Friday, February 12, 2016

2016 Speedweeks Preview

The 2016 NASCAR season begins this weekend with the Speedweeks from Daytona International Speedway. Saturday night features the exhibition Sprint Unlimited (formerly the Shootout) and this Sunday is Daytona 500 qualifying.

Twenty-five cars are entered for the Unlimited. The race is open to pole position winners from 2015, past winners of the Unlimited/Shootout, past Daytona 500 pole-sitters, 2015 Chase drivers and any other driver who finished in the top 25 of the championship last season.

Matt Kenseth won last year's race and returns with all three of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates also in the race. Kenseth could become the fifth driver to win the race in consecutive seasons. Neil Bonnett was the first to do it in 1983-84. Ken Schrader did it in 1989-90. Tony Stewart won the 2001-02 races for Joe Gibbs Racing. Kevin Harvick won the 2009-10 races. All four occurrence of back-to-back winners occurred in GM cars. All but Stewart won in Chevrolets. Stewart did it in a Pontiac.  Defending champion Kyle Busch won the race in 2012 while Denny Hamlin won in 2006 and 2014. Carl Edwards has never won on a plate circuit.

Martin Truex, Jr. finished second to Kenseth last year. This marks Truex, Jr.'s and Furniture Row Racing's first race as a Toyota team. The team had been a Chevrolet team since it's first race in 2005. The team has formed an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Kevin Harvick leads all active drivers with three victories in the Unlimited/Shootout. His Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick will also compete. Tony Stewart was scheduled to compete in this race but will miss the start of the 2016 season after suffering a fracture vertebra in an off-roading accident during the offseason. Brian Vickers will replace Stewart in the Daytona 500. Vickers has also been allowed to compete in the Unlimited in place of Stewart despite not meeting any of the criteria to make the race.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is a two-time winner of the race but has not won the exhibition since his first race with Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. Jimmie Johnson won the race in 2005. Kasey Kahne will also be in the race. Hendrick Motorsports is third all-time in winners of this race with six but Earnhardt, Jr.'s victory is the teams last. Hendrick is between Joe Gibbs Racing, who has won seven times and Richard Childress Racing, which has eight victories.

Speaking of Richard Childress Racing, all three drivers will be in the race. Ryan Newman and Paul Menard qualify for the race based on making the Chase last year. Austin Dillon qualifies based on his 2014 Daytona 500 pole position. Childress' eight victories have come from two drivers. Dale Earnhardt won the race five times for RCR and Harvick won it three times.

Ford has not won this race since Dale Jarrett won in 2004 for Robert Yates Racing. Team Penske's Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski are both in the race. Penske has won the race twice. Roush Fenway Racing will have both Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in the race. Roush has only won the race once and that was in 1999 with Mark Martin. Aric Almirola is also in the race by finishing in the top 25 in the championship.

Chip Ganassi Racing has Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson. Ganassi has never won this race. Clint Bowyer will drive for HScott Motorsports. Bowyer is spending one year with the team before the moving to Stewart-Haas Racing to take over for the retiring Tony Stewart. A.J. Allmendinger will drive for JTG Daugherty Racing. Casey Mears rounds out the field for Germain Racing. He qualified just by being in the top 25 of the championship last year.

The following teams are entered for the Daytona 500.

Front Row Motorsports will run three cars including one for the defending Grand National series champion Chris Buescher in the #34 Ford. Landon Cassill will drive the #38 Ford for the team. David Gilliland will drive for Front Row Motorsports. He will not run the Unlimited despite his 2007 Daytona 500 pole position.

Buescher leads the rookie class that also includes Ryan Blaney, Brian Scott and Chase Elliott. Blaney will drive for the Wood Brothers, who return to full-time competition for the first time since 2008. Scott will drive the #44 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford. Scott scored zero victories in the Grand National series after 208 starts. He had four runner-up finishes. Elliott replaces Jeff Gordon in the #24 Chevrolet. Of the four rookies, other Buescher and Elliott will be running in their first Daytona 500.

Past Daytona 500 winners Trevor Bayne and Michael Waltrip are entered for the race. Bayne will drive the #6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing while Waltrip will be in the #83 BK Racing Toyota. David Ragan, a past winner at Daytona, will be Waltrip's teammate at BK Racing. BK Racing will also run two other cars for Robert Richardson, Jr. and Matt DiBenedetto.

Bobby Labonte is scheduled to return to competition in the #32 Ford for GO FAS Racing. Should he qualify, this would be Labonte's 24th Daytona 500. His best finish was second in 1998 to Dale Earnhardt after starting on pole position. He has three top ten finishes in his previous 23 Daytona 500 starts.

