Greetings from Section 259 of Kansas Speedway, on the waaaaaaay far turn one end of the grandstands. It's 3:05 p.m., about an hour from race time, and I'm sitting next to a guy who looks like, I swear, Jack Nicholson. I didn't have the nerve to take his photo in case it was Jack and he would have then pitched me over the railing to land on the pretzel guy 15 feet below.
Instead I'm enjoying the tremendous Kansas sunshine with my buddy, Jose Cuervo, who is all dressed up in his margarita suit. I bought Jose from a Knights of Columbus vendor who told a few of us eager customers that the previous vendor got TOSSED OUT after the amusing N-word truck races Saturday, apparently for drinking too much of their own product. Boogity boogity boogity let's go drinkin', boys!
Anyway, the Kansas Speedway is doing a great job pumping out the hard rock and the audio montages, heavy toward the Danica WINS end of the montage scale.
3:10 p.m. -- Cars to the pit lane! Kind of a late arriving crowd. Hard to tell how many will eventually show up. Now we got an interview with Wheldon who says today's start is a "funtastic achievement for Target Chip Ganassi racing." Clearly, the Target Twins are supersonic at this track, so everybody else may be racing for third.
3:25 p.m. -- It's a Festival of Red Mustangs. Each driver gets introduced on the I am MINDY stage at the start finish and then they jump into the back of one of about 25 red Mustang convertibles to circle the track. Much with the waving.
So let's toss in our starting lineup here: Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon, Danica Patrick, Tomas Scheckter (!), AJ Foyt 4, Ed Carpenter, Marty Roth (!), Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe, Vitor Meira, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter Reay, Hideki Mutoh, Marco Andretti, Jay Howard, Darren Manning, Ernesto Viso, Will Power, Jaime Camara, Graham Rahal, Buddy Rice, Justin Wilson, Oriol Servia, Milka Duno, Enrique Bernoldi, Bruno Junqueria, Mario Moraes. Moraes crashed in practice, just as I got to the track on Saturday morning. Slapped it back together. Look for N-word speeds from Mario.
I swear to God Danica Patrick's extended family is sitting about 10 rows in front of me in Section 257. I saw them at the Danica trailer with Bev and they are resplendent in their Danica gear, including some old-school RLR #16 Danica hats. And now they are clearly following me, hoping to get monster air from pressdog. Well, here you go -- Danica Fam, huge shout out from the pdog. They all stood and cheered as the Danicker went by in her Mustang, and rightly so.
Danica got a nice ovation from the assembling throng in general when she was introduced. And the merchandise tents were total hockey scrums with people vying for Danica stuff. After the race some dudes were getting their picture taken with a Danica life-sized standee in the IndyCar merch tent. For just $29.99 you could take a life-sized Danica home. My youngest daughter has expressed interest in Danica stuff so I'll probably contribute to the Patrick Family Empire when the show comes to Iowa.
True story: Day after Danicker won in Motegi, my youngest selected, all on her own, a Sarah Fisher shirt to wear to school. She must have felt a shift in the force. Sarah Skywalker. Danica Vader. I slay me.
The fans get welcomed by many people via public address system, including the mayor of KC, Kan. and a track official dude. Kansas Speedway says it wants to be "the best fan experience in motor sports" and the are doing a great job with it.
3:55 p.m. -- One minute until start engines. Invocation. National Anthem. FLY OVER. Shit-ch-ya -- goosebumps, every time. Turn and burn boys. Everyone is reaching for their matches because we all want to light this candle.
I'm listening to the race officials on my rent-a-scanner trying to pick out The Voice of Brian Barnhart, the Iron Hand of Justice. Hard to tell. Someone comes on and gives the COMMAND to clear the track. I see a Black Hawk military helicopter flying over the back parking lot. May be there to enforce the IHJ's authoritah.
4:14 p.m. Danica in her car and on the radio: "Good luck today guys. Let's go get them again."
Drivers in the cars. Roger (father) and Britney (daughter) who's last name I do not know will give the command. Roger is a big guy at Time Warner Cable. Britney: "Lady" Roger: "and gentlemen" Together: "Start your engines!"
