Racing Roundup: Barrie Racer Marcelli Unbeatable at Mid-Ohio
Plus, Poor Ricky Stenhouse has to sign so many autographs. Boo-hoo. Is there trouble brewing in the U.S. over F1? And much, much more . . .
Canadian racing driver Kyle Marcelli of Barrie had a weekend to remember at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where he won not just one feature event but two.
Marcelli, who’s now considered to be a veteran, co-drove the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 to victory Sunday in the GT Daytona Class of the IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship feature race, which was won by Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor in an Acura DPi for Penske Racing.
“This is a huge win,” said Marcelli, who also scored an overall victory Saturday in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Mid-Ohio 120.
“It’s always difficult to get the first one,” he continued. “There is always a lot of pressure. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself. This is the first sprint race of the season and I knew we had a strong car and a strong driver lineup and we needed to execute. I knew if we didn’t make a mistake then we should get a good result.”
Co-driver Daniel Baumann held off a fast-closing Alvaro Parente in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 (co-driver Katherine Legge) to seal the deal for 3GT Racing while Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow in the No. 48 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 finished third.
In Daytona Prototype, Castroneves/Taylor’s Penske sister car with Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya driving was second in the feature race for a 1-2 Penske sweep. Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez drove a Mazda RT24-P to third place.
The Castroneves/Taylor pairing is an interesting one. While Helio is being eased into retirement, team boss Roger Penske is giving young Ricky a strong look. His IndyCar team of Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud seems solid enough at the moment but the Captain doesn’t like to lose. If either Power or Pagenaud falters, I suggest Taylor will be in line for a seat.
On Saturday, Marcelli took the reins of the No. 60 Roush Performance / KohR Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4 from co-driver Nate Stacy and found himself more than 10 seconds behind leader Patrick Gallagher in the No. 8 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4.
Marcelli wiped the deficit clean with just over three minutes remaining in the race, eventually passing Gallagher – whose co-driver Chad McCumbee put the car on pole – to steal the win.
“It was one of those never give up races,” Marcelli said. “I just kept telling myself that anything can happen, to keep pushing, and our Ford Mustang GT4 was just really solid today. Really consistent. The tires held up great, the car just didn’t go off on me. I knew if I just didn’t make a mistake, that we had the pace.”
The victory was the second consecutive for Marcelli in the Continental Tire Series. Add everything up and he’s really on a roll.
Other Canadians at Mid-Ohio:
While the Karl Thompson-owned No. 74 Compass Racing Audi RS3 LMS of Kuno Wittmer and Rodrigo Sales led 53 of 76 laps on Saturday afternoon in the Continental Tire Challenge TCR class, they didn’t lead the last lap. However, they walked away with the victory.
In an odd twist, a GS racecar pulled off track on the final lap with an empty fuel tank, creating a local caution, but not stopping the race. By rule, cars are not allowed to pass in an area of the racetrack that is under a local caution.
Wittmer held the lead – as he had during the previous 38 laps – but was overtaken in the local caution area by teammate Tom Long in the No. 77 Audi RS3 LMS. After the race, Wittmer and Sales were ruled the winners. .
Meantime, young Windsor, Ont., racer Roman De Angelis missed the podium at Mid-Ohio by one on Saturday in the first race of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama but rebounded Sunday to take a fine, third-place finish. De Angeles has now been on the podium four times in the six races held to date.
HARVICK WINS NASCAR; STENHOUSE IS A LOSER
Kevin Harvick won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Dover, Del., Sunday. He won the first two stages and took the overall race win, leading 201 of the 400 laps It was a dull race. Maybe not boring, but not really all that interesting. Clint Bowyer finished second, with Daniel Suarez third. For a full race report, please click here:
Okay, every now and again you hear this NASCAR driver or that NASCAR driver complain about something that any of the rest of us reading his or her quotes would give their right arm to be doing.
What I’m talking about is this: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., while the camera is rolling, is signing autographs at Dover this weekend while walking toward the paddock and he’s COMPLAINING about having to do it.
“Just for fun, I counted them up last week and I signed 70 of them” Stenhouse says. “Kinda silly.”
What a nitwit. If you can find me one NHL hockey player who doesn’t sign every last piece of paper shoved in his direction, then I will not call Sternhouse a nitwit again. You will be hard-pressed. Trust me. Baseball players are the worst at ignoring fans, followed by the basketball player and then the football players. Hockey players are the best.
Whether they know it – or like it – or not, signing autographs is part of the job of being a professional in a commercial sport like auto racing. If he keeps that up, people need only complain to his sponsor. I betcha if that happens, spoiled little Ricky won’t be doing any more complaining. .
