• Max Verstappen

Racing Roundup: Rumours fly in IndyCar paddock

Questions remain about Ganassi sale, Latifi on the carpet and all the news 

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald July 5, 2021
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There was a ton of racing this weekend – Max Verstappen won the Grand Prix of Austria, Josef Newgarden the NTT IndyCar Series race at Mid-Ohio and Chase Elliott the NASCAR Cup race at Road America – and almost as many rumours.

Let’s get to the rumours first.

There are plenty in the IndyCar paddock. This is more than the usual Silly Season, when bench racers put drivers in certain seats. No, these are out there, just floating around.

Michael Andretti, for instance, is on record as saying there will definitely be changes at Andretti Autosport next year. So, Colton Herta stays. Everybody knows that.

But Marco Andretti will not return to his dad’s team, except for Indy. Everybody thought this year was just a sabbatical and Marco would return in ’22. Not happening.

Ryan Hunter-Reay is on thin ice. Unless he wins a race between now and the end of the season, that ice could be very thin indeed.

Alexander Rossi has been talking to Penske. All of Penske’s drivers except Newgarden have been told their performance is under review. Chances are Rossi will move to Penske and Scott McLaughlin will go home to Australia. Or something. Rossi will be elsewhere next season. That is for sure.

So Andretti will be in the market for two drivers, at least. Maybe more. Our James Hinchcliffe, for instance, has not exactly had a stellar season.

Other drivers who might not make the cut for a car in ’22: Felix Rosenqvist and Conor Daly.

Why?

Oliver Askew has proved he ran race in IndyCar. So somebody has to open up a spot for him. And there are Formula One drivers who might soon find themselves out of a job. Where best to go? As Roman Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson will tell you – IndyCar!

There was a blockbuster NASCAR story that didn’t get a lot of attention last week. I mean, a lot of examination.

Chip Ganassi, one of the most successful race team owners in the history of the sport (Penske, Hendrick, Childress, Gibbs, Roush are the others), announced out of the blue that he had sold his entire NASCAR operation to Justin Marks, owner of Trackhouse Racing. The deal for two cars, infrastructure, outbuildings, trucks and so-on closes at the end of the current season.

Ganassi said the team had not been for sale and that once he received the offer he didn’t see if anyone wanted to increase it. He said Marks had a vision and that he liked it and that was that.

Okay, but if the team wasn’t for sale, how did Marks know Ganassi was open to an offer? And, to be frank, whether it’s a race team or a guitar, if someone approaches you with an offer you can’t refuse, you ask around to see whether you should refuse it because there might be more money out there. Look at the GTA real-estate market if you want proof of that.

And I don’t know Marks from Adam, but he is paying well north of $20 million for all of this and you wonder where he got the money. Hendrick and the others grew their teams slowly. This guy seemed to come out of nowhere. So you would think there might be other people involved.

Sure, he might have won the Powerball, but if he had, you’d think he would have said so. And, as a friend of mine said, you doubt that Ganassi would have sold his team for a down payment and monthly payments. So what is the financing? Chip Ganassi, as mentioned, is highly successful and the last thing NASCAR would want is to see two of the series’ cars sink like stones because the new owner of an established team had good intentions but was over his head.

Maybe a beat reporter or two might start asking some questions. They might not get the answers they want but they’ll have given it the old college try rather than just being stenographers, as is the case now.

There was some intrigue at Mercedes F1, too.

Lewis Hamilton signed a two-year contract extension in his quest to win his eighth world championship. (Have you noticed he really hasn’t been his old self since he had COVID? Just thought I’d point that out.) Said the greatest driver of this generation: “It is hard to believe it’s been nearly nine years working with this incredible team and I’m excited we’re going to continue our partnership for two more years. We’ve accomplished so much together but we still have a lot to achieve, both on and off the track. I’m incredibly proud and grateful of how Mercedes have supported me in my drive to improve diversity and equality in our sport. They have held themselves accountable and made important strides in creating a more diverse team and inclusive environment.”

Now, there was a heavy rumour (stoked by the Sky TV team, by the way), that he would be joined next year by George Russel, currently of Williams F1. If so, that would make Valtteri Bottas a free agent. Does that explain why Christian Horner has been procrastinating about signing Sergio Perez to a new contract? If Hamilton will have a new teammate to push him a little harder, then perhaps Horner thinks Max might need someone younger and faster to motivate him. We’ll see.

Our Nicholas Latifi might be under some pressure. There is no doubt that family money has financed his career so far, but at some point, the money isn’t enough if the team isn’t getting the results it’s expecting. Paul di Resta said it Saturday, just after Latifi was eliminated in Q1 while his teammate, Russell, advanced. Said Paul: “He has no excuses. He was here last weekend (for the Styrian GP, which was also held on the Red Bull Ring). This is where he has to show that Williams has the confidence (in him) to give him another chance next year.” Ouch.

