You know that the 2012 racing season in this country is within spitting distance when the Canadian Motorsports Expo opens its doors at the International Centre in Toronto.
This year’s three-day festival of horsepower goes Feb. 10, 11 and 12th.
And for fans of open wheel racing, the CME show will be more special this year with the introduction of the Dallara DW12, the new chassis that the IZOD IndyCar Series will use starting at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 25.
According to CME’s David Weber, it will be the first appearance for the Dallara DW12 in Canada.
“Canadian Motorsports Expo visitors are going to be the first in Canada to get a first hand look at the new road course version of the Dallara DW12 IZOD IndyCar Series car, identical to the ones that will be in action on the streets of Toronto in July,” Weber said. “The Honda Indy Toronto is one of Canada’s biggest sports and entertainment events and we’re excited to be working the organizers to promote both the event and Canadian motorsports at the CME.”
The newly designed Dallara was named in honour of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon, who tragically lost his life in the horrific crash at the final race of the IndyCar season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
It was Wheldon who spent much of the 2011 season testing the Dallara DW12 in preparation for its St. Petersburg’s racing debut.
Also on tap at the CME will be NASCAR Sprint Cup runner-up in 2011 Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, who will be part of a meet and greet with fans on Feb. 11.
Edwards and champion Tony Stewart staged a Chase for the ages in 2011 with the result going down to the final lap at Homestead Miami Speedway, where the pair actually ended up tied in points, with Stewart taking home the Sprint Cup on the basis of his five wins in the final 10 races.
Edwards is no stranger to Canada, having won the NASCAR Nationwide NAPA 200 at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2009.
“I was in kind of a rush the last time I was in Canada, last August,” Edwards said. “We were doing double-duty that weekend, shuttling back and forth between the Michigan Cup race and the Nationwide race in Montreal. This time, it’ll be nice to chat with the fans in a more relaxed setting.”
TWICE AROUND THE CLOCK
For the past five decades sports cars have been racing at Daytona International Speedway in January in the unofficial kick-off for the racing season.
On Saturday they will be back for the 50th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Canada has always been well represented at the most famous 24-hour race in North America, with both Ron Fellows and Scott Maxwell, among others, wearing the Rolex, symbolic of that race’s champion.
Toronto’s Paul Tracy is hoping that he can add his name to the list of Rolex champions this year when he starts the race in the No. 77 Combos/Circle-K Ford/Dallara.
He will co-drive with Dr. Jim Lowe and brothers Burt and Brian Frisselle.
“I’m very excited to make my return to Daytona for the 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24, especially with Doran Racing,” Tracy said in a team release. “I drove my first Rolex 24 in a Doran JE4 design back in 2005, and it was a great experience. I’m grateful that Kevin (team owner Kevin Doran) put his trust in me as a driver and paired me with the Frisselle brothers and Jim Lowe.”
I can’t count the number of times folks have come up to me to tell me how lucky I am to get to go to NASCAR, IndyCar or Formula One races on the Toronto Sun’s dime. Well now there is an opportunity to accompany me to Richmond International Raceway this season for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race April 28, and the NASCAR Nationwide Series race April 27. Watch for details coming soon in the Toronto Sun ... Kimi Raikkonen spent Monday and Tuesday this week testing in a two-year-old Renault R30 for Lotus at Valencia, Spain as he attempts a comeback in F1 after a three-year sabbatical. No times from the test were released but Lotus engineer Alan Permane said of the 2007 world champion: “It was very clear we were working with a former world champion. It was a good day.” ... After what can only be described as a bitterly disappointing 2011 season, Joey Logano is looking forward to going into 2012 with new crew chief Jason Ratcliff, who guided Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Toyota in the Nationwide Series. Logano thinks the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup team will be better starting with the Daytona 500 Feb. 26. “This is going to give me a fresh start with a new crew chief and kind of make it more my team,” he said.