It was a family affair that lasted for several decades, and the Bettenhausen clan became legendary at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
It was also a sport that wasn’t kind to them. The family patriarch, Melvin “Tony” Bettenhausen, died in a practice accident in 1961 at Indianapolis.
Gary Bettenhausen followed in his father Tony’s footsteps to Indy and made 21 starts in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” His favorite race wasn’t 1972, when he led 138 of the 200 laps and fell victim late to mechanical bugaboos.
It was 1980.
“Probably more so,” said Bettenhausen, 71, from his Martinsville, Ind., home. “We took a 5-year-old car, started in the last row and finished third. We changed two tires the whole race, had no radios, so we used hand signals. It was an old Patrick car that Wally Dallenbach had driven.
“Sherman Armstrong already had four cars, and we really didn’t have any time in it. We changed the fuel injection and other things for Race Day, and it ran like a rocket.”
That was his best finish at the Speedway.
Bettenhausen was handicapped by a left-arm injury from an accident on the dirt mile at Syracuse, N.Y., but it didn’t stop him.
“A whole half of my career was with one arm, and I won the dirt title twice,” he said. “My first race back was a 100-lapper indoors at Fort Wayne, and I won it. I got smoother, and that helped me. The first couple years, I couldn’t drive it down the straightaway. As the years went on, it got stronger. For a while, I actually used Velcro on my glove to hold my hand on the wheel. I learned how to compensate.”
In 1992, the paddock was buzzing before the month of May even started. Bettenhausen was hooked up with Nelson Piquet as his teammate. Everybody wondered what stories would come out of the matchup of the sophisticated former Formula One road-racing champion paired with the master of the American dirt oval.
It was surprising. There weren’t any stories.
“It was quite an experience,” Bettenhausen said. “It took about five minutes to decide we liked each other. He’s a fun guy to be around. He called on my birthday or around Christmas two years ago out of the blue. His son is running NASCAR’s Nationwide series, and I watch him all the time.”
Gary B said he doesn’t miss racing in Indy cars.
“Nope,” Gary said, “not the way it is today with all the computers. Half the fun was getting a car set up.”
His brother Merle, who also raced, retired last year as marketing manager for auto dealer Ray Skillman. Sadly, his youngest brother, Tony Jr., was killed in a plane crash in 2000.
Gary’s twin sons, Cary and Todd, started a health-care business and patented an innovative tray that allows surgeons to have tools in exactly the right places when they come out of a sterilizer.
Sadly for his legions of fans, Gary said he doesn’t come by the Speedway anymore.
“It’s too hard on my legs and back because I’m not walking very well,” Gary said.
But the fans never will forget the popular Gary B.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Historian Donald Davidson has been the expert on the history of the Racing Capital of the World since he arrived in Central Indiana in the mid-1960s. Now 2010 Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee Davidson is answering your questions periodically in this blog!
Q: Is there any truth that the late Ayrton Senna had a test run with Penske at the Speedway, back in November 1993?
—Michael Brucker Jr. via email
A: Senna did in fact test with Penske, but it was the week of Christmas 1992 and it took place at Firebird Raceway (a road course) in Phoenix, rather than IMS. The situation was that Senna was not at all happy with his current lot in Formula One and was undecided as to whether or not to stay with McLaren (which he did), especially in view of the fact that Honda would not be returning for 1993. Largely through the efforts of fellow Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi, Senna showed up at Firebird, and under Emmo’s tutelage, took a number laps in a Marlboro-liveried Penske car.
Not surprisingly, everyone involved was extremely impressed with his runs, and Emmo pushed for Senna to come on as teammate to Paul Tracy and himself, Rick Mears having just announced his retirement at the Penske Christmas party a couple of weeks earlier. There are several minutes of footage of that day available on YouTube, including an interview (in Portuguese) conducted with Senna and Emmo during which time Senna comes over as even a little bashful, the two of them clearly having great affection for each other.
With Nigel Mansell already confirmed as joining Mario Andretti at Newman/Haas and Nelson Piquet expected to return with John Menard (which he did), Emmo was fantasizing that there could be at least five World Champions at Indianapolis in 1993. There would only be four. The next step was to get Senna on an oval, which never happened, and it wasn’t before he was re-signed with McLaren for another year of F1.