Circle Sport-Levine Family Racing will run two races. Michael McDowell will be in the #59 Chevrolet while Ty Dillon is entered in he #95 Chevrolet. Regan Smith will drive the #7 Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing. Michael Annett will be Clint Bowyer's teammate at HScott Motorsports. Cole Whitt is entered with Premium Motorsports. Rounding out the entry list are Reed Sorenson, who will drive for Hillman Racing, and Jose Wise, who will drive for The Motorsports Group.

With NASCAR's new charter system, the 36-chartered teams are locked into the Daytona 500 with the remaining eight drivers competing for the final four sports.

The non-chartered drivers are Blaney, Richardson, Jr., Wise, Gilliland, Sorenson, McDowell, DiBenedetto and Whitt.

The top finishing non-chartered driver from each Daytona 500 qualifying race on Thursday night will make the Daytona 500 with the two fastest non-chartered drivers from qualifying getting the final two spots in the race.

The Sprint Unlimited will be Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET. Daytona 500 qualifying will be at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Musings From the Weekend: Age of Maturity

The Denver Broncos are Super Bowl champions. Records fell at Bathurst. The Formula E season resumed in Argentina. A Brit is one step closer to a title in New Zealand. Someone scored their first victory of the Supercross season in Phoenix. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Age of Maturity
Max Chilton will be driving for Chip Ganassi Racing this upcoming season in IndyCar. Sage Karam, after an abbreviated rookie season, has the Indianapolis 500 on his plate and a still to be determined schedule with Lexus' GT3 program in IMSA.

Did Karam deserve to lose his IndyCar seat? Do we have enough to go by?

Some think Karam's IndyCar career should be over because they aren't impressed from his first 13 starts. Think about that. Thirteen starts. Not even a full season but enough to be deemed not good enough by some.

Thirteen starts aren't enough. Whether it is this generation or previous generations.

Motorsports have changed a lot from the generation of Foyt, Andretti, Jones and Gurney. Karam entered IndyCar with 52 starts in four years in the Road to Indy system. He ran only five races in 2014, including a ninth in the Indianapolis 500, the year after taking the Indy Lights championship. Let's not forget that Karam doesn't turn 21 years old until next month. When Foyt, Andretti, Jones and company entered IndyCar they were much older and had hundreds of races under their belts. They were way more prepared. Of those three, Foyt was the youngest when making his IndyCar debut. He was 22. Andretti didn't debut until he was 24 and Jones was 27.

If you look at other drivers through 13 starts, you will see that isn't enough time to judge what a driver will be.

Let's note that Karam has one podium, two top fives, three top tens and an average finish of 15.3 from 13 starts and has three retirements and one could be pinned on Takuma Sato.

"Driver A" had a podium and eight top tens in his first 13 races, good enough for an average finish of 9.76 and that driver didn't have an accident in any of those 13 starts.

"Driver B," in 13 starts had one top ten and an average finish of 17.3 and retired from four races due to accidents.

"Driver C" had six top tens from 13 starts, averaged a finish of 12.76 and had only two accidents in that timeframe.

Then there is "Driver D" who had just two top tens, averaged a finish of 17.23 and had six accidents in his first 13 starts.

"Driver E," like Karam, had one podium in his first 13 starts and four top tens but averaged a finish of 14.61 and retired from four races due to accidents.

"Driver A" would only go on to run 40 more IndyCar races and score only one more podium and eight more top tens with an average a finish of 14.825 in those 40 races. This driver never won in IndyCar That driver would be Hideki Mutoh.

However, "Driver B" went on to win four championships, three Indianapolis 500s and is considered one of the best of his generation after his first 13 starts and that driver would be (if you haven't already figured it out) Dario Franchitti.

"Driver C" would win his first career IndyCar race in his 23rd career start but would only have three podiums and nine top tens in his final 43 IndyCar start average a finish of 15.76 over those 43 starts. He had 11 of those 43 races end because of accident. He is Jaques Lazier.

"Driver D" would finish second in his 15th career start and then win his 16th start. He would go on to win two championships, finish runner-up in the championship twice and third in the championship. He would also win an Indianapolis 500. This driver is Gil de Ferran.

Finally, "Driver E" hasn't won a championship and didn't score his first victory until 46th career start but this driver has won three Indianapolis 500s, has 29 career victories and is the active leader in career starts with 311. And by know you know this is Hélio Castroneves.

