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)
Takuma Sato won the first IndyCar race of his career Sunday in Long Beach as James Hinchcliffe's early season struggles continued. For the second race in a row, the Oakville native didn't finish - this time as the result of a crash.
Meanwhile, Matt Kenseth won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway. He held off a fast-charging Kasey Kahne to win by 0.151 seconds. Jimmie Johnson was third, Martin Truex Jr. finished fourth and Clint Bowyer was fifth.
It was a typical NASCAR race, with spins and crashes and all sorts of high-speed excitement. One interesting note: the pole winner won the race for the third straight time. The last time this happened was in 1985. For full story and results, click here.
Sebastien Vettel easily won the Grand Prix of Bahrain over Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. It was an all-Renault powered podium. Lots of good racing back in the pack. For my take, please click here.
AT LONG BEACH
Sato's victory (see picture) was the first for the Japanese racer, who had a crack at Formula One, since the Macau Grand Prix in 2001. For his team, A.J. Foyt Racing, it was the first win since 2002 (Airton Dare at Kansas Speedway) and the first road course triumph since Silverstone in 1978 when God's own A.J. himself was driving.
(An aside: There are those who believe that if Eddie Cheever, who was driving for Foyt in 1995, had won that year's CART race at Nazareth, there never would have been an Indy Racing League. The reason? Foyt was a serious influence on the thinking of Tony George. Foyt had raced in CART going back to 1979 and couldn't win, so pushed George to form the breakway series. But, the thinking goes, if his team actually won a CART race, he'd have been more inclined to hang in. As luck would have it, Cheever ran out of fuel a lap short at Nazareth and the IRL started racing the next January.)
Sato had no trouble holding off second-place Graham Rahal, with Justin Wilson third and pole-sitter Dario Franchitti fourth. JR Hildebrand was promoted to fifth after Oriol Servia, who finished there, was assessed a penalty that moved him back a spot. For full story and results, click here.
Sato was delighted to win, and as Canada's Hinchcliffe had done at St. Pete with the Maple Leaf flag, the Japanese driver unfolded a Japanese flag and waved it in celebration. By winning, he became the first Japanese driver to record a victory in Indy cars.
Like Toronto, Long Beach is really too tight for the high speed Indy cars and many of the drivers were forced into the pits to have nose cones replaced on their cars after they broke them running into other cars.
And Servia wasn't the only driver penalized. Rookie Tristan Vautier was penalized twice, once for running into the back of Scott Dixon and again after he hit Will Power's car.
- You could look at the accident that eliminated Hinchcliffe three ways.
1. It was his fault for not slowing down and letting everybody else go through Turn One before him on a restart on Lap 36.
2. It was Tony Kanaan's fault for cutting down to the corner from the outside lane and chopping across the front of Hinchcliffe's car, making a collision unavoidable for the Oakville driver.
3. It was IndyCar's fault for giving the restart a green flag. Kanaan clearly was passing cars before the green was waved and the yellow should have been shown. As it was, Kanaan had a full head of steam that took him up into the lead pack and to make the corner he had to turn in sharply and that resulted in E.J. Viso and Hinchcliffe crashing, with Hinch getting the worst of it.
You know, everybody talks about how wonderful the officiating has been in that series ever since Brian Barnhart was relieved of his duties.
You want me to start?
How about the penalty on Scott Dixon last year after which it was discovered the officials were watching the wrong video replay?
I could go on, starting with the green-that-should-have-been-a-yellow yesterday and one other glaring example of incompetence in the same race.
The Indy cars - never mind the sanctioning body. be it CART, IRL or Champ Car - haven't had a decent starter/flagger since Nick Fornoro retired. Nick was a midget racer who could feel the rhythm of a race and flag it accordingly. With an ace flagger like Roger Slack available (okay, his day job is running Eldora Speedway but somebody should ask if he's interested), I can't understand why the top open-wheel racing series on the continent continues to employ officials whose qualifications are questionable.
And then there was, as I called it two paragraphs back, that other glaring example of incompetence Sunday. With two laps remaining, Tony Kanaan misses his braking point and crashes into the tires at Turn One (the end of Shoreline Dr.). The decision is made that the race will continue and there will only be a local yellow waved.
So the leader of the race, Sato, who's starting the last lap, has to pick his way through there, as does the second place car, Rahal, and Wilson, and the rest. The race continues at speed and then, when Sato has two corners to go before the checkers - two corners - they decide to make it a full-course caution.
Huh? They decide on a full-course caution after the entire field drives through the crash scene and the race is two corners from beiing over? Is that a joke, or what?
Bring back Brian Barhart.
- Okay, how come the Grand Prix of Long Beach, which started in 1975 as a Formula 5000 race, became a Formula One race seven or eight years and has featured Indy cars ever since, continues to draw an enormous crowd (there wasn't a seat empty in any of the many grandstands) and yet the Indy car race in Toronto, which started in 1986, officially draws flies now in comparison.
Does it have something to do with the title sponsor? The Toyota dealers of southern Californa have been behind this event forever and continue to promote the living daylights out of it.
- The TV coverage of the race was abysmal.
First, I do not need some person getting a ride in the two seater and screaming over the air that the experience is just like getting a rocket ride to the moon. I could care less.
Next, like a great flagger (see above), a TV director has to feel the rhythm of a race and to be aware of what's happening. Sato peels out of the formation of front-runners, which starts a charge of cars toward the pits, and TV doesn't realize it's happening till he's stopped. Then they show Ryan Hunter-Reay's car being serviced, clearly unaware that Hinchcliffe, who pitted moments later than RHR, has beaten him out.
The kicker is when the camera is on Alex Tagliani and Charlie Kimball, side-by-side and rubbing tires and clearly heading for trouble, and suddenly the camera is switched to a stationary Franchitti getting fuel. Whoopie! Then we are returned to Alex and Charlie, who by this time have crashed, which we missed seeing because the guy/girl making decisions on what we see doesn't know what he/she is doing.
I hate yelling at my television.
- Remeber Kimi Raikkonen crashing at Monaco a few years back and being so angry that he refused to take his helmet off as he walked all the way back to his yacht in the harbour?
That was Hinchcliffe yesterday. The Oakville driver was so pissed off that he walked back to the pits and got on his motor scooter and blasted off toward his motorhome and his helmet remained on his head and he even, like Kimi, kept the visor closed.
Usually a happy guy and ready to be everybody's friend, Hinch was obviously in no mood for company.
The next race is in Brazil in two weeks. Let's hope he has better luck there.
Other weekend races of note:
- The new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Tex., played host Sunday to an early season Moto GP motorcycle race and a 20-year-old Spaniard, Marc Marquez, became the youngest winner in Moto GP history. Dani Pedrosa finished second with Jorge Lorenzo third. The motorycle circus will be back in North America in August for races at Laguna Seca in California and at Indianapolis. Next year, I suggest Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will also be on the Moto GP schedule, either following Indianapolis or replacing it on the calendar.
- Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr won the American Le Mans Series race at Long Beach. Jonathan Bennett and Colin Braun won in Prototype Challenge, Scott Sharp and Guy Cosmos were first in the P2 class, Bill Auberlen and Maxime Martin won the GT class and Henrique Cisneros and Sean Edwards were tops in GT Challenge.
Canadians: Kuno Wittmer of Hudson, Que., was 15th overall and eighth in GT and Kyle Marcelli of Barrie was 25th and sixth in Prototype Challenge.
Speaking of P2, and Canadians, Wheels special correspondent Sylvia Proudfoot reports that Leigh Pettipas of Halifax was the engineer for the winning car of Sharp and Cosmo. Pettipas also engineered the Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari F458 Italia that won the GT class at the 2012 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta..
For race details and complete results, click here.
