Hooniverse Motorsport News For The Week Of April 2, 2012

Welcome to the Hooniverse Motorsport News. IndyCar ran a back to back weekend last Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park.  Joining IndyCar was the Grand Am circus.  Formula 1 was absent from the festivities, but fear not as Australian V8s fired up in Symmons Plains, and WTCC stormed Valencia.  After a weekend out west, NASCAR trekked back across the US for a run around the paperclip at Richmond.  This was another exciting weekend of motorsport, and the action was top notch. This report is aimed at telling you what you missed, and what you will miss in the near future.  This round of Motorsport News will be filled with more spoilers than a high school parking lot.

This week:

  • Indy invades B-ham
  • Grand Am visits the Barber
  • Aussie V8s back in action
  • WTCC 
  • NASCAR in VA
  • A few for the road…

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama


The air of quaint Leeds, Alabama was pierced by the shrill staccato of high strung 6 cylinder turbocharged engines.  While the sound isn’t for everyone, I personally welcome the change, as the old Honda V8s were getting a bit long in the tooth.

Due to qualifying woes, Penske racing’s Will Power had to start farther adrift than his usual top six position.  The race fell to Power’s hand as race strategist Tim Cindric always made the right call.  Will took the lead of the race as teammate Castroneves pitted for fresh tires and fuel on lap 68, and held the lead until the checkered flag fell at the end of lap 90.  The win was the second in a row for Penske, and for Chevrolet.  

While Power was running away with the field, masterminding his 16th IndyCar series victory, Scott Dixon was looking to break a streak of three consecutive runner-up finishes at Barber.  Dixon would not be successful, but the second place finish puts him only two points behind Helio Castroneves in the standings, who finished close behind in third.

Fourth place was held by Graham Rahal, a phenomenal run for the young driver.  Similarly a stellar run was put in by Simon Pagenaud to round out the top five.  Other standouts were Rubens Barrichello in 8th, and Sebastien Bourdais, the highest finishing Lotus powered driver in 9th.  Dario Franchitti, who could not touch teammate Dixon’s times all day struggled through to the final position in the top 10.  Marco Andretti was on an uncharacteristic decent run in 7th until he was freight-trained by  Conway, Barrichello, Bourdais, and Franchitti in the final three laps, finishing down in 11th, though if you listen to him, it likely wasn’t his fault.

Grand Am Porsche 250

Succeeding the Daytona 24, this weekend’s event at Barber Motorsports Park was the first outing for the Grand Am Sports Car Series in over two months.  The cobwebs were swept aside, and the teams jumped right to action to provide a whole lot of excitement and a ton of competition around the gorgeously maintained grounds.

While Ford dominated proceedings at Daytona, it seems that Chevrolet has played all the right cards with a lockout of the top three in qualifying, and the top two spaces of the podium with their new Corvette DP.  The time off has certainly done Chevrolet and their partners well, as they came out of the box hot with a new “high-downforce” aerodynamics package that worked wonders at the Alabamian circuit.

Antonio Garcia took the lead early in his Spirit of Daytona Chevy Corvette DP, and did not relinquish it, even through a three lap dash to the checkered flag after a late race caution.  

Of course, the race was not without drama, as is often the case when Grand Am comes to town.  

– During the first hour of the event, the winners of the Daytona 24, Mike Shank Racing were taken out.  

  • After a spin, the Mazda RX-8 of team Sahlens was attempting to rejoin the race just over a blind ridge.  Not wanting to go onto the still wet grass in risk of getting stuck, the Mazda driver was selecting reverse when Jon Pew crested the ridge.  With a GT Mazda blocking the racing line, Pew took evasive action to the grass, where his splitter dug in, resulting in a 50-0 stop in a matter of about two feet.  [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWmsj-aWC5Y[/youtube]
– During that caution period, Action Express racing’s David Donohue hit the wall.
  • Donohue was scheduled to pit.  Making his way toward the pit lane, already committed to the entrance, the pits were closed (as is caution lap de rigueur) and Donohue had to take action to rejoin the racing surface or avoid penalty.  Instead, Donohue’s car understeered into the gravel trap. 
– After resuming the race, Darren Law, having taken over for Donohue, was taken out by a fellow Corvette driver.
  • Law, already laps down due to the earlier incident, became victim of a signature aggressive maneuver of Suntrust Racing’s Max “the Ax” Angelelli.  After a divebomb into a tight left hand corner, Max slows himself by giving Darren Law the ‘ol chrome horn, and then bullies him to the outside and onto the grass, where Law’s car bottoms out on a mound, forcing his retirement.  Suntrust was given a stop-and-hold penalty for the infraction.   [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kPz_lDTop4[/youtube] 

–  Later in the race, Memo Rojas driving the Target Chip Ganassi BMW Riley clipped the GT category Oryx Racing Audi R8 LMS, forcing driver Stephen Kane off the track, incurring a ten second stop-and-hold penalty. While I agree with Angelelli’s penalty, I feel this one was slightly too harsh.

 V8 Supercars

Aussie Supercars found themselves running the second set of championship events in Tasmania this weekend.  The Symmons Plains course played home to the series for another exciting weekend of action.

Race 1 – Will Davison led a FPR 1-2 finish at the circuit, his second win of the season thus far.  “I just can’t believe it,” says Davison “Another 1-2 for FPR is really important for our team. We just have to keeping building on this. All my guys have done an amazing job. It’s never fun battling with your teammate, you have to be so careful.”

Race 2 – Jamie Whincup tossed his Holden around the circuit, recovering from an early spin to take victory in race two of the weekend ahead of a string of 5 Fords.    This was Whincup’s 54th career victory, and his 8th win at this particular circuit.  Whincup was quoted as saying “It’s crazy how this sport works. Nothing went right all weekend and we walk away with a third and a win. I don’t want to dwell on the negatives but we’ll improve on that.”

World Touring Car Championships

Another pair of World Touring Car events came to fruition in Valencia, Spain this weekend, and another pair of victories were delivered to the Chevrolet camp of Cruze drivers.  

Race 1 – Yvan Muller led the first event from pole into the first turn, and opened the gap from there.  Following that, the gap increased with time, and Muller (pardon the pun) Cruzed home for a convincing victory.  The reigning world champion led Tarquini and Coronel to the finish, while teammate Alan Menu settled for 5th.

Race 2 – Stefano D’aste drove from the pole position down into the first corner, and pulled an immediate gap on the following cars of Engstler and Menu.  By the end of lap 1, Menu had completed the pass on Engstler for the second position.  At lap 6 Menu pushed D’aste wide, initiating an opposite lock skid for D’aste and taking the lead.  Averting penalty, Menu allowed D’aste back into the lead before passing him again fair and square the following lap and staying there until the end.  Menu’s Chevrolet led a four BMW train to the finish.


NASCAR at Martinsville

After leading the race for 495 laps, the duo of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon were each denied the ability to bring Hendrick’s 200th victory by Stewart Haas Racing’s Ryan Newman.  SHR took their third victory of the season after Newman led from the second green-white-checker attempt away from AJ Allmendinger, who kept the final laps as clean as a whistle.

JJ and JG were a bit sour after a failed dive bomb attempt by Clint Bowyer shuffled the pair back in the order.  Johnson finished 12th, while Gordon ended the event in 14th position.  This is only the second time in his storied career that Gordon had led more than 300 laps of race and failed to take the win.


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