Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Has NASCAR Racing Really Become Boring?

Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/ Getty Images for NASCAR

When NASCAR Sprint Cup cars first raced on the historic 2.5-mile oval of Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1994, many regarded it as one of the crowning moment for where stock car auto racing has blossomed into a winning spectacle. However, this event could have been a nexus point for where the perception of NASCAR Sprint Cup would take a turn for the worse.

In 2008, NASCAR ran a Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with an unendurable tire that quickly disintegrated under race conditions. A race requiring a caution after almost every 10 laps, many questioned why the race was even run at all. Three years earlier, many remembered a Formula 1 race held at the same track disenfranchised United States audiences from Formula 1 to the point they're only now recovering. Still racing annually on the 400-mile event on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the grandstands appear to considerably more empty at the historic racetrack. While the economy has certainly affected the amount of NASCAR race tickets individuals and corporations purchase, some may simply view the entertainment value at the track where grandstand tickets starting at $65 are sold. In the 2012 race, there were many sizable gaps in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway grandstands as Jimmie Johnson pursued a successful victory.

A respected media colleague Becca Gladden (Followed on Twitter as @nscrwriter) posts a "Complete this Tweet" query after every race asking for one word to describe the recently completed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event. Almost every race weekend receives a substantial number of tweets implying the event as "boring" (or some other word variation on the theme). While there may certainly be fanatics that are upset their favourite driver didn't win the recent race but the frequency of the comments implies the fans of the auto racing sport have been viewing NASCAR in a less competitive manner than often advertised.

The question is, can NASCAR Sprint Cup season of 2012 be certifiably labelled as boring? While quality lead changes (not including position changes at the front through pit stops) are difficult to account for, we can examine the complexity of drivers who have won NASCAR Sprint Cup events in 2012. Wrapping up the 20th race, there have been 12 winning drivers through the 2012 campaign. Compared to a whet could be deemed as a wacky 2011 season where Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith were among winners in the first 20 races, there were 14 different victors following the running of the Brickyard 400. Obviously, both seasons have insured a steady variety of race teams in victory lane. 2012 could be a year where statistics do not tell the whole story.

The phenomenon of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series being perceived as boring has not been a new development. In recent years, efforts such as double-file restarts and improving the look of the heavily-loathed "Car of Tomorrow" race cars were acknowledgements that an image problem was beginning to penetrate stock car racing. Last year, the so-called "Have at it Boys" campaign where NASCAR would allow a more lenient policing of driver habits towards each other was put into place. The unfortunate issue about that rule is that drivers and teams had too much to lose in relations to sponsorship dollars as well as other endorsements to fully press the "Have at it Boys" initiative making it an ineffective action for promoting the entertainment value of the sport. Whether NASCAR expected that some sort of WWE-style drama would develop from the rule (especially when the series penalizes drivers secretly for conduct) is beyond me.

In a year that started so strongly with a nighttime Daytona 500 that involved some serious on-track action (including the firey wreck where the #42 Chevy of Juan-Pablo Montoya slid into a track jet dryer), the first-half of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule have been loaded with some races that could easily have the "boring" label slapped on it. The long green flag run in the spring Texas event, the near-parade at the Sonoma road course ended with predictable, annoying late-race punting are a few examples of race action (or inaction) that gave spectators an image of NASCAR Sprint Cup that did not live up to its hype.

The Bristol Motor Speedway's Food City 500 is probably the lead example of an event that left many fans frustrated. Once a favourite 0.533-mile short track venue for fans, the old Bristol Motor Speedway was place where a high-contact affair was promised. However, with changes to the track and the new car specs, the racing at Bristol was highlighted by a dull spring event. With passing scarce, whatever passes that were made took 10-20 laps to complete. While the driver and team owners probably appreciated the low-impact Bristol short track race, the empty seats in what used to be a sold-out venue demonstrated that the anticipation of old-style racing had been lost. Eager to rebuild the track's reputation, Bristol Motor Speedway's surface is actually being rebuilt in time for the night race in late summer.

Having given themselves such a major pat on the back by taking advantage of the North American open wheel racing split during the late 1990s to early 2000s, the reformed IZOD INDYCAR Series can provide a good example for a race that was fun and exciting for fans yet did not involve carnage some auto racing analyst think viewers crave. The recent Edmonton Indy race went caution-free yet offered some thrilling on-track action. Even under a multiple engine formula, the race at the front of the field was a case where mastering strategy at just the right time netted Helio Castroneves a victory on the Edmonton City Centre Airport course. Of course in NASCAR, strategy is often associated with poor racing action. Some argue against the validity of fuel mileage wins more than they question race events in the past that NASCAR called too quickly due to weather.

