Friday, December 19, 2008

"Random Musings--December 19, 2008"
  • Detroit In The News-- GM and Chrysler, their employees, suppliers and a lot of other people can breathe a little easier. Earlier today, President Bush approved some 17-billion dollars of bailout money for the General and Chrysler. Now, they have to go to work to keep up the quality and reduce expenses dramatically, which is the task that faces everyone of us in business. Multiply that by hundreds of billions of dollars...
  • Labor Day on Belle Isle Takes A Year Off-- Roger Penske's sponsors of the Belle Isle Grand Prix for the IndyCars and American LeMans Series cars pulled back some of their support...and the Captain said "enough." The Labor Day Weekend won't happen in 2009...but may return in 2010 (may is the operative word).

Maybe that's all for this weekend...and we can sit back at the mothership with a big drink of eggnog for a couple of days at least, before we resume blogging, and producing our year end programs. Our Christmas week "Race-Talk" reveals the identity of Santa's Racing elf...and brings back a tradition--Father Phil DeRea is the IndyCar Series Catholic Chaplain, and in past years, before he was posted by his order to a cathedral in Rome, Padre gave a Christmas perspective to our listeners from the open wheel standpoint. Father Phil is back in the USA, and will resume his comments for Christmas. We hope you'll listen. The podcast link is:

which will download the newest edition every week.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Grant v NASCAR Settled"
The 225-million dollar payday for Mauricia Grant in her lawsuit against NASCAR will likely be MUCH less. Grant and her lawyers from Morelli Ratner PC, and NASCAR and their lawyers from Jackson Lewis went to mediation in New York a couple of weeks ago. Here's the legal boilerplate:
The lawsuit has been settled, with neither NASCAR nor Ms Grant admitting liability or wrongdoing by way of the settlement. The terms of said settlement remain confidential. Neither side will discuss the settlement, or details of the case.
A smart move on NASCAR's part. They have other, more pressing issues to deal with.
North American Car and Truck of the Year Finalists--Detroit North American International Auto Show 2009
The finalists for the 2009 North American Car of the Year honors are the Ford Flex, Hyundai Genesis and Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Finalists for the 2009 North American Truck of the Year award are the Dodge Ram, Ford F-150 and the Mercedes-Benz ML320 BlueTEC. Those finalists were announced at the press luncheon for the North American International Auto Show, biggest in North America, held in Detroit in mid January.
General Motors had two good years in 2007 and 2008, taking the North American Car of the Year both times.
This award is picked by a panel of auto writers and broadcasters who do primary reporting on new cars and trucks. While I do enough reporting on the topic, it's a part of my reporting, not the majority.
It could be a good show for Detroit's Blue Oval gang. Or maybe not. That's one of the reasons we're going.
So much for a break....

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Cute Little Children's Racing Book--Race Car Driver's Night Before Christmas"
How does Ol' Saint Nick tune up for that big sleigh ride on December 24? If kids are asking you that question, you can answer it with "Racecar Driver's Night Before Christmas" by Una Bell Townsend and illustrated by Rick Anderson. It's inspired by Clement C. Moore's classic "Night Before Christmas" and takes place on a superspeedway. A Christmas Eve special race is taking place...and to everyone's surprise...a tricked out car that would, on any other day, have officials bumblin' stumblin and mumblin made an appearance on track, decked out in tinsel and smellin' of pine...but hey, it IS Christmas Eve...and they did let him race.
We won't give away the story...but the drivers all went away happy.
The book is Race Car Driver's Night Before Christmas, by Una Bell Townsend and illustrated by Rick Anderson. It's published by Pelican Publishing Company ( . We will link to Pelican from our links page for books we've reviewed.
Note: If you are ever in the Johnson City New York area (our home base), you should make a stop at Your Home Public Library, 107 Main Street. After we review books for Race-Talk, we donate the gently read copies to the library, so others can read about the history and workings of auto racing.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

NASCAR's Top 12 Drivers--2008
The hoopla is over...and these 12 drivers are on their way to a little longer offseason, except for the driver next to Jimmie Johnson (extreme right). That would be Carl Edwards...who's going to leave his pet duck behind, and represent the United States in the Race of Champions in Europe. To show you how seriously they take this race in Europe, two of the Roush Fenway people told me that even the thread on the driver suits had to be approved so the integrity of the fire resistance would not be compromised--as is done in Formula One Grand Prix Racing.
This business about either/or/all three of the Big Three Automakers going bankrupt spooked the drivers...from Johnson, Edwards, and even to Rookie of the Year Regan Smith. Kevin "Happy" Harvick was concerned, but pointed out to me that there were opportunities available for sponsorships and racing revenue from other businesses that are doing well (and there are some) , if better than routine efforts were made to find them. Fans like "Happy" because he does not mince words (as Juan Pablo Montoya and others will attest).
We'll take a bit of a off season break from the blog (barring major developments) but not from our "Race-Talk" and "Radio-Road-Test" programs. We'll resume with blogging from the North American International Auto Show (probably one of the most important in history) in early January.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Sometimes History is NOT Made with a Bang"
Jimmie Johnson does not appear to be an "excitable boy" (the likes of Kevin "Happy" Harvick, Tony Stewart, et al). That does not mean that he is not competitive.
There can be no doubt that Johnson has cemented a place in NASCAR history with his championship winning season of 2008, which tied Cale Yarborough's feat of back to back to back wins in 1976, 77 and 78.
He wants more...and in the next couple of weeks on our off season Race-Talk programs...we'll let you hear from him...and crew chief Chad Knaus--before the big-post season doings in Manhattan.
We became extremely busy after the race...since CBS News, Radio thought the accomplishment important enough for me to explain it to their listeners on CBS News on the Hour Sunday night. I therefore ask your pardon that I didn't post a snapshot from the post-race news conference.
We'll try harder when we are in New York for the Post Race festivities to post some photos and other commentaries. Our advice for you is to enjoy family and friends as much as you are able...take some time away from the day to day routine and give thanks. We'll try to do this ourselves as we wind down from 2008.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Buzzie's Kid on Pole; Red Bull 2nd; Champ starts 30th--Cousin Carl 4th..and still no wins for Kevin 'Happy' Harvick"

David Reutimann (son of Northeast modified legend Buzzie Reutimann) won his first pole in Sprint Cup competition for the season ending Ford 400 at Homestead, with a lap timed at 171.636 miles an hour. Scott Speed jumped into the Red Bull #83 car and proceeded to put it on the front row...while teammate Brian Vickers drove the #84 Red Bull car to a 20th starting position (all about the points for 2009--very important for Speed...since he'll be a rookie without any NASCAR testing).
As for the points race...Jimmie Johnson didn't qualify well...but they don't pay points for qualifying. Johnson will start the race 30th...and if he finishes there, he locks out "Cousin Carl" Edwards, who starts from the outside of Row Number 2 (4th).
What is interesting here, is that the #29 car (pictured above) of Kevin "Happy" Harvick, has yet to visit Victory Lane in 2008..."Happy" starts 5th. The other surprising non winners are Matt Kenseth (3rd) and Jeff Gordon (37th).
But Wait, There's (Really) More: The NASCAR testing ban goes into effect on January 1, 2009. Like all other NASCAR rules, it is written in pencil, with a big eraser. To hear major domo Mike Helton explain, the ban will supposedly save teams 100K per test per car--almost 100 million dollars over the entire industry. No tests can occur at NASCAR sanctioned tracks. Will tests occur? The tire supplier--Goodyear--will continue their program, and benevolent NASCAR will jawbone racing boss Stu Grant to make sure all teams are represented fairly--Stu says no problem.
Fairness is supposedly a part of NASCAR's decision loop. Fairness would dictate a rules freeze for 2009. Fairness and NASCAR are, in reality, mutually exclusive terms.
We'll post some comments and snapshots from the Ford 400.
Also...there will be a very trying time for the industry beginning Monday. NASCAR teams are expected to begin layoffs and downsizing once they return to North Carolina. This downsizing will spread--no doubt--to the way the series is covered by print and broadcast media outlets.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid
A car related post...this is the pace car for the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It is a hybrid, with similar running gear to the Ford Escape Hybrid. It has been redesigned so the car will go up to 47 miles per hour on batteries, before the Hotchkiss 2.5 four cylinder engine kicks in. Engineers from the Blue Oval gang say the car will get over 700 miles per tankful of gas around town.
One thing we find with that most of them will start well enough on the electric power and around 12-26 miles per hour before the gas engine kicks in. This changes the equation--and that development is big news for those who drive a LOT around town...cabs come immediately to mind...along with those who don't do a lot of urban driving.
And this is the first public appearance of the 2010 Fusion's sporting some camouflage because the formal introduction is a few days away. It'll make an appearance at a Ford store near you in spring.
The racing stuff will start tomorrow.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Double Back Flips for Cousin Carl; Johnson Storms to 2nd; All But Clinches"

