Phil Pash’s World of Wheels

Close, clean racing: If the stands aren’t packed at Chicagoland Speedway near Joliet every time the IRL IndyCar Series races there, then somebody isn’t paying attention. Then fans really don’t want to see wheel-to-wheel racing and close finishes.

Sam Hornish Jr., headed for Team Penske next season, led the closest 1-2-3 finish in IRL history, posting his 10th career victory. It was the second year in a row he won at Chicagoland and sent people to the record books to look up close finishes.

Last season, Hornish beat Al Unser Jr. at Chicagoland by .0024 seconds for the closest finish in IRL history. This year, he beat Scott Dixon by .0099 seconds for the third closest finish in IRL history.

And when third-place finisher Bryan Herta was added to the mix, the margin in the three-abreast finish was .0100, the closest 1-2-3 the IRL ever has had. And it came after 20 lead changes among eight drivers at a blistering average speed of 184.294 mph. There were only three yellows for 22 laps as the 22 starters raced fast, hard and clean.

Alex Barron, replacing Buddy Rice in the Eddie Cheever car, was seventh, and pole winner Richie Hearn, taking over the Team Menard ride for the injured Vitor Meira, wound up 14th. Felipe Giaffone, returning to the series from injuries, was 15th. Greg Ray missed the race because he crashed his only car in practice.

Ed Carpenter made history by being the first driver to compete in both the IRL Infiniti Pro Series (pole and second place) and the IRL IndyCar Series (13th) on the same weekend. He is the stepson of IRL president and CEO Tony George, who also is president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The IRL series has two races remaining—Sept. 21 at California and Oct. 12 at Texas. The point race is another close one. Helio Castroneves (429) leads, followed by Dixon (427), Tony Kanaan (425), Gil de Ferran (404) and Hornish (398).

n n n

Penalties Coming? Ryan Newman got his sixth victory of the season, and Matt Kenseth extended his point lead to more than 400 in the Richmond Winston Cup race. Penalties should be meted out to Kevin Harvick, and might be handed out to Ricky Rudd and maybe one or two others.

Harvick, “Jaws II” or the “New Mouth of the South,” should be fined for actions detrimental to NASCAR for profanity on national TV and for menacing Rudd and acting like an ill-tempered child in the pits after Rudd bumped him and spun him out on the track.

Of the pit-lane antics, Rudd said: “I haven’t seen anything like that in 28 years of racing. It was just totally crazy.”

Last season, NASCAR fined Rockford’s Chad Knaus $5,000 for dropping the “F-word” on national TV. Harvick took God’s name in vain, so he deserves more for that, and at least $1 million for his other actions and just being a punk.

Jeremy Mayfield was second, Rudd third, Jeff Burton fourth and Rusty Wallace fifth.

Kenseth, who was seventh (his 20th top 10 to go with 10 top fives), left Richmond with a 418-point lead over Dale Earnhardt Jr. (17th), 441 over Harvick (16th), 501 over Jimmie Johnson (11th) and 593 over Jeff Gordon (10th) with 10 races left.

The fourth-year driver has been in front since the fourth race of the season—and has been running at the end of every race, which is how championships are won.

n n n

Fans Want to See Red: Look for a contentious Italian Grand Prix at Monza Sunday. The Italian media has been ripping on Ferrari for not winning with more regularity (Michael Schumacher’s last win was Canada in June, and Rubens Barrichello’s last win was the British GP in July), and Ferrari says the Michelin tires it must compete against could be illegal. Ferrari even has hinted at protests.

Monza, on the outskirts of Milan, is a home race for Ferrari, and an army of red will be out in force. Schumacher—the 16th richest person in the world under age 40 with an estimated worth of $750 million, according to Fortune magazine—still leads the points, but only by one. He has 72 points, Juan Pablo Montoya of Williams-BMW has 71 and Kimi Raikkonen of McLaren-Mercedes has 70. Schumacher is seeking a record sixth title.

Even worse, Williams has passed Ferrari in constructors’ points, jeopardizing the Ferrari bid for a fifth straight constructors’ crown. Two races will be left after Sunday—Sept. 28, the U.S. GP at Indy, and Oct. 12 at Japan.

n n n

Quick Pit Stops:

n, the Charlotte Observer’s racing Web site, reported NASCAR was expected to release 2004 schedules for the three major touring series Tuesday. Cup/Busch changes include a second date for California and the loss of one of two Cup/Busch weekends at Rockingham. The truck series will have new races at Atlanta and Irwindale, Calif.

n Brian Vickers, who turns 20 in October, is scheduled to replace Joe Nemechek in the No. 25 Hendrick Motorsports car for the 2004 Nextel Cup season. Vickers will become the youngest full-time competitor ever in NASCAR’s top series, passing Casey Atwood. Vickers will be two months younger than Atwood when he makes his debut. The moves also clear the way for Kyle Busch to take over Vickers’ full-time ride in the Busch Series.

n Jeff Burton has signed a contract extension to continue driving the No. 99 Ford for Roush Racing. Burton has driven for Jack Roush since 1996 and all 17 of his career victories have been with the team. His title sponsor, CITGO, leaves at season’s end.

n The state fire marshal’s office is investigating the cause of a fire at Ricky Craven Motorsports North in Belfast, Maine. Craven’s sister, Lauri Matheson, manages the store, which opened in 2000 and sells ATVs, snowmobiles, motorcycles and racing stuff associated with Craven.