Maybe part of the problem in NASCAR is that teams have a lack of options. Tight tolerances in car construction makes advantages too small and perhaps overstated. Does the excessive wind tunnel time really help when beaten-up cars at Talladega are in winning contention? With such a low yield exercise of finding a little extra speed, it has become more expensive where only the richer teams can afford to pursue. In essence, the attempt to bring competition closer together has actually been injuring the effort to widen the parity between teams.

Is it time for NASCAR to consider option tires or some form of 'push-to-pass' power boost system in order to offer an extra element at the drivers and teams disposal? Formula 1, a series once-viewed as sickly pompous and almost proud of its lack of competition, have provided one of the most wide-open seasons in modern grand prix series history. While Formula 1 instituted cost and competition controls such as an engine development freeze, the Drag Reduction System (DRS) and a brake energy recovery based power boost technology gave drivers new tools used to make catching as well as overtaking moves occur. For non-restrictor plate race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the speed and competition boosting technology could be effective in at least spicing up the on-track product.

Traditionally, NASCAR Sprint Cup racing had contained fair share of sleeper or boring races. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, it was not uncommon for events to be won by one lap or more being the interval over second place. However, we also remember some of those most memorable finishes NASCAR consistently advertises as part of the sport. Perhaps audiences have been led to a misguided impression on what can be expected race to race on the Sprint Cup circuit. Honestly, some tracks traditionally produces bad competition and it seems some of those events stick out better on the over-sized 36-race schedule where the sport is appealing to markets rather than fans. It is the traditionalists to the series who may dispute any changes to the series despite for the fact improved competition could allow the grandstands to fill up again if NASCAR was no longer seen as boring.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hamilton Fends Off Lotus Challenge to Win Hungarian GP

Photo Credit: Pirelli Photo Service

The 11th win in the 2012 Formula 1 racing championship, the season has turned into a season where race victories have been unable to tell the whole story. With 7 drivers and 5 Formula 1 race teams representing the top of the race podium in the first 10 events, the secret to success has been the consistency of current series points leader Fernando Alonso in the 2012 Formula 1 tour. Race wins have become much more valuable as drivers seek the zero in on Alonso and his Ferrari in the overall points championship. Having reached the end of July, the Hungarian Grand Prix kicks off the second-half of the Formula 1 season with a tight, challenging race course.

Domination in qualifying compounded into a pole for Lewis Hamilton and the McLaren F1 team. The #4 McLaren-Mercedes of Hamilton would sail to the lead once the race at the Hungaroring would be sent underway. The Hungarian Grand Prix's first start was aborted when the Mercedes GP car of Michael Schumacher was out of position in his gird position. Schumacher was already dealing with elevating engine temperatures in his race car causing the German Formula 1 champion to switch off the Mercedes powerplant when the event's first start was cancelled. A bad day for Michael Schumacher turned worse after being required to start from the Hungaroring's pit lane and would be the first of two retirements from the grand prix. "This weekend is not one to remember, but then there are weekends like this which you can only accept. I am sure we will be looking much better in the next races to come." said Schumacher who has now failed to finish 6 races in the 2012 Formula 1 season.

Photo Credit: Mercedes GP

With Lewis Hamilton leading the way around the 2.722-mile race course, the fight immediately behind the McLaren race car wasa fight amongst Renault-powered Lotus and the Red Bull Racing machine of Sebastian Vettel. Of the group, Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen stormed from 5th to second place in the event thanks in part to a pit road strategy. Lotus F1 cars utilized a two-stop pit strategy while the Red Bull Racing team pitted Vettel and teammate Mark Webber three times over the Hungarian Grand Prix's 69 laps. Though the plan vaulted Webber from an 11th place position to a point-paying spot, the three-stop tire strategy apparently played a part in the #1 Red Bull-Renault's backwards movement.

For what was a 69-lap grand prix at the Hungarian race track, Lewis Hamilton cruised to a second victory in the 2012 Formula 1 race season. After a season that started with 7 different drivers winning a grand prix race, Hamilton is now the 3rd competitor to score multiple races this year.

Within a second behind Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen put in an impressive show in his Lotus-Renault race car chasing the McLaren but came short of scoring a victory for the black and gold. The second place at the Hungaroring is the 5th podium finish for Raikkonen in 2012 after a long absence from Formula 1 competition. Lotus F1 Racing teammate Romain Grosjean started 2nd in the race and held on the final podium scoring position.