The Roush Fenway Racing brain trust of Jack Roush, left, crew chief Bob Osborne, center, and the winning driver at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Carl Edwards, who moved to 2nd in points behind Jimmie Johnson. Edwards won by 2.68 seconds over Jimmie Johnson to win his 7th race of the 2008 season, and 14th of his 154 race Sprint Cup career--that's not the entire story. Johnson lost a lap because of a pit penalty, fell to 30th...regained the lead lap...and on the final pit stop received four fresh tires...and restarted the race with nine laps to go from 11th. That did not last long, as Johnson picked off every driver but Edwards to finish 2nd...and add to his Sprint Cup point lead. With Texas, Phoenix and Homestead left, Johnson leads Edwards (now second in points) by 183, and Greg Biffle by 185. When asked, both Johnson and Edwards contend that there's lots of racing left, and that anything could happen...a bad day by Johnson at either Texas or Phoenix, or both...and the title will be clinched at Homestead (which is what NASCAR is hoping for). A good day by Johnson, coupled with some Talladega like days by Edwards and Biffle, will see an early clinch.
Edwards likes the Atlanta speedplant...Johnson too, but says it drives like a bigger version of Darlington. The double back flip refers to Edwards' Nationwide Series win on Saturday at Memphis Motorsports Park. Edwards always executes a back flip from the roof of his car when he wins.
We're heading back to the office to take care of business the next couple of weeks...and will rejoin you from Homestead.

Friday, October 24, 2008

"JJ on Pole--Stop Me If You've Seen this Before"
For the third straight week, NASCAR Sprint Cup point leader Jimmie Johnson will start on the pole in a Championship Chase race. The track as we reported earlier, had a "frog-strangler" shower hit this morning...and had issues with moisture weeping through the seams of the asphalt around the 1.5 mile superspeedway. There were a few laps run in practice...Ryan Newman was fast before the mist returned to wash away activity here at AMS. This means Joey Logano will not run...since the field was set, per the NASCAR rule book, by owner points.
We'll rejoin you from the AMS speedplant on race morning, which is supposed to be indian summer seasonal, with high temps in the 70's.
A hat tip to our radio colleague Capt. Herb Emory from Atlanta's legendary news-talk station WSB-AM 750 for his great work on traffic reporting. He was on top of a situation this morning which would have kept me in standstill traffic for an hour, had I taken that route. Capt. Herb has gotten more Atlantans out of jams than any 20 bailbondsmen on Peachtree Street combined thanks to his traffic reporting.

"Best of The Rest"

What you see here is Greg Biffle's Ford Fusion...getting ready to take the track here at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton (about 20 miles from downtown Atlanta), GA. The track was hit with a "frog-strangler" earlier today...and the track crews are trying to take care of "weepers", which are streamlets of water that percolate through seams in the pavement. If a racing tire were to run over a slick...the effect would be like that of you stepping on an ice cube on a wood floor, and slipping all over the place.

The economy is on the minds of the drivers--make no mistake. Jeff Burton, as he is wont to do, issued a very detailed and clear explanation of how this affects the garage area. So too, the man who drives the #16 Dish TV Ford Fusion. You'll hear more on our "Race-Talk " programs in the coming few weeks.

We'll check back in with a snapshot of the top qualifier (and with lights, the track and NASCAR can go as long as they need to here) after.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Acid-Dipped Racecars? Too Much RedBull?"

Quick take from the NASCAR Justice department: The Red Bull #83 team got a major handslap because of some irregularities in the way the bodies were hung on the Car of Tomorrow. Driver Brian Vickers was whacked 150 driver points...crew chief Kevin Hamlin and car chief Craig Smokstad both were given a "time out" from NASCAR tracks (but not the shop...) and General Manager Jay Frye was doing the NASCAR version of the Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa ( Latin for My Fault, My Fault, My Most Grevious Fault) when the news broke. A major lash of NASCAR Justice, IMHO. Dieter Mateschitz was fined $150,000 (about an hours worth of US sales of the energy drink +/-).

The irregularities included thinner than 24 gauge sheet metal on the bodies. NASCAR did not confiscate the chassis, but sawed off the sheet metal and returned that chassis to Red Bull.

Hamlin will have a lot of time to figure out the chassis back at the shop while he is laboring in NASCAR Purgatory (a/k/a indefinite suspension).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Champion in Waiting?"
Racewinner Jimmie Johnson flat dominated the Tums QuikPak 500 here at Martinsville Speedway. Johnson bagged his 6th win of 2008 by leading 339 of 504 laps of the .528 mile oval--the smallest venue where NASCAR Sprint Cup cars run. His margin of victory over Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (2nd) was .708 of a second. Carl Edwards finished 3rd, Jeff Gordon 4th and Denny Hamlin 5th. Other chasers for the Sprint Cup and their finishes: Kevin "Happy" Harvick, 7th, Matt Kenseth 8th, Clint Bowyer 9th, Greg Biffle 12th, Jeff Burton 17th (thanks to a pit penalty he lost a lap), Tony Stewart 26th and Kyle Busch finished 29th with a pit miscue of his own.
This is Johnson's third Sprint Cup win in a row here. The series moves to the Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday for pole day...assuming the rains stay away.
Points (NASCAR makes them official in the next 24-48 hours):
1--Jimmie Johnson #48--6073
2--Greg Biffle #16--5924
3--Jeff Burton #31--5921
4--Carl Edwards #99--5875
5--Clint Bowyer # 07--5831
6--Kevin Harvick #29--5817
7--Jeff Gordon #24--5798
8--Tony Stewart #20--5735
9--Dale Earhardt, Jr. #88--5694
10--Matt Kenseth #17--5665
11--Denny Hamlin #11--5653
12--Kyle Busch #18--5628
Martinsville is a no BS, friendly race track, which focuses on the product--the racing--and its paying customers. Clay Campbell has not forgotten that formula, which he learned from the legendary H. Clay Earles, the founder of this place. NASCAR and corporate cousin International Speedway Corporation will likely pull some shenanigans to get a race for the Kansas Speedway (and its new casino). There is something to be said for tradition...and especially if sponsors are willing to step up in the minefield that is the business climate, and write checks for race sponsorships.

Staff Sgt. Robert Hankins--Martinsville Grand Marshal/TUMS QuikPak 500
Here is a picture of another American hero, taken at Martinsville Speedway, at the sponsorship announcement that Tums would sponsor the next two October races here. Staff Sgt. Hankins is assigned to the 4th Infantry Division, on his third tour of duty in Iraq. He's airborne and air assault qualified, and has seen enough rough stuff to earn an award of the Combat Action Badge. Bob, his wife and parents are here thanks to Tums. All people of good will, I'm sure, will keep him in thoughts and prayers when he returns to Iraq after his leave is over. It's people like Bob and his soldiers who provide ink-stained wretches and blabbermouths like me freedom of speech. I'm glad guys like him have my back.
Darren Singer, VP of Marketing for Goody's/Tums, fired a shot across the NASCAR bow concerning the possible loss of a race at this track. When he announced the sponsorship, Singer said that the Kansas race (reputed to get another race when a casino is built) needs to get it from another track--not Martinsville, both of whose races are sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline brands Tums and Goody's.
Rainout theater shows point leader Jimmie Johnson will start on the pole--Jeff Gordon was fastest in "happy hour". Is there a possibility that the Happy Harvick/Cousin Carl Edwards feud might reignite?
Lewis Hamilton has a 7 point lead over Felipe Massa after winning the Chinese Grand Prix from the pole. Fernando Alonso finished the Renault squad is hitting its stride in late season. Ferrari has the Constructor's Championship all but locked up...Ferrari's Massa basically needs to win if Hamilton finishes from 3-8th in Brazil. We'll do the points possibility on the Race-Talk program previewing their season ender.
We'll rejoin you from the post race news conference with a synopsis and (if I can remember) a snapshot of the winner.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sarge, the Cruzer & Dave Connolly take NHRA Wallys at Virginia Motorsports Park
  • You saw his car in earlier posts; Tony Schumacher posted his 14th win in 17 final round appearances in 2008, here at Virginia Motorsports Park. Schumacher beat Hillary Will in the notch his first VMP victory. He simply needs to qualify in Las Vegas to clinch the title.
  • Cruz Pedregon won for the first time since April 2006 in Las Vegas, by beating Jack Beckman. Cruz is now third in points behind leader Tim Wilkerson (-69).
  • Dave Connolly won the Pro Stock final over teammate, point leader and defending series champion, Jeg Coughlin, Jr. Connolly won here in 2007. This is a big deal, since Connolly missed the first five races of 2008.

