March 1, 2011
Allmendinger off to quick startEx-Toronto Indy champ now a NASCAR contender
By DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - A quick look at the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers championship standings this week shows — surprise, surprise — A.J. Allmendinger at No. 3, tied with two-time champion Tony Stewart.
Kyle Busch leads with 80 points, his brother Kurt Busch is second with 77 and there’s Allmendinger — the former Champ Car World Series star and Honda Toronto Indy winner — in third with 69 points.
His spot on the leader board comes thanks to an 11th-place finish in the Daytona 500 and a ninth-place finish Sunday at Phoenix in the Subway Fresh Fit 500.
Always one to bring perspective to his racing, Allmendinger isn’t about to start predicting he’ll supplant Jimmie Johnson as champion this season, but the numbers so far are the best in his NASCAR career.
“You always want a little bit more and you always think you can get a little bit more,” he said after Sunday’s race. “I’m not sure where that puts us in points, but there were a lot of guys ahead of us that had a lot of trouble.”
Still it’s good news for the former Paul Tracy protégé.
BENZ BUYS TEAM
As if there was ever a doubt that Mercedes Benz controlled the Mercedes GP Formula One team, it was erased on Tuesday when parent company Daimler AG purchased all remaining shares of the British-based outfit.
The team is what is left from the ruins of the one-time BAT Honda team where Canadian Jacques Villeneuve plied his trade.
When Honda quit F-1, Ross Brawn and Nick Fry purchased the team shops at Brackley, north of London, and formed Brawn GP.
That partnership lasted a single season before Mercedes bought a majority share leaving Brawn and Fry with about a 25% ownership.
With the purchase of that interest Daimler and its partner Aabar Investments control 100% of the team.
“Daimler’s and Aabar’s acquisition of the remaining 24.9% stake in Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix will be a further step in the consolidation and strengthening of our team for the future,” Brawn said,
RANT OF WEEK
Whenever the final chapter is written on big time open wheel racing in North America, the villain of the piece will surely be Tony George.
While he certainly wasn’t alone — hello A.J. Foyt, Chris Pooke, etc. — George must carry the brunt of the blame for the crash and burn of Indy-style racing in the mid-1990s.
When he broke away from CART to form the Indy Racing League George split the fan base and open wheel racing is just now starting to get them back.
A big part of IndyCar’s recent upswing can be directly correlated to George’s ouster from the family firm — Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the company that controls it — by his mother Mari Hulman George and three sisters nearly two years ago.
Now, under the guidance of Randy Bernard, the IZOD IndyCar is actually getting some mainline media attention.
But last week’s news that Tony George is back on the Hulman family board of directors, could stop that progress in its tracks.
Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.