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Harvick Takes it all at the Glen

Kevin Harvick confirmed his Montreal victory last week was no fluke by scoring his second consecutive Busch Series win on a road course Saturday in the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International.Harvick won last week in the series’ first trip north of the border after Robby Gordon and Marcos Ambrose took each other out, with Gordon taking all the headlines for his controversial antics in the closing laps, overshadowing Harvick’s achievement to some extent.

However, a strategy gamble coupled with great pace when he needed to push and a little help from Kurt Busch’s fading brakes, put him in position to make his point and take his third victory in the last four road course events he has contested.

“What a car!” Harvick said after claiming his fifth win of the Busch Series season. “We didn’t qualify like we wanted to and we thought our car was really good in race trim. When they dropped the green flag the thing was good to go, so it was fun to drive.”

Harvick gambled on stopping for the last time with 42 laps to stay out while others pitted ahead later, handing him the lead of the race for good on lap 50. He needed a few laps under caution to be able to stay ahead, although he believes he would’ve still been in contention if being forced to pit for fuel.

“Obviously if it would’ve been green we would’ve had to come in, put a splash and go, but that doesn’t take nearly as long as putting all your tyres on and filling the whole tank up,” he added. “We did the same thing last week and just a really, really smart race that we had, and a nice race car to go along with it.”

Kurt Busch, the pace setter since qualifying, was looking set for back to back wins at ‘The Glen’ running a different strategy to Harvick’s. But as soon as he got behind the RCR car in the closing laps, trouble started.

He overshot turn one on a restart with 13 laps to go dropping back to third, but on the following restart a couple of laps later he passed Paul Menard, then Jeff Burton and went in pursuit of Harvick. That was until his brakes allowed him to push.

“I felt like we had a good day in store for us,” Busch said. “When we pitted early on in the race we got four tyres and fuel, which put us very far behind. And so with that I ran as hard as I could almost every lap and unfortunately I believe we worked too hard on our brakes, which failed way on us.”

That promoted a charging Jeff Burton to second place, making it a one-two for Richard Childress Racing. Burton looked in trouble early on with a damaged front fender but still was able to come through the field and challenge at the front when it mattered.

Juan Pablo Montoya had a sad end to his Busch Series campaign. He ran strong in the first part of the race but his problems started when he dropped back after pitting for fuel on lap 46, planning to make it to the end.

By then he still looked in contention for victory as he leapfrogged leader Busch in the first round of stops. But later, during a restart he got sandwiched between Jeff Burton and Ron Fellows into turn one and his left and right front fenders were damaged, causing him to lose grip and positions.

He pitted once more under caution with 18 laps to go, had his car fixed, but got wrecked from behind by Steven Wallace just before the race was restarted. “It’s a shame, we had a good car today, and that’s it you know. Can’t win them all,” said a disappointed Montoya after retiring from his last Busch Series race of the year.

Points leader Carl Edwards had another bad weekend, which started with his crash in opening practice. He was forced to race in his back-up car, which had a track bar mount failure that had him parked in the garage for a while. He finished 32nd, six laps down on Harvick, who is stil third in the standings and 791 points behind Edwards.

Robby Gordon out of Pocono

Robby Gordon parked for Pocono 500Further to our article yesterday Marcos Ambrose getting screwed out of his first win by Robby Gordon, with Gordon taking him out of the race, despite being shown the black flag.

Today the news comes that Robby Gordon has been parked for todays Pocono 500, and come Tuesday he is sure to be facing more that just that penalty.

NASCAR took a dim view of both his antics and refusal to heed the black flag, and his penalties are mounting, and we may even see a substantial ban for him.

Ambrose gets screwed out of first win, but still smiles

Marcos Ambrose gets screwed out of first winThe NASCAR Busch series visited Canada for the first time ever today. Longtime open wheel racer and local guy Patrick Carpentier took a surprising pole position, and then proceeded to lead the first few laps of todays race.The race was pretty uneventful until the last few laps, and ended amongst chaos, which will probably result in a number of protests, fines and even suspensions depending on how NASCAR officials view the end of the race.

A late race caution for oil on the track left Marcos Ambrose out front after leading for more than 20 laps. Robby Gordon was lined up behind him, with Kevin Harvick, Scott Pruett, Patrick Carpentier and others closely bunched right behind Ambrose and Gordon.

