Like most American kids that grew up in the 80's I watched the Indy 500 every year and became interested in motorsports thanks to that race, but I didn't really get hooked until I started watching Formula 1 racing in the late 90's. My favorite era were those years with the great Mika Hakkinen/Michael Schumacher battles. (I was a Mika Hakkinen fan) So my fondness for Formula 1 waned once Mika retired and Schumacher started winning everything, even at the expense of his teammate Rubens Barrichello. My interest in F1 has only been lukewarm since.

Then I turned to Champ Car racing here in the US for my motorsports fix. However that was quickly extinguished once Champ Car and Indy Car merged and we were stuck with Tony George and his many foibles. (It was entertaining to watch the Hulman/George drama I'll admit.) My interest has been less than lukewarm with Indy Car lately, even without Tony George at the helm.

Over time however, the excitement I once had for motorsports has slowly gone. Maybe it has to do with my age, I don't know. But I think I will pour my efforts into my Trooper and my interests in the outdoors to add excitement to my life.

Thanks for checking out my blog, I hope you enjoy it. I will still post racing news when I find something interesting or noteworthy.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Photos from Long Beach 2009

A ghost from the past

Cool helmet for Tagliani

Rahal attacking the course

Ej Viso

Friday, April 24, 2009

Champ Car Grand Prix of Long Beach 2008

Will Power on his way to a victory.

Mario Moraes goes hard into the barrier.

The always tender S. Bourdais

Grand Prix of Long Beach - 2009

Pesky right hand turns!

News of Castroneves steals Tracy's thunder

(by John Oreovicz 4-17-09)

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- There were a number of places Helio Castroneves could have ended up spending Friday evening.

On a Penske Corp. jet, winging his way to Long Beach, was undoubtedly the best one possible.

After a federal jury acquitted Castroneves Friday morning on six of seven counts in his tax evasion trial in Miami, Penske Racing set a contingency plan in motion to get the 33-year-old Brazilian back to work as quickly as possible.

After a cross-country journey, he's set to rejoin the IndyCar Series field Saturday morning to practice for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in his familiar No. 3 Dallara-Honda. Will Power, who was deputized for Castroneves in his absence, will move to a third Team Penske entry sponsored by Verizon Wireless.

Power, whose only other confirmed race with the team for the rest of the season in the Verizon car is the Indianapolis 500, was fastest in practice at Long Beach on Friday afternoon.

"I'm happy for Helio," Power said. "It was very tough for him going through that.

"I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for this team," he added. "I didn't give it a second thought -- I was ready for this. It wasn't a huge shock to me and I just want to make the best of this opportunity."

The goodwill toward Castroneves was widespread up and down pit lane.

"It's fantastic news for Helio," said former CART series champion Jimmy Vasser. "I can only imagine the ordeal he went through; it really must have taken a toll on him. It's exciting news, and it's going to be great to see him back."

Power could certainly make it tough for Penske to shut down the newly formed No. 12 team if he duplicates his Long Beach victory from a year ago. Meanwhile, he's ready to be a good team player and hand a quick car over to Castroneves.

"I don't know how [Castroneves] drives," said Power. "But he's going to learn what my car feels like tomorrow!

"It's definitely a pretty good car. The guys will transfer that over to my car and it should be exactly the same. Those Penske guys are pretty accurate and they don't often get it wrong."

In Castroneves, the series gets back one of its most popular stars and strongest championship contenders.

"It's cool," remarked Scott Dixon, who narrowly defeated Castroneves for the 2008 IndyCar Series title. "I think it's definitely a nice surprise for everybody, though it's a big change for Will, obviously.

"It's unfortunate [Helio] went through what he did. Hopefully they can sweep that under the carpet and move on to have a great season."

Team Penske president Tim Cindric is confident that it won't take Castroneves long to get up to speed when he gets back into the car Saturday morning.

"This will be my 10th season with Helio, and I know his focus and his concentration is among the best," said Cindric. "I think the best way to quantify that is the trust that I have in him at a place like Indianapolis, where you're sitting there qualifying at 5:59, or whatever it is. I put him up against the best of them when it comes to being mentally prepared.

