Racing Preview: TV guide, Brickyard, Outlaws at Ohsweken

Wheels Editor Norris McDonald reports on all - and we mean all - the weekend’s racing action and has (of course) a few things to say about – well – everything

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There’s a lot of racing on tap this weekend, but before we take a closer look at it, I just have to wrap up a couple of things about last weekend’s IndyCar race in Toronto.

First, the Honda Indy Toronto event staff did their best with what was – for want of a better word – a challenging situation. They had a show to put on and the performers wouldn’t go on. So Charlie Johnstone and the Torchia Communications people are to be congratulated for keeping their cool and making the best of a bad situation.

Second, although the Verizon IndyCar Series likes to call itself a professional series, it is club racing and nothing else. I could not believe the gong show that was presented as professional sports entertainment last weekend.

The behaviour exhibited by IndyCar executives and the drivers on Saturday and into the evening showed they couldn’t care less about all the people in the grandstands or the TV networks hanging around to televise their race. They looked completely inwards, forgetting – or not caring – about all the people on the outside.

I have news for them: if it’s not for the people on the outside, they don’t have a series, a business, or jobs. By their non-action, they showed utter contempt for everybody but themselves.

Let’s discuss this business about it being too dangerous to race on Saturday because of all the rain. IndyCar either races in the rain, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, say so and stop with the facade. If it does, then get on with it. You can’t have it both ways.

The first F1 race at Mosport (now Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) in 1967 was held in a rainstorm. There was no live television back then but they started the race on time anyway. And guess what? The drivers adapted. They went tip-toeing into Corner One at maybe – maybe – 30 miles an hour because to go any faster would have meant disaster.

Yes, some of them spun off course (including the great Lotus drivers Jimmy Clark and Graham Hill). But they just got out of the cars – no seatbelts then (except for Jackie Stewart), which made it easier – and pushed them back onto the track, after which they hopped in and drove away.

They were professional racing drivers and it was raining and there was a race and so they raced.  It was their job. People had paid money to watch them do it. On with the race; on with the show.

Tell that to the IndyCar drivers last weekend. The little darlings – most of them, anyway – were worried that somebody might get hurt on Saturday because it was so hard to drive the cars on the wet pavement. If that wasn’t bad enough, they just about had a rebellion when they found out how long the races were going to be.

The races initially were both supposed to be 80 laps or two hours each. In order to get them both in on Sunday, IndyCar announced they would each be cut to 75 laps. The drivers said no, they would only agree to race if the distances of the two races Sunday were about equal with the length of the one race they will run in a few weeks at a road course out in California. And IndyCar said okay. That’s how the races came to be 65 laps or 80 minutes.

A real union mentality there, eh? Sid Ryan should try to organize those guys.

Did anybody ask the fans? Did anybody ask the sponsors?

They don’t understand (or don’t seem to understand) that they are in the entertainment business and have a responsibility to people other than themselves. Only when they come to realize that the customer comes first will they be a truly professional organization.

Okay, rant over. Let’s take a look at what else is going on.

– Ohsweken Speedway owner Glenn Styres tells me he doesn’t know if Tony Stewart is going to show up for the World of Outlaws sprint car show at the Six Nations Reserve track next Tuesday night. Stewart has been a guest of the Styres family for years when the Outlaws hauled into Ohsweken to race and since he’s back sprint car racing again after his devastating crash of a year ago, I wondered if he might show up. In any event, the rest of the Outlaws will be there and if you’ve never seen a sprint car race at Ohsweken, this is one not be missed. I don’t know if grandstand seats are still available but I’m sure they’d sell you a ticket if you went out there. . .

– Formula One is in action in Hungary and the NASCAR Sprint Cup cars are at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brickyard.  TSN has all the action (including the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and the  Nationwide Series) and here are the times:

Friday:  7:55 a.m. ET – Formula One: Hungarian Grand Prix: Practice on TSN2; 8 p.m. ET – NASCAR Canadian Tire Series: Alberta Has Energy 300 on TSN2.

Saturday:  7:55 a.m. ET – Formula One: Hungarian Grand Prix: Qualifying on TSN; 12 p.m. ET – (encore)  Formula One: Hungarian Grand Prix: Qualifying on TSN2; 3 p.m. ET – NASCAR Canadian Tire Series: Velocity Prairie Thunder 250; 4 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series, Indiana 250, on TSN2.

Sunday: 7:55 a.m. ET – Formula One: Hungarian Grand Prix on TSN; 12 p.m. ET – NASCAR Sprint Cup: Brickyard 400 on TSN.

– The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series is back in action at Autodrome St. Eustache just outside of Montreal on Saturday and defending race winner, Scott Steckly, is hoping to put his Canadian Tire Dodge back in the winner’s circle.  After scoring four wins in 2013 on his way to his third NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Championship, Steckly has remained winless in 2014.

Event six in the eleven race NASCAR Canadian Tire Series schedule will take place under the lights on Saturday night.  Steckly goes into this event as the defending race winner from 2013.  The Canadian Tire/Sylvania Dodge driver has a record of five top five finishes at this .4-mile flat oval including three wins in the five NASCAR events.  He has completed all 1,259 laps and led the most laps of all drivers in the series with 381.

“I don’t know what it is about St. Eustache,” said Steckly from his Milverton race shop.  “We just seem to always run well there.  It is a hard track to pass on so you have to be patient and wait for the opportunities and if you do you can be successful.  We hope to notch our first win of the 2014 season on Saturday night.”

– Ryan Litt of London will make his first start in the USAC Silver Crown series at Lucas Oil Raceway near Indianapolis tonight. Litt will drive a Team 6R Racing machine with Toyota Power in the “J.D. Byrider 100,” an event at the 5/8-mile oval that is part of the big Brickyard racing weekend in Indianapolis.

– Jodi Christie will be aiming to create a little déjà vu as the Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship reaches its halfway stage at Atlantic Motorsport Park in Shubenacadie, N.S. this weekend.

Last summer the Keene, Ont., rider scored his first career national Superbike win in the feature race, edging Jordan Szoke in a thrilling duel around the storied 2.56km (1.6-mile) 11-turn circuit, and with that victory propelled himself into contention for the national title. Although Szoke ultimately secured his ninth Canadian Superbike crown at the end of the season, Christie proved at AMP he could beat the master in a head-to-head duel.

The 21-year-old Christie finds himself in a similar situation coming into this weekend’s event. The Honda rider has finished second to BMW’s Szoke in the first two rounds of the 2014 season and trails the 35-year-old from Brampton by 22 points in the Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship standings.

With a race win worth 50 points and a second place finish worth 42, plus a two-point bonus for leading the most laps at play, a second straight victory for Christie at AMP would put him in a threatening position heading into the season’s doubleheader finale at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park next month.

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