pressdog's beer of the race this week is Boulevard Wheat, brewed in Kansas City, Mo. Opaque. Unfiltered. Slightly fruity. The 'dog digs it. Intro montage. Welcome to the heart of the Midwest. Many "Midwest images." Corn. Barn. Windmill. "America's Heartland." Texas and Richmond flashbacks. "Who can rise above the wheat and the heat here in twister town?"
Mid-90s for temps. Marty, Rusty, Scott in the booth. Rusty -- It's all about speed. IRL cars are 35 mph faster than NASCARs. Photo finishes here all the time, expect another today.
Scott -- Kosuke qualified 5th. Vitor Meira 6th. Buddy Lazier 7th (!) Always watch for Marco.
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius gives us the "Lady and gentlemen, driver's all, start your engines!"
"Two Hot Nights" montage. Texas, complete with Dan ripping his arm away from mean old Jamie Little (get her in a car!). Radio audio from Marco talking about his car having no grip.
Down to Jamie for a Danica Patrick update -- Jamie says Danica is struggling. New chassis = trouble. I think the ABC/ESPN peeps should give "chassis" the European pronounciation: "shasee."
Starting lineup: Dan "White Shades" Wheldon, Sam Hornish Jr., Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Matsuura, Vitor "Naked Sidepods" Meira, Buddy Lazier, Tomas Scheckter, Buddy Rice, Scott Sharp, Marco, Danica Patrick, Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchiti, Bryan "World of" Herta, Ed Carptenter, Jeff Simmons, Felipe Giaffone, Eddie Cheever Jr. 20 whole cars!
Let's light this candle -- green, green, green. Might have been the governor waving the flag. We're off and doing 26-second laps. Wheldon leads.
Kanaan was pissy before the race. Churlish. Now he's rocking through the field up from 13th to 6th in two laps.
Jerry Punch, MD -- He's never seen Tony so pissed as when he climbed into the car. They changed a bunch of stuff. Either he's going to be rally fast or pig slow. We'll see.
Onboard with Vitor. Rusty says Kanaan is continuing to march through the field.
Hornish goes on the high side around Wheldon. Wheldon moves him up. Rusty declares KS a great race track for side-by-side racing. Like Homestead, which was a "real neat deal."
Lap 8 -- Hornish leads and says buh-bye.
Rusty -- "Boy these cars scream around this joint."
Jack Arute -- Hornish has Roger Penske on his side. Roger is very smart. Roger saw that Wheldon was getting a little loose on his in-car camera and radioed it right to Hornish. Penske is frighteningly smart.
Today is Sam's 27th birthday. Sam says, "I think I've got a great opportunity to win and it's my birthday so what better birthday present could I get than to win the race?"
Lap 14 -- Wheldon and Hornish have it in cruise control up front, so let's take a look at Vitor 6th vs. Scheckter 7th.
Rusty -- Vitor Meira is always a surprise. Week after week in the top five despite being underfunded.
Vitor talked to John Barnes and asked him to take out a bunch of downforce and make it as close to qualifying trim as possible. Rusty is amazed that Vitor would race in qualifying trim.
Hornish has led something like 400 laps so far this year.
Lap 24 -- Jamie -- Back in Houston AJ Foyt has a knee replaced and told everyone "If I knew it was going to hurt this bad I never would have done it." Jamie thinks AJ checked himself out of the hospital yesterday. Imagine the doctor's and nurses who worked on AJ. Probably all real busted up to see him leave the hospital.
Sam is now 1.2 seconds in front of Dixon.
Lap 25 -- Hornish, Dixon, Wheldon, Castroneves, Kanaan, Tomas, Vitor, Ed Carpenter, Matsuura, Rice.
Wheldon side-by-side with Dixon. Wheldon stays in front.
Lap 28 -- Carpenter 8th, Rusty points out that in the last nine days Penske has won everything. Penske has all his organization flying right now.
Down to Punch in Chip's pit. Here's Barry Wasser, in charge of race strategery. There's Andy Brown, engineer. My viewing is enhanced. Dan is "loose in, tight off" whatever that means. Thanks for the lingo, Jerry. No idea what it means, but still.
Rusty -- This is Wheldon's type of race track. If Wheldon is going to get back on track it's got to be today.
Goodyear -- Wheldon has led 345 laps so far this year. Ganassi handled the change from Panoz to Dallara over the off season.
Lap 32 -- Ed in the pits. Blown up, sir! No urgency. Jamie deployed -- Ed had gone from 16 to 8th when the pitch engine changed and felt it losing power. Not looking good for Carp.
Lap 34 -- Sam leads by 2.2 seconds.
