Sunday, February 28, 2010

Motorsports at the 2010 Toronto International Auto Show

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Attending the 2010 Toronto International Auto Show, I took a break from the shiny presentation of all-new street vehicles to visit a more unique display at this year's event.

Located in the on level 700 of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the majority of the floor paid tribute to the abundant history of American sports car Kingpin Carroll Shelby. Not only was there a slew of Shelby Cobras, modified Mustangs and the rare GT40, the showcase also included cars significant to Shelby's racing career as a driver. A relatively short career which was ended due to personal health problems, Shelby started racing as a hired gun first for drag racing but more memorably for road racing. Shelby's 2nd and 3rd cars (a MG-TC and an Allard) were represented as well as a replica of an Austin-Healey he ran in the 1954 Carrera Pan Americana Mexico rally.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Past the Shelby exhibit, I ventured into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame. A collection of cars stocked with a choice sampling of vehicles wearing the maple leaf flag in competition.

Entering the small hall, the first car to greet me was a Midland F1 M16 race car. Since the team was classified as a Russian F1 team, the Canadian connection wasn't entirely clear. I needed to take a brief modern history lesson to learn that the Midland F1 Racing was owned by a Russian-born Canadian business Alex Shnaider. Co-founder of the Midland Group, Shnaider's ventures includes the current Trump International Hotel and Tower scheduled for completion in 2010. The Midland F1 Racing team existed for one season in 2006 having previously been the Jordan Grand Prix organization. Absent the Toyota powerplant which propelled the Formula 1 car, the Midland F1 car's place in the display is now clear.

Deeper in the Hall of Fame exhibit, another Formula 1 car sat representing to more successful efforts of Walter Wolf. Wolf, like Shnaider, was a foreign born man who settled in Canada who entered into grand prix contention through the mid to late 1970s. Walter Wolf Racing, proudly displaying the Canadian flags, was founded for the 1977 season with future Formula 1 World Championship driver Jody Scheckter piloting the race car. In the hall was one of the Wolf WR1s that competed in the maiden season which included one of the team's three F1 victories.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

On the right of the Wolf WR1 is probably the most prestigious car in the display. The 2000 winner of the LMP675 class at the LeMans 24-hour race, the Nissan-powered Lola was campaigned by Markham, Ontario's Multimatic Motorsports, Along with being a Canadian-owned entry, the driver lineup was an all-Canadian contingent of John Graham, Scott Maxwell and Greg Wilkins.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Last but certainly not least, the eye-catcher in this Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame exhibit was a #99 Reynard chassis wore the famous Players blue and white colours. With the tobacco brand a staple in the open wheel series for 11 seasons, this car from 1999 wore the name of late, great BC native Greg Moore on the bottom of the roll hoop.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Providing only a snapshot (pardon the pun) for the rich auto racing history of Canadians, the vehicles within this exhibit are without the drivers that once piloted these race machines. However, unlike the beautiful, newborn factory creations that consumed much of Metro Toronto Convention Centre, these vintage race cars radiate the sweat and passion of their former drivers as a lasting time capsule.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Harvick Hits Jackpot at Sam's Town 300 NASCAR Nationwide Race

Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR

There's a saying that the best way to cure a drought is to hold a car race in the area. As the NASCAR Nationwide series Sam's Town 300 prepared to roll on Saturday in the desert of Las Vegas, rain delayed the green flag for over an hour and a half. After the rain clouds finally dispersed and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway surface dry was dried, Brad Keselowski in the #22 Dodge took field to the starting line.

Taking the green flag in the lead, Keselowski would not hold the position for lap 1 as front row starter Kevin Harvick in his Chevrolet swept around the Penske-owned Dodge. Driving again for his KHI (Kevin Harvick Incorporated) Chevy, Harvick lead held the lead for a consecutive 57 laps before he had to make a green-flag pit stop. Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Keselowski, Carl Edwards, and James Buescher would lead through the proceeding laps.

Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Driving the photogenic #7 Chevrolet, Danica Patrick start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was her third career NASCAR Nationwide series race. Since her debut at Daytona, Patrick has been enduring a bumpy road in the stock car racing series getting caught in a crash at Daytona and having a so-par race car at Auto Club Speedway. Continuing what is a difficult transition to the heavier stock cars, Patrick's race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway started in 37th place. Moving up the running order, Danica Patrick briefly ran as high as 3rd using pit stop strategy but saw her efforts fall flat. On lap 83, Patrick's #7 Chevrolet is passing the slower car of Michael McDowell on the inside of turn one when McDowell's Dodge trimmed down on the #7 Chevrolet. McDowell's car spun and collected Patrick ending her race with a heavily-damaged JR Motorsports Chevrolet. The Sam's Town 300 will be Danica Patrick's last scheduled race in the NASCAR Nationwide Series until late June. Taking precedence over her stock car racing, Patrick returns to the IZOD IndyCar series in two weeks time rejoining her full-time effort with Andretti Autosport.

As the field visited pit road for service, Kyle Busch's #18 Toyota led the leaders back up to the track. Early race leader Kevin Harvick experienced a less stellar stop which cost him five positions on the race track. This stop followed an earlier stop where the KHI #33 pit crew provided another slow service and comes just two weeks after Harvick chastised his crew members in the Daytona Nationwide race.

With an interruption for rain drawing a brief caution at lap 105, Kyle Busch led for 32 laps before a 5th race yellow flag flew for the #6 Ford hitting the wall along for frontstretch. On the pit road rush, the crew of the Carl Edwards #60 Ford got the new father out first. With three lead lap cars staying on the racetrack for track position, Edwards took 3 laps to work past those vehicles to take the lead. Caution came out again on lap 146 when Brian Scott lost control of his #11 Toyota and banged the wall in turn 4. Finishing the race in 31st, Scott has currently revealed himself as a top 15 driver in 2010 as a NASCAR Nationwide series rookie.

Pit stops again reshaped the lead of the race as Denny Hamlin was able to usher his #20 Toyota out of the pits first with Penske's Racing Justin Allgaier also finding his way around the former leading car of Carl Edwards. As Hamlin sets the pace through the latter stage of the Sam's Town 300, Kevin Harvick made a change from 6th to 2nd in the 29 laps that the #20 Toyota led. With the aid of a late caution involving Colin Braun, Steve Wallace and Tony Raines, Harvick used the double file restart to make a race winning move around Denny Hamlin. Just a few laps after teammate Hamlin relinquished the race's lead, Kyle Busch contention for victory ended when he brushed the wall with his #18 Z-Line Designs Toyota while running third. Busch would backslid to 16th place as he crossed the finish line.

Leading the final 25 laps, Kevin Harvick took the #33 Chevrolet to victory in the Sam's Town 300 overcoming the early pit problems to celebrate with his team in the winner's circle.
For the second time, a KHI Chevrolet takes victory on the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide circuit adding to the Daytona win with Tony Stewart driving a team car. This victory for Kevin Harvick was also describe by wife and team co-owner DeLana Harvick as "a nice anniversary present". NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers would dominate the top 5 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Brian Vickers following Harvick in that order across the finish line.

With only three races in the books for the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Carl Edwards holds a 41 point lead over Brad Keselowski in the series-long standings. Finishing 7th in the Sam's Town 300, Allgaier currently sits 4th in series points, the highest placed Nationwide-only driver amongst a crowd of Sprint Cup regulars.

NASCAR Nationwide Series
Sam's Town 300
Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Top 10

1) 33 Kevin Harvick Rheem Chevrolet
2) 20 Denny Hamlin Interstate Batteries Toyota
3) 60 Carl Edwards Copart Ford
4) 22 Brad Keselowski Discount Tire Dodge
5) 32 Brian Vickers Dollar General Toyota
6) 99 Trevor Bayne Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
7) 12 Justin Allgaier Verizon Wireless Dodge
8) 98 Paul Menard Richmond / Menards Ford
9) 27 Greg Biffle Redman Moist Snuff Ford
10) 66 Steve Wallace 5 Hour Energy Toyota

Other Notables
16) 18 Kyle Busch Z-Line Designs Toyota
18) 87 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet
27) 40 Mike Bliss Buck Commander / Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet
28) 16 Colin Braun Roush Fenway Ford
31) 11 Brian Scott Toyota
36) 7 Danica Patrick Chevrolet
42) 88 Kelly Bires Chevrolet

Friday, February 26, 2010

Kurt Busch Takes Pole for Las Vegas Shelby 427 Cup Race

Photo Credit: Autostock/Penske Racing

Into the third race of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup, fans of the top stock car series have been treated to some unpredictable happenings in the first two events. The Shelby American 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the second non-restrictor plate race of the season and has the potential to help establish some firm ground under where the Sprint Cup teams stand for 2010.

