LOS ANGELES, California — The Sunday, May 27 triple-header “greatest racing weekend of the year” lived up to the hype this year. Formula 1 Monaco GP drivers raced through the streets of Monte Carlo at 5 am (PDT) on Speed Channel. Aussie Mark Webber won and became the sixth different winner in the first six F.1 races of the year (a F. 1 record). Remarkably, five different teams—McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams have won. The Monaco finish had the first four drivers—Webber, Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel finishing virtually nose-to-tail during the closing laps of the 78 lap event. P.5 Lewis Hamilton was 4.1 seconds off the lead and P. 6 Felipe Massa was 6.1 seconds behind the leader after the almost two hours contest.
INDY 500: The IZOD Indy Car 96th Indianapolis 500 on ABC ran from 8:00 am-12:30 pm (PDT). Indy 500 connoisseurs, including Robin Miller, called the 2012 race one of the most exciting races in Indy history. I agree. It was called a wide open 500 prior to the race with up to 15 possible winners. It had ten different race leaders and a record 34 lead changes. (The old record was 29.) Passes usually took place on the track, not the pits. The race start was the best full field spacing-wise. Drivers stayed in 11 rows of three behind the Corvette pace car that exited to pit road as the green flag was about to fly. Paul Blevin, from So Cal, was the 500 official starter this year. The new DW12 Dallara chassis and the turbo-charged V6 engine battle between Chevy and Honda provided amazing action, especially those three to five cars wide front straight restart dashes to the first turn. Late race lead changes among the lead pack drivers were exciting and the winner was in doubt all the way. Three-time 500 winner Dario Franchitti took P. 1 on L 199 from teammate Scott Dixon. Takuma Sato , from Japan, followed Dario past Dixon. Sato tired to pass Dario for the lead on the inside entering turn one on the final lap and spun up the track into the wall. He almost took Dario's No. 50 (for sponsor Target's 50th year) with him. The race finished L 200 under caution, depriving the large crowd of an exciting last lap pass in the final lap dash to the waving checkered flag. Dario's three Indy victories—2007 (rain), 2010 and 2012—have all come under the yellow flag.
The crowd seemed to be more than last year, even without Danica Patrick, who raced NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup races Saturday and Sunday in Charlotte, N.C. Her replacement in the Andretti No. 27 Go-Daddy green car was James Hinchcliffe. His comedic TV commercial skills and extrovert personality are reminiscent of the late Dan Wheldon. Dan was signed to drive the 27 Go-Daddy Andretti car in 2012 a day before he lost his life in the 15-car crash last October. Hinchcliffe's driving skill marks the Canadian as an Indy Car star and possible 500 winner soon. He qualified for P. 2 (his 226.481 only 0.003 mph off the pole 226.484); “Hinch” would have been the pole-sitter if not for the relatively new “Fast Nine” re-qualifying procedure to set the final first three rows starting order. “Hinch”, the 2011 IICS rookie of the year, led L 1, 5-6 and 16-17 for a total of five laps and finished sixth in his second 500. Marco Andretti led three times and the most laps (59) and appeared to be a likely winner at the midway point. A remarkable 22 cars (16 on the lead lap) finished for a strong 67% despite all-new engines for the 2012 series.
Exciting Tony Kanaan jumped from fifth to first on the outside between the starting line and turn 1 on the L 187 restart and led seven laps. Contact for crashes by Mike Conway, Will Power and Andretti, plus spins by USAC vets Bryan Clauson (first race caution at L 15 for his loop) and charging Ed Carpenter (28th to P. 5 at L 180). A spin by Ana Beatriz caused one of eight cautions for 39 total laps. The race time was 2 hours 58 minutes and change. Winning speed was 167.734 mph, but the fastest race lap was Andretti's 220.172 mph on L 59. Dario, Scott and Tony were all close friends of Wheldon and fittingly finished 1-2-3 in the race that honored Dan's memory in several ways. At the playing of “taps”, another of Dan's close friends, Brian Herta, drove a slow pace lap in the 2011 No. 98 car Dan drove to victory. Fans wore white rimmed sun glasses on laps 26 and 98 (his two 500 winning numbers) and Dario donned a pair of the same glasses in victory circle. Dan's widow Susie was present at the 500, and received his “baby” Borg-Warner trophy and winner's ring. She congratulated Dario and his wife, actress Ashley Judd, in victory circle, and road around the track on the back of the pace car with them as victorious Dario saluted fans.
