Race Review: NASCAR Auto Club 500

2009 Auto Club 500
California Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, California, USA
22 Feb 2009
Round 2 of 36

I watched the 1 hr highlights edition and will note edits with “[jump]”. There are a lot of edits.

I’ve decided to post this just for the hell of it – since I’m watching these short shows anyway in order to learn NASCAR for the 2010 season I may as well blog about them!

Green Flag

This is a fast 2 mile superspeedway, Jamie McMurray started on pole but fellow front-row man Jimmie Johnson takes the lead from the start. The guest starter is getting very animated on the stand!

After only two laps we jump to Lap 72.

L72 – Johnson leads with Jeff Gordon in 2nd after Jeff passes Kurt Busch who was running a very high line.

L73 – Pit report saying Tony Stewart’s car is a little ‘loose’ but the commentary guys say it should get better as the track will come towards them later. He’s 6th.

Another pit report mentions the word ‘carburettor’. I chuckle.

L76 – Ex-F1 driver Scott Speed is in this race and he has been lapped, yet we’ve just been told 38 cars are on the lead lap. Oh dear.

L78 – Jeff Gordon takes the lead from his teammate, on-track pass.

L119 – 21 of the 43 starters are on the lead lap, 41 cars are running. Replay of someone sliding the back end to avoid the wall!

Talk of the Chevrolets and Fords getting the best fuel mileage, and the Dodges and Toyotas not being as good. Interesting. This is what I like about multi-manufacturer competition, even if they are tightly controlled. I wonder which develops more power?

L177 – Restart after a mystery yellow (we are not shown or told why). 73 laps to go, Matt Kenseth leads. Mark Martin’s car slides and his tyre smokes, he has to pit.

Johnson and Gordon are still in contention changing position between themselves.

Apparently they are using the brakes here more with the new car than they did with the old regulations. I’m surprised at this, I wouldn’t expect them to even touch the brakes here.

Even though these are heavily-edited highlights I can tell this race was pretty boring.

60 to go – Nice to see Montoya working his way up to 9th.

L215 – Kenseth takes another restart. Again we do not see the reason for it. 35 to go. Now we talk to Dale Earnhardt Jr who is talking about something breaking with the engine, he’s very disappointed…

Kenseth builds a lead on the restart, then Gordon reels him in again when his tyres are up and working properly.

26 to go. Some good advice from the commentary for the rookies, stop trying to imitate the established stars and just drive the car the way you want to.

15 to go – Nothing has changed except the gaps are growing. This is like an F1 race! We are told Gordon is cooling his tyres ready for another push at the end.

8 to go – Hamlin takes 4th from Kurt Busch.

We are told about a ‘Monster Moment’ and hear swooshy noises for graphics, no graphics appear on screen. This happens often on these highlights packages.

7 to go – The rookie Eric Almirola slows down with an apparent engine problem.
5 to go – Gordon is now pushing hard and catching Kenseth.
4 to go – ..and they are among lapped traffic.
2 to go – Kenseth has used the traffic to build a bigger gap, nicely played!

Final Lap

Matt Kenseth wins!! 2nd race win in a row after winning the Daytona 500, only the 4th driver to achieve feat of winning both Daytona and the race that followed it, the last time was in 1997.

Result (top 10):

1. Kenseth (Roush Fenway)
2. J.Gordon (Hendrick)
3. Ky.Busch (Gibbs)
4. Biffle (Roush Fenway)
5. Ku.Busch (Penske)
6. Hamlin (Gibbs)
7. Edwards (Roush Fenway)
8. Stewart (Stewart-Haas)
9. Johnson (Hendrick)
10. Vickers (Red Bull)

I’ve decided to include the teams rather than the manufacturers as NASCAR does it as I think it is more telling, and in any case that’s what I’m used to in other series.

Points (top 12):

1. Kenseth 385
2. J.Gordon -81
3. Ku.Busch -91
4. Stewart -91
5. Biffle -117
6. Bowyer -119
7. Waltrip -121
8. Ragan -123
9. Edwards -125
10. Montoya -129
11. Sadler -137
12. Reutimann -137

Still early days at this stage of course.

The next races were at Las Vegas and Atlanta but I don’t have those, so the next race I’ll see is the first visit of the year to Bristol.


On The Limit: DTM highlights – with a difference

It is about time I resurrected the old ‘On The Limit’ feature, where I either link to or post here a motorsport video on anything that takes my fancy. I’ve been negligent in updating what was supposed to be a regular feature.

