Wednesday, December 29, 2010

US Postal Service Unveils Indy 500 Centennial Stamp

Photo Credit: USPS

When the 2011 Indianapolis 500 festivities start this upcoming May, the famous 2.5 mile Brickyard oval will celebrate 100 years since the first 500-mile event was run at the historic track. A monumental occasion that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is marking through an annual acknowledgement, the centennial year of the event will also be recognized by the United States Postal Service.

To be released fittingly during the month of May, the USPS will be selling a commemorative stamp to the 100 years of the Indianapolis 500. Set to feature the yellow and black Marmon Wasp which Ray Harroun piloted to the 1911 Indy 500 victory, this is going to be the second time the postal service will depict the vehicle's likeness on a stamp. In 1987, the Marmon Wasp was included as part of a Transportation Series themed USPS release. Along with the image, the stamp will also sport the lettering "INDIANAPOLIS 500" and "100 YEARS OF RACING" on the bottom.

The Indianapolis 500 centennial stamp will join other upcoming 2011 USPS special releases including the Latin Music Legends series, American Scientists, and a single stamp in honour of the 40th United States President Ronald Reagan.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Naughty and Nice for 2010 Racing: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Kicking off the XSL Speed Reporter annual race season review, teh 2010 Naughy and Nice list starts with the 25 races, 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.  

Nice: Young blood Austin Dillon's rookie season

In only a rookie year, Austin Dillon made the most of his grandfather's resources. Participating in a reactivated #3 Richard Childress Racing team, Austin Dillon arrived at Daytona with the guarantee the 19 year old would receive the best equipment possible. As in the case with any driver, the pressure was on for Dillon to prove he was deserving of the dedication. Gaining a pole in the first race of the season at Daytona, the die was casted for an interesting rookie campaign by Dillon and the #3 Chevrolet. Dillon would go on to clinch 4 additional poles over the course of the 25-race 2010 Camping World Truck Series season proving he was indeed a fast driver. However, at the Iowa Speedway's truck race in July, Austin Dillon took home his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory. Winning that time on a short track, Dillon would take a speedway event as well in September. Both times, Austin Dillon's #3 Chevrolet wins came after qualifying efforts resulting from pole. Following the 2010 run, Dillon finished 5th in the final standing certifying this driver as a potential threat to the 2011 truck and maybe a NASCAR Sprint Cup series contender in the near future.

Naughty and Nice: Daytona demolition

 The Nextera Energy Resources 250 compiled an anxious 36-truck field for the 2010 kick-off to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season. A race promising great action, competitors were eager to take on the 2.5 mile superspeedway with Austin Dillon's #3 Chevrolet leading them through what would be a short race for many prime contenders. A lap 2 caution resulted with a range of twisted and bent sheet metal as 10 trucks were part of a early big wreck. Very shortly after the race restarted another 10-truck crash saw the field slowly getting stripped down as more than half the field sustained major damage over the 250 mile race distance.

The good parts about the 2010 season opening race for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Daytona were many to count but is highlighted simply by the final lap. Timothy Peters aced a last-lap scramble for a slim 0.068 second lead over Todd Bodine. Peters, driving the #17 Red horse Racing Toyota, would go on to put together a successful year with the help of his team placing 6th overall in Camping World Truck Series points.

Nice: Todd Bodine and Germain Racing's Rise to the 2010 Championship

When earlier this season the prospect of seeing the #30 Germain Racing Toyota going the full season looked doubtful, Todd Bodine and team parlayed a 2nd place finish at Daytona into a solid 2010 campaign which would go on through the entire season. Taking the lead for the first time briefly after the Atlanta Motor Speedway race, Bodine assumed definite command of the Camping World Truck Series points lead following the Charlotte Motor Speedway's North Carolina Education Lottery 200. Thanks to a season which equated to 20 top-10 finishes and 4 wins, Bodine clinched his second NASCAR Truck Series title at Phoenix. Following the Ford 200 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Todd Bodine left with a 207-point lead over Aric Almirola.

Rusty Jarrett/ Getty Images for NASCAR
Naughty: Defending Truck Series Champion's title defense

As the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series closed, Ron Hornaday Jr and the #33 Kevin Harvick Incorporated were celebrated a championship after a 6 win season. 2010 proved to be a stark difference for the #33 Chevrolet team. While Ron Hornaday Jr's 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ended with wins at O'Reilly Raceway Park and Martinsville Speedway to add up his tour-leading total of 47 victories, 9 race finishes of 24th or worse resulted in a his worse average finishing result. Defining his season, Hornaday had two sensational big wrecks at Atlanta and Talladega races where he was lucky to escape both times without injury. Hornaday's season ended with a 7th place in the final points standings 627 points away from the lead.

Nice: Johnny Sauter and Ron Hornaday dueling for Kansas Speedway win

The 5th race of the 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series tour, the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway provided one of the more thrilling lead battles between Ron Hornaday's #33 Kevin Harvick Incorporated Chevrolet and the #13 Thorsport Racing Chevy truck of Johnny Sauter. Both drivers were fighting for their first victory in 2010 season which has proved a harsh start. As Sauter's truck led with 21 laps to go, Hornaday surged on the #13 Chevy sizing up the Thorsport Racing driver for the valuable lead. As Ron Hornaday was able to get alongside Johnny Sauter into turn 3, impact resulted between the two truck. As consequence, both truck went into a sideways drift through the turn 3-4 complex. Amazingly, both Chevrolet trucks of Sauter and Hornaday were able to regain traction. Initially coming out the winner on the near wreck, Ron Hornaday's #33 truck lead across the line for lap 147. However, fatigue on the #33 Chevy through the incident apparently set on as Johnny Sauter was able to blast by Hornaday through the very next lap. With an over 5 second lead over the 2nd place Ron Hornaday, Johnny went on the win the Kansas event.

Naughty: Poor, Broke Busch Story

As much I respect Kyle Busch and the fact he should be considered one of the top driver in overall auto racing (not just NASCAR), his first venture into team ownership in NASCAR has not gone without some excitement. While Kyle Busch himself went on to win a season-leading 8 races and the #18 team were crowned the 2010 team champions in the series (points scored by the #18 team's result with any driver in the truck), issues off the track regarded the team's race shop with a contractor placing a lien on the building and the discontinuation of second truck driver Tayler Malsam's effort when his sponsor pulled out of the team.

I'm sorry to say I can not completely sympathize with a multi-million NASCAR Sprint Cup star crying poverty in running a race team. However, the situation points out a phenomenon almost every professional team owner accomplishes by not spending their own money to go racing. After all, auto racing teams are businesses before pleasure

Nice: Aric Almirola delivers a solid runner-up driver's points performance

The past few year have been a roller-coaster for Aric Almirola who once presided in a NASCAR Sprint Cup ride. Finding a chance to regroup in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Almirola immediately performed as a potentially forgotten talent. Collecting the most top-10 finishes of any driver on the 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Almirola's full schedule with the #15 Toyota of Billy Ballew Motorsports resulted in 2 wins and a runner-up position in the series points standing. Aric Almirola is moving up to the NASCAR Nationwide Series for 2011 with the JR Motorsports' #88 Chevrolets.