Thirteen starts aren't enough, 20 starts aren't enough; heck 30 starts aren't enough. The make or break point is about start 50 when you consider only 28 drivers have scored this first career victory in their 50th start or later and even then 50 might not be the best barometer when you consider age. I truly believe actual maturity plays a role into a driver. Look at Graham Rahal. Until last year, everyone thought he was a disappointment. Rahal is still 27 years old and Franchitti didn't win his first "500" and title until he was 34 years old.

Patience people. Hopefully, Karam gets another chance at IndyCar. If only IndyCar grid had a half a dozen more cars that way Karam, Chilton and J.R. Hildebrand could show what they have got at the same time.

When Denver was Last Super Bowl Champions
The Denver Broncos won their third Super Bowl championship last night. Denver's last Super Bowl title came on January 31, 1999. I thought I would look back on what the motorsports world looked like on the day of Super Bowl XXXIII.

The American open-wheel landscape was split and the 1999 IRL season was already a week old. Eddie Cheever won at Walt Disney World Speedway in a race that saw 28 drivers take the green flag.

Speaking of Eddie Cheever, he won the Indianapolis 500 the year prior.

In CART, Alex Zanardi had just won his second consecutive title but he was heading back to Formula One. Kenny Bräck was defending IRL champion.

While the 1999 IRL season opener had 28 starters, the 1998 CART finale also had 28 starters.

Juan Montoya had yet to make his first IndyCar career start.

Scott Dixon had yet to race in America.

Bobby Rahal had just retired.

Team Penske hadn't won an IndyCar race since May 24, 1997 when Paul Tracy won at Gateway, the first race at that track.

Engines in CART were Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Ford-Cosworth and Toyota. In the IRL, it was nearly 90% Oldsmobile with the rest Infiniti.

The Hawaiian Super Prix was still 25 days way from being announced.

Mika Häkkinen was fresh off his first World Drivers' Championship.

Rubens Barrichello was a driver at Stewart Grand Prix.

Other teams on the Formula One grid besides Stewart were Jordan, Prost, Benetton, Arrows and Minardi.

Tyrrell had just run its final race.

BAR had yet to debut.

Red Bull was just a sponsor on the side of Sauber.

Jenson Button was defending British Formula Ford champion.

Fernando Alonso was still two months away from running his first single-seater race.

Porsche had just won Le Mans for the 16th time. Porsche added its 17th Le Mans victory last year.

Audi had yet to win at Le Mans. They now have 13 Le Mans victories.

Tom Kristensen had one Le Mans victory.

Scott Pruett won the 24 Hours of Daytona only once.

Bill France still ran NASCAR, Winston sponsored the Cup Series and the Chase format had yet to ruin the world.

Dale Earnhardt was the defending Daytona 500 winner.

Jeff Gordon had just won his third NASCAR Cup championship.

NASCAR raced at Rockingham twice, Darlington twice and Atlanta twice.

Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson had all yet to make NASCAR Cup debuts.

Pontiac was still a NASCAR manufacture.

Valentino Rossi was a 250cc rider.

Mick Doohan had just won his fifth consecutive world championship.

The top manufactures in the World Rally Championships were all Japanese: Mitsubishi, Toyota and Subaru.

Max Verstappen was one year, four months and two days old.

How things have changed.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about the Bathurst 12 Hour but did you know...

Sam Bird won the Buenos Aires ePrix over Sébastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi.

Lando Norris won two of three Toyota Racing Series races from Bruce McLaren Motorsports Park in Taupo, New Zealand. Jehan Daruvela won the other race.

Ken Roczen won the Supercross race from Phoenix.

Coming Up This Weekend
NASCAR runs the Shootout (or whatever it's called) on Saturday night and Daytona 500 qualifying will be Sunday.
AMA Supercross returns to San Diego.
WRC are tentatively scheduled to run Rally Sweden.
The Toyota Racing Series concludes the 2016 season with the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild Autocourse.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Tekno Autosports McLaren Holds Off Nissan At Bathurst

Nissan charged hard for its second consecutive victory in the Bathurst 12 Hour but the Japanese manufacture fell just short as the #59 Tekno Autosports McLaren 650S GT3 of Shane Van Gisbergen, Jonathon Webb and Álvaro Parente took the victory after completing 297 laps, a new record for most laps completed in Bathurst 12 Hour history.

