1. Matt Kenseth off to great NASCAR start
2. Kimi’s NASCAR debut coming Friday
3. Rain stops Indy practice; Canadian results
It was not the greatest of weekends for Robbie Wickens of Guelph and J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge but Karl Thomson and Paul Dalla Lana of Toronto and Bruno Spengler of Saint-Hyppolite, Que., were very pleased with their results, thank you. Meantime, Paul Tracy and James Hinchcliffe, both of Toronto, turned very competitive times in practice at Indianapolis before the rains came. Ike Maier of Tottenham was very happy to qualify for the NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta. Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards won the weekend’s NASCAR races and everybody is looking forward to Friday when 2007 World Driving Champion Kimi Raikkonen makes his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut. What?
Kenseth wins Dover NASCAR race
Matt Kenseth is off to one of the best starts of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing career. If he keeps it up, he could very well wind up being the driver to finally end Jimmie Johnson’s streak of championships at five straight.
Kenseth won Sunday’s FedEx 400 at Dover, Del., when he opted to take just two tires on his final pit stop with 34 laps remaining and went on to beat Mark Martin and Marcos Ambrose for his second victory of the 2011 season (he won at Texas in April). Full race story here.
It was a pit-stop call for just two tires. Martin opted to stay out and not stop for rubber; Kenseth knew Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards, who’d dominated the race all day, were both going to get four new ones.
"So I thought we could compromise and I suggested just two and it worked out," said the race winner, who captured the Cup championship in 2003.
Although fresh rubber normally pays dividends, particularly with that amount of time left in a race, it didn’t Sunday in Delaware. Johnson was only able to make up two positions in his run to the front, eventually finishing ninth.
Kenseth now sits sixth in the Chase for the Championship standings, behind Kevin Harvick (fifth), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (fourth), Kyle Busch (third), Johnson (second) and the leader, Edwards.
Kenseth’s two victories so far in 2011 match his season’s total in 2004 and 2007. His best year for wins came in 2002 when he was in Victory Lane five times. He won four times in 2006.
The year he won his championship, he only won one race.
Edwards finished seventh on Sunday (behind Kyle Busch, who was fourth, Bryan Vickers, fifth, and Clint Bowyer, sixth) and his race was downright uneventful compared to Saturday’s Nationwide race, which he won but only after escaping a huge last-lap pileup which was one of the most spectacular in recent memory. Full race story here.
On a late-race restart – one of those green-white-checkers deals – Edwards and Joey Logano were battling coming out of the fourth turn when Logano lost control and hit the outside wall, bouncing down directly into the path of Bowyer who – in a blink – was on his side and heading directly for the inside wall.
Before everybody finished crashing, a half-dozen cars were destined for the scrap yard. No one on the speedway was hurt but a member of Harvick’s pit crew was hit in the leg by a flying spring that came off Bowyer’s car and he had to go to the hospital.
– Joey Logano reported to the infield care centre for a checkup after his Nationwide crash and emerged carrying his ever-present bottle of cola that isn’t Pepsi.
I guess that’s normal, isn’t it? For everybody to leave Emergency after seeing your life flash before your eyes and the first thing you do is open a bottle of pop? With the label pointed directly at the TV camera?
Do you still think that hockey player drank from that bottle of pop on the bench because he - like - just felt like it? If so, I have some swampland in Florida I’d like to talk to you about.
– J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge finished 21st in the Nationwide race after crashing out of the Camping World Trucks series race on Friday. Fitzpatrick spun at least once during the car race. He'd qualified 35th.
– Have to say it: there are just a lot of empty seats at NASCAR races these days. The TV ratings are up, however, which means the racing still has value. But the lack of bums in the seats has got to be of some concern.
- Trevor Bayne is out of the hospital and improving but has still not received the green light from Roush-Fenway Racing to resume his NASCAR career. There's a possibility he might be back in a race car for the Nationwide race at Iowa next weekend but it remains a big maybe. He's the young Daytona 500 winner who was bitten by an insect, or something, and hasn't been feeling 100 per cent since.
Kimi Raikkonen to make NASCAR debut
Almost lost in the shuffle of the weekend’s racing, and still only getting a 15-second mention here or a brief mention there, is the fact that Kimi Raikkonen will be making his NASCAR debut this Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a NASCAR Camping World Series pickup truck race.
That’s right. You did not read that incorrectly.
Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 World Driving Champion, will race a truck for Kyle Busch’s team at Charlotte on Friday night and, if you’re interested, you can watch him either acquit himself as you would expect an F1 champion to do, or else make a fool of himself.
It could go either way.
Kyle Busch has been quoted as saying that he’s honoured Raikkonen chose his team for his NASCAR debut and that the ex-F1 star was "adamant" about running his first race at Charlotte.
I suppose it makes sense. If you’ve never done this sort of thing before – as was the case with another ex-F1 champ, our own Jacques Villeneuve – then the truck series is a good entry point. The trucks are built for safety and don’t go as fast as the Nationwide or Sprint Cup racing cars.
And since next weekend is the All-Star Weekend in Charlotte,, why shouldn’t a star take centre stage Friday night while all the other stars of NASCAR are also in town for their race Saturday.
