• Lewis Hamilton

Racing Roundup: Hamilton had to fight off cramp to win No. 92 

Dixon wins IndyCar title - will he retire? Whitby’s Kingsley wins again – twice. NASCAR on TSN today and all the news

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald October 26, 2020
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The big motorsport story of the weekend, of course, was Lewis Hamilton, who won the Grand Prix of Portugal, which happened to be his 92nd victory in F1 competition, one more than the wonderful Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton started his quest to become the winningest – maybe not the best, but certainly the all-conquering – F1 driver of all time right here in Canada, on June 10, 2007, when he won his very first GP for McLaren. From then till now, he averaged about six race victories a season.

Now, is he the best? Better than Fangio, Clark, Stewart, Senna, Schumacher? Maybe, maybe not. One thing: he’s not finished yet.

Here are some other things you should know:

Lewis’s win was his eighth of the 2020 season. But he really had to fight for it. A cramp gave him the most trouble (see quotes below).

Valtteri Bottas finished in second position, claiming his ninth podium finish of the season and 54th podium finish in Formula One. Third-place finisher Max Verstappen also scored his ninth podium of 2020 and the 40th of his F1 career.

Sunday’s result marked the 57th 1-2 finish for Mercedes in Formula One.

Lewis (256 points) leads the Drivers’ Championship by 77 points from Valtteri (179 points).

The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team (435 points) leads Red Bull Racing (226 points) by 209 points in the Constructors’ Championship with 220 points still to be scored this season.

Lewis had this to say after his victory:

“First, I owe these 92 wins to the team here and back at the factory for their tremendous work. They are continuously innovating and pushing the barrier, even higher every year. It’s been such a privilege working with them and I am so grateful for all the moments.

“The reliability has been incredible thanks to the Mercedes team, Petronas and all our partners who are continuously pushing. No one is sitting back on the success, everyone is pushing and pushing and pushing. That’s the most incredible thing to be surrounded by: it inspires you, that collaboration, and there’s nothing quite like it.

“Today was tough. I had a cramp in my right calf and I had to lift quite often down the straight because it was about to pull. Pretty painful, but I had to get through it because it is what it is and you can’t lift the whole lap!

“I could only ever have dreamed of being where I am today. I didn’t have a crystal ball when I chose to come to this team and partner with these great people. What I can tell you is that I am trying to make the most of it every single day. Everything that we do together, we are all rowing in the same direction and that’s why you’re seeing the success that we’re having.

“My dad is here which is amazing, my step-mom Linda is here, Roscoe (his dog) too. I feel very blessed. It’s going to take some time for it to sink in. I was still pushing flat out coming across the line and I am still in race mode mentally. I can’t find the words at the moment.”

Our Nicholas Latifi had the bit in his teeth on Friday, particularly during second practice, when he ran as high as 14th, but slid back in the race to end 18th, two laps down. “We were trying some things on the car on Friday,” he told a group of Canadian reporters after the race (the Williams team makes him available), “but they didn’t quite work. We had to do a chassis change Saturday before qualifying and we had to revert back to the old specs. Then I struggled in qualifying, the wind picked up, and there was much more in it and I just didn’t get the potential out of the car. In the race, I just struggled for pace. We’ll have to analyze it – but I’m at a loss.”

I’m afraid I’m giving up on our Lance Stroll, who finished in 20th place and last. Yes, he might still be getting over Covid but I just don’t think he cares. He became so used to winning, right from his days in karts, that it was easy for him. Now he’s in the big league, where they don’t fool around, and he’s getting his butt kicked. The really good ones respond by putting their heads down and trying harder. He seems to be sulking. Yes, he has a job for life because dad owns the team but maybe dad starts to wonder too. I might be wrong about this – but I don’t think so.

By the way, Sergio Perez (more about him below) is someone who would drive through a wall if he had to. He’s losing his job to Sebastian Vettel next year but he will have his revenge because I suggest he will drive for Red Bull in 2021 and he will beat Vettel regularly.

For a complete story on Sunday’s race in Portugal, please click here.

NOTEBOOK JOTTINGS

I have never, ever, understood “defending your position” in automobile road racing. That’s when a guy sees someone is about to pass him and balks the guy behind by driving over in front of him. I don’t understand why it’s legal. In horse racing, if a horse moves in front of another horse to prevent it from passing, it’s disqualified. In track and field, a runner in a sprint race has to stay in his or her lane; longer races, they can go down to the inside lane but can’t block. Even in short-track auto racing, you can’t do that. Anyway, although he was the driver of the race in the Portuguese GP Sunday, Sergio Perez should have been DQ’d for what he did to Pierre Gasly near the end. Inexcusable, in my books.

The Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, site of Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix, is a tight and twisty circuit with many blind turns. I know. When Jaguar Land Rover introduced its all-electric i-PACE a few years ago, I was one of the automotive journalists taken to Portugal for the launch. One of the many things we got to do with the car was drive it at speed around this track, which is out in the middle of nowhere. I mean, you’re driving along in the countryside and all of a sudden there it is: a magnificent motorsport arena complete with a covered grandstand that stretches the length of the main straight and bleachers at other passing points around the circuit. There is nothing else for miles around. Anyway, me being the hot dog I am, I take off intending to show my fellow writers how to drive a car properly around a race track. It’s a good thing there was a track employee sitting next to me who knew his way around the place because I’m on it and climbing this hill, fully expecting to go straight at the crest and he suddenly reached over and twisted the wheel right out of my hands and turned it all the way to the left because that was where we were going rather than where I thought we were going. I slowed down after that.

Portugal is empty. When we landed at Lisbon on that Jaguar Land Rover trip, it was a typical international airport – full of people and busy. When we got into cars to drive to the Atlantic coast, we went for two hours on a four-lane super highway and hardly saw another car. When we drove the back roads, we saw plenty of shepherds guarding their sheep but not a lot of people. We stopped in a village to take photos – there was nobody around, of course – and a young fellow came wandering along. He could speak English. “Where is everybody?” I said. “There are no jobs,” he said. “Everybody has gone to Italy. There are jobs there.” This is an advantage, or disadvantage, of the European Union. With no borders, you just get in your car and go. Anywhere you want.

INDYCAR 

Lewis Hamilton

There’s not a lot to say about Sunday’s IndyCar finale at St. Petersberg, other than it was a great race but we expect that from IndyCar, don’t we?

Josef Newgarden showed why he was the defending champion by ramming his way through the field and finishing first but Scott Dixon, by finishing third, won his sixth IndyCar championship, one less than all-time Indy car national champion A.J. Foyt.

Pato O’Ward, in his best outing yet in the series, was second. O’Ward ended up fourth in the championship standings behind Dixon, Newgarden and Colton Herta.

Our James Hinchcliffe, in the running for either a victory or a podium finish, had a momentary loss of concentration, spun out, and eventually finished 13th. And Sebastien Bourdais, who will drive full-time for Foyt in 2021, had a great race to finish fourth. Ryan Hunter-Reay was fifth.

But the day belonged to Dixon.

“It’s never just one thing or one person,” Dixon, who won four times this season, including the first three races, said afterward. “For me, it’s about the team effort. We had a lot of changes in the offseason but huge thanks to everyone on the team.”

Asked about chasing Foyt’s record, Dixon said: “Well, six is good. Seven is better. That’s going to be the goal. But it’s tough. As you can see from the competition, even if you mess up just a little bit in qualifying, we had some problems. Credit again to the team and just being able to pull ourselves out of that hole and stay consistent and just have a smooth race, and that’s what we did.”

The series will now take a few months off before starting the 2021 season at the same place, St. Pete, next March 7. Maybe.

For a complete report on the race, please click here.

