Jimmie Johnson put himself in the same room as NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt — both seven-time Cup champions — by winning his fifth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup on Sunday by finishing second to Carl Edwards in the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Johnson rallied from a 15-point deficit to pass Denny Hamlin for another championship. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus endured a tumultuous Chase, during which Johnson’s crew was benched, to continue their reign over the sport.
Say it five times fast: This guy is a legend.
And the great debate begins: Is Johnson’s dominance good for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and help it gain more attention as it attempts to rebound in 2011 from a season of decreased attendance and TV ratings? Or will it hurt, as fans are getting sick and tired of seeing Johnson and Knaus hoisting the big silver trophy every year at Homestead?
SBNation’s Jeff Gluck, an avid Tweeter, posted this interesting smorgasbord of Twitter reaction from fans after the race Sunday. Many fans complained about Johnson’s victory. And those fans are wrong.
What Johnson is doing here, folks, is beyond special because it’s almost beyond comprehension. NASCAR rule makers toil long and hard to build equality into the sport. The COT has homogenized the machinery. The point system rewards consistency more than winning. The Chase system was created to prevent a runaway champion late in the season, erasing any early-season dominance. Four of the 10 Chase races are on 1.5-mile ovals, with no road courses and only one short track.
This is racing’s version of the salary cap and free agency, two components that have killed dynasties in the NFL, NBA and NHL. Yet Johnson, Knaus and Hendrick Motorsports continue to just deliver under pressure, year after year. Think about it: The last time Jimmie Johnson failed to win the Sprint Cup, only Alaskans had ever heard of Sarah Palin. Justin Bieber was a kid dreaming of stardom in his bedroom in Canada. Joey Logano was 15 years old.
Why is this criticized? Why is this seen as boring? I agree with Peter DeLorenzo at Autoextremist: It’s not like Johnson and Knaus are crushing the competition due to superior equipment, an argument that could be made about the Ferrari that Michael Schumacher drove to five consecutive Formula One World Championships last decade.
The clock is ticking, so let the dissection begin.
No, we’re not talking about the Biology final you took as a sophomore in high school. We’re talking about the final countdown to the NASCAR Sprint Cup season finale this Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Denny Hamlin leads four-time reigning champion Jimmie Johnson by 15 points, with Kevin Harvick third, 46 points behind Hamlin. The math is so simple, yet so tough, for Hamlin: If he wins, or finishes second and leads the most laps, at Homestead, he will hoist the Sprint Cup for the first time.
Can you believe this was $150 in 1972?
If that doesn’t happen, have a slide rule, abacus or an old, four-function Texas Instruments pocket calculator ready.
NASCAR beat writers and bloggers are starting to trot out various scenarios for victory for Hamlin, Johnson and Harvick this weekend. Jim McCoy at All Left Turns makes the point that Hamlin has been the dominant driver this season, won two weeks ago at Texas and was ruling the Desert Mile at Phoenix before fuel-mileage follies emerged.
But Long also writes why it wouldn’t be one bit surprising if Johnson earns his fifth consecutive Sprint Cup this weekend at Homestead, and the reasons boil down to two men: Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson. They’ve been the best driver-crew chief combination in NASCAR for the last five or six seasons. They’ve been here and done it, which neither Hamlin nor Harvick can say.
I also think Johnson is winning the psychological battle entering Homestead. He spoke like a man without a care in the world after slicing Hamlin’s lead to 15 points at Phoenix, laying all the pressure on Hamlin’s garage door. Johnson also knew Hamlin was cracking emotionally after seeing fuel strategy foil his chance to expand his points lead, and like any ruthless competitor, Johnson pressed down the boot even harder on Hamlin’s fragile psyche.
It was one of those weekends why we dig this sport. The unexpected happened, which is one of the most appealing aspects of motor racing.
