Ingram's Flat Spot On: Schuey not a shoo-in ...

Ingram's Flat Spot On: by Jonathan Ingram SCHUEY NOT A SHOO-IN It may not be equivalent to the second coming of a religious icon, but it's close. Michael Schumacher is regarded by more than a few as the greatest driver in the entire first ...


Ingram's Flat Spot On:
by Jonathan Ingram


SCHUEY NOT A SHOO-IN

It may not be equivalent to the second coming of a religious icon, but it's close. Michael Schumacher is regarded by more than a few as the greatest driver in the entire first century of motor racing. After seven world championships for two different teams and 91 victories, plus a multitude of other high-water marks, the 40-year-old Schumacher can once and for all clinch the mantle of the greatest ever with a successful comeback.

The strongest argument that he was not the equal of five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio derived from the Argentian getting his start on the Grand Prix circuit one month before his 39th birthday. Had he been younger when the world championship was first organized, Fangio had the skill to win more titles than Schumacher.

Or so goes this line of thinking.

In an age when older guys are doing better everywhere like Tom Watson in golf, Mark Martin in NASCAR and Lance Armstrong in cycling -- or even Kenny Brack in the X-games -- Schumacher can really impress by coming through with success in comparison to those other athletes as well.

Can he do it without any testing in the F60 because of the FIA ban? He'll certainly have motivation.

Schumacher was ceremoniously escorted into retirement by Ferrari at the end of the 2006 season, because the Scuderia had one chance to hire Kimi Raikkonen from McLaren as his replacement. Raikkonen continues to be a bit of a bust for Ferrari after squeaking into the championship in 2007. Now in his encore role at Ferrari as the replacement for injured Felipe Massa, the German has a chance to turn the tables by beating teammate Raikkonen in the same equipment after nearly three years out of the sport.

Talk about a long-simmering rivalry. Or Machiavellian maneuvering to improve one's situation by Ferrari, which is chasing former Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn's team for the always prestigious prize of the manufacturer's championship. Needless to say, the arrival of Schumacher has put an entirely different moon over Maranello amid rumors that Fernando Alonso, another old rival, is waiting in the wings.

Although Ferrari may merely want to keep the pressure on while working on next year's car, the timing should be good in terms of Ferrari's advances this year after falling behind with the KERS option. Schumacher was a master of gaining speed under braking at the corner entrances in a way that set up quick exits. He'll now have an electric assist at the exit. The cars have changed considerably, but it could be boffo.

Only the return of a 40-year-old, seven time champion could top a week of headlines dramatic even by the standards of the F1 circus, including the resolution of the Concorde discord, the formal arrival of a new U.S. team in 2010, the departure of BMW and the aftermath of the delicate surgery around injured Massa's left eye.

Having been bored to despair by the concrete canyons of Valencia last year, I'll be hosting a party to watch this year's race at 8 a.m. Atlanta time to see how Schumacher goes on the comeback trail. I suspect at least one member of the household may be wearing a Ferrari T-shirt (pas moi) prior to qualifying.

Push Button Racing Has Come To Pass: My grandmother's 1957 Plymouth Belvedere had a push button automatic transmission. Much like the old push button radio dials or a juke box, to get in gear you selected the correct letter on the dash and punched in the raised button. It had "R" for reverse and "D" for drive, for instance. A half century later, this is how the modern race car driver chooses to overtake the competition -- by pushing the "pass button" in the cockpit, which is presumably marked "P."

As much fun as it would be to make fun of this concept, it may have arrived in the nick of time for the Indy Racing League, where drivers can now gain 200 RPM from their Honda engines at the flick of a finger 10 times for each 100 race laps. It's hard to argue with Ryan Briscoe's ability to move from eighth place back to a victorious side-by-side finish with Ed Carpenter at the Kentucky Motor Speedway on Saturday night, where both drivers used their RPM button to good effect in the closing laps.

More RPM uses more ethanol. So much for the green racing. Racing that brings in greenbacks by selling tickets and air time makes more sense for the IRL.

The aerodynamic changes at the back of the Dallara chassis introduced by the IRL at Kentucky really did more to produce side-by-side action all night, according to the drivers.

