Notes taken during ESPN's broadcast of the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway on 7/15/06.
Sam Hornish montage! Marty -- It's been a picture perfect (Todd Harris-ism) season for Sam. Who can challenge the all American? Dario, the guy who calls Nashville home?
Sam Hornish montage! Marty -- It's been a picture perfect (Todd Harris-ism) season for Sam. Who can challenge the all American? Dario, the guy who calls Nashville home?Welcome to Nashville Superspeedway, the concrete track. Temps are in the mid-80s. Going to get hot on the track. Much cleverness using "hot" for temperature and action. Get it? HOT ON THE TRACK!
Kansas montage. Radio traffic from the ARG guys. We got Dario screaming for the blue flag running next to Danica. We got Kanaan yelling about Dixon passing him under the white line (allegedly illegal, sometimes, in some cases, for some drivers, perhaps.)Give ABC/ESPN a shout out for their montages. They're the Master of Montages.
Jack Arute with Hornish: Hotter than a summer afternoon in July. (Huh? It is a summer night in July. That's like standing on the sun and saying "hotter than here.") Hornish -- keys are keep it on the bottom of the track, stay out of the marbles, get good pit stops.
Marty recaps the points. Vitor in fifth! Vitor is the man. Down to the Root: Vitor and Panther are the Little Team that Can. Has a new sponsor, Revive. Giant killers. Handing it to larger, better-funded teams all year.
Danica Recap Segment. Danica's dad goes to a NASCAR race in Chicago last weekend. Meets with teams. Says he wants to get Danica into NASCAR. Media freaks out. Racing message boards light up. Then Danica says "my heart is in Indy" then she says want to go where they spend all their cash to get me a win. Will a sugar daddy please report to Danica's hauler immediately? All sugar daddies, please trot over to Danica's trailer. Thank you.
Jerry Punch, MD, had a sit-down with Danica earlier. Danica -- wants to go where has the best chance to win. NASCAR is pretty big. She wonders what the ratings would be the first few races. (With Danica in the race, well, they'd have to be through the roof!) Danica says it's not the right time to make a decision based on money, as in how much she would get paid. If I win I don't have to worry any more (about money). That's why we need to win. (Hence her desire to go a team with Mongo Bucks.) I think NASCAR is harder than everyone expects. Always said if you can drive you an drive. Doesn't matter the vehicle.
Video in here of Mark Martin of NASCAR saying Danica is pretty much all the IRL has.
Punch -- What other IRL teams? Danica -- Penske, Ganassi, AGR. AGR had lot of strength last year. Lots of options out there. Wants to win Indy. Need to be in the IRL full time to win Indy (so doesn't that rule out NASCAR then, especially if it's not about driver money?) Danica says she wants to stay in Indy Car, I really, really do.
Rusty Wallace -- Danica could be a success in NASCAR in time. She needs to stay in the IRL to try and win the Indy 500. Timing not right to jump to NASCAR. Needs to stay here get a lot of practice, work hard, has a lot to prove here. Maybe Rusty didn't mean it, but it sounded like: "Danica needs to stay down here in the minors, put in her time, work hard, practice before moving to the big leagues."
Scott Goodyear -- Chip/Penske are pretty much locked up . Maybe AGR if a seat comes open. (Herta, anyone?)
Other open wheelers who made the jump successfully: Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, John Andretti, Scott Pruett, Casey Mears.
Time now for the ARG getting bitchslapped segment: Last year at this point in the points race AGR drivers were 1, 2, 4 and 7. This year Tony is 7th. Last year after 8 starts AGR had 5 wins and had led more than 800 laps. This year zero wins and 37 laps led. Not a pretty picture.
The Root -- Vitor Meira and Panther are plucky. Before the 2006 season they were selling off stuff to fund the team. Got a new sponsor for the rest of the year, Revive (an energy drink, I believe).
Jamie Little (get her in a car!) -- Dan on the pole. Says he must control the race start to finish.
Can anyone beat Penske/Chip? Rusty says maybe Vitor.
