Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"We Will Not Lift"

Notes from the American LeMans Series Test at Sebring:

  • ALMS CEO Scott Atherton replied to NASCAR Chairman Brian France's remarks about other racing series calling themselves green because they "plop an alternative fuel in the car and call it green." Atherton reminded the attendees about the five year commitment of the ALMS to alternative fuels (E10, E85 and clean diesel), and announced that the E-P-A invited the series to exhibit at the Washington Auto Show in early February as part of the E-P-A's display. Atherton said he admires and respects France, but suggested that France did not have all the facts. We will feature the original comments, and official responses, on this week's Race-Talk program. (To subscribe to our podcast, just enter this in your browser or podcast program http://msrpk.com/podcast/racetalk.rss ). Atherton says "green racing" will become "more than an elective" in the future, and that the concept is not exclusive to the ALMS.

  • Bobby Rahal will run BMW's GT2 program--this class should be a lot of fun to watch, with Corvette's eventual entry into this class, along with the Porsches.

  • Gil de Ferran seems to have the new Acura ARX02a (LeMans Prototype 1 like the car that you see above along with Honda Performance Development boss Erik Berkman) sorted out. In the morning session (unofficial, since it's testing), he and driver Simon Pagenaud busted the track record for LeMans Prototypes, with a speed of 127.082 miles an hour. (In 2007...the diesel Audi R10 of Marco Werner was timed at 126.889 miles an hour). The defending IndyCar and Indianapolis 500 champion, Scott Dixon, will be in the car for Sebring. The Patron Acura will be driven by Scott Sharp and David Brabham, with help from another Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar series champion (and Dixon's 2009 teammate), Dario Franchitti. Franchitti will join the Patron team for the endurance races (since the IndyCar schedule has some breaks that allow such a strategy).

  • For you fans of clean diesel burning cars, Audi will contest this year's 12 Hours with their new LeMans piece, the R15. They won't run the rest of the schedule...and Atherton says the door is open for their return...and that we ought not be surprised if the marque returns in the future, along with some other racing programs which may enter the series by mid-year.
  • The title sums up Atherton's closing remarks. They were inspired from a talk from one of Porsche's engineers during the company's formal 2008 motor sports awards program. The not lift, refers to lifting one's foot off the accelerator when approaching a turn. Atherton says the ALMS will continue to move forward with investment in the core elements of the series that work well, and cutting or eliminating investments in areas that don't.

We'll take a SuperBowl break this weekend...and cut in if developments warrant.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"History and Sour Grapes"
From Left to Right, the overall winners of the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway:
Darren Law, 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice, David Donohue and Antonio Garcia.
  • Rice joins a club of Daytona 24 Hour Sportscar winners and Indianapolis 500 winners. Donohue beat another member of that club, Juan Pablo Montoya, by .167 seconds (50 feet) to win the Rolex 24...40 years after his father Mark won here.
  • The sour grapes come from the comments about the apparent power of the racing Porsche from the runners up (Montoya, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, the latter two defending Grand-AM Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Champions).
  • Donohue credited the testing done by Darren Law for a lot of the win...along with exceptional pit and preparation work by the Brumos Porsche crew. The second Brumos Porsche car finished third, with Joao Barbosa, JC France, Terry Borcheller and Hurley Haywood behind the wheel. How much did Donohue appreciate that work? He made a respectful reference to his father's accomplishment, but said he connected a lot more with the Brumos crew and their hard work. And with Roger Penske's 6th place with his new Porsche Riley team...well, the next race at Virginia International Raceway in April (yes that's right) will be interesting.
  • As for the crowd: I sensed that it was not as large as last year; by what percentage, I could not tell. Given the circumstances, it was a good crowd--a baseline from which to improve for 2010. I found it easier to move around the infield, and the number of cars parked in the infield looked smaller. That will likely not be the case in three weeks (February 15--Daytona 500).
We'll join you from Sebring on Tuesday, with a look at the new Acura LeMans Prototype 1 chassis, and perhaps comments from the American LeMans Series about NASCAR Chairman Brian France's comments on the green programs of other racing series, made last Thursday at the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, NC.

