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Monday Morning Roundup: Gambling will put an end to team orders in F1; the appalling driver insurance situation, Dumoulin wins Pinty’s championship and ‘Roval’ racing just might save NASCAR’s bacon. Plus all the other racing news

Norris McDonald
Written by Norris McDonald

HEADLINES

Formula One outcomes fixed – but won’t be for long

The appalling driver insurance situation

L.P. Dumoulin wins second NASCAR Pinty’s Championship

“Roval” racing might just save NASCAR’s bacon

Catching up with the Nissan Micra Cup, CTCC and other racing news

FORMULA ONE

Okay, I will make this short and sweet:

Formula One is fixed. There is little competition and regardless of what anyone says, the outcome is determined in advance. It is also club racing at its worst, because in club racing there are rarely spectators and so organizers and participants don’t have to worry about them.

For proof of my first point, I will simply point to the results of Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.

And that F1 could care less about spectators in attendance at the circuit in Russia and the people watching on television around the world was never more evident than it was on Sunday when the best driver in the best car in the “race” (Valtteri Bottas) was told by his team to move over and let the other guy (Lewis Hamilton) win.

And the guy who finished third (Sebastian Vettel) didn’t see anything wrong with it.

An angry but stoic Valtteri Bottas and his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton are seen at the conclusion of Sunday`s tainted Russian Grand Prix.

They had better start seeing something wrong with it because the new F1 ownership is investing heavily in sports gambling. Don’t believe me? Please click here and prepare to be amazed.

Bernie Ecclestone would have nothing to do with gambling on the outcome of F1 races but this new gang apparently thinks it’s just fine. I suggest, then, that they have a very quick word with all the team owners and managers, starting with Toto Wolff, and tell them that “team orders” are now history or else somebody is going to wind up at the bottom of the Mediterranean wearing cement shoes.

F1 is big business but now that gambling will be involved, it will soon be an even bigger business and this is just the sort of manipulation that will catch the attention of not only ruthless professional gamblers but lawmakers in the EU.  When it’s just a bunch of guys racing around and having fun, that’s one thing. But when there are millions of dollars being wagered on the outcome of F1 races, and drivers are being told to slow down and let their teammate through, there will very quickly be hell to pay in the form of investigations. If anybody`s left to investigate after the Mob gets through with them.

All major league sports in North America and much of the rest of the world “police” the players and the officials to guard against such hanky-panky. They aren’t doing it for the good of the “sport;” they are doing it because billions are being bet on those games and if there is even a whiff of scandal, the sport would very quickly be in big trouble with both Vegas and the law.

You can bet on the outcome of NASCAR races but nobody gets too excited about that because if a driver like Kyle Busch or Joey Logano or Jimmie Johnson was ever asked to move over to let a teammate past, the answer would come in the form of two words and the second would be “off.”

Does anybody really think Ryan Hunter-Reay would ever deliberately move aside in favour of Alexander Rossi? In – say – the Indy 500? Don’t make me laugh.

The party’s over for team orders in F1. Or it had better be, if the people who run that business know what’s good for them.

HINCHCLIFFE MANIFESTO

Back in 1969, I wrote a story for the Globe and Mail, where I was employed at the time, about Bob Hurt, a multi-talented driver – Indy cars, stock cars, sports cars, sprints and midgets – who had lost control of his car going into the first turn at Indianapolis in 1968 and hit the wall backwards.

The force of the crash pushed the engine forward and broke his back and both shoulders. It also left him completely paralyzed. Told initially that he would never be able to move anything other than his eyes again, he was eventually able to move his head and neck and had some movement in his arms before dying in Toronto at age 61 in the year 2000.

Hurt was a friend of the late Toronto model – and modelling agency owner – Judy Welch, who was friends with Dr. Allan Gross, a resident (at the time) in orthopedic surgery at Toronto General Hospital. Welch and Gross arranged to have Hurt moved to Toronto for treatment from his home in Potomac, Md., and that is how I came to interview him.

