Sunday, November 22, 2009

Picture says it all--2009 and four time consecutive Sprint Cup Champion driver (Jimmie Johnson) and crew chief (Chad Knaus). Yep--they are looking ahead already to 2010.

Friday, November 20, 2009

On Stun: Johnson wins pole for season ending Ford 400
So much for playing it safe--The newly resigned Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus teamed up to put the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Impala (Lowe's also re-upped as the sponsor) on the pole for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup season ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Johnson was among the last of the 35 locked in cars to take a qualifying lap, and was timed at 31.049 seconds (173.919 miles an hour). Scott Speed lines up second, Marcos Ambrose, 3rd.
Other musings: NASCAR CEO Brian France got his meeting with the media out of the way early. Auto racing is not a leading economic indicator, and France lowered expectations for the 2010 economic picture, saying that the sanctioning body would try to help with cost cutting, because "we (NASCAR) don't believe that 2010 looks, from just a pure economy standpoint, an awful lot better." That said, France says there is encouraging movement among sponsors, but not what was anticipated, and hope for in the future.
On the declining TV ratings: "on any given weekend, we still remain the second or third, depending on which weekend it is, most popular sport." He also said that NASCAR had no policy that demands that its media partners do one thing or another thing (in its broadcasts). As to whether the sanctioning body has a policy of retribution against media criticism from its broadcast partners, "There isn't a policy". On that, sir, we shall see.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jimmie Johnson Meets the Media 11/19/2009
We rejoin our blogging after a hiatus. This weekend, like on October 8-10, we will be at the Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Sprint Cup season finale, where Jimmie Johnson, pictured, above, needs to finish 25th or better to lock out Mark Martin to win his fourth consecutive Sprint Cup title--which has never been done by any driver in the 60 years of NASCAR.
Johnson, contrary to what some might believe, did not just fall from the sky into the seat of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet Impala owned by Rick Hendrick. He came from a modest Southern California background, ran off road and ASA, and was discovered by Hendrick while running in the then Busch Series. He takes the racing seriously. As you saw from my Tweets from the news conference, Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus are going for a decisive performance.
You also saw the kind of respect that Mark Martin commands from his teammates in those Tweets as well.
We'll blog from the track, and Tweet as needed on Friday and Sunday.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dario Franchitti--2009 IndyCar Series Champion

Saving fuel at 201.420 miles an hour? That (and a little bit of pit road strategy from the Ganassi Racing braintrust) won the 2009 IndyCar title and the Firestone Indy 300 season ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway for Dario Franchitti of Target Ganassi Racing--his second IndyCar title in three years.. Franchitti started the race from the pole...and got into a battle with Penske Racing teammate Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe. Those three cars were the class of the 201 mile an hour field--the first in the 14 year history of the IndyCar series to complete an event without a caution period, covering 300 miles in 1 hour and 28 minutes. At the checkers...Franchitti bested Briscoe by 4.788 seconds. Franchitti stopped earlier than Dixon and Briscoe--that made the difference.
Franchitti was emotional when he thought of his friend Greg Moore (who died 10 years ago this month in a racing accident at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California), and was also thoughtful when asked about winning the championship. He said that the team's disappointing finish at the Indianapolis 500 was a wakeup call and rallying point, and that those resu.lts galvanized the team to work harder. I guess five wins says a lot about the results.
In the Grand-Am Rolex Series Championship, Hurley Haywood and Joao Barbosa won the race...but by finishing 4th, Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney, won the Daytona Prototype title. Of the 100 laps of racing...a full 25 of include the last 8...under caution. Haywood was a last minute substitution for Barbosa's usual co-driver, the now suspended JC France, suspended for an off track incident in Daytona Beach, FL, where police charged hiom with possession of crack cocaine, DUI and street racing. If his last name sounds familiar, it should. JC is the son of Jim France of NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation. There was no official mention of the incident by Grand-Am.
The race was sparsely attended--unseasonably hot (90 degrees vs 80 degrees) weather and humidity held down the crowds. The tweets at MSRnet explain a bit more.
We'll get back to our headquarters to regroup and get ready to return to Homestead-Miami Speedway to cover the Sprint Cup Championship next month.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Championship Trio Sweeps Top 3 Spots at Homestead-Miami Speedway

The championship contenders from left to right: Scott Dixon, the point leader who'll start 2nd, polesitter Dario Franchitti, who took a point from Dixon and has a 4 point gap, and Ryan Briscoe from Team Penske starting 3rd and 7 points back from Dixon.
Below the contenders, the Indy Racing League Championship Trophy.
Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney are the Grand-AM Rolex Series point leaders and pole sitters. Brian Frisselle and Max Angelelli start 2nd, Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett are 3rd and the defending champions.
Homestead-Miami Speedway boss Curtis Gray thinks "there's something sexy about South Florida." That quote in the context of describing how South Florida is accustomed to having championships decided in the major sports, and for the last few years, in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. South Beach, and some of the other beaches in the area may bolster Mr. Gray's assertion. We'd suspect a good crowd--and an even better Saturday race--where ticket holders will get to see two closely contested auto racing series decide their champions in the last event, in the last few laps--will raise the sex appeal in this part of Dade County, Florida.
We'll join you tomorrow with double championship blogging.

Friday, October 02, 2009

BS Detector Alert
Something about the NASCAR admission on 10/2 that the Rick Hendrick #5 and #48 Dover cars were legal--but just barely--and that Hendrick's brain trust (crew chiefs Alan Gustafson and Chad Knaus were told to never run them again doesn't pass the smell test. On the face, it is the same thing as when the police radar indicates you are going 65.001 miles an hour in a 65 mile an hour zone--legal, but within tolerance.
Where the "bovine scatology" comes in is this--NASCAR can, under its catch-all rule 12.A-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing), do what it pleases (and can also do so because it is a private organization). If the violation was egregious enough to evoke that verbal warning-- then why were penalties not assessed? Isn't legal legal? Do the words publicity, sagging ratings on TV and controversy ring a bell? They ought to.
In the continuing saga of Jeremy Mayfield--celebrity attorney Mark Geragos has been hired to assist in the conduct of Mayfield's case. Geragos has defended some misbehaving Hollywood types in some high profile cases.
Is it not interesting that this admission was also revealed when the series was in Kansas City Kansas--a good size, but not major media market?
Again, do the words publicity and controversy ring a bell?
The NASCAR beat media is getting played like a snare drum on both these issues...and needs to call "BS"--"bovine scatology"-- on stories like this so it can once again be the fan's eyes, ears and the sport's mirror.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Checking In
I'm updating the blog since I haven't been on the road since August--the end of year trips to Homestead (twice) fairly devour travel budgets, and we're in business to make a profit.
We note with pleasure that Felipe Massa is getting back into the swing after his consult with Dr. Steve Olvey in Miami. The Ferrari F1 pilot, who was injured in Hungary, is getting back into karts to knock off the racing rust--his short term goal is to return to the Grand Prix seat by November...but 2010 is a better possibility.
Greg Anderson is one of the stand-up guys in NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing. He made a big move to third in Pro Stock points with his Dallas win, behind Mike Edwards.
Some major props to the Patron Highcroft American LeMans Series LMP1 team, for building one of those LeMans Prototypes from the tub up at the track, after a nasty crash by Scott Sharp destroyed the primary mount in pre-race practice. Sharp was uninjured; he and teammate David Brabham now lead DeFerran Racing by 21 points, and have all but clinched the LMP1 title after the rain shortened Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta.
Rookie Joey Logano's wreck at the "Monster Mile" (a/k/a Dover International Speedway) is a wake up call to remind all of the NASCAR apologists that drivers can still get hurt--or even killed--in the new design Sprint Cup race car. It is less likely, thanks to safety improvements, but it is still possible.
Finally, why is the melody from "Won't Get Fooled Again" (The Who) running through my mind when I see the three time and defending Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson run toward title number 4 ("Meet the new boss...same as the old boss...")?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Wiiings Over The Irish Hills--Brian Vickers Wins The CARFAX 400"
Our winner's snapshot is of Brian Vickers' Red Bull Toyota Camry getting fueled after winning at Michigan International Speedway. This happens as part of the post race inspection. As you saw by our Tweets (you did sign up to follow us at ,right?) Vickers won when then leader Jimmie Johnson's gamble on fuel came up a few laps short. Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr finished 2nd and 3rd.
This is the first ever win for Red Bull Racing in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition. It's Vickers' 2nd career win in Cup racing, and more importantly, it brings Vickers to within 12 points of 12th place Mark Martin (finished 31st) for the post-season championship chase. It will likely help move Vickers' negotiations with Red Bull supremo Dieter Mateschitz along.
Other Notables: Pointleader Tony Stewart finished 17th...and has a 284 point lead over Jeff Gordon (3500 to 3216) who's now second. Jimmie Johnson (three time and defending Sprint Cup Champion) is third in points. Martin has four wins.
The Daly Planet ( had two interesting days of live blogging on the quality of ESPN's coverage of Nationwide and Sprint Cup racing. Those who watch that coverage are very vocal about their likes and dislikes. John Daly is a TV veteran who's been on our Race-Talk program before, and runs the blog, where strong feelings are expressed in a manner that's safe for the family--hard to do in the blogosphere. If you have ever been frustrated by the quality of the coverage (or perceived lack thereof), this is your blog.
We are back in the office on Tuesday evening and will be staying close to our base until the last race to the Chase, at Richmond's Action Track on September 12--three races away.
"No Dents or Dings in Practice"

