Patrick’s on track shenanigans draws ire
Last Saturday at Talladega, Danica Patrick demonstrated that NASCAR’s “Boys, have at it” rule applies to girls too. Danica expressed her displeasure with a late race move by Sam Hornish Jr. by hammering his rear bumper after the checker and sending him into the wall. The move has been the topic of conversation, Internet chat, blogs, and TV discussion, with fans on both sides of the issue. Those who don’t care for Danica clamored for a suspension, pointing out what happened to Kyle Busch last year after a similar move. What they don’t remember, or choose not to, is that Kyle had a long rap sheet of prior infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies at the time. Danica, as a first-time offender, got off with a warning. Of course, she and Sam do have a history that goes back to IndyCar days, but I understand that they have talked and made nice with each other since the incident. On a related topic, it was just announced that Danica has signed an endorsement deal with Coke Zero, which will have her cardboard cutout likeness holding a can of the beverage in your local supermarket soon. Gee, just what she needs … more exposure!
Tonight’s NASCAR Sprint Cup series is the Southern 500 at historic Darlington Raceway, where NASCAR first raced in 1950. Some things have changed during the years, and some have remained the same. The first Southern 500 at Darlington was run largely on the apron, because the abrasive pavement in the banking quickly wore tires to the cord. Darlington has been known as a tire-eater ever since, although a recent repaving has reduced wear somewhat. Johnny Mantz, driving a six-cylinder Plymouth, beat Fireball Roberts to the flag by nine laps after six and a half hours of racing. Expect tonight’s race to be much shorter and competition to be a whole lot closer.
Formula 1 is back in action this weekend in Spain. The McLaren cars were sporting a new nose in Friday practice, a modified step-down design that is slightly less ugly than the noses of the competition. The McLaren and Red Bull teams appear to be the strongest in the field, but Mercedes has been showing strength as well as Williams. And Lotus scored a pair of podium finishes at Bahrain, with former world champion Kimi Raikkonen in second and rookie Romain Grosjean third. Ferrari has had a tough year, despite Fernando Alonso’s win in the rain in Malaysia. And given the dismal performance his teammate, Felipe Massa, Alonso may well have a different teammate in 2013. Perhaps Massa will head for the U.S. to join Rubens Barrichello in IndyCar?
Speaking of IndyCar, practice for the Indy 500 opens today. Notable features of this year’s race are a new chassis, new engines, new drivers, and the sound of a turbo at the track for the first time since 1996. Helio Castroneves will be attempting to join the exclusive four-time winner’s club (or three times if you’re a Paul Tracy fan). Michel Jourdain is back at the track for the first time in 16 years, and ex-Formula 1 ace Jean Alesi will attempt to qualify for the 500. Alesi and A.J. Foyt Racing driver Wade Cunningham had not completed the third phase of their rookie tests at press time, but six drivers did complete their rookie or refresher training; Jourdain, Josef Newgarden, Bryan Clauson, James Jakes, Simon Pagenaud, and Rubens Barrichello are now authorized to qualify and race in the 500.
Finally, Fernley 95A Speedway is back in action tonight. Two weeks ago 80 cars and nine Outlaw Karts were on hand. I attended a meeting of the track staff last Tuesday, and indications are that there will be even more cars on hand tonight. Spectator gates open at 3pm and racing starts at 6pm. General admission is $8, with $5 admission for seniors over 55 and kids 8-14. Military in uniform, kids fewer than 8, and disabled persons are free. Admission to the tailgate section is $20 for a car and up to two people, or $30 for a carload.