Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dixon Anchors Ganassi Sweep of Homestead

Although his car would give up on long runs...Scott Dixon put together two short stints of speed which put him into the lead and Homestead's Victory Circle for the Gainsco Indy 300. Marco Andretti led 85 of the 200 laps and finished 2nd. Ganassi Racing teammate Dan Wheldon drove his guts out to get from the back to the front...and ended up 3rd (in the last four years, Wheldon has won three and finished third...not a bad record). Helio Castroneves (he of the DWTS "Happy Feet") came home 4th.

The general consensus is that the teams which came to the IndyCar Series through reunification and had drivers with little oval experience are bucking an almost vertical learning curve. Drivers were very complimentary--Wheldon did remind us that the teams would eventually figure things out and be competitive...but it would take a long time.

Scorecard for Racing Owners:

Roger Penske--Daytona 500 Winner and 12 Hours of Sebring Overall Winners

Chip Ganassi--24 Hours of Daytona Winners and IndyCar Unified Series Opener at Homestead

See you next week at St. Pete...and on the radio with Race-Talk and Radio-Road-Test.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Gainsco Grand Prix for the GrandAm Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes

The result is the same for Chip Ganassi overall win for the Riley Lexus Daytona Prototype driven by Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas (Pruett, left; Rojas, right). Pruett says that he was able to place the Lexus about anywhere he needed to to pass cars...even with slight tire problems on the restarts. The Toyota Racing Development has been working on driveability...wonder if the TRD guys and Mark Cronquist (engine builder for Joe Gibbs Racing in NASCAR Sprint/Nationwide series) have been hobnobbing.
We'll post again after the Gainsco Indy 300.

Homestead Updates
The 3 hour Gainsco GrandAm race has fewer than 40 minutes to go...and Scott Pruett leads overall. You will remember that Pruett already has one victory in 2008...the 24 Hours of Daytona for Chip Ganassi Racing.
What's going on here department: The second and third IndyCar qualifiers, Ed Carpenter and A. J. Foyt IV, both of Vision Racing (owned by one Anton H. "Tony" George), had last night's qualifying times disallowed after failing an inspection. Because both of those cars move to the back of the 25 car grid, that moves Danica Patrick up to second starting position, and gets Dan Wheldon from a 24th place starting slot, to 22nd. The best action on track will still involve Wheldon (who looks for a 4th consecutive win here at Homestead) coming to the front.
We'll update this post with the GrandAm Rolex Series winner later.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Homestead...the Great Amalgamation begins

Greetings from the Homestead-Miami Speedway, where the first unified IndyCar race since 1978 will take place on Saturday night. It's part of a double header with the Grand AM Rolex Sportscar Series...the Rolex Daytona Prototypes and sportscars race on the road course; the IndyCars will take to the variable banked oval...some 25 of them...for a Saturday night shootout. There would be 26...but when Graham Rahal crashed in practice...there weren't enough spare parts and he'll sit out the IndyCar event.

The car you see above belongs to the fastest practicer--Scott Dixon, who you will hear (or have heard) on this week's Race-Talk program. Newlywed Dan Wheldon was second fastest. They'll contest the pole later tonight.

As for the Grand AM series qualifying...David Donohue (yep..the son of Mark Donohue) in the Brumos Porsche Riley...with a speed of 113.390 miles an hour. The race is a three hour sprint...and we'll keep you posted. It's been relatively quiet here...except for a few mechanical gremlins that bite in all series. If it heats up..we'll break in.

Pole Update will follow.
Scott Dixon wins the pole with an average speed of 213.3 miles an hour. Ed Carpenter starts 2nd and AJ Foyt IV starts 3rd. Dixon's teammate Dan Wheldon backed into the wall as he started the first of his four timed laps. The 2005 Indy 500 winner and past IndyCar series champion starts in the back. Dixon suggests you watch for Mr. Wheldon as he drives his way through the field trying to get to the front. Carpenter and Foyt ran their laps as it got cooler...and Larry Curry is the racing honcho (he wrenched Tony Stewart to his IRL championship if you recall) for Messrs. Carpenter and Foyt at Vision Racing.
Another reminder: you forget the Penske Racing teams at your own peril...Ryan Briscoe and Helio (he of the Happy Feet) Castroneves ran well in practice.
We'll rejoin you from Homestead-Miami Speedway tomorrow.

Friday, March 21, 2008

New York International Auto Show 2008

Gas is going north of $3.50 a gallon around the LA area...higher elsewhere. What's a car person to do?

At the NYIAS...electric commuter...hybrid and fuel cell cars were in doubt inspired by the $10 million genius prize for the first affordable automobile that will get 100 miles per gallon of gas. Mitsubishi's take on this concept is pictured above.

That day is not as far off as we might think.

But for us unreconstructed car guys...Chevy showed an interesting twist on the HHR...with a 260 HP turbo 4, stick, all wheel discs, and some handling tweaks...and still well above 25 on the highway if you keep your foot out of the turbo. The HHR (also pictured above) bridges the gap between the '53 Chevy Suburban and cars for today.
Show notes: We catch up on our reading on our "Race-Talk" program...but we'll tell you that Lewis Hamilton is fastest at Seepang coming off a victory at the season opening Australian GP. The NHRA is off this week...back on next (yes, I REALLY can read a schedule)...the Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock winners at Gainesville...Defending Series Champions Tony Schumacher, Tony Pedregon and Jeg Coughlin, Jr. They are in action at Houston next weekend.
RANT: A final note about alternative fuels: The reason the Internet is so popular and so because it is unfettered by a bunch of taxes. Basic economics teaches you that taxing an activity is the best way to depress that activity (are you listening, New York?). If this country were serious about getting more cars and trucks to run on E85 (85% ethanol, 15 percent unleaded gasoline) or bio-diesel (a diesel fuel derived from plant based oils); then it should not collect fuel tax on E85 or bio-diesel--ever. Our farmers, if given the chance, can surely grow enough of anything to make the raw materials for ethanol (they are even making ethanol from cellulose--a building block of plant life like trees, etc.) AND feed the rest of the world. And for those of you who say the government needs that revenue...I say balderdash! The economic activity that would be generated by the market driven conversion to E85 would unleash a boom which would generate more tax revenue derived from activity which is taxed (income). GM has a couple of million E85 cars already in service. Retrofits would drive an aftermarket. And it would once again become profitable to drill for oil in the US of A. This stuff is no different from cassette tapes, vinyl records, and CDs. There will always be a market for them--as there would be for 100% hydrocarbon fuels. The users understand that there would be an extra cost to use hydrocarbon fuels (present tax structure). Justice Learned Hand's words about arranging affairs so as to legally avoid paying taxes (by using a tax free alternative) ring especially true.
As for electric & hybrid cars--they are a great engineering exercise. Until they all yield gas powered performance and range, they will be a nice "feel good" purchase. Yes, the Highlander Hybrid gets V8 0-60 numbers (7 second range) and V6 fuel economy (mid to high 20's combined). But when people need to drive 5-600 miles per day...and they can't wait for a battery stack to charge...the internal combustion engine is still the prime mover of our economy. /RANT.