1. IndyCar’s Big Three set their sights on Toronto
2. D.J. Kennington wins wild Canadian Tire race
3. "Big ones" at Daytona, Baie des Chaleur rally
At last year’s Honda Indy Toronto, Dario Franchitti was the feature winner, with Ryan Briscoe second and Will Power third..
Yesterday at Watkins Glen, N.Y., which was the last IZOD IndyCar Series race before the Toronto round in two weeks, they shuffled the deck a tad and Power won, with Briscoe second and Franchitti third.
Is there anybody out there who wants to bet that those three won’t be the pacesetters again when the Indy cars and stars arrive in Toronto for the second renewal of the Honda-sponsored race July 16-18?
Didn’t think so.
Power, an Australian, won from pole (it was his third win of the season) and was the leader all race except for about half a lap after he was passed while leaving the pits by his Team Penske co-pilot Briscoe, another Australian.
Power was clearly angry that his mate had somehow gotten in front of him and made short work of regaining the lead, after which he was never headed.
Franchitti, a native of Scotland who now lives near Nashville, Tenn., was actually in second place going into the final lap but his tires started to go off and he couldn’t hold Briscoe at bay.
Those three really were the class of the race and, if it hadn’t been for several yellows that closed up the field, would have sailed off into the sunset all by themselves.
Nobody else was in the same league yesterday.
Canadian content was provided by Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani, who came home 14th and 17th respectively.
Danica Patrick, who finished sixth in last year’s Honda Indy Toronto, had a terrible day yesterday and finished 20th, the best of the three women in the race. Milka Duno was classified 23rd, although she was three laps down. Simona de Silvestro crashed out.
Tracy said after the race that his car had handling problems.
"It wasn’t the day we were hoping for . . . but we kept fighting at it all day and got the handling better and ultimately ended up with a 14th-place result.
"We had some issues in the race with the radio and not having communication at times, which made it difficult. Also, I think Justin (his teammate, Justin Wilson) struggled with the same thing as me, which was the balance.
"It’s not what we wanted, but we brought the car home and got some points and that’s all that matters."
Tagliani acknowledged that his Fazzt Racing Team has had better days. An attempt at a different fuel strategy saw the team pit early but yellow flags did them in.
"We haven’t had our best weekend and we were hoping that we could pull out a good result with race strategy but that just didn’t happen. When the yellow came out (on Lap 38), we were just done. At that point I just tried to gain some points to help us in the championship hunt.
"I’m looking forward to the next races in Canada and I know we will recover and come back strong in Toronto (where he finished ninth a year ago)."
It was an okay race at Watkins Glen yesterday but nothing special. There weren’t a lot of spectators there, either.
– I’ve never directed the televising of a big-league car race so I’m far from being an expert. But I do know this: it’s better to concentrate on what’s happening out on the track where the action is than to have the camera on some guy in the pits nattering away about NOTHING!!!!!
Which is what happened yesterday.
As the cars were lining up for the start, with one corner to go, all of a sudden the TV switched to pit reporter Vince Welch, who started delivering the standard pre-race lecture on tires and tire strategy.
(Yes, people: we know they have to use two types of tires during the race. We’re not morons. Stop tailoring your broadcasts as if the only people watching have recently arrived from Mars and have never seen a race before.)
In any event, they switched the camera back to the track – after the green flag had already been thrown – but all the way through corner one and up through corner two, good ol’ Vince kept on talkin’ about how the red tires have more grip but they don’t last as long and the black tires are . . . well, ok, you get the drift.
Host Marty Reid finally got to talk about what was happening as the field approached the bus stop on the first lap and, folks, that just isn’t good enough.
– Talking about the bus stop – which only came into being to slow down the cars in 1992 after NASCAR driver J.D. McDuffie was killed at the big, sweeping, right-hand curve that follows – the Indy cars were just just flying through it yesterday.
In fact, the first lap was one of the best first laps I’ve seen in an Indy car race in a number of years: whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whooshwhooshwhoosh, whoosh, whooshwhoosh . . . well, you get the idea. Tail to nose all the way back through the pack. Even Milka had her foot in it. When Danica said before the race that there’s a lot of good drivers in that series, she was right – rather than making excuses.
– I’m not a big of Scott Dixon but I’m not sure Reid and colour commentator Scott Goodyear were correct when they intimated he was at fault when his front wing made contact with Helio Castroneves’s left rear tire early in the race that saw both men have to pit.
They were powering up to 170 miles an hour at that point on the circuit (up the hill heading for turn four). Both were drifting left – but maybe Castroneves moved a little earlier than Dixon expected and that’s how the accident happened. Or maybe Helio had lifted ever so slightly because his car had started to slide.
Who knows? But I don’t think that the mishap was as cut-and-dried as the announcers (and Castroneves afterward) made it out to be.
– Tracy said after the race that his car wasn’t handling properly. Good to hear that, because otherwise it looked on several occasions as if he was holding up faster cars (and faster drivers). Rookie Adam Carroll was all over him at one point and Paul had to chop the kid to keep him from getting past.
– Several intriguing commercials were shown during that Indy car race. One featured drivers talking about the merits of joining the IndyCar Nation fan club. At one point, Graham Rahal says, "Why aren’t you a member?" I found myself saying, "Why aren’t you a driver?"
