MONDAY MORNING UPDATE
Will Power won the rain-delayed Sao Paulo Indy 300 this morning, with Graham Rahal second and Ryan Briscoe third. Two-time defending series champion Dario Franchitti was fourth and Oriol Servia was fifth.
Power won the race from pole - his second win from his second pole so far in 2011.
James Hinchcliffe of Oakville was ninth; Alex Tagliani of Montreal was well back in 19th position (out of 26 cars that started).
Simona di Silvestro was top woman, eight laps behind as the result of an accident suffered during the original start Sunday. However, di Silvestro turned the race's fastest lap and fought to get a lap back, even passing the race leader at one point, which was something other drivers of damaged cars - Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves and Danica Patrick, who (with di Silvestro) were all nine laps behind - weren't interested in doing.
Earlier . . .
1. Robert Wickens, Bruno Spengler are winners
2. IndyCar race postponed until Monday by rain
3. Tradin’ paint, NASCAR-style, on the short track at Richmond
Two Canadians were big winners in international racing this weekend, with Bruno Spengler winning the opening race of the 2011 German Touring Car Championship and Robert Wickens winning one of two races (he was second in the other) in the Renault World Series.
Meantime, the IZOD IndyCar Series race in Brazil was postponed until 8 a.m. today after torrential rains made the circuit in Sao Paulo unraceable. Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin won the NASCAR races at Richmond.
A rally racer was killed during the Rally America event in Washington state, forcing its cancellation. And the youngest winner of the Daytona 500, Trevor Bayne, has been admitted to the Mayo Clinic, two weeks after being bitten by an insect.
1. Two Canadians F1 bound?
Several months ago, I speculated that Robert Wickens of Guelph might be heading for a Formula One seat with Virgin Racing in 2012. Since then, and independently, others have speculated and one story published on the website of a national newspaper made the point that he has solid financial backing from a Russian car company that could be part-owner of Virgin by 2012.
It’s that support that has Wickens racing this season in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series and at the famous Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium on Saturday, he won one of the two weekend races to take the lead in the series championship (details here).
His Carlin Motorsports teammate, Jean-Eric Vergne, won the second race on Sunday while Wickens finished right behind him (details here).
Wickens desperately needs a series victory to advance to the top level. He finished second in the GP3 series last year and that followed by a year his runner-up finish in the Formula 2 Series.
His second-place in Formula 2 led to his dismissal from the Red Bull racing program and even Wickens had to agree with that decision.
"They paid me to win and I didn’t win," he told me in an interview the following winter.
He seems well on his way to that F-Renault title with his performance to date.
Meantime, at Hockenheim, Bruno Spengler of Saint-Hypollite, Que., went from pole to checkers to take the opening round of the DTM (details here) and an early lead in the championship he was nearly won several times, most notably a year ago when he was first going into the final race before being overtaken.
Last year’s DTM champion, Paul di Resta, is in F1 this season with Force India, so the German touring car series is definitely a proving ground for potential Grand Prix drivers.
It’s long been rumoured that Spengler was being considered for an F1 seat and he told me in an interview several years ago that his dream is to drive there.
But he hasn’t been able to deliver that elusive championship, to date, and time may be running out. He can go a long way to proving himself worthy by winning that title this season.
Incidentally, Ralf Schumacher finished on the podium – he was third – in that race at Hockeheim; David Coulthard was 10th.
At least one of the competitors wasn't a fan of Spengler's driving (details here).
2. Rain creates havoc at Brazil IndyCar race
Perhaps the time has come to take a hard look at the whole business of racing in the rain.
First, if there was no racing in the rain, it would have eliminated the embarassment of Sunday’s schmozzle in Brazil when the IZOD IndyCar Series started the Sao Paulo Indy 300, had to stop it twice because of the conditions, then cancelled it till Monday at 1 p.m., uncancelled it, and then cancelled it again until 8 a.m. Monday.
Second, there would be less likelihood of accidents that cause thousands of dollars in property damage and, sometimes, personal injury.
Third, there would actually be a race. As driver Scott Dixon said: "When you can’t see and you tip-toe around trying not to lose control, you’re not racing – it’s not a race."
Tradition has it that the show in road racing must go on, rain or shine. It’s been that way since the beginning of road racing. But who says it has to continue?
If I’m watching on TV, I’m bored silly watching four guys (who aren’t in Brazil; they’re in some studio in the U.S.) trying to keep an intelligent conversation going during the first 143-minute rain delay. They didn’t do a very good job, by the way.
If I’m at the race, I’m soaked and despite what anybody wants to tell you, I’m wet and miserable and I want to go home. I would do that if they said there would be no race.
(But I don’t dare leave because I’ve paid my money and some genius might decide it’s not really all that bad and the cars could go out and I might miss them.)
If I’m a driver, I’m scared witless because I can’t see a thing and somebody could clobber me, or me them, and somebody could be hurt (like Simona de Silvestro’s tire very nearly landing in Danica Patrick’s cockpit).
So, who needs it?
Yes, there are pressures. The IndyCar organization wants to get it over with in order to head back to the U.S. and start preparing for the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, the next race on the schedule.
The drivers want to get the race over so they can fly home to their own beds. Armed bodyguards, or police escorts to and from the circuit and their hotels, are not their idea of a swell time.
The promoter wants a race because he’s got a packed house and he wants to deliver. And the TV network that has the contract wants the race to go ahead because satellite time is expensive and you have to rent blocks and you might run out of time. (Although the program continued a bit longer in the U.S., TSN2 in Canada had to break away at 3:30 p.m. for Toronto Rock lacrosse.)
But at the end of the day, the question must still be asked: what did it prove to start that race when the conditions were so appalling?
