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Categories: Racing

Ganassi Celebrates The Fourth With Win Despite Penalties

On: Mon, Jul 5, 2010 at 3:10PM | By: John Welch


Ganassi Celebrates The Fourth With Win Despite Penalties test 1-1

A NASCAR weekend is its own microcosm, it's own universe of t-shirts and ball caps and beer cozies and all of the tens of thousands of semi-trailers and support equipment needed in order to supply the NASCAR fan with poorly made merchandise that they can get for half-price on the Internet. An added bonus, all of this commercialism completely covers every square inch of Daytona International Speedway parking space. Except, of course, for the handicapped parking that never fills all the way up. The one crappy thing I have to say about the entire weekend is that all of the P.R. nonsense about "free parking" is complete B.S. There it is, rant over, now for the unabashed puffery. The pro-motorsports Wonkism. Whatever you'd like to call it, it was worth the $40 parking and the mile and a half walk.

Dateline, July 3rd, 9 a.m., Grand-Am final practice begins under auspicious skies of gray and eggshell. Rain threatening, a few GT cars made their way out on to the Speedway, Mazda 4-rotors competing for my ear's attention with low-pitched, baby-eating Chevy small-blocks. Repeat: never has a vehicle made an ear-splittingly beautiful noise like the Speed Source Mazda RX8's. F1 cars wail, the Lola Aston Martin reports with a Singer-smooth V12 syrup symphony, and full-bore racing small-blocks sound as if they are rearranging molecules within each tortured cylinder. The Mazda, again, sounds like thirty CART open-wheelers at once. The bizarre roar emanating from a single 4-rotor powered car as it blasts around Daytona is enough to cause goose-bumps that fist fight each other. My pores are bloodied. This opinion is not universal; my camera-mule, Steve, was not fond of the Mazda engine note one bit. After practice he opined that the Mazda was borderline annoying. Different strokes for different folks I guess, but I think he's nuts!

Not that the other Grand-Am cars aren't absolutely astounding either. Upon clearing the entrance to the grandstands directly underneath the Sprint tower, the sounds and smells of race-gas being squished, popped and then evacuated by Daytona Prototypes was clear and refreshing. I had been listening to either police sirens or rain all night, the muted farts of a DP banging off its pit-speed limiter was music to my ears. Farts, really, I'm not kidding. I don't think these high-strung engines enjoy rpms lower then 2,000. They seem to protest, argue with the pit road mandated speed limiter. The Ganassi BMW sounds as if it is shedding all four camshafts when relegated to the pit-road engine map. It isn't, in fact those cam shafts are spinning with perfection, as expected from the nearly flawless Ganassi boys.

Practice complete, we retire to our rented Ford Focus for a quick breakfast of Equate-brand Turkey and white bread of indistinguishable origins. 7-11 maybe? Winn-Dixie? Who knows where we got it from; we were very tired when packing for the day. Good thing the car was a rental; it was the unfortunate recipient of a merciless barrage of corn-hole bags and footballs, launched from the wobbling, drunken arms of our fellow race fans as they attempted to mix copious amounts of booze with serious competition. Munching my soggy sandwich while watching the showdown through my Ford-supplied vanity mirror, I was unable to tell who was winning but could clearly see that everyone was having a great time.

No time for Steve and I to enjoy this thing they called "beer", it was almost 11 a.m. now, time for the Brumos Porsche 250. Our impression of the race, inside the post . . .


A Short Rant On The Eve Of The Shopper's First NASCAR Race . . .

On: Fri, Jul 2, 2010 at 4:27PM | By: John Welch


A Short Rant On The Eve Of The Shopper's First NASCAR Race . . .  test 1-1

NASCAR is not a topic we devote a ton of time to (well, no time at all, yet) because, like Formula 1, it is heavily copyrighted and there are billions of other places to get info on either series. We like to stick to our favorites, if we can, series such as the ALMS, Grand-Am, and other assorted North American racing. Drifting, rally, and random sports cars can all be found here, but generally NASCAR is left to Speedtv.com, NASCAR.com, and everyone else with an affinity for turning left. That is, until we get a dedicated NASCAR writer, which we are currently attempting to obtain.

