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Racing Roundup: Why aren’t Pits Open all the Time? 

Dixon’s Order of Merit impossible in Canada; Ranger wins Pinty’s and all the rest of the racing news

By Norris McDonald Wheels.ca

Jun 3, 2019 14 min. read

Article was updated 4 years ago

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The most exciting moment of the two NTT IndyCar Series races held in Detroit at the weekend came Saturday when Marco Andretti went to the pits for slick tires when everybody else was still on rain tires as the result of a storm that had dumped water all over Belle Isle in the middle of the Detroit River.

Marco (you can’t call him “Andretti” because there are three – him, his father/team owner Michael and grandfather/legend Mario) then proceeded to give everyone he was racing against, plus everybody watching in person or on television, a lesson in how to race in the rain. He was slipping and sliding all over the place but he managed to keep it off the wall. And considering the conditions, he was flying out there. And the fact he took such an incredible gamble was simple: at some point, when he was running last, as the result of pitting for those tires and coming out behind everybody else, there would be a yellow and the pits would be closed and the field held up by the pace car. When everything was copa, race control would open the pits and all the cars in front of him would peel off in search of slicks and he would wind up in first place behind the pace car (or close to it) and, ultimately, in first place (or close to it) when the race went green again. It was a brilliant move by Marco, whose race a week ago in the Indianapolis 500 wasn’t up to the standards of a Zamboni driver.

Except, probably for the first time in organized racing history, race control didn’t wait for the field to “bunch up” and went ahead and opened the pits way earlier than usual and poor Marco (plus his strategist/race manager Brian Herta) was – sorry, there’s no other way to say it – screwed.

Race control explained things later but what they said didn’t make a lot of sense – if any sense at all.  It was, if anything, a justification for their actions rather than an explanation of the rules.

The fact that the driver who benefited from that decision, Josef Newgarden, who went on to win the race, happens to drive for a guy, Roger Penske, who also happens to be the promoter of the two Detroit races, is pure coincidence, as far as I am concerned. There are others, though, who maintain that coincidences like that are, in fact, not coincidences at all but ways that sanctioning bodies can fix – or at least influence – the final results.

Of course, they point, in particular, at NASCAR for fixing races this way, which I also think is poppycock. But be that as it may, this thinking is out there.

So, I have a suggestion for both IndyCar and NASCAR: to eliminate this confusion/suspicion, why do the pits have to be closed at all? Why aren’t the pits open all the time? If a driver has to go to the pits for whatever reason – nearly out of fuel, flat tire, a little bump with another car requiring the need for a new nose, whatever – why can’t they just drive in there and drive out? Why does there have to be any control of the pits at all?

If you eliminate this closed pits nonsense, then you eliminate the potential to play favourites. Nobody ever again will complain, like Marco did on Saturday, about being hosed by IndyCar’s race control. Nobody will ever again complain that the pits were opened too early or too late.

Sanctioning bodies would argue that by closing the pits until the field settles down, they are simply levelling the playing field. But they aren’t. See Saturday for a blatant example.

So stop closing the pits and this problem will just go away.

Josef Newgarden won the race Saturday (click here for a detailed story)  and Scott Dixon, who uncharacteristically clipped a wall Saturday and then crashed, won the race on Sunday (click here for a detailed story)

Notebook jottings: 


Scott Dixon won the IndyCar race Sunday and on the same day was named to the New Zealand Order of Merit, which is the equivalent of the Order of Canada. It is truly remarkable how other countries in the Commonwealth see fit to honour their champion auto racers in this way. Several, of course (Jackie Stewart being one), are Knights of the Realm. In Canada, however, this is not the case. Of the hundreds – maybe thousands - of people named to the Order of Canada, not one – not one - has ever come from the world of motor sport. Not Gilles Villeneuve; not his son Jacques, who was world champion of drivers in 1997; not Ron Fellows, arguably – Scott Maxwell, too – the most successful road racer in the history of Canadian racing; not Paul Tracy, not Scott Goodyear and I could go on and on. This is not the fault of the Villeneuves, or Fellows, or Tracy, or Maxwell, or Goodyear. It is the fault of the people on the committee who do the choosing. They are supposed to honour people from all walks of life in Canada.All walks of life. Those are the rules. They have had chances and they have denied the honour to motorsport people who have brought acclaim and glory to this land. That those people on that committee don’t have a clue is obvious. That they continue to sit on that committee is scandalous. They ignore a Canadian world champion and yet see nothing wrong with giving the Order of Canada to a man who hasn’t lived in this country since 1965, calls himself a “New Yorker” and whose main claim to fame is the creation of an American television program. So, congratulations to Scott Dixon. It’s a good thing you’re not a Canadian because if you were, you wouldn’t rate.

