by John Gardner
We hope you enjoyed the most important weekend of the year, during which we take time to remember those men and women who have sacrificed to ensure the safety of our nation. From Bunker Hill to
Oh, and there was some racing, too:
IRL: Wheldon Wins
Indy Racing League points leader Dan Wheldon won his fourth race in five outings this year on Sunday, but this one was different. Anytime you win the
Wheldon, who started 16th, drove a smart race and was in position to charge to the front in the closing laps. He passed surprising rookie Danica Patrick with 10 laps remaining, and held off her teammate Vitor Meira to win the 89th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Auto Racing until Sebastien Bourdais hit the wall on Lap 199, causing the race to end under caution.
Wheldon, who has had a dream season to date, was the first Englishman to win at Indy since Graham Hill in 1966. He also ended the “Andretti Curse” by posting the first Brickyard win for team co-owner Michael Andretti, who came oh-so-close numerous times as a driver. The last time an Andretti was in victory lane at Indy was when Michael’s father, Mario, won the race in 1969.
Patrick, who attracted all the media spotlight in the run-up to the race, was the story most of the day. Starting fourth, she race up front initially, holding station behind early leader Sam Hornish Jr., polesitter Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti. She did lead Lap 56, becoming the first woman at Indy ever to do so, when the leaders ahead of her pitted. She then ran into trouble by stalling on a pit stop, falling to 16th. She worked her way back up to seventh and then spun under yellow while warming her tires and center-punched Tomas Scheckter, falling back to 10th after having her front nose assembly replaced. When the majority of the field pitted on Lap 172, her Rahal-Letterman crew decided to gamble on fuel and tires and left her out. She led legitimately on the restart, but had to dial back her fuel mixture in order to ensure a finish, and was passed by Wheldon just before a caution came out on Lap 187. She eventually faded to fourth, behind Meira and Wheldon’s teammate Bryan Herta, but she made a little history and a big impression.
The feel-good story of the race was Buddy Lazier, who finished fifth. Lazier, who won at Indy in 1996, crashed his one-off Panther Racing entry during Carburetion Day practice on Friday, and had three front wings damaged during the day. In his first outing in nearly 18 months, he acquitted himself remarkably well.
Franchitti, who led 15 laps, finished sixth, ahead of Scott Sharp, Kanaan, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe.
There were seven crashes during the race, one of which sent Bruno Junqueira to the hospital with spinal fractures, for which he will have surgery Monday. Larry Foyt was also sent to the hospital complaining of lower back pain, but he was released later in the day. Richie Hearn was treated for a leg injury at the track after a crash with Scott Dixon.
Hornish led the most laps, at 77, and looked all set to return team owner Roger Penske to Indy’s victory lane for a 14th time, but crashed out on Lap 147 after tangling with Bourdais. Other crash victims included Kosuke Matsuura, Tomas Enge, and Jeff Bucknum.
After winning the race, Wheldon was late for his date with the milk bottle in victory lane, because he ran out of fuel while doing donuts. After being pushed in, he was happy to share the bottle with Andretti, who declared it the sweetest milk of his life.
The series takes a week off to catch its breath before heading to Texas Motor Speedway.
IRL IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 Top Five (finish under caution):
1) Dan Wheldon, No. 26, Andretti-Green Racing Dallara/Honda, 200 laps
2) Vitor Meira, No. 17 Rahal-Letterman Racing Panoz/Honda, -0.1302sec
3) Bryan Herta, No. 7 Andretti-Green Racing Dallara/Honda, -0.2061sec
4) Danica Patrick, No. 16 Rahal-Letterman Racing Panoz/Honda, -4.5515sec
5) Buddy Lazier, No. 95 Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet, -4.8047sec
Driver’s Championship: 1) Dan Wheldon, 234; 2) Tony Kanaan, 162; 3) Sam Hornish Jr., 146; 4) Bryan Herta, 139; 5) Vitor Meira, 136.
NASCAR: Johnson Edges Labonte in Charlotte Crashfest
Hendrick Motorsports seems to lead a charmed life when its comes to cars sponsored by Lowe’s Home Improvement and the
Jimmie Johnson, who drives the Lowe’s-sponsored No. 48 in Nextel Cup, won Sunday’s 600-mile race there, his third in a row, making his tally five of the past eight races there. On Saturday night, Kyle Busch, driving a Lowe’s-sponsored No. 5, won the Busch Series race there. Coincidence?
