There is so much auto racing news to discuss today – the Italian Grand Prix; the last NASCAR race before the Chase; the last race, period, of the 2010 Castrol Canadian Touring Car Series – it’s hard to decide where to start.
So I’ll go with what’s closest to home, which is news that the Toronto area’s two big summertime racing weekends are going to be held within two weeks of each other next year.
Hmmm. Is that good?
The Indy Racing League has called a news conference for today (Friday) to announce its 2011 schedule but you have to wonder why, because it’s been all over the Internet since at least Wednesday.
The Honda Indy Toronto, which is run each year through the streets of the CNE, will be held next year on Sunday, July 10. This is a traditional date; the race going back to 1986 has always been held sometime during the first three weeks of July.
Meantime, the American Le Mans Series race at Mosport, which since 2004 has always been held in August or early September, has been moved to Sun., July 24, a full month earlier and two weeks to the day after the Honda Indy.
There are reasons for this, I'm told. An ALMS race at Mosport next year on Aug. 28 would have given the series three races in a row, seeing as on Labour Day next year the ALMS will be racing in Baltimore on the same card as the Indy cars and the week before they’ll be at Road America.
The Baltimore race is very important to the ALMS: it’s close to Washington and the series wants to be able to show off all its green initiatives to the capitol’s movers and shakers. What it doesn’t need is a lot of wrecked cars from a race at Mosport with only a few days to repair them. Or, worse, many cars skipping Mosport to prepare for Baltimore.
The two races prior to the traditional Mosport date – Road American in Wisconsin and Mid-Ohio – have held their dates for years so, if Mosport had to move, it had to go back a full month or else go into September and we all know how weather can be around here after Labour Day.
How will this affect attendance?
The Honda Indy, it seems will be the most vulnerable. It’s been back on the IRL calendar for two years now and although the crowd last July was significantly better than the one in 2009, it still has a long way to go to again be the “must-see, must-attend” event it once was.
Mosport has a built-in crowd, starting with the campers, of which there is a significant number. So the old road course has an edge.
One thing’s for sure: it’s going to be interesting (and fun) watching two groups trying to promote two races in the same market at just about the same time.
Okay, just a quick word about the Indy car schedule: they have finally done the smart thing and walked away from any involvement with race tracks owned by NASCAR.
Despite denials by the parent France company, the track managers and the PR people, the NASCAR tracks did absolutely nothing to promote the Indy car races at those facilities over the years.
I used to go to Phoenix when they held Indy car races in the spring there and you would get off the plane and walk through the airport and know that there was spring training baseball, final four college basketball, PGA golf and the Phoenix Suns and the Coyotes all playing games or tournaments in the city.
In the rental car on the way to the hotel, you would even hear an ad on the radio for the NASCAR race coming in six weeks.
But you never heard a whisper about the IRL race at the speedway and when race day came and there was nobody there, the Indy car people would wonder what happened.
The fact they won’t do business any more with NASCAR shows they now know.
– The Italian Grand Prix at Monza (isn’t it exciting just to say those words?) can be seen on TSN at 7:55 a.m. Sunday and at the same time tomorrow (Saturday) for qualifying.
Be sure to catch Gerald Donald’s podcast preview of all the F1 goings-on at wheels.ca (it will be posted by noon on Friday).
I think the season is now going to be between Hamilton and Webber. The rest of them (Alonso, Vettel, e al) might make some noise but they're out of it.
– The NASCAR Chevy Rock ‘n Roll 400 from Richmond, Va., will be on TSN Saturday night at 7. Unlike other years, when playoff positions went right down to the wire, the drama has been pretty much sucked out of the Richmond race as Clint Bowyer has the last spot just about hogtied.
However, stranger things have happened, and Bowyer could crash out on the first lap and Ryan Newman might win and there could be a surprise.
And Richmond’s always just a fun race to watch anyway.
– Tonight at the Merrittville Speedway, the Southern Ontario Sprint season will end and a champion crowned. Glenn Styres of Ohsweken almost has the title wrapped up but, see Richmond above, you never know.
Meantime, Dick Mahoney of Newmarket, who is fifth in the standings, is officially a senior citizen. He turned 65 a month or so ago and received his first Old Age Pension cheque.
He’s browned off, though. They won’t give him a senior’s discount at the pit gate.
– It seems like it was just yesterday that I wrote a column about the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Series season about to start and the hopes that founder John Bondar had for 2010.
Well, the season ends this weekend at Circuit ICAR at Mirabel. Nick Wittmer of Montreal will be looking to wrap up the Super Touring Class championship while Anthony Rapone of Thornhill hopes to win in Touring Class.
– Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard have their sights set on winning the Rallye Defi in Quebec this weekend, something they have done four times in the past.
Since the last Canadian rally, the couple have become 2010 Rally America Champions and L’Estage won a bronze medal at the ESPN Summer X Games.
Only two rallies – the Pacific Forest Rally Oct. 1-2 and the Tall Pines at Bancroft Nov. 20 – remain on the 2010 schedule.
- The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series will take to the track at Barrie Speedway Saturday night. J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge and D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas remain locked in a fierce battle for first place in the points standings.
Did I miss anything?