Sunday, March 29, 2009

"RIP--Mike Stolarcyk III 1975-2009"
This is primarily for my listeners on WEBO, who might know Mike Stolarcyk Chevrolet as one of our program sponsors. Mike's dad was our original program sponsor in 1988, when "Race-Talk" premiered in April, 1988. Mike III died on March 26, at 33 years of age, from a heart condition. He leaves a wife, two small sons, and a lot of people in the village of Whitney Point, NY who respected him and his family. I was looking forward to helping him sell Chevys for years to come.
Mike's passing reminds us of the fragility of life. It further reminds us of a prayer that's said by Catholics when they pray the Rosary: "May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace."
We'll rejoin you from St. Petersburg, FL later this week, when the IndyCar season begins, and we road test our 800th vehicle for "Radio-Road-Test".

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"A Battle From the First to the 12th Hour"

Words from Rinaldo Capello, who along with Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish (above, in the post race news conference), won the 12 Hours of Sebring in a brand new Audi R15/TDI clean diesel powered LeMans Prototype 1 machine. McNish drove the last few laps, and benefited from the team's strategic thinking on fueling, while being chased by the Peugeot Diesel driven by Franck Montagny, Stephane Sarrazin and 4 time Champ Car Champion and present Formula One driver Sebastien Bourdais. The Audi beat the Peugeot by 22.27 seconds at the end of 383 laps--longest distance for any of the 57 editions of this race.
Adrian Fernandez was the top finishing Acura prototype--his LMP 2 ARX-01B was first in class and 4th overall.
The pole winning car driven by Scott Dixon, Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud-- the new Acura ARX-02a lasted about 9 hours before falling out with mechanical teething problems finishing 18th overall. The Acura ARX-02a driven by Dario Franchitti, Scott Sharp and David Brabham lasted a little longer, finishing 15th. So the HPD folks will get to work before St. Petersburg, in two weeks.
The Audis and Peugeots won't be seen for a while at other American LeMans Series weekends--a pity, since those cars demonstrate how a diesel can be made to run and run quickly, as well as reliably.
Normally when race cars pass where you sit, you look up to see who is going by. With both the Peugeot and Audi turbo diesels running so quiet, you would look up when you didn't hear anything.
We'll catch up with the ALMS in a couple weeks, when we get to see both Dixon and Dario Franchitti (Dario's brother Marino Franchitti runs in the ALMS) work their day jobs--driving for Chip Ganassi Racing.
We get to veg for a couple days before heading back to the office. If events dictate, we'll blog about them, but will most certainly send a Tweet on Twitter to nudge you about our "Race-Talk" and "Radio-Road-Test" programs. Here's how to find us on Twitter:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Dueling Diesels"
This is not about Shaq and a clone; it's about the Peugeot diesel 908 HDI and the Audi diesel R15. At the 200 lap mark, well past the six hour point, a Peugeot driven by Franck Montagny leads the Audi diesel driven by Allan McNish. Third belongs to the Audi driven by Mike Rockenfeller. The best of the rest is led by the polesitting car of Gil de Ferran, the Acura ARX 02a. When Scott Dixon gets in the car, he can run faster times than the diesels on some laps. But the advantage gained on the start is hard to nibble on, especially when the diesels are running new track record times in race trim.
They call it endurance racing for a reason. Mechanical gremlins do pop up at inopportune times.
And if you are watching this on SPEED, you see some gray skies. The track is cooling. Radar suggests that any rain will pass to the north of this historic facility. Michelin and the other tire builders have sets of rain tires available. And the cars did practice in some rain on Thursday.
We will Tweet each hour starting at 5:30 pm local (ET), and do the wrap up blog post after the race finishes.
"Clean Diesel Cleaning Clocks At Sebring"
We near the two hour mark here at the 12 Hours of Sebring, with the Peugeot diesel driven by Nic Minassian in the lead, the Audi diesel driven by Rinaldo Capello second, a Peugeot in 3rd wheeled by Stephane Sarrazin, and Marco Werner in the 4th running Audi diesel. The best of the rest is the pole sitting Acura, driven this stint by Simon Pagenaud. All five are LeMans Prototype 1 (LMP1) cars.
The LMP1 car driven now by Scott Sharp is 6th, a lap in arrears.
Neither polewinner Scott Dixon, or Dario Franchitti have made an appearance behind the wheel. One would expect them to go for it once they strap in to their Acura LMP1 cars.
We'll update a bit more frequently on Twitter, and of course here, if events dictate.

