Saturday, October 31, 2009

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Kyle Busch does it at 'dega

Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

Talladega Superspeedway has been the subject of urban legends claiming NASCAR's fastest race track was built on an ancient Native American grounds. With stories of the Talladega Jinx, what better place to run a Halloween day NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.

With the Mountain Dew 250 start delayed by about 40 minutes for the track drying crews working out the moisture of the 2.66 mile Talladega Superspeedway surface, Roush-Fenway Ford truck driver Colin Braun led the field to green. As typical for Talladaga races, drifting and the contract jockeying for position played a part in every driver's day. While the lead swapped hands through on track passes and pit stops, Colin Braun held the top spot for much event's early stages until a four-tire stop on lap 43 shuffled him into the field.

The big wreck for the Camping World Truck Series occurred just 4 laps from the race's conclusion. The field had positioned themselves in two trains of trucks running side-by-side with the inner lane of trucks seeming to hold an upper hand over the outer lane. With little room to escape, the incident resulting in the damage of approximately 9 trucks took some big names out of the hunt for victory late. Mike Skinner's #5 Toyota Tundra drifted out of the draft briefly out of turn two allowing the #13 of Johnny Sauter to gain a run. Mike Skinner attempted to remerge with the outside pack of trucks but misjudged the positioning of Sauter's Chevrolet. Skinner clipped the front of Sauter (whose #13 truck escaped relatively unscathed) sending the #5 down into the #14 Ford of Rick Crawford. The impact led to a chain reaction that went on to collect Brian Scott, Max Papis, Ricky Carmichael, and recent Martinsville winner Timothy Peters. Most significant, Ron Hornaday Jr's #33 Chevrolet sustained heavy damage just barely able to limp the Copart-sponsored truck around. Hornaday finished 17th on the day.

Distant but second place points rival Matt Crafton also had an eventful day. The #88 Tide Chevrolet of Crafton needed to make an unscheduled green flag pit stop when his right rear tire went flat. In spite of completing alomst half a lap on the flat rubber, Matt Crafton skillfully crept the truck around to pit road without any further damage. Crafton successfully fought back onto the lead lap to finish 10th on the day.

As expected, the fight to win the Mountain Dew 250 at Talladega was a battle itself worth the price of admission. Todd Bodine led on the final lap until Kyle Busch's #51 and Aric Almirola's #15 (both owned by Billy Ballew) hooked up. Almirola pushed Busch into 1st place crossing the lane 1-2. Netting his 6th victory lane visit in 12 starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for 2009, Kyle Busch and his #51 Toyota took the Mountain Dew 250 at Talladega.

While the Busch's name on the trophy is becoming a regular deal, the circumstances for this latest win was based on the work of the 2nd place finisher Almirola. Grateful for his teammate's actions, Kyle Busch thanked him in his victory lane interview saying "I owe everything to Aric Almirola today". While Busch kidded that Aric should receive half of his paycheck (Busch isn't paid to run the Billy Ballew) Almirola deserves to have some honour for some teamwork. Losing his Cup series ride with Earnhardt/Ganassi Racing due to lack of sponsorship, the truck series is revitalizing the young driver's career.

Aric Almirola wasn't the only stand out in the race around the 2.66 mile superspeedway. Terry Cook and David Starr rounded out the top five behind Todd Bodine while 6th place held one of the hardest fighting trucks in the field driven by Mario Gosselin. The French-Canadian Gosselin rose from a 20th starting spot with the new sponsorship of on the hood. While the 14 position climb is impressive, the #53 of Justin Hobgood improved 21 spots to finish the Mountain Dew 250 9th.

Dodge Challenger going to NASCAR

With Dodge's involvement in NASCAR remains in question as the Chrysler group continues to restructure their company under a Fiat partnership, a recent announcement for the upcoming NASCAR Nationwide Series could bring a sigh of relief to Mopar fans. On Friday, October 30th Dodge and Penske Racing unveiled that the Dodge Challenger in a ceremony at Talladega attended by current NASCAR Nationwide rookie contender Justin Allgaier. For the 2010 Nationwide season, the Challenger bodied car will run in the 4 races which will acquaint teams with the new spec stock car slated for competition starting at the July race at Daytona. “Dodge is the performance brand of Chrysler LLC and the Challenger is the production vehicle that went out to market in 2009. We see this as the perfect opportunity to come in and launch into this (Nationwide) series the look of the car and get that connection back with the fans of this high-horsepower performance car. We’re real happy about the Nationwide Challenger’s design and characteristics and can’t wait for it to hit the track.” says senior manager of Dodge Motorsports Engineering Howard Comstock answering the reason for bringing the Challenger to the Nationwide series.

As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Car of Tomorrow was in development, it was widely rumoured that Dodge was going to rebrand their Dodge Charger entry under the guise of the two-door Challenger. Instead, Dodge Motorsports decided to campaign 10 races in 2007 with COT cars wearing the Avenger name. As the COT Sprint Cup car went full-time in 2008, Dodge ended the Avenger's short-lived affiliation with the upper

Reaffirming their commitment to NASCAR with the activation of the Dodge Challenger in the NASCAR Nationwide series, Dodge Motorsports goes on the comment “Our management has told us that we’re committed to racing in NASCAR and this is part of that commitment. It is a big commitment to build a new car for the Nationwide Series and we’re excited to expand our relationship with Penske Racing next year and beyond”.

Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR

10 Years Later: The Memory of Greg Moore

A somber anniversary is marked today on October 31st of 2009 as 10 years ago a great Canadian auto racing talent was lost to a terrible crash.