Nice job. Props. When I got back home I figured out that an LPGA golf delayed the start of the broadcast so I couldn't scoop up their names off the recording. Sucks to be my DVR right here. I've got some great video of women's golf. I have big plans to try and watch the whole broadcast on my $39.99 Race Director on-demand feature. My experience with such services has been dodgy at best, though, so I'm not real confident I'll ever see the first 20-some laps of this race on TV (or my $39.99 again). So far Race Director has been zero value to me. Just sayin'. (Checked for the replay at 8 a.m. the Monday after the race and so far not posted.)
It occurs to me that maybe the LPGA playoff that pre-empted the start of the race was God's way of sparing me the Festival of Danica Montages.
On the grid, the IndyCar officials go down the line in a kind of cool pre-flight radio check in. "Row one, both cars hot." "Row two, both cars hot" etc. It's almost like a fighter jet's engine coming up to speed as the pilot clicks through the knobs and buttons in preparation to light the candle.
Grid rolling. Massive goosebumps. We're going green third time by.
pressdog's beer of the race is Budweiser 16-ounce tall boy track beer purchased from the Support Our Troops vendor on the turn one plaza.
Everybody up. Here they come out of three and four. Let's light this candle ... we are green-green-green.
Yellow yellow yellow. Enrique Bernoldi does a spin-o-rama out of turn two, I believe, making contact with the SAFER barrier.
Danica on the radio. Not real not impressed with Scheckter who went from fourth to second. "He's going to drive like this all day," Danica tells Kyle Moyer on the radio.
Laps 4 -- Pits are open. Pitting. All the former Champ Car guys pit from the rear of the field. Might as well.
Lap 5 -- 1 to go at the line. Lap 6 we are .... GREEN.
Right in here I'm trying to decide if something what smells kind of like warm maple syrup is from the vendor area below me or the smell of ethanol exhaust. Strange.
Danica holds her 4th-place position. Scheckter is rocking and Cuatro is looking hard around Danica. Briscoe just inhaled about five cars.
Lap 10 -- Dixon, Scheckter, Wheldon, Danica, Foyt, Helio, Ed, Kanaan, Vitor, Marco.
Lap 12 -- Will Power looking high on Milka.
Lap 14 -- Tony is P8. Settled in there. Manning takes Helio in turn three -- woooooooo Nelly he's way high and way out of it to keep it out of the wall. Loses five spots in one "moment."
Lap 17 -- Wheldon looks high on Scheckter the whole lap before finally getting him at the start finish.
Lap 19 -- Order restored -- the Target Twins are lock step. Up on Scheckter by a couple of seconds.
Lap 23 -- Yellow Yellow Yellow.
My DVR picks up the TV broadcast here with the usual suspects -- Marty Ried and Scott Goodyear in the booth, Vince Welch, Jack Arute and Brie Pedigo in the pits. Power into the wall. Saw it live. Turn 2-ish.
Jack with Mark Johnson, Power's engineer. Jack -- Not what you wanted. Mark -- no it wasn't. Take time for Will to learn the ovals. Viewing enhanced.
Lap 26 -- A festival of pitting is coming up. Everyone pits except for Wilson and Bernoldi. Down to Brie in Scheckter's pit. Brie -- Thomas in. "Oh MY GOSH someone just got hit." Brie says Simon Morely, right front changer for Scheckter, just got rammed by Marty Roth's car. WTF? Cue the Circus music.
Marty's car came in and kind of hit Simon in the ass as he was down on both knees changing Scheckter's right front. Marty's pit crew comes running down to get him. Morely is a total stud as he pulls his lower legs out from under Marty's car and goes hustling for the tire that got away from him. He's got to be all like, "Yeah, I got hit by a car, so what? Gonna need to bring a bigger car next time to knock me out of this deal, chief."
A miniature helicopter lands on the infield and 31 clowns jump out and start pushing cars in random directions. One of Scheckter's pit crew is trying to push the car back when Marty's crew is pushing it forward and he gets his foot run over.
