Monday, May 31, 2010

Medical Updates for Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mike Conway After Their Crash at the Indianapolis 500

I just received this in a press release from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

Indy Racing League Director of Medical Services Dr. Michael Olinger gave the following update regarding IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay:

Mike Conway had surgery Sunday night to repair fractures to his lower left leg. He also has a soft tissue injury to his lower left leg and is anticipated to have another surgical procedure later this week. Additionally, Conway has a compression fracture of one of his thoracic vertebrae and is being fitted for a back brace, which he will wear for three months and will prevent him from racing.

Ryan Hunter-Reay is scheduled to have surgery today on his left thumb. After surgery, he will be fitted with a carbon fiber splint, which should allow him to participate at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dario Franchitti Wins the Indianapolis 500, End Punctuated by Accident

These are the UNOFFICIAL results of the Indianapolis 500. They need to be confirmed by race officials.
1. Dario Franchitti
2. Dan Wheldon
3. Alex Lloyd
4. Scott Dixon
5. Danica Patrick
6. Marco Andretti
7. Justin Wilson
8. Will Power
9. Helio Castoneves
10. Alex Tagliani
11. Tony Kanaan
12. Graham Rahal
13. Simona de Silvestro (R)
14. Mario Romancini

Finished 199 laps
15. Tomas Scheckter
16. Townsend Bell
17. Ed Carpenter

Finished 198 laps
18. Ryan Hunter-Reay (involved in crash on the last lap of the race)
19. Mike Conway (involved in crash on the last lap of the race)
20. Takuma Sato (R)
21. Ana Beatriz (R)

Finished fewer than 198 laps (in parentheses after driver's name)
22. Bertrand Baguette (R) (183)
23. Sebastian Saavedra (R) (159)
24. Ryan Briscoe (147)
25. EJ Viso (139)
26. Sarah Fisher (125)
27. Vitor Meira (105)
28. Hideki Mutoh (76)
29. Raphael Matos (72)
30. John Andretti (62)
31. Mario Moraes (17)
32. Bruno Junqueira (7)
33. Davey Hamilton (0)

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Sebastian Saavedra Hits the Wall

Sebastian Saavedra lost his line in Turn 1, spun out, and hit the wall. It's an unfortunate accident, because I figured his luck would have held out from Bump Day last week. Saavedra also raced on Friday in the Firestone Freedom 100, as part of the Indy Lights driver development program.

I had the chance to interview him a bit at Media Day this past Thursday. Check back here in a few minutes, and I'll have the YouTube upload here shortly.

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Ryan Briscoe Hits the Wall Coming Out of Turn 4

Ryan Briscoe is okay, is getting out of the car under his own power after hitting the wall coming out of Turn 4. A couple of the guys said something happened as he was coming out Turn 4. He rode it a little high, hit the outside wall, caromed into the pit wall, and just went sliding down the front stretch. I looked up in time to see the smoking husk of Ryan's car go scooting by.

Tough luck for Ryan Briscoe and Penske Racing today, since he had one of the best chances to bring home the checkered flag for Roger.

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Sarah Fisher Is Out

Sarah Fisher is pushing her #67 Dollar General car back to Gasoline Alley (not by herself, I'm sure. She has a crew to help.) Apparently, her suspension is broken, and she doesn't have any working radios. So it's the end of the day for Indianapolis' anti-Danica.

This is especially unfortunate, because a lot of people were hoping Sarah would be the highest placing woman today.

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Indianapolis 500 Rookie Update

After 128 laps, here is where the rookies stand:

17. Simona de Silvestro
20. Mario Romancini
22. Ana Beatriz
23. Sebastian Saavedra
24. Takuma Sato
26. Bertrand Baguette

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How Big Is Tony Kaaan's Comeback?

If Tony Kanaan in the #11 car can win this race, it will be the biggest comeback in Indianapolis 500 history. No one has won from 33rd place.

The closest anyone has come is in 1980 when Tom Sneva moved from 33rd to 2nd place. In that same year, Gary Bettenhausen moved from 32nd to 3rd place, after spending all night rebuilding his fuel system with his crew chief.

We'll see if Tony can repeat history, or even make it.

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Vitor Meira Is Out of the Race With Mechanical Difficulties

Vitor Meira has also left the race. He had some mechanical difficulty and had to pit the car and turn it off. We're not too sure what happened, but he had some problems that forced him out.

This was the 6th caution of the race, and now most of the cars have come in to pick up some fuel and change tires.

Tony Kanaan is now running 2nd or 3rd, depending on how they score Tomas Scheckter, who did not come in for the pit. Tony was 33rd, and has made the biggest damn recovery of anyone in the race. If he can win this year, I think it will be the biggest comeback for any Indy Car driver. I'll have to check on that with my racing expert friend, Ken.

