Thursday, August 30, 2012 18:11
Wednesday, August 22, 2012 01:40
Say what you want about Danica Patrick. Yeah she gets a lot of press. Some say more than her performance deserves, but she has single-handedly generated more column inches of copy than the other five Nationwide Series drivers combined. The reason? Behind the lip gloss and glamour, Danica Patrick is a real racecar driver.
That fact sticks in the craw of many of her competitors. Take her performances in the past two weeks at Watkins Glen and Montreal, as examples.
She was headed for a great finish at The Glen when an overbearing Canadian took her out. A week later the bright green “Go Daddy” Chevy shared the second row with its newest antagonist.
It was no fluke as Danica proceeded to lead several laps and was a legitimate contender to score her first win when a “not so cute” shoe was hurled onto the track. While TV announcers thought it might have damaged her car, post-race analysis proved otherwise. More...
Tuesday, January 3, 2012 14:03
2011 was a tumultuous year in motorsports. It had more than enough excitement, surprises and, yes, gut-wrenching sadness. There are enough stories to fill many pages. Here are three:
Trevor Bayne Although on no one’s radar when he arrived at Daytona in February, young Bayne showed an early turn of speed and quickly got the hang of “pod racing.” He just figured no veteran would pair up with a Cup rookie during the 500. Then Jeff Gordon raised his hand and when the pack scrambled off Turn 4 a final time, it was Bayne flashing across the finish line first. Having just turned 20, he couldn’t even drink the Victory Lane champagne. Then he had to go shopping for a suit to wear for all the media functions—he’d only packed a couple of t-shirts in the pickup he drove to the track. His good fortune turned sour in April when a mystery ailment sidelined him for much of the rest of the season. Finally cleared to drive, Bayne scored a victory in the Nationwide race at Texas in November. Many garage watchers were amazed by Bayne’s consistently positive outlook on racing—and life. That, he says, comes from his faith, which he openly shares in un-Tebow style. Expect great things from Bayne in 2012.
Triumph and Tragedy In May, it looked like history was repeating itself as rookie JR Hildebrand blasted through the short chute a final time and into Turn 4, the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 firmly in his grasp. A moment’s indecision in passing a lapped car inched Hildebrand off line enough to put him into the outside wall and hand the victory to former 500 winner Dan Wheldon, rideless in 2011 but for a one-off deal at Indy. Life once again was looking up for Wheldon and his young family as they drank the milk at Indy’s Victory Lane. With a signed contract for 2012 with Michael Andretti in his briefcase, Wheldon accepted a $5m special prize offer for the IndyCar season finale at Las Vegas. If he could come from the back of the grid and win the race, he would collect the big- bucks bonus. Minor contact on lap 11 triggered a 15-car pile-up that launched Wheldon’s car into the catch fence where a support pole took his life. The scene still haunts me and the sense of the loss is still palpable.
The Greatest Comeback 2011 was a year for comebacks in sports. Who can forget the St. Louis Cardinals World Series win? Or the amazing performance of the Detroit Lions? Or “Tebow Time”? However it’s Tony Stewart’s “I will not be denied” victory in the last race of the season to win his third Cup championship. Before the Chase, Smoke himself said, “We don’t belong in the Chase if we run like this.” Then he won the first two races, slipped a bit then won two more. Carl Edwards led by three points starting the Homestead finale—from the pole. Smoke started a distant 15th. Various calamities sent Stewart’s No. 14 to the rear of the field—several times—but he kept his elbows up and in the drive of his career won both the race and the championship. The stat man says Smoke passed 118 cars during the race. It may well go down as the most exciting championship in NASCAR history.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011 12:10
NASCAR’s Answer to Tim Tebow While it’s impossible to have “Tebowtime” after a race win, Trevor Bayne openly and frequently credits his faith for his success. He had a potentially career ending illness after his remarkable Daytona 500 win, but took it all in stride. Everyone in the NASCAR garage area is amazed by Bayne’s poise and maturity. Bayne teamed up with award-winning motorsports journalist Godwin Kelly to write “Driven by Faith, The Trevor Bayne Story.” The book will be released in January (Zonderkidz; $6.99).
Wheldon Crash Report Released IndyCar released a 215-page report of its findings on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway crash that killed Dan Wheldon. I’m sure it has more than enough detail for all the anal-retentive out there, but let me summarize: Too many cars, a track too smooth, too fast and absolutely no margin for even the slightest error. Sadly, it was a perfect storm with a predictably tragic ending. IndyCar officials are no doubt reevaluating all ovals on the schedule and are likely to remove those from the calendar. They may also reconsider using drag and turbulence inducing aerodynamic changes like the Hanford Device used in the mid-1990s. The next few months of the off-season should be interesting.
Texas Two-Step The on again, off again Texas Formula 1 race is on. The green light is changing as fast as ‘60s rock concert strobe light display. Circuit of the Americas management officially said the event will be held as scheduled in September 2012. The sticking point was, you guessed it, all about the money. That, race fans, is what makes the wheels go ‘round…especially if Bernie Ecclestone has any say in the matter.
More Zip in the “Smokehouse” Greg Zipadelli has reunited with his former driver Tony Stewart, but not as Stewart’s crew chief. Zippy, as Stewart affectionately calls him, will be the Director of Competition. He replaces Bobby Hutchens who left the team this year. It looks like the musical chairs have finally stopped at Stewart Haas Racing with former Penske crew chief Steve Addington on top of the No. 14 box and Matt Borland, No. 12 crew chief when Ryan Newman drove for the Captain, now promoted to the VP of Competition. “The package” (Hendrick engines/chassis and new brainpower at the helm) makes SHR very stout for next year. It will be interesting to see who is on top of the No. 10 box for Danica at Daytona.
Monday, November 21, 2011 06:00
The last 37 laps of the Sprint Cup finale were epic displays of driving skill and tenacity. While Tony Stewart won the race and the championship (by virtue of the most wins this season), it’s too bad that both Tony and Carl Edwards couldn’t share the Sprint Cup trophy. Maybe they should saw it in half. Even spectators like me were yelling at the tube. I didn’t even care if my new puppy missed a trip outside a potty break.
In a post race interview, Stewart was informed this is the first major win for A.J. Foyt's iconic number 14 in years. Smoke was sure he would talk to his mentor sometime tonight. “He’ll probably tell me how many times I screwed up,” the nearly breathless Stewart said.
The much-touted shootout began inauspiciously for the eventual victor. Stewart started the race in 15th, while Edwards started from the pole. Kurt Busch’s transmission blew its guts early and a part punched a hole in Stewart’s grill. “It’s a miracle that it didn’t punch a hole in the radiator,” Stewart said. The repairs sent the contender to the rear of the field. That’s when the amazing display of tenacity began. Stewart muscled his way to the front not once, but several times. It was obvious he would not be denied. Reports vary, but Larry McReynolds said Stewart passed 116 cars during the 400-mile race.
Stewart’s crew chief, Darien Grubb, made a gutsy call by keeping Stewart on the track until there were 55 laps to go. This was the number Grubb knew would take the No. 14 to the finish without another pit stop. Once again Stewart showed his amazing skill to maintain pace on Sunoco vapor. The pit stop included four tires, which may have given Stewart the edge at the finish. More...