On Friday qualifying, Kurt Busch piloted has Miller Lite Dodge won the time trials for the Shelby 427 pole. Perhaps gaining some inspiration from the dominance of Penske Racing's IndyCar teams testing performances at Birmingham's Barber Motorsports Park, Busch shot around the 1.5 mile oval at an average speed of 188.719 miles per hour striping the #24 of Jeff Gordon from the top position. Scoring pole in his hometown race, the elder Busch brother will likely enjoy a repeat result from last season when Kyle Busch's won from the pole.

With Dupont/Pepsi Max #24 Chevrolet nailing down a tough mark to beat for Busch, Gordon was little more than 1/100th of a second short of successfully holding off Busch's fast Dodge. In 3rd, Ryan Newman has ridden his Tornados-sponsored #39 Chevrolet attempting to fight the turbulence of an unfair 2010 campaign so far. Falling victim to a last race crash at the Daytona 500 and an engine failure at Auto Club Speedway, Newman currently sits 36th in driver points.

Dale Earnhardt Jr took the top spot early in the qualifying session for the second time of the year. As qualifying concluded, Earnhardt Jr's #88 Chevrolet settled into a 4th place starting position for Sunday's event. JR Nation fans wanting to see a turnaround for the #88 Hendrick Motorsport car in 2010 will be pleased to learn this weekend's qualifying effort through Earnhardt Jr's average start of 28.6 place in the past four visits to Las Vegas.

In 5th and 6th, the 2 of the 3 Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch and Joey Logano can present a definite challenge to the lead at Las Vegas. With Kyle Busch the reigning race winner in the #18 Toyota, Logano has been showing some real promise through the early stages of the 2010 Sprint Cup campaign seated 9th in points.

Rounding out the top 10 in Friday's qualifying is the highest-starting Ford of Greg Biffle, the #5 Chevrolet of Mark Martin, Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya. Despite the aggressive performance that the Earnhardt-Childress Engine program has in the first two races of 2010, Montoya's #42 Target Chevrolet placement of 10th was the fastest of the group at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Current Sprint Cup points leader and fellow Earnhardt-Childress Engine runner Kevin Harvick could only muster a 34th place starting spot for Sunday's Shelby American 400 race.

In the middle of the field, multiple race winners Jeff Burton and Jimmie Johnson will be starting the event with not only their experience but with statistics on their side. Through the past 12 Sprint Cup races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the winner came from a starting position outside of the top 15 on 6 occasions. Four of those times became from between 23rd to 25st place.

With two 500 mile races launching the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, the 400 miles around Las Vegas Motor Speedway might seem like a breather to the drivers and teams. However, these shorter races basically compresses the intensity level of the competitors as fewer laps mean a more flat-out race. These shorter events for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series also leaves less margin of error making even one pit road penalty a considerably more costly occurrence.

2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup
Shelby American 400
Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Pos # | Car # | Driver | Sponsor/Car make
1) 2 Kurt Busch Miller Lite Dodge
2) 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont / Pepsi Max Chevrolet
3) 39 Ryan Newman Tornados Chevrolet
4) 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. National Guard / AMP Energy Chevrolet
5) 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota
6) 20 Joey Logano Home Depot Toyota
7) 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford
8) 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet
9) 14 Tony Stewart Old Spice / Office Depot Chevrolet
10) 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
11) 17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
12) 99 Carl Edwards Aflac / Kelloggs Ford
13) 33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios / Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
14) 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Mobil 1 Dodge
15) 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota
16) 12 Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge
17) 00 David Reutimann TUMS Toyota
18) 6 David Ragan UPS Ford
19) 9 Kasey Kahne Budweiser Ford
20) 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's / KOBALT Tools Chevrolet
21) 13 Max Papis GEICO Toyota
22) 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
23) 82 Scott Speed Red Bull Toyota
24) 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's Chevrolet
25) 34 Travis Kvapil Long John Silver's Ford
26) 98 Paul Menard Moen / Menards Ford
27) 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Ground Toyota
28) 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
29) 71 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet
30) 36 Mike Bliss Kim Kardashian Fragrance Chevrolet
31) 83 Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
32) 47 Marcos Ambrose Kingsford / Scott Branded Products Toyota
33) 55 Michael McDowell PRISM Motorsports Toyota
34) 29 Kevin Harvick Pennzoil Ultra Chevrolet
35) 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Gold Filters Toyota
36) 66 Dave Blaney PRISM Motorsports Toyota
37) 19 Elliott Sadler Stanley Ford
38) 38 David Gilliland Taco Bell Ford
39) 37 Kevin Conway Extenze Ford
40) 43 A J Allmendinger Valvoline Ford
41) 26 Boris Said Southern Pride Trucking Ford
42) 7 Robby Gordon Monster Energy Toyota
43) 09 Aric Almirola Phoenix Racing Chevrolet

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Indy Lights Driver Ana Beatriz Making IndyCar Debut in Series Opening Sao Paulo Race

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Not to be confessed with the supermodel, Brazilian race car driver Ana Beatriz will become her home country's first female to compete in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Entered in a third car supplied by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, Beatriz's first IndyCar start will be extra special coming as part of a healthy Brazilian contingent at the inaugural Streets of Sao Paulo round for the IZOD IndyCar series. Ana Beatriz first race start in the major league open wheel series comes after two successful seasons in the Firestone Indy Lights Series where the talented 24-year old accomplished several significant feats.

Winning the 2008 Firestone Indy Lights Rookie of the year honour with a 3rd place overall points finish, Ana Beatriz also took victory in her first season of series competition winning at Nashville driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. The first female to clinch both of these auto racing goals, her 2008 season is more impressive since it would be a landmark achievement for any Indy Lights rookie. In 2009, Beatriz added a second win to her short career at the oval of Iowa Speedway. The win at Iowa Speedway in 2009 came after the Milwaukee Mile round which she was unable to participate in when her #20 Sam Schmidt Motorsports car was severely damaged in the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Lacking finances through 2009, this was the chief reason why Beatriz needed to sit out at Milwaukee as well as the Firestone Indy Lights season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Despite the two lost opportunities to compete in 2009, Ana Beatriz did place 8th in Firestone Indy Lights Series final points standings thanks to scoring 6 top-5 finishes for the season.

Hiring Ana Beatriz for this current one-race commitment, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has a storied past showcasing women in motorsports spending four seasons with driver Sarah Fisher.

Day 2 of IndyCar Test at Barber Motorsports Park: Power Boosted to Front

Photo Credit: Ron McQueeney/IndyCar

In the second day of the IZOD IndyCar Series open test, contenders in the 2010 open wheel racing circuit left the Barber Motorsports Park with full notebooks (perhaps more laptops at this time in auto racing) containing their gains and shortcomings. Averaging approximately 140 miles a piece through the two days, 20 Indy cars have attacked the 2.38 miles road course for what was the third and final session for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar series teams.

Taking on Barber Motorsports Park complex on a cool, sunny Thursday afternoon, speeds in two day testing showed significant pace increases. In session 3 runs, 9 IndyCar drivers posted times faster than the session 2 effort of Ryan Briscoe. As the IndyCar times dropped, Penske Racing's dominance from Wednesday spilled over to the Thursday IndyCar test session proving that the rest of the IZOD IndyCar has a reason to be concerned heading into 2010. On Thursday, Penske Racing cars swept the top 3 positions. However, a change came as Will Power took the lead. In fact, Power's fastest time was the only lap in the 2 day test that a driver was able to clock under the 1 minute, 10 second mark at 1:098724 lap time.

In hot pursuit of the Roger Penske 3-car team, Scott Dixon ran 4th fastest on the day in the #9 Target/Chip Ganassi Racing car. As for Target/Chip Ganassi Racing's reigning IndyCar Series Championship driver Dario Franchitti, the Scotsman's Thursday run equated to a second to last fast time. Limiting himself to a 3 lap shakedown on the second two, Dario Franchitti ran the second-fewest laps amongst all participants in the IndyCar test.

