Phil Pash's World of Wheels: Slap in face for U.S. F1 fans

They Dumped on Us: They can offer all the excuses and reasons they want. The bottom line is this: Formula One brought its politics, bickering, pettiness and game-playing to the U.S. and dumped a massive load of crap on American racing fans in general and Indianapolis Motor Speedway in particular. And the biggest, most powerful consumer market in the world should do it right back to Formula One, Michelin, FIA, Bernie Ecclestone, Max Mosley, sponsors, the seven teams, all of ‘em. Tony George right now should be hiring an army of lawyers to sue everyone until they are penniless. I would start with Ecclestone, one of the richest people in England, and work my way down. His circus is at the root of commiting fraud on the American racing public. Class-action lawsuit by everyone who bought a ticket or tuned in a TV to watch. Hey, I suffered mental anguish in my living room because I didn’t get to see what I had been expecting. One of the things we do well in this country is sue people. McDonald’s coffee too hot? Sue ‘em. Why not Bernie and the boys from across the pond? They are saying the USGP was only six cars because of safety. Yeah, right. Safety concerns that just popped up on the night of June 18 like an Indiana thunderstorm. Michelin didn’t know about its tire problems before that. Let’s put in a last-minute chicane at turn 13 to slow down ALL the cars. Oh, you mean like a go-kart track where you can set up a row of pylons. The top racing series in the world—what a joke. A slap in the face to the USGP, our country’s Grand Prix. After taking a formation lap, the Michelin teams entered pit row before the start of the race and packed up their equipment. The decision involved Renault, McLaren, Williams, Toyota, BAR, Red Bull and Sauber. Bridgestone teams Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi remained on the track to complete the race. Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher won (84th career victory), Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello was second and Jordan’s Tiago Monteiro was third for his first podium. It was Schuey’s first win of 2005, third consecutive victory in the USGP and fourth in the six years it has been held at Indy. Jarno Trulli gave Panasonic-Toyota its first pole in 60 Grands Prix while gaining his third career pole, first of 2005. Five different cars occupied the top five positions. Trulli’s teammate, Ralf Schumacher, was ruled out of the race by the FIA’s chief medical delegate. Schumacher hit the wall in Turn 13 during the second practice. Last year for Williams, he suffered a similar accident that left him out of competition for six races. Ralf was replaced by the team’s third driver, Ricardo Zonta. All that aside, it was a black day for F1, one from which it may not recover in the U.S.

U.S. Team Wins LeMans: A U.S.-based team was the overall winner of the LeMans 24-hour sports car endurance race, and Corvette captured the GT class title June 19. The Florida-based Champion Racing team and its winning Audi R8 driven by Tom Kristensen, J.J. Lehto and Marco Werner became the first American team to win Le Mans since Ford’s last victory with the GT40 back in 1967. In addition, Kristensen, a Dane, set a record by taking his seventh win—in only his ninth start—breaking the tie with the legendary Jackie Ickx, who counts six overall triumphs. The Florida squad took two of the podium slots with Frank Biela, Emmanuelle Pirro and Allan McNish bringing the sister Audi home in third place, four laps behind an all-French Pescarolo. The R8 now is officially retired from Le Mans competition, with Audi readying a V10-powered replacement, appropriately named the R10, for next season. Fifth place overall was just another impressive mark for Corvette Racing, as its duo of C6-Rs managed to outlast the quicker Aston Martin DBR9s to score a 1-2 finish in the GT1 class. Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen took class honors ahead of teammates Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell and Max Papis, who were just behind at sixth overall.

Da Matta Back with Win: Cristiano da Matta ended a three-year personal victory drought to give PKV Racing its first Champ Car win June 19 at Portland, the fourth different winner in as many events for the now competitive World Series. It was the 12th career win for the diminutive Brazilian, who left the series to race in Formula One for two years. This is his first year back. Newman/Haas point leader Sebastien Bourdais was second, and Forsythe’s Paul Tracy was third. RuSPORT drivers Justin Wilson (122.756 mph) and American A.J. Allmendinger (122.291) were 1-2 in qualifying, the first career pole for both Wilson and RuSPORT. Wilson led 45 laps before gearbox problems sidelined him. Allmendinger was fifth. Round five will be June 26 at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland.

Ticket Stubs Good: In an effort to boost attendance, and give IRL founder Tony George a little jab, Champ Car announced late June 19 it would honor all U.S. Grand Prix tickets at the June 26 Grand Prix of Cleveland. “We want to encourage all the open-wheel fans in the Midwest who didn’t get to see a race at Indianapolis to come to Cleveland,” said Steve Shunck, Champ Car director of public relations. “The USGP ticket will be honored for our race in Cleveland on race day. Fans can see former Formula One drivers like Cristiano da Matta, Justin Wilson and Timo Glock as well as champions like Jimmy Vasser, Paul Tracy and Sebastien Bourdais.”