Speaking of Paul Tracy, he continues to amaze me as a television commentator. He has been good in previous years but he is, in my books, anyway, officially outstanding now. Insightful, chatty, funny, sarcastic – I could go on – but he’s taken over from Townsend Bell as Leigh Diffey’s second banana (second most important person on the broadcast . . . it’s an old Vaudeville expression). He still gets a little carried away. On one NBC broadcast this weekend, he started suggesting that Bell didn’t “pay up” when he lost a bet for a steak dinner. The joking ended when Bell was heard to say: “Okay, stop right there.” His voice was sufficiently assertive that Tracy didn’t bring up the subject again. But other than that, I thought Tracy’s performance was flawless.

There was a small news story between the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indy 500 that caught my attention. I subscribe to the Indianapolis Star (no, I don’t get the paper delivered, although I periodically get a phone call from them asking me if I want it dropped off at the house . . . ) and although it was a story, it wasn’t that big a deal, which I found surprising. For after owning Clabber Girl Corp. (manufacturers of the No. 1 retail baking powder brand in the U.S., plus baking soda and corn starch) for more than a century (it was a family company founded in 1850), Hulman & Co. (Tony George, Chair; Mark Miles, CEO) have sold Clabber Girl to B & G Foods and the sale became final on May 15. Two things: 1) this leaves Hulman & Co. with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the NTT IndyCar Series. Without having to worry about the day-to-day running of a baking goods corporation, Hulman & Co. will have more time to pay attention to not only the Indy 500 (which is of paramount importance to them) but also the rest of the series.  I suggest this is good news for the races that make up the series. Other than the Long Beach Grand Prix and maybe the two in Detroit, all other races in the series need all the love and attention (translation: help) they can get. I also suggest Hulman & Co. will soon (if they haven’t already) be launching a full-court press to get a second U.S. Grand Prix back at the Speedway. It is the finest, permanent racing facility in the United States and a perfect place for an F1 race. I guarantee it doesn’t matter whatever city they approach (other than, perhaps, Long Beach, Calif.), Formula One will eventually get the bum’s rush (like it already has in Miami). So stop fooling around, Liberty Media, and go back to where you are welcome and where F1 racing belongs – at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 2) I find it interesting that the sale of Clabber Girl happened so soon after the passing of Mari Hulman George, the last direct link to the late Anton Hulman Jr., the owner/president of Clabber Girl who rescued the Indianapolis Speedway from ruin and set into motion the evolution of the facility to where it is today. Mari Hulman, daughter of Tony Hulman, widow of race driver Elmer George and mother of Tony George, was chairperson of the Speedway and of Clabber Girl from 1988 till 2016 when illness forced her to step down. She died last November. I do not think she would have been happy with the decision to sell.

TV ratings: IndyCar has hitched its wagon to NBC in the United States and I have to say the network did a bangup job promoting the Indianapolis 500 in the weeks leading up to the big day.  I spend a lot of time in the States these days at auto unveilings and so-on and I watch NBCSN (the NBC sports channel) and there wasn’t a day or evening went by without somebody talking up the Indy 500. And they talked about it on the Kentucky Derby and Preakness telecasts. Anyway, the verdict is in and the 500 on NBC scored a final rating (in the U.S.) of 3.44/5.4 million viewers, up from the previous year’s 3.08/4.9 million on ABC. Will NBC now be able to somehow convince all of those people who watched the Indy 500 to watch other races in the series? Or at least some of those people? To somehow get more than the usual 400,000 to tune in? Everybody gets excited about percentages, which leave me cold. “NBC scores 11% viewer increase,” was one headline I saw. Look, if one person watches something one year and two people watch the next, that’s a 100 per cent increase. And it means nothing. Numbers are all that count with me. Somehow, IndyCar has got to get to the point where an average one million people are watching all the races and the Indy 500 is attracting 10 million. Then IndyCar will be major league. It’s got a way to go.

Kyle Busch, meantime, has got all the IndyCar fans on Twitter (or many of them, anyway) upset because somehow, somebody asked Kyle about IndyCar and he said other than the Indy 500, the other races in the series don’t mean anything. What else is new? Like everybody in entertainment, politics and sports in the U.S., Kyle was just “playing to his base.” He was saying things that are not necessarily true and that he might not really mean but are sure to get people upset, which means lots of publicity. I mean, what’s he supposed to say? He’s never going to race in anything other than the Indy 500 (like his brother Kurt, a few years ago, and like Fernando Alonso now . . . ) so he saw no harm in dissing all the other races. And at the end of the day, he’s right. Quick now: who won last year’s Honda Indy???? Uh, uh, uh, don’t know, do ya? But if you stop and think for a moment, you’ll remember who won last year’s Indy 500. Probably before you remember who won “our” race. And who won the IndyCar championship? Don’t know that, either, do ya? That’s why Kyle Busch wasn’t wrong. I’m a huge Kyle Busch fan, by the way. As I’ve said many times, he should have been in Formula One. Having said that, I don’t like him beating up on the up-and-coming guys in the Xfinity Series and the trucks, because he’s a man beating up on younger men. Taking their money. But it’s a free country and he can do as he likes. Doesn’t mean that I have to like it, though. Speaking of Kyle Busch, he won the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup race Sunday at Pocono Raceway. For a detailed story, please click here.

