• Megan Gilkes

Racing Roundup: ‘Mega Megan’ wins W race, Superstars in Ontario

IndyCar disrespects its fans by racing at 2 in the morning and all the rest of the news

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald July 22, 2019
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Tony Stewart, Rico Abreu and Christopher Bell will be racing sprint cars tonight and tomorrow night at Ohsweken Speedway near Brantford.

And Kenny Wallace will be racing a stock car at Jukasa Speedway on Thursday night.

I’ll get back to detailing what they are all doing north of the border a little later in this roundup but first, here is the really big news of the weekend (and no, it is not that IndyCar race at Iowa Speedway that ended after 2 a.m. Sunday – and how stupid was that?).

Megan Gilkes, an 18-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., is the lone Canadian racing in the first-year W Series, a European-based Formula 3 championship for women whose aim is to get a female into Formula One. Although she hasn’t done as well as she would have liked – organizers actually had her sit out a race – she rebounded this weekend (picture above) to win a none-points race that featured an inverted grid.

Now, minor leagues in sports are often called upon to try things out. If they work, they are soon adopted by the big leagues. TV instant replay, for instance, is a prime example of something that was used in the minors first. This season, a computer is calling balls and strikes in an eastern U.S. semi-pro baseball league (and will be in the bigs before you know it). Short-track auto racing, for years, has started feature races with the top ten cars inverted or with starting positions determined by a draw.

All of these so-called gimmicks are used to increase the entertainment value of whatever it is you’ve paid to watch. As most of us know, Formula One has got a big problem. Nobody can beat Lewis Hamilton. Perhaps the time has come to invert the field and let Lewis come from the back. Sunday’s one-off in the W Series proved such a race can be exciting, nail-biting stuff.

Megan – now known as “Mega Megan” – is one of three women in the series who haven’t scored points this year. As she is the youngest, she started from pole Sunday; the series leader, Jamie Chadwick of Great Britain, went off 20th, and last (she finished eighth). I will now publish the W Series report:

“Megan . . . scored a brilliant win after retaining her lead for the entirety of the race, despite coming under intense pressure in the closing stages. Getting off to a strong start, she immediately pulled away from the pack at Turn One, retaining her lead through two Safety Car restarts and an epic nose-to-tail battle with Alice Powell (UK) in the frantic final moments of the race, a battle she won by three-thousandths of a second, securing a well-deserved first podium finish of the W Series season in so doing. Alice, too, drove brilliantly, posting her second podium finish of the weekend after a spirited display of deft overtaking manoeuvres that propelled her all the way from 17th position at the start to second at the finish.

“Said Catherine Bond Muir, W Series CEO: ‘I defy anyone who is a fan of motor racing to have watched this morning’s reverse-grid W Series race and not to have loved every minute of it. It was an absolutely fantastic spectacle – after half an hour of wheel-to-wheel racing all the way down the field, just three-thousandths of a second separated first from second, and just seven-tenths of a second covered the first five.

“ ‘We all know why Megan was on the pole – the grid was formed in reverse order of the current championship positions – but she kept her head while all about her were losing theirs, and she was the only driver on the front three rows of the grid not to slip back into the clutches of the quicker drivers coming through from the grid slots behind. As the youngest driver in W Series, at just 18, she deserves enormous credit for that, especially as she came under tremendous pressure from . . . Alice in the final laps.’ ”

Said Megan herself (she had been at the Honda Indy Toronto just last weekend, making the rounds): “I’m so happy. I couldn’t possibly imagine a better day. I made a very good start and led the pack cleanly into the first corner. Then I just put my head down and went for it. As we crossed the finish line, initially I didn’t think I’d won because it really couldn’t have been closer. I hear the gap was just 0.003sec – about half a metre. I’ll never forget today – I had an absolute blast out there – and of course I’m absolutely thrilled to have won.

“This win has boosted my confidence no end. After yesterday’s race I felt I hadn’t driven as well as I could have done (she finished 14th in the points race), but after today’s race I’m now really looking forward to Brands Hatch (in August).

“Last but not least, I’ve never tasted champagne before – I’m not legal in Canada but I’m in Holland, so it’s OK. I only had a tiny sip, and it wasn’t what I’d expected, but when you win you have to taste it, don’t you?”

Congratulations, Megan. And best of luck in England. And we’ll see where a reverse grid pops up next. Formula 2, perhaps?

(And before I get letters – and I always get letters – qualifying would have to be flat out, as it is at present. And not every race would be inverted. Perhaps a couple a season. And only after qualifying would the announcement be made: Straight up, or inverted. Hamilton might still win, but having to come all the way from the back would definitely make it harder. We’ll see.)

Okay, now let’s talk about that IndyCar race. I have often said that IndyCar has a club racing mentality – that they fail to understand that they are in the entertainment industry – and Saturday night was a classic example. They were going to get that race in, come hell or high water, and to hell with the fans in the process.

Now, short tracks will often battle to get races in because there are people in the stands who have paid money to watch them. They don’t have to think about potential TV watchers because there is no TV. So, rather than hand out rain checks, they hang in. But even then, there is a limit – usually around 10 p.m. People in or under the stands are tired by that time; if they have children, they have no choice but to leave. So the tracks will hold the races over till the next day in order for the people who paid to get their money’s worth.

But IndyCar is supposed to be the big leagues. F1 wouldn’t start a race at 10 until 11 p.m. (midnight in the east) and neither would NASCAR. They have respect for the fans. Some IndyCar people on Twitter thanked the fans who were in their seats when the race finally started – all 400 of them. But what about the thousands of others who left and went home because of fatigue and children? If IndyCar truly was big league, those people would have been given some respect; the race would have been held over till Sunday. As it was, all those folks who left lost their money.

