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Update: On Cape Breton Red, Paul Krassner and why the time to blow up Ferrari has come

Norris McDonald
Written by Norris McDonald

I have frequently said that the most interesting stories in the papers these days are on the Obituary pages. Case in point today (Saturday). There is a death notice in the Toronto Star for a street person, Wayne McKinnon, a.k.a. Cape Breton Red. Mr. McKinnon died on Canada Day at St. Michael’s Hospital.

The more I look at his picture, I think I recognize him from Yonge Street, north of Front, on the west side outside the entrance to the TD Centre. An affable chap, he would panhandle but not aggressively, so most people gave him money.

His notice, which is on Page B12, concludes thusly:

“He will always be remembered for his pool shooting skills, hustling and unorthodox active street presence.” It said that he greeted everyone from multiple mayors to the homeless and everyone else in between.

See? Isn’t that more interesting than just about anything else in the paper?

Okay, let’s go to Point 3 in the headline, the one about Ferrari.

Several weeks ago, I wrote in one of my many columns, on Star platforms and my own website, that there was no hope for Scuderia Ferrari in its present form and the only way to save it was the start over. To just replace a cog here or another there would not be good enough. Blow it up and start again, I wrote.

The performance of Ferrari today at Hockenheim has convinced me that my earlier conclusion was correct. Sebastian Vettel, the team leader, was eliminated in Q1 because of a problem with his power plant. Charles Leclerc, the challenger for Vettel’s crown, made it through to Q3 but couldn’t make a run for the pole because of a similar problem.

This is not good enough. Maybe Jean Todt, who has made his money and is at the top of the FIA, should return to his old job as team manager and start the process of turning things around.

Ferrari is so important to F1 that what is happening is tragic. Anyone watching the qualifying telecast could see the looks of astonishment, pain and concern on the faces of Toto Wolff and Todt (they were watching monitors together in the Mercedes garage) when first, Vettel, got out of his car and then Leclerc. Mercedes needs to beat people in order to be true world champions and Ferrari is their only real opponent.

(There is a great moment at the end of the movie The Great Race. The Great Leslie (Tony Curtis) has just lost the New York-to-Paris car race to Professor Fate (Jack Lemon) because he’d stopped just short of the finish line to kiss Maggie DuBois (Natalie Wood). When Fate catches on, he says: “He let me win; I demand another race.” That’s how Mercedes feels when they win and there’s nobody around to challenge them.)

One thing is for sure: if Vettel doesn’t retire outright at the end of the season, the chances are increased that he will take some time off before he drives for Ferrari again. He could maybe fill in that time at Mercedes . . . that would get people jumping up and down about F1 again: the two best drivers on the same team with no  team orders. I know: in my dreams.

Okay, I’ve been getting it in the ear about Lance Stroll at Mercedes. (Now I know how Jann Arden feels . . . she posted a complaint to Twitter about Air Canada serving veal in Business class and I bet now she wishes she hadn’t.) Give it time, I say. He got out of Q1 today for the first time in ages and will start 14th in the Grand Prix Sunday, which is certainly better than his usual 18th. I will stick with my prediction.

A guy named Paul Krassner died the other day and everybody is gushing about how wonderful a man he was. I do not agree with anything that was said. He was compared to Mort Sahl, the political comedian, but Mort Sahl had talent.

Krassner’s one and only claim to fame was a periodical called the Realist. It was supposed to be funny. It wasn’t. Once, back in the Sixties, he accused Lyndon Johnson of performing necrophilia on the corpse of John F. Kennedy on Air Force One during the flight back to Washingon from Dallas, post-assassination. That got him a lot of publicity.

One guy he browned off was Montreal talk radio host Pat Burns, one of the originators of the genre and a guy never at a loss for words. Krassner was invited to Montreal for something and Burns was beside himself that he hadn’t been stopped at the border.

One night – and I was standing right there, so I know this happened – Krassner and Burns met face-to-face in a hallway of the Little Theatre in what was then Sir George Williams University (now Concordia). They looked at each other and Krassner spoke first.

“Hi Mr. Burns,” he said. “I guess I should say hello. My name’s Paul Krassner,” and he stuck out his hand.

Burns ignored the hand, and brushing past the guy, he said: “Mr. Krassner, it was your pleasure to say hello; it’s mine to say goodbye.”

That’s the way a lot of us felt – and feel.

Will Power, fighting for his job with Penske Racing, won the pole for the Mid-Ohio IndyCar race tomorrow. Alexander Rossi, who just resigned with Andretti Autosport, will start second with the other two Penske drivers,  Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud, third and fourth. Our James Hinchcliffe, who had been running near the front during practice Friday and Saturday morning, wound up 11th of 23 starters.

The legendary A.J. Foyt said several races ago that things had better turn around at Foyt Racing, which is horrible most of the time, or else. It is now “or else” time. His No. 1 driver, Tony Kanaan, qualified 23rd and last for Mid-Ohio and his Brazilian ride-buyer, Matheus Leist, wasn’t much better and will go off 21st. Foyt has to do with his IndyCar team what Ferrari must do in F1: start over.

FRIDAY

I’m sitting here trying to get motivated to write an auto racing column and I have the TV on and it’s Groundhog Day.

According to a poll, two-thirds of the people in Ontario don’t think Doug Ford is doing a good job. But two thirds didn’t vote for him in the first place, so what is the news? If 50 per cent don’t approve, that would be news because he would be doing better. If 100 per cent disapprove, that would also be news. Two thirds means nothing but that’s the problem with the 24/7 news cycle: you have to fill all that air and the space in the papers. So they try to make something out of nothing.

