Sunday, September 27, 2009

DJ Kennington wins 2009 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Finale at Kawartha Speedway

The 2009 season for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series wraps with 250 laps at Kawartha Speedway as fall destines the racing engines in Canada to go silent. While Andrew Ranger has already clinched the significant title as 2009 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion, the prestige in capturing the final trophy of the tour motivates the drivers one last time for the year. With the conclusion of the 2009 season, one driver is set to call it a career. Dave Whitlock took his final green flag following a long-stemming career of achievements including three championships in the CASCAR Super Series (the direct predecessor to the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series). Winning at St Eustache this year, Whitlock affirms that he leaves racing in his prime. Along with Canadian Tire Series regulars, two of Kevin Harvick Incorporated's development drivers participated in the event. Cale Gale and 2006 CASCAR champion JR Fitzpatrick joined the competition.

With a start planned for Saturday night (September 26), rain delayed the running of the Z-Line Designs 250 presented by The Dodge Dealers of Ontario and Coca-Cola (certainly a mouth full) to late Sunday morning. Taking the green at 11 am, the #60 Dodge of Ron Beauchamp Jr lead the field to the line. Rainy conditions of the night before and colder weather of the morning made the Kawartha Speedway surface particularly difficult to gain hold of for many drivers. This contributed to a lap 2 spin for Joey McColm which brought out the race's first caution. In a large number of one car incidents, the Z-Line Designs 250 was slowed a total 10 times by cautions as grip and the pursuit of the final race finish of 2009 caught a number of drivers.

By lap 10, Andrew Ranger's #27 Ford took the lead at Kawartha Speedway reminding competitors on the race track and fans in the grandstands why he is a two-time champion for the series. In front for 65 laps, Ron Beauchamp Jr used a well-timed restart to shoot by Ranger retaking the top position. 2008 series champion Scott Steckly would be the next driver to lead the event as he mastered lapped traffic to overperform Beauchamps' #60 in a all-Dodge battle.

During lap 140 pit stops, Steckly relinquished 1st to the encouraging rookie Steven Matthews took the lead by staying out on the track. Overcoming an earlier spin out, Matthews led for almost 20 laps with challenges coming from seasoned veteran Kerry Micks and Southern NASCAR standout Cale Gale. It was with Gale that Matthews' effort of a strong finish would end. Fighting for the coveted first place spot, Gale and Matthews collided with each other ruining their race. Barrie winner Don Thomson Jr gained the lead of Kawartha just briefly as the #02 of Kerry Micks drove pass Thomson's #4 Chevy. The #17 Dodge of DJ Kennington followed Micks and would make the race winning move past on lap 185.

Rain returned after the 200 lap mark and NASCAR decided to call the race official at lap 203 declaring DJ Kennington the winner. Adding a second 'W' this season, Kennington and the #17 Castrol/Mahindra Dodge took the season opening and closing rounds of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series season for 2009. Kerry Micks, Don Thomson Jr, Scott Steckly, and Ron Beauchamp Jr. follows the #17 car in that order in final results.

For his final scheduled race in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Dave Whitlock comes home eighth place.

Jimmie Johnson to lead AAA 400 at Dover to green

During Friday qualifying, the #48 Lowes Chevrolet piloted by Jimmie Johnson posted top spot for the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway. Focused on the big picture of four straight NASCAR Sprint Cup championships, Jimmie Johnson returns to the location of his second ever Sprint Cup win ready to launch for the point lead occupied by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin.

Starting alongside Johnson is the hungry Juan Pablo Montoya and the #42 Chevrolet. Ryan Newman set third fastest time placing a trio of Chevrolets in the first three positions for the green flag on Sunday. Rough Fenway driver Greg Biffle qualified fourth anxious to repeat last year's finish in victory lane.

Driving the top qualifying Toyota, David Reutimann can be claim the honour of being the AAA 400's highest starting non-chase driver.

Kasey Kahne posted a fast time during final practice on Saturday and appears ready to vanish the misadventures of the #9 Richard Petty Motorsports team at last week's opening round of New Hampshire for the 2009 Chase for the Cup. Completing the complexion of the top 10 for the AAA 400 at Dover are Jeff Gordon, Saturday's Nationwide race winner Clint Bowyer, Sam Hornish Jr., and Paul Menard.

