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Two news items. Two comments.
News item No. 1.
Michael Andretti says he's trying to find a sponsor to bring Juan Pablo Montoya back to IndyCar with Andretti Autosport. "I have talked to Juan about IndyCar and told him 'Hell yeah, let's find a way to put something together,' " Andretti told The Associated Press on Monday.
"I've driven against him and I think he's one of the best drivers I've ever driven against. It just comes down to sponsorship. So we're looking, and if it's a possibility, we want to do something with him."
Montoya was a wonderful open wheel racing driver. But he hasn’t been in a single seater since 2005. That’s a lot of time between drinks. He hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire in NASCAR so why does anybody think he’s going to be Superman again in IndyCar?
But let’s, for the sake of argument, say that sponsorship materializes. Then what?
Will Andretti Autosport run six drivers during the regular season next year? The ego shack could get a little crowded over there, what with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, E.J. Viso, James Hinchcliffe and Carlos Munoz already in there.
Or does this mean Munoz doesn’t have the backing to move up to IndyCar next year? Or that Hinchcliffe is going elsewhere? Will there be an opening or two at AA?
Or is it all really just a PR excercise? Montoya calls Michael looking for a ride and Michael says sure, if we can get a sponsor. I mean, if you were Michael Andretti, isn’t that what you'd say?
News item No. 2.
I can’t see Busch at Stewart-Haas unless Tony is going to surprise the hell out of everybody and retire from Sprint Cup competition to be the face of the team so he can go off and race sprint cars any time he feels like it.
Or maybe Busch is thinking of buying Stewart out.
Right now, Busch runs the show at Furniture Row. They do what he tells them to do. And they worship him. He’s going to make the Chase with that team, so why leave?
Sure, he might wind up driving for a bigger organization, but if that happens he’d better be a team player or else he’ll be asked to leave – as if that hasn't happened before.
Does he want to risk keeping his temper in check while having to share a garage with Danica Patrick?
Finally, why would Stewart tell Ryan Newman to find another job for 2014 because there isn’t sponsorship to run him and then bring in Kurt Busch when, again, there is no sponsorship.
It doesn’t make sense.
I suggest Kurt is being mischievous. Or else he and Stewart really are cooking up a deal. Busch-Haas Racing, anyone?
- NORRIS McDONALD
Tony Stewart lived through a five-flip sprint car crash Monday night at the Ohsweken Speedway out near Brantford. He wasn’t injured but he was lucky.
NASCAR driver Jason Leffler was killed earlier this summer in a sprint car flip; others not as well known have also died in sprint cars this year. Stewart himself was involved in a wreck a few weeks ago at a small track in New York State that saw a driver airlifted to hospital with a back injury.
Tony Stewart loves to race. I get that. He would like to race every day of the week and every week of the year, if he could. He loves NASCAR Sprint Cup stock cars and sprint cars, in particular. He’s what you would call a "racer’s racer." Always out there and going for it. And maybe if he was a driver for a Cup team with no other responsibilities than to show up and try to win races, I’d say more power to him. God bless him and good luck.
But Tony Stewart is way, way more than just a race driver. He’s the owner and the face of the Stewart-Haas Racing organization in NASCAR and, whether he likes to admit it or not, that means he has big responsibilities. He is responsible for the drivers who work for him in Cup (Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick); responsible for the support and well-being of the team managers, crew chiefs, mechanics, tire-changers, truck drivers and hospitality convenors for his three-car Cup team, plus their families; and responsible for the return-on-investment expected by the major sponsors of that NASCAR team – Mobil 1, Quicken Loans and Go Daddy.
Without Tony Stewart, that team is next to nothing. No, it is not Richard Childress Racing, or Joe Gibbs or Hendrick Motorsports. It is a business built around Tony Stewart and if something happened to him it would be devastating.
It’s one thing to be out there racing and flying the colours in the multi-billion-dollar business exercise known as NASCAR Sprint Cup racing. It’s quite another to be taking really unnecessary chances racing sprint cars on little dirt speedways in the middle of nowhere.
He should stop doing that.
Moving right along, the Associated Press distributed an interesting story by motorsport writer Jenna Fryer on Wednesday that she filed after interviewing Go Daddy CEO Blake Irving at the Honda Indy Toronto. (Why AP waited to transmit it to member newspapers and electronic media is unknown. Or perhaps Fryer kept it in her pocket for a rainy day.)
The crux of her story, however, is that Irving – who took over as CEO of Go Daddy in January – thinks the world of both James Hinchcliffe and Danica Patrick, thinks they’re both a great fit for his company as he seeks to grow it internationally and acknowledged negotiating to keep Hinchcliffe under contract going forward and to stay in the IndyCar series.
Aug. 15 is apparently the date in which Hinch can start talking to other teams, if he hasn’t been re-signed by Andretti Autosport by then.
You’ll recall a column I wrote earlier this week about rumours floating around about Hinchcliffe and his future in the IndyCar series as well as Go Daddy’s. Said Irving in Fryer’s story:
"If you think about both of them, the individual fit is kind of incredible. Hinch is such a great fit because he’s got such a great understanding of social media, he’s actually popped on social media in a way Danica hasn’t.
"But both of them from a characteristic standpoint have made their own way, whether it was super sharp on how you get sponsors, how you position yourself and then how hard you actually race and how hard you try. So for that fit, individually, both people are very, very unique and great for Go Daddy."
Oh, and all those suggestions that Patrick is somehow on the way out?