Slow going on that front, the human race is becoming disenfranchised with rolling billboards that have absolutely zero relevance to the autos being sold by today's manufacturers. Exactly which Toyota is it that is powered by a push-rod actuated V8 again? That's right, there isn't one! Which means Toyota developed the engine just for stock-car racing (and Tanner Foust's wicked Scion tC, which, itself, has little, if anything, to do with an actual Scion tC), thereby proving what is already obvious: developing new methods of brake cooling is the only thing NASCAR does for the auto industry, as a whole.

Seriously, the justification for racing is the development and implementation of new parts and systems in road cars, not a circle jerk for Cheerios, Pennzoil, and freaking cell phone companies. All other racing employs sponsorship; don't get me wrong, but other forms of racing are directly responsible for traction control, self-tightening belts, Rain-X, HID lightning, variable valve timing, suspension lightening and strengthening, and suspension design, on the whole. Carbon fiber, carbon Kevlar, dual-clutch gear boxes (Porsche 962, loogitup!), methods of engine cooling, passenger cooling, aerodynamics, methods for testing . . . this list could go on for days. NASCAR contributes tiny 15-inch rims that limit brake size. They then go to short tracks and road courses and run those brakes into the ground. The research done at the track has directly affected brake development at many companies, Brembo and Stop Tech being two of the biggest and most recognizable. Compare that with the developments and advancements achieved in Rally, sports car, or Formula 1 racing, and one might think that NASCAR is doing the rest of the racing world a slight disservice.

In no way am I stating any sort of hatred for NASCAR, just a disgust at its popularity relative to its competitors. NASCAR absolutely has its place. Think about what is going on out on the track: a Sprint Cup stock car is heavy, really heavy, 3,400 lbs. to be exact. There is no other serious race car on this planet approaching that sort of mass, not even close. Even dirt modifieds weigh a thousand or more pounds less. That heavy car is fitted with a fussy, nearly six-liter V8. These engines wind out to more than 9,000 rpm, and stay there for 350 to 600 miles. Pegged, at redline, for three hours. The technology may no longer be relevant to anyone other than Chevrolet customers, but the fact that these engines can squish on push-rods for that amount of time is just an astounding feat of engineering. It is a total shame that that engineering doesn't matter to anyone other than Corvette, Bentley, and truck buyers.


Ganassi Fined By GRAND-AM For Engine Violation

On: Thu, Jul 1, 2010 at 3:20PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


 Ganassi Fined By GRAND-AM For Engine Violation test 1-1

The Grand American Road Racing Association has assigned penalties to the No. 01 team that will compete in the Daytona Prototype class at Daytona International Raceway this weekend. The penalties are because of a violation that occurred at the June 19 Rolex Series race in Ohio.  After the race an inspection found that the team was in violation of an engine eligibility regulation that names engine components and performance levels and must be strictly abided by.

Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett have had their points lead reduced to 7 as they prepare for Saturday July 3rd’s Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona.


Watch the Daytona Holiday Race In 3D!

On: Thu, Jul 1, 2010 at 12:55PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Watch the Daytona Holiday Race In 3D! test 1-1

If you are disappointed because you cannot make it to the holiday races in Daytona this year (like me), why not do the next best thing; watch the race in 3D!  The media group, NASCAR Media Marketing and Entertainment along with Turner Sports recently announced that NASCAR’s very first venture to produce a 3D program will take place on July 3rd with the special presentation of the Coke Zero 400.


 

Nationwide Gets New Cars, Dodge Challenger Is Gorgeous

On: Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 1:46PM | By: John Welch


Nationwide Gets New Cars, Dodge Challenger Is Gorgeous test 1-1

NASCAR is unveiling (that’s right, I didn't say "NASCAR is reveals . . .") new bodywork for the second-tier Nationwide Series. This is bad because these new silhouettes are much closer representations of their respective models then what are used in the Sprint Cup Series, and they are also much more desirable models. Ford and Dodge have pulled out all the stops, serving up bodies that are not aero-perfect but that follow the spirit of racing much more closely than in years past. Win on Sunday sell on Monday works much better if the winning car represents at least some of the content provided by the customer car. Seriously, who buys a Fusion because it is fast? Fusions aren't fast, so nobody. The Mustang on the other hand . . . just sayin' . . .