Oh, before leaving, Dixon said the goal will be to go after Foyt’s record. That will be very tough. He’s no spring chicken (40) and he’ll be out there against young lions like Herta, O’Ward and Rinus Veekay (2020 Rookie of the Year) as well as a rejuvenated Bourdais. And all four Penske drivers will be racing for their jobs, which will make them tough. And great champions in any class of racing need a teammate who’s almost as good, to challenge them to do better. Dixon’s right-hand man next season will be octogenarian rookie Jimmie Johnson.

So, does Dixon want to go out a champion, as one of the greats in IndyCar history? Or as a coach for a guy too old to drive in NASCAR? I think this will be it for Dixon and that he’ll announce his retirement from IndyCar racing at the Awards Banquet.

NOTEBOOK JOTTINGS 

Johnson and Ganassi made it official this weekend. They have a sponsor for Johnson to run the road and street courses in IndyCar in 2021. Nice to see that Chip (and IndyCar) are giving all those young guys out there an opportunity. Speaking about opportunities, Australian Supercar Championship driver Scott McLaughlin drove a car for Penske Racing in Sunday’s St. Pete season-ender and crashed out. He will drive a fourth car for Penske next season. Now, nothing against him. Seems like a character. But there are guys in North American racing right now who are just as good and I fail to understand why they can’t at least get a shot. I mean, I don’t see a lot of North Americans racing in Australia. The excuse, forever, has been that sprint car drivers, for instance, can’t drive rear-engine cars. So that’s how CART missed out on Tony Stewart and when the IRL recognized his talent, and he won the championship there, Jeff Gordon said, ‘”Tony, come south. You can race more often here and they pay you a lot more.” Those two didn’t have any trouble driving rear-engine cars, of course (Gordon’s F1 “test” with Williams proved that). And Australian Supercars have engines up front and McLaughlin did just fine in that rear-engine Penske Sunday. All this will remain a mystery, I guess (at least to me). 

NEWS ‘N NOTES 

The NASCAR Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway will start this morning at 10 a.m. on TSN. The race was red-flagged after xx laps Sunday after rain and fog enveloped the Speedway. Strangely, the rain didn’t show up on local radar. So now you can’t trust technology. We’ve known forever that you couldn’t trust the weatherman (who never did know which way the wind blew). Harrison Burton won the Xfinity race earlier (congrats to his dad, Jeff Burton, for remaining composed in the booth, as was Ned Jarrett when son Dalewon the Daytona 500 years ago). And Sheldon Creed was first in the trucks race. Our Raphael Lessardcrashed out of the last race but recovered to finish fourth this time out. . . . . One of our Scott Maxwell’sdriving partners, Chase Briscoe, who is challenging for the Xfinity Series championship this season, will be promoted to the NASCAR Cup Series next season by his employer, Stewart-Haas Racing. Briscoe, a former sprint car star who has raced in IMSA as well as the Xfinity Series this year, will drive car No. 14 in Cup. . . . . As suggested in last week’s Roundup, Kyle Larson has been reinstated by NASCAR and can return to racing in 2021, likely for Rick Hendrick’s team. Suspended initially for speaking a racial slur during an iRacing game, Larson has spent the summer winning sprint car races and taking sensitivity courses, which will continue through the next year. He will also have to make a number of speaking engagements dealing with his racism. Good luck to him and hopefully his experiences will be of benefit to others.

Lewis Hamilton

Our Jeff Kingsley won both Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama races in St. Petersburg. The Whitby native has a commanding lead in the series with two races to go. They will be held in Sebring in mid-November. At St. Pete, he was fastest in practice, qualifying and both races. You can’t get any better than that.

The Trans-Am Series, long a mainstay at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (it’s raced there 30 times previously), will return next year on Sept. 4-5. The last time the series was there, in 2014, current CTMP co-owner Ron Fellows was the winner. Trans-Am raced at CTMP for 14 consecutive years, 1984-‘97, and then six straight seasons (2009-‘14). Sometimes it was on the program for the season-opening Victoria Day Speedfest and now it will race on the Labour Day weekend with, the NASCAR trucks.

