- Gordon wins Phoenix Sprint Cup Race
- Two bad ideas need a re-think
NASCAR'S BEST GETS BEATEN
Kyle Busch is the best racing driver in North America today.
That Busch, who’d earlier won the Camping World Truck Series race Friday night and the Nationwide Series stock car race Saturday eventually finished second to Jeff Gordon in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday is of no consequence.
As he said afterward, he hadn’t had the car to stay equal with Gordon and to fight for the win, but he was all alone in second place and nobody was going to take that away from him.
Defending series champion Jimmie (Five Time) Johnson was third, Kevin Harvick finished fourth and Ryan Newman rolled home fifth. Full Sprint Cup race story here.
Busch was hoping to sweep a NASCAR race weekend for the second time in his career. He’d thrown the triple for the first time at Bristol, Tenn., last season and was two-thirds of the way to his goal Sunday before Gordon got in his way.
In fact, he was winning the race with eight laps to go when Gordon finally got past him coming out of Turn 4. After that, despite continuing to charge, he couldn’t get near the eventual winner.
When I say he’s the best driver on this side of the pond, it’s because when conditions are right and his race car is humming, nobody can touch him. I’ve always thought it a shame that he hasn’t tested himself in other than the NASCAR arena because I have no doubt that he would more than hold his own.
He even appears to have calmed down – perhaps as the result of his recent marriage. He was gracious in defeat on Sunday and even started off a post-race TV interview by apologizing to fellow driver Carl Edwards for running into him early in the headline event.
He and Edwards saw a lot of each other this weekend. Busch led all 200 laps of the Nationwide race Saturday and Edwards was right behind him the whole way. Full Nationwide Series race story here
Gordon won his first race in 66 starts Sunday, last visiting Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway in April of 2009. It was obvious he was rusty because he stalled his car while doing donuts after the checkers and couldn’t re-fire his car.
A wrecker had to push him and the car into the podium area for the awards presentation.
Gordon was clearly delighted.
“Wow,” he said as he passed beneath of the flagstand, checkers waving. “You guys are awesome! Are you kidding me? Pinch me, pinch me! We just beat Kyle Busch! He’s so tough to beat!”
They’ll all go at it again next weekend in Las Vegas. The racing season is well and truly under way.
- There was none of the two-car drafting that we saw at Daytona going on at Phoenix. In fact, there was no drafting at all. It was wonderful, foot-to-the-floor, door-handle-to-door-handle, mano a mano car racing.
-The Sprint Cup cars are going faster and faster on the short tracks like Phoenix. Heading out of the “dog-leg” betweens Turns 2 and 3, the cars were sliding right up to the wall, as they were on the main straightaway after exiting Turn 4. It was great stuff to watch.
- The race Sunday was the last at the “old” Phoenix raceway. Since it was built in 1964, the oval (there’s a road course there but the oval is where the action has been) has been a high-speed track where the Indy cars (primarily) and the stock cars have raced.
Between now and the NASCAR race in the fall, the track will be reconfigured to go from a mile to about a mile-and-a-half. They’ll do this by moving the exit from Turn 2 and the dog-leg out about 30 yards and increasing the banking between Turns 1 and 2 and Turns 3 and 4. It will be a big, wide, sweeping D track.
It will be a faster track, that’s for sure, and perhaps more dangerous.
- Trevor Bayne, the 20-year-old who won the Daytona 500, did not have a good weekend. He crashed his race car on Friday and had to qualify the backup. He hit the wall fairly early in the race Sunday after he tried to cut in front of Travis Kvapel, and was eliminated. (His spotter let him down.) He officially finished 40th.
The Big One, which involved more than a dozen cars (it was a bit of a crash-fest early, with more than half the 43-car field having to stop for repairs of one kind of another), was triggered when Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers traded a little paint exiting Turn 2 and Vickers lost control. Pow! Bam! Whammo!
Feelings were hurt but nobody was injured. Vickers blamed Kenseth but really only had himself to blame for losing control.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 10th, which should give him a boost.
HERE ARE TWO DUMB IDEAS (there's still time to cancel one of them)
One of the big problems in this “instant everything” age we’re living in is that people (individuals, governments, corporations) often don’t think things through.
Translation: what seems like a good idea at the time often doesn’t work out the way it’s supposed to.
For instance, the Ontario government recently cancelled contracts for wind power with several thousand landowners (primarily farmers) all over the province, not because wind power isn’t a good idea but because the province doesn’t have the transmitting capability to handle all the power being produced.
(Gee, ya think they woulda thought of that, eh?)
And with the rush to produce electric cars, it was interesting to read in Saturday’s Wheels section a story by Mark Toljagic that reported batteries – generally – aren’t as sturdy and powerful as they once were (for any number of reasons) and that a new generation of lithium batteries finding their way into electric cars don’t like cold temperatures. (Hmm. And where is it, exactly, that we live again?)
Which brings me to two things that INDYCAR and NASCAR have come up with in recent days and weeks that could have used a little more study.
For years, up-and-coming stock car drivers complained that the stars of the Cup series were dropping down to the Busch (now Nationwide) development series, or the truck series, and stealing points, money and opportunity, not necessarily in that order, from them.
So NASCAR decided that since it can’t forbid anybody from racing in whatever series they wish (they have very strict right-to-work laws in the United States), the best thing to do would be to prevent the Cup drivers from scoring points in the lesser series.
To do this, however, and to avoid charges of discrimination, they ruled that all NASCAR licensed drivers had to declare before the season started in which series they wanted to score points. They could still run in the other series, but if they couldn’t score points, what would be the point? (Or, apparently, so went the thinking. . .)
Well, perhaps they should have served notice of doing this in a year or two, rather than instituting the rule immediately. Because now they have the Daytona 500 winner, Trevor Bayne, unable to record points in the Cup series (he’d opted for the Nationwide), which is a bit of a public-relations disaster, and they still have all the Cup drivers running in Nationwide or trucks because they either had already-signed contracts before NASCAR came up with this bright idea or else they own teams in those series.
Maybe it will work out – eventually. But the two Nationwide Series races to date have been won by Cup drivers and the current points leader – Reed Sorenson – hasn’t finished on the podium in either of them.
(In fact, get this: Danica Patrick finished 14th at Daytona and 17th at Phoenix and is fourth in points. Duh.)
The INDYCAR bright idea is even nutsier.
New CEO Randy Bernard has had a stellar year since he took over the top job and just about everything he’s done has deserved applause (new cars, new engines, new manufacturers, new tracks for 2012). His idea for the 2011 season-ending race at Las Vegas Speedway in October, however, might be his first mistake.
He wants to add five, non-INDYCAR regular drivers, to the field and if one of them should happen to win that final race, they would be paid a $5 million bonus.
Now, Bruton Smith owns that speedway and it was Mr. Smith who first proposed the $20-million bonus to the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 at the Smith-owned Charlotte Motor Speedway on the same day.
So I wonder who came up with this brainwave . . .
But did anybody really think this thing through (see above)?
What if one of these interlopers (how about our own Jacques Villeneuve, for instance; Michael Andretti and Al Unser Jr. are some of the other names being floated) causes an accident and takes out – or injures - one of the drivers in contention for the INDYCAR championship?
How stupid is that going to make INDYCAR look? (If they’re looking for coverage, I guarantee they’ll get lots of it should that happen.)
Some of the reasoning behind this is that Bernard (or Smith, whichever; maybe both) thinks that if one of the NASCAR drivers – the Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle, come from Las Vegas and might want to race in front of their hometown crowd – should happen to take a crack at this that it will bring incredible publicity to INDYCAR.
But that will not happen for two reasons. 1, Robert Kubica (Jimmie Johnson’s insurance company won’t let him do it because of what happened to the F1 star, not to mention Rick Hendrick) and 2, NASCAR is racing that same weekend – the night before, in fact – on the East Coast and it would be difficult (not impossible, but difficult) to finish racing a stock car in the Carolinas at 11 or midnight and then take a plane west to the desert to strap into an unfamiliar Indy car less than 18 hours later.
It’s a really dumb idea and it’s got potential for disaster and somebody should convince Mr. Bernard to throw the red flag on it before somebody gets hurt and everybody looks foolish.
There’s something else at play here that might even be the most important point of all. By doing this, INDYCAR is saying that its regular field of drivers isn’t good enough and needs some of these “star” outsiders to elevate the playing field. To “goose” the interest, so to speak.
Hmm. Wonder how Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves and the rest feel about that?
DYNAMIC DUO WINS AGAIN
The 2010 Canadian, American, and North American Rally Champions, Antoine L’Estage of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. and Nathalie Richard of Halifax, N.S. won Missouri’s Rally of the 100 Acre Wood this weekend, the second round of the Rally America series.
There's just no stopping those two.