As was the case with the U.S. Open golf tournament Sunday (Justin Rose, Survivor), it was survival of the fittest at Michigan International Speedway when just about the last driver standing won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race there.
Greg Biffle won the Father’s Day contest, with Kevin Harvick second and Martin Truex Jr. third.
But Buffle was hardly the class of the field on this day.
Then, Kasey Kahne was running away with the race – literally leading the pack with ease – when his right front tire blew out and that send him careening hard into the first turn wall.
Kahne wasn’t injured but had to stick his head back into the cockpit after exiting the wreck to push the fire-extinguisher button because the car was in the process of burning down.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. then took over the lead and he was on his way to Victory Lane when, all of a sudden, his engine dropped a cylinder and before you knew it he was out of the race.
Carl Edwards inherited the lead but then he also started to fade and Biffle got past him.
Jimmie Johnson was closing the gap from second place as the race wound down but then he also had a tire go flat on him and he hit the wall as well.
Biffle’s victory was the 1,000th for the Ford Motor Co. in Cup, Busch/Nationwide and Craftsman/Camping World trucks racing.
Kyle Busch finished fourth and Tony Stewart was fifth.
Danica Patrick matched her best finish of the season (Martinsville) by arriving home 13th.
The IZOD IndyCar Series race report from Milwaukee is down further in this post, having been held Saturday, as are reports on other major league racing events held Saturday.
Here are, briefly, the rest of the Sunday racing reports:
– In Jerez, Spain, Nelson Mason of Niagara Falls won the European F3 Open (Spanish Formula 3) race after capturing the pole in qualifying.
– In Germany, Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto finished fourth for Mercedes in the DTM race at Lausitzring. Mercedes driver Gary Paffett was the winner. The other Canadian in the race, Quebec driver Bruno Spengler, was seventh for BMW but is tied for the points lead with Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller. Wickens is in seventh place in the standings.
Said the young Ontario racer after the event:
"That was quite a difficult race for me today. I was forced to push very hard on the option tires, which meant that they degraded faster than we had expected. I didn't have a spare set of new tires available for the final stint, so consequently Christian (fellow Mercedes driver Christian Vietoris) was able to get past me.
"That's regrettable, but the main thing is that we scored some vital championship points today. As far as I am concerned, I'll keep giving it all I've got in every race. If I manage to win, that's great. But if I finish in second or fourth place, that's also okay. I'll just keep pushing."
- In Spain, Jorge Lorenzo won the Moto GP race at Catalunya over Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez. It was Lorenzo's third win in four years.
- For the first time in 32 meets, John Force gave himself a Father's Day present Sunday by winning the NHRA Funny Car drag race championship at Bristol, Tenn. Steve Torrence won in Top Fuel amd Rodger Brogdon was first in Pro Stock. Force had to beat his daughter Courtney in his march to the title, eventually knocking off Cruz Pedregon in the final.
– And with the World of Outlaws making its annual stop at the Brantford-area Ohsweken Speedway in about six weeks, Donny Schatz won back-to-back races in the series in Iowa over the weekend – Friday night at Jackson Speedway and Saturday night at the iconic Knoxville Raceway.
– Finally, Oakville driver James Hinchcliffe co-hosted the Speed Center racing news program Sunday night in place of Sam Hornish Jr. and did a fine job. The kid’s got a future in television if that Indy car racing gig he’s got doesn’t pan out. . .
Ryan Hunter Reay won the IZOD IndyCar Series race at Milwaukee Saturday, with Helio Castroneves second and Will Power third.
E.J. Viso and James Hinchcliffe of Oakville finished fourth and fifth.
It was defending IZOD series champion Hunter-Reay's second straight Milwaukee victory and his third at the famed Milwaukee Mile.
Said Hinchcliffe after the race: "Any time you get a top five in a series so competitive, it's a good day. I'm just a little upset we weren't a tiny bit better in traffic today.
"This track is the ultimate test of patience. It's so easy to overdo it and get in the marbles and end up in the wall and I had a couple of close calls for sure. It was a lot of fun out there either way."
The second Canadian in the race, Alex Tagliani of Montreal, finished 23rd. After starting 16th, Tag moved ahead quickly at the start but ducked into the pits when there was an early yellow.
What looked to be smart pit strategy backfired when Tagliani spun on cold tires on the restart. The team never recovered and an overheated gearbox forced them out of the contest on Lap 146 of 250.
