Sprint Cup Series: The Stop and Go 500 – How do you like your races? Well this one seemed to mimic bad traffic. The race had a green flag feel until the caution came out for debris on lap 174. Then the race became a contest between who was good for twenty laps at a time, who had a mistake-free pit stop, and who could get a good restart. That doesn’t exactly make for compelling racing.
Another problem was the caution count was eight came because of debris, so it’s not like there was some kind of action to really make things interesting. And then Joey Logano’s lazy spin due to a flat brought out another yellow. And then there’s Clint Bowyer’s ride into the wall. Add in Jeff Gordon’s cut tire (that led to a whole different thing) and it’s hard to glean much from this kind of racing.
One thing that can be stated is that the flared side skirts are a weird aspect to the cars. NASCAR has not developed any kind of way of policing how teams are altering this part of their cars, and the fact that it seems to be a dangerous adjustment. With the flared side skirts, any time these cars make contact, there’s a good chance that there’ll be a tire going flat. This situation doesn’t seem to be a good one and warrants some further examination.
Perhaps the goofiest comment that can be made is that Formula 1 race started about twenty minutes prior to the Cup race (yes, genius scheduling by everyone involved) and that Cup was still going an hour and a half later — with 30 laps still to go! With the green-white-checker finish (still lame) the race still lasted nearly four hours. That’s just way too long. Huston Ladner
IndyCar: The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Schedule Proves to Disappoint – The dark, listless abyss that is the INDYCAR offseason showed some signs of life this past week, as series officials finally released the much-speculated-about 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Unfortunately for those hoping for more INDYCAR-centric storylines in the wake of this news, I have some bad news for you.
For the fourth year in a row, the schedule is drab, lifeless, and uninspired. The only major additions to the schedule were a new race in Brasilia, Brazil that will serve as the season opener, along with a race at the newly-built NOLA Motorsports Park. While it’s nice to see the circuit visit new tracks, neither one of these races will do much to generate any real excitement.
Meanwhile, the puzzling disparity between road / street and oval races remains, and only looks like it will get worse going forward. Only six oval events are on the schedule, with the rest of the schedule being a strange potpourri of polarizing street races and fly-by-night road race events at purpose-built tracks that have little in the name of character or clout. Yeah, Mid-Ohio and Sonoma are nice, but where are the races at Watkins Glen, or Road America? You know, the kinds of road circuits that have the potential to put on exciting shows.
Oh, and where are these new oval events that INDYCAR brass keeps insisting are in the works? Michigan? Phoenix? Is INDYCAR just not wanted at these places? What gives?
All told, the 2015 IndyCar Series schedule really can not be characterized as anything other than a disappointment. The schedule has been a sticking point for this series for a long time now, and that fact doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon. Matt Stallknecht
Nationwide Series: Sadler Sits Out Texas – As the Nationwide Series returned to action Saturday, Elliott Sadler struggled through the weekend. According to a report from Bob Pockrass at Sporting News, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver suffered a stomach virus that kept him out of qualifying. Having to already start in the back, Sadler gave up his seat to Clint Bowyer just nine laps into Saturday’s race, so he’ll be credited with the ninth-place finish.
“I’m sorry about this,” Sadler told his crew prior to the race. “We’ll make the most of it. You’ve got a good man you’re putting in here.”
While I’m sure he was disappointed he had to sit on the sidelines, the long-term effects of sitting out of the car are really rather minimal. Sadler was already out of contention for the title at 63 points behind leader Chase Elliott, and he left the facility 68 markers back. Aside from the obvious of not wanting to do anything when you’re sick, it’s probably wise that Sadler sat out since his head was likely not really into the race either. He’ll move on to next weekend at Phoenix and close out the season at Homestead.
Camping World Truck Series: Championship Hopes Go Up in Smoke – Darrell Wallace, Jr. headed into Texas Motor Speedway with a long shot chance at snagging the championship this year. Fresh off of his third win of the season at Martinsville last weekend, Wallace had moved to just 22 markers behind leader Matt Crafton, and he had high hopes for the weekend at Texas, a mile-and-a-half track that Kyle Busch Motorsports as a whole has been so strong at all season.
After starting eighth, Wallace took the lead for the first time just four laps in and participated in multiple spirited battles with team owner Kyle Busch. But it wasn’t meant to be for the sophomore driver, whose truck succumbed to engine failure shortly beyond the 100 lap mark. The resulting oil that was laid down over more than half of the track led to a short red flag period for cleanup. You could see the dejection in Wallace’s body language as he sauntered back to his hauler. He now sits 52 points behind the leader and pretty much out of contention in third.
Formula 1: Hamilton Takes His Fifth Straight – Lewis Hamilton started off the weekend by showing the speed of his Mercedes, earning the top spot in all three practice sessions. Qualifying had the feeling of being a fait accompli, with Hamilton likely to put himself P1. That’s not how things went down, though, as the points leader suffered with some braking issues and ultimately fell to his teammate, and closest challenger, Nico Rosberg.
Come raceday, everyone started on the soft compound tyres and after an early safety car due to Adrian Sutil and Sergio Perez getting together, Rosberg drove to a nearly two-second lead over Hamilton. Then came the first rounds of pit stops and the switch to the harder compound tyres. Rosberg maintained his lead for a while, but Hamilton excelled on this compound, cut into the lead and eventually passed the leader.
With the win, his second at the Circuit of the Americas, Hamilton now enjoys a 24-point lead as the series heads to Brazil next week. Though the final event in Abu Dhabi offers the double points, Hamilton looks to be in great shape to claim his second F1 championship.
The bigger story is the ongoing financial issues that plague the sport. With Marussia and Caterham now in administration, a euphemism for bankruptcy, the smaller teams are now fighting just to stay afloat in a big budget spending game dominated by Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and the like. The concern is how the money is distributed. There doesn’t seem to be a positive trickle-down effect and it seems that perhaps the series could borrow from Major League Baseball, with some of wealthier teams sharing some of their spoils. But as Bernie Ecclestone admitted, he’s not sure how to fix it. Huston Ladner