Here are the facts after the Kobalt Tools 500 Sunday at Phoenix: Hamlin leads four-time reigning champion Jimmie Johnson by 15 points entering the season finale this Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. 2003 Brickyard 400 winner Kevin Harvick is third, 46 points behind. It’s the closest three-way Chase with one race remaining.
Muzzle the mouth or walk the walk, Mike.
Now to the opinions. It might be a good idea for Hamlin’s crew chief, Mike Ford, to keep a low profile heading into South Florida this week. Ford crowed after the Texas race Nov. 7 that crew chief Chad Knaus may have lost a fifth consecutive title for Johnson by essentially firing Johnson’s crew mid-race and replacing it with the crew of Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon.
The end result was that Hamlin is rattled. He ripped his team after the race by saying, “Like I said, I did my job.” Not exactly a rousing vote of confidence or rallying of the beleaguered troops by a wise veteran. More of the impetuous Denny we thought had grown up. And at just the wrong time.
Hamlin pledges a pedal-to-the-metal approach at Homestead. He’s going to need it, as there are only two guaranteed routes to the championship for him, either winning the race or finishing second and leading the most laps.
My money still remains on Johnson to hoist the Cup for the fifth straight year. Who is your pick, and why?
Have you ever played poker and held a hand you know can’t be topped? Just sat there quietly while everyone else showed their cards and then blew them away with your straight flush or four of a kind?
That’s how I felt while reviewing the Interwebs today before writing this edition of Splash And Go. I knew it would be highly unlikely that I’d find anything in NASCAR, MotoGP, Formula One or anywhere else in racing that would top the seismic impact of THE news of the day in worldwide motorsport on a date that will be circled in red for a long, long time in INDYCAR annals: Chevrolet is returning to the IZOD IndyCar Series as an engine manufacturer starting in 2012.
The Bowtie is back, baby!
The Bowtie is back. Roll that off your tongue as many times as you’d like, open-wheel racing fans. Manufacturer competition is back in IndyCar, and Chevy’s return to take on Honda hopefully will tip another fence-sitter or two among car manufacturers into the IZOD IndyCar Series as an engine builder.
It’s impossible to overestimate how huge this announcement is for the IZOD IndyCar Series. Competition. An iconic American manufacturer with deep, successful roots in IndyCar racing. Penske Racing as Chevy’s first customer. And most importantly, a validation from the colossus known as General Motors that the technical package created for 2012 by the ICONIC committee is attractive to auto manufacturers.
This wasn’t just a home run or a knockout. This was Reggie Jackson taking Dock Ellis more than 500 feet deep and out of Tiger Stadium in the 1971 All-Star Game. This was Manny Pacquiao transporting Ricky Hatton into la-la land with one left hook in the second round.
This was big. But the announcement was important for more than just engine competition. Chevy officials also indicated they are interested in building an aero package, a significant development.
If Chevy builds aero kits for the new Dallara Safety Cell, can Honda be far behind? After all, if Chevy builds a very efficient aero kit, will Honda want cars powered by its engine to wear Chevy clothing? I think not. Lotus has expressed interest in building an aero kit, and you have to figure Dallara will offer one, too.
So we have at least two engines and at least three body kits — with Honda as a probable fourth — for 2012. The series still has plenty of hurdles to jump, but rays from that proverbial light toward the back of the tunnel are burning more brightly today.
Full compliments to INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard, who listens and then gets things done. Full compliments to Roger Penske, whose influence, wisdom and business and racing wizardry got the IndyCar door re-opened with Chevy. Full compliments to the ICONIC committee, which was validated big-time today. Full compliments to Honda, which requested competition and welcomes it. And full compliments to Chevrolet and GM, which showed great vision to see IndyCar racing as a place for growth, relevant technological development and strong marketing of its passenger vehicles.
NASCAR is in the midst of its most exciting Chase for the Sprint Cup since the inaugural year of the format, 2004, when just 16 points separated champion Kurt Busch, second place Jimmie Johnson and third place Jeff Gordon at the end of the season. Yet the endless bleating, soul-searching and head-scratching continues about NASCAR in reverse gear.
