Posted at 11:41 AM in Auto racing, Camping World Truck Series, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Danica Patrick, drag racing, Formula One, Honda Indy Toronto, IZOD IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe, Mosport International Raceway, NASCAR, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR Canadian Tire, Racing, Racing on TV, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Headlines from Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Saturday:
1. Mystery surrounds future of sports car racing at CTMP
2. Graf leads all qualifyers for last ALMS race at Old Mosport
3. IndyCar’s Mike Conway says Indy cars too fast for CTMP
4. NOTES: One of Mosport’s legends dies
1. Will last ALMS race be last ‘big sports car race’ at CTMP?
It all started Friday, when racing journalist Marshall Pruett posted a column of opinion on the racer.com website in which he suggested that when the 2014 United SportsCar Racing schedule is released, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park won’t be on it.
As most racing fans know, the American Le Mans Series and the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series will become the United SportsCar Series at the end of 2013. Fine and good. The problem, however, is that the total of 22 races being contested this season by both series is reportedly going to be shaved down to 12 next year.
(I have to write an aside here. When Grand Am bought the ALMS, many people thought it would be a total takeover. This proved not to be the case. With the exception of the P1 category in the ALMS (two teams this year), all entrants from both series will be able to compete in their usual classes in the new series for the next two years. A real effort was made to keep everybody happy. So why will this accommodation not extend to race tracks and promoters? Why will there be winners and losers when it comes to races? If NASCAR has 36 Cup races, and F1 has 19 or 20 races and IndyCar has 19 or 20, why will the one, major, sports car racing series not have more than a dozen races? It doesn’t make sense. But I digress . . .)
Pruett, in his article, pared down the races in a process of elimination. After you get the no-brainer races out of the way – Daytona, Sebring, Long Beach, Laguna Sega, Indianapolis, Detroit, Road Atlanta, etc. – there are very few holes left.
So at end of day, Pruett more-or-less said that Mosport wouldn’t make the cut.
ALMS PR people were fast off the mark on Friday to pooh-pooh Pruett’s prognostications. More than one said to not take the article seriously and pointed out that the CTMP race was the only one in Canada, was close to Toronto, which is one of the largest population areas on the continent, and that the manufacturers who compete in the series want it on the calendar.
But among the local newspaper and Internet reporters (CTMP really has to find a way to get more GTA radio and TV reporters to show up), the article resulted in a frenzy of guessing.
The Toronto Sun flat out reported that there would be a SportsCar race in 2014 (I call it that, by the way; the full name is too much of a mouthful and that one word describes the series perfectly anyway).
CTMP officials were quick to say that they haven’t been told anything officially and wouldn’t comment until they received word. Track co-owner Ron Fellows said that until someone tells him otherwise, he will stick with his position that it’s a 50-50 proposition.
One thing is fairly certain. The United SportsCar Series will tell its race tracks and promoters that they’re in or they’re out by the end of the month. Time is flying, and the end of July is rapidly approaching, so we won’t have too long to wait to find out.
2. Graf, Luhr shooting to win the last ALMS race at Mosport
Klaus Graf looked out at a sea of reporters following Saturday afternoon qualifying for Sunday’s ALMS Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix and said how much he enjoyed racing at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
No kidding. He’s won the last three ALMS races at the place and will be shooting for his fourth straight on Sunday afternoon, along with co-driver Lucas Luhr, who’s joined him in Victory Lane twice previously.
Graf and Luhr are such a potent combination co-driving an HPD ARX-03c that with the exception of the 12 Hours of Sebring they have yet to lose a race this season. Graf got the honours of trying for pole on Saturday afternoon and came through with a rocketing lap of one minute and 5.871 seconds.
The outright fastest lap qualifying record was set in 2008 by the now-retired Dindo Capello, who shocked just about everybody present that day by turning a lap of 1:04:094 in an Audi diesel - just a sliver under 140 miles an hour.
Graf was not far off that mark. His speed was 134.290 mph.
"You can’t afford to lose concentration at this place," Graf said. "I love it here but it can bite you if you’re not careful."
"Super-sub" Mike Conway, who finished seventh in both Honda Indy Toronto races last weekend, was pressed into emergency service with Level 5 Motorsports to fill in for regular driver Ryan Briscoe, who broke his wrist last Saturday in the first Honda Indy race, and delivered a spectacular qualifying effort.
Conway was second fastest qualifyer, and won the P2 pole, by driving his HPD ARX-03b around CTMP in 1:08:785 (128.697 mph). Said the British driver after the run: "I think we could have been even quicker, to be honest."
The GT pole was won by Jonathan Bomarito, who piloted an SRJ Viper V10 to a time of 1:15:462 (117:309 mph). In GT Challenge, Jeroen Bleekemolen put his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car on pole with a time of 1:21:310 (108:872 mph).
Now, there were two pretty serious crashes during qualifying. The drivers involved escaped injury but one crash had an effect on starting positions.
The first crash, by Jan Magnussen in a Corvette, ended the GT qualifying session. Magnussen was trying to wrestle the pole away from Bomarito and lost control, going off track and slamming into tire barriers. He did some serious damage to the race car.
The other crash involved Prototype Challenge points leader Mike Guasch, who lost control of his Oreca FLM09 and hit the tire wall at virtually the same place as Magnussen.
Now, because the accident brought a halt to the session before 10 minutes had elapsed, points leader Guasch will start first in class on Sunday instead of Colin Braun, the guy who turned the fastest lap before the red flag flew.
If professional sports car racing wants to succeed in the highly competitive sports entertainment industry in North America, it’s going to have to get rid of club racing mentality such as this. This is a rule for the drivers, not the spectators or the TV audience, and is nonsense. How can a guy who crashed and brought an end to the session wind up the winner?
3. Indy cars at CTMP would be awesome, Conway says
Mike Conway, who won an IndyCar series race at Detroit in June and finished third in the second Motown race and then went on to finish seventh in both Honda Indy Toronto races last weekend, reckons the Indy cars would put on an awesome show at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park but doubts it will ever happen.
"I think the Indy cars, with their horsepower and ground effects, would be terribly fast and that’s why I don’t think it would be wise for them to race here," he said during an interview before practice and qualifying Saturday.
"In these cars (he’s driving an HPD LMP2 this weekend), it’s very fast and it would be that much faster again in an Indy car. The corners come at you quickly now and they’d come at you even faster.
"I think they’d be awesome here," he said, "but I think it’s unlikely it’ll happen."
Bobby Unser, who won the first Indy car race at Old Mosport back in 1967, returned a few years ago to be Grand Marshal of the ALMS race and said that with the improvements that have been made since his day, the location would be perfect for an Indy car race.
"Bring ‘em back," he’d said at the time. "The track is wider and the ambiance is incredible. I don’t think you’d be in competition with the Toronto race because I think they’d cater to two different audiences."
Conway, who’s filling in for the injured Ryan Briscoe, was not far off the pole time and speed of Klaus Graf on Saturday and said afterward that he thought he could have gone faster than the 1:08:785 (128.697 mph) he turned in. "I wanted to do more laps, to be honest," he said afterward.
Conway is 29 and had started racing in karts when he was a child. He progressed to Formula Renault and British Formula 3 International (he won championships in both) and had a crack at the European GP2 championship before heading to IndyCar.
Conway refuses to race on ovals and so can’t land a full-season ride in the IndyCar series and can’t run for the championship. This was the result of two nasty wrecks (one, a horrid end-of-race accident in the 2010 Indianapolis 500 in which he was badly injured) and the death in 2011 of Dan Wheldon on the oval at Las Vegas Speedway.
"No, I haven’t changed my mind," he told me in our interview. "That sort of racing isn’t for me. I don’t like it so I won’t do it."
He said the adjustment from the Indy cars a week ago to the LMP2 car at Old Mosport this weekend had been relatively easy and he quite enjoys driving the circuit.