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/ Getty Images for NASCAR

Naughty: Toyota's near uncontested manufacturer crown

The one problem in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is the absence of a firm manufacturer's championship battle. For the past several years, Toyota (who went on to win the series' manufacturer championship again in 2010) has optimize the possession of leading teams to win handsomely without any sizable opposition. In the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, for example, 12 of 36 trucks competing were Toyota Tundra race trucks. While economic troubles have led Chevrolet and Ford to scale back their support to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the American three auto makers have have largely neglected the tour for many years. Chevrolet had a reasonable contingent led by KHI and Thorsport, Ford only had a limited effort the Dodge/RAM truck stable involved mainly one team (the #23 truck driven by Jason White). However, even Dodge's presence with the #23 team was not exclusive as the team experimented with other truck brand bodies throughout the year.

Nice: Elliott Sadler winning inaugural Pocono truck race

Fighting to assert himself in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with as much bad luck as poor performances within the embattled Richard Petty Motorsports team, Kevin Harvick had been offered Elliott Sadler the chance to drive selected races in the 2010 Camping World Truck Series. Debuting at the Daytona with a strong run up until getting caught in a crash, Sadler and the #2 KHI team were able to piece together an outstanding performance at the first truck race held at the 2.5 mile Pocono Raceway. Leading 31 of the race's 55 total laps, Sadler found himself in a NASCAR winner's circle for the first time since winning the 2004 Pop Secret 500 at California Speedway.

While Elliott Sadler lost his Sprint Cup Series ride, the restored confidence and apparent chemistry with KHI his earned a multi-year pairing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for 2011.

Photo Credit: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images for NASCAR

Early Christmas Gift for Tony Kanaan; Ride with de Ferran Dragon Racing

Photo Credit: de Ferran Dragon Racing

Ahead of Christmas and the 2011 new year, 2004 IndyCar champion Tony Kanaan heads into both celebrations knowing his racing career is more secure. Alongside fellow Brazilian Gil de Ferran, Kanaan sat at a press conference announcing he will be driving the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series tour for de Ferran Dragon Racing. Often an infectiously cheerful and happy presence in the IZOD IndyCar paddocks throughout the tour, Tony Kanaan said early in the press announcement  that "Christmas came early for me this year. I want to call Gil Santa because he has that much white hair and that big belly (laughter)."

Surging back into victory lane at Iowa Speedway, Tony Kanaan's productive 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series campaign resulted with a 6th place in overall series points and 4th in the Mario Andretti oval championship trophy. Despite having signed a five-year extension with Andretti Autosport in 2008, the withdraw of team partnership 7-Eleven from primary sponsorship has led the team to release their long-time driver shortly after the end of the 2010 season. Departing a four-car operation, Kanaan's 2011 IZOD IndyCar team is a considerably more humble team. "Obviously it has been eight, almost nine years with a big team. So it took me a little bit to get used to it. But in a funny way, I think it's great. It's a big challenge for both of us." Tony Kanaan said. Extremely confident on the team, Kanaan candidly commented "Obviously, as you guys knew, I was negotiating with a few other teams at the time. But I was honest with Gil, he was honest with me, and we started to talk. I was on vacation doing my tryouts. I did the test and it went really well. I really liked the people I saw what I wanted for me as far as a race team. From that point on, it made it much easier for me to make my decision."

Talking about the his team young in the development process, de Ferran Dragon Racing's co-owner describes the hiring of Tony Kanaan saying “This is a great signing and a major coup for de Ferran Dragon Racing,". de Ferran adds "...he is a proven Champion and brings with him a great record of successes on the track."

Planning to remain a single-car operation at this time, two-year IZOD IndyCar Series talent Raphael Matos appears to be looking elsewhere. However, since Gil de Ferran stoked the fires of IndyCar Series team ownership in 2009, he had indicated an indication to run a full-time two-car team. With three months before the St Petersburg season opener for the open wheel series, Matos' time with de Ferran Dragon Racing may not be over. 

Rumours of a second car for Davey Hamilton (who drove for the team on a limited basis last year) could result for 2011. de Ferran Dragon Racing's Gil de Ferran would not provide any details other plans for the team or even sponsorship package of Tony Kanaan's upcoming season's effort.

Besides Christmas and the new year, the de Ferran Dragon Racing announcement also comes ahead of Tony Kanaan's birthday on December 31st.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cadillac's CTS-V Coupe in SCCA World Challenge Race Trim

Photo Credit: General Motors

Cadillac has seemingly a fair-weathered relationship with auto racing in recent history. Represented in 2000 as an American Le Mans Series sports car prototype, their three-year involvement was turbulent competing agains the likes of Panoz and most notedly the legendary Audi R8. Through the first season was a disaster, major updates through the final two seasons eventually saw the Cadillac team as a podium contender by 2002. However, a decision was made by Cadillac to terminate the program after the 2002 American Le Mans Series season without achieving a single LMP victory.

After the three-year Le Mans Prototype run, Cadillac chose to remain in sports car racing but changed their level of involvement. Focusing on production-based racing, Cadillac entered into the SCCA World Challenge series in 2004 with their new CTS-V cars. Achieving a much more fruitful outing in the GT category of the SCCA World Challenge series, Cadillac operating as a factory team won 12 races between 2005 to 2007.

On December 13th, Cadillac announced an official factory-supported effort now using their newly-minted CTS-V Coupes for the 2011 SCCA World Challenge GT category. Remaining as a production-based sports car series, the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe race car will share the 556-horsepower, 6.2 liter supercharged V-8. The words of Cadillac's vice president of marketing Don Butler provided understanding to the luxury brand's renewed interest in sports car racing saying “Returning to racing in the SCCA World Challenge is a great way to demonstrate the performance and capability of the CTS-V Coupe,”.

Inserting themsleves into a category where the Volvo S60 campaigned by K-Pax Racing, Cadillac Racing has lured one of the 2010 Volvo drivers, Andy Pilgrim, back to the General Motors fold. Pilgrim's sports car racing with GM is referenced with long-term involvement with the American Le Mans Series' Corvette Racing program. Andy Pilgrim was also the 2005 SCCA World Challenge GT champion with the previous Cadillac CTS-V race car. Joining as a veteran to the General Motors sports car driver is Johnny O'Connell who is set to race the two-car Cadillac effort at the 2011 SCCA World Challenge season opener at St Petersburg in late March.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rahal, Kimball to Drive for New Chip Ganassi Team in 2011

Photo Credit: Ron McQueeney
At the season finale race for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series in 2010, orphaned driver Graham Rahal received multi-year support from auto parts service business TBC Retail Group heading into 2011. As financial support (knowing the adage that money buys speed) serves as a vital ingredient in obtaining a major league ride.  In a major announcement with superstar car owner Chip Ganassi, it was announced that Rahal and the TBC Retail Group has found a home in a new team accompanied by American Indy Lights stand-out Charlie Kimball.

Running just a partial 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule last year driving for four separate race teams, 21-year old Graham Rahal was undoubtedly happy with the development between himself and a champion-proven team owner. “This is the kind of opportunity every driver dreams of. I have been working diligently, specifically over the past several months, to get into one of Chip’s Indy cars, and now that dream has become a reality with the help of Service Central, and many others.” Rahal said.

