Halfway through the weekend, we've got two NASCAR races out of the way (neither particularly interesting, by the way) and an Indy car race (somewhat exciting). NASCAR Sprint Cup goes tonight and cross fingers for some excitement.
The big news this week, of course, will be out of Paris, where the World Motorsport Council has summoned both Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa to that hearing on Wednesday into whether or not Ferrari used team orders to influence the outcome of the German Grand Prix.
More on that in a Tuesday posting.
Now, I’ve been watching auto races just about forever.
I think I know a thing or two.
Which means I am officially and seriously puzzled as to why some teams in car racing (in this case, the IZOD IndyCar Series) haven’t caught on to the fact that whenever they have an opportunity to get more fuel into their car’s tank, they should take it.
If I know this sitting at home on my couch, how come so many allegedly brilliant racing minds don’t know this while they’re running things at the race track.
Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, Helio Castroneves won the Kentucky Indy 300 because whenever there was a yellow he would duck into the pits for a top-up. In fact, on the last yellow, he stopped not once but twice to make sure he had every last drop that could be squeezed in for the final dash to the checkers.
The result? He made it while every last one of his challengers had to stop within five laps of the finish for a splash to get them to the end. And every time one of them went to the pits, he moved up a slot, which is how he eventually wound up in first place.
He didn't do any passing down the stretch. He just waited for them to get out of his way.
Pole sitter Ed Carpenter was second and Dan Wheldon was third. Dario Franchitti, in a dogfight for the championship with Will Power with two races to go, finished fifth while Power was eighth.
Canadians Paul Tracy – he actually led the race for three laps (okay, he stayed out while everybody else went to the pits and then lost the lead when he had to pit himself) – and Alex Tagliani each finished a lap down with Tracy in 12th and Tags 15th.
Of the three women in the race, only Danica Patrick had a good day, finishing ninth for her sixth top ten finish of the season. Simona De Silvestro crashed out – more about that in a moment – and Milka Duno finished 19th, five laps down. However, and this is important, Duno was not the last of the cars still running. That dubious honour went to Graham Rahal, who was 20th, also five laps down.
There were 12 lead changes involving seven drivers. The Indy cars will now go to Japan for a race at the Twin-Ring Motegi Speedway in two weeks before finishing the season on Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.
– Takuma Sato crashed on the first lap of the race for the upteenth time this season. It is hard to understand how he could have been a Formula One driver – and a not bad F1 driver, at times – and be such a disaster in Indy cars. (Maybe it's the colour green catching up with him. Green and peanuts in the pits used to be bad luck. Maybe green is, again . . .)
– Castroneves won his second race of the season but he called it his third, a reference to winning the Honda Indy Edmonton before being penalized for "blocking" Will Power. I put the quotation marks around the word blocking because there was no block.
– Talking about blocking, did anybody else notice that subtle little block Power put on Danica Patrick right before the end of the race? Power got high and nearly hit the wall. He was running near the front at the time and had to take his foot off the throttle to regain control.
He came down off the wall in front of Patrick, who started to go high to pass him until he seemed to start moving up again. Then she went to pass him down low and, lo and behold, guess who moved down to stay right in front of her?
Power was fighting to hold the spot. I can understand that. But when he made the move to stop her from passing him down low, that was a block and I’d like to know where Brian Barnhart, who was so quick to make the call on Castroneves in Edmonton, was on that one?
Power finished eighth; Patrick ninth.
– Ed Carpenter has turned into a terrific oval racer. I can remember watching him years ago at Nazareth Speedway, when he drove for Eddie Cheever’s team, and you would hold your breath when somebody would try to pass him on that tight, narrow little one-mile track. But that was then and this is now and he’s great.
However, he’s absolutely awful on road courses. Just can’t do it. So my question today is why doesn’t some enterprising car owner enter a car in next year’s Indy car series and sign up Carpenter for the ovals and another driver, like Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe, perhaps, to run the road courses?
– You must have eyes in the back of your head to drive an Indy car on an oval. Those cars are inches apart and are all going nearly 220 miles an hour on a speedway like the one in Kentucky.
So Simona De Silvestro was bombing along on Saturday night, just about down on the white line, Ryan Briscoe parallel to her and just above her on the track and all of a sudden Vitor Meira, who really should have known better, tried to go underneath her and their wheels touched and in half the blink of an eye three good cars with three good drivers were out of the race.
All of them hit the wall really hard but De Silvestro crashed twice, hitting the outside wall a ton and then whammo-ing the inside.
– Speaking of Kamikaze moves, Tony Kanaan, who eventually fnished fourth, had a dreadful qualifying and started right near the back of the field – 26th out of 27 cars. He passed about a dozen cars on the first lap (an exaggeration, but not much), which is something he’s done several times this year.
Kanaan had better be careful. Those drivers are back there because they’re not as good as the guys up front. I know he wants to get away from them as quickly as he can, but one of these times somebody’s going to run into him, or him them.
You can get hurt in this game, Tony. Be careful.
Halfway through the long weekend, here are the other results:
- Jamie McMurray won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the scene of Sunday's night's Sprint Cup race. Kyle Busch was second and Carl Edwards is third.
Busch is tied with the late Sam Ard for most wins in the Nationwide (nee Busch) Series with 10. He wants the record badly, and everyone can understand that.
But any time there is desire, there is going to be disappointment and most people can handle that. Kyle Busch can't. He did the obligatory TV interview afterward and you could see it in his eyes -- he was furious. He felt he should have won the race - but he didn't. Rather than taking a deep breath and calming down and setting his sights on winning next time out, Busch was seething.
Maybe it was a holdover from Friday night's Camping World Truck Race at Kentucky Speedway, after which the winner, Todd Bodine, accused Busch of dirty driving and Busch ran over to Victory Lane to confront him.
In the spirit of NASCAR's new "have at it, boys" philosophy, he interrupted the Victory Lane celebration to do it.
NASCAR spent 30 years trying to get out of the backrooms and into the boardrooms. It succeeded. But guys like Busch are turning NASCAR back to blue collar faster than I think even they realize.
The guys with shotguns on the backs of their pickups might think Kyle Busch's in-your-face behaviour to be hilarious but the CEOs on Wall Street don't and, like it or not, those are the people who count.
Johnny Sauter was second on Friday night, with Aric Almirola third.
The crowd at Kentucky for the Indy car race was noticeably bigger than the one for the truck race but the plant was still half-empty both nights.
- Pippa Mann of England became only the second woman to win an Indy Lights race (Ana Beatriz of Brazil was the first) when she finished first in the IZOD IndyCar Series preliminary at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday.
Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe was second; Ottawa’s Philip Major crashed out early.
Hinchcliffe locked up second place in the points race but still has a mathematical chance of winning the series championship at the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
– Chris Jones of Demorestville dominated the first night of the Southern Ontario Sprints Labour Day Classic doubleheader at Brighton Speedway on Saturday night. The win was his second career Sprint Car feature victory, the first also coming at Brighton in July. Keith Dempster of Alton, Ont., finished second while Glenn Styres of Ohsweken claimed third and extended his points lead as he tries to win an unprecedented fourth SOS title.
– Rain has been creating havoc with the Oswego Speedway Budweiser Classic 200 weekend racing lineup. The Friday night Classic Car Cruise was cancelled because of the weather, as was Saturday night’s ISMA Supermodified Supernationals. Just about 4 on Sunday afternoon, I learned the Classic had been called off till Monday. What a shame.