By JENNA FRYER, The associated Press Auto Racing Glance:
The associated Press
All Times EDT
COKE ZERO 400
Site: Daytona Beach. Fla.
Schedule: Thursday, practice (Speed, 4-5:30 p.m., 6:30-8 p.m.); Friday, qualifying (Speed, 4-6:30 p.m.); Saturday, race, 7:30 p.m. (TNT and TRU, 6:30-11 p.m.).
Track: Daytona International Speedway (tri-oval, 2.5 miles).
Race distance: 400 miles, 160 laps.
Last year: David Ragan rebounded to win at the track months after a late-race gaffe cost him a victory in the Daytona 500. Roush Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth was second.
Last week: Brad Keselowski raced to his series-leading third victory of the season, grabbing the lead with 55 laps left at Kentucky Speedway. He also won at Bristol and Talladega in Penske Racing’s No. 2 Dodge.
Fast facts: Kenseth leads the season standings, 11 points ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. with nine regular-season races left. Kenseth, leaving Roush Fenway at the end of the season for Joe Gibbs Racing, won the season-opening Daytona 500. … Keselowski is 10th in the standings. as the season victory leader, he’s in position to open the 10-race Chase as the No. 1 seed. … Roush Fenway’s Carl Edwards is winless in 50 races. … Michael Waltrip is driving the No. 55 Toyota for the second straight week. He shares the Michael Waltrip Racing ride with Mark Martin and Brian Vickers. three of Waltrip’s four Cup victories have come at the track.
Next race: Lenox Industrial Tools 301, July 15, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H.
SUBWAY JALAPENO 250
Site: Daytona Beach. Fla.
Schedule: Thursday, practice (ESPN2, 2:30-4 p.m.; Speed, 5:30-6:30 p.m.); Friday, qualifying (ESPN2, 2-4 p.m.), race, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN, 7-10 p.m.).
Track: Daytona International Speedway (tri-oval, 2.5 miles).
Race distance: 250 miles, 100 laps.
Last year: Joey Logano won with a last-lap push from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch. Jason Leffler was second. Busch finished fourth.
Last week: Austin Dillon raced to his first Nationwide victory, dominating at Kentucky Speedway. The No. 3 Chevrolet, fielded by grandfather Richard Childress, failed postrace inspection because it was too low in the rear. on Monday, the team was penalized six points in the standings.
Fast facts: Elliott Sadler leads the standings, four points ahead of Dillon. … Busch, the series career victory leader with 51, is driving his own No. 54 Toyota. … Cup driver Logano leads the series with five victories in 11 starts in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota. He has won his last two starts and four of his last five. … Cup drivers Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch also are racing. … Truck Series regular James Buescher is back in Turner Motorsports’ No. 30 Chevrolet after winning the season-opening race at the track.
Next race: F.W. Webb 200, July 14, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H.
CAMPING WORLD TRUCK
Next race: American Ethanol 200, July 14, Iowa Speedway, Newton, Iowa.
Last week: James Buescher won at Kentucky Speedway, holding off Brad Keselowski. Buescher also won at Kansas and took the season-opening Nationwide race at Daytona.
HONDA INDY TORONTO
Schedule: Friday, practice; Saturday, practice, qualifying; Sunday, race, 12:30 p.m. (ABC, 12:30-3 p.m.).
Track: Streets of Toronto (street course, 1.75 miles).
Race distance: 148.75 miles, 85 laps.
Last year: Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti raced to the last of his four 2011 victories en route to his third straight season title and fourth overall. He also won a Champ Car race in Toronto in 1999, and the IndyCar event at the track in 2009.
Last race: Ryan Hunter-Reay raced to his second straight victory, winning the wreck-filled event at Iowa Speedway on June 23. Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti was second. Hunter-Reay won the previous week at Milwaukee.
Fast facts: Franchitti won the Indianapolis 500 in may. … Team Penske’s will Power, the 2007 and 2010 Toronto winner, leads the season standings. Hunter-Reay is second, three points back. … The race is the sixth of the season on road or street courses. Helio Castroneves won the opener at St. Petersburg, Power swept the next three road races at Alabama, Long Beach and Sao Paulo, and Scott Dixon won at Belle Isle. … Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliff is from Toronto. He’s fifth in the season standings. … The 50-lap Indy Lights race is Saturday.