Biffle Wins Fifth: Greg Biffle was the best of the Roush Racing bunch at Michigan June 19, which is another way of saying he won, and Roush Fords dominated, taking first, third, fourth and fifth. Only Tony Stewart in a Chevy could dent the top five in anything but a Ford. Biffle, a favorite among many Rockford-area fans because he came here to learn years ago, won for the fifth time in 15 NASCAR Nextel Cup starts this season, and now is just 49 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus’ driver. For Roush, winner of the last two season championships, it was victory No. 8 of 2005. The fifth Roush driver, defending series champ Kurt Busch, faded to 12th after running in the top 10 most of the 200-lap event. The other Roush placings: Mark Martin third, Matt Kenseth fourth and Carl Edwards fifth. Rusty Wallace drove the highest-finishing Dodge (10th) and Travil Kvapil of Janesville, Wis., who qualified 37th, finished 26th. Ryan Newman grabbed his series-leading fifth pole (first at Michigan) with a record lap of 194.232 mph. Casey Mears gave Dodge the front row with 193.757. Four drivers failed to qualify: Eric McClure, Morgan Shepherd, Derrike Cope and P.J. Jones.

Edwards Rebounds: Carl Edwards, who lost the NASCAR Busch point lead because he couldn’t race June 11 at Nashville, raced to his third series victory of the year June 18, passing Martin Truex Jr. with a little more than a lap to go at Kentucky Speedway. Edwards, who won the Nextel Cup event June 12 at Pocono after missing the rain-delayed Busch race in Tennessee, led 150 of 200 laps in his Roush Racing Ford. He and Truex are the only three-time series winners this year. Edwards also set a Busch track qualifying record with a fast lap of 181.287 mph to start on the pole (fifth this season). Reed Sorenson leads the points, with Truex 36 back, Clint Bowyer 47 down and Edwards 66 behind. The race drew 70,114 fans, the fifth sellout in five years for the series at Kentucky.

Setzer Gets Win: Under caution for Ted Musgrave’s blown engine on the white-flag lap, Dennis Setzer posted his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series win of the season June 18 at Michigan. NASCAR did not set up a green-white-checkered finish, opting to wait until Setzer already had taken the white flag to throw the caution, even though Musgrave’s engine blew on the backstretch. The decision was met with resounding boos from the grandstands. Setzer came across the finish line ahead of polesitter Kyle Busch (181.612 mph)—trying for his third straight truck win after victories at Charlotte and Dover—for Chevy’s first truck win at Michigan. Thirteen different drivers swapped the top spot 17 times. With Bobby Hamilton finishing third, and Musgrave re

legated to 28th, Hamilton moved five points ahead of Setzer in the standings. Musgrave is third, 24 points behind Hamilton. The trucks now head to The Milwaukee Mile June 24.

The Father’s Day Champ: Larry Dixon raced to his fifth consecutive Father’s Day victory June 19, taking Top Fuel in the K&N Filters Supernationals at Englishtown, N.J., in the 11th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Del Worsham, Jason Line and Antron Brown also scored victories at the $2 million race. Dixon clocked 4.533 seconds at 329.91 mph for his 37th career victory and second of the season. Worsham earned his first victory of the season and 20th of his career with 4.866 seconds and 321.19 in the Funny Car final. Line claimed his second consecutive Pro Stock victory and third of the season when he passed Warren Johnson at the finish line. Line ran 6.692 at 205.98 for his seventh career win, Johnson recorded 6.714 at 207.50. Brown rode his Suzuki to 7.169 and 184.55 to overcome a quicker start by Karen Stoffer, who finished in 7.238 at 186.90 on her Suzuki. Dixon, Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car) and Kurt Johnson (Pro Stock) raced to No. 1 qualifying positions.

Reynolds Wins Again: Jon Reynolds Jr., B.J. Sparkman and Dan Carlson captured feature wins at Rockford Speedway June 18. Reynolds won the 12-car, 30-lap feature for NASCAR late models (fourth of season) over Ricky Bilderback and Mike Beyer. Sparkman made his fifth visit to victory lane in Budweiser American Short Trackers, topping a 16-car field in 25 laps. Twenty-five cars were in the Coca-Cola RoadRunner feature, won by Carlson, his fifth of the season.

Chicken for Fans: Rockford Speedway division point leaders Gene Marocco (Coca-Cola RoadRunners) and Travis Eldridge (NASCAR Grand Nationals) won their feature races June 15, giving fans in attendance half-price chicken at Popeye’s the next day. However, following post-race inspection, the top two RR cars (Marocco and Derek Nichol) were disqualified, moving up Dan Sander and Dennis Smith Jr. Sherry Dillavou and Vachenzia Jester captured the Winged Women on Wheels features, and Jester (fourth in the first race) was the overall winner. Chris Gantz took home his second feature win in a row in the Figure 8 division.

Car Show at Speedway: Rockford Speedway will have its first Shine-N- Show of the season tonight (June 22) as part of the regular Wednesday night racing program. Grand Nationals, Figure 8s, Winged Women on Wheels and RoadRunners will race. June 25 is Kids’ Night with children 11-under admitted free. There will be Kids’ Boxcar Races and Face Painting. Heat races for Legends, Bandoleros, Allison Legacy and Super Cups start at 6:30 p.m., and the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series starts at 7:07 p.m.