- At Road Atlanta, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won their one-millionth (I'm kidding!) Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race, driving a BMW-Riley Daytona Prototype. John Edwards and Robin Lidell won the GT class in a Chevrolet Camaro. Joe Miller and Andrew Carbonell were first in the new GX class, driving a Mazda 6 Skyactiv Diesel. For details, click here.
Canadians in the Rolex race: Michael Valiante of Vancouver was seventh overall and seventh in a Ford-Riley DP; AIM Autosport of Woodbridge with assistance from Remo Ferri and Brian Wingett finished 17th overall and sixth in class with Max Papis and Jeff Segal aboard; the AIM Autosport Team FXDD with Ferrari car was 19th and eighth, Emil Assentato and Anthony Lazzaro driving.
Canadians in the Supporting Continental Tire race: Scott Maxwell of Toronto, driving and Aston Martin Vantage for Markham's Multimatic Motorsports, finished fourth overall and fourth in class in Grand Sport; Multimatic's sister Aston Martin racers were fifth (and fifth) with Tonis Kasemets and Michael Marsal driving and 11th and 11th with David Empringham and JohnFarano, both of Toronto, behind the wheel; Kenny Wilden of Oakville was ninth overall and ninth in the GS class; Ashley McCalmont of Ancaster finished 14th and 14th in GS; Taylor Hacquard of Vancouver was 30th overall and 14th in the Street Tuner class; Paul Dalla Lana of Toronto was 52nd overall and 22nd in GS.
- Canadians in the Indy Lights race at Long Beach: Matthew Di Leo of Innisfil was fifth. Quebe driver Mikael Grenier crashed.
- NORRIS McDONALD
Posted at 11:09 PM in American Le Mans Series, Auto racing, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, Formula One, Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series, Honda Canada, IZOD IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe, Midget Racing, Motorcycle racing, NASCAR, Racing, Racing on TV, Sports | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
There are so many things to say about the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix Sunday, in which there was a 27-point swing in the Chase for the Championship standings and Brad Keselowski is leading with one race go, that I won’t.
Instead, I have information about the televising of the U.S. Grand Prix next Sunday.
Many people have written me in the last few days to complain that TSN doesn’t have the F1 race from the brand new Circuit of the Americas circuit outside Austin, Tex., next Sunday on its schedule. Qualifying is scheduled for TSN2 on Saturday at 1 p.m. but there is no listing for the actual race the next day.
Relax, I say. You will be able to see it and, actually, a whole bunch more people will be able to watch it (if they want to) than would be able to if it was on TSN2.
And that’s because it will be live and in colour on Barrie TV station CTV2 (Rogers channel 20). CTV2 is owned by Bell Media, which also owns TSN and TSN2.
Next Sunday, when the F1 race is on in Texas, TSN will be carrying the Argos-Alouettes CFL Eastern Final football game and TSN2 will be televising the final NASCAR race of the season from Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.
CTV2 started life in the 1950s as Barrie CBC affiliate CKVR. I worked at the Orillia Packet and Times in the early 1960s and it used to delight us how the news people at the TV station would just cut stories out of the Packet and read them over the air. If there was something really big happening in Orillia, like the Mariposa Folk Festival, CKVR might send a camera crew up Highway 11 to cover it. Otherwise, they’d just "clip and read" out of the paper.
In any event, it went on to become the "New VR" when Moses Znaimer bought it, and then it became "A Channel" after another ownership change and now it’s CTV2.
Most cable subscribers – in fact, maybe even all of them – get CTV2 Barrie as part of their basic cable package. Not everybody gets TSN2 as it’s only available as part of a premium package.
Now, why did TSN (presumably it’s TSN) go to the trouble of asking parent company Bell Media to find another outlet for the F1 race? It’s got the race scheduled to be shown on tape delay later Sunday on TSN2 so why the rush to get it on live?
Because TSN pays good money to buy the Canadian rights to F1, SPEED channel blacks out its signal into Canada as a courtesy when races are run. It also blacks out its signal when qualifying is held because TSN also broadcasts qualifying sessions live.
But SPEED (Rogers cable 409, by the way) shows practice sessions in Canada because TSN doesn’t. (You see where I’m going here, don’t you . . .) You can bet your last dollar that SPEED would see no reason to black out its signal if the U.S. Grand Prix from Austin wasn’t on live television somewhere in Canada next Sunday afternoon.
So TSN, to force SPEED to honour its agreement (it’s a gentleman’s agreement, by the way; there’s no formal contractual agreement forcing SPEED to black out its signal), manoeuvred to get the race slotted into CTV2's schedule in order to protect its Canadian rights and to satisfy its Canadian sponsors.
It will be interesting to see if they promote this.
Check George's TV Listings for Race Fans later this week for SPEED's coverage of practice sessions, F1 Debrief and so-on. And the time that CTV2 will show the Grand Prix on Sunday.
Okay, back to NASCAR and Phoenix, Ariz.
Brad Keselowski went into the race seven points behind Jimmie Johnson and emerged 20 points ahead. That is not a lot; Johnson trailed Denny Hamlin by 15 points in 2010 and still beat him at Homestead to win his fifth straight championship.
Because Johnson had a tire go down and hit the wall, doing enough damage to his car that he had to drop out of the race and go to the garage for repairs. That killed him for this race and might have done him in so far as a sixth championship is concerned.
(An aside: Jimmie "Five Time" Johnson sounds swell, doesn't it? Jimmie "Six Time" Johnson not so much. So if Johnson wins, we’ll likely have to dream up another nickname for him. But I digress . . .)
In the end, Keselowki finished sixth at Phoenix – Kevin Harvick was the winner – and Johnson got back on track in time to officially finish 32nd. If he hadn’t been out there when the checkers waved, the gap would have been wider (more detals, official order of finish).
Now, toward the end of the race all hell broke loose – and, frankly, the way I saw it was that everybody’s frustrations just bubbled to the surface. Nobody really had any reason to be as angry as they seemed to be when fighting broke out.
I suggest NASCAR, in the end, might let everybody off the hook on this one.
It all started when Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer banged fenders. Bowyer’s right rear and Gordon’s left front touched and Gordon banged the wall. Bowyer kept going and Gordon took his time going around to the pits.
Everybody said – and this included Bowyer’s pit crew, who told him over the radio – that Gordon was "waiting" for Bowyer to come around again. As a result, with Gordon low on the speedway mid-way through turn four, Bowyer came up on him and went to pass him on the inside. Gordon turned into him and everybody crashed.
When Gordon went to the pits, Bowyer’s crew went after him and Gordon’s crew defended him. As NASCAR Canada announcer Adam Ross would say, a "brouhaha" ensued.
Several of Gordon’s crew kept him out of the fight and hustled him into his trailer. Bowyer, meantime, jumped out of his car in pit lane and ran into the garage area to get at Gordon, but was seemingly restrained from entering Gordon’s trailer.
Everybody was called onto the carpet in the NASCAR trailer. Competition director Robin Pemberton seemed to suggest later, though, that it was one of those things and there’s only one race left in the season and let’s all let bygones be bygones.
NASCAR traditionally hands out penalties on Tuesdays, so we’ll find out for sure then.
I have questions, however:
– Why was Gordon upset when, it seemed to me, he was as much at fault for the first collision as Bowyer?
– Why did Bowyer go low on the track to pass Gordon on the inside when everybody said Gordon was waiting for him? Why didn’t he go high on the speedway and pass Gordon up there? If he did that, nothing would have happened.
– Why did Bowyer then make an incredible show out of running from pit lane to the garage area at about a million miles an hour, only to stop dead when someone stepped in front of him as he ran up the ramp leading to Gordon’s trailer?
