With the TV show cancelled, I thought, 'Why not?'
(We spell "centre" differently, though. Eh?)
There was all sorts of racing activity at the weekend, although both Formula One (still on summer holidays) and IndyCar (a long stretch between races) were quiet. That will all change next weekend when everybody will be at it again somewhere.
Meantime, here's a rundown of virtually everything that went on this weekend.
1. Penske unbeatable in NASCAR; truck champ on track as series heads for Canada
2. Dark cloud continues to hover over AIM Autosport in Grand Am Rolex racing
3. Canadian Wickens wins first DTM race; other weekend results
4. Sad news on two fronts
I’m going to start with the Robbie Wickens story, though, simply because it’s the most interesting.
Wickens, a wonderful young race driver from Guelph (although he sometimes calls Toronto home), is in his second season with Mercedes in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM).
Although he won the Renault Formula 3.5 series two years ago, the guy who was in second place got to go to Formula One (Jean-Eric Vergne) and Wickens went sideways to sedans (although the DTM is huge in Europe, with crowds of 100,000 attending the races, and the competition is slit-your-throat tough).
Last season was a learning year and this year he’s been expected to compete, which he’s been doing. Sunday, at the Nurburgring, he won his first race of the year after chalking up several podiums.
Now, for awhile, he’d "won" his first race in the series at the Norisring in July. Although he finished second to the on-track winner, Audi’s Mattias Ekström, something happened post-race to trigger an investigation.
What happened was that Mattias’s father had run up to his son in parc fermé and emptied the contents of a water bottle he was carrying into the pocket of his firesuit.
Now, I usually hug my sons when they’ve done something to make me happy, but to each his own. Ekström Sr.’s public display of affection, although somewhat unusual, was undoubtedly nothing more than overzealous enthusiasm stemming from his son’s victory.
The stewards, however, did not see it that way and disqualified the driver. They saw the additional water as adding weight to the suit to ensure that Mattias made the minimum weight at the post-race weigh-in. The stewards stripped the winner of the victory and gave it to Wickens.
Audi appealed and in what has to have been the strangest decision in the history of sport – yes, the history of all sport – the German motor racing authority ruled that Ekstrom won the race on the track, fair and square. It then ruled that the stewards were correct in disqualifying the driver because of what happened in park ferme but that Wickens would stay in second-place in the final results and the race itself would not have a winner.
That’s correct. The DTM race at Norisring in July is in the record books as having no winner but Robert Wickens of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, finished second.
There is no such doubt over who won the race Sunday. Wickens pulled off one of the most spectacular passes seen in any racing series this season – he went around the outside of three-front-runners who were running nose to tail in a train when it was raining – to take second place and then went into the lead when front-runner Mike Rockenfeller had to pit for fuel and tires.
Said a delighted Wickens after the race: "It feels absolutely fantastic to have won the race at the Nurburging. I started from seven position on the gird and honestly did not really know what to expect. Then came the rain and everything got a bit crazy.
"For awhile, I didn’t know what position I was in. But then I was able to overtake the three cars in front of me, which brought me success in the end. We’ll drink some beer tonight."
The Canadian is now in third place in the standings, three points ahead of another Canadian, defending champion Bruno Spengler of Quebec. There are three races remaining on the 2013 schedule.
To watch a video of Wickens in action at the recent DTM race in Russia, click here
Now, to NASCAR.
James Buescher, the defending 2012 Camping World Trucks Series champion, won his first race of the 2013 season Saturday at Michigan International Raceway when he drafted past Kyle Busch will three laps remaining and then held him off the rest of the way.
Ty Dillon was on the podium in third place while Joey Logano was fourth and Miguel Paludo finished fifth. Points leader Matt Crafton finished ninth and pole winner Jeb Burton was tenth.
Buescher said the victory came at just the right time for him and "the turnaround" will start now.
Buescher, and the rest of the Camping World series regulars, will now race at Bristol this coming Wednesday night before hauling north to the Bowmanville-area Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for a Labour Day meet that will be the first truck race to be held in Canada as well as being the first road race conducted for the trucks in eons.
