The racing came fast and hot this weekend, and there’s more news than you can shake a stick at. NASCAR in Phoenix, Indycar and PWC in St. Pete, Off Roaders invade Vegas, Formula E in Mexico City, and lots of other news. Some sponsor news, some driver safety concerns, an actor calls it quits, Toyota tells a bunch of actors they’re calling it quits, Mark Webber throws some shade at F1, and someone shows us what an Alfa F1 car might look like today.
The racing will only continue to get hotter from here, so pay attention, class. Just be aware of the fact that this post is filled with spoilers. Giant carbon-fiber, multi-element, DRS-equipped, Gurney-flapped, Spoilers!
NASCAR Heats Up In Phoenix (cliché headline)
Jimmie Johnson Suffers Scary Qualifying Shunt
IndyCar Prays To Saint Pete
[sarcasm] Will Power’s Awesome Weekend [/sarcasm]
Keselowski Concerned About Driver Health
Racing Trucks In Las Vegas: Mint 400
Formula E Goes To Mexico For Spring Break
Gulf Oil Sponsors A Car That Uses No Oil
Pirelli World Challenge In St. Pete
Ford Confirms Four Car Le Mans Lineup
Sebring Entry List Released Ahead Of Next Weekend’s Endurance Classic – 49 Cars To Participate
Pruett Swaps Cars For Sebring
Pat Dempsey Takes A Step Back From Driving Role
F1 Tests Driver Safety Halo
Alfa Romeo F1?
Taylor Swift Saves COTA’s Shot At F1 Race
Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race Ends After 2016 – Here’s This Year’s Entry List
Mark Webber Says Formula 1 Teams Have Learned From Porsche’s LMP1 program “How To Go Testing”
NASCAR in Phoenix
Kevin Harvick managed to hold off Carl Edwards in a last second dash to the line. As you can see, it was a photo finish. The race finished in overtime (as usual), and the final green flag session forced Harvick to defend his spot at the point on tires that were much older than the competition. Harvick and Dale Jr. stayed out under caution to improve their nominal position while everyone else pitted for tires. Harvick managed to make hay, and Dale Jr. looked poised to finish second, but faltered a bit and slid back to 5th at the checkers. This was Harvick’s 500th consecutive NASCAR start, so the win was just a great way to celebrate that, because it makes a great headline and wasn’t manufactured at all (skeptical).
In qualifying for the race, Jimmie Johnson suffered a scary crash that didn’t look characteristic of his usually very fluid driving. While on a charge for a fast time, Johnson’s car made a sharp right turn up into the outer retaining wall. Jimmie’s post-crash interview showed a very shaken man who had just had his bell rung, and the wording he used was very vague. As it turns out, HIS STEERING WHEEL CAME OFF! I realize that sometimes shit happens in motorsport, but that’s unacceptable. Someone screwed up, and I’m sure they already feel bad, but they should feel worse. As Jimmie said later, “I’m thankful for soft walls“.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) March 12, 2016
Indycar In St. Petersburg
Man with dadbod happy to be out of the house on a Sunday, wins IndyCar season opener. Trump vows to build wall around victory circle, even though Colombia actually *did* send us their best.
Juan Pablo Montoya won Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in commanding fashion. His Chevrolet-powered car was on point all weekend, as the Penske team performed nearly-flawlessly in Florida. JPM was followed closely by team-mate Simon Pagenaud to the finish. There was a lot of kerfuffle over the weekend, however. Let’s start with practice and work our way down from there.
Sebastien Bourdais Has Words With Aleshin
Pre-qualifying practice was a dust-up for The Man From Le Mans, as the Russian Aleshin exited the pit lane directly in front of Bourdais, who was already up to speed. From Bourdais’ perspective, Aleshin perhaps brake checked him. Seb is known to have a bit of a temper, but after the career trajectory he’s had, perhaps he’s allowed a bit of that at 37 years old.
I just love the way he says “You are de ideeot”.
Will Power’s Up And Down Weekend
Will had a crash in practice on Friday. The picture of which you can see as the lead image for this post. It was a pretty bad one.
