October 7, 2015

Carl Edwards chases teammate across finish line

(NASCAR)—New tires didn’t quite get the job done for Carl Edwards in the first race of the NASCAR championship chase series.  Edwards couldn’t run down teammate Denny Hamlin, who did not put during the last caution period, at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet Illinois.

Edwards was one of several drivers who ducked into the pits when the yellow flag game out with eight laps to go while Hamlin and Kurt Busch, among others, stayed on track and hoped their older tires would hold up in the closing laps.  Hamlin and Busch were 1-2 on the restart and Hamlin finished .962 of a second ahead of the Columbia driver.


Edwards got a penalty for speeding in the pits and was a lap down at one point.  He also complained of undiagnosed engine problems that made him “real nervous.”  He told NBC Sports, “I heard a noise then it backfired the rest of the day but it hung on.”

Edwards moves to third in the Chase standings, one point behind Hamlin and three behind another teammate, Matt Kenseth. Fourth in the standings is Kyle Busch, who led the most laps in the race but finished ninth.  All four drive for the team headed by former NFL Coach Joe Gibbs. 

Jamie McMurray, the Joplin native making his first run in the Chase, finished sixteenth in the race and is thirteenth in the Chase points standings.  Only twelve drivers will move to the second round after two more races. McMurray is three points behind Jeff Gordon, who is twelfth.   Clint Bowyer had handling problems all day, finished nineteenth in the race and is fifteenth in the points, six back of Gordon.

(FORMULA 1)—Four-time world grand prix champion Sebastian Vettel picked up his third win of the season, dominating the street course in Singapore.  Vettel started from the pole.  Points leader Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes lost turbocharger pressure, forcing him out of the race. 

McMurray makes the Chase for the first time.

IMGP9278Joplin native Jamie McMurray has made NASCAR’s championship round for the first time after narrowly missing the field in several earlier seasons.  McMurray has finished the regular season tenth in points, his best points finish in his 13-year full-time career in the top NASCAR series. He makes the sixteen-driver Chase field as the highest-ranking non-winner this year.

McMurray finished thirteenth in this weekend’s race at Richmond.  He started 31st, charged to the top five by the 165th lap of the 400-lap race, but took a late penalty for speeding on pit road.

“we have all new cars for the first three races (of the Chase),” he said after the race, saying his strategy for those races won’t change from the strategy used so far this year—run solid races with good finishes.  But he says the strategy will change after the first three races of the Chase when the four lowest-points cars are eliminated.

Car owner Chip Ganassi thinks McMurray has a “good shot” at the championship but says the four cars of Joe Gibbs Racing appear to be the class of the field.  Ganassi thinks McMurray’s cars are “fifth or sixth” in class.

McMurray has a record of wining big-time races, including the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in 2010.  He also won the July 4th holiday race at Daytona in 2007, 500-mile races in 2009 and 2013 at Talladega, and another 500-miler at Charlotte.   He set a NASCAR record by getting his first win in only his second race, in 2002, and was Rookie of the Year in 2003, his first full season in NASCAR’s Cup series.

McMurray is joined in the 10-race Chase field by Columbia driver Carl Edwards and by Clint Bowyer, a Kansas native who has a home at the Lake of the Ozarks.  Edwards secured his spot in the Chase earlier with a win at Charlotte on Memorial Day, then picked up a second win a week ago. This is his eighth appearance in the Chase.  He tied Tony Stewart in Chase points in 2011 but Stewart was crowned champion because he had more wins.

Bowyer has qualified for the Chase on the basis of points. This will be his sixth time in the championship run-off. He calls the achievement “a monumental thing for an organization going through what we’re going through.’  Bowyer drives for Michael Waltrip Racing, which is going out of business at the end of the year.  He says he’s gotten a lot of telephone calls but is focused on finishing the year with MWR as strongly as possible.

The first race in the ten-race championship chase will be next Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.

(Photo by Jim Coleman)

(IndyCar)—The ebay auction of helmets worn by the drivers in the IndyCar season finale at Sonoma will be up for auction on ebay, starting today (Monday).  The goal is to raise one-million dollars for the children of Justin Wilson, who died of head injuries in the next-to-last race of the year.  One helmet already has been sold—the on worn by Ryan Hunter-Reay, which was auctioned at a charity event during the Sonoma race weekend for $25,000.  Hunter-Reay and Wilson were teammates for Andretti Autosports.