To pilot a new #38 machine starting at the season opener of St Petersburg, Graham Rahal will be joined by rookie series teammate Charlie Kimball driving the #83 car. A California native driver will competed in the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights Series, 25-year old Kimball drove for AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport consistently to 4th place in the final points standings. The #83 car will be sponsored by diabetic product provider Novo Nordisk which holds special meaning because Charlie Kimball is personally diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Assembling an all-new IZOD IndyCar Series team for 2011, this Chip Ganassi-owned operation will run largely autonomous to the current Target Chip Ganassi Racing team helmed by drivers Scott Dixon and 2010 IZOD IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti. This team will operate out of a large shop owned by drag racing legend Don Prudhomme who himself has indicated an interest in future IndyCar Series involvement. With Rahal and Kimball together, this team will serve as a much-needed bolstering of American open wheel drivers. As a series which is primarily run in the United States, a call his beckoned for a long-time to see a stronger, more populated American driver contingent on a regular basis.

As part of Chip Ganassi's statement on his new team venture, the 2010 Indy 500 and 2010 Daytona 500 winning car owner said "This should create some excitement for the series both on and off the track”.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Review of Friday Action at the 2010 Honda Indy of Toronto: Part 1

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Alright, being December, I am fully aware that my entry on the 2010 Honda Indy of Toronto is quite late to be considered as current events I want to profile on XSL Speed Reporter. Due to other more pressing writing obligations has diverted my attention away from exercising more creative endeavours on this site. While my intentions is never to withdraw my dedication to completing this Honda Indy of Toronto review, time was never on my side. Being better late than never, I will hopefully allow you to reminiscence of the dog days of summer while much of Canada becomes covered with snow.

Following the productive year I had in 2009, I thought all I needed to do to make this year's coverage perfect was to add more updates and bring sunscreen (it took two weeks after last year's Honda Indy to overcome have serious sunburns on my face, neck and arms). Regrettably, I admit I was unable to attend this year's race in the official capacity of a member of the media. Having been granted the honour of media access last year, this first time experience didn't allow me to fully make use of my press flexibility. It was my intention to avail readers of XSL Speed Reporter to exciting coverage. Maybe representing the latest resurgence of IndyCar after reunification, larger media outlets (including many television stations which were not even present for Friday on 2009) covered the action of the first day of the Honda Indy weekend.

Media vehicles for CHCH TV, CP 24 and CBC were noticeably on attendance
Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy

It would also be a relief that this year's general media presence were a little more accepting of the 2010 Honda Indy of Toronto. The 2009 event was almost slandered by sports writers more familiar with 'stick and ball sports'. More positive of the event, there was still articles questioning the presence of the major Canadian auto race.

As was the case last year, the race promoters did not publicize spectator numbers but I imagine media outlets simply observe the grandstands expecting everyone to be seated throughout the race weekend. For anyone who attends an IZOD IndyCar Series road or street course event, you know that this is unlike many year-round sporting events that last only for a few hours. The Honda Indy of Toronto is a three-day festival which encourages spectators to bask in the sights and sounds of the July atmosphere.

While lacking the press access, my love for the event would allow me to forgive my non-inclusion as a reporter. Coming on Friday for the 2010 Honda Indy weekend, I looked forward to again attend the race action as a spectator. Thanks to Honda Canada had provided a Free Friday promotion (giving patrons a chance to absorb the true amazement of the auto racing action) I can attest anyone attending the race was given almost as much freedom as I had last year in viewing to on-track action. As ambient high temperatures sailed past the mark of 30 degrees Celsius.

Photo of Toronto beautiful skyline
Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Arriving in the early morning for the CNE grounds via the TTC streetcar, I Iucked out that a gentle rain shower had long ceased with much of the evidence evaporated under mid-summer temperatures that resided inside the 20 degree range. Following a short TTC street car ride, I was enjoying the chance to relish my attendance of the 2010 Honda Indy of Toronto. At the gate, spectators were endorsed to donate fairly to the Make a Wish Foundation Canada. While Free Friday was worth while for fans, there is not one fiber of my being that would not appreciate this charity drive.

After making a proper donation, as did many considerate race fans, I was treated once again to one of the more thorough security checks ever instituted at a sporting event. Bags were checked (which for me pertained to only my camera bag) and food or drink were prohibited beyond the gate. While I give the benefit that this is done for safety, the looks of the concession stand pricing inside the event would definitely need some kind of 'outside food ban' to keep brisk business. But, high prices at food and drink concession stands is only part of the sporting event experience.

As I cleared the front gate to the CNE grounds, my 2010 Honda Indy of Toronto experience started by appraising the paddocks of 6 individual racing series'. Four of the six touring exhibits were found inside of the Direct Energy. Throughout the day, the shelter of the cooler Direct Energy building served some comfort as the July sun and humidity beamed over Toronto. Passing the fleet of Honda Ridgeline trucks destined to parade the drivers of the IZOD IndyCar Series prior to Sunday main event, passage through the Direct Energy Center gave me a look at the Acura World Challenge and Trans-Am on the right side of the building's interior. Far to the left, the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series transporters and teams were assembled.

Inside Direct Energy Centre with Honda Ridgeline ceremonial vehicles in view.
Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/ XSL Speed Reporter

Becoming a oven-like warm Toronto morning, the grounds of the CNE were ripe with activity. The more stabilized and recognized IZOD IndyCar Series as well as the Free Friday promotion was clearly making an impact on attendance. As perhaps the most assuring signal was the presence of families at the race track taking in this affordable sporting event. Compared to Toronto Blue Jays tickets cost around $50 for cheap seat viewing at the Roger Center or a Toronto Maple Leafs game costing at least $150 to $200, the Honda Indy of Toronto provides refreshingly wallet-friendly trips for parents careful amidst these complicated economic times. Even though concession prices could make lunch a more expensive than usual, the no-charge admission succeeded in offsetting that cost.

As I stepped outside, my ears were ringing with an enchanting sound of race engines bellowing around the temporary 2.84-kilometer (1.765-mile) street circuit. Taking to the track early was the 2010 SCCA World Challenge and Trans-Am series competitors. Knowing that the sports cars were positioned as a supporting attraction to the open wheel racing, the sound of these vehicles echoed the best sound of any car competing during the Honda Indy of Toronto weekend. The sight of Volvo S60, Lexus IS300 as well as Volkswagen GTIs in race trim provided a roar which could be compared to a mix between Formula 1 and a Grand Turismo video game.

Tomy Drissi's Jaguar advertising the future release of the movie
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/ XSL Speed Reporter

Acura Sports Car Challenge vehicles and SCCA Trans-Am series race cars returned for a second practice during the afternoon ahead of their Saturday afternoon event which saw the Realtime Racing Acura TSX piloted by Peter Cunningham win the GTS class. Randy Pobst took a close 0.821 second victory in the GT Class with a Volvo S60 as Montreal, Quebec's Kuno Wittmer came home 6th in a Dodge Viper. SCCA Trans-Am Series race's pole was snatched by the Jaguar XKR of Tomy Drissi but the Honda Indy of Toronto race was claimed by RJ Lopez (a first-time series win by the Dominican Republic native) and his Corvette by a nealy 9 second margin. Stouffville, Ontario's Blaise Csida retired with only 21 laps on the board with a mechanical problem.

Randy Pobst's K-Pax Volvo S60 on Friday.
Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Back to Friday morning as the Honda Indy of Toronto was still a memory waiting to happen, the IZOD IndyCar series took to the track for their first practice of the 2010 event. The headliners of the July weekend speed festivities, the array of drivers such as Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti all returned after running last year's event (the first under the IRL/IndyCar Series structure). It was also the return for 2010 for the 2nd Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing car driven by Graham Rahal. Of course, being one of two Canadian rounds for the major open wheel racing series, Paul Tracy rejoined the tour alongside French-Canadian regular Alex Tagliani in competition.  Tracy was running his 2nd race of the season after driving for Dreyer and Reinbold Racing at Watkins Glen in place of the injured Mike Conway.

