I don't have a reason to publish this photo (off the Autosport website) except that the smiling fellow whose face is directly to the right of Mark Webber's is none other than Gavin Ward of Toronto, who is Webber's trackside race engineer. The F1 season continues next weekend with the Grand Prix of Spain.
MEANTIME, MARCELLI RELISHES PORSCHE GT3 RIDE; CANADIAN WINS DTM RACE. . . BUT FIRST:
Brad Keselowski won the Talladega 500 Sunday afternoon by scooting away at the last second and avoiding a last-lap slingshot by Kyle Busch.
But even before the checkered flag had stopped waving, people were talking about the race at Darlington next Saturday night in which Danica Patrick will return to the Sprint Cup fold.
TV commercials were intoning "Danica at Darlington" during the ‘Dega race and the timing couldn’t be more perfect because of something that happened during the Nationwide Series race at Talladega on Saturday that has both Danica lovers and Danica haters talking.
At the finish of the Nationwide race, Patrick (she finished 13th) was on the outside of Sam Hornish Jr. (12th) when Hornish says his car blew a right-front tire. Hornish’s car went up the speedway and crunched Patrick’s against the outside wall. As both cars then went into the first turn, Patrick hooked Hornish’s rear and turned him into the wall.
Now, if Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch or Tony Stewart had done that to Hornish, everybody would have nodded knowingly and opined that Sam got what he deserved. Flat tire or no flat tire, you just don’t put somebody into the wall for no reason.
But because it was Danica Patrick, lightning rod that she is, people were either calling for her head or making excuses for her.
NASCAR, of course, knows a good thing when it sees it, so I don’t think she will be fined or suspended, mainly because she’s a first-time offender. They’ll give her a talking-to, for sure, because what she did – although certainly not as violent – was every bit as serious as Kyle Busch’s attack on Joe Nemechek late last season.
But at the end of the day, it’s good for business because NASCAR is looking for record ratings in prime-time next Saturday night from Darlington and Danica Patrick will probably help deliver them.
And the guy she drives for in the Sprint Cup, Tony Stewart, probably wouldn’t have taken that little love tap from Sam Hornish either. In fact, I bet as part of his tutoring, Tony has warned Patrick not to let anybody push her around.
So she was just showing the Boss that she takes lessons well.
Oh, still wondering about that Talladega 500?
On a green-white-checkered finish, Kyle Busch tucked in behind Keselowski and pushed him around the outside of the field and into the lead. Everybody anticipated that Busch would stick with Keselowski and then duck either high or low and slingshot past him for the win as they approached the finish line.
But something happened to disrupt the scenario: Keselowski went into the third turn high up the track and then dove to the bottom, breaking the connection. He managed to stay clear of his chaser through the checkers.
Matt Kenseth finished third, Kasey Kahne was fourth and Greg Biffle finished fifth.
"Survived" is actually a more fitting word. There were four wrecks in the last 45 laps. Nobody was hurt but there was a ton of property damage.
Full race details here.
A CONVERSATION WITH KYLE MARCELLI
Two weeks from now, during the Victoria Day Speedfest Weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Kyle Marcelli of Barrie will drive the Pfaff Castrol Motorsports entry in the opening race of the 2012 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge.
Pfaff Motors of Newmarket has been a strong supporter of Canadian racing for years and years. Marcelli has raced – successfully – in karts, Formula Ford, U.S. Formula 2000, Star Mazda, the Canadian Touring Car Championship, IMSA Lights and the American Le Mans Series Challenge class.
It’s always been a struggle for him, though. He’s always had to "bring money" – until this particular ride came along.
But I’ll let him tell you about it. I caught up with him last Thursday evening at the Thompson Hotel downtown, where Pfaff held a reception to promote its involvement in the Porsche series.
Norris McDonald: When was the last time you were in a racing car with a roof on it?
Kyle Marcelli: That would have been in ‘07. I drove one race in a Saab 9-3 in the Canadian Touring Car Championship. That was the only time, actually.
NM: Is this going to be a big change for you? You’re an open-cockpit kind of guy. A little claustrophobia maybe?
KM: I love the enclosed Porsche, actually. I was blown away yesterday when I got behind the wheel of the car. It was the first real GT car that I’ve driven; there’s just so much in it, I never even found the limit. I wouldn’t say it’s similar to a prototype (in the Le Mans series) or a single seater because it’s not. It takes a different driving style. You can definitely feel the weight in the car. It rolls around a little bit differently but, all in all, it’s a very impressive car.
NM: Did you call them or did they call you for this gig?