– As a result of the Gordon-Bowyer shenanigans, the race was red-flagged. During the intermission, car owner Richard Childress said on live television that his driver, Harvick, who was in the lead, was short on fuel. The implication was that if the race went beyond a green-white-checkers finish that Harvick would run out.
– Why did NASCAR, which will throw the yellow for all sorts of invisible reasons, let the race continue when, first, debris clearly came off of Gordon’s car when he first tangled with Bowyer and then, second, during the green-white-checkers, Jeff Burton drove right into Danica Patrick, forcing her to hit the wall and dump oil all over the backstretch going into the third turn? (She still finished 17th, for her first top 20 in Cup competition. She was 13th when Burton rammed her.)
In Patrick'a case, there definitely should have been a yellow. But then, maybe Harvick would have run out of fuel . . .
So many questions and so few answers.
As I said, I bet NASCAR doesn’t do anything. Oh, they might fine the crews for fighting but Gordon and Bowyer will likely escape sanctions.
And when everything's all said and done, it’s going to be a dandy finale at Homestead-Miami next Sunday.
If Danica Patrick wants to survive in NASCAR, she’s going to have to start fighting back.
She’s been wrecked, or nearly wrecked, in every Sprint Cup race she’s started this year.
Saturday night, it was obvious she was just getting too uppity – it was late in the race and she was on the lead lap and closing in on a strong top 20 finish (in the two Cup races she’d actually finished earlier this year, she was no threat to anybody) – so Regan Smith just went up the track and ran into her for no particular reason other than she was there and he felt like taking her out.
Now, NASCAR’s veterans think it’s hilarious to initiate rookies, particularly drivers who aren’t regulars. But it’s time for her to show them that enough is enough.
My advice to her today is simple: the next Sprint Cup start she gets, dump somebody. Pick a target and put him into the wall. Just do it. Send a warning to every driver out there: mess with me and I’m coming right back at ya.
Her boss, Tony Stewart, would approve, I’m sure. He let Matt Kenseth know how he felt on Saturday night. Yes, it was a little over the top when he threw his helmet at Kenseth after the two of them got together and crashed, but you can bet that Kenseth will have second thoughts about getting too close to Tony Stewart again this season.
And yes, I know Matt Kenseth is a tough guy in his own right and Tony Stewart didn’t exactly throw the fear of God into him with his little hissy fit. However, don’t ever kid yourself that Matt Kenseth won’t be thinking from now on about the possibility of getting wrecked every time Stewart goes to pass him or he goes to pass Stewart. Intimidation is the name of the game in big-league stock car racing and everybody has to learn how to play and that includes Danica Patrick.
Of course, if she starts fighting back on the track, that could open up another can of worms in the pits.
NASCAR drivers have been known to get physical. Not often, but it happens. Would anybody be foolish enough to take a swing at Patrick? Would she be foolish enough to take a swing at another driver? It’s not likely to happen – but it could.
And here’s another thing that some of those drivers would be wise to internalize: do any of them really want to be the driver whose deliberate actions result in her suffering a serious injury? Or worse?
The only time NASCAR will ever be on the front page of the New York Times is if Danica Patrick wins a race or, God forbid, what happened to Dan Wheldon happens to her.
I guarantee you that would be a disaster for NASCAR.
It is 2012 and sponsors might want to be associated with car racing on one hand but, on the other, they sure don’t want to be associated with a sport in which people are killed. Ten years ago, or 20, it was okay. Not any more.
IZOD has disappeared completely from the IndyCar series and that came about precisely because of what happened to Wheldon. The only reason IZOD’s name is still associated with that series is because of the contract.
And the same thing could happen to NASCAR if anything happened to Patrick.
Racing is racing and she’s out there taking her chances with everybody else. And when you have cars travelling in a pack at 150 or 200 miles an hour, negative things can and do happen.
But the next time somebody like Regan Smith sees Patrick and figures she’s an easy target, she might be – but to then take advantage of the situation might wind up doing far more harm to the sport than anybody realizes.
Patrick can help herself, and the sport, by letting everybody know now that it's time to lay off.
Oh, yeah: Denny Hamlin survived Bristol to win the Cup race. Jimmie Johnson was second and Jeff Gordon was third. Click here for story and results. There are two races left until the Chase field is set. Time for some people to get serious.
Friday night, Joey Logano won the Nationwide Series race – his sixth in that series this season. Click here for story and results.
Next weekend’s TV schedule illustrates perfectly why Randy Bernard is so keen to get IZOD IndyCar Series races off of TSN and onto one of Rogers Sportsnet ‘s national channels next year.
The Baltimore Grand Prix goes to the post next Sunday at 2:30 p.m. TSN has CFL football on the main channel that afternoon and U.S. Open tennis on TSN2. So they’re full up, it appears.
Rogers has a national channel plus four regional channels and their purchase of The Score this weekend will soon give them a second national channel.
So I will be surprised if all of the Indy car races in 2013 aren’t available live and in colour on one of Sportsnet’s national channels and I trust Bernard won’t sign a contract until he has that guarantee.
Meantime, I will likely listen to the Baltimore race in my car on my XM Satellite radio. Mike King and Davey Hamilton do a good job announcing. I discovered this when I was driving home from the drag races at Toronto Motorsport Park on a Saturday night in June and tuned into the Indy car race from Iowa Speedway.
It was kinda nice that night, bombing along Highway 6 South with the cruise control and the radio both on. The drag races had been terrific, the moon was bright and although I’d hoped to be home in time to watch the race on TV, the King-Hamilton broadcast on XM meant I didn’t miss a thing.
Now, I don’t want to be too critical of TSN. They reacted really well last year when I complained that they had filler stuff on TSN2 the second day of Indianapolis 500 time trials. Low and behold, somebody was paying attention and they threw out all the recorded stuff and put the time trials on live.
And next Sunday, they are televising the F1 race from Belgium in the morning and the very important NASCAR race from Atlanta on Sunday night. So thank you for that.
But do we really need 11 hours of U.S. Open tennis? Starting at 11 a.m. and continuing to 11 p.m. except for an hour of SportsCentre at 6? And this isn’t even the finals. We’re talking the third round here.
Is there no way to sneak in two hours of car racing at 2:30 in the afternoon (we can skip all the pre-race stuff)? Except for the people watching the race, I betcha hardly anyone will notice. . .
Meantime, the race from Sonoma yesterday – which was shown live at 4 p.m. on TSN2 (hooraaayyy!!!) – featured some great driving (winner Ryan Briscoe was perfect from start to finish and his pit crew was even better, essentially winning him the race at the last pit stop), some really sloppy driving (Helio Castroneves clipping Scott Dixon, Alex Tagliani knocking Ryan Hunter-Reay out of contention) and one of the scariest crashes seen in recent years.
Will Power finished second and, with two races remaining in the 2011 season, seems to be heading toward his first national IndyCar championship. He currently holds a 36-point lead over second-place Hunter-Reay with Castroneves five points further back. Dario Franchitti was third and F1 refugee Rubens Barrichello recorded a career-high IndyCar race finish of fourth.
The crash featured veteran Sebastien Bourdais and rookie Josef Newgarden. Bourdais lost his steering and, unable to control his car, essentially pushed Newgarden off the track and into a retaining wall that was protected by several rows of tires.
As ex-racer, team owner and colour commentator Robbie Buhl noted, the combination of the tires and the HANS device likely saved Newgarden from serious harm.
He did suffer an injury to one of his fingers because he held onto the steering wheel instead of letting it go. Remember the ribbing Danica took when she crashed for the first time in NASCAR and an in-car camera showed her letting go? Now they all do, because there’s a reason for it and Josef Newgarden’s broken finger illustrates exactly why.
James Hinchcliffe of Oakville had a rotten weekend and dropped out with mechanical problems. He was credited with 26th place in the 27-car race.
