• James Hinchcliffe

Racing Roundup: Hinch wins, IndyCar botches finish, F1 a joke and SportsCar Grand Prix 

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald July 9, 2018
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James Hinchcliffe is on a roll  – and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Back in May, Hinchcliffe failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. It was one of the lowest points of his auto-racing career.

Sunday afternoon in the U.S. Midwest, Hinchcliffe won the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway. It was his sixth career IndyCar win – his second at Iowa – and couldn’t have come at a better time.

It shows that Hinchcliffe’s team, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, has officially bounced back from the Indy disaster. And the next race on the calendar comes next weekend and it’s none other than the Honda Indy Toronto.

There is no doubt the Oakville native will have momentum going into what he considers his home race.

Hinchclife’s teammate, Robert Wickens of Guelph, finished fifth but could have been on the podium with the winner. Under caution, Wickens and second-place driver Josef Newgarden ducked into the pits with three laps to go for fresh tires because Race Control was planning a green-white-checkers finish. They roared out of the pits and slotted into the fourth and fifth places, only to have IndyCar allow the race to end under the yellow.

IndyCar president of competition Jay Frye explained that they hoped to get the race going again before the checkers but that track cleanup and a re-ordering of the cars still on track took longer than expected and the race distance was reached before the green could fly again.

When Newgarden and Wickens went to the pits, Spencer Pigot and Takuma Sato moved into second and third and that`s where they finished.

“We didn’t qualify the best, but we had a good car, Hichcliffe said. “First stint was great, second stint we made a change and went a little too far, too far the other way, but (after) the next stop, that Arrow Electronics car was a rocket ship.

“We had great battles with Spencer [Pigot] and Josef [Newgarden] at the end. Ultimately we made the right call (to stay out) . . . it would’ve been a disaster if it didn’t go green after taking tires. . . . This is just great. The guys were great in the pits.

“Honda power back on top and going into Toronto, I am just so stoked.”

Wickens indicated he was disappointed he didn’t finish third after a hard day at work.

“In the end it’s a great day: great day for Honda, great day for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports,“ he said.  “Two cars in the top five. It should have been a double podium with the Lucas Oil car up there. There would have been nothing sweeter than to celebrate Hinch’s (James Hinchcliffe) win than being on the podium with him.”

The  Honda Indy Toronto will take to the streets of Exhibition Place next Friday morning, Fan Friday, where admission is waived in return for a donation to Make-A-Wish Canada.

On Saturday, IndyCar qualifying will be followed by the Pinty`s Grand Prix of Toronto for the late-model NASCAR Pinty`s Series stock cars. Sunday, the Honda Indy will go to the post in mid-afternoon.

James Hinchcliffe

The cars of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championships roll through Corner 10 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park en route to the green flag and the start of Sunday’s Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix. PHOTO CREDIT: Norris McDonald for wheels.ca

WHY IS IT SO HARD FOR INDYCAR TO REFEREE RACES?

Okay, once again an IndyCar race has ended in controversy. Once again, Race Control screwed up. Jay Frye can say all he wants about there being no guarantees the race would go green, etc., etc., but the lead Team Penske driver (Newgarden) went to the pits for tires, as did the second Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver (Wickens) and all of those people are top pros and they don’t make mistakes like that.

If there was any indication the race would finish under yellow, they wouldn’t have gone to the pits. Who gives up a second-place for a fourth? Or a third for a fifth?

Nobody. Exactly.

Which means, in the tradition of Chris Kniefel, Brian Barhart, Beau Barfield and now Frye, IndyCar turned a second- and third-place finish for Newgarden and Wickens into a fourth- and fifth-place finish for those guys. And what if Hinchcliffe, who was leading, had gone in? Now, I have rarely, if  ever, seen a lead car give up that position late in a race. But . . . what if he had? I guarantee, there would be real hell to pay today.

When Ed Carpenter half-spun and hit Sato, somebody – there seems to be a committee in Race Control these days – called for a yellow. With so few laps remaining, why did they not then call for a red? Because they were dithering, that’s why. And by the time they appear to have decided a red would be a good idea, they were past that window.

Wally Dallenbach was the last great IndyCar official – and that was eons ago. Is there not another Wally around? I know where there’s one. He lives in Oswego, N.Y., and he’s been riding herd over the renegades of the International Supermodified Series for years.

He could do the job. If IndyCar is interested in talking to him, they can give me a call and I’ll put them in touch.

FORMULA ONE IS BECOMING A JOKE

Sunday’s British Grand Prix, which was won by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who tied Ayrton Senna for third on the all-time F1 wins list, proved without a shadow of a doubt that there are six cars in Formula One at the moment and the rest are poseurs.

And that’s being generous because if you really want to get down to it, there are really only four.

You have Mercedes and Ferrari and every now and again Red Bull. The others are hopeless.