"I do see social media, and do see Danica beat up sometimes," Irving told Fryer in the AP story. "Mostly by male racing fans. Female racing fans love her. Non-racing fans love her. Our customers love her. She’s a great representative for us."
So there. Button up.
I’m going to Halifax for a few days of R & R, so this space will be quiet. See you the first of the week.
I thought I’d add a few of my own.
Background: Hinch is in the last year of his contract with Andretti Autosport and some people think his sponsor, Go Daddy, won’t be part of the IndyCar Series in 2014. As a result, some have suggested he is being courted by Chip Ganassi Racing to drive one of the “B Team” cars behind Target “A Team” drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.
I suggest Hinchcliffe is a hot property and would be a welcome addition to any team in that series. He is a talented driver – three wins this season – and a remarkable public-relations personality. His appearances on the TV motorsport news program Speed Center make the other co-host, Sam Hornish, look nervous and unprepared in comparison.
He's a pro at anything he does. (Photo: He can drive and he can glad-hand: Hinchcliffe in action.)
Despite all that, I won’t be surprised if he’s back at Andretti in 2014 and beyond. And flying the colours of Go Daddy, too.
If not, though, here are some possible scenarios:
1. Between now and the end of the IndyCar season, he flies to Europe and does an F1 test for . . . Williams. If lesser-talents Katherine Legge and J.R. Hildebrand can test F1 cars, why not Hinchcliffe?
F1 needs a North American to get people in the U.S. excited about the sport. Forget an American. There ain’t any these days. Hinchcliffe would fit the bill – particularly if Go Daddy is planning a global push.
And why Williams? I would trust Sir Frank Williams with $50 million. I wouldn’t trust any of the other second-tier F1 teams with a cent. Would you?
2. Roger Penske dismisses Will Power and hires Hinch. Power has lost his touch on the track and his personality doesn't resonate when compared to Hinchcliffe's.
A.J. Allmendinger, who some think would be in the mix to replace Power, might have talent but he’s too much of a loose cannon for Roger. He has trouble controlling his emotions. Let him race in NASCAR where he's supposed to crash.
Roger likes Canadians. When he was young and racing himself, he was up here all the time racing sports cars at places like Harewood Acres and early Mosport. He has a soft spot for this place. He had great success with Paul Tracy (it cost him a few bucks, but what the hell) and had hired Greg Moore to drive for him before Moore died.
Penske Racing would be a great fit for Hinchcliffe, and vice-versa.
3. NASCAR. In that new Go Daddy commercial – Who’s James? – Danica Patrick looks spitting nails angry.
I suggest she’s hearing footsteps. Go Daddy might be happy with her now, but would be a whole lot happier if the car she drives with its name on it was closer to the front, which is where it would be if Hinchcliffe was driving it.
So there you go: F1, Penske or NASCAR.
Every which way, the future looks very bright for James Hinchcliffe.
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 was an interesting weekend of racing, to say the least. Here are the headlines:
1. Target Chip Ganassi sweeps IndyCar podium at Pocono
2. Sebastian Vettel finally wins an F1 race in Germany
3. Johnson sweeps Daytona but bonus Big One is big story
Plus results of other weekend races.
1. Hinchcliffe crash an omen of better things in Toronto?
Chip Ganassi Racing, which has done absolutely next to nothing so far in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season, made up for a lot of it Sunday when team cars finished one-two-three in the 400-mile race at Pocono International Raceway.
Scott Dixon finished first, Charlie Kimball second and Dario Franchitti third in the Indy cars' return to the Pennsylvania tri-oval that saw pole-sitter Marco Andretti fade to tenth because of poor fuel management, second-place starter Ryan Hunter-Reay assaulted in pit lane and third-place starter James Hinchcliffe crash out of the event at the first corner of the first lap (see below).
What started out as a great day for Andretti Autosport - three of their four cars were on the front row - turned out to be pretty much a stinker while Ganassi's gunners could do no wrong.
Dixon thus became the eighth winner in 11 races so far this season - Hinchcliffe remains the driver with the most victories: three. For Ganassi's sponsor, Target department stores, it was their 100th Indy car victory. For Honda, which powered the first three cars, it was their 200th victory in the series.
Tony Kanaan, who won the Indianapolis 500 and stood to win major moolah if he could win the three "triple crown" races at Pocono and California in addition to Indy, got a tad careless while passing Dixon mid-way through the race and clipped his back end, leaving the front wing on his own mount askew.
Kanaan's team noticed the irregularity before the driver did (or else he was pretending he didn't see it) and ordered him to pit for a new nose and wings before something negative happened and did serious harm to his person. That eliminated him from the victory chase.
Hunter-Reay was a victim of Sato's inability to slow his car down enough to enter the pits safely. Hunter-Reay was well into the pits and cruising along at the 60 mph speed limit when he was sideswiped by Sato who was travelling half again as fast.
The collision turned Hunter-Reay into the wall and although he returned to combat after repairs were made, his race was over. Sato, who took complete responsibility for misjudging his speed and apologized for the collision, was done for the day.
Hinchcliffe, who has a career-in-waiting in television and Internet journalism, spent time in the ABC booth starting at Lap 70 and offered some insights to compliment the work of play-by-play announcer Marty Reid and colour analysts Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever.
Line of the day, though, went to Cheever. During an early round of pit stops, part-time pay driver Pippa Mann found herself in the lead for a lap or two. Said Cheever, who's not a fan:
"That's a good place for her to be."
The rest of the top ten: Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Justin Wilson, Helio Castroneves, Ed Carpenter and Marco Andretti.
The second Canadian in the race, Montreal's Alex Tagliani, finished 17th.
James Hinchcliffe crashed on the first turn of the first lap of the first IZOD IndyCar Series race at Pocono International Raceway since 1989.
Hinchcliffe, of Oakville, who won the last oval race in the series at Iowa Speedway two weeks ago, said the car snapped on him midway through the turn and he was unable to control it, crashing hard into the outside wall after spinning.
Other than a banged-up knee, he was not injured.
Ironically, this could bode well for Hinchcliffe next weekend at the Honda Indy Toronto races. His pattern, at least through the early season races, was to win one week and then crash out the next. His joke going into Indianapolis was that he won every race he finished.
So by winning at Iowa and crashing at Pocono, it could be said that he's looking good heading into Toronto.
Infiniti Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel won the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring Sunday, the first time he's won his home race.
The rest of the top ten: Jenson Button (McLaren-Mercedes), Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault), Sergio Perez (McLaren), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) and Nico Hulkenburg (Sauber-Ferrari).
It was an exciting and interesting race with the top four finishing within seconds of each other. Raikkonen, in particular, closed on Vettel and was inside a second at the checkers. Alonso had pressured Grosjean in the closing laps and looked as if he would take a real run for the podium but fell back on the last lap.
Felipe Massa spun out early in the race and that might have sealed his fate with Ferrari going forward. And the race featured - for the second race in succession - something you rarely (if ever) see in racing.
You'll recall that a week ago, in the British Grand Prix, so many tires blew out that at one point they sent out a safety car and after the racing cars slowed down all the marshals and course workers were out on the track picking up bits of tires and other debris.
This week, Marussia driver Charles Pic pulled off when his engine blew up and after he got out of the car and walked away, it started to roll backwards and actually crossed the circuit before coming to a stop on the other side of the track.
Thankfully, few racing cars were in the vicinity and there were no problems caused by the driver-less runaway car.
"Congrations, Seb . . . you've won your home race. You've won the German Grand Prix. Well done!" said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner on the cooldown lap.
"Wow, that was a tough one,' Vettel replied. "Thank you, boys."
- Mark Webber had a banzai start (for a change) and followed his teammate, Vettel, as both got past Hamilton at the start, dropping the pole-sitter to third after the first corner. Webber lost a wheel during a pit stop (it hit a cameraman, who suffered a broken collar bone and cracked ribs) and was a lap down but recovered to finish well into the points.
- The craziness of "defensive driving" in F1 (we call it blocking over here) probably cost Hamilton a better position at the start. He was so intent on trying to cut Vettel off from passing him on the run down to the first corner that he was helpless when Webber went around him on the other side. If he'd just kept his head down and held his ground on his own line, he probably would have been second out of the first turn and not third.
- As suggested above, it's highly unlikely that Massa will be back at Ferrari in 2014. Could Kimi wind up his career there? Or will Ferrari maybe give Jules Bianchi a shot?
- There was a great dice between Hamilton and Alonso early in the race. It's racing like that which makes F1 so terribly exciting.
- Pontificating can be a tough job (trust me, I know . . .). All the announcers were speculating that Raikkonen would try to make it to the end of the race rather than stopping for fresh rubber like his teammate Grosjean had done. They went on and on. So then Raikkonen pits for tires. Oops!
- What happened to Mercedes this home race weekend? Hamilton wins the pole but they completely botched Rosberg's qualifying. And neither car made it onto the podium. Somebody's going to have to take the fall there and I suggest Ross Braun's days are numbered.
Other racing Sunday:
- Quebec drivers Mathieu and Rémy Audette won the weekend’s two Canadian Touring Car Championship (CTCC) races at Circuit ICAR at Mirabel Airport. Mathieu Audette won Saturday’s race while brother Rémy won on Sunday with Mathieu second for the Audette team's first-ever one-two finish.
- Here is a motorsport result story that's as big a surprise as reporting that Antoine L'Estage and Nathalie Richard had won another rally (which they did last weekend, come to think of it). Jordan Szoke of Brantford won the second round of the Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship at Autodrome St-Eustache Sunday aboard a BMW S1000RR. Jodi Christie of Keene, Ont., was second on a Honda CBR1000RR and Alex Welsh of Uxbridge rode a Suzuki GSX-R1000 to third place.
- Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., won the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series' Jiffy Lube 100 presented by Snap-On race Sunday at Circuit ICAR. It was his second win in as many years. Scott Steckly of Milverton, Ont., was second and L.P. Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres, Que., was third.
J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge arrived home fourth and Jeff Lapcevich of Grimsby was fifth. Rounding out the top ten: D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas, Kerry Micks of Mt. Albert, J.F. Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres, Martin Roy of Napierville, Que., and Alex Guenette of Terrebonne, Que.
After four of 12 races, Kennington has a two-point lead on L.P. Dumoulin and three over Lapcevich. Fitzpatrick moved up to fourth, and Jason Hathaway of Dutton, Ont., dropped to fifth after late-race mechanical problems Sunday dropped him well down the finish order.
NASCAR outdid itself Saturday night. For the first time in living memory (at least in my memory, which is lengthy), it featured not just one Big One on the last lap of a race but two Big Ones.
Now, Jimmie Johnson won the Coke Zero 400 - which started life as the Firecracker 400, seeing as it's always run around the July 4 weekend - and that was memorable in that not since 1982 has one driver won both races at Daytona, the February 500 and the July 400, and it was Bobby Allison who did it then.
