1. Hamilton had F1 field covered from the start
2. Johnson and Knaus in a class by themselves
3. A.J. Allmendinger done like dinner
It’s ironic that A.J. Allmendinger’s drug case was back in the public eye on a day when two of the finest examples of clean living, talent and determination won races in their respective disciplines: Jimmie Johnson in NASCAR stock cars and Lewis Hamilton in F1.
Johnson won his third race of the Sprint Cup season and his fourth Brickyard 400 when he won the race at Indianapolis Sunday.
And Hamilton won his second race of the F1 season and his third Grand Prix of Hungary.
Allmendinger, lastly, finally got what he deserved after his drug test came back positive: a public tongue-lashing.
1. FORMULA ONE IN HUNGARY
From the moment he first drove out on the track in Hungary on Friday, Lewis Hamilton was faster in his McLaren-Mercedes than anybody else and he carried that through all weekend to win the Grand Prix on Sunday. Results and details here
Kimi Raikkonen finished second and Roman Grosjean was third for Lotus-Renault. Defending world champion Sebastien Vettel was fourth for Red Bull-Renault while Fernando Alonso was fifth.
The race was largely uneventful, with analyst David Coulthard comparing it to a game orf chess, which he said he found "terribly exciting."
Thanks for the hype, David.
I’m in shock, however. I know that F1 shuts down in August so everybody can have a vacation – and that’s fine. It used to be three weeks. Now, however, it is up to five weeks.
The next race in F1 will not happen until Sept. 2, in Belgium. I expect severe withdrawal to set in around Aug. 18th.
What language do they speak in Hungary? Hungarian, right? So how come the podium ceremony was conducted all in English?
Wow! What a surprise! None other than opera tenor Placido Domingo appeared on the podium to interview the drivers!
I thought it was wonderful for the spectators (if they could understand what was being said – it was in English, again, remember?) and so much better than whisking the drivers off to some interview room where nobody actually at the event could hear them answer questions about their race.
However, Domingo was nervous, English is not his first language (Spanish is) and the questions were beyond superficial. So by all means continue doing that but have someone (Coulthard, perhaps?) doing the asking and if the race is in a country where English is not the first language then have a translator present.
But most of the drivers are multilingual anyway, so it really shouldn't be a problem.
Team orders at Lotus? I don’t think so. Raikkonen took second place coming out of the pits from his teammate, Grosjean, and ran him off the track while doing so.
Now, I like the Kimster. But he ticked off his team after the race by complaining that they had failed to remind him about using his KERS on the second start (the first start was aborted when Michael Schumacher stopped on the grid).
I immediately yelled at the TV: WHY DID THEY HAVE TO REMIND YOU? AREN’T YOU THE DRIVER???
I say this every year but I’ll say it again. The first crack in the Iron Curtain, which led to the eventual fall of totalitarian-rule communism in most of eastern Europe and western Asia, came in 1986 when Formula One, the most capitalistic of sports, first went to race in Communist Hungary.
The symbolism was somehow lost on the world’s press.
Michael Schumacher had a miserable day. He got to the grid and the lights flashed yellow instead of going to red so he shut off his car because his engine was running hot. Then he had a flat, and he got a pit road speeding penalty and – well, he retired.
As I have reported previously, in an interview with Canadian reporters at the time of the Canadian GP, Mercedes boss Norbert Haug did not seem keen on Schumacher continuing his F1 career with Mercedes beyond the end of this season.
I don’t think Michael wants to quit – again – until he is absolutely sure he is ready. And, most of the time, he's right up there. He's had a pole this year, and a podium.
That’s why I am even more convinced than ever that he will return to Ferrari to support Alonso and maybe capture a little more glory for himself. I know there’s talk about Raikkonen going there, but Alonso is No. 1 and I don’t think he will stand to have another No. 1 in the team, which would be the status and opportunity afforded Kimi.
Schumi would also be No. 1, but really No. 2, and everybody would know it.
In addition, why would Raikkonen want to leave Lotus just as it appears to be on the rise? Any race now, Kimi or Grosjean will win. It would be just plain foolish for him to go.
I love Coulthard’s commentary. He is so much more observant, and his personality so much more delightful, than Martin Brundle. Coulthard is probably the best "sidekick" since the days of James Hunt holding up Murray Walker, although on occasion he does go a little over the top (see chess analogy, above).
But most of the time, he's spot-on and highly entertaining.
Example: he’s talking about the cars losing two kilos of weight every lap as the fuel burns off but he doesn’t put it exactly that way. "It’s like losing a bag of sugar every time you pass the start line," he said.
