Brian Vickers won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race yesterday at Michigan because Jimmie Johnson ran out of fuel and that is not the way people should win races.
The reason I tend to prefer short-track speedway racing to the big-league stuff is that fuel is never an issue.
Supermodifieds? Sprint cars? They can use all the fuel they need.
But NASCAR and the IRL place restrictions on the amount of fuel a car can use over the course of a race. Cars are supposed to get "x" number of miles-per-gallon.
I say, who cares?
If you want to have a fuel-economy run, fine. The environmentalists will love you. But it’s not racing.
Remember back in the Nineties, when the Indy car races would come on, and CART was at the top of its game, and play-by-play announcer Paul Page (what a great voice. . .) would throw to Jon Beekhuis for a little pre-race analysis? And the first thing Jon would say, literally every time, was:
"Paul, everybody’s worried about fuel, they might not have enough. . . "and I’d say: " I’m supposed to get excited about that?"
I think there could be a correlation between the emphasis on fuel economy and the decline in popularity of Indy car racing.
And that’s what’s happening with NASCAR. Just about all of the superspeedway races now come down to "fuel strategy." And when the announcers start talking about that, I guarantee you that eyes are glazing over and channels are being changed.
Is it any wonder there are empty seats in the grandstands and fewer people are watching on television when it's touch-and-go that a driver will be able to make it to the finish when he should be duking it out with the other drivers?
When you have to conserve fuel, you are not racing. It is as simple as that.
Memo to NASCAR, the IRL and all other racing organizations that consider themselves to be in the entertainment business: Give the racers all the fuel they need or want. Let ‘em race.
Jeff Gordon finished second at Michigan yesterday. (Get this: as he went flying into turn one, he’d shut off the engine. When he got to the apex, he’d fire it up again in time to accelerate onto the backstretch. He’d do that again going into turn three. "I shut the engine off so much I think I got us (stretched the fuel for) six laps," Gordon said afterward. Which is nuts.)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third – one of his best runs in ages.
Yesterday’s victory was Vickers’ second in Sprint Cup competition and moved him into 13th place in the standings, a dozen points out of the 12th and final Chase for the Championship (playoff) spot with three races left – all in prime time: Bristol next Sat. night at 6:30, Atlanta the Sunday night of Labour Day weekend, at 7, and then the Chevy Rock ‘n Roll 400 at Richmond on Sat., Sept. 12, also at 7.
– Jerry Punch, a medical doctor, started out announcing NASCAR and IRL races as a pit reporter. An articulate man, I admired Punch for his use of the language, particularly his diction. Now he is the play-by-play announcer and he seems to be picking up some bad habits. He seems to be "channeling" Larry McReynolds when he uses certain words. So attention, Dr. Punch: the word "caution," as in "caution flag," is pronounced "caw-shun," not "cow-shun." There is no saving Mr. McReynolds, but you can do better. . .
– Maybe the people who run NASCAR shouldn’t be so knee-jerk reactionary when someone like Dale Jr. makes some suggestions. Earnhardt II said on Friday – in so many words – that the Car of Tomorrow is junk and should be . . . junked. President Mike Helton then held his own news conference to say not a chance and seemed to suggest that maybe if Junior was doing a little better in the standings that he might not be so critical. That’s not the point, Mr. Helton. NASCAR Sprint Cup has lost some of its zip and maybe, just maybe, the car might have something to do with it. Suggestion: chew on things for awhile before spitting them out. There might be some flavour in there. . .
– Although there were a few empty seats, yesterday’s Cup race at Michigan was very well attended. But did you see the turnout for Saturday’s Nationwide race? I mean, there was nobody there. And this is the series that packs ‘em in at Montreal? I still don’t get it.
Brockville driver injured
I was hanging around my old summertime stomping grounds on Sat. night – the Oswego Speedway in New York state (about 35 miles across Lake Ontario south of Kingston) – and heard some bad news.
Craig Rayvals of Brockville, a talented driver speedway announcer Roy Sova calls "Hollywood" because of his good looks, was badly injured Friday night at Lee U.S.A. Speedway in New Hampshire when his throttle stuck open and he went full-tilt into the retaining wall.
Rayvals reportedly has a badly broken right leg, a broken collarbone and several broken ribs.
This is the third really bad accident this season in the supermodified class. Ex-NASCAR star Johnny Benson was banged up earlier this year at a race in Michigan, as was local Oswego driver Shawn Muldoon, who’s still at home recovering.
The "supers’ can bite if you’re not careful.
On the positive side, Joey (the Jersey Jet) Payne won his first Oswego supermodified feature Saturday night. It was also the first feature win for car owners Pat and Terry Strong.
Weekend racing results:
–Andrew Ranger, the Quebec driver who spent two years in the Champ Car World Series before finding himself on the outside looking in, is on a tear in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series this season.
Yesterday, at Trois-Rivieres, he drove his No. 27 WalMart/Tide Ford to his fifth victory of the season and, in doing so, just about put a stranglehold on the championship.
Ranger, of Roxton Pond, Que., held off Anthony Simone of Holland Landing, Ont., in a green-white-checkers finish. D. J. Kennington of St. Thomas, Ont., was third, Jacques Villeneuve (yes, that Jacques Villeneuve) of Montreal was fourth and Ron Beauchamp Jr. of Windsor was fifth.
Montreal Canadiens defenceman Patrice Brisebois (of Westmount, Que.) was 17th in the 29-car field (it was his first professional series start after driving in the non-professional Ferrari Challenge series for the past five years), pole-winner Alex Tagliani (Lachenaie, Que.) finished 22nd after his engine let go, Pierre Bourque of Ottawa lost his transmission and finished 24th but donated his winnings to the Military Families Fund (more about him – and that – in a future blog), and defending national champion Scott Steckly of Milverton, Ont., was 27th after he, too, lost his transmission.
The Canadian Tires Series racers will next see action a week from next Sunday at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal as part of the NASCAR Nationwide weekend. . .
– Swiss driver Simona de Silvestro became the winningest woman driver in Formula Atlantic history yesterday at Trois-Rivieres when she nipped John Edwards by 0.886 seconds. Jonathan Summerton finished third.
De Silvestro broke a tie with Katherine Legge by winning her fourth race. She also has scored the most pole positions by a woman and is the female lap leader.
Eric Jensen of Toronto finished eighth.
The Atlantics will race next at Mosport in two weeks as part of the American Le Mans Series weekend. . .
– Speaking of the American LeMans Series, David Brabham and Scott Sharp won the ALMS race at Road America yesterday and were first in the LMP1 class. Adrien Fernandez and Louis Diaz were first in LMP2 and Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand won the GT2 class. . .
– Robert Wickens of Toronto had two miserable races in the new FIA Formula 2 series at the weekend. He dropped out of both with engine problems, although he’s still second in the standings. But the championship doesn’t look good. . .