One of the great story lines in the 2009 season has been the ability of the Darian Grubb-led #14 Old Spice/Office Depot Stewart-Haas Racing team to battle back from adversity and turn it into a top 10 or better finish. That, and a bunch of driving ability, is why Mr. Stewart is presently leading the NASCAR Sprint Cup points. Not having to roll out backups, jack in the track setup and otherwise stress out whether the setup was right goes a long way for Grubb and "Smoke's" crew, and bodes well for Stewart improving his 18th place starting position.

Blue Funk for the Blue Oval Gang--Bill Elliott has the best starting position of all the Ford Fusions entered in today's contest. "Awesome Bill", a 7 time winner here in the Irish Hills, starts 9th. Next closest is Greg Biffle, starting 17th.

Back-benchers: Kyle Busch starts 39th. After his dust-up with Brian Vickers in Saturday's Nationwide Race, "Shrubby" will make things entertaining, no doubt.

Ram Tough Beer Wagon Battle: Kurt Busch in the Miller Lite Dodge starts 6th for Roger Penske; Kasey Kahne hopes the 10th place Budweiser Dodge will run faster than the beloved Clydesdales.

More later; Tweets as events dictate; and definitely a last snapshot of the CARFAX 400 Sprint Cup winner from the Joe Dowdall Media Center, before the wrecking ball strikes on Tuesday.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Triple H Day in the Irish Hills"
Looking at the hauler of Mark Martin, you see what will be needed today and tomorrow--stacks of Goodyear racing rubber, and even more stacks of water, waiting to get dunked into a tub of ice. Welcome to Michigan International Speedway, and "Happy Hour" for the Sprint Cup cars, headed by polesitter Brian Vickers. The aforementioned Mark Martin (with five wins here on the 2-mile D-shaped Michigan oval) starts alongside Vickers.
Weather forecasts call for heat in the mid to high 80's.
We'll keep our eyes and ears open, Tweet when events dictates, and rejoin you on the blog tomorrow.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

"The All Time IndyCar Series Victory Leader--Scott Dixon"
By taking a dominating (by time) 29.7 second lead over challenger Ryan Briscoe, Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon accomplished a number of feats:
  1. Achieved career victory number 20 in the IndyCar Series, breaking a tie with Sam Hornish, Jr. at 19
  2. Won his 4th race of the 2009 season
  3. Retakes the series point lead, 460 to 457 over challenger Ryan Briscoe (finished 2nd, 6th time he's done that in 2009 for Roger Penske)
  4. Reminds us that he has a figurative and literal "Target" on his back for Briscoe and his teammate, Dario Franchitti as the defending series champion and point leader. In 13 races this season, the points lead has changed 12 times.

Some Attaboys: Ryan Hunter-Reay gets a 4th place finish for owner AJ Foyt. Hideki Mutoh upholds the Andretti-Green Racing honor with a 5th place finish. The "Thrill from West Hill", Paul Tracy, gets a top 10 (7th) subbing for Mario Moraes. Justin Wilson for another stellar road course performance leading early, but burping out of contention with a late race pit stop with lower than low fuel, finishing 13th.

We'll rejoin you from Michigan International Speedway next week with blogging and Tweeting, and radio next weekend with "Race-Talk".

"A Movable (or Moving) Feast"
Dawn overlooking one of the general camping areas at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, pretty full in some spots, plenty of room in others. One item not on the dance card today is rain--which our friends at Watkins Glen are dealing with even as we post. No race track is pleasant when it rains. And NASCAR does not have the equipment and skill (with the exception of Juan Pablo Montoya, Marcos Ambrose, Robby Gordon, Boris Said, Max Papis) to put on a competitive race in the rain. IndyCars do.
Mid-Ohio has been pleasant all weekend once settled in. Sometime after 4 PM, we will learn how pleasant the 2.1 mile natural road course has been been to the IndyCar drivers, led by polesitter and point leader Ryan Briscoe of Penske Racing.
Temperatures are scheduled to be in the 90's around race time. So any "loaded for bear" cloudy setups will be saved, perhaps for later in the season.
We will Tweet during the race, and post up our usual winner's snapshot afterwards.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

"Emotional Weekend for deFerran; Briscoe on IndyCar Pole at Mid-Ohio"
On top, Gil deFerran, principal of deFerran Motorsports after winning his 4th American LeMans Series LeMans Prototype 1 race of 2009. That is 4 in a row. It is also Gil's first victory at Mid-Ohio (in Champ Cars and ALMS LMP Prototypes). You may see a Tweet with a quote from Gil on "mind management"--he credits Sir Jackie Stewart--his mentor--with that concept. deFerran and co-driver Simon Pagenaud had that eventful start in the warmup--with a spin and a half when the morning sprinkles came out. Some of those sprinkles appeared during the race--they left as quickly as they came.
Below, polesitter Ryan Briscoe, who used another kind of management--tire management--to notch his third pole of the season. The IndyCar series point leader will start on the right side of the front row, because the start of the race is actually on the backstraight of this 2.1 mile natural road course. Alongside Briscoe is Watkins Glen winner Justin Wilson. 3rd is the defending series champion, Scott Dixon, of Chip Ganassi Racing.
Between this and the tweets--we hope you get an insight into what goes on. You'll always hear a bit of what goes on on our Race-Talk program.
We'll catch up with you tomorrow with blogging, Tweeting and some radio to fill our Sunday morning.
"Rain Makes For Soggy Mid-Ohio ALMS Warmup; May Soak IndyCar Fast Six"
Pop-up showers kept the dust down overnight at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. During IndyCar practice, some of what Weather calls a 70 per cent chance of showers fell, and caused a lull in the action. It kinda picked up during the American LeMansSeries warmup...where the pole winning car did a spin and a half on the start finish straight. And that's where we are right now...with GT2 and other cars making off course excursions and more spins.
We will Tweet from IndyCar qualifications, and blog a pole winner snapshot later, along with a ALMS Race winner snapshot when that action concludes.