Saturday, for qualifying, Power hopped in a new car and proceeded to set a new track record (breaking the record he already held), and captured pole position seemingly without breaking a sweat.
Sunday, Power’s seat was given to Oriol Servia for the race, where he started from the back, per IndyCar’s rules regarding replacement drivers. This replacement was because Power was diagnosed with a severe concussion.
Power was nauseous and had strong headaches every time he exited the car following practice sessions and the qualifying session where he took pole.
Here are IndyCar’s statements on the diagnosis:
“Following his on-track incident on Friday Will Power displayed no signs of injury and was evaluated and cleared by the INDYCAR Medical team. Per INDYCAR protocol we also evaluated the data collected from his ear accelerometers, which provides data specific to the impact on a driver’s head, and nothing gathered from that data indicated further evaluation was required. After learning of Will’s symptoms following qualifications Saturday he was required to submit to another evaluation by INDYCAR Medical Director Geoffery Billows, at which point he was diagnosed with a mild concussion. Power has been entered into INDYCAR’s concussion protocol and will need to be re-evaluated prior to being cleared to drive.”
Brad Keselowski Voices Concern About Delayed Diagnosis
Keselowski, also a Penske driver, took to twitter to express his distaste with the decisions of the stewards regarding Will Power, and their last minute decision.
It is every sports league's fault for giving life altering decisions to the medical community in order to absolve themselves of liability.
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) March 13, 2016
I’m not sure I follow, Kezza.
Graham Rahal Not Pleased With Carlos Munoz For 0% Move During The Race
Graham later called him ‘Brain Dead’. Yeah, that was dumb. I feel most bad for Servia, who was working his way through the pack on a conservative strategy. Could have been a really good race for him, but he had nowhere to go but into Rahal’s front wing.
MINT 400 In My Home State
Near Las Vegas last Friday, the cars and trucks took off into the desert for the Mint 400. The race best known as the thing Hunter S. Thompson was supposed to be covering when he experienced ‘Fear and Loathing’ instead, was competed by more than 100 teams of drivers, and is one of the world’s last true off-road spectacles.
While the race originally took place from the Mint Hotel in Vegas to the Sahara Hotel in Lake Tahoe, the race is now (and has been since 2012) competed on a 100 mile loop of the desert, taking four complete laps to finish the race.
The race this year was won by driver Nick Carolan, in the buggy pictured above. His car is powered by Ford’s now-famous 2.0 liter inline four “Ecoboost”. The win came 6 hours 9 minutes 10 seconds after he took the green flag, beating the next nearest competitor by nearly four minutes.
The race is awesome, and I need to go next year, because stuff like this still competes. Isn’t that rad?
Unfortunately, two competitors were injured and airlifted to the hospital. The extent of their injuries are unknown, and little further information has been released. It’s a solemn reminder that off-road racing specifically, and racing in general, is a dangerous endeavor.
Formula E Goes To Mexico City, Because It’s Like The *Real* Mexico, Man. Tijuana And Cancun are Played Out Tourist Traps.
That’s right, Formula E is the *hipster* of the motorsport world. They’re just racing in Mexico City because it’s a real and authentic Mexican experience.
All kidding aside, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is one of the coolest tracks in the world, and it’s a shame that hardly anyone races there anymore. I’m absolutely ecstatic that WEC is racing there this year. I might even consider going myself. anyway, back to Formula E.
In all seriousness, the race was pretty great. Qualifying saw Piquet’s car smahed up against the barrier after he locked up under braking on his out-lap. The red flag period following took a while to get things cleaned up. When it was Buemi’s turn to go out for the Superpole session, he made a mistake and fell short of the pole that he looked favorite to nab. Without Buemi’s fast time, the pole was given to D’Ambrosio.
D’Ambrosio led away from the start with Prost chasing, and he retained control of the race for the first half. Lucas Di Grassi settled into third behind Prost, and the trio ran in lock step. On the final lap of the first stint (before car-swap pit-stops), Di Grassi overtook Prost for second. During the stops, Buemi moved past Prost as well.
