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Racing Roundup: Great Grand Prix in Austin, despite actions by stewards; Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame induction video; Alonso won’t drive in IndyCar in 2019 – or ever

Headlines:

  1. F1 tries to gain traction in the U.S. and – surprise! – the U.S. Grand Prix is . . . exciting
  2. Kennington, Steckly lead class of 2018 at Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame induction
  3. Chase Elliott is suddenly hot and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Chase heats up
  4. Another Canadian racing company takes a big step forward

F1: Stewards did their best but couldn’t ruin Grand Prix, which was won by Kimi, Ferrari

Despite every effort being made by the Formula One stewards to ruin a really great motor-car race on Sunday, Kimi Raikkonen won the U.S. Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen second and championship leader Lewis Hamilton third. (Click here for a full report.)

The stewards are second only to NHL referees when it comes to incompetence but they have the advantage – unlike the hockey refs – of being well away from the on-track racing with numerous television angles to double-check their investigations.
And yet they still do things that make no sense.
For instance, when the race started and all 20 cars went up the hill toward Corner One and turned left at the top, three drivers – led by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel – went wide and then completely off the track. All three then rejoined. Only one of those three got a penalty for (wait for it) maintaining his position.
I’m serious. Carlos Sainz did not improve his position, he maintained it. This is the official ruling from the stewards:
“Sainz was given one penalty point and a five-second time penalty after he was found to have kept his position by running off the track at turn one.”
I could swear that Vettel also kept his position by running off the track at turn one but maybe the stewards figured that since they had picked on him the day before they would let him go this time. But that’s no excuse for their stupidity in penalizing one guy for doing exactly what two other drivers did.
Saturday, there was a red flag. In oval-track racing, a red flag means stop. You must stop immediately (or almost immediately – it can take a bit of time to come down from, say, 200 miles an hour). The reason being is that there is grave danger on the speedway and ambulances and first-responders have to be dispatched. They can’t have race cars getting in their way.
In F1, a red flag means return to the pits but you have to slow down and tip-toe your way back. Vettel saw a red flag and slowed down but he didn’t slow down enough, said the stewards, so they penalized him three grid positions.
In qualifying, then, Vettel was second behind pole-sitter Hamilton, with Raikkonen third. But because of the penalty, he had to start fifth and Kimi moved up to start beside Lewis.

Now, a year ago, Hamilton was on pole and Vettel was beside him in the No. 2 spot and Vettel did exactly then what Raikkonen did Sunday – he beat Hamilton into Corner One and took the lead. Which is what Kimi did Sunday. Ferrari is back on their game after going into a slump. The cars are wicked fast. Who is to say that Vettel, instead of Kimi, wouldn’t have beaten Hamilton into Corner One? Vettel could very well.have won that race Sunday. But the stewards, by doing what they did to him on Saturday, made sure that didn’t happen.
As I have said previously, Formula One is billion-dollar club racing. They have no concept – none whatsoever – of sports entertainment. The fact that Sebastian Vettel didn’t slow down enough is not a good enough reason to levy what turned out to be a significant penalty. The guy is a four-time world champion, the track at Austin is wide and not blind so the fact that he slowed down was sufficient in my books.

But the stewards are convinced that the fans come to the circuits and watch on TV to see them instead of the drivers, so they have to be seen to be being decisive.
I could go on, but I’ve made my point. Thousands of people attended that race Sunday and thousands more watched on TV. Because of stupidity that should have disappeared eons ago, those people were deprived of a head-to-head battle between Vettel and Hamilton.
After this season is over, Chase Carey and his gang have to sit down and make it clear to Jean Todt and the FIA that this nonsense has to stop – it is taking away from the show and it really is getting tiresome.

Notebook Jottings

– I hate to say that I told you so, but I told you so. Fernando Alonso is not going to race in IndyCar in 2019. Why is anybody surprised? It was never going to happen and I can tell you now it never will. It was a one-off. It’s over.

– Derek Warwick was the “driver steward” this weekend. The FIA thinks it’s scoring points by having a former driver on their stewards panel – presumably to prop up the old guys, most of whom look like fossils, and the one young woman on the roster.
The problem is that F1 cars of 2018 are guided missiles compared to the jalopies Warwick drove. He hasn’t driven an F1 car in anger since 1993 – 25 years ago. He doesn’t have a clue what’s going on out there.
It would be far better to get an unemployed – but current – F1 driver to sit on a panel. Anthony Davidson, for example. At least he – or someone like him = will have been “out there” recently, unlike guys like Warwick, or Emmo (last F1 race, 1980) and so-on. . . . . .
– I cannot understand the cheapness of television. TSN – and thank you, thank you, thank you – subscribes to Sky’s coverage of F1 and carries the whole enchilada – pre-grid, on-the-grid, the race, post-race, post-post race. Great stuff.

