NASCAR became what it is today in the sports entertainment business by being fan-friendly. Saturday night in Richmond, Va., it was anything but.
Its decision to go ahead and run the Federated Auto Parts 400, the all-important last race before the Chase for the Championship in which eight drivers were in the running for three places in the playoffs (tenth place in the season's standings plus two wild cards), in the face of seriously inclement weather was navel-gazing selfish.
It was a decision made in favour of the business and the drivers and the hell with the people who pay the freight.
The race was supposed to start shortly after 7 p.m. but because of rain and the time it took to dry out the track, it was nearly 10 p.m. before the green flag flew.
Then, before the race made it to the halfway mark, there was another rain delay of nearly an hour and by the time the race was over, it was going on 2 in the morning.
Many of the fans in the stands went home before the race started and even more left at about the 140-lap mark when it rained again, thinking the race would be postponed until Sunday afternoon. But NASCAR charged on and the house was largely empty when the checkers flew and how many viewers were still watching at home at that late hour is anybody's guess.
You have to feel sorry for people who paid serious money on admission to that race. What if they had kids with them - as NASCAR fans frequently do? Racing is supposed to be an entertainment, not a boot camp, but that's what NASCAR made its fans do: hang in there.
The reason, of course, was undoubtedly the Great God Television. The race was on ABC and there was no guarantee that ABC affiliates would pick up the race on Sunday afternoon, so NASCAR was undoubtedly under heavy pressure to get it in at all costs.
So the fans were the victims, and that's a shame.
Those people who left early because they were wet, or they were tired, or they had to get the kids home to bed or they were watching at home and fell asleep (like me) missed a great finish to the regular season.
Jeff Gordon, who was a lap down at one point early in the race, made it all the way back to finish second in the race and earn enough points to eliminate Kyle Busch by a mere three points.
To say that Gordon was over the moon would be an understatement. To say that Kyle Busch was fit to be tied and pissed right off would be also.
It was a magic moment. Too bad a lot more people - the people who made NASCAR what it is today - didn't see it.
Now, it was a wonderful Italian Grand Prix and the right guy won. Lewis Hamilton was fast all weekend and he put an exclamation mark on his performance by standing on the podium's top step at the end of the race.
Two things came out of that race: Team McLaren rose to the challenge and gave Hamilton a car he needed to win and Hamilton showed McLaren - and the world - what he was capable of doing if he had the right equipment to do it.
The week leading up to the race was rife with rumours that Hamilton would leave McLaren and drive for Mercedes from 2013 on. I suggest that rumour will now disappear into the ether and Hamilton will undoubtedly remain with the only team he's raced for in his F1 career.
It was not a good weekend for Red Bull-Renault. Mark Webber didn't qualify well on Saturday (he started 11th) and wasn't in the points Sunday and Sebastien Vettel was doing okay - fifth, but that was going to be all she wrote - when ordered to shut down the car because the alternator went wonky.
Two-time titleist Vettel will be hard-pressed to get back into the championship hunt and Red Bull won't be able to compete for the manufacturers title it's won the last two years if its Renault engines keep causing problems.
Felipe Massa gave it the old college try, giving Hamilton a fight at the start going into the first chicane and driving a steady race all day, but that probably won't save him his place in the Ferrari team.
- Every time I watch the Italian Grand Prix, and the cars flying through the Parabolica curve, I think of 1990 and Derek Warwick losing control of his Lotus and sliding along the wall upside down (video here). David Coulthard made a reference to it during the telecast Sunday. The thing that amazed me, though, was that after Warwick crawled out of the car, caught his breath and thanked his lucky stars (I just made that up), he was trotting quickly back to the pits, hoping to get into the spare car. Racing drivers usually have ice water in their veins but seldom is it illustrated as perfectly as in situations like Warwick's.
- Jenson Button made a great pass of Felipe Massa to move into second place on Lap 12. Yes, Jenson is still a great driver but you have to wonder: for how much longer?
- Jim Clark would roll over in his grave if he could hear modern F1 terminology: "He's not quite in the DRS zone but he should be able to get a bit of a boost by releasing KERS." Clark won his races on racecraft and courage.
- If Pirelli has built into the tires the proper amount of degradation, how come Sergio Perez was able to do this race on one stop? I mean, good for him and good for Sauber. But aren't there supposed to be more pits stops to shake up the field?
- I'm sure everything was on the up-and-up but there sure seemed to be an awful lot of commercials in the first hour of that TSN telecast and, as luck would have it, all sorts of on-track stuff happened when they were on. Oh, well.
The Italian Grand Prix Monza, Italy; 53 laps; 306.720km; Weather: Sunny. Classified: Pos Driver Team Time 1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1h19:41.221 2. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 4.356 3. Alonso Ferrari + 20.594 4. Massa Ferrari + 29.667 5. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 30.881 6. Schumacher Mercedes + 31.259 7. Rosberg Mercedes + 33.550 8. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 41.057 9. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 43.898 10. Senna Williams-Renault + 48.144 11. Maldonado Williams-Renault + 48.682 12. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 50.316 13. d'Ambrosio Lotus-Renault + 1:15.861 14. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 1 lap 15. Petrov Caterham-Renault + 1 lap 16. Pic Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap 17. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap 18. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth + 1 lap 19. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth + 1 lap 20. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 2 laps 21. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 3 laps 22. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 6 laps Fastest lap: Rosberg, 1:27.239 Not classified/retirements: Driver Team On lap Button McLaren-Mercedes 32 Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 8 World Championship standings, round 13: Drivers: Constructors: 1. Alonso 179 1. Red Bull-Renault 272 2. Hamilton 142 2. McLaren-Mercedes 243 3. Raikkonen 141 3. Ferrari 226 4. Vettel 140 4. Lotus-Renault 217 5. Webber 132 5. Mercedes 126 6. Button 101 6. Sauber-Ferrari 100 7. Rosberg 83 7. Force India-Mercedes 63 8. Grosjean 76 8. Williams-Renault 54 9. Perez 65 9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 12 10. Massa 47 11. Schumacher 43 12. Kobayashi 35 13. Di Resta 32 14. Hulkenberg 31 15. Maldonado 29 16. Senna 25 17. Vergne 8 18. Ricciardo 4
Lewis Hamilton capped off a great weekend for him and his McLaren-Mercedes team by winning the Italian Grand Prix Sunday morning at Monza.
Sergio Perez was second in a Sauber Ferrar and Fernando Alonso padded his world championship lead by arriving home third for Ferrari.
Hamilton's teammate, Jenson Button, had started beside him on the front row but dropped out from second place on Lap 34 of the 53-lap contest when his car experienced a fuel pickup problem.
World Champion Sebastien Vettel was ordered by his Red Bull team to shut down his Renault engine on Lap 48 when he was running fifth after the alternator failed.
Felipe Massa finished fourth for Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth for Renault, Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg were sixth and seventh for Mercedes, Paul Di Resta was eighth for Force India-Mercedes, Kamui Kobayashi was ninth for Sauber and Bruno Senna arrived home tenth for Williams-Renault.
It was a hard-fought race from the start, with plenty of excitement. Alsonso' s charge from his tenth-place qualifying position to finish on the podium was a highlight, and something the Italian tifosi celebrated with vigour afterward.
The next race will be in Singapore in two weeks. Alonso continues to lead the championship, with Hamilton second and Raikkonen holding down third place.
In NASCAR Saturday night (or Sunday morning, actually), Clint Bowyer won the race at Richmond, Va., but the big story was Jeff Gordon finishing second and making the Chase for the Championship over Kyle Busch by three points. Mark Martin was third.
More on that later today.