As soon as the pair moved out of the pit lane, it took less than one lap for Di Grassi to make the move on D’Ambrosio for the lead of the motor race. Buemi then launched an attack on D’Ambrosio, failing to complete the pass, despite multiple contact incidents. In the final attempt, Buemi rammed the back of D’Am’s car in a mis-judged late move from the inside to the outside.
This allowed Daniel Abt, Prost, and Loic Duval to join the battle, and the quintet was a jumble for the rest of the race, allowing Di Grassi to check out to a 10 second victory.
Unfortunatly, it was all for nought. Di Grassi’s car used during the first half of the race, was measured at 1.8 kilograms underweight (give or take 4 pounds), and his win was stripped from him.
Oil Company ‘Gulf’, Sponsors Electric Car For Some Reason
My car this weekend. Cool pic.twitter.com/PvlJF1RGAU
— Antonio Felix da Costa (@afelixdacosta) March 9, 2016
Sebring Entry List Reveals 49 Entries
Prototype – 12 Entries
Prototype Challenge – 7 Entries
GT Le Mans – 10 Entries
GT Daytona – 20 Entries
You can see the full entry list HERE.
Pirelli World Challenge In St. Petersburg
MAXIMUM EFFORT! – Effort Racing’s Michael Lewis took a GT class double-win, shutting out the competition in his Porsche GT3R (The R stands for rocketship). In both races, Lewis led the race from flag to flag, irrespective of cautions and contretemps happening behind him.
In race one, Lewis won by 10 seconds from Alvaro Parente, factory McLaren driver, and his McLaren 650S GT3. Third and Fourth were taken by the Cadillac crew, who also looked strong all weekend.
The story of Race one, was actually Lewis’ team mate, Patrick Long. Long’s car was destroyed in a crash at last weekend’s COTA round, and repairs were being completed right up until the last minute, and Long couldn’t qualify the car, requiring him to start from the back of the pack. In the caution-free 40-lap race, Long managed to work his way up to 7th overall. Because Pat Long is a robot.
Race two looked almost nothing like race one, aside from the fact that Lewis was at the lead for the entire race. This time, the race was plagued by yellow flags, with most of the race taking place behind the safety car. First, there was a GT Cup car incident in which a single-car incident tipped over a concrete barrier and required removal and repairs. This took a while.
Shortly after the re-start, Alvaro Parente made a dumb move, and then followed it with a desperate one. Coming on to the long straight, Parente’s McLaren was balked by a slower GT Cup car trying to move out of his way. Both cars went to the inside of the turn, and Parente had to slow drastically to avoid contact. If he’d stayed on a normal line, he likely would not have been disadvantaged at all. As it were, he lost a couple positions down the straight. Trying to avoid another position loss, going into turn one, Parente moved wide, and then chopped right in front of a car to the inside, causing himself to spin and lose ALL OF THE POSITIONS. In the shemozzle, Austin Cindric’s McLaren spun and smashed the wall really hard.
When the race went back to green, Pat Long’s Porsche actually lost a position when one of the Cadillacs forced him into an uncharacteristic brake lockup. Regardless, Long finished 4th, and helped build a gap for his teammate to win it.
Four Car Le Mans Lineup Is Killer For Ford
Ford confirmed that Scott Dixon, Sebastien Bourdais (and his temper), Harry Tincknell, and Billy Johnson will be joining the rest of their lineup at the Le Mans 24 hour race this June.
Johnson and Tincknell will also be participating in the Pre-Le Mans round of the WEC at Spa Francorchamps.
Dixon, a two-time Daytona 24 winner, and IndyCar legend, will team with Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe in the #69 Ford GT.
Bourdais, a veteran of Peugeot’s LMP1 program, grew up in Le Mans, France, and last ran at the circuit in 2012 in the LMP2 category. Seb will team up with Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand in the #68 Ford GT.
Harry Tincknell is an LMP2 class winner at Le Mans, and was recently released from the shuttered Nissan GT-R LM NISMO LMP1 program. He will team with Andy Priaulx and Marino Franchitti to drive the #67 Ford GT.