"Sunrise at Daytona"
An apt title, when we caught the #10 Sun Trust Dallara Ford winding its way through the twisty part of Daytona's road course a few minutes after sunrise. The top five cars are on the lead lap, they are all Daytona Prototypes, and they were, at the 16 hour mark, separated by less than 30 seconds, which in a race of this length is pretty close. The in-person experience of watching the sun rise over a race course, while cars are on track, is best enjoyed in person.
As I walked back to the car to get my shaver and vitamins, etc. after my overnight snooze, I noticed the concessions were closed at 5 am--on a Sprint Cup weekend...that would likely not happen.
We'll join you later (sooner if some news breaks).

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Daytona After Dark"
A view from the twisty part of the Daytona International Speedway's 3.56 mile road course. This is one corner where the cars must slow down after building speed on the turn one part of the traditional tri-oval; you see it from where the safety truck sits.
Porsches are running strong in this early part of the 24 Hours. The battle is between Roger Penske's Porsche Riley and the polewinning Penske Riley prepared by Brumos Porsche. A. J. Allmendinger (whom you heard on Race-Talk) had his car break (again) while leading...he must be grinding his teeth. As for Jimmie Johnson...he and the GAINSCO Pontiac Riley are 6 laps down after spending time in the garage after a shifting fork broke. There are no lack of Indianapolis 500 winners...Buddy Rice in the Brumos Porsche...Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti--all three are in Chip Ganassi livery. In this snapshot...Buddy Rice led...and can become only one of a few to win the 24 Hours and the Indy 500. Three of Ganassi's eight drivers are in that club (Montoya, Franchitti and Dixon).
We may join you later overnight after a nap...but again will definitely rejoin you tomorrow afternoon with the winner.

"A Daytona Prototype"
This is Lola's version of the Daytona Prototype, which is the main class in the Grand-AM Rolex Series. Here at the "World Center of Racing" (their trademark) they are represented throughout the 49 starters, the fastest of which was the Ford Lola campaigned by Krohn Racing. The pole was won by David Donohue in the Brumos Porsche; Roger Penske's crew started second (with the American LeMans Series LMP 2 champions Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard and Roger's Indy Car driver Ryan Briscoe behind the wheel).
Here at Daytona, you will find gas at 1.93 per gallon at the pumps in and around Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach. You will also find sunny, warm weather--which the local chamber of commerce and all who fled from the frigid North appreciate.
There are people in the infield...folks at the souvenir trailers...maybe not as many as 2008...but people still made the effort to come to Daytona.
We'll join you for sure with the overall winner, and if warranted, some mid race blogging.

Friday, January 23, 2009

"The Blue Oval Gang--2009"
From left to right around the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid coming to a Ford Store near you:
Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, David Ragan and Carl Edwards (Roush-Fenway Racing)
Bill Elliott (Wood Brothers, partial schedule)
Paul Menard (Yates Racing), Bobby Labonte (Hall of Fame powered by Yates) and Travis Kvapil (Yates)
NASCAR says their sport is strong through the turns...we'll see if all of the confidence heard on the tour is true or just whistling past the graveyard. They took a shot at the IndyCar and American LeMans Series, saying that their commitment to green is just a change of fuel, and that ethanol (when everything is considered) puts more emissions into the air than NASCAR...so says Brian Z. France, NASCAR Chairman/CEO. A bit of tunnel vision from the Maximum Leader.
Lowe's Motor Speedway deserves props for putting this on during the economic hiccup.
We'll rejoin you over the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the American LeMans Sebring test.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Army Strong?"
Ryan Newman kinda thinks so...he smiles when he talks about Hendrick Racing horsepower for his #39 Army sponsored Chevy Impala SS. That should put a big spring in the step of his fans. Newman and new crew chief Tony Gibson chat about more than setups...both are outdoorsmen--although I don't think Ryan can sign out the sniper rifle he shot on the range at Fort Bragg to plink whitetails at 2600 feet. He's ready for practice at Daytona on/about February 5.
Boss Tony Stewart says he'll spend more time in North Carolina than he did back in Indiana now that his name's on the door and the checks. Smoke says he is the same driver who won two Sprint Cup titles and has the same get-after-it attitude that appeals to the old-time fan. Tony, however, was polished and charming while talking with us assembled scribes at his shop.
Jimmie Johnson won the SpeedTV Mario Andretti (best race car driver in the world) award. The trophy was presented by the feisty native of Montona Italy himself at the media visit at Hendrick Racing. Mario waxed elequent about the cost of racing, confidence, stupidity and cupidity in Formula One.
Johnson and teammates Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. are antsy and similarly ready for February 5. This weekend, Johnson will try to win his first Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona...and has a pretty good chance to do so with teammates Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty, and Jimmy Vasser. If Johnson's team wins...it would be the first All American team to win overall honors since Rocky Moran, PJ Jones, and Mark Dismore did it 16 years ago.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Confidence, Continuity--Day 2, Lowe's Motor Speedway Media Tour"

