Issuu on Google+


PAGE 2 | FLAG 2 FLAG | APRIL 15, 2011 gates Saturday. The Chemung Speedrome will begin racing on May 6. Below are capsules of each track: BLACK ROCK SPEEDWAY The fast 4/10-mile clay track in Yates County has a little bit of everything in 2011 – from weekly modified races to monster trucks and demolition derbies. Aside from special events, The Rock holds races every Friday night. Highlights: The first sprint car race of the season will be May 7; AMA vintage motorcycle events will be held Aug. 6-7; the annual NASCAR Night at the track attracts some of the starts from the Sprint Cup Series to race, or just hang around for the action. On the web: blackrockspeedway.com JASON COX | THE LEADER

Local tracks are getting the 2011 season underway.

Start your engines Local track racing has begun, and continues this weekend at two of the tracks. Black Rock Speedway kicked off its 2011 schedule last weekend with an IMCA Empire Series race, while Woodhull Raceway opens its

CHEMUNG SPEEDROME The technical 3/8-mile paved oval gets its season going on May 6 with Sunoco Modifieds and offers some of the tightest racing in the region. The track, just east of Elmira, holds races every Friday night in the summer. Highlights: Pack The Track Night on June 10 offers tickets at half price; the Mid-Season Championships gives out double points, so expect at lot action; the annual Race of Champions modified 150-lap race is scheduled for Aug. 12. On the web: chemungspeedrome.net WOODHULL RACEWAY A wicked high-banked 1/3-mile clay track about 20 miles west of Corning has been separating racers from pretenders for generations. Races with modifieds and late models are held every Saturday night in the summer. Highlights: The first of two sprint car shows is slated for May 21, and again on May 30; the Lucas Oil Tractor Pull and demo derby will be held July 17; June 15 will see an open small block modified special in addition to a 360 topless late model race. On the web: woodhullraceway.com


APRIL 15, 2011 | FLAG 2 FLAG | PAGE 3

The future of motorsports, today at The Glen. Maybe

W

atkins Glen International’s Opening Weekend gets underway today, signifying the start of the local auto racing season. Black Rock Speedway has one race in the books, while Woodhull Raceway throws open the gates Saturday and the Chemung Speedrome is set for a May 6 opener. This would all be COMMENTARY awesome if it wasn’t for gasoline. Nearing $4 per gallon locally (at least at press time, it could be more than that now), and expected to rise significantly throughout the spring and summer, fans are going to be real picky Chris Gill about where they spend their days and nights in July and August. So, too, are the weekend warrior racers who have to travel relatively great distances to compete – race tracks aren’t as common as basketball courts in the park, you know. For promoters of race tracks both

large and small, this could be a brutal summer. Hey, at least television viewership will increase. So how does the symbolic start of racing season in our area begin? Only with the most ironic event imaginable – the Green Grand Prix. A celebration of alternatives in motor vehicles, and a competition among some of the most fuel efficient cars on the planet, the Green Grand Prix will be held at The Glen today for the first time. It previously spent six years around Schuyler County roads, where it carved out a small following. A whole bunch of people much smarter than me will spend today in the development phase of their research – either fine-tuning existing cars or debuting new models, each powered by engines capable of exceeding the average of 33 miles per gallon of fuel. And the cars aren’t just powered by traditional push-rod gas guzzlers, some use batteries, others hydrogen and some by vegetable oil. This is significant because one of these designs will likely wind up on race

tracks. In our lust for all things fast and loud, the trivial matter that our passion has, all along, been powered by a finite resource seemed to escape everyone. This isn’t about global warming, hugging trees or becoming one with nature (whatever that means), it’s just a fact – there aren’t enough dinosaurs in the ground to keep producing petroleum at our current pace. This isn’t just true of gas, but lubricants, tires and even the Wegman’s bags used to carry our beer and Slim Jims to the car on the way to the track. As it stands now, our continent is about tapped out, which means we have play nice with petrol-rich, yet unstable, countries that don’t really have our best interests in mind (kind of like being nice to a cousin you loathe because he/she has Tootsie Rolls). When something goes wrong with said countries – coups, revolt, political snits, erratic thuggish behavior, etc. – the price shoots up. Like, way up. We’re talking way higher than it needs to be, considering the markup from suppliers who should have our best interests in mind.

That doesn’t hurt an industry like auto racing, it’s a steel-toe Timberland kick to the groin. Eventually, racing will look and sound a lot different. Today’s Green Grand Prix may be a crude look into the future of the sport we love. Yes, we’ll miss the smell in the air, of course us older types who grew up driving cars with carburetors won’t be able to relate as well and the thunder from exhaust pipes that rattled our chests will probably be replaced by a more shrill sound. Racing will not only change, it might be the catalyst to transform our very society. The genesis of that could be taking place at The Glen today. ■ Chris Gill, who covers auto racing for The Leader, can be reached at cmgill@theleader.com.


