Here’s the news from the world of motorsports:
• Fisichella Renews with Renault: Renault announced last week that they have renewed Giancarlo Fisichella’s contract to drive for the team through 2007. The team still has an open seat to replace the departing Fernando Alonso, and speculation has the team promoting its excellent test driver, Heikki Kovalainen, or perhaps with departing McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen, who seat Alonso will fill. Fisichella teased the press by saying that he knows for a fact that his 2007 teammate will be Finnish.
• USGP 2005 Class-Action Suit Thrown Out: A federal judge in Indiana last week dismissed a class-action lawsuit from disgruntled fans who attended last year’s disastrous United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and were trying to sue Formula One Management, Michelin, the F1 teams and the speedway over the debacle. The fans were asking for damages and compensation for ticket and travel costs to the 2005 USGP, in which only six cars took the start. Judge Sarah Evans-Barker ruled that there was no basis for the lawsuit, noting that fans attending a sporting event should always have in mind that it may not happen.
• Testing, Testing: The Formula 1 teams continued their testing programs this past week on a variety of fronts, as they prepare for a two-race swing through North America. At historic Monza, the Renault, BMW, Williams, Honda, Toyota, Red Bull and Toro Rosso teams hit the track for three days starting Tuesday, while Ferrari and McLaren shared the track at France’s high-tech Paul Ricard circuit. Midland F1 stayed close to home (like, right across the street) at Silverstone. At Monza, BMW set the fastest times on Tuesday and Wednesday, with test driver Robert Kubica and Jacques Villeneuve topping the time sheets on those days, respectively. On Thursday Honda’s Jenson Button was the fastest, but a tick slower than Kubica’s Tuesday time. At Paul Ricard, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa was fastest Tuesday and Wednesday, but McLaren tester Pedro de la Rosa topped the sheets on Thursday, just a tick under Massa’s fastest time. Ferrari test driver Marc Gene also shook down the team’s race cars at the company’s private Fiorano test track on Thursday.
• Big Hit: Jeff Gordon’s late-race crash at Pocono Raceway was a big one, registering 64g according to the in-car telemetry. It wasn’t that long ago (1988) when Bobby Allison had a similar crash there that put him in a coma and ended his career.
• Mikey Announces Sponsors: Michael Waltrip announced at Michigan that his No. 00 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota Camry will have a unique joint sponsorship program in 2007 shared by Burger King and Domino’s Pizza, marking the first time that two companies in the same industry have shared such a sponsorship program. It was not announced that Dale Jarrett will drive this car; Waltrip is trying to put together a three-car Nextel Cup team. He confirmed that he will drive a Napa Auto Parts-sponsored car, and that Aaron’s Sales and Lease will sponsor David Reutimann in an MWR Busch Series Camry, one of the team’s two entries in that series.
• Oh, Canada: The Toronto Sun is reporting that the NASCAR Busch Series will race at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2007, furthering NASCAR’s North American expansion. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Nextel Cup Series to go to Canada or Mexico; it’s more likely an international series would be formed.
• Unleaded Fuel: NASCAR is committed to switching to unleaded fuel in all its top series, and the first step in that direction will come next month. The Busch Series will begin using unleaded fuel at Gateway International Raceway on July 29 and continue for three races, and the Craftsman Truck Series will use unleaded at Indianapolis Raceway Park on Aug. 4 and Nashville Superspeedway on Aug. 12. Both series will revert to leaded fuel for a four-wheel evaluation period. The unleaded program will resume on Sept. 23 for both series and continue through the end of the season. If all goes well, the Nextel Cup Series could join the program in 2007.