NASCAR SENDS JOHNSON, KNAUS A BIG MESSSAGE
Catching up on a week’s worth of motorsport news on a Friday night:
1. Why the fuss over Rubens Barrichello’s coming to North America to drive in IndyCar?
If it was Sebastien Vettel, I would say that is a shot in the arm. But Rubens Barrichello is a washed-up F1 guy (sorry, have to say it) and rather than “retiring” to sports cars or touring cars he’s going to race Indy cars and I don’t see that as any great feather in IndyCar’s cap.
The future of IndyCar is James Hinchcliffe and J.R. Hildebrand, not Rubens Barrichello.
2. Everybody out there has to learn to relax. TSN will carry all of the IndyCar Series races this year, either on TSN or TSN2. And all the F1 races, including the Canadian GP, will go to air too. They’re still working out the details of which races will come from Sky, and which from the BBC, but that’s immaterial to me. We’ll be able to watch them, and that’s all that counts.
3. The fantastic documentary on the life of Ayrton Senna that played at the Toronto Film Festival two years ago and was in North American theatres last year is now available on DVD.
Senna can be purchased at Scott Maxwell’s Mini Grid shop on Mount Pleasant as of its official release date, which will be Tuesday.
4. When NASCAR docked points from Jimmie Johnson and fined Chad Knaus $100,000 and suspended him for six races, this is what they were really saying:
One more false move and we will throw you out of this sport.
No, not Johnson. Knaus. And yes, it’s that serious.
It goes back to last season and the intercepted message at Talladega when Knaus told Johnson that if he won the race he would have to “crack” the back end of the car.
Now, maybe Knaus was just having fun; pulling NASCAR’s leg; whatever. But NASCAR took it seriously and, according to car owner Rick Hendrick, from then until the end of the season, the second that Johnson drove the car into the garage area at race’s end, or when it went off on the hook, NASCAR seized it and took it directly to the research and development centre in Charlotte where it was examined with a fine-tooth comb.
NASCAR never found anything but you can bet they did not appreciate being made to look stupid. So they were just waiting for an opportunity to send Knaus a message.
That opportunity came during pre-race tech inspection at Daytona. NASCAR officials determined that the C-posts, which come down from the roof to the quarter panel, gave Johnson's car an aerodynamic advantage and thus were illegal.
A friend said this a few days ago: “Were what they said were illegal really illegal?” And I said, “Probably not – but if NASCAR said they were, they were. NASCAR is the law.”
I suggest there will be no more fooling around on the part of Chad Knaus. No more creative interpreting of the rule book.
Because if something on that car is even so much as a hair off, I fear Knaus will be gone.
5. Speaking of Johnson, did you notice he let go of the steering wheel when he crashed at Daytona, just like Danica Patrick did when she went nearly head-on into the wall during one of the qualifying races?
You watch: the rest of the guys will do that, too. She’s having an effect on the Sprint Cup Series already. (And you thought she was just another pretty face . . .)
6. D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas will give the Nationwide Series some Canadian content in Phoenix this weekend. Kennington, who won the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series national championship in 2010, periodically drives in Nationwide races.
7. Speaking of NASCAR, the word is out that another manufacturer is trying to get into the Sprint Cup. I say it’s Honda and a friend of mine says Volkswagen or Hyundai. We’ll see who’s right.
8. Sticking with NASCAR, and speaking of my friend, he says Kurt Busch will replace Juan Pablo Montoya after three or four more races if Montoya doesn’t do something with the Target car. I think Montoya has to produce, that’s for sure, but I don’t think Kurt Busch is on anybody’s short list just yet.
(On the other hand, Jimmy Spencer has written a piece for SpeedTV in which he says Joey Logano is on the bubble and Kurt B. will replace him if he doesn't produce. I still don't see it. I mean, I can see Logano being let go but I can't see K.B. getting a big chance again any time soon. He's just too great a liability.)
9. Sir Frank Williams will step down from the board of directors of his Williams F1 team at the end of the month to begin the transfer of responsibility to - as he puts it - "the next generation." That will leave Bernie Ecclestone as the last remaining member of the 1970s "Piranha Club" that saw F1 go from a European club racing series to a multi-billion-dollar international jet-setting enterprise.
10. And, finally, the announcement by Mercedes that Canadian F1 hope Robert Wickens would drive for them in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) this season was supposed to have happened in the last two weeks. That it hasn’t is worrying.