Not so much news, except if you were a HDTV geek...where Speed TV showed off a state of the art production facility and network headquarters in Charlotte...a fan of Montgomery Gentry, headlining the pre-race festivities surrounding the Sprint All Star Race here in mid May...and a golden anniversary edition of the Coca Cola 600...to be paced by a Toyota Camry Hybrid.
As for the drivers of these Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas, rookie pheenom Joey Logano has big shoes to fill, Denny Hamlin is passionate about giving back to the fans...and Kyle Busch says he's fine tuning how he gets around...but is not giving up a lot...because his spending helps stimulate part of an economy. The 8 time winner swerved into a solution for the economic malaise with those comments.
More tomorrow from Stewart Haas Racing...Hendrick Motorsports...and Red Bull Racing.

Monday, January 19, 2009

"A Richard Petty Motorsports Dodge"

We join you from the Lowe's Motor Spedway Media Tour (sponsored by Sprint and powered by NASCAR), where the news was that of another shoe dropping...the merger of Gillett Evernham and Petty Emterprises is complete...the operation will field four cars for the first five races. This car is one of them, driven by Elliott Sadler (who's on his honeymoon and didn't meet the assembled media). A. J. Allmendinger starts out in the #44, Reed Sorensen is in the number 43, and Sadler is in the #19 (as you see above). The formal name of the operation is Richard Petty Motorsports (R-P-M). Allmendinger was a bit diffident when asked about the conflict with Sadler and referred all comments to team management. Allmendinger is looking forward to this weekend...when he'll co drive in the 24 Hours of Daytona in a Michael Shank Racing Ford...which showed some speed during the testing...and ran in the lead last year. A. J. will be featured on Race-Talk this weekend.
Exxon Mobil renewed their relationship with NASCAR as an official lubricant...Verizon joins up with Penske Racing as a full season sponsor on the Nationwide Series mount which will be driven by Justin Allgaier.
We'll post a bit tomorrow...tonight we visit the Richard Childress Racing Operation in Welcome, NC.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

"Blue Oval Gang, Hyundai NACTOY Winners at Detroit"
Even though we called off our trip because of the weather (no problem with vehicles...but when you drive through Lake Erie Lake Effect snow...one has to be prudent), we'll comment on the 2009 North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards presented at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Hyundai has made it full circle from the low price low quality vehicles they once built--to a world class powerful sedan. The Genesis is a V8 powered luxury car. There's a market for high end vehicles, and Hyundai has the quality and resources to compete in this segment of the auto market--for an attractive price--be assured we will get to drive one for our Radio-Road-Test program in the near future.
Ford needs some good news...and winning the North American Truck of the Year brings a spring to the step in Dearborn World Headquarters. The F-150 is America's best selling truck. That brings cash to Ford--a lot of it. So one makes changes incrementally--or so one would think. Again, it's another vehicle we'll get to wring out in the near future.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Winner of the 20th Anniversary Contest

That's me drawing the name of Tom Eiklor, of Barton, NY as the winner of our 20th Anniversary Contest on the WEBO Morning Show heard on our long time flagship station, NewsRadio 1330, WEBO, Owego, NY (also heard on FM at 107.9 in the local area, and on line at webo1330.com) . I appreciate the generosity of WEBO GM Dave Radigan for letting me make this public draw on his morning show. We drafted his sidekick "Lucky Lou" Sauerbrey (Lucky because he reads all the winning lottery numbers) to take this picture.