So that made the race memorable. But statistically, this particular Coke Zero 400 must make it into the record books because, as I said, how many other times does NASCAR have two big crashes on the same lap?
The race came down to a green-white-checkers following a crash in which Marcos Ambrose turned into Kasey Kahne and sent him flying into the infield wall.
After the white flag was thrown, with Johnson in the lead, the next flag shown - yellow, red or checkers - would mean the end of the race, as the announcers are always want to say. And as the field flew into Turn 2, a bunch of cars from about twelfth place on back started to pile up.
Surprise! NASCAR opted not to bring out the yellow and to let the leaders race to the finish line.
So as Johnson, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, et al, raced toward the start/finish line in the tri-oval portion of the speedway, lo and behold another bunch of cars got out of shape and we had Big One No. 2.
So Johnson won, Stewart was second, Harvick finished third, Clint Bowyer was fourth and Michael Waltrip (Michael Waltrip!) arrived home fifth.
1. NASCAR has now set a precedent in that on a green-white-checkers, you do not have to throw the yellow in the event of a crash on the last lap. You can let the field race to the finish.
Whether this is a good idea remains to be seen. Yes, it's more exciting to have cars race to the end. On the other hand, if somebody's seriously injured in the last-lap wreck, the sooner things get settled down and help arrives to tend to the hurt driver, the better.
Sometimes, seconds count.
2. Carl Edwards seems to fly into a blind rage when he's wrecked. Unlike Kyle Busch, who has a habit of saying threatening things, Edwards does things that could get people hurt.
One time at Atlanta, he drove the wrong way along pit road on his way back to the pits, which is a huge no-no and to this day I can't understand why NASCAR didn't discipline him for it big time.
Saturday night, he got his car going after the first accident on the last lap and drove around to officially cross the finish line but he drove through the grass to do it and people were out of vehicles and walking around as the result of the second accident (including Kyle Busch) and whether Edwards knows it or not, he could have hit somebody.
Elsewhere, Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf won their third straight American Le Mans Series sports car race at Lime Rock, helped in no small way by Guy Smith's inability to get his safety harness tightened during a Dyson Racing pit stop.
Luhr and Graf, who will lead the ALMS contingent into Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in two weeks for their annual stop at Old Mosport, had no trouble winning in their Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Honda Performance Development ARX-03.
Luhr and Chris Dyson traded the lead several times in the first hour and then both cars pitted. Luhr handed off to Graf without trouble. Dyson got out and Smith got in but then couldn't tighten his belts and when he finally took up the chase he was more than a lap behind.
John Edwards and Dirk Muller drove their BMW Z4 GTE to victory in the GT class.
Canadian Kyle Marcelli of Barrie, with teammate Chris Cumming, finished fourth in the Prototype Challenge class. And IndyCar Series driver Ryan Briscoe was first in LMP2, co-driving with Scott Tucker.
Marco Andretti won the pole this afternoon for Sunday's Pocono IndyCar 400 (fueled by Sunoco . . .) and James Hinchcliffe of Oakville will start third and on the outside of the front row for the three-wide start.
Andretti's run that averaged out to 221.273 miles an hour was a tick faster than second-place qualifyer Ryan Hunter-Reay's 220.892 mph.
Hinchcliffe's 220.431 run represented a near-sweep for Andretti Autosport drivers. E.J. Viso, the fourth Andretti driver, crashed, so didn't register a speed and will start 22nd. The final two cars in the 24-car field driven by Ryan Briscoe and Montreal's Alex Tagliani also didn't put in a qualifying run (Briscoe being at Lime Rock for the American Le Mans Series race there this afternoon and Tag crashing).
Willl Power and Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan will start fourth and fifth.
Other notables: Points leader Helio Castroneves will start sixth, top woman is Simona De Silvestro who will start tenth, Dario Franchitti qualified 18th and Justin Wilson, who is featured in this weekend's Toronto Star Wheels, will start 20th.
Said Hinchcliffe, after qualifying was over:
"The Go Daddy car ran pretty well. We haven't been this strong in practice and Marco has been the class of the field. We got some useful trips from him after his run, just teammates working together. I had a little bit of a moment in Turn One - it got a little loose on me battling at either end of the race track; the wind conditions running this light on downforce doesn't help. But it was a solid performance."
The question that has to be asked following this morning’s run for the pole at the German Grand Prix is what must Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg be thinking after he didn’t make it past Q2 and his British teammate, Lewis Hamilton, went on to top the times?
At the very last second in final qualifying, Hamilton knocked German rival Sebastian Vettel off pole with a time of one minute, 29.398 seconds, 0.103 seconds faster than the three-times world champion.
Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso-Ferrari), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), Jenson Button (McLaren-Mercedes) and Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber-Ferrari). The last two drivers went out to scrub in tires for the race but didn’t go for a time.
The excuse Mercedes came up with for its failure to have a German driver in a German car on course for final German Grand Prix qualifying when the pole was at stake was that they felt the time he set early in Q2 would stand up.
So he was sitting in the garage, helpless to defend, when the usual and predictable last-minute banzai runs by everybody else were taking place. That his teammate was out there in the dying minutes and he wasn’t seems very strange to me indeed. He wound up 11th.
There were no tire issues during practice and qualifying, so Pirelli seems to have dodged a bullet.
An interesting note: several times during the qualifying broadcast, the announcers said Ricciardo was putting it to Toro Rosso teammate Jean-Eric Vergne in the fight for the open seat at Red Bull next year, now that Webber has officially announced his retirement from F1 to go sports car racing.
