I TOOK THIS IPHONE SNAP OF DALE CREASY JR. (LEFT LANE) AND CRUZ PEDREGON FACING OFF IN A MATCH RACE SATURDAY AT TORONTO MOTORSPORTS PARK NEAR CAYUGA. PEDREGON WON.
Posted at 11:38 AM in Auto racing, Danica Patrick, Drag racing, Ferrari, Formula One, Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series, IZOD IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe, NASCAR, NASCAR Canadian Tire, Ontario Formula Ford Challenge, Racing, Sports, Sports car racing, Sprint cars, Touring Cars | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Veteran Canadian road racer - and now racing circuit co-owner - Ron Fellows of Mississauga will partner Danica Patrick at three NASCAR Nationwide Series races between now and Labour Day as he once again has agreed to terms with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports team.
Fellows will return to the seat he’s occupied for the last four years for the Nationwide races at Road America this weekend, Watkins Glen on Aug. 11 and Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal on Aug. 18.
Patrick, in her first full season of Nationwide competition, and regular teammate Cole Whitt have been joined on occasion this season by a third driver - including their boss, Earnhardt.
Fellows is a former winner for JR Motorsports, finishing first in JRM’s No. 5 Chevrolet at the Montreal race in 2008. In his NASCAR career, Fellows has won four Nationwide races; the other three all came at Watkins Glen.
Posted at 09:34 PM in American Le Mans Series, Auto racing, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, Danica Patrick, Mosport International Raceway, NASCAR, NASCAR Canadian Tire, Racing, Sports | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
For the first time this IZOD IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe of Oakville did not make it into final Fast Six qualifying for a road or street course race and, as a result, will start Sunday’s Detroit Grand Prix in 14th place.
But Montreal’s Alex Tagliani had his best qualifying attempt of the 2012 season when he finished third in Saturday time trials behind pole winner Scott Dixon and second-fastest Will Power.
Dixon, of course, drives for powerhouse Target Chip Ganassi Racing while Power leads the Team Penske contingent. Tagliani drives for the lesser-funded Bryan Herta Motorsport and is finally coming into his own with Honda power after having started the season stuck with the under-perfoming Lotus engine.
Andretti Autosport driver Hinchcliffe, who will enter the race tied with Helio Castroneves for second in the standings behind Power, was disappointed with his performance. He brushed the wall in the final corner on his second lap of the first round of qualifying and the car didn’t work as well afterward.
"I did the exact same thing at St. Peterburg and the car was okay there but this damaged the left rear. It was an easy fix, and the guys were able to fix it, so we would have been ready to go back out in the next round.
"With 60 seconds to go, our first lap was still in the top six but we just got bumped at the end. We should have been there (in the Fast Six) with Ryan (Hunter-Reay, his teammate, who qualified sixth).
Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti will go off 15th, one position behind Hinchcliffe.
The lone woman in the field, Simona De Silvestro, who is the last remaining Lotus driver in the series, will start 22nd in the 25-car field.
The series has lost a car since Indianapolis. Dragon Racing, which employs Katherine Legge and Sebastien Bourdais, went to court to get out of its Lotus contract and got Chevrolet engines for Indy.
But following the race, Chevrolet said it could only supply the team with engines for one car through the end of the season so the drivers are alternating, with Legge concentrating on the ovals and Bourdais the street and road courses.
Bourdais qualified 10th on Saturday.
– For the second Indy Lights race in a row, David Ostella of Maple crashed out of the contest early. He finished 13th and last at Belle Isle Saturday after qualifying eighth.
– Mark Martin won the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover, Del. It was his third pole of the season and the fifth he’s won at Dover. Jimmie Johnson will start beside him on the front row, with Ryan Newman third, Clint Bowyer fourth and Matt Kenseth fifth.
Kurt Busch once again got into it with a reporter after the race. After watching Busch exchange words with another driver on pit road after the race, and after he (Busch) brought up the subject of probation, a writer asked him if he was racing as hard as he could, considering he was on probation, and Busch replied:
"(Probation) refrains me from not beating the shit out of you right now, because you ask me stupid questions."
Kurt Busch is a professional entertainer and sportsman who should know by now that there are no stupid questions. He obviously can’t stand the heat so it’s time for him to get out of the kitchen.
– Joey Logano won the Nationwide Series race at Dover, with Ryan Truex Jr. second and Brian Scott third. Sam Hornish and Danica Patrick had another run-in, this time with Hornish putting her into the wall.
Logano is dominating the Nationwide Series this season but is in danger of losing his ride in the Sprint Cup because of poor results.
– Rain curtailed qualifying at Circuit ICAR for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race on Sunday so owner points determined the lineup with Scott Steckly starting on pole, with D.J. Kennington right beside him. J.R. Fitzpatrick, who won the season opener at Mosport on May 24 (18th, really) weekend will go off third.
– Joao Barboss and Darren Law won the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at Belle Isle, finishing first in Daytona Prototype. Jordan Taylor and Paul Edwards were first in GT, driving a Chevrolet Camaro.
Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato, driving the AIM Autosport of Woodbridge Ferrari 458 (below), finished fourth in GT but continue to lead the standings in that class.
PHOTO BY JOHN email@example.com]
Posted at 10:52 PM in Auto racing, Chevrolet, Danica Patrick, Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series, Indianapolis, Indy 500, IZOD IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe, NASCAR, NASCAR Canadian Tire, Racing, Racing on TV, Sports | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
All of Super Sunday's races were won by previous winners of the featured events.
When Kasey Kahne won the NASCAR nightcap, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, it marked the third time he'd won the Memorial Day weekend classic.
At Indy in the afternoon, Dario Franchitti won what used to be called the 500 Mile International Sweepstakes for the third time while overseas - morning here, afternoon there - Mark Webber won the Grand Prix of Monaco for the second time.
All three races were interesting, with some more exciting that others. In that regard, Indianapolis topped the bill for surprises and tension, Monaco was a close second and Charlotte was - well - not exactly a nail-biter.
Kahne, who joined Hendrick Motorsports this season, won his first race for the corporation when he cruised home to record his 13th career win in Sprint Cup competition.
Denny Hamlin finished second and Kyle Busch arrived home third.
Kahne drove about a thousand miles in competition at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend, starting with a World of Outlaws sprint car race at the Dirt Track at Charlotte Friday night and continuing through the 300-mile Nationwide Series race Saturday.
A star, Kahne's last victory was at Phoenix in November 2011. He will win lots more races before he's through.
Greg Biffle arrived home fourth, Brad Keselowski was fifth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was sixth, Jeff Gordon was seventh, Kevin Harvick was eighth, Carl Edwards finished ninth and Matt Kenseth was tenth. Complete results.
- It was kinda boring. Sorry, have to say it. After the dogfight that was Formula One in Monaco, and the edge-of-your-seat spectacle that was Indy, the Coke 600 was somewhat of a letdown.
Yes, they had 31 lead changes among 11 drivers, but they only had four cautions. About the only time the crowd came alive was near the end of the race when Dale Jr. took the lead for about a second.
You could hear the cheers over the engines.
- If it was borintg to watch, if must have been boring to drive it. At one point during the last 100 miles, Keselowski's spotter began singing to him. To keep him awake, perhaps?
- It's not often you see a Chad Knaus-managed team screw up but it did during Jimmy Johnson's final pit stop. The signal, reportedly, for Johnson to go is when the jackman drops the car; the problem was that the gas man wasn't finished and had to run after the car to haul the gas can hose out.
The botchup might have cost Johnson a higher finish (he was 11th). But the TV camera caught Knaus looking either dejected or ready to fire everybody. Whichever, he wasn't happy and he doesn't fool around. Somebody on that team might be looking for a new job Monday.
- I saw something in this race I haven't seen for years. At one point, Earhardt drove right between Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski to put a pass on both of them. The last time I remember seeing that was at the CNE Speedway in the Fifties when Norm Brioux, driving the yellow Puddicomb Motors car, would frequently split cars to make passes.