Make no mistake: NASCAR has problems. Declining TV ratings and race attendance. Top teams struggling for sponsorship. Yet it’s still the most popular form of motorsports in America, by far. Every other series in the U.S. would love to have NASCAR’s “problems.”
But can we just focus on the racing for the next three weeks? There are three races remaining in what has been a compelling Chase for the Sprint Cup. Four-time reigning champion Jimmie Johnson leads Denny Hamlin by just 14 points and Kevin Harvick by 38.
It’s high-octane drama, yet from Tuesday through Thursday of every race week during the Chase — after the race reports and analysis are out of the way by Monday and before the race previews and coverage start Friday — all I read about on NASCAR blogs and websites are theories and speculation about the root cause of the great withering of NASCAR. Dustin Long, who I read daily and whose work I admire greatly, even wrote that the close Chase could be hurting NASCAR.
Isn’t there a two-month offseason during which endless column inches and online bytes can be devoted to the Great NASCAR Decession? You know, when no actual racing is taking place?
After the thrilling IZOD IndyCar Series season finale Oct. 2, it’s time to start turning the whispers into open conversation: Just where does Dario Franchitti stand among the all-time greats of Indy car racing?
Dario Franchitti and his wife, Ashley
Some people in the press room at Homestead-Miami Speedway quietly wondered about that before the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300, where Franchitti erased an 12-point deficit over Will Power to win the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series championship. And with three series titles and two Indianapolis 500 victories in the last four seasons, it’s pretty clear that Franchitti is the top IndyCar driver of this generation. No driver who has debuted since 1995 has that kind of resume.
Sure, Sebastien Bourdais won four straight Champ Car titles from 2004-07, but he never won the “500.” And you can technically say this was Dario’s third straight IZOD IndyCar crown. He competed exclusively in NASCAR in 2008, remember?
But here’s one stat that secures Dario’s legend as the best of Generation X and Y: He’s one of just five drivers all time to win the Indianapolis 500 and the national championship in the same season at least twice during their careers.
The others? A.J. Foyt (1961, 1964, 1967), Louis Meyer (1928, 1933), Wilbur Shaw (1937, 1939) and Rodger Ward (1959, 1962). Mighty, mighty impressive company.
Sorry, Leo Durocher: A nice guy will finish first tonight in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship at Homestead-Miami.
Power leads Franchitti by just 11 points after Dario won the PEAK Performance Pole Award in a command performance Friday night on the 1.5-mile oval, while Power qualified third. There are more permutations for the title math than an IRS 1040 income tax form, but assuming both guys run up front, the game is pretty simple: Power needs to keep Franchitti in his rear-view mirror all the way to the checkered flag.
It’s high drama here in South Florida, and it’s definitely worth two or three hours of your time tonight if you’re a fan of any kind of human competition. Live TV coverage on VERSUS starts at 6 p.m. (ET), with the IMS Radio Network providing live coverage of the race — which starts at 7 p.m. — through its affliates and XM 145/Sirius 211.
History and statistics favor Franchitti tonight. He has prevailed in two season-finale showdowns, capturing the IZOD IndyCar Series championship by winning the final race of the year from the pole in 2007 at Chicagoland Speedway and in 2009 here at Homestead. Twelve of his 16 IZOD IndyCar Series victories have come on ovals.
The man has been here, done this, and it shows in his demeanor here this weekend. He seems cool and relaxed, as if this was just another oval race in the championship.
Power, on the other hand, hasn’t been in a title duel like this since his days in the junior formulas. None of his six IZOD IndyCar Series victories has come on an oval. He has finished ahead of Franchitti only once in seven oval races this season.
This is new for Will, and the strain is peeking through his normally laid-back personality just a bit this weekend. He seemed a bit on edge during the post-qualifying press conference Friday night here after he saw one possibly-precious point slip away from his lead when Franchitti won the pole.