Graham Rahal ahead of his first practice back with NHL Racing for 2010.
Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Just like the 2009 event, the IZOD IndyCar teams paraded from the paddock area to the pit lane ahead of every session allowing fans to get a look at their favourite Dallara-Honda Indy cars and drivers. Compared to 2009 where Patrick moved like a flash between locations shielded from view, the popular IZOD IndyCar driver turned over a new leaf in respecting the Canadian race fans. Upon my first sight of her ahead of the first IZOD IndyCar series practice, Danica Patrick would walking down gasoline alley smiling as she cheerfully signed a few autographs. Whether the pressures of her sponsors through IndyCar as well as NASCAR in 2010 or an improved mood, the more congenial Danica Patrick was no less than a welcomed inclusion for the 2010 Honda Indy of Toronto.

Danica Patrick embracing her usually abundant fanfare.
Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/ XSL Speed Reporter 

Danica Patrick along with Simona de Silvestro and Milka Duno were the female composure of a very diverse grid for the 2010 race in Toronto. With the G20 Summit gathering occurring just three weeks prior, the IZOD IndyCar Series presented a rich international representation of drivers from 12 different countries. Even though the Honda V-8 engines buzzed loudly along the Toronto lake shore, its arguable the race action was more peaceful.

The first time to measure up the competition for the event, the one hour session was led by Target/Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon over Justin Wilson by leading the circuit in 1 minute, 3.9149 seconds. Within several minutes of the green flag being displayed for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series cars, the KV Racing #5 car of former Formula 1 driver Takuma Sato lost traction through the final corner backing his car into a retaining wall. Assisted by the safety crew, Sato was able to restart his car suffering a loss of his rear wing. Belgium's Bertrand Baguette also left the first practice session with damage to his #36 Conquest Racing car. Being the first visit to the Toronto circuit, Baguette was continuing a hard-fought rookie campaign in the IZOD IndyCar Series which started at the 3rd race of the 2010 season.

Picture of Takuma Sato's KV Racing #5 car seconds before impacting the
frontstretch wall.
Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/ XSL Speed Reporter 

Third-fastest in the first practice session, Alex Tagliani and the FAZZT Race Team posted an effort many home country fans were eagerly seeking from the #77 car. Driving the Make a Wish Canada #15 car, Paul Tracy could only muster a 15th place run against 26 cars. Being Canada's drivers, both Tagliani and Tracy appeared to have a higher than usual amount of obligations to press as well as sponsors. Ahead of noon, Alex Tagliani's FAZZT Race Team's presided within the IZOD IndyCar paddock spotted for one media engagement. Getting in and out of his Hot Wheel-sponsored #77 car, an adoring crowd surrounded the Canadian racer.

Alex Tagliani seated in #77 Hot Wheels/FAZZT Race Team car
Photo Credit: XSL Speed Reporter

As the IZOD IndyCar Series left the track, the Firestone Indy Lights support series were next to lap the circuit starting their practice quarter past 11 in the morning. Leading the series points, J.K. Vernay was ahead of Charlie Kimball and Oakville, Ontario native James Hinchcliffe. Personally having the pleasure of interviewing Hinchcliffe ahead of the Honda Indy of Toronto for PRN Magazine, it was clear to me that a Firestone Indy Lights victory on the temporary race track for the 24-year old would be a major career achievement. In preparations for the Toronto 100 race, James Hinchcliffe would claim fastest time in the first practice.

Venturing around the race track all morning, I face much of that time attempting to find a source of refreshments. As I have already singled out the concession stand prices, it may be obvious it was an issue with me. Being a frugal deal-hunter, I have trouble spending almost twice the price for drinks. In hindsight, I probably should have been more willing to forgo an expense. Drinking fountains were few and far between on the CNE grounds with me eventually finding one inside the Direct Energy Center to refill my empty water bottle. Past noon time, I believe I was in the early stages of dehydration as I began to feel ill effect for not bracing for the elements. Clearly, I was alright after sitting down for about an hour inside the Direct Energy Center after recovering some water.

A productive and enjoyable morning at the 2010 Honda Indy, a brief rest reinvigorated me for what would be an even better afternoon.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Proton/Lotus Announces 2011 Formula 1 Partnership with Renault F1

Photo Credit: Renault F1

In just one year back in Formula 1 resulting in the Lotus Racing team's 2010 on-track campaign without scoring points as a new outfit, it could be said that Lotus has at least mastered the art of gaining publicity. Having officially announced in the last weeks of the 2010 Formula 1 season their agreement to replace Cosworth engines with Renault power for 2011, paddock buzz surrounded the possibly that the Lotus Racing and Group Lotus' parent company Malaysia's Proton Group was considering a venture with another Formula 1 team for the next season. These rumours have turned to reality December 8th as Group Lotus and Genii Capital publicized their new partnership called Lotus Renault GP.

With Genii Capital existing as a stakeholder within the current Renault F1 effort, Group Lotus is certified as a holding equity share in the new Lotus Renault GP team. Unveiling the 2011 team's new livery, a black and gold car accented with touches of red bares a close resemblance to the John Players Special paint scheme used during the original Team Lotus' last great heyday. Unlike the Lotus Racing team where Proton has merely provided licensing of the British auto company's name, the car company has a ownership stake with Lotus Racing GP for the 2011 Formula 1 season guaranteed to feature Robert Kubica as the #1 driver. Russia's Vitaly Petrov has a 50/50 chance with returning to the ride for 2011. 
Questions exist where how the new agreement will affect the current Lotus Racing (or Team Lotus). Using the famous British sports car builder's name under license, Lotus Racing has presently stayed largely mum on the formulation of the Lotus Renault GP team. However, on Lotus Racing's team principal Tony Fernandes twitter page one message posted following the Wednesday announcement read "Dany bahr has done us a favour. Never felt better about our future and Team Lotus. Looks like the trying to hijak our black and gold idea.". It should be noted that the past few months have consisted of rumours that Proton Group and the Lotus Racing team have not been on the greatest of terms. 
While it seems that there will be a Team Lotus and a Lotus Renault GP team competing on the 2011 Formula 1 grand prix circuit, the biggest question being immediately presented is what will be the team livery of the 2010 Lotus Racing team. Having planned to change to the black and gold racing colours, the Lotus Renault GP team has apparently taken possession of the paint scheme. Whether the Team Lotus organization will stick with green and yellow or which to another team colour is unsure.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

NASCAR Sprint Cup Fans Vote Dale Earnhardt Jr Most Popular Driver

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/ Getty Images for NASCAR

It appears that streaks are becoming common place within the Hendrick Motorsports stable. First with the #48 Lowes Chevrolet driver Jimmie Johnson storming to a 5th straight NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, the #88 Chevrolet team has reason to leave 2010 with some sense of fulfilment. At the annual National Motorsports Press Association’s (NMPA) Myers Brothers Luncheon held prior to the NASCAR Awards Banquet, Dale Earnhardt Jr was named the 2010 winner of the Hamburger Helper Most Popular Driver Award.

