UPDATED SATURDAY AFTERNOON:
Ryan Hunter-Reay won the pole Saturday for Sunday's Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama IndyCar series race with a blistering lap of 1 minute and 07:0871 seconds around the Barber Motorsports Park road course just outside Birmingham, Alabama.
Scott Dixon threw down the gauntler early in qualifying by smashing the track record by more than three seconds. But by the time the dust had settled, Dixon was fourth fastest behind RHR, Will Power and rookie Tristan Vautier.
It wasn't the best of days for the two Canadians racing in the series. Alex Tagliani of Montreal will go off 15th on Sunday afternoon and St. Petersburg race winner James Hinchcliffe of Oakville will start 20th.
Hinchcliffe was slowest of the four Andretti Autsport drivers, with Hunter-Reay on pole, Marco Andretti seventh and pay driver E.J. Viso 16th.
Said Hinchcliffe later: "We've been struggling a little bit this weekend compared to the test (before the season started when he set second fastest time). We didn't have the quickest car, but had enough for Q2 . . . got held up by another car and ended up getting knocked out.
"It's frustrating, but we've got an extra set of reds (Firestone red alternate tires) than those guys now in the race and maybe degradation will come into it tomorrow. We'll keep fighting and hopefully get the Go Daddy car up in a good position by the end of the day."
The competition in the IndyCar series is ferocious this season. Defending champion Hunter Reay's 1:07:0871 (that's an average of 123:422 miles an hour, by the way) was only a smidgen of a second faster than the 26th - and last - qualifyer, Ed Carpenter, who went around in 1:08:6362.
Other notables: A.J. Allmendinger qualified 10th in his return to IndyCar. Translation: bloody good. Simona de Silvestro, who was fastest in the last practice session before qualifying - one commentator suggested everybody drop the "Swiss Miss" monicker and make it "Swiss Missile" - dropped to 14th when the chips were down. Dario Franchitti continued turning in a less-than-stellar performance this year by qualifying 17th. And five-time Champ Car titleist Sebastien Bourdais will go off 23rd out of 26.
Finally, a bunch of people email me today to say they can't find where the race is on TV Sunday. Wheels has a service especially for folks like these and it's called Wheels Presents George's TV Listings for Race Fans and you can find it by clicking here.
Bookmark it, and you will never have to email me again.
Or if he even listens to what’s coming out of his own mouth.
Speed Channel sent out the text of a question-and-answer session it conducted with Hamlin the other day and I read it and I ended up very confused.
“I ultimately spun him out at Bristol. I did not intend to spin him out. It was a mistake. I said it was mistake. Said I was sorry on the radio when it happened. That was in retaliation to being chopped off twice and it frustrated me and I intended on bumping him, and then I did and it spun him out.”
See what I mean? He says he didn’t intend to spin Logan out, that it was mistake, he said he was sorry. So far, so good. Then he said it was retaliation. Excuse me? It’s either on purpose or not on purpose and Denny just managed to put both into the same sentence.
I’m sorry Denny Hamilin got hurt when he and Logano collided at Auto Club Speedway in California two weeks ago and they both crashed.
But it wasn’t Logano’s fault that Hamlin was injured; it was the Auto Club Speedway’s fault for not having either a SAFER barrier or foam blocks in place at the spot where Hamlin ran square into a cement wall.
That crash was no different than crashes that happen all the time in NASCAR. If there’d been foam or a SAFER barrier where Hamlin hit, chances are he walks away.
By continuing to talk about it in a way that suggests none of this would have happened if it hadn’t been for Logano, Hamlin is setting up the young Penske driver for payback. More than one driver in the last week has talked about Martinsville as being a great place to “get back” at people because the track is small and the speeds aren’t that great.
Which says to me that these guys (and the one woman) have all been lulled into a false sense of security that is going to end in tears one of these days.
Small track, big track – it doesn’t matter. If you’re going more than 100 miles an hour, as they do at Martinsville, you can be killed in a crash. There could be an equipment failure, or the angle of the collision with the wall could be just so, or (as I saw happen once, back in the 1980s) a car going quickly could hammer a stationary car unexpectedly and kill the person in it.
Yes, NASCAR Sprint Cup cars are just like bumper cars, most of the time. That’s why the drivers feel safe in them and talk in a cavalier manner about payback.
Sooner or later, the odds are going to catch up and somebody who starts a race isn’t going to be alive when it ends.
It’s bad enough when it happens to somebody like Dan Wheldon, or Dale Earnhardt – when it’s just “one of them racin’ deals.”
But when people talk in a manner that could be interpreted, by some, as a threat, and there’s a fatality, does NASCAR want to even think about going there?
This is not the WWE, where everything is staged. This is real life and real racing and NASCAR would be wise to step in and shut all this down before things really get out of hand.
In qualifying at Martinsville, Jimmy Johnson will start on the pole for Sunday's race, turning a lap in 19.244 seconds for an average speed of 98.400 miles an hour. All of the 43 drivers who attempted to qualify (Joe Nemechek was last) were less than a second behind the pole sitter. Wow. Marcos Ambrose, Brian Vickers, Joe Logano and Kasy Kahne were the others in the top five. . .
At Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, Helio Castroneves was fastest in IndyCar practice for Sunday's race, with Canadian Alex Tagliani second and Tristan Vautier third. James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, who won the season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla., two weeks ago, was 15th fastest. A.J. Allmendinger, returning to the open cockpit wars after spending time in NASCAR - he's driving for Roger Penske this weekend - was eighth fastest. All 26 cars were within three seconds of each other. . . .
It's a Grand Am sports car weekend at Barber too. The two AIM Autosport of Woodbridge Ferrari entries will go off seventh and eighth in the GT class in the Saturday race. Jon Fogerty won the pole in a Daytona Prototype Corvette.