Security Chief Charles to track side! The Scheckter crew guy who got his foot run over punches Marty in the helmet. 16 clowns run up and start tasering each other. Marty Ried -- IndyCar officials might want to have a look at that.
Brie reports that Simon is shaken up but uninjured. Calls flood in for Simon to appear on the next American Gladiators program.
Pitting replays. Again with the punching to the head. Clowns run up and down pit lane pretending to throw bucket fulls of water at crew members but it's just confetti!
Marty Reid says that Marty Roth will have to come in for a 30-second stop and hold penalty. I'm sure a Big 3 car that did something similar would have a similar penalty because it's nothing but fair in the IRL. If your sidepods are blank, you're treated exactly like if they have, say, Target or 7-Eleven on them.
Justin Wilson leads with Dixon, Cuatro, Whedlon, Ed, Helio, Brisco, Danica. When we go green look for Dixon to totally DUST Wilson. Vince reports Danica lost three spots on pit lane because she came in crooked and the crew had to straighten her out. I don't believe anyone slugged Danica in the helmet, however.
Lap 33 -- GREEN. Dixon hits the afterburner and is around Wilson by mid turn 1.
Lap 35 -- Wheldon is up to second, Tony passes Danica.
Dixon, Wheldon, Wilson (!), Ed, Cuatro, Helio, Briscoe, Marco, Danica, Vitor.
Holy Crap -- looks like Danica threw a block party on TV for Vitor. Goodyear -- "as she's trying to defend her position."
Lap 36 -- Mike Andretti on video re: Danica. Win was great for her. Let's her relax. Gets monkey off back. Relieves a lot of the self-inflicted pressure.
Lap 38 -- Viso looking to pass people. He's 12th and still on the lead lap. Goodyear gives him mad props.
Lap 39 -- Viso under Danica? WTF? Satan starts pulling on some woolen underwear. Viso slides high under Danica. Holy Princess Sparkle Pony Squeeze play! Danica has to take evasive maneuver Zerbra Bravo.
Danica on the radio: "He almost put me into the wall." TJ is on the scoring tower with a high-powered rifle and his hat backwards. Moyer -- We have 160 laps to go in this thing. Stay calm.
Lap 46 -- Ed is P3 (!), Brie says Ed is starting to play with the fuel mixture to save gas in P3. Ed told Brie that going to a two-car team from a three-car team was good because it helped them concentrate their resources.
Welch -- Tony's car "just came alive" after the recent stop. Is rocking. Tony put Danica's setup on his car since mechanical issues kept him from practicing too much.
Lap 50 -- Dixon, Wheldon, Ed, Foyt, Tony, Briscoe, Helio, Andretti, Viso (!), Scheckter. Scheckter has rocked up from 22nd after the Marty Roth Pit Incident to 10th in 13 laps. Danica is 14th and has slid back a few places after her last pit stop. Viso has passed her. Temperature drops 25 degrees in Kansas as sun starts to freeze.
Lap 51 -- someone from race control comes on the radio and reminds everyone that there is a long way to go, be patient. RHR is closing on Danica. He's actually one car behind and closing the gap. Much cheering in the RLR pit.
Lap 55 -- RHR working on Danica. Wilson pits.
Lap 61 -- Danica montage. Super Girl song. Marty says she's not super girl today. Danica started third and has been in reverse, currently 13th.
Lap 63 -- Marty -- Tip of the hat (no shout out?) to Viso who is rocking. P7! Manning, oval and IndyCar veteran, gets inhaled by Viso. Foyt Team. It's not happening again this year. Foyt and DRR have major issues that make staying on the lead lap a challenge this year (as they did last year). Right on cue, Milka lapped.
Lap 66 -- Moyer tells Danicker she'll pit in 9 laps. Marco and Danica both call for some wing.
Lap 70 --Dixon, Wheldon, Ed, TK, Briscoe, Foyt, Viso (!), Helio, Marco, Scheckter.