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Dario & Dixon--The IndyCar Superteam?"
Here at Sebring, I had a chance to talk with both of Chip Ganassi's IndyCar drivers, defending series and Indianapolis 500 champion (and not so coincidentally, the polesitter for the 12 Hours), Scott Dixon, and Dario Franchitti (the 2007 IndyCar champion and Indianapolis 500 winner).
Dario says he'll be content to let David Brabham and Scott Sharp do the sprint races (less than 6 hours) when the American LeMans Series and IndyCar series race at the same venue. Franchitti will join the Patron Highcroft team for the longer races. He says with a big smile on his face, that driving the ARX-02 is fun.
Both drivers won't have a lot of time to rest after Saturday's 12 Hours--they get on a plane for Barber Motorsports Park and the IndyCar Series Open Road Course test, to tune up for the series opener on April 5th in the streets of St. Petersburg, FL.
Bad news for the rest of the cars in the IndyCar paddock: Both Dixon and Franchitti say they will have to raise their game.
We'll rejoin you tomorrow morning.
"The Race is NOT the Only Challenge here at Sebring"
Chatted with GM Racing Boss Mark Kent about a number of things, and a topic that came up was green racing. GM's green racing credentials are solid (with the renewable fueled E85 GT1 Chevy Corvette--soon to be GT2--). They may become even stronger, once the Chevy Volt electric car goes into production. I asked Kent whether one might see the Volt compete on track. Kent said, "Don't rule it out. People love to race, and people will race about anything". Kent said that a lot of work would have to be done by GM and any interested sanctioning body before that would become a reality. We will have more with Kent on some future "Race-Talk" programs.
Dr. Mario Theissen and Bobby Rahal met us assembled scribes for a chat on why BMW returned to the American LeMans Series in the GT2 category. Rahal is heading up BMW's efforts in GT2 against Mazda and soon--the Corvettes. Theissen says BMW has a strategy of competing in racing with the cars they sell. I asked Theissen about the possibility of alternate technologies (similar to the Formula One Kinetic Energy Recovery System they'll use in F1 in about a week) filtering down to Rahal's operation. He says racing sanctioning bodies have to sign off on rules that would allow such a piece to compete. Even in the back of the room, you could see his eyes light up when he said that would be an interesting engineering challenge. Rahal is not just a racer--he is an auto dealer of some repute, especially in the Harrisburg, PA area. Rahal says the "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" mantra really holds true for cars like BMW. He holds a BMW dealer franchise.
All of the ALMS drivers are presently involved in a mandatory driver autograph session. I'd bet such a mandate would be as popular in the NASCAR Sprint Cup garage area as a rain delay.
We'll wrap it up with some driver chat later today.
"Green, Orange, Loud--57th edition of the 12 Hours of Sebring"
You may have seen the "Tweet" on Twitter this morning...had a cup of coffee with Scott Atherton, CEO of the American LeMans Series, which marks its 100th race event this weekend here at Sebring. Atherton and I spoke for a few minutes on the green racing initiatives in ALMS racing for a CBS News report. I thought I'd share some of that on the blog.
The Yokohama Tire people are proud of their new "orange oil" tire, which is fitted on all the cars in the ALMS Patron GT-3 Challenge by Yokohama Series. Orange oil is blended with natural rubber to make the base for the tires, which will also be available on street cars such as the Toyota Prius and Camry Hybrids and Honda's Civic and Accord Hybrids this summer. With a smile, Atherton suggested that there might (yes, might) be a slight citrus aroma when the cars light up the tires under acceleration. The street version will be called the dB Super E-spec. The process uses less petroleum products to manufacture tires. The orange oil is derived from what's left when orange juice is made--a renewable resource.
Saturday's Race marks the 100th event for the American LeMans Series.
The biodegradeable motor oil is, if it is validated in a race car, an interesting development. If, for instance, a significant portion of lubricants could be made with the animal fats left over from meat processing, it would reduce the amount of petroleum used to make the lubricants.
We'll have more later.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Acura LMP1 on Pole; Scott Dixon; Adrian Fernandez take LMP1 & 2 Honors at Sebring"
"It's an animal". That is what Indy 500 winner, and Indy Car champion Scott Dixon (2nd left)said about the de Ferran Racing Acura ARX 02a LMP1 (Le Mans Prototype 1), that he drove to the overall pole for Saturday's 12 Hours of Sebring. He nipped the vaunted challenge of the new Audi LMP1 R15 diesel driven by Tom Kristensen to notch the pole for the American LeMans Series opener here. You will be able to hear the smile in his voice on our "Race-Talk" program this weekend.
Erik Berkman (left) is the boss of Acura Racing...and had two reasons to smile. Adrian Fernandez put the Acura ARX-01B on the pole for the LMP2 class. They are a tick slower and will start 7th overall, with a speed of 121.438 miles an hour.
The ALMS is actually making strides in green racing, as our readers and listeners know. The series signed a deal with Green Earth Technologies to feature their G-OIL Ultimate Biodegradeable Motor Oil as the official motor oil. G-OIL is made from beef fat derived from processing. Animal fats share similar molecular construction to petroleum oils, and are renewable. The company experimented with plant based oils and found beef tallow worked better and was readily available.
We'll have more tomorrow.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Third Time's a Charm"