With fifteen minutes to go in the race, Van Gisbergen led the #1 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 of Katsumasa Chiyo by over 13 seconds. Chiyo picked away at the New Zealander's lead but ended up finishing 1.276 seconds behind the McLaren. Chiyo and co-driver Florian Strauß were going for their second consecutive Bathurst 12 Hour victory. Rick Kelly, the third driver in the #1 Nissan, was looking to become the eighth driver to win the Bathurst 12 Hour and Bathurst 1000.

In third was the #10 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental GT3 of Guy Smith, Matt Bell and Steven Kane. The Bentley finished a minute and 18 seconds back of the winning McLaren. The final car on the lead lap was the #5 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS of Laurens Vanthoor, Markus Winkelhock and Alex Davison, which finished over two minutes back.

Rounding out the top five, one lap down was the #36 Erebus Motorsport Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 of Nico Bastian, David Reynolds and Thomas Jäger. The top A Class amateur team was the #5 GT Motorsport Audi of Greg Taylor, Barton Mawer and Nathan Antunes, who finished sixth, three laps down. The #31 Bentley of Andy Soucek, Maxime Soulet and David Russell finished four laps down in seventh with the #75 James Pem Racing Audi of René Rast, Garth Tander and Steve McLaughan finishing eighth.

The #60 Tekno Autosport McLaren of Rob Bell, Andrew Watson and Will Davison finished five laps behind its teammate in ninth. Six laps down in tenth was the #32 JBS Australia Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX of Luke Youlden, Roger Lago and Steve Owen. The #82 International Motorsports Audi of Andrew Bagnall, Rick Armstrong and Matt Halliday finished ten laps down in 11th.

The B Class winning #4 Grove Racing Porsche of Earl Bamber, Scott McLaughlin and Steven Grove finished 12th overall, 12 laps down. Thirteenth overall was the I Class winning #93 MARC Cars Australia Focus V8 of Jake Camilleri, Morgan Haber and Aaron Seton, 17 laps behind the overall winners.

This is McLaren's first victory in the Bathurst 12 Hour and McLaren is the fifth different manufacture to win in the last five years. Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and Nissan had won the previous four editions. Van Gisbergen joins Craig Baird as the only New Zealanders to win the Bathurst 12 Hours. Parente is the first Portuguese driver to win the event and Webb is the 20th different Australian to stand on the top step of the podium. Not only did this year's Bathurst 12 Hour see a record set for most laps completed but there were a record 29 lead changes.

The second round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge will be the Spar 24 Hours on July 30-31st.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Hitting Fifty

On Sunday, the 50th Super Bowl takes place from Santa Clara, California. The Carolina Panthers look for its first title and Carolina will take on twice champion Denver Broncos. While the biggest sporting event in the United States reaches 50 this year, many historic races in motorsports have already made it to 50 and plenty have surpassed it.

The oldest race in the world is the French Grand Prix and while it hasn't been run since 2008, it was the oldest grand prix. First run in 1906, the 50th running didn't occur until 1964 after interruptions because of two World Wars. That race took place at Rouen and was won by Daniel Sexton Gurney in a Brabham. It was Gurney's second grand prix victory and first in two years after he won what is still Porsche's only victory in Formula One. Graham Hill finished second with Jack Brabham rounding out the podium.

Two years later, the Indianapolis 500 would hit the half-century mark. The roadster was fighting to hang on but the rear-engine cars had firmly rooted into the landscape of motorsports. Eleven cars were eliminated right when the green flag waved to start the race when Canadian Billy Foster on the front straightaway. Drivers taken out in the accident included Gurney, A.J. Foyt, Don Branson and rookie Cale Yarborough. Surprising, the only injury in the accident was a cut to Foyt's hand after he climbed the catch fence to avoid a potential fire.

The race was restarted after over an hour under the red flag. Jim Clark was going for back-to-back victories and the Scotsman battled Lloyd Ruby. Ruby led the most laps in the race but started losing oil and had to surrender the race lead to Jackie Stewart while Graham Hill passed Clark after Clark mistakenly thought Hill was a lap down. Stewart lead for 40 laps but oil pressure issues ended his chance to be rookie winner with ten laps to go. Hill would go on to win in his first Indianapolis 500 after starting 15th.

There would be a hiatus in major races hitting the 50th race milestone but in 1982, three motorsports stables would hit the milestone. Walter Röhrl won the 50th Rallye Monte-Carlo. The German would go on to win his second World Rally Championship title that year. Later that June, the 24 Hours of Le Mans would hit fifty. It was the first race under Group C regulations and the Porsche 956 dominated the race. Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell would take the victory. It was Ickx's record-setting sixth and final Le Mans victory. It would be Bell's third of five Le Mans victory. Three months later, the 50th Italian Grand Prix was run at Monza. René Arnoux took the victory in a Renault ahead of the Ferraris of Patrick Tambay and Mario Andretti. It was Andretti's final Formula One podium in his penultimate start.