Photo Credit: Pirelli Photo Service

Sebastian Vettel finished 4th in a grand prix that did not go the way the reigning Formula 1 would probably wished. In 5th, Fernando Alonso (who entered the Hungarian Grand Prix as the points leader) in his Ferrari managed to pad his advantage on his title contenders in 2012. After the race, Alonso now his a 40-point advantage over Mark Webber. 

With the race in Hungary wrapping, the 2012 Formula 1 goes into a one-month hiatus from competition. While there will be no racing until the Belgium Grand Prix weekend from August 31th to September 2nd, behind the scenes development of Formula 1 packages is destined to have the race shops of major racing organizations running overtime trying to isolate the speed needed through the final stretch of the 2012 season. 

2012 Formula 1
Hungarian Grand Prix
Race Results

Pos # Car #/ Driver/ Car
1 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
2 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault
3 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault
4 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
5 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
6 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
7 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault
8 2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
9 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
10 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
11 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes
12 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes
13 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault
14 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari
15 16 Daniel Ricciardo Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
16 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
17 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault
18 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari
19 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault
20 25 Charlie Pic Marussia-Cosworth
21 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth
22 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT F1
23 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT F1
24 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Lewis Hamilton Dominates Hungarian GP Qualifying

Photo Credit: Pirelli Photo Service

The 2.722-mile (4.381-kilometer), 16-turn Hungaroring race track contains the cars of the 2012 Formula 1 tour practicing for what will be 70 laps on Sunday. A week after the German Grand Prix, the Hungarian Grand Prix is leading the drivers and teams into a summer break which will not see the Formula 1 cars return to action until September. The long layover between grand prix events implies that team performances in Hungary will have a lingering effect into the latter stage of the 2012 season.

Qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix favoured 2008 Formula 1 driver's champion and two-time winner at the Hungaroring Lewis Hamilton sweep quickly around the tight race circuit. Hamilton proceeded as the leader through the first two qualifying sessions into Q3 group where his McLaren-Mercedes ripped out a 1-minute, 20.953-second lap time to take pole at the Hungaroring. The McLaren Formula 1 team owns 10 Hungarian Grand Prix victories since the event was added to the premier open wheel racing series in 1986 including 4 of the past 5 race runnings.

Over 4/10th of a second slower than Lewis Hamilton, the Lotus F1 Racing team's Romain Grosjean continued his impressive breakout season in the Formula 1 season with a second place in qualifying on Saturday. “Qualifying was very tight and it was difficult to see where we would end up so on the front row is fantastic." said Grosjean.

 Photo Credit: Lorenzo Bellanca/ LAT Photographic

Behind the Renault-powered Lotus, Sebastian Vettel placed his similarly-propelled Red Bull Racing car starts third in the Hungarian Grand Prix. Vettel has yet to win on the Hungaroring in Formula 1 competition but teammate Mark Webber was victorious in a Red Bull-Renault race car in 2010. Mark Webber struggled in qualifying Saturday only able to muster a 11th place run.

The second McLaren-Mercedes of Jenson Button and the Lotus-Renault of Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top-5 fastest in Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying. Winner of last week's Formula 1 at the Hockenheimring Fernando Alonso was 0.056 seconds ahead of Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa on the time sheet for a 6th place. In 8th and 9th place, the Williams-Renault race cars of Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna paired-up for the start in Hungary. Nico Hulkenberg driving for Force India fills out the top-10 for the Hungarian Grand Prix starting grid.

The 70-lap Hungarian Grand Prix is slated to run tomorrow at 2pm local time (8am Eastern time). Conditions for racing is expected to be very hot for Formula 1 teams and fans with a high probability of thunder showers Sunday.  

2012 Formula 1
Hungarian Grand Prix
Qualifying Results

Pos # Car #/ Driver/ Car
1 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
2 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault
3 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
4 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
5 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault
6 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
7 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
8 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault
9 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault
10 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes
11 2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
12 11 Paul di Resta Force India
13 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
14 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari
15 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari
16 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
17 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
18 16 Daniel Ricciardo Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
19 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault
20 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault
21 25 Charlie Pic Marussia-Cosworth
22 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth
23 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT F1
24 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT F1

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chevrolet Camaro to Join NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2013

Photo Credit: Chevrolet

In 2013, the NASCAR Nationwide Series will become a pony car battleground for the Detroit Three automakers with a Thursday announcement made by Chevrolet. Set to do battle with the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger as well as the Toyota Camry, the Chevrolet Camaro will enter series competition starting with the Daytona 300-mile race next season.

