Auto racing columnist Norris McDonald, in wrapping up the weekend’s action, turns back the clock a week to report on a conversation with Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson, who’s trying to get some of his teammates to learn to drive their high-powered cars safely.
Robert Wickens of Guelph won Sunday’s German Touring Car Series (DTM) race at the Nurburgring, Alex Labbe won the NASCAR Pinty’s Series second-last race of the season at Autodrome St-Eustache Saturday night, Brad Keselowski won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race Friday night and Kyle Larson was first in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series race at Richmond, Va., Saturday.
As usual, I will have things to say about some of those races. But first, I want to make a U-Turn and go back a week to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park where the Grand Marshal of the Camping World Series truck race, Craig Anderson, had some interesting things to say on a host of subjects.
Anderson, of course, is the goaltender (goalie, cage keeper, twine minder, etc.) for the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League and, during a chat with reporters last Sunday morning, said he wished he could get more of his teammates to come out to the races.
Asked if any of the other Senators players are into racing, Anderson — son of an SCAA Trans-Am race driver in the 1980s and 90s and someone who attends races at CTMP several times a year — said no, but that some of them like high-powered cars.
“A lot of the guys like cars,” he said. “They enjoy the aspect of cool, fancy, fast cars. We’re trying to get some of them out to the track and get them experience because I’ve been harping to them that it’s a lot safer to be doing 150 miles an hour down a track where you know a turn’s coming up versus being the guy who wants to be a hero on the highway.
“Guys are in their 20s with 500 or 600 horsepower cars and it can be a very tough experience for them to have to learn the hard way. We’re trying to get guys to come out but it’s a commitment to come to the track and it’s time-consuming. But we’ll get there.”
Anderson, who has a Corvette racing car painted on his goalie mask (“ ‘Give it your all and never give up’ is what Corvette Racing is all about,” he says), paid tribute to former Senators GM Bryan Murray, who died this summer.
“Bryan was well-respected and well-liked and we were all saddened, but we all knew it was coming. The last few conversations that we had, you really cherished. He was around a lot. Even near the end, he was around the room, with the guys, and it just showed his battle level and compete level and I don’t think people realized how strong a man he was.
“We’ve lost a few guys to cancer in the last few years. We lost Mark Reid, our assistant coach, a couple of years ago and it’s a terrible thing and I realize now, because of my own experiences (he took time off during the season last year to be with his wife as she battled throat cancer), that cancer touches everyone and you’re not immune to it and you make the most of your relationships and time with people.”
Asked if the Senators could go all the way to the Stanley Cup in the 2017-18 season, Anderson said they would do their best.
“A lot has to go right,” he said. “There’s a lot of good teams and a lot of good players and all the stars have to align. We learned that this year. We went pretty far but you have to realize how many things have to go right — whether it’s puck luck, whether it’s guys making a spectacular play.
“It’s something that you almost leave up to fate. You put everything you have into the practice and the preparation and you just go out there and leave it to fate and hope for the best. This is the first year I’ve ever really gone that far and at the end of it, and you reflect, you say it just wasn’t meant to be. You gave it your all and you can’t be ashamed.
“That’s the attitude and mindset I’ve taken going forward.”
Anderson had been introduced by CTMP co-owner Ron Fellows, who began his remarks by saying, “On behalf of Leaf fans everywhere . . .”
Craig Anderson is a class act, with his heart in the right place so far as his teammates are concerned. So many young guys in the NHL, as he suggested, like being able to tool around in a powerful car, showin’ off for the ladies.
But more than one of them has died as a result of driving too fast. Yes, in some of those cases, there were extenuating circumstances but the bottom line is that when the chips were down, they didn’t know how to handle the cars they were driving and they paid for it.
Hopefully, Anderson will be able to get through to some of them, at least.
So I’m watching the Monster Energy Cup race Saturday and there are four laps remaining and there hasn’t been a caution period forever (140 laps, in fact) and I’m thinking, “NASCAR won’t let this race end like this; NASCAR can’t let this race end like this,” and right then, as if on cue, Derrick Cope, who’s about 200 years old, drifts up and slaps the wall and . . . YELLOW!!!!
You really have to wonder, don’t you?
Martin Truex Jr. is just cruising to victory and son-of-a-gun if somebody doesn’t go and brush the wall. So they have a restart and Kyle Larson, who’d been up there but wouldn’t have passed Truex if there had been another 10 laps of racing, suddenly gets handed an early Christmas present.
And there’s more. Larson not only shoots into the lead but Denny Hamlin runs into Truex and crashes him, thus opening the way for Joey Logano, who had to win the race to make it into the playoffs, to get a run and nearly go All . . . . The . . . . Way.