Continuing the prove Dreyer/Reinbold Racing as a force to be reckon with for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series, Justin Wilson made his third consecutive appearance amongst the top 5 on the time chart. While Wilson's speed seems to indicate a stronger Dreyer/Reinbold Racing during the two-day open test, teammate Mike Conway's performance in test session 3 showed true gains. Having left Wednesday with a speed nearly one and a half seconds slower than day's leader Briscoe, Conway top time in day two was only 0.38 seconds off the new IndyCar pacesetter.

Photo Credit: Ron McQueeney/IndyCar

Taking a break from her much-publicized NASCAR Nationwide Series endeavours, the very busy Danica Patrick returned to her familiar #7 Indy car. While Patrick had trouble finding front-running speed, this lack of speed plagued the whole four-car Andretti Autosport team. Team newcomer Ryan Hunter-Reay is still traveling the learning curve in the #37 car, recording a 14th overall fastest time around Barber Motorsports Park. Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti reminded situated in the middle of test time sheets throughout the three IndyCar practice sessions. After two days, Marco Andretti showed the quickest speed of the four-car team averaging 117.621 miles per hour within a single 2.38 mile lap.

Photo Credit: Ron McQueeney/IndyCar

Providing an impressive two day of testing after showing some early speed on Wednesday, Formula 1 veteran Takuma Sato best time placed the Japanese driver 5th on the overall test chart in his #5 KV Racing Technology car. Running more laps than any other driver in the three IZOD IndyCar test sessions at Barber Motorsports Park, Sato appears well-prepared to enter his first year of competition in the North American open wheel racing series. Running almost as many laps as Sato, Conquest Racing's rookie driver Mario Romancini also used the Barber test to gain as much pre-season seat time in the #34 car.

As the test wrapped up, there were IndyCar veteran drivers noticeably absent from the activities at Barber Motorsports Park, Graham Rahal and Mario Moraes. Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing brought only one car to the test for their newly-acquired driver Hideki Mutoh leaving guesses for whether the team will even run two cars in 2010. Speculation has also mentioned Rahal considering a venture into NASCAR (historically, not a particularly smart move for open wheel drivers). As for Moraes, KV Racing Technology appears not to be giving up hope in campaigning the driver. Mario Moraes would no doubt want to see a deal formulated for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series opener. Sao Paulo, Brazil which is his birthplace.

Like every test, it will remain to be seen if the success or struggles of a few laps will be truly telling of the 2010 season for the IZOD IndyCar Series tour.

Test at Barber Motorsports Park Ignites Spark for 2010 IZOD IndyCar Season

Photo Credit: Ron McQueeney/IndyCar

With various changes shaping the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series (the first of which being the IZOD title sponsor), the race teams of the upcoming season are eager to determine how their off-season structuring measures up to their rival competitors. Barber Motorsports Park, braced to hold their first IndyCar Series race on April 11th, played host to the most significant open test for the open wheel racing teams before the green flag falls on the 2010 IndyCar series on the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil. With the number of road courses exceeding the ovals for the first time since the IRL-based open wheel tour was founded in 1996, the mastery of left and right turning will prove pivotal to the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series Championship.

Photo Credit: Ron McQueeney/IndyCar

Of course, the powerhouse teams of Penske Racing and Target/Chip Ganassi Racing are the likely benchmarks for the field after dominating the IndyCar tour last season. Only Dale Coyne Racing's broke through the superteam stranglehold in 2009 when Justin Wilson's pulled off the upset win at Waltkins Glen. At Barber Motorsports Park, the Penske Racing team appears more even more prepared than their best efforts of 2009. Unveiling their new look livery, the 3 Penske pilots of 2010 were among 3 of the top 4 cars residing on the peak of the time charts. In two practice sessions, Ryan Briscoe was the fastest car in the first day of testing blistering around the 17-turn, 2.3 mile complex in 1 minute and 10.5052 seconds. With a top time just two-tenths of a second slower than Briscoe is Penske Racing teammate Helio Castroneves. Besides posting fast speeds, both Penske runners ran more than 60 laps in shaking down their Dallara-Honda race cars. Completing Penske's triple threat to the 2010 championship, Will Power was 4th quickest overall in the first day test. Planted 3rd in the test time sheet surrounded by the Penske Racing machines is Justin Wilson, readying his debut with the #22 Dreyer/Reinhold Racing car in just a few weeks.

On this first of two days of testing for the IZOD IndyCar teams, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing with defending series champion Dario Franchitti are running respectable though not excellent times. Franchitti's best time was only good enough for 9th on the day but Scott Dixon rode a quarter of a second quicker clocked 5th overall.

Showing some serious promise with drivers who were signed just under a week ago, KV Racing Technology cars fared favourably so far. Led by EJ Viso recording a 6th fastest time, IndyCar rookie Takuma Sato was only one position behind has KV Racing teammate. Sato also tied in recording the most laps completed in the test with 70 laps (Conquest Racing's rookie Mario Romancini also ran 70 laps).

Photo Credit: Ron McQueeney/IndyCar

A continuance of a trend through this winter season which played a factor in the 2010 Speedweeks action in Daytona, climate in the usually more temperate south have led to lower than average temperatures. In the Birmingham area, low temperatures were beneath the freezing mark and only peaked at 47 degrees Fahrenheit. In comparison, the 2010 Olympic Winter Games weather in Vancouver, British Columbia were pegged at just degrees lower than the high at Barber Motorsports Park. The colder than normal temperatures that were forecasted for Birmingham, Alabama provoked FAZZT Race Team to decide in favour of sitting out the open test altogether. With the second test session being faster in the slightly warmer afternoon weather, all cars set their fast times during the 2nd practice with exception to Mike Conway. Setting 4th fastest time in the earlier practice session, Conway's run in the #24 car was only 17th for the day.

Photo Credit: Ron McQueeney/IndyCar

The more practice sessions for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar series runners are scheduled for Thursday at Barber Motorsports Park with weather conditions mirroring the Wednesday session.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Attitude for Team Penske 2010 IndyCar Effort

Photo Credit: Steve Swope/Penske Racing

For 2010, Penske Racing's IZOD IndyCar team will have an all-new look for their full-time three car racing effort. Sporting a matching black and white appearance, Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe and Will Power have shown off the popular team's colours as IZOD IndyCar teams are attending an open test at Barber Motorsport Park.

The familar red and white paint scheme was worn for the first time by one of Roger Penske's race cars in 1990 when Emerson Fittipaldi brought Marlboro cigarettes sponsorship from Patrick Racing. Having become ingrained in Penske's racing efforts for two decades, the iconic paint rode on cars propelled to 8 Indy 500s including Rick Mears speedway record-tying 4th victory and 4 open wheel championships with the most recent occurring in 2006 Sam Hornish Jr with the IRL/IndyCar championship. The Marlboro/Penske livery was also a all to familiar sight in the 1994 CART championship where a three-car Penske team dominated much of the season, winning 12 of 16 events.

Since 1990 however, the sponsorship of tobacco products at sporting events was more than ever a hot-button issue in motorsports. Often lucrative supporters of auto racing in the decade before the 21st century, concerns that tobacco advertising could attribute to poor health caused the governments of many countries to crack down on the tobacco industry's influence. At the end of 2006, the Marlboro name disappeared from the Penske Racing Indy cars in accordance to a Tobacco Settlement Agreement. The livery remained on the Team Penske vehicles for 3 more IndyCar seasons with the race team receiving sponsorship money from the Tobacco company for at least part of brand name's departure.

Regardless of team colours, the 2010 Penske Racing squad are going to be eager to again contend for the IZOD IndyCar championship crown. As the series prepares to start in Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 14th, it's unfair to bet against any one of the Penske Racing drivers.

Photo Credit: Steve Swope/Penske Racing

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Conquest Racing Enlists Indy Lights Mario Romancini For IndyCar Ride

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Scrambling ahead of an upcoming test at Barber Motorsports Park for the IZOD IndyCar series, multiple teams have taken this past week to cement their 2010 driver lineups. As the fourth driver announcement in a week, Conquest Racing has tabbed 22-year old Brazilian Mario Romancini to pilot their #34 entry for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series tour.

Winning at the Milwaukee Mile with a flag-to-flag victory from pole position, Romancini's also won the 2009 season finale for the Firestone Indy Lights Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In one full season in the Firestone Indy Lights Series, he placed 6th overall in points. Before Indy Lights, Romancini competed in Brazilian Formula Renault 2.0 in 2006 and the South American Formula 3 in 2007. In South American Formula 3, Mario Romancini was runner-up in the series' overall championship scoring two F3 victories.