At only 24 years old, Greg Moore's life came to an end at California Speedway during the Marlboro 500 mile race as his #99 Players Reynard/Mercedes-Benz slid sideways out of turn 2, shouting into the infield retaining wall at a speed as fast as 217 miles per hour. The impact was horrifically violent as the race car was shredded to in two between the cockpit and the engine compartment. As Moore's cockpit continued to be thrown through high-speeds, hope that the young driver would walk away dimmed. Suffering fatal head injuries Greg Moore, son of Ric and Donna, was mourned by family, competitors, as well as fans on that day of October 31th 1999 as well as for many days following (In the case of the other drivers competing in this final CART series race of the 1999 season, they were delivered with the news after the full race distance was completed). Heads dropped in a press conference as podium finishers Christian Fittipaldi, Max Papis, and Adrian Fernandez sat having just received the tragic news.

The final decade of the 20th century was a glorious era for Canadian open wheel racing and Greg Moore was a bright young star. Like many pure Canadian boys, the young Greg Moore had originally conceived notions of playing goalie in the NHL (National Hockey League). Romanced to auto racing, Greg's father Ric Moore provided his son with the first step to professional greatness. At 10 years old in 1985, Greg Moore's racing career began in competitive karting with #99 (a number which was actually not a direct salute to Wayne Gretzky but merely given to Greg since he was the 99th member of the karting club). After several years of on-track lessons, a confident Moore took North American Enduro Kart Racing Championships in 1989 and 1990. Migrating into Formula Ford 1600 for one season, Greg Moore stepped into USAC Formula 2000 in 1992 winning rookie of the year as well as the West series championship. Talented in his climb by the professional motorsport ladder, Greg's father put together a Firestone Indy Lights team placing him just one step into the CART Indy Car World Series. Learning in the first year, Greg Moore came to life on ovals in 1994 winning three races and becoming the youngest driver to win in the series at 18 years old. Falling short of the series championship in third place, this triumph got the attention of Jerry Forsythe and Players tobacco sponsorship. Signing with the Forsythe Racing Indy Lights team, Moore won the 1995 Firestone Indy Lights championship.

Taking over the Players-sponsored ride that was vacated by 1995 CART World Series champion Jacques Villeneuve, Moore stepped into the ride modest to his new surroundings of North America's leading open wheel auto racing tour. Coming off his dominant run winning performance amounting in 10 of 12 races of the 1995 Firestone Indy Lights series, the 20 year old was under Canadian media pressure to repeat this performance in Indy car racing. Known as a charismatic individual amongst the Indy Car paddock, Moore quickly earned respect of his fellow competitors once hitting auto racing's big time. In his first race at Homestead in 1996, as he drove in seventh place he skillfully outran the eventual race winner Jimmy Vasser. Deeper into the season, Greg Moore followed up his brilliant season-opening performance scoring three podium finishes including a 2nd place at the one-mile Nazareth oval. Moore driving became spotlighted during a first lap wreck at the Michigan Speedway's US 500 race when he made an evasive move through the damp infield grass. Moore held affirmative control of his #99 Players machine as up to nine cars got swept up in the crash.

Contending for CART Indy Car rookie of the year in 1996 season, Greg Moore was beaten at an emerging open wheel legend Alex Zanardi for the rookie honours driving for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Moore nonetheless gained not only experience but friendships. Through his time in the CART Indy Car World Series, two of his most valued friendships were with fellow series competitors Max Papis and Dario Franchitti. It was common to see the trio together away from the track including two most memorable occasions explained in the book Greg Moore: A Legacy of Spirit. In 1997 Greg Moore attended 90210 star Jason Priestley's wedding and brought Dario Franchitti to the party. That was the place where Dario met his now wife Ashley Judd. Another moment remembered by Max Papis is when Greg and Dario stayed with him at his family's home in Italy. Greg Moore became enamored by the Papis place as he laid eyes on a signed racing helmet of his racing hero Ayrton Senna. It turned out Max Papis knew the Brazilian F1 world championship because they shared a mechanic on the karting tour. When Papis explained the fact that Senna also slept over in the same twin-bed guest room he was staying, Moore insisted on sleeping in the bed Senna slept in years ago. Beyond the tight three-person clique, Tony Kannan also joined in the group creating the foursome known in the motorsport community as 'The Brat Pack'. Kannan describes the death of Moore “a hole in their hearts”.

Drivers and crew members enjoyed the fun-loving Greg Moore even as his exploits included practical jokes to respected competitors. Players teammate in 1998-1999 Patrick Carpentier could certainly provide a story or two about the cunning Maple Ridge driver. Moore made the most of his off-time from racing spending time amongst his long-time friends and family doing everythings from golfing to fishing. Greg Moore was also able to indulge on other forms of racing driving IROC (International Race of Champions) and in the FIA GT series through a brief visit to the United States. Racing Sebring and Laguna Seca, Moore got to drive the racing version of one of his dream cars, the Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR.

In Moore's sophomore year on the Indy Car World Series tour, his off-track enjoyment would soon translate to some track side celebrations. Moore took the Players car to his first victory at the Milwaukee Mile in June 1997 holding off Michael Andretti. Greg Moore's luck repeated the next weekend as he was once again in position to win at the Detroit Grand Prix sitting third behind PacWest Racing cars Mark Bundell and Mauricio Gugelmin into the final laps. Aware that the PacWest pair only hope of winning relied on their marginal fuel capacity, Moore attacked each of them on a full rich fuel mixture. As both PacWest cars sputtered to under the pressure of Greg Moore, the Players car netted his second straight win. Gifted on oval tracks, the Detroit Grand Prix would be Moore's only victory on a road course on the series.

Moore's wins on the Indy Car World Series were never earned easily proven in depth the last year in 1998. Winning the Grand Prix of Brazil, Moore made a daring pass on rival Alex Zanardi. Though Zanardi often prevailed in their match up, Moore claimed one more victory against Zanardi and the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team as a whole. At the 1998 US 500 on Michigan Speedway, Moore rode behind the red car duo before using a drift to snake around for the checkered flag. In his final CART victory, Moore again held off Michael Andretti in the 1999 season opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. As the season progressed, Greg Moore was preparing to leave the Players Forsthye Racing effort for the juggernaut Penske Racing for 2000. With the accident at California, the possibilities for Moore's future victories were never revealed.

