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Ingram: Hamlin, JGR Hitting Stride Just In Time?

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, June 20 2011

Denny Hamlin got to incinerate a set of tires for the first time this season. More to come for the JGR driver? (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

From the Monday Morning Crew Chief™:

Were I tweeting, this would be my top 10 on Sunday (with footnotes):

1. Hamlin, M. Ford back on track at Michigan. Denny: “We made a magic adjustment and the car just took off.”

( No. 11 Crew Chief Mike Ford and his driver are on their game in time for the Chase. RT @JennaFryer Now, I’m not saying he’s going to light up the world and run away with the title. But it was way too early to proclaim him a bust.)

2. Cousin Carl hits the nail on head re track position racing. “Take downforce away so the fans can see the guys race cars and not race downforce.”

(Edwards was making an age-old complaint about aero-dependent cars. He could well be on the money. It’s the reduction of downforce with the COT that has made racing as close as it is currently. But how much actual racing occurs at the finish depends on how many laps are left after the last caution – or what happens in a double-file restart. Not enough laps, not enough racing.)

3. Dale Jr. has that ol’ winning attitude back. Pissed, he was still racey in a 21st place finish and dissed MkM for putting him into the wall.

(RT@bobpockrass: Dale said mark gave him a good explanation of the air being taken off Mark and they are ok with each other. #nascar)

The Milwaukee Mile was a lonely place on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

4. Re Milwaukee Mile: Kudos to IZOD IndyCar for returning. Close race but small crowd confirmed more than good racing needed to fill seats.

(In 2010 after a race at Road America in August, I stopped in to check out the Milwaukee Mile, concerned that racing would not ever return. I had not ever seen an event at the track, much less the track itself. Odd track when it comes to facilities – there are virtually none in the infield – odd location at the back of the cluster of fairgrounds buildings with little parking close by and poor management seemed to have doomed it.

At that time, better support from the city would have helped to prevent the track from getting on the ropes to begin with. In places with great racing tradition, why is it so many of the citizens and decision-makers don’t seem to care?)

5. Tony Schumacher hits 322 mph in 1,000 feet at Bristol. Amazing. Kyle Busch hits 213 at Michigan.

Tony Schumacher put down a screamer at Thunder Valley over the weekend. (File photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

Also amazing.

(After winning rounds, the NHRA drivers talk so fast in interviews the adrenalin must be still flowing. More likely, they are imitating John Force.)

6. It’s not the 11 car that has been a bust at JGR or the oil pans. Whatever happened to Sliced Bread?

(In his third season, Joey Logano is still looking for his first win by something other than fuel mileage and rain. Kyle Busch, who finished third at Michigan despite being sick, indicates Hamlin and him exchange notes on set-up. No mention of the No. 20 car.)

7. Will NASCAR track owners start replacing sparsely populated grandstands with some alternative?

(It’s been clear for quite some time that the tracks were overbuilt as a result of the surge in popularity in the 1990’s such as the additional stands in Turns 3 and 4 at Michigan. In addition to the economy and the early doldrums of the COT, tracks continue to have trouble with the transition to a new generation of fans, including a younger demographic and an increase in upscale ticket buyers.

We may have to wait until the new TV contract negotiations in 2014 before this question is answered. Will NASCAR again agree to no blackouts under the new contract? The absence of local blackouts is one of the biggest – and most often overlooked – factors in the drop in ticket sales. Under the current contract, the TV revenue easily outstrips revenue from tickets.)

8. Foyt feature on TNT had some great video. A.J. says he was one of the best, not the best. With age comes grace.

A.J. Foyt mellowing with age? (File photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

(Ironically, it was at Michigan that Foyt had a practice crash in 1981 due to a tire problem that altered the course of a great career. The resulting concussion, which required hospitalization, was the worst injury of his career up until that point.

That crash at Michigan occurred prior to a CART race, hence was not part of the NASCAR-themed feature on TNT. But the results were far worse than the spectacular crash at Riverside during a NASCAR race replayed by TNT. Foyt went from being a great driving talent to a very good driver as a result of the concussion at Michigan.

Nevertheless, A.J. became a winner again in sports cars, capturing the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 1983 and 1985 in extraordinary drives, plus a victory at Sebring. In 1983 at Daytona, after his original entry broke early Foyt was recuited by another team. Without any prior experience, he got in one of the most evil-handling race cars of any era, a Porche 935 turbo. His morning drive in the rain was decisive in the victory.

A.J. will be the grand marshall at next year’s Rolex 24.)

9. The Grand-Am finally arrives at the Brickyard 400 next year after testing in 2009. To be more popular inside the GA paddock than out?

(The Grand-Am continues to try to build a fan following by the association with its owners, NASCAR. But so far there has not been much of a bump at the Glen nor at Daytona among fans by pairing the Daytona Prototypes with NASCAR races. But Grand-Am team owners, many of them drivers, are sure to like the idea of racing at Indy.)

10. RT @willbuxton I’m impressed that @EJVISO seems to be tweeting in two languages from the cockpit right now. Bravo Sir.

(Uh, maybe EJ’s got a stand-in who’s listening to his comments via the team’s radio? Tough call. Sometimes he drives as if he’s tweeting… .)

Bonus:

11. At long last, I can compare notes with Tony Stewart about driving an F1 car.

Jonathan Ingram and his Arrows.

(I drove a former Arrows chassis with a Cosworth engine on the circuit at Barcelona, Spain as a guest of the Michelin Driving Experience in 2004. On Tuesday, Tony drove a 2008 McLaren Mercedes at Watkins Glen in a swap of rides with Lewis Hamilton.)

Quote of the Week: “I perceived that he didn’t know I was on the outside. He come up there, he knew I was up there, but, he was just running hard. If the tables were turned, I would have been smarter and give him plenty of room, more than he did me. He is older than me, been racing forever and knows a lot more than I’ll ever get or he has forgot more stuff than I’ll never know. Still, I take better care of people than that.” — Dale Earnhardt Jr. after being forced to check up by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin and then hitting the wall at Michigan.

See ya! …At the races.

– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jingram@racintoday.com

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, June 20 2011
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Terry says:

    I want so bad to see FORD stuff an updated COSWORTH in the @ss of something that handles……for Indy and F 1…..take on Honda and Euro teams like Henry the Duce would have wanted.
    As for Logano…….Trevor Bayne has passed him regularly in his limited rookie season…….he is more
    real deal TENNESSEE LIGHTING than SLICED BREAD…..
    #21 flat out RACED to his win.