June 5, 2011
Chevys, Toyotas at a disadvantage
By Dean McNulty, QMI Agency
Prior to the start of the 2010 season the Ford teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series — read Roush Fenway Racing — were complaining long and hard about a power shortage between themselves and the Hendrick Chevrolet teams.
The reason for the complaining was to get NASCAR bosses to hurry their approval of Ford’s new FR9 motor that RFR had developed with Roush Yates Racing Engines.
The bitching worked as the FR9 was approved in July last season.
In the 11 months that have passed since then the RFR teams have been on fire, especially so this season on the 1.5-mile tracks like the one at Kansas Speedway where the Cup series makes a stop Sunday for the STP 400.
Matt Kenseth is having a renaissance season in the No. 17 RFR Ford, already a winner at Texas Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway.
And Carl Edwards is leading the Sprint Cup points championship in the No. 99 RFR Ford.
So now that the shoe is on the other foot it is time for the Chevrolet teams to start their campaign to get NASCAR to approve a new GM engine.
Two-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart fired the first volley in that war at Kansas, saying that Chevrolet’s six-year-old power plant needed to be upgraded to level the playing field.
“I think Ford has an advantage right now over the rest of the field,” Stewart said before Saturday’s qualifying. “I think you’re bringing a knife to a gun fight right now.”
Stewart isn’t the only one in the garage who feels this way.
Another former champion, Kurt Busch, said the Fords have to be picked as favourites in just about every race because of what he and Stewart feel is a horsepower advantage.
“They’re definitely the favourites going in,” said Busch, who put his No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge on the pole for Sunday’s race with a lap of 174.752 m.p.h. “If you had a fantasy league, you’d start with those eight Fords or however many there are out there. Those guys have a competitive advantage under the hood.”
Juan Pablo Montoya will start second in Sunday’s race in the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevy, followed by Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Brian Vickers in the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota.
Canada’s Patrick Carpentier will start 41st in the No. 32 Ford.
DANCING WITH DANICA
Danica Patrick keeps telling anyone who will listen that she hasn’t made up her mind yet about where she will race full time next season.
It seemed pretty clear after her 10th-place finish last Sunday at the Indianapolis 500 — where she led 10 laps — that Patrick would like nothing more than to stay in the IZOD IndyCar series for another run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Then there were comments from her NASCAR boss Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and her pal Stewart, who each indicated that Patrick needs to pick NASCAR.
This weekend in Chicago, Patrick poured cold water on the notion she is close to inking a NASCAR deal, at least for now.
“There isn’t a decision today, there’s no announcement today, and there probably won’t be for many months,” Patrick said before Saturday night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series STP 300, where she drove Earnhardt’s No. 7 Chevrolet. “This is the kind of thing that takes a lot of time and I don’t really know exactly what is going on at this time.
“I’ve just been told to do my job in the racecar and drive as fast as I can and get the best results that I can possibly get and that only helps things. So that’s what I’m going to do.
“Traditionally for me, these contracts don’t get announced until after the season ends.”
Formula One’s ruling body — the FIA — has released a preliminary schedule for the 2012 season and, as expected, the Canadian Grand Prix and the new U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Tex., will be run back to back on June 10 and June 17. Having been in Texas in June, I can tell you it will be hot. And then it will be hotter. The schedule has 21 events, but the Turkish Grand Prix, which was all but ignored by the locals this season, is listed as “provisional” which, of course means they need to come up with some more cash for Bernie Ecclestone.