The proceeds will be deposited directly into the Wilson Children’s Fund, which will benefit Wilson’s widow, Julia, and their daughters, Jane and Julia. Ebay is waiving all transaction fees for the auction.

The auction has been organized by fellow driver Graham Rahal, who organized a similar fund-raising auction for the children of driver Dan Wheldon, who was killed in a crash in 2011.

Carl Edwards captures second NASCAR jewel of 2015.

By Bob Priddy, Contributing Editor

(NASCAR)–Columbia’s Carl Edwards has won his second premier NASCAR race of the season, the Southern 500 at historic Darlington Raceway, the oldest track on NASCAR’s top series Sunday night. He won the series’ longest-distance race, the 600-miler at Charlotte, on Memorial Day weekend. Darlington is considered the longest race by time—more than four and a half hours. He came from two laps down and 38th place for the victory. He had fallen behind after a flat tire early in the race. The win is Edwards’ 25th career win, tying him with Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr., for eighth among active drivers.


Edwards got the lead by inches ahead of pole sitter Brad Keselowski coming out of the pits after the last yellow flag stop with eleven laps to go, then held off teammate Denny Hamlin on the restart. Keselowski finished second, Hamlin third, Joey Logano fourth and Kevin Harvick fifth.

The race was run with NASCAR’s low-downforce aerodynamic package that Edwards has advocated for several years. Edwards told NBC in victory lane, “This is as good as it gets. This is what it’s about. We’re sliding cars, the tires are falling off. This is the style of racing that I love.” He said he hopes NASCAR uses the same package during the ten-race chase for the championship that starts in two weeks, but NASCAR had said earlier it had no plans to do so.

Joplin’s Jamie McMurray finished fourteenth, protecting his tenth-place points position. He and Edwards are both locked into the Chase, Edwards as a winner of at least one race and McMurray as the highest-ranking non-winner in the points.

Sometime-Missourian Clint Bowyer finished seventeenth in the race and heads to Richmond next weekend clinging to the sixteenth and final spot in the Chase.

The regular NASCAR season concludes next weekend at Richmond before the top sixteen drivers start the drive-off for the 2015 championship.

(Photo Credit: autosport.com)

(FORMULA 1)—Lewis Hamilton tightened his stranglehold on the Formula 1 points standings with his seventh win of the season, finishing 25.042 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Race stewards checked reports that Hamilton had run with tire pressures below the recommended minimums. Althoughj his tires were three-tenths of a pound of pressure low, stewards ruled he was still driving within safe operating conditions. The penalty for running tires with unsafe air pressures is a 25-second increase in elapsed time for the race.

(INDYCAR)—The funeral for driver Justin Wilson will be Wednesday morning at St. James the Great Church in Paulersbury, Northhamptonshire, England. A memorial service will be held later in Indianapolis. Wilson was killed when he was hit by a piece of debris from a crashing car in front of him, August 24th, at Pocono. Several fund raisers for the Wilson family are being held. A special one begins September 14 on eBay when the helmets worn by all drivers in the IndyCar final race at Sonoma will be auctioned. A special fund also has been set up for his children at the Forum Credit Union in Indianapolis.


“Evil man” executed

nunleyThe book has been closed on a quarter-century old murder case with the execution of the second killer involved.

Roderick Nunley, described by a former Kansas City policeman who investigated the murder of Ann Harrison in 1989, and who witnessed Nunley’s execution, says Nunley was an “evil man” who stabbed the 15-year old girl with a large knife, using such force that the blade went through her body.


Nunley’s partner, who raped the girl and stabbed her with a smaller knife, Michael Taylor, was executed last year. Nunley died quietly on a gurney in the execution chamber at the Bonne Terre Prison, hardly moving as five grams of pentobarbital ended his life.

Ann Harrison was snatched from a school bus stop about sixty feet from her home on the morning of March 22, 1989.  Her body was found in the trunk of the stolen car used by Nunley and Taylor three days after she was put in the trunk and stabbed repeatedly.

harrisonThe case broke open about three months later with a call to a police tips hotline.

A corrections department official who was an official witness to the execution says Nunley was violent throughout his time in prison and almost stabbed a unit supervisor to death at the Potosi prison, hoping the incident would delay progress on his death penalty case. The supervisor survived. Officials refused to file charges against Nunley so the capital punishment case could keep moving. He says Nunley was one of the few death row inmates who could not be allowed in the general prison population and was often kept in solitary confinement.