We'll join you from Martinsville Speedway later this week.

"Sarge's Car Between Rounds"

This is the "Army Strong" Top Fuel Dragster driven by 4 time and defending NHRA POWERAde (soon to be Full Throttle) Drag Racing Champion Tony Schumacher. Conditions here at Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie (south of Ft. Lee/Petersburg),VA are ideal for fans and the cars... Tony's dragster set an elapsed time of 3.771 for the low ET so far...and he's safely in the second round. In the nitro Funny Cars, Robert Hight stopped the clock at 4.005 seconds. Schumacher could clinch title number five here today...but all the planets need to align, i's get dotted and t's get crossed. If Schumacher goes to the final round...
UPDATE: Hillary Will won her second round Tony Schumacher will have to wait until the next to last race weekend at Las Vegas to clinch his fifth Top Fuel title. The top shot shows a little more detail about how the teams spend the 75 minutes between rounds...yes, that piece of metal in the middle of the frame is the engine block, which is freshened up with fresh pistons and sleeves in the block, reassembled, and fired up before each round.

Pro Stock (with the carburetors and gasoline) like this weather as well.

More from Lowe's

If you heard the strains of "Kumbya" near Lowe's Motor Speedway was probably during a meeting between Kevin "Happy" Harvick and "Cousin" Carl Edwards in the NASCAR trailer...reports suggest NASCAR major domo Mike Helton led the chorus in Concord.

Had H. A. "Humpy" Wheeler still been on the job at the "Beast of the Southeast"--we'd have seen a ring materialize in the Lowe's Motor Speedway infield, and 16 ounce Everlast gloves dropped off at the trailers of Messrs. Harvick and Edwards.

My few dinars would have been placed on Mr. Harvick.

We'll update the NHRA Championship Countdown, and snapshot a winner for you here in Dinwiddie later this afternoon.

"Beast of the Southeast grabs Jr., Cousin Carl and Kenseth; Burton wins, now 2nd in points"
Jeff Burton won the Bank of America 500 over Kasey Kahne, 2nd and Kurt Busch, 3rd. More important--Burton now trails Jimmie Johnson (finished 6th) by 69 points. Johnson led 67 of the 334 laps..but his car seemed to lose the handle and the two time and defending champion literally hung on to finish 6th. Carl Edwards had an electrical problem which dropped him back to a 33rd place finish, and 168 points behind Johnson. Dale Earnhardt Jr was caught up in a crash...and finished 36th. Matt Kenseth crashed out and was credited with a 41st place finish. Jr is 10th in points (-354); Kenseth 11th (-360).
Kahne had the fastest car at the end...and cut a lead by Burton (up to 1.7 seconds at one point) to .946 of a second at the checkers.
We'll button up here...and join you later this morning in Petersburg, VA.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Happy Harvick, Cousin Carl & Fist City; Helio Cleared for Down Under; Halfway to the Chase

Greetings from Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, NC...on an Indian Summer day, where the infield is a little less full and tempers in the Sprint Cup garage area are sharp...Kevin "Happy" Harvick was less than pleased with Carl Edwards's performance at Talladega last weekend..."Cousin" Carl wasn't happy with Mr. Harvick's reaction...the result--boys will be boys...lots of ink and TV time...and something to blunt the rainout theatre. Wonder if that bumper on Harvick's mount (above) is "reinforced". Jimmie Johnson and "Cousin Carl" will start on the set by owner points front row here at Lowe's. That will leave Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead to decide the winner of the 2008 version of the Sprint Cup.
Helio Castroneves has the terms of his bond modified, so he can race at the IndyCar finale at Surfer's Paradise, Australia...usually folks charged in Federal Court would surrender their passport...a settlement is more than possible.
Had a chat with Stu Grant, Goodyear's racing boss, on their test at Indianapolis. Just so you know, they were not happy with what happened in late July at the Brickyard. The test went much better than the race, since the new compound put more rubber down on the track, and the tires could go for a fuel stop with all the rubber put down. Stu told me that the new car (a/k/a 'winged wonder') put more of a load on the right side of the car (78 % more) and exhibited more slip than the old car did. Slip, in this case, meant that the contact patch tracked more like a diamond, rather than a rectangle. The engineers in Akron worked on a compound that would compensate for that slip and increased load, and the test showed dramatically improved "rubbering" of the track. The engineers determined all of this by analysis of the rubber dust from the track in July. Bottom line: the findings will help wear at all NASCAR tracks--and may even get to the sporty car brand--Dunlop--and down the road, to a set of high performance tires near you.
We'll rejoin you after the race with a snapshot and quick recap of the race--then head north for Petersburg, VA and the second half of the NHRA's Countdown to One.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Helio & Tax Woes; Hybrids at Road Atlanta

Helio Castroneves of Team Penske has been indicted on Federal income tax evasion charges. The Miami Herald has more here:

We mentioned in our Race-Talk program this week, that we'd do some explaining on how the Zytek racing hybrid that will be racing in the American LeMans' Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta (Braselton, GA) works. Here goes:

The vehicle is powered by a 4 cam 4.5 liter racing V8 engine. The hybrid system converts energy generated by braking into electricity. When braking, the generator sends back DC electricity to charge the battery pack that runs the motor. The hope is to generate enough electricity to run the car at low speeds (similar to those on pit roads), then have the V8 kick in...and when needed for some extra power...the motor can add electric power to the V8 (just like what happens with Toyota's Prius/Camry/Highlander hybrids; Ford's Escape; Saturn's Vue and Aura and Chevy's Tahoe/GMC Yukon/Cadillac Escalade hybrids. With all of the spot gas shortages going on in that area (and a little bit west of there around Talladega); you'd wish for one of those on the road as well. The ALMS has most of its cars run on E10 (10 percent ethanol--safe for all cars); E85 (up to 85 percent ethanol, in practice more like 70%; those cars need special injectors and plumbing) and clean diesel (The Audi R10s and Peugeots). With hybrids...they have all ends of the energy saving spectrum covered in ALMS.
For the record, Formula One Grand Prix racing may see some version of kinetic energy recovery in 2009, be it through a flywheel that stores energy, or like the electric hybrids (BMW & Red Bull).
We're about to load up for bear with our trip to Lowe's Motor Speedway next we're kicking back--hoping the gas shortage will ease around the "Queen City".

Saturday, September 27, 2008

"Interesting Times"
  • RIP Paul Newman--The Newman in Newman-Haas Racing lost his battle with cancer yesterday. Paul Newman died yesterday in Connecticut, surrounded by family. He was testy at times when you tried to interview him...but once he figured out you wanted to talk about racing, he'd open up. I saw him at Watkins Glen, Long Beach, Indianapolis, Daytona; you get the picture. He used to opine that acting was what he did to pay bills; racing was his passion. He is already missed by the racing community.
  • What will the "bailout" do for the already weak auto racing sponsorship hunt?--When discretionary capital dries up (as in the case when brokers make margin calls, credit card issuers want the entire balances due, no short term loans available) belts get tightened very quickly. Business owners, for a while, may not have the funds to sponsor at the levels the teams are accustomed to. I wonder how much the belts can be tightened in big league auto racing, and whether the owners and sanctioning bodies have the stomach to do so. They may have to find that stomach sooner rather than later.

