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NASCAR eyes Canadian Tire Motorsports Park for Xfinitry Series

- November 15th, 2014

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – NASCAR boss Brian France wasn’t making any promises, but he did say in his state of the series message at Homestead Miami Speedway that Canadian Tire Motorsports Park is on the radar for a Xfinity (Nationwide) race possibly as soon as 2016.
The 3.957 km permanent road course has been part of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for the past two seasons with record crowds and highlight reel racing.
Track owners Ron Fellows and Carlo Fidano have made no secret about their desire to build on the Truck series success by hosting a Nationwide – to be renamed the Xfinity series next season – at the Bowmanville circuit.
France said the numbers NASCAR sees in terms of fan interest in Canada is a factor in deciding future race sites for its top three touring series.
“Well, Canada, and you’ve heard me say this, is a very clear (big market) – not only because it’s contiguous with the United States, but more importantly because we have a nice fan base there,” he said. “We’re going to always be looking to see how we can take events, not just on television but to and from at various places, because that’s a fan base that we know is there … it’s very important to us.”

NASCAR adopts wait and see attitude on Busch allegations

- November 14th, 2014

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – NASCAR bosses will not suspend Sprint Cup star Kurt Busch – under investigation for alleged domestic abuse – for Sunday’s season finale Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway.
Busch, driver of the No. 41 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet, has been accused by former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll of grabbing her face and smashing her head against the wall of his motorhome during a September race at Dover International Speedway.
Busch, through his lawyer, has denied the allegations.
But this week U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) demanded that NASCAR ban Busch immediately from racing calling the allegations “horrifying.”.
In a letter to both NASCAR and SHR, Speier demanded action.
“Despite the severity of the criminal allegations against Mr. Busch, I am disappointed to see that NASCAR and Stewart-Haas Racing have not taken any action. Your response to these serious allegations has been totally inadequate,” she wrote.
On Friday NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France said the series will not suspend Busch from Sunday’s race because no charges have been laid against the driver.
“We are watching that case carefully and it is under review by law enforcement and others and they have not made a decision on that regarding Kurt, so until they make some judgments on that investigation, it wouldn’t be right of us to just intervene before they’ve even got an investigation completed,” France said. “So that’s our position. We’ll respect their processes. It’s in their hands.”

Is Keselowski really the bad guy here?

- November 3rd, 2014

FORT WORTH, Tex. – Alright NASCAR fans let the crucifixion of Brad Keselowski begin.
But before we gather the pitchforks and torches let’s take a look at what happened on Sunday evening at Texas Motor Speedway in the first overtime lap of the AAA Texas 500.
Keselowski is starting behind Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon with ostensibly, at that point, two laps to go.
Johnson stays low and Gordon moves up the track to make the pass, but he goes just a bit too wide.
Keselowski, who you must remember here, needs to win to advance to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion finale at Homestead Miami Speedway in two weeks and a second place or a third place at Texas might as well be last place for the No. 2 Ford team.
So Keselowski sees a hole that to him looks like Moses has just parted the Red Sea and he goes for it just as Gordon collects his No. 24 Chevrolet and that hole starts to close.
The No. 2 rubs the side of the No. 24 cutting Gordon’s left rear tire.
At that point Gordon’s hopes of a win in Eddie Gossage’s backyard propelling him to Homestead are done.
And in the race aftermath all hell breaks loose with Keselowski being pummelled by Gordon and several members of the Hendrick Motorsports teams – by the what was that crew member from the No. 5 team doing in the middle of this?
Keselowski, as a result of this and what happened two weeks earlier in a similar melee at Charlotte, comes out the bad guy.
But is he really?
Didn’t Dale Earnhardt in his prime pull off the same things Keselowski is being pilloried for?
I remember Earnhardt doing the exact same thing to Terry Labonte, Darrell Waltrip and others and getting nothing but accolades for being the “Intimidator”.
Keselowski is an aggressive driver, there is no doubt about that, but he is also a student of NASCAR history and can’t figure out why he is the villain in all of this.
Just listen to his impassioned defence of his actions before passing judgement.
Here is what he had to say about his tangle on the track with Gordon.
“I am doing everything I can to win this championship racing at 100 percent and that is something I am not going to be ashamed for,” Keselowski said. “If I was out there wrecking guys to do it, that would be one thing, but a little bit of rubbing is how this sport was created and probably how it should move forward.
“I don’t mind getting raced that way and I don’t mind racing that way.
“I got a little rub there at the end too from the 4 car (Kevin Harvick) and that was just good racing.”
Keselowski, in case anyone has forgotten, came up to NASCAR’s highest level the hard way, fighting to win every lap at tiny track across his native Michigan while his family mortgaged their own future to pave the way for him – there was never anything handed to him.
“The only way for a guy like me to break through is to drive the way I’ve drove over the last four or five years,” he said on Sunday night. “I think last year I got away from being as aggressive as I was in 2012 and this year. I didn’t make the Chase. We won one race. “That’s not acceptable to me. I’m here to win races for Roger Penske and for my team. “That means when there’s a gap, I have to take it. If it requires a tiny bit of rubbing, that’s okay.
“It’s not anything I don’t expect on the other side; it will go both ways.
“That’s okay by me. I’m not trying to dish out something that I couldn’t take myself.”
Keselowski offers up no apologies, no mea culpas, no ‘I won’t do it agains’ because he knows in order for him to win he has to use all of the tools he is given.
We’ll let him have the last word.
“We’ll go through these battles; I’ve gone through them before and come out stronger. “I’ll go through them again and come out stronger, a better race car driver.
“What I’m not going to do is back down. I’m not going to get in the spot where I was in 2013 where, you know, I tried to be exactly what they all wanted me to be, because what they want me to be is a loser, and I’m not here to lose, I’m here to win.
“That means I’m going to have to drive my car, harder, stronger, faster than everybody out there.
“That’s what I feel like I did (on Sunday).”
dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca

NASCAR Stars On Verge Of Chase Elimination

- October 12th, 2014

It is almost a certainty that without a win next week at Talladega six time champion Jimmie Johnson, 2012 champion Brad Keselowski, 2003 champion Matt Kenseth and the sport’s most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., will be out of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.
Those four are set for elimination after respective finishes of 17th, 16th, 19th and 20th in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
All but Earnhardt were pretty much authors of their own demise with sub-par performances in the second race of the Chase Contender Round.
Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet looked early on to be a potential winner but a broken shifter, of all things, derailed his night.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this – big stars being dumped – when the tall foreheads at NASCAR’s headquarters dreamed up this new Chase format that starts with 16 drivers and gets whittled down by four after each three race segment leading to one final showdown of four drivers at Homestead Miami Speedway on Nov. 16.
What the Chase has done, however, is make every lap of every race count, witness the altercations on pit road post race where Keselowski lost his mind slamming his No. 2 Ford into Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Tony Steward in apparent retaliation for some bumping prior to the final restart at CMS.
Perhaps the pressure of being soundly out driven by his Team Penske garage mate Joey Logano in this Chase season is starting to get to Keselowski.
In any event it was bad form and the betting is that team owner Roger Penske – he of the starched white shirts – will have a sit down with his errant star to explain his actions were not “the Penske way”.
Hamlin chastised Keselowski, calling him “out of control” and accused him of unseemly behaviour.
“He’s desperate … he’s pissed off everyone,” Hamlin said. “Just disappointing … just acting like a dumbass instead of a champion.”
As for Keselowski he used the old school yard fight excuse for his actions.
“They hit me and I hit them back,” he said. “That isn’t the lesson you want to teach your kids. But this isn’t the schoolyard. This is serious stuff here. We’re all just trying to stand our ground.”
While Keselowski, Johnson, Earnhardt and Kenseth left Charlotte despondent, race winner Kevin Harvick was celebrating getting a free pass into the next Chase round and not having to worry what happens at Talladega – NASCAR’s most dangerous track – next Sunday afternoon.
“I won’t be anorexic and throwing up all week,” Harvick said of not having to deal with the pressure of having to win at Talladega. “This was the night that we needed to win. I don’t want to go to Talladega next week.”
What all this means is that as wild as Talladega can be, most drivers think it will be ten fold worse with so many top stars on the brink of getting shuffled out of contention for the big prize.
“You thought it was going to be wild, but now with the way it’s playing out, and especially those cars that have had bad races, it’s shaping up to be very epic,” Hamlin said. “Until the last lap, you will not know who is going to be in or out.”
The drivers who are in – Logano, who won at Kansas, and Harvick – can relax and really so can Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon who are in the top six headed to Talladega.

