TORONTO - It was a virtuoso performance by four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon on Tuesday when he outdueled Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson to win the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
After a rain delay of almost two full days, Gordon dominated the early and middle parts of the 325-lap event in the No. 24 HMS Chevrolet before he went to the front for the final time in the late laps.
“Our car was so strong and we just used it up at the end,” Gordon said. “I was slipping and sliding all over the place. That was a lot of fun. I was slipping and (Johnson) was slipping. It was an incredible victory.”
Johnson finished second in the No. 48 HMS Chevrolet with Tony Stewart third in the No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet and Kurt Busch fourth in he No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge.
Carl Edwards rounded out the top five in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
More important than Gordon’s win, however, was the impact of the race results had on the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship with just one race left in regular NASCAR season.
The biggest loser on Tuesday at Atlanta had to be Clint Bowyer, who was clinging to a Chase spot in 12th place — without a win this season. But when he hit the wall on Lap 250 in the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet after banging fenders with Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet, he all but said goodbye to his hopes for a post-season berth.
He ended the race in 14th.
That was good news for Denny Hamlin, who had trailed Bowyer going in but his 8th-place finish in he No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota vaulted him into 12th spot. And with his one win, that solidifies his chances at one of two wild card spots in the chase.
Stewart, with his third-place finish, held on to 10th place, improving his chances for Chase berth even without a win this season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 19th in the No. 88 HMS Chevrolet, but stayed ninth in the standings with Brad Keselowski in 11th spot in the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge.
Keselowski’s three wins this season means he has already clinched a wild spot, at the very least.
The best scenario for Tony Stewart to make sense of his deal to get Danica Patrick in a Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet for between six and 10 Sprint Cup races in 2012 is to have an experienced driver in the remainder of the Cup schedule, to keep the car in the top 35 in points. That would give Patrick a chance to learn without the pressure of having to qualify in her starts. The favourite for the mentor role is Mark Martin, whose contract with Hendrick Motorsports is done at he end of 2011 when he hands the No. 5 Chevrolet over to Kasey Kahne ... Talladega Superspeedway announced Tuesday that the 2012 Aaron’s Dream Weekend at the 2.6 mile oval returns to the first weekend end in May next season — its traditional place on the NASCAR Sprint Cup calendar. Talladega historically held a race in May from 1971 through 1994. The shift in dates should bring a favourable change in the weather that has affected the past two spring weekends at the superspeedway. May historically is a drier and less stormy month than April in Alabama. ... Antron Brown became the first driver to win both Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle at Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis on Monday when he powered his Matco Tools dragster to a 3.813-second run at 321.73 m.p.h. In Funny Car, Mike Neff drove the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang past Bob Tasca to secure his first U.S. Nationals win. Neff posted a run of 4.068 at 314.61 m.p.h. in the final round ... Narain Karthikeyan — who was dropped from the F-1 driver’s job at HRT after the British Grand Prix — will return to the team for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix on Oct. 30. Karthikeyan has secured a sponsorship deal with Hero Motors for the event.
It hasn’t been a great year for he IZOD IndyCar Series, what with the embarrassing gaffes by Chief Steward Brian Barnhart and the defection to NASCAR by reigning princess Danica Patrick.
But Sunday’s Baltimore Grand Prix proved that open-wheel racing can not only survive in North America, but flourish given the right circumstances.
For anyone who was paying attention, the right circumstances in Baltimore’s case was a downtown street race.
The event was sold out and but for a couple of glitches with the track, it was a near-perfect afternoon of high-quality racing.
I just hope the light went on at IndyCar headquarters at the corner of 16th Street and Georgetown Road in Indianapolis when this one was over.
All IndyCar bosses have to do is look at the four most-watched and best-attended races of the season outside of the Indianapolis 500 to see that street racing is where the future is most bright for that series.
Long Beach, Toronto, Edmonton, St. Petersberg and now Baltimore all were big winners both on television and on the track.
The disasters on the ovals at Milwaukee and New Hampshire show once and for all that IndyCar can’t try to mimic NASCAR if it wants to grow in the North America market.
Marcelli pulls off second ALMS win
Canada’s Kyle Marcelli came as close as anyone this season to playing the role of giant killer in the American Le Man Series race this past weekend at the Baltimore Grand Prix.
Marcelli and his driving partner Tomy Drissi claimed top spot in the LMPC class, but more impressively were competitive with the bigger, more powerful and faster LMP class cars of overall winners Al Masaood and Steven Kane and second place Chris Dyson and Gut Smith.
Marcelli took over behind the wheel of the No. 37 Intersport Racing Muscle Milk/Lafarge/DynaPep LMPC car in the LMPC class lead and but for a momentary stall on pit lane could have beaten out at least one of the LMP monsters.
“Our pace was really close for an overall (win), but we had our own issues getting out of the pits, it took me three times to get the starter working, otherwise we might have been able to get out in front of the Dysons,” he said.
The 21-year-old Barrie, Ont., native said that winning in the LMPC class was the goal of the Intersport team and they accomplished that goal.
He said the team was well prepared for the Baltimore circuit.
“I think going into a temporary circuit on a weekend like this, you have to come in with a well-prepared car,” Marcelli said. “I knew my job was to bring the car home and maintain the lead that I knew Tomy would bring us ... I kept my nose clean and did what I could to get by trying to be as clean and lean as possible.”
For Marcelli it was his second win of the ALMS season — the first was in Round 5 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The win also keeps Marcelli in the top 5 in the driver championship with 80 points.
Berger bashes Mercedes F1 performance
Former Formula One driver Gerhard Berger has blasted the efforts of the Mercedes team and labelled Nico Rosberg an “apprentice” behind the wheel.
Berger, who has 10 Grand Prix wins over his 13-year F-1 career, also said he is tired of the German car maker’s excuses for poor performances.
“In Belgium, it was frustrating to watch Rosberg having a hell of a start and a perfect showing, but after a couple of laps, losing place after place like an apprentice driver,” Berger told AUTOSPORT magazine.
“All the explanations and excuses from Mercedes make me tired. It is high time that a premium manufacturer provides its drivers with a premium F-1 car. The engine is widely regarded as the class of the field. Now it’s their turn to deliver the rest.”