Next race: Edmonton Indy, July 22, Edmonton City Centre Airport, Edmonton, Alberta.
BRITISH GRAND PRIX
Site: Silverstone, England.
Schedule: Friday, practice (Speed, 9-10:30 a.m.); Saturday, practice, qualifying (Speed, 8-9:30 a.m.); Sunday, race, 8 a.m. (FOX, noon-2 p.m.).
Track: Silverstone Circuit (road course, 3.667 miles).
Race distance: 190.6 miles, 52 laps.
Last year: Fernando Alonso gave Ferrari its lone 2011 victory.
Last race: Alonso won the European Grand Prix on June 24 in Spain to become the first two-time winner this year. Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen was second, and Michael Schumacher third for his first podium finish since returning to racing in 2010 with Mercedes.
Fast facts: Alonso leads the season standings, 10 points ahead of Red Bull’s Mark Webber. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, the Bahrain winner in April, is 26 points behind Alonso in fourth. Vettel won 11 races last year en route to his second straight season title. … Test driver Maria de Villota faced life-threatening injuries after her car smashed into a team vehicle Tuesday during testing at a British airfield. The 32-year-old Spanish driver joined Russian-owned Marussia F1 in March. … in 1950, Silvertone was the site of F1′s first race. Giuseppe Farina won in an Alfa Romeo.
Next race: German Grand Prix, July 22, Hockenheimring, Hockenheim, Germany.
NHRA FULL THROTTLE
SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT NHRA NATIONALS
Schedule: Friday, qualifying; Saturday, qualifying (ESPN2, 6-7:30 p.m.); Sunday, final eliminations (ESPN2, 8-11 p.m.).
Track: Summit Motorsports Park.
Last year: Mike Neff raced to the third of his five 2011 funny Car victories, beating Ron Capps in the final. Del Worsham won in top Fuel, Vincent Nobile in Pro Stock and Eddie Krawiec in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Last week: Erica Enders became to the first female driver to win an NHRA Pro Stock race, beating four-time series champion Greg Anderson in the Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet, Ill. Antron Brown won the top Fuel division, Jeff Arend topped the funny Car field, and Andrew Hines won in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Fast facts: Robert Hight tops the funny Car standings, 96 points ahead of Capps. Hight won four straight events from February to April. … Tony Schumacher leads the top Fuel standings, three points ahead of Brown, Spencer Massey, a three-time winner this season, is 11 points back in third place. … The K&N Horsepower Challenge is Saturday. Anderson has won the Pro Stock bonus event the last two years.
Next race: Mile-High NHRA Nationals, July 20-22, Bandimere Speedway, Morrison, Colo.
AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES: Northeast Grand Prix, Saturday (Speed, 4-6 p.m.), Lime Rock Park, Lakeville, Conn.
WORLD OF OUTLAWS: Sprint Car: Friday, Cedar Lake Speedway, Somerset, Wis.; Saturday, Beaver Dam Raceway, Beaver Dam, Wis. Late Model: Friday, Amsoil Speedway, Superior, Wis.; Saturday, Deer Creek Speedway, Spring Valley, Minn.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Success came quickly for Carl Edwards, who won four times and finished third in the championship race in his first full season at NASCAR’s top level.
The next year was a disaster. Edwards failed to win a Sprint Cup race, missed the 2006 Chase, and learned it wasn’t as easy as it looked just a season before.
“That woke me up quickly,” Edwards said. “We were coming off a great year, and we missed the Chase, and that was really eye-opening. so I completely respect the position we are in.”
The position he is in is precarious.
With nine races to go to set the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field, Edwards is in danger of missing the 12-driver field. although he is 11th in the standings, the last two spots go to race winners, and Edwards would presently be leapfrogged by Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne.