Many of the remaining Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders ran times within the upper half of the AAA 400's starting lineup. The #99 Ford of Carl Edwards starts in the basement of the grid with final practice failing to dramatically change the outlook. Based on the final practice, keep an eye on Juan Montoya, Joey Lagono, and Mark Martin as strong prospects for top finishes this afternoon alongside Kahne. Johnson was also fast in that session so prepare for another sleep-inducing path of dominance at the NASCAR Sprint Cup race of Dover.

AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway Starting Lineup

1. Jimmie Johnson- #48 Chevrolet (C)
2. Juan Pablo Montoya- #42 Chevrolet (C)
3. Ryan Newman- #39 Chevrolet (C)
4. Greg Biffle- #16 Ford (C)
5. David Reutimann- #00 Toyota (C)
6. Kasey Kahne- #9 Dodge (C)
7. Jeff Gordon- #24 Chevrolet (C)
8. Clint Bowyer- #33 Chevrolet
9. Sam Hornish Jr.- #77 Dodge
10. Paul Menard- #98 Ford

12. Brian Vickers- #83 Toyota (C)
13. Denny Hamlin- #11 Toyota (C)
14. Mark Martin- #5 Chevrolet (C)
15. Kyle Busch- #18 Toyota
16. Kurt Busch- #2 Dodge (C)
22. Tony Stewart- #14 Chevrolet (C)
24. Dale Earnhardt Jr.- #88 Chevrolet
30. Carl Edwards- #99 Ford (C)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rain soaks the 2009 Petit Le Mans race; Peugeot takes victory

At 4:09PM, the red flag dropped on the American Le Mans Series crucial Petit Le Mans round. While the American Le Mans Series vehicles are equipped to run in rainfall, the rate of the precipitation on the 2.54 mile road course made racing too unsafe for the various sport car classes. As several cars lost traction even under a yellow flag pace, the call was well-warranted but nonetheless disappointing. At 8:00pm, IMSA and the American Le Mans Series announced that the standings at the moment of the race stoppage were the final standings for the 2009 Petit Le Mans.

Taking their first win on American Le Mans Series schedule, the #08 diesel-powered Peugeot 908 piloted by Franck Montagny and Stephane Sarrazin took victory over their #07 team car driven by a Lamy/Capello duo. Before the rain fell, the Audi R15 had the perfect chance to capture what could have been their 9th victory during the Road Atlanta. In the last race stint Allan McNish had the lead until the wet track caused the Audi R15 and its driver to become unsettled. The Audi R15 received a third place finish. Both Audi Sport and Peugeot are wrapping up their 2009 American Le Mans Series season after competing in only two races.

Another 1-2 team finish at the Petit Le Mans occurred inside the P2 class as the Mazda B09/86 fielded by Dyson Racing. The Chris Dyson/Guy Smith #16 appeared in the top position while the #20 car, who started on the P2 class pole, came second for the category.

With the diverse class of GT2 in the American Le Mans Series, Risi Competizione can take enormous pride keeping their Ferrari F430 GT ahead as the downpour soaked the Road Atlanta circuit. The grouping of Jaime Melo, Pierre Kaffer and Mika Salo celebrates for a second straight year on the top spot of the Podium with the red #62 car. Rahal Letterman Racing trio of Dirk Müller, Jörg Müller, and Andy Priaulx settled with second place in their BMW M3. Rounding out the top five in GT2 were the #87 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR campaigned by Farnbacher Loles Racing, the #4 Chevrolet Corvette C6R, and another Porsche 911 GT3 RSR from Flying Lizards.

With only 4 of the race's 10 hour timed distance ran on the track, the force of mother nature has proven stronger than the forces of race-prepped engines. The hindered running of the Petit Le Mans of Road Atlanta is minor disturbance caused for what has been an disastrous ongoing weather event which the citizens of Georgia state are enduring. With record of more than 5 inches rainfall damaging and destroying property, the Petit Le Mans feels a little less smaller in 2009.

Clint Bowyer wins Nationwide Dover 200 race

Piloting the #29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, Clint Bowyer won the NASCAR Nationwide series Dover 200 on Saturday afternoon. In the past, the one-mile Dover International Speedway was known to be a true test of green NASCAR Nationwide series drivers with some rising to fame and others struggled. In order to infuse the RCR operation with some positive race efforts, the team decided to put Clint Bowyer in to replace part-time Nationwide native Stephen Leicht slated earlier to run.