Same thing in the States. Watch CNN and the president is a fraud. Watch Fox and he’s a saviour. Day after day after day after day. I have a headache.

So what does this have to do with auto racing? Lots.

The German Grand Prix will be held this weekend and Lewis Hamilton will probably win. Maybe he won’t but chances are he will. I can hardly wait to watch. The NTT IndyCar Series is at Mid-Ohio, which is owned by the same guys who own the Honda Indy Toronto. Two of the three Penske Racing drivers are favoured. Scott Dixon too. Whoopee. And the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series is at Pocono. Round and round and round and round. ZZZZzzzz. TSN will televise the F1 and Monster Energy Cup races and the IndyCar Series race will be on NBC.

Speaking of television, did you see where Sportsnet was up to its old tricks again this week? The Blue Jays were home at the Skydome on, I think, Tuesday, but you couldn’t get the game on TV. You had to watch it on computer. I am not a baseball fan, per se, but I will have the games on while I read or work. I turned on what I thought would be a Jays game and the Yankees were on instead. So Sportsnet showed a pro baseball game taking place in another country while the “local” team was playing at home and if you wanted to watch that team and that game you had to go online.

This is what happened to the IndyCar Series last year, if you recall. A race supposed to be on TV was moved online by Sportsnet. A popular uprising beat it back but that was just a hint of what was to come. I doubt Sportsnet will ever put all of the Jays games on a pay channel or online but I bet it won’t be long before they put some of them on. And then will Jays fans fight back?

Look, the world is changing and it won’t be long before consumers will have to pay extra for everything. I say extra because we all are paying now to have cable, Internet or what-have-you sent into our houses and, in some cases, a premium if we want movies and a special sports package. But if you want to watch IndyCar races on Sportsnet World or on your computer, it’s money on top of that. Jays fans had better get ready because it’s going to happen to them too. That’s what Yankees on TV and Jays on the computer is all about.

One other thing. Sportsnet has a “house ad” running these days promoting their nightly sports news program called Sportsnet Central featuring Ken Reid and Evanka Osmak. There are a bunch of brief images of all the things you presumably see when you watch Sportsnet Central – baseball, tennis and so-on. Four or five of these flashes show racing cars and race drivers. Now, I watch Sportsnet Central. I like Ken Reid (he comes from Pictou County, N.S., and my family bloodlines start there) and I own one of his books. I like Osmak’s enthusiasm, which seems genuine. So I’m a fan of the show and those two people. But for the life of me, with rare exceptions – and I mean “rare” – I don’t think I have ever seen anything about auto racing on that show. So, what’s with the ad?

NEWS ‘N NOTES

I am on the road a lot these days – Scotland, Germany, Ireland and Washington, D.C., in the last two weeks – so I’m staying home this weekend. But if I had my druthers, I’d be heading for Sandusky, Ohio, for the 42nd Annual Hy-Miler Supermodified Nationals at Sandusky Speedway. Trent Stephens, Dave Schullick Jr., Otto Sitterly and all those guys will line up for the Sandusky Classic Saturday night. Real racing. While I will miss this one in Ohio, I will attend this year’s Oswego (N.Y.) Classic on Labour Day weekend. The NASCAR trucks are usually at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park that weekend, which keeps me away from the Classic, but not this year. The trucks will be at CTMP the last weekend of August so that leaves the Labour Day weekend clear and so, for me, it will be Oswego, or bust.

Valtteri Bottas is done at Mercedes – but who will be the next second banana to Lewis Hamilton? Don’t scoff – it could be Lance Stroll.

Lawrence Stroll, left, Canadian owner of the Racing Point F1 team, talks with former F1, NASCAR and IndyCar star Juan Pablo Montoya, who’s coaching his son, Lance.

 

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has always talked glowingly about his talent and Juan Pablo Montoya has signed on to coach him. JPM is in Hockenheim this weekend, in fact, and is seen in the photo above with Lance’s dad Lawrence. And who would replace Lance at Racing Point? How about Nick Latifi. By the way, why do I say Valtteri is done? Because he has always been signed to one-year contracts and Wolff said in Germany this week that Mercedes wants to determine its long-term driver plans during the annual F1 summer vacation.

Results: Brandon Watson won the APC Series feature at Jukasa Motor Speedway Thursday night. At Ohsweken Speedway earlier this week, Rico Abreu won the Monday night race and Christopher Bell finished first in the Northern Summer Nationals sprint car feature race Tuesday night. Tony Stewart started both races but didn’t sparkle. The Southern Ontario Sprints will be at Brighton Speedway Saturday night.

Speaking of Saturday (and Sunday) the BARC Tourist Trophy Races will be held at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park this weekend. Formula 1600, vintage racers, Formula Libre, Formula 1200, Pirelli GT sprints, etc., will race over the two days. Go to http://www.casc.on.ca/ to download free tickets.

The NASCAR Pinty’s Series teams are en route to Edmonton where they will race Saturday night. The series was in Saskatoon Wednesday night for a double-header and Andrew Ranger and L.P. Dumoulin were the winners.

And all the other local tracks – Ohsweken (tonight), Sunset, Sauble, Flamboro, Merrittville and the rest will have shows planned so check their websites for details. There’s nothing like grass roots auto racing for fun and excitement.

Another one bites the dust. The famous Wall Stadium Speedway in Wall, N.J., will be turned into a subdivision next year, so when the mecca for U.S. northeast modified racing ends its 1019 season, that will be it. Such a shame.

END