|Racing an afterthought to Tony Stewart in Sprint Cup|
|Saturday, August 10, 2013 12:08 AM|
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Jimmie Johnson can secure a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship this week at Watkins Glen International and he’s not even thinking about it.
On a rainy Friday at the storied road course in upstate New York that delayed Cup practice until late afternoon, injured star Tony Stewart was foremost on everybody’s mind. Stewart broke both the tibia and fibula in his right leg on Monday night in a sprint car race in Iowa, has since undergone two surgeries and is out indefinitely.
Max Papis will drive Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet on Sunday in the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen, where Stewart has a track-record five Cup wins. It will bring Stewart’s streak of 521 consecutive Cup starts to an end and it’s his absence that gives Johnson the opportunity to be the first to lock into the Chase on points.
“It’s not the way I want to clinch, by any means, with him not being here at the race track. It’s a big loss for our sport,” Johnson said. “I know that Tony is feeling bad about being injured and the effect that it has on his Cup team. It’s crazy to think that he won’t be a player in the Chase.”
Stewart was leading with five laps remaining at Southern Iowa Speedway when a lapped car spun in front of him, causing Stewart to hit that car and flip several times. He was taken from the track by ambulance.
Like his fellow drivers, Johnson, a 5-time Cup champion, expressed his opinion he didn’t like some of the comments he’s seen in the aftermath of the crash. Specifically, those who questioned Stewart for racing so much. It was his third crash in a month in the powerful open-wheel cars.
“It’s troubled me to see some people giving him a hard time about his decision to race other vehicles,” Johnson explained. “We always praise him for his contributions to the motor sports world and his ability to drive and race anything. He has done so much for our sport.
“I personally praise him for all that he does for our sport, including driving sprint cars Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. It’s unfortunate that he got hurt. I hate that he’s injured but I’d be bummed if he didn’t continue to race all during the week. That’s the Smoke we know and love.”
Stewart-Haas Racing has not named an interim driver for beyond this weekend and revealed no discharge date has been decided for the 42-year-old Stewart.
“It’s going to be a few weeks before we even look at that,” said Greg Zipadelli, competition director at SHR. “For now, it will be a week-to-week diagnosis on him.”
Among the names that have popped up as candidates is 21-year-old Kyle Larson, a rising star in the Nationwide Series who sits sixth in points entering today’s Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen. He might be a bit too young, though.
“He’s in a really crucial spot in his career and (it would be good) not getting fed to the wolves too soon,” Zipadelli added. “I would prefer from this point on to put one person in that we felt was capable of doing a good, solid job and trying to build some chemistry with the crews and the crew chief.
“There’s a lot of those little details that make for a good day on Sundays. The longer you get to work with someone, the better you get to know them, the better chance you have of having some consistent results. But I don’t know we’ll honestly be able to do that. The drivers that we’d like to put (in the seat) are all racing for a championship and we need to be respectful of their position.”
Although Regan Smith is challenging Austin Dillon for the points lead in the Nationwide Series, Smith’s boss at JR Motorsports said he wouldn’t hesitate giving Smith the chance to drive the No. 14 if the opportunity arose.
“I’d be the first to put Regan’s name in the hat for that kind of opportunity,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “I understand that we are racing for a championship. It would be a challenge. It would also give him an opportunity to showcase himself … and get some guys maybe wanting to put him back in the car full-time on this (Cup) side of the deal. That would be good for him.”
At least Smith knows what he’d face. He was forced to sub for Earnhardt in the No. 88 last October in the Chase when Earnhardt couldn’t compete because of the effects of two concussions.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity for somebody,” added Smith, who grew up in Cato, N.Y., a 2-hour drive north of Watkins Glen. “Last year, it happened so quick there wasn’t time to think. There was nothing but a phone call.
“I certainly would be open to that. You just cross that bridge and see how things line up. I think it’s a lot of hypothetical right now. I can’t speak to any of that.”
Castroneves OK after stock car crash in Brazil
SAO PAULO — IndyCar points leader Helio Castroneves sustained minor injuries after crashing during practice for a stock car race in Brazil.
The 3-time Indy 500 winner sustained cuts on his legs and had neck and back pain after the crash Friday in Ribeirao Preto.
He left the wrecked car on his own but was taken to a medical center in an ambulance as a precaution.
Castroneves’ spokesman, Americo Teixeira, announced the Penske Racing driver was doing well, the injuries were not serious and Castroneves was expected to compete in Sunday’s race, although clearance from doctors would not be given until more tests were conducted on his neck and back.
Seeking his first IndyCar title, Castroneves has a 31-point lead over Scott Dixon.
Dane Cameron wins pole at Road America
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — Dane Cameron won the pole at Road America for today’s Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race.
He had a track record lap of 2 minutes, .028 seconds at 121.412 mph Friday in the No. 42 Team Sahlen BMW/Riley. Team Sahlen is the first team to win poles in four Grand-Am classes.
Team Sahlen changed plans before the start of qualifying for the Sports Car 250. After Cameron had the fastest lap in the final practice, the team decided to let him qualify the car. He usually follows co-driver Wayne Nonnamaker in the driver rotation.
Jordan Taylor had won the pole the last three times. He qualified second with a lap of 2:00.575 at 120.861 mph in the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette DP shared with Max Angelelli.
Memo Rojas will start third in the No. 01 Telcel/TELMEX BMW/Riley co-driven by fellow defending 3-time DP champion Scott Pruett.
Fox Sports signs United SportsCar Racing
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Fox Sports has reached a 5-year agreement to televise the unified United SportsCar Racing series through the 2018 season.
The agreement announced Friday also includes coverage of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge for five years.
The merged Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and American Le Mans Series begins in January. The 2014 schedule is still being finalized but the new deal with Fox Sports ensures the races and shoulder programming will be aired on both Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2.
Fox Sports also has the right to stream all International Motor Sports Association races as part of its FOX Sports Go product. IMSA retains additional digital rights including alternate camera angles and race replays.
FOX Sports 1 launches Aug. 17 with a live Truck Series race from Michigan International Speedway.
The new sports cable channel has also signed a multi-year deal with the FIA Formula E Championship.
Formula E, the world’s first fully-electric racing series, will feature open-wheel cars powered exclusively by electricity. It’s designed to promote interest and investment in electric vehicles and sustainable motoring.
The series will feature 10 teams competing in 1-hour races using Formula cars capable of reaching speeds of more than 135 mph with zero emissions.
Six teams have been signed for the first season, including Andretti Autosport, the first U.S. team to join, China Racing and British-based Drayson Racing. The deal includes exclusive and non-exclusive online and mobile transmission rights.
The races begin in September 2014. Los Angeles and Miami are among the 10 cities on the schedule.