Friday, August 07, 2009

"deFerran on pole, Announces Retirement and IndyCar Intentions"
As you read from the Tweets, team principal Gil deFerran took the opportunity of an ALMS pole winning news conference to announce his re-retirement from driving, effective after the American LeMans Series finale in October. deFerran will concentrate on team direction, and announced an expansion to field an IndyCar team.
You will hear him talk a little about this on next week's edition of Race-Talk.
#&^%!)* Hackers!
We join you this weekend from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where we will see IndyCars and American LeMans race cars compete on one of the most bucolic and park like circuits anywhere.
The Corvette has made its return to ALMS, transitioning to GT2 from the GT1 (where it won just about everything in sight. If the rest of Chevy was as successful as Doug Fehan's road racing operation, they would have never been bankrupt.
The Twitter site, as you are aware, has been hacked by some ignoramus, who should be drawn and quartered once caught. Blackberry tweets are as of this hour nigh impossible.
More later.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

"Penske Stronger than Rent Money; Aero Rules Rule, Power Boost the Ticket at Kentucky"
Our late friend Paul Harvey would say something about the "rest of the story". And so we shall, sans snapshot.
The order of finish will show that Ryan Briscoe won by .0162 seconds over Ed Carpenter. Yes, the stepson of Anton H. "Tony" George came that close to delivering a win for the Vision Racing squad and sponsor John Menard, under some very trying circumstances--the cancellation of an entire day of practice and qualifying, with new aerodynamic rules for ovals designed to make passing easier, and a power boost option for extra RPMs for the Honda Indy V8. As you read here earlier, water seeping through the racing surface ("weepers") cancelled all Friday's activity.
Carpenter started 13th (entrant points) and led five times for 34 laps. He was not credited with leading the last 10 laps...but Briscoe could see Carpenter's day-glow Menard livery in his side vision. Briscoe tried low, then high and held on at the checkers. The power boost helps drivers get a few extra RPM's which translate into a small boost of speed--not the neck snapping push-to-pass of the Champ Car Turbo Cosworth days. That speed can make the difference getting back on the gas out of a corner or on a straightaway. When you have Roger Penske's voice in your helmet telling you to use the pass button, you use it and in Briscoe's case, use it to win the second fastest race in Indy Car history--200.893 miles an hour. That win was Briscoe's second of 2009, and jumps him into the point lead by 8 over defending series champion Scott Dixon (finished 7th but led 95 of 200 laps), as the series goes to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course next week.
That is where we will rejoin you for race blogging and Tweeting. We'll break in with developments if necessary.
"Bruton in Kentucky"
The Chairman of Speedway Motorsports, Inc and major domo of Sonic Automotive, O Bruton Smith, came into the Kentucky Speedway press room to speak with reporters.
  • 2010 Indy Car Schedule and the ratio of 9 road/street to 8 oval races--"History's gonna repeat itself, so I don't know who's making them (decisions), but they will find that that was not the proper decision."
  • On A NASCAR Sprint Cup Race here in 2010--"Months ago, I really thought we'd be able to run a (Sprint) Cup race here next year. That is a disappointment."
  • Naming Rights for Charlotte (Lowe's) Motor Speedway--"We'll be working toward something else. Asked if the 9-million dollar figure for those naming rights was accurate, he said that he had heard the figure. He said that that was a "Marcus Smith" (son, President of the Speedway) decision, and that he would get with Marcus on that issue (said that with tongue firmly planted in cheek and a Brutonesque smile.)
  • Weepers at Kentucky Speedway--"We will not change the configuration." In one of our Tweets, we quoted Smith as saying his crew would install a system that would solve the "seepage" problem.

You will hear more comments from Smith on our "Race-Talk" program next weekend.

Now time to find out about the Meijer Indy 300.

Here in Sparta, Kentucky, the Speedway was bushwhacked by a couple of stray raincells and the skies opened up just as I finished taking my TwitPic of the lap leading Ford F-150.
There are some major questions on whether a race can be conducted tonight or tomorrow other than the weather. To wit:
  • Where does this rain drain to? Yes, the rain will follow the slope of the banking, but what about the rain elsewhere that has been finding the weepers?
  • When would the race be rescheduled? Not much leeway on schedule.
  • What about practice with the new rules envelope?

One thing--Versus has shown flexibility in working with the series to televise events--sure any rescheduling will not pose a problem.

We are on hold here at Kentucky Speedway.

Friday, July 31, 2009

"Dixon on Pole At Kentucky"
The defending IndyCar Series champion and last year's winner Scott Dixon commenting on the 2010 IndyCar Schedule and the lack of qualifying at Kentucky Speedway for Saturday's Meijer Indy 300.
Dixon likes the mix of road, street and oval venues in the 2010 schedule.
The introduction of new aerodynamic tweaks for the cars and the push to pass option will make whatever practice that happens extremely crucial. But the good teams will adapt quickly (Penske and Target) and the others adapt a little less quickly.
Comments: 2010 is almost a 50/50 mix between ovals and road/street courses for the IndyCars. Dixon says he would like to see a few more races added to the schedule. Were I asked, I might like Terry Angstadt to consider these venues:
Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport
Wisconsin's Road America in Elkhart Lake
New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Michigan International Speedway
Angstadt (IRL Commercial Boss) said, when I asked him on the Richmond question, that he respected the International Speedway Corporation's decision not to renew the race there. I am wondering whether ISC has the corporate will to continue a relationship with the series. Sure, they have races scheduled for Kansas, Watkins Glen, Chicagoland Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. But can that relationship survive economic softness?
Still waiting on whether cars will get back on track...and when O. Bruton Smith might appear to share pearls of wisdom
"IndyCar 2010: Brazil, Birmingham In; Richmond Out; Milwaukee in Limbo"
The IndyCar Series announced a 17 race schedule for 2010 at Kentucky Speedway, making it the first of the major American racing series to announce their schedule.
The season begins on March 14 in Brazil at a venue to be desigend by the league and announced at a later time. The US opening race will be in St. Petersburg, FL on March 28. The Barber Motorsports Park hosts its first IndyCar race on April 11.
The schedule does not show a race at the Milwaukee Mile after the Indianapolis 500 on May 30. The promotional turmoil at Milwaukee is the reason that the race was not able to be scheduled--IRL commercial President Terry Angstadt says the series would like to return to Milwaukee.
Richmond International Raceway, as you read here earlier, is not on the 2010 schedule.
The race here will be contested on Labor Day Weekend in 2010.
The season will end in Homestead, FL on October 2.
The league has been talking with Road America in Elkhart Lake, and has also considered a return to racing at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway was again considered and left off the schedule. Angstadt addressed the New Hampshire issue and says that two NASCAR Sprint Cup dates, and the prevailing weather conditions in New Hampshire makes "a very compressed window to try to make anything (races) work."
We'll tweet on Twitter if IndyCars do get on track this evening.
"Weepers? Jeepers Creepers!"
When rain saturates the ground, the water will find its own level. Usually, water will find the path of least resistance. In the case of Kentucky Speedway, the water that saturated the ground around the racetrack found that path of least resistance in some spots in the pavement and roadbed that make up the racing surface. That is called a "weeper". With IndyCars running on ovals with racing tires with no tread blocks, a spot of water would cause problems. Hence the caution in drying up the water seeping through the surface. Indy Lights have the similar problem.
Therefore, the officials put the schedule in flux until the weepers can be fixed.
"IndyCar 2010: Bye-Bye Richmond"
A short take to start the blogging from the Meijer 300 IndyCar race weekend at Kentucky Speedway: No more "flying jets in a hangar"; Richmond out for 2010.
International Speedway Corporation, the owner of Richmond International Raceway, says they opted not to host IndyCars at their 3/4 mile oval for 2010--costs and other business decisions the stated reasons.
The 2010 schedule will be released in a few hours. Qualifying for Saturday evening's race takes place later.
Tweets, Twitpics, etc. as necessary.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Schumacher Back With the Prancing Horses
The all time Formula One victory and championship leader, Michael Schumacher, ended his retirement and will return to the Ferari team to drive the second Ferrari after the mid summer break ends. Schumi will take the place vacated when Felipe Massa suffered injuries at the Hungarian Grand Prix. How long do you think he will tolerate not running at his expected level?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Four In A Row--More than Possible"
The defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship brain trust, explaining how they won a back to back Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Crew Chief Chad Knaus, driver Jimmie Johnson and owner Rick Hendrick had a fast car--no doubt. What won them the race is that they were able to capitalize on a pit road mistake (speeding) by 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya (the leader who led about two hours of the 2:45 race), that dropped him from the lead. If the Vegas sports books will let you make a championship tri-fecta box (for entertainment purposes, of course), Johnson, Stewart and Jeff Gordon in any order would be a safe bet.
Point leader Tony Stewart heads back to Pocono this weekend in the point lead.
We were kinda Twittered out with the live Tweeting during the race--and with our CBS obligations, we were kinda raced out on Sunday night. We did promise you the snapshot--and we delivered, albeit a bit late.
Speaking of the Twittering--NASCAR got awful defensive when some tweets suggested that they may have manipulated the reading on Montoya to knock him out of the lead. The sanctioning body's past history of secrecy prompted cynics to suggest that. That seemed to have enough "legs"; so much so that NASCAR actually tweeted the speed splits (@NASCARSays). We like transparency, and give NASCAR some props for doing this.
The crowd was down--about a third, if you trust the Indianapolis Star and other local media estimates in 'Naptown. While there were plenty of empty seats--and traffic did not reach the usual 16th Street gridlock--this is the biggest crowd NASCAR plays to anywhere they run--bar none.
Mayfield--what reputation he had is slowly being nuked by NASCAR's legal team. Every time I read something or hear the latest revelation, I feel like taking multiple showers because of the tawdriness of the whole affair. The more and more I discover, the more I remember that "Denial" is not just a river in Africa.
We're getting ready for the MidWest Tour and will rejoin you from Bruton Smith's Kentucky Speedway on Friday morning.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Morning Briefing"