Having ties dating back to the original Indy Lights Series in the 1990s, Conquest Racing finances were strained through 2009 due to sponsorship woes. Starting off the past season with Canadian Alex Tagliani, the lack of money meant that Tagliani's year with Conquest Racing was cut to only 6 events (two of which being the Canadian races in Toronto and Edmonton). Missing some races in 2009, Conquest Racing did contend additional IndyCar races with drivers Nelson Philippe and Kosuke Matsuura.

Despite Conquest Racing's limited resources for the 2009 IndyCar Series, the team enjoyed a memorable effort in the year's Indianapolis 500 race. Starting 33rd, the combined efforts of Alex Tagliani and the pit crew would vault 22 positions to finish 11th. A deeply grateful Tagliani was awarded the 2009 Indy 500 rookie of the year honour driving the Conquest Racing car.

KV Racing Adds EJ Viso to 2010 IndyCar Series Lineup

Entering into the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series, KV Racing Technology cars will be piloted two fresh faces to the team. On Monday, KV Racing named EJ Viso to the 2010 driver roster joining the already-announced Takuma Sato. Having been named to test for the KV Racing Technology just a week ago, news of EJ Viso's 2010 plans in IndyCar come hardly as a surprise. Viso's addition to the team also coincided with KV Racing naming several new sponsors that included at least three companies tied to Viso home country of Venezuela. It's fair to say that Viso's presence made this sponsorship possible.

The 24 year-old EJ Viso briefly resided as a test driver in Formula 1 for the now-defunct Spyker MF1 Team. While Viso formative years involved stints in GP2 and British Formula 3, he was no stranger to the United States racing stage. Amongst his leading career achievement to date is the East division champion in the Skip Barber Formula Dodge series in 2001.

Having spent two eventful seasons with IndyCar team HVM, EJ Viso earned a devious reputation in his rookie season as being somewhat reckless. However, Viso was also seen for being a super fast drivers. In his first season, Viso posted his career best finish in only his 2nd race, a 4th on the Streets of St Petersburg. While earning the valuable respect of competitors in his second season, the HVM racing effort nested only a single top 10 finish for 2009 with a 7th place at Waltkins Glen.

Already signing two drivers for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series, a notable absence is KV Racing's driver for the past two seasons Mario Moraes. Either KV Racing Technology will add a third car to the lineup or Moraes will be looking elsewhere with time ticking away on the start of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series on the Streets of Sao Paulo in less than three weeks.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Spectator Killed at NHRA Event Arizona Nationals

During a drag racing competition on Sunday February 21st, a female spectator died after being hit by a large piece of debris at NHRA (National Hod Road Association) Arizona Nationals event at Firebird Raceway. In an accident during the first round matches for the NHRA Top Fuel drag racing series, a pairing between Troy Buff and Antron Brown resulted in an incident where Brown's Don Schumacher Racing-owned Top Fuel dragster lost its left rear wheel. As Brown's dragster shot sideways, the rear tire launched over the side of the vehicle going airborne. This action caused the tire to fly into the grandstands striking a woman. As the Top Fuel dragster slid to a stop, Brown was able to exit the damaged vehicle without injury. However, the woman had to be airlifted to Good Samaritan Hospital. In serious condition, she was pronounced death shortly afterwards on Sunday night. Reports indicate the woman was pushing another person in a wheelchair as the top fuel car's rear tire struck her.

In a statement placed on the Don Schumacher Racing website early Monday, team owner of Atron Brown's dragster Don Schumacher passed condolences for the entire tragedy. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the woman. There are simply no words to adequately express our feelings, but we can assure you that we are conducting a thorough investigation to determine how this happened."

The NHRA are currently investigating the accident. It appears most likely that the NHRA will focus on how the left rear wheel assembly detached from the top fuel dragster. "Safety is NHRA’s top priority, for not only our racers, but the millions of fans who attend events around the country. The set of circumstances that led to Sunday’s tragedy is being investigated by NHRA and the race team. " said the drag racing sanctioning body.

While loss of life of drivers and crew are enormously tragic, the motorsport world truly turns sad when a spectator becomes an innocent victim of a sport which continues to make no illusions about its danger.

XSL Speed Reporter joins the motorsport media in paying deepest sympathies to the friends and family to the woman who died.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Jimmie Johnson Turns California Dreams into Reality in Auto Club 500

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

The second race off the year for the NASCAR Sprint Cup 2010 season, the tour was taken cross-country from Daytona Beach to the west coast state of California. Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray proceeded to the track at a more leisurely pace to the Auto Club Speedway thanks to a week-long press junket. This post-Daytona 500 media tour for Jamie McMurray made it even more impressive that McMurray skated his #1 Chevrolet to pole for Friday afternoon qualifying. With Earnhardt/Ganassi Racing teammate Juan Pablo Montoya starting on the front row, Montoya bypassed McMurray on the first lap of the race. The #42 of Montoya held the top spot through the first 29 laps.

The Auto Club Speedway has become a stomping ground for Jimmie Johnson. Not only is the 2-mile oval located in the home state of the 4-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, his Lowes sponsored #48 Chevrolet holds an average finish of 3.75 in the last 8 races held on the Penske-built speedway situated on former Fontana industrial land. Johnson's presence emerged early in the Auto Club 500 as he took 1st place away from Montoya on lap 30.

Caution-free for 58 laps, the first caution came out for debris on the racetrack. While the Sprint Cup teams were able to change tires and refuel under the lap 59 caution, a multitude of green flag pit stops contributed to many of the 26 lead changes through the event. However, regardless of caution or green flag period, too many drivers and teams at Auto Club Speedway were confronted by NASCAR's aggressive policing of pit road. With 15 penalties levied against Danny Hamlin, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kevin Harvick and others, one incident involved Kevin Harvick's car and a pit crew member of the #1 team. As Harvick's #29 car was leaving pit road on a lap 94 stop, a tight exit resulted in Harvick launching into the path of a crew member and a tire from Jamie McMurray's #1 Bass Pro Shops team. Like Nintento's Mario, the crew man leaped over the hood of the #29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet avoiding injury. However, the #1 team was penalized for the loose tire and the #29 Chevrolet took a penalty for speeding out of pit road.

After many drivers posting strong finishes at the Daytona 500, the Auto Club 500 saw many of those drivers endured a much harsher followup race. While McMurray started on the pole for the event, he lost ground after a pit stop penalty for the before-mentioned incident and was unable to mount a return to the front. McMurray finished 17th on the day finishing ahead of his teammate Montoya who had his engine parish after 140 laps.

Coming off a 2nd place run, the recent string of misfortune seemed to have lifted off Dale Earnhardt Jr and the #88 Amp/National Guard Chevrolet. The Auto Club Speedway, historically one of Earnhardt Jr's worst tracks, was a bump on the road of the #88 Hendrick Motorsport team's resurgence. Caught speeding on pit road early, Earnhardt Jr began a recovery before a later pit stop resulted in a broken axle half-shaft. While the Hendrick Motorsports crew succeeded in placing Dale Earnhardt Jr back in the event, the #88 Amp Juice Chevrolet come home 12 laps back in 32nd place. While a less than stellar run overall, this is sadly Earnhardt Jr's best finish in the Sprint Cup season's 1st Auto Club Speedway race since driving for Hendrick Motorsports.

While Earnhardt, McMurray and Montoya had good finishes at Daytona, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, and Marcus Ambrose are skilled drivers starting off the year with lackluster results through the first 2 races. Ryan Newman's car lost an engine to finish 36th while Kahne fared better by at least running after a down day started by a slide through the in front grass. He placed 34th on the final race result. Ambrose's Toyota was sandwiched between the two suffering from overheating issues.

Into the final laps, racing fortune again shined on Jimmie Johnson as a caution came out almost instantly after he took the #48 Lowes Chevrolet down pit lane. By doing so, Johnson was able to leapfrog the field as they required the attention of pit road service and would start the race in the lead. Despite a heated challenge from Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson held off the fight leading the final 24 laps to win his 48th Sprint Cup career victory and his first in 2010.
By winning the Auto Club 500, Johnson wins a race at the speedway for the 4th straight year and his 5th all-time.

Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Richard Childress Racing (RCR) cars driven by Harvick and Jeff Burton came home in strong 2nd and 3rd place finishes for the organization. After two races, premature analysis of the NASCAR Sprint Cup points has Kevin Harvick leading fellow RCR driver Clint Bowyer. Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate of Mark Martin and the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Joey Logano rounded out the top 5 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Auto Club 500.