In the aftermath of California crash on October 31, 1999, Greg Moore's voice became a verse to a very sad song urging the best interests of race car drivers safety needed to be taken more seriously. Earlier that season in CART, a Penske driver Gonzalo Rodriguez had died in a horrific flip at the Luguna Seca road course the just races prior to the Moore crash. Safety equipment on the cars and tracks have been extensively reviewed. In reaction to Greg Moore's death, the HANS (Head and Neck Support) device was mandated in 2001 in order to increase survivability of impacts endangering the skull in a crash. As time went on, oval tracks too saw the need to advance in the name of safety. SAFER barriers are found on all major oval tracks in the United States (California/Auto Club Speedway installed the SAFER walls in 2004) Finally, As a Moore's Campaigning the #99 throughout his racing career, the number was retired from CART.

Statistically, Greg Moore was notedly the two-time Enduro kart season crown holder, the 1995 Firestone Indy Lights champion and a five-time winner in the CART Indy car racing series. However, the true measure of this extraordinary Canadian driver is can not be conveyed in such voiceless numbers. The Maple Ridge, British Columbia native's life fulfilled others inside and out of the motorsport world.

Friday, October 30, 2009

JR Fitzpatrick splits from Kevin Harvick Inc

Confirmed by Kevin Harvick Incorporated (KHI), JR Fitzpatrick tenure with the championship-winning Camping World Truck Series team has ended following the truck race at New Hampshire. Having run 6 truck race and 2 Nationwide series road course events in 2009, 21 year old Fitzpatrick's best finish was 11th place on two occasions at Dover and Bristol.

No reason for the parting was given but KHI operations have been affected by the trouble of the American auto industry. Fitzpatrick's part time development driver role with the team may not have corresponded with competitive demands. Too many times in NASCAR, the youth success of Kyle Busch and Joey Logano sets the rookie bar way too high as teams expect instant performance from drivers like Fitzpatrick. Ricky Carmichael and Kevin Harvick himself will take over races Fitzpatrick planned to run through the reminder of 2009.

The 2006 CASCAR Superseries (now NASCAR Canadian Tire series) champion, JR Fitpatrick has traveled south to run in one of NASCAR's prestigious touring series. Having started the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in the #7 truck for TRG Motorsports netting a career-best fourth place finish at the season opening race at Daytona.

For this weekend's Talladgea truck race, JR Fitzpatrick will again have a chance to demonstrate his restrictor plate prowess be driving the Keselowski #29 Chevrolet with Equipment Express sponsoring the effort.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

To the Defense of Dale Earnhardt Jr

Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR

While I'm a fan of almost every driver on the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, I've always had a particular fondness of Dale Earnhardt Jr. As you can expect, the 2009 and even the late 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup series has been quite trying as the #88 has been locked out of victory lane. Everything from tire problems, mechanical issues, and late-race accidents have erased any progress made by the #88 AMP/National Guard Chevrolet Impala team. Not helping the painful sight has been the ongoing coverage of Dale Earnhardt Jr's dismal race happenings.

Not requiring embellishment, Earnhardt Jr's problems were spotlighted heavily by the media outlets around NASCAR. Effectively leading the initiative to remove Tony Eury Jr long before Hendrick Motorsports made the move after the May Richmond race, the #88 Chevy's new crew chief Lance McGrew (a formidable Hendrick wrenchman) was unable to reverse the team's fortunes.

After the crew chief change, remarks had been leveled against Earnhardt himself insinuating he's 'past his prime' after winning 18 Sprint Cup series races.'s Duane Cross has even made an irrelevant career comparison to actress Lindsay Lohan when he wrote his column titled "Junior's struggles mount as life now imitates art". Personally, I fail to make the connection of a NASCAR driver's drought to a troubled female celebrity. A multitude of racing greats endured winless season recently including Jeff Gordon and even Mark Martin (two drivers enjoying Chase contention for 2009). With their struggles weren't nearly as well documented by the NASCAR press, Dale Earnhardt Jr's massive fanbase has certainly provided a newsworthy topic for moving pens (or tapping keyboards). Of course, it is so easy to blame the media and I guess it makes me self-hating in that regard to levy much criticism against the better established auto racing resources.

Television also appears to be against Dale Earnhardt Jr as broadcasts seem to go far to rub a little more salt in the wounds of a driver hurting from a hard 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. In today's (October 25th) running of the Martinsville Speedway Tums Fast Relief 500, ABC commentator Dale Jarrett sounded certain that Earnhardt contributed to Kasey Kahne's spin. On the replay of the incident, the #88 Chevrolet was more than five car lengths ahead of the red #9 Dodge when it veered loose on turn two. In their respect, sugar-coated praise for Earnhardt Jr and the #88 team should not be served to their Martinsville effort either. Three right front tire failures is an inexcusable mistake which is definitely a team problem.

Even with the down year for the #88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, the driver enjoys the continuing admiration of an extensive fan group called JR Nation spending more money on merchandise than any other fan group. However, with other drivers on the circuit, many NASCAR fans will freely argue why a Sprint Cup driver who has only won a single points-paying Cup race in three seasons should be kept in a prestigious operation like Hendrick Motorsports. Anti-Earnhardt fans poke at his inclusion on the circuit being a result of his family name. In honesty, Dale Earnhardt Jr can should on his own merits. Two-time NASCAR Busch (Nationwide) Series champion, 2004 Daytona 500 winner, and six-straight most popular driver awards are not just statistics but proof.

As one of the fans, please allow me to state JR Nation need not be reminded of the struggles. Rather, it would be worth reassuring why their choice driver will eventually rise from this situation hungrier and more focused to justify this admiration. We need Dale Earnhardt Jr back at the front in the most crucial part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup events.

