When Newman/Haas Racing announced late last week that it wouldn't be competing in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series, it promptly threw Sunoco Rookie of the Year James Hinchcliffe out of work.
I did a quick phone interview with "Hinch," the Oakville racer who set the IndyCar series on its ear this year with both his abilities in the cockpit and his public-relations skills, and asked him if he'd talked to Michael Andretti about the GoDaddy seat recently vacated by Danica Patrick that was going to be filled by Dan Wheldon but remains available.
I wrote in my blog entry that, "asked specifically about the openings at Michael Andretti's team, Hinchcliffe was bemused, saying only that they were among several of the quality seats still available and he would just have to regroup."
Wednesday afternoon, Speed TV reporter Robin Miller said it's now expected that Hinchcliffe is close to landing that job.
And in email conversation that I had Wednesday night with a friend who is in the know, it is pretty safe to say that James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, Ont., Canada will very, very likely be driving that car in the IndyCar series next year.
Which, when it's made official, will be very good news, indeed.
P.S. Miller also suggests Canadian Alex Tagliani will drive for Brian Herta Autosports in 2012. We'll see.
Of course, the Outlaws centred out Ohsweken for race organization, ambience and the facility itself (that little dirt oval on the Six Nations Reserve is a gem) while NASCAR simply said that the Montreal race was the most exciting of the season.
To recap: Australian driver Marcos Ambrose qualified for the Sprint Cup race at Michigan before taking a private plane to Montreal’s Dorval airport. He transferred to a helicopter that flew him to Ilse Notre-Dame and then was taken across the Olympic Rowing Basin to the circuit by boat. He strapped himself into his race car with just moments to spare before the start.
Starting last (he missed qualifying), he charged his way through the field in an effort to catch local favourites Jacques Villeneuve (who’d won the pole), Patrick Carpentier (driving in his last race before retiring) and Alex Tagliani (who’d started on the front row beside JV).
To say he “charged through the field” is a misnomer: he bashed his way through and took the lead by running Villeneuve off the track on a restart with 26 laps remaining. He managed to squeeze past Tagliani just before the end to take what the news release said was an “improbable victory.”
After the race, Carpentier’s crew chief grabbed driver Steve Wallace by the hair when he was still in his car as a result of Wallace deliberately spinning out Carpentier to ruin his final race.
Have at it boys, indeed.
NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Champion Scott Steckly of Milverton is in Charlotte, N.C. this week to celebrate the 2011 season along with the six other NASCAR Touring and Weekly Series champions.
The week of festivities will culminate in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet on Friday and the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards Gala on Saturday.
In addition to Steckly, Max Gresham (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East), Greg Pursley (West), German Quiroga (NASCAR Mexican Series presented by Toyota), Ron Silk (NASCAR Whelan Modified Tour), George Brunnhoelzl (NASCAR Whelan Southern Modified Tour) and Philip Morris (NASCAR Whelan All-American Series) will each receive trophies and all the other accolades that go along with them.
Both evenings will be covered by live streaming. Go to www/nascarhometracks.com at 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday for coverage in English, French and Spanish.
Speed Channel will broadcast one-hour biography specials of the six people going into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January, starting this Friday night.
First up will be Cale Yarborough at 8 p.m., followed by Dale Inman at 9. A week later, on Dec. 16, at 8 p.m., Richie Evans will get the treatment. Then, there will be a break through Christmas and New Year’s, with the “Biography” series picking up again on Jan. 6 at 8 p.m. when Darrell Waltrip will be profiled. On Jan. 13, again at 8 p.m., Glen Wood will get his 60 minutes.
The third annual NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be held on Friday, Jan. 20 in the Charlotte Convention Center’s Crown Ballroom at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing will have a bigger on-track presence in the American Le Mans Series next season with the team fielding an LMP Challenge class entry alongside its LMP1 program, which will will be announced in the coming weeks.
Drivers Memo Gidley (he’s half Canadian, you know) and Mike Guasch will lead the team's effort in the Challenge class, which features the Michelin-clad ORECA-Courage FLM09 prototype.
Here’s a tidbit. According to a story on speedtv.com, an Austin Healey 100S Prototype connected with the worst tragedy in motorsports history was sold for $1.3 million last Thursday at auction in the U.K.
Essentially in ratty “barn-find” condition, the Healey’s value was multiplied immeasurably by its role in the fiery crash during the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans that claimed 84 lives and injured 120 people.
This Healey, which was driven by Lance Macklin, swerved to avoid Mike Hawthorne’s Jaguar D-Type, which was braking to enter pit lane, putting it directly in the way of a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR driven by Pierre Levegh.
The Mercedes hit the rear of the Healey and was launched into the crowd of spectators. Levegh was among those killed and Mercedes-Benz withdrew from racing until 1980.
Here’s an early reminder about the 2012 Grand Prix of Canada that will be held at Circuit-Gilles Villeneuve next June.