Though the #88 driver finished the season in 21st in the overall standings with only 8 top-10 finishes to show for efforts of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, Dale Earnhardt Jr along with the team of the #88 AMP Energy and National Guard Chevrolet did persevere through a difficult 36-race stretch to finish each and every race. Though some have doubted Earnhardt Jr's future in Hendrick Motorsports and even the sport in general, a majority of fans have demonstrated the third-generation driver is still their favourite competitor in the premier stock car tour in North America.  “I’ve enjoyed winning it – my fan base has stayed strong. It’s become an important honor each year for me. I’m glad that fans still feel their support for me. I appreciate their dedication and loyalty.” Earnhardt Jr commented accepting the award Thursday afternoon.

With more than 1.5 million fans voting in this year's Hamburger Helper Most Popular Driver Award, Earnhardt Jr beat out the likes of Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards for the 2010 honour. One honourable mention making it into the top-10 of Most Popular Driver voting was the 2000 NASCAR Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte.

Scoring his 8th Most Popular Driver Award in a row, Dale Earnhardt Jr is only two shy of a benchmark set by two-time Daytona 500 winner and 1988 NASCAR Cup Series champion Bill Elliott. Enjoying a steady and dedicated fanbase just like Earnhardt Jr's, Elliott was voted most popular 10 times in a row concluding with 16 overall honours.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hendrick Hubbub: Reorganization in Major Cup Team Sees High-Profile Personnel Change

Photo Credit: Hendrick Motorsports

The Hendrick Motorsports #48 Lowes Chevrolet was again piloted to the NASCAR Sprint Cup highest honours by now 5-time consecutive champion Jimmie Johnson. Picking up 6 wins through the process of the 2010 season, it appears on the surface that Hendrick Motorsports has a reason to celebrate.

Despite all of the success of the #48 team, the other three teams in the popular Chevrolet-powered organization endured a very tough 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. The Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr left this year winless on the Sprint Cup schedule finding solace in much smaller non- victory victories. In a radical move to turn the #5, #24 and the #88 teams around, Hendrick Motorsports is prompted just two day after the end of the 2010 Sprint Cup season to swap crew chiefs for 2011.

For the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, the following team complexion will disturb every team with exception to the championship-winning #48 team:

  • #5 Team: driver Mark Martin is partnered with former #88 crew chief Lance McGrew
  • #24 Team: driver Jeff Gordon will be working with Mark Martin's crew chief of 2009 and 2010 Alan Gustafson
  • #88 Team: Dale Earnhardt Jr will be partnered with the #24 car's crew chief Steve Letarte

Photo Credit: Hendrick Motorsports

Matching crew chiefs with new teams, Hendrick Motorsports is also repositioning the team's amongst the two race shops. Moving, the #88 cars will join the #48 team while the #24 team will now be positioned with the #5 crew. Team Owner Rick Hendrick commented on the personnel change saying "This will improve us as an organization, across the board,".

Concluding the year, the #5, #24 and #88 Hendrick Motorsports teams experienced mixed results. In 2010, Jeff Gordon was able in the Chase for the Sprint Cup hunt thanks to 10 top-5 finishes after the first 26 races. Maintaining 3rd prior to the Chase points realignment, Gordon was dropped to 8th starting the 10-race championship playoff. Through the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup, the #24 Chevrolet compiled only a single top-5 finish. Two additional DNFs in the final ten races left Jeff Gordon in 9th in the Chase after the Homestead-Miami finale.

Photo Credit: Hendrick Motrsports

Winning 4 times in 2009 with his first season at Hendrick Motorsports, Mark Martin extended the time period between his planned retirement through this year and into the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup tour. Starting the season strong with his #5 Chevrolet by winning the pole for the Daytona 500, Martin and team were sent through a feast and famine campaign for 2010 resulting in 7 top-5s but suffered 12 finishes outside of the top-20. After only a slight chance of making the 2010 Chase, Martin missed the top-12 in points field but held on to 13th place in NASCAR Sprint Cup overall points.  

As for the #88 Chevrolet team of Hendrick Motorsports, the trouble plaguing the team and driver Dale Earnhardt Jr was evident. With a 2010 season which resulted in 21st in the overall points, this year adds to the frustration felt within the #88 team as well as among Earnhardt Jr's considerable fan base. Well-documented, the only win Dale Earnhardt Jr has achieved with the Hendrick Motorsports #88 car was at Michigan in June of 2008. Rounding off the season in 27th at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the writing was on the wall for Lance McGrew's departure after 16 finishes of 22nd or worse in the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Another rough year for Earnhardt Jr, some positive Sprint Cup moments this season involved a front row start and 2nd place finish at the Daytona 500 as well as leading 90 laps most recently during the Martinsville event. The #88 Chevrolet also left the 2010 season without a single DNF. Dale Earnhardt Jr has most recently been complementary to McGrew for advances made with the #88 team but knew a change was approaching.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Edwards Takes Ford 400 at Homestead, Johnson Claims 5th Sprint Cup Championship

Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/ Getty Images for NASCAR

Shaping up the final race for the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the Ford 400 plays host to what has been a season where we have seen some pleasant surprises. The major success is the tight Chase for the Sprint Cup which has placed Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick within 46 points. By the end of 400 miles at the Florida 1.5 mile oval, the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion would be celebrated by one driver.