Tickets Still Available For 100th DP Race, NASCAR Thrown In As A Bonus

On: Mon, Jun 28, 2010 at 10:14AM | By: John Welch


Tickets Still Available For 100th DP Race, NASCAR Thrown In As A Bonus test 1-1

Well, okay, technically it's probably the other way around. The Brumos Porsche 250 will be held at noon on Saturday, July 3rd. After the Rolex Series sprint race, the Daytona International Speedway crews will set about blocking off the road course and readiying the track for the Coke Zero 400. Formerly the Pepsi 400 . . . formerly the FireCracker 400. Sigh. I can't help it, I miss cigarette sponsorships and races named after a certain region or holiday. How are Jack Daniels and Coke Zero any better than Winston and The Southern 500? They aren't, but I digress . . .

So, anyway, you buy a NASCAR ticket and you get a historic Grand Am race as well. Genius marketing on the one hand, but really unavoidable on the other. Think about the logistics of clearing the entire Daytona facility out in between races, cleaning everything, setting up the track and then opeing the ticket counters again . . . instead of a green flag at seven p.m. we wouldn't see stock cars until midnight!

For anyone wanting to experience live racing but who have no idea what sort of racing they would like to see, this is the best of both worlds. In the morning you are treated to a hard-fought, prototype-filled road race, and in the balmy July evening you get brash, brutally exciting stock cars crammed into every input receptor on your face. The AutoShopper will be there, and you still have time to join us:

Brumos Porsche 250 (and some NASCAR something or other,) Tickets

Look inside the post for videos and other Grand Am goodies . . .


Mid-Ohio, The 99th Daytona-Prototype Race

On: Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 12:07PM | By: John Welch


Mid-Ohio, The 99th Daytona-Prototype Race test 1-1

This weekend marks the 99th race for the ubiquitous Daytona Prototype. A chassis and rule system raced only within the confines of NASCAR-owned Grand-Am (this is not completely true; see update below,), this chassis has little in common with the serious, high-dollar prototypes being raced in the ALMS and the European Le Mans Series. Those teams are encouraged to experiment: Open cockpit, closed cockpit? Gas or Diesel? DOHC V8 or Turbo-Four? Staggered front wheels or all the same size? Even though there are constraints in Le Mans racing, air-restrictors, weight penalties, and the like, the rules regarding a Le Mans Prototype are wide open compared to a Daytona Prototype.

It isn't like there is some sort of cost-savings for a DP team when compared with LM-style cars. True, the average Daytona Prototype comes in around $500 grand fully dressed, which is significantly cheaper than the average Le Mans prototype, but not cheaper than all of them. You could get a Lola LMP2 coupe on track in an ALMS race for less, if you have proper sponsorship and crew. Plus, Grand-Am suffers from the same "Spec-Series" woes that plague the IZOD Indy Racing League. The well-heeled teams (Target/Telmex/Ganassi, I'm mean-muggin' you!) put their "spec" cars into wind tunnels and figure out new bits and pieces for their cars that end up leaving the smaller teams in the dust. Take a look at the smooth, production-quality roll of the Ganassi Riley’s rear fenders, then look over at a Riley from a a smaller team. Same "chassis," but the Ganassi fender is aero-tuned, where a smaller team's Riley (Mike Shank Racing, for instance) has the same blocky rear fenders that came with the original DP/Riley bodywork . . . in 2002! Whereas the Ganassi Riley can almost be considered its own chassis, the Mike Shank car is still, basically a World Sports Car from the late nineties, with an added roof. Don't even get me started on engines.

So, why even bother then? How did this happen and who cares about Grand-Am besides die-hard road-race crazies such as myself? Despite all of Grand-Am's competition issues, the racing is still fantastic. Absolutely, fender-to-fender, high-adrenalin fantastic. As far as the actual on-track product is concerned, Grand-Am is one of the closest, hard fought Championships in the world. There are some amazing drivers in the series, and though the cars aren't exactly "lookers," or technologically mind-numbing, they're still thoroughbred speed demons with appetites for asphalt and the tears of their fallen adversaries. Also, unlike most other televised racing series, the little guy still has a chance. I refer you to this year’s Rolex 24, where a new Porsche team, utilizing an unpopular and under-developed engine, smoked the Ganassi boys for the over-all victory. This sort of scenario hasn't played out at Le Mans since the nineties, when Mazda and, later, McLaren were able to take over-all wins with supposedly inferior machinery. In 2010, the only place you will find that sort of excitement is the Rolex Grand-Am Series, and the brief history of which can be found inside yonder post . . .


