Writing about racing. Most of it is NASCAR, but occasionally I write about other series too.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ryan Briscoe Wins GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma

By Keri Luiz 
Assistant Editor

(NOTE: this is a 'reprint' of the IndyCar story that I wrote for the sports section of the Benicia Herald. The story ran in the Benicia Herald August 28, 2012. Most of the motorsports stories run in the Sports section of the paper, and do not get posted on the Herald's web site.)

Ryan Briscoe in Victory Lane after winning the GoPro
Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. Photo by Keri Luiz.

Ryan Briscoe, driver of the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, won the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma race Sunday at the raceway at Sonoma. Briscoe’s teammate – Will Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet – had dominated the first half of the race and placed second.

Briscoe’s previous high Sonoma finishes were second in 2008 and 2009, and third in 2011. This was also the first win for Briscoe since Texas in 2010. “It’s great to get the win,” he said in the post-race press conference. “You get into a slump, you know, you think, ‘Man, am I ever going to win again?’ So this is definitely lifting, a confidence builder.”

Briscoe started the race from the second position while Power had started from the pole. Power had looked to dominate the race again, and perhaps win for a third time in a row, when he started on the pole and led most of the first 65 laps.

At lap three, Takuma Sato, driver of the  No. 15 Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, had to pull off the course with a mechanical issue. His car remained parked behind the K-Wall of the esses of turn 8.

The race had run caution-free for 64 laps, and it was looking like the Izod IndyCar Series was going to have an unprecedented three races in a row of solid green-flag laps.  But at lap 64, a wreck between Josef Newgarden – driver of the No. 67 Angie’s List  Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda – and Sebastien Bourdais – driver of the  No. 7 TrueCar Dragon Racing Cheverolet – put Newgarden into the tire wall between turns 8 and 9. This caused the first full-course caution of the day. Newgarden injured his left index finger during the accident and will be re-evaluated when he returns to Indianapolis.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

WTCC champ visits Sacramento

By Keri Luiz
Assistant Editor
(NOTE: this is a 'reprint' of the WTCC story I wrote which ran in the sports section of the Benicia Herald July 17, 2012). Running it here since most of the motorsports stories are in the Sports section, and do not get posted on the Herald's web site. 

Three time WTCC Champion Yvan Muller and the Chevy Cruze on the steps of the California State Capitol. Photo by Keri Luiz.

Yvan Muller looks ahead to September debut

The FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) is bringing its intense, paint-swapping, fender-banging style to the raceway in Sonoma in September — the first time the event will take place on American soil.

Three-time and current WTCC champion Yvan Muller joined track president and General Manager Steve Page Monday in on the steps outside the state Capitol in Sacramento, and Muller's car — a Chevy Cruze — was on hand for fans to view.

"We're always looking for new forms of quality racing that we can bring out to Sonoma," Page said. "We have such an incredible, loyal fan base that supports everything else we do … NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA, which is coming up soon.

"We look globally to see what other kinds of events that would be appropriate for our track, and would be entertaining for our fans."

Page observed that the WTCC's "no kid gloves approach" to racing is likely something Sonoma's fans will enjoy. "There does not appear to be any aversion to contact," he said. "For those of you that are familiar with our NASCAR event, it was a very familiar look and feel.

"We think our fans are going to respond to it. We are excited to host this series. We think it's going to be great for the track, it's going to be wonderful for our fans."

Friday, July 6, 2012

Clint Bowyer Wins at Sonoma

NOTE: this is a 'reprint' of the preview story I wrote for the sports section of the Benicia Herald June 26, 2012, with the extended edits. Re-publishing it here since most of the NASCAR stories are in the Sports section, and do not get posted on the Herald's web site.

By Keri Luiz and Donna Beth Weilenman
Herald Staff

Clint Bowyer stands on his car in Victory Lane
Photo by Donna Beth Weilenman

A late-race, multiple-car crash in the Toyota-Save Mart 350 meant Clint Bowyer’s short lead over past winners Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch had vanished. Bowyer would later say he was feeling pressure from the two aggressive drivers in Sunday’s race at the raceway in Sonoma.

But Bowyer would defend his top spot long enough to take the checkered flag, his first win on the road course.

“You know, the two guys behind me were champions of this sport, and that’s big, to be able to hold them guys off,” Bowyer said after the race.

It wasn’t the only racing Bowyer did Sunday. Stuck in traffic for two hours on California Highway 37 — clogged as thousands of fans headed toward the track — Bowyer had to abandon his ride and sprint on foot to make it in time for the pre-race driver’s meeting. If he hadn’t made it to the meeting in time, he would have been penalized, and would have had to start the race at the back of the field.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sonoma adds WTCC to list of events

By Keri Luiz
Assistant Editor

(NOTE: this is a 'reprint' of the WTCC story I wrote for the sports section of the Benicia Herald July 5, 2012). Running it here since most of the motorsports stories are in the Sports section, and do not get posted on the Herald's web site. 

At a news conference at Sonoma on June 24, WTCC representatives laid out a plan to bring the racing event to the U.S. for the first time. Left to right are Steve Page, president and general manager of Sonoma; driver James Nash of the United Kingdom; driver Gabriele Tarquini, Italy; driver Tiago Monteiro, Portugal; and Fabio Ravaioli, FIA WTCC media delegate. Photo by Keri Luiz

The FIA World Touring Car Championship will make its first-ever United States appearance at the raceway in Sonoma this September.

"We always have our eye out for new events that we can bring in that really fit the profile that we think our fans will respond to," said Steve Page, president and general manager of the raceway, formerly known as Infineon. "Looking internationally, the FIA World Touring Car Championship is one we've always had our eye on."

