There’s tons of racing to preview this holiday weekend so let’s get at it.
As I suggested in a column published on wheels.ca a few weeks ago (please click here if you want to verify), Mercedes have kept Valtteri Bottas as Lewis Hamilton’s teammate for the 2020 F1 season. And I suggested Mercedes reserve driver Estaban Ocon would be back in F1 with Williams but not was not the vase. He’ll be back, but he’ll race for Renault next year, replacing Nico Hulkenburg. More changes to come, I’m sure.
There is a nagging question, however: prior to the summer holidays, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said the team would take the break to decide on its future driver lineup. When the team announced Bottas’s extension and Ocon’s exit, there was no mention of strategic planning. So was that a ruse to keep people talking about F1? Or did they come to the conclusion that they couldn’t do – or say – anything about future drivers until Hamilton fills them in on his plans.
Lastly, in announcing Bottas’s extension, Wolff was quoted as saying that Valtteri had fulfilled all of the team’s expectations to date. That’s funny. Wolff put Bottas on notice that he could be replaced and the driver promptly crashed out of the second last race before the break and was eighth in the final. So, again, was Wolff just talking or did something else take place behind the scenes?
Some of this might become a little clearer this weekend when the Belgium Grand Prix takes place at Spa. You’ll find everything on TSN.
Meantime, Kimi Raikkonen has revealed that he injured his leg during the holidays and might not be able to drive in the race Sunday. So Alfa Romeo reserve driver Marcus Ericsson was summoned from America – he was to drive for his U.S. employer, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, in the IndyCar race at Portland on Sunday, now replaced by Conor Daley – just in case.
Kimi says he will drive first practice and make an evaluation. I guarantee that once in the car, F1 drivers don’t get out – unless it’s kicking and screaming. So Kimi will race in Belgium and Ericsson will watch. But the question remains: how did he hurt himself?
For his part, Raikkonen says it was playing sports, which he says are dangerous. But don’t forget, he hurt himself once when he fell off his yacht in Monaco harbour after he’d been drinking. Stranger things . . .
Two things before leaving IndyCar and Formula One.
People at home Sunday should be able to see the IndyCar race at 3 p.m. on NBC and it will be interesting to see if Santino Ferrucci remains the darling of the fan base. Colton Herta was the golden boy earlier this year but he’s tailed off since. Will lightning strike twice?
And if Nico Hulkenburg is hired to partner Kevin Magnussen at Haas F1, it will be a travesty. Those two don’t like each other, for starters, and Hulkenberg has started 170 (or so) F1 races and has never made it onto the podium. Why would Haas hire a loser like that? Magnussen isn’t much better but he hasn’t driven as many races and has a podium and fastest lap to his credit. There are better drivers out there than Magnussen and Haas needs all the help it can get.
Here are notes about everything happening this weekend:
The Canadian Short Track Nationals will take place Sunday at Jukasa Motor Speedway. Bubba Pollard (pictured, above) won the $50,000 first prize a year ago – this is the richest asphalt short-track event on the continent, by the way – and he’s coming back, mainly because first-place money this time around is $75,000.
Alex Nagy, GM and promoter, says he and the track’s owners (Jukasa is just outside Hagersville; Hwy 6 South, heading toward Lake Erie) were delighted with the inaugural event last summer. “The pits were full; the stands and campgrounds were full and the drivers put on the best race we could possibly have asked for. It was a gigantic success that motivated our team to see just what we could do to make the second edition even bigger.”
So far, more than 70 teams have signed up for a shot at qualifying for the 250-lap event. In addition, there will be a support race to get the day going on Sunday and 46 teams to date have entered the Super Stock feature. Jukasa is also expecting a full field of cars for Saturday’s $10,000-to-win ‘Shootout’ for the Outlaw Super Late Models featuring all the top teams from Ontario and the U.S. and a full points-paying showcase for the OSCAAR Hot Rod Series.
In addition to a full two-day card of racing, fans will also have the chance to enjoy a concert featuring Madeline Merlo in the Pavilion on Friday night. Tickets are $10 for those with Canadian Short Track Nationals passes and $20 for those without. Advance tickets for the races and Madeline Merlo along with camping can still be purchased at www.JukasaMotorSpeedway.com or by calling 289-975-4999.
Over at Toronto Motorsport Park, Labour Day weekend drag racing will feature alcohol funny cars, Pro-Mods, Can-Am Stock and Super Stock dragsters, the Race Cayuga Sportsman Series and the headline Hellfire Jet Truck, driven by Russ Lethbridge, with a special added attraction being the Northern Warrior Jet Dragster. Go to firstname.lastname@example.org for complete information and ticket prices.
If you get FOX Sports Racing as part of your cable package, it will be cover the NHRA U.S. Nationals this weekend. Nothing beats racing live and in person but the Nationals is an iconic event and if you can’t get out, at least you have an alternative.
Ace PR man Clayton Johns advises that Ohsweken Speedway has got some spiffy plans for the next two race nights – tonight and next Friday. Writes Johns about tonight: Pinty’s Delicious Foods presents Back to School Backpack night featuring the $1,000-to-win Gale’s Auto Aftermarket Mini Stock Clash. The Kool Kidz-Corr/Pak 360 Sprint Cars, Strickland’s Brantford Chevrolet Crate Sprint Cars and Middleport Mechanical Thunder Stocks are also in action with full race programs.
Kids in attendance will have the chance to win a brand new Ohsweken Speedway backpack filled with school supplies as they get set to go back to school next week. The bags are purchased by the Ohsweken race teams who then fill the bag with school supplies. The Backpack program is an exciting way for kids to take the racetrack back to school with them.
Ohsweken will host a pre-race Autograph Session and a Racer’s Marketplace each of the next two race nights on August 30 and September 6 from 5:30pm to 6:30pm behind the main grandstands. Fans will have the opportunity to purchase driver merchandise and get autographs from their favourite drivers. Admission to the autograph session is free with the purchase of general admission.
For Labour Day special shows at Sunset Speedway, Sauble Speedway, Merrittville Speedway, Flamborough Speedway and any I’ve missed you consider a favourite, please check their websites.
Oh, and NASCAR Cup is at Darlington.
Last, the annual Budweiser International Classic 200 for supermodifieds will take place Sunday afternoon at Oswego Speedway in Northern New York around 4 p.m. Doug Didero, Davey Hamilton, Bobby Santos, Joe Gosek – the list goes on. I’m going; are you?