F1: Dumb and Dumber

Last week I commented on the Indy Racing Series' penalty on Helio Castroneves for blocking.

Well, last Sunday the Formula 1 stewards at the Belgian Grand Prix made a far more boneheaded call, one that even NASCAR officials would think twice about. The short version is that McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton caught leader Kimi Raikkonen in his Ferrari on a wet track in the closing laps, was forced off the road while attempting a pass, and short-cut a chicane. Hamilton then let Raikkonen back by him, then repassed for the lead.

After a couple of more spins and lead swaps, Raikkonen crashed out of the race and Hamilton went on to win. So far, so good. Then an hour or so later, the stewards slapped a 25 second penalty on Hamilton for the short-cut of the chicane, dropping him to third place. I submit that a) he was forced off course by Raikkonen in the first place, b) after he passed, he allowed Raikkonen to re-take the lead, negating any advantage gained, and c) when Raikkonen crashed out of the race the entire incident was rendered irrelevant. McLaren has appealed the penalty, and rightly so. It is the dumbest penalty I have seen in nearly 40 years of racing . . . and believe me, I've seen some beauties!

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship field is set, and the stock car 10-race playoff season is set to begin tomorrow at New Hampshire. The final two Chase positions were determined at last weekend's hurricane-delayed Richmond race, and went to Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth.

Kasey Kahne came up short of making the Chase, thereby denying Dodge a place at the table for the Championship run. All Chase drivers' points are reset to 5,000, with 10 additional points for each race win during the regular season. Thus Gibbs Racing Toyota driver Kyle Busch is the top seed with 5,080 counters, followed by Carl Edwards with 5,050, Jimmie Johnson at 5,040, and four drivers (Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, and Jeff Burton) with 5,010 each.

This Chase may be more interesting to the non-racing press than in years past, due to the rivalry (some might say feud) between Busch and Edwards. And last weekend at Richmond, Earnhardt Jr. may have sparked a bit of ill will between himself and Busch the Younger when he roughed up the Shrub a bit. But what I think we'll see in the Chase is more caution and points racing than outright aggression, because the driver who can consistently finish in the top five over the next 10 weeks is the driver who is likely to be the 2008 Sprint Cup Champion.

You may have seen my article in yesterday's paper about the 1971 Buick team that is heading for Bonneville on Monday in search of a speed record. I saw the car at the Shelton Racing & Fabrication shop out on Highway 50. Tom Shelton, who has been in racing forever, was Competition Director at Champion Speedway shortly before it closed.

He and son Robby not only prepare and build race cars (a sprint car for Robby is currently in the works), but also do custom and classic cars. In fact, Shelton Racing & Fabrication was recently named the Nevada distributor for Street Beasts, a company that makes hot rod replica kits.

They had a beautiful 1934 Ford coupe in the shop the day I visited, with a gorgeous black cherry paint job by Benny's Auto Painting in Mound House. Street Beasts also makes 1933 Fords, 1941 Willys coupes, Shelby Cobras, and Porsche Speedsters. You can purchase the kits and build them yourself, but if you want a really professional job, the Sheltons will put it together for you.

I was up at Virginia City on Labor Day weekend, and saw an unusual number of '34 Fords in a car show there. Then again last weekend, when I was announcing the Cherry's Jubilee car show in Monterey, I saw even more. Now that I've seen the example in the Sheltons' shop, I think I understand why there are lots more of them around than you used to see. And they are such accurate replicas that I never suspected!

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