Lap 73 -- pitting. Marty says everyone has the wick turned up. Again with the wick references. Now Goodyear is doing it too. TK pits. Holy Clown Car. Milka is sideways in the pit. Not sure how that happened. Just got some video of her basically perpendicular to her pit box. Citgo guys go running down there but can't get there due to 18 clowns throwing rubber chickens at them.
Dixon pitting. Lap 77. Made it 50 laps on his last tank of fuel. Jack -- Dixon and Dan come out and while it's not quite Dancing with the Stars, but a two-car tango could help them save fuel. Note: there's actually a Helio Dancing with the Stars T-shirt you can get at the IndyCar merchandise tent. It features a picture of Helio in the Flying Banana suite. I was THIS close to buying one.
Danica gets out in front of Marco and may even have thrown a bit of a block party to keep him in back of her on pit road. Vince says Danica had no grip in traffic.
Lap 79 through 86 Danica has her wick out now and is closing on the pack in front of her.
Replay of Power's wreck. Vince (I think) with Power -- Manning slowed up a little and I got caught out. I wasn't sure where Milka was so I didn't want to go high and then I lost the air on the car. You need to look far ahead in this kind of racing. Power is kind of a nervous guy in person. But I dig him and he can race on the streets, baby. Mad skillz.
Marco and Danica battle for 8 and 9.
Marty gives another shout to Viso. Goodyear covers the availability of weight jackers and roll bars in the cars.
Lap 92 -- RHR pitting. Got issues. Brie says he lost 5th and now has bad vibration. Swapping out the transmission on pit road.
Marty drops a "lock step" (!) because the leaders are stretching out.
Lap 97 -- Dixon, Wheldon, Ed, Briscoe, Kanaan, Helio, Foyt, Danicker, Marco, Scheckter.
Yellow Yellow Yellow. Scheckter and Viso are spinning like tops out of turn 4, into the front straight much-logoed grass. Viso gathers it up and drives through the infield grass in a deliciously street-race-ish moment. Scheckter is toast, though. Replays so Viso slides high into Scheckter and they are just passengers then. Scheckter out and OK and jogging to the pit.
Danica reports her car is good, gets a little nervous when she gets out of the throttle. Moyer says AJ Foyt 4 is "trying to show off for everyone, that's for sure."
Lap 100. Half way. Festival of pitting coming. Marco screams "It won't shift" into his radio. Having issues. May have to go to "emergency mode." Yellow benefits Wilson who was off sequence and got his lap back. No damage to Viso's car. Just flat-spotted the tires.
Vitor in. Left front tie rod is bent. Replays. Vitor bashes into one of Buddy Rice's tires laid out in his pit box. Brie with Vitor -- pissed. Claims Rice's peeps have been putting their shit outside the box all day. Finally hit it. Must not have video because we don't see it or it's none of our business.
Lap 103 -- Wave around. Some people sitting in front of me up and leave. Dude. Lap 103 and you're leaving? Cold.
Lap 107 -- Green. Dixon jumps to hyper space causing a sonic boom at the track. Wheldon follows.
Lap 108 -- Milka gets black flagged. Illegal Clown Car Maneuver or something. The IHJ is CRACKING DOWN -- on cars with no chance to win.
Danica and Marco continue to battle on the track. I think at one point Danica radios that maybe they could cooperate here a little. It's hard to understand Danica on the radio. Pretty sure "cooperating" means Danica goes first and Marco pushes from behind.
Lap 114 -- Arute says Penske cars aren't fast enough to challenge Target, but the 7-11 car "wants to super size things and is slurping up the difference, Guys ...?"
Everyone is busting out into fuel conservation mode here. Another fuel race. OMG. I may have a brain aneurysm. Danica gets told to go to fuel position THREE.
117 -- Graham may have white walled on the exit of 2. Replay. Up into the marbles and may have brushed the wall.
Replay of Viso and Scheckter. Brie with Scheckter -- He came up a little but on me but that's fine. We're not in the championship. Want to thank Symantec, sponsors. Learned a lot going into Indy.