NASCAR officials are likely to take note that well chosen aero changes for the COT body and chassis could likewise improve overtaking in the Sprint Cup. Like the IRL's one-make series, the universally mandated COT should allow for adjustments that work well for all manufacturers no matter which engine is under the hood.

What about "push to pass" for NASCAR? Oh, they've got that covered already. It's called double file re-starts. Did you see Juan Pablo Montoya get bumped out of his chance to beat Denny Hamlin in Turn 1 at Pocono on a late-race re-start? Just wait until Bristol.

This just in: Flat Spot On's favored candidate for president of the FIA: Nicholas Wesson Craw. The former president of the SCCA and former IMSA champion now serving as the U.S. representative at the FIA, where he sits on the World Motorsports Council, would make an excellent compromise candidate to Jean Todt and Ari Vatenen. ...Thanks and a tip of the FSO cap to Gerald Roush, who dropped off a copy of the interview with Mauro Forghieri in the Ferrari Market Letter (ferrmktltr@earthlink.net). In light of Massa's accident, it is interesting what the longtime Ferrari engineer observed about Niki Lauda after his fiery accident at the Nurburgring in 1976. "In my view," said Forghieri, "he suffered a major psychological trauma as a consequence of which he was not Lauda. He was not the same."

Tell me something I didn't know: Earlier this summer the rumors were rampant that Grand American series co-founder Jim France was going to purchase the tracks owned by Don Panoz, owner of the rival American Le Mans Series. The circuits in question: Sebring, Road Atlanta and Mosport Park in Ontario. Asked by an insider whether the rumors were true during a private soiree prior to the Lime Rock race weekend, Panoz replied, "No!" He then added, "(Expletive deleted) no!"

I guess "Hell no!" wasn't good enough.

NASCAR Nixes Speed-O-Meters: In an era when all other series use computer-driven ECU's to control pit road speed limits, NASCAR has said no to speedometers in the aftermath of Juan Pablo Montoya's now infamous speeding ticket at Indy. Also, NASCAR will not inform teams of pit road speeds in real time. Sprint Cup director John Darby says he doesn't want the teams who are fudging to show other teams how it's done! ...Ford's official line as to why Roush Fenway Racing is not winning more Sprint Cup races is quite emphatic. "It's the chassis," said a high-ranking PR representative. The unofficial corollary: The Fords often enjoyed a horsepower advantage due to the Robert Yates' cylinder head first introduced in 1991 and Ford's official head since 1992. That's an advantage no longer in place since Chevrolet, Toyota and Dodge all have new generation engines and the FR9 remains to be seen. ...Racintoday.com writer John Sturbin's excellent piece on former Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack's arrival at the X-Games in a pole-winning rally car is a reminder that as a youngster Brack used to drive make-believe rallys while behind the wheel of a beat-up Saab on the frozen roads in his hometown of Karlstad, Sweden late at night. He wasn't old enough to get a license at the time and had to out-run the police. ...Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team co-owner Felix Sabates was also involved in the most talked about pit road speed limit incident prior to this year's Brickyard 400. Dale Earnhardt beat Kyle Petty's SABCO Pontiac in the Coca-Cola 600 by getting on and off the pit road quicker on his final pit stop in 1992. In the second year of pit road speed limits, NASCAR used a stop watch to judge segment speeds and Sabates was livid that Earnhardt was not called for speeding. In a slump due to the introduction of radial tires, it was the only race Earnhardt won that year.

GT1 Plus 1: Corvette Racing's program manager Doug Fehan on the new GT2 class C6.R that will debut at Mid-Ohio this weekend: "After we dispatched the Viper, the Saleen, the Ferrari and the Aston Martin, there was no competition left in GT1." ....When the NASCAR race at Pocono was postponed until Monday due to rain, this writer heard from a colleague who prompted a recollection of Mark Twain's famous line about San Francisco. To wit: The longest summer ever spent was a Sunday night in Pocono.

See ya! ...At the races.

Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jonathan@jingrambooks.com.

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About this article
Series ALMS , Formula 1 , IndyCar , NASCAR
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Roush Fenway Racing , Corvette Racing