Edwards tied Tony Stewart for the championship last season, losing what would have been his first Cup title on a heartbreaking tiebreaker. a mere 16 races later, he and his No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing team looking nothing like they did last season, when he led the points for 23 weeks. Edwards only lost the championship because Stewart couldn’t be stopped during a five-win push over the final 10 races.
There is a theory that the driver who loses the championship suffers through a hangover season the next year, and Edwards seemed to prove that after his nine-win runner-up 2008 season. He wasn’t a factor the next year, when he again went winless and finished 11th in the final standings.
Edwards said this week in a phone interview with The associated Press that he doesn’t put much stock in the hangover notion, even though he appears to be suffering through one right now.
“What I believe is that the guy that almost wins the championship has a pretty big microscope above him,” Edwards said. “The reality is that it is cyclical, and this team has proven to be really hot and cold, and that’s really frustrating for everyone. But lately, I think the lows have been higher than what they used to be, we just need to prove that.
“If you look at the end of 2010, we won the final two races and we were moving (in the standings) the last 12 to 15 races, and 2011 was very good. Now, 2012 is obviously no good. But if we could turn it around and make the Chase, we could make it look a little more constant and consistent.”
Edwards said there is nothing different about his team seven months after they lost the championship. He opened the season by winning the pole for the Daytona 500 and from an organizational standpoint, Roush is obviously in good shape — Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle have both won races, and are ranked first and fourth in the standings.
The difference is that his Roush teammates haven’t had the bad luck that has hit Edwards this year. Of all the strange things that have happened, only the jumped restart at Richmond can really be blamed on Edwards. He went from challenging for the win to a 10th-place finish that night.
Most everything else, though, has been plain old racing bad luck, including last Saturday night at Kentucky when a late fuel stop spoiled what should have been a top-five run.
“The biggest thing I can do is to be realistic and to remind myself and educate people that you can do the best possible performance and still have things happen that are out of your control,” he said. “We’ve run pretty well, but people wrecked in front of me at Bristol, we had a tire blow out at Dover. We’ve had trouble with running out of fuel. The penalty at Richmond, that was our fault, but some things have just not gone our way.”
He has heard all the speculation about why things have changed for him. it ranges from the time he’s spending in the television booth as an ESPN analyst for Nationwide Series races, to him sitting out those races this year after running full Cup and Nationwide schedules the past seven years.
The worst theory? that Edwards might need a new crew chief because Bob Osborne is allegedly not getting it done anymore.
“It’s really tough because you start to hear all these things, but none of those reasons are real and they don’t make people wreck in front of you, and they don’t make tires blow,” Edwards said. “Sure, it’s not as good as it could be, but we’re all battling to make it into the Chase. and something that I tried to point out the other night, is the fact is just 16 or 17 races ago, Bob and my communication, the decisions and the things we were doing with the cars was as good as anybody in the sport.
“We just have to keep believing in ourselves and believing in each other.”
But, he knows they also must be perfect the next nine weeks, and that’s a very tough spot to be in with so much on the line.
Edwards could very well push too hard. so could his crew, and so could Osborne, and that could lead to mistakes or mishaps that sink his chances.
Even worse, up next is Saturday night’s race at Daytona. although Edwards has yet to win a restrictor-plate race, he’s competitive and has tried every different strategy to make it to Victory Lane.
It’s left him a bit unsettled heading into Daytona, where he’s hopeful he’s got the engine for another pole-winning run so he can race at the front most of Saturday night.
“Daytona is one that makes me a little more nervous than the others because from here on out, we want to be aggressive,” Edwards said. “But, it’s like, ‘OK, let’s throw your elbows up and lets go race like hell and make something happen,’ when the problem is I’ve been caught in a ton of wrecks.
“We have to be smart. all the running around, pounding our chests, acting like we are going to throw caution to the wind, it sounds great and it sounds entertaining, but we have to make the Chase first. we know we are better than this, bob and I looked at each other (after Kentucky) and we said ‘We are smarter than this, we are better than this, and we don’t need to be making these kind of mistakes.’ “
Hinchcliffe heads home to Canada
James Hinchcliffe once spent three hours waiting for the chance to meet his hero.