If Franchitti wins the title tonight, he will continue the recent trend of the Indianapolis 500 serving as an accurate barometer for season-long excellence. The Indy 500 winner has claimed the IZOD IndyCar Series championship in the same year in four of the last five seasons, and Dario can make it 5-for-6 tonight. The only exception to that rule since 2005 has been Power’s Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, who won his third Indy 500 but not the title in 2009.
Enough stats. Enough history. Enough analysis. Let the rubber meet the road, and let’s see which driver and team are best. It’s must-see TV. High drama on the high banks of Homestead.
Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick. Where’s that iconic stopwatch from the opening of “60 Minutes” when I need it? Time is short — very short — before the IZOD IndyCar Series title showdown Saturday night here in South Florida, and there is a lot going on in IndyCarland.
First, the obvious. Points leader Will Power and second place Dario Franchitti are gearing up for the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 on Saturday night, and Will is keeping it simple as he clings to his 12-point lead. Keep Dario in his mirrors, and the title is his. Problem is, that task isn’t so simple. Power has no career victories on ovals, and Franchitti is the inaugural A.J. Foyt Oval Championship Trophy winner this season for being the best performer on roundy-rounds.
I don’t know what to make of it. I still think Dario is too tough on ovals to top. But then again, staying ahead of Franchitti might not be such a tough order for an hombre who returned to racing this year after suffering a broken back in a crash midway through last season. Both of these cats have a ton of commitment and very large attachments, as David Hobbs likes to say on SPEED’s F1 telecasts.
He finished the Thursday Night Bowling League with a 217 average.
The lovely Cameron freezes another dude in his tracks.
Either Power or Franchitti will hoist an interesting-looking new IZOD IndyCar Series championship trophy that was unveiled Tuesday in Miami. What do you think? It’s not your typical bowling trophy. It’s certainly … different.
You must admit, the trophy does look nice next to IZOD Trophy Girl Cameron. Then again, Cameron makes everything look nice.
While watching the IndyCar finale Saturday, it won’t be hard to notice Sarah Fisher’s Dallara on the 1.5-mile oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Sarah is driving an all-pink car for the second consecutive year at Homestead to increase awareness of breast cancer and help Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Another great gesture from one of the finest people in the series. Way to go, Sarah.
There appears to be some off-track news cooking for the IZOD IndyCar Series, according to Indianapolis Business Journal reporter Anthony Schoettle. He is reporting that the series is close to landing another big fish in the sponsorship pond.
It seems like off-track news is about all that NASCAR can generate these days. How to change the Chase, how to lift flagging TV ratings, the Great Clint Bowyer Controversy, etc. It sort of reminds me of the scene from the classic Led Zeppelin concert movie, “The Song Remains The Same,” in which Robert Plant shrieks the lyric, “Does anybody remember laughter?” during “Stairway to Heaven.”
With all apologies to Plant, does anybody remember the racing in NASCAR? There still is paint-trading going on every weekend as 12 drivers try to beat each others’ brains out to win the Sprint Cup. Yet fans are still bitching. A lot. And Ed Hinton at ESPN.com is getting damn sick of it.
Still, it’s pretty hard to avoid the stock car soap opera du jour, NASCAR’s denial of the appeal filed by Richard Childress Racing of the penalties imposed on Clint Bowyer and his crew chief, Shane Wilson, after Bowyer’s car was found a hair-width out of spec after winning the opening race of the Chase, in New Hampshire.
Childress is steamed and said he will take the appeal to the Chief Appellate Officer (whomever that is). The accident reconstruction expert Childress hired to testify for the team in the hearing Tuesday also thinks he was smeared like mayo on a BLT by NASCAR.