Former Ferrari F1 Boss Todt is New Elected President of FIA

On Friday October 23rd, the FIA (Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile) elected Jean Todt as their new president. Having a distinguished career with Ferrari's racing program during the team's famed Schmacher-era of Formula 1 (1996-2006), Todt had also been involved in the management of sports car and rally car efforts for Peugeot. Challenged for the vote by Finnish rally champion Ari Vatanen, Jean Todt 135 of the 200 member FIA committee secures him to take over the position held by Max Mosley since 1993.

Through three terms and a 16 year reign, outgoing president Max Mosley was principal of many unpopular moves in Formula 1. Started following the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and three-time F1 champion Ayrton Senna in the 1994 round of San Marino, Mosley pushed teams hard to on stringent crash testing of Formula 1 cars. In the United States, Mosley also received considerable heat for the bizarre event of the 2005 United States Prix. When than-tire supplier Michelin discovered their Formula 1 rubber compound was poorly suited to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, FIA under the command of Mosley refused all concessions to remedy concerns. As Michelin-equipped cars were ordered not to race by the tire company, only six cars (fielded by Ferrari, Jordon, and Minardi) competed in the 2005 in what has arguably become the biggest blunder in organized auto racing. Through much of this regime, Max Mosley enjoyed the support of F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.

Instead leaving as an unpopular figure based on personal actions unrelated to motorsports, key members of the Formula 1 world wanted Mosley's tidy resignation so the FIA would not endure possibilities of enduring embarrassment. Granting that courtesy to the FIA, Max Mosley immediately endorsed the choice of Jean Todt as the motorsport's sanctioning body's next president.

Jean Todt's start of a four-year term as FIA president has indicated the employment of a commissioner to run the Formula 1 championship. This plan, releasing the FIA board from certain decisions for the F1 series, is also expected to filter into FIA-sanctioned rally car and GT series.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

NASCAR Sprint Cup: Flyin' Ryan Rips Off Fastest Time at Martinsville

Rounding the track at a speed of 96.795 miles per hour, the #39 US Army sponsored car of Ryan Newman topped the top chart for the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Nicking Jeff Gordon by just 0.056 seconds, this is Ryan Newman's second pole of the Sprint Cup season. Seated behind an outstanding 3rd place qualifying effort posted by Martin Truex Jr in the #1 Chevrolet, Mark Martin's #5 Kellogg's Chevrolet is ready to mount a resurgent effort to close the 90 point gap between him and Hendrick Motorsport teammate Jimmie Johnson. Martin posted the fastest speed earlier in the day in the NASCAR Sprint Cup's practice

Providing tight quarters racing for 43 cars, this short track of Martinsville Speedway is the first of two races expected to be wild cards for the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup's Chase (the AMP 500 at Talladega next week is likely to be the other major challenge). Qualifying for the Tums Fast Relief 500 lap race at the 0.526 mile short track supplied a sampling for what could be a pending shake-up to the Chase of the Cup. While chase runners Newman, Gordon, and Martin had all positioned themselves in the top 4, the next highest chase contending driver could only muster 13th place. That car was the #14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet of Tony Stewart who will need to start 7 rows behind his team car on Sunday. Rounding out the top five for the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway is the #00 Aarons Toyota of David Reutimann, effectively breaking Chevrolet's bowtie brigade a chance to dominate the first five spots in pole qualifying.

In 15th place (in a run that is playing up as struggling) Jimmie Johnson will have full intentions of dulling the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Having 6 prior wins and a career finishing position average of 5.3 at Martinsville Speedway, Johnson and his #48 Lowes Chevrolet are hardly in distressing shape for Sunday's 500 lap race. Chase participants Denny Hamlin (winner of the last Sprint Cup short track event at Richmond) as well as Chase cat Juan Pablo Montoya will start 17th and 21st facing much less optimistic odds for the 2009 Sprint Cup following recent race events.

Posting a comparably better qualifying effort than last week at Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr posted a solid 12th place at Martinsville. Traditionally running well at the tight quarters of this flat Virginia short track, the major obstacle for the #88 Chevrolet will be to finish the event in a spot fitting their race run. Rare Hendrick Motorsports mechanical Gremlins coupled with getting caught by other drivers' mistakes have ruined Earnhardt Jr's races for much of the 2009 season.

Deeper in the Sprint Cup field but expected to eventually post a serious challenge at the Martinsville short track are the Roush-Fenway Racing Ford of Jamie McMurray in 23rd. Driving what is believed to be the final Martinsville race in the #26 Crown Royal Ford, McMurray's performance has often been spectacular. Starting in 28th, Carl Edwards enters what is considered to be has worst performing race track scoring just 2 top 10 finishes in 10 previous events.

Set to go 500 laps around Martinsville Speedway Sunday, race start is slated at 1:30PM Eastern time.

Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway Qualifying Results

Top 10

1. Ryan Newman #39 Chevrolet (C)
2. Jeff Gordon #24 Chevrolet (C)
3. Martin Truex Jr #1 Chevrolet
4. Mark Martin #5 Chevrolet (C)
5. David Reutimann #00 Toyota
6. Casey Mears #07 Chevrolet
7. Joey Logano #20 Toyota
8. Bobby Labonte #96 Ford
9. Reed Sorenson #43 Dodge
10. Kevin Harvick #29 Chevrolet

Other Notables

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr #88 Chevrolet
13. Tony Stewart #14 Chevrolet (C)
15. Jimmie Johnson #48 Chevrolet (C)
17. Denny Hamlin #11 Toyota (C)
20. Greg Biffle #16 Ford (C)
21. Juan Pablo Montoya #42 Chevrolet (C)
24. Brian Vickers #83 Toyota (C)
26. Kasey Kahne #9 Dodge (C)
29. Carl Edwards #99 Ford (C)
32. Matt Kenseth #17 Ford
37. Kurt Busch #2 Dodge (C)
47. Kyle Busch #18 Toyota

'(C) Denotes Chase contender'

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Button Clinches 2009 F1 Championship at Brazilian Grand Prix

As Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber won the Brazilian Grand Prix for Formula one second last round of 2009, the man of the hour was not even on the podium. Brawn GP's driver Jenson Button rose to the spotlight relished his 5th place finish. Though not so impressive by itself, the points finish was more than enough to lock Englishman's hard-earned Formula one title after a Cinderella-like 2009 grand prix season.

