All-Canadian Monster Truck and farewell, Brian Barnhart
Several things to look at today, including Brian Barnhart's dismissal from the role of chief steward/race director by IndyCar, women racing drivers in Formula One and Canada's very own Monster Truck.
First, the truck.
CAM McQUEEN AND THE NORTHERN NIGHTMARE MONSTER TRUCK (photo by Rick Eglinton/Toronto Star)
You know that when you take your kids to see the Monster Trucks at the Rogers Centre (aw, c'mon - you know you do . . . You go to the Monster Trucks at the SkyDome just like you go to the WWE at the ACC to see Triple H ), you have to cheer for all those American trucks like Grave Digger and Bounty Hunter, right?
Well, the good news today is that when you attend the Maple Leaf Monster Jam in January (Jan. 21 and 22, to be exact), you and your children will have an honest-to-goodness, specially built, Canadian-to-the-core Monster Truck of your very own to cheer for, the Northern Nightmare!!!
Unveiled at Rogers Centre Wednesday morning by Monster Jam Canada and Feld Motor Sports Inc., Northern Nightmare will take on all comers on home soil starting in London Jan. 14 and 15, and arriving in Halifax in June via Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg.
Driven by Cam McQueen, a professional stunt driver from Kelowna, B.C., the Nightmare is covered in red maple leaves and will carry a Canadian flag in competition. It weighs approximaely five tons, is 11 feet tall and 12 feet wide and rides on 66-inch-tall monster truck tires.
"As a proud Canadian, I'm thrilled to be at the wheel of Northern Nightmare," McQueen said. "I intend to do some rockin' and roarin' in this machine."
At Monster Jam, the big rigs battle each other in two types of competition, side-by-side racing and freestyle. The racing is straighforward; the freestyle portion allows the drivers solo time to show off their skills and the fans serve as the judges.
Although I have no inside information, I suggest it's a good bet that Northern Nightmare will come out on top in that particular category.
Everywhere north of the border, anyway.
The name, incidentally, was chosen from among hundreds of entries entered in a national online contest called Name the Canuck Truck. Entries were judged on originality, creativity and Canadian pride and the winner was sent in by Thornhill resident Greg Duclos, who attended the unveiling with his family.
Driver McQueen started on dirt bikes at the age of 5 and was doing motocross at 11. He built his first monster truck in high school and got a chance to show his stuff at a show where one of the regular drivers was injured and he was asked to fill in. Now that he has a regular ride, he's over the moon. "We're a force to be reckoned with." he said.
McQueen told one of his favourite stories during the ceremony. It was when he was going to high school and had to take an aptitude test.
"So the first thing I put down was that when I got out of school, I wanted to be a Monster Truck driver," he said. "The second thing I put down was stunt man.
"The funny thing is, I failed the course because the teacher said they weren't real jobs."
That teacher, presumably, is still stuck in some high school in Kelowna. Former student McQueen, on the other hand, is riding high in Toronto aboard Northern Nightmare and loving every minute.
"I'm living the dream," he said. "I'm stoked!"
For more information on Northern Nightmare and about the Maple Leaf Monster Jam Tour, go to monsterjamcanada.ca
Tickets for the January event at Rogers Centre can be purchased through ticketmaster, at retail locations, the Rogers Centre Box Office or by calling 1-855-985-5000.
Okay, some drivers, some owners and most fans of the IZOD IndyCar Series have been calling for the head of chief steward Brian Barnhart since summer because of poor officiating, several instances of which might have put the health of some drivers at risk - specifically the decision to restart an oval race at New Hampshire when it was raining and a close call at Baltimore where a rescue truck just got off the track in time to avoid running into a racing car or cars at speed.
On Wednesday, IndyCar announced that Barnhart would no longer be chief steward but would continue with the company in another capacity.
You know, this is real inside baseball stuff. Does anybody know, or care, who makes race decisions at NASCAR? Does anybody know which of a revolving group of stewards makes decisions at a particularly Formula One Grand Prix?
If there's fault here, it's with the people who run IndyCar for having a rule book you can drive a tank through and leaving Barnhart in that position as long as they have.
t's to his credit that second-year CEO Randy Bernard saw fit to remove him.
Now, Tony George, the guy who started the IRL, has a favourite expression: "Be careful what you wish for."
I'm serving up that quote because, at end of day, the job of IndyCar chief steward is one of the toughest in sport. In my lifetime, there have been only two men who could do it correctly - Henry Banks and Wally Dallenbach.
Everybody else, from Harlan Fengler to Kirk Russell to Chris Kniefel was eventually run right out of town. Barnhart lasted longer than most, but now he's gone and the $64,000 question today is:
I doubt there will ever come a time when people will reminisce about "the good old days, when Brian Barnhart was running things." I emphasize: I doubt it.
But you never know.
Be careful what you wish for . . .
Okay, the silly season continues in Formula One. It was reported Wednesday that Lotus-Renault has signed an official reserve driver for next season, Maria de Villota, a 31-year-old Spaniard who has limited experience in racing cars, never mind serious single seaters.
Old guys and retreads we can handle. But rank amateurs?