He’s open to offers for more sports car races – prediction: if he keeps opening eyes like he did in qualifying Saturday, he’ll be fielding inquiries – as well as more in the IndyCar series.
"I’m confirmed for the two races at Houston," he said, "but nothing beyond that. I’m available, though, if there are opportunities at other road or street-course races."
4. NOTES: Lawrence (Laurie) Clennet – long time start/finish flagger at Old Mosport, died this week. . . . Canadians in the ALMS race: Tony Burgess of Toronto starts second in P1 behind Graf and Kyle Marcelli of Barrie will go off 12th (fifth in class) in Prototype Challenge. Kuno Wittmer of Montreal will start 15th (first in class) in GT. . . . This from the News Bureau at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park: In the U.S. based IMSA GT3 Cup, Madison Snow won the 33-lap race after starting from the pole. The Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada held it’s first of two races this weekend. Pfaff Motorsports driver Chris Green won in Platinum Cup, and Carlos de Quesada was the winner in Gold Cup. The Cooper Tires Prototype Lites also held their first of two weekend races. Sean Rayhall finished seconds ahead. Spencer Pigot was the winner in the Pro Mazda Championship race.
Sunday's schedule has two two races in the morning (the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites and GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin) beginning at 8 a.m. The ALMS Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix will get under way at noon and will be followed by races in the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge, Pro Mazda Championship and the Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup.
Reminder: the ALMS race STARTS at noon.
That’s 12 p.m. Don’t be late
- NORRIS McDONALD
Posted at 11:41 PM in American Le Mans Series, Auto racing, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series, Honda Indy Toronto, IZOD IndyCar Series, NASCAR, Racing, Sports | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Bernard was the IndyCar CEO who made the decision to take the series’ Canadian TV contract to Rogers Sportsnet and it was a brilliant move.
TSN has held the contracts for big league international motorsport, going back years. Formula One, NASCAR and IndyCar were TSN staples. But TSN rarely promoted racing. In fact, if anything, it sometimes de-emphasized it.
Once, it had a 30-minute pre-race program for F1 featuring Vic Rauter in the studio and Gerald Donaldson reporting from race tracks around the world. They cancelled that show years ago and have made do since with a five-minute lead-in from a foreign broadcaster.
And not all IndyCar races were shown live.
Bernard, who was fired last October, had his flaws but he did some things very well and listening to fans was one of them. Canadian IndyCar followers let him know loud and clear that they were fed up with TSN and so he spearheaded the move to Sportsnet.
Now, the Honda Indy Toronto, despite declarations to the contrary from organizers, has been a shadow of its former self ever since it was revived by Michael Andretti in 2009. Attendance on some race days resembled a BMO Stadium soccer crowd: 20,000 – if that.
But this weekend (although event management once again declined to issue an official attendance figure) saw a large crowd (I suggest 35,000-plus) gather at Exhibition Place that, in a lot of ways, was reminiscent of the glory days of the Molson Indy in the long distant past.
The corporate suites were all full, as were the grandstands, and what was really encouraging was that the general admission areas were packed. The two races didn’t hurt, either.
What turned things around? Rogers Sportsnet’s non-stop promotion of this racing weekend going back several months. TV commercials about the race were played daily. Rogers radio stations talked up the race almost non-stop.
The most popular – or one of the most popular – afternoon drive programs in the Toronto area, Bob McCown’s Prime Time Sports show, featured lengthy interviews with Toronto Indy CEO Charlie Johnstone and James Hinchcliffe.
I just about drove off the Gardiner while going home one afternoon when McCown talked on and on about how exciting the IndyCar race from Brazil had been. Being a listener, I’m well aware that McCown has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of most sports but I never took him to be a race fan.
Or maybe he was under orders. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. It worked. The Rogers push on radio and TV was in large part responsible for making this weekend's races a huge success.
So, thank you Randy Bernard. And on behalf of all the IndyCar racing fans in Canada, I wish you the all the best in your future endeavours. If there's anything we can ever do for you, please let us know. We owe ya.
Wheels corresponent Stephanie Wallcraft writes good stuff (if you missed her feature on IndyCar driver Ed Carpenter in Saturday’s Toronto Star Wheels section, you can find it online at wheels.ca). She’s also a hard worker.
She caught up with Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe yesterday and he let her know in no uncertain terms that he is not a fan of double-header weekends. Said Hinch:
"I don’t think anybody likes them. Scott Dixon gets 100 points. How come we don’t have two races at Iowa (where Hinchcliffe not only won but dominated in much the same way the Target Chip Ganassi driver did in Toronto this weekend)? That would have been awesome for us.
"You have to have double-headers at all of them or none of them. I’ve said that since they announced these things. It’s not a fair way to do it. We as a team didn’t have particularly strong cars here, and we get penalized twice as much. And we’re going to go to Houston, and somebody’s going to nail it and have a really good day. It’s unfortunate that that’s how it works.
" Nobody in the series will ever warm up to these. They’re too hard on the drivers, they’re too hard on the teams. You get so little practice, it’s so tough to get the car set up right."
Hinchcliffe being Hinchcliffe, however, he is the consumate professional when it comes to marketing and public relations. So, after venting, he added this:
"But if we can fill grandstands on Saturday and Sunday, then we’re going to do them because as much as we might not like it, it’s not about us. We can complain all we want, but at the end of the day it’s up to the people buying tickets and watching at home, and if that’s what they want then we’ve got to find a way to make it work."
OTHER WEEKEND RACING:
Robert (Robbie) Wickens, of Guelph and Toronto, won his first German Touring Car Series race at Norisring in Germany on Sunday following his first pole in the series. He actually finished second but winner Mattias Ekstrom was disqualified because his crew filled the pockets of his racing suit with water in parc ferme. Why they did that, I have no idea.
"My first DTM victory, even though I've had to wait to get the result confirmed, I am, of course, thrilled to bits. Nevertheless, it was a close-fought race. There were two safety car periods, and we changed strategy after the second safety car phase, which my team and I thought would be good tactics.
"I started from pole, was in 14th place for a time and ultimately won the race. It was a tough race, but I overtook a few cars and enjoyed the feeling. Congratulations to our team: Four drivers in the points is a good team result."
Brian Vickers won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire on Sunday. Kyle Busch was second, Jeff Burton third, Brad Keselowski fourth and Aric Almirola fifth.
And Scott Steckly of Milverton won the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race at Vernon, B.C., on Saturday night. Jason Hathaway of Dutton, Ont., finished second and James White of Kamloops was third.
Finally, at the Honda Indy Toronto on Sunday, there were 23 grid girls and one grid guy (see photo). Simona De Silvestro, the only woman driver in the IndyCar Series, was not happy to have a glitzy girl marking her place on the grid so organizers arranged for a male to do the job. And he was a good sport about it, too.
- NORRIS McDONALD
Scott Dixon won the Honda Indy Toronto Race 2 today at Exhibition Place. Helio Castroneves finished second and Sebastien Bourdais was third. Dixon won Saturday's race as well and Bourdais also finished on the podium both days.
Canadians: Alex Tagliani finished tenth and James Hinchcliffe of Oakville was 21st after his car suffered a mechanical failure at the start.
It was a fabulous weekend here at Exhibition Place. The doubleheader format proved to be very successful, the racing was good and the crowd was the best in years.
The standing start that was supposed to happen Saturday but was cancelled after Josef Newgarden stalled on the grid, came off today without a hitch and I suggest it will be adopted for at least some of the other street and road-course races in the series.
I asked Castroneves about the standing start at the post-race media conference and he agreed the series will likely look at adopting it for other races.
Dixon won both races and a $100,000 bonus. It was his third series victory in a row after winning Pocono last weekend. The last time he won three straight was in 2008.
He didn't make a wrong move all weekend.
Although he didn't make a wrong move, it was still a dreadful weekend for the hometown hero, Hinchcliffe. He didn't do as well on Saturday as he'd wished, although he did arrive home in eighth place, but Sunday was a total loss.
