Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Indy Cars at the "World Center of Racing (tm)"
We don't get excited about testing. 2 time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves was second fastest to his Brazilian friend, Tony Kanaan in the first day of road course testing at Daytona International Speedway. "Spiderman" says the 5th through 8th turns on this are rather bumpy...not unlike the temporary road/street course in St. Petersburg, FL.
Danica Patrick still wants that first win so badly, she can just about taste it. And she has not yet fallen victim to the "merry pranksters" at Andretti-Green Racing.
Sarah Fisher returns to the Dreyer & Reinbold team for the ovals in 2007--her teammate is 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice.
Helio has a full slate of parties in Miami...he says he'll rent a couch to Tim Cindric (Penske Racing Boss) for the Super Bowl weekend.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Chip Ganassi back to back at the 24; Jeff Gordon 3rd
The Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley of Scott Pruett, Juan Pablo Montoya and Salvador Duran won overall honors at the 24 Hours of Daytona Grand-Am Rolex series classic on the Speedway's 3.56 mile road course. That car completed 668 laps in 24:00:55.002. Montoya is a NASCAR Nextel Cup series rookie, reunited with racing maven and team owner Ganassi for 2007. Not a bad result for JPM. Pruett has 7 class wins at Daytona (most of any driver) and now has 13 Rolex series wins. JPM joins a list of nine other drivers to win a sports car race at Daytona, and the Indianapolis 500 (for the record, they include Mario Andretti, AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Arie Luyendyk, Bobby Rahal, Mark Donohue, Al Unser Sr. & Al Unser Jr., and Dan Wheldon.
Gordon impressed a lot of observers with the 3rd place drive. The Wayne Taylor machine got behind and the team (Gordon, Taylor, Max Angelelli, and Jan Magnussen) clawed its way back to the lead lap, before a late race brake pad change knocked them off the lead lap.
Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish had a long race...finishing 9th...some 40 laps down to the winner. Props to Hornish for getting road racing experience the hard way...it will pay off.
The Indy Racing League will test here Wednesday and Thursday. We'll blog some stuff your way.
Then there were two.....
The Lexus-Riley driven by Dan Wheldon, Scott Dixon & Memo Rojas spun, hit some Armco, and is in the garage. Don't cry for Chip Ganassi; his other car, driven by Scott Pruett, Salvador Duran, and a NASCAR rookie named Juan Pablo Montoya (formerly of the McLaren formula one team, a Champ Car titleholder, and Indy 500 winner) runs 2nd. The leaders are Patrick Carpentier, Darren Manning, Ryan Dalziel (all of whom have driven or will drive Indy or Champ cars) and Milka Duno--a lady with Grand Am Rolex series wins in her own right. As for the Wayne Taylor team (the one for whom Jeff Gordon drives), they run 3rd, on the lead lap.
This could get verrrry interesting in the next 3:15.
Overnight at the 24 Hours of Daytona
For the record, people who report on the 24 DO get some sleep. So do the drivers; that's why the teams have multiple drivers.
Rain is a great equalizer in endurance racing. We've just had a downpour...the cold front is blowing the rain away.
Of the visiting racers (from NASCAR, IRL, Champ Car) only Jeff Gordon & 2005 IRL champ Dan Wheldon have a shot for the overall win. Wheldon runs 3rd...Gordon's team 4th. If you call Scott Pruett a NASCAR driver---his team leads after 19:15 of the 24 hours.
This ain't over until it's over (thanks, Yogi Berra). One thing we know--Chip Ganassi's Lexus-Riley cars are stronger than rent money.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
AJ Allmendinger--the real deal at Daytona?
The Red Bull Nextel Cup rookie took the overall lead into the second hour of the 24 Hours at Daytona, with a bold move around leader Marc Goosens (who has 2006 Nextel Cup champ Jimmie Johnson as a co-driver). Allmendinger motored to a four second lead (and gaining). Tony Stewart's car is in the garage. In big time sports car racing...not an insurmountable problem...we've seen winners of the 24 come back even after spending 'quality' time in the garage--but this involves engine woes. Allmendinger is teamed with another bold driver--Paul Tracy. Just to clarify...Sam Hornish and Helio Castroneves are in the team car to Allmendinger & Tracy, et al. In case your memory fails you...Allmendinger and Tracy were Champ Car teammates for Gerry Forsythe, until the Bull was thrown AJ's way.
Sports Cars @ Daytona--24 Hours
Race-Talk listeners know that I like to see racers race in other series. Tony Stewart has run in 22 kinds of different series...and has victories in all but sports car racing. It's not for lack of trying; in 2005, he was leading overall with 18 minutes to go, when a wheel bearing gave out. So 'Smoke' has unfinished business today.
Michael Shank Racing has 2 Indy 500 winners (Sam Hornish, and Penske teammate Helio Castroneves), plus the "thrill from West Hill" (Ontario, Canada), Paul Tracy. Dan Wheldon (2005 Indy 500 winner) is driving for Chip Ganassi (he, Scott Dixon and Casey Mears won in 2006).
Richard Petty is the Grand Marshal for the race.
We'll post nuggets as they are unearthed from the "World Center of Racing".
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
CHASE TWEAKS 1/22/2007
Concord, NC--Close but no cigar..NASCAR tweaked the Chase for the Championship. They added 5 extra points for a win for all races, a seeding system to reward winning in the first 26 races and set the top 12, and bonus points for each win in the first 26 (included in the point reset and "seeding"). It is, to paraphrase the esteemed chairman of NASCAR, Mr. Brian Z. France, the organization's attempt to intersect the curve of consistency and winning.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
RIP Benny Parsons
If you looked in the stock car dictionary under "decent real people" you would find an entry for Benny Parsons. Unfortunately, complications from cancer killed BP. And those complications killed one of stock car racing's best ambassadors. Benny was universally liked--no one had a bad word to say about him. I remember engineering a remote broadcast that Benny did from Watkins Glen for WFMX-FM in the Charlotte, NC area. Though I did nothing special (at least I thought so), BP said that my preparations for that broadcast (notes, etc.) were better than most he had in other venues, and he always nodded or said a hello when we met later on in the garage area, media center and other racing venues. That personal memory is but one of many you'll read elsewhere.
What is sad, is that the racing community lost not just a past champion. It lost a person whose example of goodness and decency, was able to counter a lot of that which is not good and decent in the sport. Let us hope his example prevails in the future.
Monday, January 08, 2007
NASCAR Short Takes
RIP Bobby Hamilton--he was one of a few drivers who were unaffected by the hype and sunshine machine that is NASCAR Nextel Cup Racing.
The Chase is Changing?--Hmm...I wonder whether the proposed changes were a response to fans or sponsors? Home Depot could not have been happy with 2006. Again, to quote one Mike Helton, NASCAR President ..."It IS What It IS".
Another Observation from NAIAS 2007
You had to look hard to find any trace of three of Ford's best selling cars...only Lincoln's own Car and Mercury's Grand Marquis had a place at the show...the Town Car was hidden behind the stands for the MKX. I wonder whether the venerable and still popular Crown Vic will still be in production for next year's NAIAS?
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Big Day at NAIAS for GM
The General has two reasons to smile this morning. Its two bread and butter divisions swept the independent North American Car and Truck of the Year awards, announced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Chevy takes honors for the redesigned Silverado pickup.
Saturn brings home the hardware with the Aura. I will produce that Radio-Road-Test this week, and can tell you that the car is an excellent value for the dollar and it performs well. The XR is a real-deal mid-priced sport luxury sedan that drives like those that cost thousands of dollars more. Facts/figures: http://msrpk.com/06data.htm