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Racing Roundup: Was Hamilton careless, or did he do it on purpose?

Blocking still allowed despite Krosnoff death and all the weekend news 

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald July 19, 2021
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Lewis Hamilton won the British Grand Prix in questionable circumstances Sunday, NASCAR and IMSA were both in action this weekend and the terrors of blocking are remembered 25 years later as we remember the deaths of Jeff Krosnoff and Gary Avrin.

There’s lots to get through, so let’s go directly to Notebook Jottings. Oh, and before I forget, I’m taking a week off so there won’t be a Racing Roundup next Monday.

NOTEBOOK JOTTINGS 

The only story that matters coming out of the Grand Prix was the first lap collision between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen that knocked Max out of the race and into the hospital, where he was reported to be in good shape. Red Bull boss Cristian Horner made a fool of himself by suggesting that Lewis be suspended for a race and Mercedes’ Toto Wolff was sending emails defending Lewis to people who correctly pointed out that they hadn’t seen them because they were busy watching the race.

I initially thought it was just one of them racin’ deals until late in the race when there was almost an instant replay but this time it was Lewis vs. Leclerc instead of Max. Although Charles drove right off the racing surface to avoid being hit by Hamilton, Lewis took the corner correctly, giving Leclerc racing room, suggesting in the first instance that he had either been careless of he did what he did on purpose.

I really hope he was just careless and has gone to see Max to beg his forgiveness because, otherwise, between now and the end of the season, Max just might lay some NASCAR-style payback punishment on his rival. He might anyway but then he would be in the wrong. Also, you can hurt people in those F1 cars by playing silly games like that.

It was interesting listening to the Sky commentators analyzing the collision. First, they’re Brits, so they have to be very careful not to say anything that could be construed as criticism of a British driver. But, on the other hand, they have to call a spade a spade. I thought Jenson Button came the closest to flat-out laying the blame for the crash on Lewis. He pulled his punches but there was no doubt how he felt.

I was very disappointed in Damon Hill, though. He would know how Max felt, having been the victim of a Michael Schumacher punt in the championship race in 1994, which cost him the title. But Damon was like the others (except Button), swallowing hard but giving the benefit of the doubt to his countryman.

Lewis, however, showed once again why he is the greatest in the world. Despite a 10-second penalty for causing the crash, he roared back and won the race in the waning laps. There are no other drivers in the world who can do that. He truly is a marvel.

Okay, I have to take a shot at the world’s media. It is no wonder that newspapers are all going out of business. TV will follow. They all think it is Google’s fault. Not so. Case in point. The British Open was held this weekend. So was the British GP. Each event had two Canadians participating. One had advance stories and major coverage during the event. The other didn’t. Not a word, in fact. Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. The Open final round was held Sunday and fewer than 40,000 attended in person. Millions around the world watched. The Grand Prix was held Sunday and 145,000 were at Silverstone. Tens of millions watched around the world. Guess which one got all the ink? More people watch motor sport and enjoy motor sport than many of the other big-league sports and yet are ignored when it comes to coverage. So, they stop buying the paper because what they want to read about isn’t in there. I rest my case. (Oh, by the way, it’s too late. The papers or the TV networks could run entire sections, or hours, on our sport and we wouldn’t read/watch because we’ve moved on. I started telling my employers that in 1965. They didn’t listen.)

Lance Stroll of Montreal started 14th and raced up to 8th Sunday for Aston Martin. Nicholas Latifi of Toronto started 17th for Williams and finished 14th.

Okay, didja like the “sprint race?” I think it has possibilities but needs work. For instance, the two fastest guys in Friday qualifying finished one-two in the sprint. If they hadn’t had their little first-lap spat, they would have finished first and second in the race. So, here’s how to fix it up. Award double points for Friday qualifying to prevent anybody from sandbagging. Then, invert the whole field for the sprint race. I guarantee that the drivers will be balls-to-the-wall the whole sprint distance. How they finish in the sprint is where they will start in the race, Oh, no points at all for the sprint except for the driver who advances the most positions. The Grand Prix itself will be most exciting because the fast guys will still have to battle their way to the front. Regular points and fastest lap. Now, THAT would be exciting.

Strategy. Everybody talks about strategy. This is F1 strategy: try to get a good start on medium tires, change to hards for the middle run and then softs for the run to the end. It seems like everybody in F1 has the same strategy. That’s why the racing is usually boring. I remember an Indy car race in Portland years ago when Derek Walker startled everybody by calling Gil de Ferran in early and then leaving him out till the end. He won, of course. Brilliant strategy. Every racing team everywhere should be thinking like Derek Walker.

