Archive for April, 2009

NASCAR: Martin makes statement about Junior

Posted in Blog, NASCAR with tags , , , , , on April 26, 2009 by Martin Henderson

Much was made last week when Mark Martin became the third-oldest winner of a NASCAR race after winning at Phoenix. Don’t know why, since everyone knows he is enormously talented and the consummate professional. If anything, maybe Martin has been too respectful on the track,  unwilling to bump someone out of the way to win a race. But that’s the way he races, and that’s another story.

Martin’s victory came in only his eighth race since joining Hendrick Motorsports. By comparison, Dale Earnhardt Jr., won in his 15th race after joining owner Rick Hendrick’s team, his only victory through 44 races heading into Talladega. By comparison, it took Jimmie Johnson 13 races overall, 10 in his first full season (2002) when he won three times.

Should also point out that Martin, despite beginning this season with consecutive finishes of 16th, 40th, 40th and 31st, is now  only nine points out of the top 12 (which is led by Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon and Johnson). Martin is 94 points ahead of 19th place Junior in the championship.

Which, of course, means that Junior is definitively the No. 4 driver in Hendrick stable.

No question Junior is a good driver. But he’s the No. 4 driver on that team.

In case anyone was wondering.

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IRL: Dixon currently trails, ahem, Stanton Barrett

Posted in Blog, IRL with tags , , , , , , on April 25, 2009 by Martin Henderson

So this is what they mean when they say it’s tougher to repeat as a champion than win it in the first place.

Scott Dixon? The defending IndyCar Series champion is 55 points behind Dario Franchitti and in 17th place after two races. Two races, two sub-par finishes. It happens.

But Dixon’s misery has happened on two street circuits, and there’s only one thing that needs to be said to put a little perspective on how bad his season has gone thus far.

He trails Stanton Barrett.

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IRL: Franchitti lays down the gauntlet

Posted in Blog, IRL with tags , , on April 19, 2009 by Martin Henderson

Get used to it.

Dario Franchitti won the 35th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, and given that  it’s only his second race with owner Chip Ganassi,  you have to believe that this won’t be the last time the Scot wheels his Indycar into the winner’s circle.

Franchitti’s dominant and fortuitous victory —  he led 51 of 85 laps — was his first on an IRL street or road course, which is quite amazing given his proclivity for victory while in Champ Car. We already know he’s not going to roll over on ovals where he has eight victories in the series.

Chemistry is usually the key element in developing great teams. Chemistry takes time. If the chemistry on Franchitti’s team is already there, look out.

And look out often.

NHRA: Lucas puts his foot down, finally

Posted in Blog, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , on April 19, 2009 by Martin Henderson

Score one for the gecko.

It was good to see Morgan Lucas score a victory — his first — in a pedalfest at the Summit NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta. I’m not sure there is a driver out there who needed a victory more than Lucas.

He has been at it for a few years, and with sponsorship so difficult to get — and maintain — you have to hope this top fuel victory goes a long way toward keeping that GEICO program together.

I’ve always had the feeling that Lucas, 25, might be one of those drivers who wins once, and then becomes a factor every week. With a little confidence, and a little success, it may be that he becomes a player in the championship. The more solid competitors there are in top fuel — and right now it’s trailing the funny car field in that area — the better for the sport.

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NHRA: Maybe God drives a Mustang

Posted in Blog, NHRA with tags , , , on April 19, 2009 by Martin Henderson

It’s stuff like this that forces you to believe in providence. The Ford Mustang is celebrating its 45th anniversary this weekend.

The Ford Mustang is No. 1-2 in funny car qualifying at the NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta.

The two drivers are Ashley Force Hood and her father, John Force.

Who faced each other a year ago in the finals of the same event.

Where Ashley became the first female winner in a funny car.

And beat her dad, the winningest driver in NHRA history.

Driving a Mustang.

IRL: No lack of drama with Tracy at Indy

Posted in Blog, IRL with tags , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2009 by Martin Henderson

Paul Tracy is back, and apparently, with a vengeance. It’s good to see PT spitting fire. The unofficial winner of the 2002 Indianapolis 500 — also known as the official loser — announced that he will be driving for KV Racing when that one-car team fields a second car at the Brickyard.

Short of Richard Petty driving in the 600-mile race at Charlotte, or Michael Schumacher making an appearance at Monaco, it is the most welcome sight of the Memorial Day Race Weekend.

With all due respect to Jimmy Spencer, Tracy is Mr. Excitement. Few drivers of any generation have created as much drama, whether it’s fighting with Alex Tagliani, drawing the ire of Sebastien Bourdais or choking his team owner — yep, it really happened — Tracy is passionate and doesn’t pull any punches.

Right or wrong, jackass or not, the 35-time winner and 2003 CART champion calls it the way he sees it.

“We’re not going to take the rookie orientation program,” he said at the IRL press conference in Long Beach.  “I don’t think they let past winners do that there.”

Ouch! He is the one guy Danica Patrick does not want to mess with.

IRL preview: Castroneves is right on target

Posted in Column, IRL with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2009 by Martin Henderson

The Indy Racing League may have opened two weeks ago in St. Petersburg, but the series’ arrival in Long Beach makes the season official. Not to dismiss Ryan Briscoe’s victory, but Spring Brake has been around three times longer than the IRL. If there is one marquee event on the schedule that’s not named the Indianapolis 500, this is it.

And so it’s with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach that we find a few moments to offer up a preview of the 2009 season, completely dismissing what transpired two weeks ago.

Ganassi vs. Penske.

Is that simple enough?

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