Lap 36/37 -- Yellow yellow yellow. Helio goes ass-first into the wall but just barely kisses it with the rear wing. Just a little smooch. Rear wing is knocked forward but not off. Video shows Helio getting loose in the corner then going around.
Rusty -- backed it right in as square as you possibly can.
Goodyear recalls that Helio stayed out at Richmond when his tire was going low rather than coming in. Smart. Rather than come in and fix it and lose a bunch of spots, Helio stayed out until it shredded, bringing out the final yellow and giving his teammate the win. Penske may, in fact, be as smart as God.
Pitting -- The Root: Hornish in. Got a little wing. Out. Helio in. Didn't replace the wing. They eyeballed it and sent him back around to come back in again so as not to lose a lap. Bring it back in, change the wing. Since this is going to be a six lap yellow for some reason, Helio has plenty of time. Why the yellow is so long, I'm not sure. Would have been nice to have the announcer crew wonder why the yellow is so long when there is no debris. Or was there? Not sure. None of my business.
Helio has time to come in and pit about five times and get the new rear wing. Jack says it will take about 20 seconds to put the wing on.
Dixon beats Hornish out of the pits. Leads.
Helio in the pits. Cindrick says "let's go guys" on the radio and Helio takes off. Goes about 15 feet. Left rear guy nearly gets run over, but he's tough as nails. Iron man! Bounces off the tire and has the presence of mind to push Helio's car back so he can take off. Left rear guy is John Finch-something. Pressdog Toughguy of the Race Award winner!
Lap 45. Dario is 11th and will get a drive-through penalty. That's going to make him happy.
Lap 46 -- Green green green. Sam goes high off the green and around Dixon like a shot. Tony is side-by-side with Wheldon. Rusty's big concern is if the rear wing is on good.
Lap 48 -- Danica 14th. Helio 12th.
Lap 50 -- (Try to act shocked) Hornish, Wheldon, Dixon, Kanaan, Scheckter, Vitor, Rice, Matsuura, Prince Marco, Simmons (!)
Lap 54 -- Dixon and Wheldon are side-by-side again. Herta is in a World of since he's a lap down.
Jerry -- Wheldon got major front wing and air pressure changes. Much better after the pit stop. Dixon had minimal air pressure and wing changes. Dixon and Wheldon are going to go nose-to-tail and try to run Sam down.
Jack shows us the four bolts that hold the rear wing on. Also says there's a 15-20 mph wind that's coming down the front straight that has the drivers kind of cranky. Goodyear says headwind going into 1, tail wind going into 3. Tail wind makes the cars understeer. Head wind no big deal.
Dario got his penalty for passing under the yellow. I can imagine many, many obscenities over the radio channels. Michael Andretti and the AGR pit posse have gotten zero air the last two races. When they were winning they got more air time than Jamie Little. Now we get zip.
Marco and Buddy Rice battle for 8th.
Time for the recurring segment called "Why Stock Cars are Pigs Compared to Indy Cars." Rusty says stock cars need air flow down the right side or it's bad news. Indy cars need flow over the top or it's bad news. That's why Indy Cars can go side-by-side and it's hard for stock cars to do the same. Rusty loves the side-by-side stuff.
Lap 58 -- Helio passes Herta. Helio is now in 11th.
Sam is lapping people. Working on Simmons.
Lap 63 -- Sam still working on Simmons. Looks like a fab crowd in the background.
Race recap -- Hornish continues to bitchslap. Dixon and Wheldon are looking good. Kanaan is moving up. Helio backs into the wall but stays on the lead lap thanks to an extendo-yellow. Danica is last person on the lead lap right now.
Jack -- Sam has no problems. Jack tells some story about what Sam's wife, Crystal was going to buy Sam a birthday present but she couldn't. Not sure what that was all about.
Punch -- Dan Wheldon says the car was "driving like a pig in traffic." Wheldon is using pressdogisms. "Driving like a pig" is clearly a pressdogism. I'm taking credit for it. I bet Wheldon is a huge fan of the p-dog. After the adjustments in the pits it's much better. De-pigged.
Dixon is being very patient. Very comfortable. Kanaan is having a bad weekend capped off by Brazil losing to France in the World Cup tournament.
Jamie says Scheckter was 8th and now 5th. If he can keep it out of the wall, he might have a shot.
Jack -- Vitor says he's really hungry. Hungry because they are so close.
Matsuura looking just to finish.
Jamie says Jeff "No relation to Gene" Simmons has the ethanol car in the 11th spot. There are 300 members of an ethanol group that sponsors Simmons in the stands. Looking for a top 10 finish.
Danica having severe understeer. Being 5 feet tall makes it hard for her to see out of the Dallara. Dallara's are just the root of all evil.