At some point in our conversation, I asked Hurt who was footing the bill? How had he been able to survive without an income? This is exactly what he said.

Norris McDonald wrote this story about Bob Hurt in 1969.

“USAC (the United States Auto Club, which sanctioned virtually every type of racing back in the day) has insurance for all the drivers. When you join the club (USAC), which you have to do in order to compete, drivers pay a bit more in dues to cover the premiums. If you are really up the creek, like I am, there is a benevolent fund that kicks in to give you extra income so you can pay for hired help.“

I am telling you about Hurt today because of a column that raised a few eyebrows last week. James Hinchcliffe wrote a piece for Racer.com in which – in so many words – he said some owners in the IndyCar series were taking advantage of drivers in just about every way possible and that some drivers were racing for free  and that some other drivers didn’t have insurance.

(Hinchcliffe did not mention Robert Wickens. However, something set him off and it’s hard to think that there isn’t a connection.)

While Hinchcliffe’s manifesto was powerful enough, the reaction of driver Pippa Mann really made an impression on me. On Twitter, she wrote: “For the record, I am one of those drivers. There is never enough money left to pay me at Indy, and insurance would cost most of my annual income. Thank you @hinchtown for using your voice and platform to speak out.”

Now, there is not a lot in life that gets me really pissed off. I get annoyed about a whole bunch of little things, and moan and groan about everything from politics to traffic reporters who aren’t up to date (when we`re in the car, my poor wife has to listen to what I call my editorial comments All The Time) but not a lot gets me really pissed off.

This does.

NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA, Formula One and every other sanctioning body out there are the successful multi-billion-dollar businesses they are today because of people like James Hinchcliffe, Pippa Mann, Dan Wheldon, Jimmie Johnson, Justin Wilson, Robert Wickens, Charles Leclerc and I could go on and on and on. I don’t know about you but I don’t go to the races to lisen to the PA announcers, or watch a pit stop. I go to see race drivers perform. And that they are working at their profession without the protection that most working people enjoy – health insurance and life insurance – is appalling.

Now, this isn’t really a surprise. Many of us around this sport are aware that the dysfunction goes way beyond many (if not most) of the drivers having to pay the car owners in order to get to race (and how stupid is that?) and there were whispers about insurance following the deaths of both Wheldon and Wilson.

But now it’s out in the open and the sanctioning bodies should be ashamed of themselves. They get around it, of course, by maintaining that the drivers – who make them all their money, remember? – are “independent contractors” and responsible for their own fates.

But if it isn’t for these men and women, out there week after week, risking their lives for our enjoyment and  the bottom lines of those promoters, there would be no motor sport. Maybe the people who run NASCAR, IndyCar and the other sanctioning bodies should think about that – and do something about it.

Good for James Hinchcliffe for making this an issue. And good for Pippa Mann for supporting it.  (I wonder, though: where are all the others?)

Everything is relative. It cost the USAC a bunch to insure their race drivers back in the Sixties but they did it because they felt a responsibility and knew it was necessary. Where would Bob Hurt have been if it hadn’t been for the USAC?

If USAC could do it then, it can be done by all of them now. Which among them will be the first to step up and say: We will do the right thing and arrange life and disability insurance for every driver who starts a race in our series. We are doing this because it is right and just. We are the successful  businesses we are today because of these people and we owe it to them.”

Again: which one will be the first?

Click here to read James’s manifesto.

KENNINGTON WINS BATTLE BUT DUMOULIN WINS THE WAR

I fell ill and was unable to attend the final race of the 2018 NASCAR Pinty’s Series season at Jukasa Motor Speedway on Saturday night. The race was won by D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas and the championship went to L.P. Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres, Que., his second. Good stuff and congratulations to everybody.

Thanks also to NASCAR’s Jason Christley for the following report, augmented with some quotes sent to me by Bryce Turner of CANrace, who is rapidly becoming one of the best NASCAR reporters in these parts.

Also, thanks to Tim Southers for making sure I had enough photos.

