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:

"Sprint Cup Point Leader Starts Shotgun at the Tricky Trioval"
Crew Chief Darian Grubb is supervising final tweaks on Tony Stewart's #14 Chevy as the hours tick down to the green flag for the Pocono 500. Stewart's original #14 Chevy suffered some damage in a Saturday practice, so Grubb and the Stewart-Haas racing team rolled out the backup. What this means is that Stewart will lead a ceremonial lap, and then drop to the back of the 43 car field to take the green.
Another thing makes this interesting: The implementation of the NASCAR double file restart rule, which puts cars trying to get laps back at a disadvantage. One suspects Mr. Stewart will wish to set sail toward the front to maintain his position atop the points.
I also promise not to use the "on like Donkey Kong" line to describe the racing here at the tricky tri-oval today.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

"Four Way Tie for Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Lead"
On top the racewinners of the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen: Left, Scott Pruett (who notched his 20th career Daytona Prototype (DP) victory) and Memo Rojas. Below, Brian Frisselle and Max Angelelli, who finished second.
The Chip Ganassi Racing team of Pruett and Rojas led the most laps on the way to breaking a nine race losing streak. Pruett was being caught by Angelelli at the end; with "Max the Axe" beginning to chop into a sizeable lead for the defending DP champions. A yellow with less than two minutes to go raised an issue with Pruett's fuel. Pruett set the fastest lap time ten laps from the end and was on the gas till the yellow flew--he had to be, or else Angelelli would have caught him.
Roger Penske's drivers--Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard--led some early laps...but fell back and finished third in their final tuneup before they go to LeMans to drive for the Audi team next weekend.
Next action for the Daytona Prototype cars is at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course in two weeks. Pruett, Rojas, Frisselle and Angelelli are in a four way flatfooted tie with 140 points. Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty--leaders when the day started, fell back to third in points--just six behind.
We get a short night and will catch up to you from the tricky trioval--Pocono Raceway--on Sunday.

"A Riley-Saturn?"
Roger Penske with his Grand-Am Rolex Series crew. This is actually a Porsche-Riley, driven by Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard in Verizon Wireless livery. They will chase the polesitting car driven by Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett--the defending series champions--when the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen gets the green flag around 2:15 pm here on the hilltop overlooking Seneca Lake in Schuyler County, NY. The sponsor--Sahlen's makes some great provisions--I can recommend their hot dogs without reservation.
The Captain seems a bit relaxed this weekend. Roger, for those with short memories, was a sports car driver of great repute, even winning a driver of the year award from Sports Illustrated. He parlayed that, and some degree of success at Indianapolis, into a racing empire that was the genesis for the Penske Automotive Group--soon to be the new owners of the Saturn brand.
We'll be here for a while, and will Tweet updates at MSRnet, with a snapshot of the overall winners later this evening.

Friday, June 05, 2009

"Road Test 800"
The 2009 Ford F-150 Lariat Crew Cab model I drove in April is the subject of my 800th episode of "Radio-Road-Test", which is available from our weekly podcast area. Just click on this link:
I'm re-tweaking the website to add more functionality which will include an archive of Radio-Road-Test episodes that you may listen to or download at your leisure.
The data for it, and the other vehicles I've driven so far in the 2009 test year, can be found at this page:
I return to race blogging and tweeting from Watkins Glen International tomorrow, and from the tricky tri-oval a/k/a Pocono Raceway on Sunday.