I suggest Raikkonen will probably keep a low profile and drive to survive. If he makes it to the finish without crashing – a trick whenever the trucks race – he’ll consider it a success and start plotting a career change.
If he doesn’t finish, and doesn’t enjoy himself (as in, he’s piled up or winds up in one), it’s quite possible he’ll chalk it up to experience and move on back to Europe.
Whichever, it will be fun to watch. The truck race can be seen on SPEED Friday night at 8 o’clock.
Other weekend racing, in short:
– It’s May in Indiana, which means rain. They got some practice in on the opening day Saturday for the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, which is scheduled for May 29th, but only 32 of the 40-plus drivers entered got to run laps. Sunday was a complete washout, which means there are only five days of practice left before qualifying is conducted next Saturday.
Remember, you can watch practice at Indy on your computer. Go to http://racecontrol.indycar.com/ between noon and 6 p.m. every day this week and anything and everything that happens at the Speedway will be onscreen.
Ed Carpenter, driving for Sarah Fisher, turned the fastest lap on Saturday – 40.0380 seconds for a speed of 224.786 miles an hour. Defending champion Dario Franchitti was fourth fastest at 224.107 mph; Paul Tracy was 11th fastest at 222.295 (40.4868 seconds) while James Hinchcliffe was 17th fastest at 2221.454 (40.6406 seconds).
Danica Patrick was fastest of the four women who practiced, turning a time of 40.4982 seconds and 222.232 mph – good for 12th fastest.
Alex Tagliani didn’t turn a wheel Saturday.
Qualifying next weekend will be a frantic affair. Qualifications open at 11 a.m. on Saturday and the fastest 25 to turn time that day will be locked into the field of 33. At 4:30 p.m., the fastest nine cars will go out and try to better their times. The fastest among them will win the pole.
Sunday, the remaining eight places will be filled. Bumping will then begin and continue until a gun is shot off at 6 p.m., signalling the end of qualifying.
Most of the qualifying will be available on TSN2 next Saturday and Sunday. Don't miss the bumping next Sunday starting at 4:30. It could be as exciting - or more exciting - than the race.
– Canadian Bruno Spenger pf Saint-Hyppolite, Que., started on pole for Mercedes but finished second in the German Touring Car Championship race at Zandvoort behind Mike Rockenfeller, who was driving an Audi.
– Robert Wickens of Guelph had a horrible weekend in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series stop at Monza (a.k.a. the World Series by Renault). He started on pole Saturday and was leading the race until his clutch failed with four laps remaining.
Sunday, he won pole but was penalized three grid places for running into another car in the Saturday race. Then, early in the contest Sunday, he got clobbered by another car and was forced to call it a day.
The kid is fast and obviously the cream of the Renault series’ field. But he has bad luck. There’s no getting around it. A little black cloud follows him around. He could have won the Formula 2 series title two years ago if he hadn’t had so many mechanical DNFs.
Be that as it may, it remains quite likely that he will be in a reserve driver role – if not in an actual race seat – by the time F1 comes to Canada for the Canadian Grand Prix in June. He'll race through the streets of Monte Carlo first, though, as the Renault series is on the undercard for the Grand Prix of Monaco.
- Ike Maier of Tottenham, who qualified for an NHRA licence only months ago, qualified for the NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta but was eliminated in the first round by Tony Schumacher.
– Perry Bortolotti of Ottawa capped a perfect weekend, winning both races in the inaugural Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada at Calabogie Motorsports Park northwest of Ottawa. Each race was quite different at the start, with rain in the morning and perfect dry, cool conditions in the afternoon - but both races had similar outcomes.
Said Bortolotti: "This really is a dream come true. It’s the highpoint of my racing career - to win the first-ever Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada race and to win it at home."
– Paul Dalla Lana of Toronto continued his excellent season by finishing second, with Bill Auberlen, in the Bosch Engineering 200 race in the Continental Tire Series at Virginia International Raceway at the weekend. The race was won by Jack Roush Jr. and Billy Johnson.
Karl Thomson of Toronto, with Ryan Eversley, drove his Compass 360 Honda Civic to victory in the ST Class.
Said Thomson: "We won on strategy and driving talent during the last 10 minutes. We didn't have the fastest car. Fortunately, Ryan (Eversley) had enough car left to battle with Nico (Rondet) at the end. I was on the edge of my seat the entire final 10 minutes."
Other Canadians: Ashley McCalmont of Ancaster finished seventh in the GS Class. Kenny Wilden of Oakville was tenth. Scott Maxwell of Toronto was 15th.
In the glamour-puss Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series Bosch Engineering 250, that $25,000 bounty put on the heads of always-winning Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas worked first time out as Joao Barbosa and Terry Borcheller beat them in a very wet race at Virgina.
Mark Wilkins of Toronto and American Burt Frisselle, driving the AIM Autosport of Woodbridge’s No. 61 Gamma 88 BMW-Riley, did not have a good outing, finishing 22nd.
Oh, Chip Ganassi, who owns the Pruett-Rojas Grand Am car (as well as cars in the NASCAR and IndyCar series), received an honorary Doctor of Science and Technology degree from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University during its commencement ceremonies at the weekend. Pittsburgh is Ganassi’s home town.