The fact that his throttle pedal stuck when he got into the car to start the race is almost unthinkable. Wheels' Stephanie Wallcraft caught up with the Mayor of Hinchtown after Race 2 and he had this to say:
“I almost expected it. When I felt it stuck right at the beginning, I thought, ‘Yeah, this is about right.’ No bad luck yesterday, so might as well happen today.
In Victory Lane, one of the first things Dixon did was thank the fans of Toronto for filling the General Admission areas and most seats as the Honda Indy is now officially one of the major summertime events in Toronto once again.
Castroneves, who had his best finish in Toronto (second) in 10 starts here, now leads the points, with Dixon second and Ryan Hunter-Reay third. James Hinchcliffe, who finished 21st and was awarded three points for his troubles, dropped to eighth in the season points race despite winning three races.
With his second win of the weekend, Dixon won a $100,000 bonus and with a total of 32 wins moved into seventh place on the all-time Indy car victory list, moving Paul Tracy, Bourdais and Franchitti back to eighth place, all with 31.
Here is the unofficial order of finish:
Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Sebastien Bourdais (his second podium of the weekend), Dario Franchitti, E.J. Viso, Charlie Kimball, Mike Conway, Justin Wilson, Marco Andretti, Alex Tagliani.
From 11 on back: Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Saavedra, Graham Rahal, Simona De Silvestro, Tristan Vautier, Carlozs Munez (a rookie, who replaced Ryan Briscoe who broke his wrist in a late-race accident Saturday), Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato, James Hinchcliffe, Ed Carpenter, James Jakes and Tony Kanaan.
SCOTT DIXON WINS HONDA INDY RACE 2. CASTRONEVES SECOND AND BOURDAIS THIRD. DARIO FRANCHITI FINISHED FOURTH AND E.J. VISO WAS FIFTH. TAGLIANI WAS TOP CANADIAN IN TENTH.
Dixon leads at the restart but there has been a crash and there is a full-course caution and the race will end this way: Dixon, Castroneves, Bourdais.
Power was caught up in the accident, with Sato and Hunter-Reay.
Nobody is hurt but the race will end under yellow.
YELLOW - Ed Carpenter hits the wall at exactly the same place as Jakes. Field will close up.
With 10 laps to go, Dixon is ahead with Castroneves second, Power third, Bourdais fourth, Hunter-Reay fifth, Franchitti sixth, Viso seventh, Wilson eighth, Kimball ninth and Sato tenth.
Dixon will win his third straight and a $100,000 bonus for sweeping the weekend's races if he can hang on.
Side-by-side restart on Lap 71 (of 85) and Dixon holds his lead.
YELLOW - James Jakes ran into the wall exiting turn five. The field will not close up and it's a new race.
Dixon now leads Castroneves by 15 seconds.
Dixon pits . . . and exits well in front of Castroneves. Unless disaster strikes, Dixon will win this race.
Castroneves pits before Dixon; this could get interesting.
After 50 laps, Dixon continues to lead, with Castroneves second, Will Power third, Ryan Hunter-Reay fourth and Sebastien Bourdais fifth. Alex Tagliani is up to eighth.
Dixon was awarded the two bonus points for leading the most laps in the race - before Lap 50! By lap 47, in fact, just a few laps past half distance, he'd tallied up enough laps in the lead that nobody could beat him. The race is 85 laps in length, by the way.
This is an interesting race if you are a race fan. If you are someone who is watching, or reading this, or attending for the first time, it's a bit of a ho-hum affair.
Tony Kanaan has clipped a wall and has damaged the rear suspension. He took the escape road at the Princes' Gates and is out of the way. No yellow.
Scott Dixon is out for a Sunday afternoon drive. After an exciting Race 1 Saturday, today is no contest.
Dixon is leading second-place Helio Castroneves by more than eight seconds. Third-place driver Dario Franchitti is more than 14 seconds behind and Will Power is fourth and he's more than 25 seconds behind. Ryan Hunter-Reay is fifth.
James Hinchcliffe is now four laps behind, by the way.
It's going to be hard to make this race exciting unless something happens to mix things up.
As the first round of pit stops begin, Dixon still leads with Castroneves second and Power third.
BULLETIN: Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto won his first race in the German Touring Car Series (the famous DTM) at the Norisring today. And since we're bringing you other results, Scott Steckly of Milverton won the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race at Vernon, B.C., Saturday night.
Dixon is running away with this race. He has a 3.2-seconds lead over Castroneves and about an eight-second lead over third-place Power. If this holds, Dixon will have won three IZOD IndyCar Series races in a row.
After five laps, it's Dixon, Castroneves, Power, Hunter-Reay, Bourdais, Kanaan, Tagliani, E.J. Viso, Simona De Silvestro and Sato.
Hinchcliffe is now going but is three laps down.
STANDING START: They're off - Carpenter is stalled on the front straight; Franchitti has a flat front tire; Dixon leads.
Hinchcliffe's car won't start. The nose if off and he will start last from the pits after the standing start. This is bad news.
They now say the throttle pedal is broken. They will try to fix it. The race is lost.
The drivers are being strapped into their cars, each of them hoping NOT to do what Paul Tracy did earlier today. While participating in an exhibition race to promote the Robby Gordon Supertrucks Stadium Series, Tracy - well, you guess it - crashed.
By the way, there is a huge crowd here at Exhibition Place. Extra promotion by Sportsnet on television and on Sportsnet radio programs, plus the sucess this year in the series by James Hinchcliffe, has resulted in most seats being filled and a large walkup crowd.
Hi everybody and welcome to the live blog for the second race of the 2013 Honda Indy Toronto. We are about 20 minutes away from the second attempt this weekend at an F1 standing start.
Scott Dixon, who won the first race on Saturday, is on pole and if he should sweep the weekend, he will win an additional $100,000, which is a prettry good incentive, if you ask me.
By the way, if you would like to read about everything that went on previously today, as well as Friday and yesterday, please click here and you will be taken to wheels.ca.
Otherwise, stay here for the Race 2 Live Blog.
Welcome to the third day of wheels.ca's live coverage of the Honda Indy Toronto. Stephanie Wallcraft, Gary Grant and yours truly (Norris McD.) have been on the job all weekend and are dishing up breaking news and colour from the IZOD IndyCar Series' two races through the streets of Exhibition Place as well as the support races.
Briscoe was caught up in a late-race accident Saturday and broke his wrist. This puts his appearance at next week's American Le Mans Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in jeopardy as although the break isn't a bad one it needs time to heal and first practice for LMP2 cars at Old Mosport is scheduled for next Friday.
Munoz, an Indy Lights driver who shocked the IndyCar establishment at Indianapolis in May by qualifying fon the front row for the world's biggest race, went on to finish second. He finished fourth in the Indy Lights race at Exhibition Place on Saturday.
Scottt Dixon, who won Saturday's Honda Indy Race 1, will start on the pole for today's racef, which will feature a standing start, a la Formula One. They attempted on Saturday but Josef Newgarden stalled on tghe grid and, under the rules, the standing start was cancelled at that point and a rolling start substituted. Reaction from the fans, who were disappointed, convinced the series to give it a shot today.
For up to the minute news. rumours and photographs, click here for the live blog at wheels.ca. Be sure to come back here, though, at about 3 p.m. for the leadup to, and the live blog of, Honda Indy Race 2. - NORRIS McDONALD
Ryan Briscoe, driver of the Panther Racing Indy car, will not be able to race Sunday in the second of two Honda Indy Toronto races after suffering a broken wrist during Saturday's race.
Briscoe was caught up in a late-race scramble and when his car hit the wall his wrist was broken. (This is why most race drivers now let go of the steering wheel when a car is crashing because wrists and thumbs, in particular, are vulnerable.)
Panther says it will either name a replacement driver Sunday morning or withdraw from the competition.
