Sorry for the late-evening version of Splash And Go, but I had to wait for the first practice results from Motegi. They’re in, and Will Power is on top of the time chart. His closest pursuer in the points, Dario Franchitti, was sixth.
It’s a strong statement of intent by Power, but it’s not like the guy has looked shabby at recent oval races at Chicagoland and Kentucky. Still, John Oreovicz of ESPN.com makes a really good point about Will: He’s never raced on the asphalt egg at Twin Ring Motegi.
Still, I think it’s only a matter of time until he earns his first oval victory in the IZOD IndyCar Series for Team Penske. Dario just hopes that time is next year.
I was stunned when I first saw the time sheet and noticed Takuma Sato was at the bottom, even beneath Milka Duno. Say it ain’t so at your home motor dojo, Taku-san. But then I read where Taku crashed after an oil line failure splurted oil on the tires, causing Sato to spin.
Good thing Taku is OK. It’s pretty safe to say that normal order will be restored, with Milka in the caboose. But you have to feel for Sato in front of his home crowd. And do you think KV Racing Technology has gold card credit status with Dallara for chassis repair yet this season?
While practice is underway at Motegi, it’s not too late to check out this humorous preview of the race at Pop Off Valve.
Tony Johns of Pop Off Valve also takes on the white elephant in the room with the IZOD IndyCar Series, the future racing intent of 5-2, 100-pound Danica Patrick. Tony thinks IndyCar doesn’t need Danica anymore.
Sorry, Tony, but I beg to differ. Danica is the most popular driver in the series, has attracted countless fans of both genders to IndyCar and is a magnet for attention, good and bad. No one can force her to stay in the series if she wants to run NASCAR full time after her contract expires with Andretti Autosport, but to say the series doesn’t need her? That’s a big step off a very narrow ledge.
Johns brings up Danica’s relative lack of success — one victory in nearly six full seasons of IZOD IndyCar Series racing — and says her results don’t match her hype. Well, the stats don’t match the buzz for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in NASCAR Sprint Cup, either, but he remains the most popular driver in that series by about six ZIP codes.
Sports is a personality-driven entertainment business now. People follow personalities more than results. But results are still a factor, and Danica gets it done at the biggest race in the world, the Indianapolis 500. Five top-eight finishes in six career starts at the Brickyard. ‘Nuff said. She’s a plus for the series. Period.
On a final IndyCar note, it’s really heartening to see that Mike Conway is almost ready to climb back into the cockpit. This boggles my mind considering the ferocity of Mike’s wreck at Indy, but he’s trying to beat the clock to return to his Dreyer & Reinbold seat for the season finale Oct. 2 at Homestead. Dude’s a racer – what else can you say?
Hey, did you know the Chase starts this Sunday? THE CHASE! THE CHASE! I’m starting to sound like Herve Villechaize calling for the plane on “Fantasy Island.”
The always excellent Dustin Long analyzes what each of the 12 Chase drivers needs to do to hoist the big silver mug at Homestead. Mike Mulhern also takes a really interesting look at how a strong, candid relationship between drivers and crew chiefs, especially when the driver is a bubbling young volcano like Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, is vital during the Chase.
Mike Hembree at SPEEDtv.com wrote an interesting piece stating that sleepy, small Loudon is an odd place to conduct the first race of NASCAR’s postseason.
New England is a stronger racing bastion than one might think, and Nor’easter fans go especially nuts for the superb NASCAR Modified Tour, the most exciting division in NASCAR, in my opinion. But New England also is a pro stick-and-ball haven, with the Patriots, Celtics and Red Sox Nation inhaling most of the available media oxygen.
Still, that’s not stopping track president Jerry Gappens from beating the drum. Jerry is an Indiana native, so racing is in his veins. He also worked for the legendary promoter Humpy Wheeler at Charlotte Motor Speedway, so the guy clearly knows how to sell and connect with fans.
The new Grand Prix of Aragon is underway in MotoGP, and the Motorland Aragon is one trippy racetrack, as this photo feature at motomatters.com shows. There are so many blind entrances to corners that I think Ray Charles and Jose Feliciano designed the circuit.
Dani Pedrosa was quickest overall as MotoGP returned to two Friday practice sessions. Pedrosa has been en fuego since Indianapolis and was rewarded with a new two-year deal with Honda. It will be very interesting to see how the notoriously fickle Pedrosa and his attack-dog manager, Alberto Puig, get along with Australian hard-ass and sometimes chronic complainer Casey Stoner next season in the Repsol Honda garage. Expect little love lost between the two.
Speaking of unloved men in motorcycle racing, it seems like James Toseland has alienated another teammate. American Colin Edwards couldn’t stand Toseland after Toseland orchestrated a swap of his crew chief with Edwards’ before the start of the 2009 MotoGP season. The Texas Tornado got the last laugh, as he clicked better with his new crew chief, Guy Coulon, and kicked Toseland’s ass so thoroughly that the Brit lost his ride and dropped back to World Superbike.
Well, it appears that Toseland’s WSBK teammate, fellow Brit Cal Crutchlow, also doesn’t have Toseland on his Christmas card list this year, either. Crutchlow was asked if he sought Toseland’s advice on MotoGP in advance of jumping to MotoGP in 2011 with Toseland’s old team, Monster Yamaha Tech 3. Crutchlow dropped a hammer on Toseland with his answer!
I sure hope Edwards remains at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 next season. The verbal volleys coming from that garage will look like Volkswagen Beetle-sized shells being fired from the USS Missouri.
In a very classy move Thursday, Moto2 points leader Toni Elias suggested in the pre-event press conference at Aragon that the Michel Metraux Trophy, presented to the best privateer rider of the season in the Moto2 class, should be presented to Shoya Tomizawa, who was killed in a Moto2 racing crash Sept. 5 at Misano.
The trophy is awarded based on a vote of the Moto2 riders, and they unanimously agreed to posthumously award the Metraux Trophy to Tomi. A very proper gesture from a solid, tight community of racers.
Formula One is off this weekend, but the news and rumors never stop in the “pinnacle of motorsport,” as Nigel Mansell used to call it.
Joe Saward writes that it makes little sense for Renault to dance with Kimi Raikkonen despite reports that the Kimster and the French team are courting for 2011. Joe also throws cold water on the rumors that Lotus will switch to Toyota engines, instead writing that the shadow of the once-colossus fronted by Colin Chapman and Jim Clark will switch to Renault engines in 2011.
Sorry, but if a Cosworth DFV isn’t in the back, it’s not a real Lotus regardless of the paint job or team name.
Finally, Michael Schumacher is excited about the first night race of his career at Singapore on Sept. 26. Be careful what you wish for, Weltmeister: The spotlights of Singapore only will more brightly illuminate both the decline of your career and a possibly ham-fisted, lethal attempt by you to stuff a faster driver into the numerous concrete barriers of the street circuit.