KM: This is the first time that I did not have to pound on the door! The call came to me actually last August. At that time, we were eligible to compete as part of the championship (during the GT3 series’ first season) and collect points. Since then, our eligibility has been denied and we’re going to be racing as a "guest" car.
NM: Explain that, please. Is it because you’re a professional driver (in a series designed for non-professional drivers)?
KM: In a nutshell, yes. The series is designed for, I guess, amateur racers or up-and-comers and there is a ranking system in place – bronze, silver, gold and platinum: every driver has a ranking – I have a gold ranking and I’m denied eligibility because this series is for bronze and silver. Last August, I was eligible but I won a couple of ALMS races between then and now and that’s what has denied us eligibility.
NM: Success is a bugger sometimes, isn’t it?
KM: It still serves as a good marketing opportunity for Chris Pfaff and Pfaff Automotive and it’s a good opportunity for me to be involved with Porsche and hopefully it develops a good relationship.
NM: Compare this car to your ALMS car. Is this more powerful?
KM: It’s about the same horsepower. It’s just as quick – actually, maybe a lttle quicker in a straight line. But in the prorototype we have a lot more downforce, we generate a lot more overall grip, our braking power is stronger so we’d be about 10 seconds a lap quicker in a prototype here (Mosport) but driving the Porsche is still a real thrill.
NM: Are you going to do the whole series – five or six races?
KM: Except one – the Mont Tremblant race is in conflict with an ALMS race so Jeff Pabst will drive that weekend
NM: How is your ALMS season going?
KM: It’s good – I have a seat at the end of the day. It came together two weeks before Sebring and I’m driving in the Challenge class. This is my third season in LMPC and I’m the professional in what’s a pro-am class. I’m sharing the seat with three brothers. They’re alternating race-by-race so we’ve had two races so far and I’ve had two different co-drivers. It’s difficult to get these guys up to speed right away; they’re doing a good job, it’s just a matter of getting them comfortable.
NM: You are a successful race driver. You have won races and showed you have talent. Are you starting to get a little antsy that nobody’s actually hired you?
KM: I am a little bit. I’m still young - I’m 22 - but I do have to get something with a manufacturer. I’m hoping that this leads to something with Porsche. I know I was on the radar with GM over the years but nothing has come together. I do my best when I'm out there. I mean, last year I had three pole positions, three race wins, eight podiums - it was a good year for us and I really thought something was going to come together but it didn’t and we just have to keep on keepin’ on."
Bruno Spengler, a French-born Canadian citizen (Saint-Hyppolite, Que.) won the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) race Sunday at the Lausitz Circuit. It was BMW’s first win in the series in 20 years and Spengler’s tenth trip to Victory Lane (he won his first nine races for Mercedes).
The other Canadian in the field, Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto, was running 10th and looked sure to score his first DTM point when his Mercedes ground to a halt with mechanical problems with four laps to go.
Wickens said after the race that he still wasn’t discouraged.
"I have made some progress despite this," he said. "I’ll now focus all of my efforts on Brands Hatch (May 20) and hopefully pick up my first DTM points there."
Casey Stoner won the Moto GP race Sunday at Estoril in Portugal on a Honda. Jorge Lorenzo was second aboard a Yamaha and Dani Pedrosa finished third on a Honda.
Romain Dumas, Loic Duval and Marc Gene finished first in an Audi at the Six Hours of Spa race Saturday in Belgium. Actually, Audi finished top four with the e-tron hybrid versions ending up second and fourth.
I mentioned in my weekend post that Indy car star Davey Hamilton (and now Indy car team owner in partnership with Sam Schmidt) would race at New York's Oswego Speedway Saturday night. Well, he did, finishing second in the first feature of the year behind defending Oswego Classic 200 champion Otto Sitterly. Sprint car star Jessica Zemken was 22nd in the 25-car field.
Sammy Swindell is 56 but you sure wouldn’t know it. He’s leading the World of Outlaws sprint car standings after 15 races.
Two things to note:
One, there is no more intense racing anywhere than on the Outlaws circuit. F1, IndyCar, NASCAR are all walks in the park compared to a 30-lap WoO feature.
Second, the grind of running that circuit is right up there with professional wrestling. The performers (the racers, the rasslers) never get a day off. They are either working on/repairing the cars in motel parking lots, in transit from city to city, or racing.
That is a challenge when you are 25, never mind 55 and Swindell at 56 is a marvel of determination and drive. Sammy’s had some problems in the marketing and PR departments over the years but there’s no denying that he’s a real racer.