Alan Gustafson, crew chief for Mark Martin and the pole winning Chevy Impala SS outside "Gasoline Alley" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was briefing reporters before sliding into the garage to supervise final preparations for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

Ryan Newman won the final happy hour and a half practice with the fastest speed of 176.706 miles an hour. Martin clocked in 5th in the final on-track activity before today's race.

Last year, there was a tension convention around the Goodyear corner of Gasoline Alley. This morning, Greg Stucker, Goodyear's NASCAR Tire marketing director, was most relaxed--unlike last year, the Pocono tires are en route to Long Pond, PA and not 4790 W 16th St, 46224.

Until the first few laps are run, the tires will still be a factor in most minds. Once that first run is made--that storyline goes away.

The two oldsters (Martin and 2002 Brickyard Winner Bill Elliott, who starts 4th) with a legitimate shot to win is another storyline. Juan Pablo Montoya (2000 Indianapolis 500 winner) starts 2nd, and could make Brickyard history as the first and only driver to win both the 500 and the 400--yet another storyline.

The Hoosier Connection--Ryan Newman, David Stremme, some guy named Jeff Gordon (the event's only four time winner) and the current Sprint Cup Series point leader--Columbus Indiana's Tony Stewart is strong.

The weather looks OK for a complete 160 lap race. Weather Underground calls for a 20 per cent chance of showers--a look at the radar shows spotty green well away from the corner of 16th Street and Georgetown Road.

We'll blog you a photo of the winner and Tweet on Twitter ( throughout the race.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"OK, I'd Like to Be At the Race Track, Driving the Fastest Car"
At 50 years, 197 days, Mark Martin becomes the oldest pole winner of a major auto racing event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, by winning the pole for Sunday's 16th running of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. NASCAR'S hottest driver with four victories, and now four poles this season, qualified first with a lap of 182.054 miles an hour--49.436 seconds to go 2 1/2 miles. Starting alongside Martin is 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, at 180.083 miles an hour.
The caption is a quote from Martin's press briefing after picking up the pole award, and being asked about his mind set after a couple years of semi-retirement.
The series point leader, Tony Stewart, will start from the 7th position. Stewart has two Brickyard wins.
Montoya can help owner Chip Ganassi make some racing history. If he wins, Montoya will be the only driver in Indy history to notch a victory in the two major auto racing events. Montoya has competed in the 500, the 400 and the Formula One US Grand Prix here. Scott Speed competed in both the Grand Prix, and will now compete in the 400.
Happy Hour and a Half awaits. I'll continue to Tweet any updates.

Friday, July 24, 2009

"Tryin' to get Over"
If you are a devotee of 70's music, you will remember these words from the theme from "Superfly" sung by one Curtis Mayfield.
The more I think about the Jeremy Mayfield situation, the more that song sticks in my mind. The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals vacated Mayfield's injunction against NASCAR's suspension of him in May for failing a drug test. The NASCAR Vice President for Corporate Communications, Jim Hunter, says the decision "is an important decision for NASCAR to make fair and equitable regulations for the safety of competitiors and spectators at the track." The sanctioning body will continue to make its case for as long as the litigation continues.
That litigation involves a suit against NASCAR by Mayfield asserting that the organization's suspension of him was inaccurate and that his ability to earn a living as a stock car driver is damaged by that action. NASCAR countersued for what they perceived as damages and costs incurred defending their actions.
There are some unconfirmed reports circulating that Mayfield has signed a deal to sell his team. So is this how the soap opera ends? Do we ever see him in a car again? Stay tuned.
Indy and Brickyard--In Good Hands?

We begin our blogging with some gleanings from an informal chat with Fred Nation, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation VP of Public Relations.

Some speculation in other outlets suggests that the vacancy which will be left at the Speedway by the departure of President Joie Chitwood might be filled by one H. A. "Humpy" Wheeler. This was fueled by Humpy's appearance at the Indianapolis 500 in May. The speculation is best described as connecting dots that don't exist. As of now, there are no plans to fill Chitwood's position at this time.

We also spoke about the vacancy that will exist at the FIA once Max Mosely retires in October. The ACCUS (Automobile Competition Council of the United States) met here in Indianapolis, as they do each year around the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Jean Todt (ex of Ferrari) looks to be the choice of the ACCUS for Mosely's job--Todt would be expected to appoint American Nick Craw as President of the FIA Senate. Craw came to prominence as the boss at the Sports Car Club of America, and is presently involved as the FIA's Deputy President for Sport (#2 in the sporting side).

I asked Fred about the possibility of Formula One returning to Indianapolis, given the dynamics of the FIA leadership and Grand Prix commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone. Fred told me point blank that the Speedway (the only existing venue in the USA which can conduct a F1 event, given the logistics and regulations in place) would like to have one but "only if it made economic sense."