When Greg Moore finally emerged to speak to the 12-year-old outside his team truck, Hinchcliffe was too awe struck to say much during what ultimately turned into a life-changing chat for the aspiring driver.
“I barely could spit out any words, my sister had to ask most of the questions because I was just staring up at this guy like he was God,” Hinchcliffe said. “It changed my life, to this very day. He influenced the design of my helmet, he’s why I wear red gloves, he’s who I model myself after — and it only took 10 minutes for him to make that impression on me.”
Canadian drivers are revered in their home country, and Moore was quickly moving up through the ranks when he met a young Hinchcliffe at the 1999 race in Toronto. Moore died about four months later in an accident at the season-ending race in California. He was 24.
Hinchcliffe, a native of Oakville, Ontario, understands the legacy of Canadian drivers. He rattles off a list of winners — Moore, Patrick Carpentier, Scott Goodyear, Alex Tagliani, Paul Tracy, Jacques Villeneuve — and feels the pressure to match their success.
“Almost all the Canadians before me have been successful,” he said. “Just making it to IndyCar is only a small part of the fight, because as a Canadian, I am very anxious and keen to carry on that legacy of winning for this nation.”
The pressure is even more intense this week since Hinchcliffe is returning home to race Sunday in Toronto. He arrives with some serious buzz: this second season of IndyCar has been a breakthrough for Hinchcliffe, who joined Andretti Autosport this year as Danica Patrick’s replacement, and he’s combined on-track success with strong marketing to become the series’ newest star.
Sponsor GoDaddy has rallied behind him for this event with a “Toronto Takeover” campaign that has put Hinchcliffe’s face on billboards and at bus stations all over the city. Perhaps it really is “Hinchtown,” that imaginary online community (and Twitter handle) that has helped build his reputation as one of the more personable drivers in quite some time.
For Hinchcliffe, all of this is both surreal and scary.
“My poster is now all over Toronto, and seeing my face, seeing yourself around town is just bizarre,” he said. “It’s not something you get used to, and not something I’ve experienced before. and Canadian fans are super supportive of their drivers. so to know that you’ve got that backing, it really hits you how much you want to put on a good performance for the hometown crowd.”
Tracy, in fact, is the last Canadian driver to win an IndyCar race at Toronto, which he did in 2003 under Champ Car sanctioning. that win came 10 years after Tracy’s first victory, in 1993 under CART, and no other Canadian driver has won in that 19-year span.
No pressure, right? Four-time series champion Dario Franchitti remembers the pressure on good friend Moore whenever the series raced in Canada.
“I think the guys in the Canadian press and the Canadian fans, they want a home win and they are going to put a lot of pressure on James to deliver that,” Franchitti said. “But I used to see that with Greg, too. The pressure on Greg in Toronto and Vancouver, especially Vancouver, was just obscene, and to have to deal with that was very tough.
“I think if James can put that out of his head and get on with it, he’ll be just fine.”
But, Franchitti said, it’s up to Hinchcliffe alone to manage the pressure and not let it interfere with his performance or his approach to Sunday. He has been impressed with Hinchcliffe’s performance so far this season, and sees many similarities between Hinchcliffe and Moore.
“One thing I’ve learned about James, I think he’s very smart and he’ll treat it like any other race,” Franchitti said. “Obviously the next big break for James is winning an IndyCar race. He’s been very consistent and done a hell of a job, and I think as long as he treats this race like any other week, he’ll be just fine.
“As far as Greg, out of the car, Greg (had) that — just that kind of crazy sense of humor and a really good person; and I see that from James, that connection with the fans. they definitely have that in common. I think a lot of that is the Canadian personality, as well. He’s a good guy and very, very impressive.”
Many people knew Hinchcliffe had a special presence outside the car and in front of the camera. But he’s shown this season he’s a special talent inside the car, too.
Hinchcliffe has finished lower than sixth just twice in nine races this season. He has two podium finishes, has led at least one lap in six races, started on the front row at the Indianapolis 500, and, until a pot hole in the track caused him to crash at Belle Isle last month, was the only driver in the series to complete every lap.