Hold everything. More changes, courtesy of IndyCar.
A few minutes ago, at 7:48 p.m. to be exact, IndyCar issued the following statement:
"After the race, IndyCar officials met with Dario Franchitti and Target Chip Ganassi Racing team members to further review the blocking penalty issued on the final lap of today’s Honda Indy Toronto.
"The team presented car data showing steering trace and braking points from the Lap 85 incident with the No. 12 car driven by Will Power.
"The group also viewed additional video.
"Upon further review, IndyCar has reinstated No. 10 Franchitti to his original third place finishing position."
Which means Marco Andretti moves back to fourth and James Hinchcliffe is now officially eighth.
Okay, and then in reaction to the botched standing start today:
"IndyCar officials announced that a standing start will be used in the IZOD IndyCar Series’ Honda Indy Toronto 2 in T.O. Race No. 2 on Sunday.
“The fans deserve to see a standing start, so after consultation with the promoter, we have made the decision to implement a standing start for Sunday’s race,” said Brian Barnhart, senior vice president of operations, INDYCAR.
"The series’ first attempt at a standing start was aborted during Race No. 1 Saturday due to a stalled car on the grid."
The standing start will follow the same procedures that were used in Race No. 1. The cars will leave the pits in their qualifying order and follow the pace car around twice, then stop at their predetermined positions on the grid.
At the signal (red lights on each car's dashboard will go out), the race will start. If, however, there is reason to abort the start (such as a stalled car on the grid), the race will use a rolling start (as happened Saturday).
Ooops - closed off this blog too early.
Moments after the race ended, with the podium ceremony taking place, race control penalized third-place finisher Dario Franchitti 25 seconds for blocking Will Power on the last lap.
Power had tried to pass Franchitti on the inside and was squeezed. Franchitti was subsequently penalized.
This is the Jeff Krosnoff rule: Krosnoff tried to pass on the inside going into turn 3 in 1996 and was blocked. His car was launched into a light standard and he was killed, as was a marshal.
Brian Barnhart, who was IRL race director until last year and is working in that capacity this weekend after race director Beaux Barfield couldn't make the trip to Toronto, made the rule: the lead car going into turn 3 can't cross the broken line one out from the wall. A car that goes across that line if another car is trying to pass will be considered to be blocking.
Which is exactly what happened in this instance. Franchitti went over that line - okay, it was only a couple of inches, but he went over - and nearly collided with Power.
The penalty sent Franchitti back to 13th place in the finishing order. Everybody else moved up, which means James Hinchcliffe now will be classified seventh.
The podium ceremony was hilarious. Bourdais held his second-place trophy aloft and the glass top fell off and broke. And although he'd been disqualified, Franchitti still held his third-place trophy up for all to see.
Franchitti will undoubtedly now appeal his penalty, so the finishing order could change again although Barnhart is unlikely to change his ruling.
EARLIERScott Dixon won his second IZOD IndyCar Series race in a row when he won the first of two Honda Indy Toronto races at the CNE today.
Dixon, who won last weekend's race at the Pocono International Raceway tri-oval, led Sebastien Bourdais across the line, with pole winner Dario Franchitti third.
Marco Andretti was fourth, Tony Kanaan was fifth (his major sponsor is a Toronto company), Helio Castroneves finished sixth, Mike Conway was seventh and James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, one of two Canadians in the race was eighth. Simon Pagenaud was ninth and Simona Di Silvestro was tenth.
Alex Tagliani, who was en route to a top ten finish, wound up 17th.
Single file restart on Lap 84. Power goes into the tires on corner 3. The winner is Scott Dixon.
Tagliani spins in turn one after touching Pagenaud. Full course caution. Three laps to go.
Five laps to go, Dixon has checked out. Bourdais fighting on soft tires to hold off Franchitti and Power.
Dixon takes the lead with eight laps to go. He used the push to pass to do it.
With 10 laps to go it's Bourdais, Dixon, Franchitti, Power, Andretti, Castroneves, Kanaan, Conway, Hinchcliffe and Tagliani. Dixon felt Bourdais jumped the start on the last restart but IndyCar has ruled he didn't and that it was a good start.
Bourdais takes the lead on the restart. Hinchcliffe loses two positions on the restart. Wilson gets a drive-through for causing the previous accident.
The field is bunched up for a late-race restart. Fewer than 20 laps to go. Pits are open and we await the restart.
YELLOW - full course caution after Kimball, Briscoe and Wilson crashed. Nobody hurt; pits are closed. Saavedra also involved.
Great race, great dicing. Power pitted and went out, foot to the floor. Dixon pitted and got out JUST in front of Power as he came down the straight. Power made a move at turn 3 but went wide and Dixon held on. Dixon, Bourdais and Power are one-two-three with 20 laps to go.
Wheels correspondent Stephanie Wallcraft reports that the two Target cars are running a different wicker to everyone else (an attachment to the rear wing). Sort of a wavy shape, she says. Charlie Kimball has one too, Wallcraft reports.
After 50 laps - 35 laps to go - Power leads from Dixon, Bourdais, Frfanchitti, Viso, Kanaan, Hunter-Reay, Kimball, Hinchcliffe and Castroneves. Tagliani is running in 14th place.
At half-distance, it's Power, Dixon, Bourdais, Franchitti, Viso, Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Kimball, Hinchcliffe and Castroneves.
Vautier has beeen given a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact with Rahal, although most observers felt Rahal chopped the young French driver.
Restart - everybody through turn one and turn three safely. Hinchcliffe was the car in a sandwich at turn three but everybody got through okay.
YELLOW - full-course yellow for crash involving Tristan Vautier and Graham Rahal. Pits are open; field bunches up. Running order is Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, E.J. Viso, Charlie Kimball, Helio Castroneves, James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan. Alex Tagliani is running 15th.
Race leader Bourdais is on pit road. This hands the lead to Charlie Kimball with Power second and Takuma Sato third. Mike Conway, who won one of the double header races in Detroit, is fourth.
Franchitti made a pit stop, the first by one of the leaders, on Lap 20. Bourdais continues to lead with Power second and Dixon third, Hunter-Reay fourth and Kanaan fifth. Hinchcliffe is now ninth because everybody moved up.
Bourdais passed Franchitti at corner five by driving over a curb. Power also got past Franchitti. Dixon is right up in the mix.
Bourdais is pushing Franchitti. Newgarden is being pushed - literally. His crew is pushing him back to his pit stall and they hope to get him going and in the race before long.
Hinchcliffe is up to tenth
After 10 laps, Dario Franchitti is leading, Sebastien Bourdais is second and Wil Power is third. Scott Dixon is fourth and Ryan Hunter-Reay is fifth. Hinchcliffe has moved up from 14th to 11.
The race is finally under way and Franchitti is in the lead. No accidents on the first lap.
Newgarden has stalled again at Turn 3 and will have to be towed to the pits. The 85-lap race is under way but there has not been any racing. The cars are following the pace car. At some point, there will be a start, it is hoped.
Newgarden has restarted his car and will start at the back. But there was a big hole on the grid, so someone did not line up correctly. This has been a big mess and hopefully IndyCar will not try this again. As the cars are rolling, the laps count. The race has started behind the pace car.
They are on the grid. ABORTED START. They will now go to a rolling start. Josef Newgarden's car stalled.
Justin Wilson's car stalled in the pits; he will now start at the back of the pack.
Engines have been started (the command given by new Toronto Maple Leafs player Dave Bolland). They are moving around for the standing start.
Drivers are in their cars. The plan is for the pace car - driven by Indy car racing legend Johnny Rutherford, by the way - to lead the race cars out of the pits and one time around the CNE track. The cars will then line up on the front straight for a standing start, as they do in Formula One.
The IndyCar Series has never done a standing start. CART and Champ Car did a few but never IndyCar so people are nervous.