The reason I bring this up now is the appearance of a clutch of season highlights videos, both official and unofficial, appearing all over the web at this time of year. One of the best of these was found by Scott from the Zero Downforce blog and is an artistic and really rather good look at the 2009 DTM season. I don’t care if you don’t like DTM or that it is mostly in German, it is a high-quality piece of work and well worth a look for any fan of racing in general.

Scott found it so I asked him to post it to his blog rather than steal all the credit here, so I urge you to watch this video by clicking here RIGHT NOW!

If you find a great video, if they are highlights or just a fantastic bit of car control, post it to your blog and I can include it in this series. Let’s get a bit of inter-blog linkery goin’ on.

Race Review: A1GP Kyalami

A1GP World Cup
A1GP Gauteng

Kyalami, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
Held: 22 Feb 09
Watched: 6 Dec 09
Coverage: Sky Sports 2
Commentary: Ben Edwards and John Watson
Pits: Diana Binks and James Hinchcliffe (@Hinchtown)

This is the first visit of A1GP to Kyalami, replacing the crashfest that was the Durban street race of previous years – it was a great location on the coast but a poor layout.

Sky have Georgie Thompson, Tony Jardine (racing pundit and insider) and Olly Jarvis (former driver for A1 GBR, now in DTM) in the studio in London.

Points coming into this event:
Ireland 65, Switzerland 52, Portugal 49, France 41, Netherlands 38, NZ 35, Malaysia 31, Australia 30, South Africa 17, Britain 16

Germany have been absent for the season to date and they finally join in this weekend. Sky show a recap of their last involvement the previous year where Ammermueller picked up a reputation for crashing into people – oh dear!

*Sprint Race

Grid (top ten):

Bleekemolen (Netherlands) Albuquerque (Portugal)
Jani (Switzerland) Piccione (Monaco)
Karthikeyan (India) Carroll (Ireland)
Prost (France) Zaugg (South Africa)
Fauzy (Malaysia) Piscopo (Italy)

Bleekemolen took pole for the Dutch team. Interesting to see India are up there, Karthikeyan can be a good driver on his day.

Diana is with Alan Jones, seatholder for A1Team Australia. Alan tells us about the black armband he is wearing for the people who lost their lives in the Australian bushfires, and the car is also bearing the logo of a ribbon.

Hinch has Bleekemolen on the grid:
“Our last pole was at Zandvoort and we didn’t win it, so we have to win it now.” He’s talking about low grip so the cars are getting sideways.

14 lap race, standing start.. didn’t they used to have rolling starts for this one?

Jani takes 2nd immediately, Bleekemolen has a big lead straight away. Karthikeyan is up to 4th at the expense of Piccione.

13 to go – Piccione repasses Karthikeyan, great pass!
Carroll also passes the India car using PowerBoost.
12 – Netherlands are running 2sec per lap faster than the field. Ho-Pin Tung makes a move on Bamber, he dives inside but runs too wide and the NZ car repasses him.
10 – China now makes a mistake, Germany gets alongside but has to back off. Lebanon are in the garage with a problem of some kind. Ben says the pit window is now open.
9 – Bleekemolen and Jani pit from 1st and 2nd, many cars further down follow them in. Jani is held up by the Malaysian car which is blocking his exit, parked at an angle. Commentary talking about a narrow pitlane but it is wide, the problem is there isn’t enough length between pit stalls and these cars have a very wide turning circle.
8 – Portugal in, Ireland in, Monaco stays out. Netherlands retakes the lead among those who have stopped.
7 – Piccione pits the Monaco car. Germany made up places through the stops.
6 – Order after stops: Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, Monaco, Ireland, India, South Africa, New Zealand
5 – GB in the gravel at turn one, after fighting with Brazil. Replay: Contact! The two collide and Watts runs off course. Yellows at turn one.
3 – Bleekemolen has a 4.3sec lead now although Portugal just set Fastest Lap. There’s not much actual racing anywhere in the field.
1 – All sorts of different onboard and offboard TV shots are being used to fill the time while nothing is happening on track..

Jeroen Bleekemolen wins the sprint race for Netherlands. Somehow Ireland took 4th ahead of Monaco? Not shown on TV.

RESULT (top ten)

Here is the result of this race, keep reading for the Feature race.

Driver Team Gap Pts
1 Bleekemolen Netherlands 14 laps 10
2 Albuquerque Portugal 4.407s 8
3 Jani Switzerland 10.600s 6
4 Carroll Ireland 12.925s 5
5 Piccione Monaco 14.363s 4
6 Karthikeyan India 18.474s 3
7 Zaugg South Africa 21.178s 2
8 Bamber New Zealand 26.539s 1
9 Fauzy Malaysia 26.925s
10 Prost France 28.101s
FL Albuquerque Portugal 01:29.072 1

I’ll recap the points after the main race.