The Dover 200 started under threats of rain leading drivers and teams planning to focus on finishing closer to the halfway mark of the 200-lap Dover event(at lap 101 NASCAR would are recorded as official). Perhaps provoked by the upcoming weather system, the early stage of the race went by quickly as not even a single caution slowed the field. Lapping up to 14th place before a series of green flag pit stops would commence, Busch's #18 NOS Energy Toyota dominated Dover from the pole. For the caution-free stint, Kyle Busch set a lightning fast pace succeeding to gain a near 4 second lead over than second place Carl Edwards.

During the first service period, Dover International Speedway's reputation for being one of the most difficult pit roads entrances NASCAR was reinforced by some driver errors. Brad Keselowski first attempt to enter pit road had to be aborted costing him time on the track. By the time he pitted, Keselowski overran pit road speed in the #88 Chevrolet through four timed sectors causing NASCAR to assess a drive-through penalty. Adding to the eventful pit sequence, Penske Racing's #12 Dodge of rookie Justin Allgaier stalled on pit road. It took six laps and a major effort by the Penske Racing team to get Allgaier back into the race.

As the race was slowed by caution after halfway, remaining lead lap cars were finally brought closer to Kyle Busch. Clint Bowyer gained the top spot at lap 118 from the #18 Toyota and would never give up the spot. At lap 190, Brad Keselowski added to his eventful 200 lap race when he made contact with Denny Hamlin through the #88's surge back from the pit stop ordeal.

Clint Bowyer's win became his second Nationwide win at Dover. Facing a career as the ultimate underdog in Nationwide competition in 2009, Mike Bliss secured a hard fought 2nd place finish in the #11 Toyota. Bliss, who had won a Nationwide race at Lowes Motor Speedway earlier this year for James Finch, is proving himself again in NASCAR Nationwide. In third place, despite all the setbacks, Keselowski finished strong. Coupled with the race problems, the JR Motorsports team was without Tony Eury Sr who was involved in a car accident a little less than two weeks ago. Son and Earnhardt Jr's former Cup crew Chief Tony Eury Jr filled in the duties for the #88 Chevrolet. On related news, the senior Eury suffered minor injuries but was mentioned to be "resting comfortably" by

Next race for the NASCAR Nationwide series is next Saturday at Kansas Speedway.

Petit Le Mans Running this weekend

Seemingly arriving earlier every year, the American Le Mans Series is running their crown race at Road Atlanta called the Petit Le Mans. Close to the American Le Mans Series founder Don Panoz's hometown of Atlanta, the Petit Le Mans competitors have been tempted by the additional incentive since the races inception through a guaranteed spot at the next 24-hour Le Mans race in France.

With the flag having dropped at 11 am Saturday morning, this race runs 1,000 miles or 10 hours (whichever marker comes first). Remembering the race having been initially run during the second week of October, the first time of the race being run on September 26 would likely have caught a lot of sports car fans off guard. While running earlier this year, the 2009 Petit Le Mans is racing around a misfortunate scene caused by widespread flooding in the state of Georgia which has been estimated to cause up to $500 million dollars in damage. Nonetheless, as the American Le Mans Series most significant event on the schedule, the 2009 Petit Le Mans started under cloudy, ominous conditions.

Having taken the overall win in a thrilling 2008 Petit Le Mans race, Audi Sport held off a strong Peugeot as well as a LMP2 Penske Porsche with the now obsolete R10 prototype. This is only one of two occasions to see the radical Audi R15 prototype racer in North American sports car competition following the earlier season win at the Sebring 12-hour event. However, as the flag fell today on the Petit Le Mans 2009, French automaker Peugeot took the pole with one of their 24-hour of Le Mans winning 908 closed cockpit sports cars. Having previously taken pole in 2008, the Peugeot 908 competes as a stronger car manned with a more experienced, seasoned team of crew members and drivers.

In the P2 class consisting of slightly detuned prototype racers, the Porsche RS Skyder returns with Team Cytosport, not with Penske Racing. Lowes Fernandez Acura and the pair of Dyson Mazdas are going to be firm challengers for the 2009 P2 win.