RANGER BY AN EYELASH IN NASCAR PINTY’S RACE AT JUKASA SPEEDWAY

Pinty’s

This report was filed by Alex Gallacher/NASCAR.com

HAGERSVILLE, Ont. - For Andrew Ranger, it was weekend of dominance.

The NASCAR Pinty’s Series winningest driver scored his 25th career pole Saturday before dominating the rain-delayed APC 200 at Jukasa Motor Speedway. The 32-year-old driver from Roxton Pond, Quebec led a race-high 82 laps, extending his series-leading win total to 25.

Ranger took his No.27 MOPAR/ Pennzoil Dodge to the lead on Lap 122, passing Peter Shepherd III. After surviving two late restarts, Ranger held off a hard charging Kevin Lacroix in NASCAR Overtime to claim his first win since Toronto in 2018.

“You know, we were a top 10 driver that could win here so I was definitely nervous,” Ranger said. “But again, we decided to do the restart on the inside and it worked pretty good for us and we exit here with a nice win.”

Last year’s race winner Kevin Lacroix used the late restart to his advantage to claim the runner-up spot. The finishing order was reversed from the season-opening race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, where Lacroix held off Ranger.

“The car is always good on long runs and we were hoping for the same today and that’s what happened,” Lacroix said. “We were able to have a good race and put the Bumper to Bumper car in second place and that’s good.”

Peter Shepherd III ran a solid race leading 25 laps and scoring his second podium finish since his return to the series last year.

LP Dumoulin and Alex Tagliani rounded out the top five.

Marc-Antoine Camirand and Mark Dilley both pulled off last race charges to the front, coming home sixth and seventh, respectively.

After leading 68 laps, and despite blowing a tire late in the race, D.J. Kennington was able to fight back and finish eighth. Jason White and Donald Theetge completed the top ten.

Lap 72 will go down in NASCAR Pinty’s Series history as the race leader upon completion was Julia Landauer. She becomes the first women to ever lead a lap in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series. She ran up front throughout the race before a late-race incident left her 15th.

With his win, Ranger takes over the lead in the standings, leading Lacroix by one point..  LP Dumoulin is in third, 10 points back, and Alex Tagliani and D.J Kennington are tied for fourth, 18 points out of the lead.

The NASCAR Pinty’s Series will take a few weeks off before returning to action Saturday, June 29 for the Budweiser 300 at Autodrome Chaudiere in Vallee-Jonction, Quebec.

Scott Dixon

The photo of James Hinchcliffe at the beginning of this report was taken by John Larsen, whose photograffics.com website is a must-see. The Pinty’s photos were supplied by NASCAR photographer Matthew Manor.

OTHER RACING


 In IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship racing, Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron, co-drivers of the No. 6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi, accomplished something in Saturday’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic that never has been done since IMSA began racing on Detroit’s Belle Isle Park. Before Saturday, General Motors race cars won their class in all nine IMSA races held on Belle Isle from 2007 through 2018, including overall victories from 2012 through last year. But on this day, Montoya and Cameron triumphed in the Acura to break that incredible string. And the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 of Jack Hawksworth and Richard Heistand crossed the finish line first in the GT Daytona (GTD) class to score their second consecutive victory in the championship . . . . . . Misha Goihkberg of Vancouver won a Trans-Am race at Detroit . . . . . . Cole Custer dominated Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Pocono Raceway, but it took a pass on the last lap for him to earn a trip to victory lane. Custer, who started from the pole, drove by Tyler Reddick in the last corner on the last lap after an overtime restart to win the Pocono Green 250. It was Custer’s third victory of the season . . . . . They might have had a solid crowd Sunday for the NTT IndyCar Series race at Detroit – many people had left after the rains came Saturday and I understand they had a pretty good turnout for the free day on Friday – but the Nashville Fairgrounds dirt speedway attracted a whopping crowd at the weekend to watch Donny Schatz (Friday) and Shane Stewart (Saturday) win World of Outlaws sprint car series features . . . . . . Steve Torrence won for the fourth-straight race, taking his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster to the winner's circle at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals. He defeated Mike Salinas, who smoked the tires in his Scrappers Racing machine and failed to make it down the track under power. Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car),  Deric Kramer (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (pro stock motorcycle) were also victorious . . . . .  

 

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