*Feature Race

Nicolas Prost (son of Alain) starts 11th and is with Diana: “The atmosphere is fantastic, beautiful event. 11th is disappointing but a lot of people are in my situation after the red flag. It will be a long, hot race, very physical. Anything can happen.”

John Martin of Australia start 4th and is with Hinch: “Sprint race quali didn’t go our way but Q3 went okay, and we have a fast car so let’s hope it goes our way.”

Grid (top ten):

Piccione (Monaco) Fauzy (Malaysia)
Bamber (New Zealand) Martin (Australia)
Jani (Switzerland) Carroll (Ireland)
Albuquerque (Portugal) Guimaraes (Brazil)
Bleekemolen (Netherlands) Watts (GBR)

Monaco on pole! Qualifying was red-flagged so a fairly jumbled order.

South African national anthem

A1GP command from the premier of the Gauteng region: ‘Gentlemen, for the pride of your nations, start your engines’

40 lap race, standing start..


Monaco away well, terrible for Portugal who drop back to last.
Andretti going outside of Prost! It sticks, good move.
Adam Carroll spins! He tried to pass Malaysia and he’s thrown it into the gravel – he’s out of the race.
Netherlands and USA are making rapid progress up the order. NZ and Malaysia battling. Brazil v Australia.

39 to go – Australia passes Brazil over the line for 5th.
38 – Malaysia really pushing NZ hard over the last couple of laps. Fauzy and Bamber. Australia has now caught both.
Start replay: Australia was pushed partially on to the grass and lost several positions.

37 – Malaysia punts New Zealand off the track! Fauzy braked too late and now Bamber is out of the race. Someone else has gone off.. could be France. Fauzy continues having lost a couple of places.
Just in the replay you could briefly see Mexico push France and Duran went off track, Prost pitted.

35 – Malaysia pits with probably damage. The official pit window isn’t open yet. China is off course and Malaysia rejoins, but will still have to take 2 stops later. Replay of India running off course too.

Proper replay of France/Mexico: Prost was tipped into a spin and stopped on track to rejoin, Mexico kept running but only into the gravel.

Diana with Adam Carroll: “Got a good start, Malaysia were slow on the back straight so I used push-to-pass and I knew I was ahead, I even gave him some room and he hit me in the back corner. I’m pretty angry to tell you the truth.”

33 – Great battle between GB, Netherlands, USA and Germany, as Fauzy spins off to cheers from the crowd! Caught his rear wheel on the dust and 360s.

32 – The first pit window is open.
Order: Monaco, Swiss, Australia, Brazil, GB, Ned, USA, Ger, SA, Por, Leb, Indonesia, China, etc.

31 – Monaco pits. Very slow stop, 15.9 seconds! Australia stalls leaving the pits, Germany is in their way, now Australia has an exhaust fire! They are trying to push-start it.. it isn’t going anywhere.

30 – Jani is in. Watson tips Portugal as one to watch as he’s running fastest of all. Swiss pitstop was about 10 seconds. Portugal’s stop is about 11 seconds.

Andretti now running faster than before, Ben suggests he may have been caught behind the GB/Ned fight.

29 – South Africa pits, USA stay out. Quick 9sec stop for RSA and he is out alongside Portugal, but they have momentum and take the place.
Jani is right up behind Andretti, despite Jani having pitted. Marco stays out for another lap.

28 – Jani uses powerboost to pass Andretti on the front straight. Lebanon is running close to Andretti, haven’t pitted either.

27 – Lebanon pits but USA does not. A couple of laps of the pit window remain. Diana is in the Malaysia pit where the car is in the garage, ‘Fauzy reported a puncture – there was no puncture and he went back out and came in again, something is broken on the back of the car’.
Heheh, you could hear an echo as Diana’s voice was also on the circuit tannoy for the spectators, and as she said there was no puncture Fairuz looked rather sheepish…

26 – Andretti pits, 11 second stop, he’s out ahead of a train of cars but Zaugg gets him and so does Ammermueller as he gets up to speed.

Morad (Lebanon) passes Andretti, now Indonesia takes him. What’s Marco doing out there? Bad tyres perhaps, or struggling to get heat and grip into them.

25 – Order after the first stops:
Switzerland, Monaco, Brazil, Netherlands, Britain, Portugal, South Africa, Germany, Lebanon, Indonesia, USA, China, Italy, India, Australia

Where did Brazil come from?? Zaugg slows and pulls to the side of the track, problem..
Radio: he says he has a problem downshifting.
He’s made it to the pits.