While the 1985 Australian Grand Prix was the first time Formula One went to the country, it was the 50th running of the event. Prior to Formula One, the race had been contested by sports cars, Formula Libre, Tasman Series, Formula 5000 and Formula Mondial. The race in 1985 was the first on the streets of Adelaide. Keke Rosberg took the victory, his final in Formula One.

In 1988, Ayrton Senna won the 50th German Grand Prix at the Hockheimring. Four years later, Senna would win the 50th running of the Monaco Grand Prix. It was Senna's fifth victory at Monaco and fourth consecutive. He took the lead after Nigel Mansell had to make a late pit stop for a loose wheel nut. The Brit chased down the Brazilian but could not pass him and finished just over three-tenths back. Later in 1992, the Belgian Grand Prix hit fifty at Spa-Francorchamps and Michael Schumacher took his first of 91 grand prix victory.

There would be nearly five years until the next grand prix made it to fifty and that next race would be the British Grand Prix. Jacques Villeneuve won that day at Silverstone after Mika Häkkinen's engine expired while leading with eight laps to go. The next 50th running wouldn't occur until the 2008 Spanish Grand Prix where Kimi Räikkönen won after leading 62 of 66 laps from pole position. The 2008 Spanish Grand Prix was only the final race for Super Aguri.  The most recent grand prix to reach 50 was the Canadian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel won the 50th running of the race North of the Border in 2013.

It's not just sports cars and Formula One that has had event lasted for over half a century. Dirt races have made it to fifty. The 50th Turkey Night Grand Prix was the final one to take place at Ascot Park and that was won by Stan Fox. The 50th Hoosier Hundred was won by Tony Elliott in 2001 and Dave Darland won the 50th Hut Hundred in 2003. The Knoxville Nationals reached fifty in 2010 and Tim Shaffer took the victory and ended Donny Schatz reign. Schatz had won the four previous Knoxville Nationals. Schatz has won the five Knoxville Nationals since Shaffer's victory.

The once famous Daytona 200 reached fifty in 1991. Miguel Duhamel won the race, his first of a record five Daytona 200 victories. Mick Doohan won the 50th Dutch TT in 1998. It was Doohan's final Dutch TT as he went on to win his fifth and final world championship.

Beside Rallye Monte-Carlo, other rallies to hit the 50-running milestone include Wales Rally GB. Colin McRae won the 50th Wales Rally GB in 1994. McRae was the first Brit to win the event since Roger Clark won in 1976. Marcus Grönholm won the 50th running of his home rally, Rally Finland in 2000. The following year, Finn Harri Rovanperä surprisingly won the 50th Rally Sweden. It was Rovanperä's only WRC victory.

Other major endurance races to make it to fifty include the Spa 24 Hours, the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Bathurst 1000 and the 24 Hours of Daytona. In 1997, the Spa 24 Hours hit fifty with the BMW of Eric Hélary, Marc Duez and Didier de Radigues picking up the victory. The Audi R8 of Johnny Herbert, Christian Piscatory and Dindo Capello won the 50th running of Sebring in 2002. Bathurst reached fifth in 2006 with Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup taking the victory. It was Whincup's first Bathurst victory and Lowndes' second. Michael Shank Racing won the 50th 24 Hours of Daytona with A.J. Allmendinger, Oswaldo Negri, Jr., John Pew and Justin Wilson in 2012.

Each leg of NASCAR's triple crown has made it to fifty. The Southern 500 was the first to reach the milestone, however, the 50th Southern 500 ended prematurely due to rain. Jeff Burton took the victory and won a million dollars thanks to the No Bull 5 award. The 50th Daytona 500 was in 2008 and Ryan Newman took the victory with a last lap pass on the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas of Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart. It was Roger Penske's first Daytona 500 victory. The following year, the Coca-Cola 600 would hit the milestone but like the Southern 500, the race in Charlotte would be rained on. First it would be postponed a day and then it would end after only 340 miles due to rain. David Reutimann took his first career victory.

The 50th time IndyCar raced at the Milwaukee Mile the week after the Indianapolis 500 was in 1997. Greg Moore won his first career victory that day. Of course, because of the split, Moore didn't run the week before at Indianapolis and Moore would never get a chance to run the Indianapolis 500.

