• confederate flag

Racing Roundup: Noose Found in NASCAR Garage, was Zanardi trying another "Pass" when he was injured

Kennington wins Flamboro and all the news.

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald June 22, 2020

I have a friend in the States who told me a year ago that he didn’t know what it was but that something was going to blow up in the United States.

“Our president certainly isn’t helping matters, but it’s something else,” he said. “It’s as if things we thought had been solved several generations ago are still festering.”

He might have been right.

This weekend at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, some nitwit flew a plane pulling a giant confederate flag over the facility, apparently in reaction to NASCAR’s banning of the flag from all its events.

And then, last evening, shortly after NASCAR pulled the plug on the Cup race there because of lightning and rain, a noose was discovered hanging in the garage of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports entry whose driver, Darrell (Bubba) Wallace Jr., is African-American.

NASCAR immediately issued a statement:

“Late this afternoon, NASCAR was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team. We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act. We have launched an immediate investigation, and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport. As we have stated unequivocally, there is no place for racism in NASCAR, and this act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming to all.”

Wallace, the only African-American driver in the series, is starting his third full-time season at the top level of the sport. In recent weeks, he took the lead in convincing NASCAR to commit to fighting racism and for the removal of the confederate flag.

The Petty team had a Black Lives Matter sign painted on the No. 43 at the recent Martinsville Speedway race, which was held on the same day NASCAR banned the confederate flag. And Wallace joined other drivers — Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch — on a video advocating change.

Wallace also issued a statement:

“Today’s despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and how persistent we must be in the fight against racism.

“Over the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed by the support from people across the NASCAR industry including other drivers and team members in the garage. Together, our sport has made a commitment to driving real change and championing a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone. Nothing is more important and we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate.

“As my mother told me today, ‘They are just trying to scare you.’ This will not break me, I will not give in nor will I back down. I will continue to proudly stand for what I believe in.”

I don’t think it’s going to take NASCAR long to find the culprit. Because of the pandemic, no fans are allowed into the infield (only a small number were allowed into the grandstands to watch the race that didn’t happen) and the garage area is restricted to racing team members, NASCAR officials and track safety teams.

The Cup Series race was postponed until Monday (TSN at 3 p.m.) because of the inclement weather.

On Saturday, the Xfinity Series race was run under clear and sunny skies. Justin Haley was the winner, with Ross Chastain second and Jeb Burton third. Austin Cindric finished fourth and Brett Moffitt was fifth. Canada’s Alex Labbe, a former Canadian Pinty’s Series champion, finished ninth.

Speaking of the Pinty’s Series, it’s not running – yet – of course, so some of their runners are taking whatever opportunities are presented to stay in practice. Flamboro Speedway out near Hamilton promoted an afternoon of racing Saturday and another former Pinty’s champ, D.J. Kennington (pictured), won the Pro Late Model feature, with Matt Box second and Shawn Chenoweth third. There was also a Canadian Vintage Modified race that was won by T.J. Marshall with Max Wright second and Jarrid Morphy third.

Ever the gentleman, Kennington Tweeted out later: “Just want to thank Flamboro Speedway, Castrol Canada, all my supporters and family and crew. I had so much fun racing with everyone and great to be at the track. Thanks for having me and loved it!”

My thanks to PR ace Ashley McCubbin for the results.

confederate flag

Ever since we heard the awful news late last week that Alex Zanardi had suffered another crash while in competition, this time in handbikes, people have reminisced about “The Pass.”

That was when the two-time F1 driver and two-time CART Indy car champion caught Brian Herta and CART officials completely by surprise when he went off the track to pass Herta at the Corkscrew Corner at Laguna Seca and win a race there in 2006.

That the pass was illegal didn’t dawn on anybody at the time because it was so audacious. But it was a perfect illustration of how competitive Zanardi is: he will do anything to compete and to win.

The details of Zanardi’s handbike crash remain murky but it apparently was on a public road, during a race, on a downhill section of the road where there was a slight turn. Zanardi was on the wrong side of the road when he was hit by a transport truck coming the other way.

I couldn’t help thinking, when I heard the news, that Alex Zanardi was just doing what Alex Zanardi always does – he was in a race and he was looking for an edge. Perhaps he saw an opportunity, albeit slight, that by whipping over the dividing line on that road he could get ahead, to beat the guys in front of him, and we went for it.

Who knows? Zanardi is in a medically induced coma in an Italian hospital today where his condition has been upgraded from critical to serious.

“You’ve never given up and with your extraordinary strength within, you’ve overcome a thousand troubles. Forza Alex Zanardi,” Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte tweeted. “Don’t give up. All of Italy is with you.”

As is the whole racing world.

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The 2020 Canadian Corduroy Enduro, an international off-road motorcycle race that has been held for 66 years and was scheduled for September in Gooderham, Ont., has been cancelled because of COVID-19.

Disgraced NASCAR star Kyle Larson, who was kicked out of the big league after uttering a racial slur during an iRacing event, has gone back to his short-track, dirt-track roots to make a living. He’s won on the World of Outlaws sprint car circuit and has been competing this week with the U.S. Auto Club’s National Midget Series during Indiana Midget Week. He won something like eight races in a row, counting four sprint car races and the first four nights of the series in Indiana, before losing on Friday night, finishing second at Lincoln Park Speedway in Greencastle, Ind. But he got back to his winning ways Saturday and Sunday nights in Lawrenceburg and Kokomo, Ind. He is too good not to be back in Cup next year, so long as he’s been serious about his rehabilitation.

Formula Electric has decided to end its 2020 season with six races at one track – Berlin, Germany. Then, starting in January, 2021, at Santiago, they will promote 14 races next year and wind up the year in London, England, in July.

In Formula One, two teams are in financial trouble and possibly/probably a third. Williams is officially for sale, McLaren is suggesting it’s ready to sell a stake in the company and a very strange story has team boss Gunther Steiner denying that team owner Gene Haas is going to dump the team.

The reason I call it a strange story is because Steiner at some point blasts the media for suggesting the team had already been sold to interests in Saudi Arabia, “but nobody asked Saudi Arabia,” suggesting the media are either lazy or incompetent. So the stenographers, er, reporters, copied down everything he said and put it all on the Internet and none of them – apparently – bothered to pick up the phone and ask Gene Haas.

Haas is already on record as saying he is good for this year but he will not commit to anything beyond that. So, as they say, we shall say.

McLaren is also a bit of a mystery, in that a Canadian, Michael Latifi, already owns 10 per cent of that team so it seems to be being sold off bit by bit.

For what it’s worth, I think F1 and IndyCar will manage to stumble through 2020 but 2021 will be the real challenge. Even though people are out and about and behaving as if COVID-19 is over, it is not. And businesses are suffering. When budgets get struck for 2021, the sponsorship money might not be anywhere near what it would have been if things were normal.

Speaking of IndyCar, when they race at Iowa Speedway July 17 and 18 (the second race, on the Saturday, will follow an ARCA stock car race), there will be fans in the stands. But only so many. Strict social distancing measures will be in effect. So if four people from a family get tickets, they can sit together but then there will be six feet between them and the next group of fans. Everybody entering the speedway will have their temperature checked and be given hand sanitizer and a mask.

Sounds very responsible. Whether those folks will put on the masks, though, remains to be seen.

By Norris McDonald / Special to wheels.ca