Saturday, September 8, 2007

Sept. 8 newsstand

Combining two days today ... my regular job + my "for fun" job combined to have a two-hour one-way commute and a two-hour delay last night, so we missed Friday.

Big News: Dario to Ganassi's NASCAR team?
David Stremme is not returning in Chip's No. 40 Dodge in NASCAR. While RCR considered it, Chip may just put the Indy 500 winner in a Cup car for 2008.

The stories
Fox Sports.com: Franchitti to drive for Chip Ganassi Racing
Says author Lee Spencer: "Chip Ganassi Racing is expected to announce next week that Dario Franchitti will drive the No. 40 Energizer Dodge in 2008, sources told FOXSports.com. ... Franchitti will participate in a training program similar to the one Juan Pablo Montoya (who beat Franchitti for the 1999 CART title) used to prepare for his rookie season. Franchitti will drive in a variety of series, including NASCAR's Busch Series in Ganassi's No. 42 Dodge."

Charlotte Observer: David Stremme out at Ganassi, Indy 500 winner on deck
Says writer Jim Utter: "Likely set to replace Stremme is current Indy Racing League points leader Dario Franchitti, The Charlotte Observer and ThatsRacin.com have learned. Franchitti, a native of Scotland, is looking to lock up his first IRL championship in Sunday's season finale at Chicagoland with Andretti Green Racing."

AP: Stremme out of 40 car
Among the items: Ganassi has no sponsorship for the No. 40 car, but still plans to field three cars (Reed Sorenson and JPM drive the other two). Dan Wheldon might also be an option.

From the story: "Ganassi refused to comment specifically on Franchitti or Wheldon ... 'I do not have any deals at this time with any other driver,' Ganassi said."

Says Dario: "I could be back in IndyCar next year, or I could have some fun in sports cars or I could try my hand at NASCAR. But I've never even driven one of those (stock cars) at this point. I'd need to know a lot more about it.''

NBC's Marty Snider also fuels the rumor

TSN: Report says Franchitti to join Ganassi's NASCAR team

Not everyone is happy about it. Check out Captain Jingo at NASCAR.com

Speaking of the South: Sam's still mum, but Helio's not
Dario isn't the only one from the IndyCar Series that's been considered for a seat in tintops. Sam Hornish also has been considering it. He's looking for a house in Charlotte -- but so is Helio Castroneves, who isn't considering NASCAR. Still, here's what Helio has to say in a Palm Beach Post blog: "I think he’s going ... He never said anything to me. He never mentioned anything to me. I might be wrong, but my opinion, my feeling is I think he will move."

Defiance Crescent-News: Final IRL race will decide title
An update from Sam's hometown paper. Lots of quotes from Sam about how Chicagoland has been good for him, and also some NASCAR quotes about him running the Cup races in the next 10 weeks: "We still have to qualify for those races in order for me to run in them, but I'm really looking forward to it. The good thing about this whole deal is that (teammates) Kurt (Busch) and Ryan (Newman) will be there running as well and if I need any help I know I can count on those guys .. Right now, our whole schedule to end the year is subject to change and we're not sure if we're going to do all the Busch races as well or not," added Hornish. "It just means a lot to me to have the opportunity to do this and I feel good that Roger (Penske) is giving me this chance. There's still no timetable as to when I know exactly what I'm going to be doing next year, but like I said before it's great to have options."

New teams?
The next Silly Season update will be posted early next week (probably Tuesday), but Curt Cavin's blog from today has speculation about new teams for next year: Fernandez led by Tom Anderson, another one led by former Tasman Motorsports owner Steve Horne, and "we'll see if Roth Racing is serious about being a two-car team." He says right now, funding isn't there for those teams. Also, Sam will likely run the Indy 500.

Chicagoland race stories
Indianapolis Star: Fight to the finish
Says Scott Dixon: "All I bring it down to is competition. All of us just want that (title) as much as the other. I think it's good. It's good for the series, it builds a fan base, it builds the hype between us. You know guys aren't going to give an inch; they're going to race hard for it."

AP: IRL speeding toward dramatic finish with 3 drivers vying for the title
The soap opera doesn't undermine the friendship & respect between the drivers. Says Tony Kanaan: "We go back a long ways. We've been racing together for almost 10 years. We do get frustrated. We do talk about what happened afterward. But I think there's such a high level of respect that I think we're beyond that, we're bigger than that."

