1. Kimi douses F1 return rumours; Mosley butts in
2. Kyle Busch makes history; NASCAR eyes bottom line
3. Power in IndyCar class of his own; Atlantics return possible
4. Mosport ALMS race earlier in 2011; NASCAR Canada report
1. Max Mosley was forced out of his position as head of the FIA (okay, okay – he chose not to run for another term, but he was toast anyway) because of behaviour that illustrated poor personal and moral judgment.
Translation: he became an embarrassment.
So what’s he doing, on the eve of the Belgian Grand Prix next weekend, poking his nose into the Ferrari "team orders" controversy? (That was when, at the German Grand Prix in July, Felipe Massa was told by Ferrari to let Fernando Alonso through, which was contrary to the rules, as well of the spirit of the rules, of post-2002 Formula One.)
Does anybody care what Mosley thinks? He’s apparently under the impression he still wields some influence. Witness this quote:
"I will not make any recommendation, but on the facts at the moment there should have been some sporting sanction and not only a fine."
"I will not make any recommendation?"
Max, maybe you’ve decided not to "make any recommendation" because you know that nobody would listen to you anyway.
The hard truth, Max, is that nobody cares what you think about anything, but particularly when it comes to any kind of legal or moral question.
Everybody on Earth heard Ferrari tell Massa to let Alonso past. And everybody in the world knows the stewards chickened out when – other than levying a $100,000 fine – they referred the matter to the World Motorsport Council, hoping the council would throw the book at the team.
But now, believe it or not, you’ve put the council on the spot. By going public with your "I will not make any recommendation" statement, the council might now feel pressured to let Ferrari off with a warning, so as not to seem to still be in your pocket.
You’re yesterday’s man, Max. You’ve had your time in the sun, now buzz off and stop making mischief.
And let’s hope the council doesn’t pay any attention to your musings and issues an appropriate punishment against Ferrari.
Meantime, Kimi Raikkonen said at the weekend that it was highly unlikely he would ever again return to Formula One as a driver and suggested he was moving on to other things, like the World Rally Championship where he’s driving this year and – maybe in future – sports car racing at Le Mans.
Of course, when you’re the third highest-paid driver in F1 this year, and you’re not even in a car, it’s pretty easy to make statements like that. (It’s true: see the F1 drivers' salary breakdown here.)
Of course, Raikkonen is smart enough to know that trying to make a comeback in F1 is a foolish thing to do, regardless of how good you think you might be – witness Michael Schumacher’s failure to even make it near the podium this season.
"I came to Formula One to win the world championship and I did that," Raikkonen said. "That’s good enough for me."
2. Kyle Busch made NASCAR history at the weekend by becoming the first driver to score the triple. He won all three series races at Bristol, Tenn. – the Camping World Truck Series race, the Nationwide Series race and then the Sprint Cup Series race. (See full story here.)
The way he’s going this season, I won’t be surprised if he becomes the driver to finally beat Jimmie Johnson for the Sprint Cup championship – something that hasn’t happened the last four years.
And then – and I really think this is possible – if Charlotte Motor Speedway owner/promoter Bruton Smith goes through with his idea of offering a $20-million bonus to the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, Kyle Busch might just go looking for a competitive Indy car ride.
As he said at Bristol in the Sprint Cup winner’s circle: "I like firsts."
Meantime, and this is much more interesting, look at what NASCAR has been up to lately so far as the bottom line is concerned.
In an effort to make sure the business of running race tracks remains profitable – and NASCAR itself owns many of the speedways where NASCAR races are promoted – NASCAR has cut the purses for the Nationwide Series by 20 per cent next season.
This is the second straight year this has happened to the Nationwide series. To be fair, NASCAR also cut the purses for the Sprint Cup series before this season began.
Now, this is an interesting quote from Marcus Smith (Bruton’s kid), who’s president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns most of the rest of the tracks that NASCAR doesn’t.
"The purses and the sanctioning fees have gone up a tremendous amount over the last 15 years."
Hmmm. The two words that caught my eye in that sentence were "sanctioning fees." That’s the money the tracks pay NASCAR to bring in the races. Don’t see anything anywhere that says the sanctioning fees are coming down.
So NASCAR owns most of the tracks NASCAR races at. And the tracks pay NASCAR a sanctioning fee, which isn’t coming down. But the purses for the racers are being cut to make sure the tracks remain profitable.
Something doesn’t seem right there. Maybe when the Nationwide fields start to drop off even more than they already have, NASCAR might make a correction.
3. Will Power is in a class of his own in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
A year ago, he suffered a broken back in an accident at California’s Infineon Raceway. This weekend, he won the pole at that track and then led 73 laps of the 75-lap race to win Sunday’s Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. (Full story here.)
Scott Dixon, who was right behind him at the finish and who led the other two laps, was second and Dario Franchitti finished third.
Alex Tagliani, the only Canadian in the field, finished 14th after starting fourth. Poor Alex: if he didn’t have bad luck he wouldn’t have any luck at all.
Danica Patrick, who confirmed at the weekend that she would continue her insane experiment of driving in the IndyCar Series as well as a limited schedule in NASCAR in 2011, finished 16th after starting 23rd. She was the last car on the lead lap and actually had a pretty good race, although the result doesn't reflect it.