UPDATE: The Daytona Prototype is raced outside of the Rolex Series, though it is highly modified and designed for a different rulebook. Behold the MoonCraft Shi-Den MC/RT-16. The "RT" stands for "Riley Technologies", appropriate because this is essentially the same rolling chassis as the Ganassi Rileys. What is different? The bodywork is substantially altered, created by Japanese tuning firm MoonCraft (duh!). The Shin-Den's fenders feature more aero holes and slats, the coupe's roofline slightly sleeker and more aero-efficient.

The MC/RT-16 is powerd by a 4.5 liter Toyota V8, and competes in the Super GT (formnally JGTC,) GT300 Championship. Rated at 430 bhp, it is more powerful then most of it;s competition, but it is also slightly heavier. See the image gallery for pictures of what the DP's should look like, and there is a video of the car in motion inside the post . . .


UPDATE: 24 Hueres Du Mans; Race Day!

On: Sat, Jun 12, 2010 at 9:36AM | By: John Welch


Audi R15 Plus test 2

The cars are waiting on the grid, the drivers anxiously pulling on their gloves and HANS device. I've got my pound of coffee, two laptops and a clear schedule. We will be updating the 24 Hours of Le Mans all day, but first a few dramatic happenings before the race has even begun.

The GT2 pole went to Risi Competitzione and Ferrari after qualifying, but it was stripped from the team after post-qualifying tech inspection. The rear wing on the Risi F430 GTE was found to be an inch to short. This infraction cost the American team the pole and possibly the race; they will now start from the very rear of the field. Crushing disappointment for Risi, the Ferrari teams penalty was Corvette Racing's gain. Having qualified second and third, Le Mans now has an all Corvette front-row in GT2. Another interesting note, both GT2 Corvettes qualified in front of several GT1 cars.

The Audi R15's are struggling for pace. Out qualified by all of the Peugeot 908's, the Audis need to hustle at the beginning of the race just to keep it interesting. Both diesel teams are light years faster then gasoline-engined car LMP's, but the Peugoet is one order faster then the Audi. Lack of testing due to economic kafuffles has seriously affected Audi's ability to stay ahead of their competition. The economic climate favors the older and better-sorted 908, rendering the R15 Plus's potential technological advantage moot.

The race is underway, and Allan McNish is ramming his R15 right up the ORECA Peugeot’s arsche. This apparent recklessness is classic McNish, driving the first lap of a 24-hour race as if it were the last lap. Updates throughout the day . . .


24 Heures Du Mans; The 'Shopper Preview - GT

On: Fri, Jun 11, 2010 at 11:38AM | By: John Welch


24 Heures Du Mans; The 'Shopper Preview - GT test 1-1

Zany mix-ups are always good for a laugh. Sometime around 2007, the entire world stopped caring about GT1 cars. Saleen, Maserati, even Aston Martin quit backing factory teams, and the mighty Corvette C6.R's were left to race each other. This whole "no competition" thing bored the hell out of CorvetteRacing, and they did what any self-respecting group of total-badasses would do: went andfound competition. With the American squad changing classes to GT2, that left no teams building or campaigning GT1 cars. It had become too expensive, too fast, too antiquated. GT1 was no longer relatable by 2009, the underbody aero-dynamics and carbon brakes just too costly for privateer teams. What to do, what to do . . .

Along came French driver Stephan Ratel, with is slicky-boy hair and his radical plans for molding GT1 into a relevant, global racing series. We will get further into the FIA GT1 World Championship and it's spectacular website later; all we need to know at the moment is that Ratel's plan would essentially create bigger GT2 cars. The under floor diffusers and carbon brakes would be shelved (just like a GT2 car,) and weight added to each car. Some of these new GT1 machines are specially built based on the rules, the Nissan GT-R's for instance, and some competitors are 'grandfathered' in. Start with a GT1 C6.R, take away all of it's aero-tricks, throw a sandbag or two in the trunk, and voila- new GT1 car. It could be argued that "New GT1 Car" stands for "Porky GT2 Car" and that the two classes being so closely matched should add up to some freaking amazing racing. It could also lead to some horrifying wrecks, as there are 8 cars entered in GT1 and an unprecedented 17 entries in GT2. Jeebus, that’s a lotta GT cars! Traveling at the same speeds! For 24 hours! 

