Kevin Paige of Kevin Paige Art walks fans through the creation of his latest drawing of IZOD IndyCar Series Driver Will Power:
Posts Tagged ‘ Will Power ’
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.
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.
“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” — The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”
That lyric from one of my favorite bands bounced around my head tonight as I thought about Dario Franchitti winning his third IZOD IndyCar Series championship Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was his third title on the trot if you figure he skipped the 2008 season to race NASCAR. And he’s also won two Indianapolis 500′s in the last four years.
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.
Will, a tremendously likable guy, is going to be right there again for the championship next season with Team Penske.
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.
Finally, Franchitti wasn’t the only world-class driver to lock up a title last weekend. Sebastien Loeb clinched his seventh consecutive World Rally Championship crown by winning his home Rally of France. Sorry, Herr Schumacher and Signore Rossi, but Loeb is the most dominant driver in the world over the last two decades. Hands down.
Vous êtes le roi, Seb.
Tonight is the night that stirs your soul if you’re a fan of the IZOD IndyCar Series: Will Power vs. Dario Franchitti in the mano-a-mano duel for the season championship in the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The perfection of Penske vs. the greatness of Ganassi.
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.
Don’t miss it.
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.
So, is Power the underdog despite entering this race as the points leader? VERSUS.com suggests so in this promo.
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.
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!
Finally, the coolest car in the World Rally Championship in 2011 was unveiled Wednesday. Mini is returning to top-flight rallying with its Countryman model. Simply bad-ass!
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.
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.
Jimmie Johnson appears to have big-time momentum after winning last Sunday at Dover and pulling to within 35 points of leader Denny Hamlin. But Jim McCoy makes a good point at All Left Turns: Don’t hand the Cup to JJ and Chad Knaus just yet.
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.
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.
SPEED.com takes a look at the GT class — production-based GT sports cars — that will compete this weekend in the Petit.
NASCAR has the controversy it wanted for the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup: The Curious Case of Clint Bowyer.
Bowyer was penalized 150 points, and his crew chief, Shane Wilson, was suspended for six weeks due to Bowyer’s car not meeting specifications after it won the Chase-opening Sylvania 300 on Sept. 19 at New Hampshire. Team owner Richard Childress appealed the penalties because he said either taps from drivers congratulating Bowyer on his victory lap or the wrecker that pushed his car into Victory Lane knocked the back end 60-thousandths of an inch out of whack. RC said he’ll take the case all the way to the NASCAR commissioner, whomever that is.
That all came down Wednesday. Fast-forward two days, and this soap opera is getting sudsier by the hour.
Drivers met the press today at Dover, site this Sunday of the second race of the Chase. (Loudon, N.H., and Dover, Del. — two chic media capitals to start a big-time postseason, eh? But that’s the topic for another blog entry.) Bowyer lobbed the opening grenade by making an impassioned defense of himself and his team. Here’s the full transcript.
Safe to say, Clint is pissed. He thinks NASCAR put his entire team into the hardware department — it’s getting screwed.
But that was just the beginning. Points leader Denny Hamlin countered by saying NASCAR had warned Bowyer and his team earlier this season about tip-toeing much too closely to the edge of the rulebook. While Hamlin was convinced Bowyer’s claims of innocence were bunk, four-time reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson proclaimed apathy.
Once he learned of Hamlin’s barrage, Childress counter-punched with a jab instead of a one-two series of hooks.
Ah, this is getting juicy. But remember, there is a race this Sunday at the Monster Mile. What’s that? Oh, yeah, the race! All Left Turns handicaps the AAA 400, making a good point that Johnson is on thin ice after just one race in the Chase as he attempts to complete his drive for five.
The build-up to the IZOD IndyCar Series finale Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami continues, without the melodrama of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Paul Dalbey and Steph Wallcraft at More Front Wing take an interesting point-counterpoint approach to the Clash of the Titans for the title between points leader Will Power and Dario Franchitti.
I have two wishes for the race at Homestead: One, Will and Dario battle for the title down to the last lap, just like Scott Dixon and Franchitti did in 2007 and 2009, with Dario becoming champion both years. Two, KV Racing Technology puts all of its chassis back on the truck in one piece.
