Indianapolis Motor Speedway played host to two very dedicated globetrotters in the last week. Both are parlaying their love of two-wheeled transportation into the trip of a lifetime.
Paolo kissing the bricks
Last week, Paolo Pirozzi of Italy stopped by to take a lap around the famed IMS oval on his Ducati motorcycle, affectionately named “Lidia.” Paolo is taking a year to ride around the world, making a point to stop by every MotoGP circuit on the globe in the process. So far, Paolo has taken seven months to cover 24 countries, starting in his native Italy and working through northern Europe, Russia into China, then back west across India and Pakistan and to Australia. He flew to Seattle and traveled down the west coast of the United States.
After Indy, Paolo traveled east to New York, and the plan is to hit Florida (who wouldn’t, in November!) and then work west then south through Mexico, Central and South America, and skip across the southern Atlantic from Brazil to Africa, then north toward home. I’m weary just thinking about it.
On Nov. 23, Az Heydari, one of the world’s newest yet most passionate MotoGP World Championship fans, ran the 2.621-mile road at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of the Red Bull Indianapolis GP.
Heydari, who attended her first MotoGP race at Estoril, Portugal in 2010 and immediately became a self-proclaimed MotoGP fanatic, is raising money for Riders for Health by running 16 of the 18 circuits upon which MotoGP runs around the world. Her goal is to raise 15,000 pounds; so far her running shoes and MotoGP fandom have raised more than 9,500 pounds.
The resident of Kent, England, left London on Nov. 6 and first ran the track at Qatar; she has ran most of the European circuits since and, after her run at IMS on a sunny-but-chilly day, she next heads west for Laguna Seca.
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.
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?
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.
Make no doubt about it: This guy is the boss of IndyCar racing over the last 15 years. Robin Miller, who knows a thing or 100,000 about great drivers, thinks so. I don’t need as large of an abacus to count my racing knowledge as Robin, but I think so, too.
It also was a good night in South Florida for one Danica Patrick, who tied a season best by finishing second in the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300. It was a solid salvage job by America’s Princess of Speed, who ended the season in the top 10 with the strong result after an intense duel with Andretti Autosport teammate Tony Kanaan down the stretch laps of the race.
But there’s no rest for weary Danica, who probably would give some of her sizable endorsement income to approach a single-digit finish in her Grand NASCAR Nationwide Experiment of 2010, which continues full-bore now that the IndyCar season is done.
You had to feel for Will Power after the Homestead race. The laid-back Aussie dude was visibly oozing the pressure of the title chase last weekend at Homestead. I was there, and Will was uncharacteristically tense and even borderline snippy in a press conference Friday night after Franchitti won the pole, trimming one point from Power’s 12-point lead entering the event.
And the coil spring of Will’s psyche finally snapped when he brushed the wall trying to avoid lapped traffic in the race, ending his race and his championship hopes. Contrast that with Dario’s chilly nerves when avoiding the spinning, crashing car of rolling chicane Milka Duno later in the race.
Power lost the title by five points, but he gained a ton of respect and injected a heavy dose of fear into his rivals this season. As Danica said of Power in the post-race press conference: “He did a hell of a job this year. He kicked ass on the road courses, for sure.” That he did, winning the inaugural Mario Andretti Road Course Championship Trophy. And Power also improved quite a bit on ovals, even though that first win on roundy-rounds eludes him.
Prospects for a strong year also are looking up for Graham Rahal. He announced a big sponsorship deal for 2011-12 with TBC Retail Group, a major American tire and automotive retail company, on Saturday afternoon at Homestead. Whispers are getting louder than Graham is heading to a third Ganassi team in 2011. Was it any coincidence that a Ganassi executive was in the deadline room when the press conference took place Saturday at Homestead? Hmm …
IndyCar’s favorite bad boy, Paul Tracy, also is aiming for a strong full-season ride in 2011. PT is beating the bushes and says he’s close to having enough funding for next year. Let’s hope so. You never can get too much of The Thrill from West Hill.
While Graham is set and things are looking up for PT, there was a bit of bad news for Tony Kanaan and Andretti Autosport. 7-Eleven, TK’s longtime primary sponsor in the IZOD IndyCar Series, is returning only as an associate on Danica’s car next year. AA has given TK permission to look around the series for another ride.
Sorry, but I just can’t imagine TK at another team besides Andretti. He has been the one fixture — the pillar — of that outfit since it came to the series in 2003 as Andretti Green Racing. No one has worked harder, no one has driven harder and no one has kept the team more focused and unified than TK. To lapse into American sportscaster-speak, TK is the glue guy at Andretti. The team simply cannot afford to lose Kanaan, who immediately becomes the most coveted free agent in IndyCar.
The rousing battle between TK and Danica over the last 30 laps at Homestead wasn’t the only compelling bout last weekend between teammates who aren’t exactly best buddies. The heated rivalry between seven-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi and 2010 champion-elect Jorge Lorenzo finally boiled over at Motegi in a phenomenal, elbow-rubbing duel Sunday.
Seriously, the only difference between the scrap between Fiat Yamaha teammates Rossi and Lorenzo over the last three laps of the race and the classic old video game “Road Rash” was the lack of spiked balls and chains. This was as close to 180-mph two-wheeled combat as you’re going to see.
And Jorge was not happy with The Doctor after the race. As if Rossi cares. He knows Lorenzo and another rival, 2007 World Champion Casey Stoner, hate him, and he doesn’t give a rat’s posterior. Ah, the beauty of psychological warfare. Vale is a master of it. Just ask Sete Gibernau and Max Biaggi. The brilliant Julian Ryder offers his always spot-on analysis of the Battle of Motegi at Superbike Planet.
Lorenzo, who just signed a two-year contract renewal with Yamaha, will get a bit of revenge this weekend at Malaysia: He’ll likely clinch his first MotoGP World Championship. Lorenzo’s closest pursuer in the standings, 2010 Red Bull Indianapolis GP winner Dani Pedrosa, almost certainly will miss his second consecutive race after suffering a broken collarbone in a crash during practice at Motegi.
Three-time Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson took the lead from Denny Hamlin in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup after finishing second behind Greg Biffle on Sunday at Kansas. But unlike MotoGP, it’s going to be awhile until this year’s champion is decided, as just 85 points separate eighth-place Biffle from points leader Johnson.
The tight points race should be a major topic of conversation heading into Tinseltown for the race this Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Southern California, but instead a typical NASCAR soap opera is devouring the headlines. Kyle Busch and David Reutimann traded sheet metal and post-race barbs after they clashed twice on track at Kansas. The intent of Busch’s contact was debatable; Reutimann’s was not. He wanted to take out Busch and succeeded, helping to drop Rowdy to a 21st-place finish.
And thus the filmy residue of NASCAR’s “boys, have at it” policy was left on this race like soap scum around the base of the bathtub. Is it really in NASCAR’s best interests to have a non-Chase driver intentionally trash the race of a Chase driver? Jeff Gluck plays attorney, judge and jury in this blog, and his point is solid: NASCAR’s hands-off policy only will encourage more Chase-altering melees like Sunday at Kansas.
Maybe that’s what NASCAR fans want. But don’t you think NASCAR Nation would react a bit differently, with fewer “That puke got what was coming to him” comments spewed toward Busch, if the object of Reutimann’s bumper was Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Yeah, so do I.