F1 will take a week off now and reconvene in Hungary July 30-Aug. 1 For a full report on the British GP, please click here.

British Grand Prix result: Lewis Hamilton wins after Max Verstappen crashes on lap one in clash with rival (msn.com)

Racing Roundup

JEFF KROSNOFF ANNIVERSARY 

One of the reasons I go on and on (at times) about blocking during road racing – and don’t give me any of that crap about “defending your position” – is because of what happened five days ago in 1996.

With three laps remaining in that year’s Molson Indy Toronto, rookie Jeff Krosnoff tucked in behind veteran Stefan Johansson for the high-speed run along Lake Shore Blvd. toward Turn 3, a sharp right-hander. At the last second, and seeing a lane open between the Swedish driver and the wall, Krosnoff ducked inside to pass.

By either misjudging Krosnoff’s speed, or feeling entitled to “defend his position,” Johannson jinked right to block Krosnoff and in a millisecond two people were dead – the driver, Krosnoff, and a marshal, Gary Avrin of Calgary.

That showed how dangerous blocking is. That professional road racing has never put a stop to it remains a mystery to me.

Johansson, so far as I know, never took even partial responsibility for the crash, much like Jochen Mass never publicly acknowledged his role in the death of Gilles Villeneuve. Maybe race drivers take that attitude, that you’re out there and you accept the risks and if something happens, too bad.

Of course, they also might be thinking of potential litigation. If Johansson had said he might have been at fault, or partially, that might have opened him up to a lawsuit.  But there are ways of saying things without getting yourself sued.

It’s too bad. Johansson is a nice guy, represents drivers in both Formula One and IndyCar, and is a real card if you get him going. I asked him once about electric racing cars and although he talked non-stop for five minutes, I knew the instant he opened his mouth that he doesn’t like them or want them anywhere near professional racing,

Several things about that 1996 race stick out. Arciero-Wells Racing threw a reception in midweek featuring Dan Gurney, Krosnoff and their other driver, P.J. Jones. I didn’t talk to Krosfnoff – I shook hands, but that was it – because I was more interested in talking to Jones, the son of Parnelli, who had raced midgets and sprints before going road racing. I have a regret, of course, about not talking to Jeff.

But something else remains in my mind to this day. As the field fired up and drove past Corner One for the first time (I was on the inside of the turn), I was standing beside BARC’s Alastair Taylor and several others and when Krosnoff came by I distinctly remember what his car looked like (navy blue, MCI painted on the side, etc.) , the design on his helmet and so-on. I can’t remember any of the other cars and drivers like I can still remember him.

Maybe I had a premonition and didn’t realize it, like my friend Roy Sova, the great Oswego Speedway announcer, who’d been hired by Jack Greedy to announce at the grand re-opening in 1969 of the enlarged Delaware Speedway near London (it went from a quarter-mile track to a half). On the way home, Roy and another announcer, Rich Goldstein, stopped at a diner for a bite and the Kitchener racer, Gary Witter, had walked in while they were eating.

Roy told me later that he had the strangest feeling when he saw Gary, that he wasn’t going to live much longer. Two years later, at Oswego, Gary Witter was killed racing.

Racing Roundup

OTHER RACING 

The six-race Camping World Superstar Racing Experience came to an end at Nashville Speedway Saturday night, with Chase Elliott finishing first, Tony Stewart second and Bill (Awesome Bill from Dawsonville) Elliott third. The points earned gave Stewart the championship. Our Paul Tracy finished fifth in the feature and seventh in the championship.

Now, this gave the CBS Television Network some good Saturday night summertime programming and chances are they’ll do it again next year. Owned by Stewart and long-time NASCAR crew chief Ray Evernham, the cars were equally prepared IROC-type mounts that could be run on both pavement and dirt and had the same horsepower. The dirt races were more fun to watch but Tracy, Marco Andretti, Willy T. Ribbs, Michael Waltrip and Tony Kanaan, who have spent their lives racing on pavement, were over their heads.

Now, I know this was an exhibition series, and done for fun, but there were some pretty serious racers out there and any hint of impropriety would be frowned upon. So, although he owned it, or half of it, what’s with Tony Stewart winning the championship? How come he decides at the last minute he wants NASCAR CUP champion Chase Elliott in the field for the last night when this was supposed to be a series for retired guys? (In fact, Tracy, Michael Waltrip and Bill Elliott were the only truly retired guys out there.) Just so you don’t think I have it in for Tony Stewart, I don’t think Roger Penske, who owns everything in IndyCar including the Speedway, should be racing in IndyCar. It doesn’t look good because suspicious minds like mine will always suspect they’re getting something a little extra in the horsepower department. It’s a conflict of interest, regardless of how far you try to distance yourself. Too bad, but true.