Rahal, of course, was not in yesterday’s race at the Glen and might not drive in the series again this season – although there are hints that he has a sponsor, or sponsors, lined up for 2011.
Another that caught my eye was IZOD’s "race to the party" commercial that has several drivers performing stunts without wearing the proper safety equipment.
People notice those things – in fact, one of my friends had pointed this out to me previously – and it’s not wise that the company has them on the air.
The Brazil ethanol commercial, on the other hand, is delightful – particularly when "Dancing With The Stars" winner Castroneves sings a half-dozen bars and then admits, "I can dance, but I cannot sing."
WILD FINISH TO CANADIAN TIRE SERIES RACE
If the other headline race at the Honda Indy Toronto – the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race on Sat., July 17 – is as exciting as the one they had at Autodrome St. Eustache on Saturday night, then fans will be in for a real treat.
With two laps left in the Lucas Oil National 250, 2008 national champion Scott Steckly of Milverton barged past Mount Albert’s Kerry Micks to take the lead.
But just like Wile E. Coyote, D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas was lurking in third and when he saw an opening on the inside lane he went for it and got past both Steckly and Micks for the victory – his second in three Canadian Tire series races this year.
While Steckly finished second, Don Thomson Jr. of Ayr was third. Micks – who was penalized for rough racing earlier in the event and then managed to battle his way back to the front – eventually finished sixth.
"This one was kind of gift-wrapped for us," said Kennington, "but a win is a win any way they come. I’m not going to say that we had it totally handed to us, though. The Castrol Edge Dodge was great all day and near the front all race long."
Fierce rivals J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge and Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., were eighth and ninth, respectively. Ranger had to start at the back of the pack because he was racing at Lime Rock in the U.S. earlier Saturday (he won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race) and missed qualifying for the Canadian race.
OTHER RACING THIS WEEKEND
Although fans were looking at their watches, wondering if (and when) the Coke Zero 400 would ever end, they snapped to attention shortly after midnight when one of the biggest "big ones" in NASCAR history took place at Daytona International Speedway.
More than half the field in the Sprint Cup race was eliminated in one great, huge, grinding, wreck 12 laps from the finish of the 400-miler that, when the fires were put out and the smoke cleared, Kevin Harvick won, with Kasey Kahne second and Jeff Gordon third. Dale Earnhardt Jr,’s fourth-place finish got him into the top 12 in points with eight races to go before the Chase for the Championship playoffs start.
Although drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski and about 15 others were eliminated, the only serious scare involved Mark Martin, whose car was on fire as it made it to pit road.
A member of Johnson’s crew picked up Martin and carried him away from the inferno. Martin didn’t object, either.
The start of the race was held up till about 9:30 because of rain, hence the late ending.
The huge crackup set up a green-white-checkered finish, the second of the weekend. Dale Jr. won the Nationwide race Friday night (see blog posting below) in similar manner.
Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at Daytona earlier Saturday. It was the 100th Daytona Prototype race and Pruett has won nearly a third of them, this being his 28th victory. Mark Wilkins of Toronto and Burt Frisselle driving the Pacific Mobile/Biosign AIM Autosport of Woodbridge Ford Riley No. 61 lost some bodywork early in the race and weren’t really in contention. Ryan Dalziel and Edmonton’s Mike Forest were second. Toronto’s Paul Dalla Lana, with Joey Hand and Bill Auberlen, finished second in the GT class, which was won by Andy Lally and R.J. Valentine . . . J.K. Vernay of France won the Indy Lights race at Watkins Glen yesterday, just edging Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe, who’d started on pole. Philip Major of Ottawa was sixth after starting seventh. . . . Patrick Richard of Squamish, B.C. and Alan Ockwell of Toronto won the 2010 Rallye Baie des Chaleurs in New Richmond, Que., at the weekend. And they did it in style. With five kilometres to go, Richard lost control and rolled his Subaru but the car landed on its wheels so he kept right on truckin’. Half the entries failed to finish the rally. Leo Urlichich of Thornhill (Christine Beavis of San Diego was co-driver) finished second for his first national podium finish. Bruno Carrer and Yvan Joyal of Laval, Que., were third but retained their 10-point lead in the standings. . . . Gianmarco Raimondo of St. Catherines finished 14th in the first Italian Formula 3 race at Imola Sunday and eighth in the second race. Nelson Mason of Niagara Falls was 16th in the first and 23rd in the second. . . . Nick Wittmer of Hudson, Que., won both rounds of the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship that were held at the Mirabel circuit in Quebec at the weekend. Wittmer has now won four races this season at the wheels of his Lombardi Honda Civic Si Seda. Sunday's race was called with time still remaining after Gary Kwok in his #66 M&S Racing Mistubishi EVO had a serious accident on the front straight. Kwok is okay but was badly shaken in the accident. . . . And driving his 1963 Corvette Pro Modified, Derek Hawker of Corbyville won
the second round in the 2010 Pro Modified Racing Association season, held this weekend at the Cayuga
Dragway of Toronto Motorsports Park. More on the drag racing action there in a post later this week.