CART more farm team than major league

ON MOTOR SPORTS

Auto Racing

September 01, 2002|By Sandra McKee

Here's a thought that will not earn me any friends from the ranks of CART fans.

Supporters of the CART series want positive things to read about their favorite open-wheel series. And I'd like to write them. But it's difficult to find the positives at a time when CART is struggling to re-establish itself as a viable major player in the sport.

During a conference call with Formula One driver David Coulthard, who will be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this month, this question was asked: Has the success of some former CART drivers in F-1 increased the regard that F-1 participants and contractors have for CART?

The answer wasn't encouraging.

"I don't know enough about the CART cars to know if the success of drivers in that series is based on driver talent or the cars," Coulthard said. "All I know is the cream rises."

That exchange started me thinking about the announced defection of CART driver Christian Fittipaldi to NASCAR next season. It reminded me that CART champion after CART champion has moved on to F-1, and more probably will follow. And it brought back the memory of the Penske teams moving to the IRL this season.

And all of that has me wondering this:

Instead of a destination series, a place where drivers strive to earn their way to and establish long-time careers, is CART simply becoming a "feeder series," a steppingstone to other, better places?

Dominating performance

Baltimore's Chuck Goldsborough and his Lexus team are tearing up the Grand American Series Sports Touring Class.

Going into this weekend's race at Virginia International Raceway, Goldsboro and his four other drivers are all in the top 10 in the drivers standings. Jean-Francois Dumoulin is No. 1, Goldsboro and Tim Gaffney are tied for fifth, and Ian James and Daniel Dror are tied for seventh.

Johnson sees distinctions

A crash is a crash, except when it comes in a non-racing mode. Just ask Winston Cup rookie Jimmie Johnson.

At Bristol Motor Speedway last weekend, Johnson was taken out by Robby Gordon just as the race was about to go back to green. Johnson was asked to compare the incident with the one his teammate and car owner Jeff Gordon was involved in with Rusty Wallace under green with two laps to go.

"I think they were totally different," Johnson said. "In my instance, the green flag wasn't even out and I was spun out and collected another driver competing for the Winston Cup points battle and crashed and destroyed my race car -- and Mark Martin's race car and a few others.

"Jeff moved Rusty out of the way, like Rusty moved [Kevin] Harvick and Junior [Dale Earnhardt Jr.] and a lot of other cars out of the way to get to the front. As a driver, leading with two [laps] to go at Bristol, you know something's going to happen, so you just try to get your defense together and hold it off."

Johnson was initially criticized for his incident with Robby Gordon for missing a shift and causing Gordon to run into him, but during a conference call last week, he said appearances are deceiving.

"I was lined up on the inside coming to the green flag," he said. "If I had beaten the No. 14 [Mike Wallace] car to the start/finish line, I would have been black-flagged. So I had to wait for the No. 14 car to accelerate and then race him into Turn 1.

"When the No. 14 car took off, I was getting ready to take off and tried to take off, but the No. 31 [Robby Gordon] already had been into the back of me and had my rear tires off the ground. So I couldn't accelerate. When I jumped on the gas to take off, the rear tires just spun. The No. 31 was on the gas, trying to get going. He turns me and spins me out. So it looked like I didn't accelerate or that I missed a gear."

Johnson, who refused to leave the track until giving Gordon a hand signal on his next time around, said he had never been angrier.

"Racing for the Winston Cup championship in your rookie season and having something like that happen, that was uncalled for -- and that wasn't even at speed or racing at the time -- made me really mad," he said. "But, at the same time, I'm a professional, and I shouldn't be out there giving someone the bird."

Memorial scheduled

One of the most popular events on the Hagerstown Speedway calendar is scheduled for Saturday night -- the 16th Tommy Thompson Memorial Demo-Derby and the 100-lap Championship Enduro Classic.

Added to the annual fall event will be the 20-lap Ernie's Salvage Yard Pure Stock Special Fall Championship. The pure stocks will have their qualifying and feature events before the amateur drivers are let loose in the non-stop 100-lap enduro dash. And, if that isn't enough banging for the fans, the demo-cars will line up on the front stretch to see which car can be the final car running.

Entries are still being accepted for both the demo-derby and the enduro. Call the speedway office for entry forms or to register at 301-582-0640.

Gates will open at 5 p.m., with racing at 7 p.m.

Nuts and bolts

Maryland driver Dion Ciccarelli, who raced in the ARCA series last season, continues with his Busch Series efforts this year at Richmond International Speedway next weekend.

Cecil County Dragway is to have Summit ET Bracket Racing today. Gates open at 8 a.m.

American Le Mans Series driver Tom Kristensen of Denmark, enjoying a stellar season, will be dining with Danish Queen Margrethe II on Wednesday. The American Le Mans Series points leader will attend the dinner on the queen's private ship, Dannebrog. The ship is named for the national flag of Denmark, which has been flying since 1219 and is the oldest national flag in the world.

The Great American 250 U.S. Lawnmower Racing Association-sanctioned lawn mower race will be held next Sunday at Blob's Park in Jessup. Scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., it will be unique. Most lawn mower races are 20 laps and do not include a pit stop. But this race is a 50-lapper and will have a mandatory stop for service.

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