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Indianapolis 500 Leaders after 100 laps

These are the top 20 places after 100 laps, before the green flag pit stops:

1. Dario Franchitti
2. Helio Castroneves
3. Ryan Briscoe
4. Ed Carpenter
5. Tony Kanaan
6. Tomas Scheckter
7. Ryan Hunter-Reay
8. Will Power
9. Townsend Bell
10. Dan Wheldon
11. Justin Wilson
12. Marco Andretti
13. Mike Conway
14. Alex Lloyd
15. Takuma Sato
16. Alex Tagliani
17. Danica Patrick
18. Scott Dixon
19. Sarah Fisher
20. Simona De Silvestro

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Raphael Matos Hits the Wall After 72 Laps

Raphael Matos and the #2 HP de Ferran Dragon Racing are out of the race, after putting his car into the wall.

He had already had some problems in the pit, with his left rear wheel, which came off just as he was leaving the pit. He had to be pushed back into the pit and have the wheel put back on. When he got everything put back together, he was back out on the track when he seemed to spin out for no reason, and hit the wall in turn #1.

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John Andretti Hits the Wall

John Andretti just hit the wall. He took a turn a little high, brushed the wall and bent his back rear tire. He got out of the car under his own power, and walked to the ambulance. He appears to be okay, but his day is over.

Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway live feed.

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Will Power Loses Piece of Fueling Equipment; Tony Kanaan is 15th

Will Power just lost a piece of fueling equipment during his latest pit stop, and will be forced to come back into the pit to remove the steel spring from the fueling hose. He hasn't come back in as far as I can see, but we're under yellow. He will also be assessed a drive-through penalty.

In the meantime, Tony Kanaan has moved from 33rd to 15th, and is now back to 21st.

Here are the standings during the last yellow flag.

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Bruno Junqueira hits the wall

Bruno Junqueira is now out of the race. He was in 25th place, on lap #8, when he caught some dirty air, and went spinning into the turn, hitting the wall.

My friend, Ken, thought that Bruno was going to do really well today, but a bit of bad luck has dropped Bruno out of the race.

On a positive note, Tony Kanaan has moved from 33rd place to 18th place in just 8 laps.

Davey Hamilton has also been checked and released without injury from the Clarian Emergency Medical Center here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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Davey Hamilton Out Before Completing 1st Lap

Davey Hamilton has already wiped out in turn #2.

Tomas Scheckter was on his outside, Hamilton looked like he was surprised by Scheckter, overcompensated, and went sliding out off the track into the field. Davey, who is the race's oldest driver at 48, is out of the race. His right front wheel bent under, and unless they can fix it, he looks like he's out.

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2010 Indianapolis 500 (PHOTOS)

I've finally figured out how to upload and sync all my photos that I'm taking to Picasa, Google's photo sharing site (and main competitor to Yahoo's Flickr, where I also have an account). As I take photos and upload them, they'll automatically sync with this slideshow. It's 11:45 am, and the race begins in about 90 minutes.

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It's Morning Again In Indianapolis

It's morning again in Indianapolis. Today, more men and women will watch auto racing than any other day in the world.

With the largest race in the world converging on Indianapolis, nearly 10,000 people will be passed out at some time today, more than any other time in the past 12 months.

This afternoon, 33 young men and women will drive in the biggest race of their lives. And with the race economy improving, they can look forward with confidence to having a ride again next year.

It's morning again in Indianapolis, and under the leadership of Randy Bernard, the Indy Racing League is seeking to improve, to become prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to watch NASCAR?

(With apologies to Hal Riner, creator of "It's Morning in America.")

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Media Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 2010 Indianapolis 500 (PHOTOS)

It was Media Day at the Speedway yesterday, and although I spent most of my time shooting videos, I did manage to take some still shots as well.

This is an interesting setup. All the drivers get their own little interview booth — basically, a tall table and chair inside a 6' x 10' curtained area — and the different members of the media get to gather around and interview the driver. A few of the booths were always packed (Danica Patrick, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves), a few were always busy (Dario Franchitti, Marco Andretti, and Hideki Mutoh had a huge contingency of Japanese journalists), but a few of them had drivers who looked either bored or lonely. I was able to walk up, stand with some guy from Obscure Racing Journal Quarterly, and do a quick interview. It was actually pretty cool, and I was able to get some good footage. My only complaint is that the lens filter on my camera made everyone look like a Liz Taylor perfume commercial.

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Celebrating The Retrosexual Man

Celebrating The Retrosexual Man

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

Look at your man. Now back to me. Now back at your man, now back at me. Sadly, he isn't me. But if he stopped using hair product by the pound, he could — and stopped wearing his pink shirt — he could — and didn't accessorize — you know what, forget it. Just forget it.

Look at your man, and wonder exactly when he became more of a woman than you.

That's the problem with today's metrosexual man. They want to accessorize. To use enough hair product that their hair has all the protective quality of a motorcycle helmet. To wear pink shirts, and quietly hum, "I feel pretty, oh so pretty" while they're antiquing with you in the country.

It's enough to make me want to kick Abercrombie in his Fitch.

I just read a recent news article that gave me hope that all is not lost for mankind: the days of the metrosexual may be drawing to an end. That hair sculpting, fashion watching, accessorizing "man" is being cast aside by the man's man.

Actually, he's being shoved to the ground and having sand kicked in his face by the man's man.

Like the phoenix rising from the ashes of years of The Cosby Show and Family Ties, the man's man is experiencing a rebirth, a renewal of sorts.

Or, as some have called it, a "menaissance."