One last thing about the Indy car race. Hunter-Reay was the victim when Tagliani went up the inside during a late-race restart and couldn’t stop, hitting RHR, spinning him around and really hurting his chances for the championship. But moments later, RHR ran into E.J. Viso and spun him around.
After the race, Hunter-Reay went to see Tagliani to "discuss" the incident between them. I was kinda hoping Viso would show up to give hell to Hunter-Reay for running into him – but no such luck.
Oh, Chevrolet clinched the engine manufacturer's championship when Briscoe crossed the finish line and Simon Pagenaud won rookie of the year. However, Pagenaud is a former Champ Car World Series driver and a veteran of the American Le Mans Series so, in my books, he ain’t no rookie.
Other weekend racing:
– Uxbridge native Alex Welsh captured his first career Canadian Pro Superbike victory Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. It was one of the most exciting Superbike finishes in series history.
Jordan Szoke of Brantford, who won his record eighth national title on Saturday, finished second and Kevin Lacombe of St-Cesaire, Que., finished third.
The three riders went back-and-forth for all 20 laps before Welsh went low on the last turn to squeeze past and take the checkered flag.
Lacombe was later disqualified for a technical violation. Bodhi Edie of Warman, Sask., was elevated to a podium finish.
In Moto GP action at the circuit in Brno, Czech Republic, Dani Pedrosa beat Jorge Lorenzo to the line in another thriller.
By the way, the photo at the top of this report was taken by John Walker and shows Alex Welsh leading Jordan Szoke and the rest of the Canadian Pro Superbike field.
– Canada’s Robert Wickens played bumper cars on the first lap of the German Touring Car Series (DTM) race at Zandvoort, Holland, on Sunday and a 12th-place qualifying effort for Mercedes went for naught.
As Autosport.com reported, Wickens and Miguel Molina collided twice on the run to the first corner; the Spaniard ending up beached in the gravel at the Tarzan turn, while the Canadian was spun by Christian Vietoris two turns later and collected within seconds by Rahel Frey. All three retired.
The race was won by Edoardo Mortara in an Audi. Canadian Bruno Spengler finished sixth for BMW to keep his championship hopes alive.
– Audi won the manufacturers championship in the first year of the new FIA World Endurance Championship when Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler drove their Audi e-tron quattro the 2012 Six Hours of Silverstone on Sunday.
– It’s hardly worth mentioning . . . but Sebastien Loeb won his seventh World Rally Championship event of the season, and his fifth straight, when he won the German Rally for the ninth time at the weekend. When I say it’s hardly worth mentioning, what I mean is: who else?
Posted at 01:39 AM in American Le Mans Series, Auto racing, cars, Danica Patrick, Formula One, IZOD IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe, Mosport International Raceway, Motorcycle racing, NASCAR, Racing, Racing on TV, Road racing, Robert Wickens, Sports | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
Musings, ramblings and confessions after a weekend of auto racing:
– You have to laugh about everything that’s happened to poor Danica Patrick this year, her first full-time season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. She’s done just fine qualifying and the speed is there but Murphy’s Law has never been more clearly defined than when applied to her when she's road-course racing.
Earlier this year, at Road America, she was less than a half-lap from a top five finish when Jacques Villeneuve forgot to brake and knocked her off the track.
Last week at Watkins Glen, she was on the inside going into Turn One when a car that went flying past her on the grass re-entered the track right in front of her and stopped. She had nowhere to go and hit it dead-on, knocking her out of the race.
Saturday at le Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal, she qualified fourth and was leading the race - leading - when somebody threw a shoe on the track and she hit it. I mean, really. She had other mechanical problems but when she hit that shoe her race went south, so the timing couldn’t have been worse.
One of these days, she will win and that will get the monkey off her back. There’s no doubt the talent’s there; she’s just got to get it all together – speed, strategy, race craft and, most important for her, luck.
Justin Allgaier won his first road-course race at Montreal and the third of his Nationwide career, with Sam Hornish Jr. second and Jacques Villeneuve third. Details here
Now, it has been suggested by some that NASCAR kept throwing yellows so that a "regular" could win the race instead of a ringer, particularly if said ringer happened to be the son of the guy the Montreal circuit’s named after.
If not for the phantom yellows that left him low on fuel, or so go the the theories, Jacques Villeneuve would have won the race.
Now, JV denied that he was running out of gas on the final lap (although he did run out on the cooldown lap) and lost the race because Allgaier ran into him. Maybe. But there’s no doubt he was worred he was going to stall out because he was running noticeably slower on the last lap than the eventual winner.
Having said that, Allgaier didn’t have any fuel problems, so if NASCAR was playing fast and loose with the yellows, it didn’t appear to hurt him.
And nobody was shedding any tears for Villeneuve anyway. The Danica punt in Wisconsin was still fresh in everybody’s mind and he turned Alex Tagliani around late in the Montreal race. The fact that he was angry after being hit by Allgaier was really very amusing. Did somebody say it was like the pot calling the kettle black?
Two other quick notes: For the last fillup, Allgaier pitted later than the others, which explains why he had more fuel when the race got down to the short strokes. And why did he do that? Because at Road America in 2011, he ran out of fuel on the last lap. He obviously learned a lesson.
Oh, and Ron Fellows, Mississauga’s most famous athlete, finished fifth a week ago at Watkins Glen and was fifth at Montreal on Saturday. He is an absolutely incredible race driver.
– NASCAR hasn’t got a clue about yellows on road courses, period, as we saw at Montreal, and they sometimes over-react on ovals, too. David Gilliland lost control early in the Michigan Sprint Cup race Sunday afternoon and went flying through the infield grass but then got straightened out and went back on the track, albeit half a lap behind.
But he didn’t hit the wall and there was no damage or debris anywhere. But as soon as he started sliding, the yellow was on and there was really no need for it.
It’s a good excuse to close up the pack, though. Isn’t it . . . ?
– In the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race at Montreal, J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge won, with Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., second and Robin Buck of Campbellville third. Scott Steckly of Milverton was fourth, he’s the defending national champion, and the leader of this year’s championship chase, D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas, finished fifth. Next race is at Barrie Speedway Sept. 8.
- As NASCAR doesn’t have a clue about yellow flags on road courses, neither does it have a clue so far as passes for the lead on road courses are concerned. Their rule is that in the case of a yellow, the order of finish from the last completed lap will be the order for the restart. Fine on ovals, stinks on road courses.
Ranger had passed Fitzpatrick fair and square and was clear and away in front of him when somebody spun at the back of the pack and since they all hadn’t completed the lap, the order had to revert to the previous . . . yada, yada, yada – you know what I’m saying, eh? – and when they restarted the race J.R. was back in first and Ranger was second and that is not fair, not fair, not fair. (I sound like Jack Lemon as Prof. Fate in The Great Race. . .)
– Okay, moving right along, I apologize for making the same mistake over and over. Every time I write anything about Lewis Hamilton, I say he’s won two world championships. Of course, he’s only won one but that hasn’t seemed to penetrate my thick skull. The latest example was in a story I wrote on the weekend that appeared on wheels.ca and in Toronto Star Wheels. I could change it online but not in the paper. Sorry.
It’s like every time I go to write 1996. It always comes out 1969. Why?
– They say auto racing has the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We saw both in the Sprint Cup race at Michigan Sunday.
With nine laps to go, Jimmie Johnson took the lead in the race and the TV cameras showed his crew chief, Chad Knaus, fist-pumping with delight. Three laps later, his engine let go and Greg Biffle went blowing by him.
