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Tony Stewart cleared in death of Kevin Ward Jr.

- September 24th, 2014
A New York State grand jury has absolved NASCAR super star Tony Stewart of any criminal charges in the death of 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. last month in a dirt track sprint car race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park near Rochester.
Ward was killed when he was struck by Stewart’s race car as he walked across the track to confront Stewart, who he blamed for a crash on the previous lap.
The grand jury saw several videos of the incident and heard toxicology report evidence that Ward was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the deadly accident.
“After listening to and questioning all of the witnesses, and reviewing all of the evidence, the grand jury has determined that there is no basis to charge Tony Stewart with any crimes,” Ontario (NY) district attorney Michael Tantillo said
Tantillo said the 23-member grand jury found “no aberrational driving by Tony Stewart,” or any other evidence to suggest that Stewart was criminally negligent in the incident.
Toxicology evidence showed Ward had a significant level of marijuana in his system, high enough, the jury ruled, to impair his judgment.
Stewart issued a release shortly after the grand jury decision was announced saying it should not be forgotten that Ward lost his life as a result of the accident.
“This has been the toughest and most emotional experience of my life, and it will stay with me forever,” Stewart said.
“I’m very grateful for all the support I’ve received and continue to receive.
“I respect everything the District Attorney and Sheriff’s Office did to thoroughly investigate this tragic accident.
“While the process was long and emotionally difficult, it allowed for all the facts of the accident to be identified and known.
 “While much of the attention has been on me, it’s important to remember a young man lost his life. Kevin Ward Jr.’s family and friends will always be in my thoughts and prayers.”
The grand jury’s finding were similar to what Ontario County Sheriff Phillip Povero found at the time of the crash that there was no evidence to suggest any wrongdoing on Stewart’s part.
What this does is clear Stewart of any criminal charges relating to the accident but he still could by the subject of a civil suit by Ward’s family.
NASCAR communications boss Brett Jewkes also issued a statement following the grand jury finding.
“There are no winners in tragedy,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Kevin Ward Jr. family and Tony Stewart as they all cope with this tragic incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.
“This has been a difficult time for everyone involved and we have respected the local authorities responsible for reviewing this case.”
 Stewart sat out three NASCAR Sprint Cup races following the tragedy and it likely cost him a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

Jeff Gordon tours Toronto on Wednesday

- September 9th, 2014

Four time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon visits Toronto Wednesday to promote Chase.

 

Here is his itinerary:

 

12-12:30: Gordon arrives at Dundas Square
- NASCAR Canadian Tire Series show car and driver join Gordon

12:45-1:15: Gordon arrives at Rogers Center

1:45-2:30: Gordon arrives at Canadian Tire retail location on Queensway in Etobicoke
- Interacts with fans / employees

Wittmer set for back-to-back World Challenge races at Honda Indy Toronto

- July 14th, 2014

SRT Motorsports has announced that Montreal’s Kuno Wittmer will pilot the No. 92 Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R in the Pirelli World Challenge at the Honda Indy Toronto Saturday and Sunday.
Wittmer, coming off a pole sitting, second place in the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship this past weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park is excited at the prospect of back-to-back races on the temporary street circuit around Exhibition Place in downtown Toronto in the World Challenge series.
“It’s definitely a great step for the Viper program,” he said. “I think the Pirelli World Challenge has evolved a lot over the past four or five years.
“The last time I raced in it was 2010 and it was already very competitive. Seeing how the championship has grown, it’s more competitive in all the right ways and it will be fun.”
Make no mistake about it, Wittmer has all the tools to make a difference in this event, even though he won’t get much time to prepare.
“We can’t forget that this is a one-off appearance on a street course and we don’t get much track time,” he said. “It’s tough. There are half hour sessions and if you get a red flag from another class, you can lose a lot of track time.
“It’s very vital that we get all our laps in as quick as we can, get the right setup right away and it’s going to be very, very important that everything goes as perfectly as possible.”
Wittmer is also counting on the fact that the one day between the two Honda Indy events will give the team a chance to fix anything that might have gone wrong in the first race.
“Luckily, it’s two races and not just one race — it’s a doubleheader, so we can afford to play around a little bit,” he said. “Ideally, we would like to win. But let’s be realistic, get a solid result and showcase what this car can do.”
The goal, of course, is to put the SRT Dodge Viper in front of race fans and race teams on a competitive circuit.
After all Ralph Gilles, CEO of SRT Motorsports, Chrysler Group LLC, said that racing is about is selling cars and Dodge wants to sell a lot of these SRT Viper GT3-Rs.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun to have Kuno step into the Pirelli World Challenge and test his skills in the Viper GT3-R against the top class in the series,” Gilles said. “This is a test Viper that Riley Technologies prepared and we see this race as an opportunity to showcase our customer program.
“We’ve had success in the series with Dan Knox taking the Viper to the winner’s circle during the Detroit race weekend and we want to continue building momentum with our Viper GT3-R program.”
Knox, who competes full-time in the World Challenge in the No. 80 Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R, ranks third in the GT-A class standings and claimed the Viper GT3-R’s first series victory in a May race on Detroit’s Belle Isle circuit last month at the Belle Isle IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Detroit.
“I believe that the Viper GT3-R is a benchmark car across the world,” Wittmer said. “The Viper has a lot of potential and this is a great opportunity to showcase the car in the GT class.”
Wittmer previously competed in the World Challenge from 2008 to 2010 and tallied six victories in the series, including two Viper wins in Salt Lake City and Long Beach, Calif.
He will have SRT’s Matt Bejnarowicz, who currently serves as the lead engineer for Wittmer’s IMSA TUDOR Viper, as the lead engineer for the No. 92 Viper GT3-R entry.
“I spent a lot of time in the World Challenge as a race engineer and for me it’s like going back home,” Bejnarowicz said. “That’s where Kuno and I met and he had a lot of talent and potential. We ended up getting paired up, cut our teeth together and we’ve been together since.
“It will be like the old days — a lot of fun and we’re going to try to put the Viper up front.”
The Toronto race weekend is the only scheduled appearance for Wittmer and the No. 92 Viper GT3-R entry in the World Challenge.
Knox will continue to run the full series schedule in pursuit of the GT-A class championship for Lone Star Racing and the Viper GT3-R racing program.
dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca

Race Team Alliance Should Set Off Alarms In NASCAR

- July 8th, 2014

The announcement on Monday that NASCAR’s most powerful multi-car teams have formed something called Race Team Alliance should be setting off alarms across the garage.
Two names in what could turn out to be an unholy alliance jumped right off the page of press release that gave notice of the birth of the group — Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske.
For those who don’t remember it was Ganassi and Penske who were at the forefront of team owners who led the revolt in the early 1990s that all but destroyed IndyCar racing in North America.
It resulted in a decade long death march where open wheel racing went from the top of the racing world to barely hanging on to its core support.
Now, even more than five years after the ill conceived Indy Racing League and CART Series unified, IndyCar racing is only a shadow of its former self.
And don’t think the same thing couldn’t happen to NASCAR.
The break away CART owners thought there were not getting their fair share of revenues from the Hulman-George family that owned IndyCar and its biggest asset, Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
This new group seems to think the same thing — that they are not getting their fair share of NASCAR revenues from the France family.
Just look at the opening salvo in what could turn out to be a nasty war:
“By working together and speaking with a single voice, it should be a simpler and smoother process to work with current and potential groups involved with the sport,” the statement read. “Whether it be looking for industry-wide travel partners or collaborating on technical issues — the idea is to work together to increase revenue, spend more efficiently, and deliver more value to our partners.”
Between the lines this says the owners want more of the $8.2 billion US television deal that kicks in starting next season and that they want more money from side deals like track and race sponsorships.
Sounds exactly like what Ganassi, Penske et al were seeking when they challenged the supremacy over IndyCar of the Hulman-George family.
NASCAR’s response so far has been muted, to say the least, and consisted of a brief release from public relations boss Brett Jewkes.
“We are aware of the alliance concept the team owners have announced, but have very few specifics on its structure or purpose,” Jewkes said. “It is apparently still in development and we’re still learning about the details so it would be inappropriate to comment right now.”
If I was working in the NASCAR fortress in Daytona right now I would be battening down the hatches.

C’est Magnifique

- June 22nd, 2014

Not since Ron Fellows restarted at the back and came through the field of the Sprint Cup cars at Watkins Glen in 2004 to finish second behind Tony Stewart has there been such a dramatic comeback by a Canadian in NASCAR as Alex Tagliani pulled off on Saturday at the Nationwide Series Gardner Denver 200 at Road America.
And he did it mostly in the rain.
If the race had been another 100 yards, I am convinced Tagliani would have beaten race winner Brendan Gaughan.
What made Tagliani’s finish that much more impressive is that he had run out of gas in the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford Mustang with one lap left.
A caution on the final lap allowed Tagliani to be pushed to pit lane where he gassed up, put on four fresh Goodyear slicks and went to work on the green-white-checkered finish.
In two laps he went from 23rd position to the bumper of Gaughan’s No. 62 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
The native of the Montreal suburb of Lachenaie showed team owner Roger Penske he picked the right driver to pilot his Nationwide car in two races this season.
“It was pretty intense,” Tagliani said afterwards. “Maybe I threw a bad spell on myself because I said it was impossible that I was going to win this race, like something’s going to happen, and then on the white flag, something happened (ran out of gas).
“It’s what it is and it has to be in the cards, and if it’s not, you just have to take whatever comes to you.”
It was somewhat ironic, however, that in the winner’s circle Gaughan credited Fellows for helping him hone his road racing skills at his Ron Fellows Performance Racing School at Spring Mountain Motor Resort in Nevada and that was the main reason he was able to finish ahead of Tagliani.