Manager of the Chevrolet Racing Oval Track Group Pat Suhy described the effort put behind the newly-approved future race car saying, "Our team of Chevrolet designers and aerodynamic engineers did a fantastic job capturing the great looks and styling cues of the production Camaro, while providing our NASCAR Nationwide teams with a highly competitive aero platform,".

Photo Credit: Chevrolet
Replacing the Chevrolet Impala, the new Camaro body is said to have been over a year in development. "This car has a bold look that will be reinforced by its performance on the race track." said Chevrolet NASCAR Nationwide Series Shane Martin. Chevrolet has been working closely with their current NASCAR Nationwide Series teams and the rest of this year will be devoted to behind-the-scenes fine-tuning of the 2013 race car. 

Photo Credit: Chevrolet

The Chevrolet Camaro's inclusion in the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series tour will actually be a return the oval track. In the short-lived NASCAR Grand American Series, was piloted by the likes of Tiny Lund. During the 1980s, the Camaro was used in the IROC (International Race Of Champions) Series where top drivers from several motorsports avenues convened to compete.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

NASCAR Suspends AJ Allmendinger After Recent Drug Test

Photo Credit: Penske Racing

Less than a month ago, 2003 Toyota Atlantic Series Champion, former Champ Car series race winner and current NASCAR Sprint Cup driver AJ Allmendinger was preparing to endure the summer and fall races on the tour with his Penske Racing crew. In his last two competitive races on the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, Allmendinger was en route to steer his season into a positive territory with a pair of 9th place race finishes in the #22 Dodge sponsored by Shell/Pennzoil. In shocking development however at the Daytona International Speedway's Coke Zero 400, news spread that the California native would not for competing in the #22 machine as the driver was suspected by breaching NASCAR's substance abuse policy.

Barred from competing immediately after the first test discovered an undisclosed banned substance, AJ Allmendinger and his Penske Racing team quickly pressed to have a second test. On July 24th, results of the B sample test concluded with NASCAR’s substance abuse policy suspending the driver of the Penske Racing #22 Dodge Charger indefinitely.

In a statement posted on theWalldinger Racing Incorporated website (AJ Allmendinger's website), the B sample failure was addressed. “This was not the news we wanted to hear and we will work to get to the source of what may have caused this. To that end, we have secured the services of an independent lab to conduct thorough testing on every product within AJ’s home and motor coach to find what might collaborate with his test, which created results that were within nanograms of accepted standards." The statement added, "We continue to be extremely grateful by the breadth and scope of support for AJ from his fans and partners. We would like to again thank NASCAR, Penske Racing and all our sponsor partners for the open communication, and for helping us at every step in this process. We expect to have further updates in the upcoming days.”
In a brief statement published by AJ Allmendinger's Penske Racing organization, the team expresses respect for NASCAR's decision. "Penske Racing is very disappointed with the result of the B sample test and will evaluate its course of action as it pertains to AJ over the coming week." said the press release. As was the case at Daytona and New Hampshire, the #22 Dodge will be wheeled by Sam Hornish Jr for the coming races including the Brickyard 400 this Sunday.
While there have been a small number of crew members and even drivers in lower NASCAR series suspended by the NASCAR substance abuse policy, three of the more mentionable names parked over the drug testing have been Kevin Grubb, Shane Hmiel and Jeremy Mayfield. Unfortunately, all three drivers were eventually banned for life from NASCAR competition. AJ Allmendinger's return to competition will involve proceeding through the NASCAR Road to Recovery Program. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Castroneves Finds Solace in Edmonton Indy Race Win


Two years ago, Helio Castroneves garnered headlines at the Edmonton City Centre Airport for the race he lost. In 2010, Castroneves would be penalized on the last restart of the IZOD INDYCAR Series' Edmonton Indy race while leading because the series officials judged we had blocked teammate Will Power. While the assessment of the penalty ultimately defined the winner of the Edmonton race, more of a spectacle was created as Helio Castroneves angrily vented to the INDYCAR officials to an extent that earned him a monetary fine following the event. Returning the location in 2012, the Brazilian driver for Team Penske would be a banner day for a more positive reason.
Taking place under a beautiful Alberta summer day where 74 degrees Farhenheit (23 degrees Celsius) kept the Edmonton City Centre Airport road course warm, the 75-lap Edmonton Indy was readied for what would be a fast pace afternoon. The #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-powered Dallara of Dario Franchitti inherited the pole position after fastest in qualifying Ryan Hunter-Reay was moved back 10 grid spots following an engine change on his #28 Andretti Autosport vehicle. From the start, Franchitti took full advantage of the pole to rocket away at the site of the green flag.