In GT2, the league of Porsches will attempt to take their 9th category win in 11 previous Petit Le Mans races. Defending their 2008 GT2 win will be the #62 Rizi Competizione Ferrari F430 GT racer with Mika Salo rejoined Rizi's Jaime Melo and Pierre Kaffer. Worth honourable mentioning is Rahal/Letterman Racing's BMW as well as the pair of C6R prepped by Corvette Racing.

As of the 4 hour mark, the Peugeot 908 prototypes hold both first and second overall with the #2 Audi R15 on the lead lap in hot pursuit. The Dyson Mazdas handily holds onto P2 top positions with fellow P2 competitors struggling around the wet Road Atlanta circuit. GT2 is being led again by the Ferrari F430 GT fielded by Rizi Comptizione by a full lap over a heat consisting of two Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, a BMW M3, and a Chevrolet Corvette C6R.

As 4:09PM, the Petit Le Mans has been red flagged due to continuing harsh rainfall. Putting a damper on the race, this precipitation is likely to rage hard on the already disaster-struck areas in the United States. More than an hour later, racing activities for the American Le Mans Series are still halted by the rain adding to record-setting levels.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mark Martin Wins Sylvania 300 to Kick Off 2009 Chase for the Cup

For this 5th win of the year, Mark Martin took his #5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to victory lane for the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Speedway.

Dominated in the early going by #42 Target Chevrolet of Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Stewart's #14 Chevrolet, Stewart fell from contention due to repairs on an axle cap found to be loose midway through the event ultimately resulting in a 14th place finish. Also strong in the New Hampshire Sprint Cup event for much of the race was Dale Earnhardt Jr driving his #88 Chevrolet through an unlucky 2009 season. His misfortune continues to reign as David Reutimann #00 Toyota's overreaction to Denny Hamlin's half-hazardous braking sent the #00 up to the #88 resulting on Earnhardt losing his car slamming the wall hard on lap 283. Earnhardt finished 35th on the day expressing displeasure in Reutimann explaining that "he ran out of talent".

Using some late race strategy and taking advantage of a debris caution in the final stages of the New Hampshire event, Mark Martin was in first place position for a restart after a caution for AJ Allendinger bracing for a double file race to the checkered flag with 3 laps to go. Holding off a vibrant effort from polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya and the #11 Toyota of Denny Hamlin, Martin broke into sole position of the lead to win as caution fell in the final few hundred feet of the race.

By winning the first race inside the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Mark Martin takes the point lead by 35 points over Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson.

Andrew Ranger is 2009 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Champion

For the second time in his three season career in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Roxton Pond, Quebec's Andrew Ranger is named the tour's points champion by winning the Komatsu 300 at Riverside International Speedway. Him and his #27 Walmart Ford Fusion took the lead from Jeff Lapcevich at lap 252 cruising to the checkered flag. Taking maximum points with the top position, Ranger clinches the 2009 crown as one race remains to be run at Kawartha Speedway on September 26th.

Andrew Ranger had previously taken the 2007 championship in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series through a title chase based largely on consistent top 5 race finishes. For 2009, benefiting from a gaining knowledge base around stock car racing as well as some very fast #27 Ford Fusions prepared by crew chief Billy Burns has given Ranger, has allowed him to win the championship with flat-out dominance. With 6 wins on the season, balanced with 3 each on ovals and road courses, Andrew Ranger has also finished in the top 10 in every event for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series for the year.

A possible window into Andrew Ranger's future, as well as gaining recognition in the Canadian series, some year has also been highlighted by a 3rd place finish in the Nascar Nationwide series in the NAPA Auto Parts 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Long time Renault F1 resigns amid Race Fixing charges by FIA

In a team statement, ING Renault F1 formally announced that the team's principal Flavio Briatore has resigned from the team he had long been associated with running in Formula 1 after an allegation of fixing the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. It has been implied that the ING Renault F1 team instructed driver Nelson Piquet Jr to spin out in order to draw a safety car condition to aid teammate Fernando Alonso in winning the race. With ING Renault F1's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds also parting with the team, him and Briatore are cited as the two who masterminded the incident against Formula 1 and the FIA's strict rules forbidding team orders in effecting the outcome of races.