Pete Shepherd III of Brampton won the EMCO 200 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race at Delaware Speedway outside London, Ont., Saturday night. J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge arrived home second and Steve Matthews of New Liskeard was third.
Defending national champion D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas was fourth and Martin Roy of Napierville, Que., finished fifth.
L.P. Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres, Que., who won the first race of the season at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on the Victoria Day weekend, was 19th of the 22 cars that started the race.
Kennington leads the standings with 81 points, followed by Jeff Lapcevich of Grimsby with 75 points (he finished 12th Saturday night) and Jason Hathaway of Dutton, Ont, who has 74 points after ending up 11th at Delaware.
There were seven lead changes among six drivers. Shepherd beat Fitzpatrick by .680 seconds.
The win was Shepherd’s fourth in the series and he seems to win at least once a year going back to 2010 despite only making 17 starts in total.
Meantime, in NASCAR Nationwide Series action at Michigan International Speedway, Regan Smith, who started 20th, won the Alliance Truck Parts 250, with Kyle Larson second after starting 11th. The margin of victory was 0.330 seconds.
Paul Menard, Kyle Busch and Trevor Bayne were third through fifth.
In Germany, meantime, qualifying for this weekend's German Touring Car Series race (DTM) saw Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto finish fourth. He will start the race at the the Lauzitsring Sunday on the outside of Row Two.
Said Wickens afterward: "Qualifying turned out very promising for our team. As for me, I pushed a little too hard on my lap and ran wide in the second sector. In the DTM, you just cannot make a mistake and then expect to still be out in front.
"Anyways, I'm fourth on the grid and the podium is not all that far away. Some points in the race should be possible."
Wickens was in Montreal with his Mercedes employers for last weekend's Grand Prix of Canada and said that although he still habours ambitions to continue up the single-seater ladder, he is happy and satisfied to be racing in the DTM.
Finally, at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi won the Diamond Cellar Classic Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series race driving a Corvette Daytona Protype.
Michael Valiante of Vancouver, the defending race winner, came second in another Corvette DP he co-drove with Anzo Potolicchio.
"I think second right now is like winning for this team," said Valiante later, "because we have been pushing so hard to get on the podium."
Ryan Dalziel and Alex Powpow finished third in a Ford-Riley DP.
In the GT class, Paul Dala Lana of Toronto and Bill Auberlen were first in a BMW M3. (Those two finished second in the Continental Tire race on the same card.)
Emil Assentato and Anthony Lazzaro, co-driving the Ferrari 458 entered by AIM Autosport of Woodbridge Team FXDD with Ferrari, finished third in class.
Max Papis and Jeff Segal finished eighth in class in the sister Ferrari 458 entered by AIM Autosport with Remo Ferri.
James Hinchcliffe was hotter than a pistol early in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season but then appeared to falter.
After winning two of the first four races of the season at St. Petersburg, Fla., and Sao Paulo, Brazil, Hinchcliffe started ninth in the Indianapolis 500 but couldn’t finish the world’s most famous race any better than 21st.
The season looked very much like last year’s, in which "Hinch" started fast and finished not exactly slow, but slower.
But Friday, in qualifying for today’s (Saturday’s) IZOD race at the iconic Milwaukee Mile, Hinchcliffe shook out the cobwebs and laid down a two-lap qualifying time of 42.8829 seconds (170.418 mph) and will start second to Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti, whose pole time and speed of 42.8584/170.515 mph was just a smidgen faster.
"Don't tell Marco, but the outside is way better on the start," Hinchcliffe joked afterward. "That's what I was going for."
Will Power will started third for Team Penske (42.9347/170.212) with Andretti driver Ryan Hunter-Reay fourth (42.9629/170.100) and the fourth Andretti driver E.J. Viso fifth (42.0317/169.828).
That makes four Andretti drivers in the top five in qualifying for the race that the team also promotes and all were powered by Chevy engines. The top Honda driver, Josef Newgarden, was eighth.
Alex Tagliani of Montreal, the second Canadian in the race, will go off 16th (you can watch the race on Sportsnet 1 starting at 4 p.m.). Other notables: Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan qualified seventh; Sebastien Bourdais, 14th; Dario Franchitti, 17th and Helio Castroneves, 18th. Top woman qualifyer was part-time ride-buyer Ana Beatriz, who will go off 20th, ahead of series regulars Ed Carpenter, Charlie Kimball, Graham Rahal and Simona De Silvestro.
