Here are notes and observations from a weekend of racing that saw Lewis Hamilton win in F1, Ryan Newman win the Brickyard 400, AIM Autosport of Woodbridge win big in Grand Am Rolex and someone other than Jordan Szoke win a race in the Canadian Superbike Series.
Let’s start with Formula One.
F1 announcer David Coulthard said during the telecast of Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, which was won by Hamilton, with Kimi Raikkonen second and Sebastian Vettel third, that there's a very strong rumour in the paddock that Raikkonen isn’t being paid by Team Lotus or its sponsors.
If true, then Formula One is in huge trouble because it would appear that only five teams – McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and Toro Rosso – are standing on their own financial feet.
The word in the paddock at the Canadian GP in Montreal was that Sauber is broke and unable to pay Nico Hulkenburg. They are reportedly trying to solve that sorry state of affairs by signing a 17-year-old Russian driver, Sergey Sirotkin, who currently sits ninth in the Formula Renault 3.5 series but whose father is a multi-billionaire with connections to other Russian corporate cash.
While this is appalling enough, Sergey will feel right at home next year. He’ll be surrounded by the likes of Charles Pic, Esteban Gutierrez, Max Chilton, Jules Bianchi, Pastor Maldonado and Giedo van der Garde, all of whom are only in F1 because their rich daddies, their rich uncles or their rich governments have written cheques large enough to keep their "employers" afloat.
Everybody, and particularly the top teams, pooh-poohed efforts by former FIA chief Max Mosley to get the F1 teams to cut back on their spending. But who’s laughing now? Hardly anybody can afford to play in that league any more.
What a sorry state of affairs for a sport that likes to call itself the top racing series in the world.
Instead of focusing on real stories like the one above, the only story (a non-story, actually) that F1 "media" seem interested in covering is who will partner Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull Racing next season.
The flavour of the last three weeks, Daniel Ricciardo, has been dumped as quickly as he was elevated as the result of finishing 13th in Sunday’s race behind his Toro Rosso teammate Jean-Eric Vergne.
Now, according to pundits, Fernando Alonso is going to leave Ferrari and join Vettel at Red Bull. Alonso’s manager was allegedly seen talking to Christian Horner and that resulted in a flurry of "confirm-or-deny" questions at a later media conference when perhaps questions about the health of the business and the level of talent in F1 might have been more appropriate.
Romain Grosjean reminds me of Paul Tracy. Even when he keeps his nose clean, the referees find him guilty anyway.
Several times during Sunday’s race, in which the young Frenchman finished sixth, he was in close combat with somebody or other but maintained his composure and commentator Coulthard was want to observe how mature his driving was this year as compared to last.
But when he tried to pass Jenson Button, they touched wheels and the stewards said it was his fault and tacked 20 seconds on to his finishing time. Earlier, he pulled off a daring pass of Felipe Massa around the outside and the stewards said he had all four wheels off the racing surface and gave him a drive-through.
I don’t know about the second incident (although the passee, Massa, said the passer, Grosjean, only had two wheels over the line), but the first one sure looked like just one of them racin’ deals and I don’t know how you can find one driver at fault any more than the other.
But when you have a reputation for being reckless . . .
Okay, every year at the time of the Hungarian GP, I write the following sentences:
The world’s mainstream media totally missed the significance of the first Hungarian GP in 1986.
The most capitalistic of world sport was allowed behind the Iron Curtain and that race marked the beginning of the end for Soviet-imposed communism in eastern Europe.
Four years later, the Berlin Wall was down and five years later the the Soviet Union was no more. Incredible.
Even today, there are no memos in encyclopedias as to the importance of that race, which I continue to find astounding.
Okay, rant over.
The Brickyard 400 was won in exactly the same way the Hungarian GP was won: the pole sitter went wire-to-wire.
Ryan Newman won the Brickyard, with Jimmie Johnson second and Kasey Kahne third. As compared to the Indianapolis 500 in May, this was a dull and boring race.
Unlike the Indy cars, the stock cars are unable to maintain a draft at Indianapolis and they get strung out. Without close racing, there is less of a chance of what everybody expects from NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, a "Big One," to actually take place. And there wasn’t a "big one."
The most excitement came near the end when the last Johnson pit stop took almost five seconds longer than normal and that gave Newman the cushion he needed to pull off the win. Johnson got close – three seconds behind – but would have needed a longer race to catch the leader.
– As everybody knows (or should know by now), Newman doesn’t have a job for next season. Newman is of the "old school" (he – like Stewart and Kahne and a bunch of others – comes from open-wheel midget and sprint-car racing) and while he works hard on behalf of the sponsors he’s driving for, he doesn’t believe a driver should have to bring the sponsorship to the race team, so doesn’t.
So he won one of the three biggest races on the NASCAR calendar for Stewart-Hass Racing on Sunday but is still being fired at the end of the season anyway. Why? Because Kevin Harvick is leaving Richard Childress Racing and will take his Budweiser sponsorship with him to Tony Stewart’s team next year. And Danica Patrick, of course, has Go Daddy’s millions behind her.
Two drivers with sponsors have jobs; the Brickyard winner doesn’t have a sponsor and has no job. Maybe it’s time Newman got smart and hired a marketing company to get him some money.
