Thursday, November 13, 2014

Has Marcos made his mark?

On the eve of his final Cup race weekend beginning, I figured it was a fine time for me to give my thoughts on Marcos Ambrose’s NASCAR career.
The raw numbers say the following:
  •  22 starts in the Truck series, with one pole position and four top tens.
  • 77 starts in Nationwide, four poles, 18 top tens and five wins (all on road courses).
  • 226 starts in Cup, three poles, 46 top tens and two wins at the Glen.
But I honestly think you have to look beyond the stats here. Unlike other drivers who made the jump, Ambrose was more than willing to start at the bottom of the ladder and work his way up. That won him a few fans as pretty much everything he went on to achieve was down to his talent rather than a silver spoon. I believe he gained even more fans after the 2007 Montreal Busch series race where he was taken out towards the end of it having been the guy to beat all day. I reckon very few of us would have shrugged our shoulders and said ‘that’s racing’, let alone smiling, when the microphone got shoved under our face afterwards.
However, that is what Marcos did his entire career over here. In every interview, you knew he would say how happy he was to be racing in NASCAR at some point, something I liked to hear as I take that as meaning they’re having fun.

So what will I most remember about Marcos Ambrose in NASCAR?

Well, I could go with the obvious meeting at Sonoma on race morning, or his first win…but I think I’ll go with something a little less obvious; the Truck series race in Kansas back in 2006.
Ambrose started fourth that day, his best qualifying of the season to that point I believe…he didn’t stay there for long. Sweeping around the front row off the start, the Aussie showed for the first time that maybe he might get the hang of this ‘turning left only’ deal. It was such a surprise that the commentators didn’t realise it was Marcos until he’d crossed the line to lead the lap. In the end he finished up third, something I doubt many would have thought possible in his first season.

Other memorable racing moments for me include;
  • His first Cup start at Watkins Glen in 2008. Coming from the back when qualifying was rained out, Ambrose dragged the Wood Bros #21 to finish third.
  • His first night Bristol race in 2009 where he finished third, behind Kyle Busch (who became the first, and so far only, driver to win all three races in a weekend).
  • Finally getting that long overdue win at Montreal in 2011…having been the recipient of a bonehead move by Jacques Villeneuve at turn 2 halfway through the race.
  • And lastly, the battle with Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch to see who would come out on top at Watkins Glen in 2012. 
If there is one thing that might be labelled as his legacy, it would be his prowess on the road courses. His career coincided with those races producing some of the best racing of the season. Now that could be down to the rules package, but it doesn’t matter; you knew that when those tracks rolled around, Marcos Ambrose was one guy you would have to contend with if you wanted to head home with the trophy.

Doing what he did best; giving it all on the road courses.

Darrell Waltrip believes Ambrose to be one of the best road course drivers he’s ever seen…now I’m sure people around the world will roll their eyes at that, but given the rarity of that type of racing in NASCAR, I can get where he’s coming from. So if raising the bar on the road courses while wearing his customary grin is all he’ll be remembered for, I’m ok with that.

Good luck back in the V8 Supercars, Marcos…hopefully the partnership with Roger Penske and DJR works out just fine.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Chase field for the 2013 TNRC

Well, after nearly a year off, I figured I might as well post something it's the resurrection of my points standings which I haven't bothered with since early 2011. You'll have to make do with just the races though as I haven't updated qualifying.

A rundown then since it's been so long:
- Both titles for 26 rounds use an old V8 Supercar points system which only awarded the top 17 finishers (72, 60, 51, 45, 39, 36, 33, 30, 27, 24, 18, 15, 12, 9, 6, 3, 1).

- Once the Chase guys are set, those 12 use the old CART points (20, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1). The remaining drivers use the V8 points, but these 12 are excluded from them (hypothetically, the 'winner' of a Chase race who isn't in the Chase could have actually finished 13th on the track).

- Half points given if a race doesn't reach 75% distance (yes, I'm going with the F1 rules on that).

- Bonus points for wins are 4 x however many you start the Chase with (except 11th and 12th, just like the real Chase). If a Chase guy wins a Chase race, they get an additional point (so 21 instead of 20).

- Top 10 Drivers after 26 rounds get 4 bonus points per round they clinched (eg: Jimmie was in after race 22, so he gets an additonal 16 points when the Chase started...not counting wins. Kyle gets 12 and Kenseth gets 8).

Right, so to the points after Richmond and it's a little different to the actual standings as you can see:
1 - Kyle Busch, 780 points (4 wins)
2 - Jimmie Johnson, 778 points (4 wins)
3 - Matt Kenseth, 678 points (5 wins)
4 - Carl Edwards, 643 points (2 wins)
5 - Kasey Kahne, 640 points (2 wins)
6 - Clint Bowyer, 621 points
7 - Kevin Harvick, 613 points (2 wins)
8 - Joey Logano, 610 points (1 win)
9 - Kurt Busch, 585 points
10 - Jeff Gordon, 568 points

To the wild cards then where, even if I did dock points for what happened at Richmond, Truex still makes it in as the gap to the next person in line (Greg Biffle...he was 94 points behind Martin at the end of the race) is substantial.

