About the Blog

In this blog, I will give my thoughts on various forms of motorsports all around the world. Race results, driver changes, rules changes, and of course controversies! Covering all forms of racing, including (but not only) NASCAR, Formula 1, IndyCars, Aussie V8 Supercars, ALMS, Grand Am, and more!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Phoenix International Raceway Reconfiguration Announced

Phoenix International Raceway, my home track, announced today that after the NASCAR weekend later this month that they will be undertaking a $10 million renovation and reconfiguration. They will be adding variable banking to turns 1 and 2 (10-11 degrees), 3 and 4 (8-9 degrees), and also reconfigure the backstretch and change the dogleg into more of an actual turn with 10-11 degrees of banking. I am very happy that they aren't changing the turns very dramatically, only adding a tick of banking to each of them. I am also very curious about the changes to the dogleg. Picturing it in my mind, it sounds like it will make the racing there very entertaining.

Drawing of the changed configuration courtesy of AZCentral.com

The changes to the dogleg include changing the angle of the corner, as well as the banking leading into it (10 degrees), banking at the apex of the dogleg (10-11 degrees), and banking exiting the dogleg (8 degrees). Basically the entire backstretch is going to have banking to it, and the dogleg is going to be more of an actual corner as opposed to a slight kink as it is now.

Unfortunately, all of this comes at a price. The infield road course, which I have traveled around as a passenger in my friend's 2005 Ford Focus, will be removed as part of the project. The PIR road course is a crown jewel of club racing in Arizona, and it's demise leaves a large hole in the diversity of tracks available for those clubs. I personally was looking very much forward to running on the new asphalt later this fall with my own personal car with the HPDE program run by the National Auto Sport Association. Unfortunately, that opportunity will never come. The decision by PIR to remove the road course, which is used year round, to benefit the oval, which is used by NASCAR two weekends of the year, is a poor one in my opinion. I understand that the NASCAR weekends bring in a large majority of the revenue for the track, but surely there must be a way to save the road course or reconfigure it through the infield to accommodate what they want to do with the garage area for NASCAR. The loss of the PIR road course is a terrible blow to all club racing organizations in the state. Many drivers loved the rush of going through NASCAR 3 and 4 at wide open throttle and seeing what sort of speeds they could reach, then diving down off the frontstretch into the infield with all of the g-forces pulling you to the right. With the loss of the PIR road course, this leaves Firebird Raceway and its three road courses as the only "unlimited" road course venue in the entire Phoenix metro area. Arizona Motorsports Park is working towards reopening for club racing, but it's use will most likely be heavily restricted due to its proximity to residential areas. Club racers have now lost one of the most popular club racing venues in the entire Southwest. Word on the street is that PIR could take another look at road course racing a couple years down the road, but that is a very uncertain possibility. While I would like to remain cautiously optimistic, I am certainly not holding my breath. 

I look forward to enjoying the new oval configuration for NASCAR this November, but my excitement will certainly be tempered by the somber mourning of a great road course venue that will be lost to the sands of time. RIP Phoenix International Raceway road course, may you stay strong in our memories.

Link to the Phoenix International Raceway website with specifics about the reconfiguration.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Racing Season is here!

Hello everyone, and welcome to the blog! I will be using this blog throughout the racing season to discuss my opinions on various forms of motorsports all around the world. To find out more about me, read the tab over to the right.

Now to get the season started, this coming weekend is the official start to the NASCAR and Australian V8 Supercar Series. NASCAR gets things going with the Budweiser Shootout on Saturday night from Daytona, and the Aussies kick off their season in the Middle East with the Yas Marina 400 from Abu Dhabi. We've still got another month or so before the F1 and IndyCar guys get their seasons started.

Before we get to the events of this coming weekend, however, I do have to offer my thoughts and prayers to Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica, driver for the Lotus Renault team. This past weekend Robert was seriously injured while driving a S2000-spec Skoda Fabia in the Ronde di Andora rally. Robert lost control through a corner, and struck a guardrail which impaled the car and seriously injured Robert. He has multiple broken bones, and his right hand was nearly severed by the barrier. What that means for his racing career is that he most likely will miss the entire 2011 F1 season. The Lotus Renault team has yet to name a replacement, but test driver Bruno Senna, 2007 F1 Champion Kimi Raikonnen, and former Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld have been mentioned as possible replacements. I personally hope that the young Senna gets the drive. While he is quite inexperienced and didn't show much speed last year at HRT, I am a huge fan of his late uncle, who was given his first F1 experience in a Lotus back in the early 80's in a livery very similar to the one that the Lotus Renault team will use this season. If nothing more than for nostalgia reasons I hope that the team gives Bruno a chance to show what he can do in a good F1 car. In the meantime, as for Robert Kubica, I am wishing for a full recovery as quickly as possible. I am a huge fans of true "drivers", meaning drivers who love to race first and foremost. Robert is a "driver", hence why he competes in rally cars in his downtime. He impressed me greatly a few years ago with his recovery from a terrible crash at the Canadian Grand Prix in 2007. I hope that he can defy the odds here in this case, although this is a much more serious crash than the one he experienced at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. 

Now on to the events coming up this weekend. First, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series hits the track Friday afternoon for the first practice session of the season, in preparation for Saturday night's non-points Budweiser Shootout. There are currently 25 drivers that will be competing in the event Saturday night, headlined by the 12 drivers who competed in the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup. This year there have been a change to the eligibility, making anyone who won a Rookie of the Year award in the last 10 years eligible for the Shootout. This gets 4 drivers into the race who wouldn't have been eligible using last year's format: #4 Kasey Kahne (2004), #42 Juan Pablo Montoya (2007), #20 Joey Logano (2009), and #97 Kevin Conway (2010). 

While I am happy that Kahne, JPM, and Sliced Bread are in the race, I am disappointed that Joe Nemenchek took Extenze's money to put Conway into the field. Conway's competition for ROTY last year was basically a couple hot dog wrappers that blew around the track (and the wrappers were faster in some cases). Front Row Motorsports played driver shuffle during the first 2/3's of the season to keep Conway in the Top 35 to satisfy contractual obligations to Extenze. When FRM finally got tired of wasting money on Conway's abysmal performances, they fired him. Extenze refused to pay FRM it's obligated money, and was promptly sued by FRM. Robby Gordon then picked up Conway's money and ran Conway in a few races until Conway put the #7's Top 35 status in jeopardy with his finishes. Gordon then got back in the car for a couple races to get points, and Conway sat for a couple races. After the season, Extenze decided that RGM had broke it's contract, and refused to pay RGM. This resulted in RGM then suing Extenze (sound familiar?). Now Nemenchek has taken the Extenze money and put Conway in a car for Speedweeks, and thanks to the rules change for the Shootout, into one of NASCAR's two All Star events. While Conway competes Saturday night, drivers like David Reutimann, AJ Allmendinger, Martin Truex, Jr., and Brian Vickers sit on the sidelines. I can't really blame Conway for riding the coattails that Extenze is giving him, and I've found him in interviews to be a nice guy. He's not a terrible driver, but certainly not good enough to be classified in the same group as Johnson, Earnhardt, Busch, and Gordon and have a free entry into the Bud Shootout for the next 10 years.

Next we move "Down Under", where the V8 Supercar series is about to kick off it's season in the Middle East at the absolutely stunning Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. It has been a very eventful offseason for the V8's since James Courtney won the 2010 Championship at the Sydney Telstra 500 at Sydney Olympic Park in December. Courtney has defected from Ford to drive for the Holden Racing Team, while Will Davison is back in blue after two years at HRT to drive for Ford Performance Racing. Second generation driver James Moffat has replaced Courtney for Dick Johnson Racing. Greg Murphy is back with Kelly Racing, after having driven for them back in 2001-2004 when the Kelly's owned the K-Mart Racing Team. He has picked up the Pepsi Max sponsorship, and is driving what is, in my opinion, one of the coolest looking cars I've seen in a while. I think this season of the V8's is going to be a good one, as there are a number of storylines that will develop. The press down in Australia has been hyping up a potential rivalry between 2007 Champion Garth Tander and his new teammate at HRT, 2010 Champ Courtney. Will they be able to get along? Or will the team implode from the friction? They seemed to have fun with the reports during the test day at Eastern Creek a couple weeks ago, with Tander saying "I thought we hate each other?" Will Team Vodafone be able to get 2-time champion Jamie Whincup back to the top? Can the Kelly's get their team back towards the front of the grid? And how will DJR do this year after losing their #1 driver, who gave them the 2010 Championship, then took the #1 over to the Red side? And can FPR finally get over the hump and win a championship, with two extremely talented drivers in Mark Winterbottom and Will Davison? It will be fascinating to watch, and I cannot wait to see how the season plays out. Over the last few years, the V8's have become one of my favorite series around the world, and the Bathurst 1000 my favorite race of any held around the globe. 

Well that will conclude my first ever blog entry. Feel free to comment and subscribe to read future posts about the world of motorsports! Thanks for viewing!!