Here is the report from Christley.

HAGERSVILLE, Ont. — For one driver, Saturday was a night five years in the making and, for another, it was the perfect culmination of a dream season.

Former NASCAR Pinty’s Series champion D.J. Kennington, who has been active in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series all season, ended a five-year winless streak in the Pinty’s Fall Brawl at Jukasa Motor Speedway and L.P. Dumoulin culminated the evening with his second championship.

D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas won the Pinty`s Fall Brawl at Jukasa Motor Speedway on Saturday night. As you can tell, he was kinda excited.

Dumoulin finished 10th to win the title by seven points over Alex Tagliani, who was xxth. Dumoulin led Tag by four points going into the final race of the 2018 season.

The 39-year-old Dumoulin had three victories, eight top fives and 12 top tens in claiming Canadian stock car racing’s highest honour for the first time since 2014.

Dumoulin went into the event with a four-point lead over Tagliani, but was forced to start from the rear after failing post-qualifying technical inspection. However, as Dumoulin piloted the No.47 Weathertech Canada/ Bellemare Dodge up through the field, Tagliani was slowed by a pair of penalties that knocked him back to a 13th-place finish.

In addition to Dumoulin’s championship, his car owner, Marc-Andrew Bergeron, claimed his second owner’s championship.

CBRT’s Brett Taylor wrapped up the Jostens Rookie of the Year honours, becoming the first Alberta-based driver to win the award.

Championship Standings

For Kennington, it was a hectic night. After winning the E3 Spark Plug Pole Award earlier in the day, the 40-year-old veteran had his hands full staying in front with his No.17 Castrol Edge Dodge. He fended off challenges from Kevin Lacroix, Cole Powell and Donald Theetge, and led 93 laps en route to his 20th series victory.

Kennington took the lead from Theetge on Lap 173 and held on through a late-race caution.

L.P. Dumoulin (47) leads Alex Tagliani (18) during the Pinty`s Fall Brawl. Dumoulin finished tenth and Tagliani 13th. Dumoulin won the championship by seven points over his rival.

Theetge settled for second, while June Jukasa race winner Kevin Lacroix led 64 laps and finished third. Peter Shepherd III and Andrew Ranger completed the top five.

Pinty’s Fall Brawl Results

Cole Powell finished sixth and earned the inaugural Top Oval Driver Award. The award went to the driver who earned the most points in oval races in 2018. Dumoulin won the Top Road Course Driver Award.

Marc-Antoine Camirand, Anthony  Simone and Adam Martin finished seventh through ninth.

Dumoulin said he was “super proud” of his team and thanked the fans (Jukasa  had a solid crowd on a chilly evening) for coming out. He compared his championship with a friend in Toirs-Rivieres who is battling cancer. “Keep fighting and never give up,” he said.

A disappointed Tagliani said the race was a tough one but that he was proud of his team and was already looking forward to 2019 when he expects to again be in contention for the championship.

The Pinty’s Fall Brawl will air on TSN3 and TSN5 on Sat., Oct. 6, at 1 p.m.

Dumoulin, Bergeron and the rest of his Dumoulin Competition team will be honoured along with NASCAR Pinty’s Series top finishers and special awards winners at the NASCAR Awards in Charlotte, N.C., on Fri., Dec. 7.

‘ROVAL’ MIGHT JUST SAVE NASCAR’S BACON

When I first heard about the road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway – the Roval” – I thought, “What a cheap gimmick. If you want to race on a road course, go back to Daytona, or take the Cup cars to Road America or, better yet, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.”

But after watching a highly enjoyable Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race on the Charlotte Roval Sunday afternoon, I’d say NASCAR just hit one out of the park. This “gimmick,” if you want to call it that, saw some really excellent racing and I suspect will result in improved TV ratings, which is just the sort of thing the beleaguered sports organization has been looking for.

Surprise winner Ryan Blaney put it to the crowd: “Did you like it?” he said over the track’s PA system and the roar of approval that his question brought answered it exactly.