It’s been a rough season for KV, which must have platinum card status with Dallara. You also hope the team has accident forgiveness insurance with Allstate. Some cruel or clever dude — take your pick — has put together this compilation of the team’s troubles this year on YouTube:
Ouch. You really have to feel for team owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser and for drivers Takuma Sato, E.J. Viso and Mario Moraes. And for sections of concrete wall all over North America.
While there’s still a superb current championship race in the IZOD IndyCar Series, there’s also a lot of attention on the future in that series. The new schedule for 2011, the new chassis and engine package in 2012 and future sources of talent behind the wheel.
Robin Miller of SPEED writes that USAC drivers, who got a foot back into the Indy door during the early years of the IRL, might have a smoother path back to the Brickyard in an open-wheel car if series boss Randy Bernard has his way. One of those potential USAC drivers to jump into the Road to Indy system could be Shannon McIntosh, who continues her driver diary at Pop Off Valve.
But the always interesting Tony Johns at Pop Off Valve insists that everyone in IndyCar needs to let go of the past if the series is to progress. No, he’s not talking about the ebbing acrimony of The Split. He’s talking about everyone’s insistence that it’s vital that progeny of the great names of the past are in cars and the persistent belief that IndyCar keeps a firm grasp on its past glory days.
MotoGP is off this weekend, but its feuds are brewing almost like those in NASCAR Sprint Cup. There’s already a cold front coming through the Repsol Honda organization, whipping up a storm between those who support incumbent Dani Pedrosa and those who back the incoming Casey Stoner. Hate to say I told you so, but I predicted this coming snit fit a week ago. Dani and Casey certainly aren’t the Captain & Tennille or Peaches and Herb.
With new 1000cc bikes coming to MotoGP in 2012, many suspected that Aprilia was using its Superbike World Championship program as a warm-up act for a return to the premier class of worldwide motorcycle racing. Balderdash, says Aprilia.
It’s not like the Italian marque set the world on fire when it was in MotoGP in 2003. Oh, wait, it did: Just ask American Colin Edwards. His Aprilia mysteriously burst into flame while he was riding it at 125 mph at the German Grand Prix in one of the indelible images of the 2003 season.
That was Colin’s first MotoGP season. It’s amazing he even wanted to return in 2004 after riding that flaming piece of turd.
Formula One is taking its nightclub on wheels under the lights this weekend at Singapore, where the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber ruled the first practice. Like IndyCar, F1 is another series that doesn’t need a postseason to create a good title race. Just 24 points separate leader Webber from fifth-place Vettel, with Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button forming a triple burger with cheese between them.
Hmm. Anyone ever wonder that maybe the points system in NASCAR is broken and needs fixing? Just sayin’, as people in the Midwest are wont to say.
The controversy over which team will use the famed Lotus name next season is over: Lotus will remain Lotus. God, I feel better now. Don’t you? As I said before, it’s a moot point. The current F1 car is not a Lotus. This is a real Lotus.
Plenty to catch up on after a day away from Splashing And Going. But first, it was good to be Bruce Barhydt on Tuesday, Sept. 21. Damn good.
Bruce and his wife, Barbara, visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to pick up the keys to their 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS Indianapolis 500 Pace Car that they won in the Indy 500 Pace Car Sweepstakes simply by renewing their tickets for the 2011 “500″ at www.imstix.com. And two-time and reigning Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti was there to hand the Barhydt’s the keys to their new ride and take them for a spin around IMS in the Camaro. Dario is a hell of a driver and a classy dude – a magically delicious ambassador for the Indy 500 and IndyCar.
Not a bad way to spend a day, eh? Speaking of Indianapolis 500 tickets, it’s time for a friendly Public Service Announcement: Tickets for the 2011 Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29 – the 100th anniversary of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” – are on sale now at www.imstix.com.
While Japan’s rabid-but-polite IndyCar fans are still coming down from their fun last weekend at Twin Ring Motegi, attention in IZOD IndyCar land has shifted to South Florida for the season finale Saturday, Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Will Power leads Franchitti by just 12 points entering their titanic tussle, but Pop Off Valve has those drivers reversed in its latest power rankings. Hard to blame them. Will never has won an oval race; Dario has won plenty, including last year at Miami.