Ambrose got a great restart and got the jump on Gordon. Going into the hairpin on that lap there was an accident, triggered by Kevin Harvick going side by side with Scott Pruett, with Pruett being spun around in front of the field. The result was a huge crash involving a number of cars, many of who had avoid contact all day. Meanwhile the yellow flag was thrown, but at the same time Ambrose and Gordon clashed twice, firstly as Gordon got around Ambrose, leaving the back of Ambroses car beat up, and then a second time as Gordon slowed up and Ambrose appeard to run into the back of him, leaving Gordon sitting on the side of the track while a number of cars went past.

During the caution period Robby Gordon moved through the field, pulling even with Ambrose at the head of the field, and made his feelings clear to Ambrose. Gorden felt he should be restarting at the front of the field as he felt he had been spun under caution. The NASCAR officials disagreed, and asked Gordon to drop back to 12th place. At this point the race had run it’s distance, and the race was to end under a green white checker. With all the front running car low on gas, any more caution laps would have led to even more chaos.

NASCAR waved the green flag, despite Gordon restarting right behind Ambrose, and being told he would be black flagged, and it was clear right away that Gordon’s only mission was to take Ambrose out, which he did within a few corners of the restart.Gorden then proceeded to pull away form the field, leaving Ambrose to scramble back to 7th after what appeared to be a certain first win. Back in the pack, Kevin Harvick emerged in front of Patrick Carpentier, for what was actually the win, with Gordon being black flagged.

Gordon then tried to go to victory lane and stated in an interview that he felt he was the winner, completing all the laps of the race in front of the field. NASCAR however had a different view and Harvick was wheeled into victory lane after a smoky donut ridden victory lap. Interestingly instead of the usual one car doing celebration donuts, Carpentier was also seen around the circuit doing donuts as well.

In the dying seconds of the telecast Ambrose was interviewed. While very disappointed at being cheated out of his first win he was still smiling and seemed to be genuinely happy to have been a front runner all day, despite the outcome.

There are many questions raised in those last couple of laps, and NASCAR is going to have it’s hands full in the next couple of days figuring it out, deducting points and levying fines. Going back to the first Ambrose Gordon incident, it is not clear who did what to whom. All that was seen was Gordon emerging as the leader after passing Ambrose, while the back of Ambrose’s car was beat up, which it had not been before they clashed. If the yellow was out already for the accident behind them, then Gordon did pass under the yellow, if not then it must either be declared as a racing incident, or Gordon must be punished. As for the second incident a few hundred feet later, it probably did happen under the caution, but it appears that Gordon did slow up, probably as he realized that they were under caution (remember the caution was caused by cars behind them, so they may not have noticed at that point) and Ambrose did run into the back of him. Whether Gordon was then entitled to restart 2nd again we are not sure, but as NASCAR asked him to move back to 12th we can only assume he should not have restarted in 2nd.

Moving forward from there, under caution Gordon did come up alongside Ambrose and at one point forced Ambrose off the track, all while circulating behind the pace car. That in itself must be a punishable offense in NASCAR’s book. NASCAR was then caught between a rock and a hard place, most of the front of the field would have run out of gas if they had to go much further, so they needed to get the green white checker finish underway. Unfortunately though Gordon had made his intentions quite clear during that caution period, firstly forcing Ambrose off the track, and then a number of times running into the back of Ambrose as they circulated slowly under caution.

After his behavior during the caution, and with his refusal to move back to 12th, NASCAR really should not have re-started the race when they did. The field should not have restarted until Gordon either went back to 12th, or was removed from the field, but it was restarted and as expected Gordon just ran Ambrose off the road. Given that they did restart then, as soon as Gordon punted Ambrose off, the caution should have flown immediately and Ambrose should have been declared the winner. To let a black flagged car alter the outcome of the race is shameful, and NASCAR should look at this very carefully.

In Robby Gordon’s defense, there has always been a grace period of 2-3 laps after a driver once he has been shown the black flag for him to report to the pit to serve a penalty, but in this case it was a green white checker so there was some confusion as to what should happen in this case.

No matter what, Gordon should never have restarted that race in 2nd, ending the race under caution would have been better than the way it ended. The next few days will be interesting, as would the line at NASCARS truck this evening.

Close Shave for Legend AJ Foyt

AJ Foyt Cheats Death on BulldozerAJ Foyt has survived many scrapes with death in his long motorsport career, and recently has been working hard on his ranch, and of course in true Foyt style has been doing everything himself.

Late Thursday afternoon he had a brush with death once again. While driving a bulldozer working on a lake bank on his ranch, the riverbank collapsed sending Foyt and the bulldozer falling about 15 feet into the lake, coming to rest upside down.

“It was such a helpless feeling when that dirt broke away and I was going down and down,” said Foyt, who estimates the bulldozer dropped upside down into the lake about 15 feet.