For all competitor making the 43 car field for the Ford 400, there were personal as well as team honours at stake. Concluding at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, the achievements of 35 earlier races have yet some drivers hungry for more success or thirty to revive a season sporting misfortune.
Involved in a fair amount of bad experiences in 2010, Kasey Kahne's future has been the biggest story than his current season. In reaction to Kahne's 2011 and 2012 plans, 2010 was impacted when he departed his #9 Ford early for the Red Bull #83 Toyota. For the Ford 400, Kasey Kahne was able to place his Toyota on pole for what will be the last NASCAR Sprint Cup pole for almost three months.
Kasey Kahne led the first 4 laps of the Ford 400 until the Phoenix race winner Carl Edwards driving his Roush-Fenway Racing-owned #99 Ford muscled past the #83 Toyota for the lap 5 lead. Losing the lap just briefly during a lap 20 pit stop under the race's first caution for Devid Reutimann's wall impact on turn 4, Edwards would retake the lead in time for the restart back to green flag conditions.
As the field began to race again on lap 23, a second caution came swiftly. A critical incident for the 2010 Chase for the Sprint cup the #16 Ford of Greg Biffle made contact with title leader Denny Hamlin. Hamlin's #11 Toyota was forced into the in-field grass in order to regain control. Both cars were able to continue in contention but the Joe Gibbs Racing crew spent several pit stops to repair the mingled front end of the #11 machine.
Showing part of Ford's late season resurgence in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing for 2010, a challenger did present himself in the Ford 400. The #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota piloted by Martin Truex Jr posted a significant appearance in the final race of 2010. Taking the lead on the first time on lap 73, Truex Jr initial time ahead of the field lasted for 26 circuit. As the #99 Ford of Edwards emerged as a dominant car early, Martin Truex Jr's #56 Toyota provided the fiercest fight through the first half of the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami.
On lap 88, Jeff Gordon's #24 Chevrolet began slowing as the four-time Cup champion reported an engine misfire. Down on power, the #24 car of Gordon fell to 24th place just 3 laps later. Hendrick Motorsports crew were optimistic the problem was limited to a disconnected spark plug. Unfortunately for the #24 crew, a pit stop during the third caution would leave the team in a more somber mood as the engine's lack of power appears to be a more terminal issue.
The problems of Denny Hamlin early left the Chase for the Sprint Cup interesting through this finale By lap 120, Kevin Harvick was leading the Cup contenders on track in 5th place. Jimmie Johnson was close behind in 8th while Denny Hamlin was recovering nicely from the lap 25 incident. The #11 Toyota crept up to 20th on the race track.
Caution flew just past of the mid-way point of the Ford 400 as the #47 Toyota of Marcus Ambrose impacted the wall on turn 4. After pit stops, the Michael Waltrip Racing #56 Toyota preserved the lead but Carl Edward sailed back to the lead as the drivers continued a see-saw battle.
Juan Pablo Montoya and Joey Logano were parties involved with a three-wide scenario which quickly results in the #42 of Montoya touching the #20 Toyota. The contact triggered the #20 of Logano into the wall to suffer massive front end damage. Joey Logano's race season ended with a crushed Toyota and an emotionally-crushed Joe Gibbs Racing Home Depot crew leaving competition before the checkered flag. Juan Pablo Montoya and Bill Elliott also sustained damage but continued to race the duration of the Ford 400 event.
With 100 laps to go, only 7 points separated the top-3 drivers in the Sprint Cup championship fight as the Ford 400 was led make to green by Carl Edwards. Denny Hamlin, one position behind Jimmie Johnson on the Homestead-Miami race track following pit stops, achieved a marvelous restart passing Johnson quickly as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver charged his way forward. Five laps later, the #11 Toyota of Hamlin has launched himself into the top-ten runners.
Kevin Harvick made a dramatic surge to lead the field back on to the Homestead-Miami race track. Regrettably, Harvick and the Richard Childress Racing crew had a short-lived triumph as NASCAR deemed speeding on pit road.
An 8th caution with 73 laps to go slowed the field as the #38 Ford of Dave Blaney hit hard between turn 3 and 4 striking the retaining wall. At the restart, the #56 Toyota slowed developing a flat tire. The driver held on to the #56 Michael Waltrip Racing but the deflated tire ruined the day for Martin Truex Jr. Little more than a lap following Martin Truex Jr's tribulations, caution came out for oil on the race track. Jeff Gordon's #24 Chevrolet wounded run ended as the Hendrick Motorsports engine gave up.
Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick pitted on lap 239 for fuel as well as tires under green bracing for the final run to the finish ahead of Jimmie Johnson. After the leaders pitted, caution came out just a few laps later spoiling their title charge effort. The race's 10th yellow flag on lap 243 flew for a scary incident involving the #18 Toyota of Kyle Busch. Racing with Kevin Harvick for track position, the #29 Chevrolet connected with the #18 of Busch. Smashing the wall hard with his Camry's front end, Busch found smoke and flames building up in and around his #18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Kyle Busch was thankfully unhurt but was left disappointed he was unable to sweep the final race weekend. Busch had won the Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series finales for the Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

From the resumption of the race after the final caution, Carl Edwards held onto the led while Jimmie Johnson took a firm grip of an important 2nd place position. With Kevin Harvick following Johnson in 3rd and Denny Hamlin buried deep outside of the top-10 through the final laps, the #48 Lowes Chevrolet was in the ideal spot to take an unprecedented 5th straight Sprint Cup title.

Crossing the finish line, Carl Edwards' #99 Ford maintained an 1.609 second lead over Johnson's #48 Chevrolet. After winning in Phoenix, Edwards capped a nearly two-year long winless streak which dated back to victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2008. Carl Edwards waited only one week to gain a second victory to round out the 2010 season. Another outstanding performance for Ford, Edwards led 190 of the races 267 laps.

As Jimmie Johnson finished second, he became the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion. Coming into the NASCAR Sprint cup finale, Johnson was unaccustomed to being on the outside of the championship lead from his experiences for the first four titles.

Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR

Coming up short on the year, Kevin Harvick finished 3rd in the Ford 400 and 3nd overall (41 points off of Johnson) in the Sprint Cup Chase standings. Due to NASCAR Sprint Cup's Chase format, Harvick gave up a healthy points margin in exchange for this points payoff. Having entered the season with few questions on Kevin Harvick's driving ability, questions surrounded whether his time was best spent at Richard Childress Racing. With 3 wins and 26 top-10 finishes (the most of any driver in 2010), the Californian driver returns in 2011 as a bona fide Sprint Cup contender.

NASCAR Sprint Cup points runner-up in 2010 Denny Hamlin season ended with a 14th place run at Homestead, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver's Chase points totaled to a 39 marker deficit to Jimmie Johnson.

With Ford prevailing in the race bearing their corporate name, Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) cars round out the top-5 behind Harvick. A career-high finish for Aric Almirola of 4th place was accomplished by the young, part-time driver of the #9 Ford while RPM's potentially brightest star for 2011 AJ Allmendinger brought the #43 Ford home 5th.

With all 36 races in the books for 2010, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will next celebrate the season that was leading up to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Banquet. For another year, Jimmie Johnson will be the guest of honour. Congratulations!

2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup
Ford 400
Homestead-Miami Speedway
Race Results

Pos #  | Car #  | Driver  | Sponsor/ Car Make

  1. 99 Carl Edwards Aflac Ford
  2. 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet
  3. 29 Kevin Harvick Shell / Pennzoil Chevrolet
  4. 9 Aric Almirola Budweiser Ford
  5. 43 A J Allmendinger Insignia HDTV Ford
  6. 83 Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota
  7. 39 Ryan Newman U.S.Army Chevrolet
  8. 14 Tony Stewart Office Depot / Old Spice Chevrolet
  9. 17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
  10. 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford
  11. 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
  12. 33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios / Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
  13. 12 Brad Keselowski No. 12 Penske Dodge
  14. 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota
  15. 21 Bill Elliott Motorcraft / Quick Lane Ford
  16. 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet
  17. 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
  18. 2 Kurt Busch Miller Lite Dodge
  19. 98 Paul Menard Mastercraft / Menards Ford
  20. 6 David Ragan UPS Ford
  21. 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Chevrolet
  22. 09 Bobby Labonte C & J Energy Chevrolet
  23. 82 Scott Speed Red Bull Toyota
  24. 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Mobil 1 Dodge
  25. 37 David Gilliland Taco Bell Ford
  26. Marcos Ambrose Clorox / Kleenex Toyota
  27. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. National Guard / AMP Energy Chevrolet
  28. 19 Elliott Sadler Stanley Ford
  29. 71 Andy Lally Anderson's Maple Syrup Chevrolet
  30. 7 Kevin Conway  ExtenZe Toyota
  31. 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
  32. 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota
  33. 13 Casey Mears GEICO Toyota
  34. 34 Travis Kvapil Long John Silver's Ford
  35. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
  36. 38 Dave Blaney A&W All American Food Ford 
  37. 24 Jeff Gordon Dupont Chevrolet
  38. 00 David Reutimann Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
  39. 20 Joey Logano The Home Depot Toyota
  40. 64 Landon Cassill Empire Steel Buildings Toyota
  41. 87 Joe Nemechek Young Eagles / Toyota
  42. 36 J J Yeley Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet
  43. 66 Mike Bliss PRISM Motorsports Toyota

Kyle Busch Nets 13th NASCAR Nationwide Win of 2010

Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/ Getty Images for NASCAR

By Reid Spencer

Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

(November 20, 2010)

HOMESTEAD, Fla.—Kyle Busch pulled away from Kevin Harvick during a 23-lap run to the finish to win Saturday’s Ford 300 Nationwide Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Harvick ran second, followed by 2010 series champion Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne.