n Inspirational or what? Jerry Nadeau returned to Richmond for the first time since his big crash in May. Apparently, that inspired Mike Skinner because he won the pole, driving the No. 01 Army Pontiac Nadeau would have been driving. But alas, Skinner crashed in practice after winning the pole, had to go to a backup car and started the race from the back. NASCAR always has such great story lines, almost made to order.

n Several reports have Kurt Busch dropping his assault complaint against Jimmy Spencer in Michigan.

n Johnny Sauter used the “bump-and-run” to move Matt Kenseth out of the way enroute to a victory in the Richmond Busch race. Sauter said that was OK because Kenseth hit him earlier. His teammate, Kevin “Jaws II” Harvick, also ran his big mouth in Kenseth’s ear afterward, telling Kenseth he had it coming. Michael Waltrip used the “bump-and-run” on Ron Hornaday to win at Bristol. That was OK, too, but when Kurt Busch did it to Sterling Marlin, he was soundly berated and booed by drivers and fans alike. Someone must explain to me why it’s OK for some drivers to use the tactic and not others.

n “Motor-mouth” Harvick was second to Sauter, followed by Bobby Hamilton Jr., Brian Vickers and David Green, and once again the Busch points race is a scramble. With eight races remaining, Green now leads Vickers by 48 points. Scott Riggs is 68 back, followed by Hornaday (74 back) and Jason Keller (111 behind).

n Joe Shear Jr. is back as young Sauter’s crew chief on the No. 43 car. They were together in 2001 when Sauter won 10 races and the ASA crown. Joey got bumped out of the picture somewhat when Sauter went to the Busch Series. Sauter won his first Busch race at Chicagoland last season, and the Richmond win was his second. He shares the No. 21 car with Harvick for Richard Childress Racing, but also has the No. 43 owned by Mike Curb and Cary Agajanian and sponsored by Curb Records and Channellock.

n Tony Stewart won the Richmond truck race for the second year in a row, driving the same Andy Petree Chevy he drove last year. He has made three truck starts, winning two. Robert Pressley was second and Ted Musgrave third, both in Dodges. Brendan Gaughan was seventh and took over the point lead from Travis Kvapil (ninth) by five points with eight races left. It was the sixth straight race that produced a new points leader.

n On Labor Day, Tony Stewart ran his own dirt stock car on the one-m

ile oval at the DuQuoin State Fair, winning the ARCA race over Ken Schrader, Joe Cooksey, Norm Benning and Frank Kimmel. Stewart started from the pole and led 85 of 103 laps for his first ARCA win.

n Frank Kimmel reached another career milestone over the weekend, posting his 50th career victory in ARCA by winning at Chicagoland over Greg Sacks and Bob Strait. It was the seventh win of the season for the four-time series champ.

n Three-time ARCA champ Bob Dotter, 64, of Chicago, is dead after a long battle with cancer. Dotter lost his left hand in a 1962 industrial accident and drove with a steel hook, winning ARCA titles in 1980, 1983 and 1984. He also was crew chief for Andy Hillenburg when he won the 1995 ARCA title. Dotter’s two sons, Bobby and David, followed him into racing.

n In another race on Labor Day, Mike Garvey won the ASA event at Elko (Minn.) Speedway. Dick Trickle was 30th and Rich Bickle 31st, both going out as the result of accidents.

n The Denver race, which gave them a 1-2 finish, marked the 350th CART Champ Car start for Newman/Haas Racing owned by the “Odd Couple”—78-year-old Paul Newman and 75-year-old Carl Haas. They have been together 20 years and have 73 wins and a slew of titles. Newman is seeking a title sponsor for CART, and if Haas goes to the IRL Indy 500 next year, he may go alone, according to columnist Robin Miller.

n Rookie Mark Taylor beat Ed Carpenter by .0170 of a second to win at Chicagoland in the closest finish in Infiniti Pro Series history. Previous record was .0379 of a second, A.J. Foyt IV over Cory Witherill at Texas last season. Taylor won for the sixth time in 10 races and has a 71-point lead over Jeff Simmons with two races to go.

n Menards has agreed to be the title sponsor of the IRL Infiniti Pro Series, effective immediately.

n With one race remaining Sept. 28 at Miami, A.J. Allmendinger is the CART Toyota Atlantic champ for 2003 with a record seven victories.

n J.J. Yeley and Tracy Hines won USAC feature races Friday night at Route 66 Raceway, Joliet. Yeley won the sprint car event, boosting his single-season USAC victory mark to 22, while Hines won the midget main event. Scott Hatton of Roscoe was seventh and David Gough of Machesney Park 15th in the midget race, and Hatton was 10th in the sprint car main.

n Scott Taylor of Belvidere clinched his fifth straight CORR Pro-2 championship at Crandon, Wis., finishing third in both rounds to up his point total to 186. Carl Renezeder is second with 142, but can not catch Taylor in the two remaining rounds in New York. Taylor also was third in the Borg-Warner World Championship, the highest-finishing two-wheel-drive truck. Taylor’s string of Pro-2 titles started in 1999. He has 33 career wins in 91 CORR starts.

n Tony Schumacher successfully defended his Top Fuel title at the NHRA’s longest running event, the 49th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Tim Wilkerson, Greg Anderson and Reggie Showers also won in their categories at the $2.5 million event, the 17th of 23 in the $50 million NHRA series.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!