Cars in a parking lot
Will Power reminds me of a guy in either the insurance or financial planning industries who can sell a client on a policy or product and then can’t get them to actually sign the contract.
You run across people like that in the automobile business too. They need the help of a “closer” in order to sell a car – and that describes Power to a “t.”
He can dominate all season and then he just can’t seal the deal.
It happened again in Fontana, Calif., Saturday night at the California Speedway. He went into the race, leading the IZOD IndyCar Series championship by a relatively comfortable margin. All he had to do to wrap up the title, pretty much, was drive his Penske Racing car to the finish.
For the third year in a row, he blew it. On Lap 55, entering the first turn, he just plain lost control and crashed into the outside wall. Details of the mistake and how Ryan Hunter-Reay then went on to win the title are in this post:
But back to Power. Two years ago during the season finale at Homestead Speedway, he just drifted up into the marbles and hammered the wall, handing the championship to Dario Franchitti. Last year, he was one of the 15 cars caught up in the huge crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that killed Dan Wheldon. And now this year.
Afterward, he called the situation “depressing.”
The problem with Power is that he’s a great road and street-course racer but he’s not as good on ovals. He’s not alone in his distaste of them. Mike Conway, who stepped out of A.J. Foyt’s team car on Friday, saying he was gun-shy about continuing to race on ovals, is also an excellent road/street course racer.
It’s a shame that – the way things stand today – Conway might not be able to keep going in the series. And that Power appears snake-bitten when it comes to racing on tracks where all you have to do is turn left, thus losing a championship – again – for Penske Racing in the process.
But I have a suggestion that might solve this problem: why not have two drivers for one car?
IndyCar already has two championships – one for ovals and one for road courses – and then the overall championship.
So let’s take Penske Racing as an example. Power is a wonderful road/street racer, so he drives those races. Ed Carpenter, who won the race in California Saturday night, is an excellent oval racer but less than excellent when he has to turn right. So let’s say Penske hires Carpenter to drive the oval races in place of Power. At the end of the season, Power is road course champion and Carpenter has the oval-track title and Team Penske is awarded the overall championship.
Since I just thought of it, I think that’s a terrific idea.
Employment opportunities would be increased – there all all sorts of very capable oval-track racers out there who would be able to drive, and drive well, in the big leagues – and no driver would have to embarrass himself/herself or scare himself/herself trying to do something they aren’t comfortable with or good at.
As auto racing is the ultimate team sport, why does there only have to be one driver for each car?
Although not as frequent recently, NASCAR has been doing this sort of thing for years. All sorts of stock car oval drivers were out to lunch when they had to race on the road courses in California and at Watkins Glen, so teams would hire “road course specialists” like Mississauga’s own Ron Fellows to step in and get the job done.
It sometimes worked in NASCAR, so why not in IndyCar?
Now, this is not an original idea of mine. I first brought it up with David Billes, who owned the Canadian Tire-sponsored CART team in the mid-1980s. I was talking to him in the post-Indianapolis 500 tech-inspection line in 1985 after Johnny Parsons Jr. had finished fifth in place of Jacques Villeneuve Sr., who had crashed twice while trying to qualify.
Uncle Jacques was a wonderful road racer – in fact, he won a CART race at Road America in 1986 – but was not comfortable on the ovals. Once, in an effort to rev him up to turn left better, Billes took him to Oswego Speedway (ta-da . . .) in northern New York when the NASCAR modifieds were running there and paid Richie Evans, George Kent, Maynard Troyer (who provided the race car) and Jerry Grant to teach him how to circle-track race.
Villeneuve performed better after that session but still wasn’t a natural on ovals. So my question to Billes was, why make him do it if he’s not comfortable? Let him run the road courses and hire Warren Coniam to drive the ovals.
Billes said it was a good idea but wouldn’t work because the points went to the driver and not the team.
So change the way the points are awarded, I said then and I’ll say again.
Because the way things are going now, poor Will Power is never going to win a championship for Roger Penske.
Speaking about somebody who just might win a title for Roger this season, Brad Keselowski won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, with Jimmie Johnson second.
It was the opening event of the 10-race Chase for the Championship and if the first race is any indication, these two will soon distance themselves from the rest of the 12-car/driver pack although Kasey Kahne finished third and has been coming on strong in recent weeks.
Non-Chase drivers Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman were fourth and fifth. Full results here
Jeff Gordon was running well when his throttle wouldn’t close and he went crashing into the wall. And Denny Hamlin ran out of fuel on the last lap. Gordon was credited with 35th finishing position and Hamlin was 16th.
The Sprint Cup cars will now go on to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for a meet next weekend.
Canadian Bruno Spenger, driving for BMW, won the German Touring Car Series race Sunday at the Oschersleben circuit. Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto, driving for the Mercedes Junior Team, was seventh – an excellent result.
Finally, for this roundup, the Targa Newfoundland wound up at the weekend and here are the results:
St. John’s native Scott Giannou and co-driver Ray Felice of Guelph won a third straight victory in the Classic Division while Paul Dyer, of Bauline, Nfld., and Justin Grant of Paradise, Nfld., won the Open Division in their Mitsubishi Lancer.
Second place in Classic went to the immaculate Ford Escort of the British team of Ben Gill and Dave Didcock. Third went to the Porsche of Bill Shanahan and Murray Smith of the U.S.
The battle for second in Open was finally settled in favor of Samuel Hubinette of Sweden and co-driver Jen Horsey of Toronto, who wheeled their tiny Fiat Abarth home ahead of the monster Mustang of Ray and Julie Halleran of Paradise, Nfld.
The Modern Division was controlled from the start by Andrew Comrie-Picard of Edmonton (via California) and expatriate Australian Brian O’Kane of Calgary, who steered their Mitsubishi Lancer to a decisive victory ahead of Targa rookies Bill Caswell and Horst Reinhardt of the U.S. in their BMW M3.
The battle for third place went down to the final day, when the MINI Cooper S of Doug Mepham of Belleville and co-driver John Solecki of Pickering moved ahead of the impressive rookie team of Daryl Leiski and co-driver Grant Lindsay of Prince George, B.C.
The Grand Touring competition see-sawed back-and-forth all week between three team-mates but was finally settled in favor of John Hume Sr. of Toronto, and Craig MacMullen of Centreville, N.S., in their BMW. They gained a comfortable lead on the final day over the MINI Cooper Countryman of Jon Riddell and Brian De Lange of Toronto.
Third was another BMW, driven by John Hume Jr, of Toronto, with navigator Mel Van Adrichem of Inkerman, Ont.
More results can be found at www.targanewfoundland.com/results/
The rally also raised substantial funds for a number of charitable causes, including the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Way to go, folks. Perhaps Wheels will enter an official Toronto Star entry one of these years . . .