There seems to be an assumption that one of the two from the Red Bull "junior team" will move up. But what about Kimi Raikkonen’s alleged move to Red Bull?
I suspect the "silly season" will start soon, with all sorts of predictions about who will go where in 2014. If Kimi goes to Red Bull to partner Vettel, will the two Toro Rosso drivers get to race a third season or will they both be whacked like the last two? Is Felipe Massa safe at Ferrari? If not, who gets that seat? And will Jenson Button be around after this season at McLaren?
So many questions . . .
Meantime, Kyle Busch will start from pole for tonight’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, with Matt Kenseth second, Clint Bowyer third, Kasey Kahne fourth and Martin Truex Jr. fifth.
Danica Patrick dropped exactly 10 spots from her pole position for the Daytona 500 and starts 11th tonight ahead of her boss, Tony Stewart, who qualified 13th and Ryan Newman, who will start 21st.
(NASCAR silly season: where will Newman go in 2014? He's out at Stewart-Haas and hasn't really done much in recent years to deserve a top drive. Of course, neither has Jamie McMurray and a buch of others but that doesn't seem to mean much in NASCAR. . .)
A.J. Allmendinger, who just keeps popping up like a whack-a-mole (Indy cars one week, NASCAR one-offs the next), qualified 33rd.
The Indy cars are at Pocono for a Sunday race and will qualify this afternoon. And Lucas Luhr, driving for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, won the pole position for Saturday's American Le Mans Series Northeast Grand Prix. Luhr and Klaus Graf will lead the ALMS field - which will be racing at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in two weeks - when the green flag flies a little after 3 p.m. this afternoon.
For starting times of these and other races all weekend, be sure to check George’s TV Listings for Race Fans at wheels.ca (click here for link).
- NORRIS McDONALD
Everything you would want to know about the weekend's racing - results, details, comments, etc. - can be found by scrolling down to the post below this one. I usually start the weekend roundups Friday evening and then update them over Saturday and Sunday as races end or results become available.
Which leaves the Monday Morning Roundup, which you are reading now, for discussion, or debate. There are three topics on tap today:
1. If a driver is killed, should a race be stopped?
2. How does a driver who hasn't won a race in 218 starts still have a job?
3. Did Iowa trigger the trend toward fewer seats at speedways?
Before we start, of course, congratulations must be extended to Oakville IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe for winning the Indy car race at Iowa on Sunday, his third victory of the season.
"Hinch" didn't just win the race, he crushed his competition. He led 226 of the 250 laps, taking the lead on the opening lap and holding it except when he made his pit stops.
“I’ve watched guys win races like this on TV, and my whole career I thought, ‘I just don’t get it. How do they do that?’ he told reporters later.
"I’ve never been in that position. And now I know. You have to have a hell of a good car. You have to have a hell of a good crew and just hit your marks all afternoon long. Man, it feels good to do it like that.”
"What a great day for Hinch and the entire GoDaddy team," Irving said.
"To see him win in Iowa after visiting with our GoDaddy employees there last week makes this one extra special. We love seeing Hinch's passion and 'get-it-done' attitude. It reminds us of our philosophy when it comes to helping customers and it's just plain fun to watch!"
And to that I would add: Danica Who?
So, to begin.
1. If a driver is killed, should a race be stopped?
In October 2011, IndyCar star Dan Wheldon was killed in a race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race was cancelled and the fans sent home.
Nearly two weeks ago at a small dirt-track speedway in New Jersey, NASCAR driver Jason Leffler died in a crash. The races were cancelled and everybody went home.
There have been other race track deaths in that time period but they didn't make the headlines because the people who passed away either weren't as well known or the media didn't find out till the next day or later and they didn't become a big deal.
But in those instances, as was the case with Leffler and Wheldon, everything stopped and everybody went away to race again another day.
On Saturday, 10 minutes into the first hour of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Danish driver Allan Simonsen crashed and subsequently died of injuries suffered when he lost control of his Aston Martin and the car left the circuit.
Everybody knew it was a big hit. Before long, everybody in competition knew that Simonsen had been pronounced dead after being taken to the on-site medical centre.
But - apparently - there was never a thought given to stopping that race. In fact, the competition continued for more than an hour behind a safety car while the barriers where Simonsen had been mortally injured were repaired.
Organizers were quick to release information that Simonsen's family, who were at Le Mans, had urged that the race be continued and that Aston Martin not withdraw its remaining cars.
Shortly after his death was confirmed, the Danish flag was raised on the flagpole at the podium in salute.
I found this to be troubling.
Why did the 24 Hours of Le Mans continue while all the other races cited above were stopped? Was it:
- Because the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a more famous race than the others?
- Because there were more people there?
- Because Europeans are more callous than North Americans?
- Because the race was being sent around the world via live telecast and video streaming?
- Because - well, because?
I don't have an answer.
When the IndyCar race was stopped after Wheldon died, I wrote that they should have lined up the cars and restarted the race. They had always done that previously and I saw no reason why that practice shouldn't have been continued.
Personally, I have always considered racing to be an analogy of life, with a beginning (green) and an end (checkers) with some bumps along the way (yellows). Serious bumps bring reds and the race/life stops. But then it eventually continues to its conclusion. Life does not stop because of tragedy and neither should racing.
But when I wrote that about Wheldon, I heard from many people. And I changed my mind.
Nothing is more precious than life itself and a life had been lost. We should show some respect. Our games are not so important that they can't be put aside for awhile in order to mourn and reflect on the tragedy that's just unfolded.