This event was brought to the forefront September 4th, very shortly following ING Renault F1 driver Nelson Piquet Jr. release from the team after the Belgium Grand Prix. The timing has led some to consider Piquet Jr. whistle blowing to the FIA was spiteful for his parting with the team. In a statement posted on the 11th of September on the ING Renault F1 website, it was alleged that the race fixing scenario could have been created by Piquet as a malicious attempt to defraud his former team. Showing signs of becoming personal, this announcement also expressed that ING Renault F1 and Briatore himself would seek advice on filing criminal charges against Nelson Piquet Jr as well as his father.

A hearing is planned for Monday September 21th in front of the FIA World Motor Sport Council which will certainly be far from forgiving if Briatore and ING Renault F1 are found to be involved in giving team orders. Rules against team orders inside the FIA were created in 1998 after McLaren-Mercedes made a clearly orchestrated swap for the lead.

Known trivially as the biological father of Heidi Klum's first child, Flavio Briatore contributions to Formula 1 racing was as the team director for Benetton (the company which would eventually morph into ING Renault F1) and the fostering of modern F1 legend Michael Schumacher. After leaving Benetton in 1997, Briatore rejoined the factory-supported Benetton-turned Renault F1 team in 2000 and would play an important part in Fernando Alonso's two championships.

Scott Dixon takes 2009 Indy Japan 300 win! Championship lead tighens

Across the Pacific Ocean, the IRL Indy Car series unleash their Honda engines at the auto manufacturer's 1.5 mile Twin-Ring Motegi oval. Scott Dixon started on the pole with Mario Moraes starting alongside on the front row.

On the upstart, the Twin Ring Motegi race's tone was dominated 2009 was set of Target Chip Ganassi Racing cars. Target #9 and LifeLock #10 cars driven by teammates Dixon and Franchitti led the lions share of race's 200 laps. without a serious challenge within the event with exception to pit stops. On the second round of green flag pit service Ryan Briscoe used showed some Team Penske fuel economy as he skated around the Motegi oval leading several laps.

Going past halfway without a single caution, the complexion the race was broken by a single car spin out-crash by Mike Conway on lap 106. The resulting caution was opportune to Penske Racing's Ryan Briscoe as he had just been coming into the pits for service. Taking advantage of the wide green flag interval to the second place car and the slowdown of the field under caution Briscoe appeared to have a chance to clinch the 2009 IRL Indy Car championship in Japan. Indeed an important moment for the championship, Ryan Briscoe's pit stop would be marred by a driver mistake when acceleration from the pit caused the tires to spin. The loss of traction sent Briscoe into the inner pit wall (fortunately being near the end of pit road meant no crews were in serious danger) and he struck a warning cone which would become wedged within the #6 Penske racer for several laps around the circuit. In a necessary but tim consuming repair to the front suspension, Briscoe returned 11 laps and allowed Dixon and Franchitti to bolt ahead of him in the championship points.

The second of two cautions was another single car crash of Ryan Hunter-Reay the AJ Foyt Racing #14 car after making a pit stop a few laps prior. The deciding factor for the race was superior pit stops performed by the #9 Chip Ganassi Racing pit crew. On the final pit stop as both Target Chip Ganassi cars addressed their crews for service, the #9 team kept Dixon ahead of his teammate Franchitti for victory in the Indy Japan 300. His 5th win of the 2009 Indy Car racing season, Scott Dixon also assumes a slight 5 point lead over Dario Franchitti. Behind the duo of Target Chip Ganassi, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing celebrated with Graham Rahal's 3rd place result tying a season best at Richmond International Raceway in June and a 4th by Oriol Servia. Mario Moraes, Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti, Dan Wheldon, Raphael Matos, and Helio Castroneves wraps up the top 10.

Ryan Briscoe, who finished 15 laps down in 18th place, saw his 25 point led evaporate to an 8 point deficit.

With a three-way battle for the championship, the 2009 Indy Car series will be decided at the Homestead-Miami Speedway where Scott Dixon won the 2008 event in what was than the season opener. However, the 2009 race has to take into account the return of Dario Franchitti and the vastly improved game of Ryan Briscoe. The Firestone Indy 300 will run in October 10th.

