts P4
One of the stories of this race.  Rahal’s come from the kid you were going to tell to stop playing hookey and go back to school during last years month, to the all American Motor Racing hero.  Save on May 10 avoiding J.Andretti was described by some as the best they’ve seen in 20 years here.  The reason the phones in Gasoline Alley are not in phone booths is because they’re scared Rahal might walk into one and come out as Superman.  Will be remembered as the breakout year, but won’t have the pace of the front 4 or 5.

06 Robert DOORNBOS – Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing – Starts P23
Tough time here after two wrecks.  Needs to get through the race, and be patient, and a top 10 and a whole lot of learning is his.

Predictions

Winner: 3 Castroneves
2nd: 9 Dixon
3rd: 5 Moraes

First Out: 41 Foyt IV

Rookie of the year: 2 Matos

Row where accident will start on first lap if there is one: Row 9

Updates from Indianapolis

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

Will write a preview for the race entry soon.

In the meantime, while I wash my clothes and prepare to go to Camp and Brew tonight…

Carb Night Burger Bash
Thanks to everybody who came up to me and shook my hand and said hi at 96th Street Steakburgers on Friday night. It was a great function, and Curt Cavin reports on twitter a crowd of more than 1000, and more than $5000 raised. Apart from the International Celebrity that is me (apparently), everybody got to meet some other bloke from England named Wheldon. I hear he drives race cars.

I had a milkshake, because it looked nice and was for a good cause.  I paid for it today, sore throat, runny nose, the whole bit, but oh my god was it worth it. That stuff is good.

I’m putting Curt on notice for next year.  I’ll donate US$200 if Curt makes a burger, and a driver in the 500 that year, eats it and doesn’t die within two hours.

Drivers Briefing
Went to the track this morning to watch the drivers briefing, and hear the instructions, “You can’t win the race on the first lap, but you can certainly lose it.  The fastest car does not always win.”  Of which Mario Moraes heard “blah blah win the race blah blah, blah certainly.  Fastest car blah win.”

Chain store update
Starbucks still rocks. Subway is a disappointment. A lack of carrot is a distinct issue.  And drive thru Subway makes about as much sense to me as drive through beer does to Americans.  Yet to try Graham Rahal‘s.

Festival Parade
I surprisingly enjoyed it. Had a great time. My favourite Australian there was Wags the Dog from The Wiggles. Give him a drive, we’ll get three Aussies in the top 10.

Bloggers getting access to the media center
Talked to Jeff from My Name is IRL.  He’s got a media credential.   V8 Supercars Australia take note: if you want the 20-35 demographic to watch your sport, give them what they want in the format they want it. Don’t sign exclusivity deals that prevent you issuing credentials to web sites.

Gotta go and sort some stuff out before the race.

Shane in the Indianapolis Star today

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

It’s a quiet news day in Indianapolis today. 🙂

Apparently I’m in the newspaper today. I’m in the process of getting my act together to go down and buy it.

The article is here, for all the people who aren’t local.

A major dissapointment for many of my friends in Australia, who thought my first mention in the paper would be for an arrest. Sorry guys.

Reminder: Carb Night Burger Bash

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Morning All,

For anybody in Indianapolis today, come along to the second annual Carb Night Burger Bash organised by Curt Cavin from the Indianapolis Star and Friends…

The Second Carb Night Burger Bash

Free gathering of Indianapolis 500 fans.
at 96th Street Steakburgers, 4715 E. 96th Street, Indianapolis.
Gates Open 6pm, Program Begins 7 p.m.
Featuring special guests (I assure you I’m not the primary Special Guest) and a live auction.
Restaurant’s famous burgers and milkshakes for purchase.

Best of all it benefits many charities in the local area.

So come along, and have a burger and a chat with me and your nearest 800 or so Indycar fan friends!

My only regret about this, is that I can’t have the milkshakers.  Damn dairy intolerance!

Shane on ESPN 1070 The Fan

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

For the Australian people who have to work while it was on…

Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee were gracious enough to let me occupy the airwaves on their show “Trackside” on 1070 The Fan this evening, under the newly instituted “if you come from over 15 hours flight away and call in a few times, we’ll let you sit in the studio for a bit, just don’t touch anything” rule.

If you want to hear the show this particular week, this link to the MP3 should work.  Better still, subscribe to the podcast and listen every week.

Great stuff to watch two guys who know what they’re doing, do it well.  It’s real easy to chime in every five minutes with 30 seconds of wisdom as I did.  It’s certainly a lot harder for Curt and Kevin to fill the 3 minutes in between that, with something that engages the audience, but they seem to do it with Penske like regularity week after week.

As Kevin has said before, a good show is a show where you feel like you could have gone on a bit longer.  The guys could have taken another 60 minutes of calls this week, and still left them wanting more.

Really enjoyed participating, and I’m hoping under the 15 hour rule, given my net travel time from Melbourne to Indianapolis was 31 hours, I can use the 16 hours remaining to acquire another two hour lease on a chair in a studio in Monument Circle sometime soon!

The instruction was “take the pace car out in front of the leader”…

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Not “take out the leader with the pace car!”

Check this out from the World Touring Car Championship round at Pau recently… Not only was the first lap rather wicked, but check out the action at about 1:36, when the pace car pulls out from a blind corner a little too late…

Thanks to Peter B. for emailing me this overnight!

Just how close to Milka get to the wall?

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Just how close did Milka Duno get to the wall in Yesterday’s first qualifying attempt?

This close (click picture to see it in the right resolution):

Gillette are going to sponsor her next week, because “nobody comes closer”