Biffle went on to win the race and Johnson drove straight to the garage area. He passed a dejected Knaus, who was walking in the same direction. Details here
Remember that Grand Prix of Monaco a half-dozen years ago, in 2006, when Kimi Raikkonen dropped out while in second place and he got out of his car and was so angry that he kept his helmet on while he walked around the course to his yacht in the harbour, where he disappeared below decks?
Well, Johnson got out of his car yesterday and didn’t take off his helmet. He walked from his car, between several transport trucks and through the hospitality area on the way to his motorhome.
He was obviously so upset that one of his PR aides, a woman, started to follow him and then thought better of it, staying behind in the garage area.
It's not often that you see Jimmie Johnson so browned off.
– By the way, while the Nationwide stock cars were at Montreal, the Camping World Truck Series was the support race for the Sprint Cup cars in Michigan and that race Saturday was won by Nelson Piquet Jr.
Piquet, who was forced to leave Formula One after admitting to participation in the conspiracy to fix the Singapore GP in 2008, would appear to have completed his rehabilitation. Look for him to move up to Sprint Cup before long.
– Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at Montreal on Saturday. Paul Tracy was third (with others). Alex Tagliani finished seventh. John Edwards and Robin Liddell won in GT. Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato driving the AIM Autosport of Woodbridge Ferrari were second in GT. Paul Dalla Lana of Toronto, who was featured in Wheels last weekend and who won the GT class at Watkins Glen a week ago, had a miserable race in Montreal and didn’t finish. There were only 21 cars in the Montreal race – and people can make as many excuses as they want but it’s the border. Americans competing in semi-professionals series like the Grand Am Rolex and the American Le Mans Series and who are field-fillers will run all the races in the U.S. and skip the ones up here. It’s a shame.
– At Road America, where 35 cars showed up for the American le Mans Series race (as compared to 26 that started the ALMS race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park/Mosport in July, see?), the closest finish in the history of the series took place with the P1 Lola-Mazda entry of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith defeating Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr in their Muscle Milk HPD ARX-Honda by 0.083 seconds.
Tony Burgess of Toronto (and others) was third overall. Martin Plowman and David Heinemeier were first in P2, Tom Kimber-Smith, Jon Bennett and Alex Powpow were first in Prototype Challenge (Kyle Marcelli of Barrie, and others, who was on pole in PC, finished third in class and seventh overall), Bill Auberlen and Jorg Muller were winners in the GT class and Cooper MacNeil and Jeroen Bleekemolen were first in GT Challenge.
By the way, P2 driver Scott Tucker finished 11th and 12th overall in the race and third and fourth in the Prototype 2 class. How?
He teamed with Christophe Bouchut in one car – he did the first stint of driving – and with Luis Diaz in the second – he drove the final stint in the second car.
– In Canadian Touring Car Championship action at Montreal, Sasha Annis won the first race in Super Touring, with Jocelyn Hebert tops in Touring Class and Karl Wittmer in B-Spec. In the second race, Marc-Antoine Camirand was the winner in Super Touring, Damon Sharpe won Touring Class and Wittmer repeated in B-Spec.
The Touring Car championship will wrap its season over Labour Day weekend at Calabogie Motorports Park.
– Robbie Wickens of Guelph and Toronto had his best weekend in the German Touring Car Championship since he started his rookie season in the spring. He qualified ninth and finished seventh at the Nurburgring driving for Mercedes. Canadian driver Bruno Spengler won the race in a BMW.
– In World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series action, Sammy Swindell got over his disappointment at missing out on starting the Knoxville Nationals by winning the feature at Grand Forks, N.D., at the weekend.
In other sprint car news, Dustin Daggett of Grand Ledge, Mich., won the Northern Summer Nationals Championship by finishing first in the feature at Chatham-area South Buxton Speedway Saturday night.
- And two weeks out from the Budweiser Oswego Classic 200 for supermodifieds, Joe Gosek won his 42nd feature at the famous northern New York Oswego Speedway, which puts him fourth on the all-time win list behind Eddie Bellinger Jr., Bentley Warren and Jim Shampine.
And by finishing fifth in the super feature, Otto Sitterly of Canajoharie, N.Y., won his fifth Oswego Speedway track championship. I think Sitterly has one of the neatest names in all of auto racing, right up there with Parnelli Jones. I also think Otto has the talent to go to Indy. His sometimes-supermodified teammate, Davey Hamilton, could help pave the way.
Posted at 11:58 PM in American Le Mans Series, Auto racing, Camping World Truck Series, cars, Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, Danica Patrick, DTM, Formula One, Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series, NASCAR, NASCAR Canadian Tire, Oswego Supermodifieds, Racing, Racing on TV, Renault scandal, Robert Wickens, Sports, World of Outlaws | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BULLETIN: NASCAR today suspended Kurt Busch until June 13 and has extended his probation until the end of the year after the driver threatened to assault a reporter following the Nationwide Series race at Dover last Saturday.
Busch will not be allowed to drive in any of the NASCAR-sanctioned races at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania next weekend.
According to NASCAR, Busch violated Section 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing; violation of probation; verbal abuse to a media member) of the 2012 NASCAR Rule Book.
Busch had been placed on probation May 15 for his actions during the May 12 Sprint Cup Series event at Darlington Raceway. That probation was scheduled to end July 25.
Norris note: it should have been longer (see original post below).
Now, I have to get a few things off my chest before I start the Monday Morning Report:
Note to newspaper editors, radio program managers and everybody else who has control over content going into their publications or out on the air:
You see, and hear, this everywhere. On the pages of my own newspaper, most recently this weekend in an article written by a professor at the University of Montreal, this race was incorrectly identified again.
Grands Prix are not awarded to cities. They are awarded to countries. That’s why we have the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne and the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal.
We do not have the Magny Cours Grand Prix, the Monte Carlo Grand Prix or the Barcelona Grand Prix. It is wrong, wrong, wrong to continually refer to it as the Montreal Grand Prix.
Paul Tracy, Tommy Kendall, Adam Alexander and Dave Despain were discussing Kurt Busch on Wind Tunnel last night and, once again, everybody missed the point.
Never mind everything that’s happened previously. On Saturday, at Dover, on pit road in a media scrum, Kurt Busch threatened a man with bodily harm. He threatened to beat him up and said the only reason he didn’t was because he was on NASCAR probation.
That’s not funny.
NASCAR should throw him out of the sport for that. (I guarantee if any athlete in any other sport threatened to beat up a reporter, he or she would be suspended indefinitely.)
I don’t know where any of the four people mentioned at the beginning of this sequence get off constantly talking about personal confrontation as being "good for the sport."
The most popular form of motor racing in the world is Formula One racing and when did you ever hear about a "feud" in F1? Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and the rest all have too much class for that.
I suppose if you are interested in appealing to people with an IQ of 50, then guys like Kurt Busch and his brother (who once threatened to kill Denny Hamlin, remember?) can be your role models.
But it’s 2012 and Madison Ave. is what fuels NASCAR now and the people who sit on the boards of directors of the corporations who finance big-league auto racing are not impressed when guys like Kurt Busch threaten to beat the shit out of somebody.
"And I’d do it if I wasn’t on probation."
Here are the results of Sunday’s races, and other news:
– The first of two red flags Sunday (we’ll get to the second, more serious, one later) came early in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover, Del., when Tony Stewart tried to go slip underneath Landon Cassil’s car in turn two and lost control.
When the smoke cleared (pardon the pun), 13 cars had been involved in The Big One, the track was blocked and NASCAR was forced to throw the first red flag of 2012. It was out for about 20 minutes before the race was restarted on Lap 10 of the 400-lap Fedex 400.
Stewart was the only Chase for the Championship contender involved. The rest continued in the race that was won, in the end, by Jimmie Johnson, with Kevin Harvick second, Matt Kenseth third, Dale Earnhardt Jr. fourth and Clint Bowyer fifth.