“The dozer had a steel cage on it which probably saved my life,” said Foyt, “because without it, the dozer would have crushed me. But the cage also made it hard to escape. I had to crawl through the front of it and it was hard to do under water with all my clothes on and with my bum legs and all. I’ll be honest, I was panicked a little bit. If I hadn’t made it to the top of the dozer, they would never have found me because it was completely under water.”

“I didn’t want to swim to the bank ’cause it was covered in vines and steep and I was already out of breath from getting out of the dozer. I knew I’d get too tired trying to haul my big butt outta there. But as I was calling for help, I saw a water moccasin swim by. I started splashing like hell then. After about 15 minutes someone heard me and stopped to help.”

Once he managed to get out of the lake he did not go to hospital as he was uninjured, and then spent several hours trying to get the bulldozer out of the lake, which took three wreckers to haul the 35,000 pound bulldozer up and out.

Who said motorsport is dangerous!

Ganassi to Fold Montoya Busch Team

Ganassi Fold Montoya Busch NASCAR TeamChip Ganassi has said that Watkins Glen next weekend will be Juan Pablo Montoya’s last Busch race for the current #42 Busch team, a team created to allow Montoya to gain valuable experience in NASCAR racing.

The official reason given by the team is that after Watkins Glen the schedule for the Busch races is not a good fit with the NASCAR Nextel Cup Schedule, so there is not much to be gained by Montoya continuing to run.

Looking at the stats this year, Montoya has actually achieved his best results when he was not driving the Busch car on the same weekend as his cup car, just look at Sonoma with a win, and Indianapolis with a second this last weekend. It seems with a single focus he does do better, but he has also needed to get mileage on the ovals, both to learn those he had not been on before, and just to adjust to NASCAR racing after six years in Formula One.

Now that he has been to almost all of the tracks on the cup schedule, and with some single minded focu, I am sure we will see more of the brilliance he has shown throughout his career, and if I was some of the other drivers, I would be starting to get worried, and start looking over my shoulder.

Toyota Wins First Race

They have done it!

In their first season in the Busch series Toyota has won a race. Jason Leffler passed Greg Biffle with only a couple of laps left in the race at O’Reilly Raceway Park (formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park) and held on to take the win. Backing up his win was David Reutimann, who finished in 3rd place, highlight Toyotas competitive debut in the Busch series this year.

“This was just real exciting to win like that at the end – beating and banging all the way through the final laps,” Leffler said, after taking only his second Busch Series win in 139 starts, and the first of his last 83 races.

“I just had a lot of fun tonight. I really wanted to be the one to do it and I’m really happy for Todd (Braun) and our whole team for being the ones to pick up the win.

“I’m pretty excited to have my name going into the history books as Toyota’s first Busch Series winner.”

Polesitting Aric Almirola looked like the man to beat right from the start of the race, but after halfway through he faded a little with a less than perfect handling car, but was never far from the front, finishing up in 6th place. In the second half of the race Greg Biffle was the man with the best handle on the conditions, and with only 5 laps to go looked like he would win, until Leffler aggressively drove his way to the front. Carl Edwards was also a late contender in the race, at one point running side by side lap after lap with teammate Biffle, but faded a little to 4th, which is another great result given his huge series point lead.

“The handling was not very good all night,” Biffle said. “We really struggled with our car but it was real super loose at the beginning of the race, I tightened it up and then I lost the race because I was too tight. I couldn’t get the gas down and unfortunately the no.38 came and beat us because of that.” said Greg Biffle after the race.

As usual it was an action packed race. The almost flat short oval has always produced some great racing, with several grooves, allowing side by side racing in the 26 years that the Busch series has visited it.

Another Motorsport Merger

Hot on the heels of the DEI/Ginn Racing merger it seems there will be another merger. This time however it looks like a NASCAR team will merge with another team form outside NASCAR.

Word on the street is  that longtime Ford team Robert Yates Racing will merge with current Champcar powerhouse Newman Hass racing.

Not much is know at this time, but an announcement is expected Friday. This does come as a surprise as recently Robert Yates had said that he had given up on finding a partner at this time, but he did say that a head hunting company would continue to quietly look around for opportunities.

What’s Up At Ginn Racing

Wow, this one really came out of left field. It’s almost the stuff fairy tales are made out of. Wealthy developer saves struggling team, expands it faster than you can blink an eye, keeps existing name drivers, signs on young drivers, and then adds Mark Matin into the mix. Talk about your overnight success formula, just add races and stir for success.

