Sunday morning update:
Sebastien Vettel of Germany won his 18th Grand Prix Sunday when he finished first in the Italian Grand Prix driving his Red Bull-Renault.
Jenson Button of England was second in a McLaren-Mercedes and Fernando Alonso of Spain was third for Ferrari.
Alonso just managed to hold off Lewis Hamilton in the second McLaren. Michael Schumacher was fifth in a Mercedes.
It was a highly entertaining Grand Prix, with Alonso delighting the tifosi by snatching first at the start from his fourth-place grid position. But Vettel asserted his dominance from lap five onwards and was never threatened after that.
A huge crash deep in the field at the first corner eliminated four cars but didn't affect the leaders or the race outcome.
Vettel can wrap up his second world championship with a podium finish at the next race in Singapore.
Positions six through 10: Felipe Massa, Ferrari; Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso; Paul di Resta, Force India; Bruno Senna, Renault; Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso.
Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber, ran into the back of Massa's Ferrari and subsequently crashed out as the result of damage done to the front of his Red Bull.
Saturday night at Richmond, Va., Kevin Harvick won the last "regular season" NASCAR Sprint Cup race that set the field for the Chase for the Championship.
Denny Hamlin squeezed into the final spot; Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer were the only real challengers left on the outside looking in, although A.J. Allmendinger was in it too.
Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. solidified their spots, along with Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, the Busch brothers and the other hot-shoes.
Saturday morning update:
Sebastien Vettel won the pole today for Sunday's Italian Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton second and Jenson Button third.
Although Vettel was a half-second clear of the two McLaren-Mercedes drivers, both Hamilton and Button essentially abandoned their last-lap attempts as time ran out.
Fernando Alonso will start fourth for Ferrari while Vettel's Red Bull-Renault teammate, Mark Webber, will line up fifth. Felipe Massa starts sixth for Ferrari with Vitaly Petrov seventh for Renault, Michael Schumacher eighth for Mercedes, Nico Rosberg ninth for Mercedes and Bruno Senna tenth for Renault.
Senna just squeezed into the top ten, so didn't leave his garage to try for a pole time.
In NASCAR, meantime, Kyle Busch won the Nationwide Series race at Richmond, Va., Friday night with Carl Edwards second and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. third. It was Busch's 51st Nationwide victory.
Danica Patrick started 32nd and finished 18th. Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick, 19th and 20th-place finishers, were the last two cars on the lead lap. Everybody else was at least three laps behind them.
Meantime, David Reutimann won the pole for tonight's last regular-season Sprint Cup race, with Jamie McMurray second. Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer round out the top five.
Earlier . . .
QUEBEC RACER WINS SCHOLARSHIP; HARVICK OUT OF TRUCKS; BARNHART'S BOTCHUP
It’s crunch time in NASCAR, Formula One is back on track at MOHN-zu, IndyCar’s officiating controversies continue and there’s so much Toronto-area drag racing and short-oval finales scheduled that it’s almost impossible to keep track.
At the Italian Grand Prix, Sebastien Vettel topped the charts in the second practice Friday with Lewis Hamilton second and Michael Schumacher third.
Yes, that’s correct: Michael Schumacher finished third in the Mercedes and it wasn’t raining. In fact, the weather Friday at the Autodromo Nationale di Monza, north of Milan, was sunny and warm, so there’s lots of life left in the seven-time world champion — who finished fifth in the Belgian GP at Spa two weeks ago after starting 24th — yet.
While just about everybody interested in F1 has his/her eye on Vettel, the McLaren duo of Hamilton and Jenson Button (seventh fastest in practice) and the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso (fifth) and Felipe Massa (fourth), one of the most interesting fights has been between Scuderia Toro Rosso pilots Jaime Alguersuari and Sabestien Buemi.
At the Canadian GP, Alguersuari was on the ropes; now it’s Buemi who seems to be fighting for his racing life. Friday, in fact, he went just a titch wide at Curva Parabolica and slid into the guardrail, ending his second practice run early. Feeling the pressure, perhaps?
The Speed TV crew had some fun during the Friday morning broadcast discussing Buemi’s father’s complaint that Red Bull had signed Mark Webber (sixth in Friday practice) to another contract when it was obvious his son is ready to move up. “They did it so no one would challenge Vettel in the team,” the elder Buemi was quoted as saying, suggesting his son would give the defending world champion more of a run for his money than the 35-year-old Webber ever would.
Bob Varsha, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett seemed to think Signore Buemi was being a tad optimistic but I’m not so sure. Bruno Senna did not exactly set the world on fire when driving for HRT but put him in a Renault and he looks like his uncle. Put Sebastien Buemi in a Red Bull and chances are he’ll be right there with Vettel on times. Racing? That’s another question.
Which is probably why Helmut Marko signed Webber for another year: to give one of his two young tigers at Toro Rosso time to assert his superiority. One of Alguersuari or Buemi will be with the big team in 2013, I suggest.
ITALIAN GRAND PRIX: Qualifying, Sat., 7:55 a.m., TSN; Race, Sun., 7:55 a.m., TSN.
Xavier Coupal from Quebec has been chosen as the very first winner of the inaugural Team Canada Racing Scholarship.
Enjoying a superb season in the very competitive Formula Tour 1600 Series, Coupal has consistently shown great speed, race craft, and sportsmanship. His experience in karting internationally will be an asset as he takes on a whole new group of FF racers from around the world at the 40th running of the Formula Ford Festival to be held at the famous Brands Hatch circuit in the U.K. Oct 15-16.