It was a long day. The Monaco GP came on TSN at 7:55 a.m., the Coke 600 finished after 10 p.m. See ya later.
Auto racing is a game of inches at speeds none of us pedestrians can ever really understand.
James Hinchcliffe of Oakville came within nine inches of winning the pole for the Indianapolis 500 - that's what 10 miles of time trials at 220-plus miles an hour turned into when the slide rulers came out to aid calculations - and it was a mistake of inches mid-way through Sunday's spectacle that cost him a shot at victory.
The 96th Indianapolis 500 was won, in the end and for the third time, by Dario Franchitti of Scotland and Nashville, with his Target Chip Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon of New Zealand and Indianapolis second and Tony Kanaan of Brazil and Fort Lauderdale third.
Hinchcliffe was sixth, behind Oriole Servia of Spain who was fourth and Ryan Briscoe of Australia, who was fifth after pipping "Hinch" for the pole last weekend.
Justin Wilson of England was seventh, Charlie Kimball of England eighth, Townsend Bell of Santa Monica ninth and Helio Castroneves of Brazil and Fort Lauderdale, tenth.
The second Canadian in the 500, Alex Tagliani of Montreal, finished 12th. Complete results.
For the third year in a row, a crash on the final lap meant the classic finished under a yellow flag.
Two years ago, Franchitti's car was running on fumes and he was in danger of running out of fuel on the final lap when Mike Conway hit a slowing Ryan Hunter-Reay and was catapulted into the safety catch fence. The yellow saved Franchitti's race and victory.
Last year, J.R. Hildebrand ran wide on the final corner while trying to pass a slower car and crashed into the wall, handing the victory to Dan Wheldon.
This year, Takuma Sato tried to pass Franchitti going into the first turn and crashed, with the ensuing yellow freezing the field with the Scot in the lead.
Sato said afterward that Franchitti crowded him down onto the white line and his front left tire caught the "ledge" that has been the undoing of drivers going too low into that turn for years. (Yes, that's "ledge" with an "l".)
TV replays, however, showed that Franchitti gave the Japanese driver a "lane" in which to attempt his pass and he just couldn't pull it off.
In Hinchcliffe's case it was just a small loss of concentration that kaiboshed his race. He'd been running top five, or near it, for most of the race and appeared ready to make a charge for the front in the closing laps.
But when the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series rookie of the year went into the pits for tires and fuel with less than 50 laps to go, he missed his marks - paint on the asphalt of his pit stall where the team wants him to stop the car exactly.
If he does it correctly, they can attach the fuel hose for a fillup and replace four wheels in less than nine seconds. Take more time than that and your race can be compromised.
"Hinch" went past the marks a half-dozen inches and the crew had to pause to pull and push him back into position - something that added three or four seconds to his stop and saw him rejoin the race outside of the top ten.
It was a credit to his talent as a racing driver that he was able to battle back to sixth from 12th; if his pit stop had been flawless and he'd returned to battle nearer the front, he might have been in a better position to try for the win.
Said Hinchcliffe - who led the race three times for five laps and who was the star of a very humourous Go Daddy (his sponsor) TV commercial before the race:
"You know, I'm getting sick of this number six. Every time we finish sixth, we've had more than that on the table and for one reason or another we haven't put it together.
"On that last stop, I overshot the (pit) box by a mile and really put us back there and I feel terrible for it. I think we had the pace for third or fourth place."
There were a number of other crashes but none of the drivers was injured.
The most scary involved Conway, who wound up sliding along the fence with his car on its side and the open cockpit facing the fence. It was a collision with a fence post that Killed Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas but Conway wasn't hurt.
However, the accident was eerily similar to the one he had at Indy two years ago in which he suffered some pretty serious injuries.
The drive by Franchitti was vintage Dario, in that at the first pit stop he was hit from the rear by E.J. Viso and was turned into the wall, damaging his front nose cone and wing. The Ganassi crew managed to get him turned around, fueled up, tires changed and a new nose attached without losing a lap.
When the lights turned back to green, he was 28th; by the time he went to the pits the next time, he was up to third - a magnificent run by a magnificent Indy car driver.
- Because of illl health, Jim Nabors recorded Back Home in Indiana in Hawaii and they showed him singing the song with palm trees in the background. Much as he's been loved over the years, it's time to pass the torch and let someone else sing.
- Nobody - nobody - seemed ready for any of the restarts. The green would wave and all of a sudden there was a traffic jam. Hinchcliffe complained that guys were hanging back and anticipating the green, thus giving themselves a God-almighty run to catch up and pass the leaders. Maybe, but I'm not so sure. It looked like some guys were on it and other guys were napping.
- I know Dan Wheldon was killed last year and that he was the defending champion. I'm glad they awarded his widow the replica of the Borg-Warner Trophy and I know how guys like Franchitti, Dixon and Kanaan were feeling because they were his buddies. I could even go along, I suppose, with the handing out of sunglasses of the type he wore to everybody who entered the gates on Sunday. But when they drove his car out on the track for a commemorative lap, it was too much. Auto racing is a dangerous sport and it's supposed to be. It's not baseball. I hope they will now stop.
- The TV people seem to think that us dunces have to be entertained every single second we're tuned in and obviously can't just enjoy auto racing for what it is: cars in a car race. And in their zeal to keep our little minds alert and occupied, they keep putting their noses into corners they should leave alone.
Case in point: Pit reporter Jamie Little tries to talk to Michael Andretti, who has five cars in the race. It's a disaster, of course, because he can't talk to her and listen to his drivers at the same time.
I would love to see one of those pit reporters be ambushed by another reporter while they're in the middle of a live report and see what their reaction would be.
- The IndyCar safety team (and the officials who direct them) are still appalling for a major league operation. Case in point: Josef Newgarden stalls on the backstretch and pulled onto the grass. No debris, no contact, just a car stopped off the track. The safety crew goes to retrieve the car. This takes six laps.
I want to take them all to my favourite short track in the world, the Oswego Speedway in northern New York, and let them watch the safety crew there in action. Those men know how to do it. I know: I rode with them for nearly 15 years.
- The 34 lead changes among 10 drivers beat the previous record of 29, recorded in 1960 when Jim Rathmann, who won, duked it out with Roger Ward and they traded the lead back and forth literally the entire second half of the race.
- The race took just less than three hours to run, with an average speed of 167.734 mph. Marco Andretti - who crashed later while dicing with Oriol Servia - set the fastest race lap of a tad over 220 mph.
- Thanks to TSN, we saw all the races on Super Sunday. But somebody was seriously asleep at the switch when there was a restart with about 16 laps to go at Indy and a commercial ran long and WE MISSED SEEING IT.
All of a sudden Tony Kanaan is leading, and HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?
Mark Webber became the first winner of auto racing's Super Sunday this morning when he captured the Grand Prix of Monaco for Red Bull-Renault.
In so doing, he became the sixth winner of an F1 Grand Prix in six races so far in 2012 - a record.
One false move and the order would have been changed for the first four finishers at Monaco, who flashed across the finish line within 1.3 seconds of each other.
Nose to tail after Webber came Nico Rosberg for Mercedes, Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari and Webber's teammate, Sebastien Vettel. A hiccup further back came McLaren-Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, followed two seconds later by Ferrari driver Felipe Massa.
Positions seven through 10 - Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg in Force India-Ferraris, Kimi Raikkonen in a Lotus-Renault and Bruno Senna in a Williams-Renault - were back a bit.
It was a thrilling Monaco from start to finish because the circuit is so narrow and the confines so tight that anything could happen at any time to change the outcome of the classic.
It was Webber's second Monaco victory, his first coming in 2010. Vettel won it last year and now Webber's done it again, giving Red Bull a hat trick in the principality.
Alonso now leads the world championship of drivers, while Red Bull is again leading the constructors championship.
On to Montreal now for the Canadian GP in two weeks.