Your comments on these issues are always welcome, as well as your e-mail entries to our 20th Anniversary Contest.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Engine Failure Causes Kalitta Crash, so says NJ State Police
The New Jersey State Police released their findings from the investigation into Scott Kalitta's fatal qualifying crash at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, in Englishtown, NJ back in June. The engine suffered a catastrophic failure (speed at the 1/4 mile was 300.73 miles per hour), which in turn blew the body off his Funny Car at speed. That failure caused the parachutes not to deploy fully, Kalitta jammed on the manual brakes, and the car hit a boom on a television truck at the top end at what was approximated at 125 miles per hour. New Jersey's State Police investigates all fatal accidents at auto racing facilities as part of their regulation of the sport. The report also says Kalitta had .02 BAC in his blood when the autopsy was performed. That contravenes NHRA and New Jersey auto racing regulations. For the record, New Jersey's legal limit for alcohol intoxication is .08 BAC. Did the .02 BAC contribute to the crash? The State Police report lists that as a noteworthy/contributory item, but not as the major cause of the crash. I'll suspect Graham Light will read the riot act at the next driver's meeting.
The timing of this report is especially noteworthy, since the NHRA is racing this weekend at the Texas Motorplex at Ennis, Texas, where John Force suffered major injuries last September. That he is even racing, let alone in the Funny Car Countdown to One, speaks volumes about his determination. I think Mr. Force has some unfinished business in the Lone Star State this weekend.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"ZMax Dragway No Go; Schumacher Breaks Top Fuel Win Record; Biffle Wins at the Magic Mile; ESPN With Egg on Face with Hornaday Tempest in Teapot"

  • Due to unforseen circumstances I did not get a chance to make the trip to ZMax Dragway at Lowe's Motor Speedway. From everything I can find out--it is a palace for the straight line guys, and yes...someplace I'll put on the 2009 schedule.

  • That meant that I didn't get a chance to see Tony Schumacher win his record breaking 53rd Top Fuel final--that's one more than Joe Amato at 52. The person who succeeds Alan Johnson as Tony's crew chief in 2009 will have some big shoes to fill.

  • You gotta be in it to win it--Greg Biffle picked the right time to break a victory drought...he nipped Jimmie Johnson at the checkered flag at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a/k/a the "Magic Mile". Johnson and "Cousin Carl" Edwards are in a flatfooted tie in points atop the standings...the tie breaker goes to Edwards with 6 wins to Johnson's 4.

  • The Shaun Assael story at on Ron Hornaday's use of a steroid cream and the auspices under which the interview was obtained will strain relations between drivers and the ESPN beat reporters. You might want to check another Blogspot blog, The Daly Planet, for reactions positive and negative to this story.

  • Don't forget to enter our 20th Anniversary Contest.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

20th Anniversary Contest
I get to do this once every 20 years. It's my little way of thanking listeners and blog readers for listening and reading. In 1988, while going back to school at Ithaca College, I started "Race-Talk" on WHWK-FM, Binghamton, NY to cover local and regional auto racing in the area (while covering national racing for radio clients around the world). In 1993, I began "Radio-Road-Test", and moved "Race-Talk" to the type of program it is today. In 2006, I stood up this blog. Thanks for your readership, listenership, and comments.
Here's a link to the official contest page. There you will find a e-mail link for entries and a list of prizes. The grand prize package will help you get your holiday shopping done, or outfit you in fine style. Our random prizes (anything from a racing hat to a Shell gas gift card) are nice as well. You may want to read our rules, too. The contest will run until December 6, 2008; the Grand Prize will be drawn on December 8, 2008.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

"JJ, 'Smoke' Battle to the End; Bowyer Makes Chase, No Dodges In the Post Season"

  • Jimmie Johnson won the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 by .365 seconds over Tony Stewart here at the "Action Track" Johnson officially took the lead for good on lap 391 of 400...and battled with Stewart over those 10 laps. Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin rounded out the top five.
  • Clint Bowyer finished 12th; Kasey Kahne 19th, and David Ragan 32nd. That jumped Bowyer to 12th in points. Bowyer drives a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Impala SS. Kahne missed the Chase, as did Ragan. No Dodge is in this year's Chase.

Here are the drivers in the Chase. All 12 have had their points reset to 5,000, and received 10 bonus points for each win. In the case of ties, the tie breaker was best finish beyond race victories (which means top 5s, 10s etc.).

  1. Kyle Busch/5080--8 wins
  2. Carl Edwards/5050--5 wins, less a 10 point penalty from Las Vegas
  3. Jimmie Johnson/5040--today's winner
  4. Dale Earnhardt, Jr/5010
  5. Clint Bowyer/5010
  6. Denny Hamlin/5010
  7. Jeff Burton/5010
  8. Tony Stewart/5000
  9. Greg Biffle/5000
  10. Jeff Gordon/5000
  11. Kevin Harvick/5000
  12. Matt Kenseth/5000

David Reutimann led the most laps in the race--104 out of the 400, and finished 9th.

We'll rejoin you from Zmax Dragway in Concord, NC for the first race in the NHRA's "Countdown to One" next weekend...and later this week with details on our 20th Anniversary Contest.

"Short, Soggy Takes from the 'Action Track' "

  • Joey Logano's much hyped Sprint Cup debut is put off until Loudon +/-

  • Greg Biffle, Kevin "Happy" Harvick are in the Chase when this afternoon's green flag flies.

  • Clint Bowyer is sweating bullets now...he has the last place (12th) and needs an exceptional finish and bad luck from 13th (David Ragan) and 14th (Kasey Kahne) to secure that spot.

  • If Kahne does not make the Chase, Dodge will not be represented. That can't please Chrysler boss Bob Nardelli (formerly CEO of Home Depot).

  • NASCAR gets style points for putting the public safety above their pocketbook, and cancelling action here yesterday. As I drove in this morning, I saw the aftermath of a heavy rain. Something to think about: Fans at any gathering don't think so much about this...but the cops and firemen have their back, in case something happens. The weather in the Tidewater area could have put people in danger...and that's what we pay our cops and firemen to help with. They needed to be ready to deal with any threat in any part of the Commonwealth, thank goodness that didn't happen. Only a selfish lout would say that the race should have gone on once the rain moved through.

  • Helio Castroneves will have to settle for second in the Indy Car championship...a qualifying penalty puts him in the back of a 28th car field. Pointleader Scott Dixon starts 2nd, and needs to finish 8th or better to win outright. Helio needs to win and lead laps, since he trails Dixon by 30. That battle will go virtually unnoticed, because of the festivities here at Richmond.

We'll join you after the race, after the winner claims this trophy in Victory Lane.

Monday, September 01, 2008

You DID See A Picture Like This in Late July

Jimmie Johnson dominated the Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway, and with served notice that he and Chad Knaus (crew chief) do indeed have something for the Chase. Domination=leading228 of 250 laps. That puts him in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.
Top Finishers:
Johnson--Top Chevy
Greg Biffle, 2nd--Top Ford
Denny Hamlin, 3rd--Top Toyota
Kasey Kahne, 8th--Top Dodge
Other Notables:
Point Leader Kyle Busch--7th
Carl Edwards--6th
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.--11th (clinches a spot in the Chase)
Jeff Burton (500th career start)--17th and joins Busch, Edwards, Johnson and Earnhardt, Jr in the Championship Chase, which begins on September 14, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
See you later in the week at the Action Track.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

"Any Wonder Why They Wanted an October Race?"
There are thousands of people here at Auto Club Speedway. There could be a LOT more-hence the date change for the 2009 fall race here. You might not notice the empty seats on the HD ESPN broadcast--that is why I took this snapshot.
Jimmie Johnson, the polesitter and driver who's led the most laps so far, officially clinched his spot in NASCAR's Chase for the Championship on lap 101.
We'll join you with our usual race winner snapshot and summation after the post race news conference.

