F1 and Indy didn’t work out
Rookie Formula 1 McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton, already off to a record-breaking season, has just gone into the history books again, although it was not a record of his own making.
Yes, Hamilton will forever be known as the last man to win a Formula 1 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The July 12 deadline for negotiations on the continuation of the race passed without an agreement between Speedway boss Tony George and F1 dictator Bernie Ecclestone.
George had poured millions of dollars into the eight-year partnership, and I’m sure lots of those dollars stuck to Ecclestone during that time. But dwindling attendance (down from 200,000 in the early years to 75,000 this year), lack of a title sponsor and limited TV exposure were significant factors in the decision. George put a brave face on it, asserting that although negotiations have broken down for a race in the near future, the door was open for a potential future return of F1 to the Speedway.
George expressed ignorance when asked if Formula 1 would continue in the U.S. at some other venue, and Ecclestone was not on hand to comment. Historically, F1 has raced at a number of locations in the U.S. since the beginning of the “modern era” in 1950. In that year, the Indy 500 was one of the races on the Grand Prix calendar. Other US Grand Prix venues have been the road courses at Riverside and Sebring, and street circuits in Dallas, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.
To offset the losses incurred by dwindling attendance and, and to utilize the $60 million road course and improvements made to host F1, IMS will host a MotoGP motorcycle race in 2008.
Another item from the “Gee, what a surprise” bin was the announcement that the Nextel Cup series will be known as the Sprint Cup starting in 2008; and just as I had almost stopped saying “Winston Cup” when referring to NASCAR’s top division! To kick-start the new name, Sprint is launching the SprintSpeed Million presented by Motorola Sweepstakes today. The promotion guarantees that one lucky race fan will win $1 million.
Given the hoopla surrounding this re-branding of the Sprint/Nextel products, it seems somewhat ironic that NASCAR is engaged in a lawsuit to prevent Cingular/AT&T from doing exactly the same thing with its sponsorship of Jeff Burton’s No. 31 Childress Chevy. But then, logic and lawsuits seldom coincide.
Last weekend the Champ Car World Series was in Canada while the Indycar Series raced at Watkins Glen in New York. However, one could be forgiven for wondering if it wasn’t the other way around after the Indycar race, as the aftermath looked more like a hockey game than an auto race.
A melee broke out in the pit lane when Tony Kanaan of Andretti Green Racing and Sam Hornish Jr. of Team Penske jumped out of their cars to discuss some on-track moves. The two drivers (both wisely keeping their helmets on) were not directly involved, but when Hornish’s father shoved Kanaan both teams waded into the fray.
The next day penalties of $25,000 were levied against both teams while Hornish and Kanaan each received unspecified fines and probation through the end of the year. Hornish, Sr. was suspended from the pit lane for one race, and Anthony Fedele, who tackled Hornish, had his credentials suspended indefinitely. Who said open-wheel racing wasn’t entertaining?
If you are planning to watch the ESPY awards on ESPN tonight and want to be surprised, stop reading right here. The actual awards were given out Wednesday night based on on-line voting by sports fans, and Jeff Gordon won the “Best Driver” title, beating out Jimmy Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Sam Hornish Jr., Dario Franchitti, and Tony Schumacher.
Johnson was also nominated for “Best Championship Performance”, but lost out to quarterback Peyton Manning. Kevin Harvick’s nomination for “Best Finish” (at Daytona) came up short as the Los Angeles Dodgers took that one. Talladega Nights won the “Best Sports Movie” category. I hope it shows up on HBO soon!