After 10 seasons of competition in the formula one world championship, Jenson Button spent much of that time overcoming the excessive hype from his introduction as a 20 year old driver in the 2000 F1 season. Having just one grand prix victory prior to 2009, Button's career looked less than certain after Honda decided to withdraw from formula one after 2008. As Honda's F1 program was bought by the team principal Ross Brawn, Brawn was confident enough on Button's abilities to retain the now 29 year old racer.

Contending with the essentially new team of Brawn GP at the season opening Australian Grand Prix, Jenson Button promise showed in a brilliant performance which would shape the most interesting underdog efforts in Formula One. Outwitting established teams names of McLaren and Ferrari, the Mercedes-Benz engined Brawn stormed to pole and set himself up for victory in Australia. Giving the Brawn GP car a win in its inaugural outing, Button turned heads which had than been focused on Lewis Hamilton or even Kimi Räikkönen. Winning five of the six races following the 2009 F1 season opener, early year tear propelled the team as the top outfit in motorsports in only months.

However, as the season appeared to become a cakewalk for Button and Brawn GP, other Formula One teams applied themselves to the axiom 'standing still is moving backwards'. While teams stepping up their efforts is not a surprise, amazement came from which the fact that Red Bull Racing was providing the greatest challenge to Brawn GP. 22 year old Sebestian Vettel carried the Red Bull Racing flag for 2009 as he held close to Button in the point standings. Rubens Barrichello, who supported the Brawn GP cause with two wins of his own, was also a leading contender as Button's winning ways faded through the season.

Nonetheless, even though Jenson Button has gone winless since early July, he kept logging points with his Brawn Mercedes-Benz to secure the championship with one race left on the schedule.

Johnson Jives around Gordon to win NASCAR Banking 500

Running for the final time as Lowes Motor Speedway (the track is likely to retake the old Charlotte Motor Speedway for 2010), the NASCAR Sprint Cup series NASCAR Banking 500 mile race started under the stars of North Carolina Saturday night. The midway point of the NASCAR's 2009 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup, the newly-planted point leader Jimmie Johnson and his #48 Chevrolet qualified on pole at a blistering fast average pace of 192.376 mph another the 1.5 mile oval. With teammate and 2009 title challenger Mark Martin placing his #5 Pop Tarts Chevy on the front row, Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth were both hungry enough to snack on the Hendrick Motorsports gang.

On the start of the NASCAR Banking 500, Mark Martin leapfrogged Johnson's pole sitting machine in order to gain 5 bonus points for leading a lap. Caution came out early on lap 3 and lap 9 for misadventures of Sam Hornish Jr's #77 Mobil 1 Dodge. Originating from a minimum damage spin out from his front splitter tagging the race track out of turn 2, Hornish looped around a second time out of four, skidding down the pit entrance road.

With Jimmie Johnson back in the lead, a brief rain sprinkle kissed the Lowes Motor Speedway just enough to require a caution on lap 34. As brief precipitation dwindled under the yellow flag, leaders used the caution to period to make pit stops. Beating Johnson's Lowes #48 Chevy, Matt Kenseth and his Roush/Fenway Racing team gambled with a two tire stop.

When the green flag fell again, this plan allowed the #17 Ford to lead for 10 laps under race pace until the #48 juggernaut gained the edge to retake first spot. No longer dominating the field, the #11 Fedex Toyota of Denny Hamlin hunted down Jimmie Johnson's Chevy and snatched the lead on lap 71. As cars circulated around the 1.5 mile oval, green flag pit stops resulted in Hamlin retaining the lead with Matt Kenseth second and the #18 Toyota of Kyle Busch comprising the front three at lap 100. On lap 119, third place Kyle Busch looped his Toyota in turn 4 bringing out the fourth caution of the NASCAR Banking 500. As cars again entered pit lane for service, three teams took lessons from Kenseth's two-tire stop on lap 35 as Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, and Ryan Newman moved ahead of Denny Hamlin.

As the race resume under green, lap 126 provided an event significant to the championship chase as contact resulted between the Chevrolets of Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Moytona. Both cars sustained damage but continued. On the same lap, a tough year for Dale Earnhardt Jr continued for 2009 as his #88 AMP Chevrolet Impala suffered transmission problems before halfway point. While Hendrick Motorsport's #88 AMP Chevrolet crew succeeded in repairing the transmission anomaly, Earnhardt returned 29 laps down on the leader. Falling only one lap after the problems, there should be some comfort that this is yet another #88 Chevy result which didn't equate to their run.

Gordon led as Montoya's Chevy exhibited that the contact with Martin did more damage than originally thought. As the right front tire of his #42 car wore out from contact, Juan Pablo Montoya fought unsuccessfully to stay out under crew chief orders. Montoya spun on lap 163 falling two laps down by the time caution was thrown.

Following pit stops, Denny Hamlin resumed leading the event by beating Gordon back onto the track. Jeff Gordon retook the lead 3 laps after the green flew. Shortly after on lap 192, Denny Hamlin entered pit road on an unscheduled pit stop. The #11 Toyota's engine was souring due to a broken valve effectively wiping out the early race success.

Matt Kenseth led 33 laps through what would be a 102 lap green flag period. Taking command of the race lead at 223, Kasey Kahne's #9 Dodge Charger led almost 80 laps as he broke out to a 6.5 second lead by lap 280. Using the Dodge R6 engine in the #9 Budweiser for the first time since the New Hampshire race, Kahne and the Richard Petty Motorsports team was the class of the field during the long green flag run. Relinquishing the top position for a pit stop, a fading primary ignition of the #9 Dodge received quick attention from Kahne, switching to a backup system.