Punch -- Dario is pissed. ("Frustrated and angry") appealing to the league on the penalty (This just in from Paul Tracy: "Good luck with that.") Dario said people weren't closing up on Sam under yellow and it sucked.
Lap 75 -- (Stop me if you've heard this one before) Hornish, Wheldon, Dixon, Kanaan, Scheckter, Vitor, Matsuura, Marco, Rice, Helio.
Lap 84 -- Danica lapped. In-car shows Danica shifting a lot. Not a good sign.
Lap 90 -- Yellow, yellow, yellow for "debris." May have been a "God, Hornish may lap the field" yellow. Hornish' 1.3-second lead is wiped out. Sharp and Simmons get a break because they were about to bed lapped.
Back to our feature "Why NASCARs are pigs compared to Indy Cars." Indy Car record at KS is 218.5. mph. IRL Race record speed is 180.5 mph. Nextel Cup qualifying record is 180.85 mph. At that rate, Goodyear would lap Rusty once every 5 laps. Not really though because Rusty would just drive Goodyear up into the wall, mash him like a little bug, call it "hard driving" and receive no penalty from NASCAR.
Danica 13th and has a lot of work to do on the Dallara. Needs more seat time in the new chassis. Again, the chassis is pure evil. You'd think she was going from a sprint car to F1 the way they talk about the transition.
Video of Danica running over the air hose in someone else' pit. No penalty! That will sit great with Dario.
After a nine-lap caution for "debris," which the announcing posse didn't care to explain, we're on lap 99 and green green green.
Wheldon leads on the restart. Sam makes a run. Gets around. Says "buh-bye."
Lap 101 -- (I swear, this may shock you) Hornish, Wheldon, Dixon, Matsuura, Kanaan, Meira, Marco, Rice, Simmons (!), Helio.
Video of the restart madness. Reminds me of a road course restart. People going high and low. Vitor wedges through by the wall. Much circus music.
Vince says Dixon is going to try and come up behind Wheldon and give him a push. Two Ganassi may be able to beat one Penske.
Penske and Ganassi have led 94% of all laps this year.
Lap 108 -- ABC recycles an old Interview that I saw before, possibly at Texas or Richmond, of Wheldon talking about how Penkse and Ganassi are dominating. Dudes, get some fresh material.
Goodyear says his son, Michael, has to have a red go kart with #10 on it. Wonder if Michael Goodyear also wears white boots.
Tony looks to me to be blocking. But I'm no expert. We'd have to consult Sharp for an expert opinion. Photos of the Penske shop in PA that got flooded. Not real good. Penske is out of there anyway, moving his whole deal to North Carolina.
Dixon passing Wheldon on the inside. So much for "get in a line and catch Sam."
Lap 116 -- Helio up to 8th. Kanaan appears to be blocking Matsuura. But, again, I'm no expert.
Lap 125 -- Hornish, Wheldon, Dixon, Kanaan, Matsuura, Vitor, Helio, Scheckter, Marco, Rice.
Lap 126 -- Punch says Kanaan is doing all kinds of stuff in the cockpit. Adjusting everything trying to get it to run. better.
Lap 129 -- Vitor is working on Kosuke.
lap 133 Vitor and Kanaan going at it. Vitor high. Side-by-side. Vitor getting major air this week.
Scheckter gets into the fight for 4th through 8th.
Marty declares P1, 2, and 3 are in "lock-step formation."
Lap 137 -- Danica may be two laps down now. Or perhaps just one. I think Hornish is closing in again.
Note -- True story: I had a dream that I hung out with Danica for a while. We talked. We had drinks. I told her I thought her best drive in the IRL was the 2006 Indy 500 (which I do) and in the end we were kind of tight. Strange, yet true.
In-car video of Wheldon getting loose. Goodyear suggests the weight jacker to make the car less "nervous."
Lap 147 -- Jack displays the wooden stick pit crews use to thwack their fueler when there is enough fuel in the car so he knows to stop.
Scheckter is in the top 5. Gets around Meira.
Lap 149 -- pitting. Hornish in. 10.5. Danica in. Got a couple of turns of wing. Stalls.
Goodyear points out that it's really hot and IRL drivers don't have "cool suits" and other stuff like the weenie NASCAR guys do.
Scheckter in. 11.1 seconds. Marco in. 11.7 seconds. Stalls it.
Circus music in the pits!
Sharp in. 10.9 seconds.
Marco's stall costs him. Wheldon's quicker pit stop gives him the lead. Rusty declares the pit work perfect. So this time nobody can blame the pit guys, I guess. They gave him the lead.
Wheldon is loving life.