BARC held a CASC-OR meet this weekend and had big fields in all classes, particularly the Formula 1600 class that attracted about 25 entries.

If you want to make money, go sprint car racing in the U.S. NASCAR’s Kyle Larson dropped over to Ohio’s
Eldora Speedways Saturday night and won the King’s Royal race, which paid him $175,00. Larson is te best driver in the States at the moment and if I had my druthers and money was no object, I would try to get him into Formula One with a good team.  Coming to Eldora next year will be the return of the Historical Big One (ain’t that a great name) race that pays $100,000 to win. Jac Haudenschild, known as the Wild Child when he was young, won three King’s Royal features over his career and was at Eldora this weekend for what he says will be his last time. Time flies when you’re having run.

IMSA: The Northeast Grand Prix was called off just past the halfway mark Saturday afternoon when a lightning storm moved into the Lime Rock Park area. Antonia Garcia and Jordan Taylor won the GT LeMans class, and took the overall victory, in a   Corvette while Roman de Angeles of Windsor and Ross Gunn drove an Aston Martin to victory in the GT Daytona class. Zach Robichon co-drive a Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R to fourth place in GT Daytona. For details, go to IMSA.com

NASCAR: Christopher Bell dominated the Xfinity Series NASCAR race Saturday at New Hampshire. He won both stages as well as the main. Justin Allgaier finished second and Daniel Hemric was third. In the Cup race Sunday, Eric Almirola won this third career race in 374 starts to put himself into the playoffs. Bell finished second and Brad Keselowski was third. The race was held up by rain and then there was a rain delay. For a short time, while it was drizzling, NASCAR started the race and several of the leaders crashed. Kyle Busch’s car was sufficiently damaged that it put him out of the race. He then bumped and pushed the pace car on his way back to the pits. NASCAR will not be amused. Or maybe they will. Who knows? For a full report on the Cup race, please click here . . .

Aric Almirola punches playoff ticket with win at New Hampshire (yahoo.com)

By the way, rain created havok just about everywhere Saturday night. Merrittville Speedway was a victim.

Other tracks did run though, Ashley McCubbin reports.

Sunset Speedway (on Saturday)

Late Models – 1. Rick Spencer-Walt, 2. Billy Zardo, 3. Miles Tyson, 4. Dustyn Mombourquette, 5. Alex Hastie

Mini Stocks – 1. Doug Butler, 2. Josh Bullen, 3. Charlie Smith, 4. Bryan Penny, 5. Connor Maltese

Pure Stocks – 1. Brandon Steele, 2. Matt Boyes, 3. Brandon Steele, 4. Craig Cole, 5. Austyn Jennett

Outlaw Midgets – 1. Mike Bradley, 2. Richard Woodland, 3. Larry Lawson, 4. Dave Bradley, 5. Jamie Kay

Flamboro Speedway (on Sunday)

APC Series – 1. Brandon Watson, 2. Pete Shepherd III, 3. Treyten Lapcevich, 4. Jordan Sims, 5. Jo Lawrence

Qwick Wick T.Q. Can-Am Midgets – 1. Daniel Hawn, 2. Brody Rickwood, 3. Adam Racine, 4. Jeff Blackburn, 5. Dominique Smith

Mini Stock Twin Feature #1 – 1. Dylan Sharpe, 2. Will Gibbons, 3. Jeff Laflamme, 4. Karl Sault, 5. Gillian Hils

Mini Stock Twin Feature #2 – 1. Dylan Sharpe, 2. Shawn Taylor, 3. Will Gibbons, 4. GIllian Hils, 5. Tyler Lewis

AND FINALLY . . . 

Roger Penske said that Brad Keselowski wanted an ownership stake in Team Penske and when he couldn’t get it, he decided to move on. “Good for him,” Penske said, before explaining that the way Penske Corp. is set up, it just wasn’t possible. . . . . NBA and F1 fans can enter a contest to win swag from both leagues. A framed Red Bull cap signed by Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez or an NBA jersey signed by Kyle Lowry are examples. Go to nbacontest.com for details. . . . . The International Motor Racing Research Centre in Watkins Glen, N.Y., will honour pioneer woman racer Lyn St. James on Sept. 11 with the Cameron R. Argetsinger Award for her many contributions to motor sport . . . . .

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