In Xfinity Series action at Dover on Saturday, Justin Allgaier won with Elliott Sadler second and Daniel Hemric third. It was a bit of a rough-and-tumble affair with all sorts of tradin’ point going on. As well as his race winnings, Allgaier earned a $100,000 Dash for Cash bonus. Interesting fact: in 10 Xfinity Series races this season, there have been 10 different winners.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that Spencer Gallagher, who won the Xfinity race at Talladega a week ago, was indefinitely suspended by NASCAR on Tuesday for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. To complete that circle, Johnny Sauter held off Matt Crafton to win Friday night’s Camping World Series truck race at Dover. Sauter drove that race for GMS Racing, whose owner is Maury Gallagher, Spencer’s father. Said Sauter: “Spencer’s a smart kid and he’ll get it right.”
F1 PITCHES MIAMI FOR RACE – BUT WHAT ABOUT AUSTIN?
Miami city commission will hear a pitch this week from Formula One about running a Grand Prix through the streets of the downtown in October 2019.
Now, the U.S. Grand Prix, which is held each year at Circuit of the Americas outside Austin, Tex., might be interested in that, considering that they always hold their race in October.
There’s something going on here, but we don’t know what it is, do we, Mr. Jones?
Will F1 try to get Austin to change dates? Will they run one race one weekend and the other race the next? Is somebody trying to force Austin out? Is there acrimony there?
It is no secret that Circuit of the Americas holds the rights to the name “Grand Prix of the United States,” or “United States Grand Prix,” or “U.S. Grand Prix.” They have been very protective, particularly when Bernie Ecclestone used to muse about running a race elsewhere and Austin’s attorneys would remind him (and whoever) that they could go ahead and do anything they wanted but that they could not call the race the U.S. (or United States) Grand Prix” or anything remotely close to that.
So maybe the race in Miami will be called “F1 Miami,” or something, to be followed a week or two week later by the “U.S. Grand Prix” at COTA.
Whatever is happening will be fascinating to watch – starting with the decision by Miami to hold or not hold the race.
Which reminds me: the Spanish Grand Prix will be held next weekend. TSN will have all the action, right from first practice on Friday.
LET’S HOPE BRISCOE, NOT CLAMAN DE MELO, REPLACES FITTIPALDI AT INDY
I’ve watched the accident crash at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium Friday, in which Emmerson’s grandson, Pietro Fittipaldi, suffered a compound fracture to his lower left leg and a broken right ankle, several times and I can’t believe he was that badly injured.
I know we get lulled into a false sense of security every time there is a Big One in NASCAR amd everybody walks away but the crash that bashed up Fittipaldi was really kind of minor. Yes, he went off the road at a good clip but he hit a tire wall at an angle and that sort of thing happens frequently, not just at Spa but at every road-racing circuit around the world.
Yes, because of the speed and angle, perhaps an injury to one leg would not be unusual. But both? It makes you wonder about the safety of those World Endurance Championship (WEC) cars, doesn’t it?
Fittipaldi, 21, is under contract to Dale Coyne Racing in the IndyCar series to share a car with young Canadian Zachary Claman de Melo. Fittipaldi was scheduled to race in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis next weekend and the Indy 500 in three weeks but Coyne will likely have to find another driver (I say “likely,” because you never know with racing drivers. Some heal faster than others.)
Coyne said Claman de Melo might be in line for the seat, and would talk to the driver’s sponsor on Monday. I hope that cooler heads prevail everywhere and Zach waits a year to give Indianapolis a shot. Yes, he could do the Grand Prix but Coyne should get a veteran like Ryan Briscoe for the 500. Indianapolis is a dangerous place. I don’t think Claman de Mello has had enough experience to handle it.
Meantime, both Robbie Wickens of Guelph and Danica Patrick completed their rookie and refresher tests, respectively, at Indianapolis and are free to practice for the Indy 500 starting May 15.
Wickens didn’t have any trouble breezing through his test. Patrick, returning to Indy for the first time in seven years – she revealed that she had plans to do the double early in her NASCAR career but had been discouraged by her management team, who told her it would send the wrong message so far as her commitment to NASCAR Cup racing was concerned – had some car trouble and later was tired out because the Indy cars, unlike the Cup cars, don’t have power steering.
But she got everything in and was cleared to go when practice officially starts.
Speaking about the Grand Prix, I don’t know why they persist in holding it in mid-May as they do, two weeks out from the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. They never get a good crowd and it really is a ho-hum affair. And what if somebody gets hurt and has to miss the real reason to race at Indianapolis in May?
If they want to build some excitement, hold two days of practice for the 500. And if they really want to hold a road race there, do it later in the season. It never made any sense to me to race “the wrong way” there in May – and it never will.