This new Retrosexual Man is hearkening back to the 60s man, the man who had all the confidence in the world because he was a man. A man who could drink Scotch, wear a tie without worrying about whether it matched his eyes, and didn't need to get a hair cut, scalp massage, and a mani-pedi, all for $80 at the Salon of Sass.

Men are getting tired of the Eighties Man, the idiot who couldn't find the cold medicine in the medicine cabinet. The guy who was so hopelessly befuddled, he couldn't operate a simple kitchen gadget. The "Man Is An Idiot" comedy archetype we've been subjected to since the early '80s. We've had our noses rubbed in it since Bill Cosby ruined masculinity with The Cosby show.

While I like Bill Cosby the comedian, the educator, the activist, I wasn't a fan of the show. Cliff Huxtable, despite being a successful doctor, had no clue how to deal with his children, and needed his wife to manage the household. Cliff Huxtable was so incompetent, he had been reduced to a paycheck and funny sidekick to the rest of his family. He willingly handed his Man Card to his wife and asked her to keep it in the same place she was storing his manly bits.

And every TV dad to come after Cosby is only some sad buffoon. The guy who, on his wedding day, suddenly became too stupid to survive without his wife's steady hand to guide him. After watching these shows, we're often left to wonder how these men ever survived the first 25 years of life without their wives.

(Sitcom answer: they lived at home with Mother until the day they got married.)

So I'm excited about the new Retrosexual. I think he's someone worth paying attention to, or at least having a beer with.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think we need to go back to the way things were in the 50s and 60s. I'd like to think we've evolved from those attitudes.

We've all learned that we shouldn't make sexist jokes, shouldn't assume women can't drive or play sports, shouldn't think they're not smart enough for the business world. We get it. And other than a few piggy-eyed Neanderthals on talk radio, we don't do this.

The Retrosexual man doesn't want to go back to the way things were 50 years ago, when women were treated like second-class citizens, and sexism in the workplace was not only normal, it was encouraged.

But this Man As Buffoon thing has got to stop. Because we're tired of being the butt of so many sitcom jokes, portrayed as the doofus who's stumped by the complex procedure of microwaving a hotdog. And we're even more tired of the metrosexual who is only recognized as a man only by his five o'clock shadow.

So look at your "man," tell him to put down his European carryall, wipe off the faint hint of eye liner, and scrape all that product out of his hair.

I'm on a horse.

I'll be live blogging from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this Sunday. So if you're watching the race on TV, stay tuned in to my Twitter feed, or to this blog, and keep an eye on some of the updates I'll be providing.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

There Are Not Many Racing Rivalries at the Indianapolis 500

Race fans may remember the Marco Andretti - Mario Moraes dustup from last year's Indianapolis 500. Since that one still seems to be on a low boil, I decided to ask a few of the drivers whether they had any rivalries with other drivers.

The three drivers I asked — Tomas Scheckter, Alex Lloyd, and Ryan Hunter-Reay — all said the same thing. "We don't have any rivalries, we just want to beat everyone."

Man, these guys are just too nice. This isn't like NASCAR, where drivers have bitter feuds that have lasted for years. These guys understand the dangers and risks they face on the track, so it brings them closer together, rather than creating any rivalries.

I did like Ryan Hunter-Reay's answer. He's gunning for one guy in particular. Sort of.

Tomas Scheckter, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

Alex Lloyd, Dale Coyne Racing

Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport

The thing that's really cool about Indy Car racing is that while the competition is fierce, they still watch out for each other. It's not like Formula 1, like Scheckter said, where even the teammates won't speak to each other. Many times, the drivers are often former teammates, or have known each other for years, coming up through the Indy Lights series (the driver training circuit), so while they may want to beat the bejeezus out of each other, they're still concerned about their fellow drivers.

Either that, or they all lied to me and secretly hate each other.

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Bertrand Baguette Makes Indianapolis 500 History: Second Belgian to Race

Everyone is making such a big deal about there being four women in the Indianapolis 500 this year, everyone is overlooking an equally compelling story: Bertrand "Save it, I've heard them all" Baguette has become the second-ever Belgian to drive in the Indianapolis 500.

Conquest Racing team owner and Belgian native Eric Bachelart drove in the 500 in 1992 and 1995.

So come on, you Belgian haters! What's up? Belgium is a country rich in culture and history. They've given us world-class French fries, exquisite gourmet chocolates, and Hercule Poirot, so it's not a stretch to assume that a Belgian driver can make an excellent showing in the 2010 Indianapolis 500.

We need to cheer for my fellow Lowlander (my dad's family is from Holland, Belgium's neighbor), and get the race media to quit focusing so much on the women, and give the racing fans a little Belgian love. (Okay, that just sounds dirty.)

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Five Indy 500 Drivers You Should Watch This Year

I've talked with a few racing expert friends about the five drivers you should be paying attention to this year, and was given some pretty good names. These aren't your usual Dario Franchittis and Helio Castroneveseses(es) of Indy racing fame — that list is too easy. Just list the first five drivers in the starting lineup, and you've got the quick and dirty "who's gonna win" list that most lazy sports writers tend to cover.