The green run at Lowes Motor Speedway was ended on lap 290 when the Geico Toyota of Max Papis suffered an engine failure. Under the aid of the caution and a pit road spot garnered through his pit selection, Jimmie Johnson inched Kasey Kahne to the line on pit road. Holding the lead through most of the final laps, a final caution for a spinning Greg Biffle provided one last attempt for the #48 Chevy to go challenged. Jeff Gordon, having bypassed Kahne on a restart before, never relented on his teammate on the double file restart and would capture the lead on lap 319. This triumph for the #24 Chevy(done up in a Transformers paint scheme depicting Megaton) as Johnson powered by two laps later on the speedway's front stretch.

As Gordon faded to eventually finishing fourth, Johnson motored through 13 laps to win the NASCAR Banking 500 as Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne followed distantly for second and third. A multitude of drivers also secured impressive top 10 runs including Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears, and Martin Truex Jr.

Securing his third win in five of the Chase races, Jimmie Johnson holds a 90 point lead in the Sprint Cup standings and is well on course to do the impossible feat of four straight Sprint Cup championships. Several rivals including Mark Martin, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Carl Edwards had rotten finishes after the 500 mile distance.

2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup
NASCAR Banking 500 at Lowes Motor Speedway

1. Jimmie Johnson #48 Chevrolet (C)
2. Matt Kenseth #17 Ford
3. Kasey Kahne #9 Dodge (C)
4. Jeff Gordon #24 Chevrolet (C)
5. Joey Logano #20 Toyota
6. Clint Bowyer #33 Chevrolet
7. Casey Mears #07 Chevrolet
8. Kyle Busch #18 Toyota
9. Martin Truex Jr. #1 Chevrolet
10. Kurt Busch #2 Dodge (C)

11. Ryan Newman #39 Chevrolet (C)
13. Tony Stewart #14 Chevrolet (C)
17. Mark Martin #5 Chevrolet (C)
34. Brian Vickers #83 Toyota (C)
35. Juan Pablo Montoya #42 Chevrolet (C)
38. Dale Earnhardt Jr. #88 Chevrolet
39. Carl Edwards #99 Ford (C)
42. Denny Hamlin #11 (C)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Brawn's Barrichello Batters Best in Brazil GP Qualifying

The penultimate round of the 2009 Formula one season, the Brazilian Grand Prix is set to become an important moment where Brawn GP Jenson's Button could lock up the 2009 F1 driver's championship. However, for Saturday afternoon qualifying, it was Brawn GP teammate Rubens Barrichello is taking the headlines so far in Brazil. Starting his home race on the front row Barrichello will be joined by Red Bull Racing's driver Mark Webber.

The thunder of the Formula one cars in qualifying were accompanied by a persistent rain shower over the Interlagos road course. With formula one competitors reverting to their wet weather tires as the first qualifying started, Japanese grand prix victor Sebestian Vettel took top spot in the early minutes of the session. Living the dream of every Italian race car driver, Rome born Giancarlo Fisichella is making the most of his time the F60 Ferrari race car. Fisichella was second in the early stages of the first qualifying until he lost traction and later an opportunity to fend off the faster field during the latter stage of the session. The stopped Ferrari as well as the significant rainfall brought out a red flag. By the end of session #1, both driver's times were eclipsed as other drivers took advantage of slightly better track conditions. Also suffering from a lack of speed in the first round of Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying was 2008 F1 champ Lewis Hamilton and young Red Bull hopeful Sebestian Vettel who's early fastest lap also came up short. Vettel, to start in 15th place on Sunday, holds a slim but mathematically possible challenge against Button.

As session two qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix started, the Force India car of Vitantonio Liuzzi wrecked in spectacular fashion. After catching a large wet patch of standing water along the pit stretch, Luizzi hydroplanned into the inner wall sliding into turn one where he collided with the outer barriers. Vitantonio Liuzzi was unhurt but his Force India racer sustained substantial damage. As track crews cleaned up the wreckage of Liuzzi's accident under a second red flag, the break was extended by 40 minutes as a result of the afternoon rain showers intensifying.

In the third and final 10 minute qualifying session was when Rubens Barrichello streaked through the wet Interlagos circuit the successor in an eventful battle with five other drivers for top speed.

The Brazilian Grand Prix is set to roll at 2pm local time (12-noon Eastern time).

1. Rubens Barrichello- Brawn GP
2. Mark Webber- Red Bull
3. Adrian Sutil- Force India
4. Jarno Trulli- Toyota
5. Kimi Raikkonen- Ferrari
6. Sebastien Buemi- Toro Rosso
7. Nico Rosberg- Williams
8. Robert Kubica- BMW Sauber
9. Kazuki Nakajima- Williams
10. Fernando Alonso- Renault
11. Kamui Kobayashi- Toyota
12. Jaime Alguersuari- Toro Rosso
13. Romain Grosjean- Renault
14. Jenson Button- Brawn GP
15. Sebastian Vettel- Red Bull
16. Heikki Kovalainen- McLaren
17. Lewis Hamilton- McLaren
18. Nick Heidfeld- BMW Sauber
19. Giancarlo Fisichella- Ferrari
20. Vitantonio Liuzzi- Force India (Moved to move due to transmission change)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Indycar: Dario Franchitti wins Homestead, becomes 2009 Indycar Champion

The third leader in the Indycar championship through the past three races, Franchitti struck just in time to snatch the lead spot in the 2009 standings.

In a race that lasted just under 1 hour and 29 minutes, the Firestone Indy 300 ran caution free. As the green flag fell, the top 3 qualifiers, who are also the top 3 in the Indycar championship, set a blazing pace early to lap the entire field before the 1/3 distance mark. The fight was between Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, and Ryan Briscoe as they jockeyed through the podium positions. Franchitti's race-winning move was conserving his ethanol fuel throughout the race. While Dixon late with Briscoe in tow, both cars needed late race fuel refills allowing the #10 car of Franchitti to victor in the crucial battle to win by 4.78 seconds over his Target Chip Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon. The win by Franchitti allowed him to score 15 points over Dixon to win the 2009 IRL Indycar series championship by 10 points. Ryan Briscoe finished just one point behind Dixon in his Team Penske race car likely to be haunted by the mishap at the Twin-Ring Motegi round in Japan.