Sprint Cup Cars will begin practice a little later. This may be pivotal, with the weather forecast for qualifying day (Saturday) calling for showers and thundershowers--Rainouts of qualifying would put the point leader (Tony Stewart) on the pole. Jeff Gordon has four wins here--is going for number 5. Stewart would like win number 3--and the other 41 drivers would, of course, be happy to make the big left turn into Indy's Victory Circle.
Tires were a big deal last year--Goodyear stepped up their testing at the corner of 16th and Georgetown significantly. Depending on which driver you speak with, the new spec tires last anywhere from 32 to in one case 40 laps before performance falls off enough to warrant replacement. You might want to go through the July 2008 archives to find out what happened in 2008--twasn't pretty, fun or desirable.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Win From the Pole? Not As Easy As It Sounds"
The winning team of Gil deFerran (left) and Simon Pagenaud (right) briefing reporters after the Northeast Grand Prix, Round 5 of the American LeMans Series, at Lime Rock Park.
DeFerran started the race and drove away from Scott Sharp, after the first start was waved off. Traffic from the slower ALMS Challenge (GT3) cars, and GT2 cars played a part, and gave both drivers some interesting moments. DeFerran also was clipped during one of his stints on track, and accidentally turned on the pit lane rev limiter which slowed him down.
All this time, the Patron Highcroft team of Scott Sharp and David Brabham waited to pounce into the lead, if the deFerran team bobbled. Late in the race, Brabham drove into the lead...and looked like he'd duplicate the Highcroft win of 2008--not so fast.
Brabham suffered a puncture with under 15 minutes to go, and had to pit while leading. That gave the lead back to Pagenaud, who drove to victory. The Patron Highcroft team still leads the LMP1 standings by 13 points over the deFerran squad, who'll get some time to do some more tidying up before the next ALMS race, at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 8th.
The much ballyhooed Corsa Ginetta Zytek hybrid prototype was able to stay with the Acuras early, but ended up 3rd overall and made history as the first hybrid to compete and complete a major American auto race.
The LMP2 win went to the Dyson Racing Mazda driven by Marino Franchitti (yes, that's Dario's younger brother) and Butch Leitzinger--first win for the 4 cylinder LMP2 program. The Fernandez Racing Acura had mechanical issues but finished second in class and seventh overall, many laps off the pace.
We'll rejoin you from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday, July 24. Blog posts and tweets at any time before then if necessary.
"Soap Opera, Frog-stranglers and Race-Day"
More soap opera: head over to the Daly Planet's ( comment area on the Mayfield situation to read the latest --a "negative" drug test released by Mayfield and his lawyers to attempt to blunt the court filing. I saw the document and was interested in the lack of specificity, when compared to the detailed court filed document from Aegis Labs. Now, the NASCAR apologists might (properly) be skeptical of this, and suggest that it might simply be something written on business letterhead, simply because of the lack of detail--which is a derivative of the same argument that the Mayfield apologists use about the NASCAR/Aegis tests. What say you?
Here at Lime Rock Park for the Northeast Grand Prix, which will tell a lot about the LMP1 championship, with frontrunners Simon Pagenaud and Gil deFerran starting on pole and pointleaders David Brabham and Scott Sharp second. In LMP2, the Fernandez Racing Acura will start third. Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz survived challenges in the first four races from the to stake their claim on first place. The Mazdas (Dyson Racing) are catching up.
Beacuse of a classic deluge here at Lime Rock last night, any of the race rubber laid down in practice and qualifying is likely on its way toward the watershed. The warmup will be important for more than obvious reasons.
The Corsa Zytek Hybrid Prototype was quick--and if some strangeness happens to the front running Acuras--might make even more racing history if Johnny Mowlem and Stefan Johansson can find the checkers first. The Zytek KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) cars in Formula One have had their share of teething pains. And it is never pretty to do a lot of development in public--but that is what racers do, and that's why (as Jackie Stewart once told me) motor racing is a great test bed--because what usually takes 2 or more years in classic development channels, takes months on the track under fire.
We'll Tweet and blog up a overall winner's photo later on.
RIP--Walter Cronkite, who set a high bar for radio and TV journalists to reach.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"Acura Sweep at Lime Rock"

A familiar picture in the American LeMans Series this year, with Adrian Fernandez (left) the LMP2 fastest qualifier, and Simon Pagenaud (right) the LMP1 fast qualifier and overall polesitter for the Northeast Grand Prix tomorrow at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut. Pagenaud lapped the mile and a half natural road course at 114.965 miles an hour. Both drivers are in Acura prototypes; Fernandez, the Lowe's Acura ARX-01B; Pagenaud, the XM/Panasonic deFerran Motorsports Acura ARX 02a. Both Pagenaud and deFerran suggest that the much slower GT3 Challenge cars will pose some issues for the much faster prototypes. Pagenaud also says drivers must exercise good judgement when overtaking that traffic, and sometimes suppress the normal racing instincts to bunt and move traffic out of the way--not easy to do on this very tight road course.

ALMS point leaders David Brabham and Scott Sharp (the home team, Patron Highcroft Racing based in nearby Danbury) will start the race second in their Acura LMP1 prototype.

The next fastest LMP1 car was the Corsa Zytek Hybrid Prototype, driven by Johnny Mowlem and Stefan Johansson. With the wiring harness problems solved, the history making hybrid will start from the outside of the third row in 6th.

National Weather Service forecasts call for some big-time thundershowers later this evening and rain through tomorrow morning.

We'll rejoin you tomorrow from Lakeville, CT.

"KERS 101--Zytek at Lime Rock"
KERS is the shorthand familiar to Formula One fans for kinetic energy recovery system. The Zytek KERS system used on Steve Pruitt's Corsa Zytek Prototype uses an electric motor that is connected to the car's rear axle through the gear box. When the brakes are applied, and kinetic energy is used to slow the car, a KERS motor turns counterclockwise, which helps the braking and at the same time, generates electricity. That electricity is sent to a lithium-ion battery. When the car needs better fuel economy or a boost of power, the battery will release 140 volts of DC to an inverter, which converts the DC to AC (what you get from your house outlets), which drives the KERS motor in the opposite direction, serving as a motor to power the car.
Team owner Steve Pruitt says the Corsa Zytek can operate by itself on traction batteries, the 4.5 liter E10 powered V8, or a combination of both. The scenario of running on electric during pit stops is exactly what they hope to do. As I write this, the Corsa team is trying to fix a balky wiring harness, which is necessary for the E10 V8 to function. Could it run on batteries in race condition? If the harness is fixed, theoretically , yes. Operationally, the amount of electric power made by the battery is in proportion to its capacity to accept, store and deliver electricity.
Pruitt greenlighted the project when oil was $140/barrel.
More later.
"Auto Racing History about to be Made at Lime Rock"
This is the Corsa Zytek LMP1 Prototype, which is expected to run in hybrid mode during the American LeMans Series racing weekend at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. If/when it does, it will be the first time that a hybrid powered car will compete in a major American auto race. The car has been approved by the FIA to run as a hybrid in competition and will be driven this weekend by Johnny Mowlem and Stefan Johansson. Listeners of our Radio-Road-Test program know all about hybrid autos, and how the traction battery (the battery that powers the electric motors) is recharged through regenerative braking (this week's test car is the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid). Essentially that is what most of the working KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) in Formula One do (when they are turned on or work).
The hybrid system is certainly a work in progress--but in the American LeMans Series, there's enough technical latitude for teams and constructors to try grand experiments such as this.
We'll Tweet some other pics, and blog after qualifying.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"What In the Name of Sam Hill is Going On With Jeremy Mayfield?"
One can only follow a soap opera so long before fatigue sets in. Or so it seems. Doubtless you've seen Jenna Fryer's reporting on the results of the second drug test on Jeremy Mayfield, and Fryer's recounting of the accusations that Mayfield has had a history of methampehtamine use. You may have seen Bob Pockrass's reporting on the events surrounding the second test of Mayfield and the comedy of errors that ensued.
What we see is NASCAR saying the second test came back positive for methamphetamines. We suspect that the A and B samples were tested and that was why no word from Daytona Beach--until the test results were finished. Mayfield again denies the allegations of past methamphetamine use. NASCAR went before Judge Graham Mullen in Federal District Court to have the original injunction granted by Mullen vacated. NASCAR has also filed appeals in Richmond at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to have the injunction quashed, and allow them to reinstitute the ban on Mayfield.
Here are some questions that you might ask yourself:
  • Would NASCAR have been so quick to release details of a passed test?
  • Is Mayfield's stepmother (see Jenna Fryer's article)a reliable source?
  • Could there have been some collusion to make sure any test of Mayfield would be positive--since that was what NASCAR has been saying about Mayfield since the Mullen injunction on July 1, and the second test followed the protocols of the first test?
  • Were there any indications of aberrant behavior when Mayfield drove for Carl Haas, Roger Penske and Ray Evernham?
  • Is this Mayfield's flameout, and exit from the scene? Reports suggest the team is all but done in name only--and that Mayfield and his wife want to sell the cars.
  • Who can you believe, and who do you believe?
Again, we all want to give people the benefit of the doubt. But in fact if Mayfield is "dirty" he needs to get clean, first, and then publicly apologize to those fans and sponsors who believed his story. What Kevin Grubb (Nationwide Series driver, suspended for drugs who shot himself to death back in May) did was the easy way out--Mayfield should then show the same kind of tenacity fighting this problem that he showed at Pocono when he bunted Dale Earnhardt out of the way for a win. He will have to fight this every day he lives. People have fought it and gotten clean and gotten back on with their lives.
And to clear up the image of "shooting at people in lifeboats", the sanctioning body should, through either Mike Helton, or Brian France, make it clear in public that Mayfield could return to the cockpit after completing a recognized third party rehab program (Betty Ford, etc.) and staying clean with weekly testing for a two year period. Helton or France should also say that NASCAR would have no further comment until that time either through official release, media inquiry or "leak".

