Senior staff writer
After 10 days of chaos, maybe the chatter in the motorsports world will begin to subside.
IndyCar, NASCAR and even the Confederate flag were turned upside down in 10 day stretch from June 27 with fears of pack racing at the MAVTV 500 in California to the early morning hours of July 6 when the NASCAR Sprint Cup 400-miler at Daytona ended with a big bang.
Between those races, IndyCar CEO Mark Miles gave his mid-season review that drew Southsider/RACER magazine columnist Robin Miller’s wrath and NASCAR hopped on the “politically correct” bandwagon and banned the Confederate flag from NASCAR tracks.
Ryan Briscoe went for a wild ride with two laps left in the race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. He was in an eight-car pack when he made contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay’s car on the frontstretch. Briscoe’s race car became airborne, landed nose first into the rain-soaked infield grass, flipped again and game to a stop.
Criticism of IndyCar’s racing package and pack racing came from some drivers but were put down by driver-owner Ed Carpenter, who commented on Twitter, “I love close IndyCar racing. Hate to see drivers bad-mouthing a series. If you want to race, race. If not, retire.”
For pack racing, all motorsports fans had to do was look at NASCAR’s “400” at Daytona that began at 11:41 p.m. July 5 and ended at 2:44 a.m. July 6.
Austin Dillon, grandson of team owner Richard Childress, was in the middle of a two-lane pack at the end of the race, because airborne and slammed into the catchfence. Miraculously he escaped any serious injuries but 13 fans were treated for minor injuries.
“It was just crazy,” said Dillon who slid on his stomach in the rain-slickened infield grass July 4 to celebrate winning the XFINITY Series 250-mile race. “It’s just a wad right there at the end, and that’s the way these speedway races end and you’re just praying and hoping that you get through it.”
Dillon and long-time Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Dale Knauss suggested that NASCAR needs to further slow down the stock cars at Daytona and Talladega where restrictor plates already are in use to cut down horsepower.
“Wreckers or checkers,” Dillon commented.
At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Miles addressed the media July 1 in a press conference and conference call session.
Miles suggested some drivers were “irresponsible” in their comments after the California race, said that Fontana could be scheduled in 2016 after the inaugural Labor Day race in Boston, added that IndyCar could return to road America and Phoenix, admitted that the new and controversial aero packages continue to evolve and liked the TV ratings of the California race.
However he drew criticism from retired two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti who tweeted, “The drivers aired their views...because they’re not listened to by the series in private.”
And then the Confederate flag crept into the picture as NASCAR czar Brian France defended the sanctioning body’s ban on the Confederate flag at all NASCAR racing events. The ban includes NASCAR races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Enforcement of the ban by NASCAR is a dilemma. Many Confederate flags were flying in the infield at Daytona and the traditional Labor Day weekend returns to Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
When the 10 days of chaos had ended, the fallout from two death-defying crashes and all the rhetoric resulted in no immediate solutions to improving track safety or further reducing the dangers of major league racing.
NASCAR changes rules
NASCAR officials announced rules changes to reduce aerodynamic downforce on all stock cars for the 400-mile race Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.
The Sprint Cup cars will feature a 3.5-inch rear spoiler, a 25-inch radiator pan and a front splitter overhang at 1.75 inches less than before. Similar changes will be utilized Sept. 6 at Darlington.
Indiana’s own Tony Stewart, 25th in points, is hopeful that he can apply more horsepower instead of being hampered by drag that will fit his usually aggressive driving style.
Also announced earlier this week, the rules package for the July 26 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Aug. 16 at Michigan International Speedway will have a nine-inch spoiler for increased drag, hopefully to allow more passing, a two-inch splitter and a 43 inch radiator pan.
- A 50-lap Figure-8 race for World Figure-8 late models unfolds Saturday at the Indianapolis Speedrome...Annual Speedrome Hall of Fame Night is Saturday, July 18 with the Sonny Thompson Memorial 100-lap Figure-8...the inaugural Tony Stewart Classic 100-lap USAC National Midget Series race is Saturday, July 25 with 12 inductees going into the USAC Hall of Fame...Racing at 7 p.m.
- AMSOIL USAC National Series Indiana Sprint Week begins Friday at Gas City I-69 Speedway and continues Saturday at Kokomo Speedway and Sunday at Lawrenceburg Speedway with Hoosier drivers Dave Darland and Jon Stanbrough in title contention.
- NASCAR is at Kentucky Speedway, only 150 miles from Indy, for a truck race Thursday, XFINITY Series race Friday and Sprint Cup race Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)...Brad Keselowski is defending champion who needed stitches last year after cutting his hand after breaking a victory champagne bottle...Team owner Jack Roush is a graduate of Berea Ky.) College...Noblesville’s Dakoda Armstrong, 12th in XFINITY points, is coming off a career-best sixth in the Firecracker 250 at Daytona for team owner Richard Petty.
- IndyCar is at the Milwaukee Mile for a 250-mile race Sunday at 5 p.m. (NBCSN)...veteran driver Justin Wilson was signed by Andretti Autosport for the final five races of the season.
- Nail-biting flat track AMA motorcycle racing returns Saturday at 7 p.m. to the Indiana State Fairgrounds one-mile dirt track...ESPN X Games gold medalist Bryant Smith and silver medalist Sammy Halbert are entered with defending Grand National champion Jared Mees...inaugural Indy Mile AMA race was won by Joe Leonard in 1954 who later raced in the Indianapolis 500...Friday many AMA riders will compete at Mid America Speedway on the Marion County Fairgrounds on Indy’s southeast side with racing at 7 p.m.