He rebounded from that 21st-place finish to finish fourth at Texas and third at Milwaukee.
That moved him to second in the IndyCar standings behind leader will Power two weeks ago when they raced at Iowa, which turned out to be one of the more frustrating races of his career. He led 19 laps and was poised to tighten the points race after Power crashed, but he wrecked by himself 55 laps from the finish on a restart in which it was critical he and Andretti teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay not make contact with each other.
Belle Isle and the poor track conditions made him angry. Iowa still has him frustrated after a week off. The two races are the only blemishes on his season and, with different outcomes, he could be heading into Toronto as the points leader.
“On Iowa, I understand everybody makes mistakes in this sport and my philosophy is as long as you can learn something and grow from it, you’ll be fine,” he said. “What I’ve struggled with after Iowa is I don’t know why I wrecked, and that’s what bothers me. I am not saying it is not my fault, but I just don’t know what caused it and I can’t learn from that. If I was in the same situation today, I don’t know what I would do differently.
“And on Belle Isle, well, that one just makes me mad because it was avoidable. If you can do that race over again, you’d red flag that at lap 6 and go fix the track before you cheat me, and before you cheat the fans who got a shortened race because of the problems.”
Hinchcliffe went into Iowa trailing Power by 31 points. although he has slipped to fifth, he is still only 30 points behind the leader and “in a weird, twisted way, we moved closer and the championship race is a lot tighter.”
He is still looking for his first IndyCar win, but team owner Michael Andretti believes it is coming soon.
“He’s right there, right on the verge of getting that first win, and when he gets it, I really believe it’s going to open the gates and he’ll starting winning a lot of races,” Andretti said.
Hinchcliffe knows there will be hometown fans hoping that win comes Sunday at Toronto, where he’ll be racing for the sixth time spanning three different series. He first attended the event as a baby with his family and could finally be its star attraction with Toronto-native Tracy — the popular “Thrill from West Hill” — not competing for the first time since his 1992 debut.
In Hinchcliffe’s first appearance at the track, in 2006, he tried to accommodate every request and realized afterward that he done “way too much.” Back this year in a much more high-profile role, he’s worked hard to make it a normal event.
“PT was around last year, my first year in IndyCar, and he still got a lot of the attention. But this year, without Paul and with (me) being a little bit higher up the food chain, we know there’s going to be attention,” he said. “We’ve worked very closely with (the team) and the league to make sure I contain everything.”
But the expectations are clearly there, and there should be more than a few fans in attendance wearing the limited edition “Red Gloves Rule” T-shirt being sold by the Toronto Motorsports group. He’s worn red gloves most of his career as a tribute to Moore, but it drew particular attention at the Indianapolis 500.
A friend of Moore’s gave Hinchcliffe a pair of the late drivers’ gloves, and asked Hinchcliffe to take them on a lap around the famed speedway where Moore never got a chance to race. Hinchcliffe waited until qualifying day, tucked the gloves inside his firesuit and nearly won the pole.
“For someone to ask me to do that, and think I was worthy enough to give Greg the laps around the most famous race track in the world was unbelievable,” Hinchcliffe said. “I don’t think of myself as worthy enough, because he was my hero. But to be able to give him that was very special to me.”
Alonso eyes third win after halting F1′s record run
LONDON (AP) — After breaking free from a pack of title contenders, Fernando Alonso’s task at the British Grand Prix is to ensure that advantage in the Formula One championship isn’t now thrown away.
The season had produced seven different winners from the opening seven races until Alonso halted the record-breaking run by becoming the first driver to take the checkered flag twice in 2012.
With a 20-point lead over Red Bull’s Mark Webber established at the European GP, Alonso returns to the Silverstone circuit, where he won for a second time last year. with showers forecast for race weekend in central England, in this most unpredictable of seasons Sunday’s result could be even harder to predict.
No wonder Alonso’s Ferrari team is being so cautious.
“I don’t want outsiders to think that one win is enough for us to put on a fireworks display,” Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said on the team website.
