Raw deal for Canadian Spengler

DEAN MCNULTY, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 5:05 PM ET

Maybe it’s time for Bruno Spengler — the best race car driver Canadians never knew in 2010 — and his handlers to consider a move to NASCAR in 2011.

Spengler was rewarded for a great 2010 season in the ultra competitive DTM sports car series with a lump of coal this holiday season by his Mercedes racing team.

After leading the series right up until the final race at Shanghai, Spengler should have fully expected the team to give him at least a Formula One trial in the off-season.

But that gift went to teammate Paul di Resta, who now is rumoured to be moving to the Mercedes-backed Force India F-1 squad next year.

Mercedes racing boss Norbert Haug, who has kept Spengler in line with annual promises of promotion to the top series, didn’t even make mention of the 27-year-old Canadian when he anointed di Resta as F-1 ready.

“We support Paul to be in Formula One next year,” Haug said.

DTM is the closest thing there is to NASCAR in Europe and Asia and Spengler has shown over and over he can wheel the big sedans as good as anyone, anywhere so a seat in a Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge or Toyota would be a good fit for him.

FUTURE SHOCK

Best story of the off-season so far has to be Tony Kanaan’s first encounter with his new IZOD IndyCar team at a test at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.

Kanaan had been in a funk after effectively being fired from the Andretti Autosport team just after the end of the 2010 IndyCar season.

But then Kanaan was contacted by his old racing rival Gil de Ferran and the Dragon Racing team. In no time a deal was worked out and Kanaan signed on the dotted line.

So the affable Kanaan went from a four-car, fully-funded outfit to Dragon’s one-car effort. It didn’t really hit home until the test at Sebring and he was on pit lane with de Ferran and a few crew members thinking they were waiting for the rest of the crew to show up.

“I remember we went to Sebring on the test. I asked Gil: ‘Where are the guys?’ and he said, ‘This is it ...’ I was like, ‘Oh, OK ...’

“Obviously it has been eight, almost nine years with a big team. So it took me a little bit to get used to it.”

FINISH LINES

How good is Jimmie Johnson? He has victories at 18 of the 22 active NASCAR Sprint Cup tracks. The only tracks he has not won at are: Watkins Glen, Chicagoland, Michigan and Homestead-Miami. ... Sam Hornish, who doesn’t have a Cup ride for 2011, led just 50 laps in 2010. The 2006 Indy 500 winner and a three-time IndyCar champion still has hopes of attracting enough sponsorship to stay with Penske Racing in Cup. ... The never-ending saga of Jeremy Mayfield versus NASCAR opened yet another chapter when the former Sprint Cup driver launched an appeal of a judge’s decision that ruled in favour of NASCAR in his lawsuit over a May 1, 2009, drug test that showed he used methamphetamines. That appeal is expected to heard in late summer 2011 ... Next in line for an F-1 race is Vietnam according to several Asian newspapers. But it has been denied by F-1 circuit boss Hans Geist, even though he was in Vietnam recently advising a group of investors on how to prepare a track to F-1 specifications. .... Penske has named former CJM Racing and Baker Curb Racing crew chief Todd Gordon as its crew chief for defending Nationwide Series champion Brad Keselowski. Gordon replaces Paul Wolfe, who will be Keselowski’s crew chief in Sprint Cup next year. ... Adding a speck of legitimacy to rumours that F-1 champion Sebastian Vettel is being pursued by Ferrari is a statement this week by resident Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso. “I’m not afraid at all of Vettel. Should he come to Ferrari one day it won’t be a problem,” Alonso said.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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