For a full report of the Grand Prix of Monaco, click here
- While the Indianapolis 500 (next up on this Triple Crown race day) might be the biggest race in the world, the Grand Prix of Monaco is the most prestigious. The money, the glamour, the setting and the presence of the royal family combine to make this particular race the most important.
- Funniest line: as Kimi Raikkonen peels out of the pits, just missing a Force India tire changer, retired driver and now colour commentator David Coulthard says: "You couldn't pay me all the money in the world to do that job."
- Some guys race fair, some guys race hard: Jenson Button, leaving the pits, was hard-pressed to beat Heikki Kovalainen on the run up the hill to Casino Square. It was nip and tuck but as Button exited the blend line, he let Kovalainen go. Shortly thereafter, Vettel left the pits and it was nip and tuck up the hill in a race with Hamilton. Vettel suddenly cut across in front of Hamilton to block him as they approached the square. Vettel must have cut it so close at the end of the blend line to have been able to chop Lewis. I wanted to see a replay but no luck.
- Second funniest line: Lewis Hamilton radio transmission to his team - "They keep dropping things from the pit wall and hitting me in the head." Huh?
- They had a wonderful helicopter shot from high above and I wished they'd used it more often. I remember ABC's Wide World of Sports doing Monaco in the early Sixties when Phil Hill was trying to catch Bruce McLaren and they used a helicopter (or blimp) shot almost constantly. Very dramatic and very, very exciting.
- There was a monster crowd. People everywhere - except in one apartment/condo building. The balconies are always empty there (unlike everywhere else). You see it, a pink building on the right, as the cars pass through the hairpin. There is never anybody on those balconies. Toward the end of the race, one guy wearing a white shirt came out and stood for awhile on one balcony, then disappeared. I wonder what it's like to be rich - and bored.
- Jean-Eric Vergne, who drives for Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari, was in the points and heading for what might have been the best finish of his rookie season.
It was raining slightly toward the end of the race and the television commentators were musing about the possibility of changing tires. Suddenly, Verge went to the pits for intermediates.
The move backfired because the half-rain tires didn't do anything to improve his lap times and he eventually finished 12th, a lap down.
The commentators talked about a bad decision by the team. A cynic might suggest they'd made the change at the request of Red Bull, who were covering all their bases in the closing laps and needed hard data to help in their decision-making.
Hey, when it comes to F1, they leave no stone unturned. Years ago, I interviewed a "go-fer" for BAR. His job on race day? Regardless of the weather, he had to leave the circuit and drive exactly one mile west (where rain usually comes from) and sit there from start to finish. If it started to rain, he radioed in the information and kept the team informed as to its intensity.
Yes, BAR had radar in the pits but still had a man on the ground to confirm/dispute what was on the screen. As I said, no stone unturned.
So I wouldn't be surprised if Red Bull asked Toro Rosso to try out the intermediates to see how they performed - just in case. The loser? Jean-Eric Vergne.
Just a quick thought to start off:
Everybody in IndyCar talked about the need to get away from "pack racing" after the accident last October at Las Vegas that killed Dan Wheldon. As a result, the series has refused to return to Vegas and, with the exception of Texas Motor Speedway, won't race on 1.5-mile tracks or tracks that are highly banked for that reason.
Indianapolis is the first oval the series has run on since that accident and there are new cars. Don't be surprised to see pack racing on Sunday. I don't think you can get away from it, regardless of where you go or what you do.
Meantime, Joey Saldana won the first race of the weekend Friday night at the Dirt Track at Charlotte, the World of Outlaws Showdown. He started fourth in the 30-lap sprint car feature and was pretty much in control once he got the lead.
Sammy Swindell and Steve (King) Kinser made things interesting for awhile but suspension problems killed Swindell's race and a flat tire did in Kinser.
Saldana, a second-generation sprint car star (his dad, "Little Joe" Saldana, was a USAC sprint car racer in the Seventies who also drove in the Indy 500), won his third Outlaws feature of the season.
The Outlaws tour includes a stop at the Brantford-area Ohsweken Speedway at the end of July. Tony Stewart will be back to defend his race win of a year ago.
Meantime, across the street at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Aric Almirola won the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 that will be held Sunday evening. Marcos Ambrose will start beside him on the front row. Danica Patrick will start her third Sprint Cup race of the season from the 40th position.
It was blistering hot in Charlotte Friday and forecasts in central Indiana are calling for an extremely hot day Sunday for the Indianapolis 500.
Speedway officials are telling the expected 200,000-plus spectators to wear hats, drink lots of fluids and use a lot of sunscreen. I predict if it's that hot that many (if not most) of them will go home.
There have been Indy 500s held previously when the temperature was in the 90s (Fahrenheit, of course) but that was years and years ago. Entertainment options weren't as many or as varied as now, so people toughed it out. They'd paid their money and they wanted the show and if it was hot, so what?
Nowadays, creature comforts are paramount, so people won't hang around if it's stifling.
I feel sorry for the drivers; they can't go anywhere. They're strapped in their rockets from start to finish and they'll be wearing three-layer firesuits and underwear, gloves and balaclavas and I guarantee you it will be hot, hot, hot for them.
Let's hope the teams keep a close eye and pull their driver, or drivers, out of the race if anything seems amiss. In 1953, driver Carl Scarborough died after being overcome by the heat.
The only Canadian to win the Indianapolis 500 - officially - was Jacques Villeneuve in 1995. I say "officially," because many people think Paul Tracy won in 2002 but the Indy Racing League ruled the yellow light had come on for a crash before Tracy completed passing Helio Castroneves.
James Hinchcliffe could win on Sunday. He's been fast all month, he qualified second (missing the pole by a blink) and he's got a good team behind him.
"Hinch" talked to the media earlier this week. Here is a partial transcript of that conversation:
MODERATOR: Talk about this Sunday's race. It's been a rain-free month of May. You've had plenty of opportunity to be on the course in the IZOD IndyCar Series car. What kind of race do you expect on Sunday?
HINCHCLIFFE: It's a race of unknowns. This is the first time anybody will run this car for a full race distance on an oval. With the heat we're expecting on Sunday, that throws a question mark into the mix. We just don't know how this car is going to race.
As much as we try to run around in packs in practice, when you have all 33 cars on track running flat out and racing properly, it's a very different game than what you see during practice.
You're going to have to be flexible on your strategy, you're going to have to adjust the car at pit stops and inside the cockpit, stay ahead of the changing conditions. That's sort of the nature of this race just because of how long it is.
MODERATOR: The last Canadian to win the Indianapolis 500, the only one actually, was Jacques Villeneuve who ironically drove the No. 27 car to the win. What would it mean for you to bring home a win in Indianapolis?
HINCHCLIFFE: I mean, it's beyond words. That's a tough thing to describe. But obviously this is the biggest race of our calendar. This is the one that everybody wants to win.
MODERATOR: Let's open it up for questions for James Hinchcliffe.
Q. It strikes me that Chevy seems to have a fuel mileage advantage. This is obviously a fuel mileage race. Talk a little bit about that. Is that going to play into your favor? Does that affect the way the strategy is going to work on Sunday?
HINCHCLIFFE: It's tough to say because we haven't really seen what people's fuel mileage is yet at this track. Certainly there was proof that we had the upper hand in that area over the first few races on road and street courses. The way the engines operate, the power level we're at, there's a lot of different elements involved here at Indianapolis.
That's not going to be something we can really assess until the race starts.
I think that goes into what I said early about having to be flexible. We're going to be learning a lot about what each car and each team has in their back pocket as the race unfolds.
Q. When you're sitting in the middle of the front row looking down that straightaway, do you have any idea what is going to be going through your mind or do you have time to think?
HINCHCLIFFE: I'm going to be looking left and thinking, 'Damn, I wish I was there (on the pole).'
Q. You're on the front row of the grid for the biggest race of the season. From a mindset standpoint, do you feel any more pressure here or are you able to handle it as you would any other race on the calendar?