VERSUS will televise the finale, and Pressdog interviewed ace racing TV producer Terry Lingner about all the hard work that goes on inside and outside “the truck” just to get an IZOD IndyCar Series race broadcast on the air. One of Lingner’s charges that night will be reporter Jack Arute, who curiously wonders out loud why the season finale is going up against SEC and Big 12 football.
I’m really getting tired of the “we need to avoid football” argument. First, if the finale was contested on Sunday afternoon, it would clash with the NFL. And is there really enough room in the schedule to end the season by the end of August, before football? No.
So all IndyCar can do is put on a good show (it does), have a compelling championship race (it does, without gimmicks) and promote the hell out of it. Every other sport in America – not just IndyCar – is a fresh asphalt speed bump ready to be flattened by the steamroller known as football. Even NASCAR, the self-proclaimed No. 2 sport in America, is struggling with ratings against the mighty giants of the gridiron.
Plenty of reasons and solutions for the disappointing TV ratings of the Chase opener at New Hampshire are being tossed about in the blogosphere. One of the reasons I see often is the proliferation of high-def TV’s these days. The camera angles are great from the track, the picture is crystal-clear on an HDTV, and the beer is a lot cheaper and plentiful and the traffic is a lot thinner at home in front of the 50-inch plasma than it is at the racetrack.
That might be true. So how is Charlotte Motor Speedway responding? By building the largest HDTV in the world at its track. It’s even bigger than Jerry Jones’ vaunted board hanging over the field at the new Cowboys Stadium, which has to rankle Jerruh’s considerable ego just a smidge. Everything is big in Texas, but it’s even bigger in Charlotte.
I have mixed emotions about this board. It will be good for replays. I’m also guessing advertisers and sponsors will dig it. But “Bruton-tron” also will breed more of the loons who pay good money to attend sporting events and spend more time watching the video boards than the action on the field or on the track. I’ve never understood that. If I wanted to watch TV, I would have stayed home. Am I a lone, crotchety voice in the video wilderness?
This just in, almost literally as I type, from the halls of NASCAR in Daytona Beach: Clint Bowyer was using an illegal car when he won the Sylvania 300 last Sunday at New Hampshire, the opening race of the Chase. Bowyer was docked 150 points, and his crew chief, Shane Wilson, was fined $150,000 and suspended six weeks. I guess it was more than a misplaced wheel nut, then.
Richard Childress, Bowyer’s car owner, claims the car was out of specification because other drivers tapped the rear of it during Bowyer’s victory lap. Childress also said the tow truck that pushed Bowyer’s car into Victory Lane knocked the rear out of whack.
Childress vowed to appeal the penalty all the way to the NASCAR Commissioner. This could get interesting. What if the penalty is overturned, Bowyer stays on a hot streak and ends up winning the Chase by less than 150 points? What if the penalty is upheld and he ends the season 149 points or less behind the eventual champion?
Sticky. And fun.
Well, so much for the Bowyer Cinderella story, at least for now. Bowyer now has yo-yo’d from 12th to second back to 12th in the points since last Sunday morning. Leader Denny Hamlin now enjoys a 45-point gap over second-place Kevin Harvick.
The soap opera continues in Formula One, where a battle is brewing over who has control of the iconic Lotus name. It’s a typical F1 sh*tstorm between two guys with wallets to match their egos. But does it really matter? Lotus isn’t Lotus without Colin Chapman running the show, and reviving the classic British Racing Green paint job doesn’t instantly play Lazarus with an esteemed racing marque.
All this does is besmirch the names of late Lotus greats like Chapman and Jim Clark. Sad.
There also are rumblings that Michael Schumacher may pull the plug on his ill-fated comeback attempt after this season and hang up his helmet. So the ego really has landed? I’ll believe it when I see it, but it would be a good idea. Right now, Michael looks like Willie Mays in his final, sad season with the Mets, losing routine fly balls in the sun.
From a four-wheeled legend to one on two wheels, Kenny Roberts, the first American MotoGP World Champion, is selling his house and practice facility in California. Check out King Kenny’s Krib. It’s a roomy place, but in time-honored gearhead tradition, the garage is almost as big as the house and contains a complete machine shop:
Ducati also was in the news recently, but it had little to do with Casey Stoner, Valentino Rossi or Nicky Hayden. The iconic Italian manufacturer presented two of its Multistrada models to the motorcade for Pope Benedict XVI. Maybe it’s a gift for His Holiness using his WATS line to above for Ducati, as Stoner answered the Ducatisti’s prayers by earning the team’s first victory of the season Sept. 19 at the Grand Prix of Aragon. Hey, they don’t call it the Red Phone for nothing.