But when the Grand Prix of Canada is on in Montreal, you would think – you would, wouldn’t you? – that they, maybe, would have Vic Rauter host a half-hour program leading up to the race, with perhaps Gerald Donaldson (a Canadian, he’s written two dozen books on F1 and is acknowledged to be Canada’s foremost F1 expert) and maybe Erik Tomas of Raceline Radio, to talk about the history of the Canadian race, and the Canadian drivers and owners now in the series. In short, insert some Canadiana into the Canadian GP. But they don’t do that – yet they should.
ESPN is showing F1 in the U.S. this year and they also pick up the Sky feed. Sunday, you would not have known the race was in the U.S. That’s an exaggeration – but not much. They could also have done in Austin what I think TSN should do in Montreal – have some American presence. Like how about a 30-minute intro heading into the race with Allen Bestwick doing the hosting and then the race play-by-play. Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever are still under contract to ESPN/ABC and they could have reprised their Indianapolis announcing roles.
And what was even stranger was that ABC (Buffalo Channel WKBW) went right into Sky’s coverage at 1:30 eastern, with no “opening,” and then, at the conclusion, had announcer Nicole Briscoe say goodbye and have a swell rest of the day.
Huh?
Nobody wants to spend any money, it seems. And then they get upset when people don’t watch. Did it ever cross anybody’s mind that if there’s some effort made, and some talent on display, and information that gets a viewer excited, that maybe more people might tune in? What a concept! . . . . .
– Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton were spraying the champagne on the podium after the race while Kimi was downing a couple of slugs of that good stuff. Glug, glug, glug. Glad to see he’s got his priorities straight. . . . . .
– They had a big crash in the Formula 4 preliminary race at Austin Sunday and everybody credited the halo with saving the driver’s life. The halo, of course, is on all F1, F2 and on down-the-line cars in European racing, where cars are replaced yearly. No word from IndyCar on either a halo or a canopy. I have a sneaking suspicion that you just can’t bolt one of these things on, that they have to be part of the manufacturing process. And let’s face, friends: IndyCar teams probably can’t afford to buy new cars without a warning of three or four years, which gives them time to save up. I predict the halo/canopy will not appear until the next generation of Dallara race car makes its appearance. . . . . .
– I wouldn’t make too much of this, but I do have to say it: F1 races – usually – are boring. Lewis Hamilton, this very year, has talked about how really boring they have been. Now, F1 is trying to attract attention in the United States. That F1 race was on TV Sunday for much of the same time as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race was being televised on another network.
What a coincidence, then, that the best race of the year took place Sunday in Austin. Great start, lots of action throughout and a wonderful dogfight with two laps remaining between Max and Hamilton.
As a said: what a coincidence. . . . .

WATCH: Eight racers, one manufacturer, inducted into Hall of Fame

Joel Robinson, whose company produces the films for the NASCAR Pinty’s Series races that are seen on TSN – he does other things, but this is a racing column – is also a fine reporter. He posted this report on Saturday night’s Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame induction ceremony to the NASCAR Home Tracks Internet page and I am re-printing it here, with permission. There is also a link to  a video report on the induction.

A pair of former NASCAR champions led an impressive group of eight drivers and one auto manufacturer into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame.

It was a who’s who of Canadian racers, organizers and partners inducted into the 2018 class during a ceremony Saturday evening at the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.’s Glenn Gould Studio in downtown Toronto.

Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame chairman, Dr. Hugh Scully, and master of ceremonies and legendary motorsports reporter Norris McDonald (ahem), kicked the evening off before the eight inductions.

Click here for video coverage of the inductions

NASCAR competitors Scott Steckly and D.J. Kennington shared their thoughts on being honored as some of the best to ever compete in motorsports in Canada.

Steckly, a four-time NASCAR Pinty’s Series champion, was the first inducted during the evening. He last competed in the series as a driver in 2015, but has since continually fielded cars for championship contenders such as fellow CMHOF member Alex Tagliani, Donald Theetge and Marc-Antoine Camirand.

“When we won our last championship three years ago I thought my speech-giving days were over,” said Steckly. “But no such luck. Twenty-six years ago some friends and I build a race car and competed at Varney Motor Speedway. Although we won that first feature that night, I never dreamed that would lead me to the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame.

“This is such an honor. Thank you to everyone. This means so much to me.”

Kennington joined his father Doug – who was inducted in 2004 – as the third father-son combination to become members of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame. Gilles Villeneuve was among the first inducted when the Hall was established in 1993; his son Jacques Villeneuve was also inducted on Saturday night. Previously, Mario and Michael Andretti were inducted in the International category.

