So, you saved up all year and bought race tickets, airline tickets and hotel rooms for you and your wife to attend the Formula One race in Las Vegas. And, of course, you bought the three-day package. So, what did you get for your Day 1 money? Eight minutes of Free Practice 1 before the track was red flagged after a drain cover came loose and damaged the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz and the Williams of Alex Albon. Okay, we will wait. NOPE.
The rent-a-cops apparently were told that FP2 would be over at 1 A.M. and that the stands were to be emptied of all spectators. AND the reason given – the rent-a-cops had to clock out!! Wait, what?? ‘I paid a bazzillion dollars for that day’s ticket and I get to see 8 minutes?’ Really? Let the small claim suits begin!!
But wait, there’s more! The impact damaged the engine and power pack (in layman terms – battery) of the Ferrari and they had to change both. Their reward, you ask? A 10-spot grid penalty for Saturday night’s main event. Another really? For something outside their control? The Williams had to change a tub, but received no penalty.
It gets better. Guess who was second fastest in FP2 when it finally got on track? Sainz!! And his teammate Leclerc was fastest.
Be still my trembling heart!! ‘Jungle Pam’ Hardy, world famous back up girl for ‘Jungle Jim’ Liberman, has been inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame!! Well done.
And in a head scratcher, Jim’s fastest run ‘back in the day’ was a 7.14 at 204.54 mph pass. They now have street cars that go that fast (and quicker and faster). How the world has changed… and for the better.
In 1996, Linda and I along with our two dogs had moved son Rob and his furniture (in a Jaamco 4 horse trailer that we delivered to a horse farm overlooking Oakland Bay in San Jose) in our F350 dually diesel crew cab to Fresno, California where his wife had a new job.
We took three months to get home. We spent a week in Vegas. I had been reading about a super speedway being built east of town, so we drove out. About halfway there we see a convertible coming at us with the driver blowing the horn and the other guys waving their arms.
The driver was none other than Canadian Super Modified driver Mark Sammut and three of his buddies. They had just come from the track and were very impressed with it as were we when we got there. I didn’t think that a Cup race there would be very successful. I was clearly very WRONG!!
I have to say right up front that this race in Las Vegas was a FIAsco right from the initial race announcement to the checker flag. So many naysayers and critics. I agree with some of them. But I disagree with most of them.
They complained about the race being run in ‘the middle of the night.’ I think that decision was brilliant. It let the broadcast reach the primary target TV audience in Europe at a reasonable time and, the bigger one, it let Vegas reopen up for business during the days and evenings.
Let’s face it, Las Vegas is the epicenter of entertainment for the entire world. You see visitors there from almost every country. And they are quickly becoming the sports capital as well.
They have the F1 race plus the Super Bowl next February 11. And the Las Vegas Golden Knights won the NHL’s Stanley Cup just last June. Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics are pulling up stakes and moving to Vegas in a new 1.5 billion dollar stadium. They were preceded by the NFL’s Oakland Raiders moving to Vegas.
There is also the great complex just down the road known as Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That Speedway Motorsports owned complex boasts a 1.5-mile oval for NASCAR and ‘others’ with an infield road course, an awesome NHRA drag strip, the dirt track plus several different off-road courses.
FORMULA ONE: After three ‘interesting’ practice sessions, the traveling circus got down to business with qualifying for the late-night (early morning) race at the street course in Las Vegas.
The two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz qualified 1st & 2nd with Max Verstappen and his Red Bull 3rd. But as mentioned, Sainz was dropped ten spots, for the start, because of the repairs. Canadian Lance Stroll qualified 14th in his Aston Martin.
Once again, the ‘finest drivers in the world’ cannot properly start a race!! Alonso spun and collected Bottas, Sainz spun and Hamilton had a ‘wobble’ all before the starting line!!
On the start, Max Verstappen got past Charles Leclerc before they got to Corner 1, forcing Leclerc wide with both cars defying ‘track limits’ going off on the outside of one!! So much for the stewards enforcing those detested ‘track limits.’ Why Leclerc was on the right for the start made no sense to me. After all Corner 1 is a left hander.
Lap 2, virtual yellow to clean up debris from the earlier contact. Lap 4 and Lando Norris had a tank slapper hitting the outside wall and crashing hard in the runoff area. The in-car camera view was scary and it was a heavy hit at about a buck ninety. Full course caution.
Apparently, the course was open for normal traffic after qualifying and the track surface was quite ‘dirty.’ A subsequent report indicated that the McLaren had hit a ‘bump on the road’!! He was taken to a local hospital and then, thankfully, released.