But during the Pole Day press conference, Helio Castroneves said the sports writers should talk about a few of the other guys too — guys like Graham Rahal and Ed Carpenter who made the Front 9, despite some overwhelming odds.

So, while these 5 may not be the favorites to win, these are 5 drivers I'm keeping my eye on this year, and in the future.

1. Graham Rahal: Graham Rahal shouldn't even be here in Indy, let alone sitting 6th. Rahal's #30 Quick-Trim/RLR Special is the result of a deal arrived at with his dad just two weeks before the race.

Two weeks! That's like Peyton Manning taking September, October, and November off, and leading the Colts to the playoffs in just 4 games. Two weeks is like three months in racing years. Or to dogs.

But Bobby Rahal's team managed to put together a great car for him, and Graham and the Mechanics have managed to find the groove that put him within striking distance of the trophy. That speaks to a high quality team of engineers and mechanics, as well as a superb driver. If anyone outside the Penske or Ganassi dynasties stands a chance of winning this race, it's Rahal.

2. Ed Carpenter: Everything I just said about Graham Rahal is true for Ed Carpenter too. The stepson of the embattled Tony George, the ousted CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League, Carpenter had to overcome all of the stress and undue attention his stepdad was getting. This was especially distracting, since Tony is also Ed's boss, as the owner of Vision Racing.

Look, when NFL players get their panties in a bunch, and worry that one teammate's personal problems (that's one fifty-third of the team) are going to "be a distraction" during the playoffs, then you have to think that Tony's problems were on Ed's mind for the last several months. And yet, he managed to pull of a great run and make the Front 9. So either the NFL players need to man up and not let the backup punt returner's DUI affect their playoff run, or Ed Carpenter has more intestinal fortitude than even the toughest NFLer.

3. Justin Wilson: Justin may not be one of the big names in racing, although at 6'3" he's certainly the tallest. But if you follow the IRL, you know he finished 9th in last year's standings. (In the interest of full disclosure, I didn't know this; he had to tell me.) He recorded three top-5 finishes and seven top-10 finishes all of last year. Hopefully Justin won't be Indy Racing's Dan Marino, a Hall of Fame quarterback who never won the big championship. As long as he keeps sticking big finishes, a race win has got to be in his near future. While it may not be this year, as long as Helio Castroneves and the rest of the Lollipop Guild keep putting out fast cars, it will be soon. I gar-on-tee.

4. Tomas Scheckter: He's been a wild, almost unpredictable driver. He's only won two races, one of them coming in an IRL race (the 2005 Firestone 550 in Texas). But if Philip B. Wilson's story in the Indianapolis Star is anything to go by, Scheckter is a force to be reckoned with when he's given the chance.

Despite having, or maybe because of, crashing 21 out of his first 60 starts (man, his mom's gonna be pissed!), Scheckter says he's learned from his mistakes, and says he's not the same driver he was eight years ago.

"Tomas is incredibly talented and he's a great race car driver now," said Panther Racing owner John Barnes. "Anybody would be blessed to have him as a driver, anyone on pit road."

That anyone, right now, is Dreyer & Reinbold. Let's see if they can harness his skills and willingness to go fast. (After I wrote this piece, I realized 3 out of my 5 drivers were Dreyer and Reinbold drivers, which really speaks to the quality of driver that D&R hires.)

5. Ana Beatriz: My friend and racing mentor, Ken Severson, says Ana ("Bia" to the fans) is the real deal. When it comes to female drivers making a strong showing in their rookie season, Ana Beatriz Caselato Gomes de Figueiredo, is it. She's also the only woman to win a Firestone Indy Lights race, taking a checkered flag in 2008 and 2009.

While she may have a tough time in Indy — this is only her second Big Kids race — Dreyer and Reinbold thought enough of her to start her in the São Paulo Indy 300, after two respectable years in the Indy Lights. While this may be a tough first Indy 500 for her, I'm still expecting a respectable showing for the young Brazilian. I'll make my only prediction of this piece, and predict a top 20 finish for Bia.

Honorable Mention: Sebastian Saavedra: This Colombian must have the luck of the Irish. He had one of the most uncomfortable, stressful Bump Days this year. He was sitting on the bubble at #33, after crashing his one and only race car (no backup), when he was bumped off by Tony Kanaan, which put Paul Tracy on the bubble. With no backup, Sebastian couldn't try to get back in.

So Tracy thought he should get off the bubble. He withdrew his time, drove his next qualification, but failed to beat it. As soon as he withdrew his time, Saavedra was back in. And when Tracy didn't beat Saavedra, the Colombian stayed.

But then he was bumped again when another driver went out and made the show. Saavedra was out.

Then, Jay Howard, the last driver of the day, tried the same thing with the same result: withdraw, drive, fail. Saavedra was back in, this time for good.