Goodyear -- Dan Wheldon says he has to win to have a shot at the championship.
Down to Jamie with Sam who is about to draw out the name of the Indy 500 Firestone Sweepstakes winner. Sam Draws out Frank Catrone from someplace in Ohio. Wait a second, Sam is from Defiance, Ohio. I think he palmed Frank's entry. (Kidding. Sam? Cheat? Baaaa. That's a good one.)
Track announcer announces a sell out. Andrew Firestone, great grandson of founder Harvey Firestone, says "Gentlemen -- and lady -- start your engines." Nice job. Nice pacing. Dramatic pause.
Eddie Cheever is out of the race. Parked. No funding. Marco is weeping. Andretti Green Racing laments the loss of an excuse. Speaking of AGR, Mike Andretti must be boycotting the media because he's gotten zero on-camera air time in about three races. He was on screen every 15 minutes for a while there and now zip. They gave us a long, telephoto shot of Mike a bit earlier in this race, but that's it. Kim Green also got some air time during the Kansas Montage. Dennis Reinbold sends Mike a note: "Welcome to my world."
Rusty fires up the C.B. radio to talk to Tony. "Tony, you got us?" Tony likes his car in traffic. Can you go two-wide? Tony - maybe at the start, but as the race goes on no. Kanaan does an awesome job of this kind of thing. He'd be a killer race announcer, IMO.
Jack the Root down to the pit for the Demo of the Race. He has a cheese grater. Yeah, a cheese grater. An about a five-pound block of cheese. Appears to be cheddar, but it was unidentified. So he's running the cheese over the grater onto a tire to show how the track rips up the tires and "you end up in the cheese." So now you know. Send the footage to the Wisconsin or California cheese producers. You never know.
Punch. Marco Andretti had a gearbox issue so he's starting dead last. Got that fixed and he should be a rocket from there.
Jamie -- First oval for Ryan Briscoe since he got airborne into the catch fence and broke a car in two at Chicago last year. Video of the crash. Jamie said Ryan had a bit of an issue when he got into the car to practice but he's doing OK now.
Starting lineup: Danny "White Shoes" Wheldon, Sam Hornish Jr., Scott "Flying Kiwi" Dixon, Helio Castronevez, Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan, Vitor Meira, Scott "Lookin' " Sharp, Tomas Scheckter, Danica "Snow My Car the Money" Patrick, Buddy Rice, Kosuke Matsuura, Ryan Briscoe, Ed Carpenter, Jeff Simmons, Bryan Herta, Jeff Bucknum, Marco Andretti. 18 cars! Nashville officials swear the track can handle the crowd of cars.
Let's light this candle. Green flag. Green flag. Holy jail break. We got little three-wide going into turn 1. Very road/street racing-esque. Somebody gets into Helio. Rusty pees himself over how great Tony restarts.
Replay of the restart. Dixon and Helio rub tires.
Tony up to third. Tony got extra testing at Nashville. Indy Pro drivers get to test in an Indy Car if they do something or other (participate in enough races) so the AGR guy came and Tony got into the car for the second half of the day.
Lap 12 -- Hornish closing in on Wheldon. Wheldon video of him saying there are "one and a bit" grooves at Nashville.
Dixon brushes the wall. Keeps going. Onboard video from Dario's car of Dixon brushing the wall. Shout out to the guys in the truck for getting us the excellent onboard video of it.
Lap 25 -- Wheldon, Hornish, Kanaan, Dixon, Dario, Vitor, Castroneves, Sharp, Scheckter, Danica.
Lap 26 - Goodyear is wondering if Dixon brushing the wall damaged the car. "Will he make it?" Could be one of those slow-motion mechanical deals that take a while to bust. Jamie reports Dixon says the car is fine.
Lap 35 -- Wheldon and Hornish are stretching it out on Kanaan.
ESPN goes through the entire field. Pit Reporter Fest. Jamie says Dan wanted to dominate and is dominating but he's telling his team his car is "terrible" in corners. So terrible he's leading. I'd hate to see the car when it's perfect in corners. Punch says Sam's car is the same car he won with twice before with. TK has the best car he's had in a long time. Dixon is on the radio to his spotter to tell Bucknum in the always-quick Foyt car to "wake up." Apparently Bucknum has become Mr. Chicane for this race.
