May 30, 2011
Indy 500 hangover
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
It tells you a whole lot about how much further the IZOD IndyCar Series has to come that even after a spectacularly exciting Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, the news on Monday is that several of its stars immediately made plans to go NASCAR racing this week.
At the top of the list, of course, is Danica Patrick who will be back in he No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet on Saturday at the STP 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.
And Alex Tagliani, who was the first Canadian to start on the pole at Indy on Sunday, had already announced his plans to race this week in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series at Montreal’s ICAR circuit in the Dave Jacombs Racing prepared Dodge Challenger.
Tagliani is also about to sign a deal with Penske Racing to drive the No. 12 Dodge in the NNS NAPA 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in August as teammate to 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve.
On Monday another former IndyCar driver — Patrick Carpentier, who crashed in an attempt to qualify at Indy this year — signed a contract to drive the No. 32 Frank Stoddard Racing Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup STP 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday.
It will be Carpentier’s 40th Sprint Cup start but the first one in which he will be guaranteed a spot on the 43-car grid.
“This will mark the first time in my Sprint Cup career that I will be driving a car that is already qualified for the race,” Carpentier said. “There will be a lot less pressure when we practice on Friday, because we will be able to work both on qualifying and race setups.
“I am thrilled that Frank chose me to drive.”
Carpentier will also join Tagliani and Villeneuve in Montreal for the NAPA 200. He had previously inked a deal with Michael Waltrip Racing to run in Montreal.
If IndyCar bosses want their series to be seen as big-boy sport, they are going to have to figure out how to end the perception that open-wheel racing is a second-tier deal in North American motor sports.
Junior does well
Was there even one fan at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night not pulling for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to end his winless skid at the Coca-Cola 600?
It seemed the whole grandstand was on its feet as it looked like Earnhardt was about to win his first race since Michigan in 2008.
But much like the bad luck that struck rookie J.R. Hildebrand in his National Guard-sponsored car on the final lap at Indy, Earnhardt’s National Guard-sponsored car ran out of fuel on the final lap at Charlotte.
Heck, even race winner Kevin Harvick said afterwards that he wished Earnhardt at won.
“I feel like complete crap, to tell you the truth,” Harvick said about passing Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet. “Man, when I saw that thing slowing down, I was like, I really want to win the race, but why can’t it be on a day when we’re running bad or have something going wrong.
“I think everybody sitting up here would say we want the 88 to win and they’re so close to winning.”
Forgotten in Earnhardt’s misery, however, is the fact that he is driving better this season than he has in years.
It says here his steak will end soon, very possible this week in Kansas.
Crew chief for five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson — Chad Knaus — dropped the F-bomb on national television Sunday after Fox TV cut to his team radio. The engine in Johnson’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet blew with four laps left in he Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and the first words out of Knaus’ mouth were “Are you (expletive) kidding me?” On Monday Johnson tweeted: “If @nascar does fine Knaus, I will pay it for him.” ... Formula One Sauber driver Sergio Perez said Monday he feels in good shape after being treated and released from hospital following his hard crash at the Monaco Grand Prix. And he said he is optimistic he will be fit for the Canadian Grand Prix on June 12.