Roger Diez: Will things calm down after last week’s controversy
For the Nevada Appeal
Last weekend provided some very interesting racing, from the IndyCar demolition derby at Toronto to the Red Bull “team orders” controversy at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone to Kyle Busch narrowly missing his second triple win at Kentucky.
The Toronto street course is a narrow race track, but that doesn’t excuse some of the absolutely bonehead moves drivers made in last Sunday’s Indycar race there. Of course, were it not for the series’ idiotic “blocking” rule preventing the lead driver from taking the inside line into a corner, perhaps there would have been less carnage. There was also the waffling about penalties, with first reports that Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti would be penalized for taking out rival Will Power of Team Penske, then an apparent rescinding of the penalty, followed by a post-race interview with Al Unser Jr., who was the driver observer in race control. Unser said that there never was a penalty on Franchitti, and if there had been they’d have had to penalize half the field for doing the same thing. Power recovered from the first incident, but was subsequently taken out by Alex Tagliani, vaulting eventual race winner Franchitti into a huge points lead heading for next weekend’s Edmonton race. Tony Kanaan summed up the race best when he said, “I think we all should be ashamed for what happened this weekend.”
Fernando Alonso took advantage of a botched pit stop by point leader Sebastian Vettel’s crew to take Ferrari’s first victory of 2011 at Silverstone. In the late stages of the race, Vettel was running in second with teammate Mark Webber closing on him fast when the team radio advised Webber to “hold station.” Webber was understandably upset about the order, particularly in light of earlier pronouncements that Red Bull had no team orders policy. At the time, I said that it was probably because the team was fearful of a repeat of last season’s Turkish Grand Prix, when the two Red Bull drivers collided, and my thought was confirmed by team comments after the race. For his part, Webber was having none of it, racing Vettel hard to the checkered flag and earning the ire of team boss Christian Horner. Then a German newspaper reported that Webber was to be replaced in 2012 by former world champion Kimi Raikkonen. At this point rumor is all it is, but Raikkonen was quoted as saying “I have never said that my Formula One career is over.” However, despite the friction between Webber and Horner, team owner Dietrich Mateshitz indicated that Webber’s seat was safe for at least one more season. In F1 technical news, the controversial ruling to ban the off-throttle diffuser system for some teams and not others has been rescinded, and teams can operate the system as originally designed for the rest of the 2011 season.
Kyle Busch’s win at Kentucky Speedway’s inaugural Sprint Cup race last week put him atop the point standings, ahead of Carl Edwards by four points. Shrub’s weekend wasn’t perfect, though … he missed the sweep, winning the Camping World Truck series race but finishing only third in the Nationwide series contest. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 disgruntled fans missed the whole event, as a traffic and parking snafu left them stranded outside the track. The speedway announced that fans who could not get in for the race could use their tickets for next year’s race or for a race at any Speedway Motorsports track in 2011. “Rocket Man” Ryan Newman is on the pole for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Loudon, New Hampshire with a new track record of 28.165 seconds and 135.232 miles per hour. Teammate/team owner Tony Stewart is alongside, the first time that Stewart-Haas Racing has had both cars on the front row for a race. It is also Newman’s fifth Loudon pole, and the 47th of his career. Chevrolets, Dodges, and Toyotas occupy the front of the grid, with Carl Edwards the fastest Ford in 15th.
Finally, congratulations to Jimmie Johnson on his 2011 ESPY award for Best Driver … it will look good on his trophy shelf along with his other ESPYs and his 5 Sprint Cup trophies.