"I know he wants nothing more than to get back in that race car, and I have 100 percent confidence it will be like riding a bike for him."

It's somewhat ironic that the news of Castroneves' acquittal greatly overshadowed another important announcement for the IndyCar Series: Paul Tracy's deal to run the Indianapolis 500 for KV Racing Technology in a car sponsored by Geico Insurance.

Tracy and Castroneves have had a frosty relationship since the Brazilian was declared the winner of the 2002 Indianapolis 500 in controversial circumstances. Tracy appeared to pass Castroneves just before a yellow was thrown for an accident and his appeal was denied by Indy Racing League founder and CEO Tony George.

Like Power at Penske, Tracy could parlay a good run at Indianapolis (where he has not competed since the bitter loss seven years ago) into locking up sponsorship for additional races in the second half of the season.

"We're going to do the best we can to generate as much media exposure and excitement around Geico and their product and their brand, and if that leads to more, then that would be icing on the cake," Tracy said. "But there's been no promises made."

Tracy being Tracy, he added:

"As I was laying on the couch watching the disaster of a race at St. Pete, I felt like I could get out there and clean everybody's clock, the way they were driving," he said. "So from that standpoint I feel I've still got the skills to do this. You can only judge somebody on their last race, and the last race I came, I got off the couch and finished in the top five.

"So we're going to do the best we can, and we're going there to win. Nothing else really matters to me other than winning the race. Finishing second, third, fourth is really not an option in my book."

Helio Castroneves found not guilty in tax-evasion trial

(by Jay Weaver and David Ovalle 4-17-09)

Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves survived a potentially devastating crash Friday, acquitted of tax-evasion charges by jurors who struggled for six days to unravel complex evidence on racing-car contracts, tax law and offshore companies.

In the end, jurors found Castroneves and sister Katiucia not guilty on six counts of evading taxes on $5.5 million from race car earnings. The pair sobbed and hugged each other after hearing the decision.

The 12-member Miami federal jury deadlocked on the lead conspiracy charge against the siblings, which prompted U.S. District Judge Donald Graham to declare a mistrial on that count.

The jury also acquitted the Brazilian race car star's sports attorney, Alan R. Miller, on the main conspiracy charge and three other tax evasion counts. Miller was not charged in three other counts of the indictment.

With his legal victory, Castroneves was scheduled to fly immediately from South Florida to California to compete in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach for Penske Racing, the team that hired him in late 1999. His contract with the legendary racing organization -- the big break in a career that began as a teenager go-cart racing in Brazil -- was at the core of the government's tax-evasion case.

Flanked by attorneys and an entourage of friends, Castroneves emerged from the downtown federal courthouse, his eyes swollen and red.

He showed off a rosary, proclaimed his faith and interviewed with both U.S. and Brazilian press.

''It's been a nightmare, and finally we wake up,'' said Castroneves, 33, who was sidelined from IndyCar racing during his legal ordeal. ``Instead of going to Disneyland, I want to go to Long Beach and race.''

And then he was off, jumping into a black Porsche Cayenne SUV to take him to Miami International Airport.

Penske Racing issued a statement saying the team was ''excited'' to have Castroneves back as a driver.

The jubilant reaction from Castroneves, Penske and others was starkly different from the somber mood in the courtroom on Friday afternoon.

Castroneves, who has lived in the Miami area for more than a decade, looked to be praying as he awaited word on whether the jurors would find him guilty of failing to pay $2.3 million in taxes between 1999 and 2004.

Sitting side by side, Castroneves and his sister/manager kept their heads down as they listened to the jury's verdicts. Afterward, the siblings rose, crying, then hugged each other and their attorneys: Roy Black, David Garvin, Howard Srebnick and Scott Srebnick.

It was unclear whether the prosecution -- assistant U.S. attorneys Matt Axelrod and Jared Dwyer -- would seek to retry the case on the single deadlocked conspiracy count.