Earlier this year, when Nelson Piquet Jr. conducted a test at Old Mosport in anticipation of the Labour Day weekend Chevrolet Silverado 250, Buescher, Burton and Paludo tagged along to take a look at the place and to confer with Piquet about what to expect.
As well as the headliner trucks race, which will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon on Labour Day weekend, a round of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series for stock cars will be held and the Canadian Touring Car Championship will be in action.
Speaking of the Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1, Jason Hathaway of Dutton, Ont., muscled his way past leader Scott Steckly (and yes, he just leaned on him) Saturday night at Riverside International Speedway near Antigonish, N.S., to win the Wilson Equipment 300 supporting Red Cross Disaster Relief.
Pole-winner Steckly, of Milverton, Ont., and defending series champion D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas, Ont., chased after Hathaway for 105 laps but couldn’t pass him or bump him out of the way. Kennington wound up second, Steckly third, Mark Dilley of Barrie fourth and Martin Roy of Napierville, Que., fifth.
The championship is shaping up to be the closest finish in years. Steckly leads with 351 points. Kennington is four back at 347 and Hathaway has 341.
Now, when the headline says Penske unbeatable in NASCAR, we’re talking about A.J. Allmendinger’s victory in the Nationwide Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Saturday and Logano’s victory in the Sprint Cup race at Michigan on Sunday.
Both mounts wheeled by Allmendinger and Logano are owned and operated by Roger Penske and he was most delighted to talk about his team’s weekend success while standing in Victory Lane at Michigan.
"As I go back probably 30 years here at the track, this is probably one of the biggest wins," Penske said. "With Joey coming onboard, his first win with the Shell-Pennzoil car, our relationship with Ford. It's my home state, my home track. Detroit is my city."
At Mid-Ohio, Allmendinger dominated the race, leading 73 of the 94 laps. But on the last lap, when he was romping home, a backmarker spun and he had to endure a green-white-checkers finish to seal the deal.
It was Allmendinger’s second Nationwide victory this season – he won at Road America a few weeks ago. Michael McDowell was second and Sam Hornish Jr. was third. Ron Fellows of Mississauga, driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr., started 11th but was 25th at the checkers.
At Michigan International, Logano led from start to finish although he was second behind Mark Martin with three laps to go when Martin ran out of fuel. Kevin Harvick was second and Kurt Busch finished third.
Jimmie Johnson had a miserable weekend. The five-time Sprint Cup champion crashed after qualifying and had to start last in a backup car. Then it experienced engine trouble and he went to the garage. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who many picked to win this particular race, hit the wall with 65 laps to go after a tire went down.
– Juan Pablo Montoya, who finished 11th after starting sixth (another reason why he's being fired; you're supposed to advance in racing), says his future is wide open but that wherever he races he wants to be in a winning car. Gee, I thought he’d been in a winning car his entire NASCAR career . . .
– I know the automobile industry likes to talk about "Detroit." There’s something about "Detroit" that is supposed to get people excited – unless you’ve been there recently. It is not a nice place.
And what’s with host Nicole Briscoe and play-by-play announcer Allan Bestwick both making references to Michigan International Speedway being "just outside" Detroit. It’s 75 miles away and it takes close to 90 minutes to drive from the city to the speedway. I don’t consider that "just outside."
If AIM Autosport didn't have bad luck, it wouldn't have any luck.
Last weekend at Road America, the Remo Ferri and AIM Autosport of Woodbridge No. 61 Ferrari had two good drives from Kenny Wilden and Jeff Segal that saw the car lead the GT Class of the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series for more than half the race.
Then the luck of the draw saw them relegated to fourth place at the checkers.
This weekend on the road course at Kansas Speedway, Wilden was replaced by Alex Tagliani (they both were replacing regular driver Max Papis, by the way, who has been busy in NASCAR of late) and Tag went out and won the pole for the GT Class in qualifying on Friday.