I think the organizers of the IndyCar race at Las Vegas, and that sprint car race in New Jersey, were right and the organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans were wrong.
If nothing else, the Le Mans race should have been stopped and then, perhaps, restarted. As it was, they didn't even so much as pause and that was just not right.
2. How does a driver who hasn't won a race in 218 starts still have a job?
What? Two hundred and eighteen starts and he didn't win once? How in the world did he still have a job? (And people have the nerve to bitch about Danica Patrick, who has made a grand total of 25 Sprint Cup starts.)
Okay, I will be the smart guy here. Truex drives for Michael Waltrip Racing. Michael Waltrip drove in 772 Cup races and won exactly four. One was a Daytona 500 in which he was leading when it was rained out. So winning is obviously not a prerequisite for driving in that team.
Anyway, Truex won and good for him but I don't consider driving on a road course in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race to be any great achievement.
I'll tell you how bad that race was on Sunday.
Jeff Gordon was sent to the back of the pack for going into the pits when they were closed. He didn't mean to; he got caught out. But he had to go to the back of the pack. I believe there were 39 cars on the track when he got his penalty.
Jeff Gordon finished second in that race. He managed to pass all those other cars and make it up to second by the end of the race. Gordon is a good road racer but he ain't that good, which means the competition was crap (for the most part).
How about Kurt Busch? He got penalized not once but twice for speeding on pit lane. He still managed to finish fourth. Huh?
In any self-respecting professional racing series, if you get sent to the back of the pack after the race starts, or you get penalized not once but twice during the race, you are a guaranteed big loser.
But not in NASCAR, which it says here is not the great and wonderful series full of of talent that it's cracked up to be. Those guys might be terrific on ovals but when it comes to actually driving racing cars, there is lots of room to improve.
3. Did Iowa trigger the trend toward fewer seats at speedways?
Seven years ago, they opened the Iowa Speedway outside Des Moines and they did something there that Toronto FC did in Toronto: they built a sports arena with a small capacity so that not many people could be made to look like a big crowd.
Toronto FC plays in front of 20,000 people at what's called BMO Stadium and the place is packed. There isn't an empty seat in the place. The Argos play in front of 25,000 at the Rogers Centre and the place looks half empty, because it is.
The IZOD IndyCar Series race at Iowa on Sunday was a sellout. It looked terrific on television, particularly when compared to the Milwaukee race last weekend which featured large swaths of empty seats.
Iowa has room for 30,000 people and that's how many were in attendance Sunday. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma featured empty seats - lots of them - and any time NASCAR races at an oval these days there are many chairs that are empty.
Is the bloom really off the rose, so far as auto racing is concerned? No, as the sellout every year at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal for the F1 Grand Prix of Canada shows.
But there's no doubt that at huge facilities - the Daytona and Indianapolis Motor Speedways, for instance - the number of seats available is way more than there is demand for them.
Which is why, at Indy this year, they took down thousands of seats in the third turn area because they'd rather not have them there than have them empty on international television.
And Daytona has embarked on a huge renovation of that iconic speedway, first opened in 1959, that will see 40,000 seats removed from the main grandstands and all of the backstretch seating taken down.
The days of humongous stadiums for professional football, soccer, baseball and auto racing are coming to an end. The tickets are too expensive and the cost of attending a race or an NFL game from out-of-town is getting beyond the reach of the average fan once you factor in hotel accommodation, meals and the cost of getting to and fro.
So the smart promoter going forward is going to take that into consideration. Why build a 70,000-seat stadium when you're only going to fill it one or two times a year? Isn't it better to have half that number of seats and have them all full - and probably at a higher price, too.
Iowa Speedway got it right. Maybe some of those other speed plants took notice.
- NORRIS McDONALD
James Hinchcliffe of Oakville won the IZOD IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway this afternoon over his Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay and third-place finisher Tony Kanaan.
It was almost no contest, with the third-year Indy car star dominating from start to finish. He took the lead at the start and, except for pit stops, was never out of first place.
As is his custom, he pulled a Canadian flag out of the cockpit when he climbed out of the car in Victory Lane.
This was Hinchcliffe's third victory of the 2013 season and moved him up in the points standings. After a great start, in which he won two of the first four races, his season had tailed off slightly.
Marcos Ambrose was the top "road racer," finishing seventh - although the Australian drives full time in the Cup series. Top "ringer" was Boris Said, who finished 18th. Ron Fellows of Mississauga, returning to the Sprint Cup circuit for the first time in several years, was 22nd in a Canadian Tire-supported effort.
Juan Pablo Montoya, very keen to win one of the two NASCAR road races, was second in the final laps but ran out out of fuel before the finish line and was officially classified in 34th.
Jacques Villeneuve of Montreal didn't really get to race. His Phoenix Racing Chevrolet suffered from gearbox problems and he retired 19 laps into the 110-lap race.
The Victory Podium presentation was subdued at Le Mans today at the conclusion of the 24-hour race.
Audi finished first and third for its 12th overall victory and Tom Kristensen won his ninth classic but the death of Allan Simonsen early Saturday and several near-tragedies, one involving Toronto driver Tony Burgess, negated any wild celebrating.
Kristensen took his No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro diesel-powered hybrid across the line, a lap up on the second-place Toyota. Kristensen co-drove to victory with Allan McNish and Loic Duval.