23 – Lebanon passes Germany! Morad is on form today, I’m very impressed with him.

22 – Brazil is in 3rd and running 1sec/lap faster than Monaco in 2nd. Andretti has lost a position to China. His grandfather won at this track in its original configuration when it was an F1 circuit. Watson says “this is not what I’d expect of an Andretti”. Perhaps he hasn’t been watching IndyCar..

19 – Brazil has now caught Monaco. Replay of Ammermueller running wide into the gravel, and his tyres are caked in dust and dirt.

18 – China now running very slowly just as South Africa’s was.

17 – The second pit window is now open. Monaco runs wide at turn four and Brazil passes him! Slip-up from Piccione, he was low on grip and the pit window opened a little too late for him. Thumbs-up from Emerson Fittipaldi on the pit wall.

16 – Brazil, GB and Netherlands pit. Very slow stop for Britain.

15 – Switzerland pits from the lead. Good stop, he’s out in clear air. China seems to have fixed their issue as they leave the pits and get up to speed. Many others stopping.

14 – Monaco pits from what should be a temporary lead. Second stop better than the first stop. Danny Watts sets fastest lap of 1m30 or so. Now Marco Andretti goes quicker, he’s finally found some pace, I’m not sure if he’s pitted again. Spin for China at the chicane.

13 – Ho-Pin Tung has brought his car into the garage to retire. Lebanon are pitting late and he’s running at a good pace.

12 – Lebanon pits now. Malaysia rejoins after a long time in the pits, many laps down.

Hinch is with Earl Bamber of NZ: “We came down into turn 12 and he just hit us up the arse and that was it, we were in the gravel trap.”

11 – Order after the second stops:
Switzerland, Brazil, Monaco, Netherlands, Portugal, Britain, Lebanon, USA, Indonesia, Italy, India, Germany, Australia, China (7 laps), South Africa (14 laps), Malaysia (19 laps)
Malaysia are back out and could be trying to get the point for fastest lap.

7 – Italy and India having a fight.. Karthikeyan slides the car, runs wide and now has Ammermueller on his tail.

6 – John says Malaysia just set the fastest first sector of the last lap. Australia currently holds the fastest lap. Fauzy now takes it, 1:28.306.

4 – India has caught Italy again and he does the same, slides, runs wide!

2 – Replay: Lebanon passes Britain on the front straight.

Last lap

Neel Jani wins for Switzerland!

Ammermueller passed Karthikeyan on the last lap for 11th. That was a really entertaining race, I enjoyed that.

Emmerson Fittipaldi on Felipe Guimaraes: “Very proud, for the last ten laps we had a fuel pressure problem and were losing 1 second per lap, very proud. He’s a talent, he’s going a long way.”
Ben says Guimaraes is only 17! I have to admit I’ve never heard of him before.

RESULT (top ten)

Driver Team Gap Pts
1 Jani Switzerland 40 laps 15
2 Guimaraes Brazil 13.176s 12
3 Piccione Monaco 14.193s 10
4 Bleekemolen Netherlands 17.024s 8
5 Albuquerque Portugal 17.995s 6
6 Morad Lebanon 31.210s 5
7 Watts Britain 34.328s 4
8 Andretti United States 59.000s 3
9 Ali Indonesia 63.995s 2
10 Piscopo Italy 64.856s 1
FL Fauzy Malaysia 01:28.306 1

Another win for Jani, well done to the Swiss team. Impressive performances from Guimaraes and Morad, and Piccione scored the first podium for Monaco!

POINTS (top ten)

A1.Team Prior Sprint Feature Closing
1 Switzerland 52 6 15 73
2 Ireland 65 5 70
3 Portugal 49 8 6 64
4 Netherlands 38 10 8 56
5 France 41 41
6 New Zealand 35 1 36
7 Malaysia 31 1 32
8 Australia 30 30
9 Monaco 9 4 10 23
10 Britain 16 4 20

Good points hauls for Switzerland, Netherlands, Portugal and Monaco.
Terrible weekend for France, NZ, Malaysia and Australia who all lose ground.
Monaco’s scoring was good enough to bring them into the top ten.


I really enjoyed the feature race, lots of action all the way through and cars could pass even on this difficult circuit. The battle for the lead wasn’t much, with the action in the rest of the field it didn’t need to be. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the sprint race, which has long been a problem of A1GP racing.

Olly Jarvis seems to be becoming a clone of Tony Jardine with his sayings and mannerisms, the same way of finishing the sentences with a slightly higher intonation.. should we be worried?