Srebnick said the Miami U.S. attorney should not retry the one count. ''If there's no tax evasion and the jury has made a finding there was no tax evasion, it's illogical to proceed on a charge of conspiracy to evade taxes,'' he said.

The three defendants were teased with partial jury verdicts returned Thursday. But those verdicts were not made public, which made for an agonizing wait.

The jury had to decide whether Castroneves and the others conspired to evade U.S. taxes on what the driver earned over five years, mainly from his $5 million licensing deal with Penske.

Castroneves' attorneys portrayed the two-time Indy 500 winner as a gifted driver who relied on others, including his father, to handle the business side of his career.

The trial, however, centered on Castroneves' racing-car contracts, his financial accounts outside the United States and intricate U.S. tax law.

Under the November 1999 Penske licensing contract, Castroneves' income was supposed to be sent to a Panamanian tax shelter but it was ultimately transferred instead to an annuity account in the Netherlands.

Castroneves -- whose attorney said the driver's father actually owned the Panamanian company, not the racer, as prosecutors alleged -- has yet to receive any of that income.

Castroneves also received $530,000 from a Brazilian trading company that sponsored him just before he hit the big time a decade ago with Penske.

Castroneves and his sister were accused of moving most of the driver's income from the Brazilian sponsor, Coimex Internacional, through the Panamanian company's bank account in New York to a Swiss bank. So far, Castroneves has paid taxes on only $50,000 of his earnings from Coimex.

While jurors did not convict Castroneves, his sister and the lawyer of any tax-evasion offenses, they indicated to the judge that they could not reach a unanimous agreement on the main conspiracy count -- which straddled the Coimex and Penske contracts.

Although jurors left the courthouse through a secret exit because they did not want to talk to the media, it was apparent they struggled over the conspiracy count because Castroneves and his family members had received the Coimex sponsorship income, legal observers said.

Castroneves' attorneys said the Indy 500 champ -- who gained greater fame when he won the Dancing with the Stars reality TV show in 2007 -- plans to start paying his taxes in May when he begins receiving income from his Dutch annuity.

Said attorney Black after the verdict: ``He has not evaded taxes, and when the money comes due next month, he'll pay his taxes.''

Outside the courthouse, Castroneves rejoiced over his legal triumph -- calling it the ''biggest victory'' of his life. ''It was like a race and, unfortunately, it was out of my control,'' he said. ``I couldn't drive this car. I was a passenger.''

Saturday, April 11, 2009

An alliance more sad than fascinating

(by Ed Hinton 4-9-09)

This is about the confluence of three sad sagas: Richard Petty, the Indianapolis 500 and the hard-knocks branch of the Andretti family.

All three having fallen on tough times, they have bonded what is left of their "brands," as marketing moguls call household names nowadays.

Petty is the official entrant of a car to be driven by John Andretti in this year's 500.

With verbal sleight of hand, publicists have tried to leave the impression that Petty is more than a figurehead, saying he "joins" Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi in fielding entries for both the 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, May 24.

But Penske and Ganassi have been deeply invested and involved for many years in Indy car racing. This is, as they say in NASCAR, but "a one-race deal."

I asked Petty whether he is the owner of the Dallara Honda that will be prepared and crewed by the journeyman Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team of Indianapolis.

"We are vested in what's going on, OK?" Petty said. "I'll put it that way."

On that sparsely attended teleconference, you could hear the tension in the King's voice.

"It's not just a publicity stunt," he said -- it was his term, not mine.

"We're up here [in Indianapolis, for Monday's announcement], we're serious with this deal, we've got a good car, we've got a good crew, I think, that is capable of doing what we need to do with it."

But he admitted that he knows virtually nothing about Indy cars -- "I'm just here to observe and learn."

This was the same Richard Petty who, 30-something years ago, stood in A.J. Foyt's pits on a practice day at Indy and told me why he would never drive Indy cars, though Foyt had offered him at least a test ride.

"There's baseball, football and basketball," said Petty in his prime. "They're all played with a ball. And there the similarities end.

"Stock cars and these cars," he said, gesturing down at Foyt's Coyote Ford, "both have four wheels and an engine. And there the similarities end."