Friday, August 29, 2008

"JJ on Pole; AJ 2nd"
Front row at Auto Club Speedway consists of first time Cali pole sitter Jimmie Johnson--with his 4th pole of 2008...under slick conditions the two time and defending Sprint Cup champion put down a lap of 180.397 miles an hour. AJ Allmendinger put his Red Bull car on the front row...he of the go-or-go home ranks. AJ's lap was clocked at 179.659. Johnson car-owner and Hendrick Racing teammate Jeff Gordon was 3rd--179.565. The Dodge Boys have positions 4-6 (Kasey Kahne, Patrick Carpentier and Elliott Sadler). The best Ford belonged to Jamie McMurray, who'll start 13th--178.006.
The Kyle Busch/Carl Edwards incident still on the minds of the beat media...the super secret NASCAR double probation on their minds as they seemed contrite when asked about the Bristol cool-down.
We have some business to transact Saturday. We'll rejoin you on Sunday (race-day).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Grant v NASCAR Update
Heard from the attorneys for NASCAR (Greg Riolo) that the pre-trial conference I referenced in past posts and on my show is slated to be held on October 3 in Federal District Court in Manhattan.
We'll snoop around Auto Club Speedway in Fontana on Friday and Sunday for more.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"An American Hero"

NOTE: We were delayed by work getting to the West Coast, so we'll resume our race blogging with the NASCAR race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA next weekend.

It is not everyday that one gets to encounter a true hero--and we're not talking about a race car driver or a pop culture icon. No, we ran into "Wizum", who is a member of the US Air Force Security Forces. Staff Sergeant Michael Schwartz is "Wizum's" handler, and told me the story about this four legged veteran.

He's an IED hunter. Yes, that nose that you see hidden behind the muzzle sniffed out threats to not just the SF airmen, but soldiers from the 4th ID, 25th ID and 10th Mountain Division. "Wizum" gets a little jumpy when there are kids running around, hence the muzzle. If our hero could talk, he could probably swap some war stories that would very likely make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

One nice thing for our four legged hero: Since he (like Jack Webb) carries a badge, "Wizum" does not have to ride in a crate when he flies, and adds another level of security. I'd think the air crews would be happy to have him along for the ride.

I hope, when he is ready to retire, that ol "Wizum" will find a place where he can run free and lay out in the sun for the rest of his days. He's earned it, IMO.

Monday, August 18, 2008

"Lawyers, (guns) and Money"
The late Warren Zevon's anthem played through my head over the weekend, as I tried to digest a half hour of chat with Benedict Morelli, head of Morelli and Ratner, PC, who represents Mauricia Grant. Morelli made interesting points during our interview.
  • Morelli reminded me that a woman almost won a major party's nomination for President; and that an African American would be so nominated. That was the basis for a contrast and comparison to what some of NASCAR's officials allegedly did to Ms Grant.
  • He says his firm will depose NASCAR executives as part of the discovery process. A pre-trial meeting before Judge Deborah A. Batts, which will include NASCAR's attorneys, is slated for sometime in September. (Obviously, we'll keep our eyes on the docket at the Southern District Court in Manhattan's Foley Square for that meeting).
  • He wasn't surprised that NASCAR would deny all of the allegations in the original complaint, that they would angle for a change of venue, or that they wanted the complaint dismissed and that they wanted the plaintiff (Ms Grant) to reimburse them for legal fees associated with this action. What surprised Morelli was that it took NASCAR and its attorneys about 2 1/2 months to file the answer and do so after three extensions of time.
  • This case has its own blog on Blogspot:
  • As you have seen elsewhere, opinion on this case is mixed. Some who post comments suggest that Ms Grant filed the lawsuit simply for the money, as did NASCAR Chairman Brian France when addressing reporters at Michigan International Speedway on June 13. As you'd expect, Mr. Morelli took exception to this comment. We've produced a special podcast with those comments in their entirety, so you can hear the entire context of his answer: You can type this in your podcast finder and it will download the audio file (mp3) for your listening pleasure.
  • Next time we have a media opportunity with Brian France and others who represent the sanctioning body, we'll ask for his and their view of events. This week's ( Aug. 22) Race-Talk is devoted to a chat with Mr. Morelli, and will be made available as a separate podcast on August 29. Here's the link for our podcast page (please remember that Race-Talk's podcast changes each week, and is usually available for up to 6 days after the weekly release on Friday):

We'll rejoin you with more blogging from the West Coast at the IndyCar series race at Sonoma, CA.

UPDATE: We also finished a podcast for CBS News, Radio which you may see on the network affiliates' web sites. In it, I excerpt parts of the interview, and I give a timeline of events. You may wish to check the websites of your local CBS News, Radio affiliate (the ones who carry CBS News on the Hour).

Friday, August 08, 2008

"Grant v NASCAR--The Answer"
I have a copy of the sanctioning body's answer to the allegations of Mauricia Grant, which was filed today 8/8/2008 in the US Federal Court for the Southern District of NY, which is in Manhattan. Here's the short take:
The sanctioning body denies all of Ms. Grant's allegations. The answer suggests that NASCAR's counsel will want to file for a change of venue, if the case is tried. The answer also asks Judge Batts to dismiss the case in its entirety and have the Plaintiff reimburse the Defendant (NASCAR) for its legal fees.
We're still trying to get an interview with Ms Grant, or absent that, one of her attorneys. To be fair, we're also asking for input from NASCAR's attorneys. We think Ms Grant won't be available for a while, thanks to the revelations about her past driving record and encounters with the LA County (California) Justice system mentioned in the AP stories which appeared on August 7th. Interesting how coincidences occur.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

"The Carl, Bob and Jack Show"--Roush wins at Pocono

Is it better to be lucky than good? You might properly direct that question at "Cousin Carl" Edwards and long-time crew chief Bob Osborne. Osborne called his driver into the pits for a tire stop which put him out of the lead (at the time). Osborne and Edwards had a disagreement on the strategy (or lack thereof). After a 41 minute rain delay, Mr. Osborne's strategy reminded one of another denizen of "Happy Valley"--JoPa. Edwards was in the right place at the right time afterward, and had enough to win over a charging Tony Stewart, who would have won the race if it were 10 laps longer. Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson was 3rd. I would not have wanted to be on Kyle Busch's plane this evening--the Sprint Cup point leader lost a lot of his lead because his car ran out of gas two laps from the he was running fourth. So the post race show was entertaining with Jack Roush just sitting back like the "Cat in the Hat".
The points going into Watkins Glen:
Kyle Busch--3059
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.--2883 (-176)
Carl Edwards--2874 (-185)
Jimmie Johnson--2859 (200)
Jeff Burton--2833 (226)
Jeff Gordon
Kasey Kahne
Greg Biffle
Tony Stewart
Denny Hamlin
Kevin Harvick
Clint Bowyer 2512
Matt Kenseth is 13th at 2501 points.
We'll resume live blogging from the IndyCar event at Infineon Raceway outside Sonoma, California.

Friday, August 01, 2008

JJ "Has Somethin' For 'em at the Tricky Trioval"
This result happened last weekend at for the second time in a week...Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin will start first and second for this weekend's Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway--a/k/a the "Tricky Trioval". Maybe the race at Chicagoland Speedway (where Johnson was beaten by point leader Kyle Busch) served as a defining moment--where crewchief Chad Knaus and JJ said "enough". The Knaus crew had to replace some balky shifter mechanisms before Johnson went to qualify...Mark Martin was fast at 167.560 miles an hour. Johnson put his Lowe's Chevy Impala SS on the pole with a lap of 168.215 miles an hour. Johnson's key to this race is tire management--during qualifying, drivers want to beat the snot out of the tires, because this 2 1/2 mile trioval is very abrasive. During the race, drivers want to conserve tires, because the track is so abrasive. Kasey Kahne will start the race 7th in his Budmobile (Dodge Charger). The point leader, Kyle Busch, struggled in practice, and didn't find a lot more speed in qualifying, so he'll start 27th out of 43 cars.
ARCA Note: Scott Speed is making the transition to full fendered cars with style...he's on the pole for Saturday's ARCA race. I wonder what might have happened had he been allowed to get a couple of years testing for the main Red Bull team in F1--and then try his hand. Dieter Mateschitz is a good judge of talent, IMO.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