2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Auto Club 500
Auto Club Speedway

Place| Car # | Driver | Sponsor/Car Make
1) 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet
2) 29 Kevin Harvick Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet
3) 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
4) 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet
5) 20 Joey Logano Home Depot Toyota
6) 2 Kurt Busch Miller Lite Dodge
7) 17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
8) 33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
9) 14 Tony Stewart Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet
10) 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford
11) 82 Scott Speed Red Bull Toyota
12) 83 Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
13) 99 Carl Edwards Aflac Ford
14) 18 Kyle Busch Interstate Batteries Toyota
15) 00 David Reutimann Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
16) 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Auto Club Dodge
17) 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet
18) 98 Paul Menard Energizer/Menards Ford
19) 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
20) 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chevrolet
21) 12 Brad Keselowski AAA Insurance Dodge Dodge
22) 36 Mike Bliss Wave Energy Drink Chevrolet
23) 6 David Ragan UPS Ford
24) 19 Elliott Sadler Stanley Ford
25) 43 A J Allmendinger Best Buy Ford
26) 38 David Gilliland Taco Bell Ford
27) 71 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet
28) 13 Max Papis GEICO Toyota
29) 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Freight Toyota
30) 34 Travis Kvapil Long John Silver's Ford
31) 37 Kevin Conway # Extenze Ford
32) 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Energy Juice / National Guard Chevrolet
33) 7 Robby Gordon Warner Music Nashville Toyota
34) 9 Kasey Kahne Budweiser Ford
35) 47 Marcos Ambrose Armor All Toyota
36) 39 Ryan Newman Haas Automation Chevrolet
37) 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
38) 26 Boris Said Sacred Power/Southern Pride Trucking Ford
39) 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Toyota
40) 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota
41) 66 Dave Blaney Prism Motorsports Toyota
42) 55 Michael McDowell Prism Motorsports Toyota
43) 09 Aric Almirola Phoenix Racing Chevrolet

Newman/Haas/Lanigan IndyCar team adds Hideki Mutoh

Photo Credit: IndyCar Media

Evicted from the team now known as Andretti Autosport after 2009, Japanese Hideki Mutoh joins the Newman/Haas/Lanigan race team for what will be his third full season in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Announced on Sunday, this recent confirmation by corresponds with lingering speculation for where Mutoh would run in the upcoming open wheel season.

The 2008 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year, Hideki Mutoh's North American career started in the Firestone Indy Lights Series in 2007. Winning the sprint race at Kentucky Speedway, Mutoh finished 2nd overall in the Indy Lights championship standings. Later in that season Mutoh was supplied one-off appearance in Panther Racing's #60 car at Chicagoland Speedway IndyCar event. An strong 8th place debut outing saw the Japanese driver services secured by Andretti-Green Racing for the past two IndyCar seasons. In Mutoh's short career of 35 starts, his best finish came in his rookie year with a 2nd on the short track of Iowa Speedway. Last year, Mutoh's return to the Iowa track amounted in a season best 3rd place with his #27 Andretti-Green Racing car. Despite some top 5 runs, Hideki Mutoh finished just outside of the top 10 in overall 2009 IndyCar Series points.

With the start of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series only three weeks away, there continues to be apparent vacancies in the team rosters for several teams including Dale Coyne Racing and KV Racing Technology. Even the driving lineup of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing hasn't been completely ironed out with Mutoh being the team's only official driver for 2010. Second-generation driver Graham Rahal tenure with the team seems all but over as the off-season placed Rahal with various other IndyCar teams. Alex Lloyd has long been hinted for a ride with the team. Rumours have also mentioned that Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing's Champ Car championship driver Sebestian Bourdais could return as part of the 2010 campaign. It's also unconfirmed if 2 or 3 cars are going to be run by Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing even as opening round on the street course of Sao Paulo, Brazil nears.

Mutoh becomes the 2nd confirmed Japanese driver for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series this week following the migration of former F1 star Takuma Sato signing with one of KV Racing Technology's teams just a few days ago.

NASCAR Nationwide: Last Lap Move Allows Kyle Busch to Win Stater Bros 300

Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

After a carnage-filled NASCAR Nationwide Series opener at Daytona last week, race teams take comfort in the 2nd race on the 2010 Nationwide Series schedule being less hazardous on the race equipment. Unlike the Daytona International Speedway which saw accidents claim vehicles, the 300 miler at Auto Club Speedway is historically more prone to inflecting mechanical problems on the race machines due to the 2 mile's oval wide, long corners breeding long sustained RPMs.

Starting on the pole for the Stater Bros 300, Joey Logano was a staple at the front of the race leading 130 of the 150 scheduled laps. Surrendering the lead early to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch in the #18 Toyota, Busch held on for only 3 laps before Logano charged back to the top spot.

A much calmer event compared to the rough and tumble 300 mile race at Daytona, the first two cautions on lap 34 and lap 88 came out for debris on the racetrack. Second caution strategy allowed the #27 Ford driven by Greg Biffle an 11 circuit stint in the front spot, the longest of any non-Joe Gibbs Racing car. As Joey Logano retook the lead on lap 100 and led all but one lap up to lap 150. Mike Wallace in the #01 Chevy held the lead for 1 lap during the 3rd race caution between lap 120 to 124 resulting when Rick Stenhouse Jr and John Wes Towney wrecked on the backstretch.

As the race reached its final laps, Joey Logano was comfortably leading the Stater Bros 300. Within four laps to go, Logano lost his advantage after a yellow flag flew for Brendan Gaughan lost control of his #62 Toyota on turn 4. Logano was leading on race's scheduled lap 150 distance but since the field was under caution, the situation created a green-white-checkered scenario which pitting the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas of Busch and Logano on the front row to take the green flag.

On the restart, Logano's #20 Toyota held the lead but found himself under attack by the #18 Toyota on the outside line and the #27 Ford on the inside. Playing defense against both cars out of turn 1, Logano dived low to block Biffle but soon found his car skating high through the turn 2 corner. Greg Biffle on the inside took the lead out of turn 2 as Logano lost momentum to backside to 4th. Biffle led to field to the white flag, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and a resurgent Joey Logano were within prime pouncing position. With brief 3-wide racing into turn 3, the turn 4 exit saw Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle side-by-side heading to the checkered flag. Running down the frontstretch, Busch found just enough extra speed to lead his #18 Toyota to the start/finish line ahead of Greg Biffle's Ford by 2/3s of a car length. Kyle Busch's 31 win in his short NASCAR Nationwide Series career, he ties Jack 'Ironman' Ingram for wins in the touring series. Busch is still 17 wins away from Mark Martin who holds the record in the series with 48 victories.

In 3rd and 4th spot, Joey Logano was leading Brad Keselowski out of turn 4 until Keselowski's Dodge made contact with the #20 Toyota spinning Logano through the frontstretch's grass. Joey Logano would finish 4th but had a lot of sore feelings about the outcome of the Stater Bros 300. After the race, Joey Logano expressed considerable displeasure on the way Greg Biffle raced him on the restart. There exists some continuity issues between Biffle and Logano for the reason why the last lap spin occurred. Joey Logano laid fault on rough-driving from the #27 Ford of Biffle for causing his #20 car to shoot up the track on the 2nd to last lap. In countering the 19 year old's charge, Biffle suggested that the incident was "a rookie mistake".

Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images for NASCAR

Starting in her 2nd NASCAR Nationwide Series race, Danica Patrick was deeply challenged by the Auto Club Speedway track inside the #7 Chevrolet. Unable to find her way forward, Patrick race was haunted further by 2 pit road speed violations; the second which required a driver-thru penalty down pit lane under green dropping the #7 Chevy off the lead lap. A more humbling experience finishing 3 laps behind in 31st place, Danica Patrick gained a full-race of knowledge to apply to other events which includes the Sam's Club 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway next week.

With much of the focus of JR Motorsports directed towards Danica Patrick #7 Chevrolet, the debut of Kelly Bires in the team's #88 Chevy started rather quietly. Missing Daytona due to Dale Earnhardt Jr racing the #88 in the event, Kelly Bires welcome to the team was further silenced thanks in part to a 32nd place spot from qualifying. However, as Bires takes over the car driven last year by Brad Keselowski, the 25-year old instantly began improving his position on the track breaking into the top 10 in the last one-third of the race. Bires would bring the JR Motorsports #88 Chevrolet across the finish line in 8th place, an impressive 24 spot improvement in 152 laps.