Sunday, July 05, 2009

One for the Racers: Justin Wilson wins at Watkins Glen; gives Dale Coyne his First Win in Indy Style Racing"
It only took 25 years as an owner and driver--but Chicago area businessman Dale Coyne finally tasted the champagne as a winner--when Justin Wilson won the Camping World Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International in a car owned by Coyne. Wilson started second, and used a red-black-red tire strategy to hold off Ryan Briscoe (pole sitter) and the new series point leader, Scott Dixon from Target Chip Ganassi Racing who finished third. The red-black-red describes the option-primary-option Firestone Firehawk tires the crew decided to mount on his Z-Line Dallara Honda. This is Wilson's second IndyCar series win; he has four others in the CART/Champ Car World Series.
There were eight lead changes among Wilson, Dixon, Briscoe, Helio Castroneves (finished 4th) and Marco Andretti (5th). Average speed was double the double nickel--111.915 miles an hour. Four cautions flew.
Dario Franchitti spun into the kitty litter in Turn Five, and finished one lap down--but is second in points, with 294. Briscoe also has 294 for Team Penske--but Franchitti gets the nod for tie breakers. Helio is 4th and going into Toronto next weekend, Danica Patrick is in fifth place.
The Coyne team opted to do some heavy road course testing at places like Sebring early in 2009, followed a couple weeks ago by a long test here on the real 3.377 mile 11 turn classic Glen circuit. The results derived paid off. Coyne had to step up his investment this season when Wilson became available as a driver and some other crew and engineering people became available. Wilson almost won at St. Pete, and if not for a bad bit of pit stops, would have been a contender in Long Beach. The next two consecutive circuits are temporary circuits (Toronto and Edmonton), which may play to the new found strength of the Coyne camp.
We get a weekend off the road and rejoin you with American LeMans road racing style blogging and Tweeting in a couple of weeks--if stuff blows up--or we get more interesting e-mails--we'll break in. Yes, I will bring my camera for a TwitPic and blog picture of three.
"Humpy Wheeler: Both NASCAR and IRL Must Cut Costs Even Further"
As I mentioned previously, Humpy Wheeler exchanged an e-mail with me on the resignation of Anton H. "Tony" George as the boss at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League, and the ongoing soap opera that marks the Jeremy Mayfield v NASCAR drug testing saga.
George, says Wheeler, "is a racer, and that is what we lack in top management in auto racing today--people who truly understand racing. There are some, but is the passion there like we have seen in the past? Great leadership is needed now more than ever at the Brickyard."
Humpy praised George's attempts at cost containment, but says it has to continue and make greater strides. "NASCAR Cup racing is still out of hand, despite NASCAR's attempt to cut costs. Both the IRL and NASCAR must cut costs by at least 30-40 per cent to make it through this still sliding economy." That said, Humpy felt that the status quo (with cars and races) won't help the IRL to survive. His take: "You simply can't hold your very top drivers unless you have 20-24 races; every starting field should have at least 30 cars." It might be a little difficult to find 30 cars--not so much proper venues (New Hampshire, Cleveland, Road America for example).
Wheeler suggests Jeremy Mayfield will have a rough time coming back. "Once you are branded (as a user of banned substances), it is hard to lose it. He's still a fine race driver and can win races. Is he guilty of taking banned substances? I have not a clue and only hope he isn't. If he does come back, I think NASCAR will play it straight with them. They (NASCAR) will have to be very careful in how they conduct everything with him if Judge Mullen rules permanently that he (Mayfield) can return."
Agree or disagree, please feel free to comment.
Greetings From The Glen--No Pix Today
In what I'll describe as a "senior moment", the infamous Fuji blog and Tweet camera was left safely on my desktop in the office. So I will attempt to do for you readers what I do on radio--that is, to paint a word picture. (I am thankful that I am around to have a senior moment--many of my brothers in arms weren't so fortunate during their service in the Army--and we always remember them, most especially on the Independence Day weekend).
Since 1977, I've been attending and covering races here at the Glen. I have been at the track when it snowed before a F1 race, and flat monsooned for sports car and CART Champ Car events. There is no such weather issue today--beautiful blue skies, moderate temperatures, and sun--good weather for growing grapes, and even better weather for racing.
The Governor of the Empire State, David Paterson, will be the honorary starter for the Camping World Grand Prix at the Glen. He, I'm sure, is glad to get away from the New York State Senatorial sturm und drang at least for a few hours--and appearing in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York makes an image that will be helpful in his bid to be elected governor in his own right.
Helio Castroneves set fast time in Indy Car practice for the race--his average was 137.731 miles an hour over the 3.37 mile 11 turn natural road course--first of three such circuits this year (Mid-Ohio and Infineon in Sonoma, California the others). Milka Duno was involved in a late session crash which will keep the Dreyer & Reinbold crew busy until race time this afternoon.
You'da thunk there might have been some pole Tweets from the Glen yesterday (7/4). Ryan Briscoe starts from the pole.
Tweets during the race and a post race blog post will be provided for your reading pleasure, along with the promised comments from auto racing legend H. A. Humpy Wheeler.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Dario on Richmond Saturday Night: "Fans needed to know what was going on with few passes"
The 2007 IndyCar champion, and present point leader, Target Chip Ganassi driver Dario Franchitti, took a little time to fly over to the Binghamton Regional Airport in "Fat Albert"--the US Marine Corps C-130 that provides logistical support for the US Navy Aerial Demonstration Team--the "Blue Angels". Dario, teammate Scott Dixon, EJ Viso, Hideki Mutoh and Mike Conway, along with some journalists flew the Hercules C-130T from the Elmira Corning Airport to Binghamton to meet with some local journalists and talk about this weekend's racing at Watkins Glen International road course. Dario clarified his remarks on the podium last Saturday night at Richmond.
He said the remarks were't intended to call out IRL President Brian Barnhart or Technical Director Les MacTaggart. "They are on the case (working on the changes that will go into effect for the ovals starting at Kentucky)." I wanted to make sure the fans knew what was going on."
Franchitti says that who ever wins up at Watkins Glen this Sunday will have to have a near perfect--if not perfect-- race to win.
As for his teammate--Scott Dixon--the defending series champion can break Sam Hornish's record if he wins on Sunday (that would be 20 wins in IndyCars).
The Greater Binghamton Airshow (July 4-5) will also have the US Army's Parachute Team--the Golden Knights--performing as well. A Harrier jet was practicing vertical takeoffs and landings while the C-130 was parked on the ramp, and almost in unison, every cell phone camera was snapping pictures when the Harrier jet operated vertically.
Got an e-mail from H. A. Humpy Wheeler with some comments on the Jeremy Mayfield situation, the departure of Anton H. "Tony " George from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy Racing League helms, and what the two major racing series--NASCAR's Sprint Cup and the IndyCar series--need to do to make it through the rough economy. We'll share some of that throughout the weekend.
Point of Personal Privilege: The men and women who wear the uniform of this country and go in harm's way to stand between us and our enemies are perhaps not direct descendants of those who signed the Declaration of Independence--they carry on the tradition of bravery and sacrifice and self reliance that began on July 4, 1776, when the Declaration was signed. Please remember that when you see the colors fly this weekend.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