Jason Leffler, the NASCAR and Indy car driver who was killed in a sprint car race in New Jersey earlier this week, was wearing a Simpson hybrid head and neck restraint system when the crash happened but still died of blunt force trauma to his neck, an autopsy has shown.
Now, I don’t know what it is about some NASCAR drivers and a whole lot of short-track open-wheel racers but for some stupid reason (and there’s no other word for it) they refuse to wear the HANS device that has saved the lives of countless Indy car, Formula One (and other formulas) and, yes, NASCAR stars since it was invented.
I think, because it came from Formula One (the late Prof. Sid Watkins, Toronto surgeon Dr. Hugh Scully and U.S. doctors Terry Trammel and Steve Olvey propelled the research that led to the HANS) that the stock car types didn’t want to have anything to do with it.
So the Hutchens device was invented to pacify those guys and I still shudder when I think of supermodified drivers like Mike Ordway climbing into one of those ground-shaking rockets and hooking up the straps of a gizmo that was eventually banned by NASCAR because – when tested – it failed to do the job.
One time on national television, there was a discussion of safety and Michael Waltrip flat out said it: there may be other devices and systems on the market, and even approved for use by NASCAR, but "the HANS device is the best." Those last six words are a direct quote. No paraphrasing.
Why? Because in a crash, it keeps the head and neck from moving. It anchors your head to your shoulders.
I’m not saying that Leffler could have survived his crash. What I am saying is that the HANS device is the best defence a driver can have in an accident like that one and I think it’s a shame he wasn’t wearing the HANS.
My friend, the race driver Gary Morton, once said to me that the HANS is expensive. So I asked him how much his life is worth.
It’s a question that every race racer should ask himself or herself.
Carl Edwards won the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway. Kurt Busch will start second, with Kasey Kahne third. Qualifying for Saturday’s Nationwide Race (all the NASCAR races, by the way, can be seen on TSN or TSN2) will be held Saturday morning. Austin Dillon was the fastest of the Nationwide drivers during practice Friday. . . . Brennan Poole won the ARCA race at Michigan Friday after Ryan Blaney, son of NASCAR regular Dave Blaney, won the pole. George Webster, who produces George’s TV Listings for Race Fans for wheels.ca, sent along the following information about ARCA and Blaney: "Recently Blaney has tested at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah and at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in preparation for upcoming ARCA races at the Road America and New Jersey road courses. But this is really part of a bigger plan. ARCA officials recognize that their series has become an important development series and that the road courses have been built into their schedule to help drivers get road course experience they can use in other series. Blaney’s immediate goal is to be ready for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park this coming Labour Day weekend." Thanks, George. . . .Jordan Taylor, driving a Corvette-powered Daytona Prototype for his father Wayne’s race team, won the pole for the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. His brother Ricky, also in a Wayne Taylor Corvette DP, will start beside him on the front row for Saturday’s race, which is live on Speed Channel. In GT qualifying, John Edwards won the pole in a Camaro while Boris Said was second in a Corvette. Emil Assentato, driving the No. 69 AIM Autosport of Woodbridge Team FXDD Ferrari 458 with Anthony Lazzaro co-driving, will start third while a second Ferrari entered by AIM with Remo Ferri and driven by Jeff Segal and Max Papis will go off fourth. In the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, also taking place Saturday but earlier in the day, Jade Buford, co-driving with Toronto ace Scott Maxwell in the No. 55 Multimatic Motorsport of Markham’s Aston Martin Vantage, won the pole.
I must plead "brain fade" when I wrote a few columns back that, in my experience, Jean Chretien had been the only prime minister to attend a Canadian Grand Prix. As has been pointed out in the comments, Pierre Trudeau attended at Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant in 1968 (I even wrote one time about how thrilling it was to see him arrive by Canadian Forces helicopter that landed right on the circuit near the tower) and, of course, he was there at what is now Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in 1978 when Villeneuve won his first F1 race at home. Even more appalling is that besides neglecting to mention his presence, I also forgot that he presented the trophy to Gilles as well as a big bottle of beer instead of the traditional champagne. As I said, brain fade. I'll really try not to let it happen again.
- NORRIS McDONALD