With his 13th victory in 29 starts this season, Busch extended his single-season win record. The victory was his 43rd in the Nationwide Series, leaving him five behind all-time leader Mark Martin.

Danica Patrick qualified fifth, pitted early and led four laps—her first of the season—by staying out while others pitted under caution on Lap 24. Soon after a restart on Lap 28, however, she dropped back to 21st in the running order. She finished a career-best 19th in her 13th start in the series.

After winning the owners championship in his own No. 18 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Friday night, Busch secured the Nationwide owners’ title for Joe Gibbs Racing on Saturday. Stenhouse clinched Raybestos rookie of the year honors.

Notes: Keselowski scored his 26th top-five finish of the year, a single-season record. … The victory was Gibbs’ 49th in the past three seasons. Busch has 31 of those. ... Busch led 153 of 200 laps.

NASCAR Nationwide Series
Ford 300
Homestead-Miami Speedway
Race Results 
Pos #  |  Car #  | Driver | Sponsor/Car Make
  1. 18 Kyle Busch Z-Line Designs Toyota
  2. 33 Kevin Harvick Jimmy John's Chevrolet
  3. 22 Brad Keselowski Discount Tire Dodge
  4. 6 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. # CitiFinancial Ford
  5. 17 Trevor Bayne Roush Fenway Ford
  6. 60 Carl Edwards Ford
  7. 20 Joey Logano GameStop / MASTIFF Toyota
  8. 62 Brendan Gaughan Aspen Dental Toyota
  9. 98 Paul Menard Richmond / Menards Ford 200
  10. 10 Jason Leffler ABF U-Pack Moving Toyota
  11. 12 Justin Allgaier Verizon Wireless Dodge
  12. 99 Martin Truex Jr. Out! Pet Care Toyota
  13. 42 Parker Kligerman / Bandit Chippers Dodge
  14. 32 Reed Sorenson Dollar General Toyota
  15. 66 Steve Wallace 5-hour Energy Toyota
  16. 11 David Reutimann Rexall / Dollar General Toyota
  17. 84 Cole Whitt Red Bull Toyota
  18. 09 Brian Scott Shore Lodge Toyota
  19. 7 Danica Patrick Chevrolet
  20. 23 Robert Richardson Jr. R3 Motorsports Chevrolet
  21. 26 Sam Hornish Jr. Alliance Parts Dodge
  22. 05 David Starr Cash America Chevrolet
  23. 34 Tony Raines Chevrolet
  24. 15 Michael Annett Toyota
  25. 49 Mark Green Anderson's Maple Syrup Chevrolet 
  26. 21 Morgan Shepherd Victory In Jesus Racing Chevrolet
  27. 35 Jason Keller TriStar Motorsports Chevrolet
  28. 28 Kenny Wallace Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet
  29. 16 Colin Braun Con-way Freight Ford
  30. 01 Mike Wallace Suncore Industries Chevrolet
  31. 40 Mike Bliss Westerman Companies Chevrolet
  32. 88 Aric Almirola GT Vodka Chevrolet
  33. 27 Chase Mattioli / Ford
  34. 92 Brian Keselowski K-Automotive Motorsports Dodge
  35. 87 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet
  36. 70 Shelby Howard Chevrolet
  37. 24 Eric McClure Hefty Odor Block Ford
  38. 38 Kasey Kahne Great Clips Chevrolet 
  39. 04 Jeremy Clements Boudreaux's Butt Paste Chevrolet
  40. 91 David Gilliland D'Hondt-Humphrey Motorsports Chevrolet
  41. 56 Kevin Lepage Sunshine Plumbing/MitchellSwabackCharities Toyota
  42. 96 Dennis Setzer K-Automotive Motorsports Dodge
  43. 36 Jeff Green TriStar Motorsports Chevrolet

Lotus Blooms as 2012 IndyCar Engine Supplier

Photo Credit: Chris Jones

For the second time in two weeks, the esteemed press and observers of the IZOD IndyCar Series were enlightened to yet another encouraging sign for the future of the open wheel organization. Surprising many with an announcement, Lotus Cars has officially become the 3rd engine supplier slated to be powering the upcoming 2012 IndyCar Series vehicles.

Revealed Friday at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show in the presence of IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard, Lotus Cars CEO Dany Bahar and IndyCar racing legend Parnelli Jones, the announcement involved not only the admittance to supplying engines but also confirming a previously-stated intent to offer a body kit to the Dallara chassis in 2012.

Since the formulation of the new car rules, it was more than likely Lotus was clamouring for a greater role in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Throughout this year, Lotus had a technical cooperation with the KV Racing team. In part of that agreement, the green and yellow colours of Lotus had been worn through the 2010 campaign by KV Racing's #5 car of Takuma Sato. Of course most notably, Lotus Racing has also reactivated as a Formula 1 competitor as one of three new teams joining the grand prix grid this past season. 

Through the 1960s, Team Lotus founder Colin Chapman launched an all-out charge to take the world's greatest oval racing event. Making a first stand at the 1963 Indy 500, the rear-engined Lotus race cars piloted by Formula 1 legends Jim Clark and Graham Hill would both have their pictures mounted on the Borg-Warner Trophy. Clark brought Lotus to the first ever victory at the Brickyard for a rear-engined open wheel car in 1965 with Graham Hill repeating for Chapman's team in 1966.

While Lotus' victory at the Indy 500 quickly led to complete adoption of rear-engine configuration on Indy cars, a two-year stint of 1967 and 1968 saw technology which would never again visit the Brickyard. Running a gasoline-powered turbine Indy car, Parnelli Jones almost won the 1967 race if it had not been for a late race mechanical failure. In 1969, Mario Andretti charged to the Indy 500 in a four-wheel drive Lotus but the car was lost in a crash prior to the 500-mile race. Andretti won the 1969 Indy 500 in a modified Brawner-Hawk chassis.

A part of such a rich racing past, Dany Bahar provided details on why Lotus has decided for a return to North American open wheel racing. "We believe in the series. We believe the series is developing very, very well. I think it fits perfectly very well our activities and strategies in the U.S., which is our biggest market."

With KV Racing being a likely client of the Lotus engines and aero kits, it is too early to identify which teams will opt for the components of the British-based organization but it will certainly not be an exclusive deal. Rules set out by the IndyCar ICONIC committee behind the 2012 race machine was to require any aero kits to be available to other teams.

While supplying chassis parts is not new for Lotus, it remains interesting to ponder how Lotus will develop an engine in just one year. As a sports car builder, many of Lotus' powerplants for production cars were harvested and modified from other company designs (The Lotus Elise and the upcoming 2013 Esprit borrow engines from Toyota Motor Company). Lotus does have experience as well as resources in building their own production powerplants (the Lotus 900 and the twin-turbo used on the Esprit V-8 are two examples).

Looking forward to about 15 months time, Lotus' Bahar states "We want to compete. We would like to design our own cars and hopefully maybe other teams can profit from our design capabilities. That's why we start already from today investing money and also capacities in developing the right aero kit and engine for 2012".

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kyle Busch Takes Camping World Truck Finale; KBM Takes Owner's Championship

Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images 

By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
(November 19, 2010)


Kyle Busch ran away from Ron Hornaday Jr. after a restart with four laps left in Friday night’s Ford 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and won the race by .577 seconds over last year’s series champion.