HINCHCLIFFE: I think honestly that's one of the big tricks of Indianapolis, is you really have to try to treat it like any other race. Because at the end of the day, this is not only the biggest race on our schedule, it's the biggest race in the world. As soon as you start thinking about that and appreciating that fact before you get in the race car, I think it really puts your head in a different place. That's not necessarily the place you want to be.
It's not the way I want to approach my race on Sunday. I want to get on with the job we've been doing as a team and try to continue that momentum.
A big element of it, yeah, is to try to push that as far out of your mind as possible.
Q. James, the qualifying procedure. Under the old method in the month of May, you would be sitting on pole today. Do you think there needs to be any tweaks to the qualifying procedure?
HINCHCLIFFE: Racing drivers love thinking that we go racing for us. We don't. I think the format we have now is incredibly exciting. If it had been the old format, pole would have been set at 2 in the afternoon and everybody would have sat around and nobody would have been able to challenge.
As it was, we had a thrilling duel for the pole that came down to the closest margin in history. It would have been tragic to rob fans of that show. I come out on the lesser end of that, which is still second place.
I quite like the shootout format, the fact we have multiple runs at it. I think it adds a new element of excitement to it. At the end of the day we're here to put on a show.
Q. You, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti seem to follow in a team of drivers that have great chemistry together. What do you think is the key to y'all having the unity you have?
HINCHCLIFFE: Well, honestly the first conversation I ever had with Michael and everybody at Andretti Autosport, their whole key to building a good race team is starting with good drivers that have good chemistry. It's something they've achieved in the past and something that they feel was maybe missing a little bit the last few seasons.
When they first called me, they really wanted to get to know me a little bit better and see if I would fit in well. You could have the best driving credentials in the world or you could be backed by the biggest sponsor on the planet. If you're not going to be able to work well with the people on the team, it really is all for nothing.
I've always said racing is not about engines, tires, race cars, it's about people, and the right group of people will be successful, period.
I think in Marco, Ryan and myself, you have three drivers who are young, hungry, very motivated to put in the effort, to work as hard as possible to get this team back up to championship contenders.
The personalities are close enough off track. We're all good friends. I think that allows us to work so much better together as a group. We push each other so hard. When you're in a situation like that, it's hard to not see success because all the right elements are there for it to happen.
I don't think there's one specific thing that you can point out that leads to that chemistry working the way it does. It really is the combination of all the people on the team, all the drivers working together, and like I said, all of us pushing together to improve week in and week out.
Q. I was wondering how you feel with regards to your car package this year compared to last year and how much more you feel there is to come from both yourself as a driver and also in terms of the car during the rest of the season.
HINCHCLIFFE: Well, certainly, I mean, it's a strong package. The car, when we first got it, it actually didn't really suit me. It wasn't my favorite thing to drive. Between the work that Dallara has done, obviously a lot of work from the team, a tremendous amount of work from Chevrolet, as well, now I and everybody at Andretti Autosports has a competitive package. The car is much more suited me than it was when we first got out there.
Again, it's a huge testament to all the hard work of everybody back at the shop.
We'll have to see sort of how this race unfolds. I mean, I didn't have a ton of experience in the old car. But certainly the situation that I'm in in general, just with the car and the team and everybody, is a big step forward from last year.
The experience plays into a part of that. Again, just the infrastructure at Andretti Autosport, the resources they have, it's a tremendous position to be in. I think there's definitely more confidence in the experience and the atmosphere that we've got. Hopefully this just translates to get results for the rest of the year.
Q. James, it seems almost the highlight of your year is the red gloves (that were worn by the late Canadian driver, Greg Moore). Can you talk about that a little bit. We know how it happened. Yourself personally, how do you feel about that, being able to do that? Any plans for them to be in your car for the race?
HINCHCLIFFE: It was a very emotional thing for me, because Greg's my hero. More than anything, to have been approached by somebody who knew him very well and was very good friends with him and his family to do that, it was beyond an honor. To have even been considered worthy of being able to take his gloves around for a couple laps at the Speedway was a very, very touching thing. I'm incredibly grateful I got to do that.
Yeah, it's just one of the coolest things I've had the chance to do. That will be a hard thing to top. It's certainly something I'll remember for a long time.
In terms of where the gloves go for now, I think they did their job in qualifying. He helped me get a good run and a starting spot. We'll leave it at that. We'll leave the record intact. He's had his qualifying runs now. He's in the race as far as I'm concerned. I think that's a good place to leave it.
Q. You mentioned this is your second time around at Indy, how you've learned from last year what to expect, how things work. What is race morning for you like at Indy and how do you go about preparing for a race like that? Do you ever get a moment to kind of stop and appreciate what it is you're doing?
HINCHCLIFFE: Well, you know, in terms of preparation on race morning, the team's very good that we have no commitments that aren't racing related on Sunday. There's no quick sponsor appearances, no meet-and-greets, things like that. They let you get to business.
As I said before, it's a function of trying to treat it like any other race weekend. You go, you'll talk to the engineers, your teammates. Me being me, I try and keep it as light as possible. Still tell jokes, hang out with the family a little bit before the start of the race like I would anywhere else.
Yeah, it's very easy to get lost in the moment. And I think one of the few moments that we get to sort of appreciate where we are and what we're doing is driver introductions when you walk up over the wall and see the stands completely full for the first time all month.
You're here all month, and you see them, and there's some people in them some days, Pole Day there's some people, but there's nothing like race day. Almost to the same extent, once we get strapped in the cars, do the warmup laps, three by three, which you don't do anywhere else, you really appreciate you're at Indy.
You go on the whole track and you see these formerly gray, barren grandstands seething with life, color and movement. It's a very surreal experience. It gives this track a feeling that it's alive and you're right in the heart of it.
You're by yourself at that point. All the press is done. There's nothing else you can do but get on and drive. You just take that moment and enjoy it.
Posted at 12:16 AM in Auto racing, Canadians at Indy, Danica Patrick, Formula One, Indianapolis, Indy 500, IZOD IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe, NASCAR, Racing, Sports, World of Outlaws | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Despite the problems facing the annual running of the Indianapolis 500 – they’re scrambling to get Katherine Legge through her rookie test and into the race; Chevrolet and Honda are at each other’s throats; Lotus engines are underpowered; everybody’s getting an extra 50 hp for their qualifying runs (I mean, what is that?) — at the end of the day, it will still be a magnificent spectacle full of schmaltz and pomp with 200,000-plus in the grandstands and it could very well end up being a really exciting race.
Qualifications to set the field of 33 look to be potentially very exciting and I’m delighted to be able to tell you today that for those who care, TSN (through its secondary channel, TSN2) is really delivering the goods.
From the minute qualifying opens Saturday at 11 a.m. (today, if you’re reading this in the Saturday Wheels section rather than online), until the gun goes off Sunday at 6 p.m. to signal the end of “bump day,” TSN2 will be there.
(Okay - not exactly every minute. From 11 a.m. till 2:30 p.m. today. and then again from 4:30 till 6:30. But you get my drift.)
Next Friday, known as “Carb Day,” which is traditionally held two days before the big race, when the drivers practice for the last time, the Indy Lights Freedom 100 race is run and there’s a pit stop contest among the teams, TSN2 will be on the air to bring it to us from 11 a.m. through until 4 p.m.
On Sunday, May 27, the greatest day of the year in motorsport will start at 7:55 a.m. with the Grand Prix of Monaco, followed at 11 a.m. by the 96th Indy 500 to be followed at 5:30 p.m. by the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte, N.C. — all on the main TSN channel.
Of course, there is other racing. The NASCAR All-Star Race from Charlotte (there’s a million bucks at stake for the driver who finishes first) is on Saturday night (tonight), the World of Outlaws will be racing live, the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series and, oh my — be still my beating heart!
