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.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The "Worldwide Leader" Posts Video of Mauricia Grant; Veteran Ed Hinton on board at

ESPN gets a pat on the back for this:

It takes quite a few stones to do this, while maintaining the television rights for the Nationwide Series (the series she formerly helped to oversee as an official).

Also, veteran journalist Ed Hinton has been hired by to work on its motorsports site--you'll remember his series in the Orlando Sentinel on NASCAR safety (or lack of it) in 2001. He knows where the skeletons in the closet hide and if past form is any indication, is not afraid to throw open the door to said closet.

Sunlight is a powerful disinfectant.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

NHRA Shortens Nitro Cars to 1,000 Feet As Kalitta Investigation Continues
This made our news desk after our "Race-Talk" program was produced. You'll notice the answers to some questions I asked on Sunday, June 22.

GLENDORA, Calif. (July 2, 2008) -- As the investigation continues into the tragic accident that took the life of driver Scott Kalitta, NHRA announced today that beginning at the Mopar Mile High Nationals in Denver, Colorado, both the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes will race to1,000 feet instead of the traditional 1,320 feet or one-quarter mile.This is an interim step that is being taken while NHRA continues to analyze and determine whether changes should be made to build upon the sport's long standing safety record, given the inherent risks and ever-present dangers associated with the sport.
This interim change was made by NHRA in collaboration with professional race teams. NHRA believes that racing the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes to 1,000 feet will allow NHRA and the racing community time to evaluate, analyze and implement potential changes based on the safety initiatives outlined last week.
With the change, fans will still be able to enjoy the sights, sounds and thrill of NHRA nitro racing with speeds around 300 mph and quick elapsed times to 1,000 feet.
Over the years, NHRA has implemented many initiatives to enhance safety including measures to limit speeds from increasing, personal protective gear, vehicle improvements, and track enhancements such as sand traps,catch nets and concrete barriers the entire length of the drag strip.
In the wake of the tragic series of events that took Kalitta's life, the following technical issues are currently under investigation: 1) what might be done to reduce engine failures; 2) parachute mounting techniques and materials as well as identifying a parachute material that could be more fire resistant; 3) exploring whether there is a way to increase brake efficiency when cars lose downforce due to the loss of the body; 4) analyzing additional methods that might be developed at the top end of the race track to help arrest runaway vehicles; 5)considering whether current speeds should be further limited or reduced to potentially improve safety.
"The board members of the Professional Racers Owners Organization (PRO) wholeheartedly and unanimously support this decision," said its president Kenny Bernstein. "We want to thank NHRA for listening to our input and suggestions to incorporate these changes. It is not lost on any of us that this constitutes a change in our history of running a quarter-mile, but it's the most immediate adjustment we can make in the interest of safety which is foremost on everyone's mind. This may be temporary change and we recognize it is not the total answer. We will continue to work hand in hand with NHRA to evaluate other methods of making Top Fuel and Funny Car competition safer so that we might return to our quarter-mile racing standard. We also want to thank Connie Kalitta for his invaluable input. He has been a rock through these difficult times."
That's what the NHRA's saying. Some of the insiders suggest these changes needed to be made a while ago. That's extreme Monday Morning Quarterbacking. However, the sanctioning body acted decisively--and didn't wait 7 months to publish a study or change things to find out what works.