The sixth Canadian Motorsports Expo, held at Mississauga's International Centre over the weekend, has come and gone for another year and here are several of the highlights:
Retired racer Randy LaJoie (he was a Connecticut modified champion who "went south" in the early 1980s in search of fame and fortune in NASCAR and carved out a pretty good career for himself in the second tier Busch Series, where he won two titles) says he thinks it’s very possible Danica Patrick will win a race this year.
"I like Danica, I’ve known her and her family for years," said LaJoie, in conversation, talking about the move to NASCAR by the former Indy car superstar.
"She’s gonna do okay. I don’t know if she’s gonna win a (Sprint Cup) race. It’s pretty tough. I mean, there’s guys gonna start the Daytona 500 and some of them are zero for 300 (wins vs. starts).
"But she could win a Nationwide race. She ran real good at Daytona last July. You have to remember, though, that the team she’s driving for (JR Motorsports) hasn’t won a race in two years, other than in restrictor plates. She’s only as good as what she’s sitting in."
LaJoie also had thoughts on Dale Earnhardt Jr., who hasn’t won a Sprint Cup race in more than three years:
"His problem is between his ears. You don’t win 18 races (Cup career) and then stop. I’ve raced against him and he’s as good as anybody I’ve ever seen when his head’s in the game. We’ve seen Tony Stewart finally get his head in the game in the last 10 races (and he won half of them). If Junior could ever get like that, he’d be like that.
"It’s between his ears. His confidence level is beat up and I don’t know if he’ll ever get it back. He’s a darn good racer. You don’t win 18 Cup races and not be any good."
Sprint Cup star Carl Edwards was the big NASCAR guest who flew in on Saturday for a few hours and was utterly charming. He was terrific with fans and answered the usual questions from the media with patience and sincerity.
Edwards and Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart were tied at the end of the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida last November but Stewart won the title because he won more races.
Edwards suggested that when his team conducted a post-season review, they decided they wouldn’t have done anything differently.
But in the next breath he acknowledged that there will be major difference in 2012: he’ll drive exclusively in the Sprint Cup and won’t also be racing in the Nationwide Series.
(If that isn't doing things differently, I don't know what is . . .)
"There were times when I had to leave the Cup team to fly off to do a Nationwide race," he said. "I had a lot of fun but I think I will be doing myself a service to drive just the Cup car and I think being this close last season kind of galvanized that I was doing the right thing to focus on just the Cup car."
Edwards said he can hardly wait to get behind the wheel of the 2013 Ford Fusion.
"We got a glimpse of it last summer, " he said. "I couldn’t believe it. I got interest in racing because I like fast cars, I like cool cars, and that 2013 car is going to be spectacular."
We’ll revisit the Expo over the next days or weeks because lots went on and there were many people there who had all sorts of good things to say.
– The Bud Shootout goes to the post next Saturday night in Daytona and that race will be telecast live on TSN2 at 8 p.m. The Daytona 500 is just two weeks away and it’s about time we got racing again, I say.
– The IndyCar "Leader Circle" program, in which the series doles out $1.3 million in subsidies to some teams, but not all, has left a bad taste in some mouths but you have to wonder why.
The IZOD IndyCar Series is that – a series. Not one race, or a few races, but all of them. Only those teams that ran the entire series last season should have been included in the first place. So why Michael Shank Racing, which has run exactly zero races, or Rahal-Letterman (ditto) or Bryan Herta Motorsports (a couple) expected to be subsidized, is puzzling.
If anybody got screwed here, it was Eric Bachelart’s team. Conquest Racing ran the whole season last year (as it did for many years) and should have been on the list before any part-time or starter team was included.
Of course, nobody should be subsidized. When Tony George started the IRL, half the teams couldn’t afford it so the subsidy was invented. It’s a carryover from those days and has no place in the "new and improved" IndyCar series.
Oh, and to the people who ask why Chip Ganassi and/or Roger Penske are included on the subsidy list, the answer is simple: they are as entitled as anybody else to that money. There is no means test. It’s a vote of confidence in loyalty and commitment and when it comes to those qualities, Ganassi and Penske have them in spades.
- There are those who seem to think that Paul Tracy's season depended on that $1.3 million subsidy from IndyCar but, as a Tracy confidente told me at the Expo on Sunday, it was over a long time ago. "It's done," he said. "Go back a year and the tweets then are the same as now - 'negotiating, really close, gonna sign soon, etc.' Didn't happen then, won't happen now."
– Laugh of the week:
Headline on autosport.com last Monday – "Kimi fastest on Day One of Jerez test."
Oh, I know: Kimi was on a flyer and the others were out on reconnaisance laps.
Yup. That explains it.
- Second best laugh of the week.
Headline on autosport.com this weekend - "Trulli hails best-ever first test."
He'll still finish 20th or worse.