All of the channels and the times, of course, can be found in “George’s TV Listings for Race Fans,” on the home page of wheels.ca
You know, I can remember the days when you either had to go to a theatre to watch the Indy 500 on closed-circuit TV, or else wait till the Saturday following the race for the highlights to be shown on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
How lucky we are in 2012 to get to watch everything live and in colour and in HD, as it’s happening.
1. More than 30 injured after fire breaks out in F1 garage
2. Why has Honda Indy called a press conference? Indy 500 practice
3. Who was that little guy out on the NASCAR track?
1. Maldonado rescues cousin from fire after winning Grand Prix
About 90 minutes after Pastor Maldonado won the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday
– an hour and a half after the winner and his podium sidekicks Ferando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen exchanged champagne squirts and he’d talked on international television about winning his first F1 race – the Venezuelan driver carried his injured cousin on his back out of the inferno that moments before had been the Williams garage.
We won’t know for sure what caused the huge fire that resulted in at last 30 people being injured – at least one is reportedly in critical condition – until the investigation is complete but the suspicion is that it had something to do with the electronics on Bruno Senna’s car that had been returned to the garage following a mid-race collision with the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher.
Sir Frank Williams, confined to a wheelchair since being injured in a road accident in the 1980s, was hustled away from the fire and wasn’t among those hurt.
Williams GP personnel as well as some members of the Force India, Red Bull and Caterham teams were treated for burns and smoke inhalation.
My F1 race report is directly below this, or you can click here but my first Notebook Jottings item concerns the huge Spanish financial institution Banco Santander.
When international banking giant ING wised up a couple of years ago and bailed out of F1, it was replaced by Santander. As was the case for a few years with ING, all you see in F1 these days, pretty much, are Santander signs.
The people running those big international banks like the F1 lifestyle. And they get to live it until the people who have their money on deposit in savings accounts start to put 2 and 2 together.
Then they start saying things like this:
"How come you are flying to Monte Carlo on a private jet and eating shrimp scampi and lobster in the Grand Prix Paddock Club and all you’re willing to pay me in interest is a lousy 1.2 per cent. I think I will go down the street to a bank whose managers don’t have such expensive tastes."
Because of the European debt crisis, Santander’s net profit dropped a whopping 24 per cent in the first quarter of 2012. Which means it won’t be just the little people asking questions about the bank’s F1 involvement and you can start with the board of directors.
I betcha, like ING, Santander won’t be around all that long.
– Michael Schumacher was penalized five grid positions at Monaco for running into the back of Bruno Senna and ending both their races.
As is the case on the street, the onus is on the driver following to avoid a collision. Schumacher did not do that and deserves the penalty – probably.
But Schumacher said Senna changed his line twice – and he did. Watch the replay again, if you can, and I think you would agree that Senna broke the rules. I know, the stewards ruled otherwise, but they are not always right (as we all know).
But here’s what I think really happened: Schumacher got confused. I don’t think that accident would have happened five years ago. I know it wouldn’t have happened when Schumacher was 25.
Why? Because his eyesight would have been better then and his brain would have reacted faster and his reflexes would have been just that much quicker.
Yes, he still has the desire and he’s still fast when he’s out there all by himself. But that world, the world of million-miles-an-hour F1 racing, is going way too fast for a guy his age and it’s time to call it a day.
– What is it with the left rear tire changer on the McLaren team? On Sunday, Lewis Hamilton went to leave his pit after a stop and ran over a wheel that had been put down too close to the left rear corner of his car.
You will recall that twice previously this season, Jenson Button’s race chances were stymied by the left rear tire changer.
– Pastor Maldonado, starting from pole, looked like the Schumacher of old at the start, the way he took dead aim at Alonso and moved across as if to run him off the circuit.
But, as the rules state, he left him a lane and Alonso kept his foot in it. (I mean, who thinks he can intimidate Alonso . . . ) And the two-time world champion, who was not going to be denied at his home race, was in the lead after that first corner.
– I want to go back to the fire at the F1 race in Spain for a moment.
I watch the Speed News on Sunday night. I like the show. I like host Adam Alexander and I think his sidekick this season, Sam Hornish Jr., is doing a good job.
I wonder about the lineup editor, though. They reported the race results and so on and then, almost as an afterthought, they reported on the fire. Kind of a, "Oh, by the way, there was this near-disaster after the F1 race in Spain."
It reminded me of Denis Jenkinson’s report on the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans race that was published in Britain’s Motor Sport magazine. He wrote 250 paragraphs (or thereabouts) before reporting that 80 people had been killed when a car went into the crowd. . .
– Felipe Massa and Sebastien Vettel both got drive-through penalties for not slowing down for yellow flags.
They weren’t passing anybody, they didn’t nearly run somebody over, they didn’t do anything. So who makes the complaint and who makes a decision as the result of a complaint? If the situation is that drastic, send out the safety car.
– Speaking of Massa, while he was being lapped he was very quick to get out of the way of Maldonado and not so quick to get out of the way of Alonso. He’s finished at Ferrari and he knows it. If he can’t find a way to stay in F1, he’ll join Barrichello at IndyCar.
– And speaking of Vettel, analyst David Couthard was pointing out that "Vettel is making passes in places where there aren’t usually passes."
Which explains why he’s won the last two world championships.
2. Why is IndyCar boss coming to Toronto Monday?
The Honda Indy Toronto has called a media conference for Monday morning and IZOD IndyCar Series boss Randy Bernard plans to fly in from Indianapolis to attend.
No, they aren’t bringing in a driver to publicize the July race, which is just a little less than two months away. Just (so far as I know) race co-owner Kim Greene (I don’t see partner Kevin Savoree’s name on the invite) and Bernard.
The reason for the press conference? "Private and public partners renew commitment to professional auto racing in Toronto."
Now, what’s that about?
I shall report on this Monday afternoon in this spot. But I suggest there are things happening behind the scenes, to wit: maybe the welcome this race has enjoyed in this town since 1986 isn’t as enthusiastic as it once was.
That's all I'm going to say. You can read between the lines.
Meantime, they’re practicing at Indianapolis and the run for the pole will take place next Saturday and bumping will take place on Sunday – although there won’t be any bumping because they are going to be hard-pressed to come up with 33 cars.
Sebastien Saavedra, who doesn’t have a full-time ride in the IZOD IndyCar Series this year, was fastest on Sunday with Sarah Fisher-Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden and sprint car standout Brian Clauson (yea!) right on his heels. Scott Dixon and Justin Wilson rounded out the fast five.
Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe – who’s writing and recording an Indy 500 diary for Speed TV’s website – was ninth fastest. The other Canadian, Alex Tagliani of Montreal, who won the pole at Indy a year ago, turned a lap that was 20th fastest.
Saavedra, driving for Andretti Autosport (he won a Honda Indy preliminary race here a couple of years ago), ran a best lap of a little more than 221 mph with Chevrolet power. Slowest was Lotus driver Simona de Silvestro at a little more than 202 mph. The second Lotus driver, Jean Alesi, was a tad quicker at 205 and change.
Is it any wonder Jay Penske has gone to court to try to get out of his contract with Lotus (as Bryan Herta and Dreyer & Reinbold did before him) in order to get Chevrolet motors for Sebastien Bourdais, who could win the race, and Katherine Legge?
Postscript: it pains me to watch the video of the opening laps at Indy at the weekend. The three Penske cars and drivers – Will Power, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves - drove a lap in formation and it looked really neat. But there was, in the words of Mel Lastman, no-body there. I mean nobody. When I first went to Indy in the Sixties, when they used to literally race through the pits to be the first car on the track on the first day of practice, there would be 200,000 in the place. Now? Nobody.
3. Some in NASCAR have class and some have no class
After the Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Saturday night, won by Jimmie Johnson (it was Hendrick Motorsports' 200th team career win) with Denny Hamlin second and Tony Stewart third (story and results here), there was a kerfuffle on pit road. One of Ryan Newman’s crew members went after Kurt Busch for creating a situation late in the race that resulted in Newman crashing.