With all the major races that have hit fifty, a few races that have made their history as a junior formula event have also made it to the milestone. The 50th Pau Grand Prix was in 1991 and won by Jean-Marc Gounon. It was his first International Formula 3000 victory. Other notable drivers in that race were Christian Fittipaldi, Alex Zanardi, Damon Hill, Allan McNish, David Brabham and Michael Bartels. The 50th Macau Grand Prix was in 2003 and won by Nicolas Lapierre. Ryan Briscoe, Marco Bonanomi, Nelson Piquet, Jr., Robert Doornbos, James Courtney, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Robert Kubica and Richard Antinucci were other drivers who raced in the 50th Macau Grand Prix. Finally, the 50th New Zealand Grand Prix was a Formula Ford race in 2005 and won by Simon Gamble at Teretonga Park.

A few other races are nearing fifty. The Norisring Trophy hits fifty later this year. The Brazilian Grand Prix has been run 44 times and the Japanese Grand Prix is at 41 runnings. The Suzuka 1000km has also been run 44 times.

I think the history of some of these events hasn't been properly celebrated. As races have become more commodities that could be thrown by the wayside at any moment due to sanction fees, races have been sterilized. Gone are the historic backbones for events that have no history whatsoever in places that have no thirst for motorsports. These races should be celebrated. Each has its own unique history and they should not be ignored. Ignoring history makes race valueless and there are plenty of races that should be on racing schedules and are not.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

2016 Bathurst 12 Hour Preview

Just a week removed from the 24 Hours of Daytona comes the third major endurance race in four weeks but instead of coming from the metropolis of Dubai or the legendary coastal town of Daytona Beach, this one comes from Mount Panorama.

The 15th Bathurst 12 Hour is set for this weekend and 37 cars are entered across three class, twenty-two are GT3 cars and will compete in Class.

Nissan returns to defeat its victory. Katsumasa Chiyo and Florian Strauß will attempt to become the fifth and sixth drivers to win consecutive Bathurst 12 Hours. Joining them this year in the #1 GT-R NISMO GT3 is 2006 V8 Supercars champion and current Nissan Motorsport driver Rick Kelly. Fresh off his victory in the Dubai 24 Hour is Laurens Vanthoor and he leads the #2 Phoenix Racing Audi entry. The Belgian will be joined by Markus Winkelhock and V8 Supercars regular Alex Davison. Vanthoor is going for his third consecutive endurance race victory after he won the Sepang 12 Hours last December.

Six other Audis are entered, five of which belong to Melbourne Performance Centre. Greg Taylor, Barton Mawer and Nathan Antunes will drive the #5 Arris/GT Motorsport/Pete & Co./PAYCE Audi and the #9 Hallmarc/Network Audi will feature 2012 winner Christer Jöns, Marc Cini and Mark Eddy. James and Theo Koundouris will drive the Handley Surveys #49 Audi with Marcus Marshall and Shea Davies. Two cars are entered under the name of James Pem Racing. Two-time winner Christopher Mies looks to join John Bowe as the only three time winners of the event. Joining Mies in the #74 Audi will be Christopher Haase and Marco Mapelli. René Rast will look to do the Daytona-Bathurst double after winning in GTD with Magnus Racing. Rast replaces an injured Craig Lowndes in the #75 Audi alongside 2007 V8SC champion Garth Tander and Steve McLaughlin. Andrew Bagnall, Rick Armstrong and Matt Halliday will drive the #82 International Motorsport Audi.

Bentley Team M Sport returns with two Continental GT3s. Steven Kane, Matt Bell and Guy Smith will pilot the #10 Bentley. Andy Souceck, Maxime Soulet and David Russell are assigned to the #31 Bentley.

Four McLarens are entered. McElrea Racing's #11 McLaren is to be shared by Warren Luff, Tony Walls and Matt Campbell. Keltic Racing returns with the #37 McLaren for Craig Baird, Tony Quinn and Klark Quinn. The other two McLarens belong to Tekno Autosports. Shane Van Gisbergen runs one final time for Tekno, his V8SC team for the previous three seasons. Van Gisbergen moves to Red Bull Racing Australia for 2016. The New Zealanders' co-drivers are Álvaro Parente and Jonathon Webb in the #59 McLaren. Rob Bell, Andrew Watson and Will Davison will drive the #60 McLaren.

Lamborghini will be represented by three Gallardos. Roger Lago will share the #32 Lago Racing Lamborghini with Luke Youlden and Steve Owen. Justin McMillan, John McIntyre, Dale Wood and Glen Wood will drive the #48 Lamborghini for M Motorsport. Performance West Racing has entered the #62 Lamborghini for Nick Percat, Peter Rullo and Scott Andrews.