Pole sitter Mark Martin wound up 14th.
Lot of empty seats at Dover but look at any baseball stadium – except maybe where the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs or the Dodgers play – and they’re all half-empty so I don’t think it’s any particular reflection on the popularity of auto racing.
I used to think so, but not anymore. The economy is in the dumper in the U.S. - unemployment is above 8 per cent down there and climbing - and people can't afford to buy the tickets any more.
That's why, along with just about everything else, things are so much cheaper down there. For instance (and I know I'm getting ahead of myself here), a Sunday-only grandstand ticket for the Detroit Indy car race cost $65; in Toronto, a Sunday-only gold seat for the Honda Indy will set you back $125.
– The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race at Circuit ICAR at Mirabel Airport north of Montreal was won in a green-white-checkered finish by Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., followed by F.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge and Scott Steckly of Milverton.
It was Ranger’s 17th career victory in the series and his 12th road course victory.
L.P. Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres was fourth and D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas finished fifth.
The stock car series will next race at the Speedway at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Sat., June 16.
– Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto, driving in the German Touring Car Series (DTM) for Mercedes, finished 13th after qualifying 19th in the race Sunday at Spielberg, Austria.
The race was won by Edoardo Mortara, driving for Audi.
Wickens and a second Canadian in the race, Bruno Spengler, now of France but formerly of Ste-Hippolite, Que., collided at one point and Spengler was eventually forced to retire.
– The Red Bull F1 team has been told to fill in the holes in the floor of its chassis before the Canadian GP next weekend. Red Bull’s Helmut Marko has been quoted as saying, however, that Red Bull planned to use a different floor design at Montreal anyway.
– The Nissan Delta Wing completed its first successful test at the Circuit de la Sarthe Sunday where the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be held in two weeks.
The car ran 54 laps of the eight-plus mile raceway without incident and had a best time of 3 minutes, 47.980 seconds, about three seconds off where it will have to be in order to safely compete in the marathon.
Invited by the organizers as a "Garage 56" entry to showcase new and/or innovative technologies, the DeltaWing features half the weight, half the horsepower and half the aerodynamic drag of a typical prototype and is expected to cut fuel and tire consumption significantly.
– On a sad note, Roy Salvadori, who won the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans and also drove in F1, died at his retirement home in Monte Carlo. He was 90.
– Okay, here we go.
James Hinchcliffe of Oakville is coming into the Toronto Star building today (Monday) to do a little public relations work in support of next month’s Honda Indy Toronto.
I sure hope he’ll have calmed down by the time he gets here because he was spitting mad after Sunday’s Detroit Grand Prix in which his glorious second-season record in the IZOD IndyCar Series came to a sudden halt against a tire wall because of the incompetence of the people who run that series.
Before I continue down this particular road, the race – when it eventually finished – was won by Scott Dixon, with Dario Franchitti second and Simon Pagenaud third. It featured a two-hour red flag and was shortend to 60 laps from the original 90.
Oh, and a great piece of driving by Indy 500 winner Franchitti who was fighting the 'flu and who fought his way almost to the front from 15th on the grid. It was the second one-two finish in a row for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, too.
Hicnchliffe, meantime, hadn’t been having the greatest of weekends anyway. His record of always qualifying for the Firestone Fast Six at road and street-course races came to an end Saturday when he brushed the wall of the circuit at Belle Park Island in the middle of the Detroit River and did some slight damage to his car.
As a result, he went off 14th in the race.
At least he got to start when they threw the green flag, though. The other Canadian in the race, Alex Tagliani of Montreal, qualified a wonderful third but then an electrical glitch prevented his engine from firing up and he was still in the pits when everybody else went racing.
Tag eventually recovered and, to his great credit, fought his way up to finish tenth.
But back to Hinchcliffe.
So they’re all racing around and he’s hovering in the top twelve and all of a sudden his car doesn’t turn at a particular corner and wham! Into the tires he goes.
To say he was miffed would be an understatement. Not only did his record of having been the only driver in the series to have completed every lap of every race run to date come to an end, but he could have been hurt.
"I’ve neve seen anything quite like this," he told a TV interviewer shortly after he crashed, which brought out a red flag six laps later (he crashed on lap 39 and the field circulated behind the pace car for six laps while IndyCar officials tired to figure out what to do).
"We saw (the track) start to come up early (in the race), they had debris flags down in turn five and turn nine, these giant pieces of this tar that had been ripped up . . . I guess there was nothing they could do about it so they just let us keep running.
"It was like playing Russian Roulette and I just pulled the bullet. I came through turn six and a new chunk had been ripped up and it had a big piece of concrete attached to the bottom of it, it hooked under the front of the car and lifted the front end off the ground and that was it."
Now, how did this happen? Who was supposed to perform the due dilligence to ensure the track at Belle Isle would be able to handle 25 Indy cars running in a pack?
It’s not like this is the first time Indy cars have run on street courses. You look for certain things because of screw-ups that have happened before. I mean, it’s not the first time that tar/pavement has been sucked up like that. It happened at Toronto eons ago; it happened at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve a year or two ago.
Hinchcliffe was caught out on Lap 39 but during the red flag, other drivers talked about dodging bits and pieces that had been flying around all race. Some pointed to where their cars had been damaged and at least one – Tony Kanaan – complained about a piece of pavement bouncing off his helmet.
So, what would have happened if a piece had cut through a visor and the driver been killed or injured, as almost happened to poor Felipe Massa when he was hit by a spring.
Maybe nobody wants to talk about this, but it borders on negligence. Somebody should be disciplined. It was an embarrassment and a disgrace.
The drivers all kept talking about wanting to restart the race "for the fans." Most of the TV audience was long gone (I think TSN2 was the only network in North America to stay with the program from start to finish) and more than half the fans on site had packed up and were in their cars, driving away from Belle Isle before the race even got going again.
But it should never have come to that. When is this series going to stop shooting itself in the foot?
Posted at 11:20 PM in Auto racing, Formula One, Grand Prix of Canada, Honda Indy Toronto, Indianapolis, IZOD IndyCar Series, NASCAR, NASCAR Canadian Tire, Racing, Racing on TV, Sports | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
For the first time this IZOD IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe of Oakville did not make it into final Fast Six qualifying for a road or street course race and, as a result, will start Sunday’s Detroit Grand Prix in 14th place.
But Montreal’s Alex Tagliani had his best qualifying attempt of the 2012 season when he finished third in Saturday time trials behind pole winner Scott Dixon and second-fastest Will Power.
Dixon, of course, drives for powerhouse Target Chip Ganassi Racing while Power leads the Team Penske contingent. Tagliani drives for the lesser-funded Bryan Herta Motorsport and is finally coming into his own with Honda power after having started the season stuck with the under-perfoming Lotus engine.
Andretti Autosport driver Hinchcliffe, who will enter the race tied with Helio Castroneves for second in the standings behind Power, was disappointed with his performance. He brushed the wall in the final corner on his second lap of the first round of qualifying and the car didn’t work as well afterward.
"I did the exact same thing at St. Peterburg and the car was okay there but this damaged the left rear. It was an easy fix, and the guys were able to fix it, so we would have been ready to go back out in the next round.
"With 60 seconds to go, our first lap was still in the top six but we just got bumped at the end. We should have been there (in the Fast Six) with Ryan (Hunter-Reay, his teammate, who qualified sixth).
Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti will go off 15th, one position behind Hinchcliffe.
The lone woman in the field, Simona De Silvestro, who is the last remaining Lotus driver in the series, will start 22nd in the 25-car field.
The series has lost a car since Indianapolis. Dragon Racing, which employs Katherine Legge and Sebastien Bourdais, went to court to get out of its Lotus contract and got Chevrolet engines for Indy.