It’s getting fugly, folks. Despite this imbroglio and the pending second appeal, Childress insists it won’t affect the team’s three-car assault on the Cup with Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton. Let’s see: Bowyer’s chances of regaining 150 points lost from the NASCAR penalties and jumping back into the thick of the Chase hang on more off-track proceedings, and Bowyer and RC are not supposed to be distracted?
Hey, there is good news in this melodrama. Harvick and Denny Hamlin have kissed and made up after Harvick played Smash-Up Derby with Hamlin in practice last weekend at Dover, angry at a verbal swipe Hamlin took at Harvick’s RCR teammate Bowyer over the New Hampshire penalties.
Will Volkswagen go NASCAR racing soon? I snuck that in there quietly because I know so many NASCAR fans went apocalyptically berserk when Toyota joined the Cup series even though Toyotas are built by workers who earn real George Washington dollars in Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, Texas and West Virginia, strongholds of God-fearing, Lee Greenwood-singing American patriots.
So, shhhhh on VW. Sorry I even mentioned it.
Off to MotoGP, where the series starts a three-race-in-three-weekend stretch this Sunday at Twin Ring Motegi.
Points leader Jorge Lorenzo isn’t exactly in cruise control despite leading 2010 Red Bull Indianapolis GP winner Dani Pedrosa by 56 points with five races to go. Seven-time and reigning MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi will be on the grid, but fans might see 2011 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 signing Cal Crutchlow on a Fiat Yamaha for the last two races of the season if Rossi follows through with surgery on his nagging shoulder injury. Welcome to the big time, Cal. No pressure, matey!
One thing Rossi claims he won’t do this offseason, new surgical scar on his shoulder or not, is form and manage a Moto2 team for 2011. He’ll probably be too busy, anyways, talking about his new red ride for 2011 with longtime crew chief Jeremy Burgess, whom it looks increasingly likely will follow The Doctor from Yamaha to Ducati.
A provisional 2011 MotoGP schedule finally is out. While David Emmett at Motomatters.com does his usual excellent analysis of all things Grand Prix motorcycle racing, there’s really only one fact you need to know: The fourth annual Red Bull Indianapolis GP is Aug. 26-28, 2011 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and you better damn well be there!
There are very few grains of sand left in the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series hourglass, as the offseason gets underway this Saturday night after the season-ending Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. So it’s time to start zeroing in on the big finale and championship chase before the long winter gets underway.
John Oreovicz of ESPN.com takes a closer look at the title tussle between points leader Will Power and reigning champion Dario Franchitti, who is just 12 points behind in second.
Power and Franchitti are leaving nothing to chance, joining the list of drivers who tested Monday at the aqua-walled Homestead oval. Also among the testers were Power’s Penske teammates, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe, and Dixon’s Ganassi teammate, Scott Dixon. You can bet their engineers’ laptops will be wide open to Power and Franchitti as every last byte of data is examined to try and find an edge heading into the race Saturday.
Fans of arguably the most talented and definitely the most delightful rookie in the IZOD IndyCar Series this season, Simona de Silvestro, can exhale: She will compete in the season finale this Saturday night for HVM Racing. Rumors swirled like a strong breeze in a Manhattan concrete canyon that Simona and the team shut down. Thankfully, that’s not true, according to team owner Keith Wiggins.
Let’s hope HVM finds the dough that Simona’s talent deserves. She’s a keeper for the IZOD IndyCar Series.
One lady in the IndyCar paddock who doesn’t need to worry about her next paycheck is Danica Patrick. But the multi-million dollar question looms high above the 5-foot frame of America’s Princess of Speed: IndyCar or NASCAR? Jeff Olson examines both sides of the story in his blog at VERSUS.com.
Speaking of money and racing, it seemed like NASCAR was the petroleum-fueled land of milk and honey during the boom years of the sport last decade. Now NASCAR drivers and teams are hurting for cubic dollars to power their teams just like their brothers and sisters in every other form of racing in North America. And Jeff Gluck writes that the recoiling of Corporate America at 200-mph billboards could have a negative effect on the talent pool in NASCAR.