In the meantime, longtime Penske engineer Chuck Sprague, who had been somewhat apprehensive as what Senna might be like to work with, was absolutely amazed that he showed up at Firebird as the lone passenger in Fittipaldi’s rental car. No handlers, no entourage, just himself. He was extremely polite, very complimentary about the car and gave tons of feedback after very few laps.
The following day, Senna accompanied the team over for a test on the other side of town at PIR’s oval with Fittipaldi and Tracy, and he paid plenty of attention but declined to take any laps. He shook hands with everyone involved when he left and a year later, Chuck was flabbergasted to receive a Senna Christmas card.
Q: I recently visited a signage business in Indianapolis, located at the southern tip of a road called Gasoline Alley. When I looked at the map, although there are northern sections of this road that bear other names, it might have originally led right up to the track itself? So is there a historical connection between the lower stretch of this road and the track?
—Mel Francis, Oconomowoc, Wis.
A: We know it well, and we’ll hazard a guess that the signage business you visited was Freelance Lettering. Prior to 1985—the year in which that stretch was officially re-named Gasoline Alley—it had always been Roena Street. It did cause some confusion at the time—and since—one having to specify precisely which “Gasoline Alley” was being referenced, that of course, having been the nickname applied to the Garage Area at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway a mile to the north as far back as the 1920s. And yes, it did lead directly to IMS until quite recently, in spite of it going by three different names during the 1.5-mile trip.
We can remember when the Roena stretch (from Vermont Street down to where it dead-ends into Rockville Road) was pretty much out in the country, much of it being occupied by row upon row of fruits and vegetables and several large greenhouses. The sweeping left- and right-hander just south of Vermont Street where Bob East and Steve Lewis had their operation for several years used to be lined with so much foliage overgrowth that to drive through there was almost as if one was travelling through a winding carwash with the brushes on but no water! That’s all gone now.
A longtime “500″ crew member named Charlie Patterson purchased some property along Roena in 1978, with a view to relocating his driveshaft business there, but after clearing out a bunch of shrubbery, one thing led to another. He began purchasing more and more property and pretty soon was putting up buildings for the purpose of housing race teams, accessory companies and a variety of racing-related businesses. It has been a height of activity for the last 30-odd years, and at the risk of leaving somebody out, we recall at various times over the years Bignotti-Cotter being down there, along with Vince Granatelli, Ron Hemelgarn, Newman/Haas, Riley & Scott, Chris Paulsen’s C & R Racing, several drag racing teams, including Don “The Snake” Prudhomme’s, Herb Porter’s HP Performance (now Speedway Engines run by Rick Long), Rick Hendrick’s IMSA GTP team, Dan Gurney, Jud Phillips, Tony Bettenhausen, PacWest, Jackie Howerton, Steve Lewis and Bob East, Alex Morales and Johnny Capels, Elouisa Garza, Mike Fanning, Frank Weiss, Donnie Ray Everett, Jeff Sinden and Joe Kennedy, Gordon Barrett, Bob Lazier, Adrian Fernandez, Pagan Racing (with John Barnes), HVM Racing (driver Simona de Silvestro), J. J. Yeley, Steve Long, Dan Drinan, Jason Leffler, Bud Kaeding, Joe Devin, Gambler, Earl’s Supply, Van’s Metalcraft and countless others. Over this last winter, Hinchman Uniforms moved in there.
For many years, as you suggest, the journey from IMS down to Gasoline Alley was a direct route, specifically Polco Street running from West 16th Street south to West 10th Street, followed by Grande Avenue from 10th to Vermont Street and finally Roena/Gasoline Alley down to Rockville Road where it dead-ends. Polco and Grande have retained their names, but the very handy direct route to IMS did come to an end a few months ago when the Town of Speedway closed a portion of Grande Avenue in a transaction made with Allison Transmission.
The name Polco, by the way, has an Allison connection. Now approximately 100 years old, the name is derived from using five letters out of “Prest-O-Lite Company,” the firm underwritten in 1904 by Carl Fisher and Jim Allison for about $5,000 and then sold in 1917 to Union Carbide for $9 million!
