May 31, 2011
Big money for everyone that raced in the Indy 500Junior's new positive attitude keeps him afloat ... Good weekend for Ford Racing motor program
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Before any more crocodile tears are shed for Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon — who was out of a job the second he crossed the finish line at Indianapolis Motor Speedway — and J.R. Hildebrand — the unfortunate rookie who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory coming out of the final turn — check out their pay days for a day’s work.
Wheldon collected a tidy $2,567,255 U.S., which should keep him in soup and sandwiches while he looks for work.
And Hildebrand can buy just about all he toys a 23-year-old needs with his $1,064,895 cheque.
The three Canadians at Indy — all of whom hit the wall at some point during the race — all walked away from Indianapolis with a hefty bit of change as well.
Pole-sitter Alex Tagliani led the group with winnings of $492,245. Rookie James Hinchcliffe pocketed $256,305 while Paul Tracy raced to the bank with $252,805.
All in all it wasn’t a bad day at the track for anyone in the 33-car field with a minimum pay out of $250,000.
Dale Earnhart Jr. was robbed of a victory by a litre of gasoline, something that even a year ago would have thrown NASCAR’s most famous son into a funk.
But this season under the watchful eye of crew chief Steve Letarte, Earnhardt is handling disappointment much better than he has at any time in his career.
In fact there are many in the NASCAR garage who believe that it is his habit of dwelling on mistakes that led to his current 108-race winless streak.
His attitude this year, however, is a compete turnaround.
Earnhardt showed that in his post-race comments when asked if he was dissapointed at losing on the final lap.
Heck, he said, he was actually happy, not about losing, but how he had raced to that point.
“I’m pretty happy,” Earnhardt said. “I’m disappointed about running out of gas, but we knew we were short. You saw the No. 16 (Greg Biffle) give up the lead. Everybody knew they were short.
“We were just fortunate enough to get around to the back straightaway and have enough momentum to carry us around to the front straightaway and get a seventh-place finish.”
It is that new positive attitude that has team owner Rick Hendricks also excited about Earnhardt’s prospects of ending his drought in Kansas this week.
“Another 400 feet and he would have won the race,” Hendrick said. “Dale just did a super job and Stevie called a heck of a race.”
Earnhardt, too, sees that the end of his frustrating skid is at hand and that the Charolotte result confirmed that.
“This was probably, in all honesty, the best turnout of events for us besides winning the race,” he said. “But it wasn’t the car, we just ran out of gas. That is just the way it goes. We will keep working hard. We ran good.”
Chip Ganassi confirmed at Indianapolis that his IZOD IndyCar team will be powered by Honda engines next season. Under terms of the multi-year deal, Ganassi Racing will be Honda’s “anchor” team. Chevrolet and Lotus will join Honda next season as engine builders in the series ... The Ford Racing motor program hit home runs in three separate series on the U.S. Memorial day weekend with a win by Matt Kenseth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Top Gear 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a win by Craft Eurasia in the GT3 series in Sepang, Malaysia, while the Ford teams of Michael Shank Racing and Starworks Motorsports finished second and third respectively in the Memorial Day Classic at Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park ... Jeff Gordon won the first fall race held at Kansas Speedway back in 2001 and he is hoping that he can win the first spring race at the 1.5 track on Sunday.
The king holds court
The man who is universally hailed as the greatest stock car racer in history thinks Canada is due for a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
Richard “The King” Petty — winner of a record 200 Cup races — said that what has happened in Montreal with the wildly successful NASCAR Nationwide Series NAPA 200 could easily be duplicated with a Cup date.
But he cautioned that with 36-races already on the Cup calendar and NASCAR adamant that it wouldn’t add a new date, a Canadian race is not a sure thing.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Petty said Tuesday. “But there certainly is the fan support and corporate support for a Cup race in Canada.”
Petty was in Toronto to announce a summer tour of his Richard Petty Driving Experience program at four Canadian tracks: Delaware Speedway, near London, Sunset Speedway in Barrie, Kawartha Speedway in Peterborough and Riverside Speedway in Antigonish, N.S.
The program allows amateur racers and want-to-be racers an opportunity to drive around in a NASCAR stock car with a professional driver at each of the four tracks,
For an additional fee, drivers can experience driving the cars themselves after going through the paces with RPDE instructors.
The first of the deals goes at Kawartha July 9-10, Delaware July 12-14, Sunset July 15-17 and Riverside July 21-24.
Petty also announced that the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Ford will be adorned with the iconic STP paint scheme with the original Petty Blue and STP Day-Glo Red, this week at Kansas Speedway with A.J. Allmendinger behind the wheel.
Harvick hates Charlotte
Rarely in any form of motor racing does the winner start off his podium celebration by throwing the race track he or she just won on under he bus.
But Kevin Harvick did just that after he won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
You have to understand as well that Charlotte is the home track to just about every Sprint Cup team on the circuit. It is also the track that most drivers want to win at the most.
Not so Harvick, he hates racing at the 1.5 mile track.
“Even though we won, I’m still miserable,” he said. “In about 30 minutes I will be happy when we drive out of that tunnel and the month of May is over.”
He claims that he thinks that CMS is a fine place to hold a race but it is just not for him.
“Look, when we pull into Charlotte, I apologize before I even get to the racetrack because there’s nothing (I like about racing here),” he said. “I know everybody loves coming here because it’s close to home.
“For me it’s been a struggle since day one of my career. Well, I shouldn’t say that. We finished second the first time I came here, and that was about it. So for me it’s just been that thing in my mind, that one racetrack that just frustrates the hell out of me that I can’t figure out.”
It looks like the Formula One teams are starting to gang up on Bernie Ecclestone’s ill-conceived plan to extend the world championship well into December this season.
The political uprisings in the Arab world meant the Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled in March and Ecclestone has since declared that the race would be made up later in the season.
Well that date is now Dec. 11, the latest ever on the calendar in he modern era of F-1 racing.
And the protests from the teams has already started, led by Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn.
He has told autosport.com that Ecclestone’s suggestion was “totally unacceptable” to the German squad.
What Ecclestone has proposed is moving the Indian Grand Prix to Dec. 11 and putting the Bahrain race back on the calendar in India’s original Oct. 30 date.
“It is getting too much,” Brawn said. “I think it is unacceptable and we’ve told Bernie that and he knows our opinion. If we continue to take those sort of approaches then we will run into problems because our people cannot be expected to work in that environment and situation, so I think it is totally unacceptable.”
What is even more unacceptable is contemplating returning to Bahrain when the unrest in that desert kingdom still has not been quelled.
Cancel the Bahrain race and be done with it.