Here's a list of our random prize winners and how they won:

  • Stevan Ford, Dayton OH/national random draw

  • Vicki Decker, Columbus OH/correct entrant national random prize (listened on the podcast)

  • James Drake, Binghamton, NY/in-person entrant at 07 Racing Collectibles, Endwell, NY

  • Wayne Wood, Whitney Point, NY/in-person entrant at Mike Stolarcyk & Dad Chevrolet, Whitney Point, NY

  • Dave Williams, Vestal, NY/in-person entrant at Trackside Products, Endicott, NY

  • Ryan Kline, Owego, NY/in-person entrant at WEBO-John's Fine Food's, Owego, NY

We could not have made this happen without the help of a lot of people:

  • TAG Heuer
  • Richard Childress Racing & Shell
  • Sprint
  • Gater Racing Photo News
  • Kacer's Kielbossa
  • GM Racing
  • Raybestos Rookie of the Year Program
  • Jayski's Contest Page
  • And you listeners and blog readers!
We may fire up the contest machine for another local and national hybrid contest like this one in mid September, if the numbers add up. We encourage you to listen on air whenever possible, and subscribe to our podcast when you are traveling. We'll make the first announcement, if we should have a contest, our our Motor Sports Radio programs.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

"NO Eggnog; Lots of Kielbossa and Time OFF"
We are getting ready for one of the most important visits of 2009--the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. We will need our "A" game for next weekend...so we took it easy over Christmas, and visited our good regional sponsor Frank Kacer in Waymart, PA for a bunch of his homemade, handmade kielbossa. Nothing like a heated piece of Frank's kielbossa on rye with real darker mustard and an adult soda pop--just the thing with which to enjoy football and watch our favorite name in all of sports (Ol' Miss head coach Houston Nutt) put a whuppin' on Texas Tech.
The long knives are out for GM...the talk about GMAC's bowl sponsorship is just the tip of the iceberg...the help for American LeMans, NHRA and of course, NASCAR will likely be next for those with the long knives and Mr. Magoo eyepieces.
Hybrids--my fellow auto journalists aren't doing an effective job in explaining how a hybrid works. And since we will see more of them from the General (GM), the Blue Oval gang (Ford) and the House of Mopar (Chrysler), the basic explanation will have to be repeated. And repeated. Some misconceptions: No, one does not plug in a hybrid. You drive it and it uses regenerative braking (putting on the brakes, coasting in a lower gear down hills) to charge a battery pack, separate from the one that starts the engine, that powers motors at the front or all wheels to drive the car on electric power. The battery pack is OK when it works and the battery has a lot of useful life. The replacement cost of a hybrid motive power battery is more than high...not a lot of aftermarket batteries to help drive down the cost--yet. Hybrids are probably better for around town driving...the mileage you can get is close to what's on the EPA sticker, if you are very careful on how you press the accelerator. The Altima Hybrid can, on level ground, go on battery power at 30 miles an hour...and stay on battery power for a while. That helps get the 35 miles per gallon that the E-P-A estimates. The more a hybrid runs on batteries, the better the mileage.
We'll update here with the name of our 20th anniversary contest winner on January 8, and our final plans for the North American International Auto Show. Here's a link to enter before the contest closes on January 6: http://msrpk.com/20thcontest.html
We're fine tuning our programs for 2009...some changes to the information we provide will begin with our first road test of 2009...the VW GTi which we'll drive later this month. Many of you download our podcasts. We may, from time to time, add some specials (as we did on Grant v NASCAR) on subjects like how hybrids work in the real world...some chat with drivers and newsmakers...and topics that you can suggest by shooting an e-mail to feedback@msrpk.com .