For his part, Latifi had this to say about Q1: ““I am struggling to get the balance right this weekend. The first run wasn’t so bad, but the second run I made a mistake in the hairpin of turn three and missed the corner. I got it wrong and so obviously I’m very frustrated.”

He was also penalized at the conclusion of the Austrian GP for ignoring yellow flags. He has six penalty points on his 12-point-limit super-licence, too. It’s time for Nicky to bear down.

Can someone please explain to me why Lando Norris was named Driver of the Race? He started second and finished third. That’s going backwards, in my books. Yes, I know that he was penalized for allegedly pushing Sergio Perez off the track (Lewis has been doing that for years, and Michael Schumacher did it for years before that) but really,

The band that played the Austrian national anthem must have been channelling Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. I think.

Max just about piled up the field on the first restart. I’m kinda sorry he didn’t. Then maybe F1 would come up with some rules to ensure that the leader does it properly.

The bloom is sure off the Charles Leclerc rose, isn’t it?

Latifi

Toronto’s Nicholas Latifi has six penalties on his superlicence. CREDIT: Courtesy, WilliamsF1

PRO RACING 

Roger Penske won his first race (as an owner; he was a helluva driver) 50 years ago at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania when the late driver Mark Donohue won the USAC Schaeffer 500. Sunday, at Mid-Ohio, Josef Newgarden won Penske Racing’s first race of 2021, keeping the streak alive and cementing the anniversary. The NTT IndyCar Series will now take summer holidays for the next four weeks before resuming its schedule through the streets of Nashville on Aug. 8. For a complete IndyCar race story, please click here Newgarden dominates IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio bookended by exciting start and finish | NBC4 WCMH-TV (nbc4i.com)

Chase Elliott won the NASCAR Cup race at Road America and then had to be pushed back to the pits at 10 mph after burning off his rear tires performing a special burnout for fans halfway around the course. More than 100,000 people attended. Kyle Busch won the Xfinity Series race on Saturday, also at Elkhart Lake. For a Cup race story, please click here Chase Elliott scores a popular and historic victory in the NASCAR Cup Series at Road America (msn.com) For an Xfinity Series story, please click here Kyle Busch rallies to win NASCAR Xfinity race at Road America – Sportsnet.ca

Max Verstappen led from start to finish to win the Grand Prix of Austria Sunday with Valtteri Bottas second and Lando Norris third. The next race? Two weeks from now at Silverstone in England. A full house is expected. Note: How come thousands showed up in Austria for the GP, tens of thousands attended the Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks Display in New York last night and thousands are expected at Silverstone in two weeks and yet the Blue Jays have to play in Buffalo, a lousy 3,500 will be allowed into the Bell Centre tonight to cheer on the Canadiens and none of us can cross the border for the day to go shopping at the Galleria or go to the races at Oswego. It’s time we rebelled, folks. This is stupid. For a story on the race, please click here Verstappen in dominant F1 Austrian GP win – Chinadaily.com.cn

Smart strategy and deft fuel saving on a wet track led to the first IMSA victory of the season for Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani. Their No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi V.R took the lead Friday during pit stops shortly after the end of a 46-minute red flag for weather late in the WeatherTech Sports Car Series Championship C240 at The Glen. Nasr then stayed ahead of the field after a late restart to conclude an emotional victory. For all the IMSA results and stories, please click here https://www.imsa.com/news/2021

Michael Barnes

Michael Barnes won the Oswego race named after a legend, Jim Shampine. CREDIT: Twitter: Oswego Speedway/@dgraycats

OTHER RACING 

At New York’s Oswego Speedway (above), Michael Barnes was honored by track representative McKenzie Coleman-Miller after he won the Jim Shampine Memorial for Supermodifieds on Saturday night; Dan Kapuscinski won the Tony White Memorial small-block super feature and Tyler Thompson won the 350 supermodified race.

If you can believe it, 128 cars signed in Saturday night at Merrittville Speedway near Thorold. Plus spectator grandstands were at 25 per cent capacity, Raceline Radio’s Erik Tomas reports. And Flamboro Speedway had a good turnout of each, too. Rain, unfortunately, swept through the Brighton area and washed out the sprint car program at Brighton Speedway. The Knights of Thunder Sprint Car Series and the Action Sprint Tour will try once again to start their seasons next weekend at Merrittville. Thanks to Tommy Goudgefor the sprint car info.

Seven-time Trans-Am Series champion Ernie Francis Jr. won the Superstar Racing Experience round at Lucas Oil Raceway outside Indianapolis on Saturday night. The victory puts him into second place in the Camping World SRX Series championship standings, behind Tony Stewart and Helio Castroneves . Bobby Labonte finished second in Saturday night’s race while Scott Speed was third. Paul Tracy was eighth in the race and holds down seventh place in the standings. For the first time, a short-track ringer didn’t figure in the finish. Bobby Santos III, who’s a terror on 5/8-mile, paved, speedways like the one the superstars raced on Saturday, could only finish fifth.

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