We are about 15 minutes away from the start of the Honda Indy Toronto Race 1. It couldn't be more beautiful in the city and thousands are at Exhibition Place for the spectacle.
The drivers have been introduced and taken around on the parade lap, riding around on the backs of - no surprise here - light trucks manufactured by Honda. The grandstands across from the pits are particularly energetic with spectators greeting all drivers with waves and cheers.
Pole-winner for Race 1, Dario Franchitti, and the two Canadian drivers, James Hinchcliffe and Alex Tagliani, got the biggest cheers, with the lone female driver, Simona De Silvestro, not far behind.
Welcome to our Honda Indy Toronto Live Blog. Stephanie Wallcraft, Gary Grant and yours truly (Norris McD.) will be at Exhibition Place all weekend bringing you all the breaking news and colour/analysis of practice, qualifying and two - count 'em, two - Honda Indy races.
But we're not doing it here. Please click here and the link will take you to wheels.ca, where we're all type-type-typing (and photographing) away.
This has nothing to do with the Honda Indy Toronto but is huge news for Canadian racing fans. Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto has just (Saturday morning) won his first pole position in the German Touring Car Series (DTM) at the Norisring in Germany. And outside pole was nailed down by defending series champion Bruno Spengler of Quebec. The race will be held Sunday. The DTM is generally acknowledged to be the most competitive European racing series outside of Formula One.
Oh, before you go over to wheels.ca, take a look at the photo below. I snapped it in pit lane just a little while ago. It's the Newfoundland and Labrador licence plate that belongs to Canadian champion James Hinchcliffe:
The Honda Indy Toronto will feature a Formula One-style standing start to get the first race going on Saturday and then revert to the traditional IZOD IndyCar Series rolling start on Sunday for the second race, the league announced on Tuesday.
I’d thought they were going to do it the other way – rolling on Saturday and standing on Sunday – but a bulletin sent out by the series Tuesday stipulated that the standing start would be used for Race 1 in Toronto on Sat., July 13, so that’s the way it will be.
The IndyCar Series and the promoters of the Honda Indy Toronto had been looking for something to differentiate the two races and I’d suggested that they run the first one on Saturday the traditional way – clockwise through the streets of the CNE – but then on Sunday to run the second race the other way around the track – counterclockwise – which would really make for a different race.
I was surprised when Charlie Johnston, vice-president and general manager of the event, told me that my idea had been discussed but that ASN-FIA Canada, which governs all of motorsport in Canada, had said no because of a lack of runoff areas and other safety features that would come into play if the cars were going "the other way."
Well, it was worth a shot.
So then they came up with the idea of a standing start, which will be the first in the history of the IndyCar Series (Champ Car and CART tried a couple, but not the IRL).
There is no doubt they are very exciting. They are also very dangerous. Let’s cross our fingers that everything comes off the way it's supposed to.
Here are the rules, as set out by IndyCar on Tuesday. After the qualified cars drive behind a pace car for a formation lap, they will take their starting positions "with the front wheels of the car remaining within its designated orange grid line" The directive continues:
"A five-second declaration will be made via radio by the Race Director prior to the start of the light sequence. The starting sequence will begin when the first two rows of red lights on the (cockpit) lighting panel illuminate. The red lights will continue to fill from the bottom of the light panel two rows at a time, for a total of six steps (12 rows).
"Once the panel is filled with red lights, there will be a delay between .5 and 3 seconds and the panel will switch to all green lights and the race will begin.
"False Start - A false start shall be declared when a car moves forward or is out of its assigned position before completion of the light sequence. A penalty will be imposed for a false start.
"Aborted Start - The Race Director can declare an aborted start before the final row of red lights is illuminated on the lighting panel.If the start is aborted, the full-course caution lights will be turned on.
"In the event of an aborted start, a rolling start shall be implemented. Any Competitors whose actions result in an aborted start will move to the rear of the field.
Standing starts will be implemented at Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto on July 13 and the Shell/Pennzoil Houston Grand Prix on Oct. 5. Race 2 of the doubleheader weekends will utilize traditional rolling starts."
So there you have it. Good luck to all drivers.
By the way, Paul Tracy will be racing a truck Sunday in one of the Robby Gordon SuperTruck races. I suggest he will win – or crash trying.
The Grand Marshal for this year’s Honda Indy wll be NHL star and newest Toronto Maple Leaf saviour David Clarkson.
Last year, Clarkson was at the race and met Graham Rahal, as both men worked to raise awareness for their respective charities. Rahal is said to be a huge hockey fan and allegedly asked Clarkson to sign with another blue team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Clarkson knows what it means to bleed blue and signed with the team synonymous with that phrase, the Maple Leafs.
The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda races on Saturday and Sunday will feature 10 Canadians from Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec in the 30-driver field.
The driver leading the points going into the Toronto races, Scott Hargrove, 18, of Vancouver, won three of the first five races of the season.
"As soon as the schedule was released, I circled Toronto as the crown jewel for me this year," he said in a release. "The Toronto GP will be a combination of many things I love – my home country, a street circuit and a race in conjuction with IndyCar. Being the points leader and being a Canadian in a Canadian race has certainly made me very excited for this weekend."
Garett Grist, also 18, of Whitby, Jesse Lazare, 16, of Montreal and Stefan Rzadzinski, 20, from Edmonton also have high hopes for Toronto. Dalton Kellett of Toronto, Daniel Burkett of Winnipg, Steve Bamford of Toronto, Sergio Pasian of Quebec City, James Dayson of Vancouver and Ryan Verra from Calgary are the other Canadians in the series for the Toronto races.
Hargrove, Grist and six of the others were featured in April in a cover story in Toronto Star Wheels about young Canadians having to leave the country in order to further their racing ambitions.
Meantime, Hargrove, Grist, Lazare and Rzadzinski are finalists for this year’s Team Canada Scholarship, which will field a pair of cars at the presetigious Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, England, next October.
Several of these drivers – Hargrove and Grist are two – will join IndyCar star Simona De Silvestro for a visit to the Hospital for Sick Children Thursday.
The two USF2000 races will be sponsored by Analystic Systems of British Columbia. According to a release, Analytic Systems is a leading high performance power conversion manufacturer based just outside Vancouver in the city of Delta.
"In business for over 30 years, Analytic Systems is currently ranked fifth on the "Business in Vancouver" list of the biggest B.C, alternative energy companies. Its products include battery chargers, voltage converters, DC/AC inverters, power supplies, frequency converters and MPPT solar charge controllers for key markets including the military, rail and transit, commercial marine, telecommunications and oil and gas."
Good to see Canadian companies getting behind racing in Canada – and Canadian racers.
“It depends on the drivers,” laughed the Dale Coyne Racing veteran who won the 2005 Toronto Indy when it was sanctioned by Champ Car. “The races in Detroit kind of went that way. The first race on Saturday was pretty wild, and, then, in the second race on Sunday, the drivers all went insane and you saw what happened.”
Wilson, who also has two Toronto poles on his resumé, was talking about the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix double-header held in early June. It was the first of two-races-on-one-weekend scheduled by the IndyCar Series this season, with Toronto next weekend being the second and Houston in October the third.
The first race in Detroit, won by series part-timer Mike Conway (he’ll be racing here next weekend), saw a crash on the very first lap triggered by A.J. Allmendinger. Wilson managed to avoid the ensuing melee, as well as one later in which Sebastian Saavedra and Marco Andretti tangled, and went on to finish third.
The second race, on Sunday, won by Simon Pagenaud, saw another first-lap crash involving Allmendinger and nine (count ’em, nine) other cars and Wilson was eliminated along with four other drivers.
“I liked the first race (a podium) in Detroit,” said Wilson, “but not the second. I guess that’s what you have to expect when you race back-to-back like that.”
Still, Wilson is looking forward to returning to Toronto.
“I can’t wait for those races,” he said, when we talked on the telephone a few weeks ago. “I love the track in Toronto because it’s so challenging. It’s an interesting layout, but you go from asphalt to concrete (on the corners) and that tests your skill as a driver.”