Hey, Kenny: What's that, Rusty's money clip?
Gluck also stays on the topic of money in this interesting short about the Twitter feud between SPEED NASCAR announcer and former NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace and Brian Scott, who was released by Braun Racing on Monday despite heading toward the Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year title.
It seems that Herman touched a nerve with Master Scott because he suggested that Scott’s daddy had plenty of money that would help buy Sonny a ride. Gasp – ride buyers in NASCAR?
But one reader comment beneath Gluck’s blog post also pointed out the irony of Wallace complaining about ride-buying, as his nephew Steven probably never would have received a Nationwide Series ride if his father wasn’t one Rusty Wallace. Zing!
Then again, some ride buyers in NASCAR eventually develop into solid drivers. Terry Blount of ESPN.com wrote about how Paul Menard has evolved into more than just a kid playing with his father’s money this season and is worthy of his ride for 2011 at Richard Childress Racing. Menard’s father, John, owns the major home improvement chain Menards, which is an institution across the upper Midwest.
Enough about money and racing. It’s too depressing. Let’s get back to the racing itself, and the relentless meat grinder known as the Chase for the Sprint Cup continues this weekend at the 1.5-mile cookie cutter at Kansas.
Everyone was ready to deep-six Johnson after he finished 25th in the Chase opener Sept. 19 at New Hampshire, and now many are calling the engravers to prepare the trophy after Johnson won at Dover. I still think Johnson will complete a successful Drive for Five, but maybe it’s not that simple.
With apologies to Ivan Drago of "Rocky IV" fame, "JJ, I will break you."
A few very solid alternatives to the trendy pick of Johnson to ride the wave to his fifth title are Carl Edwards and the Busch brothers, Kyle and Kurt. It would be great if four or five drivers had a realistic chance at the title — not just one of those bogus, mathematical “if Jupiter and Pluto align just right and Jimmie Johnson catches whooping cough” kinds of chances — entering the season finale at Homestead.
But I’ll believe it when I see it.
Another thing I’ll believe when I see is Ferrari holding to a commitment to cut costs in Formula One. The gap between the have’s and have-not’s in F1 resembles that in a Third World country. And there’s absolutely no reason why mega-buck superteams like Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull want anyone from the outhouse to join them in the penthouse.
Moving on to MotoGP, reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi expects a painful time this weekend during the Grand Prix of Japan at Motegi, mainly because the circuit’s layout will aggravate his chronic shoulder injury. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rossi follows through on his plan to skip the last two races of the season to have shoulder surgery and be completely ready for preseason testing in 2011 for his new employer, Ducati.
Finally, one of the coolest races in North America to which almost nobody pays attention is scheduled for this weekend, the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. The American Le Mans Series features an impressive variety of machinery in a motorsports world that has become mind-numbingly spec these days.
Is it a winner's trophy from Dover or Carl Edwards in a rage?
Jimmie Johnson is giving new meaning to the words embossed on the passenger-side mirrors on vehicles: OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR. Johnson climbed to second place in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, just 35 points behind leader Denny Hamlin, after his victory from the pole in the AAA 400 last Sunday at Dover.
But does anyone think Johnson isn’t the favorite to win his fifth straight title after this victory? Raise your hand. I think I see one or two brave palms in the back of the room.
One of those hands belongs to Dustin Long, who thinks the Chase starts this weekend at Kansas. Sorry, Dustin, I disagree, because last weekend at Dover was a microcosm of why Johnson and the entire No. 48 team are the best and won’t be topped.
Johnson won from the pole and led the most laps in the race. Meanwhile, points leader Hamlin engaged in a war of words with fellow Chaser Clint Bowyer over NASCAR’s penalties for Bowyer’s illegal car that he drove to victory lane Sept. 19 in the Chase opener at New Hampshire.