(Why does Greg Biffle not get into scrapes? Or Johnson? Or Earnhardt Jr.? Or Bowyer? Or just about everybody else except Kurt Busch and his little brother Kyle? I know the answer. Do you?)
In any event, I could really care less about the Busch brothers.
What I really want to know, however, is who was the little grey-haired guy wearing a blue jacket who was out on the track during the fight and then did the inexplicable: he went after a TV cameraman who was filming the struggle and tried to put his hand over the lens.
He was chased away by a Fox Network producer (I assume he was a producer; they usually travel almost hand-in-hand with camerapeople at sports events) but how dare he do what he tried to do?
NASCAR – in fact all sports – owes just about everything to TV. If not for TV, NASCAR is still a southern, regional, sport.
NASCAR is paid millions and millions of dollars by the NBC and Fox sports networks to televise the sport and anybody who tries to interfere with anything having to do with those races, including the fights, should be banned from NASCAR races for the rest of this season, if not forever.
I mean, how did he get out there? NASCAR apparently has a security problem, too.
One last thing about NASCAR. Danica Patrick is now up to tenth in the Nationwide standings. And she made it through the Southern 500 without crashing and driving steadily and solidly. She'll be okay.
There was all sorts of racing this weekend. We'll catch up with the rest of the results Monday night - at the end of the report on that Honda Indy press conference.
Posted at 11:49 PM in Auto racing, Canadians at Indy, Danica Patrick, Formula One, Honda Indy Toronto, Indy 500, IZOD IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe, NASCAR, Racing, Sports | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Saturday evening update: Jimmy Johnson won his first race of the Sprint Cup season at Darlington tonight and, by doing so, he recorded Hendrick Motorsports' 200th victory in NASCAR's premier division. Denny Hamlin was second and Tony Stewart finished third. Results
Saturday morning update: Pastor Maldonado (Williams-Renault) will start from pole for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix after Lewis Hamilton was disqualified for not returning to the pits after setting his time in qualifying Saturday. Fernando Alonso will start second for Ferrari and Romain Grosjean will go off third in his Lotus. Details
At the Toronto auto show in 2010, the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame inducted the last of the automotive originals, Carroll Shelby.
He was the first inductee to be enshrined in the newly created International category to honour non-Canadians who made significant contributions to Canadian motorsport during their careers.
Shelby, of course, was instrumental in the success of the legendary Canadian Comstock Racing Team of the 1960s that so dominated Canadian road racing. The late Chuck Rathgeb was the money, Paul Cooke was team manager and chief mechanic and Eppie Wietzes was the driver.
Cooke and Wietzes were on hand that February evening, as were about 500 others, when the late Car & Driver magazine columnist David E. Davis acted as MC for the induction ceremony.
It was a grand evening and Shelby was charming. There were, of course, some mutterings of dissent that the Hall of Fame shouldn’t have started to induct "furriners" when there were still deserving Canadians to be honoured but they were outnumbered about a thousand to one and nobody paid them much attention.
When the news came Friday, though, that Shelby had died in Dallas at 89 of pneumonia, there was unanimity in the motoring community that a genius had passed, that Carroll Shelby was truly the last of the automotive originals of the 20th Century, Mickey Thompson having preceded him.
Shelby was a good looking, swashbuckling racing driver who was forced to leave the cockpit because of a bad heart. In fact, he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959 before retiring as a driver and starting to build a succession of high-powered, big iron, Detroit muscle cars (AC Cobra, Shelby Mustang, et al).
In 1964, he went to Europe to take on Ferrari in their own backyard with guys like Phil Hill, Dan Gurney and Bob Bondurant doing the driving. The photo at the top of this post says it all.
In 1965, he was hired by Henry Ford II to lead Ford’s effort at Le Mans with the GT40 and the team won the classic 24-hour race four years in succession starting in 1966, when it swept the podium.
Up until the end, Shelby – through his Shelby American company – continued to increase the horsepower of a succession of Mustangs, while still keeping them street legal. Two were debuted this year, at the Detroit and New York auto shows.
At his Hall of Fame induction at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Shelby said this:
"I’m just a hot-rodder. That’s all I’ve ever been is a hot-rodder. People ask me what I do and I say I make cars that are very powerful and go very fast."
Although he didn’t say so that evening, he was wont to say: "I love horsepower; the more of it, the better."
Although he suffered heart problems his whole life (operations, pills, a transplant in 1990) he delighted in consuming chili – the hotter, the better – and promoted an annual chili festival to find the latest, greatest recipe.
He also founded the Carroll Shelby Foundation in support of children needing transplants. At that induction in 2010, to raise money for the foundation and for the Hall of Fame, a 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 was auctioned off and when the bidding tapered off at a little over $100,000, he threw the black cowboy hat he’d worn up on the plane into the pot. As a result, the car (and the hat) eventually sold for $105,000.
A genius and an original, Shelby was also a character, as that little vignette shows.
It’s trite to say he’ll be missed. With his passing, there’s nobody left.
I must apologize for being MIA this week. After posting the salute to Gilles Villeneuve that appears below, I was simply too busy with the new job I have at the Star to do much research in order to write. I’ll do better.
They’re going to be practicing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today. If you’re interested, there will be live streaming of activities at the Speedway on www.indycar.com whenever ABC or NBC isn’t on the air. So let’s just call that blanket coverage.
I’ll probably pep up for the race, but I’m in a funk over the 500 again. They are scraping to get 33 in the field, which means James Jakes (who wasn’t fast enough last year), Michel Jourdain Jr. (who hasn’t been in a car in years) and rookie Jean Alesi (no single-seat activity since 2001 and someone who has never driven on an oval before) are guaranteed starts. So I can’t get excited. Sorry.
Paul Tracy is at home and those bums are in cars and that just ain’t right.
Meantime, Danica Patrick has signed a monster deal with Coca-Cola. (Gee, I wonder why? How come they didn’t sign somebody who just has talent????) The haters will really come out of the woodwork now.
I suggest she will win a race or two this season, or early next. No, she won’t get "the call." I think she’s that good. And so does Coca-Cola.
At Darlington, meantime, she finished 12th in Friday night's Nationwide race. Joey Logano was the winner. She qualified 38th for Saturday night's Cup race. reg Biffle will start from pole.
I don't have a reason to publish this photo (off the Autosport website) except that the smiling fellow whose face is directly to the right of Mark Webber's is none other than Gavin Ward of Toronto, who is Webber's trackside race engineer. The F1 season continues next weekend with the Grand Prix of Spain.
MEANTIME, MARCELLI RELISHES PORSCHE GT3 RIDE; CANADIAN WINS DTM RACE. . . BUT FIRST:
Brad Keselowski won the Talladega 500 Sunday afternoon by scooting away at the last second and avoiding a last-lap slingshot by Kyle Busch.
But even before the checkered flag had stopped waving, people were talking about the race at Darlington next Saturday night in which Danica Patrick will return to the Sprint Cup fold.
TV commercials were intoning "Danica at Darlington" during the ‘Dega race and the timing couldn’t be more perfect because of something that happened during the Nationwide Series race at Talladega on Saturday that has both Danica lovers and Danica haters talking.
At the finish of the Nationwide race, Patrick (she finished 13th) was on the outside of Sam Hornish Jr. (12th) when Hornish says his car blew a right-front tire. Hornish’s car went up the speedway and crunched Patrick’s against the outside wall. As both cars then went into the first turn, Patrick hooked Hornish’s rear and turned him into the wall.
Now, if Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch or Tony Stewart had done that to Hornish, everybody would have nodded knowingly and opined that Sam got what he deserved. Flat tire or no flat tire, you just don’t put somebody into the wall for no reason.
But because it was Danica Patrick, lightning rod that she is, people were either calling for her head or making excuses for her.
NASCAR, of course, knows a good thing when it sees it, so I don’t think she will be fined or suspended, mainly because she’s a first-time offender. They’ll give her a talking-to, for sure, because what she did – although certainly not as violent – was every bit as serious as Kyle Busch’s attack on Joe Nemechek late last season.