Billy Johnson is a Ford development driver, and has logged thousands of miles in the GT. He will join Stefan Mucke and Olivier Pla in the #66 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK entered GT.
Which car is strongest contender?
IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car News
Scott Pruett has switched from the #5 Action Express Racing car to the #31 Whelen Engineering car to team with Eric Curran and Dane Cameron. Pruett’s seat in the 5 car has been filled by Felipe Albuquerque.
Formula 1 News
Motorsport.com speculates on an Alfa Romeo F1 return. Read more here.
Toyota Pro/Celebrity Racing News
The entry list for this year’s Long Beach Toyota Pro/Celeb race has been unveiled.
Bob Carter – Senior VP of Automotive Operations for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.
Dave Pasant – 7-time Charity Auction Winner and 2015 “Celebrity Winner”. A retired insurance executive.
Brett Davern – MTV’s “Awkward” actor.
Rutledge Wood – NASCAR personality, History Channel’s “Top Gear USA” and “Lost in Transmission” host. All around cool dude.
Adam Carolla – TV/Radio/Podcast host, Author, Paul Newman obsessed, Car collector.
William Ficthner – TV/Theater/Film actor, He’ll be in the new TMNT and Independence Day movies coming out this June. (WHAT YEAR IS IT?)
Ken Gushi – FAMOUS DRIFT RACER!
Jimmy Vasser – IndyCar team owner, Former IndyCar driver.
Brian Austin Green – Actor/Director/Producer, best known for role in ‘Beverly Hills, 90210″
Doug Fregin – Charity Auction Winner – Co-Founder of the company that became Blackberry.
Mike Skinner – NASCAR veteran racer (competed in over 550 NASCAR sanctioned races).
Frankie Muniz – Sometime actor, sometime race car driver, recently starred in one of the Sharknado movies.
Al Unser Jr. – Famed IndyCar driver, has won Pro/Celeb three times before.
Ricky Schroder – Actor in a bunch of stuff
Stephen Baldwin – One of the ‘non-Alec’ Baldwin brothers
Eddie Lawson – Motorcycle racer
Alfonso Ribeiro –
Rod Millen – Pikes Peak 5-time winner, off-road racer, mostly retired.
Darra Torres – Olympic Medalist Swimmer
Max Papis – Sports Cars/Formula 1/Champ Car/Stock Cars Races anything with wheels. Known as “Mad Max”.
Chris McDonald – Actor on HBO’s “Ballers” and CBS’s “The Good Wife”. Best known as “Shooter McGavin” in the classic film “Happy Gilmore”.
Mark Webber Shade News
Webber was recently announced as one of the television personalities for Channel 4’s coverage of Formula 1. At the channel’s announcement celebrations, Webber had this to say:
“[Porsche] has shown F1 teams how to go testing mileage-wise. Operationally, we saw what happened with Mercedes [at Barcelona], that was a demonstration. They saw what’s possible from our side; to say ‘this is the track availability and this is how you execute the mileage.’
The first thing that’s going to go when you’re operationally that strong is the driver, so you have to rotate them, and that’s what happened. It was a great lesson, and in that fortnight everyone saw this is where the level is, because Mercedes set that level.”
Webber is essentially saying that Mercedes has started racking up more testing miles (much more than any other team on the grid) during test days, because they’ve seen what Porsche has been doing with their test days. Mercedes even resorted to swapping out drivers due to fatigue.
Webber also said that WEC racing is much more “flat out” than in F1, because in sports cars, the driver is rarely told to back off from their quickest pace.
“The first corner of a sportscar race is not as punchy [as in F1]. But after that, now it is – Nico Hulkenberg is a classic example, he’s the latest guy to have driven these [prototypes]. First time he went down to Aragon [to test], three hours he was flat out, and there’s no brief – it’s extremely rare for a guy at Le Mans now to say ‘back off’ or ‘look after something’. I’ve had Porsche engineers on the radio telling me we lost 0.5s in that pitstop – that’s fast and furious. It’s pretty intense now, and Porsche has been responsible for a lot of that.”
[Photos sourced from Racer.com, Motorsport.com, and DailySportsCar.com]