Ingram's Flat Spot On: Time for questions?

Flat Spot On by Jonathan Ingram The key question at Spa: would the stewards have handed out the same 25-second penalty if the situation was reversed and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen had used the momentum from cutting through a chicane to take the...


Flat Spot On
by Jonathan Ingram

The key question at Spa: would the stewards have handed out the same 25-second penalty if the situation was reversed and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen had used the momentum from cutting through a chicane to take the lead versus Lewis Hamilton?

It's doubtful that Raikkonen, the cooler of the two, would have made the same mistake of not handing the position back cleanly and starting over from several car lengths back. But had Raikkonen made a similar maneuver, I believe the stewards would have let it stand, because they know that Ferrari's team knows the rulebook better than anybody in the sport. Or at least, Ferrari always seems to win the arguments.

Nine more questions, in no particular order:

2. Is unification working in mysterious ways for IndyCar?

It now appears that Brian Barnhart has taken a real leadership role in the IndyCar garage. Part of the eternal problem at CART was a revolving door featuring team owners when it came to mid-race decisions by officials. Barnhart's call on Helio Castroneves at Belle Isle for blocking was spot on and put fairness ahead of politics. It was a tough call considering that Roger Penske was the team owner as well as promoter of an ambitious effort by IndyCar on the island in the Detroit River. The call may not have helped tighten up the championship, but the reward was a great finale a week later in Chicago nevertheless.

3. Who invented the now highly successful Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship that has all drivers up on the wheel (or throwing the wheel in the case of Tony Stewart) instead of thinking about the next trip to the bank?

If your answer is Brian France, you've got it half right. In addition to creating a board of directors for NASCAR, and appointing Mike Helton as president to run the garage, the late Bill France Jr. made sure Brian was in position to sustain two decades of growth by creating the Chase before his only son took over.

4. Why did Acura leave Andretti Green Racing off its official list of Acura teams next year in the American Le Mans Series, despite plans to run two LMP2 cars?

Honda holds the key to AGR's sponsorship from XM Satellite Radio, currently hampered in contract negotiations by the merger with Serius as well as by financial losses. It remains to be seen if these problems are enough to scuttle the promotional relationship between Honda and XM. That could force Honda to find another sponsor or foot the bill itself if it wants to see another generation of Andrettis, pere et fils, return to Le Mans in 2010, the company's anticipated arrival date.

5. Why is NASCAR buying the Grand American Road Racing Series?

With team owners calling for the resignation of President Roger Edmondson over issues of low fan turnout and TV ratings, it's the most palatable way for NASCAR owner and Grand-Am co-founder Jim France to emphasize who's in charge and how things will continue to be done. (In deciding to change marketing tactics with the purchase, France must also be concerned over the low fan numbers despite some excellent racing among the Daytona Prototype teams.)

6. If the NHRA is such a hot property for promoters, why were there so many empty seats during the final round of the U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park?

OK. It's a long weekend when it includes Labor Day Monday, and traffic can be a bear at ORP. Maybe everybody was getting the jump on heading to Charlotte for the first big show at the Lowe's Motor Speedway by the NHRA this weekend. But still... .

7. What could be more interesting at the inaugural MotoGP in Indianapolis this weekend than Valentino Rossi eclipsing the current tie with Giacomo Agostini for most career victories?

A Michelin victory maybe, now that Honda's Dani Pedrosa has dumped the French in favor of Bridgestones. The Japanese company will carry almost all of the favorites in the first race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway featuring these two competing tire brands since the USGP suffered a major flat spot three years ago when the Michelin teams withdrew en masse.

8. Are you among those who thought Cale Yarborough's record of three straight NASCAR titles unassailable once the Chase format was installed?

I am -- or was. Given Johnson's success on the 10 remaining tracks that comprise the Chase and his current momentum, he may well score the hat trick. It's vaguely reminiscent of the fact Yarborough won his titles by running rough-shod over the competition on the schedule's 10 short tracks from 1976-78. Those were the days -- before Nashville and North Wilkesboro went dark, as Economaki likes to write.

9. Isn't the FIA always trying to de-stabilize Le Mans and if so why are we on the verge of universal GT rules?

The commitment of Corvette Racing to the new GT regulations, which Le Mans is anticipated to adopt for 2010, confirms the co-operative effort with the FIA GT Championship may actually come to fruition. But it looks like an old wolf in the same sheep's clothing now that the European Union has cracked down on anti-competitive practices. In this brave new world, the FIA is doing it's best to isolate the Le Mans 24-hour as a one-off race for prototypes by strengthening its own GT championship in the name of cooperation.

10. Did Dale Earnhardt Jr. intentionally run over Kyle Busch at Richmond as a payback for the Toyota driver's actions in the spring?

The fair-haired kid got a bad case of the red mist, just like the old man used to get. It seems pass him or hit him were the only two options for Earnhardt Jr.

But the old man used to somehow always come out ahead -- as when he won at Bristol versus Terry Labonte in 1999. At Richmond in 1986, Dale Earnhardt Sr. got rival Darrell Waltrip so riled up the Tennessee driver couldn't see straight for a week after "The Intimidator" deliberately crashed him. In this case, Little E tiptoed into the incident and gave up a chance to gain ten points on Busch in the Chase had he passed him cleanly. Busch, the Chase's top seed, easily shrugged it off. So it's not quite like father, like son.

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

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About this article
Series ALMS , Formula 1 , Grand-Am , IndyCar , Le Mans , NASCAR , NHRA
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Darrell Waltrip , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Kimi Raikkonen , Helio Castroneves , Valentino Rossi , Lewis Hamilton , Mike Helton , Roger Penske , Brian Barnhart , Cale Yarborough , Kyle Busch , Dani Pedrosa
Teams Corvette Racing