And the question going forward has to be: isn’t it far, far better to wait for a nice day when the racing will be fast and real and the fans will be dry and enjoying themselves?
And the TV audience? No debate. Say right off that the race has been postponed and save your credibility rather than harming your brand, which was the case Sunday.
The race started in a near monsoon (the real deal came a few laps later) and there was carnage immediately. Ryan Hunter-Reay started alongside pole sitter Will Power (his fourth pole of the season, by the way) and couldn’t make the first turn, going off and hitting tires.
Dario Franchitti hit Helio Castroneves into the wall and that started the Bg One. De Silvestro had nowhere to go and piled into the stationary Castroneves. As this was happening, Patrick tried to avoid the collision and turned out, only to be hit and spun by Sebastien Saavedra who, in turn, hit Tony Kanaan who was trying one of his usual banzai starts from the back and was flying up the outside.
(Kanaan said he didn’t want to blame anybody but then mentioned Danica as one of the cars that hit his, which would have been a trick, considering her car was already underneath de Silvestro’s at the time. Of course, there’s bad blood between those two going back to last season; he can’t seem to handle being beaten by women, which is now happening with frequency.)
After the first red flag, thrown after nine laps (in which everybody was allowed to fix their cars, and what was that about? These are not the days of 18-car Champ Car or IRL fields – there were 26 cars out there and if I’d either owned or been the driver of an undamaged car, I would have been boiling that everybody got to start equally later), they sent the cars back out.
Here is what transpired then:
– After five laps behind the pace car, the cars went back to the pits, the drivers saying there were too many puddles on the track.
– Four minutes later, IndyCar announced the race was postponed till Monday at 1 p.m.
– Several minutes passed, then this: "Plans have changed. There’s still attempts to get the track sorted being made.
– Three minutes later: "We have not postponed the race. We apologize for the confusion. Stay tuned. We will have an update shortly."
– Then, at 4:25 local time, they announced the race had, indeed, been postponed till 8 a.m. EDT Monday. It will resume at the point of Sunday’s postponement on Lap 15, with Will Power leading, with approximately 1 hour, 19 minutes remaining in the two-hour race time limit.
Now, it had been declared a wet race, hence the time limit. But what if it’s sunny and warm Monday morning?
Two more things:
1. If they can go at 8 a.m. Monday, fine. If not, if it’s still raining, they have almost the whole day to try to get in at least half the race, which would make it official. (If all else fails, they will just send the cars out behind the pace car for an hour.)
2. Never mind the rain and Brazil. It happens. But they had trouble with the track being very slippery again on Friday (they had to grind it Friday night, as was the case last year) and then there were puddles when it rained, which was not supposed to be the case this year.
There is a pretty high-profile individual in charge of this race. He’s messed it up twice. I remember a certain CART official being fired because of alleged incompetence and the circumstances were similar.
I’m curious as to why nobody has said anything about this?
3. Tradin’ paint, NASCAR style
Poor Denny Hamlin. We should all feel sorry for him.
Most of last season, he was in second place in the championship chase and then, when he got to the final go-‘round at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he came up flat.
This year, he’s been doing not much of anything. He's 17th in points, in fact.
Turns out, not enough people are cheering for him. Nobody loves him. He’s feelin’ the pain.
So he’s sold his mansion on Lake Norman, north of Charlotte (that’s where all the multi-millionair NASCAR drivers live, except those - like Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson - who live in their New York City condos) and is thinking about moving back to Richmond, where’s he’s originally from.
Get this quote:
"I should just live there because people just tell me how great I am. Even though I doubt myself at times, they’re behind me more than any fan base I’ve got."
So I guess he must have been listening to those folks tell him how great he is because he won the Nationwide race on Friday night (details here) and then finished second on Saturday night to Kyle Busch in the Sprint Cup race (details here).
Kasey Kahne was third in the Sprint Cup race, David Ragan fourth and Carl Edwards fifth.
Gordon was caught up in one of the numerous wrecks on the Richmond short track and said this over the radio to his crew after he went into the infield wall hard, driver’s side hitting first:
"That hurt. I think I can pick the worst damn places to hit the wall."
After he climbed out of the car, he explained that he meant there should be a SAFER wall everywhere around a speedway and, of course, he’s right.
Meantime, Ryan Newman hit Juan Pablo Montoya early in the race and later Montoya hit Newman. Newman was heading for the NASCAR trailer post-race to complain, ever-present Coke bottle in hand (he actually managed to take a long swig while walking full-speed) when the TV cameras showed up so he gave his side of the story, being that he was and remains completely innocent.
Montoya escaped on a golf cart, snubbing the cameras, which was a double mistake: 1, Newman was at least partly to blame and Montoya could have pointed that out, rather than being seen as the villain. 2, his Formula One stuck-upness is back big-time and that just doesn’t fly in NASCAR.
Chip should have a word with him.
AND IN CLOSING . . .
Driver Matthew Marker of Elk Rapids, Mich., was killed during a stage of the Rally America Olympus Rally outside Ocean Shores, Wash., at the weekend. He reportedly went off the road and the car hit a tree on the driver’s side. The co-driver was not injured. . .
Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne has been admitted to the Mayo Clinic for tests after an insect bit him several weeks ago. He has been suffering from double-vision, nausea and fatigue.
Bayne tweeted his fans on Saturday night:
"Still at the hospital. Don’t think it’s related to the bite . . . but we’ll see! God has something cool going on that we can’t yet see."
I have a friend who was bitten by an insect of some sort several years ago. I’ll tell you about him in a post later this week. . .
Finally, expect big news on the NASCAR truck front this week.