IRL: DC's sing-along

AULD LANG SYNE Heading to the last 2007 Rolex Series race at Miller Motorsports Park - mostly filling third-driver seats for the 7.5-hour enduro - are some too-infrequently seen faces in DP: Salvador Duran (Sanchez), Joey Hand, Ryan Hunter-Reay,...

AULD LANG SYNE

Heading to the last 2007 Rolex Series race at Miller Motorsports Park - mostly filling third-driver seats for the 7.5-hour enduro - are some too-infrequently seen faces in DP: Salvador Duran (Sanchez), Joey Hand, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Mike Rockenfeller, Jan Magnussen (hey, he's been off and on), Marc-Antoine Camirand, Bill Lester, Jimmy Vasser and Justin Wilson.

What've some of them been doing since last seen around these parts?

After winning the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona (with Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Pruett, rejoining the latter at MMS) the 22-year-old Duran's competed in the Yurripein World Series by Renault, scoring one win in five starts. Chip Ganassi Racing is high on Duran, and for good reason: he floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, something Chip will possibly need if he again faces off with Savoree. Then again, probably not.

Hand won his first SPEED Touring Car start in July at Mid-O (as in: he showed up at the track, saw the car for the first time, got in, raced the course and in a series in which he hadn't previously participated). He just got in the car, got the tires warm, worn and won. Pretty wild, huh? Oh, and he set the race's fastest lap - a record one - at that. Hmmm, has Hand previously raced at MMP?

Hunter-Reay just won IndyCar Series' 2007 Bombardier Rookie of the Year honors driving for Rahal Letterman Racing. I can remember talking to Hunter-Reay a few years back about his then still top-secret decision to go with to Champ Car: "It's a win/win for me because my future is set." Don't worry, man, I feel for you. My "future's already been set" a good dozen-or-so times.

Lester, currently 19th in Craftsman Series Truck points despite having not run in that series since Aug. 11 (citing sponsorship woes, CTS truck owner Billy Ballew Motorsports pulled Lester's CTS ride shortly after the Toyota Tundra 250 in Nashville). Coming back "home" shortly after, Lester tested MMP in the No. 12 RVO Motorsports Pontiac-Riley. Lester's always liked turning left AND right, best. Well, insofar as driving is concerned. Money, or its allure, has a way of setting things like the "future." Like I said above ...

Magnussen's got a really cool real-time clock on his home page (http://www.janmagnussen.com). When Jan wasn't Stateside, he was kicking some booty driving a BMW 320i in the Danish Touring Car Championship's seventh race. Reading Danish as best as I could muster, in the DTC championship standings Magnussen is either in third, behind John Nielsen (the same as was once in the TWR Jag GTP?), or sneaking up on first-place's Michel Nykjær with one race to go. Hmmm, the sitting in third, maybe second and prospectively winning a championship has a familiar ring, doesn't it?

Camirand is a talented French Canadian who drove in the under-(fill in the blank) 2006 Spirit of Daytona DP effort. This time, he and the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona team has shown with some extra horses and guts (and owner Troy Flis with a mean face, finally) in the new Cayenne-motored Fabcar/Cheever. It's "no excuses" time. The car's done a ton of testing and, on tracks where the previous DP effort also tested, has lowered lap times by three-seconds or more. Call this a sleeper even though this race is a "test for Daytona."

Vasser, who teamed with Chip Ganassi Racing to win the 1996 CART title (the thought just hit me that it's gotta be getting to the point-in-time when coming along is a whole new generation that will not know what "CART" stood for, much less what it did. Um, no disrespect there, Mr. Vasser. Hell, I'm older than you by a long shot). Nevertheless, Vasser's hand-eye-foot coordination still must pretty darn good if Bob Stallings is again putting him in the No. 99 Gainsco car. See this guy if you need a good Chevy, Ford or Toyota deal.

Wilson is second to Sebastien Bourdais in Champ Car with little chance of catching the F1-bound points leader. Still, Wilson will need to drive hard to keep a third-place rookie, Robert Doornbos, from catching up. Wilson likes Michael Shank Racing and the feeling's mutual. Teaming with Oswaldo Negri, Mark Patterson and A.J. Allmendinger in the 2006 Rolex 24, the team posted an improbable second-place finish. Improbably finishing first at the inaugural Sunchaser 1000k last year, will Wilson and Negri be able to adequately spell an injured Mark Patterson?

A NEW FACE, TOO

Richard Antinucci will team with Christian Fittipaldi and Harrison Brix in Eddie Cheever's No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve Pontiac-Cheever (yes, it's a Fabcar, but Cheever's finally got the controlling interest, so let's call it what it is. Then again, we didn't call it a "Klym" did we? Okay, Fabcar it is.)