Lap 155 -- Wheldon, Hornish, Dixon, Kanaan, Helio, Matsuura, Scheckter, Meira, Sharp, Rice, Simmons (!) Rice is radioing (who's car is this one with the "e" on it in my mirrors?)
Lap 166 -- Wheldon leads. Kanaan 4th. Danica is two laps down.
Yellow yellow yellow. Scott Sharp is into the wall. Ass-first. Rear end went out or something. Marty says the "Delphi Safety Safari Crew" is on the job.
Yellow lets Hornish close in on Wheldon. Not good.
Booth guys on camera. Marty says since this is the Kansas Lottery Indy 300, Helio should be buying a ticket since he's so lucky. Rusty (I swear I'm not making this up): "If anyone gets the 'I just got lucky award' it should be Helio." Wow. That must have been some pit stop. Did Helio, you know, turn the trick?
Jack -- Mrs. Hornish, Crystal, is wearing the Rocking Republic jeans (and quite well, I gotta say) that she wore when Sam won Indy AND Richmond. So she's got the lucky jeans on.
Jamie with Scott -- Scott says the left rear went down or blew or something and he was toast.
We are going GREEN. Lap 175 -- (Prepare to be shocked) Wheldon, Hornish, Dixon, Kanaan, Matsuura, Helio, Vitor, Scheckter, Marco, Simmons.
Lap 176 -- yellow yellow yellow. Rice into the wall. Says "sorry" on the radio. Replay shows car gets twitchy and almost takes out Simmons and Marco.
Down to Jamie with Rice. Rice says the car lost air and back end "stepped out" and got away. Qualified 9th. Running 6th to 9th all day. Just disappointed. Jamie (gamely) "Was it the Dallara chassis?" Rice. No. Chassis had no effect. Go figure. It still may be Satan's Chassis though.
Down to Mike Hall, race strategist for Dixon. Apparently Dixon was not happy on the most recent restart. Some talk from the booth that Hornish pushed him below the white line. Nobody really says why Dixon was pissed, just that he was pissed. None of our business, I guess.
Helio pits. Doing something strange under front intakes. Helio doesn't run over anyone in the pits this time. Jack says they were putting more downforce into the car so they could make it to the end for sure and pick up some max points. Keep Helio out of the wall.
Lap 183 -- Green. Hornish leads. Dixon falling back. Kanaan on restart swerves through about seven people.
11 to go. Marco is one lap down but Marty claim he's fighting for third. "Four cars battling for 3rd" (except for Marco, who is 9th.) Goodyear finally sets the record straight that Marco, who is lapped traffic, is racing with three cars on the lead lap. For most non-Andretti cars, that's not cool on lap 190.
Lap 190 -- Hornish, Wheldon, Kanaan (!) Vitor, Dixon, Scheckter, Matsuura, Helio, Marco, Simmons.
Miera and Marco battling. Marco is 9th, Meira is 4th. Marty theorizes that maybe Marco should get out of there since he's a lap down. Ya think? Goodyear says "that's not going to happen." He's an Andretti, DAMN IT. Will everyone just please pull over for young Marco? Goodyear suggests people remember "what goes around comes around." Awesome point, Scott. Yes, young Skywalker. Some day you'll be fighting for third and Vitor will be 10th and a lap down and don't expect him to get out of your way.
Meira finally gets around Marco. Meanwhile Wheldon takes a run at Hornish with about three to go. Much near-touching. Much booth groaning. Wheldon is high and Hornish is low. Hornish isn't moving from the white line any time soon.
White flag. Wheldon goes back out high. Not going to happen, I don't think. Through three, through four. At the line it's Hornish. Cut to Crystal in her jeans.
Holy tight air-time window. Apparently ABC only has two hours for this race and since it's 1:55 central time and Rusty has to try and talk to Hornish via CB radio. "Sam Hornish, this is Rusty Wallace in the booth. You got us?" Tries twice. Sorry. Sam isn't answering his cell phone while driving his parade lap, apparently.
Lap 200 -- Hornish, Wheldon, Vitor, Dixon, Kanaan, Helio, Scheckter, Marco (lap down), Simmons (!) Danica 11th.
I'd have love to see Jamie chase down Wheldon's pit boss as he is stalking angrily back to his trailer after giving Wheldon the lead with a killer pit stop. "We got Dan out in front and he just gave it away. Gifted another one to Ganassi. It's very FRUS-trating. We had a fun-tastic pit stop." That would have been cool, but no.
Marty says to zip over to ESPN 2 for the interviews. Where I watched the race didn't have ESPN 2 so sucks to be me.
Tune in for the next race at Nashville July 15, 7 p.m. central on ESPN.