The last lap crash by Sato dropped him from second to P. 17 and cost him $753,125--the difference between P. 2 - $1,003,125 and P. 17 - $250,000. Winner Franchitti received $2,228,125 from the $12,677,500 total purse. The hot, humid weather was 86 degrees at the race start and rising. The high of 91 came near the end of the race and fell just short of the 1937 race record 92 degrees. The highest reported track temp was 137 degrees during the race. Firestone and engine manufacturers deserve credit for their excellent results. Drivers stayed hydrated with water and none of them suffered adverse effects or sought relief drivers, as was the case during the hot 1953 race. An estimated 700 people sought medical attention (no charge) for heat exhaustion or other ailments. Numerous “misters” around the facility helped fans stay cool. Nevertheless, many seats filled at the start were vacant by the 500 conclusion as fans sought shade. ABC had 12 on board TV cameras and the network caught the action and presented it superbly. Persons who recorded the 2012 Indy 500 will want to save it and watch it again. It's a keeper.
NASCAR: The Charlotte 600-mile (400 L) race was too long as usual, but it was mostly green flag. Kasey Kahne, a past USAC open-wheel star, took command from Greg Biffle late and won his 13th Cup race and first for Rick Hendrick. He became the ninth winner in 12 Cup point races. Kahne was the weekend iron-man at Charlotte. On Friday night, May 25 Kasey raced one of his three World of Outlaws winged 410 ci sprint cars at the Charlotte clay track just beyond turn 4 of the 1.5-mile track. With 29-cars present, Kasey started and finished in P. 7 in the WoO 30-lap main. On Saturday afternoon he raced the Turner Motor-sports No. 38 Great Clips Chevy in the Nationwide 300 and finished 17th after racing all 200 laps. Sunday's Cup Series 600-mile marathon victory came in the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevy. He earned $355,675 for the 600 victory. Kasey has prior NASCAR Cup victories with Ray Evernham and for Red Bull last season. The race time was 3 hours and 51+ minutes. Kahne won by 4.295 seconds with a winning speed of 155.687 mph. There were 31 lead changes. Riverside's past USAC champion Josh Wise, a 2012 NASCAR Cup rookie and Nationwide driver, started 33rd in the No. 26 Ford start & park effort. He ran 15 laps and collected $84,290 as the 43rd finisher. Cole Whitt, another USAC open-wheel star and rookie in both Cup and Nationwide cars, started the No. 74 Chevy 27th and was 42nd with 33 laps. Cup rookie Danica Patrick started the No. 10 Go-Daddy Chevy 40th and finished 33rd, down five laps with 33 cars still on the track.
PERRIS SPRINTS: The Perris USAC-CRA 410 sprint car May 26 “Salute to the Indy 500” had a solid 32 car field. J. J. Ercse, 41-year old Lakewood resident and two-time USAC TQ Midget champion, raced for the first time in four years. He said he last raced the No. 84 Persoll sprinter at PAS in 2008. It was J. J's 18-year old daughter Kara's birthday, so the Ercse clan came to Perris to watch him race. He did a solid job in John Springstead's No. 36 Buckley chassis with a 360 ci Chevy. USAC FF Midget vet Austin Smith, 19, destroyed Springstead's 410 ci No. 14 at Hanford May 19. Ercse, who assisted Springstead's team at PAS, received a phone call to race the 360 car May 26. J.J went out 28th to qualify and turned a best lap of 18.072, 21st fastest of 31 qualifiers. He started second in his 8-car heat and ran third for eight laps, when all-conquering Mike Spencer dropped J. J. to P. 4, where he finished. He earned the final feature transfer and beat three 410s. >>> A. J. Bender, 19, also qualified a 360 ci Bender family car and was 23rd best at 18.149. The winged CA Lightning Sprint graduate also started second in his heat and led all ten laps. His win in the No. 12 car was his first USAC-CRA victory. He started alongside brother Bobby, 26, in dad Richard's 410 ci No. 11. Bobby placed seventh.
Flips/Crashes: During hot lapping Tony Everhart had his throttle stick on the front straight and he hit the first turn wall hard. He experienced back pain and was transported to a hospital for evaluation. He returned to watch the feature. Kenny Perkins flipped hard entering turn one in traffic. He was unhurt during his heat 2 flight. The 30-lap main event had three flippers. Matt Mitchell (No. 37) was in P. 3 on lap 11 when he flipped in the turn 4 cushion. He wanted to restart. After working on a nerf-bar and adding fuel he restarted last (P. 22). With only one caution flag, Matt amazingly raced up to P. 9 with 19 finishers and ten cars on the lead lap. The L 30 final dash to the checkers claimed two cars that flipped together. P. 4 Rip Williams (new Spike) said he”got hit from behind and turned into the wall”. He said both cars flipped and his car now has a bent down tube. P. 5 David Cardey (No. 59) said, “We both were going for the same real estate.” They exchanged heated words and agreed to disagree.
