Great Outdoors

Great Outdoors

By Phil Pash

Wiser Heads Prevail: Formula One teams won’t have to add ballast (weight) based on performance, and drivers won’t have to switch teams after 10 races next season to achieve some kind of parity.

That’s the good news out of the FIA Formula One Commission meetings in London as the group came to its senses and decided not to punish Ferrari for its excellence.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari’s lead driver, won his fifth world title this season while setting records for most victories in a season (11), most points (144) and largest winning points margin (67). With Rubens Barrichello, who won four times, Ferrari captured 15 of 17 races, finished 1-2 nine times, and ran away with the constructors title with 221 points.

The commission, headed by FIA President Max Mosley and F1’s commercial head Bernie Ecclestone, said the Ferrari dominance resulted in a drop in TV ratings and crowds at races, and questions from sponsors other than Ferrari’s.

The first thought was to react like American public education would and trash excellence, dragging everyone down to the lowest common denominator. But wiser heads prevailed.

So a new points system will be in effect in 2003. Instead of the top six drivers earning 10-6-4-3-2-1 at each race, the top eight will get points like this: 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1. They hope more points will extend the race for the championship.

Team orders, which Ferrari allegedly used twice this season (Austria and the U.S.), are banned—though it’s not clear how that can be enforced if everyone involved keeps their mouths shut.

Qualifying will be one car at a time on the track, with qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday, instead of just on Saturday. Teams will be limited to two sets of dry compound tires at each event, and testing will be limited on a voluntary basis (something else that may be impossible to police).

The commission said all of the above moves will help teams save money and somewhat level the playing field. That’s what they said.

In a separate decision, the Belgian Grand Prix was dropped from the schedule because of a ban on tobacco advertising. The Belgian government refused to give F1 an exemption from the country’s new laws regarding tobacco advertising; the F1 teams refused to run without it. Five F1 teams have tobacco advertising—Ferrari, McLaren, Renault, Jordan and British American Racing (BAR).

The 2003 F1 schedule will be 16 instead of 17 races.

F1 has agreed to phase out all tobacco sponsorship by 2006, cooperating with the World Health Organization. Britain and France already ban tobacco advertising at their F1 races. Among other countries, Belgium is alone in not waiting for the global ban. Others gave F1 a waiver until ’06, but the Belgian ban will be in effect next year.

David Byrne, the European Union public health chief, criticized the F1 decision, saying the sport was racing with “tainted money,” and the move was “an unjustified sanction against Belgium.” FIA questioned both the credibility and “respect for legal detail” of Byrne.

The FIA calculates that the tobacco industry provides F1 and world rally teams with sponsorship worth more than $350 million a year.

Spa-Francorchamps, site of the Belgian race, is the favorite track of Schumacher and many other drivers. But it appears it will go the way of Brands Hatch, Jerez, Le Castellet, Kyalami, Zandvoort and Zolder down F1’s memory lane. Too bad.

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Benson Gets First: Johnny Benson held off Mark Martin over the last 12 laps to get his first victory in 226 NASCAR Winston Cup starts, nosing Martin at the line by 0.261 seconds at Rockingham. Benson drove the No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac. Valvoline was Martin’s sponsor for much of his career.

Benson, 39, sidelined twice this season for a total of six races with two different rib injuries, became the 18th different winner of 2002 and the fifth first-time winner. Kurt Busch, Martin’s teammate, was third, and Benson praised both: “I love racing Mark Martin, he’s real clean. Kurt Busch, too, he’s been real good with us all year.”

Points leader Tony Stewart, battling an ill-handling car, came back to finish 14th. He led Martin by 146 coming in, but now leads by only 87 with two races left — Sunday at Phoenix and Nov. 17 at Miami-Homestead. Rookie Jimmie Johnson finished 37th and appears out of the title chase, 219 points back. Ryan Newman is 225 points behind and Busch is 248 back.

Rusty Wallace has just two more chances to win this season and stretch his streak to 17 straight years with at least one victory. That would break the NASCAR record he shares with Ricky Rudd. Jimmy Spencer got a vote of confidence from his team at Rockingham, which means he could be on the way out. Rumors persist that Casey Atwood will be out of the No. 7 Dodge, replaced by Kevin Lepage. Ron Hornaday will be in the No. 83 Chevy at Phoenix, replacing Kerry Earnhardt, who has decided to focus on the Busch Series for the rest of the year. Greg Biffle was 25th in the No. 44 Petty Dodge while Hank Parker Jr. was 33rd in his Cup debut in an Evernham R&D Dodge.

Matt Kenseth’s No. 17 DeWalt team, led by crew chief Robbie Reiser, paced a Roush Racing sweep of the 35th annual Union 76 World Pit Crew Competition at Rockingham. Mark Martin’s team was second at 17.005 seconds and Kurt Busch’s team third at 17.566.

The No. 17 crew put in two cans of gas and changed four tires in 16.823 seconds, breaking the record of 17.695 the team set last year. They are the first back-to-back winners since Dale Earnhardt’s team won in 1987 and 1988. The victory was worth $40,000, including $10,000 for the new record.

It took a while for Jamie McMurray to find victory lane, but now that he has, he’s not going to be kept out of it. McMurray, who got his first Winston Cup victory in only his second start, got his first Busch Series victory at Atlanta when leader Joe Nemechek ran out of gas.

He got his second straight Busch win at Rockingham when leaders Jeff Green and Michael Waltrip tangled on the next to last lap, and McMurray drove through for the victory. Greg Biffle finished second and effectively clinched the season title, leading Jason Keller by 212 points with two races to go—Phoenix and Homestead.

Ted Musgrave won the Craftsman Truck Series race at California Speedway, edging his teammate Jason Leffler by 1.603 seconds. Brendan Gaughan completed a Dodge sweep while Travis Kvapil of Janesville, Wis., was fourth in a Chevy.

Musgrave’s win cut into Mike Bliss’ point lead with two races

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left, on the next two Fridays at Phoenix, and Homestead. Bliss was ninth and still leads Rick Crawford by 68 points, Musgrave by 107, David Starr by 182 and Leffler by 189.

The 2003 truck series schedule was announced over the weekend, expanding by three races to 25. Lowe’s will be on the schedule, Bristol and Mesa Marin Raceway in California return, and Martinsville got a second date.

Jimmy Vasser passed Michael Andretti with two laps to go following a red-flag restart to win the fastest 500-mile race ever at California Speedway. He averaged 197.995 mph to break the previous mark of 189.727 by Al Unser Jr. in a 1990 CART race at Michigan.

It was the second time this year that CART used a new rule allowing it to suspend a race until it is safe to resume, letting drivers battle for the win rather than finishing under yellow. Dario Franchitti’s blown engine brought out a yellow, and then when his car caught fire after he was out, a red flag paused the race for about nine minutes with four laps to go.

It was Vasser’s first win since October of 2000 when he won in the streets of Houston. The 1996 series champ now has three 500-mile race wins to his credit. Patrick Carpentier was third. Cristiano da Matta already has the title in hand, but needs a victory in the Nov. 17 Mexico City finale to tie the season record of eight victories by Andretti in 1991 and matched by Unser Jr. in 1994.

Vasser and Team Rahal won the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge Shootout with a time of 35.042 seconds for changing four tires. Driver Kenny Brack and Team Rahal won last year. This year’s winners got $50,000.

CART, which has been getting mostly bad news lately, got some good news Saturday when Bridgestone tires said it would be the series presenting sponsor for 2003. Bridgestone is the series exclusive tire supplier. FedEx, the series title sponsor since 1998, will leave CART at the end of this season.

It also was announced that Adrian Fernandez will stay in CART next season with sponsors Tecate, Quaker State and Telmex. Fernandez fractured two vertebrae in his neck in a crash in Australia, and had Max Papis in his car at California. If Fernandez cannot race in the season finale in Mexico City, where he is a national hero, untested Luis Diaz may be in his car. Diaz, 24, finished fourth in this year’s CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, and Fernandez said he wanted a Mexican in the car.

To the surprise of virtually no one, A.J. Foyt IV was announced as one of the two drivers for his grandfather’s IRL cars next season. He will team with Airton Dare for whom he changed tires this season while winning the Infiniti Pro Series title. Foyt, 18, passed his IRL rookie test at Texas Motor Speedway, with Johnny Rutherford supervising.

An announcement is expected that Steve Dale, who fielded the team for this year’s American Speed Association champ Joey Clanton, will take over the ASA stock car series from the Robbins family, while ASA and Speed Channel already have reached an agreement that ASA exclusively will be on Speed in 2003 and 2004.

Jaguar fired both of its Formula 1 drivers Friday—Eddie Irvine and Pedro de la Rosa—and replaced them with Australian Mark Webber and Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia. Webber drove for Minardi this season; Pizzonia, who was in the U.S. to run in the New York City Marathon, was a test driver for Williams-BMW.

Quick Pit Stops:

l The NHRA Funny Car title will be on the line this weekend in the season-ending event at Pomona, Calif. John Force, with 105 career victories, is 31 points up on his teammate, Tony Pedregon, going in. Top Fuel (Larry Dixon, his first), Pro Stock (Jeg Coughlin Jr., his second) and Pro Stock Motorcycle (Angelle Savoie, her third straight) crowns were settled last week at Las Vegas. Dixon has a record-tying nine wins this season.

l Clay Millican won 11 of 12 IHRA events while claiming his second straight Top Fuel title. He closed out his almost-perfect season with a win at Rockingham.

l In Winston Cup, Michael “Fatback” McSwain got his release from Robert Yates Racing as crew chief for Ricky Rudd and hours later was hired by Joe Gibbs Racing as crew chief for Bobby Labonte for 2003. He will replace Jimmy Makar, who is moving “upstairs” to a managerial role after this season. Raymond Fox III, Rudd’s current car chief, will take over as crew chief for the time being.

l Ford clinched the Winston Cup manufacturers’ title at Atlanta. It was the second in three years for Ford, third in five years for the Taurus and 15th overall for the “Blue Oval.” Going into Rockingham, Ford had 12 victories this season, Chevy 10, Dodge seven and Pontiac four.

l Doctors have recommended that Sterling Marlin remain on the sidelines rather than trying to come back for the last few races of 2002 in the No. 40 Dodge. “I knew what the verdict was going to be,” said Marlin, “but I still kind of hoped to get back early.” He has a fractured vertebra in his neck.

l Joe Nemechek, second at Atlanta, just might stay in the No. 25 Hendrick Motorsports ride for 2003. Owner Rick Hendrick was quoted as saying he has no plans to change the lineup, and that the addition of crew chief Peter Sospenzo has brought new focus to the team.

l Ken Schrader might be headed back to Andy Petree Racing, taking Federated Auto Parts with him. Federated, which sponsors Schrader’s trucks and late-model programs, is expected to move to Winston Cup in 2003. Schrader, who drove for Petree in 1999, is losing his No. 36 ride at season’s end, and Bobby Hamilton is leaving Petree’s No. 55 Chevy.

l The Budweiser Shootout, a non-points race that has kicked off the Winston Cup season since 1979, will be run at night Feb. 8 under the lights at Daytona, according to All pole winners from the current season and all past Shootout winners are eligible. Tony Stewart has won the last two.

l NASCAR fined crew chief Mike Beam $500 for the use of unapproved jacking bolts on the No. 32 Ricky Craven Ford at Atlanta.

l Busch driver Mike Harmon hopes to make the Phoenix and Homestead-Miami Winston Cup races in the No. 93 GIC Motorsports Ford. Harmon, who has the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series championship on his resume, made

highlight reels everywhere in August when he walked away unhurt from a devastating crash at Bristol that tore his car to pieces.

l Stanton Barrett has been named to take over the No. 60 Roush Racing Busch Series ride next season when Greg Biffle moves up to Winston Cup. OdoBan will be the primary sponsor. Barrett, 30, is a journeyman driver who also does movie stunt work.

lTodd Bodine will drive the Herzog-Jackson Motorsports Busch Series entry for the remainder of the season. He had the ride but quit to concentrate on his Winston Cup career. Tim Fedewa was in the car for three races; now he’s out and Bodine is back in.

l The National Stock Car Racing Commission, which once was headed by Rockford’s Tom Deery, upheld the $25,000 fine levied by NASCAR against Busch crew chief Tommy Baldwin for a rule violation at Lowe’s on a car that was driven by Wally Dallenbach. Inspectors found the car did not meet the minimum roof height.

l Makita USA power tools will back the Craftsman Truck Series entry driven by Dennis Setzer for the balance of the season.

l Bobby Labonte will be financially involved in a plan to build a state-of-the-art quarter midget racing facility in Salisbury, N.C. His son races “quarters.” Labonte, Tony Stewart, Dave Blaney and Ryan Newman all started in quarter midgets. Mark Martin built a quarter-midget track in Florida called Little New Smyrna Speedway. His son also races quarters.

l CART’s season-ending awards dinner will be Nov. 21-22 at the Hotel Intercontinental in Miami.

l Sam Hornish Jr. and Jacques Lazier successfully completed the first track test of the new Chevy Indy V-8 engine at Kentucky Speedway. The unit is three inches narrower, three inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter than the 2002 engine that won 14 of 15 IRL races this season and swept the manufacturer, driver and team championships. Honda and Toyota will be the competition in 2003.

l Danny “On-The-Gas” Ongais, now 60, will return to competition one more time to drive a Ford-powered car in the season-ending Rolex Grand American sports car series at Daytona this weekend. The three-hour race will send the SRP prototype category into retirement and usher in the era of the Daytona Prototypes as the series top class rather than the open-cockpit SRPs. Ongais, who started as a drag racer, also raced in sports car, Indy car and Formula 1.

l The first Daytona Prototype has been completed. Built by FABCAR Engineering, the 001 chassis was sold to Brumos Racing and will have Porsche power. Former stock car racer Dave Watson of Milton, Wis., is director of competition for the Grand American series, which has changed its website address to

l The Doran Lista Racing team will be trying to wrap up the Rolex title at Daytona. The team has won the Rolex 24 at Daytona twice, and is a top contender at every race.

l Tony Ave of Hurley, Wis., driving a Panoz Esperante that campaigned for Interstate 465 around Indianapolis to be renamed the David Letterman Expressway, finished second at Virginia International Raceway to secure the Trans-Am Series manufacturers’ title for Panoz over Chevrolet. Ave is a versatile driver, whose dad, Steve, won the World’s Championship Snowmobile Derby in Eagle River, Wis., years ago.

l Boris Said wrapped up the Trans-Am driving championship before Virginia, but won the race, anyway, in a Ford Mustang, giving Ford its 100th Trans-Am victory. He drove a Panoz Esperante in his previous 11 races. In all, Said won eight races, the last five in a row, and had 11 podium finishes in 12 events. He is only the third driver in 37 years of Trans-Am to win as many as eight races in a season, and the first to do it in a season of 12 or fewer events.

l Panoz has released its American LeMans Series drivers for next season—David Brabham and Jan Magnussen—saying it does not feel it can give them competitive cars for 2003. However, the move was viewed as a cost-cutting measure by Don Panoz.

l The first Red Bull Energy Drink American driver has been placed with a team for 2003. He is Grant Maiman of Wisconsin, who will race for Jenzer Motorsports in the Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup Series. Three other drivers still are to be placed as Red Bull tries to put an American driver on the road to Formula 1.

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