Dude, Scheckter declines to DISS Viso. WTF? No gloves will be thrown today, apparently.
Lap 130 -- Marty reminds everyone Eddie Cheever will be in the booth for the month of May. Marty is looking forward to it since Cheever and Goodyear are basically "oil and water" and "ying and yang." Goodyear -- You may have to stay in between is. It's a race notes DREAM is what it is, boys. I'll be frothing.
Lap 133 -- Wilson's pit radios him and asks how the car is. Wilson -- "Great, just not nearly quick enough."
Lap 136 -- Danica goes waaaaaaaay high. Woe nelllly, up into the gray out of 1 (I believe) and way out of the gas. Loses about five spots all at once.
Japanese announcer Danica Wins montage. Guy is jacked up on Red Bull and coffee or something. Blizzard of Japanese words and then "DANICA" in the middle. Much High-Pitched, Hornish Passes Marco Out of Turn Four Mike King type stuff.
Replay of Danica going way high and almost losing it. She went three wide with Marco and a lapped car and got into the marbles.
Danica spotter -- "Hang onto it. Hang onto it. Nice Catch." Milka is closing on Danica. Milka is laps down, but if she passes Danica I'm calling my family because the world will end in eight minutes.
Marty tells us a broken header caused Ed to use mega fuel in Motegi so he had to pit way early.
Lap 150 --Dixon, Wheldon, Kanaan, Ed, Helio, Briscoe, Cuattro, Marco, Mutoh, Danica.
Lap 152 -- Dixon in. Can make it on a full fill now. Ed in as well.
Yellow yellow yellow. Holy Hose Job. Yellow comes out as Rice mashes into the wall out of turn two. Dixon can fill and get back out, but he'll be hosed by the yellow since every one else can pit and cycle back out. Debris because something on Buddy's car snapped and he went immediately up into the wall. Buddy getting out of the car POUNDS the sidepod. Rage issues.
It's the Return of the Pit Circus. Ed Carpenter can't pull into his pit since Viso is sitting there. It's like finding someone bogartting your reserved parking spot. They gotta push Viso out so he can get to his pit box which is about a mile from Eds. Just stopping in to say hi. Thought it was the McDonald's drive through. Ed is not happy. Will screw him pretty harshly here.
Here comes the rare Festival of Splashing as a lot of cars have to come down pit road and get a splash so they won't run out of fuel on the track. Fine under the rules but they will have to pit again when the pits open.
Lap 157. Pits open. Pitting. Danica goes in. WTF? Welcome to the two minute pit stop challenge. Video. Right rear changer can't get the wheel off, then he gets it off and goes to put the new one on and kind of looks stunned. Much throat slashing motions. Something is TOAST on Danica's car. BLOWN up, SIR!
Turns out the four studs on the wheel hub that hold the wheel on (sort of) got SHEERED off. No studs to mount the wheel on. Arute illustrates in the cutaway car. The studs basically transfer the spin from the hub to the wheel while the center nut hold the wheel on. Awesome video of Danica's tire with the studs still in the holes. Sheered off from the hub.
Danica -- Went high in 1 and 2. Got up in the gray. Saved it. May have been where the studs sheered off. Thought after that "This is some exciting rear-end stuff out here." Actual quote. I swear. Vince asks about the nutty driving. Danica -- "I always expect Scheckter to drive like that, but Viso, I don't even know who that is, even." Nice. Shocking given all the time and effort Danica puts in getting to know her competitors. Or not.
Marty puts in a plug for NHRA drag racing here where Ashley Force is going for her first win ever. She currently leads the points in the top Funny Car division. I can tell you now that Ashley Force beat her father, John Force, for her first Funny Car win Sunday. Go Ashley! Note to Ashley's people -- need some quality T-shirts suitable for buying for daughters. I browsed Ashely's site extensively and found nothing cool. There's $50 left on the table, Ash. Force (Ashely, not John) has yet to pose nearly naked. I'm sure that's on her to-do list.