Photo Credit: Perry Nelson LAT Photo USA/ Honda

However, while the #10 car led into turn 1 at the start of the Edmonton Indy, the hard-charger in the field came from fourth place. The #98 Bryan Herta Autosport race machine piloted by French-Canadian driver Alex Tagliani performed some marvelous slices on the race's start to pass 3rd place starter Takuma Sato and 2nd place Ryan Briscoe immediate on acceleration past the green flag. Into the first corner, Tagliani in fact bumped the car of Franchitti. Stalking Dario Franchitti's red car, Alex Tagliani found a way by the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car on the frontstretch as the first lap was completed. Leading the Edmonton Indy, the #98 car of Alex Tagliani quickly ignited the Canadian racing crowd witnessing the event.

As the Edmonton Indy transpired, the complexion of the event would be shaped by the absence of one aspect typical to auto racing. For the entire length of the 75-lap race on the 2.224-mile temporary track, there would used be a single full-course caution period to slow the event. However, while the lack of cautions was unable to give several struggling competitors the chance to position themselves closer to the front of the Edmonton Indy running order, many drivers were able to create their own passing opportunities thanks to the new 2012 Dallara race cars, push-to-pass system and determination.

While there were several scenes of passing occurring on track, the Edmonton Indy was was led by Alex Tagliani for 49 of the race's first 51 laps (losing the lead only through the pit stop cycle at lap 26 and 27 early on in the event). After the first pit stop, the #3 Team Penske race car of Helio Castroneves tailed the #98 car leading the Edmonton Indy. Early on in the second run, Castroneves was planning on using this Firestone 'red' tires as an advantage over Tagliani's 'black' tires. The softer Firestone tires on the #3 car were not enough to fish around the lead car at the mid-stage of the event leaving Helio Castroneves in 2nd place but maintaining close quarters with Alex Tagliani.

For what would be the deciding move of the Edmonton Indy race, Helio Castroneves pitted prior to leader Alex Tagliani for the second round of pit stops to the attention of his Team Penske crew. Although the #98 team actually sent Tagliani out with a stronger pit time than the #3 car, Castroneves used his new tires to furnish a very fast 'out-lap'. Helio Castroenves' track speed was enough to vault his Team Penske Chevrolet-powered Dallara just ahead of Tagliani as the #98 car was leaving pit road.

Photo Credit: Perry Nelson LAT Photo USA/Honda

Losing the lead during the last stint, Alex Tagliani was eventually passed by a speedier Takuma Sato and later by Will Power for a podium position in the Edmonton Indy. Older tires on the #98 Bryan Herta Autosport machine was ultimate the downfall of the French-Canadian driver's quest to win an IZOD INDYCAR race in Canada. Tagliani was able to hold on to a 5th place finish after 75 laps after putting on a memorable show for his home country.

Through the closing laps, the Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing car piloted by Takuma Sato was in pursuit of Helio Castroneves. Sato's #15 car was able to provide an effective challenge to the #3 car of Castroneves but found chances of victory slip away when his push-to-pass account depleted.

Crossing the finish line first by a margin of 0.8367 seconds, Helio Castroneves won the Edmonton Indy in what was a celebrated moment of triumph. His second win of 2012, Castroeneves' passion came out throughout his time in victory lane. This IZOD INDYCAR Series event at the Edmonton City Centre Airport is first win for Team Penske since Will Power's Sao Paulo victory in late April.


Takuma Sato claimed second place while Will Power took third place after climbing from 17th palce following a grid position penalty taken for an engine change on Saturday. Power's race was also additionally excited by the protest from Ryan Hunter-Reay and his #28 Andretti Autosport team after the competitor raised questions of the #12 Team Penske's exit off pit road. While INDYCAR investigated the incident, there was no action taken against Power. Ryan Hunter-Reay (who entered the Edmonton Indy in the series overall points lead) finished 7th while Castroneves and Power both gained ground on him in the title chase for 2012.

Returning to the United States, the IZOD INDYCAR Series next race will be at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 5th.