The younger Kennington won series crowns in 2010 and 2012 and still competes in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series. He holds the record as the only driver in history to start every NASCAR Canada-sanctioned event.

“True honor to be here tonight. I never dreamed in a million years I would wind up here when I started racing go-karts when I was 5-years-old,” said Kennington. “My journey has been an awesome one.

“We’ve come a long way from Delaware Speedway. My whole career has been presented by Castrol and I wouldn’t be here today without them. To have won two championships and partnered with them for 25 years – that’s almost unheard of in this sport.”

In addition to his accomplishments in his home country, the St. Thomas, Ont., native has also competed frequently in NASCAR’s highest level in the United States.

“To come from there (Delaware) to run two Daytona 500’s, it’s not just me; I’m just the lucky guy that gets to drive and have my name up on the board,” said Kennington, who ran the Monster Cup race at Talladega last Sunday and will be racing in Cup again next Sunday at Martinsville.

Also inducted in the ceremony with NASCAR ties is legendary television producer Jim Robinson.

Robinson was instrumental in broadcasting motorsports in Canada and his legacy continues today with his son Joel, who continues to produce not only all NASCAR Pinty’s Series broadcasts throughout Canada, but various motorsports events every year.

“I want to thank the nominating committee for this honor,” Robinson said. “There are great similarities between drivers and people making television productions — we both want to win and set us apart from the others.”

Robinson who helped pioneer in-car camera coverage, shared a special story of when they first tried to use a camera in a race at what is now Jukasa Motor Speedway with NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Mark Martin behind the wheel.

“I decided to put an in-car camera in an old stock car so I rented a VHS camera,” Robinson said. “I told him I was shooting a wedding and I got insurance. I got with Mark Martin who said I could put it in his car and punched the record button.

“Mark puts his car in the wall and the camera dismounts and breaks into a thousand pieces and I returned the camera and thought, ‘Insurance, that was a good idea,’ and although we couldn’t use the footage, it helped me break through and try something new and unique in our broadcasts.”

NASCAR’s Mike Helton sent video salutes to Steckly, Kennington and Robinson that were played following their acceptance speeches. In addition to the NASCAR-connected trio, others inducted Saturday night included:

Formula Atlantic championship winning engineer Doug Crosty

Grand Prix du Canada promoter Francois Dumontier

Championship driver and race association official John Sambrook

Honda Indy Toronto operations manager Jim Tario

Formula One world champion, CART champion, and Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve.

Honda Canada, represented by president and CEO Dave Gardner

Chase Elliott wins another race

Chase Elliott, who won his very first NASCAR big-league race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park five years ago, is now a bona-fide star in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series. He won Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway – his third Cup victory of 2018 and his second in three playoff races – and was chased to the line by Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson.

Kyle Busch joined Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer and older brother Kurt Busch to round out the list of eight drivers still in contention for the Monster Energy Cup championship going into next weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

Larson, Brad Keselowski (sixth Sunday), Ryan Blaney (seventh) and Alex Bowman (ninth) were eliminated.

For complete details of the Cup race, please click here.

And John Hunter Nemechek, who also won a race at Old Mosport, although under somewhat controversial circumstances (he should have been disqualified for being out-of-bounds), won his first Xfinity Series race at Kansas on Saturday. For a complete story on that accomplishment, please click here.

AIM Autosport partners with Lexus, Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan for IMSA entry

Following on the heels of last week’s announcement that Pfaff automotive group will be entering a Porsche team in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Scott Hargrove and Zach   Robichon driving, AIM Autosport of Woodbridge, which has been quiet for several years, has teamed with Jimmy Vasser and James (Sulli) Sullivan to run two Lexus RC F GT3 cars in the GT Daytona class of the WeatherTech championship starting in 2019.

Vasser and Sullivan were partners with Kevin Kalkhoven in the IndyCar Series from 2011 to 2016, after which they formed an alliance with Dale Coyne Racing to run Sebastien Bourdais in the IndyCar championship.

AIM Autosport has won races and championships in every level of motorsports they have entered, including the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GTD championship.

“Having the opportunity to campaign two mighty Lexus RC F GT3 cars in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship in partnership with Jimmy and Sulli is fantastic,” said AIM Autosport co-owner Andrew Bordin. “To compete for wins and championships in this ultra-competitive class requires excellence in all aspects of racing and we now have all of the right pieces in place.”

AIM Vasser Sullivan will operate from the current AIM facilities in Woodbridge and a newly established U.S.-based race facility in Charlotte, N.C.

nmcdonald@thestar.ca