The No. 8 Toyota TS030 Hybrid of Sebastien Buemi, Stephane Sarrazin and Anthony Davidson was second. It was Toyota's first 24-hour podium with its gasoline-powered hybrid prototype.
The No. 3 Audi of Oliver Jarvis, Marc Gene and Lucas Di Grassi was third.
In GTE-Pro, Porsche scored a triumphant 1-2 finish with its new 911-based RSR. The German marque returned to factory sports car competition after an absence and the winning car was driven by Richard Lietz, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas.
A crash at the 24 Hours of Le Mans early in the day Saturday cost Danish driver Allan Simonsen his life (details below). A crash during the nighttime caused a fright for Canadian driver Tony Burgess.
Burgess, of Toronto, who was competing in the LMP2 class while driving a Lola-Judd B12/80 Coupe for HVM Status GP, left the pits and was on the first lap of his night-time stint (he'd driven several stints earlier) when the car left the road.
According to a team release, the impact was heavy - in fact, the car caught fire - but Burgess was able to get out on his own and walk to an ambulance. He was taken to the track medical centre but then transferred to hospital as a precaution.
In the race, Audi with Allan McNish driving was leading by more than a lap over two Toyotas just past the halfway mark.
Elsewhere, here is some qualifying news from Saturday before we get to two race results.
At Sonoma Raceway in California, Jamie McMurray won the pole for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race there. Marcos Ambrose will go off second, with Carl Edwards third, Greg Biffle fourth and Clint Bowyer fifth.
Canadians: Jacques Villeneuve will start 22nd and Ron Fellows will go off 25th. Villeneuve has been under fire since he walked into the place, with more than one driver - Clint Bowyer was the first to sound off - suggesting that if JV gets in anybody's way he's going to find himself wrecked.
It's interesting that the "boys" of NASCAR, while loving nothing more than putting it to Danica Patrick week in and week out, are suddenly extremely protective of her. More than one mentioned Villeneuve's punting her off the track at Road America in a Nationwide Series race last year as the reason for their apparent anger.
For his part, Villeneuve claimed he'd made some mistakes for which he was sorry (although, in the case of Patrick, he didn't sound like it at the time) and pointed out that he'd been punted off more than a few times himself.
So if you like tradin' paint with your racing, that NASCAR race should be must viewing come Sunday afternoon.
Meantime, in Iowa, Helio Castroneves and Will Power will share the front row for Sunday's afternoon's IZOD IndyCar Series race. James Hinchcliffe of Oakville will start third and Marco Andretti fourth. The other Canadian in the field, Alex Tagliani of Montreal, will start 12th in the 24-car field.
Saturday night at the oval speedway at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Pete Shepherd III of Brampton won his second series race in as many weeks. One of the best young drivers in the country, Shepherd - who struggles to find sponsorship money - has won five races in the 18 starts he's made in the last four years.
There are many observers who say that if he could run full-time, he would either win championships or be a contender.
Two-time series champion Scott Steckly of Milverton finished second, while J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge was third, Jason Hathaway of Dutton was fourth (he was the subject of a feature article in this weekend's Toronto Star Wheels, by the way) and Steve Matthews of New Liskeard finished fifth.
The rest of the top ten: Martin Roy, Napierville, Que.; L.P. Dumoulin, Trois-Rivieres; Jeff Lapcevich, Grimsby; Hugo Vannini, Repentigny, Que.; D.J. Kennington, St. Thomas.
Four points separate the first three in the standings, with Kennington leading at 115, Hathaway second with 114 and Lapcevich third with 111.
And at Road America in Wisconsin, A.J. Allmendinger won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race. It was Dinger's first NASCAR victory and, it would seem, solidifies his position at Penske Racing.
For the second and third times in recent days, there have been deaths in auto racing.
Shortly after this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans started today, Aston Martin Racing driver Allan Simonsen, 34, of Denmark, was killed when he lost control of his car and crashed (photo courtesy of 9thcivic.com). It had started to rain and several other cars went spinning off the circuit in the vicinity of Simonsen's crash.
Doctors treated him at the scene but he was declared dead at the medical centre. Simonsen was the first driver to die in the race since Jo Gartner in 1986.
The remaining cars followed a safety vehicle around for an hour while repairs were made to guardrails. The other Aston Martin cars - all Vantage V8s entered in the GTR-Pro and GTE-Am classes - continued in the race at the request of Simonsen's family.
Simonsen was a highly versatile driver. A Formula Ford champion, he drove GT-class sports cars and won races and championships in them. He was driving in this Le Mans with countrymen Christoffer Nygaard and Kristian Poulsen, who are leading the GTE-Am championship in the FIA World Endurance Championship series.
Meanwhile, at the Nurburgring in Germany today, racing driver Wolf Silvester died from an apparent heart attack during a club race. He was 55.
Simonsen's and Silvester's deaths follow that of Jason Leffler, the NASCAR star who died in a sprint car race in New Jersey more than a week ago.
There’s a lot to set up for this weekend, so far as racing and racing news is concerned, so let’s get going.
- The FIA told Mercedes on Friday morning that it was a naughty, naughty F1 team for participating in that secret/private tire test conducted by Pirelli.
And for that, it’s been banned — banned, I say — from participating in this year’s Young Driver Test in which teams learn absolutely nothing because the drivers being tested have to pay for the privilege.
Sorry — just figured it out.
As the teams charge these young drivers several millions of dollars each to drive 10 or 15 laps in an F1 car, the ban means Mercedes has actually been assessed a monetary penalty.
Whew! I’m glad the penny dropped on that one.