With all apologies to Led Zeppelin, it’s been a long time since we’ve rocked and rolled at “Splash And Go.” There has been plenty of news since the North American season officially ended with the NASCAR Sprint Cup season finale Nov. 21, so it would be a bit tedious to review all of that.
Let’s just pick up with the last week or so, shall we?
The IZOD IndyCar Series season ended two months ago, but it seems that no series in America has more mojo right now than Randy Bernard and Co. The good news keeps coming and coming, putting more than a decade’s worth of acrimony due to “The Split” deeper and deeper into the rear-view mirror.
Mazda joins the party!
The Road To Indy ladder system for INDYCAR, consisting of Firestone Indy Lights, Star Mazda and USF2000, received a major boost this week when Mazda announced its title sponsorship of the program. The Mazda Road to Indy will provide scholarships to the champion of all three developmental classes to jump to the next level the next season.
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. There’s no other way to describe this, on so many levels. The scholarships provide a legitimate carrot for aspiring open-wheel racers at all levels, and the addition of another manufacturer bullish on the future of INDYCAR racing is fantastic.
Combine the Mazda Road to Indy with the recently announced program to grant a Firestone Indy Lights oval program to the USAC National Drivers Championship winner, and few — if any — sanctioning bodies in the world have such a clearly defined road to the pinnacle as INDYCAR.
Team Penske continued to add sponsors to its stable, as series sponsor IZOD came on board this week. IZOD will use Penske driver Ryan Briscoe as its new poster boy, and the best series sponsor in INDYCAR history — by about 1,000 miles — already is activating both its series sponsorship and support of Briscoe through new TV commercials filmed in the desert with a live soundtrack provided by rock band Weezer. No more racing to the party, I guess. I shed no tears.
The addition of IZOD continued a hell of a capitalistic run for Penske, which also snared Shell/Pennzoil as an Indianapolis 500 primary sponsor for three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves, AAA of Southern California as a primary sponsor for Castroneves at Long Beach and Texas and Midwestern grocery store chain Meijer as an associate sponsor for all three of its cars.
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.
Judging by the feedback I received from the Nov. 8 edition of Splash And Go, it appears that the many dramatic subplots of the AAA 500 last Sunday weren’t enough to draw back those of you who have abandoned the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup this fall. Your attitude seems to match that of Kyle Busch to the NASCAR official during his stop-and-go penalty for pit road speeding last Sunday at Texas — the big, fat middle finger.
Guess many of you feel the same way about the Chase, which is too bad.
That’s a shame, as no one is going to convince me this isn’t a compelling Chase. The top three drivers within 59 points. Two races to go. Forget about the COT. Forget about the Chase system.
Four-time reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson trails leader Denny Hamlin by 33 points after Hamlin won last Sunday at Texas. But there are few better places for a JJ rebound than Phoenix, as he has won the last three fall races at The Desert Mile.
Hamlin is hot, as he’s racing no differently during the Chase than he did during the “regular season” — the dude is driving to win. So anyone Chase naysayers complaining about conservative “points racing” better not point to Hamlin. Oh, sorry, I’m on that soap box again.
And what about Kevin Harvick? He’s 59 points behind leader Hamlin, and Mike Mulhern suggests it might be a must-win situation for Happy this Sunday at Phoenix.
It should be vewwwy interesting, as Elmer Fudd would say.
Is this Kyle Busch after a speeding penalty or NASCAR fans who still think this year's Chase stinks?
So, Chase naysayers: Are you happy now?
If not, then just end your illusion of any allegiance to NASCAR. Just come clean: You’re not a NASCAR fan anymore.
Because if you didn’t find the AAA Texas 500 even the slightest bit entertaining, then you should just move on. Pass Go, collect $200 and move to your latest sport du jour or continue to long for the “glory days” that had no more glory than what was on track Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
I’m far from a NASCAR apologist, as there are times I think reading toaster oven wiring manuals is more exciting than watching a Sprint Cup race. But this season has been solid, and no race has featured more drama, excitement and over-the-top entertainment than Sunday at Texas.
Let’s start recapping the plot lines. I bet we’ll need to move to a second hand to get a complete count.
