One of the biggest U.S. motorsports stories of the last two decades occurred late last month, with the announcement that the Indy Racing League (IRL) and the Champ Car Word Series (CCWS) had agreed to merge. The news, however, garnered little more than a cursory nod from the stock car community which seems reluctant to even acknowledge that there is another form of racing in this country, let alone one that outshined NASCAR for many years back in the day. But if the newly invigorated IRL plays its cards right, auto racing enthusiasts will begin, en masse, to pay attention once again towards an open-wheel series based in the United States. Of course, the key for the IRL in rebuilding the series to prominence in large part will be to pattern themselves after their brethren in American auto racing, NASCAR.
1. Lucky at Lowe’s – Jeff Gordon is a great racecar driver, but even the best sometimes need a bit of luck, as Gordon acknowledged in his post-race comments from Victory Lane: “I can’t tell you how many times we tried to give this one away. I was having trouble with the [fuel] pickup on the banking. Even on the last [restart], the tires spun so bad, Clint Bowyer could have gone right by me.” Gordon pulled out the win despite two cautions and a red flag in the last 16 laps of the race, a green-white-checkered finish, an almost-empty gas tank, and a group of talented hard chargers right behind him, including Kyle Busch, Bowyer, Ryan Newman, and Carl Edwards.
In the midst of Dale Earnhardt Jr. overkill, the 12-car Chase field was set in stone on Saturday night. Looking at the final list of contenders, are there any surprises you see on that list? Anyone you think doesn’t deserve to be running for the title, and if so, who would you replace him with?
On a lazy Sunday afternoon at Chicagoland, one of the most dramatic championships in open wheel history had just reached an eye-popping conclusion, with the third turn of the last lap finally settling a battle that brought excitement to an all-time high. But the 2007 IRL trophy hadn’t even been dusted off for its rightful owner, Dario Franchitti, when he was asked the question most racing aficionados already had the answer to: Would he be moving to NASCAR? The Scotsman was noncommittal in his response, but just the hesitation in his voice revealed the answer he’s not yet able to say out loud: all indications are the open wheel racer is on his way to the world of stock cars. According to published reports, a five-year offer from Chip Ganassi Racing has been put on the table, and sponsorship is in place for Franchitti to make the jump from IndyCar to a series with just a little different type of chassis.
When racecar driver Leilani Munter made the move from stock cars to Indy cars a few months ago, she expected to face her share of challenges. Attacking the new opportunity with characteristic enthusiasm and intelligence, Munter has proven herself a quick study with great racing instincts.
Did You Notice? That in the final restarts of Saturday night’s race at Bristol, Carl Edwards had none other than Elliott Sadler – Kasey Kahne’s teammate – lining up beside him on the inside every time. But even though Sadler could have made himself a roadblock – opening the door for second-place Kahne to make a move – he instead bowed out of the way, a remarkable statement of a class for the Virginian who’s had a tough year himself on the Nextel Cup circuit.
During the Busch test at Charlotte on Tuesday, there was a press conference to celebrate a special anniversary. This year is the 30th anniversary of one of the first woman drivers in NASCAR, Janet Guthrie, participating in the World 600 (now the Coca-Cola 600). Guthrie was in attendance, and took a couple of laps around the track to help commemorate the occasion.
Truth be told, Paul Dana was not a household name in motorsports; at least, not yet. Putting aside his former career as a journalist to pursue his dream, the 30-year-old was preparing for his first full season on the IRL circuit, quietly landing a deal with one of the best teams in Rahal Letterman Motorsports. …