Having said that, the Toronto street course can take its toll on a driver.
“It’s a very physical course,” said Wilson, who was ninth in the points race going into this weekend’s Pocono IndyCar 400 at Pocono International Raceway in Pennsylvania. “The (Toronto) track is very bumpy — there’s not a lot of suspension in these cars — and your elbows and your knees get banged around inside the car. You get blisters on your hands.”
Normally, race drivers get a week, sometimes two, between races to recover. As was the case in Detroit, Wilson and the others in Toronto will just have Saturday night to do it.
“I always feel I can do nutrition better,” said Wilson, who’s 6-foot-4 and weighs in at just under 200 pounds. “For these races, though, it’s really important to eat right at the right times and to be properly hydrated. Right after the first race on Saturday, for instance, I’m going to have a protein shake because the healing will have to start earlier.”
Psychologically, Wilson felt he learned a lot in Detroit. Normally, the Indy cars have two practice periods on the Friday of a race weekend, a Saturday morning practice, Saturday afternoon qualifying and Sunday afternoon race. In Detroit, Toronto and Houston, practice and qualifying are squeezed into one day, Friday, and then the weekend racing begins.
“We had (in Detroit) — and will have in Toronto — a pretty short practice and qualifying period, Wilson said. “In Detroit, I really didn’t feel like I was ready to go when the first race came around. I’ll be better prepared in Toronto.”
Wilson’s story is interesting, in that he had his heart set on Formula One — he won the Formula 3000 championship in 2001 — and made it to the top with Minardi for a season in 2003, thanks to a clever — and original — financing plan: he sold shares in himself to about 900 investors who put up a minimum of £500 apiece. So, is that still going?
“Actually, we’ll be having the final annual general meeting in just a few weeks,” Wilson said during our interview. “It was a 10-year investment plan and so it’s ending.”
And how did the investors do?
“Unfortunately, the recession hurt,” Wilson said. “We wanted a nice return,but we also were very clear to everybody going in that this could turn out to be a total loss. I think everybody understood the risks. I expect, in the end, and after the second payout, that everyone will get back in the neighbourhood of 70 per cent of their initial investment.”
Wilson says he’s happy with his IndyCar season to date, despite the fact he’s only had two third-place race finishes and one other top five in 2013.
“We’re always in the mix,” he said. “We can compete every weekend. I’ve made some mistakes, but we can win races and I think it’s very possible we can finish in the top five in the championship.” (He’s had four top-five points finishes in his career going back to 2004, including two second-place finishes and a third).
Wilson was happy to talk to me, and other reporters, when he was plugging the Toronto races a few weeks ago. He knows that once next weekend rolls around that the spotlight will be off him and very much on the newest IndyCar hometown hero, James Hinchcliffe of Oakville.
“I get on with him really well,” Wilson said. “I’m always impressed with him and he’s certainly had great success so far this season (three wins going into Sunday’s race at Pocono).
“In fact, I have to say that for a race driver, any day you can beat James Hinchcliffe is a great day, because he’s that good.”
Budd’s plans race day
There are races other than the two Honda Indys on tap at Exhibition Place next weekend. Just before the second main event next Sunday, for instance, a race in the Pirelli World Challenge Series is scheduled and one of the cars will be driven by Toronto sports car champion Mark Wilkins.
Budd’s Kia of Oakville (2400 South Service Rd. W. near Bronte Rd.), which is sponsoring Wilkins’ car as well as another, is making its facilities available Monday and Tuesday for the race cars to be prepared before they’re taken off to Exhibition Place in mid-week.
On Tuesday, beginning at 10:30 a.m., Wilkins will be on hand to sign autographs and answer questions before a BBQ lunch is served. A draw will be made for a package that includes admission to the Honda Indy Toronto race weekend. The race cars will be on display till 7 p.m.
Everybody interested in racing is welcome to drop by.
- NORRIS McDONALD
One of the greatest drivers in the history of world motorsport, Mario Andretti of Nazareth, Pa., will be inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame’s International category at a ceremony and reception in September.
Dr. Hugh Scully, chairman of the board of the Hall of Fame, made the announcement Tuesday, explaining that Andretti would join Carroll Shelby, Bobby Rahal and his son Michael Andretti as International racers who have made significant contributions to motorsport in Canada.
Andretti will be inducted, along with Canadians Ron Fellows, Tom Walters, John and Sharon Fletcher, Jimmy Carr and the late Bob Armstrong, during the 19th annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies presented by Canadian Tire Sept. 28 at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio in downtown Toronto.
Nobody drove a Formula One car faster than Andretti at what is now Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, where he won the pole and recorded the fastest lap in 1977, the final year the Grand Prix of Canada was held at Mosport before being moved to Montreal.
Ten years earlier, the back straight at the iconic circuit was named Mario Andretti Straightaway after he was clocked at 178 miles an hour in a U.S. Auto Club (USAC) Indy car race.
On a global scale, Andretti was the first driver to win both the Formula One world championship (1978) and several Indy car championships (1965, ‘66, ‘69 and ‘84).
His versatility remains unparalleled and one of the many books about him is titled, "The Man Who Can Win Any Kind of Race," because he won the Daytona 500 stock car race in 1967, the Indy 500 and Pikes Peak hill climb in 1969, the USAC big car championship on dirt in 1974 (when he was also racing in F1!), three 12 Hours of Sebring endurance championships as well as a class win at the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In Canada, Andretti was unbeatable in the 1960s at Le Circuit-Mont Tremblant, winning all four races held in 1967 and ‘68. In 1975 at Mosport, he went green flag to checkers to win a Formula 5000 race.
In the Hall of Fame’s announcement, it notes that some of the bad luck associated with him at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (" . . . and Mario Andretti is slowing down . . .") sometimes crossed the border when he came to race in Canada.
After turning the fastest-ever F1 lap at Mosport, engine failure sent him to the pits while leading. A broken halfshaft took him out of a USAC Indy car race at the same circuit.
His best finish in a Canadian Grand Prix was third in 1976. Later in his career, in the CART series, he was second in the Molson Indy Toronto in 1991 after finishing third in the Vancouver race a year earlier.
Although he says he raced in Canada in the early 1960s ("we went to some small tracks near Quebec"), the first recorded visit here came in 1965 at a USAC midget race at the CNE Stadium stock car track. He also raced in F1 at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve and in Indy cars at the Sanair Speedway oval in Quebec.
Named the U.S. driver of the year in 1967, 1978 and 1984, Andretti was chosen Driver of the Century by the Associated Press.
Tickets for the informal, cocktail party-type gathering where attendees can mingle with Andretti and the other inductees following the induction ceremony will go on sale this Friday, June 21, on the Hall of Fame’s website, www.cmhf.ca or by calling 1-289-803-1375.
Tickets are priced at $80 apiece.
- NORRIS McDONALD
Posted at 09:19 PM in Auto racing, Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, cars, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, Daytona 500, Formula One, Grand Prix of Canada, Honda Indy Toronto, Indy 500, Le Circuit-Mont Tremblant, Mosport International Raceway, NASCAR, Racing, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Scott Steckly of Milverton travels in some fast company.
The 2008 and 2011 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion prepares cars for others to race in addition to his own mount and some of the drivers who’ve raced for him include Max Papis and L.P. Dumoulin, who won the season-opener at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on the Victoria Day Speedfest weekend.
Sponsored by the Dodge Dealers of Quebec, Villeneuve last raced at Trois-Rivieres in 2009. He shook down the car on Tuesday at Circuit ICAR (Mirabel Airport) and issued this statement:
"I was very pleased with the setup that Scott and the team put under the car today. This is probably only once in my career that I jumped into a car and it was good right out of the box. I am very excited to race at Trois-Rivieres."
It will be good to see you back out there again, Jacques.
