The 2022 racing season is just under way and already two new stars have been born, Scott McLaughlin in IndyCar and Austin Cindric in NASCAR Cup. They follow last year’s wonder child, Kyle Larson, who’s the defending Cup champion. Fat chance somebody other than Lewis Hamilton will win in F1 or else we’d have a real changing of the guard.
Cindric, who won the pole and then the Daytona 500 last weekend followed that this weekend in California with a pole in the Auto Club Speedway 400. But racing is racing, and nothing is certain (unless you’re Hamilton). Starting from the rear of the field, Larson chipped away at the leaders and made adjustments to his car and fought his way to the front. A last-second pass of Daniel Suarez gave him the checkers. Austin Dillon finished second and Ed Jones was third. Suzarez finished fourth and Joey Logano was fifth.
Cindric, winner of last year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series? Twelfth, but – as my old friend Clyde Booth explained – his Penske Racing team just missed the setup. “If you miss the setup, it makes for a long Sunday afternoon,” Booth told me once.
On the other side of the country, McLaughlin won the pole for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Saturday and then led most race laps Sunday to crush the opposition and win the GP. Defending NTT IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou was second while Will Power finished third. Colton Herta was fourth and Romain Grosjean fifth.
A New Zealand native, McLaughlin caught the eye of Penske when he won the Australian V8 Supercars championship. He took a year in 2021 to stretch his legs but he certainly looks comfortable now.
ANDRETTI’S F1 PLANS
Bruce Martin is a great motorsport reporter and columnist. I’ve known him for years because we have something in common (although he doesn’t know it) but primarily because of his work with National News Speed Sport News and Autoweek. Also, he’s a foodie and I love following his culinary adventures on his Twitter account.
A week or so ago, Mario Andretti Tweeted out that his son Michael had made application to the FIA to enter a team in Formula One racing in 2024. There was a reaction, but perhaps not the one most motorsport fans expected. Like, how did he really expect to do it?
Formula One is the most technical of big-league sports and the people involved are man-eaters. In fact, you could call them members of the Piranha Club. This expression comes from a book written by Timothy Collings that illustrates how nasty the environment can be: in short, it’s more of a war that a sport. Watch Mercedes’ Toro Wolff and Red Bull’s Christian Horner the next time they interact, if you don’t believe me.
Now, once Mario spilled the beans, the reaction from F1 was swift: they didn’t want a Michael Andretti team on the grid. THE FIA let it be known it was supportive but not Wolff and some of the others. And if Michael and his partners want to meet their deadline, they have a month to get things going.
This is where Bruce Martin comes in. He sat down just before the St. Pete IndyCar weekend and had a long talk with Michael Andretti. What follows is much of what he said:
Michael said he thinks an American team (Andretti Global) and driver (Colton Herta) would go a long way to making F1 more popular in the United States.
He doesn’t think the FIA will be a problem, but the Formula One Constructors Association would have to allow them into the club. Andretti said the teams don’t have a veto as they did under the Concorde Agreement, but Andretti thinks Liberty Media, owners of F1, would want everybody to be happy.
Martin reported that Andretti is currently creating a group of investors to raise $200-million and that time is running out. “Two years sounds like a long time, but it isn’t,” he said. “We’re got a lot to do, a lot to build. We’ve talked to a lot of people. They’re just sitting on the sideline, waiting to see this thing go (which might be a bit of a problem, considering what’s happening in the world today).
He wouldn’t identify the investors, other than to say they were an impressible group. “They’re not in it just to be in it. They’re in it sports already and think F1 is a very attractive proposition.
But “first, we have to get approval,” Michael Andretti told Martin. “It’s a big, big undertaking. You have to hire 500 people.”
Andretti would build a new racing facility in Indianapolis but told Martin the initial car would have to be farmed out to an existing F1 team with the engineers based in England and the car constructed in Switzerland. In other words, as was the case a year ago, Andretti would continue to be in bed with Sauber.
NEWS ‘N NOTES
NASCAR says it plans to redevelop the Auto Club Speedway and turn it into a short track. They’d better get cracking. The Auto Club Speedway was half empty Sunday. . . . St. Petersburg drew a huge crowd. . . . James Hinchliffe made his debut as a colour commentator and did a fine job. His style is more boardroom than Paul Tracy’s barroom, in that the Oakville native will be sure to to the company line while Tracy’s comments were often unfiltered. . . . Best line of all the racing telecasts this weekend, however, came from Hinchcliffe who recalled once being told by an engineer to, “Save fuel, save tires but pick up the pace.” . . . . Canadians: Devlin DeFrancesco, Toronto, 22nd
– but the last car on the lead lap; Dalton Kellett, Stouffville, 25th
– but this was because of mechanical problems. Kellett had turned heads during qualifying Saturday, just missing the fast 12. . . .