Well, anyway, Antinucci comes to the DP ranks most recently by way of Eddie Cheever's Indy Pro Series ride (No. 51) in which the Italian-born driver started nine races, scored a pole and won twice.

Quick: Who won this year's Homestead-Miami Speedway race? (Answer below)

BILL AUBERLEN . . .

. . . just doesn't remind me of a race car driver. Looking at him, that is.

Classically "California Beach Boy" handsome, Auberlen's physical stature reminds me more of a football player on the defensive side of the ball, like a linebacker or, perhaps, a nose guard (one that doesn't have a huge gut).

Yet, had he played only with the oddly-shaped "ball" he probably wouldn't have retained his looks. And, as we all know, looks help a lot when you're a race car driver.

Think about it:

Christian Fittipaldi, he even looked good in a beard (which he shaved months ago);

Eddie Cheever, still handsome after all these years (and, day by day, more gray hair);

Max Papis; I've actually seen women swoon in his presence (okay, one woman, his wife Tati), (okay, YES, she WAS pregnant with Marco at the time), (and your point?) (oh, never mind then);

Scott Pruett, politically incorrect sun-burnt handsome due to his deep love of the outdoors, fence riding and cattle rustlin' (or was that bronc bustin'? I forget so easily nowadays);

Jan Magnussen, whose nice-guy Danish skin tone blushes even when he isn't embarrassed;

Helio Castroneves, take a look at his picture on the side and back of Michael Shank Racing's No. 60 Lexus-Riley hauler, if that ain't "handsome" I know not the meaning of the word (and, by contrast, I darn sure don't see it in the mirror each day).

But I digress; incredibly so.

Auberlen is a really rare racer. The guy just doesn't understand "saving it for another day." If he's in the seat, whatever seat, Auberlen's going all out petal-to-metal, full-tilt-boogie regardless of his chances in winning.

It seems incredible that he hasn't left a bigger, more recognizable mark in this sport.

The BMW motor behind him? As compared to the others, it's overweight and has a too-high center of gravity in a car that hasn't tested (last I heard) other than at "promoter's option" days that usually coincide with a race event.

Auberlen's now getting long in the tooth (nearing the big four-oh) and though he has thus far completely evaded time's stunting hands, anyone who's passed through that age knows father time's arrival is just inevitable. (Actually, physiologically speaking, for a male the downside starts at about age 18. But that's another subject for another day).

Indeed, though paddock talk has centered on him hooking up with a big-name team in 2008, Matthew Alhadeff, his No. 05 Sigalsport co-driver markedly has gotten better and better through the 2007 season, leaving Auberlen in somewhat of quandary, one supposes.

MILKA

If you didn't see ABC's IndyCar post-race Chicagoland coverage you missed Mrs. Dario Franchitti unloading on former Rolex Series driver Milka Duno, who earlier this year jumped from doing DPs to IndyCar.

That Mrs. Franchitti publicly aired some laundry alone was surprising given that most post-win spousal interviews are rarely thought-provoking.

Paraphrased, here, her words were something to the effect of "She's going too slow, dagnabbitall."

That's probably true vis-à-vis Mr. Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay and, even, Scott Sharp (now, now, just a little fun jab there, Scott), but Milka can still go a heckuva lot faster than I'll ever drive.

That means the "purists" get to thrash it out from here and, no doubt, will be joined in that rational pursuit by El Presidente Hugo Chavez.

JUST CAN'T HELP BUT ASK

Claiming 2007's Indy 500 and IndyCar championships, Dario Franchitti easily outdistanced the IRL's other money winners by collecting just over $4 million in purse money (an aggregate figure, Franchitti's "net" after an owner's cut is unknown but to accountants and the IRS).

Despite "winning" almost twice as much as the championship's next best, Scott Dixon, I'll nonetheless wager Mr. Franchitti still didn't make as much as Mrs. Franchitti.

So, sitting over dinner someday soon, will Mr. Franchitti at some point be forced to defend his spending habits by saying, "It's my money; I won it fair and square and I'll spend it however I wish!"

Now, should anyone at this point be inclined toward uproarious bowel behavior, I have been there; done that at the dinner table and in the Mr. Franchitti role.

ANSWER:

Matthew Alhadeff was the co-driver of the No. 05 Luggage Express, Team Sigalsport BMW-Riley. The other guy? If you really have to ask, go back to the question for an ancillary hint. If you still don't know, forget it.

Later.


    Written exclusively for Motorsport.com by DC Williams

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About this article
Series General , Grand-Am , IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Williams , Chip Ganassi Racing , Michael Shank Racing