"Mayfield Wins Injunction, but at What Cost"
Jeremy Mayfield, as I'm sure you now have read elsewhere, has prevailed for the moment and can now resume driving in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series until the court cases have been decided, or NASCAR decides to appeal the ruling handed down in Federal District Court in Charlotte, to the Appeals Court located in Richmond.
The defense used by his legal team will be familiar to those people who may have beat a charge of driving under the influence--bring up as much doubt as possible about the validity of the testing and care of the sample. Where this gets twisted is that the sanctioning body (NASCAR) has NO, repeat, NO published list of banned substances. The sanctioning body says they want flexibility to be able to test for anything. Therein lies the rub.
NASCAR has been notorious for using "gotcha" clauses to mete out its punishment. Section 12-4 (a) (the infamous actions detrimental to stock car racing) can be invoked for any reason. The lack of a published list of banned substances is again a "gotcha". That is the reason that you will see the "lash of NASCAR justice" tag here, or hear it on my "Race-Talk program when I am describing the sanctioning body's disciplinary actions.
NASCAR is certainly within its rights to allow or not allow drivers or participants to drive or participate, and suggested that Federal drug testing regulations (which include lists of banned substances) do and should not be applied to its operations.
Those "gotcha" clauses are patently unfair. How does one know how not to break a rule, when the rule is a moving target and can be changed at any time? Moses knew that instinctively when the Ten Commandments were written in stone. More importantly, this is a trust issue.
If an organization resorts to ambiguous language in its dealings, then that organization ultimately has only its own best interests at heart; pious blatherings to the contrary. Do the interests of any organization have more primacy than the legal, ethical and moral rights of the individuals involved? There's nothing wrong with properly directed self-interest; that's the force that makes entrepreneurs survive. When self-interest is improperly directed whether by organizations or individuals, bad stuff happens.
The inspection process has for years been referred to as the "room of doom". Were I employed by Mr. Mayfield as a crew chief, or if I were an owner and considered him for a relief driver, I would make damned sure that every facet of the car conformed 100 percent to the portion of the NASCAR rule book that is in black and white. Even then, with the "gotcha" clause, cars could still flunk--and receive big fines--that would make Carl Long's indiscretions look like schoolyard follies. Would NASCAR do that? Very likely--they have done so in the past to send messages. Would Mayfield's legal team go to court to have that struck down? It'd be like a baseball player taking an umpire to court over a called third strike--a judgement call. No court would ever rule on a judgement call by a sporting official.
Mayfield will likely be tested every time he appears on track--I don't have a problem with that. It is his chance to prove his innocence and start to regain the trust of the garage area, which, for whatever reason, has been bruised. We will likely never know with any degree of certainty if Mayfield was using meth, as NASCAR alleges. If Mayfield did, he got a major league wake up call and break to get and stay straight. If he did not, Mayfield's reputation has been damaged--perhaps beyond repair--and needs to be made whole.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

" Dixon Wins Richmond SunTrust Indy Challenge"

The Target Chip Ganassi Team is on a major roll, with Scott Dixon winning his 3rd of 2009 and 19th of his IndyCar driving career by taking the checker over Dario Franchitti at Richmond International Raceway. Graham Rahal finished a career best 3rd on the ovals (to go with his 2008 St.Petersburg street course win). The 19th win by Dixon ties the record set by Sam Hornish.

All three drivers mentioned that the passing was not as easy and as plentiful as it has been here in past years, with point leader Franchitti apologizing to fans in Victory Lane on the podium. In the post race briefing, Franchitti said the cars were very difficult to drive and that what looked easy to the untrained eye was anything but. There were an unusually low three lead changes between Dixon, Franchitti and Hideki Mutoh (who finished 4th).

Team Penske had a not so good night, with first Ryan Briscoe and then Helio Castroneves crashing out of the event. They hold on to 3rd and 4th in points, respectively.

We'll have more on this week's Race-Talk with both Dixon and Franchitti as they get ready for racing ("only twisted") on the historic and let it all hang out Watkins Glen International natural road course in Schuyler County, New York.

"Finish Line At the 'Action Track' "

In 2008--Tony Kanaan reached this first, after 300 laps (225 miles) of full contact, slice and dice, on like Donkey Kong IndyCar racing. TK has not had the start he and team owner Michael Andretti would like--so a repeat of last year's result would get that squad jumpstarted.

Polesitter Dario Franchitti says fans here at Richmond and watching on Versus will see some moments when cars try to pass one another. That task becomes easier as a second groove of Firestone Firehawk racing rubber is laid down, over what the Hoosier-shod USAC Silver Crown cars will deposit during their own race which is the preliminary event leading up to tonight's SunTrust Indy Challenge.

This race marks the second of four IndyCar races in as many weeks. The winner here carries a lot of momentum into the road course portion next weekend at Watkins Glen International.

We'll Tweet on Twitter with updates and maybe a shot on Twitpic, and post up after the post qualifying session. Oops!-- meant to type post race news conference with the winning driver and newsmakers.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"Dario Franchitti leads Ganassi Crew to Richmond IndyCar Front Row"

In 2008, Franchitti was in the midst of his NASCAR attempt. The last time he raced here in 2007, the race distance was 250 laps. Fast Forward to Peak Performance Pole Day today:
After the practice, Franchitti's crew and that of teammate Scott Dixon went into a skull session to see if more speed could be found. Dixon's crew adapted Franchitti's set up to their Target Dallara. Franchitti says his car was a bit tight going into turn two, and more than rather loose going out of turn four. Conventional racing wisdom says one has to "hang it out" for a quick lap. Franchitti's average speed of 167.315 miles an hour for the four qualifying laps won the pole--and the point that goes with it. Dixon's average was 166.638 miles an hour.
An all Penske second row of Helio Castroneves, 3rd, and series point leader Ryan Briscoe 4th. Graham Rahal starts 5th.
The most important half hour they will spend is the final night practice under the lights--that will be the closest they will come to in race conditions until tomorrow night.
Catch you on race day.