Graham Rahal

Friday, September 18, 2009

Juan Pablo Montoya on Pole for NASCAR's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire

During Friday afternoon qualifying, Juan Pablo Montoya continues to deliver some impressive performances in the #42 Target Chevrolet Impala by grabbing the pole for Sunday's Sylvania 300. Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch start 2nd and 3rd after setting identical times (Stewart received the second spot on being the first driver to set the time). With Richmond winner Denny Hamlin set to roll off 4th and Carl Edwards starting 5th, the top 5 are all Sprint Cup Chase contending drivers. An inspired run by David Stremme places the #12 Penske Dodge 6th as he was job searching for 2010. Rounding out the top 10 is Montoya's teammate Martin Truex Jr, Bobby Labonte in the #71 TRG Chevy, Kyle Busch, and Jeff Gordon.

Qualifying Results for NASCAR Sprint Cup Sylvania 300
at New Hampshire

1. Juan Pablo Montoya (C)- #42 Chevrolet
2. Tony Stewart (C)- #14 Chevrolet
3. Kurt Busch (C)- #2 Dodge
4. Denny Hamlin (C)- #11 Toyota
5. Carl Edwards (C)- #99 Ford
6. David Stremme - #12 Dodge
7. Martin Truex Jr. - #1 Chevrolet
8. Bobby Labonte - #71 Chevrolet
9. Kyle Busch - #18 Toyota
10. Jeff Gordon (C)- #24 Chevrolet

Other notables

11. Kasey Kahne (C)- #9 Dodge
14. Mark Martin (C)- #5 Chevrolet
16. Jimmie Johnson (C)- #48 Chevrolet
18. Ryan Newman (C)- #39 Chevrolet
22. Greg Biffle (C)- #16 Ford
23. Dale Earnhardt Jr.- #88 Chevrolet
26. Brian Vickers (C)- #83 Toyota
38. Matt Kenseth (C)- #17 Ford

Mark Martin with Hendrick through 2011

Through an announcement that website and Internet infrastructure company was extending their contract with Hendrick Motorsports #5 Chevrolet, a subtle hint was passed on the driver lineup for 2011 post-Brad Keselowski. For the second time in his career with Hendrick Motorsports, 50 year old Mark Martin is committing to the elongation of his glorious Cup series run. Based on the 4 wins this season and a Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship birth, it is quite understandable to see Mark Martin agree to stay with the #5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team. What doesn't make sense is why did anyone expect Mark Martin to retire?

Initially planned a to step away from the Cup series in 2005 with his "Salute To You" tour, he has yet to make use of a rocking chair the Fox on NASCAR team had given Martin (In fact, Darrell Waltrip once inquired whether Martin should return to chair). Probably one of the fittest and most respected drivers on the NASCAR Circuit, Mark Martin couldn't apparently handle the part-time Sprint Cup schedule of two prior seasons as he jumped at the opportunity to drive for the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports organization. Intended to run the full 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season from the onset, Martin had 26 races for 2010 where the likelihood would have saw Brad Keselowski take over the #5 Chevrolet Impala. After some stumbles in the first races of 2009, Mark Martin returned to winning ways early at Phoenix. Convincing Mark Martin to commit to run a full season in 2010 also as three other wins followed, Hendrick Motorsports no vacancy sign led Brad Keselowski to Penske Racing leaving a full time replacement for 2011 difficult to locate for such a competitive team. Mark Martin staying with Hendrick through 2011 assures a solid foundation for the next two Sprint Cup seasons.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

NASCAR Canada driver Anthony Simone in the groove with Stock Cars

Bradford, Ontario's Anthony Simone is a Canadian auto racing talent who has endured some career setbacks to become one of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series' brightest stars of 2009. A stark contrast to his 2008 rookie season which observed Simone and his #95 Crown Modular/United Lumber Chevrolet appear like a fish out of water, the auto racing idiom of 'losing some in order to win some' appears to have translated the 30 year old racer. "There are 2 major ingredients we found this year." Simone relies. "The first one is the hiring of Giulio Montanari as car chief. With him on board and working together with my crew chief Thatcher Krupp the cars are much better prepared from the shop going to the race tracks. The second is the reliability of the new NASCAR spec motor. Those two things have helped our program tremendously."

As like many aspiring Canadian racers through the 1990s, Simone's auto racing background applies heavily to open wheel racing. As a teenager, Anthony Simone made a sensation in competitive karting as he locked up a provincial Ontario championship as well as Junior title in the World Karting Association in two years. Following those honours with an engagement in Formula 1600 with AIM Motorsports, Simone's driving accomplishments attracted the notoriety for a Toyota Atlantic test session with the well-associated open wheel team PPI Motorsports. Anthony Simone would once again snatch a championship title in the highly-prestigious Skip Barber National Championship, a series instrumental in the success of other young racing talents such as AJ Allmendinger and Marco Andretti. Winning a record 6 races in that season, Anthony Simone looked destined for the top-level open wheel spotlight. Instead of Indy Car ambitions, Simone returned to Canada and would reemerge as a stock car driver.

"I decided to make the jump when I was approaching companies for sponsorship in the open wheeled series, and most of them were interested in getting involved if it had of been a fendered car." Anthony Simone responds to the reason for his current ride in the #95 Chevrolet. He adds "Your asking for a lot less money and more exposure being an all Canadian series where the open wheel stuff in primarily in the U.S".

Sitting 5th in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series standing for 2009, Anthony Simone lists his two second-place finishes at Trois Riviere and Mosport as his two greatest achievements to date. As Anthony Simone comes into the Barrie Speedway's Torbram Electric 300 presented by The Source, he's content that he can reverse disappointing 2008 Barrie Speedway results. Despite a test session conducted by him and his #95 Crown Modular/United Lumber team the week prior, Anthony Simone's end result did not improve greatly on the 2008 races. Though starting on the pole and leading during the early going of the what he considers his home race track, Simone was spun out in one incident and suffered a flat tire causing a multi-car accident when he attempted to access pit lane.

However, while Barrie Speedway did not provide the ideal circumstances for a final three-race run to the end of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series in 2009, Simone remains confident for his team saying “We would really like to win one of the last three races. We are still points racing, But we are going to try really hard to win one.”

Next for NASCAR Canadian Tire Series: Torbram Electric 300 at Barrie Speedway

How the 2009 Chase for the Cup could shape

Saturday night's Chevy Rock and Roll 400 of the 2009 Sprint Cup series once again becomes the stage for what has been 25 races of hard work for competitors and teams. Besides dicing around the ultra-competitive 3/4 miles Richmond International Raceway, 14 drivers are fighting for the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship will finally be set at the end of the night for an 10 race run between 12 Sprint Cup drivers.

I thought it would be entertaining to compute a possible prediction to the how the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship may shape. Since drivers 1st through 4th (Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Denny Hamlin) are locked into the championship, the drivers on the so-called bubble remains undecided at the green flag tonight's (September 12) Chevy Rock and Roll 400. What I have compiled is a statistical calculation of two scenarios that may shape positions 5th to 14th place going into the Chase for the Cup. The first involves a comparison and averaging of the past 3 Richmond races and the other uses average finishes through the past 3 races in 2009. Neither of the averages account for points leading a lap or the most laps.

Kyle Busch

Current position in Cup points: 14th (3,040)
Average 3 Finishes at Richmond: 1.33
Average Last 3 Races: 12.33

Brian Vickers

Current position in Cup points: 13th (3,057)
Average 3 Finishes at Richmond: 26.3
Average Last 3 Races: 6.67

Matt Kenseth

Current position in Cup points: 12th (3,077)
Average 3 Finishes at Richmond: 30
Average Last 3 Races: 13

Greg Biffle

Current position in Cup points: 11th (3,125)
Average 3 Finishes at Richmond: 15
Average Last 3 Races: 11.33

Mark Martin

Current position in Cup points: 10th (3,126)
Average 3 Finishes at Richmond: 4.33
Average Last 3 Races: 12.67

Ryan Newman

Current position in Cup points: 9th (3,138)
Average 3 Finishes at Richmond: 14.33
Average Last 3 Races: 10

Juan Montoya

Current position in Cup points: 8th (3,145)
Average 3 Finishes at Richmond: 24
Average Last 3 Races: 15.67

Kurt Busch

Current position in Cup points: 7th (3,152)
Average 3 Finishes at Richmond: 21.33
Average Last 3 Races: 27

Kasey Kahne

Current position in Cup points: 6th (3,153)
Average 3 Finishes at Richmond: 19.33
Average Last 3 Races: 13.33

Carl Edwards

Current position in Cup points: 5th (3,162)
Average 3 Finishes at Richmond: 15.33
Average Last 3 Races: 19