For a moment there, I thought this had all been much ado about nothing . . .
- The definitive sign that the apocalypse is upon us: Nissan has unveiled an electric car it will enter in the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans.
- Speaking of Le Mans, Audi has the pole for this weekend’s Classic. Gee, what a surprise. In fact, the team swept the top three positions. And Aston Martin is on pole in both GT categories.
Speed Channel will have full coverage — well, almost full — starting Saturday morning and you’d better enjoy it because when Fox Sports takes over Speed in August, the amount of motorsport coverage online and on TV will likely plummet.
Bentley Motors, which has had success at Le Mans over the years, sent out a link earlier this week to a terrific video called Les Bentley Boys and it features the drivers who dominated the marathon over the years.
A little known fact is that, in 1924, the race was co-won by a Canadian, John Duff of Hamilton, who also finished ninth in the 1926 Indy 500 and at one time held many speed records. Duff remains the only Canadian to ever score an overall race win at Le Mans and he’s in this video.
To enjoy Les Bentley Boys, click here
- Canadian drivers Ron Fellows and Jacques Villeneuve will both race in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway in California. JV will saddle up for Phoenix Racing (Hendrick motors) and Fellows’s Canadian Tire-sponsored car is being prepared by Richard Childress Motorsports. Both have a good chance to shine.
Hey, I just thought of something. Want to see Ron in action at Sonoma? Click here.
Now, think back to Road America a year ago. You will recall that Villeneuve punted Danica Patrick out of what could have been a top five finish in a Nationwide Series race. The assault was one of those things but it was Jacques’ attitude later — essentially he said he couldn’t care less what he’d done — that got people angry.
Danica is now a Sprint Cup driver and this will be the first time that they've raced together in the Sprint Cup series. People who follow the sport know that sooner or later there will be payback. I suggest Jacques Villeneuve might find himself knocked out of the race in California on Sunday, courtesy of you-know-who.
(Photo courtesy of www.zimbio.com)
- In Iowa, meantime, the IZOD IndyCar Series will run another short-oval race Sunday and both James Hinchcliffe and Alex Tagliani will be out to turn their seasons around. Tag has had the most atrocious luck this season and Hinch wants to rediscover the magic that took him to Victory Lane twice during the first four races.
For channels and times, please see George’s TV Listings for Race Fans at wheels.ca
- At Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series (have we said the words Canadian Tire enough yet?) will run the Clarington 200, the last major race on the half-mile oval there before it’s demolished late in July to make way for another road course.
And along with defending national champion and defending race winner D.J. Kennington, two-time champion Scott Steckly, defending pole winner Pete Shepherd III of Brampton (who won the series race at Delaware Speedway near London, Ont., last weekend) and a contingent of racers from western Canada and Quebec will come Steve Mathews from New Liskeard, Ont.
Mathews arrived on the national scene in 2009 and set fast time during practice for his first race, eventually finishing sixth. Last weekend at Delaware, after 22 starts primarily on ovals, he scored his first podium by finishing third. In all, he has three top-five finishes and has won two poles.
Talking about the oval at Old Mosport, Mathews said in a series release that he likes the track. “It can be a little tricky, but everyone knows it well and will be ready for the race. I don’t expect anyone to be surprised.”
The Clarington 200 will go to the post Saturday at 7 p.m. Practice and qualifying will be held during the afternoon. If you miss being there in person, it will be on television —TSN, Sun., June 30, 1 p.m. ET; RDS2, Fri., July 9, 11 p.m. ET
- Also at CTMP this weekend, the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship Series is back for the BARC Grand Prix of Ontario, rounds 5 and 6 of the championship. Points leader Zach Robichon of Ottawa will be in action, as will former champion Shane Jantzi of Ayr and two-time Shannonville winner Craig Willis.
- First out of the gate to promote races next weekend — Canada Day, by the way — is Thorold’s Merrittville Speedway. The Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints Series will be the headliner. Just as good: Piller’s Hot Dogs will be $1 all night in the grandstands. Rounding out the on-track action will be the Bobcat of Hamilton 358 Modifieds, another Hoosier Stock Duel on the Dirt Home Track Event and the 2nd Enduro Qualifier accelerated by Niagara College.
The Canada Day Weekend Celebration will also include a Firemaster Productions fireworks display.
- Before I shoo you out the door to go play before settling in to watch all of this weekend’s racing, either live-in-person or on television, let me leave you with a local angle at Le Mans. Did you know, for instance, that 20 of the 56 entries in this weekend’s race are using Multimatic Motorsports of Markham’s Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSV) damping technology?
Of the 20 users, eight are Ferrari GTE entries, two are Porsche GTs, three are Zytek LMP2s, two are HPD LMP2s and five are Lolas. This proven damping technology from Multimatic has revolutionised the damper market over the last decade and has become the technology of choice for professional race teams the world over, according to a release.
- Finally, a corporate announcement from Multimatic. Overseeing the Multimatic motorsport business from Le Mans onwards will be George Howard-Chappell. A well-known engineer throughout the paddocks of the world, Howard-Chappell joins Multimatic as Motorsports Business Director after more than a decade masterminding Aston Martin Racing’s motorsport programs.
Prior to that, Howard-Chappell worked at Lotus in both Formula One and GT racing, where he specialized in chassis development.
Posted at 10:36 AM in Auto racing, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, Danica Patrick, IZOD IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe, NASCAR, NASCAR Canadian Tire, Ontario Formula Ford Challenge, Racing, Sports | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)