Well, apparently the fairy tale is over, the funding from the dashing price has all but dried up, and the sponsorship hunters have drawn blanks, leaving a team in a state of chaos.

Earlier this week it was revealed that both Joe Nemecheck and Sterling Marlin have been released and replaced immediately. Regan Smith, who has been sharing the ride with Mark Martin now moves across to the 14 car replacing Marlin. The future of the 13 car is unknown at this time, but it is rumored that it will not run again, and may be the subject of a sale. With Smith moving full time to the 14 car, his place sharing with Mark Matrin in the 01 car will be taken by Aric Almirola, who has been released from Gibbs racing to take up this opportunity. This news comes on the heels of the team shitting down it’s Busch series team, and laying off a number of staff.

So far Nemecheck has not commented, but Sterling Marlin has made certain details known, including that he has what he feels is a valid contract for the rest of the year, which raises the question of why this has been done, when presumably the team will still have to pay it’s drivers through to the end of the year. As usual it looks like the lawyers are circling around, and will be the only ones to benefit.

“It caught me by surprise, They called me yesterday, late yesterday, told me what’s going on. I ain’t got no problem with that. I was planning on cutting back next year but still would have liked to finish the year out like you’re supposed to and do everything that was in the contract that we’re supposed to do and we just don’t look like we’re gonna do it.” said Marlin.

“Well, I mean, it’s stuff I don’t want to get into,” he said. “I know that I can get up in the mornings and I can look in the mirror and know that I drove my heart out and done all I could do. And we’ve had a pretty good car at times this year, better than last year. And they had a lot of problems on their side over there that still need to be addressed and maybe will.

“I’m proud of my guys on the team. We were the only team that was outside the top 35 in points that made it in all the races, so that’s a lot more than a lot of good race teams and good drivers can say. So I’ve got nothing to hold my head down about because I’ve done all I could do with what I had.”

Let the lawyers handle it, and if I want to run somebody’s car next year, I can run somebody’s car [for] 15-20 races next year,” he said. “Or, somebody’s Busch car. I still enjoy racing, still enjoy it a lot. The travel part of it is getting old but as far as firing a car up on Sunday, there’s nothing like it. We’ll see what happens. I’ve got a ton of things going on around here but it’s still fun to race, too.”

Penske Racing Team 40 Years of Excellence

From its modest beginnings behind a Philadelphia-area watchmaker’s shop some 40 years ago, the Penske Racing Team, more than any other organization, has influenced the development, growth and direction of auto racing in the United States as both a sport and a business.

Led by former race driver turned “Fortune 500” business mogul Roger Penske, this team has won more than 250 major auto races around the world, captured 19 national championships (including 12 Indy-Car titles), and have enjoyed success in all forms of racing—Indy-Cars, sports cars, Formula-1, endurance racing and NASCAR. Penske Racing Team…

40 Years of Excellence documents the fascinating history of this unique organization, focusing on the talented drivers and innovative engineering that have been responsible for the team’s spectacular and enduring success. It also highlights the key events that have defined American motorsports during this timeframe; including the rise and fall of U.S. sports car racing in the 1960s and 1970s; the politics of the USAC-CART split in the late 1970s; the CART-IRL battle that unfolded 20 years later; and the phenomenal transformation of NASCAR from its moonshine roots into the mainstream commercial phenomenon that it is today.

Overall a great read, giving an insight into the world of motorsport over the decades, through the eyes of one of the longest lived and best teams in auto racing.

Racing Book Penske Racing Team

Maybe We’ll See More Of Junior

During the Busch tv coverage this weekend, there was an interesting short interview with his Jr Motorsports Crew Chief, in which he made mention that Junior is not allowed to run more than three Busch Series Races in a year.

This apparently is part of his Budweiser contract, and accounts for the very low number of times we have seen Dale Earnhardt Jr appear in the Busch series over the last few years.

Junior is a racer through and through, so it always puzzled me as to why he did so few Busch races, while other drivers are combining full Cup and Busch schedules, and this lets us know why.

On the surface everything has always looked great with Bud and Junior, but maybe, just maybe, the guy who prides himself on being his own man might just be fed up with being too restricted. In Budweisers defence, they are paying a huge amount for Junior, and I am sure after his great fire in the Corvette at Sonoma a few years ago, they are nervous about him running any other cars, but at the same time Junior is a racer and I am sure he wants to do more racing, which we will probably see once he moves across to Hendrick Motorsport for 2008.

Hopefully we will see more of Junior next year in the Busch series. Watch this space, and let me know what you think about this.