I think that sort of thing is classic.
Fernando Alonso turned 31 Sunday but he’s still leading the world championship standings and, in fact, driving like a 21-year-old. He got hung up behind Sergio Perez for half a lap before just slicing and dicing his way past the young fellow and putting him firmly in his place.
You could almost hear the two-time world champion say, as he blew by: "Outtamyway, junior!"
Immediately post-race, Hamilton greeted his old buddy Raikkonen with the following words:
"This is like old times, Kimi!"
And why would he say that?
Because every time Hamilton has won this Hungarian race – 2012, 2009, 2007 – the driver who finished second was none other than Kimi Raikkonen.
2. NASCAR AT INDY
Jimmie Johnson had absolutely no trouble winning the Brickyard 400 on Sunday and he and crew chief/team manager Chad Knaus served notice they are a force to be reckoned with so far as this year’s Sprint Cup championship is concerned.
Johnson won five straight titles before being dethroned in 2011 and nobody will be surprised, particularly after Sunday’s display of dominance, if he isn’t champion again this season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished fourth (results and details here) and is now leading the championship standings, something he hasn’t done since 2004.
Junior said after the race that to be in first place is nice, but he wants to win more races. Being consistent is one thing, winning races is another, he said.
I couldn’t agree more. His latest losing streak is now up to five – and counting.
They promoted the Brickyard weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a racing extravaganza. The economy in the United States really has to be in the outhouse because the racing didn’t attract much more than flies.
Starting with the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series on Friday, which was attended by exactly no one (an exaggeration, but I suggest there were more people in the pits than there were on the grounds), through the Nationwide Series race Saturday, which drew a sparse crowd, to the Sprint Cup race on Sunday in which the grandstands were about a third full, I suggest if you took the spectators from all three races and added them up, you still wouldn’t fill all the seats in the place.
Sebastien Bourdais won the Grand Am race, by the way; Brad Keselowski won the Nationwide, giving Roger Penske his first stock car victory at Indy.
While the Speedway is perfect for IndyCar racing – 200 mph-plus speeds all the way around the 2.5-mile facility – the stock cars seem to lumber around there. They have to brake going into the turns and the corners are nearly flat, compared to high-banked stock car tracks, so you don’t see "pack" racing there like you do at other circuits like Daytona or Talladega.
As a result, you don’t get to see "big one" crashes like you do at those other speedways and NASCAR fans, as a result, might find the whole Indianapolis thing somewhat boring.
Brian France is on record as saying he wants more action when the next generation of NASCAR cars debuts in 2013. Whether the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will continue to be on the Sprint Cup schedule, as a result, remains to be seen.
If I hear one more NASCAR driver or announcer say that Indy blows them away because of the "history" and "tradition," I think I’ll scream.
The history is because the Speedway is more than 100 years old. The history is because of the Indianapolis 500, which is not a stock car race.
They turned their backs on the tradition when they started to drive their cars out of the garage area to the pits, just like they do at every other NASCAR track.
If they loved the tradition so much, they’d still be pushing the cars out, with the drivers walking beside them, like they did when they first went to Indy back in the Nineties.
So stop with the platitudes. It really gets tiring.
Tony Stewart is the great racing driver in the world. Well, at least the busiest.
Friday he practiced at Indy. Saturday he qualified for the Brickyard. Saturday night he won a sprint car race at Eldora Speedway in Ohio (which he owns, incidentally). Sunday he raced from 28th position to tenth in the Brickyard (only Clint Bowyer passed as many cars). Monday (today) he will test at Michigan for the upcoming Sprint Cup race there. Monday night he’ll be at Ohsweken Speedway on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford for a local sprint car race. Tuesday, he’ll be back in Michigan for tire testing and then Tuesday night he’ll return to Ohsweken to race in a World of Outlaws meet, a race he won a year ago.
Wednesday, I betcha he’ll be back at his shop in the Charlotte area, giving hell to his Sprint Cup engineers for not having a better-prepared car for him at Indianapolis.
3. If there was ever any doubt, Allmendinger is out of NASCAR
I said it not once but twice last week: A.J. Allmendinger made a humongous error by not standing up and taking his medicine in public after he failed the second half of his NASCAR-administered drug test.
His business advisers let him down, his corporate partners let him down and his friends let him down by not insisting that he call a news conference and answer each and every question as open and honestly as he could about what caused NASCAR to administer the test in the first place, exactly what he had been ingesting and what he planned to do about it.