That put Sebastian back in the race, on the inside of row 11. But In The Race is In The Race, regardless of where you sit. And with luck like he had Sunday, you know Sebastian may end up surprising the hell out of a lot of people next week.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Starting Lineup for the 2010 Indianapolis 500

Starting Lineup for the 2010 Indianapolis 500

From the Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

Results of qualifying Sunday for the 2010 Indianapolis 500 IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with Rank, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 02:38.7485 (226.774)
2. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.0024 (226.412)
3. (77) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.0163 (226.392)

4. (10T) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.1825 (226.156)
5. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.4367 (225.795)
6. (30) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.5627 (225.617)

7. (06) Hideki Mutoh, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.6998 (225.423)
8. (6) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.7409 (225.365)
9. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.8817 (225.166)

10. (99) Townsend Bell, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.9313 (225.097)
11. (22) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.9647 (225.050)
12. (2) Raphael Matos, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.9798 (225.028)

13. (32) Mario Moraes, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.0794 (224.888)
14. (21) Davey Hamilton, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.1053 (224.852)
15. (24) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.2969 (224.583)

16. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.3030 (224.575)
17. (37) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.3227 (224.547)
18. (4) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.3821 (224.464)

19. (8T) EJ Viso, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.4424 (224.380)
20. (23) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.5270 (224.261)
21. (25) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.5402 (224.243)

22. (78) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.5511 (224.228)
23. (7) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.5584 (224.217)
24. (36) Bertrand Baguette, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.5785 (224.189)

25. (33) Bruno Junqueira, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.5305 (225.662)
26. (19) Alex Lloyd, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.1543 (224.783)
27. (34) Mario Romancini, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.2557 (224.641)

28. (43) John Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.3438 (224.518)
29. (67) Sarah Fisher, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.4033 (224.434)
30. (14) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.4367 (224.388)

31. (5) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.5865 (224.178)
32. (11T) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.6628 (224.072)
33. (29) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.9776 (223.634)

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A Letter of Support from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association

I received this letter from Mike May of the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association in response to my column, "Ban Aluminum Bats From Youth Baseball."

While I agree with his stats and that aluminum may actually be as safe as wood, I still think wood sounds better than aluminum. I asked Mike which he prefers, wood or aluminum, and he said, "As for the crack of the bat or the ping of the bat, I like it all. I just like to watch and play baseball."

He also wants aluminum bat supporters to check out Don't Take My Bat Away.

Here's his letter.

Dear Erik:

There has been a great deal of research done in recent years on the ‘wood vs. non-wood’ baseball bat issue which bears further consideration. See the comments below which support the idea of keeping non-wood bats.

1.) Dr. Dawn Comstock, PhD (Center for Injury Research and Policy at Ohio State University) compiles injury data on high school sports for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). During a speech she delivered on April 21st in Indianapolis, she stated that baseball is a very safe sport as football, wrestling, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls basketball, field hockey, boys and girls lacrosse, ice hockey, and gymnastics have higher rates of injury than baseball. She noted that baseball injuries are declining – from 1.25 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures in 2006-07 to .93 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures in 2007-08 to .78 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures in 2008-09. Football has more than 12 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures. According to Dr. Comstock, her research is important so that any rule changes made to any sport will be “data driven and not based on anecdotal evident or emotion.”

2.) A 2007 study on "Non-Wood vs. Wood Bats" by Illinois State University concluded that "there was no statistically significant evidence that non-wood bats result in an increased incidence of severity of injury."

3.) In 2002 (before today’s standards were implemented), the Consumer Product Safety Commission stated "Available incident data are not sufficient to indicate that non-wood bats may pose an unreasonable risk of injury." Despite that vote of confidence, the baseball industry implemented a more restrictive standard (BESR) in 2003 which remains in place today.

4.) In 2007, minor league baseball coach Mike Coolbaugh (Tulsa Drillers) was killed during a game by a ball hit off a wood bat, while he was coaching first base.

5.) Since the early 1960s, there have been eight Little League pitchers who have been killed with batted balls – six of them were hit with balls that were struck with wood bats.

Baseball is not dangerous, but unexpected injuries do occur – off both wood and non-wood bats.

In September of 2007, longtime major league baseball player and current Cincinnati Reds manager (formerly with the San Francisco Giants) Dusty Baker wrote a letter where he defended the integrity and safety of the non-wood baseball bat:

“As a former Major League Baseball player and manager, and as the father of an eight-year-old son who uses a metal bat, I support players using the bat of their choice because I know wood and metal are safe. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t let my son use an aluminum bat. I strongly believe leagues, players, coaches and baseball officials should decide what type of bat they want to use.”

Since 2003, non-wood baseball bats used in high schools have been scientifically regulated so that the speed of batted balls off non-wood bats is comparable to that of the best major league wood bats. This safety standard – BESR (Ball Exit Speed Ratio) has been adopted by the NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Today’s major leaguers all grew up using a non-wood bat. Secondly, amateur baseball is not the training ground for pro baseball. Amateur baseball’s only obligation is to give today’s young players a chance to play and enjoy the game. There’s no need to force amateur baseball players to use a wood bat when many don’t want to play pro baseball or will ever be good enough to play pro baseball.

The main two reasons for injuries in baseball are thrown balls and collisions – not batted balls.

It’s important to realize that standards on bat performance are NOT established by bat makers. They are agreed upon and enforced by baseball’s governing bodies.

I thank you in advance for your time and attention.


Mike May
Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Is This the Future of Indy Cars?