Edmonton Indy
Race Results

Car # Driver Driver Nationality Race Team Engine Supplier
1 3 Helio Castroneves Brazil Team Penske Chevrolet
2 15 Takuma Sato Japan Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
3 12 Will Power Australia Team Penske Chevrolet
4 38 Graham Rahal United States Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
5 98 Alex Tagliani Canada Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian Honda
6 10 Dario Franchitti Scotland Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
7 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay United States Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
8 2 Ryan Briscoe Australia Team Penske Chevrolet
9 18 Justin Wilson England Dale Coyne Racing Honda
10 9 Scott Dixon New Zealand Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
11 14 Mike Conway England AJ Foyt Enterprises Honda
12 27 James Hinchcliffe Canada Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
13 8 Rubens Barrichello Brazil KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
14 26 Marco Andretti United States Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
15 7 Sebastien Bourdais France Dragon Racing Chevrolet
16 5 EJ Viso Venezuela KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
17 67 Josef Newgarden United States Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda
18 11 Tony Kanaan Brazil KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
19 83 Charlie Kimball United States Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
20 77 Simon Pagenaud France Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports Honda
21 4 JR Hildebrand United States Panther Racing Chevrolet
22 20 Ed Carpenter United States Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
23 78 Simona de Silvestro Switzerland Lotus-HVM Racing Lotus
24 22 Oriol Servia Spain Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet
25 19 James Jakes England Dale Coyne Racing Honda


Alonso Takes Hockenheim Honours in German GP Race

Photo Credit: Pirelli Photo Service

After 9 rounds of 2012 competition, the Formula 1 tour's top spot on the race podiums has been a game of musical chairs. In fact, it was only in the past two races where a driver repeated as a grand prix winner (Fernando Alonso at Valencia and Mark Webber at Silverstone). The second headline for the 2012 Formula 1 season has been the suprising performance of the Ferrari F2012 race car after many people wrote-out the team in opening race in Australia. While Felipe Massa's season campaign has been a serious of highs and lows, Alonso enters the Hockenheimring for the German Grand Prix with a 21 race points-scoring streak.

In qualifying, the Ferrari F2012 in the hands of Spain's Fernando Alonso found stability in the wet to win pole for the German Grand Prix. With Sunday's main event taking place on a dry race track, teams such as Red Bull Racing and McLaren were a little more confident that they could pursue the Alonso's Ferrari at prime race speeds.

Lined up on the starting order Sunday, Fernando Alonso launched perfectly from his pole-sitting grid position at the start of the German Grand Prix. While one Ferrari soared at the front, the second Scuderia Ferrari driven by Felipe Massa would collide with the rear of the Toro Rosso-Ferrari of Riccardo before reaching turn 1 on the opening lap. The chards of debris from Massa's front wing littered the Hockenheimring frontstretch creating havoc for a number of unfortunately positioned competitors. The Williams-Renault of Bruno Senna and Lewis Hamilton's McLaren-Mercedes were a few caught by the carbon fiber front wing debris of the Ferrari race car. While Felipe Massa and Bruno Senna were able to soldier on in the German Grand Prix, the McLaren's Lewis Hamilton had to withdraw from the event after 56 laps when the damage suffered early in the race was too severe to continue.

Maintaining a thin margin on other race cars, Fernando Alonso kept all other challengers well outside of the 1-second DRS interval throughout the 67 lap event. With the leaders adhering to a two-stop strategy through the Hockenheimring Formula 1, the fight in the race was truly for second and third. Into the later stage of the German Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel was anxious to regain his 2nd place position he had held at the beginning of the race occupied by Jenson Button.

Photo Credit: Pirelli Photo Service

Pulling off a daring corner pass that resulted in Vettel overshooting the curbing, the Red Bull-Renault shot past the McLaren-Mercedes the runner-up spot. At the checkered flag, Fernando Alonso win the German Grand Prix by 3.7 seconds over Sebastian Vettel. However, a decision by Formula 1 stewards assessed Vettel a 20-second penalty that stripped the Red Bull Racing driver of a podium finish. Vettel was dropped to 5th while Jenson Button was promoted to second place and Lotus-Renault driver Kimi Raikkonen was awarded with a podium position. 

In fourth place, Kamui Kobayashi placed his Sauber-Ferrari firmly in the points claiming a position ahead of the penalized Sebastian Vettel. Kobayashi's teammate Sergio Perez placed the second Sauber race car into 6th place. German driver Michael Schumacher brought his Mercedes GP car across the Hockenheimring start/finish line 7th.

Photo Credit: Pirelli Photo Service

The win for Alonso was the Spaniard's 30th victory in Formula 1 and extends his points-scoring streak to an impressive 22 races. This allows Fernando Alonso to claim a growing advantage over nearest points rival Mark Webber by 34 points.