It is quite bittersweet to be watching these races after the fact with the knowledge we have now of all A1GP’s financial problems. It was bad in the ’08/’09 series, it is much worse this time – the cars haven’t even turned a wheel. Such a shame.

The next event was a mammoth seven weeks after this one, at the new Portimao circuit on the Algarve in Portugal. I plan to do reviews of that race and the Brands Hatch finale although I appreciate this is probably for my own benefit rather than anyone else’s.

Race Review: NASCAR Daytona 500

NASCAR Sprint Cup
Daytona 500

Daytona International Speedway, Daytona, Florida, USA
Held: 15 Feb 09
Watched: 1 Nov 09
Coverage: FOX 1hr edit*, aired on Five

* I watched the 1-hour highlights edition which is obviously heavily edited from the original race coverage. I’m not sure who does the editing, if it is from NASCAR, FOX or Five.

200 laps scheduled

Green flag. These cars may not be impressive but their speeds and car control required are, look how much they move around! Takes some doing to keep them off the wall, I should think.

Kyle Busch leads the early running, Harvick is also quick but some way back.

Spin on lap 8. Almirola. Replay: He had to lift in traffic and the car behind tagged him gently. Yellow flag.
L11 – Restart.

L40 – Kyle Busch and Dale Jr side by side for the lead. Busch pulls ahead. Two lines of traffic all the way back, typical restrictor plate stuff, exciting for a while if you are new to it like I am… but then very boring when nothing changes.

L60 – Restart, my highlights don’t show why it was yellow in the first place. Man in the pits shows us a tyre, VERY worn right down to the cords. Dangerous stuff.

L65 – All the cars are bunched up still. Commentary saying 33 cars covered by 3 seconds… while that is quite impressive, it really is just an accident looking for somewhere to happen. You’re watching through your fingers because a big crash is inevitible, that’s not what this should be about.

L86 – Something of a bad edit and we’re on another restart, not told why, not our business. This is a need-to-know operation and we don’t need to know.

Chat with Joey Logano, apparently he was in an accident.

L90 – The weather has changed, teams are racing to halfway in case of rain. If rain arrives any time after half distance (lap 100) the race will be declared as finished with full points awarded. Rain is due soon so no more waiting until lap 180 to then race to the end, got to go now..

L93 – Earnhardt Jr missed his pit stall last time, had to go around and came out last but he’s working his way up the order again, he’s into the top 15.

L111 (89 to go) – Single file most of the way back, four car break up front: Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Edwards, McMurray. Finally someone breaks away!

86 to go – Jeff Gordon pits after a long green flag run, commentary says people will now follow him in. Jeff goes a lap down with a green flag stop.
Indeed they do start pitting.. most of the leaders stay out.
During the pit sequence a tyre blows on the track, yellow for debris.

L124 (77 to go) – Restart but no, here’s the big one straight away.
Earnhardt Jr turns someone into the field who try to avoid the car, but many fail.. Kyle Busch, dominant all day, is taken out of the race along with about ten other cars.

Dale was pushed to the inside below the line, coming back in he caught the back end of Vickers’ car when he ought to have lifted slightly to get more space. Okay so he shouldn’t have been blocked, but once he was he shouldn’t have moved up until he was clear.

The rain has arrived. Replay of Kenseth taking the lead from Sadler.

Official – the race is over due to rain.

Result (top 10):
1. Kenseth (Ford)
2. Harvick (Chevy)
3. Allmendinger (Dodge)
4. Bowyer (C)
5. E.Sadler (D)
6. Ragan (F)
7. Waltrip (Toyota)
8. Stewart (C)
9. Sorenson (D)
10. Ku.Busch (D)

Not necessarily representative of the pace of the race. Harvick did pull himself to the front but Kyle Busch ought to have been up there. That’s just how this style of racing goes.

Points (top 12):
1. Kenseth 190
2. Harvick -20
3. Allmendinger -25
4. Bowyer -30
5. E.Sadler -30
6. Ragan -40
7. Stewart -43
8. Waltrip -44
9. Sorenson -52
10. Truex Jr -55
11. Ku.Busch -56
12. J.Gordon -61

I do not understand this points system, I assume points were accrued through bonuses.

Interesting stuff from my perspective, the style of racing is completely different to anything I’m used to. I couldn’t watch it for three hours or more although I did try to do so live at the time, but this highlights form really works for me. The editing could be better – we need to know why things like restarts are happening, not just that they are.

I’ll continue this series of race reviews over the off-season, although I’ll only promise to cover IRL, GP2 and MotoGP races, there will be a lot more but the coverage will be patchy.