Worth noting also in this Nationwide race at Auto Club Speedway is Brian Scott. Having a strong going through the beginning of the event, Scott rode closely behind the #20 of Logano. However, his #11 AccuDoc Toyota began to backside finishing 10th place on the day.

2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series Stater Bros 300 Auto Club Speedway

Pos |Car # |Driver |Sponsor/Car Make
1) 18 Kyle Busch Z-Line Designs Toyota 
2) 27 Greg Biffle Red Man Moist Snuff Ford
3) 22 Brad Keselowski Discount Tire Dodge
4) 60 Carl Edwards Copart Ford
5) 20 Joey Logano GameStop/Mario Kart Toyota
6) 66 Steve Wallace 5 hour Energy Toyota
7) 88 Kelly Bires Chevrolet
8) 32 Brian Vickers Dollar General Stores Toyota
9) 12 Justin Allgaier Verizon Wireless Dodge
10) 11 Brian Scott AccuDoc Toyota
11) 99 Trevor Bayne Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
12) 01 Mike Wallace Monster Diesel Chevrolet
13) 1 James Buescher Phoenix Racing Chevrolet
14) 38 Jason Leffler Great Clips Toyota
15) 43 Scott Lagasse Jr. Dr. Gadget/ Ford
16) 09 Scott Riggs RAB Racing Ford
17) 15 Michael Annett Pilot Travel Centers Toyota
18) 16 Colin Braun Roush-Fenway Ford
19) 98 Paul Menard Richmond/Menards Ford
20) 35 Jason Keller TriStar Motorsports Chevrolet
21) 81 Michael McDowell Crusader Staffing Associates Dodge
22) 42 Parker Kligerman Smith Ironworks Dodge
23) 87 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet
24) 62 Brendan Gaughan South Point Hotel and Casino Toyota
25) 34 Tony Raines Long John Silver's Chevrolet
26) 10 David Reutimann Beringer Toyota
27) 40 Mike Bliss Key Motorsports Chevrolet
28) 05 Willie Allen 31W Insulation/CertainTeed Chevrolet
29) 28 Kenny Wallace Blue Ox/Zimmzang Chevrolet
30) 21 John Wes Townley Zaxby's Chevrolet
31) 7 Danica Patrick Chevrolet
32) 70 Mark Green ML Motorsports Chevrolet
33) 23 Robert Richardson Jr. 3R Motorsports Chevrolet
34) 26 Brian Keselowski Double Tree Suites Dodge
35) 24 Eric McClure Hefty Ford
36) 73 Derrike Cope Asset Protect Dodge
37) 38 61 Josh Wise Stratosphere Ford
38) 33 Kevin Harvick Rheem Tankless Chevrolet
39) 6 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. # CitiFinancial Ford
40) 56 Kevin Lepage Start Energy Drink Toyota
41) 07 Danny Efland Shred 360/M&W Towing Chevrolet
42) 96 Dennis Setzer Stratosphere Dodge
43) 83 John Borneman III Twisted X Boots/Red Line Oil Ford

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Danica Patrick In NASCAR: On Overdrive or Overexposed?

Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images for NASCAR

For the last few weeks, the mainstream media outlets of NASCAR have been piping out daily stories as so-called Danicamania, Danicapalooza, or whatever other name was given to Danica Patrick's stock car racing debut. Affecting the way many auto racing fans have been following the first several weeks of the NASCAR season, the name Danica Patrick has consumed the headlines taking space even on the race results. Even XSL Speed Reporter can be guilty of this practice.

At Auto Club Speedway, it is Danica Patrick's second race running in the NASCAR Nationwide Series continuing to receive the attention of cameras and respected members of media. This is a defining moment for women in motorsports of Patrick is fully intended to do more than just make a showing for the NASCAR Nationwide series in 2010 season. Danica Patrick, a determined and passionate racer, is also a consistent media draw attracting top racing organization as well as top sponsors.

Garnering a large audience through IndyCar events for years, it is unsurprising that the high-profile NASCAR series would see the attention paid towards Patrick multiply. Starting with an ARCA test at Daytona International Speedway in December (an event that typically sees only a few members of motorsport media cover) a school of reporters and photographers swam to Danica Patrick as her every move was documented.

As mountains of articles and the several gigabytes of video profiles the highly-popular IndyCar regular, her presence has sparked some varying views on the attention which Danica Patrick There's the people who want to see a constantly competitive woman in NASCAR and there's the NASCAR viewers who are sick of this perceived excessive coverage of a rookie driver. Let's face it without diminishing anything from the handful of women auto racers who competed in NASCAR through the sanctioning body's 62-year run, Danica Patrick has received the first real opportunity in NASCAR stock car racing where a female is respected enough to be given front-running race equipment. With this being said, the first races of Danica Patrick during 2010 Daytona Speedweeks represented an extremely interesting occurrence.

Thanks to a 6th place run in the 200 mile ARCA race at Daytona, the media buildup was reinforced with the promising finish that convinced Patrick's team (JR Motorsports) to extend her 2010 race schedule to include the NASCAR Nationwide Series Race4COPD 300. Moving up her NASCAR debut by one week (Patrick's first race was supposed to be the Fontana event this weekend) the increased presence during Daytona Speedweeks offered something more of a distraction for the other Nationwide series competitors (at least most of them are Sprint Cup series regulars so they probably enjoyed the break from probing reporters). Much like the ARCA race, there always seemed to be one camera devoted just to following Danica Patrick's #7 Chevrolet during that NASCAR Nationwide Series even only to see her fall out of the event after getting caught in an accident.

As Danica Patrick endured her first competitive feats in stock car racing, race fans have noticed. In fact, a number of race fans have been voicing their frustration with all the press attention to just one driver. While Patrick holds the distinction as the first female to win an IndyCar Series event, many race fans recall that this victory at the Twin-Ring Motegi is her only one in 81 race starts. While NASCAR fans generally welcome women drivers and looked especially forward to seeing Patrick in a JR Motorsports Chevrolet, the excessive media build-up for her debut alienated some of the mainstream NASCAR fans who has found less focus being paid to their choice driver. The one things that I've gathered through following auto racing is that there is such thing as too much exposure for a specific driver.

While the NASCAR press are trying to paint her accomplishments as a major move for gender equality, maybe auto racing fans are performing the most flattering service by rating Patrick on the same scale as all other drivers entering the series.

Canadian James Hinchcliffe Signs with Indy Lights' Team Moore Racing

Photo Credit: Shawn Payne/IndyCar

A shining Canadian open-wheel prospect, James Hinchcliffe has been signed to Team Moore Racing for the 2010 IRL Firestone Indy Lights Championship. With Team Moore Racing co-owned by Canadian Tom Wood, the two-car race team is glad to add the sophomore Hinchcliffe alongside Spanish driver Adrian Campos, Jr. Holding high hopes for what could be accomplished with the team, Hinchcliffe comments "I am incredibly excited to be joining Team Moore. I had a strong season last year in my rookie attempt. I learned a lot and now I want to put what I learned to good use for an attack on the title."

A talented 23-year old from Oakville, Ontario, James Hinchcliffe career has involved successful stints in Formula BMW USA, Star Mazda Series, Champ Car Atlantic Championship and some brief tours in A1 Grand Prix racing before joining the Firestone Indy Lights in 2009. In his rookie outing driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports last season, Hinchcliffe best finish was 2nd at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. That finish, couple by four 3rd place finishes assisted in a 5th place overall position in 2009 Firestone Indy Lights championship points.

While the IZOD IndyCar Series will be starting three weeks this Sunday in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the Indy Lights tour will not be joining the big league tour into Central America. The 2010 Firestone Indy Lights series launches on March 28th, during the IRL race weekend at St Petersburg, Florida street course.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Friday, February 19, 2010

McMurray Takes Pole for Sprint Cup Race at Auto Club Speedway

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

While the 2010 Daytona 500 is the highly-coveted season opening race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, the 500-mile restrictor plate event is often considered on its own merits. Many teams have been bracing for the Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway (I think sponsorship placement might be running amok) as the official start to the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

In fact, the past two Daytona 500 winners, Ryan Newman in 2008 and Matt Kenseth in 2009, experienced less than stellar seasons following their Daytona celebrations missing the Chase for the Cup in their respective years. With this history now weighing on the newly-crowned Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray, him and the #1 EGR (Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing) Chevrolet are intent to break the cycle. Through Friday afternoon qualifying at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, the #1 Chevrolet Impala appears on a linear path to being a force throughout the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

Carrying momentum from the Daytona 500 victory, McMurray rocketed around the 2-mile oval at 39.185 seconds equating to an average speed of 183.744 MPH. A high accomplishment for the #1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing teammate Juan Pablo Montoya's 2nd place run allowed the team to take full possession of the front row.