I had chance to talk to Ben Bowlby, the chief technology officer for DeltaWing Racing about this new concept car they've created. DeltaWing Racing is part of the Ganassi Group, and this is a concept car they have submitted to ICONIC, the race car design oversight committee for the Indy Racing League.

If DeltaWing's design is accepted, they will make their designs available to the public, students, the media, and the racing community via their website. Anyone will be able to make any changes, improvements, or suggestions. Racing teams can take the designs, make their own improvements to it and have their very own car design on Race Day 2012.

I was especially interested in the effect social media (my chosen profession) has had on their way of thinking.

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New 2010 Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Procedure

In a rather dramatic departure from the traditional Indy 500 Pole Day qualifications, race officials have introduced "The Fast Nine" shootout to find the top 9 qualifiers for Sunday's race.

Here's how the Indianapolis Motor Speedway explains it:

  • 11 am - 4 pm: The top 24 spots in the 33-car field will be available through traditional four-lap attempts. Each car will have up to three attempts during this time. The times of the top nine drivers from this first segment of qualifying will be erased at 4 pm, with all of those competitors guaranteed to start no worse than ninth in the Indianapolis 500.

  • 4:30 - 6:00 pm: The "Fast Nine" then will be required to make at least one four-lap qualifying attempt, with optional attempts if time permits. Each driver's best run during the 90-minute session will set their position within the top nine spots on the starting grid. If inclement weather prevents the 90-minute shootout for the "Fast Nine," their times from the opening session will determine starting positions.

  • At this point, the starting lineup looks like this:

    1. Alex Tagliani
    2. Helio Castroneves
    3. Dario Franchitti

    4. Will Power
    5. Scott Dixon
    6. Graham Rahal

    7. Hideki Mutoh
    8. Ryan Briscoe
    9. Ed Carpenter

    Unless something dramatic happens in the next couple hours, these are the guys who will compete for the Fast Nine. But Ed Carpenter and Ryan Briscoe are the ones in danger of being bumped.

    You can keep up to date with the starting lineup on the website.

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    Rick Mears interview (VIDEO)

    Rick Mears was one of my stepdad's and mom's favorite drivers when I was growing up. After I took this video, I got to say hello to Rick and pass along some kind wishes from my folks.

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    Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 21, 2010 (PHOTOS)

    These are some photos I took at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday, May 21, 2010.

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    Friday, May 21, 2010

    Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 20, 2010 (PHOTOS)

    Photos from my first day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Rain canceled practice around 4:00, but I had a chance to visit the media center, do a video interview with Justin Wilson, and watch some of the garage activity.

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    To The Man Cave!!

    To The Man Cave!!

    Erik Deckers
    Laughing Stalk Syndicate
    Copyright 2010

    It's been a few years, but I'm finally getting my garage again. Not just any garage though. It is, as my son calls it, our Man Cave.

    He has been excited about getting a Man Cave for a few years, because I made him watch a show by the same name one day, and we talked how we could create an awesome Man Cave. His then 5-year-old brain reeled at the possibilities. I think he was envisioning some sort of sports bar with a fire pole, a bar with working beer tap, and secret passageways. Or maybe that was me.

    (I capitalize Man Cave, because it's so manly, mere lowercase letters cannot contain the awesome power of the Man Cave.)

    When I lived in northern Indiana, I had an awesome workbench. It was 12 feet long, was built with Southern yellow pine lumber (which is stronger and heavier than that wimpy Douglas fir most houses are built with), and the top was made from red oak plywood and had three coats of heavy-duty polyurethane on it. This bench could have not only withstood a tornado, it would have dope slapped it and sent it crying to its mama.

    I named it Johnny. Johnny W. Bench. (Fans of the Cincinnati Reds know what I'm talking about.)

    My garage was my Man Cave. It was 576 square feet of pure, lumber and peg board lined manliness, except for where my wife had her gardening supplies. And her car.

    But other than that, it was my Man Cave. I would sit out there and watch TV (I had installed a cable outlet and a phone jack), drink beer, and smoke cigars.

    Unfortunately, when we moved, I couldn't take Johnny with me. Partly because we weren't going to have any room in our new house, but mostly because I had bolted the thing to the wall with three inch lag bolts, and nothing short of a twin hammer impact wrench was going to remove them.

    So we hugged each other tightly, Johnny and I, thumped each other on the back in a manly way, and I drove off into the sunset, a single manly tear brimming in my eye.

    For the next three-and-a-half years, we could never get settled. We moved four times, finally buying a house north of Indianapolis. Not only did I not have a garage workspace that entire time, my tools sat neglected and unused, tucked away in their little corners. I couldn't have built a new bench if I had wanted to.

    That all changed this past month, when my wife surprised me with her plans.

    "I'm turning the office into a music studio," she informed me.

    "But what about my office?" I said. "Where am I going to work?"

    "Turn off the TV," she said. "I already told you all this."

    The plan is to convert the garage into a work and living space. Drop some extra electrical outlets, a light, and a heating duct — and a cable outlet! — and turn it into my office.

    "Hey, we're finally getting our Man Cave, daddy!" said my son. Then I remembered: he's been dreaming about the Man Cave for almost three years.