There is real, on-track news in MotoGP. Seriously. The Grand Prix Commission rubber-stamped a change of the schedule for the rest of the season in which the three hours of MotoGP track time Friday and Saturday will be divided into two 45-minute practices Friday, and one 45-minute practice and one 45-minute qualifying session Saturday. Since 2009, there has been a one-hour practice Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, with a one-hour qualifying session.
That revised schedule debuted at Aragon, and it looks like it also will become the rule of the land for the 2011 season.
So maybe it’s not so bad to be Clint Bowyer, after all.
Remember last Thursday when I linked to a blog entry about whether it was better to be Clint Bowyer, winless but in the Chase, or Jamie McMurray, out of the Chase but the winner of the mega-monstrous Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400? I leaned toward the side of Jamie Mac, as people remember winners more than drivers who bring home their car safely in a nice points spot every week.
Well, Clint is a winner now. Bowyer won the first race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the Sylvania 300, on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and skyrocketed from the 12th and last spot in the Chase up to second.
While everyone is talking about Bowyer’s victory, Monte Dutton points out that it’s not unprecedented for an upstart to begin the Chase with a victory. Hell, Bowyer did it in 2007, and Jimmie Johnson still won his second consecutive title that year. But how will Clint adjust to being the main man of Richard Childress Racing’s three cars in the Chase?
Tony Stewart’s situation in Sunday’s fun race shows just how thin the line is between the penthouse and the outhouse. If Smoke had enough gas to hold off Bowyer over the closing laps, media would have anointed him as the favorite to win the Chase. Instead, he finished 24th and fell to 11th in the points.
But Smoke wasn’t the only popular Chase-winning pick to have trouble. Four-time reigning champ Jimmie Johnson finished 25th. But remember, JJ finished 39th in the opening Chase race in 2006 and still won the title. Jeff Burton finished 15th. A few people’s dark horse pick, Matt Kenseth, probably rode off into the sunset after finishing 23rd.
Kyle Busch finished ninth, but Rowdy’s immaturity — sometimes my 9-year-old son acts more grown-up than this guy — isn’t exactly a crucible of grace under pressure. I’m just not sure if Kyle has the mental toughness to survive the pressure of a 10-race grind. He’s THE classic example of checkers or wreckers, in the car and in his brain.
So where does that leave Denny Hamlin? As the leader of the Chase after finishing second to Bowyer, which maybe isn’t that surprising after Hamlin was the stylish pick to win the whole enchilada after taking the checkers at the final pre-Chase race Sept. 11 at Richmond.
Hamlin admitted that he didn’t have the greatest day or car Sunday, but he still ended up second. That should trigger the theme from “Jaws” in his rivals’ mind. That’s what champions do: Take rotten apples and still make damn good tasty cider.
One final comment about the New Hampshire race. It was an exciting show, with a lot of action and drama packed into a nice, three-hour window. Note to Daytona Beach: Sprint Cup races do NOT need to be 500 miles or 500 laps. This was a classic case of less is more.
Sure, some races should stay at the classic distance or lap total. But most of the NASCAR shows could, and should, be cut down to a more reasonable length. It’s less time plopped in front of the TV to see drivers cut meaningless laps, and it provides more of a sense of urgency and a better show.
OK, time to climb off the soap box.
The IZOD IndyCar Series’ championship chase — which doesn’t need a postseason to be close, I might add — has come down to Will Power vs. Dario Franchitti on Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Power’s Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves, won the Indy Japan 300 on Sept. 19 at Twin Ring Motegi, while two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Franchitti finished second. Power finished third, his best result on an oval.
But Dario looms closer than ever in Will’s rear-view mirror. Just 12 points behind. The math is pretty simple for Power: He needs to beat Dario at Homestead. Easier said than done, especially when you remember who won last year at Homestead to clinch the title. Yeah, that Franchitti kid.
Tony Johns takes a look at a few other trends from Motegi, including love for IndyCar in the Land of the Rising Sun and a solid performance by Danica.