How do I know that? Because shortly after the start of the race Sunday, defending world champion Lewis Hamilton, driving a Mercedes, was bunted off the track and by the time he regained control and got going again, he was dead last.

Dead last.

He finished second in the race. He carved through the rest of the so-called F1 cars in the race like a hot knife through butter. No contest.

Yes, there were a couple of safety cars and he might have gotten a big of a break now and again, but he was still the class of the field.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the biggest problem the new owners of F1 have is not geographical – as in, finding new, romantic locales in which to conduct F1 races – it is the level of competition.  I don’t  know about you, but every time I turn on an F1 race, I know that either Lewis or Vettel will win it. Yes, on occasion, a Max Verstappen or a Daniel Ricciardo will sneak through for Red Bull, but that is usually because the top two team cars are either out of the race or severely hampered.

Ergo, if I miss an F1 race, I am not bothered by it. And that is not a good state of affairs – at all.

Vettel won the race, with Hamilton second and Kimi Raikkonen third. What’s that I hear, again, that  Kimi’s on the way out?  You can bet that Vettel would have something to say about that and I doubt it will happen anytime soon.

For a complete story on Sunday’s British Grand Prix, please click here:

 

COLIN BRAUN, JONATHAN BENNETT WIN SPORTSCAR GRAND PRIX

On Saturday, Colin Braun of Dallas, Tex., obliterated the track record at Canadian Tire Mostorsport Park to win the pole for Sunday’s Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix, a round of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Driving an ORECA LMP2 Prototype, Braun turned a time for one lap of the 2.45-mile CTMP Grand Prix circuit of one minute, 6.315 seconds (133.490 mph) to beat Ricky Taylor’s record set a year ago of one minute, 8:459 seconds.

Sunday, Braun completed his mission by winning that SportsCar Grand Prix. Co-driving with Jonathan Bennett of Fort Knox, Ky., Braun took the lead with eight laps remaining of the 116-lap race – it was officially a two-hour, 40-minute timed event – and then held off the second-place Cadillac DPi being driven by Jordan Taylor (Renger Van Der Zande).

Felipe Nasr (Eric Curran), in yet another Cadillac DPi, finished third.

Richard Westbook and Ryan Briscoe, driving a Ford GT, were first in the GT LeMans class while Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating won the GT Daytona class aboard a Mercedes-AMG GT3.

For a complete story on Sunday’s race at Old Mosport, which attracted a huge crowd, please click here:

James Hinchcliffe

BARRIE’S MARCELLI CELEBRATES ‘BIGGEST WIN’

Calling it the biggest race win of his young career, Kyle Marcelli of Barrie, along with Nate Stacy of Owasso, Okla., co-drove a Ford Mustang GT4 to victory in Saturday’s IMSA Continental SportsCar Challenge race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

And because of a miscommunication with his pit, which left him short of fuel, Marcelli had to drive as slowly for the win as he possibly could.

The Continental race was the Saturday headliner leading into Sunday’s Grand Prix of Mosport, featuring  the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Marcelli and Stacy, racing in the Grand Sport (GS) class,  won their two-hour race by about two seconds – two seconds! – over Martin Barkey of Huntsville, Ont., and Brett Sandberg, who were also in a Mustang. The winning speed was 103.873 miles an hour. Russell Ward and Damien Faulkner, in a Mercedes AMG, completed the podium.

In the TCR (Touring Car) class, Britt Casey Jr. and Tom Long, driving for the Toronto-based Compass Racing, won in an Audi RS3. The second and third-place finishers, also driving Audi RS3s, were Michael Johnson and Stephen Simpson, and Roy Block and Pierre Kleinubing, who were also driving for Compasss.

In the Street Tuner (ST) class, Nick Galante and Devin Jones were first in a BMW, Nate Norenberg and Derek Jones followed in a MINI and Max Faulkner and Jason Rabe were third in a Porsche Cayman.

During a post-race media conference,  Casey paid tribute to the late Chicago-area auto dealer and businessman, Jeff Green, who died in a racing accident at CTMP on the Victoria Day weekend in May.

“I knew Jeff right from when he first started racing,” said Casey, “and he quickly ramped up. He did a lot of Pro Mazda and Radical (class) racing and a lot of historics racing. I’m dedicating this race to him. He was an extremely close friend and a true racer.”

Marcelli, 28, has been a professional racing driver since 2010 and has won numerous “support” races but was ecstatic Saturday at finally having won a “main event” on what he considers his home track.

“This is my biggest win,” he said. “I feel so fortunate that it happened here at CTMP.”

He also thinks this might be the year where he experiences a real breakthrough. He explained that his family was able to afford to keep him in racing but that he wasn’t able to get rides with top teams.

“My dream was to make it to the American Le Mans Series, and that happened in 2010,” he said. “I’ve been able to get a ride every year since but to really be successful you have to have the right car, the right team and the right co-driver and everything has to fit.