"Contrast at Richmond"

In the foreground, part of the equipment for Andretti-Green Racing's Tony Kanaan, who with the other drivers will soon be taking practice laps here at the 3/4 mile "Action Track". In the background, part of the crew and equipment of Bobby Santos, among the USAC Silver Crown drivers on track getting ready for their one day, practice, time trial/qualifying and race program.
We'll let you think about the contrast here.
More to come later; as always breaking stuff on Twitter, which is linked to on this page.
Clarification: The one-day show will be for the USAC Sprint Cars, which will run tonight 6/26. The USAC Silver Crown cars will run as a preliminary to the "SunTrust Indy Challenge".
"Hello from the 'Action Track'"
Here at Richmond International Raceway for the weekend festivities, we found out some things about the purported FOTA 2010 schedule--a source at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway says that officials at the Speedway were never contacted by the FOTA powers that be about that schedule. Where I come from, that meant the "schedule" was simply a rumor. Reporting that as a fact--and not a rumor-- was not fair to readers of the internet sites who ran with that as "gospel"--and especially to American fans of Formula One, who would like to see a return of Grand Prix style racing to the Brickyard--which is the only venue in the US that has the proper infrastructure to run such an event as they are presently run. Such reporting raised a false hope that F1 could come "back home again in Indiana". That was similarly unfair to Canadian fans of F1 who would like to see a return to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Today's action at Richmond includes practice and qualifying for the IndyCars and a USAC Silver Crown race. We'll of course blog from IndyCar qualifying, and with any tidbits that may be uncovered.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Send Eli to College: Info about the College Fund for David Poole's Grandson:"
Regular readers know we like to write our own posts. When we find something of great value, we will post a link to another on line resource. Here, then , is today's most valuable post on ALL the internet, thanks to veteran TV observer John Daly of the Daly Planet, subject as above:
An aside: regular listeners remember how ol' David used to rail about men wearing flip flops and their "man feet". It might be nice if someone figured out how to get the words "Man feet" on some inexpensive flip flops, sell them for about $5, and give $4 of each sale to Eli's college fund. Wonder if any of the NASCAR marketeers would want to get in.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"Race-Talk Extra: FOTA Says it'll run its own F1 series in 2010"
Just read the words from FOTA, the Formula One Teams Association, which said, in essence, that it would begin plans for its own F1 style series in 2010. Teams like Ferrari, McLaren, Brawn, Toyota, BMW, etc.--the major players in today's FIA F1 series--would contest the events. No word on where they'd run, or if they'd consider coming back to venues in North America. No word if this series would consider returning to venues in Europe that Bernie Ecclestone of Formula One Administration (commercial rights holder) has abandoned. The cars would likely resemble those running at Silverstone this weekend.
A pretty brave statement by FOTA, given the economic downturn world wide.
I'm wondering whether this is an even higher stakes game of chicken, where the marinade is like that for chicken wings--hot, very hot and suicidal.
Update on Friday June 19, at 2:30 EDT--Ferrari and the FIA will likely meet in court over all of this...the FIA (Max Mosely's operation) is taking action against Ferrari because of its work in setting up the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA). If Brawn and Jenson Button all but run the table at the British GP, and the rest of the season--the most interesting stuff in F1 land will be the court battles. I am not sure you'd see News of the World getting ready to hammer ol' Max after the Nazi debacle a couple of years ago..but I'm sure the teams and their principals are brushing up on the Machiavellian theory and practice.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"Jeg, Tony Pedregon & Larry Dixon and the Catchfence Today's Winners at Englishtown"

Defending Pro Stock Champ Jeg Coughlin, Jr after his win over Mike Edwards at the NHRA Full Throttle US Supernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. Jeg is two for two weeks in final rounds going into the break this weekend.

Tony Pedregon is also two for two weeks in Funny Car final wins--Tony took home the Wally by defeating Ashley Force Hood in the finals for the second consecutive week, and now sits atop those points going into the break.

Larry Dixon won his fifth Top Fuel title here when point leader Antron Brown redlighted in the final round. Dixon notches another win for the Alan Johnson Al-Anabi Racing squad...Dixon now is 4th in Top Fuel points going into the break.

The big winner of the weekend is the catch fencing system the Napp family (track operators) installed after last year's fatal accident involving Scott Kalitta. The system consists of a sand trap, two sets of catch netting and a barrel system designed to soak up impact. The system was tested twice in a row in the Alcohol Funny Car class--first by former Olympic cycling Gold Medalist Marty Nothstein, whose dragster suffered a parachute malfunction and found the first net. Nothstein was gnashing his teeth when he emerged from the car--but was OK.

The top end crew took a half hour to reset the system--good thing there, since on the next run, the Alcohol Funny Car of Alexis DeJoria suffered a parachute failure, and contacted both sets of catch nets. DeJoria was unhurt but miffed, since her car was fast enough to have won her drag race. De Joria's car bent the nose 90 degrees. Better that than bending the driver.

The best comment was from the New Jersey State Police Auto Racing Safety Unit. The officers "couldn't have been happier" after their investigation of what happened when they saw how the net and sand trap worked. In New Jersey, the State Police is empowered to enforce safety regulations at all auto racing events in the Garden State. That unit has a more grim mission when not at the track--it investigates fatal accidents in NJ.

Dixon said "you can thank Scott Kalitta for that (the improved catch fencing system at the top end).

We're not at a race track until late June at Richmond--we'll be busy with a web site redesign and administrative tasks that need attention. If something blows up in F1 or something major happens with the Mayfield fiasco, or other auto racing major news, we'll post here, and Tweet on Twitter.

NHRA Englishtown--SUNDAY!!!!!!
Driving to Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, we saw some wet pavement and ran through some fog en route. Temperatures are in the low to mid 60's and skies are grey. If this holds up--there will be some big times from the Pro Stock cars, and of course the Nitro Top Fuel and Funny Cars in their eliminations. We suspect that the sunny conditions that are prevalent on the west side of Interstate 95 will appear right on cue this afternoon at Englishtown.
The hospitality area meet and greets continue right up until it's time for the pro categories to go to the line and all the pre race ceremony is finished.
One of the pre race ceremonies we'll watch with interest is the public acknowledgement of the US Army Birthday. It's Flag Day, too. Which brings me to a point of personal privilege:
When you see the Stars and Stripes, please remember the men and women who served under that flag, and those of them who made the ultimate sacrifice. Please also remember the men and women who now wear the Army Combat Uniform--it is their service, and the freedom it protects, which lets us live our way of life in the way we choose to. They do something that 98 1/2 per cent of the population of this country cannot or will not do--and that is to serve in the active defense of this country.
We'll blog a few snapshots of the Pro winners later--Tweets at MSRnet will get updates.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

"Post #300--Smoke's First Win as Owner/Driver"

The winning crewchief, Darian Grubb, and owner/driver Tony Stewart of Stewart Haas Racing after Victory Lane at Pocono Raceway. You will remember that "Smoke" had a problem at during Saturday practice and that caused Grubb and his team to roll out a backup Chevy Impala that had to start today's race from the back, per NASCAR rules. All Stewart did was slice his way through traffic, run in the top three in speeds...and when it counted--got the lead for good when his pit crew put him out ahead of Carl Edwards's Ford Fusion. All the front runners had to save gas...but Stweart saved enough fuel so he could run quickly enough to finish 2 seconds ahead of Edwards, and notch his first win of 2009, and first as the Stewart in Stewart Haas Racing. This helps him with making the Chase, since he extends his Sprint Cup Series point lead to 71 over Jeff Gordon.
SO how will "Smoke" mark the win? He'll celebrate a little tonight...but tomorrow 6/8, will be at Virginia International Raceway tweaking on his road course setup for Infineon Raceway in two weeks.
Here's the top 12 Chase Contenders (official NASCAR stuff comes out Monday):
Jeff Gordon--1972 (-71)
Jimmie Johnson--1940 (-103)
Ryan Newman (teammate)--1840 (-203)
Kurt Busch--1819 (-224)
Carl Edwards--1762 (-281)
Greg Biffle--1753 (-290)
Matt Kenseth--1745 (-298)
Kyle Busch--1731 (-312)
Jeff Burton--1725 (-318)
David Reutimann--1701 (-342)
Denny Hamlin--1679 (-364)
It is amazing how accountability helps maturity. It is also refreshing to see and deal with. Stewart may well be one of a few owner drivers in the history of the sport who could pull off a championship contention year--or better. Ryan Newman may be the next member of the team to make the desired left turn into Victory Lane--perhaps next week at Michigan.
We'll be blogging straight-line action from NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ next weekend. Or if events break loose.
For our updates, check our Twitter page: