People went to the CNE yesterday to see an Indy car race and a NASCAR race broke out.
The first 17 laps were golden, with good racing, excellent car control and lots of gutsy, clean passing.
Then, ex-Formula One driver Takuma Sato hit the wall after his teammate, Mario Moraes, ran into the side of him. After that, there was yellow flag after yellow flag.
The last caution of the day involved Tomas Scheckter running into Alex Tagliani, which Scheckter said later was "payback" for Tags hitting him in 2009.
Crashes? Payback? How "NASCAR" can you get?
In the end, Will Power of Australia won the race with Dario Franchitti of Scotland second and Ryan Hunter-Reay of Florida third.
There were two women in the top ten – Danica Patrick sixth and Simona de Silvestro ninth.
Re: the crashes. On the statistics sheet, it only shows six cars going off on the hook. But there were at least two more accidents in which cautions resulted and damage was done but the participants were able to get back to the pits and sent out to race again.
Chief among the latter was Ryan Briscoe, who whacked the wall and lost his front wing. After being pulled off the track by the IRL safety crew, Briscoe managed to refire his car and drive it back to the Team Penske pits were a new wing was attached and he rejoined the fray – eventually finishing 18th, two laps down.
Canadian content was supplied by Paul Tracy (a lap down in 13th place) and Alex Tagliani, who was 17th after his late-race run-in with Scheckter. Tag was less-than-pleased with Jody’s kid and let him know it in no uncertain terms.
It was a pretty good race, although it would have been better with fewer cautions. But most of the drivers I either heard talking, or that I talked to afterward, said it’s the nature of the beast in Toronto: it’s a high-speed, tight winding circuit and there are going to be accidents.
If you read down this blog (somebody forgot to change the headline in the blog pointer for about four days . . . ) you’ll see I wrote a live blog during the race. There are other stories I wrote scattered about thestar.com and wheels.ca’s special Honda Indy Page.
So I don’t have a lot more to say. Except . . .
– The crowd. The Rogers Centre is an embarrassment just about every time the Jays play, but nobody in the media seems too concerned about all those empty seats. Ditto the Argos. They played their home opener the other night and the 20,000 who showed up were lost in the 55,000-seat former Skydome.
But everybody wants to know about the crowd at the Indy car race.
I can’t put a number on the crowd at the CNE yesterday, except to say it was more than were at the Argos opener and more than show up for a Jays game these days – which is usually 14,000 or 15,000.
But, more important, there was a "big event" feel to the race, again. That’s what’s important to me.
Having said that, the organizers have to do three things, I think:
– Start marketing the race more in cities within driving distance – Buffalo, Rochester, Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Ont., Peterborough and Kingston. Let each of those cities have their own section. Sell rail and hotel packages. Or bus and hotel. Get Porter airlines involved for people from Ottawa and Montreal.
– Market a family package. $100 for a family of three or four. I met several families on Free Friday who said they’d like to attend the race but couldn’t afford it. One father, looking at his wife for approval (why do so many do that?), said he’d pay $100 if they could all get in for that.
– Last, revisit the water bottle rule. Everybody carries a bottle of water with them these days, everywhere they go. It’s part of the human uniform. It’s really rude to tell people – who are walking up to the gates of your event in 90 degree weather – that they have to throw away their bottle of water.
– I like Will Power because he is a true professional. No excuses. This is what he said about driving for Team Penske (paraphrase):
If we don’t win, it’s not good enough. As drivers, it’s our job to win. We are presented with the best equipment by the best team in auto racing. We have no excuses if we lose...
On losing positions early in the race (direct quote): "Sometimes you have to chill."
– Paul Tracy said he didn’t like finishing behind the two women, but there was a reason.
"To finish high up in auto racing, you can’t make any mistakes. They didn’t make any mistakes today, but Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves and Paul Tracy did."
– Tracy was one of the first drivers to publicly say that the new 2012 chassis might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
"Nobody knows the real cost yet," he said, before going on to estimate that the racing budget of a one-car team would go up by at least a million dollars a year.
-- Indy racing legend Johnny Rutherford was in town to drive the pace car during the Honda Indy. The three-time Indy 500 winner reminisced about racing in a USAC midget race at the old CNE Speedway in 1964. "I thought I finished fourth," he said, "but Jiggs Peters had the same number and the scorers gave him fourth place. I can't remember where I finished."
-- Sasha Anis passed defending Super Touring champion Nick Wittmer late in Sunday’s feature race and held on to secure his first win of 2010 in the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship presented by Toyo Tires at the Honda Indy Toronto.
Starting from the outside of the front row next to polesitter Nick Wittmer, Anis stayed close to the no.1 Lombardi Honda Racing Civic Si before he made his move going in turn one on lap 12. Once he got around Wittmer, he didn’t look back, and cruised to victory by a margin of 4.435 seconds in his G1 Racing Hyundai Genesis.
Gregory Pootmans started and finished third in ST in his Team Aldo/Northwest BMW 330.
I didn’t see any of it (although the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Formula One weren’t in action) so here’s just a quick recap.
– Carl Edwards sent Brad Keselowski spinning at the end of the NASCAR Nationwide race on Saturday night and he was absolutely t-boned by a following car. People were coming up to me at the Indy car race and saying that the have-at-it-boys thing was right-out-of-control.
Yup. NASCAR must be pleased.
-- Jacques Villeneuve has got a ride in next weekend's Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis. And he's working with F1 interests in Europe to enter a team in the 2011 World Championship. I really wish he wouldn't do any of this.
– Mark Webber got a private tongue-lashing from his Red Bull employers this week, then wrote on his web site that there had been "a good meeting," and that the "air had been cleared," and that everybody was "moving forward in a positive manner" to work, in future, for the "betterment of the team."
All code words for a trip to the woodshed.
We’ll see how things go this coming weekend in Germany.
Hmmm, which driver to you think is going to get preferential treatment in Germany? The Australian, or the German? You only get one guess, now. . .
– Alex Gurney and Jon Fogerty won the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series race in New Jersey. Mark Wilkins of Toronto and American Burt Friselle finished fourth in their Pacific Mobile/Biosign AIM Autosport of Woodbridge No. 61 Ford Riley. Mike Forest of Edmonton and Ryan Dalziel were fifth.