1. F1, INDYCAR TO OPEN SEASONS
2. KYLE BUSCH IN FULL FLIGHT
3. THRILLING SEBRING THAT NOBODY SAW
1. F1 NEEDS PASSING, INDYCAR NEEDS TRACY, HINCH
Remember years ago, when former FIA chief Max Mosely, in defending the lack of racing action during Grands Prix, said that Formula One racing is like chess and should be viewed as such?
And remember how Max was pretty much put in his place by just about everybody who said, "No, Max, Formula One racing is about racing and should be looked at that way?"
So here we are, literally on the eve of the start of the already-delayed 2011 F1 season with the Grand Prix of Australia coming up at the weekend, and what does ace Red Bull designer Adrian Newey go and do but say that because of the new adjustable rear wing on this year’s car, overtaking will be way too easy and the races will likely be ruined, as a result.
Gee, I always thought that racing was all about passing, but apparently not. Here is exactly what Newey told Autosport magazine recently:
"If it is so easy that you want to be second going into the last lap, then that becomes overly manufactured. . . If racing becomes too much like a NASCAR slipstreamer, it’s going to lose some of the appeal for me."
Well, as one who watched Fernando Alonso stuck behind Vitaly Petrov for just about all of last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix despite, according to the same Autosport, having been a second a lap faster, I say bring it on.
If flattening out the wing approaching a corner gives a trailing driver enough of an advantage to at least try a passing manoeuvre, I’m all for it.
F1 racing needs more passing, not less.
Meantime, the IZOD IndyCar Series will start its season next Sunday in St. Petersburg, Fla. and, as of this morning, two talented Canadians still haven't been officially confirmed for rides.
James Hinchcliffe of Oakville tested for Newman-Hass Racing over the winter and finished in the top ten in speeds turned during last weekend's spring training exercise at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. But whether he'll be racing that car in Florida next weekend is still anybody's guess.
And Paul Tracy has been on tenterhooks because a deal that was supposed to be finalized at the first of last week still hasn't been. It's apparently close, but no cigar as of this writing.
Both those guys deserve to be in that series. More important, that series needs both those guys.
TV TIMES: If you only subscribe to TSN, you’d best plan to either stay up really late next weekend or else use some sort of recording equipment because the Grand Prix of Australia qualifying and the race itself will be telecast live in the middle of the night and there are no repeats scheduled.
Qualifying can be seen at 1:55 a.m. Saturday and the GP live at 1:55 a.m. Sunday. The race will be rebroadcast, but only on TSN2 and not until 11 p.m. Sunday night (which is kind of the way it used to be in the old, old days - now that I think about it).
All other weekend racing will be found on TSN2. The NASCAR Nationwide race from California will be covered live at 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon. The IZOD IndyCar Series season opener from St. Petersburg, Fla., will go at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, with the NASCAR Sprint Cup race from California on at 3 p.m. (or following the conclusion of the INDYCAR race, whichever comes sooner).
Chase for the Championship lineup looks about right
Although it’s still relatively early in the season, with only four of the 26 regular season races run, the standings for the NASCAR Chase for the Championship look to be just about right.
I'm not kidding.
Kurt Busch took over the points lead as the result of his seventh place finish in Sunday’s Jeff Byrd 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway (good tickets still available for that race, by the way . . .) but was still reportedly very upset afterward because HE DIDN’T WIN AND HIS LI’L BRUDDER DID (which is the way I imagine Busch the elder was yelling at his boss, Roger Penske. Sibling rivalry can sometimes be taken way too seriously).
Kyle Busch won that race, by the way, with Carl Edwards second and Jimmie Johnson third.
Matt Kenseth arrived home fourth, with Paul Menard fifth (who’s running very well for Richard Childress, despite what Tony Stewart said in the off-season about him being a no-talent who bought the ride with his rich daddy’s money), Kevin Harvick sixth, Greg Biffle eighth, Kasey Kahne ninth and Ryan Newman tenth (full race story here).
But it’s fascinating already to see how the playoff lineup is playing out.
Here are the top 12: Kurt Busch, Edwards, Stewart, Newman, Menard, Kyle Busch, Johnson, Juan Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex, Mark Martin, Kahne.
On the outside looking in – and not necessarily that they should be in the top 12; just that they've been there before – are Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton.
There’s a long road ahead, but it will be interesting to see how NASCAR’s new points system (explanation here) plays out over the season, and how the Top 12 will change/not change going forward.
Get too far behind and – like the Leafs – you can put on a spurt near the end but still fall short.
Kyle Busch, meantime, won both races at Bristol this weekend – the Nationwide on Saturday and the Sprint Cup race Sunday – for the second "clean sweep" of his NASCAR career. He won all three races at that track last August: the Camping World Trucks race on the Friday night and then the other two over the weekend.
If he gets on a roll, and there’s no reason that he can't because he really seems like a changed man (marriage can sometimes do that for a guy), look for Kyle to make life even more miserable for his older brother.
