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Racing Roundup: Penske Feeling Financial Pressure?

F1 rules spat stupid, Max wins 70th anniversary GP, Harvick sweeps NASCAR, Jukasa comes to life and all the news

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald August 10, 2020
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“We are seeing an acceleration in bankruptcies that is unprecedented,” said a guy named James Hammond, CEO of a U.S. company that keeps track of these things.

In 2020, he said on Friday, “I’m pretty confident we will see more bankruptcies this year than in any businessperson’s lifetime.”

Hertz, J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, Chuck E. Cheese’s, J. Crew, Pier 1, Carlton Cards, Bose (the speaker people), Bombardier are just some who are now out of business or close to it. There are more on the ropes: Second Cup had a terrible second quarter, Hudson Bay a terrible third quarter. Lowe’s is closing 34 stores, and so-on.

The reason, of course, is that there’s nothing happening in the marketplace. Even now, with the world slowly emerging from the pandemic (which is still very much with us), there is not a lot going on. People are holding onto their money. Walk through any mall in the country and at least half the stores are dark. Amazon is cleaning up; nobody else is even close.

Which made me wonder, as I watched some of the non-motorsport sports that are on TV these days (can anybody else say Leafs Miss Playoffs Again), how are all these professional teams continuing to pay their players millions and millions of dollars?

Where is the money coming from? It does not grow on trees. With some exceptions – NASCAR, sometimes – there are no fans in the stands and no lineups at the concession stands. There’s TV money but there are – if you count them all up – 100 or more teams playing these days so all that cash, once it’s divvied up, won’t go all that far.

Toto Wolff, for instance, told reporters that Lewis Hamilton understands – as they negotiate a new contract – that “the world has changed a lot.”

You wonder if others are getting the message.

At some point, the money will run out.

Enter Roger Penske. One of the most successful independent businessmen in the United States, he has lots happening under his Penske Corp. umbrella – transportation services, car dealerships, racing teams, etc.

Late last year, he bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and everything associated with it, including the NTT IndyCar Series. That just about emptied his bank account. He’s since spent another $15-mllion fixing up the track in anticipation of 300,000-plus people paying their way in to watch the Indy 500.

Then COVID-19 arrived and everything went to hell. Along with many other attractions, that 500-mile race will now be held without fans in the stands.

Friday, Penske announced – just weeks after he added $2 million to the $13-mllion 500 purse – that he has going to have to cut it all in half. No more $15-million purse; now it’s $7.5 million.

Chip Ganassi said Penske, in a meeting with team owners to announce the bad news, had told them he’d been heading for a pit stop but had hit the fence instead.

He’s always been honest. The walls were closing in and while Penske loves racing and everything about the Speedway, he wasn’t going to let it drag down the whole of Penske Corp. What he left unsaid, of course, were all the other cutbacks he obviously had to make.

You wonder when all those other sports team owners are going to own up to the fact that their financial situations aren’t all that solid any more either. Some have, in fact. Several IndyCar team owners said that if the Indianapolis 500 had been cancelled outright, they would have been out of business because their sponsors would have cancelled.

It’s going to be a rough 2021. What’s happening this year is just a warmup.

 

70th F1 GRAND PRIX

The modern world championship of drivers began at Silverstone in 1950 and the first Grand Prix was won by Giuseppe Farina. The winner of the seventieth at Silverstone Sunday was Max Verstappen, with Valtteri Bottas second and Lewis Hamilton third.

It was a strategy win; nobody made a pass for the lead. Max started on hard tires and stayed out long enough to build up a substantial lead while the others had to stop to change the tires on which they’d started the Grand Prix.

Hamilton, who wins all the time, seemed quite disappointed not to have won this one.

For a complete story on the race, please click here

Notebook Jottings

I’m sick and tired of this nonsense going on in Formula One, where Turning Point F1 is under fire because they apparently copied the rear brake ducts of the Mercedes F1 car.

Renault complained that this was illegal and their objection was upheld and Turning Point was fined 400,000 euros (about $630,000 Canadian), constructor’s championship points were deducted and . . . the brake ducts are still on the car and can remain there for the rest of the season.

Is that nuts, or what?

In the meantime, in the fine F1 tradition of kicking a guy while he’s down, Ferrari and three other teams (Williams, McLaren, Renault again) have appealed the penalty, arguing that it should have been tougher. They are also saying other nasty things. That Turning Point is giving Ferrari and the others a run for their money these days might have something to do with all this.

Turning Point owner Lawrence Stroll is pissed right off and I would be surprised if all those other teams have not, by now, received lawyer’s letters telling them to cease and desist or else Mr. Stroll will sue for libel and slander.

Now, silly me, I thought F1 had come to its senses in recent years and some universal parts – such as brake ducts – would be used by all the teams in an effort to save money. But noooo, that was so last year. Everybody has to design their own brake ducts this year and then they can go back to using universal ones next year. This is so ridiculous, they could make it a question on Jeopardy.

Contestant: Stupid sports rules for $200, Alex . . .

Alex Trebek: This will test your knowledge of Formula One racing – legal in 2019, illegal in 2020, legal in 2021 . . .

Contestant: What are brake ducts?

Trebek: Correct – and by the way, Toto: what are brake ducts?

Now, Ross Brawn said in recent days that everybody in F1 has been copying everybody else for years. So, if that’s the case, and particularly when it comes to brake ducts, why doesn’t the FIA tell everybody to take a chill pill and stop being so foolish.