Petty used to visit Indy on practice days every May, guest of his sponsor at the time, STP, which also had a major presence at Indy. Had he announced any sort of venture into Indy cars at the time, he'd have made national headlines -- and an alliance of the Petty and Andretti families would have made sports news around the world.

You can only wish the sum of these household names meant more now.

And you can only wish they could win. Nobody could use a win more than Richard Petty, unless it is John Andretti. And no entity could use a Petty-Andretti win quite like the Indy 500 itself.

But Dreyer & Reinbold has fielded 19 Indy 500 entries without a win. John Andretti has made nine starts in the 500 without a win. They can run decently, but their chances of winning are slim to none.

So this alliance is more sad than fascinating.

Richard Petty Motorsports, the product of a NASCAR merger between struggling Petty Enterprises and struggling Gillett Evernham Motorsports, is still struggling.

Petty lends his name, his once-glorious racing colors of red and blue, and his storied number, 43, to the entry. The car is sponsored by a North Carolina-based company, Window World.

The primary beneficiary of this alliance is the Indy 500 itself, its prestige gutted by the CART-IRL split of 1996 and still enfeebled, a mere shell of what was the greatest race in the world.

The once-grand event has come to this: Ninety percent of its publicity rests on the diminutive shoulders of a woman who has never won it, Danica Patrick, and the rest on a bunch of imported personalities who stir interest in the race in Brazil and Australia and New Zealand, but not where it matters so crucially, the United States.

And so Indy can use the Petty name, and all the Andrettis it can get.

Petty acknowledged he was approached by Andretti with the idea. Mainly, it helped Andretti get a ride. The Petty family has long thought an awful lot of John Andretti, the last driver to win a NASCAR Cup race in the No. 43, at Martinsville, Va., in 1999.

And so the King is largely doing a kindness here.

John is from the tough-luck side of the family. Few among modern-day racing enthusiasts realize that Mario Andretti has a twin brother, Aldo. Mario has told me for decades that he always thought Aldo would have been the greater racer, because he was more aggressive.

The twins' paths diverged forever on a dirt track in Hatfield, Pa., 50 years ago. Aldo was critically injured in a stock car crash at age 19, and lay in a coma for weeks. Forever after, he stayed in the small time of racing while Mario drove off to glory, his success always haunted by the misfortune of his twin. Another bad crash, in a sprint car at Des Moines in 1969, ended Aldo's driving career.

So Aldo's son John never had the clout of his father's dazzling résumé behind him, as cousin Michael had with Mario's Formula One championship in 1978, to go with his wins in the Daytona 500 of '67 and Indy 500 of '69.

John always got the leftover rides. Even when he drove for the King in NASCAR, Petty Enterprises was deep into its twilight.

John is 46 now, the King is 71, and hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway is 100. (Opened in 1909, the Speedway didn't host the first 500 until 1911.)

They all need each other now. They have huddled together to try to create some interest.

It should be fun for them, and sell a few tickets. But it will not return the Indy 500 or the Petty dynasty or the hard-knocks branch of the Andretti family from twilight.

It is mainly an alliance of three struggles.

F1 in chaos 2 races into the season

(by the Associated Press 4-8-09)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- The Formula One season has lurched to a chaotic start after two races.

The sport's power teams are in crisis, one of the races finished prematurely due to contentious scheduling, and there is still no decision on whether results from the races in Australia and Malaysia will stand.

The Malaysian Grand Prix was cut short just past the halfway point on Sunday, when a tropical storm hit the Sepang circuit, making conditions undriveable.

It was predictable that starting the race at 5 p.m. local time - to suit European television audiences - would increase the likelihood of it being hit by a torrential downpour, which generally arrive in the late afternoon or early evening in Malaysia.

The late start also meant that once the storm had largely passed after almost an hour's wait, encroaching darkness made a restart unfeasible.

Malaysian's new prime minister said immediately after the race that he would look at moving the event back to its regular afternoon start. Whether that happens remains to be seen. Generally, races that suggest changes that run counter to the wishes of F1 authorities don't tend to stay on the schedule for long.