“This year is probably the first time in my career where it’s happened and it’s happened in both series (Marcelli also raced Sunday in the WeatherTech championship race for Lexus with Dominik Baumann co-driving).

He said all this has given him a big boost of confidence and that all he has to be concerned about now is his performance in the cockpit.

“It’s been a great year for pace and results in both programs. I really hope it’s the year that launches my career. My goal is a factory gig and I feel like I’m getting closer.”

ACTOR/RACER DEMPSEY FILMS MOVIE AT OLD MOSPORT

This is a good news, bad news story. First, the good news.

The book, the Art of Racing in the Rain, a story by author Garth Stein about a car salesman and racing driver as seen through the eyes of his dog, is being made into a movie. You should be able to see it sometime in 2019.

The bad news is that Patrick (Dr. McDreamy) Dempsey, who was originally going to star in it, is now just one of the producers.

I am writing today about this movie, and Patrick Dempsey, because we were all at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park this weekend and the movie company filmed the last of the racing scenes during the  Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix featuring the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Dempsey, whose racing team won its class at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, didn’t race-drive this weekend. But he was a busy guy all the same, running here and there with director Jeff Zwart. They took a few moments to stop and talk with a couple of television reporters and one print journalist. Me.

Norris McDonald: So what’s more fun – acting, race-driving or producing?

Patrick Dempsey: I like the producing and the racing myself. The acting kind of comes in third at this point.

McDonald: Yeah, but it was the acting that gave you the money to do all of this stuff.

Dempsey: One helped the other, without question. I think, for me, being within the racing community really helped me. It goes hand-in-hand now. The lessons I’ve learned from Porsche and the organization and the way they approach things – and even creatively – I think has really helped me on the Hollywood side in many ways. The discipline in racing has been really good for me.

McDonald: Are you done racing?

Dempsey: I was around the track yesterday, and I’ve done some stuff this year. Endurance racing, I don’t know; probably more sprint stuff at this point.

McDonald: How about going to Indy?

Dempsey: I think I missed the window. Maybe if I were a younger man. But if I were to go, I’d go with Penske, I think.

For the rest of the interview, please click here:

James Hinchcliffe

OTHER RACING

Erik Jones led exactly one lap of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Daytona International Speedway Saturday night but it was the last one. He managed to get by Martin Truex Jr. during the second attempt at a green-white-checkers finish to win his first race in NASCAR’s Big League.  A.J. Allmendinger was third.

I’m not going to waste a lot of time writing about this fiasco. There were three Big Ones and a bunch of Little Ones and it took forever to get the race over with. Brad Keselowski was telling everybody who would  listen that he’ll wreck people the next time before allowing himself to be caught up in a big crash. Okay . . .

One reason fewer and fewer fans are attending in person, or watching NASCAR on television, is because of this nonsense.

Only 18 cars were classified at the finish and only 13 were on the lead lap. That 13th-place car was driven by our own D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas, Ont., who will be racing in the Pinty’s Grand Prix of Toronto next Saturday at Exhibition Place.

Good for him, by the way, for avoiding all those wrecks.

For a blow-by-blow of this “race,” please click here.

Friday night, in the Xfinity Series race, Justin Haley pulled off a spectacular pass at the finish to win but received a penalty for having two wheels below the yellow line, which is – apparently – against the rules. This is the same NASCAR that allowed John Hunter Nemechek to win a Camping World Series truck race at CTMP when he crossed the finish line while being completely off the racing surface. Don’t you just love that NASCAR consistency? Everybody will now be watching to see what happens the next time somebody (how about Keselowski?) wins a race after doing what they are handing out penalties to everybody else for doing.

In Indy Lights action at Iowa Speedway – and remember: the Lights will be at Exhibition Place next weekend in support of the IndyCar Series – Patricio O’Ward won, with Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta second. Ryan Norman  and Dalton Kellett maintained position after being passed by Santi Urrutia on the first lap and settled for fourth and fifth-place finishes, respectively. Kellett, of course, is from Toronto and will be looking to shine next weekend . . . . . Talking about Canadians, Nicholas Latifi of Toronto, driving in the Formula 2 support race at the British Grand Prix, finished  17th in both races. And Devlin Defrancesco, driving in the GP3 Series at Silverstone, was 15th and 14th in the two races.

At Ohsweken Speedway Friday night, Dylan Westbrook won the Kool Kidz-Corr/Pak 360 Sprint Car feature – it was his fifth victory of the season – and Lucas Smith scored his first career Strickland’s GMC Crate Sprint Car win. For the stock cars, Ken Sargent won the Middleport Mechanical Thunder Stock Feature and Nick Masi collected the checkered flag in the HRW Automotive Mini Stock main event. . . . And Cory Turner scored his second career Southern Ontario Sprints victory with a dominating performance at Brighton Speedway.

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