In his third outing with the Alan Johnson Al-Anabi Race team, Larry Dixon won his fourth Top Fuel title at the AC Delco Gatornationals, sending Cory McClenathan to the trailer with a final round win. Dixon was the number one qualifier. He says he's most impressed by the level of preparation that new crew chief Jason McCullogh and Johnson brought to the team. The victory brings him to third in points behind point leader Antron Brown.
Bob Tasca III won one for the "Blue Oval" gang. Tasca defeated friend Tony Pedregon to notch his first career victory. Tasca's day job is at his family Ford dealership in Rhode Island, so getting a note from Ford CEO Alan Mullaly was big for him, as was the number of text messages from the Ford Racing Boss, Brian Wolfe. Tasca reminded me that his grandfather used to say "Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday". While the Ford Mustangs in the Tasca dealership are light years removed from Bob's Funny Car, Bob says there is as much off track involvement to drive sales of Motorcraft parts and Quick Lane services as there is with the nuts and bolts of the racing program.
Jason Line added to his Pro Stock point lead with a very quick reaction time win ("hole shot") in the final round over Allen Johnson. That's two of three races so far in 2009. Like many drivers, Jason has other duties for the Keith Black Pro Stock team--his is running the dynamometer to see how much horsepower can be wrung from the 2009 Pontiac GXP. Line will be testing here tomorrow so he can work on his starts from the starting line, which make for better reaction times. Reaction times are what wins drag races, along with big time reliable horsepower.
Top five in each Pro Category
Top Fuel--
Antron Brown/259-1 win
Brandon Bernstein/239
Larry Dixon/206-1 win
Doug Kalitta/194-1 win
Tony Schumacher/181
Funny Car--
Ron Capps/263-2 wins
Bob Tasca III/225-1 win
Del Worsham/188
Robert Hight/164
Mike Neff/164
Pro Stock--
Jason Line/285-2 wins
Allen Johnson/228
Jeg Coughlin/223-1 win
Greg Anderson/212
Mike Edwards/211
We'll join you from Sebring later this week with coverage from the 57 th edition of the 12 Hours of Sebring.
"AJ's Skunk Works"

Greetings from the 2009 AC Delco NHRA Gatornationals, round 3 of 24 that decide the Full Throttle Championships. This is a snapshot of the pits of Top Fuel Top Qualifier Larry Dixon, who drives for the legendary master tuner Alan Johnson and Al-Anabi racing. Dixon has the top starting spot, thanks to a 1000 foot run of 3.886 seconds (310.20 miles per hour), and will face Doug Kalitta. Top Fuel point leader Antron Brown qualified 7th, and will face Clay Millican.

In Funny Car, the Blue Oval Gang gets bragging rights with Bob Tasca III, who put his Mustang on top with a run of 4.124 seconds (301.00 miles an hour). Tasca will race Jim Head in his first round elimination match. Point leader Ron Capps is 6th fast (4.156; 293.15 miles an hour), and goes up against Tony Pedregon.

In Pro Stock, Mike Edwards starts first with both the low E.T. (6.582 seconds) and top speed (209.95 miles an hour) honors in qualifying. Edwards and V Gaines duke it out in their first round elimination match. Point Leader Jason Line qualified 5th (6.618 seconds; 208.81 miles an hour); Line and Jim Yates lock horns in their first round elimination tilt.

Alachua County's Chamber of Commerce is likely beaming about the weather. What's not to like about 80 degree weather in mid-March?

We'll blog a snapshot and synopsis with the pro winners later on, or update if events dictate.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

"The Show"

Kyle Busch won the Shelby 427 in grand fashion before a nearly sold out Las Vegas Motor Speedway (they would have sold you a ticket--but it sure looked like a pre-contraction crowd here at Glitter Gulch). As we recounted, Busch had to fall back to the last starting spot. During the driver introductions he said to the fans "Know what? We're going to the back , get ready for a show, here it comes." Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton sniffed the lead...but in the end the victory was Kyle's.

Matt Kenseth suffered engine problems to drop him out of the point lead. Kenseth finished 43rd on the day.

Here's the top 12 going into Atlanta:

Jeff Gordon--snatched a 6th place finish from what could have been a disaster, and took over the point lead with 459

Clint Bowyer/441

Matt Kenseth/419

Greg Biffle/419

David Reutimann--comes off a 4th place finish, his best/408

Kyle Busch/405

Kurt Busch/393

Tony Stewart/379

Carl Edwards/377

Bobby Labonte--finished 5th/360

Kevin Harvick/351

Michael Waltrip/346

It is always great to see a dream come true.

We'll take a week back at the office and get ready for straight line action next time we are on the road. You can always find out what we are doing by going on Twitter (, and talk about it there.

"America's Happiest Mayor: Give Las Vegas A Second Race!"

The ever ebullient mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman, rallied the crowd here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with those words in pre-race ceremonies. What is really important in pre race happens in the sight of the Neon Garage here at "Glitter Gulch", and out of sight in most other venues. This is what happens after cars go through NASCAR Inspection, a/k/a "Room of Doom". Jamie McMurray's #26 Ford Fusion showed some sportiness this weekend in practice.
Remember our premise in Friday's post about a walkup crowd? Las Vegas boss Chris Powell says his facility will have a sell out today. That means all of the good seats will be taken, and only general admission tickets will be available for those who brave the stretch of Interstate 15 north of Sahara to the exits for LVMS.
We may update with a mid race posting, but definitely with a post race snapshot and synopsis.
RIP--Paul Harvey