Ray Leads Badger Points: Davey Ray of Loves Park was fast qualifier (14.908 seconds), won a heat race and was third in the Badger midget feature at Sun Prairie, Wis., June 12. He continues to lead the series points. Scott Hatton of Roscoe, fifth in qualifying, escaped injury when he flipped his car in the feature and finished 20th. David Gough of Machesney Park qualified 10th and finished 21st in the feature. Jason Dull of Machesney Park, after years of trying, won a heat race and finished fifth in the B main to advance to the feature, where he was 18th. Brandon Waelti scored his first feature victory in nearly three years. The win also ended a 29-feature winless streak for Wisconsin drivers in the series.

Gough Wins Sprint Race: David Gough of Machesney Park won the 360 Sprints feature and took fourth in the UMARA midget feature race June 11 at Grundy County Speedway, Morris. Gough was second in the sprint-car heat. The Bob Meyers Memorial midget feature was won by polesitter Patrick Wilda.

Taylor Leads Points: Scott Taylor of Belvidere has a 2-point lead over Josh Baldwin in Pro 2 standings after placing second and third June 11-12 at Antigo, Wis., in Championship Off-Road Racing action. Next up will be Crandon, Wis., June 25-26.

Local Karters Win: Two local go-karters won their classes in the Burris Circle Tour races June 12 at Lake Geneva (Wis.) Raceway: Zaida Clevenger, Stillman Valley, Kid Karts; and Ashley Hieronimus, Pecatonica, F200 Jr. 3. Both also were winners over the Memorial Day weekend at The Milwaukee Mile, where Burris and Badger Kart Club competed. First-grader Clevenger won the Kid Kart feature both days.

Durand Go-Kart Races: More than 200 go-karters have entered the races around the Durand town square July 2-3, part of the village’s Fourth of July Festival. The Champions Memorial Race, the feature event, will be July 3 around the 1/8-mile course. But there will be racing both days in a wide variety of classes, part of the Burris Circle Tour. More info: (815) 248-4445.

Elliott at Milwaukee: The Milwaukee Mile NASCAR Busch-truck weekend June 24-25 should get a fan boost with Bill Elliott piloting the No. 64 Miller High Life car owned by Rusty Wallace in the Busch race, one of three Busch events Elliott and the car will do. The car will carry the brand’s familiar red, white and gold paint scheme for Milwaukee and Indianapolis Raceway Park and a blue, white and silver paint scheme at the Nashville in honor of the brand’s light beer, Miller High Life Light.

50th June Sprints: The 50th Road America June Sprints will be June 23-26 in Elkhart Lake, Wis., and Carroll Shelby, who won the first one in 1956, will be the grand marshal. Info on the Chicago Region-SCCA event is available from

They’re Always Watching: A reader, obviously a close reader, said I recently messed up on Martin Truex’s Jr. win total in the NASCAR Busch Series this season. Truex has won three times—Mexico, Talladega and Dover. Sorry about that.

From the (E-) Mail Box: Hooray! A motor sports column that’s not all NASCAR. Good to see news from F1, CART and the other series. As an ex-SCCA racer, I know there’s more to racing than just turning left. Keep up the good work.—Al Marquardt.

Andretti Wins at Indy: Marco Andretti made it 2-for-2 on road/street courses in the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series. Andretti, grandson of racing legend Mario Andretti and son of IRL IndyCar Series team owner Michael Andretti, won the inaugural Liberty Challenge from pole June 18 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was his second win in three starts this season. It also was his family’s first win at Indy since his grandfather won the Indy 500 in 1969. Wade Cunningham recorded his fourth consecutive second-place finish and assumed the series point lead, 227-217, over Travis Gregg with eight races remaining.

Kasemets Sweeps: Estonian-born Tonis Kasemets, 31, who currently resides in Mundelein, Ill., led all 35 laps June 19 to complete a sweep of the Toyota Atlantic doubleheader at Portland. Kasemets, who produced his first series win June 18 in the first of two weekend races on the 1.964-mile road circuit, started from pole and never was seriously threatened. Andreas Wirth was second, Katherine Legge third and Al Unser III sixth. On June 18, Charles Zwolsman was second, pole-winner Wirth third, Unser seventh and Legge ninth. After four rounds, Kasemets leads the points with 109. Zwolsman falls to second with 103.

“Just Al” in Atlantics: After more than a year of scattered starts in the Toyota Atlantic and Infiniti Pro Series championships, third-generation racer “Just Al” Unser, 22, has landed a ride with Brooks Associates Racing for the remainder of the 2005 Atlantic season. With backing from gaming Web site, Unser will team with reigning F-BMW USA champion Andreas Wirth. Like female Atlantic racer Katherine Legge, Al will be co-sponsored by Kevin Kalkhoven’s PKV Racing.

From the June 22-28, 2005, issue

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