Points 5-14 According to Past 3 Richmond Finishes

5. Mark Martin 3259
6. Carl Edwards 3280
t7. Ryan Newman 3259
t7. Kasey Kahne 3259
9. Kurt Busch 3252
10. Greg Biffle 3243
11. Juan Pablo Montoya 3236
12. Kyle Busch 3225
13. Matt Kenseth 3150
14. Brian Vickers 3142

Points 5-14 According to Past 3 Races

5. Kasey Kahne 3277
6. Ryan Newman 3272
7. Carl Edwards 3268
8. Juan Pablo Montoya 3260
9. Greg Biffle 3255
10 Martin Martin 3250
11. Kurt Busch 3234
12. Matt Kenseth 3204
13. Brian Vickers 3203
14. Kyle Busch 3167

With this being a statistical calculation, one thing NASCAR racing teaches us is that the race takes place for a reason. Likely to foil these numbers Brian Vickers, Kurt Busch, and Juan Pablo Montoya have put together much better 2009 Sprint Cup season runs overall than compared to 2008. Also, Kyle Busch (a driver never needing motivation to win) will be inspired to break into the Chase after leading the race into the championship last year.

The broadcast for the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 is set for 7PM Eastern with the green expected to drop at 7:30PM tonight.

The Rain Tire Debate: Post Montreal

Last week, I was watching the NASCAR Nationwide qualifying show on Speed and they were offering a moment to reminisce about the NAPA Auto Parts 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. It was either Larry McReynolds or Jeff Hammond (Forgive me if my memory hasn't remained sharp to recall for certain after a week but I'm about 80% sure it was Jeff Hammond) provided some personal commentary about the Nationwide cars racing in the rain during the final laps of the August 30th race. During the telecast, one of the legendary crew chiefs turned TV analyst expressed their disgust with NASCAR not calling the race once the track got wet and said the racing in the rain would never work in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. Respecting their opinions, as a fan I could sure argue against a decision to end an event when the technology exists to run the race to its true conclusion. Besides, by the way the ended with Carl Edwards (a driver from a short oval track background) claiming victory over the race's dominator Marcus Ambrose on the final corner of the final raced lap would have never been possible without the brilliant work of Goodyear and NASCAR's Nationwide series directors. It's a shame that NASCAR's Sprint Cup series hasn't considered the proposition of being able to provide a competitive and entertaining spectacle to the fans.

He continued to cite the wild road course frenzy to the conditions created by the rain and the belief that the cars were so uncontrollable to that these drivers were unable to race cleanly. Really? I've watched a multitude of road race in NASCAR in perfectly dry, sunny climate and drivers still manage to find ways of playing bumper tag in the final laps. In fact, all but 2 of the 2009 NAPA Auto Parts 200 race's 11 cautions flew under dry track conditions. Please, don't underestimate the greediness of a race car driver at the race's end. The 2009 field was packed with talent drivers. Road race pros wanting to win on their own turf, Nationwide series regulars wanting to secure high points paying positions, and Cup series regular doing likewise but also seeking to fill their trophy cases with another conquest.

While this is my opinion, I understand that NASCAR crew chiefs has never been too accepting of road course racing in the first place. Many Sprint Cup crew chiefs would prefer if the two races at Infineon and Waltkins Glen could be stricken from the schedule. Being more dependent on driver's road racing skill, a crew chief needs to look at the car and race much differently then their accustomed ovals. It might be easy to assume that many groups in NASCAR tend not to react well to change. But then again, NASCAR has certainly been doing so many things right in the past 61 years that some are probably afraid that little changes can ruin the formula. The COT car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series might be a key item supporting this viewpoint. However, there have also been cases where changes to the racing has proven to stimulate the sport (ie. the lapped car free pass).

Making up for lost time

Dear avid readers of XSL Speed Reporter:

Please accept my apparent absence from my web page. Allow me to affirm my commitment to providing a up to date news source for assorted forms of auto racing. Recently, however, I've been pondering the direction I should take for whether I should continue to include updates of major racing series or focus on editorials and driver interviews. This thought occurred shortly after I wrote a rather elongated wrap of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series race at Watkins Glen. My decision is still open but I'll make an honest attempt to be a little more concise if I continue with race summaries.

Aside from that, I hope you are enjoying the content so far after a little more than two months operating this blog.

Thank you and I have a lot planned for the very near future.