It might not have done him any good in the end, but it would likely have saved him (and his reputation) the lambasting that he finally got from some of NASCAR’s heavy hitters on Sunday morning.
All week, his business manager kept putting out press releases suggesting that this whole thing was an honest mistake, inferring that it was a fluke, that although the two tests had been positive that they had both been just an eensy, weensy bit over the legal limit and Allmendinger and his people "would get to the bottom" of whatever it was that caused him to test positive.
And, of course, later in the week, A.J. himself got active on Twitter to thank people for their support and to suggest that he was as mystified as anyone else as to what had happened.
Sunday morning on NASCAR Raceday on the Speed Channel, Darrell Waltrip, Kenny Wallace, Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds had had enough – enough of the political correctness ("we’re all behind A.J. in his fight to reinstate himself" and yada, yada, yada) and enough of the ongoing suggestions that Allmendinger would go to a 28-day treatment program and slot right back into the No. 22 Sprint Cup car.
In short, led by Kyle Petty, they said he doesn’t have a hope in hell of ever getting a NASCAR Sprint Cup ride again and the only way he’d find himself back in even the Nationwide Series would be to show up with $4 or $6 million of sponsorship dollars and even then it would probably be chancy.
Waltrip started the piling on by saying the NASCAR substance abuse program is foolproof. And McRaynolds added that despite suggestions that Allmendinger’s reading was just a little over the limit, it’s like being pregnant: "You’re either pregnant or you’re not."
Petty, however, made the most biting comments.
"This is NASCAR and this is racing and this is competition and this is somebody else’s money. We’re spending corporate America’s dollars on this and he’s not going to come back. . . I’ll say it . . . I don’t mind saying it. . . I’m glad he’s on the ‘Road to Recovery’ (program) but he might as well be on a weight-loss program when it comes to coming back in NASCAR because I don’t see any way for him to come back to this sport."
So what is the lesson here for the next guy?
When George Washington’s father caught him cutting the bark off the cherry tree (or so the story goes . . .) the future first president of the United States ’fessed up; he didn’t take the Fifth Amendment, which is a life lesson that just about everybody has forgotten (including another U.S. president who had to resign when caught in a lie, or lies).
Allmendinger had his chance and he blew it – in more ways than one.
And this business about him sliding back into A.J. Foyt’s car over in the IndyCar series?
I can’t see all the other drivers in IndyCar being all that happy about that scenario, can you? And since one of the most powerful owners in IndyCar – if not the most powerful – also happens to be Allmendinger’s employer in NASCAR, I would suggest he’s going to have to pay many more dues before being welcomed back there too.
This has just been a big mess from start to finish.
Okay, why are most observers angry about this – including me?
Because this is the Sprint Cup. This is the top of the mountain. This is the Indy 500 and the world drivers’ championship and Pikes Peak and every great motor race in the world all rolled into one.
Every kid who ever sat behind the wheel of a racing car has prayed for an opportunity like the one handed on a silver platter to A.J. Allmendinger.
I mean, it’s not like he earned it. He was not exactly a winner in stock cars. But he was given the chance of a lifetime to become one and he pissed it away – literally.
When he was nailed for DUI several years ago, he did the right thing by accepting full responsibility. But if he’d been smart, he would have stopped everything he was doing right there – cold. No more booze and no more whatever.
I know it’s easier said than done for some people. But millions of those people have changed their habits and changed their behaviour, particularly when handed the key to the kingdom.
A.J. Allmendinger obviously didn’t and that’s why the vitriol is as loud and as shrill as it is.
Because he was stupid and he blew it.
Sam Hornish Jr. will get the ride in the 22 car for the remaining 17 races to show what at he can do. If he wins or has top fives or top tens, he might get the ride in 2013. But if he falters – and remember: he’s no rookie – then his 15 minutes will soon be up, so far as Roger Penske in NASCAR is concerned.
And why Sam the rest of the way? Because Penske trusts him. He knows Sam is clean, sober, polite, co-operative and media-trained to a fault.
And if not Sam for the rest of 2012, who?
Robbie Gordon? Casey Mears? Elliott Sadler? Ryan Briscoe (only kidding)?
If I’m Roger, the only guy I look at it the short term, besides Sam, is Trevor Bayne.
The rest of them are journeymen and Penske wants, and needs, a winner.
In one of my columns/blogs last week, I said I would make a suggestion in this Monday Morning Roundup about how to save Canada’s Formula One race.
But, as they say, there have been developments and this is long enough. I’ll save my suggestions for later in the week.