POWER PLAY

It is hard to believe considering the glorious history of Mercedes Benz in Formula 1 racing but Sunday’s win in the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi by Lewis Hamilton clinched the German auto giant’s very first Constructor’s title in the world’s top open wheel racing series.
And just to put a cherry on top it also finished second in the race with Nico Rosberg coming from last on the grid after a first lap mishap to follow Hamilton across the finish line.
Without Rosberg’s heroics there wasn’t much to say about the inaugural Russian F-1 outing.
Hamilton was the class of the field and was never once in even emote danger of being challenged.

FINISH LINES

NASCAR will likely issue fines on Tuesday to all involved in the Charlotte fracas but will stay away from deducting points because of the impact in might have on the new Chase system. …
Hamilton dedicated his win to Marussia driver Jules Bianchi, who is still in critical condition after last week’s carsh at Suzuka: “Without a doubt every time I got in the car this weekend, coming here and being here, I was just thinking of him and his family – and keeping him in my prayers each day.”
dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca

Hinch signs multi season deal with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

- October 7th, 2014

James Hinchcliffe made official on Tuesday what just about everyone knew for the past week – he will be driving the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda next season in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
The 27-year-old Oakville native has signed a multi-year contract with the Indianapolis based team after two seasons in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda.
In a telephone interview prior to the media presentation launching the new team Hinchcliffe said it was SPM owners Sam Schmidt’s and Rick Peterson’s dogged pursuit to get his signature on a contract that really sealed the deal.
“Ultimately Sam and Rick were highly motivated and came after me in a big way,” he said.
“Seeing that level of commitment, the way they were willing to execute it gives a driver a good feeling.
“So we were able to put it all together in something that we are all very excited about.”
Hinchcliffe said he bears no animosity to the Andretti group or its owner Michael Andretti, it was just that SPM was willing to present a more attractive package – especially the multi-year term.
“It gives us some stability and a foundation to build for the future,” he said.
Although Hinchcliffe did have discussion with other teams – believed to by Chip Ganassi Racing and KV Racing – the Honda factor was large in making up his mind.
Both Ganassi and KVR run Chevrolets.
“There is no doubt that Honda played a big part in the negotiations,” Hinchclilffe said. “Having the relationship that I do with HPD (Honda Performance Development) and Honda Canada weighed heavily on my decision.
“It was important to me to try to stay in the Honda family – and during the off-season I made that clear
“I’m happy to be still repping the “H”
“I didn’t get the wins for them that I wanted to in 2014 but hopefully we can fix that situation in 2015.”
What was expected but did not happen on Tuesday was an announcement that his Andretti sponsor – United Fibre & Data – would move to SPM with Hinchcliffe, but that deal has yet to be finalized.
“The sponsorship is going to be announced at a later date,” Hinchcliffe said. “But obviously we were keen to let people know that we (the team and Hinchcliffe) are moving forward so the sponsorship is something that will come out at a different time.”
Last season Hinchcliffe participated in a number of sports car and stock car races in the IndyCar off season – specifically the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and the Australian V8 SuperCar series – but this off season he will be concentrating on getting ready for 2015 when a modified version of the Dallara DW12 will be introduced.
“I have no plans for any off season racing but we do plan to test the new (Dallara) package – hopefully a lot – between now and the start of next season,” he said. “Both I and Honda think that is very important.”
Hinchcliffe’s development fell off a bit last season after a three win 2013 season, but he still managed four top five finishes and five front row starts.
It was those kinds of numbers that made him an attractive free agent when he couldn’t make the deal he wanted with Andretti.
SPM, albeit, is a muck smaller team, but it did challenge the big teams all of last season with Simon Pagenaud behind the wheel.
“I really like what I saw last year from this team, the way there were able to battle the big teams,” Hinchcliffe said.
He won’t exactly be a stranger in the SPM paddock, having driven for Schmdit back in his Indy Lights career.