Simona de Silvestro, who started 11th, wound up 13th; Milka Duno actually drove somewhat competitively and wasn’t last, for a change. She was 22nd in the 25-car field.
In Indy Lights, J.K. Vernay of France was first, while James Hinchcliffe of Oakville was third. Alex Ellis of St. Catharines qualified ninth (out of 16) and was running in seventh position when his car – a one-off provided by Sam Schmidt Motorsports for the driver who won the Jim Russell Series Championship – just flat-out stopped. He was officially classified 14th. Philip Major of Ottawa was 11th.
Now, as is the case with many weekend results columns, the secondary stories are frequently much more interesting and this is one of them:
I hear that people at Mazda are working really hard to revive the Formula Atlantic series.
Because Indy Lights is costing in the neighbourhood of between $750,000 and $1 million for a 12- to 14-race season with very little – if anything – in return.
Sure, the cars race on the undercard of all the IZOD IndyCar Series events (usually three hours before the main event when there are not that many people in the grandstands) but there is no TV contract (how can anybody sell a sponsorship when there is no TV?) and no testing.
The drivers who pay this serious amount of money get a couple of practice sessions and a race each race weekend but that’s pretty much it – including not much hope of moving on to the big time. Of all the drivers in the IndyCar series, only Raphael Matos has moved up in recent years and he’d already made his reputation in Atlantics before doing a season in Lights.
In fact, the current IndyCar rookie sensation, Simona de Silvestro, was in Atlantics last season before the series went on hiatus.
The other negative to Lights is that, as a flat-bottom car, you don’t really prepare yourself for any other series (other than the IRL cars or, perhaps, NASCAR) whereas in Atlantics, you can go just about anywhere, be it single-seaters or Le Mans Prototytpes.
The primary problem for Mazda would be to find a series where Atlantics could fit. The IRL will not run two development series and is committed to Lights (and, in fact, has promised a "big and exciting" announcement concerning Lights in the days ahead). There is no more Champ Car and fewer and fewer cars ran in the series last year when it was aligned with the American Le Mans Series.
Which leaves the Grand Am Series. Would a partnership be possible there?
Who knows? But there’s something going on.
4. Talking about the American Le Mans Series (well, we were – a bit), the news this weekend (other than the results of what’s been described as a pretty exciting race at Road America) is that next year, the Mosport round will be moved to July 31 from the end of August, where it’s been in recent years.
Ironically, NASCAR released its schedule for the Nationwide Series in recent days and its uber-popular NASCAR weekend in Montreal is being moved from the end of August back a week or so. The good news for everybody here is that while next weekend, the ALMS Mosport round and the NASCAR Montreal date are smack up against each other, that will not be the case in 2011 and both live gates could benefit, as a result.
On the other hand, that means there will be two "big-event" auto racing meets in the Toronto area in July – the Honda Indy Toronto downtown at the Ex earlier in the month and the ALMS at Mosport at the end, which could have a negative impact on one gate or the other. Only time will tell on that one.
The other thing is that the ALMS schedule for 2011, although officially public, has two blanks on it. The series says races will take place – somewhere.– on the July 4 weekend and again at the first of September. But where?
I don’t really understand why they’ve done this – but they have.
Anyway, the ALMS is heading for Mosport next weekend after coming off what sounds like a barn-burner of a race at Elkhart Lake. (Full story here.)
To quote from the release, Jonny Cocker went from fourth to first in the last four laps as Drayson Racing won its first race in the ALMS. The capper came on the last lap when he got past the Porsche Spyder of Klaus Graf with just two turns left. His partner, Paul Drayson, shared in the victory, of course.
Let’s cross our fingers that we have as great a race next weekend to celebrate Mosport’s 50th anniversary.
Timo Bernhard and Graf finished second while Simon Pagendaud and David Brabham were third.
Now, talking about Mosport (we were, weren’t we?), for the second year in a row it was raining cats and dogs everywhere else except at the Mosport Speedway oval on Saturday night. Of course, the weather at the track 12 miles north of Bowmanville has always been a mystery because the reverse can also be true: it can be raining at Mosport and beautiful everywhere else.
In any event – and I know people who didn’t chance the drive out because the forecast was so dismal; it was actually teeming in Toronto – Don Thompson Jr. of Hamilton won the NASCAR Canadian Tire Dickies 200 race Saturday night, with J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge second and Kerry Micks of Mount Albert, third.
Fitzpatrick is in a dogfight for the series championship with D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas, who won the pole but finished sixth in the race. Fitzpatrick has 1,509 points to Kennington’s 1,493.
Ron Beauchamp of Windsor had his best finish of the season when he took the checkers fourth while Pete Shepherd III of Brampton, making one of his infrequent starts in the series, was fifth.
The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series will race next weekend at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve on Ilse Notre-Dame in Montreal as part of the NASCAR Nationwide Series weekend.
Hey, with all the scheduling moving around going on next year, maybe the Canadian Tire Series could be part of the American Le Mans Series weekend at Mosport next July?
Just a thought -- but it would make for a great double-header.