As someone who periodically crosses the border to enjoy auto racing in the United States of America, I am absolutely delighted that department store retailer Target is moving into Canada.
Whenever I head to the Niagara Frontier to cross (unless I do so at 6 or 7 a.m., before anyone else is up), I invariably find myself caught up in a humongous backup of cars full of people heading for either Niagara Falls, N.Y., or Buffalo to shop at . . . TARGET (or, as Miss Piggy used to say, “Tar-zhay”).
So now that Target will soon have stores in Scarborough and Mississauga and all sorts of other parts of Ontario, all those people who used to get in my way when I was trying to cross the border will stay home and shop and I will be able to get to Oswego, or Lancaster, or Winchester, or Du Quoin, or Watkins Glen sooner.
This is a great day for Canadian racing fans heading for the States and we should bow down to the great God Target for making it all possible.
Oh, and Chip Ganassi won’t have to keep wrapping his cars in the colours of associate sponsors when he brings his team up here for the Honda Indys Toronto and Edmonton. Canada will have Target stores, too, so his Target Chip Ganassi racing team will feel right at home.
Now, speaking of the IZOD IndyCar Series (one of the series in which Ganassi runs his cars), there was a really interesting little nugget of information this week on the Indianapolis Star website. Down near the bottom of a story on IndyCar, reporter Curt Cavin quoted team owner Dale Coyne as saying that for the first time in the nearly 30 years he has been associated with the sport, all but one team in the league is taking money from drivers.
"Team Penske is the only place where you can't buy a ride," Coyne said.
I wrote a column about this sad state of affairs several months ago and got roasted. But like it or not, it’s reality.
For instance, there are stories floating around right now about Canadian racing icon Paul Tracy being close to a deal with Eric Bachelart’s Conquest Racing team for the full 2011 season.
Great stuff, you say? Sad stuff, I say. Because Paul Tracy, who has more talent in his little finger and more drawing/entertainment value to the sport than just about anybody, has either got to write a cheque (which he won’t do) or else sign up enough sponsors to provide the money to Bachelart to put him in the car for the season.
Eric Bachelart is not going out and seeking sponsorship to run Paul Tracy. He’s supporting Tracy’s efforts and ready to talk and will make himself available for meetings, or whatever, but he is not out knocking on doors to make this thing happen.
None of those other owners are, either. They wait for the money to come to them.
This is not a criticism of Eric Bachelart. It’s the way of the world these days in big-league auto racing.
By the way, when Coyne said every team in IndyCar is taking money from drivers, he included Chip Ganassi. That doesn’t mean drivers Dario Franchitti and/or Scott Dixon are having to do what Paul Tracy’s doing. But Ganassi is running a second team this year with Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball aboard and those guys are buying their rides.
Sticking with IndyCar, Oakville’s talented James Hinchcliffe is to test again with Newman-Haas Racing at Sebring next Thursday and Friday. “Hinch,” who set the fastest time on the last day of his first test in December (veteran Oriole Servia was also on track), continues to work hard to land a season-long sponsor for 2011.
Last November, when we went to lunch following the photographing of the cover for the Jan. 1, 2011 Wheels section (Ron Fellows and Bill Brack also helped out), Hinchcliffe said he had no “Plan B” in place in case he doesn't run IndyCar. “It’s IndyCar all the way,” he said.
Meantime, rising young Canadian stock car racer Steve Arpin of Fort Frances, who will be on stage at the Canadian Motorsports Expo at the International Centre next weekend (check the schedule here), was among the fastest of the 33 drivers to take time during an ARCA Series test at Daytona International Speedway this week.
Arpin skipped the final practice – 23 went out – but there were several interesting names among those who did.
Milka Duno, who’s been run out of the IZOD IndyCar Series on a rail (they have really handled that badly, by the way), was seventh fastest with a time/speed of 48:727/184.703 mph (as compared to pace-setter Grant Enfinger’s 48:418/185:881). Canadian Maryeve Dufault was 13th with a time/speed of 49.203/182.916 and James Hylton, the old campaigner (he’s 77, going on 17) was third fastest with a time of 48.664/184.942.
The ARCA Series race at Daytona will go to the post on Feb. 12.
Finally, they’re racing in Oklahoma this weekend in the 24th annual Chili Bowl Nationals for midget racing cars at the giant indoor QuikTrip Center, located in midtown Tulsa.
Sprint car racing legend Sammy Swindell has won this event five times and his son Kevin has won it once. In fact, the father-son duo won the Nationals the last two years running.
Sammy threw down the gauntlet by winning Thursday night’s qualifying races feature, so he’s got his eye squarely on the checkers again.
The feature race Saturday night will start 24 cars, survivors of a series of heat races and qualifying features that started on Tuesday with an entry list approaching 200 cars. Glenn Styres, who owns the Ohsweken Speedway on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, usually carries Canada’s colours into battle but I don’t see his name this year.
Nor do I see the name of the driver I think has had the greatest name for a midget racing driver I’ve ever heard: Critter Malone. (I wonder where that came from?)
But JJ Yeley is there, and Kevin Olson and Julee Jamison and Tracy Hines and they all come from towns with wonderful names like Cody, Wyoming and Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
It’s the 24th annual CHILI BOWL MIDGET NATIONALS!!! and there is still romance in auto racing.