That was bad enough. But does IndyCar think anybody east of Iowa actually stayed up to watch the race on TV? People on the west coast probably saw it, if they were interested, because it would have started at 10 minutes before 8 p.m. Pacific time. It will be interesting to see the TV numbers.

It wouldn’t have mattered to most IndyCar fans in Canada, because there is no “free” TV coverage in this country. And even among the lucky few who found the race on their computer via an illegal link, how many of them were awake when the checkers fell?

In closing, we all know what really happened here, don’t we? Their TV “partner” said to get the race in or there would be no TV coverage. And IndyCar capitulated. Too bad.

If you want to read about the race, which was won by Josef Newgarden, with Scott Dixon second and James Hinchcliffe of Oakville third, you can click on this link.

NOTES

Kevin Harvick won the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup race at New Hampshire. Denny Hamlin was second and Erik Jones finished third. Harvick is seen celebrating with family and crew. For details, please click here:

Megan Gilkes

In other NASCAR news, Christopher Bell won the Xfinity race at New Hampshire. The Canadian NASCAR Pinty’s Series is heading west, with races scheduled at Saskatoon Wednesday and Edmonton Saturday.

Four-time defending Mopar Pro Superbike champion Jordan Szoke rebounded Sunday from a tough Saturday to record his second win of the season, holding off series points leader Ben Young in round four of the Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship at Atlantic Motorsport Park, presented by Pro Cycle, LS2 Helmets, and Liqui Moly. On Saturday, Young won after Szoke crashed out.

Clayton Johns reports that Brantford-area Ohsweken Speedway is excited to carry on its annual tradition of bringing some of racing’s biggest stars to its 3/8-mile clay oval when Tony StewartChristopher Bell andRico Abreu race at the Northern Summer Nationals presented by Burger Barn, Arrow Express, Nitro 54 Variety and Bradshaw Brothers fuels. All three drivers will be in action to take on Ohsweken’s stars of the Kool Kidz-Corr/Pak 360 Sprint Car division as well as some of the top drivers from across the northeast during two nights of action starting tonight and concluding tomorrow night. Each night features a $5,000 USD-to-win main event for the 360 Sprint Cars. On both nights, the feature races will air live on MavTV Canada motorsports network as the third and fourth episodes of All North Racing powered by Pinty’s starting at 9 p.m. EST. Race time each night is 7:30 p.m. with hot laps scheduled for 7 p.m. Adult advanced reserved tickets are just $30 and can be purchased online, along with reserved camping spaces, at Ohsweken Speedway.

Speaking of sprint car racing, Brad Sweet won the King’s Royal race at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, Saturday night and took home an amazing$175,000 for his efforts. Logan Schuchart was second and won $20,000 and Brent Marks was third and took home $15,000. Last-place Aaron Reutzel was paid $3,000. To the winner goes the spoils – and that’s the way it should be.

Teammates Ryan Briscoe, an Australian-born Connecticut resident, and Richard Westbrook of Great Britain, in the No. 67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, took the win at the IMSA Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park on Saturday. The win by the Ford team was their first of the season and an upset for Porsche’s five-race consecutive win streak in the GTLM class. The Porsche team of Earl Bamber and co-driver Laurens Vanthoor wound up second for their fifth podium result in seven races in 2019. They extended their lead in the WeatherTech Championship GTLM standings to eight points, 218-210, over their No. 911 Porsche teammates, Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet. Another Ford GT, this one driven by Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller, finished third.

Russell Boyle of Toronto officially finished fourth in last weekend’s Stadium Super Trucks races at the Honda Indy Toronto. His combined points total over the two races put him ahead of NASCAR star Casey Mears and others. The photo shows Russell receiving congratulations from Super Trucks promoter (and former NASCAR Cup and IndyCar star) Robby Gordon. Way to go, Russell.

Megan Gilkes

Jukasa Motor Speedway, just to the east of Hagersville, will host its first-ever weeknight event this coming Thursday, featuring the APC United Late Model Series as well as the first ever Jukasa Mini Stock Invitational. The 100-lap APC Series event is expected to attract some of Ontario’s best Pro Late Model competitors as well as a special appearance by former NASCAR starKenny Wallace piloting a car prepared by long-time series standout Jamie Cox. “This is a good car and this series is loaded with talent and I am excited to be back to one of the first tracks I raced at and meet the fans,” Wallace said in a release. For information on Thursday’s show – including gate times and ticket prices – visit Jukasa Motor Speedway

Multimatic of Markham drivers Scott Maxwell of Toronto and Sebastian Priaulx are heading for the final two rounds of the 2019 British GT Championship leading the GT4 drivers’ standings after finishing the two-hour race at Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps Sunday in sixth place. Maxwell, who qualified the No. 15 Multimatic Mustang third, started the race and was put to the test right off the bat. The start was almost a disaster when the lights malfunctioned and everyone had to hit the brakes as the race went green. Said Maxwell: “The start was interesting. I was relieved to make it through Turn 1 in one piece and then after that it was a case of staying in the game and hoping we didn’t lose too many places in the pit stops, which is when we serve the time penalty (for having won the previous race). We now go to two tracks that suit the Mustang; let’s hope we can get back up there on the podium.” The next race is at Brands Hatch in two weeks.

By Norris McDonald / Special to wheels.ca

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