Toronto racer on rise

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

For all those NASCAR racing fans out there waiting for the Sprint Cup folks to get some new Canadian talent who can win in that series please take note of a 20-year-old Toronto kid who has never driven a stock car in his young-racing life.

Right now Robert Wickens appears perfectly happy pursuing his dream of winning a Formula One world championship in the footsteps of Jacques Villeneuve. Especially after sweeping the first two rounds of the Formula 2 championship in Valencia, Spain, this past weekend for Red Bull Racing.

But in a conversation with Sun Media a few seasons back at the Grand Prix of Cleveland when the then 17-year-old was toiling in the Atlantic series with Forysthe Championship Racing, Wickens admitted that the big, heavy stock cars had a certain allure for him.

Of course, that was at a time when open-wheel racing in North America was at the bottom of the popularity scale in motorsports, and the youngster wasn't exactly happy at Forsythe.

"I love open-wheel racing," Wickens said. "But if a good enough opportunity came about, sure I would try NASCAR. It's a great series and is really popular."

Remember, Red Bull, which has Wickens under contract, also owns a two-car team in Sprint Cup.

And last time we checked its F-1 team's most recent North American driver -- Scott Speed -- is wheeling around the NASCAR ovals in a Toyota Camry.

If Bernie Ecclestone and company can't make their series work on this side of the ocean, it would make sense for Red Bull to bring Wickens back home to be a big star in his universe.

Danica, Danica, Danica

It's possible that Danica Patrick's first IndyCar race in Toronto could be her last.

The fans in Edmonton have watched her twice race at the Rexall Edmonton Indy, but the last time she raced in the Eastern time zone, she still was climbing the open-wheel ladder racing in the Atlantics, driving for the Rahal-Letterman outfit.

With the growing speculation that Tony George --the de facto boss of IndyCar racing -- might be on his way out of the family-owned business, Patrick is giving more consideration to moving over to NASCAR after her deal with Andretti-Green racing ends after this season.

At 27 years old, Patrick is no longer a so-called young gun in the sport and she knows that her earnings potential in open-wheel racing is only as good as the series itself.

And if the George family feud threatens the stability of IndyCar racing, she would have to look seriously at stock racing to fill her spare time, not to mention her bank account.

"What you want in a (racing series) is stability and upward momentum," she told SI.com this week. "I have no idea what that is right now (at IndyCar). There seems to be conflicting answers and ideas on what is really happening."

It's also very interesting to note that she has hired super-agency IMG to negotiate her next contract, with whomever that might be. And the president of IMG Sports and Entertainment -- who one would assume is stickhandling Patrick's deal -- is none other than George Pyne, a former vice-president at NASCAR.

Lineup starts here

Judging by the number of teams lining up to seek membership in the Formula One world championship in 2010, the recession we keep hearing about hasn't affected the bosses in the world's most expensive racing series.

No less than eight teams have put down deposits indicating they want to field cars next season.

Among the latest is the March group -- which hasn't been seen in F-1 since it folded its tent in 1993.

But the company -- still active and owned by British businessman Andrew Fitton -- filed notice it would use Cosworth engines for power and develop their own chassis if allowed into the F-1 club.

Interestingly March was founded by current FIA boss Max Mosley, who would be involved in deciding any new teams in F-1.

Other teams vying for an F-1 licence are Prodrive, Lola, Team Superfund, Team US F1, Litespeed, Epsilon Euskadi and Campos Meta1.

Finish lines

Jeremy Mayfield will get another day in court this week trying to overturn NASCAR's drug-related suspension of the driver/owner. Last week the judge in the case denied Mayfield's application for a temporary injunction that would enable him to race in Pocono this week ... NASCAR driver Carl Long has lost his appeal of a 12-race suspension and penalty ... Mike Wallace will drive the No. 64 Toyota for this weekend at Pocono Raceway ... Patrick Carpentier will attempt to qualify the No. 36 Toyota at Pocono.


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