May 17, 2011
Former F-1 champ truckin' in Charlotte
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - For pure entertainment value it is hard to beat what the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series puts on the track week in and week out.
But being on the bottom step of NASCAR’s ladder system behind the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series the trucks find it hard to get noticed.
Not this week though.
With the arrival of 2007 Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen on the scene driving the No. 15 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the N.C. Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway Friday, racing fans the world over will be paying attention to the truck series.
It won’t be the first time an F-1 champion has raced in NASCAR — Mario Andretti, Jimmy Clark and Canada’s Jacques Villeneuve have also competed in the stock car series.
It does, however, shine a light on how NASCAR has become the destination of choice for many drivers from different backgrounds.
They include Juan Pablo Montoya, Raikkonen’s former teammate at Williams; Marcos Ambrose, a former Australian Super Car champion; A.J. Allmendinger, a former Champ Car World Series star; Tony Stewart, a former IndyCar series champion and Ricky Carmichael, a former Moto-cross champion.
Montoya, for one, in an interview with SPEED-TV, had some advice for Raikkonen as he tries to make the switch from the sleek technological marvels that are F-1 cars to the heavy box-like trucks.
“He’s a great race car driver but he’ll need to learn to take care of his equipment in NASCAR,” Montoya said. “I know he likes to drive his cars hard and you can’t do that over here.”
Montoya questioned, however, why Raikkonen would choose a tough track like Charlotte to make his stock car debut.
“My first choice wouldn’t have been Charlotte,” Montoya said. “That’s a tough track in general. I would’ve picked Talladega or Daytona before Charlotte ... I think that it’s cool that he’s coming over to NASCAR. He’s a cool guy and I think he will fit right in. It’ll be a tough transition but if he dedicates his time to these (trucks), he should be okay.”
The truck race goes green at 8 p.m., Friday.
Fists fly in F-1
A bar brawl at a Shanghai nightclub in the wee hours following the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix last month has resulted in criminal charges being laid against Force India driver Adrian Sutil.
The charges allege Sutil threw a bottle that hit Renault team owner Eric Lux in the face during the melee.
The law firm that represents Lux — CEO of Renault parent Genii Capital — released a statement on the matter.
“In the view of the recent events which occurred in Shanghai on 17 April, Mr. Eric Lux has decided to file a criminal complaint against Adrian Sutil for physical assault and grievous bodily harm.”
In the days following the alleged attack, Sutil told German newspapers he did not mean to harm anyone.
And on Tuesday Sutil’s manager Manfred Zimmerman issued a statement on the affair.
“Adrian has already explained, that his actions in China resulted in the accidental injury of Mr. Lux and has apologized unreservedly for his involvement in this unfortunate event,” Zimmerman said.
“Should Mr. Lux proceed with his complaint, Adrian will use every available means to clarify his position and clear his name.”
The unofficial start of racing in Canada gets the green flag this week at Mosport International Raceway where the World Challenge Series (GT, GTS & Touring), the SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series and the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship will be on the track starting Friday for the three-day Victoria Day Speedfest. Also at Mosport the SCCA Pro Spec Racer and the SCCA Pro Formula Enterprises series will make their debut. .... There were lots of empty seats for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover but television ratings were up 6% over last year. ... Jimmie Johnson’s dad is giving Quebec’s Maryeve Dufault some help as she races in the ARCA series this season. Gary Johnson, father of the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, acted as spotter for the 28-year-old Dufault at Saturday’s Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care at Toledo Speedway.