Still, political pressure may yet work where driver demands have failed. Even before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and the Malaysian GP were switched to twilight starts, drivers had voiced their concern at being forced to drive in deteriorating light and tropical rain to suit European TV viewers.

Brawn GP's Jenson Button won both races, making Brawn the first new team to win its opening two GPs since Alfa Romeo won the sport's first two races in 1950.

However, Button, Brawn and other top finishers only received half the usual points for Malaysia, as stipulated under F1 rules, because the race went less than three quarters of the scheduled distance.

And that is if those points count at all.

The results from Australia and Malaysia remain provisional pending a ruling of the FIA's International Court of Appeal in Paris on Tuesday.

Ferrari, BMW, Renault and Red Bull have lodged appeals against stewards' decisions in Australia and Malaysia to allow Brawn, Toyota and Williams to race with what the four teams claim are rear diffuser designs that breach new aerodynamic regulations.

The three teams have dominated the time sheets in the opening two races because the diffusers, an undercar device that channels the flow of air from the front to rear, help create greater downforce in the corners.

Brawn GP and Toyota have capitalized on their speed advantage to break away at the top of the points standings, while Williams has been largely unable to convert its speed in practice sessions into performance on race day.

At the other end of the standings are the power teams: McLaren, with a single point, and Ferrari, which has gone through the opening two races of the season without earning a point for the first time since 1992.

McLaren's struggles on the track have translated into turmoil off it. Sporting director Dave Ryan, a team employee for 35 years, was fired on Tuesday for deliberately misleading race stewards at a postrace hearing in Australia.

Ryan and world champion Lewis Hamilton told stewards that the English driver had received no instruction from his team to move over late in the race and let Toyota's Jarno Trulli through to the third spot.

The stewards' hearing was reopened in Malaysia and heard audio evidence of pit-to-car communication in which McLaren did indeed tell Hamilton to allow Trulli through, having wrongly thought the world champion's earlier passing maneuver on the Italian was illegal because it was done behind the safety car.

McLaren was officially excluded from the results, negating what would have been a third-place finish, and Ryan was made the immediate fall guy. But McLaren was mistaken if it thought Ryan's ouster, and an emotional apology from Hamilton, would prevent more fallout.

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh has said he is considering his future, and the team's shareholders have the power to dismiss him. Engine supplier Mercedes, whose reputation in the sport rides largely on McLaren's performance, said it would consider the issue.

The FIA may also refer McLaren's deceptive behavior to the World Motor Sports Council, which has the power to ban Hamilton and McLaren from a number of races, or even from the 2009 championship altogether.

The only bright spot for McLaren is that the situation at archrival Ferrari is similarly dire. Both teams have paid the price for pouring all their development dollars into the 2007 and 2008 cars as they battled out those championships, while rivals turned far earlier to designing cars for the very different specifications required for 2009.

Long gone is the absolute Ferrari dominance under the triumvirate of peerless driver Michael Schumacher and now departed team bosses Jean Todt and Ross Brawn. While Schumacher remains a brooding and frustrated figure in the pits as a team adviser, Brawn is at the other end of pit lane with his new team - which he took over when Honda withdrew from the sport - and getting race wins on a fraction of the budget.

Although only two races have been run, it already seems Ferrari and McLaren's best hope of getting back into the championship picture is if the FIA wipes out the results of the three teams using the diffuser. In which case the title race will take on a very different hue when it resumes in China on April 19.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Danica in another spat?

(by Associated Press 4-7-09)

Danica Patrick's season got off to a tough start after she crashed out early in the season-opening Honda Grand Prix. She was running ninth in the 22-car field on Sunday when rookie Raphael Matos tried to pass as the two went into one of the tightest turns on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit. Both cars crashed, with Patrick's Andretti Green Racing entry slamming hard, rear end first into a tire barrier.

As the uninjured drivers walked away, Patrick patted Matos on the helmet as if to say, "Use your head." The two then waited for a ride back to the pits, with a lively discussion taking place as Matos sat on a wall and Patrick stood in front of him.