Without any cautions, the circuits around the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval made this short race seem extremely long driver and teams 4th place on back. Marco Andretti had has #26 car running respectably enough to hold 'the best of the rest' honours through the early stages of the Homestead event. Holding fourth place, mechanical misfortunes bit the third-generation Andretti racer at lap 58. His Andretti-Green teammate Danica Patrick also had a rough outing scored 19th and 15 laps down in her #7 car. Following the act of the fierce championship fight, Tony Kannan and Helio Castroneves crossed the line one lap down.

In another season-totaling championship, Rookie of the year was given to Raphael Matos. Arriving from the Firestone Indy Lights as the 2008 points winner, the talented Brazilian displayed remarkable potential on both ovals and road courses. The be crowned Indycar's lead rookie for 2009 with a 14th place finish in Homestead, Matos overran his nearest freshman rival Mike Conway.

In the end, this scenario played closely to Dario Franchitti first Indycar championship in 2007. On the final lap, Franchitti (than driving for Andretti-Green Racing) inherited a win and the championship from, ironically enough, Scott Dixon.

Indycar: Franchitti takes pole at Indycar series' Homestead finale

Capturing his second pole in a row, Dario Franchitti is take the field to the green flag for the Indycar series final race of 2009, the Firestone Indy 300. It's important to note that the last 3 Indycar series rounds of 2009 have been won by drivers who started on pole position. Franchitti's #10 Target Chip Ganassi car rocketed around the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval at an average speed of 212.696 miles per hour, beating teammate and Indycar point leader Scott Dixon by more than 2.6 tenths of a second. Behind Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe sits third for what is nearly to become an interesting start to the race which will decide the recipient of the 2009 IRL Indycar championship Trophy.

The Target Chip Ganassi gang of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti enter the IRL Indycar season's final race with 1st and 2nd in the points. With Dixon leading Franchitti by 5 points, both drivers have won championships in the North American's premier open wheel series (Dixon 2003 and 2008, Franchitti 2007). In third place, only 3 points away from the Target Chip Ganassi duo, Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe wants to gain back what is lost at the Twin Ring Motegi race; the overall points lead. Before a disastrous pit road incident where Briscoe lost control and damaged his Penske #6 car, he was potentially able to clinch the championship for 2009. Instead, Briscoe, Franchitti, and Dixon are locked in a tight contention at Homestead with the Indycar championship to be decided after the race's 300 mile distance.

Aside from the qualifying run of the championship contenders, 4th and 5th starting positions are filled by a pair of surprises. Ed Carpenter placed his Vision Racing machine on the second row while Englishman and 2007 Indy Lights champion Alex Lloyd. Driving for Newman/Haas/Lanigan, Lloyd is running his first non-Indy 500 race in the Indycar series.

Starting late this afternoon, the Indycar finale at Homestead is slated at 4PM Eastern time.

Top 10 Qualifying for Firestone Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway

1. Dario Franchitti #10
2. Scott Dixon #9
3. Ryan Briscoe #6
4. Ed Carpenter #20
5. Alex Lloyd #06
6. Graham Rahal #02
7. Danica Patrick #7
8. Marco Andretti #26
9. Raphael Matos #2
10. Mario Moraes #5

Friday, October 9, 2009

NASCAR races in 2010 to Abide to Standardize Start Times

NASCAR always makes the case that they are a sporting body who places the fans' experience first. Providing some of the greatest finishes in auto racing thanks to large fields and tight rules, NASCAR conversely created the still anti-competitive Sprint Cup Car of Tomorrow.

This week NASCAR has made a positive move by promising standardizing the start times for all 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup series events. In Eastern time, opening ceremonies of daytime races will start at 1:00pm or 3:00pm if track is closer to West coast. Almost all night races will begin at 7:30pm with exception given to the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in May which will remain around 5:45pm. The green flag will drop no more than 30 minutes past these start times.

Three cheers to NASCAR for making this change. During the past few seasons, While helping the all so important paying spectators, this directive is most likely to help television viewers plan their weekends. Before 2001, it was no unusual for Cup series race coverage to begin just minutes before the command to start engines. After 2001, NASCAR obtained control of negotiating deal and made major deals with national broadcast entities. Along with establishing pre-race shows, race starts in afternoons were moved to later start times in order to better accommodate to desirable NASCAR Sprint Cup fan bases on the west coast. Because of this, the NASCAR Sprint Cup series races had habitually been starting later in the Eastern time zone including the Daytona 500 from 2006 to 2009.

Broadcasters also attributed to the race start confusions by resisting to separate their pre-race shows from the time the race started. With 2 hour plus pre-race shows given to the Daytona 500 and the Sonoma, California road race at Infineon Raceway for 2008, the prolonged wait was certain to grind some fans gears. While providing great insight to NASCAR's top series, it would have been nice for FOX, TNT, ESPN, and ABC to supply a transparent race start time in the pre-race shows.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Vettel To Lead Formula 1 field at Japanese Grand Prix

Since the last Japanese Grand Prix was held at Honda's Suzuka circuit in 2006, the Formula One grid along with Formula One as an entity is heavily altered. With the 2009 Japanese Grand Prix returning to Suzuka after a two season stint on Toyota's Fiji Speedway track, this race looks again to make a sizable impact the complexion of driver and manufacturer standing as it had years prior. Three races remaining and Jenson Button enjoying a 15 point lead over fellow Brawn GP driver Rubens Barrichello, the championship is well within mathematical reach for the veteran Brazilian to triumph over the determined Brit.