The WTCC, one of four World Championships under the umbrella of the Fédèration International de l'Automobile, features touring car racing with manufacturers BMW, Chevrolet, SEAT and Ford. It announced in February it has signed a three-year agreement with Sonoma through 2014.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Daytona 500 repost from the Benicia Herald

NOTE: I am the Assistant Editor for a little paper called the Benicia Herald, out in Benicia, California. My partner in crime and star reporter (and fellow NASCAR nut), Donna Beth, was at Daytona, but missed the email saying it was ok for her to stay an extra day. That meant she was in the air when the race was going on. I covered the race, listened to the post-race press conference, etc. and wrote a lot of this. She added her perspective from being at the track and tied it all together. Our awesome editor put the finishing touches on it. Enjoy!

P.S. This story ran in the Sports page on February 29th, which doesn't get posted on the web site. Our other story was in the main section of the newspaper and did get posted. It can be found here.


Gordon, Montoya provide sparks in rain-delayed Daytona 500
By Keri Luiz
Assistant Editor
and Donna Beth Weilenman
Staff Reporter

Matt Kenseth grabbed the Daytona 500's checkered flag Monday night for the second time in his career and gave his owner, Roush Racing, its 300th NASCAR win in 25 years.

But his victory may be overshadowed by other events surrounding the 54th running of the premier NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

The season-opener's start, scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday, was delayed about 30 hours — unprecedented in the race's history — by a series of rain storms that refused to quit long enough for the track to be dried by the speedway's 10 jet dryers.

And 40 laps from the finish Monday night, the race and track were threatened by fire when, under caution, Juan Pablo Montoya's No. 42 Target Chevrolet slammed into one of those dryers.

Montoya's crash ignited 200 gallons of jet fuel into an enormous fireball, damaging the track that had been resurfaced for the 2011 season.

"The biggest concern was the condition of the asphalt underneath the flame, underneath the truck," said Mike Helton, NASCAR president. "We were comfortable with the fact that the driver of the race car and the driver of the jet dryer were in pretty good shape." Removing the damaged jet dryer gouged the track's surface, Helton said, "but it's not uncommon to have gouges on a race surface."

The repair required a variety of materials to prevent a second ignition, including Tide detergent, which was used to cleanse the track of the jet fuel. The job took a couple of hours to complete — the same amount of time it took to fill a pothole that developed during the 2010 running of the race.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A good way to remember Dan Wheldon

Such a bright light on this world. Extinguished all too soon.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A twofold blow to the world of motorsports

Oct. 16, 2011

Today the Motorsports world as a whole suffered a devastating blow when IndyCar's Dan Wheldon lost his life in a wreck at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That blow was compounded by the plane crash that took the life of Champion Off Road racer Rick Huseman and his brother Jeff.

I don't need to go into detail either tragedy here, there are plenty of legitimate news sources where the details are written out.

I will be the first to admit, I am not a huge IndyCar fan. I enjoy watching it, but I don't follow it with the same intensity as I do with NASCAR. However, I know enough to recognize the names of key drivers, and I remember Wheldon's Indy 500 win this year.

I would periodically watch the Lucas Off Road Series (when I could find it on TV) so I knew who Rick Huseman was too. Kinda hard to miss the Monster Energy Toyota that would tear up the dirt tracks.

A wreck like today in IndyCar, when it takes the life of a driver, affects ALL of motorsports. The vehicles and players may be different, but there's still that common bond between the drivers and team members, that love for the sport. The same can be said of the fans.

Huseman's death, while not on the track with millions of witnesses live and via television, is no less tragic. 

That sense of loss affects us all.

Watching the coverage of today's race, the wreck, the red flag interviews before Wheldon was airlifted to the hospital, listening to the broadcasters and the reporters… I don't envy them their jobs when they have to cover the downside of racing, and have to keep it together emotionally while on the air. 

I am also thinking back to Saturday night's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Jimmie Johnson hit the wall in Turn 2, in a way very reminiscent to the crash that took Dale Earnhardt's life in 2001. Thanks to the innovations of the safer barrier, and the HANS device, Johnson is walking around with just a bit of soreness instead of it being more serious. Still, Johnson's crash was scary to watch.

The safety protocols in place for the cars, drivers and tracks have saved a lot of lives and prevented a lot of horrible injuries.  In a way that makes a lot of us, as fans, maybe even as drivers, a little more complacent, or maybe even blasé regarding the wrecks that do happen. Until a wreck like today that took Wheldon's life

Maybe the fans of open wheel and drag racing are more aware of the devastation that can happen when a wreck occurs than those of us that follow stock car racing. Especially post-2001's tragedy. Most especially with the advent of the COT. It may look like a brick, but they've built in a lot of safety. The open wheels, the dragsters, they're a lot faster and a lot more vulnerable.

With all those safety protocols in place, we forget how dangerous all of the motorsports really can be.

For my fellow NASCAR fans, next time a driver you dislike crashes into a wall, don't cheer for it, don't gloat. Be grateful that driver is alive for you to continue to dislike, that he/she is not seriously injured. Say a prayer to whatever deity you pray to that all of these drivers stay safe as they do the sport they love, and we love to watch.

With Talladega next in the queue, I pray for the safety of them all.

Godspeed, Dan Wheldon and Rick Huseman.

Blogs/posts worth reading:
The Dark Side Of Motorsports And The Racing Brotherhood

 A NASCAR Fan Remembers Dan Wheldon

Dan Wheldon 1978-2011