Next weekend, the Formula 1 cars return to action at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

2012 Formula 1
German Grand Prix
Race Results

Pos # Car #/ Driver/ Car
1 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
2 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
3 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault
4 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari
5 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
6 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari
7 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
8 2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
9 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes
10 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
11 11 Paul di Resta Force India
12 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
13 16 Daniel Ricciardo Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
14 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
15 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault
16 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault
17 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault
18 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault
19 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault
20 25 Charlie Pic Marussia-Cosworth
21 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT F1
22 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth
23 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT F1
24 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Amid Grid Position Penalty, Hunter-Reay Fastest at Edmonton Indy


The 11th event on the 2012 IZOD INDYCAR Series schedule runs this weekend on the airport circuit in Edmonton. The second of two Canadian rounds, Sunday's Edmonton Indy race lineup was to be set by Saturday qualifying under uncertain weather conditions.

As the afternoon time trials of the IZOD INDYCAR Series transpired, sure enough rain occurring in mid-session on the 2.224-mile race track. While it complicated the one of the earlier qualifying sessions, the track was dry enough for the Firestone Fast Six session that would decide the outcome of the starting gird of the Edmonton Indy.

Prevailing as the fastest car in qualifying with a 1 minute, 17.2338 second lap time, the #28 Andretti Autosport car driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay got the better of Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti. The success on Saturday comes after a troublesome Friday outing on the Edmonton City Centre Airport track. Yesterday, Ryan Hunter-Reay's pursuit of a possible fourth-straight IZOD INDYCAR Series event victory was put at risk due to an engine change made by his Andretti Autosport team. While Hunter-Reay acquired the pole of the race, he will have to drop to 11th on the grid for Sunday's Edmonton Indy. "It's certainly unfortunate to take the grid penalty with our first pole this year, my first pole in a long time. But we'll take it for sure. 11th is better than starting 15th or 16th." said Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Ryan Hunter-Reay's fall from the top spot on the start of the Edmonton Indy promotes the #10 car of Dario Franchitti to the prime spot on the grid for Honda. Franchitti will have the Chevrolet-powered #2 Team Penske car of Ryan Briscoe right beside him. Ryan Briscoe, Canadian driver Alex Tagliani and Helio Castroneves rounded out the Firestone Fast Six.

Along with the pole-stting #28 car falling down the starting order Sunday, there will also be several other high-profile drivers taking penalties due to engine changes. The #9 car of Scott Dixon will have to serve a penalty resulting after the Honda Indy Toronto. Relinquishing a 8th place position in qualifying, Dixon will be starting 18th with his Dallara-Honda. On Saturday, it was announced that the #12 race machine driven by Will Power would also have it's Chevrolet engine swapped out. Power will start in 17th place as a result of the decision by Team Penske. Dixon and Power combine as the winners of the previous four Edmonton Indy races.

With Tagliani starting in the top-5, the Canadian crowd will also react well to the fact that James Hinchcliffe qualified a respectable 12th place for Sunday's race. Hinchcliffe cited lack of rear end grip as stalling his progression to a higher position in qualifying.

A 75-lap event, the scheduled start of the Edmonton Indy will occur at 12:47 pm local time.

2012 IZOD INDYCAR Series
Edmonton Indy
Qualifying Results

Car # Driver Driver Nationality Race Team Engine Supplier
1 28Ryan Hunter-ReayUnited StatesAndretti AutosportChevrolet
2 10 Dario Franchitti Scotland Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
3 2 Ryan Briscoe Australia Team Penske Chevrolet
4 15 Takuma Sato Japan Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
5 98 Alex Tagliani Canada Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian Honda
6 3 Helio Castroneves Brazil Team Penske Chevrolet
7 12Will PowerAustraliaTeam PenskeChevrolet
8 9Scott DixonNew ZealandTarget/Chip Ganassi RacingHonda
9 77 Simon Pagenaud France Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports Honda
10 8 Rubens Barrichello Brazil KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
11 38 Graham Rahal United States Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
12 27 James Hinchcliffe Canada Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
13 18 Justin Wilson England Dale Coyne Racing Honda
14 7 Sebastien Bourdais France Dragon Racing Chevrolet
15 67 Josef Newgarden United States Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda
16 19 James Jakes England Dale Coyne Racing Honda
17 26 Marco Andretti United States Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
18 5 EJ Viso Venezuela KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
19 83 Charlie Kimball United States Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
20 22Oriol ServiaSpainDreyer & Reinbold RacingChevrolet
21 4 JR Hildebrand United States Panther Racing Chevrolet
22 11 Tony Kanaan Brazil KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
23 78Simona de SilvestroSwitzerlandLotus-HVM RacingLotus
24 20Ed CarpenterUnited StatesEd Carpenter RacingChevrolet
25 14 Mike Conway England AJ Foyt Enterprises Honda

Denotes drivers and teams believed to be recipients of grid position penalties for Sunday. Will start 10 spots lower. 