MotoGP served up one of its best races of the 2010 season Sunday at the new circuit at Motorland Aragon. Casey Stoner pulled free from the dogged pursuit of 2010 Red Bull Indianapolis GP winner Dani Pedrosa over the final laps for the first win by Ducati this year. American Nicky Hayden used a ballsy pass on the final lap to pass Jorge Lorenzo for third, the Kentucky Kid’s first podium finish since placing third in August 2009 at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP at IMS.
It was Lorenzo’s first finish off the podium in 13 races this season. But what’s even more shocking is that Lorenzo’s fourth place ended a run of 47 consecutive MotoGP podium finishes for Yamaha. Damn, that’s amazing. The Crossed Tuning Forks put at least one rider on the box for nearly the equivalent of three straight seasons.
Lorenzo’s Yamaha factory teammate, Valentino Rossi, suffered through his second-worst weekend of the season by finishing sixth. It’s pretty safe to say that Vale’s crash at Mugello in which he broke both bones in his lower leg will be tough to top as the lowest point of his year.
Rossi dropped a bit of a bombshell after the race by saying he may skip the final two races of the season, at Estoril, Portugal, and Valencia, Spain, to have surgery on the shoulder injury that has troubled him even more than the broken leg this season. It will be interesting to see if The Doctor changes his mind if Lorenzo’s 56-point lead over Pedrosa shrinks to dangerous margins by then.
Vale and Jorge aren’t buds, and there’s also a lot of friction between Rossi and Yamaha now that Rossi is moving to Ducati next season. And it looks like Rossi’s wizard/crew chief, Jeremy Burgess, and his entire Yamaha crew will follow Vale to Ducati in 2011. Rossi, the Pied Piper of MotoGP.
Sorry for the late-evening version of Splash And Go, but I had to wait for the first practice results from Motegi. They’re in, and Will Power is on top of the time chart. His closest pursuer in the points, Dario Franchitti, was sixth.
It’s a strong statement of intent by Power, but it’s not like the guy has looked shabby at recent oval races at Chicagoland and Kentucky. Still, John Oreovicz of ESPN.com makes a really good point about Will: He’s never raced on the asphalt egg at Twin Ring Motegi.
Still, I think it’s only a matter of time until he earns his first oval victory in the IZOD IndyCar Series for Team Penske. Dario just hopes that time is next year.
I was stunned when I first saw the time sheet and noticed Takuma Sato was at the bottom, even beneath Milka Duno. Say it ain’t so at your home motor dojo, Taku-san. But then I read where Taku crashed after an oil line failure splurted oil on the tires, causing Sato to spin.
Good thing Taku is OK. It’s pretty safe to say that normal order will be restored, with Milka in the caboose. But you have to feel for Sato in front of his home crowd. And do you think KV Racing Technology has gold card credit status with Dallara for chassis repair yet this season?
While practice is underway at Motegi, it’s not too late to check out this humorous preview of the race at Pop Off Valve.
Tony Johns of Pop Off Valve also takes on the white elephant in the room with the IZOD IndyCar Series, the future racing intent of 5-2, 100-pound Danica Patrick. Tony thinks IndyCar doesn’t need Danica anymore.
Sorry, Tony, but I beg to differ. Danica is the most popular driver in the series, has attracted countless fans of both genders to IndyCar and is a magnet for attention, good and bad. No one can force her to stay in the series if she wants to run NASCAR full time after her contract expires with Andretti Autosport, but to say the series doesn’t need her? That’s a big step off a very narrow ledge.
Johns brings up Danica’s relative lack of success — one victory in nearly six full seasons of IZOD IndyCar Series racing — and says her results don’t match her hype. Well, the stats don’t match the buzz for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in NASCAR Sprint Cup, either, but he remains the most popular driver in that series by about six ZIP codes.
Sports is a personality-driven entertainment business now. People follow personalities more than results. But results are still a factor, and Danica gets it done at the biggest race in the world, the Indianapolis 500. Five top-eight finishes in six career starts at the Brickyard. ‘Nuff said. She’s a plus for the series. Period.
On a final IndyCar note, it’s really heartening to see that Mike Conway is almost ready to climb back into the cockpit. This boggles my mind considering the ferocity of Mike’s wreck at Indy, but he’s trying to beat the clock to return to his Dreyer & Reinbold seat for the season finale Oct. 2 at Homestead. Dude’s a racer – what else can you say?
