1. Will there, or will there not be, a Korean Grand Prix?
2. DTM to U.S. spells bad news for ALMS
3. Busch exploits NASCAR pit-road speeding rule
Okay, those 'headlines' aside, there really isn’t a "headline-type" story to kick off this particular Monday Morning Racing Roundup. So we’ll just go with some thoughts, speculation and questions about a whole lot of things with a primary focus on Formula One and NASCAR.
Korean Grand Prix
– Does anybody really know whether (or not) there will be a Korean Grand Prix next weekend?
The FIA, in the form of a committee headed by chief tech inspector Charlie Whiting, has given its seal of approval to the circuit, which only got its final coat of asphalt last weekend.
Doesn’t that stuff need time to cure?
Some people are speculating that the race could be cancelled until 2011 if the F1 cars go out on the circuit for the first time on Friday and rip it apart.
Others are suggesting there might be some damage (remember Dallas in 1984 and Montreal in 2009?) but that the race will take place.
And then there are the rest who say Bernie Ecclestone is orchestrating the whole thing and that everything’s fine but the best way to create headlines is to inject doubt into the discussion.
One way or another, it will be an exciting weekend. Let’s cross our fingers that the race takes place and that it’s a safe and exciting one.
Mark Webber is in the lead for the world championship, with Sebastien Vettel and Fernando Alonso tied and only 14 points behind. Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are in fourth and fifth places.
– Red Bull has produced a video of what the new Korean Grand Prix track looks like and how a lap might play out. You can watch it here.
– Jacques Villeneuve’s partner in trying to purchase an F1 team, Ivone Pinton, has some interesting things to say about JV and their plans together. You can read it here.
– And if you have a few minutes, here’s a link to the 1967 Italian Grand Prix, starring Jimmy Clark, Graham Hill, Chris Amon, Jackie Stewart, John Surtees, Jack Brabham and all the other heroes of the day.
– Oh, and did you like that little signing ceremony in Moscow, where F1 has agreed to race in Russia in 2014? Bernie didn’t sign the contract with just any old promoter. He signed it with Vladimir Putin, who takes turns either being president or prime minister of that country.
It’s nice to have the big dog on your side, isn’t it?
DTM coming to the U.S.
– A very strange announcement was made at the weekend, but one that could have some serious implications for one of two sports car racing series in North America.
The German Touring Car Championship (DTM) announced that it would run a 12-race U.S. series in company with the NASCAR-owned Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series, beginning in 2013.
The announcement said the DTM – which features marques such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz – would run support races at some NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series events as well as on Grand Am weekends.
There hasn’t been any official reaction and details remain a bit sketchy but I suggest this could have a pretty serious effect so far as Grand-Am Series rival the American Le Mans Series is concerned.
A few weeks ago, Audi made a surprise announcement that it would not run a prototype in next year’s ALMS series (other than at Sebring and the Petit Le Mans) and speculation at the time had a financial disagreement between head office and Audi’s North American arm as the reason.
But it now seems possible that the ALMS project was cancelled because the new DTM Series was close to becoming reality.
And will BMW continue to race in both the ALMS and the new DTM?
Meantime, the ALMS prototype "rock," Highcroft Racing, is toying with the idea of trying some IndyCar Series races in 2011.
Hmmm. What does it all mean?
Fans force NASCAR to "go green"
– Gosh, there was another NASCAR "green" announcement at the weekend.
Actually, I think it was the very first "green" announcement that NASCAR has ever made (if a 15 per cent ethanol-gasoline blend can really be called "going green").
But NASCAR is counting its decision in 2008 to start using unleaded fuel (three cheers for that one; only about 10 years behind the times, but better late than never, eh?) and its announcement in 2009 and again this year that it's considering – repeat: considering – doing away with carburetors in favour of fuel injection as "green" initiatives.
(I don’t mean to nit-pick, but give me a break.)
While the auto manufacturers have been pushing for fuel injection, it might very well have been the fans who forced ethanol on NASCAR. Most people are concerned about climate change and global warming and may have indicated to NASCAR that concern for the environment was one of the reasons they were staying away from races in person and on TV.
So if it means another couple of thousand bums in seats, and a couple of hundred thousand more viewers, what’s the harm of a little ethanol in the gas? (Although you can bet Sunoco had some concerns. . .)
NASCAR being NASCAR, however, it also played the "America-first" card.
If Brian France, who made the ethanol announcement during a press conference in Charlotte on Saturday, used the word "American" once, he used it several dozen times, as in: NASCAR would burn "American" ethanol from "American" crops manufactured by "American" workers.
Not like those un-American IndyCar people, who would rather get their ethanol from Brazil.
He didn’t say that, but it was the underlying message.
Chase for the Championship
– Jamie McMurray, who is really one of the nice guys in NASCAR racing, won the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte on Saturday night. Kyle Busch finished second and Jimmie Johnson was third (full story here).
It was an okay race. Here are some notebook observations:
– Denny Hamlin, who remains in second place in the Chase for the Championship standings behind Johnson (who’s fighting for his fifth consecutive title, remember?), has an opportunity to either pull even or perhaps even pass his rival next weekend when the Sprint Cup Series moves to Martinsville, Va.
Hamlin always wins in Virgina – either at Martinsville or Richmond. He won the race in March at the half-mile "paper clip" track while Johnson was ninth.
– Okay, on Saturday night, Kurt Busch spun, bringing out the yellow. This happened in turn four and by the time he got straightened out and made his way around to the pits for fresh tries, he was in danger of going a lap down.
So rather than slowing down when he entered the pits, as the rules state, he bombed right along pit road at full speed.
The NASCAR rule book says if you are caught speeding on pit road during a caution, you have to go to the back of the longest line for the restart.
But that is where Busch was going to be anyway, and by speeding he avoided falling a lap behind.
Busch was smart to do that but NASCAR would be wise to close that little loophole before next season.
– Say what you will about NASCAR drivers, they are fabulous when it comes to car control. Besides Busch, Johnson, Marcos Ambrose and Jeff Burton all spun and managed to keep their cars off the wall and pretty much out of harm’s way.
And the guys closing in on them at speeds of more than 150 miles an hour did an incredible job of missing them.
Translation: no Big One in this race.
– When Johnson spun, you could hear people screaming – screaming – with delight. It makes you wonder why they hold that race at night. It’s always chilly in the fall, which means you have to bundle up (I know, you have to do that at baseball games too) but it also means that you’ve had the entire day to get hammered. Start the race at noon. That way, people will still be relatively sober and will only cheer wiith delight when somebody spins instead of SCREAMING.
– I’ve seen drivers overshoot their pits a bit and have to reverse a few feet in order to get in. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like Tony Stewart on Saturday night, who actually backed up several car-lengths after missing his entrance. It was unusual, to say the least, to see a car going backwards along pit road.
– Canadian Patrick Carpentier finished 37th in his fifth Sprint Cup start this season.