Logano goes from 10th on the restart up to second at the checkers. If Truex only bobbles and doesn’t hit the wall, which means there’s another caution and the race is over, perhaps Joey catches Kyle and manages to sneak past at the last second and make the Chase
Wow. And to think it nearly happened.
Now, I’m sure this was all on the up-and-up. Other than an ambulance driver parking right at the entrance to the pits, Richmond is always a dull race, isn’t it? Nothing ever happens there, right?
Whoever dreams up these scenarios is right up there, in my books, with the people who write the story lines for the WWE as well as those who make up the excuses to justify increasing the price of gasoline. I know, it’s easy these days, what with the hurricanes. I’m talking about the times, though, when there’s a long wseekend approaching and you just know the price is going to go up and one or another of the enablers – they call themselves gas-price experts – explain that the retail price of gasoline in Mississauga is tied to the wholesale price on the docks at the Port of Brooklyn (or is that Buffalo? But WHO KNEW?
Anyway, they should all get Academy Awards for script writing because it’s just such great stuff.
The 16 drivers who qualified for the playoffs include Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Austin Dillon. Matt Kenseth, Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray.
The first 13 won races; the last three didn’t. To my way of thinking, the last three should be not be in the playoffs. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: winning should be the only way to make it into NASCAR’s post-season.
Meantime, at Autodrome St-Eustache on Saturday night, Alex Labbe lapped everyone but the second-place finisher en route to his fifth victory of the season in the second-last NASCAR Pinty`s Series race of the season, the Lucas Oil 250 presented by Bumper to Bumper and Coors Light.
Alex Gallacher of NASCARHomeTracks.com reports that Labbe’s 2017 season has been nothing short of amazing. The 24-year-old driver from Victoriaville, Que., went into the event with the championship points lead, passed Donald Theetge for the lead on Lap 82, and never looked back. He lapped every other driver on the race track with the exception of Theetge, cruising to a 15.933 second victory.
With the victory and second-place points placer Kevin Lacroix’s fourth-place finish, Labbe will carry a 33-point lead into the season finale at Jukasa Speedway in two weeks.
Saturday’s win marked Labbe’s fifth of 2017 and sixth of his career. He has won five of the seven oval track races that have been run this season, including three consecutive oval track wins coming at Edmonton, Riverside and St-Eustache, Gallacher wrote.
Theetge finished second, scoring his second podium finish of the year and was also the Josten’s Rookie of the Race. Defending series champion Cayden Lapcevich finished third.
Lacroix, who won the E3 Spark Plugs Pole Award earlier in the day, and LP Dumoulin were fourth and fifth, respectively. JF Dumoulin, DJ Kennington, Andrew Ranger, Mark Dilley and Alex Tagliani rounded out the top 10.
The Lucas Oil 250 will be shown on TSN next Saturday, Sept. 16, at 2 p.m.
Robert Wickens of Guelph, he of immense talent and yet another Canadian making his mark in international motorsport, had a pretty good weekend in the German Touring Car Season at the Nurnburgring. After finishing third Saturday in the first race of the weekend, he beat out fellow Mercedes driver Paul Di Resta for the win on Sunday.
It was his sixth victory and 15th podium in his 80th DTM race. Wickens, an open-wheel champion of many years who’s been racing in the touring cars for Mercedes recently, usually suffers from bad luck in the NASCAR-type series (in that the DTM drivers have been known to trade a little paint on occasion).
Not this weekend. A third and a first are nothing to sneeze at.
“This was a crazy race,” Wickens said Sunday. “The decisive move came with the pit stop. Heads up to the guys. The car was fantastic. Marco (Wittman, BMW) and I had a little battle there at the end. We had a few minor contacts `- we both took a lot of damage – but all in all it was a really good fight. I`m glad the race ended when it did and wasn`t a lap longer because Paul was pushing like crazy.“
Wickens sits ninth in the championship and second among the six Mercedes drivers. Lucas Auer sits second behind Mattias Ekstrom of Audi.
NEWS ‘n NOTES: With only a few races left in the 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship, Pete McLeod of Canada is a solid second place in the standings. He’s won the last four poles in a row and finished second three consecutive times. They’re calling him “Mr. Consistency.” Czech Martin Sonka is leading the championship. . . . . The 16th annual Targa Newfoundland started Sunday. Thirty-three teams are entered in the annual rally that will cover 1,500 kilometres of that fantastic province. . . . . . Tanner Foust won both rounds of the Global Rallycross event held in Seattle. . . . . . Leo (Crazy Leo) Urlichich and co-driver Alex Kihurani won the 25th Rallye Defi in and around the Outaouais region of Quebec at the weekend. They drove a Subaru. . . . . . Sports car ace Andy Lally started his first Trans-Am Series race at Watkins Glen on Sunday and won it. He drove a Camaro. . . . Both F1 and IndyCar will be back in action next weekend. In fact, it will be IndyCar’s final race of 2017.