Hey, did you know the Chase starts this Sunday? THE CHASE! THE CHASE! I’m starting to sound like Herve Villechaize calling for the plane on “Fantasy Island.”
The always excellent Dustin Long analyzes what each of the 12 Chase drivers needs to do to hoist the big silver mug at Homestead. Mike Mulhern also takes a really interesting look at how a strong, candid relationship between drivers and crew chiefs, especially when the driver is a bubbling young volcano like Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, is vital during the Chase.
Mike Hembree at SPEEDtv.com wrote an interesting piece stating that sleepy, small Loudon is an odd place to conduct the first race of NASCAR’s postseason.
New England is a stronger racing bastion than one might think, and Nor’easter fans go especially nuts for the superb NASCAR Modified Tour, the most exciting division in NASCAR, in my opinion. But New England also is a pro stick-and-ball haven, with the Patriots, Celtics and Red Sox Nation inhaling most of the available media oxygen.
Still, that’s not stopping track president Jerry Gappens from beating the drum. Jerry is an Indiana native, so racing is in his veins. He also worked for the legendary promoter Humpy Wheeler at Charlotte Motor Speedway, so the guy clearly knows how to sell and connect with fans.
The new Grand Prix of Aragon is underway in MotoGP, and the Motorland Aragon is one trippy racetrack, as this photo feature at motomatters.com shows. There are so many blind entrances to corners that I think Ray Charles and Jose Feliciano designed the circuit.
Dani Pedrosa was quickest overall as MotoGP returned to two Friday practice sessions. Pedrosa has been en fuego since Indianapolis and was rewarded with a new two-year deal with Honda. It will be very interesting to see how the notoriously fickle Pedrosa and his attack-dog manager, Alberto Puig, get along with Australian hard-ass and sometimes chronic complainer Casey Stoner next season in the Repsol Honda garage. Expect little love lost between the two.
Speaking of unloved men in motorcycle racing, it seems like James Toseland has alienated another teammate. American Colin Edwards couldn’t stand Toseland after Toseland orchestrated a swap of his crew chief with Edwards’ before the start of the 2009 MotoGP season. The Texas Tornado got the last laugh, as he clicked better with his new crew chief, Guy Coulon, and kicked Toseland’s ass so thoroughly that the Brit lost his ride and dropped back to World Superbike.
Well, it appears that Toseland’s WSBK teammate, fellow Brit Cal Crutchlow, also doesn’t have Toseland on his Christmas card list this year, either. Crutchlow was asked if he sought Toseland’s advice on MotoGP in advance of jumping to MotoGP in 2011 with Toseland’s old team, Monster Yamaha Tech 3. Crutchlow dropped a hammer on Toseland with his answer!
I sure hope Edwards remains at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 next season. The verbal volleys coming from that garage will look like Volkswagen Beetle-sized shells being fired from the USS Missouri.
In a very classy move Thursday, Moto2 points leader Toni Elias suggested in the pre-event press conference at Aragon that the Michel Metraux Trophy, presented to the best privateer rider of the season in the Moto2 class, should be presented to Shoya Tomizawa, who was killed in a Moto2 racing crash Sept. 5 at Misano.
The trophy is awarded based on a vote of the Moto2 riders, and they unanimously agreed to posthumously award the Metraux Trophy to Tomi. A very proper gesture from a solid, tight community of racers.
Formula One is off this weekend, but the news and rumors never stop in the “pinnacle of motorsport,” as Nigel Mansell used to call it.
Joe Saward writes that it makes little sense for Renault to dance with Kimi Raikkonen despite reports that the Kimster and the French team are courting for 2011. Joe also throws cold water on the rumors that Lotus will switch to Toyota engines, instead writing that the shadow of the once-colossus fronted by Colin Chapman and Jim Clark will switch to Renault engines in 2011.
Sorry, but if a Cosworth DFV isn’t in the back, it’s not a real Lotus regardless of the paint job or team name.
Finally, Michael Schumacher is excited about the first night race of his career at Singapore on Sept. 26. Be careful what you wish for, Weltmeister: The spotlights of Singapore only will more brightly illuminate both the decline of your career and a possibly ham-fisted, lethal attempt by you to stuff a faster driver into the numerous concrete barriers of the street circuit.