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.