As EGR serves up a 1-2 punch against the NASCAR Sprint Cup competition for the start of Sunday's Auto Club 500, qualifying results for the 2nd race of the 2010 season appears to show another emerging threat. The Earnhardt-Childress Engines program which powers EGR, Richard Childress Racing and the Furniture Row Racing team is following up their show of incredible potency since Daytona Speedweeks, continuing to have legs on the Sprint Cup competition around 2-mile oval in California. Settling 3rd after holding the top spot earlier in qualifying, Clint Bowyer in Childress' #33 car placed three Chevrolets in front of Kasey Kahne.

Kahne and the #9 of Richard Petty Motorsports have so far shown speed in their new Ford Fusion stock cars (spending time in victory lane after winning one of the Gatorade Duel 150 races) but will be looking for a strong finish at Auto Club Speedway.

In 5th place after time trials, the biggest surprise of the short year so far. Failing the break into the Daytona 500, the #66 Prism Motorsports Toyota driven by Dave Blaney will be attempting to turn this starting position at Auto Club Speedway into a valuable points day which could aid the team in cracking into a prized top-35 in car owner points spot for 2010. While the NASCAR Sprint Cup series is currently resting on 2009 car owner points t0 entitle the top-35 teams into this season, after the 5th race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Sprint Cup series will update to 2010 points guaranteeing teams within the top-35 the ability to race in upcoming weekends.

Having some of their fire stolen by the Earnhardt-Childress Engine brigade, the standard Chevrolet front-runner Hendrick Motorsports has two race machines positioned in the top 10, Jimmie Johnson in 7th and Mark Martin in 10th.

Auto Club 500 Qualifying
NASCAR Sprint Cup

Top 10:
1) #1 Jamie McMurray         Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet
2) #42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
3) #33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
4) #9 Kasey Kahne Budweiser Ford
5) #66 Dave Blaney Prism Motorsports Toyota
6) #29 Kevin Harvick Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet
7) #48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet
8) #77 Sam Hornish Jr. Auto Club Dodge
9) #18 Kyle Busch Interstate Batteries Toyota
10) #5 Mark Martin Chevrolet

Other Notables:
12) #2 Kurt Busch         Miller Lite Dodge 
14) #31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
16) #14 Tony Stewart Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet
18) #39 Ryan Newman Haas Automation Chevrolet
20) #17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
24) #09 Aric Almirola Phoenix Racing Chevrolet
27) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Energy Juice / National Guard Chevrolet
28) #24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chevrolet
29) #43 A J Allmendinger Best Buy Ford
31) #99 Carl Edwards Aflac Ford
42) #26 Boris Said Sacred Power/Southern Pride Trucking Ford
43) #13 Max Papis GEICO Toyota

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ex F1 driver Sato to wheel KV Racing's IndyCar effort

After a month of speculation, KV Racing Technology has named former Formula 1 pilot Takuma Sato as a newcomer to the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series. Announced in time for an open IndyCar test slated for last week at Barber Motorsport Park, KV Racing Technology co-owner Jimmy Vasser expresses that Sato's knowledge and experience will be a valued asset through this new relationship.

Having started in 90 Formula 1 races for Jordan, BAR, Honda and finally Super Aguri, (the most F1 starts for any Japanese driver) Sato's best career effort came at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where he finished 3rd in the US Grand Prix. In May 2010, Sato will return to the track to race on the more traditional 2.5 mile oval rather than the improvised road course for the Indy 500.

As a Japanese driver will has exclusively supported the effort of Honda Racing, it might be fair to say that the sole engine supplier to the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series might have been able to assist with networking one of their home country's most successful drivers with a team Spending 2009 as a healthy scratch from the grand prix grid, Takuma Sato declares it ".. a very exciting time for me and my supporters" claiming to look forward to the new challenge.

KV Racing Technology has been mentioned as a multi-car team for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar series with last year's driver Mario Moraes all-but confirmed to be joining Sato with the race team.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A changing attitude with Dale Earnhardt Jr?

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

Having finished a dismal 25th place in the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup, the series' most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr maintained a tone of optimism. Despite being at his worst, the driver of the #88 Chevrolet has shown exceptional class in dealing with everything from engine problems, driving severely-damaged stock cars or adjusting to team personnel changes. With 2010 working as a clean slate, it remained to be seen if Dale Earnhardt Jr's positiveness would be rewarded. Having been used to happy-go-lucky Dale Earnhardt Jr, the driver got out of his #88 Chevrolet sounding like a different competitor. Appearing to be more personality traits in common with Kyle Busch after a bad race, the 2004 Daytona 500 winning driver clearly conveyed frustration and disgust taking second best in the first race of the year.

With 6 wins on restrictor plate race tracks Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Earnhardt Jr is favoured more in the four total races run at those ovals over almost any other venue. As hoped for by JR Nation, the green and white #88 AMP Chevy put on a magnificent show on the final green-white-checkered period of the 2010 Daytona 500. Exhibiting a marvelous piece of restrictor plate racing, Earnhardt Jr methodically worked his way from an obscure 10th place to have a chance to win the Daytona 500 coming up just one position short. As Jamie McMurray and his newly-acquainted with #1 Chevrolet crew celebrated an emotional triumph at Daytona, the second place interview happened to catch the attention of some NASCAR fans watching the broadcast on Fox.

While paying congratulations to McMurray and the victorious #1 crew (A team which was founded by the senior Dale Earnhardt 12 years ago), Earnhardt Jr also gave credit to Hendrick Motorsport's engine department. However, the driver left without giving credit for himself. Typically Dale Earnhardt Jr is a modest driver but some NASCAR fans felt the post-race comments were unprofessional during the spontaneity of the Fox interview unwilling to gracefully accept the 2nd place run.

Anyone who is a careful observer of professional sports knows that athletes stride to be at the highest plateaus. Speaking like a true racer playing to win, the fans composing Jr Nation are certain to give their driver a well-earned applause for the #88 Hendrick Motorsport driver. Appreciating the optimism that the 2010 Sprint Cup season can bring, Earnhardt Jr's fanbase have eagerly awaited the renaissance of their favourite sportsman. It is also the good nature of fans to elevate their athlete's confidence. The post race TV interview might have sat badly with some JR Nation fans since the only thing worse than seeing a good man be torn down is a man who will tear themselves apart.

Besides the Fox post-race chat, Dale Earnhardt Jr convened for a separate NASCAR interview. In that interview performed in great detail with Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray and 3rd place Greg Biffle, Earnhardt was much more in character commenting on the event. "I had a hell of a time tonight" Dale Earnhardt Jr happily chirped as he described the final laps of the 2010 Daytona 500 as a "blur". Following the frustrated admissions late in the television broadcast, the NASCAR post-race interview provided a more sportsmanlike reflection from Earnhardt Jr. "I feel good about the finish. It's just frustrating coming that close. Hell, I don't have anything to be -- you know, when you're running 22nd, you're mad because you just want to get a top 10. When you get a top 10, you're pissed off because you can't get in the top five. Then when you're running second it gets you mad because you didn't get a win. That's how racecar drivers are, I hope."

However, as this more intense attitude emerges from Dale Earnhardt Jr, the naysayers of the third-generation stock car driver's career have above all questioned Earnhardt Jr's hunger to win. Clearly, Dale Earnhardt Jr is starving in 2010!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

de Ferran Motorsports IndyCar Team Names Raphael Matos as Driver

With less than a month before the start of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series, the long-awaited announcement for whom would be driving in the proposed two-car team with de Ferran Motorsports has tabbed third-year IndyCar racer Raphael Matos.

Instead of continuing to build de Ferran Motorsports from stratch, team owner Gil de Ferran entered into a partnership with Matos' tam from last season Luczo Dragon Racing. Jay Penske (who is the youngest son of superteam owner Roger Penske) commented about the new alliance as a work in progress through the off-season. "Over the last four months Steve, Gil and I came to the realization that in order to put together an effort that could really face the challenges of the current establishment and have a better chance to deliver the successful results we all want we would be best served combining our resources. The more we talked about it the more it made sense."