Bucknum is out of the race at lap 36. "Handling" which is shorthand for "pig of a car."
Vitor tries to take Dario high. Reports he has a great car. Vitor has new sponsorship for the race. Maybe Rusty will move on now and find something else, like Danica, to fixate on.
Punch says first-lap contact made his steering wheel squirrelly. It's not straight. Danica reports understeer. The good news is that in fifth gear it's not so bad so Ray Lito says "use fifth."
Lap 49 -- TK pitting. Says no power. Dead stick. Blooowwn up, SIR! Cowling coming off. Bad sign. Goodyear says it may be the black box/electrical. Pit crew brings out a giant fork and sticks it into the #11 'cause it's done. Sucks to be AGR.
Wheldon lapping. Coming up on Ed "Time of the Month" Carpenter. Losing the front end when he gets near Ed. Finally gets around Wheldon and gives Ed a little fist shake on the way by.
Lap 50 -- We have 13 cars on the lead lap. Wheldon, Hornish, Dixon, Dario, Vitor, Sharp, Scheckter, Helio, Danica, Rice.
Lap 55 -- Race summary -- Wheldon leads all 55 laps so far. Marco up to 12th. Tony blown up.
Lap 56 -- Dario in. Wheldon in. Jamie -- Little wing for Wheldon. "Terrible" and "pushing horribly." Will Wheldon have to park it due to "handling issues?" I kinda doubt it.
Hornish in. Sharp stalled. He's dead in the water in the middle of pit lane. Pit crew deployed to pull him back. Onboard with Sharp with a great view of the crew dragging it back to the pit. The Root says Sharp did not keep the revs up and stalled it. Looks like they are having trouble getting it started, though.
Lap 64 -- Yellow yellow yellow. Buddy is rolling around the track low. Probably won't make it back to the pit. Bloooown up, SIR.
Lap 66 -- Got a glimpse of the pace car. Looks like a minivan. Maybe Hornish's mom is driving it. Champ Car wins the Battle of the Pace Vehicles with their spanktastic Ford GT and Ford Mustangs.
Helio in under yellow to top off. It's all about the top off these days. IRL oval races are starting to become kind of street/road race-ish. All about the pit strategy. Gas mileage. All about the top off and the slash and go and passing people in the pits. Especially this race which has, like, half a groove out there so if you want to you could "defend your position" for about 24 laps even thought the car behind you is 4 mph faster. What's he or going to do, go high into marble land? For viewers, it's not so fabulous.
I am Indy montage. Vitor 4th. Dario 5th. TK back out on the track. Basically replaced everything electrical, twice. He's 17 laps down.
The Root reports that, no, it wasn't Sharp not keeping the revs up as he said earlier, but that the electrical system fried.
Danica 7th. Rusty is totally impressed with Danica. "Been real impressed." If she keeps it up and works hard, she may make a good NASCAR driver. (OK, I made that last sentence up.)
Marty says Rahal commented earlier but wouldn't go on camera. Rahal says he lived up to his end of the bargain re: Danica. (Brought her through Atlantics and up to the IRL). He hopes she stays and wants her to say. I think it would be bad move for her to go to NASCAR. He plans to have two cars in the field next year at least.
Rusty -- One problem Danica got. Rahal running all over the country. Drivers want the owner with them. Some criticism of Rahal going off to watch his son, Graham, in Atlantics and leaving the IRL team to others. Bobby says everyone else can handle it. He has a good leadership team. Rusty says the drivers, nonetheless, want to know the owner loves them. Marty -- Bobby also says Graham may run a few IRL races next year.
Lap 73 -- Restart. Vitor moves up to 3rd.
Lap 75 -- Wheldon, Hornish, Vitor, Dixon, Scheckter, Dario, Castroneves, Matsuura, Danica, Marco.
