(PHOTO FOR THE TORONTO STAR BY GARY GRANT)
Last weekend at the Canadian Motorsports Expo, I asked NASCAR star Carl Edwards — who was charming, by the way — whether, looking back, he would have done anything differently that might have made a difference in his maybe winning the 2011 Sprint Cup championship.
Edwards finished last season tied with Tony Stewart. But he lost the title to “Smoke,” who had more wins.
I was really surprised when Edwards replied that his team had conducted a review and, at end of day, decided they wouldn’t have changed a thing.
One reporter who was there wrote that Edwards “scoffed” at the idea that they might have done something different or would plan to do something different in 2012. I didn’t think he’d gone that far but by using the word “scoffed,” my friend at the other paper actually underlined the fact that Edwards really does plan to stand pat.
Which is not good for Edwards fans because, by standing still like that, Edwards will probably not win that championship he says he wants so badly.
Why? Here’s why.
Jimmie Johnson won five consecutive Sprint Cup titles. Five straight. That he didn’t win a sixth has browned him right off and he’s spent the winter trying to figure out where his 2011 season went wrong.
Unlike Edwards, Johnson has left no stone unturned in his look back at the season in which he lost the title for the first time since 2005.
In a recent interview at Daytona, he talked about attending meetings “all off-season, making lists of what we can do better.”
And where, exactly, he’d lost his title.
"Give me another restart at Dover and Martinsville," he said. "Give me a half gallon of gas at Chicago or a few more feet of room at Charlotte. Or let me drop the hammer a little sooner at Talladega. Those are things I could've done differently."
And that is why, ladies and gentlemen, Jimmie Johnson will likely be a contender for the Sprint Cup at the end of the 2012 season and Carl Edwards will not.
Good news near for Canadian racing drivers
Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto is frustrated that he’s not in a racing car these days. The Canadian driver, who’s this close to a Formula One ride, is awaiting word of his 2012 employment and I suggest it could be an official test role with, I think, Marussia.
And, if that’s the case, he could wind up in a seat because one of that team’s drivers, Charles Pic, is reportedly having money trouble. If he flames out, Wickens might get a shot.
Somebody’s who’s getting a shot, for sure, is J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge, who will be a busy boy this summer. He’s on the cusp of signing for a full-time ride in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the team he’ll race with will give him a Sprint Cup start at Watkins Glen in August.
As well, he’ll also be racing in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. Good for him — he’s worked hard.
Uniform, helmet collection a great hobby
So I’m walking along at the Motorsports Expo last Saturday and I see a whole bunch of racing uniforms just hanging there.
Now, I’ve seen autographed race-worn uniforms at specialty shops before but never so many in one place at the same time.
More than 200 of them, to be exact.
Most come with a history, and the signature of the driver who wore it.
So I’m looking at a Dale Earnhardt Jr. U.S. National Guard suit and a NASCAR M&Ms one worn once by Elliott Sadler and I hear a voice say: “May I help you?”
It turns out to be the guy who owns this amazing collection of firesuits, John McLean of Mississauga, who’s a retired teacher (Toronto’s Central Tech.)
“I got my first Pinecrest Speedway shirt in 1973,” he said. “It was a Junior Hanley, No. 72. That’s how it started.”
McLean, who raced Formula Fords at Mosport and Shannonville for a few years in the early 1970s, said that at the moment, he has 270 uniforms that he buys, or trades for, then sells. “I have a Jackie Stewart suit that he wore at the Indy 500 (he was in the race in 1966 and ’67), I have an Evel Knievel jumpsuit. I have a Sebastien Vettel, two Mark Webbers, a Scott Speed. I have the uniform David Coulthard wore for his last F1 race. It’s worth about $4,000."
He kind of whispered that last bit, about the price.
“We have closet collectors who don’t want their wives to know how much they paid for them,” he said.
McLean says he has four he won’t part with.
"I have a Michael Schumacher, a Vettel, a Paul Tracy when he raced at Team Kool Green and I have a Jacques Villeneuve Indy 500 Player’s uniform.”
He has a Mario Andretti helmet that the great American driver wore during his final season in 1994 — “that’s worth $5,000 to $6,000.”
And he has a black felt hat that Dale Earnhardt Sr. once wore.
“It’s a hobby,” he said, “but you can make a good buck, too.”