Roger Diez: A racing season to remember … or forget?
The 2020 racing season is finally over. I have to say that in my over 50 years’ involvement in racing it was by far the weirdest I’ve ever seen. COVID-19 affected all major sanctioning bodies with delays, cancelations, shifted dates, no spectators, and new venues.
NASCAR went to a one-day format with no practice or qualifying and raced mid-week. IndyCar kept practice sessions, but qualified and raced on the same day. The Formula 1 weekend schedules remained unchanged, but they crammed 17 races into a shortened season, with several back-to-back weekends at the same track. Let’s hope the new vaccines will restore a semblance of normalcy to racing and to life in general in 2021.
After the most exciting F1 race in recent years at Bahrain, the Abu Dhabi season finale was a bit of an anticlimax. The only points of interest were the winner (Red Bull’s Max Verstappen) and the battle for third place in constructor points which went to McLaren when Sergio Perez retired his Racing Point car after only eight laps. Verstappen started from the pole and led the entire race, much to the chagrin of Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton who finished second and third respectively. In his post-race interview, 2020 drivers’ champion Hamilton seemed as though he hadn’t completely shaken off the effects of his recent bout with COVID-19. Hamilton amassed 347 season points to take the drivers’ championship, teammate Bottas ended with 223, Verstappen had 214, Perez 125, and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top five with 119. Mercedes topped the constructors’ point battle with 573 to Red Bull’s 319. McLaren was third with 202, Racing Point fourth at 195, and Renault fifth with 181 points.
In addition to his seventh F1 championship, team principals also put Hamilton at the top of the list for the ten best drivers of 2020. Hamilton scored 171 votes, Verstappen came second with 156, and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was third at 132. Ricciardo’s 95 votes were good for fourth, Perez received 82 for fifth, and Williams’ George Russell was sixth with 75. McLaren drivers Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz were seventh and eighth with 45 and 37 points respectively. Hamilton’s teammate Bottas and Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly tied for ninth with 27 each.
If you haven’t already put something under the tree for the racer or race fan in your life, time’s getting short. If you haven’t already ordered something online, there’s a good chance it won’t arrive before Christmas. Here’s an idea, get him or her some track time. Exotics Racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway boasts the largest fleet of Supercars and experiences start at $179 for five laps in a Porsche and $269 will get you five laps in a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Audi R8, Nissan GTR, Acura NSX, Mercedes, Aston Martin, Corvette, or Mustang. Or you can go right to the top with five laps in a McLaren for $404. Or for just $99 you can get a three-lap ride-along with a professional driver at the NASCAR Racing Experience and Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Speedway. There are other more intensive ride-along option or driving options up to the $749 King’s Experience – two eight-minute sessions at the wheel of a NASCAR stock car. Closer to home, there’s Carson Raceway, an indoor go-kart track where you can race electric karts head-to-head with other racers. They have a variety of gift cards or party packages. Go to their website or call 350-7888 for more information. The best part of these gift options is you don’t have to pay for shipping or wait for the UPS truck.