200th Post--Tire Debacle at Indianapolis

From left to right: Chad Knaus, Jimmie Johnson and Rick Hendrick, flanked by the winner's trophies after a controversial Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Controversial, because there was either a competition caution called by NASCAR...or a standard yellow flag...every 14 1/2 laps. Reason: The right side tires were wearing down to the cords too quickly. Goodyear did test here...but the rubber from all those days of practice and qualifying didn't stick...and the diamond ground track was blamed for that wear. Goodyear and NASCAR did what was necessary to insure safety when the situation evolved. The fans didn't like all the cautions...and there were parallels drawn to the 2005 US Grand Prix debacle...when Michelin wasn't allowed to substitute a tire...and withdrew its fleet of cars...leaving six to contend for the win.
Goodyear makes a very stout passenger tire--I'll attest to that. But here, they need to step up the program so something like this does not happen again. A "W" is a "W" and Jimmie Johnson will be happy with it once this settles down.
Top 5
Jimmie Johnson/48 (best Chevy)
"The Carl" Carl Edwards/99
Denny Hamlin/11 (best Toyota)
Elliott Sadler/19 (best Dodge)
Jeff Gordon/24--4 time winner
Other notables:
Earnhardt Jr--12
Tony Stewart--23rd
Jamie McMurray--6th (best Ford)
Kyle Busch--15th
Points going into Pocono:
  1. Kyle Busch/3004-100 bonus points
  2. Dale Earnhardt, Jr./2751-85 bonus points
  3. Jeff Burton/2733-40 bonus points
  4. Jimmie Johnson/2689/85 bonus points
  5. Carl Edwards/2684/65 bonus points

Monday Afternoon Update:

There is more than enough blame to go around. NASCAR does not get off scot free--Indianapolis is their biggest race as far as attendance goes. You might think that a full blown test in July could have been added (as the May 2008 test at Lowe's was) so all of the chassis problems and tire problems could have been revealed and resolved. It's not the ideal situation to be finding out about problems in front of 200,000 plus fans (more paid attendance in the seats than at any other NASCAR venue). That dog failed to hunt. And the new car still needs work.

Goodyear has a rich racing heritage with enough NASCAR, CART, NHRA and Formula One wins to fill a large trophy room. Heritage is the operative word here. Ever since Sir James Goldsmith tried a hostile takeover of Goodyear, the company has been treading on eggshells as far as their auto racing program vision. A racing program is not a short term payoff item (which is attractive to bean counters and traders in Goodyear stock). It has a longer term payoff which is not easily measured--but the payoff exists. The blame at Goodyear does not fall at the feet of racing boss Stu Grant, Racing Tire Marketing Manager Greg Stucker or NASCAR Tire Engineer Rick Campbell. It is properly directed at the top management. If the Goodyear CEO would have the same zeal for racing as, for example, an Edsel Ford, I could assure you that the Akron Tech Center could produce the kind of tires that could win in every form of auto racing--as they did when Leo Mehl ran that program. Take the handcuffs off the racing division--and you will see results. Want proof that this approach works? A lot of Michelins are sold from their sports car involvement--any racing car that can complete a road race on one or two sets of tires has a good tire. The 2005 situation with Michelin at Indianapolis occurred when the FIA, Bernie Ecclestone, and the teams wouldn't work together. The fans then, like yesterday, didn't get what they paid for.

I'm wondering how many people saw the performance at Indianapolis, and decided not to put Goodyears on their vehicles. That would be a shame--because the company, as I said before, makes a very stout street tire (Eagle RS-As are on most police cars--and you know what they go through).

I'll leave you with a two part question: Who do you blame the most for Sunday's Brickyard fiasco? And why?

We'll rejoin you from Pocono.

Tires? Indianapolis? Surely you jest......

This is the Goodyear garage at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Yesterday, we mentioned the tire wear problems for right side tires on the Sprint Cup cars in happy hour. Goodyear brought in extra tires to insure that all 43 teams would have enough to race. Stu Grant, Goodyear's racing boss, told me the tires were the same construction that will be used next week at Pocono. A tractor trailer and box truck full of tires and interliners is parked in the back of Gasoline Alley, and teams are grabbing sets as fast as they can be unloaded. The race is scheduled to start at 2:20 +/- thanks to ESPN, so the tire busters and team tire specialists can get the extra sets mounted, balanced and prepared for pit stops.

Scott Dixon, The "Carl" Impress

The IndyCar series gets needed time off after their first visit to Edmonton--the points are the same...Helio Castroneves led a lot of laps...point leader Scott Dixon took the win...with Helio 2nd. Paul Tracy showed that he still can get the road course work done...he placed 4th in the amalgamated Vision/Walker Racing entry. I'm wondering whether PT might try that again at Infineon in a few weeks.

We don't have a lot of time to mention Nationwide Series results and news on our programs, but watching last night's race from O'Reilly Raceway Park gave us even more reasons to be impressed with Carl Edwards. Although Kyle Busch won (and gave an in-your-face to NASCAR for restricting the Toyota engines), "The Carl" put on a gutty drive after having to pit for seven minutes to remove a leaking oil cooler. That put Edwards three laps down. Edwards passed Busch on track, and finished 11th on the lead lap. Busch now has 15 NASCAR wins across the three top touring divisions (Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Craftsman Trucks)

Boys Will Be Boys--Smoke Not On His Best Behavior

At a USAC Race at the aforementioned O'Reilly Raceway Park on Thursday, July 24, Tony Stewart jumped ugly with an official whom he felt treated one of his drivers unfairly. The video is available on the WTHR-TV (Channel 13, Indianapolis) website. Smoke will be called to meet USAC to find out what penalties he'll serve. I wonder just how long that act will be welcomed in NASCAR's "Big Show".
We'll join you with our observations on the race...and our usual winner's snapshot...afterwards.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"Forgotten Man?"

Jimmie Johnson, 2006 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard winner (and may I remind you, the defending Sprint Cup Champion), sits on the pole for this year's edition. His lap of 181.763 miles an hour around the 2 1/2 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway was good enough for his first ever pole at Indy, 2nd pole of 2008--15th top 10 start of 2008...and of 239 races...the 15th time he's started on the pole. Mark Martin almost nipped Johnson for the pole...he'll share the all Chevy front row with a 181.393 mile an hour lap. Ryan Newman starts of the Dodge Boys at 180.970 miles an hour. Jamie McMurray heads the Blue Oval Ford gang, starting 8th at 180.321 miles an hour. The winner of last year's race--Tony Stewart--is the best of the Toyota crew starting 14th with a speed of 179.480.

Practice for a couple hours beckons.

UPDATE: We're seeing the same thing ESPN folks are seeing on their broadcast of "Happy Hour" final practice--some unusually quick tire wear. Competition VP Robin Pemberton said something about giving the teams an extra set (rights and lefts) of Goodyear Racing Tires. The powers that be (NASCAR Prexy Mike Helton, Pemberton, Series Director John Darby among others) will huddle after the practice finishes. Greg Stucker, Goodyear Racing Marketing Boss, says the teams will have up to 10 sets of tires for the race...and believe they have enough here in Indianapolis to take care of the teams.

We'll join you on raceday with some musings.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Smoke, Super Tex, Newman and the Captain

  • Tony Stewart will formally apply to NASCAR for the numbers 4 and 14 for his Stewart-Haas Racing Team entries in 2008. The number 14, if you remember, was displayed on the cars driven by racing legend A. J. Foyt in Indy style competition. What drew "Smoke" to Super Tex? " I saw him (A. J.) get out of a car during the Indy 500 one year to beat on his car with a hammer. He then climbed back in and went back on the racetrack. I thought 'That guy is nuts.' " AJ gave Stewart his first Indy Car test in 1995 before the Indy Racing League was founded by Anton H. "Tony" George. They spent some quality time together during that test, and from that experience Smoke and Super Tex became fast friends.

  • Tony's #14 Impala SS will be co sponsored by Office Depot and Old Spice, who distributed small towels to the news conference attendees. Wags wondered if the towels would survive the Milka Duno toss test.

  • Still no word on the second driver at Stewart-Haas Racing--it's down to a short list of three and 2008 Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman is likely on that list.

  • A controversy between Rusty Wallace and Newman concerning Newman's departure from Penske Racing South reared its head when Wallace stated in a Brickyard news conference that Penske let Newman go. Newman said that was not the case; the decision was more his than Roger's, and that their goals didn't align...that lack of alignment was, in Newman's words, "for that reason alone--we decided not to continue after 2008."

  • In the first of two Sprint Cup practice sessions, Elliott Sadler was quick. In the second, past Brickyard winner Jimmie Johnson (you did remember that he is the defending Sprint Cup Champion?) set the fast time.

That's it for us on practice...we'll blog some pole stuff tomorrow.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

New Muscle Car from the Bowtie Brigade

What you see above is a production version of the 2010 Camaro, which was just introduced to the motoring press a few days ago on the left coast. One of those cars made their way to the Brickyard...because Chevrolet is the official car and truck of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. We took this shot at the unofficial Chevy kickoff golf tourney. We also saw a Chevy Silverado Hybrid pickup truck...which works like the GMC Yukon Hybrid we tested for this week's edition of Radio-Road-Test. The podcast of the GMC Yukon test will be available at our Motor Sports Radio podcast page for the next week. One might surmise that GM's Chevy division is getting a bit of bang for the buck from their involvement with the Hulman-George family--and Indy is likely not on the list of curtailed racing activities or venues.

Just an aside: where I'm staying in Greenwood, IN is near a Gas America station, which is selling E85 for $2.99 ...unleaded regular for $3.88...and bio diesel for $4.69 per gallon.
We'll blog later from some of the pre-race festivities.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The "Captain" Gets A Double
Ryan Briscoe used a classic Roger Penske pit strategy to get out in front of trouble, and win the Honda Indy 200 here at Mid-Ohio. Roger brought Briscoe in for tires early...and timed it right so the cautions fell Briscoe's way--that, and a fast Honda V8 is the story. Polesitter and teammate Helio Castroneves was a distant second...but considering his competition for the title(pointleader Scott Dixon) finished was a good points day for the team. Briscoe is 5th in points after this, his 2nd IndyCar victory in 31 career starts. With Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas' win in yesterday's American LeMans Series LMP 2 class, this marks the 19th time that Penske Racing has pulled off a double victory, and the fourth time they've won two races at the same track. The 1-2 finish in the IndyCar race is Penske's 8th in the IndyCars and 35th in open wheel history (includes CART and Champ Car).
The Top 5 in IndyCar points:
Dixon 455
Castroneves 397
Kanaan 365
Wheldon 364
Briscoe 296
The IndyCars finish their "six pack" with their first Canadian appearance in Edmonton...I'll bet everyone will look forward to the week off on August 1-3...maybe tempers (are you listening Milka and Danica) will get a chance to cool down.
We'll rejoin you next weekend from the corner of 16th Street and Georgetown Road in Speedway, Indiana next week, for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

Soggy Warm-Up; Welcome to Race Day

You will notice the treaded Firestone rain tires on Dan Wheldon's #10 Dallara Honda. This area of Ohio was hit with a classic "frog strangler" of a thunderstorm this jet driers prowled the pit road trying to dry the pavement, so the pit crews could have reasonably dry footing. We say reasonably...because the National Weather Service calls for a high probability of rain showers for the race. The Lincoln MKS we're driving has a radar weather option so a driver can get a radar map from 5 to 500 miles out--we knew this morning that a relatively strong storm was passing through Fort Wayne, IN in our direction here outside Lexington, the race will likely be a wet race...meaning that all the cars will wear the rain version of the racing Firestone Firehawks.

We spent some time interviewing the executive director of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council, Toni Neurenberg, about some topics we've broached in past posts. The ethanol that is used to power IndyCars is made from corn, but not all the grain is used for fuel. Toni says that the company who supplies the 100 % fuel grade ethanol--LifeLine Foods of St. Joseph, MO--uses the part that is left over after processing the corn for food, to make the ethanol. This means that this use of corn is more efficient, and the by-product powers a major American auto racing series. Fuel grade ethanol has 2 percent gasoline so it can be seen if it should burn. This means that of the 5,000 gallons of fuel that powers the IndyCars in practice, qualifying and racing for a typical event, only 100 gallons of that 5,000--two percent--are gasoline.
Snapshots of the IndyCar winner and comments to follow.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hot Times in More Ways Than One
The results will show that Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard won the LMP 2 class at Mid-Ohio. David Brabham in the Highcroft Acura was catching the class leading Penske Porsche Spyder, but couldn't get the job done this week, and finished 2nd. We'll never know if the deFerran Acura would have had something for Dumas and Bernhard, because late in the race, the car was caught up in a pit fire, which happened when the fuel hose hung up as Simon Pagenaud started to drive away...when E10 hits a hot exhaust...a fire is not far behind. The IMSA medics were on scene to attend to the fueler, who suffered burns, and was taken to the Ohio State Medical Center, but not before waving to the spectators and fellow crewmen as he was loaded into the ambulance. IMSA has this rule that anyone going into the pits during a race be dressed in a flame resistant fire suit. The incident today is exactly why this rule exists.
The overall winners are Lucas Luhr and Marco Werner in the LMP 1 Audi R10 diesel, who expected this 2.25 mile road course to be the province of the smaller LMP 2 machines. Torque, tires and timing were the key for the victory...5th of 2008. We last saw Luhr and Werner win at Long Beach.
That'll put a wrap on today's submissions...we'll rejoin you for the IndyCar race tomorrow.

Helio On Pole

Penske Racing is looking for an IndyCar and ALMS double here at Mid-Ohio. Helio Castroneves knows about winning here...he won Champ Car races here in 2000 and 2001. Helio won the pole...third of 2008 and second in a row. Teammate Ryan Briscoe made it an all-Penske front row. Point leader Scott Dixon starts an "uncharacteristic" 6th...but shed no tears--Dixon has won the last two IndyCar races here and is looking for his 3rd consecutive win here.
Of the 34 times that Helio has started on the pole (Champ Car and IndyCar) he's won 9 of them--a record six IndyCar series wins from the pole. Out of 109 IndyCar series races- Castroneves has started on the front row 44 times and in the top 5 in 73 races. What is it that the Captain, Roger Penske, says? Effort equals results.
We'll update you with the ALMS results shortly...some scary times in the pits for our polesitting car...more to come.

Straight Line Notes

Greetings from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where the American LeMans Series completed a warmup, and the IndyCars are now getting in final tweaks before "knockout" qualifying for the pole for Sunday's race.

The straight line NHRA racers are in the second leg of the "Western Swing" outside Kent, WA. It is the second race for the reduced 1000 foot distance for the nitro Top Fuel and Funny Cars, while a panel of Top Fuel and Funny Car crew chiefs and drivers tries to find a solution that would help to enhance safety in NHRA Pro Drag Racing. This is one committee where the operating parameter is damned if you do, damned if you don't.

With more publicity than ever before, the NHRA cannot--and likely won't--do business as usual after Scott Kalitta's tragic fatal crash. Look what happened to NASCAR before and after Dale Earnhardt was killed.

I received some research on the length of drag racing facilities that was originally compiled by drag racing reporter Bret Kepner. He listed the active venues that hold events (Z Max at Lowe's Motor Speedway has yet to is not listed). The longest facility from the starting stripe , through the sand trap/"kitty litter"/pea gravel pit to a natural barrier (like a public road, lake, railroad track, tree line, etc) is Firebird Raceway outside Phoenix, with a length of 6,458 feet. The shortest is Old Bridge Township Raceway park in Englishtown, NJ--2,488 feet. The average length of a drag racing lane is 3236 feet.

Sandtraps vary from no trap at places like Seattle and Norwalk, OH. The longest sandtrap is found at one of the shortest facilities--Pomona, with 320 feet. The average length of the pit/sand trap is 180 feet. Old Bridge Township Raceway Park has 127 feet.

Thoughts here: The idea behind a sand trap/gravel pit is to dissipate as much energy as possible when a car goes into the trap/pit. So do these traps/pits need to be longer, do they need to be deeper and do they need to be filled with a different blend of materials that would dissipate energy quicker and faster when a car enters?