One, Denny Hamlin uses a great inside-out move on Matt Kenseth to win the race. Denny could have sat back in second and taken the safe route, knowing he still would have left Fort Worth with the points lead. But Denny did what champions are supposed to do: Drove his ass off for a victory. (It’s a shame that NASCAR doesn’t reward winning drives like this with more points, but that’s a topic for another day.)
Two, Jimmie Johnson is out of the points lead with just two races remaining. Johnson entered the race 14 points ahead in his Drive for Five, yet he left Texas 33 points behind Hamlin, in second, after finishing ninth. Kevin Harvick remains third, 59 points out of the lead, in the closest three-man race this late in the Chase since the format started in 2004.
Three, Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, benched his pit crew mid-race for poor performance, orchestrating a swap with teammate Jeff Gordon’s pit crew. It was about as stinging as a public rebuke can be, but it’s not surprising considering Knaus’ Texas-sized ego. Plus even though Knaus never has met a mirror or the pronoun “I” that he didn’t like, look at the man’s record: He delivers. Johnson didn’t seem that torn up about the divorce from his pit crew after the race.
Four, smack talk by Hamlin’s crew chief, Mike Ford. He said the mid-race Hendrick crew swap could be the tipping point toward Denny ending Jimmie’s run of four consecutive Sprint Cup titles. Brash, bold talk — you’ve got to love it.
Five, Gordon’s crew was available because Jeff Burton inexplicably took out Gordon, precipitating the Backstretch Bash. The Driver formerly known as Boy Wonder stomped toward Burton on the backstretch, gave him a strong two-handed shove and started to throw punches before being restrained by NASCAR officials.
It wasn’t exactly Cale vs. Donnie and Bobby on the backstretch at Daytona in 1979, but it was quite compelling. And because the combatants were Gordon and Burton, two of the more sage, even-tempered elder statesmen in the NASCAR garage, you know it was real.
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?
The plunge off the ratings’ cliff is odd, because the racing has been very good this entire season, including the Chase. Even Auto Club Speedway, NASCAR’s generic prescription for Ambien, put on a very competitive race two weeks ago.
If you’ve tuned out the Chase on The Worldwide Leader in Sports this fall, you still should tune into ESPN tonight for what promises to be a fascinating 60 minutes of NASCAR programming. ESPN’s superb series of short documentaries, “30 For 30,” looks back at the life, legend and truths of Tim Richmond in “Tim Richmond: To The Limit” at 8 p.m. (ET) on ESPN and 11 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2.
The Last Rock and Roll Star: Tim Richmond
Richmond has sadly faded into the vanishing point of the rear-view mirror of NASCAR. This guy was an incredible force of nature and an incredible talent in Winston Cup racing during the 80s. He raced, partied and lived harder than most of the corporate automatons disguised as drivers today probably could ever dream. Imagine Kyle Busch’s speed and carefree talent mixed with the rock-star magnetism and lifestyle of Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones or Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, and you had Tim Richmond.
Much like James Hunt in F1, the number of Richmond’s laps led and ladies bedded ran side-by-side. But he had tremendous skill and huge attachments behind the wheel of a stock car and appeared headed to the high altitude of the legends of the sport before he contracted AIDS and died in 1989.
Want to see Richmond’s otherworldly talent encapsulated in one short video? Watch this below. Richmond is swallowing the field whole on a restart at North Wilkesboro while continuing to talk from his car with ESPN commentators in the booth after the green flag:
Due to his illness and the misconceptions associated with it, Richmond never has received his due from either NASCAR or its flag-waving, God-fearing fan base. Hopefully this documentary will help those who have forgotten or never knew about Richmond realize he was a rare supernova.
Watch this show tonight. Richmond is exactly the kind of character that corporate sponsors in 2010 never would bless even though racing needs talented showmen like him more than ever.
Back to racing 2010. It’s a quiet day in worldwide motorsport — a rarity during the season. But there’s still some news to chew on.
There might be only three guys in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing who have it better right now than Jamie McMurray — Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick — even though McMurray isn’t one of the 12 drivers this year in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
You'd be stoked if you won at Daytona, Indy and Charlotte in the same season, too. Even if you weren't in the Chase.
