O Opinions & Commentary

George’s News and Notes – January 12, 2019

As it enters the new year, NASCAR has laid off a number of its employees – perhaps 50 to 100 or something less than five percent of its staff. Nevertheless, this has to be a sign that NASCAR is undergoing shrinkage, something that will be no surprise to anyone who has been noticing the frequent races with large expanses of empty seats in recent years.

Another disturbing development is the news that both the Roush team and the Ganassi team are closing their Xfinity Series teams. This has to be especially galling for Ross Chastain who won a race for Ganassi last year and who had been signed on as their full-time Xfinity Series driver in the No. 42 car for 2019 – and who now finds himself looking for a ride.

In the truck series – which is now called the ‘NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series’ – there have been some surprising driver changes. The 2018 champion, Brett Moffitt, found that he had been replaced by Austin Hill at the Hattori team. Presumably the reason this underfunded one-trunk team dumped the champion was that Hill was able to bring more money to the team than Moffitt.

However, Moffitt did land on his feet. He has taken over the GMS truck that Johnny Sauter drove to six wins and the regular season championship last year. This late notice leaves Sauter with few options for the upcoming season and perhaps it will mark the end of his racing career. Moffitt also won six races in 2018 as had Sauter. The Canadian driver Stewart Friesen will be racing in the truck series again this year, the Halmer-Friesen team truck he drives will continue to be supported by the GMS team in 2019.

Another driver who lost his ride after the 2018 season was former Xfinity champion Daniel Suarez, the 2016 Xfinity champion, who was displaced from the Joe Gibbs Cup team when they brought Martin Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn into their team lineup (along with the Bass Pro Shops sponsorship). Now we have learned that Suarez has landed a good ride – perhaps a better one – in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas car vacated by Kurt Busch when he went over to Ganassi for 2019, replacing Jamie McMurray.

The IMSA teams were at the Daytona International Speed the first week of January getting ready for the Daytona 24-hour race which will be held at the end of the month (January 26-27). The No. 77 Mazda DPi car driven by Oliver Jarvis ran a lap faster that the sports car lap record here but it was only an unofficial record given that the lap was not set during an official race or race weekend practice session. Jarvis’ time was a 1:33.398, compared to the record lap set by P.J. Jones back in 1993 in a Dan Gurney Toyota Eagle sports car.

Back then the cars were built to a different set of rules and there was no BoP. Of course, between now and the race weekend, IMSA will apply BoP to the cars and all the teams will be looking to find the most speed in their cars in race trim. The old record may be broken by one of the cars during the race weekend. Mazda, for their part, will be looking to finally win an IMSA WeatherTech race.
Speaking of the IMSA Daytona 24-hour race, I still have no word on whether we will be able to watch this race on television in Canada. Last year we could get it on the Fox Sports Racing channel which was available via many television service providers such as Cogeco. This year, most of the IMSA WeatherTech races will be an NBC-SN in the US, a channel unavailable in Canada. I expect (hope?) that we will be able to watch the IMSA races live for free via an internet connection to imsa.tv. I plan to resume my television listings as of that race and I hope to have a definite answer by then.

As for seeing the World Endurance championship on television I think your best chance is to subscribe to Motor Trend TV which has broadcast these races live via the internet. The next WEC race will be the 1000 miles of Sebring, run on March 15, the day before the IMSA 12-hour race at the same venue.

Maurizio Arrivabene has been fired from his position as Team Principal of the Ferrari Formula One team after a little over three years at the helm. Mattia Binotto, a long-time Ferrari technical manager, has replaced him. It had been thought that Fiat (and Ferrari) head Sergio Marchionne had already decided on replacing Arrivabene with Binotto before his untimely death last year. Regardless, the working relationship between the two men had gone sour and one of them had to go. In the wake of his dismissal, few have good words to say about Arrivabene’s autocratic management style while giving credit to Binotto for the technical performance of the cars last year. Ferrari fans will be hoping that this posthumous staffing shuffle will yield success for the team in 2019.

This week NASCAR announced the 2019 schedule for the Canadian-based Pinty’s Series. The calendar looks pretty much the same as last year’s.
Click HERE to see the 2019 NASCAR Pinty’s Series schedule.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has its own Hall of Fame and it recently announced the nominees for inclusion this year – Dale Earnhardt, Jacques Villeneuve, Wally Dallenbach Sr., and Dale Jarrett. Ballots have been sent out to the Selection Committee, comprised of nearly 150 media and racing officials. The honorees will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on May 23 in the week prior to this year’s Indianapolis 500.

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