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'Glen duel makes case for more NASCAR road races

On Saturday, Toronto Star Wheels published a cover story by freelance writer Sylvia Proudfoot about Toronto driver Paul Dalla Lana, an ultra-successful businessman, husband and father who discovered auto racing later in life than most. In case you missed it, here’s the link.

The news today is that Saturday evening, Dalla Lana and co-driver (and coach) Bill Auberlen finished first in the GT Class of the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at Watkins Glen, N.Y. For Auberlen, it was his 85th race win and his 180th podium finish in the Grand Am series.

Dalla Lana and Auberlen have scored eight top-five GT finishes in the nine Rolex races they’ve driven together in 2012. They have two wins and four podium finishes in their No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW M3.

They are now second in the GT championship standings, with three races remaining. The first of those three takes place at Montreal next weekend.

Now, there are exactly two road course races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and none in the Chase for the Championship and I really want to know how come?

With the the exception of Daytona, Talladega, Bristol, Richmond, Martinsville and one or two others, why aren’t all the other Sprint Cup races on road courses?

You want excitement? You want drama? I give you yesterday’s race at Watkins Glen as a prime example of what NASCAR racing could be – and mostly isn’t.

You want boring? You want predictable? I give you Las Vegas, California, Homestead, Loudon, Kansas, Indianapolis, Pocono – and I could go on and on.

Marcos Ambrose won that edge-of-your-seat nailbiter at the Glen yesterday, with Brad Keselowski, and Jimmie Johnson winding up second and third. Clint Bowyer was fourth and Sam Hornish Jr. (and ain’t that a kick in the pants!) finished fifth, ahead of Greg Biffle, Kyle Bush, Matt Kenseth, Regan Smith and Martin Truex Jr.

When the smoke had cleared (literally) Johnson is leading the points standings with Kenseth and Biffle right behind. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who’s been leading the standings of late, is now back in fourth after a 28th-place finish yesterday.

Now, essentially what happened on the last lap is that Keselowski, who was running second to Kyle Busch with Ambrose third, hit Busch and spun him around. This resulted in damage to the front of Keselowski’s car and, although he gave as good as he got for the rest of the lap, Ambrose had a better handling car and was able to get past him at the end.

The thing that impressed me the most is that both Ambrose and Keselowski gave each other room to race. Several times that last lap, they were both off the track and each time the one who got back on the tarmac first allowed the other driver to get back on too.

Yes, they were pushing and bumping and rubbing and all the other good things that NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers do but, in the end, they both fought fair.

Here, take a look yourself.

Ambrose has had more than 140 Sprint Cup starts and now has two wins – yesterday was his second and they both have come on the road course at the Glen. That ties him for wins (also on road courses) with Juan Pablo Montoya, but Montoya has had more than 200 starts.

Now, I know that NASCAR and the majority of its fans would not go for as many road course races as somebody like me would like. But surely, after watching yesterday’s slugfest at Watkins Glen, they would have to agree that several more could be inserted into the regular schedule and at least one into the Chase.

I mean, do they have to go to Loudon twice, to Phoenix twice, to Kansas twice? Of course they don’t – and right there you have room for three more road-course races.

Other weekend racing:

Keselowski also finished second in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Watkins Glen on the weekend. He couldn’t catch the winner, Carl Edwards, but held off Sam Hornish Jr., who was third (and what a weekend he had!). Danica Patrick recorded her worst finish in NASCAR racing: dead last – although it wasn’t her fault. She was just driving along, going into the first corner on the first lap and Ryan Truex went sliding by on the grass and slid back onto the track right in front of her and stopped. She had nowhere to go. Ron Fellows of Mississauga, incidentally, finished fifth. Fellows, Patrick as well as Jacques Villeneuve, Andrew Ranger, Alex Tagliani and Patrick Carpentier will all be in action next weekend at Circuit-Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. . . .

Jordan Szoke of Brantford won the Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship round at Le Circut-Mont Tremblant on Sunday and moved closer to clinching his astounding and unprecedented eighth (that’s 8th) national motorycle championship. He took the lead on lap 4 of the 12-lap race aboard his Waznie Racing/Parts Canada/BMW Motorrad/Canada BMW S1000RR bike and was never headed. Matthew McBride of Mississauga finished second and Jodi Christie of Keene, Ont., who’s second in the standings, was third. The 2012 season will conclude in two weeks with a double-header at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, north of Bowmanville. . . .

Returning to Watkins Glen for a moment, Ryan Dalziel and Lucas Luhr won the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series race Saturday, with Sebastien Bourdais and Alex Powpow second and Scott Pruett with Memo Rojas third – all wheeling Riley Daytona Prototype cars with the first two powered by Fords and the third-place car by a BMW motor. As reported above, Auberlen and Dalla Lana were the first GT car; they finished eighth overall. The AIM Autosport of Woodbridge Team Ferrari FXDD with drivers Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato still lead the GT standings but had a disastrous race with a first-lap crash leading to a lengthy pit stop and a seventh-place class finish. . . .

At the 52nd Knoxville Nationals, which is the Indy 500 and Monaco Grand Prix of sprint car racing all rolled into one, Donny Schatz won his sixth A Main in the last seven years and his second straight but the big story of the night was that for the first time since the 1970s, the race rolled off without either Steve Kinser or Sammy Swindell in the 24-car field. Local racer and Knoxville track champion Brian Brown finished second, with Craig Dollansky third, Kraig Kinser fourth and Jason Meyers fifth. As well as Kinser, who hasn’t missed the feature since 1977, and Swindell, who’s been in every race in 1975, four-time Knoxville champion Danny Lasoski also failed to qualify. . . .

Sticking with sprint cars, Dain Naida of Tecumseh, Mich., won the Southern Ontario Sprints feature at Brighton Speedway Saturday. Chris Jones of Carrying Place and Jamie Collard of Burford, Ont., was third. . . .

At Calabogie Motorsports Park, Kyle Marcelli of Barrie drove his Pfaff Automotive entry to victory in both Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin series races but since he is a professional racing driver (the American Le Mans Series), he can’t collect points.

At the end of the weekend (and the season, it turns out), Jean-Frederick Laberge is the Platinum champion, Bruce Gregory won the Gold championship and Robert Seitz was tops in Silver. I understand new Porsches are already being ordered up for next season. . . .

  • 'Glen duel makes case for more NASCAR road races

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