ALMS Grand Prix of Mosport Qualifying Results

Photo Credit: Porsche Media

The only stop in Canada for the American Le Mans Series, the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (previously known as Mosport Raceway) is a 2-hour, 45-minute event set on the historic 2.459-mile road course set outside of Toronto. A total 26 cars came north of the United States border for the Mobil 1 Presents the Grand Prix of Mosport. 

In a warm Saturday afternoon qualifying Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the #6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03a was fastest on track with a 1-minute, 6.486-second lap time. The Pickett Racing car driven by Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr beat out the Dyson Racing owned Mazda-powered Lola for the top spot for Sunday's main event.

In other classes, the #37 Conquest Racing Morgan was the fastest of two P2 cars present at the Grand Prix of Mosport. The #5 logged in the PC (prototype challenge) class' top time with Colin Braun and Jonathan Bennett set to teamed up for Sunday's race. In a congested GT class, the Corvette Racing squad took the top-2 positions in class. The #3 Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 driven by Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia gains the immediate class lead to the green flag Sunday by 3/10th of a second over their #4 team car. Finally, the #34 car driven by Damien Faulkner and Peter LeSaffre was fastest in qualifying within the all-Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car GTC series.

Canadian driver Kyle Marcelli will start 3rd in class and 8th after qualifying. The #8 Merchant Services Racing Prototype Challenge car actually recorded the second-fastest time in class but was assessed penalty by the American Le Mans Series after being ruled the driver blocked another vehicle during the qualifying session. The car was stripped of its fastest time dropping it one position on the starting lineup.

Other Canadian competitors are found in the P1 and GTC class for the Grand Prix of Mosport event Sunday. Co-driving the #20 Lola, Toronto's Tony Burgess will be the highest-starting Canadian in the field for the ALMS race. In GTC, the #11 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car will fact feature an all-Canadian driving lineup. Grand Am sports car series regular Michael Valiante and Chris Cumming are both natives of Vancouver, British Columbia starting fourth in class at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

The American Le Mans Series Grand Prix of Mosport event is set for a noontime start on Sunday.

2012 American Le Mans Series
Grand Prix of Mosport
Qualifying Results

8 car will start in 8th place overall after ALMS penalized team.

Overall Class Rank Class Car # Drivers Car Type
1 1 P1 6 Klaus Graf/Lucas Luhr HPD ARX-03a
2 2 P1 16 Chris Dyson/Guy Smith Lola B12/60
3 3 P1 20 Eric Lux/Tony Burgess Lola B11/66
4 1 P2 37 Martin Plowman/David Heinemeier Hansson Morgan
5 2 P2 55 Christophe Bouchut/Scott Tucker HPD ARX-03b
6 1 PC 5 Colin Braun/Jonathan Bennett Oreca FLM09
7 2PC8Kyle Marcelli/Matt DownsOreca FLM09
8 3 PC 6 Ryan Dalziel/Alex Popow Oreca FLM09
9 4 PC 9 Bruno Junqueira/Tomy Drissi Oreca FLM09
10 5 PC 25 Duncan Ende/Henri Richard Oreca FLM09
11 6 PC 52 Marino Franchitti/Ken Dobson Oreca FLM09
12 1 GT 3 Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1
13 2 GT 4 Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1
14 3 GT 55 Bill Auberlen/Jörg Müller BMW E92 M3
15 4 GT 1 Johannes van Overbeek/Scott Sharp Ferrari F458 Italia
16 5 GT 45 Jorg Bergmeister/Patrick Long Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
17 6 GT 56 Dirk Mueller/Joey Hand BMW E92 M3
18 7 GT 48 Sascha Maassen/Bryce Miller Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
19 8 GT 17 Wolf Henzler/Bryan Sellers Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
20 9 GT 23 Townsend Bell/Bill Sweedler Lotus Evora
21 10 GT 2 Ed Brown/Guy Cosmo Ferrari F458 Italia
22 11 GT 44 Seth Neiman/Andy Lally Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
23 1 GTC 34 Damien Faulkner/Peter LeSaffre Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
24 2 GTC 66 Spencer Pumpelly/Emilio Di Guida Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
25 3 GTC 22 Leh Keen/Cooper MacNeil Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
26 4 GTC 11 Michael Valiante/Chris Cumming Porsche 911 GT3 Cup