Then Bowyer’s teammate, Kevin Harvick, defended the honor of Richard Childress Racing by bumping and sideswiping Hamlin in practice, which led to a shouting match in the garage between Harvick and Hamlin.
It was good theater and the kind of soap opera that NASCAR breeds every other week. Call it what you want, but it’s entertaining.
So the list of focused Chase drivers was down to nine before the race even started Sunday. Not a great strategy for trying to topple Johnson and Co. And a few of the Chasers had lousy races. Matt Kenseth finished 18th, Greg Biffle 19th and Tony Stewart 21st. Biffle is 140 points behind Hamlin, Stewart 162 and Kenseth 165.
Hamlin showed Friday that he doesn’t have the focus or maturity yet to lead a championship team when he spouted off about Bowyer’s penalties, which led to Harvick’s road rage during practice. Kyle Busch is third in points, just 45 behind Hamlin. But Rowdy’s mind is more erratic than Hamlin’s. Plus he still insists on running Nationwide and Truck races on event weekends, and I don’t care what anyone says: That distracts from and dilutes a Chase-winning effort.
Don’t believe me? How many Nationwide or Truck races has Johnson run down the Chase stretch in the last four seasons? You can probably count them on one hand.
The countdown is on for the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 this Saturday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway, after which either points leader Will Power or Dario Franchitti will be crowned the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series champion. Power leads Franchitti by just 12 points.
It’s pretty safe to say these cats are ready for Saturday night at Homestead. It should be a hell of a duel to the finish, but dramatic title races decided at the season finale are nothing new for the IZOD IndyCar Series.
The Firestone Indy Lights season ends Saturday at Homestead, with the name of rookie J.K. Vernay all but engraved on the championship trophy. Vernay leads second place James Hinchcliffe by 48 points and only needs to start the 100-mile race to win the title.
While there’s not much air in the title chase balloon for Lights this Saturday in South Florida, it will be nice to see Lights veterans Ana Beatriz and Sebastian Saavedra step up to the IZOD IndyCar Series in the big show Saturday night for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Conquest Racing, respectively.
It was all quiet on the MotoGP front last weekend, as the series is heading to Motegi for the Grand Prix of Japan this weekend. That race was postponed earlier this season when the Icelandic volcano forced the disruption of travel throughout Europe. Thanks to old Smoky Top, MotoGP now has three races in three consecutive weeks. Hell for the riders and teams, heaven for us MotoGP fans!
World Superbikes had a big weekend, though, as Max Biaggi clinched the 2010 championship at Imola. Meanwhile, Suzuki thanked Leon Haslam for chasing Biaggi all season by releasing him because the Alstare Suzuki team lacks sponsorship for 2011. Haslam, second in points this year, is expected to move to BMW.
This move also could have ramifications on MotoGP, as the fate of Suzuki’s MotoGP team apparently is under discussion at the home base in Japan. Suzuki has put a bucket of bolts on track in MotoGP for the last three seasons, but the championship still needs major manufacturers. Kawasaki left after 2008, and Suzuki could be gone soon. That would leave only Honda, Yamaha and Ducati in MotoGP, which is not good.
Webber and fellow title protagonist Lewis Hamilton made contact while fighting for third, and Hamilton was forced to the garage early for the second straight race. Webber survived to finish third behind Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.
Parking early for the second straight race put a dent into Lew’s title hopes, as he’s 20 points behind Webber. Vettel is 21 points back in fourth, and reigning World Champ Jenson Button is 25 points behind in fifth. It’s a hell of a struggle among superstars with just four races remaining.
Or are there just three races left?
The debut Korean Grand Prix looks to be on shaky ground as the final layer of asphalt hasn’t been laid on the circuit, and the race is scheduled for Oct. 24! Yeah, Oct. 24 of this year. Even F1 head honcho Bernie Ecclestone, who shrugs off criticism of the lunacy of putting F1 races in countries with no motorsports heritage or infrastructure, is a bit worried about whether the Korean race can be pulled off.