But at the end of the day, it’s good for business because NASCAR is looking for record ratings in prime-time next Saturday night from Darlington and Danica Patrick will probably help deliver them.
And the guy she drives for in the Sprint Cup, Tony Stewart, probably wouldn’t have taken that little love tap from Sam Hornish either. In fact, I bet as part of his tutoring, Tony has warned Patrick not to let anybody push her around.
So she was just showing the Boss that she takes lessons well.
Oh, still wondering about that Talladega 500?
On a green-white-checkered finish, Kyle Busch tucked in behind Keselowski and pushed him around the outside of the field and into the lead. Everybody anticipated that Busch would stick with Keselowski and then duck either high or low and slingshot past him for the win as they approached the finish line.
But something happened to disrupt the scenario: Keselowski went into the third turn high up the track and then dove to the bottom, breaking the connection. He managed to stay clear of his chaser through the checkers.
Matt Kenseth finished third, Kasey Kahne was fourth and Greg Biffle finished fifth.
"Survived" is actually a more fitting word. There were four wrecks in the last 45 laps. Nobody was hurt but there was a ton of property damage.
Full race details here.
A CONVERSATION WITH KYLE MARCELLI
Two weeks from now, during the Victoria Day Speedfest Weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Kyle Marcelli of Barrie will drive the Pfaff Castrol Motorsports entry in the opening race of the 2012 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge.
Pfaff Motors of Newmarket has been a strong supporter of Canadian racing for years and years. Marcelli has raced – successfully – in karts, Formula Ford, U.S. Formula 2000, Star Mazda, the Canadian Touring Car Championship, IMSA Lights and the American Le Mans Series Challenge class.
It’s always been a struggle for him, though. He’s always had to "bring money" – until this particular ride came along.
But I’ll let him tell you about it. I caught up with him last Thursday evening at the Thompson Hotel downtown, where Pfaff held a reception to promote its involvement in the Porsche series.
Norris McDonald: When was the last time you were in a racing car with a roof on it?
Kyle Marcelli: That would have been in ‘07. I drove one race in a Saab 9-3 in the Canadian Touring Car Championship. That was the only time, actually.
NM: Is this going to be a big change for you? You’re an open-cockpit kind of guy. A little claustrophobia maybe?
KM: I love the enclosed Porsche, actually. I was blown away yesterday when I got behind the wheel of the car. It was the first real GT car that I’ve driven; there’s just so much in it, I never even found the limit. I wouldn’t say it’s similar to a prototype (in the Le Mans series) or a single seater because it’s not. It takes a different driving style. You can definitely feel the weight in the car. It rolls around a little bit differently but, all in all, it’s a very impressive car.
NM: Did you call them or did they call you for this gig?
KM: This is the first time that I did not have to pound on the door! The call came to me actually last August. At that time, we were eligible to compete as part of the championship (during the GT3 series’ first season) and collect points. Since then, our eligibility has been denied and we’re going to be racing as a "guest" car.
NM: Explain that, please. Is it because you’re a professional driver (in a series designed for non-professional drivers)?
KM: In a nutshell, yes. The series is designed for, I guess, amateur racers or up-and-comers and there is a ranking system in place – bronze, silver, gold and platinum: every driver has a ranking – I have a gold ranking and I’m denied eligibility because this series is for bronze and silver. Last August, I was eligible but I won a couple of ALMS races between then and now and that’s what has denied us eligibility.
NM: Success is a bugger sometimes, isn’t it?
KM: It still serves as a good marketing opportunity for Chris Pfaff and Pfaff Automotive and it’s a good opportunity for me to be involved with Porsche and hopefully it develops a good relationship.
NM: Compare this car to your ALMS car. Is this more powerful?
KM: It’s about the same horsepower. It’s just as quick – actually, maybe a lttle quicker in a straight line. But in the prorototype we have a lot more downforce, we generate a lot more overall grip, our braking power is stronger so we’d be about 10 seconds a lap quicker in a prototype here (Mosport) but driving the Porsche is still a real thrill.
NM: Are you going to do the whole series – five or six races?
KM: Except one – the Mont Tremblant race is in conflict with an ALMS race so Jeff Pabst will drive that weekend
NM: How is your ALMS season going?
KM: It’s good – I have a seat at the end of the day. It came together two weeks before Sebring and I’m driving in the Challenge class. This is my third season in LMPC and I’m the professional in what’s a pro-am class. I’m sharing the seat with three brothers. They’re alternating race-by-race so we’ve had two races so far and I’ve had two different co-drivers. It’s difficult to get these guys up to speed right away; they’re doing a good job, it’s just a matter of getting them comfortable.
NM: You are a successful race driver. You have won races and showed you have talent. Are you starting to get a little antsy that nobody’s actually hired you?
KM: I am a little bit. I’m still young - I’m 22 - but I do have to get something with a manufacturer. I’m hoping that this leads to something with Porsche. I know I was on the radar with GM over the years but nothing has come together. I do my best when I'm out there. I mean, last year I had three pole positions, three race wins, eight podiums - it was a good year for us and I really thought something was going to come together but it didn’t and we just have to keep on keepin’ on."
Bruno Spengler, a French-born Canadian citizen (Saint-Hyppolite, Que.) won the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) race Sunday at the Lausitz Circuit. It was BMW’s first win in the series in 20 years and Spengler’s tenth trip to Victory Lane (he won his first nine races for Mercedes).
The other Canadian in the field, Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto, was running 10th and looked sure to score his first DTM point when his Mercedes ground to a halt with mechanical problems with four laps to go.
Wickens said after the race that he still wasn’t discouraged.
"I have made some progress despite this," he said. "I’ll now focus all of my efforts on Brands Hatch (May 20) and hopefully pick up my first DTM points there."
Casey Stoner won the Moto GP race Sunday at Estoril in Portugal on a Honda. Jorge Lorenzo was second aboard a Yamaha and Dani Pedrosa finished third on a Honda.
Romain Dumas, Loic Duval and Marc Gene finished first in an Audi at the Six Hours of Spa race Saturday in Belgium. Actually, Audi finished top four with the e-tron hybrid versions ending up second and fourth.
I mentioned in my weekend post that Indy car star Davey Hamilton (and now Indy car team owner in partnership with Sam Schmidt) would race at New York's Oswego Speedway Saturday night. Well, he did, finishing second in the first feature of the year behind defending Oswego Classic 200 champion Otto Sitterly. Sprint car star Jessica Zemken was 22nd in the 25-car field.
Sammy Swindell is 56 but you sure wouldn’t know it. He’s leading the World of Outlaws sprint car standings after 15 races.
Two things to note:
One, there is no more intense racing anywhere than on the Outlaws circuit. F1, IndyCar, NASCAR are all walks in the park compared to a 30-lap WoO feature.
Second, the grind of running that circuit is right up there with professional wrestling. The performers (the racers, the rasslers) never get a day off. They are either working on/repairing the cars in motel parking lots, in transit from city to city, or racing.
That is a challenge when you are 25, never mind 55 and Swindell at 56 is a marvel of determination and drive. Sammy’s had some problems in the marketing and PR departments over the years but there’s no denying that he’s a real racer.
Posted at 10:40 PM in American Le Mans Series, Auto racing, Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship, Danica Patrick, Formula One, Grand Prix of Canada, Le Circuit-Mont Tremblant, Mosport International Raceway, NASCAR, Racing, Robert Wickens, Sports, Sprint cars, World of Outlaws | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
HINCHCLIFFE SIXTH IN ALABAMA INDY CAR RACE
There were a couple of good April Fool jokes around Sunday.
For instance, Google, which has been testing a self-driving car in California for several years now, announced that its Google Racing team would enter a self-driving race car in NASCAR races by the middle of next season.
