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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Suffering from Racing Withdrawal?

Race fans struggle to find racing in the off-season. The A1GP Series offers very exciting racing.

As the off-season for auto racing drags on, racing programming has become scarce. Speed TV has exhausted its supply of “Pinks” reruns and NASCAR award shows. What is a racing junkie to watch while waiting for the annual build up to the 2008 season?

Don’t fret race fans. I have found one of the best-kept secrets in all of racing. The A1 GP series has produced some of the best racing I have seen in years. I can hear American race fans grumbling about road racing and drivers with names that are unfamiliar. Granted, the drivers in A1 GP are not household names here, but the competition is exciting.

While flipping through the channels last week, I stumbled on the A1 race in Malaysia. The Sepang course is familiar to those of us who are Formula 1 fans. I did not catch the race from the beginning but after a few laps I was intrigued. The A1 GP boasts that it is the “World Cup of Motorsport.” Each participating country fields an identical car painted in their respective colors, so it was relatively easy to find your favorite country.
Team Switzerland grabbed a commanding lead just before the safety car was deployed because of an accident involving Team Canada and South Africa. The incident and the results of the race were not of importance for this first race. The most attractive facet of this race was the fact that drivers and teams from all over the world were competing in an auto race for world supremacy. Some of the teams were from countries that were not thought to be racing hotbeds. International race enthusiasts know of the accomplishments of drivers and teams from countries like Brazil and Germany. The A1 GP Series includes teams from countries like India and Pakistan. Yeah, I know, India produced a driver for Jordan F1 a few years ago named Nahrain Karthekeyian. Guess what, after being shunned by F1, he seems to have found a home in A1.

That is the beauty of the A1 series. It features teams that are new to the international racing scene and drivers that are soon to be stars in F1 or was once thought to be a hot commodity. These different agendas produce some very exciting racing. When drivers of varying talent are put in equal cars, the competition is very close. If you are suffering from racing withdrawal, find the A1 GP races in your local listings and treat yourself to some exciting racing.

"We the People" Team USA at Zhuhai in China courtesy of A1 GP website
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hey, Where's the Diversity?

NASCAR has implemented a Drive for Diversity initiative, but there is little evidence of inclusion.

Diversity has become the buzzword in motorsports. As the sport continues to grow globally, there has been an outcry for more visible and diverse, owners, drivers, and engineers. NASCAR has implemented a Drive for Diversity initiative, but there is little evidence of inclusion.

Racing is an expensive business with yearly budgets soaring well over $40 million. It is not my opinion that NASCAR or any other sanctioning body should make any unusual concessions to attract minority participants. The sport was not built on handouts and freebies. However, if a program has been created to serve this purpose, then there should be new faces in new places.

The Urban Youth Racing School is wonderful program dedicated to the immersion and preparation of urban youths in motorsports. Last year, Sprint Nextel made a large donation to the UYRS. The UYRS is headquartered in Philadelphia and recently moved to Washington DC.

For those of us that LISTEN to the telecasts of NASCAR events, such as qualifying sessions and the races, the UYRS has been mentioned frequently. Joe Gibbs Racing driver, Tony Stewart has been mentioned on several occasions as a staunch supporter of the Urban Youth Racing School.

The problem I have with NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity and the UYRS is that qualified people of diverse backgrounds are denied access to these opportunities. I speak from experience. I have gone down the Drive for Diversity path for several years and have not received so much as a “thanks but no thanks” letter. Recently, I sent my résumé to the UYRS and have yet to hear anything regarding my inquiry. Granted, I am not an engineer or a team owner, but I have followed and participated in racing for much of my life.

I feel that it would be easier to attract minority interest when you find the minorities that have a true passion and skill for a career in motorsports. There are careers in auto racing that do not involve driving. Fortunately, I have raced and have prepared for a career in motorsport outside of the cockpit.

It is great to hear that there are programs in place to aid with minority involvement in motorsport. Progress will be made when there are more diverse engineers and behind the scene professionals are hired. Other major auto racing series should follow NASCAR’s lead.

photo of Anthony Martin, UYRS founder, awarded Urban Wheel courtesy of Steed Media Service

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Sunday, December 2, 2007

Wish List for Santa

Race fans take heart… if Santa has any of these presents in his bag, 2008 will be a special year in motorsports.

Thanksgiving has passed and now sights are set on Christmas. Everyone has a wish list for the holidays that may include a new house, car, or money. I am no different. However, I have a list for Santa that will appeal to race fans. When we get gifts that are not what we asked for, people can re- gift or return the item. Race fans take heart… if Santa has any of these in his bag, 2008 will be a special year in motorsports.

1. An end to the split between the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car World Series. This has gone on for too long and with NASCAR swiping some of the brightest open wheel stars, this style of racing may soon become insignificant. Think of the entry list for the 2008 Indianapolis 500 if the split is mended.

2. The sanctioning bodies of motorsports mandate the use of 100% ethanol and biodiesel fuel in every series. Global warming is real and racing culture gets negative publicity. The need to assuage the environmental types is paramount.

3. A 2008 championship for Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch is one of the most talented drivers in the world and is a treat to watch when things are going his way. A championship would silence his detractors and make Rick Hendrick sorry for getting rid of him. Joe Gibbs is one of America’s greatest sportsmen and a wonderful example of how to compete fiercely and still be a good person.

4. Petty Enterprises’ return to respectability and competitiveness. Bobby Labonte is a great fit for this organization. Petty has hired a new crew chief for Labonte, Jeff Meendering, so things should improve. Petty has the resources to contend for wins, but the chemistry was lacking. Perhaps with a new leader coupled with Labonte’s prowess, Petty Racing blue will be in vogue in 2008.

5. Sebastien Bourdais to immediately win races in F1 with Toro Rosso. Formula 1 has created a stigma regarding American open wheeled racing’s talent level. For some reason, F1 feels that the competition and talent is inferior in the States, which means that drivers in the North American series’ are not taken seriously with only a few exceptions (Villenueve, Montoya, Mario Andretti). Scuderia Toro Rosso has the resources to compete with the top tier teams, so let’s hope that Bourdais is the missing piece in the puzzle.
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