Lap 166 -- from here out, we're waiting for the debris to get cleaned and Dixon and a few others to get waved around. We're finally green on lap 173 just as my DVR recording ends due to the goofy scheduling on ESPN2. Everyone will get their wicks fully out, go P1 and rock. At the track, we're all looking at Dixon to see if he can make it back to the front. But he's got 12 cars between him and the leader, Wheldon.
Note: according to IMS radio (shout out to My King -- [Mike King] and Davey H-Bone Hamilton), the tire that Vitor hit belonged to Jay Howard, not Buddy Rice. Simmer down, Vitor. Holy mega caution --- 18 lap yellow as they clean up all kinds of liquid.
Lap 172 -- GREEN. Wheldon, TK, Helio, Briscoe, Mutoh, Marco, Dixon, Foyt, Carpenter.
Wheldon uses Oriol, second in line, as a sort of pick for P2 Kanaan. Dixon hits the button is GONE. The turkey feathers on the back exhaust of his car flair and a line of flame comes out. AFTERBURNER MODE. He's got a ton of traffic in front of him, though. Dixon dispatches a couple off the start and gets missile lock on Marco. Rahal low. Dixon swings high. He's driving around people like he's going down the I-35 from Kansas City to Des Moines.
Lap 175 is Dixon's fastest of the race.
Lap 178. Looks under Mutoh. Rahal is there. So he goes high. Whatever works. Done. Three wide into 1. Dude is on a mission.
Lap 180. Wheldon has his wings back too. Kanaan right behind him so Wheldon needs to rock and roll.
Lap 183 -- Dixon just passed Helio and Briscoe on the same lap. WTF? FREAK OUT. Fly, Scotty, Fly.
Lap 184 -- Dixon is now P3, but about a third of the track behind the leaders. 4.4 seconds back. You can almost see the afterburner plume coming out the rear of Dixon's car.
Lap 190 -- Wheldon and Kanaan have their wicks out as well. Dixon can't close the gap. Can't turn the trick. Looks like the leaders got clear of traffic. If Dixon had 20 more laps, maybe.
192 -- leaders approaching lapped traffic. Could be a break for Dixon who is going so fast his wings are starting to super heat and leave a trail of hot plasma in his wake.
Lap 195 -- Wheldon, Kanaan, Dixon, Helio, Briscoe, Marco, Mutoh, AJ, Wilson.
Kanaan can't chase down Wheldon. Coming up on Jaime Camara who is going N-word speed. Ed pits for some reason. Not his day. Ed comes out. HOLY SHIT. Ed almost gets into Wheldon. Major depends moment. TK hits lapped traffic. He's screwed.
White. Wheldon will win barring air strike or if going 300 mph actually rips his rear wing off. Into three. Into four. Checkered.
Wheldon wins. Kanaan second. Dixon third.Wheldon's spotter: Pit lane, Dan. You remember where that is? Dan: Very funny.
Ed Carpenter is PISSED. Stalking down to talk to Viso. This was on IMS radio AND played over the track PA system:
Ed -- "I had a podium car easy and this idiot, Viso -- I don't know if he's never done pit stops before or what, but he's about 200 to 300 feet down pit lane than me and I mean, (F BOMB), our stuff doesn't even look any where near alike."
Ed unleashes an F bomb on radio and for the 50,000 in attendance! BAM. Mary Hulman George is in the whiskey! I nearly spew beer all over a guy next to me.There maybe a brawl in the pits!
Lap 200 -- Wheldon, Kanaan, Dixon, Castroneves, Andretti, Mutoh, Briscoe, Foyt, Wilson (-1), Ed F-Bomb, (-2), Oriol (-2), Graham (-2), Jay Howard (-3), Viso (-3), Bruno (-4), Milka (-5), Moraes (-7), RHR (-31), Danica (DNF), Buddy (DNF), Jaime Camara (-50), Vitor (DNF), Scheckter (DNF), Manning (DNF), Bernoldi (DNF), Roth (DNF), Power (DNF).
Tune in May 25, noon eastern for INDY, ABC, unless there's an LPGA or bowling event that goes into a playoff.
And get to an IndyCar race live. DO IT.