In a wonderful video, Jeff Gordon welcomes the experiment. “I’ve been out here for 20 years,” he said with a straight face, “and I need a vacation. . . . Thank God for technology.”
You can watch the video here
The Weather Network had a good one on Canada geese kidnapping a student at the University of Waterloo but the one I liked best concerned the proposed Canadian Motor Speedway in Fort Erie.
This email landed in my in-box at mid-morning Sunday:
FORT ERIE SPEEDWAY GETS GREEN FLAG
Fort Erie Economic Development and officials from Canadian MotorSpeedway International announced today that the planned speedway development in Fort Erie will commence construction immediately at the site of the current Fort Erie horse racing track.
Following the news that the Fort Erie race track will lose its slots from the OLG and face the loss of hundreds of jobs, the town and CMSI representatives are wasting no time with re-construction and paving over of the horse track already beginning late Saturday night.
Well, I thought it was funny. . .
Not so funny is the situation four IZOD IndyCar Series teams are facing. They are the teams that signed up to run Lotus racing engines and they are hanging on by a thread.
Sebastien Bourdais, who finished ninth in Sunday’s second race of the season at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, which was won by Will Power with Scott Dixon second and Helio Castroneves third (full results here), has a Lotus engine in his car, but no spare.
Ditto Katherine Legge, Oriol Servia, Simona de Silvestro and Canadian Alex Tagliani (who didn’t complete even one lap of Sunday’s race before his engine expired).
As a result, none of those drivers or their teams will be able to attend the test session at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week that was arranged especially to test new engines and the new Dallara chassis at the site of the most important race on the IndyCar calendar, the Indianapolis 500, that will take place at the end of May.
What is particularly worrying is that never mind the teams that already have Lotus engines and no spares because they will probably be able to muddle through. But what will Indy-only teams do for power plants? Where will the six or seven cars needed to fill out the traditional 33-car field get engines?
Roger Penske mused a couple of weeks ago that the cars currently using Lotus engines will have to switch to Honda or Chevy engines if they simply want to make it through to the end of the season.
Lotus immediately pooh-poohed that, but the fact of the matter is that Roger Penske is rarely wrong and if I had to make a choice between what an engine manufacturer on very shaky ground says and what Roger Penske says, guess who I’m going with?
And if Penske’s correct (and I think he is), Honda and Chevy will be busy making enough engines to pacify teams already in the series, never mind the one-race-a-year-crowd.
So there’s a distinct possibility there could be fewer than 33 cars in the 2012 Indy 500, which would not be the end of the world but, on the other hand, would not look good and would send out a message the series wouldn’t want.
I was talking the other day to a man whose son is employed by a team in IndyCar and Dad was saying his kid is not impressed with the series’ leadership.
I look at the engine situation and I have to agree with him. How could this have happened?
What makes it worse is that CEO Randy Bernard was quoted on the IndyCar website Sunday as saying he expects 34 car-and-driver combinations to enter the “500,” including ex-F1 driver Jean Alesi.
But only hours before, HVM Racing principal Keith Wiggins told the Indianapolis Star that the deal with Alesi was off because there wasn’t enough money to make it work.
Meantime, Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe qualified well and finished well – although his finish wasn’t as good as his qualifying.
The Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year in 2011 turned the second-fastest time Saturday to sit beside pole-winner Castroneves. It was his first front-row start in the big leagues.
He ran most of the race in fourth place – where he finished the season-opener last weekend at St. Petersburg – but on the last restart, he was shuffled from fourth back to sixth, where he stayed until the checkers.
Give him some time, though. He’s going to win one of these races.
The other Canadian, Tagliani, was very disappointed to suffer engine trouble – again.
“We took the green flag, went into turn one and the engine just died,” he said. “It seems to be a pretty heavy mechanical failure what what I understand. . . I think our car was decent, but we’re having a lot of problems right now with the engine.”
His boss, Bryan Herta, was equally unhappy: “Everyone is working very hard to earn results and we are unhappy that we suffered another engine issue two weekends running.”
Two other observations before we move on:
– Scott Dixon is racing wonderfully for Chip Ganassi (he might have won that Alabama round if he hadn’t suffered a slight misfortune on his final pit stop) while teammate Dario Franchitti is struggling. I wonder why?
– In Winner’s Circle, Will Power leaped frontwards high off the side of his race car to land somewhat unsteadily. NASCAR’s Carl Edwards does a backflip off his car when he wins and is pretty much solid as a rock when he hits the ground (considering he's coming in backwards). Maybe Power should just step out of his car and forget the gymnastics because, compared to Edwards – well, there’s no comparison.
Over in NASCARland, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon were running one-two in the final laps of the Sprint Cup race at Martinsville when David Reutimann suffered mechanical failure and had to stop on the speedway, bringing out a yellow.
NASCAR actually hauled Reutimann and car owner Tommy Baldwin into “the trailer” afterwards to make sure there hadn’t been any hanky panky (there wasn’t) but just about everybody except the two front-runners made a pit stop for fresh rubber before what was supposed to be the final restart.
So they waved the green flag and Clint Bowyer dive-bombed (there’s no other word for it) down the inside of Gordon going into Turn One and, before you could blink, Gordon was sideways and that turned Johnson around and they both crashed, allowing Ryan Newman to sneak past, as did A.J. Allmendinger, to win the race with Allmendinger second and Dale Earnhardt Jr. third (full results here).
It was a typical, tight, short-track stock car race with lots of bumping and tradin’ paint and crashing (just the sort of thing they want more of at Bristol, where they’ve decided to make some changes to that speedway to improve the racing - translation: generate more crashing).
Reutimann was beside himself with embarrassment, because he was getting it in the ear from the other drivers. Baldwin was calmer, suggesting the Florida driver tried to stay out on the speedway as long as he could to gain enough points so that his car, No. 10, could stay inside the top 35 in owner points and be locked into upcoming races.
It seems that the No. 10 is the car Danica Patrick drives when she makes her occasional appearances in Sprint Cup races and they’re now worried she won’t be able to make it into the races without that crutch – which I think is silly: Danica can go fast in a race car and will be able to qualify on her own.
In fact, I think it will be better for her to show she's got the Right Stuff rather than having to rely on a free pass.
There’s no NASCAR racing next weekend, as it’s Easter, and the IndyCars don’t race until two weeks from now at Long Beach and F1 is quiet as well.
What ever will we all do?
Other weekend racing:
Richard Westbrook and Antonio Garcia, driving a Corvette Daytona Prototype, won the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at Barber Motorsports Park on Saturday.
Sylvain Tremblay (who's originally from Montreal) and Jonathan Bomarito won the GT class in a Mazda RX-8, edging out the No. 69 AIM Autosport of Woodbridge Ferrari 458 Italia driven by Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal, which finished 10th overall.
“Barber is always a difficult track to get a good setup and on Friday we found a combination that really worked well,” said AIM team principal and race engineer Ian Willis. “Emil and Jeff both drove to the limit to achieve this tremendous result.”
The AIM Ferrari will be racing again in the Grand Prix of Miami April 27-29.
Paul Dalla Lana of Toronto co-drove to a 13th-place finish overall and fifth in the GT class.
In the Continental Tire race at Barber, Canadians who finished included:
Scott Maxwell of Toronto co-drove a Multimatic Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage to a second-place finish overall in the GS class. David Empringham of Toronto was fifth in GS. Ashley McCalmont of Ancaster was tenth in GS. Michael Valiante of Vancouver was 37th overall and 23rd in the ST class. Dalla Lana was classified 55th overall and 20th in GS. The top finishing Compass360 Racing Team of Toronto car was 21st overall and seventh in the ST class.
Finally, Ryan Villopoto of Minneola, Fla., who won the AMA Supercross event at Rogers Centre in Toronto last weekend, wrapped up the 2012 Supercross Championship this weekend by winning the event in Houston, Tex.
It’s the earliest that a rider has ever wrapped up a Supercross title. Villopoto said that's fine with him because now he can start preparing earlier for the outdoor motocross season.