That's just one angle NHRA should be considering.

My take on this is that the committee ought to be relooking at every way to stop or slow one of the nitro cars (Top Fuel and Funny Cars) after a run if the parachutes and brakes aren't doing the job. Do the brakes need to be more robust? Do the Funny Cars need another system to complement the parachutes mounted to the body? And do they need to be going 330 miles an hour..or would 310 be enough to insure good racing and promote safety? What will be the least expensive way to insure that safety? Redesign of facilities or engines/chassis?

Just my .02

We'll rejoin you with a snapshot of the fast six from IndyCar qualifying.

Enjoy the sculpture from .

Friday, July 18, 2008

Andretti Fast in Practice; deFerran takes ALMS Pole

Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan were 1&2 in practice for tomorrow's IndyCar "knockout" qualifying session. Typical summer heat here at Lexington, OH...Kanaan says the seeds for running well when it's hot are planted in the off season...Kanaan, who lives in Miami, says training in the heat pays benefits on days like this. Marco, as one might expect, thinks the more seat time the better...but won't double up this weekend in the ALMS Andretti-Green Acura...he says he wants to stay sharp for the Indy Car race...and that two road course races in a weekend would take a lot out of a driver. Oval races, says Andretti, are a bit easier on the driver.

There's no racing rust for Gil deFerran (picture, right)...the ex-sporting director for Honda's F1 effort...past CART champion and Indianapolis 500 winner sits on the overall pole for the American LeMans Series here at Mid-Ohio. This was Gil's first pole in 3 ALMS events. LMP2 Acuras sit on the front row...David Brabham from last week's race winning Highcroft Patron racing team is second fastest...the Penske Porsche driven by Timo Bernhard starts 3rd...and in LMP1...Marco Werner (picture, left) and the Audi R10 diesel starts 4th overall.
Gil says the challenge of getting that Acura to go faster is a challenge which seems to bring out the best in his team. He's always been kind of an analytical driver. In a series that allows more technical innovation, analysis is a good thing.

We'll rejoin you with IndyCar qualifying a drag racing take on shortening the track for the nitro Top Fuel and Funny Car cars.
Sign Of The Times

Greetings from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course--where the IndyCar and American LeMans Series are racing this weekend. Today (Friday) will see pole qualifying for the ALMS LeMans Prototype 1 & 2 cars and practice for the IndyCars. This is the fifth weekend of six straight for the IndyCars.

The IndyCar series, as has been well documented, powers its race cars on 100% fuel grade ethanol. Some cars in the ALMS GT2 class, like Lord Drayson's Aston Martin...and the Corvettes, run on cellulosic ethanol (E85). The sign above is in front of His Lordship's transporter in the paddock. The Intersport Racing LeMans Prototype 1 (among the style of cars that contest the 24 Hours of Lemans) is similarly fueled by E85. The LMP1 Audi R10 diesels run on clean diesel fuel. The rest of the ALMS field runs on E10, which you may be running on after filling up at a gas pump near you. Every automobile and light truck sold in the US can run on E10, which means the blend is 90 percent petroleum based gasoline and 10 percent ethanol. Zipping through Indiana, we saw E85 selling for 50 cents a gallon less than unleaded regular (and it was certainly tempting to want to fill up the car at THAT pump). Our 2009 Lincoln test car (AWD MKS) has the gas cap clearly marked no E85 ...but it will accept E10...just like the race cars here. Just an aside: Gas prices around Chicago are in the $4.30-4.40 range for a gallon of unleaded regular gas...Outside of Lima, Ohio...our usual stop (Flying J) had unleaded regular for sale at $3.76 per gallon.

We'll update you with the pole winners for the American LeMans series race...and some comments from the fastest Indy Car practicers.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Catch Up Weekend

  • Laptop crashes are no fun...especially at a race track. Hence, no pix or blogging from a popular win by Bobby Rahal's driver, Ryan Hunter-Reay, at Watkins Glen International.
  • EJ Viso has the mumps, and won't be racing tonight at Nashville, where Helio Castroneves is on the pole...Helio's Indy Car ship needs to be righted...and with the Captain, Roger Penske, returning to the track...the inspiration sits on the pit box.
  • The NASCAR beat media has gone ga-ga over the rumor that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama would sponsor the BAM Racing machine in a one race deal at Pocono Raceway in August. Chris Jenkins of the AP did some homework, called the Obama campaign, and Jenkins reported the Obama campaign said (in so many words) "that dog won't hunt". I wonder whether Grant v NASCAR drove that few million dollars away.
  • So Tony Stewart and Gene Haas combined to form Stewart-Haas Racing for 2009 and beyond. An interesting development...but not one that deserves the wall-to-wall coverage it is getting. On a personal business level, I wish "Smoke" great success as an owner.
  • This is the first weekend of the NHRA's 1000 foot experiment...and still the nitro Top Fuel cars ran over 300 miles an hour and covered 1,000 feet in under 4 seconds at Bandimere Speedway outside Denver, the first part of the Western Swing. Shortening the distance for nitro cars an interim measure which will buy the NHRA time as their newly convened panel studies the issue on how to enhance nitro car (Top Fuel and Funny Car) safety. Bandimere has installed a cooling system under the 1/4 mile track...a first.
  • Senator John Warner (R-Va.) is a distinguished public servant, who is retiring from the Senate. Warner's record in national defense issues cannot be faulted. His suggestion that the 55 mile an hour speed limit be reinstituted is not such a good idea, and, like those who oppose drilling for our own oil in our own country, relies on outdated thinking not grounded in the real world of today. In 1973, when edition one was tried, the fleet of cars on the road was mostly comprised of carbureted V8 rear wheel drive sedans. That rear wheel drive V8 configuration exists mainly in today's full size sport utility fleet. You would be hard pressed to find a new car or truck that comes with a carbureted engine. Most of the vehicles sold in the US are front wheel drive. So technology has advanced, and it will continue to do so, if driven by the market. Want proof? Look at Honda's sales numbers and compare them to sales of manufacturers that rely primarily on SUVs to make their profit in the past few months. The market will take care of the problem if it is allowed to work, by increasing supply (which means drilling for oil in United States possessions and offshore, accelerating the use of E85 and its manufacture from cellulosic ethanol, more use of bio diesel and enhancing economy with real world improvements like more five and six speed automatic transmissions on even the smallest of vehicles) to meet our demand. The drilling technology has advanced since edition one of the "energy crisis". As for conservation: it will come naturally with more real world improvements like five, six and even seven speed automatic transmissions, better fuel management thanks to direct injection, and more efficient aerodynamics. The hybrid, fuel cell and all electric vehicles are only part of the answer and should be further developed. As more five speed automatics replace older three and four speed automatic transmision cars...the efficiency will go up.
  • The enforcement of a 55 mile an hour speed limit also poses a public safety issue: We need our policemen to protect us from murderers, sex offenders, robbers, and those whose actions pose a forcible threat to our lives and property. As eyewash with a 55 mile an hour speed limit, state and local governments would take cops off the job they do best--protecting our neighborhoods, since all law enforcement is local--and in essence turn them into "tax collectors" with stepped up 55 mile per hour speed enforcement operations, because that is an easier way to raise revenue than taxes. That is, unfortunately, easier for governments than actually enacting policies that facilitate an increase in supply of fuels whether locally or nationally.
  • In my opinion, the ideal car (and this comes from someone who's driven more than 770 to produce a national radio program) is one that is fast, safe, functional and thrifty. That would mean the car would have to have a 9 second or faster 0-60 time; a five star front and side crash rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat four, carry their luggage and entertain them; not cost an arm and leg to insure and maintain and get between 20-22 miles per gallon in traffic and 30-34 miles per gallon on the highway. That is why GM's Chevy Tahoe and Yukon SUV hybrids are such an engineering feat. They won't get 30 on the highway...but to have a three ton SUV move from a standing start to almost 25 miles an hour on electric power...that is neat. There will be more on this in next week's Radio-Road-Test. You can go to our road test data page to see how mileage and acceleration function in the real world.
  • All things equal, we'll resume our blogging from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course when the ALMS and IndyCar Series have a double header weekend next week.