Meantime, the IZOD IndyCar Series moves to the Milwaukee Mile this coming weekend and our own James Hinchcliffe will make his 40th career start there on Saturday afternoon. "Hinch" likes Milwaukee because he had a podium there last year - he finished third.
"I love racing there," he’s quoted as saying in an Andretti Autosport release, "not only because of the history of the place but also because the wheel-to-wheel action is awesome. The team had a really strong outing there last year, so hopefully we can repeat that performance and celebrate with some cheese, brats and beer. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend Saturday on Father’s Day weekend."
One other thing about James. He’s asking his fans to design a new helmet for him and the winning design will be on Hinch’s head when he races in the final IZOD event of the season at California Speedway in October. For details, click here.
The other Canadian in the race on Saturday will be Alex Tagliani and he’s due to have some good luck. As the saying goes, if he didn’t have bad luck he wouldn’t have any luck at all. The rumour mill has been suggesting that Tag’s days are numbered at Brian Herta’s team but I reject that, simply because the money that team has is there because Alex Tagliani arranged for it. No Tag, no moolah. It’s that simple.
For the Indy car series’ sake, let’s hope their TV numbers start to improve. They were on network television again last Saturday night (ABC) and finished last in the ratings game. Fox had major league baseball and that got a 3.2 rating. NBC had NHL hockey and that landed a 2.9. Indy car got a 1.1.
Of course, they do a great job of boring everybody to death beforehand. Baseball comes on and they have maybe five minutes of pre-game and then the pitcher throws the first ball. Same with hockey; five minutes to set the scene and then they drop the puck.
Indy car racing had an explanation of how high the banking is at Texas Motor Speedway, a prayer, the U.S. national anthem, an interview with Marco Andretti and Helio Castroneves about how exciting the racing was going to be (unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way) and then they ordered the engines to start.
That’s about 20 minutes we can do without.
Then, when they actually started the race, two laps later – two laps – Pippa Man’s rent-a-ride from Dale Coyne caught fire and they threw a yellow and then took five or six laps to determine that there was no reason they shouldn’t have continued racing.
By that time, I suspect many viewers had changed channels.
By the way, wasn’t that a wonderful lead-in to the Indy car race on ABC?
Tim Allen’s show Last Man Standing last Saturday night before the Indy race featured Tony Stewart and his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car. Tim Allen went for a joy ride in the stock car. Ha. Ha.
My question: was that an accident? Or was it done by design?
A popular victory in NASCAR, as well as controversy, and a NASCAR-type "big one" crash in the second IndyCar Series race at Detroit, were highlights of this weekend’s auto racing.
It was also a weekend of "firsts."
At Dover, Del., Tony Stewart won his first race of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season after Jimmie Johnson was penalized for jumping a restart with 19 laps to go when leader Juan Pablo Montoya didn’t go with him.
It always takes two to tango or, in the case of car racing, two drivers in sinc on a side-by-side restart when the green flag is thrown. When the green comes out, both guys are supposed to go. Johnson, on the inside, went and Montoya didn’t and NASCAR ruled the 48 was in the wrong and assessed Johnson a drive-through penalty.
Johnson had the option of relinquising the lead to Montoya but refused and that’s why he was penalized. He eventually finished 17th. Montoya, meantime, was three laps short of his first oval-track victory when he was passed by Stewart. Jeff Gordon finished third, with Kyle Busch fourth and Brad Keselowski fifth.
Incidentally, Keselowski’s car flunked post-race inspection – the front end was too low – and he will be assessed some type of penalty in the week ahead. (Click here for full story and results.)
Stewart has been having a miserable year, as has his whole Stewart-Haas Racing team. Danica Patrick was 24th Sunday (after starting 39th) and Ryan Newman, who went off fifth, crashed out after exchanging paint with David Gilliland.
Said Stewart: “Man, it’s been such a tough year. We’ve let them (fans) down for a long time. Hopefully, we’ll start building that momentum.”
Keep an eye on Stewart now. He has a habit of slumbering, like a bear. When he wakes up, everybody else would be wise to watch out. Sunday afternoon at Dover, he emerged from hibernation.
At Detroit, Simon Paginaud won the first IZOD IndyCar Series race of his career by surviving some serious carnage that saw poor A.J. Allmendinger crash out for the second time in two days at almost the same place.
In the first double-header in Indy car history (there have previously been two races held on the same day, called "twins," in which full-race distances were cut in half in order to have two green flags and two checkers), the drivers pretty much behaved themselves on Saturday during the first race (won by Mike Conway) but checked their manners and good judgment at the door on Sunday and all bets were off.
James Jakes followed Pagenaud to the checkers, with Conway finishing third for his second podium in two days. (Click here for full story and results.)
As well as being the first victory for Pagenaud, it was the 100th for Honda when competing against other manufacturers in IndyCar. Pagenaud was also the sixth different winner in seven races and the third first-time winner.
Said Pagenaud in Victory Lane: "It’s unbelievable. I don’t know how we did it. It’s a great feeling. One I hope of more to come."
Ten cars were either eliminated through crashes or sufficiently damaged that although classified as running at the end of the 70-lap contest they were just turning laps for points.
For the second straight day (and race), Alex Tagliani of Montreal failed to finish because of a crash. He and Justin Wilson were eliminated on Lap 27 when Sebastien Bourdais tapped Will Power going into a corner and caused him to go into a slow, lazy spin and everybody piled up behind them. Many of the drivers got going again but couldn’t be considered threats for victory by any stretch of the imagination.
One of those was poor James Hinchcliffe of Oakville. Winner of two of the four opening races of the season, his performance has been less than stellar since. Of course, as is the case with jockeys and horses, if the car ain’t working, there’s not a whole lot the driver can do to get it to run faster.
For instance, Hinchcliffe was behind Power when the Penske driver started his slide and so he backed off. As Power’s spin continued, "Hinch" ducked to the inside and floored it, expecting to shoot past on the right, only to have the Aussie’s mount start to straighten out and POW!
Hinchcliffe made it to the pits but by the time repairs were made and he rejoined, he was out of contention and finished the race 13 laps behind the winner in 19th place, four worse than where he finished on Saturday.
As well as being the first victory for Simon Pagenaud, it was also the first for Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports, a team in which supermodified and Indy racer (and friend) Davey Hamilton has a direct involvement.
Paralyzed ex-racer Sam Schmidt and Hamilton both personify the "never give up" philosophy of automobile racing pioneer Louis Chevrolet.
A short-track oval racer and champion, Hamilton first went to Indianapolis looking for a ride in the early 1990s when CART was in all its glory and road racers were the drivers of choice. Although he never did make a start at Indianapolis under CART sanction, it wasn’t for lack of trying and Hamilton went on to become one of the early Indy Racing League stars.
In fact, by 2001, he was the only one of the original IRL drivers (a group that included Scott Goodyear and Tony Stewart) to have raced in all of the league’s races and in which he finished second in points twice.
Schmidt didn’t start a professional racing career until later in life – he was 31 when he was rookie-of-the-year in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series. Five years later, after three Indy 500 starts, Schmidt rode a car backwards into the wall at Walt Disney World Speedway near Orlando, leaving him a quadraplegic. In 2000, he formed his own racing team and Hamilton became his driver.
Hamilton’s own world nearly came to an end in 2001 during a race at Texas Motor Speedway. Another car below an engine and Hamilton lost control in the oil. The ensuing crash into the wall tore and broke his feet and ankles so badly that doctors prepared to amputate.
But a friend who was with him, John Nicotra, begged them to reconsider - they did - and Hamilton subsequently underwent more than 20 operations, many performed by Dr. Terry Trammel of Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, to restore them to where, today, you wouldn’t know he’d been so badly injured.
Forced to retire from driving at the time, Hamilton promoted races, race series and managed racers and joined the Indianapolis Speedway Radio Network as a colour commentator. (In fact, he was on the air with play-by-play announcer Mike King in Detroit on Sunday when his driver and team won the second race.)
