DANICA OFFICIALLY OUT OF INDY 500
Kimi Raikkonen, who's well into Day 2 of his return to Formula One by driving a 2010-spec Renault around the Valencia circuit in Spain, said following Monday’s session that he expects he’ll need a little time to get readjusted.
The 2007 world champion, who spent two years competing in the World Rally Championship and took a detour to North America in 2011 for a couple of NASCAR races, is now back in F1 with Lotus (which used to be Renault, remember?) and said that while he didn’t have any real trouble driving the car Monday, he expects it will take some time to get used to the team and to the spec Pirelli tires.
Raikkonen said he’d enjoyed his short time in NASCAR, which convinced him he really wanted to go circuit racing again and "if you want to go racing, then you want to be in F1."
The second day of the test Tuesday was geared to getting him ready to step into the 2012 car at the first F1 pre-season test at the Jerez track, which starts on Feb. 7.
Good luck to him and it's good to have him back. But if Michael Schumacher had trouble adjusting to the new reality that’s F1 after his time away from the sport, it’s very likely that Raikkonen will find it a struggle too.
At least he has the courage to admit it.
By the way, it comes as absolutely no surprise that Danica Patrick has officially ruled out trying to drive in this year's Indianapolis 500.
She made it official Monday at Daytona International Speedway, where she's preparing to make her full-time stock car racing debut next month.
Instead of Indy, she'll drive in NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Both the 500 and the 600 are scheduled for May 27.
"I hope to do it (the Indy 500) in the future," she told reporters. "At this point, after a lot of conversations, it's just going to be the Coke 600. I think it's going to be a big challenge, but I'm looking forward to it."
Patrick left the IZOD IndyCar Series to drive in NASCAR this season. She'll run the entire Nationwide Series for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports team and for Tony Sterwart's Stewart-Haas Racing team in 12 Sprint Cup races, starting with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 26.
She left the door open to returning to Indy, where she's raced the last seven Mays, at some time in the future - perhaps even trying "the double," in which a driver runs both Indy and the Coke 600.
Although some may disagree, her absence could affect Indy 500 attendance and TV ratings. Anybody who has spent any time in Indianapolis around 500 time knows that Danica Patrick is the star of that race, so far as everybody from local TV weathermen to morning disc jockeys on radio are concerned.
The purists might not like it, but it is fact.
I don't have any news to pass along about TSN's plans for Formula One coverage this year (rest assured, I have asked) but here’s some of what SpeedTV has lined up for auto racing generally in 2012.
Speed Center, the Sunday evening motorsport news program that covers NASCAR, IndyCar, F1 and the short tracks, will return on Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. to report on the 50th anniversary running that weekend of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
In addition, the presentation of the Mario Andretti Trophy to the 2011 Speed Performer of the year will be made on that edition of the show. (I suggest the winner will be Tony Stewart.)
It is sincerely hoped that Speed Center will continue on the schedule it carved out for itself last racing season when it would kick off racing weekends with a Friday night edition and insert updates throughout the weekend leading to the wrapup Sunday night program.
No definitive word on that, though.
In any event, at 8 p.m. that evening (Jan. 29), the 10th season of Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain will go to air and everybody who’s watched that show in the past knows it is a must-see program.
Incidentally, Despain – who really should do more specials like the one he's done on Carroll Shelby; his profile of Chris Economaki a few years ago was a masterpiece and I wish Speed would make it available on DVD – says his easiest and most colourful interview has always been drag racer John Force, his best interview has always been Jeff Gordon and his most challenging interview has always been Tony Stewart – will anchor the 535th episode of Wind Tunnel when the red light goes on that night.
Oh, before I forget. SpeedTV and speedtv.com will cover the Daytona 24 live around the clock. Here’s how.
The pre-race program will go to air at 2:30 p.m. Eastern on Sat., Jan. 28, with the green flag expected an hour later, at 3:30 p.m. Full coverage of the race on Speed will continue until 11 p.m., at which time coverage will switch to speedtv.com and continue there overnight. Television coverage will resume at 9 a.m. on Sunday and continue through to the checkers and the post-race celebrations and interviews.
The Rolex show will be anchored by Bob Varsha and Leigh Diffey with help from colour commentators/analysts and pit/paddock reporters David Hobbs, Tommy Kendall, Dorsey Schroeder, Calvin Fish, Brian Till, Justin Bell and others.
Here’s something a little different. Jim Clarke, who handles PR for Kawartha Speedway, sent this out late last week:
"Sometimes things just happen. At Kawartha Speedway’s 2011 award’s banquet – Sat., Jan. 14th – the rookie of the year honour in the Hasiuk Trailer and Container Rental Mini Stock division was presented to seventh place point finisher Alex Lees, who won three main events during the year. After checking statistics for the season, the track has announced that the award should have actually belonged to Ryan Oosterholt, who picked up only one feature race win but finished second in points. General Manager/Promoter Derek Lynch says the track regrets the error and will be sending a trophy to Oosterholt."