Joliet Herald-News: Heat on in IRL
Says AGR's Kyle Moyer "It is getting more tense and it will be more intense this weekend. It maybe got going when things started getting closer and closer. This is the seventh game of the World Series. Whoever walks out ahead of the other guy wins the championship."

ESPN.com: John Orevicz's column tells us it's for all the marbles

IndyCar.com recaps the title chase from Milwaukee forward

Orlando Sentinel: High drama in IndyCar title chase

Detroit Free Press: IRL series headed for slam-bang finish

IndyCar.com: On the fast track: Chicago almost always has dramatic finishes

Driver stories
Indianapolis Star: Snakebit Franchitti relaxed about title run
Says Dario: "If you look at laps led over the past two months, I think we've been at our strongest. (But) a combination of the Michigan accident, my mistake at Kentucky, the whole screw up at Sonoma, then just the craziness of this past weekend (in Detroit), you know, those things have kind of eaten into our points lead ... If you look at our performance, it's definitely been there."

Scotsman: Untouchable in Chicago is Dario's aim
Says Dario: "Sure, this season's close but nothing in sport, and especially motorsport, is ever guaranteed. ... We've seen all season how races ­ and the championship ­ can turn quickly. But we're going to Chicago with one aim in mind, and that's to win the race and the championship."

Autosport: Dixon plans down rivalry with AGR
Says TK: "We as teams and we as drivers are trying to play every card. The press talks a lot about what Scott said about me after Sonoma, what I said about Scott after Detroit. ... What they don't know is that behind the scenes we still hang out and we still laugh about it. We still respect each other a lot because, like Scott says, it's racing."

The Sun (UK): Dario's got nerves of steel
Says Dario: "I’ll take the same risks I’ve always taken. I’ll use the same judgment I did before the last two oval races and just do what I’ve always done.”

AP: IRL contenders: No team orders for Chicago
Says Michael Andretti: "I think the relationship that (our) drivers have is really special, all four of them. If there's a way that one can help the other in some way, I'm sure they will. But there are no orders. I think that's pretty evident in the race (at Sonoma) where Dario and Marco got together. They were both going for the win. We have no orders to take any wins away from anybody."

Interesting comments from Chip Ganassi: "If a driver wants to insert himself in the championship chase, I don't think it's difficult to do. You have to understand you're driving these cars at 200 (miles per hour) and ... if you want to affect the outcome of a particular lap, I don't think it's that difficult to do.
A lot of times it's unseen to an untrained eye or without looking at the throttle trace (data) or the steering wheel position. ... Oftentimes, not till after a race do you hear the real story from the guys that were in the seats."

Also from Chip, not expecting anything untoward: "I don't think any of the drivers want anybody to point the finger at them all winter, saying they changed the outcome of the championship. I would think that would be something that would be pretty heavy on the driver's shoulders."

Daily Southtown: Wheldon in new position
Dan isn't used to struggling like he has this season.
Says Mr. Wheldon: "I really wish I knew how to explain it ... I did have some unfortunate luck. I made a couple of mistakes, and our team made a couple. When things are not working for you, it doesn't just rain, it pours on what I consider an ultra-competitive, championship team ... This has been strange. I think I will handle it a little different if it ever happens again."

IndyCar.com: Last chance for first win for Danica
Says Danica: "There is no reason we can't put together a good overall weekend and keep the Motorola car up front all day on Sunday. Last weekend was another big step for us and gave us even more confidence, and now we have to take advantage of that."

And finally
SpeedTV's Jeff Olson tells us about a NASCAR convert to IndyCars
And then Jeff tells his friend he found himself liking IndyCar for all the wrong reasons. And people wonder why NASCAR folk don't often give this a second look. There's not a lot of room for snobbishness in the OW camp right now. I'm a hockey fan, but it would be like me telling someone who had just discovered the sport "you like it for all the wrong reasons" because they like the occasional fight, rather than the grace, power and speed of the play itself. We all have our own reasons, but let's face it, the IndyCar Series has something for everybody right now. There's no need to be pushing people away because they like some of the more, ahem, unsavory parts of the sport. Because, eventually, they'll come to enjoy the parts of it that we like, too -- as a lot of "fight fans" have turned into people who actually appreciate the game of hockey.

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