Johnson survived an unbelievable five-hour crashfest to edge Bobby Labonte by a fender at the finish. There were 22 cautions, setting an all-time NASCAR record, and 21 lap leaders with 37 official lead changes. Just about everything you could imagine happened at one time or another. Crashes, tire failures, engine failures, a piece of the track surface coming up, you name it. Defending series champ Kurt Busch crashed twice, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took out teammate Michael Waltrip, Brian Vickers, who crashed his way into the Nextel All-Star Challenge last weekend, triggered a multi-car crash that took out his teammate Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Bill Elliott among others, and Joe Nemechek blew a tire and crashed out while leading late in the race. And that barely scratches the surface!
Speaking of surfaces, track general manager H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler chose to have the bumpy track surface laser-ground prior to the weekend. He said it was to promote side-by-side racing, but detractors said he did it to save the money of a total repaving job. Local television ads featuring Wheeler talked about “levigating,” the process used to do the grinding. The newly-ground surface made speeds higher, but also promoted crashes because the bottom groove in Turns 1 and 2 weren’t ground. Prediction: New pavement at Lowe’s before the next race.
For Bobby Labonte, second was bittersweet. He has had a miserable year, and was leading in the closing laps with a rarity, an unscathed race car. Following a restart with five laps to go, Johnson, on fresher tires, quickly dispatched of Carl Edwards, who finished third, and closed inexorably on Labonte. An outside pass coming out of the final turn allowed Johnson to get to the finish line first by a whisker and become the only man ever to win this race three times in a row.
Jeremy Mayfield drove a smart race to finish fourth, and Ryan Newman came back from a crash to take fifth. Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr., Dale Jarrett, Ken Schrader, and Rusty Wallace rounded out the top ten.
With the win, Johnson extended his points lead to 71 over Biffle. Elliott Sadler moved up one place to third, ahead of Newman, who gained three positions. Gordon dropped two spots to fifth.
The series will be back in action next weekend at
NASCAR Nextel Cup Top Five:
1) Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 400 laps
2) Bobby Labonte, No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 400 laps
3) Carl Edwards, No. 60 Roush Racing Ford Taurus, 400 laps
4) Jeremy Mayfield, No. 19 Evernham Motorsports Dodge Charger, 400 laps
5) Ryan Newman, No. 12 Penske Racing South Dodge Charger, 400 laps
Driver’s Championship: 1) Jimmie Johnson, 1747; 2) Greg Biffle, 1676; 3) Elliott Sadler, 1542; 4) Ryan Newman, 1530; 3) Jeff Gordon, 1516.
Busch Series: Kyle Busch Wins at
Kyle Busch took advantage of a record eleven cautions and some spot-on adjustments by his crew during the race to win the Busch Series race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on Saturday night, taking his first victory of 2005. Last year’s Busch Series Rookie of the Year, who won the Craftsman Truck Series event at Lowe’s last weekend, won this event last year became the fourth driver ever to win the race in successive years, joining Mark Martin, Jeff Green, and the late Tim Richmond.
Sterling Marlin finished second in a FitzBradshaw Racing entry, ahead of Ryan Newman, making his first start in Penske Racing’s new No. 39 Busch entry. Greg Biffle was fourth, with rookie Reed Sorenson finishing fifth. Bobby Labonte, defending series champ Martin Truex Jr., David Stremme, Kenny Wallace, and Ashton Lewis rounded out the top ten.
Crashes, many caused by tire problems, claimed a number of strong contenders, including polesitter Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Jeremy Mayfield, Elliott Sadler, Shane Hmiel, and points leader Carl Edwards.
Busch’s win was the first for the No. 5 team since the death of Ricky Hendrick and nine others in a plane crash at
The series will be back in action in two weeks at Lowe’s Motor Speedway as the companion event to the Nextel Cup Series’ Memorial Day extravaganza.
NASCAR Busch Series Top Five:
1) Kyle Busch, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 200 laps
2) Sterling Marlin, No. 40 FitzBradshaw Racing Dodge Charger, 200 laps
3) Ryan Newman, No. 39 Penske Racing South, 200 laps
4) Greg Biffle, No. 66 Brewco Motorsports Ford Taurus, 200 laps
5) Reed Sorenson, No. 41 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge Charger, 200 laps
Driver’s Championship: 1) Carl Edwards, 1855; 2) Clint Bowyer, 1684; 3) Reed Sorenson, 1681; 4) Martin Truex Jr., 1625; 5) Ashton Lewis, 1577.