MISHUMOTORS has entered the #33 Mercedes-Benz of Renger van der Zande, Mirco Schultis and Patrick Simon. The other two Mercedes-Benzes entered belong to Erebus Motorsport. Thomas Jäger, David Reynolds and Nico Bastian will drive the #36 Mercedes-Benz. Bernd Schneider returns with Maro Engel and Austin Cindric as his co-drivers in the #63 Mercedes-Benz. Engel and van der Zande are the only two drivers that competed Dubai and Daytona last month. Engel failed to finish either race. Van der Zande failed to finish in Dubai and was 4th in the PC class, 34th overall at Daytona. Cindric is the only American in field.

Two Ferraris round out the A Class. Vicious Rumor Racing will have Andrea Montermini, Benny Simonsen, Tony Defelice and Renato Loberto drive the #49 Ferrari. Maranello Motorsport returns with the #88 Ferrari for Mika Salo, Toni Vilander, Tony D'Alberto and Grant Denyer.

Seven cars are entered in the B Class for Cup Cars.

Notable entries in the B Class include the #4 Grove Racing Porsche, which will feature Earl Bamber, Steven Grove and Scott McLaughlin. Chris van der Drift will lead the #11 Mobil 1 New Zealand Porsche with Scott O'Donnell and Allan Dipple. The #77 Team NZ Motorsport Porsche features Will Bamber, Graeme Dowsett, John Curran and Craig Smith.

Eight cars in the I Class, five are MARC Car Australia Ford Focus.

Seven drivers have won the Bathurst 12 Hour and Bathurst 1000. Percat, Tander, Kelly and Will Davison could all add their names to that list. The seven drivers are Allan Grice, Gregg Hansford, John Bowe, Dick Johnson, Paul Morris, Tony Longhurst and Craig Lowndes.

This race is the first of three rounds that make up the Intercontinental GT Challenge. The second round will be the Spa 24 Hours in August and Sepang 12 Hours in December.

The race will begin at 1:45 p.m. ET on Saturday. A live stream will be available to international viewers.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Musings From the Weekend: Where is Your Purse?

The Race of the Year may have occurred at Daytona. Three classes came down to the final lap. You had gearbox issues, a fuel derby and a photo finish. Drivers got monkeys off their backs and a great start to the 2016 season. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Where is Your Purse?
Listening to Trackside from last week, Kevin Lee and Curt Cavin discussed the new presenting sponsor for the Indianapolis 500. When it came up about adding the money to the purse (start at the 18:00 mark), they brought up a good point that $5 million over three years isn't enough to make the purse for the race something to rave about.

However, the purses in IndyCar do need to be bolstered. I know "purses" don't really exist outside of the Indianapolis 500 because of the Leader Circle program but every race does pay bonuses for the top twelve finishers at each race. The "bonus" for winning a race is $30,000, an earth-shattering amount, right?

The only problem I had with the presenting sponsor deal was how low it was. It adds nothing to the purses. IndyCar and the Speedway should want the Indianapolis 500 to be an astronomical number that leaves people quivering in excitement when they hear how much it pays to win. While the Indianapolis 500 purse is still a healthy, it doesn't stand out and it doesn't draw drivers like flies. Last in the Indianapolis 500 once paid more than winning a Formula One grand prix. Now, Sebastian Vettel makes more after the first test day of the season than finishing last in the "500."

It's extremely unlikely for the "500" will pay more to finish last but it's bolstering what the winner makes and the top half of the field. I was hoping any sponsorship deal, whether it was title or presenting, would be enough to get the winner's share over than $3 million plateau (which has only happened once: 2009 with Hélio Castroneves). I want to see the Indianapolis 500 winner get $5 million. That's something people talk about. Why do people talk about Floyd Mayweather fights? It's not because they are thrilling, it's because he is making tens of millions of dollars, if not more.

The "500" aside, IndyCar in general needs to increase its purses. I like Leader Circle and I think it's smart to give the teams a foundation to start on but the "bonus" for winning a race has to be more than $30,000. The lack of money in IndyCar is the reason Sam Hornish, Jr., A.J. Allmendinger and Danica Patrick would all rather be mediocre in NASCAR than be in the top half, if not the top quarter of IndyCar. You make more running 23rd in NASCAR than running in the top five of IndyCar.