Di Montezemolo stressed after the win in Valencia on June 24 that Alonso collecting 25 points “will definitely not go to our heads.”
“We are well aware how things can change in the blink of an eye,” he said. “And we must continue to work on improving the car’s performance, because it is still not at the level we want.”
Ferrari engineer Rob Smedley is already helping to develop a quicker car for Alonso and teammate Felipe Massa.
“In Valencia we didn’t have the quickest car, but compared to the start of the year, we had a much improved car,” he said. “However, our car has always been particularly suited to high speed corners and Silverstone is dominated by high speed turns for almost two thirds of the track.”
McLaren’s British drivers, though, will be determined to stop Alonso winning at home. Particularly Jenson Button, who has failed to win — or even make the podium — at the British GP in 12 attempts.
The 2009 world champion was forced to retire on lap 40 of last year’s race when his crew failed to secure the right front wheel at a pit stop and he ground to a halt after leaving the garage.
“Silverstone is a circuit that suits the McLaren,” Button said. “It’s high speed so it should be a circuit where we’re quick. we have good down force at high speed, which is something we don’t probably have at low speed, so the car should be strong there. It’s a very mixed season, which means it’s sometimes difficult to know where your car is going to work well.”
Button has plunged to eighth in the standings, having been second after three races.
“I know I’m a long way behind and that I’ve put myself in a very difficult situation,” he said. “I know I’ve made it more difficult for myself compared to most other people, but you never give up until it’s not possible anymore.”
Already 62 points behind Alonso, Button is also 39 points behind third-place McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton.
“Although he’s not been on the podium (at Silverstone), it’s not been for a lack of ability, it’s been for a lack of opportunity, the lack of a car, reliability and stuff,” Hamilton said of Button. “But his day will come, and when it does, I hope I’m there as well.”
Hamilton hasn’t won his home race since 2008, when he went on to win the championship. Hamilton’s priority on Sunday will be closing the 23-point gap to Alonso after being shunted into a wall by Williams’ Pastor Maldonado in Valencia last month.
“(Alonso) can be caught,” Hamilton said. “All it takes is for them to have one hiccup, and for us to have a good weekend, and we’re right back up there.”
That optimism is also being echoed at Red Bull.
Like Hamilton, two-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel failed to finish in Valencia, stalling midway through the race after starting from pole. But Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is sure Vettel’s rocky form will come to an end after teammate Webber rose to second with his fourth-place finish in Valencia.
“To that point it was our most competitive showing in a grand prix this year,” Horner said. “Whilst very annoying to lose a race like that, we drew some comfort from the fact the car was so quick.”
Test driver de Villota loses right eye after crash
LONDON (AP) — Formula One test driver Maria de Villota lost her right eye in a crash during a testing session and remains hospitalized in Britain, with teammates describing her condition as critical but stable.
The 32-year-old Spaniard sustained serious injuries to her head and face after colliding with a team vehicle at the end of one of her straight-line test runs at Duxford Airfield in Cambridgeshire, north of London. She underwent a lengthy procedure by neurological and plastic surgery teams, her team said, adding that de Villota was in the operating theater from Tuesday afternoon until Wednesday morning.
“We are grateful for the medical attention that Maria has been receiving,” John Booth, Marussia team principal. “However, it is with great sadness that I must report that, due to the injuries she sustained, Maria has lost her right eye.”
De Villota was testing the team’s racing car for the first time Tuesday after joining Marussia in March. She is the sport’s first full-time female driver since Italy’s Giovanna Amati raced with the Brabham team in 1992.
She was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital after the accident with what an emergency team’s spokesman described as life-threatening injuries.
Her head apparently took much of the impact from the collision with the Marussia team truck, which was used to transport the racing car to the airfield for a week of testing ahead of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone Sunday.
It was still unclear why the car suddenly accelerated, and hit the truck as de Villota slowed down at the end of the run.
Booth said the investigation of the accident is ongoing.
“We have embarked on a very comprehensive analysis of what happened,” Booth said.
Marussia F1, formerly known as Virgin Racing, is yet to score a point in this season’s Formula One championship.
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