Formula 1: Alonso Inherits the Win at the Nurburgring
Renault’s Fernando Alonso picked up his fourth win of the season on Sunday in the Grand Prix of Europe, held at
McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen was leading comfortably in the closing stages of the race when he started have a problem with his right-front tire, which had been flat-spotted and causing a severe vibration. As the laps wound down, Raikkonen slowed his pace and Alonso, running second, was closing in. Just as Raikkonen reached the first turn on the last lap his right-front suspension collapsed, sending him into the barriers and Alonso into the lead.
Polesitter Nick Heidfeld of Williams finished second, and Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello, who started seventh, filled out the podium positions. Veteran David Coulthard, driving for Red Bull Racing (nee Jaguar), had an outstanding race, finishing fourth after starting 12th. Michael Schumacher was fifth, with Alonso’s teammate Giancarlo Fisichella, Raikkonen’s teammate Juan Pablo Montoya and
An accident at the first corner of the first lap took out Williams’ Mark Webber, who ran into the back of Montoya. At the same time
Raikkonen led away from the start after starting second, and led the majority of the laps. Both he and Alonso had off-course moments, and even though Alonso also appeared to flat-spot his right-front, his tires were able to get him to the finish.
As a result of his win, Alonso has extended his lead in the championship, and now enjoys a 32-point margin over Raikkonen, who is tied for second with Trulli with Heidfeld only two points further back.
The series heads across the big water for the next round, the Grand Prix of Canada in two weeks’ time at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in
Grand Prix of
1) Fernando Alonso, No. 5 Renault, 59 laps
2) Nick Heidfeld, No. 8 Williams/BMW, -16.5sec
3) Rubens Barrichello, No. 2 Ferrari, -18.5sec
4) David Coulthard, No. 14 Red Bull/Cosworth, -31.5sec
5) Michael Schumacher, No. 1 Ferrari, -50.4sec
Driver’s Championship: 1) Fernando Alonso, 59; 2) Kimi Raikkonen, 27; 2) Jarno Trulli, 27; 4) Nick Heidfeld, 25; 4) Mark Webber, 18.
NHRA: Grubnic Gets His First While Force and
Australian Dave Grubnic had a Memorial Day weekend to remember at Heartland Park Topeka on Sunday, as he became the first Top Fuel racer from outside
In Funny Car, legendary John Force captured his record (at this point, they’re all records) 118th victory in similar fashion, as final-round opponent Tommy Johnson Jr. also smoked his tires. Force’s 4.809/320.97 gave him his fourth final-round victory in four appearances this year and his third in a row, further padding his points lead over teammate/son-in-law Robert Hight. Force beat teammate Jeff Arend, teammate Eric Medlen, and Ron Capps before facing Johnson, who outran Phil Burkhart, Gary Scelzi, and Hight in the semis.
Defending Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson also won his third consecutive race, and is on a serious roll after a slow start to the season. He closed in further on current points leader Warren Johnson by defeating Dave Connolly in the finals at
The series resumes in two weeks, when the NHRA competitors will be getting their kicks at Route 66 Raceway in
NHRA Final Round Results:
1) David Grubnic, Zantrex 3 Dragster, 4.600 sec/320.28 mph
2) Larry Dixon, Miller Lite Dragster, 10.051 sec/101.08 mph
1) John Force, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 4.809 sec/320.97 mph
2) Tommy Johnson Jr., Skoal Racing Chevrolet
1) Greg Anderson,
2) Dave Connolly, Carrier Boyz Racing Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.907 sec/203.68 mph
Racing on TV This Week (all times ET):
1:30 p.m., Speed: NASCAR Busch Series qualifying,
3:00 p.m., Speed: NASCAR Nextel Cup qualifying,
4:30 p.m., Speed: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race,
1:00 p.m., CBS: Champ Car World Series race,
1:30 p.m., FX: NASCAR Busch Series race,
1:30 p.m., FX: NASCAR Nextel Cup race,
11:00 p.m., Speed: FIA World Rally Championship,