    Admittedly, I don't get the entire garage. My family has a few things they want to store, including my wife's jewelry making equipment and supplies. But we have created our own Maginot Line of male and female hormones. The taped off line between Bobby and Peter Brady. Her female stuff may not cross to my side of the garage, and my Guy stuff and I will stay on the manly side of the garage.

    Except when I have to go to the bathroom, because the door is on her side.

    The new Man Cave will have many new features that the original Man Cave did not have. For one thing, with the new vent, it will be usable space all year. It will also have a dividing wall which will support a new workbench, and create a third wall for my office space. We already have the carpet laid down, and I've been mentally working on plans for the wall and workbench. I've already moved my desk and office accessories out to the Man Cave, and claimed it as my own.

    All that's left is to build the back wall of the office, and then build a new workbench better than the last one (if that's possible), and the Man Cave will be complete.

    I think it's what Johnny W. Bench would have wanted.

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    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    My Interview with Indy Car Driver, Justin Wilson (VIDEO)

    I had a chance to do a quick interview with Indy car driver Justin Wilson. Wilson was with Dale Coyne Racing last year, with Team Z-Line Designs, but moved to Dreyer & Reinbold Racing early this year. He kept the sponsorship, but changed teams.

    Justin rejoins last year's Indy 500 teammate Tomas Scheckter (driving the #23 MonaVie car), who moved over to D&R after last year's race. He is also joined by Mike Conway (#24, Dad's Root Beer car), and Ana Beatriz (#25, Ipiranga).

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    Back at the Indianapolis 500 as a Media Blogger

    Every sport has its own sounds, whether it's the CRACK of the bat, the grunts and hard plastic smack of football pads, and the nnnNNNNNNOOOWWWWWWWWW!! of the Indianapolis 500.

    I'm back up in my seat in the media center of the the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, listening to the high-pitched whine of the race cars whizzing past at 200+ miles an hour — I just saw Danica Patrick go by in Pit Row, rookie Simona De Silvestro is on the track, and A.J. Foyt IV is sitting in the pit.

    It's smaller this year. The whole month of May is smaller. They've had some problems with money at the Speedway, the teams were suffering last year, and so the month has been shortened by nearly two weeks. The most telling sign is this year's media guides are all online, instead of being printed out this year. (And like an idiot, I dumped mine last week in a cleaning fit. Maybe I can still rescue them.)

    But the passion is still here. It's just been distilled. Howdy Bell, one of the voices of the 500 from my youth is two rows behind me. The photographers are still out on the track, straining to catch every shot with their giant lenses, and the die-hard fans are out here, ruining their hearing with every nnnNNNNNNOOOWWWWWWWWW!! that screams by.

    It's just not May without that sound.

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    Friday, May 14, 2010

    Living Through History Is No Birthday Party

    Living Through History Is No Birthday Party

    Erik Deckers
    Laughing Stalk syndicate
    Copyright 2010

    Today, I had the awful realization that I'm turning 43 next month. It's awful for a couple of reasons, mostly because I will no longer be 42.

    "Well, duh, Erik. That's because 43 follows 42."

    It's not actually turning 43 that bothers me (okay, it bothers me, but more on that later.) It's that I've liked being 42. It's a magical age. It's a fun number. It is, as any fan of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (the greatest science fiction novel ever) can tell you, the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.

    I will no longer be the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.

    This saddens me greatly, because I used to take particular geeky delight in telling people that's how old I was.

    "How old are you?"

    "The answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything."

    If the other person got it, if they had read "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (or H2G2 as the really cool people call it), they were rewarded with a beaming smile and some congratulatory well-wishes on their total awesomeness as a human being.

    If they didn't get it, I told them my real age, and then talked about them behind their backs.

    Seven years ago, I was happily chugging along, living in My Thirties. I was minding my own business, not bothering anyone, just being in My Thirties. It was a glorious decade, and one I look back on with great delight.

    I capitalize My Thirties, because they were a nice big plateau of aging. Sort of a personal dynasty, like China's Ming dynasty or Hungary's Habsburg Dynasty. My Thirties was a time of great prosperity and gentle settling around the land. (I call my upper body "the land." That's what happens when you're in your Thirties.)

    The great thing about being in My Thirties was that it didn't matter about birthdays, because the years didn't seem all that different — 33 was like 34, which looked just like 35. And 36 wasn't a whole lot different either.

    But when I turned 40, disaster struck. Now, I was no longer in My Thirties, I was in My Forties. Things started settling at an alarming rate, and there soon followed some grumbling and strife from "the border lands" (my knees).

    It's because the decade number changed. The number in the tens column of my life had just gone up by one tick, and it was going to redefine who I was for, well, ten more years.

    But that feeling only lasted for a few months, and I began looking forward to 42. And it's been a great year. A year I would like to repeat. I would gladly pay whoever is in charge of aging if I could just be 42 for another year.

    What made me think of all this today, though, was the realization that not only am I over 40, I'm almost ready to start remembering things that happened 40 years ago.

    Right now, at age 42, I don't remember what happened 40 years ago. Muamar Qadafi became the premier of Libya 40 years ago. National Public Radio and Monday Night Football premiered 40 years ago. And the Apollo 13 crisis took place 40 years ago.

    I don't remember any of it, because I was two.