However, you can’t keep a good racer down and Hamilton not only returned to Indy cars to race in the 500 again – he made the field five more times, in fact – but continues to drive supermodifieds at Oswego Speedway in northern New York state, cars that are entered for him by – would you believe? – his old pal, Johnny Nicotra.
Hamilton’s ambition, perserverance and courage have not gone unnoticed and are largely responsible for his ongoing relationship with sponsor Hewlett-Packard. HP’s support is Davey’s contribution to Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports.
Now, you could produce a "made-for-TV" movie out of a story like that, couldn't you? It’s just the sort of thing that IndyCar has to jump on if it wants to regain its proper share of the North American auto racing audience.
The question is: will it?
Now, on Saturday, I said I’d make a suggestion in this column today about how IndyCar could seriously start to improve its marketing and public relations. But this entry is too long already, so I will spell it out in the next one – if I can keep myself from being sidetracked.
But the Sam Schmidt-Davey Hamilton saga is too good a story to wait for another day, which is why it got priority this time around.
PARTING SHOTS: I hate to be negative - those two races in Detroit were really good stuff - but somebody has got to get hold of the people at IndyCar and shake them. Hard. Why in the world would they hold qualifying for the second Detroit race before they even held the first race? They held qualifying on Friday afternoon for the first race Saturday. Fine. But then, on Saturday morning, hours before they held the first race, they conducted qualifying for the second race, which wasn't going to be held till Sunday. What is with those people? Let’s hope that by the time they get to Toronto for the next double-header, they’ll have fixed that. . . . The crowd for the Sunday race in Detroit looked significantly bigger than the crowd that turned out on Saturday. . . . Will Power looked like he was going to punch Sebastien Bourdais’ lights out – or try to – for triggering that pileup on Lap 27. One or two members of the safety crew held him back. All he could do was toss – toss! underhand, even – his gloves at Bourdais. They should have let Power alone. Did anybody try to stop Tony Stewart from throwing his helmet last year? Not a chance. . . . Jorge Lorenzo won the Moto GP race in Italy. . . . Bobby Santos won the USAC Silver Crown race at Gateway Raceway outside St. Louis. Closed for several years, Gateway previously held CART and NASCAR races. . . . Finally, at Spielberg, Austria, another round of the German Touring Car Series championship was held (DTM) and Canadian Bruno Spengler leads the championship for BMW. Robert Wickens, of Guelph and Toronto, started seventh in the race and finished 12th. I must say I find his post-race comments curiously amusing: ""Unfortunately, my race did not go according to plan. I still cannot understand how I fell back from seventh to twelfth place. I was even in sixth position on my first stint. I didn't get stuck in traffic at all, nor did I make any mistakes. The car didn't feel in any way different to yesterday either. We need to analyse exactly what happened before the next race."
- NORRIS McDONALD
Posted at 11:33 PM in American Le Mans Series, Auto racing, Canadians at Indy, DTM, Honda Indy Toronto, Indy Racing League, IZOD IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe, NASCAR, Oswego Supermodifieds, Racing, Sports | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Here are some leftover thoughts from last weekend’s Indianapolis 500:
I nearly fell over in a dead faint when the TV ratings came out and they revealed that the Indianapolis 500 had the fewest people watching it since it started being broadcast live in the U.S. in 1986. (Thanks to the late Johnny Esaw of CTV, Canadians and some people in the U.S. along the Canada-U.S. border got to watch the 500 live for 10 years before the rest of America got it.)
But a 3.7 is shocking. Absolutely shocking. What is going on? It’s the Indy 500, for God's sake. The 3.7 is down from 4.1 in 2012 and 4.3 in 2011. According to sportsmediawatch.com, 2013 marked the fifth year in a row that the 500 has been below 4.5.
So listen to what Speedway spokesman Doug Boles said:
“We’ll continue to get the message out that races at the Speedway here over the last three years have gotten more and more exciting.”
I’d suggest that kind of “messaging” ain’t workin'.
If I was the Speedway, I’d be thinking of a change in its approach, wouldn’t you?
Where these guys are missing the boat is that they think exciting racing is going to attract viewers. If that was so, don’t you think more people would have tuned in last Sunday to a race that was simply terrific, which followed an equally great race in 2012 and 2011, as Mr. Boles said?
But they didn't. So something's missing.
What IndyCar and the Indianapolis Speedway need is conflict, drama, gossip and intrigue - or a combination of all of the above. NASCAR has tradin’ paint and drivers throwing helmets; the F1 race in Monaco wasn’t over more than about a minute last Sunday before winning team Mercedes and tire supplier Pirelli were being accused of cheating.
At Indy, everybody was talking about what a really great guy Tony Kanaan is and how happy they were for him.
The drivers in IndyCar these days are all clean-behind-the-ears, corporate goody-two-shoes.
They are BORING.
They had four women in the race. Quick: name them.
Couldn't do it, could you?
But you know who Danica Patrick is, don’t you? Why? No, not because she’s a good race driver but because she took her clothes off for the camera. Never nude, she was in Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Edition and sprawled across the hood of a car in Maxim and everybody knew it.
People looked at her and saw a bikini. And the girl can drive, too.
When Tony Kanaan got down on his hands and knees last Sunday to kiss the yard of bricks after his big win, some other driver should have gone up behind him and kicked him in the butt and accused him of dirty driving. He should have pointed his finger at Kanaan and told him, live on ABC television, that if he ever did that again he’d clock him in that big nose of his.
So instead of headlines on Monday morning saying, “Harvick sorry he's switching teams," or “Kyle Busch stomps off in a huff again," you’d have seen, “Indy 500 winner threatened with bodily harm.”
And instead of the usual TV shot seen on every channel of yet another “big one” in a NASCAR race, you’d have seen Kanaan trying to defend himself by swinging the Borg-Warner Trophy at somebody.
Now, that would get people talking.
If the IndyCar Series is smart, they’ll hire me.
And if not me, Vince McMahon.
One more thing about TV ratings. TSN sent out the Canadian figures on Tuesday and it’s interesting that the race in the No. 1 spot was the Grand Prix of Monaco on TSN, with 252,000 viewers. The NASCAR Coke 600 on TSN was second with 210,000 and the Indy 500 on Sportsnet was third with 153,000.
Which seems about right – except that I know a lot of my friends who watched the 500 on ABC, which had side-by-side service during commercials while Sportsnet went to full-screen commercials. Maybe it didn't make a big difference, but it made a difference.
Everything – as usual – was perfect about the race. The pre-race went off without a hitch and I was particularly impressed with Jim (Gomer Pyle) Nabors, who’s been singing Back Home in Indiana since 1973. More than one person came up to me in the media centre and said they thought he’d died. They were wrong, or else the Speedway came up with a hell of a Jim Nabors impersonator.
And the race itself was thrilling, with the cars literally floating on the Speedway, they were going so fast.
But something wasn’t right about the start. Not once did they line up in the traditional 11 rows of three. They’re supposed to be in that formation by the time they get to Turn Three near the end of the second parade lap. They do this so they can parade down the front and back stretches in a salute to the fans during the pace lap. Also known as the “wave-off lap,” it’s when both audience and performers can acknowledge each other’s presence.
But they didn’t line up till the backstretch of the pace lap and were ragged and out of sinc going through Turn Four. By that time, though, they’d thrown the green and all bets were off as all 33 cars charged toward Turn One.
Maybe it’s not a big thing to some people but that’s the way it’s supposed to be and I’m a traditionalist.
Before I go, a quick change of pace. The people trying to build that speedway down in Fort Erie are running out of patience, the Fort Erie Times is reporting.
Calling the Ontario Municipal Board’s approvals process inefficient (you can say that again), the speedway’s executive director more or less said that if something positive doesn’t happen in the fairly immediate future, the project will be cancelled.
To read more, click this link to the story.