While not selected, the two runners-up, Michael Adams and Nathan Blok, certainly don't come away empty handed. They will both receive test days, with the first half of the day in a Pro F2000 car and the second half in a Pro Star Mazda.
Earlier this week, I blogged about another botchup by IZOD IndyCar Series President of Race Operations Brian Barnhart, in which the field at the Baltimore Grand Prix got the green flag while a safety truck was still on the racing surface.
Turns out I was incorrect. It wasn’t Barnhart’s botchup; it was the truck driver who was at fault, Barnhart decided after conducting a review.
Barnhart’s decision said the driver (who was suspended for two races) “didn’t follow protocol” by failing to park at a station between turns two and four.
However, it was reported immediately after the race that another truck was already in that station. I interpreted that to mean the driver of the truck stuck out on the racing surface was caught between a rock and a hard place and did the best he could do to get off.
Are there not race observers around the circuit keeping an eye on things like that? Did the driver not radio race control that he was up the creek?
Which means that regardless of who was at fault, or how it happened, the order for the race to go green was incorrect and the one and only person who can give that order was and is Brian Barnhart.
It always seems to come back to that guy, doesn’t it?
There is no IndyCar race this week. The race from Japan next Saturday night will be on TSN or TSN2 late on Saturday night.
Okay, we’ll get to the Chase in a moment. First, Kevin Harvick is now officially out of the race team business.
Harvick announced Friday that he is shutting town his Camping World Truck Series operation and this follows the merging of his Nationwide Series team with Richard Childress Racing. Ron Hornaday is out of a ride, as is Nelson Piquet Jr. and more than 100 employees.
This is not good news. If a guy like Kevin Harvick, with his sponsors and his connections, can’t see a business reason to continue at that level of the sport, the future does not look particularly bright.
NASCAR seems to be going this way: Goliath-size teams (big sponsors, name drivers) at the Sprint Cup level like Childress, Hendrick, Gibbs, et al, augmented by a whole bunch of field-fillers (the start-and-park crowd). The Nationwide and Camping World Series will be populated by Sprint Cup farm teams breaking in drivers and sponsors, second-level drivers and well-meaning, ambitious enthusiasts with no hope of moving up filling out the rest of the fields.
What used to be a pretty good “ladder” system is starting to show some rot.
Okay, the Chase: Going into Saturday night’s final “regular season” race at Richmond, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Brad Keselowski (a wild card, probably) have clinched spots.
Here’s who has to do what: Dale Earnhardt can clinch with a 20th place or better finish; Tony Stewart can clinch with a finish of 18th or better; Denny Hamlin needs a win but can make it if several scenarios play out.
Here’s who can make it with a win qand some help (guys on the bubble crashing out, etc.): A.J. Allmendinger, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Paul Menard, Marcos Ambrose, Juan Montoya and David Ragan.
Wow, kind of exciting, isn’t it?
TV: NASCAR Sprint Cup pre-race show, Sat., 7 p.m., TSN; green flag, 7:30 p.m.
Speaking of NASCAR, the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series will be in action Saturday night at Barrie Speedway. Regulars Scott Steckly, Mark Dilley, Ron Beauchamp and Jason White will be joined by eastern Ontario dirt-track hot-shoe Chris Raabe of Napanee.
Raabe will compete in the final three races of the 2011 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series schedule beginning this weekend in Barrie, followed by Nova Scotia on Sept 17th and Kawartha Speedway on Sept. 24th. He will race with his familiar dirt car number of 01 and will also have most of his dirt car pit crew by his side.
With only two Rounds to go, the competition level in the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship will be at its highest during the Continental Sundown Enduro at Circuit ICAR this weekend. Actually, three battles will take place during this season’s last event. Competitors will compete for championship titles in Super Class and Touring Class and the manufacturers` titles will also be determined at the same time.
The drag racers got rained out so many times this summer that this weekend at Toronto Motorsport Park they’ll be finishing off eliminations in several meets.
For instance, when the competitors in the Pro Modified Racing Association take to the track at Cayuga, not only will the 2011 champion be crowned but three event winners will also be declared.
The final elimination in the fourth round of the six-race PMRA season was postponed from the August 5-7 race at Grand Bend, and although qualifying was completed at the recent “Thunder by the Beach” race at Grand Bend, elimination rounds were postponed at that race because of rain.
So this weekend at Cayuga, where the Northern Nostalgia Nationals and Mopar Sunday will also be held, event winners in both round four and round five of the PMRA season will be held, along with a complete qualifying/elimination event at Cayuga. PMRA officials will finish the fifth race before completing the fourth race final.
At Mosport Speedway, meantime, the annual Fan Appreciation Night will be held.
This will be the second Fan Appreciation Night at the half-mile paved oval this year. It will give all the new and returning fans an opportunity to head down on track and meet all of the teams and drivers during an extended intermission break. Children will receive autographed hero cards, treat bags given out by the drivers and much more.
The full lineup of racing will include the return of the Techtonix Open-Wheeled Modifieds and Ontario Pro Challenge along with Mosport’s three home divisions, the Pure Stocks, Bob’s Towing Sportsman and Late Models as the season-long battles for the championships will be decided.
Defending champion Jim Rossiter, who made the successful switch from Modifieds to the Late Model class in 2010, will be trying to catch Port Perry driver Todd Delisle who holds a slim lead. Mosport veteran Dwight Brown will be looking to use the momentum from last week to move up the leaderboard as he chases down the drivers at the top.