Jack with Buddy Rice. Rice says two or three times he'd catch the car in front of him and have electrical issues. Jack: RLR 2006 nightmare, any reason it's bad? Buddy -- If I had that it would be a miracle. All trying hard and working collectively to make it better. Bout time we get rolling something happens. Can't do nothing about it right now.
Rusty -- Rice. Indy 500 champion. Having bad luck right now. Been there. Tough position. Needs to stay with team and work hard. Maybe consider going to NASCAR. (Sorry. I made up that last sentence.)
Goodyear -- RL had a chassis change middle of the season. The whole Dallara Change is Evil thing. Blah blah blah. Gotta wonder how long they will drag that out. Until the end of the year?
Dario has a close moment on the track. Rusty says if you hook wheels on these things it can "send you out of the ballpark." Witness Briscoe's fence climb at Chicago.
Marco 10th and one lap down. Marco on the radio: "Change the front wing next stop and play with my tools because right now we have two problems" after that. Goodyear: Marco one of the best young American drivers to come along in a long time. Rusty: "One thing I know for sure is that this cat can drive." Thought he would win Indy 500. Feisty.
Punch -- a year ago brought Marco to an IRL test and he was "abysmal." Wondered if he could do it on ovals.
Lap 90 -- Hornish passes for the lead underneath. Wheldon may have slipped up the track. Last lap Sam 199 mph and Wheldon 195 mph.
Rusty -- Watch out for Vitor because he is flying.
Rusty -- There should be more blocking in the IRL. "That's one thing I have such a problem with watching here guys." Rusty would have gone down and blocked Hornish. Goodyear -- That's cause you have fenders. Rusty -- In NASCAR we do mirror jobs with cars behind us. (Got a race in open wheel, can't use your ass, Rusty. Sorry.)
Jack with Sharp. Was cruising. Routine stop. Three pit stalls later it was like someone hit the kill switch. Sharp impressed with Vitor.
Lap 100 -- Wheldon, Hornish, Vitor, Dixon, Scheckter, Castroneves, Dario, Matsuura, Danica, Marco.
Jamie -- demo on the marbles. When the track gets hot the track rips the rubber off making marbles and you're going into the wall. Tire is thinner than a credit card.
Rusty -- (we've just been talking about marbles) but there aren't a lot of marbles out there, to tell you the truth. Are there marbles are not? Rusty says they will move up the marbles to create a second line.
Lap 112 -- Dario on the radio telling spotters to tell his teammates to get out of the way. Attention drivers: please pull over for Dario immediately. Thank you.
Lap 119 -- Pit stops coming up. Scheckter in. Good stop. Holy Marco! He blew the half shaft. Just turns it in to the garage driveway. Marty reminds us that Marco broke two earlier in the season. Wheldon in. Jamie says Dan still complaining of a pig car. Severe push.
Dario in. Car is comfortable but not fast. Sam in. 10 seconds. Vitor in. Pitting continues.
Lap 125 -- Hornish, Vitor, Dixon, Helio, Matsuura, Danica, Wheldon, Simmons (!), Marco.
Danica, Kosuke stay out. Danica is SECOND. DANICA IS SECOND. Rusty may lock up tight.
Yellow yellow yellow. Sam is junk. Right rear gone on Sam. He's into the wall. Spinning like a top down into the infield. Holy lucky break for Danica. Huge break. Leaders pit under green. She stays out. Gets a yellow. Shades of Indy.
Goodyear thinks Sam just got into the marbles. Happened before. Sam going high and getting into the wall.
Roger -- Sam got behind Meira, tried to get around, got into the gray. Hit the wall. Down to the pits. Tomas -- busted half shaft. Done it when they are new and when they are old. Just racing. Scheckter is contrite, even.
Arute -- Danica is going to cruise. May be able to stay out for the rest of the race. May move up through attrition and people pealing off for a splash-and-go. Miera and Wheldon may be able to make it to the finish as well. Rusty has a problem with the mixture knob in Indy Cars. Wants to ban it, apparently. They don't have those fancy do-dads in NASCAR.
Lap 138 -- Restart. Green green green.