In winning for the eighth time in 16 starts this season and the 24th time in his career, Busch locked up the owners’ championship for his No. 18 Toyota in his first year as an owner in the series.

"This is so cool, to come out here and win in our last race the way we did," said Busch, who is still looking for sponsorship to sustain his truck team next year. "(Crew chief) Eric Phillips made some great calls and got my head back in the race."

Johnny Sauter ran third, followed by 2010 truck series champion Todd Bodine and Aric Almirola, second in the standings this year.

Busch was running in the top five when Sauter’s No. 13 Toyota pinched him into the outside wall on Lap 102 of the 134-lap race. The right front tire on Busch’s Toyota blew shortly thereafter, causing the fourth caution of the race. That turned out to be a minor hurdle between Busch and the victory.

Busch stayed on the lead lap and restarted 21st on Lap 111. By the time John Jackson’s wild slide into the sand barrels protecting the entrance to pit road brought out caution No. 5 on that same lap, Busch was running 14th. NASCAR red-flagged the race while the barrels were replaced.

Hornaday took the lead after a restart on Lap 115 and held it until Elliott Sadler’s spin off Turn 4 caused the sixth and final caution and set up the decisive four-lap run to the finish.

Kevin Harvick, Hornaday’s owner, urged his driver to take the outside on the final restart. Hornaday tried to hold Busch down to the inside, but to no avail. Hornaday said it wouldn’t have mattered which lane he picked.

"No, it didn’t matter—we were just too tight up through the middle, and his truck was free enough where he kept the momentum going," Hornaday said. "I just wish Johnny had hit him a little harder when he squeezed him against the fence over there, so he didn’t have such a good truck to come back and beat me."

Kasey Kahne Clobbers Cup Field for Homestead Pole

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/ Getty Images for NASCAR

Homestead is the home stretch for the 36-race NASCAR Sprint Cup series of 2010. A 1.5 mile true oval track, the Homestead-Miami Speedway plays host to one of the closest three-way points battles since the Chase for the Sprint Cup format was innovated by NASCAR in 2004. With Hamlin, Johnson and Harvick separated by only 46 points entering the final race, the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup appears have the potential of needing all of the event's 267 laps.

Breaking a two-race pole streak Ford Motor Company products in the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, Kasey Kahne stormed to the Ford 400 pole his #83 Red Bull Toyota. Rounding the 1.5 mile in a time of 30.525 to take the final pole of 2010, Kahne and the Team Red Bull narrowly nicked Phoenix race winner Carl Edwards by a margin of just 0.031 seconds on the track. As qualifying concluded and the grid was set for the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, less than 7/10th of a second separates Kasey Kahne's lead time with the slowest race entry speed posted by 40th place Juan Pablo-Montoya.

Kahne's 4th pole of this season, this is the driver's first top time since making an early entrance into Team Red Bull Racing. Having parted ways with has long-time Sprint Cup team (the #9 car existing within Richard Petty Motorsports) after the fall Charlotte event, Kasey Kahne is spending some early seat time inside the #83 Toyota preparing for a full season for 2011. 

The Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing #1 Chevrolet of Jamie McMurray starts 3rd in this final event in afairy tale season for a driver many motorsport insiders wrote off prior to his victory at this year's Daytona 500. Bill Elliott is another continuing to make notable appearances in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. The Dawsonville, Georgia 1988 NASCAR Cup champion positioned the #21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford in 4th. The #43 Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) Ford driven by AJ Allmendinger allowed 3 of the top-5 vehicles starting at the front of the Ford 400 to display a Blue Oval badge. A solid top-5 for Allmendinger within the uncertainty of RPM's 2011 operation, a bright spot for the embattled Ford team is qualifying where at least one team car started in the top-10 for 8 of the final 10 races.

In regards to the much anticipated final showdown Sunday for the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup, second place in the points Jimmie Johnson starts in the best spot. Qualifying his #48 Lowes Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports 6th for the Ford 400, Johnson's so-called "drive for five" championships has the driver favoured (at least for the beginning of the event) to repeat the title victory which he's achieved the past four seasons.

Buried in 37th, current Chase for the Sprint Cup points leader Denny Hamlin #11 FedEx Toyota will be need to pick up considerable ground over the 400 mile distance to complete the eagerly-awaited spoiling of Jimmie Johnson's Sprint Cup series dominance. A difficult job, breaking through the field of the Homestead-Miami Speedway NASCAR Sprint Cup race is a custom for Hamlin having never started better than 25th in previous qualifying attempts at the 1.5 mile oval. Last year, the #11 Toyota of Denny Hamlin won the season's final event starting 38th on that day.  

Third 2010 Sprint Cup contender Kevin Harvick will also be required to make up some race distance after a lackluster time trial run. Starting better than Denny Hamlin in 28th place, Harvick's #29 Chevrolet will attempt to regain the series point lead honours which were stripped from the Richard Childress Racing pilot due to the Chase reformatting after Richmond. 

With engine set to roar at 1 P.M. Eastern for the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup series finale Ford 400, expectations are to see a competitive event amongst the 43 who all have something to prove prior to the checkered flag.    

2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup
Ford 400
Homestead-Miami Speedway
Starting Lineup

# Pos  | Car #  | Driver| Sponsor/ Car Make
  1. 83 Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota
  2. 99 Carl Edwards Aflac Ford
  3. 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Chevrolet
  4. 21 Bill Elliott Motorcraft / Quick Lane Ford
  5. 43 A J Allmendinger Insignia HDTV Ford
  6. 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet
  7. 00 David Reutimann Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
  8. 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet
  9. 6 David Ragan UPS Ford
  10. 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
  11. 24 Jeff Gordon Dupont Chevrolet
  12. 19 Elliott Sadler Stanley Ford
  13. 17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
  14. 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
  15. 2 Kurt Busch Miller Lite Dodge
  16. 98 Paul Menard Mastercraft / Menards Ford
  17. 33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios / Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
  18. 12 Brad Keselowski No. 12 Penske Dodge
  19. 20 Joey Logano The Home Depot Toyota
  20. 47 Marcos Ambrose Clorox / Kleenex Toyota
  21. 36 J J Yeley Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet
  22. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. National Guard / AMP Energy Chevrolet
  23. 39 Ryan Newman U.S.Army Chevrolet 
  24. 9 Aric Almirola Budweiser Ford
  25. 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
  26. 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Mobil 1 Dodge
  27. 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford
  28. 29 Kevin Harvick Shell / Pennzoil Chevrolet
  29. 87 Joe Nemechek Young Eagles / Toyota
  30. 66 Mike Bliss PRISM Motorsports Toyota
  31. 14 Tony Stewart Office Depot / Old Spice Chevrolet 
  32.  09 Bobby Labonte C & J Energy Chevrolet
  33. 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota 
  34. 13 Casey Mears GEICO Toyota
  35. 71 Andy Lally Anderson's Maple Syrup Chevrolet
  36. 38 Dave Blaney A&W All American Food Ford
  37. 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota
  38. 37 David Gilliland Taco Bell Ford
  39. 34 Travis Kvapil Long John Silver's Ford
  40. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet 
  41. 82 Scott Speed Red Bull Toyota
  42. 7 Kevin Conway ExtenZe Toyota
  43. 64 Landon Cassill  Empire Steel Buildings Toyota