NAPA Auto Parts says it will stop sponsoring Michael Waltrip’s racing team at the end of the season because management was shocked and appalled that he was cheating in order to be successful in NASCAR.
My God; what is the world coming to. Cheating in NASCAR? There must be some mistake.
Some cynics are suggesting that NAPA was responding to threats from fans to boycott their stores.
As chief cynic, I say NAPA was looking for a way to get out of NASCAR and latched onto this good excuse.
Nationwide Insurance won't be title sponsor of the second-tier stock car series anymore, either, although there is no indication there is a connection.
But the bloom is off the NASCAR rose. There will be others.
Three drivers are in the showdown for the championship: defending champion D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas, who’s a two-time title-holder; two-time champion Scott Steckly of Milverton, and championship-chase newcomer Jason Hathaway of Dutton, Ont.
All three are take-no-prisoners racers and the Pinty’s 250 finale promises to be edge-of-your seat stuff.
Kennington and Steckly have both won championships at the Kawartha track previously, and the 2013 title could very well come down to a fight between those two. They are five points apart, with Kennington in the lead. If either of them should win, they will become the first three-time NASCAR Canada champion.
“It’s not going to be easy for any of us,” said Kennington, the 2012 champ (he won the title in 2010, too) and defending race winner. “Everyone is going to be ready and digging for all they can get. It seems like I’ve said this a hundred times, but we’ll just line them up on Saturday and see what happens.”
Hathaway is 22 points behind Kennington and appears to have his work cut out for him. But he’s won a race at Kawartha before (2008) and has won two of the last three races held this season, so goes to the final at the 3/8-mile asphalt oval on a roll.
The odds, however, would appear to be stacked against him. To win the title, he’ll likely have to win the race and hope that both Kennington and Steckly have terrible outings and don’t score many points, something that is probably not going to happen.
In fact, Kennington always seems to do well at Kawartha: in the past five races held there, he’s won three of them and finished in the top five the other two times.
Steckly hasn’t performed as well but you can never count out a two-time champion, particularly one who is only five points out of first place at the end of a very competitive season.
The Pinty’s 250 will start at 5 p.m. Saturday following qualifying at 3 p.m.
I always enjoy going to Kawartha, which is an easy drive from Toronto and where facilities for fans are first rate. A harness-racing track as well as a speedway (the speedway is inside the horse track), the Clubhouse dining room features an excellent sit-down buffet, so if your spouse doesn’t jump up and down at the prospect of attending a car race, you can suggest to her/him that, following a sumptuous repast, they could try their luck at any one of the 450 OLG slot machines at the place while you enjoy the race!
Now, you can’t beat that, can you?
Meantime, this weekend in Singapore, a young race driver from St. Catharines, 22-year-old Gianmarco Raimondo, will become the first Canadian to drive in the European GP2 Series, when that championship goes to the post in support of the F1 Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit there.
The GP2 Championship is the main support series for Formula One and recent graduates have included Romain Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado, Nico Hulkenberg, Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez.
Although many Canadians have raced in F1, Raimondo is the first to strap himself into a GP2 car. Jacques Villeneuve, of course, went to F1 from IndyCar. Robert Wickens, who’s danced around the edges of F1 recently, apprenticed in the Renault Formula 3.5 Series and Formula 2.
The opportunity to race with Team Trident out of Italy just popped up, Raimondo said, and he just had to go for it. But it will be a tough challenge for the Canadian, as he will have just one 30-minute free practice session to get a handle on his new car.
Raimondo has been without a race seat this season. A veteran of the F3 Italia Series, he led the standings of the European Open F3 Series for most of the season in 2012, finishing second in the end.
“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time,” said Raimondo, who did a GP2 test a year ago. “Even though I haven’t raced in awhile, I didn’t stop my physical and mental training so I could be ready in case a chance like this materialized.”
He will join Nathanaël Berthon of France on the Italian team.
The Grand Prix of Singapore is on this weekend (see reference above) and everything will be copa because drivers moves, etc., won’t be made till next season. So Felipe Massa will still be partnering Fernando Alonso at Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen will still be at Lotus and I fully expect there to be all sorts of needling and trash talking going on between now and the end of 2013.
It was interesting this week to read all of the many stories written about how McLaren’s two drivers – Jenson Button and Sergio Perez – say they expect to be with the team in 2014. And I say, why? What have they done to deserve staying in those seats? Button is 9th in the standings and Perez is 12th. Mark Webber is fifth and he’s out at Red Bull; Massa is seventh for Ferrari and been told to get lost.
The managing director of McLaren, Jonathan Neale, said driver continuity is not a priority, particularly as the team prepares for Honda power in 2015.
"What you really want is talent and high performance," Neale said during a media conference. "We've shown in the past that we weren't afraid to make the changes that we felt that we needed to in the team, whether it was inside the organization or in the driver lineup, in order to get the job done. We're really excited about the return of Honda and are working really hard behind the scenes to make that successful.”
Hmmm. Working hard behind the scenes. Wonder what that means? Actually, I don’t have to wonder. Fernando Alonso will be at McLaren on or just after Jan. 1, 2014.
Toronto’s Andy DeFrancesco, chairman and CEO of Delavaco Group Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, is big on auto racing and the benefits of auto racing sponsorship. One of his brands, weight-loss aid Hydroxycut, sponsors Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan in the IZOD IndyCar Series. DeFrancesco was recently involved, with the Serruya family of Markham, in the purchase of the Cold Stone Creamery ice cream company that partners with Tim Hortons at more than 200 stores in Canada and the United States. This weekend, Cold Stone is the sponsor of Nelson Piquet Jr.’s car for the Nationwide Series race at Dover, Del.Here's what it will look like.
Meantime, BlackBerry is changing the branding on the Mercedes cars to BBM for BlackBerry Messaging. Why? Because BlackBerry users will now be able to send, and receive, secure messages to and from cell phones other than the ones manufactured by the Waterloo, Ont., company.
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg unveiled the new BBM branding on the Mercedes cars Thursday. The branding will run on the cars for the remaining seven races of the 2013 F1 season. The BBM logo will have a prominent presence of the chassis and front of the headrests, in the same spaces previously occupied by the BlackBerry logo. The BlackBerry logo will continue to run on the headrest and across the team kit and trackside infrastructure.
What's that? The side of the car?
Lewis Hamilton led free practice at Singapore today. Here’s how everybody else did:
01 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:47.055 20 laps
02 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:47.420 +0.365 20 laps
03 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:47.885 +0.830 19 laps
04 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:48.239 +1.184 23 laps
05 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:48.354 +1.299 18 laps
06 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:48.355 +1.300 12 laps
07 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:48.362 +1.307 21 laps
08 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:49.267 +2.212 20 laps
09 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:49.348 +2.293 23 laps
10 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:49.355 +2.300 21 laps
11 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:49.481 +2.426 20 laps
12 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:49.493 +2.438 16 laps
13 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:49.510 +2.455 21 laps
14 Jenson Button McLaren 1:49.608 +2.553 20 laps
15 Paul di Resta Force India 1:49.887 +2.832 18 laps
16 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:50.092 +3.037 20 laps
17 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:50.222 +3.167 17 laps
18 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:50.757 +3.702 16 laps
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:52.359 +5.304 16 laps
20 Max Chilton Marussia 1:52.673 +5.618 15 laps
21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:52.920 +5.865 24 laps
22 Charles Pic Caterham 1:53.647 +6.592 23 laps