Lap 150 -- Dixon, Wheldon, Vitor, Danica, Dario, Matsuura, Helio, Simmons, Briscoe (!), Marco.
Lap 151 -- Jamie says Wheldon was told to tuck in behind Dixon. Wheldon radioed back that he doesn't "tuck in" behind anyone. Demanded to talk to the Boss (Ganassi). Ganassi said your mileage sucks, tuck in behind Dixon. Holy White Shoes. Wheldon is calling out the alpha on the radio. We'll see if he tucks.
Punch -- last time Danica was told to save fuel she "almost won" the Indy 500. Danica had big thrill at the Espys -- Meeting Kiefer Sutherland of 24.
Punch -- Dario lives near here. 15 minutes away by chopper. Got Ashley, Wynona and Naomi all in his pit box. Ashley Cam activated! Wynona wants the Gibson guitar that you get for winning Nashville.
Lap 159 -- ESPN goes down the field again. Arute -- Ethanol Special with Jeff Simmons aboard is in the top 10 (8th). First race RLR has brought out "all the trick stuff" for the Dallaras. All the kits are on all three cars. In other words, the Dallaras are starting to be tweaked up. The "ethanol special" is rolling.
Dario on the radio complaining that Danica is blocking. "16 is blocking. Where's the black flag? Where's the black flag?" Dario, wubby, Danica get black flagged? In this race especially? After she said NASCAR right out loud? I hope Dario isn't holding his breath. Replay: looks Danica is throwing a Block Party to me. Major sliding down in front of Dario on a front or back stretch. The Iron Hand of Justice will take a look at that. Right. When Toyotas (pigs) fly out of my butt.
New idea for ABC/ESPN montage. No charge gift from pressdog. Have Barnhart in the booth. Close-ups of him watching stuff, looking through the binoculars, running tape, intercut with action on the track and set to Chamillionaire's song Ridin':
Patrolling they tryin to catch me ridin dirty
Tryin to catch me ridin dirty
Tryin to catch me ridin dirty
Tryin to catch me ridin dirty
Tryin to catch me ridin dirty
My music sold out
They hopin they gonna catch me ridin dirty
Tryin to catch me ridin dirty
Tryin to catch me ridin dirty
Tryin to catch me ridin
Tryin to catch me ridin dirty
Yellow Yellow Yellow. Matsuura into the wall. Goodyear says Matsuura practices well. Qualifies well. Doesn't get to the end of the day. Rusty says Matsuura has been pretty consistent. Many top 5s this year. Replay: All we have is the car against the wall. No video of why. Rusty -- have to deploy the pit reporters to talk to Matsuura to see what the heck happened.
Rusty -- this is by far his best run for Danica this year. (I'd argue that was the 500.) Goodyear -- Danica running the low line trying to make Dario go around the high side.
Punch -- Dario coming in for fuel. Short fuel. Get it out in less than 7.5.
Marty -- only six cars on the lead lap.
Lap 170 -- Punch with Sam -- Sam: car was really good in one and two. Loose off four. Pretty good. Maybe some cold tires. Try to get a run on Vitor. Got into the marbles. No turning. Went straight into the wall. Unfortunate for the team. Sam is back on pit road pulling for Helio. Punch says only way Sam loses points lead is if Helio wins. Sam going to White House to meet President on July 18.
Extendo yellow to weld up the SAFER barrier.
Lap 174 -- Green green green. Danica going to try Vitor inside. That doesn't work out so well. Meira goes under Wheldon for second. Goodyear gives him a big shout out for the move. Much twittering among the announcers.
Lap 175 -- Dixon, Vitor, Wheldon, Danica, Helio, Dario, Simmons (!), Briscoe (!), Dario.
Marty -- How about the determination to win? Danica's got it. Video of Danica re: the bad luck recently -- Have to keep our heads and heart in it. Can't get frustrated. Can't get down. Can't give up in any kind of way. Gotta know we can do it. We can do it. We all now we can get there with the tools we have just going to be a matter of time. (This fits right in with her recent comments about wanting a team committed to winning. Or not.)