Winning the Atlantic and Indy Lights in consecutive years between 2007 and 2008, Raphael Matos was an extremely fast rookie of the year in the IndyCar series through last season. Through his first year of competition in the top open wheel series, Matos' best finish was 6th at the Milwaukee Mile.

With a fellow Brazilian, Gil de Ferran had provided very little information or even rumours on whether the team was even ready for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series tour. In fact, when team manager John Anderson jumped to the US F1 Team before the new year, many media members had reason to speculate that the De ferran Motorsports IndyCar team plans were scrapped. Committing with one-team so far, Gill de Ferran the team does indicate a desire to add a second car. Luczo Dragon Racing's co-founded Steve Luczo asserted "We have a clear view that technology and science will give us the competitive edge we need to be successful on track."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Jamie McMurray Wins 2010 Daytona 500

Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR

With almost two weeks of preparation occuring during Daytona Speedweeks, the prized 500 mile season opening race at Daytona International Speedway was set to under clear blue skies of a cool Florida Sunday afternoon. The 52nd running of the Daytona 500 was started by Grand Marshall Junior Johnson, 1960 Daytona 500 winner and multiple time championship car owner in the Cup series. Having won his 1960 Daytona 500 race in a Chevrolet, Junior Johnson command went to the Hendrick Motorsport Chevrolets of Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr leading the 43-car starting field.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR

Unlike the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series races that proceeded the most anticipated Sprint Cup season opener, the first 2 laps of the race went without a yellow flag. However, even the traditionally more experienced drivers of NASCAR's big league series couldn't go 10 laps around the 2.5 mile before casualties mounted. Working lap 8, Brad Keselowski #12 Penske Racing Dodge lost control of through turn 4 colliding with the outside wall and collecting Max Papis, Mike Bliss, Regan Smith, and Keselowski's Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr. While these cars were able to complete more laps, the #13 Toyota of Max Papis would retire soon with engine failure and Mike Bliss fell out after a later single car crash.

While there were some multi-car accidents, the 2010 restrictor plate season opener did not involve any occurrences which could classify as 'the big one'. With a considerable amount of contenders remaining near the end of the 500 mile distance, at least 20 teams were able to post a charge for the lead including the #82 of Scott Speed, who gambled on staying out when the rest of the field made pit stops. In total, there was an amazing 52 lead changes between 21 drivers through the race with Harvick having led the most.

With the race starting under NASCAR's revised initiative to start races earlier in 2010, two red flags during the second half of the Daytona 500 actually led to the event finishing around the same time as the 2008 Daytona 500. Not because of wrecks, these red flags were both addressing a large hole that developed in the race surface through turn 2. John Andretti, driving the #34 Ford, was claimed as a victim of his torn up racetrack ending his 2010 race. Along with Andretti, the hole also cut down a right front tire on four-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson's #48 Chevrolet. Johnson's damage was repairable as his car was tended by the Hendrick Motorsport team. The first red flag within the 4th caution took 1 hour and 40 minutes as the crews of Daytona International Speedway worked hard to refurbish the area of race track. Regrettably, the racing action of the large NASCAR Sprint Cup field wore heavily on the asphalt patch as the surface began to break away after just 30 laps. A second red flag period to fill the hole with an epoxy patch saw the field remain still for an additional 40 minutes. Fortunately, this latest fix held through the duration of the 500 mile event.

Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

With last year's Daytona 500 ending short of the full distance due to rainfall, many fans were frustrated with the speed which NASCAR called the race. Declaring the lead car Matt Kenseth the winner less than 30 minutes into the race stoppage, the rain showers actually began to let up. Mentioning the 2009 race, the 2010 edition of the Daytona 500 featured a much improved commitment to NASCAR fans by the stock car sanctioning body. In fact, NASCAR announced earlier this week another rule change to the green-white checkered procedure which expanded restart attempts from 1 to 3 tries per race. As the end of the 2010 Daytona 500 approached, this rule received its first trial run.

As the race neared its completed distance, caution #7 occurred on lap 194 when Occasional Elliott Sadler, who led 9 laps in the race, slid out of turn 2 downwards towards the #39 Chevrolet of Ryan Newman. The #37 Ford of Travis Kvapil was also collected the late accident but continued running. Restarting just before the 2 laps to go mark, the field was brought back under yellow when the #20 Toyota of Joey Logano, the #21 Wood Brothers Ford of Bill Elliott, and the #26 driven by Boris Said were wrecked in turn 3. This caution bred the first green-white-checker finishing attempt with Greg Biffle, who just skated by the #33 of Clint Bowyer just prior to the caution flag flying.

As the heap of Sprint Cup cars exited turn 2, Robert Richardson in the #38 as well as Kasey Kahne's #9 Ford were the casaulties in a caution that also involved Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. Yet to take the white flag, the #29 Chevrolet belonging to Kevin Harvick took the lead with the #1 Chevrolet of Jamie McMurray sneaking by Biffle for the front row position on the 2nd green-white checker attempt.

On what proved to be the final restart, Greg Biffle's Ford pushed the #1 of McMurray around Harvick as the #29 Chevrolet found few drivers willing to draft with the Richard Childress Racing car. As the #1 car stormed to a small gap over the field on the backstretch, a hard-charging #88 Amp Chevrolet was making a powerful end of the race run. Starting a distant 10th on the restart, Dale Earnhardt Jr began to shove Clint Bowyer's #33 car up front gaining several positions through the tight draft. Through the final lap with the top-3 consisting of McMurray, Biffle and the underrated #56 of Martin Truex, Earnhardt was running 5th through the backstretch before he threaded his #88 car between Greg Biffle and Bowyer. With only Jamie McMurray left in front of him, the #1 Chevrolet was just too strong for the Hendrick-owned #88 car. As McMurray headed on to the checkered flag, the agression deeper in the field led to one last crash as Gordon was tapped by Denny Hamlin's #11 Toyota sending the two-time Daytona 500 winner into the turn 3 wall. With nowhere to go, the #7 of Robby Gordon would also received considerable damage.

With drivers in the final incident uninjured, Jamie McMurray was able to celebrate a very popular victory in his Earnhardt/Ganassi Racing Chevrolet on the frontstretch before motoring to Daytona's winner circle. Caught up in the win as well as the fact that too many people had him written off after being forced out of Roush/Fenway Racing, Jamie McMurray could barely hold his composure from the shear thrill of standing in victory lane.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR

This victory, worth over 1.5 million of a $10,549,893 purse, came in Jamie McMurray's first NASCAR Sprint Cup race driving a Chevrolet. Behind 2nd place Dale Earnhardt Jr, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, and David Reutimann rounded out the top 5 in that order.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 February 14th, 2010 Finishing Order
1) 1 Jamie McMurray         Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Chevrolet
2) 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Energy / National Guard Chevrolet
3) 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford
4) 33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios / Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
5) 00 David Reutimann Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
6) 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
7) 29 Kevin Harvick Shell / Pennzoil Chevrolet
8) 17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
9) 99 Carl Edwards Aflac Ford
10) 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
11) 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
12) 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet
13) 98 Paul Menard Peak / Menards Ford
14) 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota
15) 83 Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
16) 6 David Ragan UPS Ford
17) 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota
18) 51 Michael Waltrip NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
19) 82 Scott Speed Red Bull Toyota
20) 20 Joey Logano Home Depot Toyota
21) 71 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet
22) 14 Tony Stewart Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet
23) 2 Kurt Busch Miller Lite Dodge
24) 19 Elliott Sadler Stanley Ford
25) 26 Boris Said Window World Cares Ford
26) 24 Jeff Gordon Dupont Chevrolet
27) 21 Bill Elliott Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford
28) 7 Robby Gordon Monster Energy Toyota
29) 37 Travis Kvapil Extenze Ford
30) 9 Kasey Kahne Budweiser Ford
31) 38 Robert Richardson Mahindra USA Tractors Ford
32) 43 A J Allmendinger Best Buy Ford
33) 55 Michael McDowell PRISM Motorsports Toyota
34) 39 Ryan Newman US Army Chevrolet
35) 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet
36) 12 Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge
37) 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Mobil 1 Dodge
38) 34 John Andretti Window World Cares Ford
39) 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
40) 13 Max Papis GEICO Toyota
41) 47 Marcos Ambrose Kroger Floral Toyota
42) 36 Mike Bliss Wave Energy Drink Chevrolet
43) 87 Joe Nemechek NEMCO Motorsports Toyota