How is IndyCar going to raise purses? The series needs more exposure to attract more sponsors and get a larger television deal. As for the "500," it needs to take a playbook out of the Daytona International Speedway's playbook. The track took out the backstretch grandstands and but up billboards. As much as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wants to stay in the year 1950, white walls don't pay the bills. There is no reason why the walls are white. The walls should be covered in sponsorship because that is going to bring revenue into the track.

Forget Tony Hulman. If Tony Hulman were around today he would see that the climate of the early 21st century is a hell of a lot different and that 1950 business tactics won't work. He would see that white walls are wasted space and that a title sponsor could be tremendous and the Indianapolis 500 would still be the Indianapolis 500 even if a company spent $10 million a year on title sponsorship.

Tony Hulman isn't spinning around in his grave because of presenting sponsor, he is spinning in his grave because the Speedway has not kept up with the times and is scrambling to exist.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about the 24 Hours of Daytona but did you know...

Ryan Dungey won the AMA Supercross race from Oakland, his second consecutive victory.

Landry Norris, Guanyu Zhou and Pedro Piquet won the three Toyota Racing Series races from Hampton Downs Motorsports Park.

Coming Up This Weekend
Bathurst 12 Hour.
The first Formula E race of 2016, the Buenos Aires ePrix.
AMA Supercross will be in Phoenix.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Extreme Speed Motorsports Wins Overall; Corvette Photo Finish in GTLM

The #2 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier-HPD of Pipo Derani, Johannes van Overbeek, Scott Sharp and Ed Brown won the 24 Hours of Daytona by 26.166 seconds over the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Max Angelelli, Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor and Rubens Barrichello. This is Sharp's second 24 Hours of Daytona victory. He won in 1996 with Wayne Taylor and Jim Pace. Derani won on his Daytona debut. Rounding out the podium was the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP of Marc Goossens, Ryan Dalziel and Ryan Hunter-Reay. All three cars finished 736 laps.

Fourth overall, five laps down, was the #5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of João Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, Filipe Albuquerque and Scott Pruett. The #01 Ganassi Ford-Riley of Alexander Wurz, Brendon Hartley, Andy Priaulx and Lance Stroll finished 11 laps down in fifth. The #31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Dane Cameron, Eric Curran, Simon Pagenaud and Jonny Adam finished 12 laps down in sixth

The #4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fässler won in GTLM by 0.034 seconds over the #3 Corvette of Antonio García, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller. Gavin held off García at the line after battling for the final 20 minutes. It is Gavin and Milner's first victory in North America since Mosport 2013. Gavin and Milner won last year's 24 Hours of Le Mans with Jordan Taylor. Earl Bamber, Frédéric Makowiecki and Michael Christensen finished third in GTLM in the #912 Porsche. All three cars finished 722 laps. Alessandro Pier Guidi, Alexandre Prémat, Daniel Serra and Memo Rojas rounded out the top ten overall, fourth in GTLM, a lap behind the GTLM leaders. The #25 RLLR BMW of Bill Auberlen, Dirk Werner, Augusto Farfus and Bruno Spengler completed 721 laps.

Twelfth overall was the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella, Davide Rigon, Toni Vilander and Olivier Beretta, completing 709 laps. A lap behind the Ferrari was the #02 Ganassi Ford Riley of Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson.

René Rast conserved enough fuel to cost the #44 Magnus Racing Audi to victory in GTD. Rast, Andy Lally and John Potter all scored their second class victory and all three won together in 2012. Marco Seefried scored his first Daytona victory. The #540 Black Swan Racing Porsche of Tim Pappas, Nicky Catsburg, Patrick Long and Andy Pilgrim finished second in class, three seconds behind the Magnus Racing Audi. The #93 Dodge Viper of Ben Keating, Gar Robinson, Jeff Mosing, Eric Foss and Damien Faulkner finished third in class. All three cars on the GTD podium finished 703 laps. Fourth in GTD was the #98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Richie Stanaway, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda, one lap down in class.

The #85 JDC/Miller Motorsports Oreca of Stephen Simpson, Kenton Koch, Chris Miller and Mikhail Goikhberg won in Prototype Challenge. The #85 Oreca completed 702 laps and won by four laps over the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca of Tom Kimber-Smith, José Gutierrez, Robert Alon and Nicholas Boulle. Third in PC was the #20 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca of Johnny Mowlem, Brendan Gaughan, Marc Drumwright, Tomy Drissi and Ricardo Vera. The #20 Oreca completed 693 laps.

The second round of the IMSA season will be the 12 Hours of Sebring, which will take place on March 19th.