Rusty says Danica was concerned about Panoz. Going to work really hard on the Dallara with her team. Danica is great. One of the best performances he's seen her run. Run some of the fastest laps of the race. Goodyear -- run like this may make her think twice before leaving RL. Helio behind Danica.
18 to go. Vitor. Goodyear calls Block Party! Vitor changed line to give Wheldon some dirty air. Barnhart is sitting on his black flag. Goodyear is sure the IRL may not like too much of that.
Rusty declares Vitor and Danica the stars of the night. Marty reminds us that Vitor has never won. Zero for 60-some races, I think.
16 to go. Vitor pushing up and had to get out of the throttle. Goodyear -- Danny Wheldon has to do it now.
Lap 190 -- Dixon, Vitor, Wheldon, Danica, Helio, Dario, Simmons, Marco, Briscoe.
10 to go. Wheldon under Vitor. Almost touch. HOLY NEAR MISS. Vitor almost doughnuts Wheldon and just misses a Scheckter/Kenny Breck at Texas moment. Major chest grabbing. We're looking at about three inches apart at 200 mph. Danica takes look high on Vitor but has to get out of it.
8 to go -- Replay of the Wheldon pass. Major bullet dodged. Rusty says it was about like Chicago last year when Briscoe got launched into the fence. "Shot him out of the ball park."
Wheldon swinging high coming into the corner trying to dive under. Dixon is glued to the bottom line. Not going to pass. Going to take a mistake from Dixon.
2 to go. Goodyear -- Dixon just needs to stay low and protect inside. Marty -- can't go around high. White flag. Wheldon high again. Dixon glued down to the bottom. Game over.
Dixon wins. "You're the man, mate!" on the radio. Danica 4th. Best run of the year.
Lap 200 -- Dixon, Sheldon, Miera, Danica, Helio, Dario, Simmons, Marco, Briscoe, Ed.
Punch with Chip -- Led a lot of laps. Beat ourselves a lot. Sorry Sam went out of the race wanted to beat him fair and square. (A cool thing to say, I thought.) Dixon is a good driver.
What a difference a year and real engine makes.
Dixon had to wait to get out of his car until they came back from commercial. Very spontaneous. It's been three years since an oval win for Dixon. Jamie is deployed. Calls the Nashville guitar one of the coolest trophies in sports. Dixon -- car was consistent in traffic. Bent the front end a little bit in a bang with Helio. Fuel mileage was awesome. Being out front it was easy to "protect." If it came down to speed Wheldon would have won, probably.
Punch with Dario -- Long day. Didn't get a proper warm up yesterday because of mechanical. Didn't know what would do in these condition. Got blocked by a couple of people. Danica especially was blocking. Dario says he may go to NASCAR (made that last part up).
Root with Danica -- Been a while. Since Indy last year for running in top 5. I just need a run up here. Get car fast enough to run up here and qualify so we don't have to mess around in the back. One of these days it will be a win. Get a jump on the start, something. We were "pit next lap" and then "yellow yellow yellow" so crank down on it to save fuel. Learned that luck is a part of this. Arute - Dario says you were blocking. Danica. -- Well, I was protecting. Nothing illegal about staying on the inside. I wanted the inside and I kept it. If Barnhart or someone has something to say about it that's fine. I think that being nervous and being under pressure is better for me.
Hornish keeps the points lead. Dixon is like one behind.
Jamie with Wheldon. Jamie says there were tempers at the end. Much radio talk. Video of Wheldon stopping after race and chucking out the steering wheel. Wheldon -- I was a little confused. I wasn't sure if I should let Vitor go or stay behind or what. I was very confused.
Vitor with Arute -- how close was the Wheldon pass. Vitor -- closer than that is the "dah-nit" (doughnut) from Texas.
Rusty -- Lot of drivers like concrete. Goodyear -- look forward to next week in Milwaukee. Lot of wheel-to-wheel. One mile flat track. Drivers play a big role in that.
Tune in July 23, 1:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN for the Milwaukee Mile.