I found it ironic that one hotel’s sign could be seen above all the others and that hotel, Trump International, is way off the Strip on Fashion Show Drive.
In another ‘rocket scientist’ decision, the stewards deemed that Max had forced Leclerc off track (no sh*t Sherlock!!) and he was issued a five-second penalty to be served either on a subsequent pit stop or at race end. Where do they find these guys? Max should have been ordered to give the spot back. And what about ‘track limits?’ They were both way off track.
On lap 16 Leclerc was able to get back around Max to retake the lead. On the same lap Hamilton got together with Piastri’s McLaren with both cars appearing to have flat tires as a result.
On lap 26 Max made a corner entry ‘Hail Mary’ pass on George Russell and they got together causing damage to the front wing of the Red Bull. This brought out a full course caution for (Red Bull) debris all over the track. The stewards then put the blame on Russell with a five second penalty.
The camera filming the Ferrari pit stop scared the crap out of me until I realized it was a fixed camera mounted above the pit. I thought it was a camera man!! D’oh.
On lap 32 Perez was able to get around Leclerc for the lead. Three laps later Leclerc retook the lead getting back around Perez. A lap later Verstappen got around Perez for second. Lap 37 Verstappen retakes the lead passing Leclerc. On lap 43 Perez passed Leclerc for second. Leclerc returned the favour on the last lap. Good stuff – passing in a Formula One race!! Who knew?
At the flag it was Verstappen over Leclerc and Perez, after Leclerc edged past him on the final run down Las Vegas Boulevard. Stroll finished a very STRONG fifth.
With the exception of Norris all cars were running at the end. In what has to be a first in my memory the three podium finishers climbed into a Rolls Royce (with SUICIDE doors!!) Complete with cameras for a fairly long ride to an ‘interview’ in front of the fountains at the Bellagio. Huh?
Then a ride back to the real podium atop the garages? Really? As well, the podium was very badly in need of a backdrop. The drivers got lost in the people behind them. Next year maybe?
In the Driver’s Championship it is Max ahead of Perez by 276 (by more than double) and Hamilton by 317. Stroll sits tenth.
Red Bull leads the Constructor’s Championship by 430 over Mercedes and by 434 on Ferrari. Only 4 points between 2nd and 3rd heading to the Abu Dhabi finale. Hmmm.
Having said all that, I will be the first to admit the Vegas was an absolutely AMAZING race. Yes, there were some hiccups, to be expected on a new venue. BUT the lighting was magical, there was actually on-track passing and I am willing to bet that it has done wonders in boosting tourism for Vegas going forward.
The track was lit up better than full daylight and all the neon lights of the city made it very, very special. Sin City is now, officially, SPORT City!!
Their next and final race of the season is Sunday at Abu Dhabi (or Yabba Dabba Doo as one wag nicknamed it) at 7.55 A.M. on TSN 1 & 5.
NHRA: With more time to list all the final points standings here are the winners including the top three in each class (dragracecentral.com STILL has not listed the final points!!).
Top Fuel – Doug Kalitta by 48 over Steve Torrence and by 57 ahead of Leah Pruett.
Funny Car – Matt Hagan by 12 over Robert Hight and by 17 on Bob Tasca.
Pro Mod – Mike Castellana by 73 ahead of Justin Bond and by 88 on Kris Thorne.
Pro Stock – Erica Enders 101 up on Greg Anderson and 131 ahead of Matt Hartford.
Pro Stock Bike – Gaige Herrera 214 ahead of Eddie Krawiec and 334 on Hector Arana, Jr.
A very special shoutout to Tony Stewart, a fairly new arrival to NHRA. Matt Hagan won Funny Car in Tony’s car, Tony’s wife Leah Pruett was third in Top Fuel and Tony himself finished second in Top Alcohol Dragster. And his NASCAR Xfinity driver, Cole Custer, won the 2023 championship. Pretty good year for Tony… well done!
NASCAR CANADA SERIES: On November 21, NASCAR announced that Canada’s national stock car championship is being rebranded as the NASCAR Canada Series, emulating the naming pattern used by its other series. At the same time, NASCAR announced the tour’s 13-race 2024 schedule, and the hiring of Quebecker Alan Labrosse as the new GM of NASCAR Canada.
You can view the full release and schedule here.
Any comments can be sent to Dave Mathers via email at email@example.com or by Facebook Messenger.