McMurray continued his banner season with a victory last Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Jamie Mac’s three victories this season came at the three most prestigious tracks in NASCAR – Daytona, Indianapolis and Charlotte.
I wrote this before, but McMurray’s primary sponsors, Bass Pro Shops and McDonald’s, must be pretty stoked these days. I know I’d rather benefit from the exposure of winning the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and a race at Charlotte and miss the Chase than make the Chase and go winless, as Carl Edwards, Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth have done so far this season.
Only Johnson, Hamlin and Harvick should be happier than Jamie Mac these days because they’re the only three drivers with a chance to lift the Sprint Cup on Nov. 21 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Johnson finished third at Charlotte, with Hamlin fourth, stretching JJ’s lead to 41 points over Hamlin in the standings. Harvick is third, 77 points back.
Everyone else from fourth-place Jeff Gordon to 12th-place Clint Bowyer are at least 156 points behind Johnson. They can turn out the lights on 2010, Irene. With just five races remaining, they’re toast.
While most media members and fans think Johnson is easing away from Hamlin heading into Martinsville this weekend, Dustin Long begs to differ. He believes this could be Hamlin’s Chase to lose and presents an interesting statistical case.
Kasey Kahne’s lost season continued with illness and a third brake failure Saturday night at Charlotte, and the relations between Kahne and Richard Petty Motorsports plunged to an even deeper malaise. Kahne claimed illness for his reason for leaving the team after his early accident, yet he was healthy enough to run a 5K race for charity the next morning. Granted, RPM has provided Kahne with cars barely worthy of Fred Sanford’s junkyard this season.
It’s an ugly example of how a lame-duck driver and team should not end a partnership.
Television ratings and attendance for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series continue to drop, and the series heads this weekend to one of its few flops as a new race market, Los Angeles. Then again, Tinseltown is the worst pro sports market in America, so is anyone surprised?
But never fear, a solution to NASCAR’s woes is here, courtesy of Auto Club Speedway: THE HOFF.
David Hasselhoff, famous from “Knight Rider” and “Baywatch,” being booted after the first round of “Dancing With The Stars” and one of the most legendary videos ever on YouTube, is singing the national anthem before the Nationwide Series race Saturday at the track.
BOOM goes the dynamite! NASCAR’s problems are solved thanks to The Hoff. Remember, he’s huge in Germany.
The Nationwide race at California also will be significant because it will the first of six consecutive Nationwide races for Danica Patrick, with no IZOD IndyCar Series race commitments. The stretch will mark her first back-to-back races in the series since February and March.
Gentleman Jim has a point: Is anyone talking about the racing during this Chase? Well, maybe if the racing involves wrecking.
The racing Richter scale continues to chatter over the Carmageddon bump-and-runs between Chaser Kyle Busch and non-Chaser David Reutimann last weekend at Kansas. Rootie is unrepentant, and Kyle’s brother, Kurt Busch, has entered the fray by saying non-Chasers should keep their heads when racing around drivers participating in NASCAR’s postseason.
That’s fine, Kurt. But Chasers also should treat non-Chasers as more than speed bumps or bumper car crash-test dummies. Your little bro Rowdy never has received that message and probably never will.
Meanwhile, that Bearded Man of Mystery is back in the points lead heading to his home track, a place where he normally puts the boot into the behind of his rivals. Then again, if Jimmie wins this weekend at California and extends his points lead, fans will yelp that the Chase is boring, needs changing and is responsible for their shrinking 401K despite eight of the 12 Chase drivers being within 85 points of the lead entering this weekend.
It usually takes awhile for Silly Season to crank up in the IZOD IndyCar Series. But this year is different. Announcements and rumors — good and bad — are flying like Justin Bieber dolls will off shelves this Christmas shopping season.
First, the good. Simona De Silvestro may not have won the Rookie of Year title this year — Alex Lloyd did — but she easily was the most pleasant and talented surprise in the series in 2010. She’ll stay at HVM Racing for the 2011 season.
KV Racing Technology is helping a new team, SH Racing, field a one-car entry for the 2011 Indianapolis 500. No driver has been named, but a sponsor, REDLINE Extreme energy drink, is lined up.