Patrick, who has been known to blow up at other drivers in similar circumstances, was calm after she got back to the team's pit. "It's not exactly the ideal spot to pass," she said. "We were going into the fast chicane there and there's no room, there's no room for two people. -- I was looking in my mirrors and I saw him. He just wasn't all the way up next to me."

Matos, making his IndyCar debut with the Luczo Dragon team, wasn't ready to take the blame.

"We just had a very unfortunate racing accident," the Brazilian said. "It shouldn't have happened. Danica made a big mistake passing a lapped car and I really had a good run on her. I was halfway up on her. I thought she'd give me enough room to pass, but she didn't."

St Pete Grand Prix Danica drama

There is a lot of debate as to who was at fault in the Danica/Matos St. Pete crash. Danica admits she saw Matos pull up to the side of her but states he never pulled ahead. Agreed, he never got a lead on her but she was given the blue flag (as seen in our first photo) to indicate a quicker car was about to pass her.

What happened next is seen in the following photos. Danica turns in to the right hand turn and makes contact with Matos. They become intangled, loose control and slam into the tire barrier, Danica hitting so hard she knocks over the porta-potty (as you can see in the last photo).

It is not known if a fan was in the porta-potty or not, if there were though you could actually say "the shit has hit the fan" and you wouldn't be lying.

In my mind both were at fault, Matos for trying to overtake in a not so easy area to do so, and Danica for not using her experience and pulling back and letting him pass. Had she done that they both would have continued the race instead of both of them ending up in the tire barrier. Plus, a unexpecting fan wouldn't have had his or her personal time so rudely interrupted.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Castroneves' father: I set up company

(by Associated Press 4-3-09)

MIAMI -- The father of race car driver Helio Castroneves testified Friday that his famous son did not own a Panamanian company at the heart of a federal tax evasion case -- and that documents indicating otherwise were riddled with mistakes.

Establishing who controlled Seven Promotions is a key issue in the trial of Castroneves, a Brazilian who twice won the Indianapolis 500 and was champion in 2007 of TV's "Dancing With The Stars." Katiucia Castroneves, the driver's business-manager sister, and his Michigan lawyer Alan Miller, are also being tried on charges the three conspired for the driver to avoid paying taxes on $5.5 million in income.

Helio Castroneves Sr., 61, said Seven Promotions was created by himself and a Brazilian lawyer to promote his son's image and as a vehicle to pay the elder Castroneves for his work. The father said his son had no ownership or control over the company, even though the driver's 1999 contract with Penske Racing and other documents indicate he did own it.

"It's a mistake," said the father, testifying in Portuguese. "No, he's not the owner."

The younger Castroneves signed one document on behalf of Seven, but his father said only he, the Brazilian lawyer and Katiucia had that authority.

"Did Helio have any authority to do anything for Seven?" asked defense attorney David Garvin.

"No," the elder Castroneves replied.

Prosecutors say Castroneves secretly controlled Seven and should have paid taxes on $5 million from the Penske contract because it was supposed to go to Seven's accounts. They also say Seven was used in an illegal shell game to help the younger Castroneves avoid paying taxes on a lucrative sponsorship contract from the Brazilian firm Coimex.

Defense attorneys counter that if the younger Castroneves didn't own Seven, he doesn't owe any U.S. taxes.

The elder Castroneves said he kept some of that money as repayment for more than $1.5 million he had spent on his son's racing career beginning with go-kart circuits in the 1980s. The father formerly ran a company that supplied tubing for sugar cane processors and also owned several rental properties.

"It was to pay part of the investment that I had put on him since he was young," the father said. "I was working for Helio and he was starting to pay me back."

The Penske money ultimately wound up in a Dutch deferred income account, where it remains today. Castroneves' lawyers insist he always planned to pay U.S. taxes once he actually receives the money later this year.

U.S. District Judge Donald Graham said testimony in the five-week-old trial should end Monday. The 12-person jury could begin deliberating the case sometime next week.

If convicted, all three defendants face more than six years in prison. The Internal Revenue Service says Castroneves owes more than $2.3 million in U.S. taxes.