Not a lot of surprises in auto racing this weekend.
Lewis Hamilton, who won the last Formula One race a fortnight ago in Turkey, won Sunday’s Grand Prix of Canada before a massive crowd in Montreal.
In NASCAR, Denny Hamlin, who won last weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Pocono, won the Helluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway. It was his fifth win in the last 10 races.
At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Audi reclaimed the podium big-time after a year’s absence.
At Mosport, where NASCAR Canadian Tire Series young tigers Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond., Que., and J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge have been taking turns winning on the legendary road course, it was Fitzpatrick’s turn Sunday, with Ranger finishing second.
And also at Mosport, Shane Jantzi of Ayr won the Can Am Cup, which is presented annually to the driver who wins a special Formula Ford 1600 race. The Cup has been presented five times and the only winner has been Jantzi, who happily admits to being in a rut.
I was at Mosport, and my story for the Star and thestar.com/sports (click here if you missed it) pretty much wrapped up the weekend results there. But here are the usual notebook jottings and observations.
– There are too many rules in Formula One and I wish they would throw most of them out. Having said that, somebody’s going to get killed one of these days with all the racing that’s going on heading into the pits and then going out of the pits and if there isn’t a rule against this, there should be.
Hamilton got into it side-by-side with Alonso leaving the pits Sunday and both drivers were trying to intimidate the other. NASCAR and Indy car have two lanes leaving the pits – the outside (where cars are at the speed limit and are out of the way of cars leaving their pit) and the inside where drivers are supposed to travel once they exit theiir pit and are getting up to speed.
There is only room for one lane in Formula One and it is marked accordingly. If it was golf, Hamilton would have been marked out of bounds Sunday. It’s time the stewards (or somebody) put a stop to this.
– Before the season started, I was excited at the prospect of Michael Schumacher returning. I thought it would give F1 a shot in the arm and that he wouldn’t be returning if he wasn’t competitive.
Two things have happened. Some drivers (and I’m not alone on this) have performed admirably and are driving much better than most people expected. Jenson Button is one. Mark Webber is another. So F1 didn’t need Schumacher, after all.
Second, and worse: he’s lost it. He can’t race with the young guys that are out there. And the arrogance that once was admirable (or, at least, understandable) when he was winning is still there and making him look foolish.
His banging of wheels and sliding all over the place Sunday in attempting to prevent faster cars from passing him was embarrassing.
And – horrors! – he finished the race a lap down.
He should rethink continuing beyond 2010.
– The fact that Schumacher is failing – not exactly miserably, but close to it – and other "old guys" like Pedro de la Rosa and Jarno Trulli are not exactly setting the world on fire is bad news for our own Jacques Villeneuve, who’s still telling people (and the press) that he’s seriously hoping to land an F1 ride in 2011.
If a seven-time world champion can’t get a handle on things, it’s highly unlikely a one-time world champion would do any better. And JV isn't much younger than the 40-plus Schumey.
– The race itself, with Jenson Button following Hamilton home, with Fernando Alonso third (story and results here) was fast and exciting and there was plenty of passing. It was just the sort of thing F1 needed. And with a crowd of 115,000 on hand (more than 300,000 admissions were recorded during the three days), it was more than a roaring success.
– Denny Hamlin did something to a ligament in his left knee while playing basketball last winter. After he won his first race of the season in late March, he had an operation to repair it. He’s been almost unbeatable since, which makes you wonder what kind of a bionic part went into his leg.
He won Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup start in Michigan (see story and results) with almost ridiculous ease. He led 123 of the 200 laps and the only other driver who really had anything for him was second-place finisher Kasey Kahne.
Having said that, when there was a "debris caution" called on lap 182, Hamlin had a nearly 10-second lead over Khane. That's how dominant he was on this day. Once the "debris" was cleared and the green thrown – with the field all bunched up – it took Hamlin about a nonsecond to start pulling away from Kahne again.
He had no trouble wracking up his 13th career victory, with Kahne second, Kurt Busch third, Jeff Gordon fourth and Tony Stewart fifth.
– Hamlin knows what happens in NASCAR when somebody has a 10-second lead. It’s called a "debris caution" that bunches up the field and makes for better TV.
"I realize we are in show business," said Hamlin.
Good for him for saying that. There are still people out there who think that NASCAR’s all about the racing – and that pro wrestling isn’t fixed.
24 Hours of Le Mans
The braintrust of the Peugeot Motor Co. no doubt will be gathering in Paris Monday morning to try to figure out what happened at the 24 Hours of Le Mans where the company’s one-year reign at the top of the endurance-racing heap came to an abrupt halt once this year's race started on Saturday.
The car that won the pole went out early with a suspension failure and the other two factory entries that started second and third retired with engine problems.
Audi’s one-two-three sweep (story and results here) was led by Mike Rockenfeller, Romain Dumas and Timo Benhard.
I'll be honest, a 24-hour race like Le Mans is great when you're in it -- or at it (because the party can be something else). But as a TV spectacle? Not as much.
It really is a race for the purists.
– The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race unfortunately didn’t live up to its billing.
Andrew Ranger and J.R. Fitzpatrick have always put on a terrific show (although Fitzpatrick missed one race) and there was great anticipation for this one.
Fitzpatrick went into the pits for fuel fairly early and the luck of the draw kicked in. There was a full-course caution while he was in there, which meant he was fuelled up and ready to go the distance when Ranger (and several others who were running well in the early going) had to make their fuel stops.
Ranger gave it the old college try, but just couldn’t make up the distance. He got about five seconds behind Fitzpatrick but that was as close as he got.
Fitzpatrick will now turn his attention to next weekend’s NASCAR Nationwide race at Road America. He’s driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team (as is fellow Canadian Ron Fellows) and this presents a great opportunity for him to make an impression.
– The Formula Ford 1600 Can Am Cup race that’s been held as part of the Celebration of Motorsport weekend at Mosport every October was deliberately moved to this weekend this year in hopes of attracting more participants.
But after it was placed on the calendar, the Grand Prix of Canada promoters added Formula Ford races to their event and many of the entrants expected at Mosport went to Montreal instead (and who can blame them?).
As a result, Shane Jantzi of Ayr, who has never lost a Can Am Cup race, won the trophy again.
Even he would like some more competition.
"You know," he said, "that if I had the money I would have liked to go on to Indy Lights by now. But while I’m racing in this class I’m going to do my best and it’s a thrill for me to have won this trophy for the fifth time.
"But we need the Formula Ford cars from Quebec to come here for this race. And we need some of the American FF runners as well. This could be a great event, but we need more cars."