    But we're reaching the point in history that I will remember what happened back then.

    Pretty soon, someone's going to say, "do you remember the Watergate scandal in 1972?" and I'll be able to say "yes, a little bit."

    "That was 40 years ago," they'll say in 2012. I'll be 45.

    "Do you remember when Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford to become president in 1976?"

    "Oh sure," I'll say. "I remember watching the results on TV."

    "That was 40 years ago," someone will say in 2016, when I'm 49.

    Becoming 43 is not nearly as emotionally devastating as knowing that I'm quickly reaching the point where I saw, heard, and remember things that happened four decades ago.

    That's four-tenths of a century. It's 4 percent of a millennium. My distress is not that I have lived that long. It's that I have lived long enough to remember things happened that long ago.

    Not to worry though. I'll soon get over it. I always do. I'll relax for a few years, and then I'll start worrying about what will happen when people say, "Do you remember when Janet Guthrie became the first woman to race in the Indianapolis 500 in 1977?"

    That's going to bring a whole new level of panic.

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    Friday, May 07, 2010

    Ban Aluminum Bats From Youth Baseball

    Ban Aluminum Bats From Youth Baseball

    Erik Deckers
    Laughing Stalk syndicate
    Copyright 2010

    Baseball has its own soundtrack. The crack! of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the food vendors with their cries of "COLDbeer! Getcha coldbeer HEAH!"

    The sounds of baseball resonates in our brains and in our veins. It echoes in our society's collective souls. Anyone who grew up in this country, whether you played baseball or not, knows what that crack sounds like. In fact, when you started reading this, you imagined that crack!, followed by the roaring of the crowd as the ball sailed over the wall.

    When I was a kid, I loved baseball. I played it, watched it, studied it. I talked about it, collected it, and read it. Then, when I discovered soccer, I lost track of it. But I've renewed my love for baseball over the last few years, watching games whenever I can catch them, showing my son and daughters the intricacies of the game. We've even had the chance to go to games for our local AAA minor league baseball team, the Indianapolis Indians, and my kids have had the chance to hear their own sounds of the game.

    We live near a high school, and now that it's baseball season, we can actually hear some of the high school games from our window. The cheers, the yells, the ping of the bat.

    Wait, the "ping" of the bat?!

    Yes, at the high school and college level, they play with aluminum bats. Not the traditional wood bats that all the grown-ups use. They use a bat made of metal because the ball flies farther.

    Not only do they ruin the game, but aluminum bats are dangerous, coming under fire by lawmakers and angry parents. California is considering a two-year moratorium on aluminum bats, after a high school pitcher was put into a coma for weeks after being struck in the head by a ball hit by an aluminum bat.

    The problem with the aluminum and compound bats is that they have more of a springing effect when they're hit, so the ball pops off the bat faster, which means it can fly farther and faster. And God help anyone who gets hit by one of these balls, especially the pitchers.

    Baseball is about tradition. Tradition that goes back to 1869 to the very first professional baseball team, my own beloved Cincinnati Red Stockings. Never in the last 141 years of professional baseball did anyone's bats ever go ping.

    That pinging is an annoying sound that makes the fillings in my teeth rattle in dissonant vibration.

    It sounds like a robot fairy granting a bulldozer's wish to become a real live boy.

    Every time a bat pings, an angel hangs his head and cries.

    Aluminum bats are one of the things ruining youth baseball, and I think they should be banned. Unfortunately, the other thing ruining baseball is the parents.

    There are so many helicopter parents who are trying to let their kids play the game of their own youth, but their hovering overprotectiveness is damaging the experience.

    When I was a kid, you had a bat, a ball, and a glove. Nowadays, parents make their kids wear chest protectors when they're batting or playing the infield. (Outfielders don't need protection apparently, since that's where you put the scrubs.)

    Parents armor up their children because there have been about 75 deaths over the past 20 years from kids getting struck in the chest by a batted ball at a crucial moment when their heart beats, which gives them a heart attack.

    Struck by a ball that was hit with an aluminum bat.

    Meanwhile, no major league player has ever died from being hit by a ball hit by a wooden bat.

    Don't get me wrong. I would hate to see any of my kids get hit by a ball. I hold my breath every time one of them wipes out on their bike. I try not to gasp whenever my son gets kicked in soccer.

    But at the same time, I don't think my kids need to wear protective gear everywhere they go. No shin guards to play with a bunch of 7-year-olds. No knee pads and hip pillows for their bike. And no chest protectors to play a game that millions of children play each year.

    If parents want to make baseball safe, eliminate aluminum bats outright. They're a dangerous menace, can cause great psychological harm, and are making a mockery out of the game.

    The bats aren't very safe either.

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    Sunday, May 02, 2010

    Phone It In Sunday: Magic Fart-Proof Blanket Commercial

    I'm still not sure whether the Magic Fart-Proof Blanket is a real thing or not. There's nothing in the commercial to make me think it's a joke, but Oh! My! God!

    What the blanket manufacturers fail to mention is that it's not the odor drifting up through the blanket and into your loved one's nostrils. It's the fumes trapped inside the blanket that creep over to your partner's side of the bed, like a band of stinky ninjas, and launch the assault from there.

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