Top 3: Richard Vanderweerd, a 6'3” racing twin, started on the pole and led the first five laps of the main until P. 8 starter Spencer took command for good. Nic Faas (P. 7 starter) passed Richard on the L 11 restart, but Vanderweerd held P. 3 to the L 30 checkers for his best ever USAC-CRA Perris feature finish. In victory lane he said,”I've been coming here a long time and this is my best finish (best prior result was P. 6). This track is hard to learn. We're getting there. It feels like a win.” Richard said he uses No. 10 because that's the age he and twin brother Jace began racing micro midgets. Jace said he uses No. 88 on his sprinter because that number was on their first sprint car, not because they played football QB and WR positions. >>> Runner-up Faas thanked his crew and sponsors and told the crowd, “He (Spencer) could diamond the track in turns one and two and I couldn't do that. It's not easy, especially coming from the fourth row (where the two fastest qualifiers start via inverted starts) each night.” >>> Winner Spencer, a first-time Salute to Indy race winner, said, “It feels really good. I knew I hadn't won this race. It's a big racing weekend with the Indy 500 and everything. I got the lead pretty early (L 6). You never know who's coming. I'm the lucky guy who gets to drive this car. I dedicate this win to Jesse (the Rocket) Hockett, who lost his life two years ago.” Spencer drove a red and white No. 50. The next day Indy 500 winner Franchitti also drove a red and white No. 50. >>> Spencer, a Cal Poly Pomona University engineering graduate, became the 11th different Salute to Indy winner. In order past winners were: Indy 500 and Daytona 500 veteran J. J. Yeley, Cory Kruseman, Mike Kirby, Troy Rutherford, Richard Griffin, Damion Gardner, Tony Jones, Blake Miller, David Cardey and Matt Mitchell last year. Matt was on the colorful PAS program Saturday as the reigning Salute to Indy race winner. Kruseman is the only three-time event winner. Gardner and Miller each won twice. The 2008 race was rained out.
INDY 500 TRADITIONS: The PAS “Salute to Indy” honors some Indianapolis 500 traditions. Prior to the main event PAS management played over the PA system a recorded version of actor Jim Nabors singing the Indiana anthem “Back Home Again in Indiana”--a song close to the hearts of all oval track racing fans throughout the USA. The 30-lap feature winner also received a floral wreath draped over his shoulders at the finish line. He also received a bottle of milk to drink. The only break from the Indy 500 tradition, which dates back to 500 winner Louie Meyer in the 1930s, is that the PAS tradition uses CHOCOLATE milk, because PAS is a DIRT track of course. >>>
The 64th annual “Little 500” sprint car race Friday, May 26 at the Anderson (IN) Speedway again started the 33 fastest qualifiers in 11 rows of three on the paved, quarter-mile for 500 laps. There were 42 entries, including six California residents and five of them made the race. Tony Hunt, from Lincoln, CA, set fast time with a four-lap (like the Indy 500) time of 45.013 and started from pole position. Only two-time race winner Brian Tyler (No. 44 Larry Contos Chevy) logged all 500 laps. Billy Wease (499) and Brian Gerster (498) finished in positions 2-3. Indy 500 veteran Chet Fillip was fourth with 498 laps. Californian Tim Barber finished 493 laps for P. 8. Californian Shauna Hogg was 12th with 484 laps. Californian non-finishers were JoJo Helberg 29th-121 laps, Hunt 30th-113 laps and Scott Pierovich 32nd-69 laps. The race had five different leaders and six lead changes. There were 14 caution flags, caused primarily by single car incidents, for 151 laps.
At 8:45 pm PAS management made a special award presentation at start/finish to PAS Senior Sprint champion Bill Badger. He credited his inaugural PAS senior sprint car title last year to his brother Jim, his long-time car owner. Bill said they started racing midgets as a team in USRC during the 1970s. >>> Current fan Mark Atcheson (driver of No. 30 CRA sprint car at Ascot) donated $500 cash to the USAC-CRA feature winner. So Spencer, 30, received $3,000 for his third triumph in five races this season. He has won three of four 2012 PAS features. >>> There were 11 WRA “rolling museum” vintage midget and sprint cars that made demo laps on the PAS half-mile. At 8:50, prior to the main events, a fan vote for best-looking vintage car came down to three sprint cars--numbered 777, 5 and 3. Car 777 won by a wide vocal margin over cars 5 and 3. Bill Gerard, 89-year owner/driver of 777 said it is a 1932 sprint car that he found and restored. He said he raced actively from 1947-54 and quit to raise a family. >>> CLS feature winner Bobby Michnowicz stated over the PA: “I'm just glad I finally finished a damn race. This is Kevin's (son) 12 car. I just put my 21 car wing on it. He had high school graduation activities to attend. This is a great place to race.” Michnowicz started fourth and led all 20 laps, winning easily in a rapid 6:06.53—a NTR.