PAGE 4 | FLAG 2 FLAG | APRIL 15, 2011

Vettel aims for rare hat trick in China BY CHRIS LINES AP Auto Racing Writer

SHANGHAI | Sebastian Vettel will attempt to become the first driver in seven years to start the Formula One season with three straight wins when the series moves to the Chinese Grand Prix this weekend. The Red Bull driver won backto-back races from the pole position in Australia and Malaysia to start the year, although his margin of victory was slimmer last weekend in Sepang than it was in Melbourne. Michael Schumacher was the last driver to win three straight races to open the season, in 2004. There’s only a seven-day break between Malaysia and China, which should give Vettel an advantage as his rival teams will largely have the same parts as they had in the first two races.

But Red Bull’s strong start hasn ’t been completely flawless, with its KERS energy boost system malfunctioning in both Australia and Malaysia. In Melbourne, the team ditched it entirely for both qualifying and the race. At Sepang, Vettel’s system was inoperable for the middle part of the race, while teammate Mark Webber’s device didn’t work at all during Sunday’s race. The Shanghai circuit has the longest straightaway of any track on the F1 calendar, making it imperative that Red Bull diagnose the problem with the KERS system and get it fixed. The long straight also will put a premium on maximizing usage of the adjustable rear wing – an THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sebastien Vettel leads the field during last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.


APRIL 15, 2011 | FLAG 2 FLAG | PAGE 5 innovation that worked just as intended in Malaysia to help overtaking on the main straight and should create plenty of passing in China, too. The adjustable rear wing is set by the push of a button from inside the cockpit, which lowers a flap that increases straight-line speed and makes it easier to pass. The rear wing malfunctioned on Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari in Malaysia, leading to a collision with his old rival, Lewis Hamilton of McLaren. Had it worked, Alonso would have comfortably passed Hamilton, but instead he had to try to pass the old-fashioned way and ended up clipping Hamilton’s rear tire, forcing a pit stop to repair the damage. Both drivers were assessed 20second time penalties after the race – Alonso for causing the collision and Hamilton for changing position more than once to try to block him. While the penalty didn’t affect Alonso’s sixth-place finish, the extra time dropped Hamilton from seventh to eighth, providing more fodder for the long-running antagonism between the drivers and their teams. Hamilton had been in second place for much of the race in

Malaysia, and was less than four seconds behind Vettel at the midpoint. But in the second half of the race, he began to struggle with tire wear and was forced into an unplanned stop with just four laps to go as the team tried to stop his slide back through the field. The Pirelli tires introduced this season were designed to degrade more quickly than the hardier Bridgestones, which caused Hamilton problems, as his tire management is often less than prudent. McLaren teammate Jenson Button, however, is known for conserving his tires, and that helped him in Malaysia, where he finished second, only three seconds behind Vettel. The Pirelli degradation is likely to be even more pronounced in Shanghai, as preseason testing showed that they wear more quickly in cool conditions. Temperatures are forecast to reach highs of about 68 degree this weekend in Shanghai, much cooler than the tropical heat of Malaysia. The degradation of the tires was evident in Malaysia, where the track was carpeted in “marbles” – the small balls of rubber that come off the tires – by the end of the race, with only the racing line clear.

the race, although teammate Nick Heidfeld managed to take third to give the team back-toback podiums. The Renault is a strong car, albeit a bit down on speed, and the team can only wonder what results it might be seeing if it had its top driver Robert Kubica, who is likely out for the season with injuries sustained in a rally crash. The Shanghai race could be

Renault’s Vitaly Petrov blamed the marbles for contributing to his spectacular crash last weekend, when he ran off the track and hit a drainage ditch that launched him through the air, across the track and into a brake distance marker. That put the Russian, who finished third in Melbourne, out of

won in the garages. If Red Bull can fix its KERS problems, it will be even harder to beat. If Ferrari can solve its rear-wing issues and find some more speed in qualifying, it may be a genuine challenger. And if McLaren can take another forward step as it did in Australia and Malaysia following a troubled offseason, it may be good enough to win the race.


PAGE 6 | FLAG 2 FLAG | APRIL 15, 2011

Glen going green today Track to host Green Grand Prix for the first time, looks to the future BY CHRIS GILL

cmgill@the-leader.com

WATKINS GLEN | For six years, the Green Grand Prix was held on public road around Seneca Lake, catering mostly to enthusiasts of alternative-fuel vehicles. Today, the groundbreaking annual meeting of cars powered by everything imaginable will hit the permanent road course at Watkins Glen International to kick off the track’s Opening Weekend. Not only does the move to The Glen give engineers, mechanics and tinkerers a central location to see the cars in action, but elevates the Grand Prix’s standing

in the eyes of the public. “Everybody in the world wants to drive on this circuit, and what we have tried to do is design a motorsports activity that is relevant in a time of rising energy costs,” said Robert Gillespie, who was a member of Saratoga’s Tour de Sol before it dissolved, and then he started the Green Grand Prix. “Everybody has an interest in our event because we publish the fuel economy results. It’s like a new breed of auto enthusiasts that take pride in usable performance, meaning fuel economy and precision driving. It’s called eco-driving. It’s a hilly circuit, so it’s a good test for car and driver.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of curiosity.” Modified street cars, vehicles pieced together from different makes and even original designs w o n ’t just be on display, they’ll be competing in fuel economy runs around the 2.45-mile NASCAR course today beginning at 9:30 a.m. The types of fuel will range from traditional gasoline engines, electric hybrids, diesel, hydrogen and vegetable oil. The best part is it’s free and open to anyone. THE LEADER FILES

People look over a solar-powered vehicle during a recent Green Grand Prix.


APRIL 15, 2011 | FLAG 2 FLAG | PAGE 7 “It was really just a combined effort with Bob Gillespie, he came to me late last year and knew I was the head of the green initiative (for International Speedway Corp., WGI’s parent company),” said Michael Printup, president of The Glen. “We told Bob you bring the show and we’ll do the rest. This is not about a moneymaking deal, it’s something we should all be aware of.” You read it correctly, it’s not a misprint or taken out of context: The motorsports industry, one which incurs the ire of some environmental groups, isn’t only supporting green technology – something that doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of gas-guzzling, 800-horsepower race cars – but is also doing it for free – a word rarely seen or at least comes

with fine print in the business of sports. Cars from all over the country will be brought to The Glen to hit the world-famous race track in several classes of fuel runs in an environment that solely exists to test the limits of man and machine. Among the machines, one from Cornell University will be one of the


PAGE 8 | FLAG 2 FLAG | APRIL 15, 2011

PROVIDED

Cornell’s 100 MPG Team, consisting of James Watt, Bill LaCava, Albert George, David Zlotnick, Matthew Robison, Andrew Gifft, Ed Lenihan and Robert Moore, pose with their car, Red Shift, at Michigan International Speedway.

most intriguing. Red Shift will be unloaded by the Cornell 100 MPG Team today, on the heels of competing in the Progressive Insurance X Prize event, which awards $10 million to the top three teams that produce the most fuel efficient cars. The 100 MPG Team (a think tank of more than 100 students and professors) will be joined by the West Philly Hybrid X squad, which also was in the X Prize race. The Red Shift has a diesel engine that only keeps a charge in the batteries which power the car. The vehicle was built by the Cornell braniacs from the ground up, including the body panels and interior. The car will make its Green Grand Prix debut today. “It’s definitely ahead of it’s time. There are some incredible things people have done and hacked together to make vehicles electric and hybrid,” said 100 MPG Team leader David Zlotnick, who will be making his fourth trip to the GGP. “It’s been a low-key event in the past, but this year it seems like a lot more people are interested. If they keep having it at The Glen, it may turn out to be something really cool in the next few years.” His team is exactly what the GGP organizers have tried to attract, and the hope is that bringing the event to The Glen will elevate the awareness enough to get the cars in front of manufacturing giants like General Motors, Ford Motor Co. or Toyota – each of which has developed their own alternative

Printup looking a new ways to power The Glen BY CHRIS GILL

cmgill@the-leader.com

WATKINS GLEN | International Speedway Corp., the parent company of Watkins Glen International, has put Michael Printup in charge of the company’s green initiative. Now all the WGI president needs to turn The Glen into a role model for its sister tracks is some cash. “If I had a big enough checkbook, I’d be doing solar and everything,” Print told The Leader. Entering his PRINTUP second full season as president of Schuyler County’s most famous landmark, Printup is maintaining the relationship with NextEra to power the facility, while discussing the potential for wind studies on the grounds. H e ’s also talked with the Department of Environmental Conservation about the possibility of creating wetlands on some of the outskirts. Today, he’ll be watching the Green Grand Prix – an event he brought up to the track for

the first time this year. All told, The Glen isn’t likely to make a profit off any of his ideas. “It’s not meant to make money, it’s just the right thing to do. We’ve got 1,800 acres, you’ve got to do something with it,” Printup said. The promoters of Pocono Raceway beat every major sports facility to the bandwagon last year when the track went 100 percent solar powered – much of that going to local companies to share with the region since the 2.5mile triangle in Pennsylvania’s famous mountain range only hosts two major events annually. Jeff Lurie, owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, announced Lincoln Financial Field will be powered by wind, solar and dual-fuel generated electricity. Pocono and the Eagles can do that mainly due to P e n n s y l v a n i a ’s tax-incentive programs for using renewable energy. New York State still lags behind neighbors Pennsylvania and New Jersey in that realm, which keeps business in the Empire State looking for inexpensive alternatives.


APRIL 15, 2011 | FLAG 2 FLAG | PAGE 9 fuel products. The presence of those teams have given new credibility to the Grand Prix. Today’s event also has potential to grow into something more, but no one’s sure exactly what. “Who knows? We’re just taking it one year at a time. We just want a event that runs smoothly and is safe,” Gillespie said. “I’d really like to see the competition grow like crazy – put some international attention on this,” Printup said. “This is all about awareness for their product. Obviously we want our venue to showcase this. Here they can do everything they need to do and in a safe atmosphere.” It already attracts designers of both the practical and a wee bit far-fetched, but all those ideas – or pieces of each – could spurn new innovation. Having those

minds in one place is beneficial, and organizers can only imagine if they were able to pair with monetary might. “I definitely think it will be the place for the cutting-edge garage tinkerers to show off their stuff,” Zlotnick said. “You get a whole bunch of these guys together and they come from all over the country with craziest, neatest, cutting-edge stuff they can think of – sort of like a proving grounds on a professional track. It would be cool if had a real following.” And who knows, maybe the Green Grand Prix could develop into a proper racing series. “I’m sure there will be a point when NASCAR simply can’t go on anymore because there’s no enough petroleum left on the planet,” Zlotnick said.

THE LEADER FILES

A propane-powered Ford truck, prepared by Roush Racing, is one of the unique vehicles to have attended the Green Grand Prix. The event will be celebrating its seventh year at Watkins Glen International today and is free and open to fans.


PAGE 10 | FLAG 2 FLAG | APRIL 15, 2011

Burton hopes Talladega snaps bad luck BY JENNA FRYER

AP Auto Racing Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. | Jeff Burton went into the season-

opening Daytona 500 with a solid shot at winning NASCAR’s biggest race of the year. Then his engine failed 92 laps into the race, setting in motion

a string of bad luck that’s plagued Burton through the first two months of the season. He goes into Talladega Superspeedway ranked 25th in the Sprint Cup standings, and nothing close to the title contender team owner Richard Childress thought Burton would be this season. Burton remains undaunted. “I’m extremely confident that we can dig ourselves out of the hole and get ourselves in the position we need to be in,” Burton said. Talladega is a good place to get things moving in the right direction. Richard Childress Racing swept the two events at the Alabama track last season, with Kevin Harvick winning in the spring, then Clint Bowyer nipping Harvick in the fall. And the RCR cars have established themselves as consistent contenders

at restrictor-plate races, a trend they continued at Daytona. Burton won an exhibition race at Speedweeks leading into the Daytona 500, and Bowyer and Harvick were in contention in every race leading into the season-opener. Harvick and Burton both suffered early engine failures – an extremely rare misfire for RCR – while Bowyer and Menard stayed in contention for the win down to the final laps. Burton expects to be in the mix Sunday – if he’s not in an accident. “I feel like we have really fast restrictor-plate cars. We have had plenty of speed,” Burton said. “Unfortunately, I think we have, maybe in almost every restrictor-plate race last year, we ended up in a wreck. But going into Talladega, what we are thinking about is getting to the end of the race. We have had

the speed, we have led the laps. “We have done the things we needed to do, but we just hadn’t finished races. I think it’s about putting ourselves in the right position and getting to the end of the race and seeing if we can make it happen on the last lap.” It could be the turn he needs. Harvick has rebounded since the Daytona 500 with two wins, and a climb from 36th to ninth in the standings. Burton, mean-


APRIL 15, 2011 | FLAG 2 FLAG | PAGE 11 while, hasn’t been able to catch a break. One mishap after another has Burton searching for his first top-10 finish of the year seven races into the season. His 11th last weekend at Texas was his best finish to date, but he refuses to blame bad luck for his misfortunes. “What we have to guard against is looking and saying, ’Well, we have had bad luck,’ “ he said. “That, to me, is an excuse. That, to me, is knocking it off and saying, ’It’s some other power making us either be successful or not successful,’ and I just don’t buy into that. “I think it rests on our shoulders. You can certainly have bad luck and

you can certainly have things go a way that you didn’t want to, but at the same time, those things equalize themselves out. It’s been my experience, whatever bad luck you have, you also have that much good luck. So at the end of the day, it’s on our shoulders to go fix it, and I think we can.” Childress, however, thinks good finishes have to be headed Burton’s way. As he celebrated Harv i c k ’s win earlier this month at Martinsville, a race where Burton’s Chevrolet suffered damage when he was stacked in traffic, leading to a 24th-place finish. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Jeff Burton readies for practice at Texas Motor Speedway.


PAGE 12 | FLAG 2 FLAG | APRIL 15, 2011


Flag 2 Flag April, 15, 2011