I suggest International Speedway Corp. and Bruton Smith will create Rovals at some of their other speedways and that at least one of the two scheduled oval races at those tracks every year will become Roval races.

This, of course, is not good news for Road America or Old Mosport. NASCAR knew it had to do something to shake up its schedule but in order to add a race, say, at CTMP, they would have had to take a race away from another facility. Now they don’t have to do that.

As reported, Blaney won when Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson collided at the last corner coming out of the front-straight chicane and knocked them both off the podium. The collision that he caused also served to knock Johnson out of the playoffs.

The fallout from that will be interesting to watch. Johnson, who has won seven Cup championships, hasn’t won the title recently and is losing his sponsor, Lowe’s, at the end of the season. He’s a top dollar driver and a NASCAR draw but whether his employer, Rick Hendrick, can afford to keep him is the question.

Those who qualified to go on to the next round of the playoffs: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Truex, Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola and Alex Bowman.

For a blow-by-blow of that Sunday afternoon race, please click here.

Chase Briscoe won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on the road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday. Justin Marks was second with Austin Cindric (who won the 2017 NASCAR trucks race at CTMP) third Click here for a report.

Briscoe is a stock car racer and an IMSA sports car star, frequently partnering Canadian superstar Scott Maxwell in the Continental Tire Series. Well done.

CATCHING UP . . . WITH THE NISSA MICRA CUP

Olivier Bédard won his third Micra Cup Championship title at le Circuit Mont-Tremblant  series  finale  a week ago. He is seen posing with Nissan Canada President Joni Paiva (left) and series promoter Jacques Deshaies. Normand Boyer won the Senior Class champion title and Fadi Mourad was named Rookie of the Year. Ontario driver Jake Exton was the winner of the final race of the 2018 Micra Cup season.

CATCHING UP . . . GENERALLY

In Canadian Touring Car Championship action at Circuit ICAR in Quebec, Julien Pilon was first in GT Cup,  Ethan Simioni won the GT Sport class, Marc Raymond was first in Super Touring and Michael Sallenbach was first in Touring class. . . . . Saudi Arabian Airlines is the new airline sponsor of Formula Electric. Remember Williams having Saudi sponsorship in F1? . . . . . A.J. Allmendinger will be looking for a new ride in 2019. He`s out of his Monster Energy Cup ride despite finishing seventh at Charlotte on Sunday but he has IndyCar connections, so all might not be lost. . . . . . Remember Noah Gragson? He triggered that last lap, last-corner crash at the conclusion of this year`s Camping World Truck Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and was roundly criticized for it. Well, he impressed somebody – Dale Earnhardt Jr. – who announced that Gragson would drive for his Xfinity Series team for the next two years. . . . . . USAC suspended 2015 sprint car champion Robert Ballou for mouthing off one too many times. He also has to give back all the points fund money he earned this year plus if he returns to race in 2019 it will be under strict probation. The official reason was `actions deemed detrimental to the sport of auto racing.“ USAC doesn’t mess around. . . . . . When the NASCAR Xfinity and Monster Energy Cup races are held at Dover International Speedway Oct. 6-7, patrons will be able to place bets on who will be the winner. The Delaware Lottery Commission will hold the money. . . . . . Racer reports that RLR Msport and Toronto driver John  Farano are hoping to race in the 2019 Rolex 24 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans with their new ORECA 07 Gibson. Good luck. . . . . . Merrittville Speedway`s stock car awards night and dance will be held Sat., Nov. 24, at Club Castropignano in Port Robinson. Tickets are $42 apiece. Get yours now at 905-892-8266. . . . . . Geo Scelzi of California won the World of Outlaws sprint car race the other night at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. Significance? He`s only 16 and thus the youngest driver to win a WoO race. . . . . . Finally, Nicholas  Latifi of Toronto finished second in the Formula 2 race at Sochi on the weekend. He was running second in the sprint race but was rear-ended off the track and that ended his day.

nmcdonald@thestar.ca