But following the race, Chevrolet said it could only supply the team with engines for one car through the end of the season so the drivers are alternating, with Legge concentrating on the ovals and Bourdais the street and road courses.
Bourdais qualified 10th on Saturday.
– For the second Indy Lights race in a row, David Ostella of Maple crashed out of the contest early. He finished 13th and last at Belle Isle Saturday after qualifying eighth.
– Mark Martin won the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover, Del. It was his third pole of the season and the fifth he’s won at Dover. Jimmie Johnson will start beside him on the front row, with Ryan Newman third, Clint Bowyer fourth and Matt Kenseth fifth.
Kurt Busch once again got into it with a reporter after the race. After watching Busch exchange words with another driver on pit road after the race, and after he (Busch) brought up the subject of probation, a writer asked him if he was racing as hard as he could, considering he was on probation, and Busch replied:
"(Probation) refrains me from not beating the shit out of you right now, because you ask me stupid questions."
Kurt Busch is a professional entertainer and sportsman who should know by now that there are no stupid questions. He obviously can’t stand the heat so it’s time for him to get out of the kitchen.
– Joey Logano won the Nationwide Series race at Dover, with Ryan Truex Jr. second and Brian Scott third. Sam Hornish and Danica Patrick had another run-in, this time with Hornish putting her into the wall.
Logano is dominating the Nationwide Series this season but is in danger of losing his ride in the Sprint Cup because of poor results.
– Rain curtailed qualifying at Circuit ICAR for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race on Sunday so owner points determined the lineup with Scott Steckly starting on pole, with D.J. Kennington right beside him. J.R. Fitzpatrick, who won the season opener at Mosport on May 24 (18th, really) weekend will go off third.
– Joao Barboss and Darren Law won the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at Belle Isle, finishing first in Daytona Prototype. Jordan Taylor and Paul Edwards were first in GT, driving a Chevrolet Camaro.
Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato, driving the AIM Autosport of Woodbridge Ferrari 458 (below), finished fourth in GT but continue to lead the standings in that class.
PHOTO BY JOHN email@example.com]
Posted at 10:52 PM in Auto racing, Chevrolet, Danica Patrick, Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series, Indianapolis, Indy 500, IZOD IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe, NASCAR, NASCAR Canadian Tire, Racing, Racing on TV, Sports | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
And what’s my definition of a journalist? Someone who is interchangeable among the media.
Yes, that means most of the "journalists" you encounter during your daily lives – the radio and TV reporters, the anchors, sports editors on newspapers, editors-in-chief of major magazines – aren’t, even if they like to call themselves that.
Like the late Pierre Berton, who wrote newspaper columns, books of Canadian history and magazine profiles, conducted interviews on radio and was host of any number of television programs – and he did much of that simultaneously – Berggren, who turned 70 last weekend, has a lengthy list of accomplishments in his curriculum vitae.
Besides being a writer and photographer (and a former college professor, by the way), he was the editor of Stock Car Racing magazine and the late, lamented, Open Wheel magazine before taking his talents and knowledge to television.
And do you know what sets him apart from most of the other reporters covering auto racing (and most other sports, come to think of it)? Like the original ABC pit road reporter and colour commentator, Chris Economaki, he actually asks questions of the people he’s interviewing.
I don’t believe I’ve ever heard Berggren start a question with the worst four words in the English language:
"Talk to me about . . ."
So where did Berggren (known for years as "Dr." Dick Berggren because of a PhD in psychology he earned at Tufts University in Boston) come by his knowledge of virtually every kind of car racing going?
Because he’s a fan, primarily, who inhales everything he reads or hears about the sport. Second, unlike most "journalists" covering racing, he’s been Out There: for more than 20 years, he raced stock cars, sprint cars and (regular readers of this column know what’s coming next . . .) supermodifieds.
In fact, Berggren was one of a number of owners and drivers – future NASCAR stars Geoff Bodine and Tim Richmond among them – who were caught out in the late 1970s (he was building one) when Oswego Speedway in northern New York banned rear-engine supers, a decision (along with one made by the U.S. Auto Club to ban rear-engine sprints and midgets) that had a profoundly negative effect on the progression of short-track oval racers to Indianapolis.
But I digress.
Berggren was inducted into the U.S. National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2002 - he's also a proud member of other halls - and says that among the projects he’s got planned for his post-NASCAR career (as well as visiting as many short tracks as he can) is the building of an auto racing museum at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to celebrate the accomplishments of the racing community in the U.S. northeast.
Talking about accomplishments, I think his personal biggest and best was the founding in 1980 of the magazine Open Wheel. As I write this, I’m holding in my hands Vol. 1, No. 1 that is, as the cover says, "a collector’s first edition."
The cover photo was taken by Mike Arthur at Ascot Raceway in Gardena, Calif., and shows Ronnie Shuman in full flight in a sprint car on the dirt (which means sideways). Inside are features on Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell, Gary Bettenhausen, Roger Penske’s racing operation and lots and lots of some of the greatest racing photographs you’ll find anywhere.
Berggren, in his job during the Seventies as editor of Stock Car Racing, had increased – over time – the number of articles and features on open wheel racing appearing in that publication. At some point, the people in charge of Lopez Publications, which published Stock Car and other titles, gave him the co-ahead and Open Wheel was born, first as a quarterly and then monthly.
I don’t have a complete collection, but I have lots and lots. And all of them, in one way or another, trigger a memory.
– Vol. 1, No. 3, published in early 1981, has a striking cover photo of the late Stan Fox at the wheel of his Pabst Blue Ribbon beer-sponsored midget. Several months later, at Indianapolis Raceway Park for the Night Before the 500 midget races, I got to meet Fox. I’d consumed a little too much of his sponsor’s product, though, and in my enthusiasm I made an offer to buy the car. He was very polite about it, but told me to get lost.
– The May 1994 issue has a photo of Mares Stellfox on the cover. She ran with the ARDC midget club. When I announced at Oswego Speedway in the Nineties, I was sometimes a wise guy. One night I was interviewing her and I said, "So tell me Mares, what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?" And she got me good. "Norris, " she said, "I might be a girl to you but when I put on my helmet, I’m one of the boys."
– In the May 1986 magazine, Berggren himself wrote an incredible story about an incredible racer named Jan Opperman who’d twice suffered grievous head injuries and was confined to his parents’ home, requiring constant care. Opperman was one of the most interesting people you’d want to meet - a pot smoker who was a serious Christian. Before his second accident, I saw him at a sprint car race at the New York State Fairgrounds. It was delayed by rain. To fill in the time, Opperman borrowed the infield announcer’s microphone and delivered a sermon.
– The November 1988 Open Wheel contains a pleasant surprise. There, on Page 16, is an article about Canadian supermodified racer Gary Morton by – wait for it – me. Over the years, I was fortunate to have three articles published in Open Wheel (one on Warren Coniam and another about one of the great women of our time, Proud Mary Copeland of Indianapolis, Ind., who is now Mary Walsh of Knoxville, Tenn., who held up the start of a midget race at IRP one night by – well, use your imagination).
But enough about me. The really great writers who appeared in Open Wheel were John Sawyer (his stuff brings tears to my eyes every time I read it; in what other publication could you read Sawyer writing about Langhorne Speedway, or Don Branson, or Eddie Sachs? Bruce Ellis, Andy Fuscoe, Terry Reed (he wrote a great piece about the widow of Jerry Hoyt, who was killed at Oklahoma City about two weeks after they were married, after only knowing each other for about a month; she still visited his grave every day – years later) and Al Stilley, who wrote so lovingly and well about Indy cars.