Oh, one other thing: race drivers can say all they want about another person’s overall talent level, judgment, driving ability, intelligence and so-on. But they can wind up on a Universal Excrament List when or if they show themselves to be sexist (there are women race drivers now) or racist (Wendel Scott, Willy T. Ribbs) or some other "ist."
Which means that Kevin Harvick has some ‘splainin’ to do to all the senior citizen consumers of his sponsor's product, Budweiser beer. Why? Because he suggested Mark Martin should get his eyesight checked after Martin ran into him at Bristol.
Which is okay, so far as the above rules are concerned. But where Harvick made his mistake is that he called Martin an "old guy" who should get his eyesight checked.
I betcha Kevin Harvick does some backtracking on that crack this week. Martin is 52, which is the new 35, which is not old. Kevin Harvick will find that out.
Bet on it.
A GREAT RACE THAT NOBODY SAW
I’m sure it was a great race and the 100,000-plus who were on hand for the annual 12 Hours of Sebring in central Florida undoubtedly enjoyed themselves tremendously.
(NOTE: It's Monday morning - I post these Monday racing roundups Sunday night - and I've rewritten some of the following paragraphs as the result of emails I received overnight saying there was no online coverage. Others have since written - and I made phone calls - to say they watched the coverage online and it was fine.
(I apologize for the confusion and will endeavour to straighten this out today. I was informed when the initial announcement about the digital coverage was made that ALMS officials were aware that Canadian fans - and others in some places around the world - would be left in the dark and that live coverage would be made available on the ALMS website. So why did some people get it and others not?)
In any event, I didn’t see it and I didn't even try to see it because my computer has been a little wonky recently and I didn’t want to chance it. So I have no personal excperience one way or the other.
But Nicolas Lapierre, Loic Duval and Olivier Panis driving a privately-owned, year-old, Peugeot 908 won the famous endurance race, with David Brabham, Marino Franchitti and Simon Pagenaud second in a Highcroft HPD ARX-01e (don’t ask) and Franck Montagny, Stephane Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy third in a 2011 Peugeot 908.
There were 56 cars entered in six classes. Here is a link to the full story and results.
Canadian notables: Kenny Wilden of Oakville finished 38th overall and 13th in the GT class while Kyle Marcelli of Barrie was 50th, 12th in the LMPC class.
Now, in a blog item I wrote last week about the ALMS decision to turn its back on live network TV coverage of its race in favour of digital delivery (click here, if you’re interested) I made a factual error and I would like to make a correction.
Contrary to the figure of 70 million viewers, as I stated in that blog post, SPEED TV, according to Neilsen Media Research, is now available in more than 82 million homes (more than 77 million in the United States and another five million in Canada).
Oh, and a reader named "Bucket" left a comment after that blog, saying that I was incorrect in writing that there was no live TV of that race because it was carried on ESPN2 in the United States.
As most readers know, I write this column in Canada, for Canadians. There was no live TV of that race available here.
RACERS AND RACES
– I lived in Quebec for five years back in the late 1960s and although there were a few things that browned me off about the place, the joie de vivre there can’t be beaten. French-Canadians know how to live and we could all take a lesson from them.
For instance, they hold the North American finals of the incredible Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship at the Quebec Winter Carnival.
Think of Roller Derby going downhill on ice and you’ve pretty much got Crashed Ice racing. They held it at Carnaval for the first time last year and 90,000 people turned out to watch.
Ever think something like that could happen in Toronto? Or anywhere else in the southern part of Ontario?
Now comes word that Mirabel’s Circuit ICAR will host its first 24 Hours on Ice next Feb. 24-26, patterned after the famous Chamonix 24 Hours in France. The endurance will feature World Rally Championship cars from 1973-1981 raced by drivers who the promoters are describing as "internationally renowned."
In previous years, some F1 drivers have raced at Chamonix. It’s unlikely that will be the case at Mirabel but, as they say, you never know.
– The Ontario Formula 1200 Series has announced the creation of a Masters Class (45 years and older) within the championship. The Masters drivers can also challenge for the overall championship and for Rookie-of-the-Year.
So for all you older guys out there who are still daydreaming about winning the Grand Prix of Monaco while trying to fall asleep at night, this could be your big chance. For additional details, go to formula1200.com
– Joey Saldana, who will be racing with the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars when they visit Ohsweken Speedway near Brantford in July, won his second feature of the WoO season on Saturday in California and is now tied for the series lead with Steve Kinser, who will also be at Ohsweken.
– The seventh annual Green Grand Prix will be held at Watkins Glen International on Friday, April 15. A function of the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen, the Grand Prix will consist of fuel economy rallies and other energy saving competition around the 2:45-miles short course.
"The Green Grand Prix is all about efficient auto technologies and fuels, energy management and eco-driving styles," said Bob Gillespie, chairman of the Green Grand Prix Committee.
Gates open at 8 a.m. and admission is free. But anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.