Nico (Hulk) Hulkenberg won’t be with Turning Point F1 much longer but his performance this weekend while filling in for Sergio Perez will likely earn him a seat back in F1 next season. Might he replace Romain Grosjean at Haas, perhaps?

I still think Sebastian Vettel will retire at the end of the season. He doesn’t need the crap any more. He has nothing to prove and will enjoy his life much more without all the aggravation.

In a Zoom teleconference after the race with Toronto’s Nicholas Latifi (TSN’s Tim Hauraney, Inside Track’s Jeff Pappone, Le Journal de Montreal’s Louis Butcher and I usually participate), the rookie Williams driver said he hadn’t expected Kevin Magnussen to be so aggressive when he came back onto the track as they were jousting together early in the race.

“There was more runoff, so I didn’t think he’d come back on when he did,” Latifi said. “I didn’t know we’d touched – apparently, we did; there was some damage done to the car – but I was so focused on getting past him that I didn’t think much about it.”

Now, when Latifi started racing, he was older than most children. His parents got him a management team to bring him along slowly. Every move they’ve made has been calculated. Usually, it’s a three-year program – year one, get acclimatized; year two, get competitive; year three, challenge for wins and points.

Formula 2 was like that. Last year, he nearly won the championship; his rookie year had not even been close. So I asked him if his first year in Formula One was going according to the plan.

“When I started the season, I said I wanted to be making gains as we went along. I feel I am going in that direction. But Saturdays (qualifying), the potential is there but the performance has not been where I’d hoped it would be at this stage.

“I’ve made some mistakes in qualifying. The car had more potential. So there are things I have to work on. But the racing – the race pace, the race management: I think the last two have been on a nice upward trend.”

 

NASCAR THIS WEEKEND

The Cup Series ran two races this weekend at Michigan International Speedway and Kevin Harvick won not only the Saturday race but the first two stages as well. Brad Keselowski came home second and Martin Truex Jr. was third. Ryan Blaney was fourth and Kyle Busch finished fifth. For a full story on the race, please click here

The second race, on Sunday, was also won by Harvick, with Denny Hamlin second, Truex third, Kyle Busch fourth and Joey Logano fifth. Hamlin came close to running down Harvick but came up just short. For a full report, please click here

I can’t believe that with only a few races remaining until the playoffs that Kyle Busch has yet to win this season. Really strange.

In NASCAR Xfinity Series action Saturday at Road America in Wisconsin, Austin Cindric returned to his winning ways by finishing first in the road-course race, his fourth victory in the last five Xfinity races. A.J. Almendinger finished second, with Chase Briscoe, a five-time winner in 2020 who is trailing Cindric by 11 points in the driver standings, finishing third, Kaz Grala was fourth and Andy Lally fifth. For a full report, please click here

In the NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series race Friday night at Michigan, Zane Smith picked up his first victory of the 2020 season beating Christian Eckes by 0.318 seconds. Tanner Gray, Tyler Ankrum and Todd Gilliland rounded out the top five. Quebec driver Raphael Lessard rebounded from two flat tires to earn a career-best seventh place-finish. The rookie driver scored his first top-10 finish of 2020 and also led four laps. For a complete story, please click here

brake ducts

ONTARIO RACING

Jukasa Motor Speedway was back in action this weekend – no spectators, of course – and ace PR practitioner Ashley McCubbin dropped me a quick email to say that Andy Kamrath won the Queenstown Buick GMC OSCAAR Modified feature ahead of TJ Edwards, A.J. Emms, Kelly Balson and Jason Keen. Kamrath got the lead early and drove away from the field, holding off Edwards on a late-race restart due to a single car spin.

On the same program, Steve Book won the Knightworks Design OSCAAR Hot Rod feature ahead of Trevor Thompson, Stompin’ Tom Walters, Scott Beatty, and Jay Doerr. Book was top qualifier, but drew eighth place for the inverted feature start. Despite this, he drove his way to the lead by Lap 5 and led the rest of the way.

About 20 cars raced in each division.

The headliner, reported to me by Ryan Dyson, was a 75-lapper for the APC Series and it was won by Jo Lawrence, with Brandon Watson, Matt Pritiko, DJ Kennington and Pete Shepherd rounding out the top five in the 32-car late-model field.
Lawrence, who was the 2019 APC Rookie-of-the-Year, had a great day, starting with winning the pole for the Dayco 75 presented by Pennzoil.

brake ducts

At Merrittville Speedway Saturday night, also without spectators, the winners were: Gary Lindberg in 358 modifieds, Rob Murray in Hoosier Stocks, Josh Sliter in Mod Lites, Rob Goulding in Mini Stocks and Josh Dmytrow in V6.

brake ducts

OTHER RACING NEWS

Alex Tagliani was planning to drive a truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Chevy Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Labour Day weekend but when the track cancelled its spectator season because of the pandemic, that deal was transferred to the upcoming NASCAR weekend at Daytona International Speedway. Tag will be sponsored by long-time Pintys Series partners RONA and Viagra. . . . . Formula Electric decided to clear the decks on the pandemic and get their season out of the way. They’ve been racing almost non-stop in Berlin, Germany. They have two races left, which will be run Wednesday on a newly-designed course, but the drivers’ champion has been determined. Portugal’s Antonio Felix da Costa crossed the line in second place in Sunday’s race (won by Jean-Eric Vergne) to secure his first ABB FIA Formula E Championship crown. Good for him. . . . .

And that’s it for this week.

By Norris McDonald / Special to wheels.ca

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