WC 1 - (11th) Martin Truex Jr, 547 points (1 win)
WC 2 - (14th) Ryan Newman, 468 points (1 win)

So here is the adjusted tallies as before the race at Chicagoland began:
1 - Jimmie Johnson, 32 points
=2 - Kyle Busch, 28 points
=2 - Matt Kenseth, 28 points
=4 - Carl Edwards, 8 points
=4 - Kasey Kahne, 8 points
=4 - Kevin Harvick, 8 points
7 - Joey Logano, 4 points
=8 - Clint Bowyer, 0 points
=8 - Kurt Busch, 0 points
=8 - Jeff Gordon, 0 points
=8 - Martin Truex Jr, 0 points
=8 - Ryan Newman, 0 points

I shall try to keep this up-to-date for the rest of the season.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bruno Spengler; a Canadian Battler

While I admit to have been impressed when TSN responded to my....question (we'll leave it at that shall we?) about where the praise was for Bruno Spengler winning the 2012 DTM title last week at Hockenheim, I wasn't that happy to see it only warranted all of 10 lines of text.

So I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Now, you could probably make a claim to Spengler not being Canadian at all given he was born in France. But he moved to a town in Quebec when he was three, and races with the red maple leaf on the side of his car, so that's good enough for me.

In winning the season-ending, and title deciding, race last Sunday, he became the first Canadian to win a major international racing title since 2003 (Paul Tracy in Champ Car) and the first to do it in Europe since 1997 (Jacques Villeneuve in F1).

Finally, after eight years, Bruno enjoys the moment.

He's come close to winning the DTM the last few seasons when he was in contention towards the end but fell short (a pair of thirds in 2010 and 2011). 2012 saw a big shakeup as he switched from Mercedes-Benz to BMW. I say shakeup as, while BMW have a mighty impressive racing history, they haven't raced in the DTM this millenium....and I think we all can agree that the car business moves along at a pretty fast pace in the technology and performance department.

It was therefore a big surprise when, in just their second race since their return, Spengler nabbed the win at Lausitz. He followed that up with wins at the Nurburgring and Oschersleben and rolled into Hockenheim just three points behind Gary Paffett (who is McLaren's test driver not exactly a duffer behind the wheel).

Despite qualifying behind Paffett, Spengler got a near-perfect start and soon took the lead from his fellow BMW driver, Augusto Farfus, when he made a mistake on the first lap. Bruno was able to build a lead to four seconds before the pitstops. Paffett managed to jump Farfus and emerge second once the stops were done and did his best to nibble away at the gap, getting to within a second, but it just wasn't enough as Spengler held his nerve to clinch the title in his eighth year of trying.

Bruno takes the chequered flag, winning the title in style.

So from someone who appreciates that accomplishment, congratulations to you, Bruno...maybe you can shed that nickname of 'the secret Canadian' now eh?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chrysler looking at V8 Supercars

V8 Supercars could return to the 'old days' where multiple manufacturers battle each other instead of just the two we have now. With the introduction of the 'car of the future' in 2013, the V8 big wigs are encouraging other car companies to enter. BMW, Mercedes and Toyota have all been touted as possibilities, but Chrysler are the first to actually confirm V8 Supercars is an option.

Chrysler are getting prepared to launch the next generation of 300C and the V8's are heading to America next year...could be a case of perfect timing.

It wouldn't be the first time the 300C has been used in a touring car series though. Back in 2008, the German group, Zakspeed, raced a 300C SRT 8 in the Italian Superstar Series.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How obvious is obvious?

I'm going to borrow this from Jay Hart's article dated November 11.

Jimmie Johnson was questioned why Kyle got parked for the Texas weekend and, after some prompting, couldn't figure it out (not because he wrecked a title contender, not on probation and not because it was under caution). Jay felt it was because Kyle was too obvious about it: was wrecking Hornaday wrong? Absolutely. Did the punishment fit the crime? Yep. But the only reason Busch got parked was because he copped to it. Had he kept his mouth shut or simply played vigilante under green-flag conditions – you know, when they’re running full throttle – he’d likely have gotten little more than a slap on the wrist.

That’s the lesson NASCAR is teaching here: Boys, have at it, just don’t be so obvious about it.

Which raises a simple question then; why were James Buescher and Todd Bodine both allowed to race at Texas in the first place after their post-race shenanigans the week before at Martinsville...wasn't that just as obvious as the Kyle/Ron stunt was?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The 2011 'A&W Cruisin' the Dub 300'

Well, it took me five years after my first NASCAR sanctioned series race, but I finally managed to break my 'road course only' mould when the Canadian Tires Series (formerly known as CASCAR) made their one and only trek to BC last night at MotoPlex Speedway, just north of Vernon.