Is it just me, or are energy drinks the new dot.com’s of the racing sponsorship world? Let’s hope the long-term viability of those fizzy, yellow drinks to pay the bills is better than the Internet firms that sprouted and disappeared like crabgrass about 10 years ago.
Two-time American Le Mans Series champions Highcroft Racing aim to run a limited IZOD IndyCar Series schedule in 2011, with an eye on a full-season ride for 2012. Highcroft and team owner Duncan Dayton are the real deal, so this team looks like a solid prospect for IndyCar in the future.
Now for the bad news, and it continues to swirl around one team – Andretti Autosport.
Just a few days after AA announced Tony Kanaan was free to look for a ride with another team because primary sponsor 7-Eleven wasn’t returning in 2011, Michael Andretti’s team announced it needs a primary sponsor for Ryan Hunter-Reay. Series sponsor IZOD picked up RHR’s tab in 2010. AA officials have indicated one company already has made an offer as a primary sponsor, so that’s a proverbial silver lining.
It should be one of the more active Silly Seasons in recent IndyCar memory. VERSUS IndyCar announcer Jack Arute offers his opinions on what might happen.
And speaking of silly, ’tis the season for a good highlight reel of IZOD IndyCar Series bloopers.
MotoGP continues its Asian tour this weekend with the Grand Prix of Malaysia. 2010 Red Bull Indianapolis GP winner Dani Pedrosa will miss his second consecutive race with a broken collarbone suffered last weekend in practice at Motegi, so Jorge Lorenzo only needs to finish ninth or better to clinch his first World Championship.
Put the mortgage on it. Jorge’s worst finish this season is fourth, twice. He’s been on the podium at every other race.
One of those fourth-place finishes for Lorenzo came after an epic battle with Fiat Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi last weekend at Motegi. The Doctor and Jorge aren’t on each others’ Christmas card lists, and Rossi has no regrets about racing Lorenzo hammer and tongs over the final laps.
And why should he? Rossi may be a happy-go-lucky guy off the bike, but he’s an assassin on it. Plus that battle sent a clear message to Lorenzo: You don’t own me, kid.
Beating Lorenzo must have done wonders for Rossi’s ailing shoulder, as he’s leaning toward finishing the entire season with Yamaha instead of skipping the last two rounds, at Estoril, Portugal and Valencia, Spain, for shoulder surgery.
Then again, Rossi is a master of mind games. Maybe he’s just trying to butter up Yamaha to let him test his new Ducati ride for 2011 the day after the season finale at Valencia.
Rossi’s replacement for 2011 at Yamaha, American rookie phenom Ben Spies, did an interesting video interview with OnTheThrottle. Check it out in two parts here.
Formula One and its raging championship battle are back in action this weekend at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, one of the world’s greatest tracks. But all eyes in F1 remain on Japan’s neighbor to the west, Korea, where the inaugural Korean Grand Prix remains in doubt for Oct. 22-24.
The final layer of asphalt is being paved for the race, and the FIA’s Charlie Whiting is supposed to inspect the circuit Monday. But even if the track passes muster, this race is a disaster in waiting. Come on: Just two weeks for the asphalt to cure?
Yet despite this joke of a race, F1 continues to look east to banana republics as proper spots for races while ignoring places with history, tradition and completed infrastructure like Imola, Magny-Cours and … Indianapolis. Thailand is the next target. At this rate, more than half of the races in the World Championship will take place in the Middle East or Asia, where dictators, despots and oil barons are more than willing to play Bernie Ecclestone’s financial parlor games.
Syracuse, N.Y., is a far distance from Thailand or Suzuka, and the Syracuse Mile doesn’t have the infrastructure of any of Bernie’s speed palaces. It doesn’t have a pavement problem, either, because there is no pavement.
But the Moody Mile is playing host again to one of the most balls-out racing events anywhere on Earth, Super DIRT Week. The SEF Small Engine Fuels 200 this Sunday is the showcase event, the Super Bowl for dirt modifieds. Much like the Knoxville Nationals for sprint cars, it’s roots racing at its hardest, purest and finest.