Notebook Jottings from a weekend of race-watching and listening:
– Kimi Raikkonen will take his first laps in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series truck today (Monday) at Gresham Motorsports Park, outside Atlanta. He’ll be testing with – and eventually driving for – Kyle Busch, whose team won the 2010 truck series championship.
As he aims to launch his NASCAR career, Raikkonen has made the right move initially by selecting Busch’s team. In my opinion, Busch is good enough to drive and win in Formula One (given the right car and team), so it will be a partnership of equals.
But Busch has also won in NASCAR trucks as well as the two stock car series – the minor-league Nationwide and the big-league Sprint Cup – so he knows his way around and will make a good coach.
Raikkonen is aiming to make his first start next month in the May 20 truck race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the night before the big NASCAR All-Star race. It will be an interesting debut as Charlotte is a tough track to drive. As well, the field will be deep for such a prestigious event (the trucks will kick off two weekends of racing that will conclude with the running of the Coca-Cola 600 on May 29).
Busch says the deal this year is for between three and five races and that Raikkonen hopes to get into Nationwide and Sprint Cup races next year, when he’ll no longer be racing in the World Rally Championship.
Busch says full-time members of his truck team will service Raikkonen’s truck while his own truck will be crewed by team managers and volunteers.
For a complete interview with Busch and how he sees things going with the 2007 World Champion, click here.
Oh, and how did Busch do this weekend in the NASCAR races at Martinsville, Va.? He was second in the truck race Saturday (Johnny Sauter won that joust; full results here) and he finished third Sunday in the Sprint Cup bout (full story and results here) that saw Kevin Harvick get past Dale Earnhardt Jr. with two laps to go to steal the victory.
– Junior Nation was almost beside itself after Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Martinsville. Dale Jr. took the lead by bumping Kyle Busch out of his way with 20 laps of the half-mile track to go and then started to pull away, only to tail off slightly as his handling started to go off.
When he made his move on Busch, and shot to the front, you could hear the cheers over the roar of the engines. If he’d managed to hold on for the win, it would have been his first trip to Victory Lane in 99 starts, seeing as he hasn’t won a Sprint Cup race since the 2008 Michigan 400.
But it wasn’t to be. Harvick got him with two to go and the crowd wilted.
Even Harvick said he’d like to see Earnhardt win again. "I hate to be the bad guy here, but I'm in it to win it," he said, indicating there was just no way he was going to sit back and let Junior beat him.
Maybe he didn’t get the memo . . .
By the way, Juan Montoya had a great run to finish fourth at Martinsville and Jeff Gordon was fifth. Chase standings after Martinsville start with Kyle Busch on top with 219 points. The rest of the top 12 – Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Harvick, Ryan Newman, Montoya, Little E., Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon.
– The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series got a big boost late last week with the announcement that former Champ Car World Series and recent Firestone Indy Lights driver "Speedy" Dan Clarke would join the series for the 2011 season as a teammate to Holland Landing’s Anthony Simone.
But enthusiasm was tempered somewhat at the weekend when it was learned that Canadian Tire Series star JR Fitzpatrick won’t be running the full schedule in 2011 because of opportunities that have opened up for him south of the border.
Jason Sharpe, Fitzpatrick’s business manager, said that while the driver will race in select Canadian Tire races this season, his main focus will be on a dozen NASCAR Nationwide Series races with one or two Sprint Cup races thrown in later in the year.
Sharpe confirm ed that Toronto businessman Steve Meehan had purchased all but the name of the Baker Curb Racing Nationwide team and intends to take Fitzpatrick to the top with the goal of being full-time in Sprint Cup by 2013.
Meantime, a press conference is planned in the near future to connect the dots. The new team is aiming to run the Nationwide race at Nashville April 23.
The Canadian Tire Series, with Clarke and Simone and the rest of the gang, will open for the 2011 season at Mosport Speedway on May 28. D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas is the defending champion.
– James (Bubba) Stewart finished fourth in the AMA Supercross feature at the Rogers Centre last weekend (there were 45,000 people in attendance – almost as many as attended the Blue Jays home opener on Friday) and then went home to Florida where he managed to get himself arrested and charged with impersonating a police officer. See story here
He should have been charged with assault on Saturday night in Dallas when he did a number on series leader Chad Reed, which saw Reed finish eight in the feature and fall out of the points lead (Trey Canard won; he’d finished third here a week ago).
Stewart finished fourth after literally landing on top of Reed and driving him off the track. Ryan Villopoto was second and Toronto winner Ryan Dungey finished third.
It’s hard to say what had gotten into Stewart’s head when he got himself arrested last Monday. What it did do, however, was to cut his route to superstardom off at the pass.
His name was being bandied about as potentially one of the five non-IndyCar regular drivers who would be invited to race as a guest in the final race of the IZOD series at Las Vegas in October.
I know you’re innocent until proved guilty but I suggest that the invitation that was supposed to go out to him in the mail will now somehow get lost. . .
Oh, before I leave the AMA Supercross, Dean Wilson of Calgary won the SX Lites feature at Dallas and is now a close second in that championship.
In other motorcycle action, Jorge Lorenzo won the wet Moto GP race in Spain on Sunday. Dani Pedrosa was second and Nicky Heyden finished third.
Valentino Rossi lost control and took Casey Stoner out with him. He went to apologize later and still had his helmet on. Smart move.
– All of the big series will be in action next weekend. F1 is in Malaysia (the middle of the night here for qualifying and the race on TSN but TSN2 will air repeats on Saturday and Sunday mornings) while NASCAR is in Texas (the Sprint Cup race will be on TSN2 Saturday night at 7) and the IndyCar race from Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama will be seen Sunday on TSN at 3 p.m.