Archive for December, 2010
Saturday, December 18th, 2010
I still get mad when I remember the season-launching Daytona 500 last February.
The damn thing took close to 6 hours to run, longer than the NFL Superbowl, and you know how happy I am with the general length of NASCAR races!
The 2011 edition of the Great American race could have higher speeds, better racing and closer finishes.
Drivers testing Daytona International Speedway for the first time since it was completely repaved agree NASCAR’s premier event will feature tighter packs — cars running 3 wide at nearly 200 mph — and increase the possibility for breathtaking wrecks.
“It’s going to be a lot tighter packs than I’ve ever seen,” defending Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray figures. “It’s certainly going to be more Talladega-type, really close, restrictor-plate racing. You’ve got to hope that you’re going to make it to the end because the odds of big wrecks happening are going to be really good, I’d say.”
The sport’s most famous oval completed its second repaving, the first since 1979, and drivers turned laps last week as part of Goodyear’s tire test.
The notorious gut-dropping bumps in turns 2 and 4 are gone, so is the ridiculous pothole that plagued the 2010 race, and pit road is wider for increased safety.
The result is a smoother track that causes less tire wear, creates faster laps and tighter racing.
Veteran Bobby Labonte declares, “It’s going to be more like Talladega!” “It’s going to lend to more pushing, more shoving, more drafting like that. Obviously, that’s going to lend to more things that could happen. Nobody knows that. If you sat here on a Monday and ran a 500-mile race with 43 cars and you did it again Wednesday and again Friday, you’d have three different races probably.”
18 drivers from 6 teams, including Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Juan Montoya took laps in the Goodyear test. Some teams brought cars and engines from last season, while others tested their latest technology, including ethanol-blended fuel.
All the teams used a slightly smaller restrictor plate than currently in use. The top speed was 197.5 mph, and NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said officials will evaluate testing results before deciding whether to reduce the size of the holes in the plate to pull the speeds back from the dreaded 200 MPH.
Teams will return to Daytona for a 3-day test late next month.
But general opinion across the board is that Daytona will be better and heck of a lot racier next season.
The old surface was like a rollercoaster ride, with bad line-shifting bumps and slippery seams. The cars were a handful to keep straight. The TV shots showing the front of the cars coming straight at the cameras were alarming, showing how violent the cars were being pitched sideways!
Jeff Burton thinks the way you race Daytona will change, hopefully for the better.
“This is more of chess game, ‘When do I get aggressive, when do I not get aggressive?’ ” Burton said. “A lot of times on the old surface, your car dictated when you could and when you couldn’t. What’s going to dictate this time is how many laps are left. The work-load’s actually going to be less. I think your brain will be tired, but I don’t think anything else will be tired.”
They improved the pits at Daytona too.
The repaving project included widening pit road considerably, creating more room.
Kurt Buch allowed, “Daytiona’s pit road was the most treacherous of all the pit roads that we raced on.. But it looks like green acres out there. It’s really a safer place on pit road. The environment for the crew guys will be much better and you won’t necessarily have to worry as much about getting the fender dings. I’m excited about it.”
One thing is clear. The arena has improved to the point we might not have another stupid stop-start-stop-start Daytona 500 on an old worn out bumpy, slippery race track with a hole in it.
At least we don’t think so anyway.
Have a great Christmas and a GREAT holiday y’all!
Thursday, December 16th, 2010
Bobby’s kid finally lands somewhere solid!
Graham Raceline, who’s been a Raceline Radio guest more than a few times has a new gig, and it’s a good one!
Chip Ganassi has announced the addition of Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing with Graham Rahal in the No. 38 car and Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing with Charlie Kimball in the No. 83 entry at a media conference today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It is an exciting day for our team and an exciting time for IndyCar racing,” Ganassi said. “Sponsorship is the lifeblood of motor racing, and to have people that think alike along with you along the way and understand how you operate and how you want to operate your business is nice. So to have both companies come to the center stage and to bring them both along as partners is exciting.
“We as a company need to stay competitive. We need to stay at the forefront. I think you have to constantly be looking at who is coming along, what drivers are coming along. I’m not pushing (Scott) Dixon and (Dario) Franchitti out the door yet, but they are of a different era, you might say, than these two guys. We wanted to make sure we had an opportunity, if at all possible, to work with them.”
The reigning IZOD IndyCar Series championship team plans to invest $3.3 million to locate the team in a facility leased from drag racing legend Don Prudhomme in Brownsburg, Ind., which is expected to create up to 30 new jobs. Mitch Davis will be the team manager and Target Chip Ganassi managing director Mike Hull will oversee the program. Prudhomme said this year he’ll “stick his toe in the water,” and look to become more involved in 2012 as the IZOD IndyCar Series introduces its new car and engine platforms.
“It really is a dream come true,” said Kimball, 25, who competed the past two seasons in Firestone Indy Lights. “The whole championship is something special. I think it really rewards an all-around driver and getting the opportunity to utilize the Road to Indy ladder system — from F2000 when I competed in that in 2003 to Indy Lights the last two years and now moving into the IZOD IndyCar Series – is great.
“It’s still sinking in that I’m going to be on the grid in a full-size IndyCar next year.”
Rahal, the youngest race winner in major North American open-wheel racing history, competed in 12 races during the 2010 with four different teams.TBC Retail Group announced in October that it has signed a multi-year spokesperson and sponsorship association with the 21-year-old driver to represent its family of tire and automotive retail brands (Service Central, Tire Kingdom, National Tire and Battery, Merchant’s Tire and Auto Centers and Big O Tires).
“This is — other than winning the Indy 500 or a championship — the best day a driver could have,” said Rahal, who has made 60 IZOD IndyCar Series starts (one win, 12 top-five and 32 top-10 finishes). “Last year was interesting — a lot of ups and downs. It makes you appreciate it when you get an opprtunity like this. I have been working diligently, specifically over the past several months, to get into one of Chip’s IndyCars, and now that dream has become a reality with the help of Service Central and many others.
“Like Chip often says, I’m looking forward to the next race, which is in St. Petersburg in March. I’m thrilled to be a part of this great organization and look forward to making the most out of this opportunity.”
Target Chip Ganassi Racing employs 75 associates at its Indianapolis facility that houses the IZOD IndyCar Series program for Franchitti and Dixon — who have a combined five IZOD IndyCar Series championships — and the championship-winning Grand Am program.
“Working with Chip Ganassi and all of his crew, giving me the opportunity to learn from champions like Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and alongside Graham Rahal is another aspect of how I’m going to try to shorten the learning curve,” said Kimball, who finished fourth in the Firestone Indy Lights championship this past season (five podium finishes). “I’m not underestimating the size of the task ahead of me and I’m really looking forward to using all the tools both within Chip Ganassi Racing and through my partnership with Novo Nordisk going forward.”
Novo Nordisk is a healthcare company with an 87-year history of innovation and achievement in diabetes care. Kimball was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2007, and the company was his primary sponsor during the 2010 season.
“Novo Nordisk partnered with me at the beginning of last year, but I’ve been using their insulin since the day I was diagnosed in 2007,” Kimball said. “So my relationship with them started well before they even knew who I was. Together, to make that step using the history, the heritage, the success of Chip Ganassi Racing, stepping onto the main stage with them is extra special.”
Rahal and Kimball will be among the seven American drivers on the grid in the 2011 season opener March 27 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Last year, there were three.