Racing Roundup: ‘Senior Movement’ not good for the Sport
Hathaway NASCAR champ, wrong guys blamed for F1 crash, IndyCar races best of weekend, and all the news
There was just a ton of auto racing this weekend. A ton. The NASCAR Canada Pinty’s Series has a 2020 champion, F1 went to a track better suited for motorcycles and had so many crashes you thought it was a NASCAR race, and IndyCar, as usual, put on the best races that few people saw because the football seasons started.
I’ll get around to all of the above, plus NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and trucks and anything else I happen to come across, but first The Sermon.
I’m a fan of youth movements. Whether it’s baseball, hockey, football or motorsport, I like watching athletes develop, mature, fight for championships and then get out of the way so a new generation can have their chance.
Let’s take a look at some of those current up-and-comers: Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Auston Matthews, Patrick Mahomes (I know he’s already a champion but he’s still just a kid), Charles Leclerc, Pato O’Ward, Ryan Blaney.
Exciting times, eh?
On the flip side, there seems to be a senior movement going on in auto racing. Jimmie Johnson, 44, who hasn’t won a NASCAR Cup race since 2017, will try to go IndyCar racing next year. And Fernando Alonso, who’s 39 and hasn’t won an F1 race since 2013, is going to drive for Alpine F1 (nee Renault) in 2021 and ’22.
I like both those guys. Johnson won seven Cup championships, which is amazing. And I like him on a personal level. He’s a nice guy. Ditto with Alonso. He’s got the heart of a lion and a smile for everyone. But their time is done and they are taking up seats that could be occupied by young tigers and I think that’s a shame.
Prediction: neither will win a race ever again. When you’re a professional auto racer, that’s the goal. Otherwise, what’s the point? So what are they doing?
I know the fire still burns. But at a certain point in time, when you’re an athlete, you have to admit to yourself that it’s over. Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player who ever lived, retired when he was 38 because “I didn’t want to embarrass myself.” Mark Webber stopped racing in F1 at age 37 because “I just couldn’t do it any more.”
That’s how tough it is out there. Regardless of how great you still feel and how great you think you still are, there are younger guys who have that half step on you, whose desire is just a little bit stronger and whose execution is just a wee bit sharper. It’s a no-win situation.
What’s really interesting about Johnson is the interest shown by IndyCar executives and fans. For some reason, they seem to think that Johnson driving in IndyCar is going to increase interest in the series. That many of Johnson’s NASCAR fans are going to follow him over.
That makes about as much sense as Trump trying to be friends with Bob Woodward. Or the new Conservative leader O’Toole campaigning for votes in Quebec. Ain’t gonna happen.
Johnson’s NASCAR fans are just going to find another NASCAR driver to support. If they were inclined to watch Indy car racing, they’d have been doing it already – Jimmie Johnson or no Jimmie Johnson. Since they haven’t, it’s difficult to see how his presence in the series will change anything.
There are dozens of capable racing drivers in Europe and North America who deserve a chance to show the world what they can do in elite series like F1 and IndyCar. They should get that chance but they can’t while quadragenarians like Johnson and Alonso are in their way.
And that’s too bad.
F1 AND INDYCAR NOTEBOOK JOTTINGS
The Formula One race at the Mugello circuit in Italy was won by Lewis Hamilton, his 90th (yes, things are back to normal; for a complete story, please click here), while Will Power (see photo, sharing a masked kiss with his masked wife) won the IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio Saturday (full story here) and 21-year-old Colton Herta finished first Sunday (ditto).
Mugello might be a “driver’s track” but it sure wasn’t a “Formula One racing track” and it is really a dangerous track. When Lando Norris got out of shape during second practice on Friday and spun, brushing the wall, I was shocked to see that it was unprotected concrete. Really? In 2020? Unbelievable.
They say there were exactly 2,880 spectators in the place – I have no idea where that figure came from or the formula on which it was based – and they seemed to move around in a group from the grandstands on the main straight to some stands out on the course. They practiced social distancing, though (as they did at Mid-Ohio), and appeared to be wearing masks, although that was hard to tell from a distance on TV.
It was Ferrari’s 1,000th F1 race, so the crowd – and all others in the place – got a big thrill seeing Mick Schumacher, son of Michael, who’s racing in Formula Two these days, drive his father’s Ferrari F2004 in a brief demonstration. As well as seeing the car at speed, the sound of a normally aspirated V10 on full song was breathtaking. A skydiver made a perfect landing on the pit straight after unfurling a Ferrari flag at high altitude, while another did likewise with the Italian flag. Even the Safety Car had been wrapped in bright burgundy for the occasion. Then Andrea Bocelli sang the National Anthem, which was also a great touch. Too bad there weren’t more than those 2,880 there to take it all in.
Jean Todt told the few reporters present that he’d visited Michael in recent days and that he was as well as could be expected. He still held out hope, he said, that Schumacher would eventually be strong enough to attend a race to see his son perform.
Now, those who saw the big crash (as distinct from the crash shortly after the start that eliminated Max Verstappen and the last crash in which Lance Stroll had a close, but solo, escape) will have their own ideas about what conspired. But I’ll tell you this: if F1 lets that sort of nonsense continue (see photo at top of column), they will kill somebody, as was so eloquently screamed over his radio by Romain Grosjean when his Haas was caught up in the collision. As happened in the IndyCar race two weeks ago when Will Power decided to screw everybody else in the field at the start, Valtteri Bottas thought it would be hilarious to pull the same stunt in Italy on Sunday. Instead of stepping on the gas to restart the race when he should have, he crept along the main straight until the absolutely last second before going and that resulted in six cars at the back assuming he’d taken off and they were on the gas and piled into people in front of them who’d been forced to hit their brakes. If I hear Martin Brundle say, “Valtteri did nothing wrong” one more time (he must have said it five times), I think I’ll do an imitation of Grosjean and scream, “How would you feel if what he did killed a guy?”
In the end, and if you can believe this, the stewards called literally everybody who was on the track at the time of the crash – except the guy who caused it all, Valtteri Bottas – onto the carpet but no one was penalized. As our Nicholas Latifi told me (and others) in a post-race conversation, “We were all just passengers.”
One other thing: the halo needs improving. When the crash happened, all sorts of crap was flying into the cockpits of the drivers who were crashing. The halo needs a shield like IndyCar’s aeroshield. Otherwise, a piece of carbon fibre could cut a throat.
You have to wonder whether McLaren will be competing in either F1 or IndyCar in 2021. You will recall that earlier this year it borrowed 150-million pounds from the National Bank of Bahrain in order to keep its head above water. Now it’s been revealed that it’s considering the sale of its global headquarters in Woking, England. Included would be its historic car collection. Uh-oh. Maybe the suggestion that McLaren is interested in signing Sergio Perez to drive for its IndyCar team isn’t so far-fetched. He could bring enough money to keep the team afloat. Meantime, as was the case with Williams, I suggest McLaren is for sale, as is at least one other F1 team.
Meantime, I don’t believe I have ever seen IndyCar points leader Scott Dixon flat out lose control of his car and spin, as happened during the early laps of the second race of the weekend at Mid-Ohio Sunday. “Total rookie mistake,” he said. He had top ten finishes both days but was never in a position to challenge for the lead, or the win. Dixon is 40 (see above). It’s the little things.
Both IndyCar races featured hard but clean (for the most part) racing. It was a pleasure during both races to watch Graham Rahal battle for position. NBC’s Paul Tracy was trying to get something going between Herta and Santinio Ferrucci but neither of those guys is a black hat. Tracy was truly the last “villain” IndyCar had and until somebody else with his charisma, skill, daring and chutzpah emerges, he’ll always wear that crown.
IndyCar is now off for two weeks till the series returns to Indianapolis for a double-header. F1 is off, too. Next race is in two weeks in Russia.
Jason Hathaway wins Pinty’s championship; D.J. Kennington caps 2020 with a victory
This report has been supplied by NASCAR.
Jason Hathaway (see photo, above) took care of business Saturday at Jukasa Speedway, and DJ Kennington returned to Victory Lane.
Hathaway won the Motomaster 125 and finished third in the Pinty’s 125 to claim the Pinty’s FanCave Challenge championship.
The special six races at three tracks over three weekends replaced the 2020 NASCAR Pinty’s Series championship season.
Hathaway, the 43-year-old from St. Thomas, a series veteran who had 11 previous wins before 2020, dominated the new format. Hathaway had three wins and five podium finishes. The only race he finished outside the top three was the opener when he was involved in a last-lap wreck battling for the win.
For Kennington, the final race of the format proved sweet as the two-time series champion won his first race since the 2018 season finale at Jukasa.
Hathaway started fifth in Saturday’s opener, the Motomaster 125, and battled for the lead multiple times with Kennington, Donald Theetge and Kevin Lacroix. But once the No. 3 Kubota/Choko/Kugel Bearings/Total Chevrolet retook control on lap 79, no one could catch him.
He finished 6.129 seconds in front of runner-up LaCroix.
L.P. Dumoulin matched his best finish at Jukasa of third, followed by Kennington and J.R. Fitzpatrick. Larry Jackson, Brett Taylor, Donald Theetge, Anthony Simone and Dexter Stacey rounded out the top 10.
Kennington started on the pole position for the Pinty’s 125. Lacroix, Hathaway and Kennington swapped the lead a total of 10 times.
Kennington’s No. 17 Castrol Edge/Wilride/CIM Metals Dodge retook the lead on lap 90 and finished 4.081 seconds ahead of Theetge.
Hathaway rounded out the podium, one spot better than Lacroix in fourth, to win the Pinty’s FanCave Challenge Champion by 14 points over Lacroix. Kennington finished third in the Challenge, four back of Lacroix.
Alex Tagliani was fifth in the Pinty’s 125, followed by Jason White, Jackson, Stacey, Dumoulin and Connor James.by 2.568
Thank you to NASCAR for the above file.
Brad Keselowski predicted earlier this week that he expected not only to win Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 playoff race at Richmond International Raceway but to dominate it.
He led 192 of the race’s 400 laps and finished first ahead of Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano. It was his fourth win of the season and 34th of his career. The victory guaranteed Keselowski will move on to the next round of the playoffs.
For a complete story, please click here
XFINITY AND GANDER TRUCKS
Justin Allgaier won both Xfinity races at Richmond on the weekend. Saturday afternoon, he led 135 of the 250 laps to beat his teammate, Jeb Burton, by a little more than two seconds. Ross Chastain was third. Friday night, Justin Haley was second and Kyle Buschfinished third. The trucks raced at Richmond Thursday night and Grant Enfinger was the winner, with Matt Crafton and Ben Rhodes second and third.
Toronto’s Devlin DeFrancesco had a weekend he’d like to forget at Mid-Ohio. Running in the USF2000 series as part of the Road to Indy, he had engine problems in the first race Saturday and then Sunday went off the track early and wasn’t able to recover to challenge for the podium. The reason he went off track is because the race was flagged off in a rainstorm and eventually had to be stopped. Then it was postponed till after the IndyCar race. Better luck next time out, Devlin. . . . . . Jo Lawrence won the APC Series race at Sunset Speedway at the weekend. He and Brandon Watson crashed across the finish line together. Pete Shepherd was third in the London Racing Recreational 100 Presented by Shell Rotella. I understand there were a lot of caution flags (see photo byDerek Smith, above). . . . . Visitors to Victory Lane at Merrittville Speedway: Rick’s Delivery Sportsman – James Friesen; 360 sprints – Aaron Turkey; Hoosier stocks – Dave Bailey; RONA/Doidge Building Centre mod lites – Jeffrey May; James’ Auto V6 – Jordan Fidler. . . . . The Nissan Micra Cup ran off two races at Quebec’s Circuit ICAR and Kevin King won the first while Jesse Lazare was first in the second. The series will wind up with a doubleheader in two weeks at Le Circuit-Mont Tremblant.
By Norris McDonald / Special to wheels.ca