Like it or not, it’s the way of the world in 2013 and will be so forever and ever. Get with the program, Ryan.
Speaking of Newman, and how hard he works for his sponsors, I’ve hated how, over the years, he’s been as bad as Olympic skiiers who refuse to have their pictures taken unless they have their skis beside their face – all the better to show off the brand they use.
Newman, it seems, will never appear on TV unless he’s got a bottle of Coca-Cola smack-dab in the middle of the camera shot. I’ve mused previously that if Newman drank all of that Coke he's been seen with over the years, he’d weigh 300 pounds.
My suspicions were proved to be correct during Sunday’s pre-race show on ESPN (TSN in Canada).
When interviewer Rutledge Wood finished asking his questions, Newman started walking away with his bottle of Coke.
"You gonna drink that?" Wood asked.
"Nope," said Newman, and handed Wood the bottle, unaware that the camera was still rolling.
"Thanks," said Wood – and I betcha he’d been thinking the same thing I had, which is perhaps why he asked.
Selena Gomez refuses to answer questions about her relationship with Justin Bieber and journalists are warned beforehand that if they bring it up the interview will be terminated.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. talked and talked Sunday about his romance with Danica Patrick, about how he turned her on to rodeo, cowboy hats and boots and country music and how she had opened his eyes to the culinary delights of cheeses other than American cheddar.
Just the sort of information we all crave.
Somebody should tell Gomez’s people to lighten up.
Now, the Brickyard 400 attracted a reasonable crowd. Yes, there were a lot of empty seats but there are more than 200,000 permanent seats at the facility and the only race that still comes close to filling the place is the Indy 500 (and they actually took out seats prior to the race in May).
Having said that, the Nationwide Series race on Saturday - won by Kyle Busch, by the way - was attended by maybe a few thousand people. The Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series race on Friday attracted a couple of dozen people.
I really hope that Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is on the 2014 schedule when the United SportsCar Series issues its first lineup because it will be a crime if Indy is on it and Old Mosport isn’t. Thousands have attended the ALMS races over the years while the Grand Am has attracted exactly zero.
The reason for this section, however, is not to talk about the fact that nobody saw the race last Friday but that the GT Class was won by Jeff Segal and Max Papis driving the Woodbridge-based No. 61 R. Ferri/AIM Motorsport Racing with Ferrari 458 Italia. The sister car, the No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Racing with Ferrari 458 Italia with Emil Assentato and Anthony Lazzaro finished fourth in the GT class.
It was the first victory for the No. 61 team and the first of the 2013 season for a Ferrari in the Rolex series. Segal brought the car home 10 seconds in front after Papis built up a solid lead in the first stint.
The win ended a string of disappointments and bad luck for the first-year R. Ferri/AIM team.
"I guess that the frustration that we had up to this point, and the so many close calls, just built up to this breakout and everything finally went our way today," Segal said in Victory Lane. "We had a great setup for the race car, we had great pit stops and just fantastic strategy by the engineers."
Said Papis: "Today was really a team win. It proved a never-give-up attitude pays off. We gave the first win to Ferrari of the year, it was in Indianapolis and we give the first win to Remo Ferri. So, for us, this win means a lot more than a normal win. Today is proof that good things happen to good people."
OTHER RACING: This is as big news as somebody other than Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard winning a rally in the Canadian Rally Championship. Hard as it might be to believe, but Jodi Christie of Keene, Ont., won his first career Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship Sunday at Atlantic Motorsport Park in Nova Scotia by edging the guy who always wins, Jordan Szoke of Brantford, by 0.036 seconds. Alex Welsh of Uxbridge was third. Szoke was going for his seventh consecutive victory at the Shubenacadie layout. The superbikes now head for Old Mosport in early August for a double-header weekend. . . . Talking about streaks, Scott Steckly of Milverton won his third consecutive NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race on Saturday night at Autodrome Ste Eustache, Que. Alex Guenette of Terrebonne, Que., was second and J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge was third. Two guys not often as near the front as they would like, Ron Beauchamp of Windsor and Jason White of Sun Peaks, B.C., rounded out the top five. Steckly now leads the series standings by 10 points over L.P. Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres and by 15 points over defending champion D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas. The tape-delayed race can be seen on TV next Sunday on TSN at 11 in the morning. Next race for the NASCAR Canada series will come in two weeks at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres. I suggest there will be many more cars on the entry list for that race than the 19 that showed up Saturday night. . . .Cody Darrah won the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series race at Autodrome Drummondville in Quebec on Saturday night but the Sunday night stop at Cornwall Speedway was rained out (which is a real shame because they had a fantastic crowd for the first race held there a year ago). Keep an eye out in the GTA today as the Outlaws' transporters will be passing through en route to Ohswegen Speedway on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford for a show on Tuesday night. . . . In Canadian Touring Car Championship action Saturday at Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant, Mathieu Audette won the Super Touring class race, with brother Remy Audette second and Scott Nicol third. In Touring class, Jocelyn Hebert finish first, followed by Damon Sharpe and Eric Lacouture. On Sunday, Remy Audette won the Super Touring race, with Scott Nicol second and Roger Ledoux third. In Touring, Jocelyn Hebert was first, with Michel Sallenbach second and Daniel Banchette third. The Touring Cars will now travel to Trois-Rivieres for two races at the Grand Prix in two weeks.