And yes, Open Wheel’s racing photography was breathtaking: how about Jim Hurtubise powering out of four at Terre Haute in 1976 (photo by Steve Ellis) , or Steve Chassey at Springfield in 1986 (photo by Don Figler). You could frame those pictures and hang them on the wall in your living room because they were art.
Sure, there were the really bad times, too, and Berggren handled those stories with dignity and grace. His farewell to supermodified king Jimmy Shampine, an innovator like no other who was killed in, of all things, a modified race, still brings a lump to my throat.
I could go on and on – but it’s time to stop, just as Open Wheel itself was stopped shortly after the turn of the century when the publication changed corporate hands and the new owners killed it off.
So when Dick Berggren walks away from Dover International Speedway on Sunday afternoon, after completing his last assignment for NASCAR on FOX, I hope there’s something else on his mind besides that auto racing museum in New Hampshire.
Yes, I know he’s got Speedway Illustrated magazine going, and probably a book or two to write (an autobiography would be nice) but unless there’s a non-compete clause floating around in a contract he signed somewhere, I think he should give serious thought to reviving that much-missed magazine.
How does Open Wheel 2012 sound, Dr. Dick?
Despite the problems facing the annual running of the Indianapolis 500 – they’re scrambling to get Katherine Legge through her rookie test and into the race; Chevrolet and Honda are at each other’s throats; Lotus engines are underpowered; everybody’s getting an extra 50 hp for their qualifying runs (I mean, what is that?) — at the end of the day, it will still be a magnificent spectacle full of schmaltz and pomp with 200,000-plus in the grandstands and it could very well end up being a really exciting race.
Qualifications to set the field of 33 look to be potentially very exciting and I’m delighted to be able to tell you today that for those who care, TSN (through its secondary channel, TSN2) is really delivering the goods.
From the minute qualifying opens Saturday at 11 a.m. (today, if you’re reading this in the Saturday Wheels section rather than online), until the gun goes off Sunday at 6 p.m. to signal the end of “bump day,” TSN2 will be there.
(Okay - not exactly every minute. From 11 a.m. till 2:30 p.m. today. and then again from 4:30 till 6:30. But you get my drift.)
Next Friday, known as “Carb Day,” which is traditionally held two days before the big race, when the drivers practice for the last time, the Indy Lights Freedom 100 race is run and there’s a pit stop contest among the teams, TSN2 will be on the air to bring it to us from 11 a.m. through until 4 p.m.
On Sunday, May 27, the greatest day of the year in motorsport will start at 7:55 a.m. with the Grand Prix of Monaco, followed at 11 a.m. by the 96th Indy 500 to be followed at 5:30 p.m. by the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte, N.C. — all on the main TSN channel.
Of course, there is other racing. The NASCAR All-Star Race from Charlotte (there’s a million bucks at stake for the driver who finishes first) is on Saturday night (tonight), the World of Outlaws will be racing live, the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series and, oh my — be still my beating heart!
All of the channels and the times, of course, can be found in “George’s TV Listings for Race Fans,” on the home page of wheels.ca
You know, I can remember the days when you either had to go to a theatre to watch the Indy 500 on closed-circuit TV, or else wait till the Saturday following the race for the highlights to be shown on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
How lucky we are in 2012 to get to watch everything live and in colour and in HD, as it’s happening.
James Hinchcliffe of Oakville is being touted for the pole at Indianapolis this weekend.
Indy 500 time trials for pole position are scheduled for Saturday – the race itself will happen on Sun, May 27 – and Hinch has been sneaking up in the top ten all week.
Tuesday, he was third fastest after holding the top spot for most of the day. His Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti topped the charts with a run of 223.676 miles an hour, followed by Helio Castroneves at 222 and change and Hinchcliffe at 221.864 mph.
Indianapolis Star reporter Michael Pointer wrote the following, interesting, observation late Tuesday:
"It's nearing happy hour out at the Speedway, so let's take a quick look at James Hinchclife, who has today's fastest lap and the second-fastest of the month (this was before Marco and Helio set their times).
"He isn't the household name like Andretti or Rahal, but he's been about as consistent as one can be early in the IndyCar season, never finishing lower than sixth. He's third in points. He finished 29th in the 500 last year, but put together a solid rookie season in IndyCar with seven top-10 finishes while driving for Newman/Haas Racing.
"This year, he moved to Andretti Autosport and is best-known for succeeding Danica Patrick in the GoDaddy car here at Indy. Looks like he has a shot to grab the pole this weekend, too."
Wow. Wouldn’t that be something.
Of course, Canadians own the pole at Indianapolis. Alex Tagliani sat on it last year. He’s not going to be there this year, though, judging by his practice times which have been okay but certainly not startling.
Kurt Busch was fined $50,000 and put on probation until late July for that tustle in pit lane at Darlington last Saturday night. The melee started after Busch ran into the back of Ryan Newman’s car on pit road, which he said was an accident while he was taking off his helmet.
(You’ve got to hand it to Kurt and his brother. They sure can come up with some colourful excuses, can’t they?)
And a member of Busch’s pit crew was fined $5,000 and put on probation until the end of the year for interfering with a member of the broadcast media. He tried to stop a Fox cameraman from recording the incident by putting his hands over the camera lense.
I raged against that little twerp in my Monday Morning roundup. Never mind probation; he should have been kicked right out of NASCAR, period.
If it's not for TV, drivers like Kurt Busch wouldn't have $50,000 to pay fines. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.
There are 10 race drivers from Quebec listed among the 29 entered in the Vortex Brake Pads 200 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race that will kick off the 2012 season at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Sunday.
Isabelle Trembley, Derek White, Andrew Ranger, Ray Courtemanche Jr., L.P. Dumoulin, Dexter Stacey, Martin Roy, Dave Coursol, Hugo Vaninni and Steve Cote’s names are all on the entry list.
Two guys will haul in from Northern Ontario – Steve Mathews from New Liskeard and Michael Scholz from Sault Ste. Marie. And there are six rookies entered. Great stuff!
By the way, veterans Kerry Micks and Mark Dilley have teamed up for the 2012 season with Micks driving the road course races and Dilley the ovals.
The NASCAR race is the headline event of the track’s Victoria Day Speedfest Weekend and is scheduled to go to the post at 1:30 Sunday afternoon.
Meantime, I want to clear something up. I wrote in my Monday Morning roundup that I couldn't understand penalties for speeding through yellow flags of the kind that were handed out to two drivers in Sunday's Grand Prix of Spain.
I was upbraided by one commenter, in particular, who said it was obvious I'd never been a marshal because they risk their lives by going out on the track and could be killed by race cars that don't slow down (or words to that effect).
I have been consistent in my position on this for years and years: if (as I said in that blog item) there is any danger whatsoever, they should send out the safety car.
Oval track racing, where I cut my racing teeth, is much safer in this regard because any time anything happens on the speedway to impede flat-out racing, the yellow is thrown, the pace car sent out and racing is not allowed to resume until the all-clear.
I feel the same way about road racing. Yes, when Grands Prix were held on circuits that were 15 miles around, like the old Nurburgring, I could understand a "local" yellow. But not any more. The cars go too quickly around modern F1 circuits.
If something untoward happens at, say, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal, a speeding F1 car can go from that spot all the way around the track and back again in about one minute and 15 seconds, which is not enough time for marshalls or anyone else to clean up debris, for instance.
There should be a full-course caution so corner workers, marshals, et al, can go about their tasks safely. Then, when everything is cleaned up and the coast is clear, they can withdraw the safety car and racing can resume.
So that's why I say boo to penalties for speeding through a yellow flag. In my world, there shouldn't be any "local yellows" to being with.
Posted at 10:42 PM in Auto racing, Indianapolis, Indy 500, IZOD IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe, Mosport International Raceway, NASCAR, NASCAR Canadian Tire, Racing, Racing on TV, Sports | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)