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Article:Racing Roundup: 5/4/08 - Wreckin' at Richmond Edition

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After a brief hiatus, Racing Roundup is back. I’ve been releasing some individual races articles (like the one on Danica’s win at Motegi) and building a new-and-improved section for each major auto racing series (here, here, and here).

The only game in town as far as actual races this weekend was NASCAR, who ran under the lights at Richmond. As one of the short tracks, there’s plenty of laps and some wrecking too. Not to mention a lot of controversy and a very lucky winner. Still, some news out of the open wheel world, and some assorted congrats to give out.

NASCAR in Richmond

The Sprint Cup series ran the 2008 Crown Royal Presents the Dan Lowry 400 (Dan Lowry is a guy who won a contest to get a race named after him) at Richmond International Raceway. On the pole was Denny Hamlin, who was trying to make it three for three this year in home state, as the native Virginian won the race at Martinsville and the Nationwide race on Friday night. It looked very good for Denny, as he seemed to be running away with it. Indeed, Hamlin led all but one of the first 382 laps of the race. The sole non-Hamlin led lap was by A.J. Allmindinger, who stayed out to get 5 bonus points to get claw his way up the owners points.

Big wrecks tend to happen at two polar opposite types of tracks: superspeedways like Talladega where everybody drivers so close together because of the restrictor plates, and teeny-weeny short tracks like Martinsville and Richmond because you are always driving with somebody. The big wreck at Richmond came on lap 231, when the cars of Michael McDoweel, Regan Smith, Kurt Busch, Patrick Carpentier, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jimmie Johnson, J.J. Yeley, and Carl Edwards were all involved in a crash. Some got out fairly okay (Edwards finished seventh, Burton eleventh), but it cost others their race day. As the video clip below shows, the only driver from the Great White North, Mr. Carpentier, took the brunt of damage. It’s too bad for him, since he was running well and started fourth.

Despite the caution, Hamlin was in control of the race, with Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. the only guys with a serious chance of catching him. It came in a pretty surprising fashion, when Hamlin blew a tire on lap 382 and conceded the lead. He tried to stay out, but stopped on the track with 8 laps to go to bring out a caution. Dale Jr. inherited the lead, with Busch second. On the restart the two began to battle. Dale kept to the high side and kept allowing Kyle to almost squeeze past on the bottom of the track, but kept beating him in the “straights”. That is, until lap 397. Here’s the clip

In the aftermath of that spin out, Clint Bowyer sneaks by the duo and assumes the lead. After a green-white-checkered finish, Busch in second is unable to catch up to Bowyer, and the 07 takes his second career victory.

He didn’t do much to win it himself, but Clint Bowyer nonetheless but himself in position to take the checkered flag

The Busch-Earnhardt incident has really heated up NASCAR folks all over the place. The commentators kept joking about Busch’s safety leaving the track, since Earnhardt maintains the largest fanbase in the sport and he was not able to break his two year long winless streak. Calls for Kyle’s head rang out through the NASCAR world as a result.

My Take

Basically, it was a racing incident. Earnhardt kept leaving room for Busch on the bottom, and this time it looked like Busch would finally get around him. He tried to pushed down on Kyle, only he wouldn’t budge. Kyle may have been loose, but that doesn’t matter. It was an unfortunate incident that happens because there’s three laps left and they both want to win.

Ironically, the move was very similar to many made by Dale Earnhardt Sr. The Intimidator didn’t get his nickname for nothing, and he wasn’t against wrecking people to win. This is sometimes forgotten in NASCAR-Land, as St. Dale is no longer the bad guy he was alive. While I don’t think this move was intentional, it was eerily similar nonetheless.

Top 10

  1. Clint Bowyer
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Mark Martin
  4. Tony Stewart
  5. Martin Truex Jr.
  6. Ryan Newman
  7. Carl Edwards
  8. Kevin Harvick
  9. Jeff Gordon
  10. Kasey Kahne

Indy 500 open for business

In less contentious news, the Indianapolis 500 was officially opened with the rookie orientation sessions and a ceremony honoring the Unser family, who have won nine 500s between Al Sr., Al Jr., and Bobby.

Rookie orientation is required of any driver who hadn’t started the race in the past. That meant all of IndyCar’s “rookies”, both the real kind and the former Champ Car kind, were in action turning laps to get acclimated. Two non-rookies joined them, as Ryan Hunter-Reay and Oriol Servia are Indy 500 Rookies. Indeed, the only driver from a former Champ Car team not participating is Bruno Junqueira, a former polesitter and top 5 finisher.

11 of the 14 rookie drivers passed all four phases of orientation on the first day, clearing them for full practice when it begins on Tuesday. Enrique Bernoldi completed three of four phases, while Mario Moraes and Mario Dominguez did none. The best lap of the day was by Will Power, who turned a 220.694 mph lap.

Tomorrow will continue rookie orientation, then on Tuesday everybody gets out on the track for the first time. Next weekend will begin qualifying, as Saturday is Pole Day, where the first 11 spots are decided, followed by the next 11 on Sunday.

Super Aguri’s Struggles

There is a race going on in Formula One, but not the usual kind. This one is for the survival of the least financially stable team in F1, Super Aguri.

The team led by former F1 driver Aguri Suzuki has been in financially difficulties all year. They failed to run any official practices in the preseason, first taking the track at the Australian Grand Prix. Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson have been backmarkers this season, and have qualified in the back at every race.

While the team holds connections to Honda, the automakers, who have a team themselves, are not ready to splash the cash to save the team. Aguri Suzuki has been looking for financing, and is current looking at a German financial group for help.

Despite a possible splash of cash, Super Aguri is currently being kept out of Istanbul Park, unable to park its equipment at the track with all the other teams.

It will be interesting to see in the coming week whether we will have 20 or 22 cars on the grid at Istanbul. My guess is a reprieve for this race weekend, but I’m not certain the team will be around for Monaco.

Closing out with Congrats


A picture of John might be more relevant, but daughter also beats dad in a looks contest too

  • Congrats to Valentino Rossi, who unlike Dale Jr. broke his winless streak in MotoGP racing in China this weekend. The five time motorcycle World Champion is now in third in the standings behind Spaniards Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo
  • The big winners at the A1GP season finale at Brands Hatch. Team Great Britain behind Robbie Kerr won the Sprint Race, while India’s Narain Karthikeyan won the feature race. The big congrats go out to Neel Jani and Team Switzerland, the overall champions of the A1GP season.
  • The folks at Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina, who have revived the track with an ARCA race this weekend. Deposed several years ago by NASCAR, it was the first big event at the track since. 18 year-old Joey Logano won the race, and notched yet another win for a driver in the Joe Gibbs Racing stable. Don’t be surprised if he’s in a Cup car before long.
  • Drag racing legend John Force, who won his 1,000 career elimination round on his 59th birthday. NHRA’s all-time wins and championships leader is the first driver to do so. He nearly won it last weekend when he reached the final, but was thwarted in his history making effort by another driver making history: his own daughter, Ashley Force. In the first ever father-daughter final in NHRA history, Ashley beat John to the line to become the first woman to win a funny car event in the series (and the tenth woman overall to win a national event – drag racing is light years ahead when it comes to female participation). Belated congrats to Ashley, as well.

Next week we've got Turkish GP, Pole Day, and NASCAR at the Lady in Black. See you then!

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