Gordon is a flash at the finish
April 20, 2003
Did you ever go through one of those periods in your life when you couldn’t seem to do anything right?
A cop gave you a ticket for a rolling stop, your boss caught you playing solitaire on your computer at work, you screwed up a spreadsheet and ended up owing the IRS thousands, you accidentally dropped the Thanksgiving turkey in the toilet, stuff like that? Well, that’s how NASCAR officials must have felt for the past few weeks until they caught a break at Martinsville last weekend. Finally, no major pileups, no questionable penalty calls, just a good race right to the end.
This weekend is a “bye,” and when the series reconvenes at California Raceway in Fontana next Sunday, one hopes that the streak of bad karma is over for a while. Of course, all you Jeff Gordon haters out there aren’t happy with the Martinsville results, but you have to admit he’s a helluva race driver. At least Bobby Labonte thinks so.
Have you ever wanted to drive at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Well, now’s your chance! Just buy four or more tickets to this year’s United States Grand Prix by Sunday, June 15, and you’ll get to drive your own car around Indy’s 2.606 mile road course from noon to 4 p.m. that day. Some national car clubs are taking part, and there will be a variety of exotic sports and performance cars on display. So polish up the Ferrari or the Cobra and head for Indy in mid-June. If your current ride is a clapped-out ’76 Yugo, you might want to forgo the experience.
Speaking of Indy, there may be a few faster, more exotic rides available. Team Andretti Green driver Tony Kanaan is recuperating from a fractured arm and bruised thigh sustained in a crash at the Twin Ring Motegi Speedway last Sunday, and is questionable for the Indy 500. Pole day is May 10, and Kanaan is expected to be out for at least three weeks following his April 16 surgery to repair the fractured arm.
Scott Dixon of Team Ganassi was also injured in the same accident at Motegi, and his broken wrist may render him unable to participate at Indy as well. One definite scratch for the race is Dario Franchitti of Team Andretti Green. Franchitti, injured in a motorcycle accident while on vacation in his native Scotland, will miss Indy and possibly the next three IRL races in addition to the Motegi race where he was replaced by Dan Wheldon, who already has a ride for Indy. The car entry list is down for the 500 this year, so I’m sure there will be plenty of drivers with impressive credentials and helmets in hand lining up for Franchitti’s seat as well as Kanaan’s and Dixon’s should they be available.
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Well, it appears that Formula 1 may be returning to the pattern of the last couple of years. Ferrari driver and defending Champion Michael Schumacher is back on course after the first round of qualifying for the San Marino Grand Prix with runs today. Teammate Rubens Barrichello is second quickest. Of course, as of this writing final qualifying has not yet taken place, and this is where the Ferrari team seems to fall down strategically with the new rules in place. If you tuned in to the Speed Channel at 4:30 this morning for the race, you’ll know whether they’ve finally gotten a handle on it. Even though F1 is the only major racing going on this weekend, I think I’ll let the VCR get up at 4:30 and show it to me later in the day.
Finally, let’s doff our helmets to the memory of H. B. Bailey, who passed away in Houston Thursday of heart failure at age 66. Bailey was one of the independents who filled grids in a number of NASCAR series in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Highlights of his career were a pole at Daytona in the Grand American series in 1972, and a couple of fifth-place finishes in Winston Cup. One of Bailey’s six children, son Dan, works at NASCAR’s R&D center.
Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist.