SPECIAL: Racing's memorable moments of 2013

SPECIAL: Racing's memorable moments of 2013

Industry

SPECIAL: Racing's memorable moments of 2013

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“Ten good memories of the year, three bad ones. No more than 600 words total.” You’d think with a simple brief like that, we could stick to it. Well, one of us could and did Mr. Robin Miller. Myself and Marshall Pruett, howeverwe went our own sweet way. I couldn’t even follow my own brief, quite blatantly cheating with the numbers and not necessarily coming up with moments, as such. As for Marshall, well, I’m not sure he saw the brief at all. However, he did end up producing a very readable summary of a season full of great racing, intrigue, joy and sadness.
-DM

From Robin Miller

POSITIVES

1. Tony Kanaan finally pulling into Victory Lane at Indianapolis. After all the leading and bleeding, T.K. got his due and emerged from an Andretti scrum to put his big snozz on the Borg-Warner trophy.

2. James Hinchcliffe winning Brazil on the last corner of the last lap in a street race that even had die-hard oval-trackers yelling at the television.

3. Mike Conway flying to Detroit, introducing himself to Dale Coyne’s crew Thursday, winning the pole on Friday and kicking everybody’s ass on Saturday.

4. Charlie Kimball conquering Type 1 diabetes and his rivals at Mid-Ohio to capture his initial IndyCar victory in a flat-out run to the checkered flag.

5. Takuma Sato standing on the sidepod of A.J. Foyt’s car waving the checker after winning Long Beach. It was the first major triumph for the hard-driving Japanese veteran and the first time Super Tex had won in a decade.

6. Sam Schmidt, whose spirit is unmatched in the IndyCar paddock, smiling ear-to-ear after Simon Pagenaud scored the team’s first IndyCar victory at Detroit.

7. Ed Carpenter, whose professional life pretty much revolves around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, beat Penske, Ganassi and Andretti to earn the pole position at Indy and a most popular upset.

8. Simona De Silvestro standing on the podium at Houston after starting fifth and finishing second confirming to everyone she’s got the chops to make it a habit if she ever gets a top ride.

9. Josef Newgarden talking at 100mph to the media and basking in the well-deserved glow of second place for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing following his initial podium at Baltimore.

10. Will Power ending his Fontana Frustration with a win and calling it the best of his career.

NEGATIVES

1. The sudden and violent end to Dario Franchitti’s season, and as it turned out, career. An inglorious finish to a glorious 16-year run for the three-time Indy 500 winner and four-time IndyCar champion.

2. Watching Helio Castroneves walk alone in the dark behind the grandstands at Fontana after congratulating Scott Dixon on the championship he’ll likely never see.

3. That the wild West 16th Street show last May ended under caution. Although it had a great outcome with T.K. winning, those last couple laps figured to be even more insane than the first 198 which had 64 lead changes.

from David Malsher 

POSITIVES

1. So 2hr40min can’t be classified as a single moment, but the 97th Indianapolis 500 was so close, so thrilling and the result in doubt until the final yellow, despite fewer than 20 of the previous 197 laps being run under caution. From that point of view, the racing, IndyCar’s formula clearly works.

2. Standing in the dark at Sebring watching night practice, I was astounded by the sheer speed of the Audisand the sheer determination of Nick Heidfeld to try and match their pace in his Rebellion Lola. Didn’t have a hope, but did have a try.

3. Lewis Hamilton’s move to Mercedes-Benz from McLaren proved smart, even if it was among many things that failed to stop Sebastian Vettel from obliterating the field. Again.

4. The duels between Will Power and Scott Dixon at Houston were profoundly satisfying to watch. The first one was ruined by a caution flag, but the second one played to the end and was on a knife-edge throughout.

5. Marc Marquez winning the MotoGP title as a rookie is perhaps the racing achievement of this century so far. The teenager’s stunning pace, exciting style and ability to disingenuously smile and shrug at Jorge Lorenzo’s barbed implications and petty comments have turned Marquez into the youngest hero I’ve ever had.

6. Kurt Busch taking Furniture Row Racing into NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Chase brought redemption for the one-time bad boy, of course, but also reflected exceptional work by one of NASCAR’s relatively tiny teams.

7. Alex Zanardi visiting Indy for the “500.” Like Paul Tracy said, “That guy is the stud of studs.”

8. Again I can’t say this is one single moment, but conversations and interviews with heroes like Dan Gurney, A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, Mario Andretti, Kevin Schwantz and Gil de Ferran are highlights of any year, and are valued and memorized forever. I learn from all of them.

9. Standing with colleague Marshall Pruett and other photographers on the outside of Turn 3 at Pocono Raceway during IndyCar’s evening practice, rejoicing that IndyCar had ended its 24-year hiatus at this fabulous tri-oval. It’s exhilarating enough to get so close to cars whipping past at 215mph, but when Ryan Hunter-Reay’s car bobbled up into the gray, that got my full attention. Pruett, bless him, didn’t flinch an inch.

10. “Turbo”, “Rush” and Patrick Dempsey’s “Racing Le Mans” proved that our favorite sport can be conveyed in very different ways to a wide variety of viewers.

NEGATIVES

1. Tragedies certainly put into perspective any other disappointments of the season and this was a particularly sad year for racing. It’s wrong to cite just one, I suppose, but dammit, that final image of Jason Leffler with his son Charlie Dean is still heart-rending six months on.

2. Dario Franchitti announcing he would be unable to continue with a post-IndyCar career (that many of us had mapped out for him) turned more poignant the more I thought about the implications for a guy who loves all forms of racing, loves cool cars, and loves the sport’s history.

3. McLaren’s 50th anniversary year was blighted by the chronically mediocre MP4-28, and for the first time since 1980, this legendary team went without a podium finish. I hate seeing an iconic marque humbled on a regular basis by teams that have the heritage and mystique of an iPad.

4. Failing to interview George Bignotti over the last eight years seems careless and unrealistic now, a real case of not knowing what you got until it’s gone. The two times I was fortunate enough to download his brain, Mr. Bignotti was simply excellent humorous, warm, deeply knowledgeable and not afraid to give his opinion. RIP, Legend.

5. The demise of the Baltimore Grand Prix after just three years. I love street racing, I love Baltimore, I loved the atmosphere of what felt like a true event. Now it’s no more.

6. Marco Andretti’s best year yet in IndyCar wasn’t rewarded by a victory, despite being a clear contender for victory in two events.

7. Just realized I’m writing this on the day my hero, Michele Alboreto, should have turned 57. I remember how I felt when I heard the news he’d been killed, and how close I came (just two weeks away) to finally meeting him. But such sentiments are selfish and my loss minimal when compared to what his wife Nadia and daughters Naomi and Alice have been through since April 25, 2001.

Damn. From Marshall Pruett

POSITIVES

New IndyCar Winners: Meet KimSatoPagenHinch. Years of seeing familiar faces in IndyCar Series victory circles was shaken up starting at Round 1 in St. Pete where James Hinchcliffe broke through to take his first of three wins in 2013. Takuma Sato joined the party at Long Beach, Simon Pagenaud became a member of the club at Detroit 2 and earned a second at Baltimore, and Charlie Kimball closed the season by making it four first-time winners, storming to victory at Mid-Ohio. What are the odds of four new winners in 2014?

Jordan Taylor: Older brother Ricky was the prototype specialist among the Taylor boys heading into 2013, but I’d argue that Jordan, who claimed the Grand-Am Daytona Prototype title with co-driver Max Angelelli in his first full season of DP competition, might be the one with the biggest upside. He withstood the most intense pressure possible at Kansas as Scott Pruett piled on everything he had, and Jordan didn’t flinch. He’d show that poise-beyond-his-years demeanor again in Monterey and also scored plenty of poles for his father’s team. The kid has the speed, looks and gregarious personality to take the baton from Pruett and represent the American sports car ranks for decades to come.

Formula E: The series that has yet to hold its first race has managed to garner more mainstream attention and pages in automotive magazines than half of the professional series in action today. Whether you love or hate the concept, big names, corporations and investors have gotten behind the all-electric formula car series, rather than cast their vote and finances elsewhere. There’s no guarantee Formula E will become a success when it debuts in late 2014, but a clear message has been sent: If IndyCar, the TUDOR Championship and other series want to see an influx of cash and attention, maintaining the status quo is the wrong way to go.

Ford’s sports car return: By midsummer, Ford looked like a manufacturer that wanted out of Grand-Am. Its Daytona Prototype engine program was a shell of itself, losing the power and torque wars to BMW and Chevy. The winless Starworks Motorsport switched from Ford to Steve Dinan-prepared BMWs for Indianapolis, and promptly went on to win Indy and the following race at Road America. The decision was eventually made by the Blue Oval to do more than simply supply its revised twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 DP engine, signing Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates to spearhead a serious return to sports cars. Add in Ford’s longtime partner Michael Shank Racing to the mix, and you have a proper Ford-vs.-Chevy battle in DP. Gotta love it.

The IndyCar Series: The best motor racing among major racing series in 2013 was produced by the IndyCar Series, without question. Grouse all you want about the CART/IRL split, the TV ratings or any of the other broken-record topics, but it won’t change the fact that the open-wheel series is putting a phenomenal product on the racetrack for fans to view. From the David-vs.-Goliath themes to the four new winners to 10 different winners from 19 rounds, there were many series that came close to IndyCar, but none that surpassed it for road racing and oval entertainment. The season finale at Fontana was a blend of unbridled terror and excitement, which is a rare occurrence these days. Let’s hope 2014 is even better

Madison Snow: I was 25 in 1995, the same year Madison Snow was bornhow depressing. The second-generation driver blitzed the IMSA GT3 Cup series in 2013, earning the title and a well-deserved attention from fans and the specialist media. America is producing a lot of up-and-comers in sports car racing, and Snow is certainly one to watch.

Mazda is back: Mazda has maintained a presence in prototype racing at various times over the past 30 years, fielding everything from full factory programs to providing engines and financial support to select teams, making its return to a proper two-car effort in 2014 a welcome sight. Mazda works from a modest budget, which fits its status as underdog, and won’t have an easy time against proven and developed P2 cars, but the car’s inclusion in the inaugural TUDOR Championship is a nice, aspirational twist for the brand after years of focusing on GT racing.

Tristan Nunez: This Florida teenager is already a class winner in the ALMS and Grand-Am, and has the makings of a future star in sports car racing. The sky’s the limit for Nunez, and for any IndyCar team owners wondering where to look for the next wave of American talent, don’t let this kid fall off your radar.

Audi wins the Rolex 24: It took a complement of factory drivers akin to what Porsche does each year by dispatching its best to Florida in January and some Audi Sport infrastructure for the Four Rings to pull off a surprise victory at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, which made for different headlines than many expected.
Matthew Brabham: The son of Geoff, nephew of David and grandson of Jack simply brutalized his Pro Mazda competitors in 2013 with Andretti Autosport, setting new records for wins and consecutive victories in a season. It followed his championship USF2000 run in 2012, where he was the class of the field and now he’ll head to finishing school with Andretti in Indy Lights. “Matty Brabs” has the temperament of Scott Dixon and the pace at least at this stage of his career  of Scott Dixon. He’s the cup of tea among energy drinks, and that’s a rarity at his age. I’m not ready to proclaim Brabham as a future IndyCar champion, but as a fast-rising 19-year-old with a penchant for winning, he has all the ingredients you’d want to see.

Breakthrough year, teams in PC: I’d panned the PC class as nothing more than a stop-gap measure by the ALMS from the moment it was introduced to fill its depleted P1 and P2 grids in 2010. By 2013, the class had become one of the most entertaining shows the series had to offer and, more importantly, had become the gateway for new sports car teams to plant their flags. PC budgets are reasonable to the point where owners can make a modest living and drivers can afford to experience fast prototypes without breaking the bank. BAR1, PR1/Mathiasen, Performance Technology and others were able to rise to the challenge and find success in 2013, and with the head of steam behind PC, its car count will surpass anything the DPs or P2s will bring to bear in 2014.

Carlos Munoz: What a welcome shot to the establishment by the young Colombian at Indy. Munoz rocked the Speedway from his first laps, went on to qualify second and was a last-lap yellow away from possibly ruining Tony Kanaan’s day. He rocked again at Toronto and went out in a blaze of glory at Fontana. Can’t wait to see what he can do across a full season with Andretti Autosport.

Viper wins, adds Michigan muscle to ALMS GT: An extra dose of red, white and blue in the ALMS GT class from the two-car factory SRT Viper program lent plenty of excitement to the brand warfare. We’d seen Corvette, BMW, Porsche and Ferrari beat up on each other, but it took the bruising effort from the V10 gang to add a new dimension of interest at each round. Three poles, a win and a menacing 8.0-liter rumble made this ALMS category the envy of the WEC.

Brendon Hartley: The young Kiwi looked like he was better suited for a night of clubbing at “Booooooooof” than rocketing around Midwestern sports car tracks, but the former Mercedes F1 test driver was a welcome and unexpected addition to the final season of Rolex Series competition, courtesy of Starworks Motorsport. Based on the epic chasm of talent that separated Hartley and his co-driver, Brendon’s win at Road America with Scott Mayer will go down as one of the least-expected results in ages.

Team Sahlen: Small, overambitious team, smart engineer, strong pro-am drivers It was hard not to root for the new DP program assembled by Will Nonnamaker, led on the setup sheets and in strategy calls by Katie Crawford and piloted by his brother Wayne and American-sports-car-star-in-the-making Dane Cameron. It’s too bad we’ll lose them from DP next year (they’ll concentrate on a Continental Tire Series program), but man did they inspire privateers and amateurs from coast to coast in 2013.

Ryan Briscoe: What looked like a career collapse for the Aussie at the end of 2012 was turned into a rather amazing heat check for the former Team Penske driver. The Captain pared his team down to two full-time cars, Briscoe was seemingly out of options, was rescued by Level 5 Motorsports owner Scott Tucker, promptly won on his debut for L5 at the 12 Hours of Sebring, was signed to drive for Chip Ganassi Racing at the Indy 500, was hired by Panther Racing to fill in as his schedule allowed after Indy, was signed to drive for Ganassi as the fourth member of its team in 2014 AND was just named as the third driver by Corvette Racing at select events next season. For any of you who’ve lost your job and wondered if the world had bigger and better opportunities awaiting you ones that required a bit of faith and patience to receive Ryan Briscoe is living proof that things can get bettermuch better.

Magnus Racing: You know those big, gold WWE belts the wrestling champions get? Someone needs to make a few for Rolex GT runner ups Magnus Racing. Not only did the team become a legitimate, to-the-last-round contender for the title, team owner John Potter and his ace PR man Sean Heckman deserve Heavyweight Champion’s belts for their unrivaled humor and inventiveness. As a kid who grew up on Mad Libs, Heckman’s release after the November tests could be the best I’ve ever seen.

Scott Hargrove: This young Canadian fought all season with his Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Neil Alberico, earning the title and a move up to Pro Mazda next year. It wasn’t so long ago that Canada was churning out open-wheel stars on a yearly basis, and with a recent break in that chain, it’s nice to see Hargrove work himself through the junior formula with an eye to joining James Hinchcliffe at the top.
Falken at PLM: Sure, the conditions, at times, played to their favor, but it was nothing less than marvelous to see a privateer team on the non-dominant tire take it to the big factories and win the ALMS GT season and series finale. The little Falken Tire team, with its Franken-Porsche (a 2010 model wearing 2013 bodywork after its primary chassis was destroyed at Baltimore) made for a lovely, For The Fans farewell to the ALMS, and with fan favorites Bryan Sellers and Nick Tandy sharing the achievement with ber Porsche driver Wolf Henzler, all was right with the world in Braselton.

Sean Rayhall: The IMSA Lites series doesn’t get much coverage, but that doesn’t diminish what Rayhall, or runner-up Ryan Booth achieved in 2013. Rayhall, a Team USA finalist, has supreme drive to go with an awful lot of talent and mechanical know-how. Just my kind of driver.

Porsche wins Le Mans: Few were in the mood to celebrate at the conclusion of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but Porsche’s fine win, a 1-2 in GTE-Pro, should not be overlooked. The marque’s return to La Sarthe in 2014 with a works P1 program and its factory 911 RSRs is another indicator that sports car racing is thriving at the moment.

Luca Filippi: Honda believed in GP2 runner-up Filippi, Bobby Rahal wanted him last year and Bryan Herta was the one with the vacancy that allowed the rapid Italian to demonstrate his abilities. But for a mistake in his first-ever IndyCar Series qualifying session, one that rought out a red flag, which led to his two fastest laps being wiped away, Luca was primed to start inside the Firestone Fast Six. He showed more flashes at Houston and would be a welcome addition to the grid in 2014.

Chevrolet: IndyCar Series Manufacturers’ title and a victory at the Indy 500. Grand-Am Rolex Daytona Prototype championship with Wayne Taylor Racing. NASCAR Sprint Cup Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ title. ALMS GT Drivers’, Teams’ and Manufacturers’ title with Corvette Racing. Pirelli World Challenge GT Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ title (and also took the GTS title for good measure). The Bowtie kicked a lot of ass in 2013.

GTC: Like the ALMS PC class, the spec class for Porsche Cup cars looked amateurish when the doors were opened to the series’ slowest class, but GTC delivered the hardest racing from round to round of any ALMS category. Two- and three-wheeling was the norm, bashed doors and bumpers became a badge of honor, and some almighty skill was on display in GTC. If someone in Daytona Beach finds themselves with some spare time on their hands, cutting a Best of ALMS GTC 2013 video would make for some unforgettable viewing.

Mike Conway: Conway, aka Conweezy, had a very similar year to Ryan Briscoe. He stepped out of A.J. Foyt’s Indy car before practice started at Fontana in September of 2012, announcing he was concluding the oval portion of his career, entered 2013 without any solid offers, was signed to drive by the DELTA-ADR WEC P2 team, was hired by Rahal to drive a third car at Long Beach, was then hired by Dale Coyne days before Detroit and promptly won Round 1 with engineer John Dick calling the shots, then went on a roll, winning four of the five remaining WEC races. He completed his incredible season by being signed to drive Ed Carpenter’s Indy car on the road and street courses. Talent does indeed shine through.

Combo WEC and ALMS at COTA: Squabbling between the WEC, COTA and the TUDOR Championship over top billing for next year’s event will likely result in 2013’s amazing ALMS/WEC doubleheader being a one-time affair, and if that’s the case, September’s Saturday-Sunday affair will go down as a classic overindulgence of elite sports car technology and talent.

Peter Dempsey: Freedom 100. Nuff said. Relive it here.

Stevenson Motorsports drink from the fountain of youth: They didn’t win the Rolex GT title, but it sure was fun to watch John Edwards and Robin Liddell claim four wins from 12 rounds with a chassis that must be nearly eligible for vintage racing. The thing has worn Camaro bodywork, not to mention two different Pontiac shells and, finally, could be ready to retire. There’s still a part of me that would love to see Stevenson Motorsports wheel the old gal out for a final go at the Rolex 24.

IndyCar and IMS brass: Mark Miles made a smart move by bringing Derrick Walker in to take over IndyCar’s competition department, shifted Doug Boles into the IMS CEO role and finally secured the commercial heads he was after late in the year by signing C.J. O’Donnell and Jay Frye. These could be some of the best changes to open-wheel in the past few years, but my enthusiasm is tempered by the need to see more out of Miles. Walker was a brilliant hire, but the competition side hasn’t been holding IndyCar back. Losing most of the 2013 season while searching for sales and marketing leaders means Miles either couldn’t find the right people and settled, or wouldn’t settle and waited until he had the right people. I’d like to believe it was the latter, but results will answer that question in time.

One thing is for sure: solutions are needed immediately and the clock is ticking. I believe in Miles, but unless O’Donnell (and Frye, to a lesser degree) can find a way to drive new money into the paddock and more eyeballs on TV in some appreciable way over the next 12 months (a task and timeline that’s unfair to place on any one person), “IndyCar and IMS Brass” could move to the WORST category in 2014.NEGATIVES

Dario’s crash and retirement: As I wrote in November, Franchitti’s forced retirement was an unfitting end to an illustrious career, and my opinion hasn’t changed. But I can say that after spending an hour on the phone with him recently, he’s back, in good spirits and ready for the next chapter in his life.

Houston 2: On a related note, it has been almost three months since Franchitti’s crash and we continue to wait on a detailed assessment from the FIA of the barrier failures. We know that two poles were used instead of three on each cement barrier and, at least in the section where Dario hit, the fences were held in place on the poles by gravity. With the crash taking place on Oct. 6, and the New Year just days away, we should know more on what went wrong and how it will be avoided in the future.

Le Mans: I’ve been at far too many open-wheel and sports car events where driver fatalities and fan deaths have occurred, but I’ve never seen the collective will to continue be drained from a race like the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans. Allan Simonsen’s fatal crash on the third lap of the contest sapped whatever joy the gray skies and light rain had yet to wash away. 2013 marked by seventh consecutive trip to cover Le Mans, and also served as the first one where, shortly after the 3 p.m. start, I couldn’t wait for it to end so I could go home to a happier place.

DRR: I watched as Dreyer & Reinbold Racing made their Indy Racing League debut in 2000 and was saddened to see the IRL diehards shut down after Oriol Servia’s stellar run to 11th at the Indy 500. The team is closing in on a return in 2014, and as a sucker for underdogs, IndyCar racing doesn’t feel the same without Dennis Reinbold and his merry band in the field and punching above their weight.

The DeltaWing suit: This isn’t the first time nasty entanglements have happened between visionaries and businesses. In sports car racing, the term “genius” can be applied to past or present works from Don Panoz, Ben Bowlby and Nissan, which makes the buckle-in-this-could-get-serious lawsuit filed by the ALMS founder one that hangs over the sport in 2014.

Loss of P1: Yes, I know all of the reasons why the P1 category had become a shell of its former self and thoroughly unsustainable in its present ACO-based form, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that like snow leopards and wolverines, being able to see one or two in their natural habitat leaves a lasting impression. I don’t care about car counts or the costs involved: As long as people want to race P1 cars, even in the hands of privateers, I’ll show up to watch. If you’re a lifelong fan of Coke, try forcing yourself to like Diet Cokethat’s the closest I can get to what trading P1 for a combined P2 and DP Prototype class is going to be like. My rational self gets it, but the other side of me, the five-year-old who stared wide-eyed at IMSA GT cars at Laguna Seca for the first time in 1976, isn’t having it.

Farewell Baltimore, Brazil: Two of my favorite IndyCar venues (along with the ALMS in Charm City) will be missed. The hospitality and passion among our hosts in Sao Paulo will be hard to match, and the overall ambiance and energy at Baltimore will be even harder to replace. I’ll also miss two of the best photo opportunities in road racing with the silly/brilliant airborne opportunities at the chicane and overhead through-the-tree shot at the Marriott parking structure. Plenty of armchair critics panned the Baltimore event, but if you weren’t there to experience it firsthand, you missed out on one hell of an event.

Sad sendoff for the ALMS: Of the 52 weeks on the calendar to choose from, the ALMS and IndyCar decided they absolutely MUST hold their season finales on the same day (Oct. 19) and on the same night. Brilliant. That prevented the cool practice of ALMS teams drafting in open-wheel stars for the season-ending event. Not to be outdone, the WEC set its sixth race of the year on Oct. 20 in Japan. That prevented any of the heavy hitters from entering for Petit Le Mans to send the series out with large grids. As a result, the car count was low, the star power was minimal and a glorious chapter in sports car racing came to an end with little fanfare. Sad.

Shocking loss of Sean Edwards: There’s not much more to say about Sean’s death than he touched a lot of people, made a lot of close friends and had a giant career ahead of him. Accepting loss is rarely easy, and it’s downright impossible when it involves such a bright light with so much talent to share.

Michelin: The French tire giant stood out as one of the biggest promoters of sports car racing in the U.S. over the past decade, which makes their diminished role in the TUDOR Championship hard to reconcile. A lot of brands use sports car racing to sell their products, and Michelin did that with abandon, but very few spend the kind of time and money and effort to get people to watch, listen and care about sports car racing as Michelin has done. Continental Tire will do an excellent job with their on-track product, but they have a massive pair of shoes to fill on the promotional side. Provided their marketing plans and outreach come close to what Michelin did in the ALMS, “Continental Tire” is primed to be in next year’s POSITIVES category.

Rolex GT title decider: The penultimate Rolex GT round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca featured some karate chops, body slams and kicks to the crotch in the waning laps some of which caught the eye of the TV cameras. Scuderia Corsa’s Alessandro Balzan became a punching bag as the checkered flag approached, lost a few positions and was rightfully pissed after the race. The Rolex GT race winners, Magnus Racing, weren’t involved in the argy bargy (hello, Calvin Fish), but the “enhanced gap” separating Magnus drivers John Potter and Andy Lally from Balzan and teammate Leh Keen put the Porsche drivers in an advantageous position heading into the season finale at Lime Rock.

Somewhere between the end of the race where no drivers were spoken to in person, missed voicemails, e-mails and other informal communications over the next 72 hours, Grand-Am’s race director then shuffled the results, demoting cars that assaulted Balzan’s Ferrari as seen through closed-circuit television feeds that no one else was privy to. Potter would see Magnus’ title hopes collapse like the front of his tattered Porsche a gift from series newcomer Richie Stanaway who walloped the innocent championship contender on the opening lap at Lime Rock. Balzan and Scuderia Corsa put in a season’s worth of quality performances and went on to seal the title that day in Connecticut, but without race control doing its rather odd retroactive-finishing-position routine after Monterey, and an out-of-control Kiwi using his Aston Martin as a battering ram on Potter, the Rolex GT finale would have felt a lot cleaner and less contrived.

Costs continue rising: For some of the classes in the TUDOR Championship, the year-to-year rise in costs meant that it was beyond their means to carry forward the same programs they fielded in 2013. Daytona Prototype entrants took the hardest hit, and with the first-time need for some DP to teams to find 100 percent of their own funding, downsizing has taken place. Action Express Racing has gone from two full-time DPs to one, Michael Shank Racing is down from two to one, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing has dropped from years of full-time competition to only the four North American Endurance Championship rounds, Starworks Motorsport is currently down from two to zero and the same is true for 8Star Motorsports. True, one new full-season entry from Marsh Racing has entered DP, but that commitment was made long before budgets skyrocketed.

Sponsorship Fight: As a sports car team owner friend told me, “The sad thing in IndyCar is everyone’s fighting over the same dollar and the same sponsors, so all they’re really doing is taking from each other and no one really ever gets ahead.” He was, in this instance, referring to the contretemps over National Guard fund that ran its course at Panther Racing, went up for bid, and was awarded to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. RLLR bears no blame for submitting and winning an open bid, nor should Panther Racing be faulted for trying to hold onto the Guard funding, but it was an unpleasant reminder how stagnant the commercial waters have become in such a beloved form of racing.

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