She's a long drive from where I live (left home at 9, checked in at the hotel around 2:30)...the things us racing fans do, right?

Anyway, I got a bit worried when I saw the 'no cameras allowed' sign at the entry to that track but apparently that doesn't apply for the race (good thing too or Kristen would probably have shot me!) as I certainly was not the only person taking photos. The track itself is a half mile tri-oval (banking goes from 11 degreees to 14 in the corners), has seating for about 9500 people but only from turn 4 to turn 2...there was no seats on the back stretch that I could see.

Qualifying for the race started around 5:30 with the race itself going at 8pm. DJ Kennington (the 2010 champ) looked the man to beat before Scott Steckly (the 2008 champ) pipped him at the end. The order gets drawn out of a hat (helmet maybe since it's motorsport) the announcers told us. From memory, Scott went around in 18.3, a few tenths off the lap record.

Lining up for qualifying (there were 21 cars in total).

Kennington looked like he'd start from the pole...

...but Steckly had something to say about that.

After qualifying, all the cars were lined up on the front stretch where they allowed people on the track for a autograph session (it went for about an hour). Then it was driver intros, with a bit of a twist. JR Fitzpatrick, who races in the Nationwide series some times, told the officials that he thought it would be fun to have the drivers walk through the gap between the main grandstand and the uncovered one before going on to the track via the opening at the flag stand on the start/finish line as that meant the drivers would meander their way through the crowd.

So that's what they did (no photos of that since it was kind of hard to see them until they were at the flag stand). The spotters based themselves in the back row of the second uncovered stand...I thought they'd be on top of the main grandstand but obviously not.

The spotters get in position to call the traffic shots.

The cars all lined up on the front straight.
The autograph session in full swing.

Looking at the race results, it seems like it was rather dull; Scott and DJ started 1-2, and that's how they finished at the end of 300 laps...but it was anything but dull. A spate of early yellows occurred before they were finally able to settle into a rhythm saw DJ looking like the man to beat. But after the first round of stops, that changed as Pete Shepherd (driving car 7) charged his way into the lead.

The race gets underway...the first double file start of many.

The first round of stops...mainly just for fuel since you can't do both.

But just as it looked we might see a bit of an upset with none of the usual suspects winning, the favourites upped the tempo. Steckly drove to the front from 11th in about 30 laps as he elected to stop the latest and had the advantage of fresh Goodyears. That saw the others leave him stranded when, yet another, yellow came out. The final 100 laps or so saw lots of squabbling over track position...but no one could challenge Steckly.

Steckly leading Kennington on the final restart of the race.

Steckly takes the win as DJ's car just wasn't good enough on a short run to challenge.

Kerry Micks and JR Fitzpatrick got into it bigtime, with Micks turning Fitzpatrick coming out of turn 4 (he later said that JR got loose and he couldn't avoid him). Well, JR wasn't that thrilled about it, and after the race they decided to duke it out until their teams, and officials, dragged them apart.

Alas, as I said in the trifecta, my camera wasn't able to keep up once the sun went down and so all the photos from about lap 160 on were quite blurry...sorry about that. I did try with the flash on, but that didn't work very well either.It was a long day for me as the race didn't finish until 10:30 due to all the cautions...but it was worth the five hour drive. I didn't even get sunburnt this time!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Aussies Are Coming... 2013 anyway.

It was announced last week that the V8 Supercars have inked a five year deal to race on the new facility at Austin. At this stage, it looks like it'll be a two-race weekend, both races being 124 miles (which, in nice round Australian numbers, is 200 kilometers).

For a brief rundown on the V8's...hmm, I guess you could read the wikipedia page or check out some videos on youtube, but basically the formula is to take a sedan from GM and Ford (that may change soon...other manufacturers are sniffing about as a new style car is launched for 2013), chuck a 5.0 litre engine with 650hp in the front, make it RWD, add a rollcage and some slicks and put it on the track.

One of the most promising 'newbies', Shane 'The Giz' van Gisbergen doesn't do conservative.

I suppose they would be similar to the GT class in the Rolex series except without having to worry about those pesky Prototypes that zoom around the place at the same time. Yes, that means proper head and tail lights, wipers and doors (are you listening, NASC...oh forget it, they never do anyway) for us to enjoy.

My main worry is how you guys will take to the series. I mean, it's not like there's any shortage of motorsport currently available and the last time an Australian sport branched out over this way, it didn't pan out that brilliantly (the 1987 Rugby League experiment in Long Beach) so we'll just have to wait and see I guess.

I wonder if Marcos Ambrose will push for it to be on an off weekend for the Cup guys...