By the way, Fernando Alonso, who won that WEC six-hour race at Spa, told reporters that he misses being at Indy. And that’s the thing about that race – you go once as a competitor or a spectator and it gets in your blood and you don’t want to miss it. Anybody who has ever been to Indianapolis near the end of May never forgets the experience.
NHRA DRIVER DIES IN CRASH BUT THE SHOW GOES ON
NHRA Top Sportsman drag racer Randy Alexander, a native of Alabama, was killed Saturday in a violent crash at the U.S. Southern Nationals in Commerce, Ga., north of Atlanta.
Alexander’s car crossed the finish line but then veered left and into the path of one being driven by Bob Mandell, which was going 200 miles an hour, and was T-boned. Alexander’s car rolled over and then landed on a retaining wall.
Alexander, a veteran driver of the Wilkerson Racing Engines , was one of the top competitors in his division.
Racing resumed about an hour later and Mandell served as a crew member on his father’s car, which was next in line. Which is how it should be: racer’s race, then grieve later. There has been a tendncy in recent years, particularly when it comes to oval racing, to cancel programs when there is a fatality. But life goes on when somebody dies – and so should racing.
Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel) and Courtney Force (Funny Car) won the Southern Nationals on Sunday. Vincent Nobile won in Pro Stock and Eddie Krawlec in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
NBC SIGNS TO SHOW IMSA RACES BUT CANADIAN FANS COULD LOSE OUT
It seems that NBC has determined that motorsports is of great value because in the last couple of months it has announced deals to take over coverage of the IndyCar Series from ESPN/ABC and, just last week, the IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship from FOX. It already splits coverage of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season with FOX.
As is the deal with IndyCar, NBC will show several of the big sports car races on its main network but most of the coverage with be on the NBC Sports Network (a U.S. cable channel) or on a digital platform.
This is undoubtedly good news for IMSA – as it was with IndyCar – and for auto racing fans in the United States. I’m not so sure that this is such great news for Canadian fans.
I don’t know about you, but I am only interested in watching auto races that are happening live as I’m watching them. It’s like hockey. I saw Tampa Bay eliminate Boston Sunday afternoon/evening as it happened and would not be interested in watching a recording of that game. Same with auto racing.
This does not mean I don’t like watching old Leaf hockey games from the 1960s – when they used to win, remember? – or old Indy 500 or Grand Prix of Monaco races. That’s history and I like that stuff. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about being able to watch the 12 Hours of Sebring live. And so-on.
There are two all-racing cable stations available in Canada, but they are not on the same cable providers or even on all of them. FOX Sports Racing and MAV Canada Motorsports Network are the stations and each caters to a different audience.
I can’t get MAV TV but from what I see of the schedule there is a lot of recorded race programming on there. FSR, which I do get, is much the same but does carry the Weathertech SportsCar Championship races live, the NASCAR trucks races live, the AMA Supercross Series live and NHRA drag racing live.
Now, as you will have noted, the Weathertech races will be leaving FSR at the end of 2018 to be shown exclusively on NBC/NBCSN – which Canadians can’t get. We are very well served by TSN when it comes to Formula One, Monster Energy Cup and NASCAR Xfinity races and pretty well served by Sportsnet when it comes to IndyCar. Cross fingers – and I mean, cross fingers – that either TSN or Sportsnet make a deal with NBC/NBCSN to pick up the sports cars or else we could be out of luck.
OHSWEKEN PLANS TEST AND TUNE; BEMC ROAD RACES AT CTMP
Ohsweken Speedway will hold a Test and Tune Night next Friday. Everybody who plans to race sprint cars, thunder cars or mini stocks at the little dirt speedway on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford are welcome. Gates open at 5 p.m. It will cost drivers $25 for a pass while each crew member will have to pay $10. Practice starts at 6 p.m. Incidentally, while Oshsweken had to cancel several of its major-event traveling series shows this summer because of a dispute over a parking lot, the Sprint Car Nationals is back on track come September. Check the speedway’s website for details. . . . .
The Ontario road racing season gets under way next weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park with the 68th British Empire Motor Club (Bem-See) Spring Trophy Races. Want to go? Want to get in for free? Go to www.casc.on.ca and print out as many tickets as you want. . . . . .
Quebeckers Jean-Sebastien Besner and Marc-Andre Lamontagne drove a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo to victory in the Lanark Highlands Forest Rally southwest of Ottawa at the weekend. The rally was a round of the East Coast Rally Championship. Second was Marc Bourassa and Elise Racette in a Subaru WRX STI while third place went to Philippe Benoit and Jonathan Desgroseillers in a Mini Cooper S.
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