Saturday Qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix in the dry was a departure from the weather of the previous day where remnants of storm system Ketsana soaked the Suzuka circuit. With the track conditions of Saturday being radically different than Friday, teams were desperate to get a handle on the faster track. Leading to three separate on track accidents. The most frightening as these incident occurred as Timo Glock sustained a heavy impact with 18th and final corner tire barriers on his first outlap. Conscious following the high-speed impact, Glock was taken to hospital as a precaution. Suffering only a cut on his left leg, the Toyota F1 team had test driver Kamui Kobayashi on standby before the Timo Glock's accident following concerns of a persistent illness Glock had on Friday in Japan. The safety and track crews at the Suzuka race course were busy all through the session which was complicated by several Formula One drivers who weren't addressing local yellow flags. While attempting to maintain what might have been their fastest laps in qualifying, the FIA reacted by handing down penalties demoting four drivers four positions down the grid. Receiving these penalties includes Adrian Sutil who had just set fastest time in the qualifying session. The Brawn GP pair of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello as well as Fernando Alonso with Renault are the others. Torro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi and the McLaren-Mercedes of Heikki Kovalainen have also had their qualifying results modified with five spot deductions for other incidents.

When grid scoring for the Japanese Grand Prix was modified, Team Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel captured the top spot with homeland manufacturer Toyota piloted into second spot by Jarno Trulli. Reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton placed his McLaren-Mercedes in 3rd place while Nick Heidfeld rests in 4th driving the BMW Sauber. Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen starts 5th in a difficult season for the Italian team. On the otherhand, Williams' 6th place in qualifying with Nico Rosberg is a great result for a team once the toast of Formula One Grand Prix racing.

A true of two fortunes, not registering times in the session was Vettel's teammate Mark Webber. Webber's Team Red Bull chassis was too damaged to compete in qualifying following a crash in a practice just prior. The 2009 German Grand Prix winner will have to start from the pit lane in his Renault-engined Red Bull car.

In the Eastern time zone, the Japanese Grand Prix is set to start at 1:00 am Sunday Morning.

2009 Japanese Grand Prix Qualifying Order

1. Sebastian Vettel- Red Bull
2. Jarno Trulli- Toyota
3. Lewis Hamilton- McLaren
4. Nick Heidfeld- BMW Sauber
5. Kimi Raikkonen- Ferrari
6. Nico Rosberg- Williams
7. Robert Kubica- BMW Sauber
8. Adrian Sutil- Force India
9. Rubens Barrichello- Brawn GP
10. Jaime Alguersuari- Toro Rosso
11. Jenson Button- Brawn GP
12. Heikki Kovalainen- McLaren
13. Giancarlo Fisichella- Ferrari
14. Sebastien Buemi- Toro Rosso
15. Kazuki Nakajima-
16. Romain Grosjean- Renault
17. Fernando Alonso- Renault
18. Vitantonio Liuzzi- Force India
19. Timo Glock- Toyota
20. Mark Webber- Red Bull

Mark Martin beats Earnhardt Jr for Kansas Pole

Encouraging signs of a rebound hasn't only been limited to the world market. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his #88 Chevrolet team's fortune has been changing for the better after a season-plus of struggles. As the NASCAR Sprint Cup series arrives at the Kansas Speedway for Sunday's running of the Price Chopper 400 presented by Kraft Foods, the first practice on Friday was topped by the #39 Chevrolet of Ryan Newman followed by Jimmie Johnson. Dale Earnhardt Jr could only muster 24th fastest in this session but would post a much more competitive front during qualifying later in the afternoon.

Briefly holding the top spot to the excitement of #88's legions of fans, teammate and 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup leader Mark Martin spoiled Earnhardt's chance to lead the field to green. Beating Earnhardt by nearly 9/100s of a second, Martin's #5 Carquest/Kellogg's Chevrolet sprinted around the 1.5 mile oval at an average speed of 175.758 miles per hour. Starting second, Dale Earnhardt Jr. can take solace in the fact that he'll be starting beside his respected team car for Sunday's race. Continuing on a dominant path for 2009, Hendrick Motorsports cars have claimed 6 of the top 11 spots (including Stewart/Haas Racing which receives engines and cars from Hendrick).

Finishing his season with Hendrick support before joining Penske Racing in 2010, Brad Keselowski has made the most of the limited run of the #25 Hendrick Motorsports car by qualifying third. Roush Racing's Jamie McMurray Ford Fusion becomes the first driver to remind that the competing teams lark, sandwiched between Keselowski's and Tony Stewart's Chevrolet Impalas. With Kasey Kahne in 6th place, Joe Nemechek makes a thrilling run in his own NEMCO Motorsports #87 Toyota. Nemechek is a past winner at Kansas Speedway in 2004 when he drove a Chevrolet for MB2 motorsports. After Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon, 10th place has been taken by Red Bull Racing's Scott Speed. Jimmie Johnson settles in 11th place as he sits 10 points behind Martin in the Chase standings as the third race of the ten race Chase championship. Missing the championship seems to have taken its toll on Kyle Busch and the #18 team of Joe Gibbs Racing with a flat tire causing an extended stay in the garage during last week's Dover 400 mile race. However, last season also saw Busch weaken in the chase as he led in 2008 with 8 win season through 26 races.

The green flag for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Price Chopper 400 is slated to drop at Sunday at 2PM.

Qualifying for Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway

1. Mark Martin #5 Chevrolet (C)
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. #88 Chevrolet
3. Brad Keselowski #25 Chevrolet
4. Jamie Mcmurray #26 Ford
5. Tony Stewart #14 Chevrolet (C)
6. Kasey Kahne #9 Dodge (C)
7. Joe Nemechek #87 Toyota
8. Clint Bowyer #33 Chevrolet
9. Jeff Gordon #24 Chevrolet (C)
10. Scott Speed #84 Toyota

11. Jimmie Johnson #48 Chevrolet (C)
12. Brian Vickers #83 Toyota (C)
17. Carl Edwards #99 Ford (C)
18. Joey Logano #20 Toyota
22. Denny Hamlin #11 Toyota (C)
26. Bobby Labonte #71 Chevrolet