Formula Electric has announced the first four races of their 2021 season, two double-header weekends starting in Santiago, Chile, on Jan. 16 and 17 and then in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, on Feb. 26 and 27. The rest of the season, like so much of what’s going on in the world, is up in the air. Nissan has announced its driver for 2021, though. Sebastien Buemi and Oliver Rowland will both be back for another kick at the can.

Last week, I published a photo, taken by Derek Smith, of an Enduro and Demolition Derby at Flamboro Speedway (here’s another one). I said at the time: who knew who won the Enduro? Well, Derek emailed me this week to say that Craig Cole won the $5,000 Enduro (who knew there was that much money in that kind of racing?). Dylan Sharpe and Rodney Rutherford were second and third. If enough cars had shown up, the winner could have cashed a $10,000 cheque. Maybe I’ll make a comeback in 2021 . . .

There was a very intriguing announcement made last week. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway said the Indy Lights Freedom 100 race would not be part of any Indianapolis 500 weekend because of logistics. The Speedway had to move the 500 this year because of Covid and finally had to run it off without fans in August rather than in May. Concerned that the same scenario might repeat next year, IMS opted to remove as many impediments as possible from running the 500 whenever.

Having said that, I don’t think that’s the story. I think the story is Roger Penske doesn’t want to have to reserve time to hold a race that only has five cars in it. This year’s Indy Lights series was cancelled because of car count. The series owner, Dan Anderson, is talking optimistically about upwards of 20 cars joining the series in 2021 and that is a very big jump indeed. In fact, it will probably  be impossible.

It’s funny that people have to be reminded that we are in the middle of a pandemic. While economies seem to be rebounding, there are not a lot of corporations around who have anything near a million dollars and up to invest in a series that nobody knows about, that gets next to no publicity.

The IndyCar series sells itself around one race: the Indianapolis 500. Take that away and there’s no reason to support a team or a driver. Same thing with Indy Lights. The Freedom 100 on Carb day two days before the big Indy 500 is the attraction. Who cares about Indy Lights in Toronto? But the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That’s something else.

I think the reason given – we have to be flexible – rings hollow. If the Indy 500 has to be held, again, without spectators, they could. run the Indy Lights feature on the morning of the big race. I mean, what’s the problem? Unless there’s something else going on.

There’s a short clip on Twitter that is disturbing. It shows a go-kart racer rounding a corner, losing control, and somehow going through an opening in the retaining wall. The kart then drives up a ramp and crashes into a building. See it here.

The clip itself is bad enough; the comments are scary. Scary, because the first comments assume that the person (likely a kid) in the crash was okay. First, how do they know? Second, I have crashed at a high rate of speed and it is no fun and you are not okay. Far from it. The comments then become quite jocular in nature and that’s disturbing too.

I am not naïve. I know that a percentage of people who go to car races go to see crashes. I don’t believe they go to see someone get injured, or worse, but maybe I’m wrong about that. I know people watch the UFC to see one guy (or woman) just about kill another. People who watch that violence on TV only get half the show, though – the other half being that most of the fighters who lose leave the arenas in ambulances. But they don’t show you that stuff. Fun, eh?

People who know me, and read my stuff, know that I am not a fan of karting. I maintain that people have to fully realize the risk they are taking before going out there. I don’t think children understand what dead means. Every year in the world, at least a dozen kids in kart or motorcycle races are killed. Every one is one too many. Every time I write about this sort of thing, I get letters. The men say I’m nuts and the women – the mothers – ask me how to stop it.

I know I am in the minority on this. And although I don’t like kids in karting, I still write about it because it’s part of my job as an automotive journalist. But there’s a reason parents (at least one) have to sign off on their kid going racing before reaching the age of majority and that’s because it’s dangerous. In short, it’s not soccer.

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