We've got hard numbers inside the post. Qualifying times for all 26 GT entries, and possibly an image or two . . .


24 Heures Du Mans; The 'Shopper Preview

On: Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 4:22PM | By: John Welch


24 Heures Du Mans; The 'Shopper Preview test 1-1

It wasn't all that long ago you could time an Audi victory at Le Mans by the damn sun. Nowadays things have changed, drastically. The 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans will be held this weekend, and an Audi R15 Plus occupies not one of the top four starting positions. Not one! To further rub salt in that gaping wound, all four of the top spots have been filled by Audi's arch nemesis, Peugeot. You read that correctly, the first four positions are all Peugeot 908 HPDi's, with the fastest Audi coming in fifth. FIFTH?! All that '2012' business must be true! The world really is coming to an end!

For American fans, there a number of Le Mans aspects that are especially interesting this year. 2010 is the first year that Patron-Highcroft, a decidedly American team, has been invited to La Sarthe. 2010 also marks the 50th anniversary of the Chevrolet (no more 'Chevy', right?) Corvette's first appearance at Le Mans. In 1960, the No. 3 Cunningham Corvette driven by John Fitch and Bob Grossman won the large displacement GT class and finished eighth overall. Sharing the GT2 class with the yellow and black Corvette Racing cars are ALMS regulars Rahal/BMW, with their M3 GT's, the Flying Lizard Porsche GT3 and, on provisional pole for GT2, the Risi Competitzione Ferrari F430 GT. Not in the 78-year history of Le Mans has our country entered so many strong teams. The BMW's, the Ferrari and the Porsche should all be able to stomp their European counterparts, and the Corvettes will rival their GT1 cousins in overall speed. Utilizing a significantly toned-down set of aerodynamic rules, it will be interesting to see if the modern GT2 machinery can keep up with the older GT1 Corvette C6.R's, as well as the other GT1 machinery.

I'm going to go ahead a swallow my tongue right now, so that it doesn't happen while I am hyperventilating at 6:00 a.m., Saturday morning. While I'm doing that, why don't you peruse the LMP results from the first Le Mans qualifying session, inside this post . . . GT1 and 2 qualifying results to come in a later post . . .


Ganassi/BMW Dominates Sahlens 6 Hours

On: Mon, Jun 7, 2010 at 1:09PM | By: John Welch


Ganassi/BMW Dominates Sahlens 6 Hours test 1-1

Though we are in the midst of six straight weeks of televised Grand Am, this past weekend's Sahlens 6 Hours of the Glen puts a cap on the busiest week of the season. On Monday the teams practiced, qualified, and then raced at Lime Rock, Connecticut. Four days later they did the same at Watkins Glen New York, only this race was six hours long. Brutal.

The Telmex/Ganassi team ran afoul of the Gainsco Chevrolet on the first lap at Lime Rock. Front bodywork smashed to pieces, they were forced to park the car and watch the Lime Rock race from the pits. That incident lit the proverbial fire under the Tlmex team's collective asses, and they returned this weekend ready to conquer all comers at the Sahlens 6 Hours.

Conquer they did; Scott Pruett turned a blistering lap in qualifying, giving the Ganassi BMW the pole by a full second over the Gainsco car. The race played out in about the same fashion; the No. 01 TELMEX BMW Riley scoring its third consecutive victory in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. The Ganassi team's biggest rival throughout the race was the No. 99 GAINSCO Chevrolet Riley of Jon Fogarty, Alex Gurney, and four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson. The two teams combined to lead 179 laps. Gurney was gaining on the Bimmer from third position, but spun out his Chevrolet with 15 minutes remaining, resulting in a sixth-place finish. "This was probably the best the GAINSCO Auto Insurance car ever has been at Watkins Glen," said Fogarty, who drove the opening three hours, seven minutes of the race before turning the car over to Johnson. The reigning NASCAR champion ran second behind Rojas for his entire hour behind the wheel.