PIT NOTES: Blake Miller, a PAS sprint car winner for Jack Gardner's team and later aboard Mark Priestley's No. 7, got married at age 25 last November. He moved to England with his wife, who is in the U.S Air Force. Blake is working various jobs in England according to his uncle Wiley Miller, a PAS senior sprint driver in his own No. 75X Maxim. Blake's father Danny also raced 360 ci sprints at Ventura Raceway. >>> Two 2012 Indy 500 starters—Ed Carpenter and Bryan Clauson--have raced USAC open-wheel cars at Perris. Clauson won a USAC-CRA sprint PAS feature three years ago. >>> PAS announcer Scott Daloisio said he began his racing involvement in 1977 as a photographer for the local USRC Midget Series that ceased operations decades ago. He moved from PAS pit announcer to the booth as chief announcer when Bruce Flanders left the position. >>> The black No. 0 Victory chassis raced by rookie Jon Kairot, 27, was brand new May 26 for its debut. It is the chassis that senior sprint driver Brian Williams bought for $5,000 and gave to the Bill Perkins team to replace the borrowed Perkins No. 0 that he destroyed during his wild flip into the first turn on March 31. >>> Bryan Harrell, of Riverside, won the NASCAR Super Stock championship in 2006 and 2008 at Irwindale Speedway. He is now in the PAS pits helping a sprint car team at each PAS event.
PAS SENIOR SPRINTS: May 26 was the fourth senior sprint event of 2012—year two for the group. Nine seniors (age 45+) competed only for senior points and trophies awarded to the first three finishers in a 20-lap main. John Franklin, crew chief for John Springstead's team, drove the same No. 36 Buckley car that J.J. Ercse raced in the 410 division. After J. J. made the USAC-CRA feature in the car Franklin did not race it in the senior main that preceded the USAC-CRA main. >>> The eight-car feature was a caution-free, 6:29.70 run for February 25 senior main winner Brian Williams, 52, of Newport Beach. He started outside row one and led all the way. He had opened half a straight lead by lap 10 and brought his own No. 22 Triple 7 chassis across the finish line with a 35-yard winning margin over 2011 senior sprint champion Bill Badger, 61. Wiley Miller, 58, came from sixth starting to place third. March 31 and April 28 PAS winner Bruce Douglass, 61, started third and finished fourth to maintain his series point lead by 9 over Badger. Ed Schwarz, 57, Victor Davis, 49, Eric Rickard, 46 (-1 L) and Steve Robinette (DNF) completed the finishing order at starter Kevin Winters' checkered flag.
Before the seniors main the track PA system played the song “Flipper” from the movie of the same name. Brian “Flipper” Williams was his main event introduction over the PA. After winning in his flashy high-groove all the way style, Williams was interviewed at the finish line. He said, “Don, who's flipping now buddy?” He added, “Thanks to John Aden for building this great Triple 7 race car.” P2 Badger stated: “We stayed pretty even with him but he got off to a big lead at the start. I couldn't catch him. We love the sprint cars on dirt.” P3 Miller went directly to his infield pit. Infield announcer Ronnie Everhart chased him for a PA interview and gave him his P.3 trophy. “I'm having a great time out here. Thanks to Mike English (former CRA 410 sprint car driver) for all his help in the pits.” Miller (75x) led laps 2-8 in the only senior heat race, a 9-car, 8-lap race. He defeated runner-up “Hubcap” Mike Collins (No. 04) in a 2:32.98-timed race on the half-mile.
PHOTO BOOK: Professional racing photographer Mike Arthur and wife Nan Kene Arthur just published his outstanding hard-cover, slick paper book of his sprint car, midget and Indy Car racing photos. Titled “Old School, Volume 1”, the book covers the years 1971-77. There are numerous color and black & white photos of CRA, USAC and WoO cars, plus Indy Cars at PIR (Phoenix) as well. Mike included his favorite photos from the 1970s. Sections cover the CRA Imperial County Fair (various years), Ascot regular season and Pacific Coast Open, Knoxville Nationals, Manzanita Western World, Turkey Night Midget GP, Terre Haute Hulman Classic, West Capitol in Sacramento, El Cajon and NASCAR at Ontario (1977). Mike's next photo book,“Old School-Volume 2”, will cover 1978-79 seasons with more of Mike's vintage photography. That earlier racing era served as a prologue to current open-wheel racing. Mike and Nan are selling this coffee-table quality book in the pits at USAC-CRA sprint car races. Look for them pulling a little wagon containing the books. To obtain Mike's book by U.S mail, his address is: P. O. Box 2928, El Cajon, CA 92021. Each book is $49.95 + shipping. Add $5.00 ($54.95 total) for regular mail, or $10.00 ($59.95 total) for two-day priority mailing.