The IndyCar star, who has stepped aside so his team, Brian Herta Motorsports, can audition other drivers the rest of this season in anticipation of running a two-car team in 2014, led the Kansas race Saturday every time he was in the cockpit.
Poor Segal. As he did a week ago, he took over with the AIM Ferrari in the lead but fell back and on his final pit stop he pulled away with the fuel nozzle still in the car and that meant a penalty. The car eventually finished sixth.
The other AIM entry, though, was on the podium. Emil Assentato and Anthony Lazzaro combined to bring the No. 69 Ferrari home in third place behind class winners Alessandro Balzan and Leh Keen, also in a Ferrari. Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli won the race in a Corvette Daytona Prototype.
With two races remaining on the 2013 schedule, the No. 69 AIM car is fourth in the Grand Am GT team standings and the No. 61 is seventh.
At Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Marc Marquez of Spain, a MotoGP rookie, won the Indianapolis Grand Prix for a clean sweep of U.S. races. He previously won at Circuit of the Americas and Laguna Seca. Dani Pedrosa was second and Jorge Lorenzo finished third.
Unfortunately, there was nobody there to see it. Oh, okay, there were a few but the Speedway holds more than 200,000 and the few thousands that were in attendance were lost in the vastness of the facility.
I have it on good authority that MotoGP will be coming to Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal before long. Prediction: more will turn out to watch there than ever will in Indy.
At Sunset Speedway Sunday afternoon/evening,Jeff Locke of Raymond, N.H., won the International Supermodified Association feature. Alison Cumens of Lindell, Pa., was second and Ryan Coniam of Denver, Colo., was third. Ryan, of course, is the son of Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame member Warren Coniam of Burlington.
At Merrittville Speedway Saturday night, Jamie Gilbert won the J&S Heating and Air Conditioning Modified lights race, Cody McPherson was first in the Rick’s Delivery Sportsman class, Ryan Turner won the Hoosier Stock feature and Matt Williamson captured the Bobcat of Hamilton 358 Modified feature. Congratulations.
At Peterborough Speedway Saturday night, Ryan Babin won the Peterborough Hyundai Mini Stock feature, Dwight Brown won the Techtonix Open-Wheel Modified feature, Ryan Oosterholt was first in the Battlefield Equipment Rental Four Fun feature, Howie Crowe won the Paul David Systems Thunder Cars race, Dave Riopelle held off a field full (it seemed) of drivers named Ledson to win the Ontario Legends race and, finally, Dan McHattie was top step of the podium in the Vanguard Self-Storage Late Models.
At Ohsweken Speedway Friday night, Mikey Kruchka took a popular win in the Southern Ontario Sprints vs. Corr/Pak Merchandising Sprint Cars feature, while Dave Silverthorn, Jr. got his first dirt track win in the Affordable Towing & Recovery Thunder Stocks feature. Jason Lungaro drove from last to first in the HRW Automotive Mini Stock feature and Brady Longboat visited Klotz Canada Synthetic Lubricants Victory Lane after the Gale's Auto Aftermarket Bombers feature.
I have to end this report on a sad note.
Last weekend, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, during the Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship, Quebec motorcycle rider Christian Auger, 34, crashed and was critically injured. He was airlifted to a Toronto-area hospital where he remained through the week. On Friday, he passed away. Our condolences to his loved ones.
And just a few weeks ago, as if we needed reminding that motorsport is dangerous and anything can happen at any time, a tragic accident took the life of a young New Brunswick racer.
Robert Michael (Mike) Stevens, 30, of Riverview, died at Oyster Bed Speedway outside Charlottetown, P.E.I. in what can only be called a freak accident.
His car was upside down following an on-track incident but he was fine and talking to safety personnel. For some reason, and no one will ever know why, he undid his safety harness, including his HANS device, while still upside down in the car and was killed.
Tara Foster, a spokesman with the Maritime ProStock Tour, said in a news release that Mike Stevens won three races in the past three seasons and had 23 top tens over eight years. He leaves his wife Sharon and two small children.
- NORRIS McDONALD