Nunley’s execution was delayed about three hours until all appeals were resolved. He was pronounced dead at 9:09 p.m. He had no final statement.

Two members of Ann Harrison’s family and two family friends witnessed his death. Nunley had no relatives, friends, or spiritual advisers with him when he died.

Dixon takes IndyCar title while driver safety remains an issue.

by Bob Priddy, contributing editor (NASCAR)—Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, and the rest of the top NASCAR drivers had their last weekend off of the season this weekend. They’ll be at Darlington next weekend and then wrap up the regular season at Richmond before sixteen drivers start the ten-race run for the championship. Edwards has locked down one of the sixteen positions. McMurray needs two disastrous finishes at Darlington and Richmond to keep him out of the Chase for the Championship. He has more driver points than any other non-winner on the circuit. (SAFETY)—The death of IndyCar driver Justin Wilson last week after being hit in the head by flying debris from a crashing car has re-fired discussions of driver safety in the major racing circles. A look at the structure surrounding NASCAR drivers. The last fatality in NASCAR’s top series was that of Dale Earnhardt at Daytona in 2001. His death from a basal skull fracture led to the mandated use of the HANS device, which secures the driver’s head and neck in a crash. NASCAR since then has strengthened the roll cage surrounding the driver, moving the driver’s seat away from the side of the car, increasing the number of seat belts and seat designs, and mandating energy-absorbing materials between the roll cage and the outer skin of the car. IMGP9058 NASCAR also mandates cars have roof flaps that pop up when a car is going backwards which reduce (but don’t eliminate) the chance that a car will go airborne. Hoods and trunk lids also have to be tethered to limit the possibilities they will fly into the crowd during a crash. NASCAR tracks also have steadily increased the amount of energy-absorbing SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction)-barrier walls, which were pioneered in IndyCar. The steps have not eliminated injuries—witness Kyle Busch’s leg injuries at Daytona at the start of the year—but have enabled NASCAR national-series drivers to walk away from horrendous crashes. But NASCAR vehicles are closed-cockpit vehicles and the greatest concern heard since Wilson’s death focuses on open-cockpit racing cars, particularly those in IndyCar and in Formula 1. Formula 1 will run tests in September on designs that could provide better protection for drivers. The goal in Formula 1 as in IndyCar is to protect the driver without limiting cockpit access by the driver or by those helping the driver after a crash. The issue has been highlighted this year not only by Wilson’s death but by the near-fatal crash of James Hinchcliff during practice for the Indianapolis 500 when a piece of suspension penetrated the driver area of his car’s tub, went through one of his legs and into another, pinning him into the car while he was suffering serious bleeding. Safety crew members who quickly recognized the problem and devised a way to get him out of the wreckage and control the bleeding and getting him quickly to a hospital have been praised for their work. Suggestions have been made from time to time that the open cockpit era should end with the installation of a canopy similar to those used in fighter planes. The idea is hardly new. The Sumar Special, shown with owner Chapman Root,  practiced for the 1955 Indianapolis 500 in streamlined form. 1955%20Sumar%20Streamliner%20c But driver Jimmy Daywalt ran it in the race with the canopy and the streamlining removed. Removing the streamlining, among other benefits, allowed Daywalt to see the front wheels.




That same year, Jim Rathmann had a streamliner, too. It wasn’t quite as radical as Daywalt’s car but it, too, had an enclosed canopy.

belond streamliner


Rathmann ran the car in the race with the side pods in place but the canopy replaced by a standard windshield.  Daywalt finished ninth in the “500.” . Rathmann was fourteenth and won the race six years later in a conventional car.

Critics through the decades have complained that enclosed cockpits might provide more protection for the driver in open-wheel racing, they can affect visibility, delay a driver’s exit from the car after a wreck, and impair rescuers’ ability to extract an injured driver,  not to mention the heat that could build up in the cockpit, particularly in that era of front-engine cars. One proposal to be tested in F1 is something Mercedes calls a hinged “halo” that is mounted above a driver’s head, attached on both sides of the back of the cockpit and supported by a single strut in the front.  IndyCar officials say they have contacted the FIA, the sanctioning body for F1, and have asked that the information gathered in the tests be shared. (INDYCAR)—IndyCar has crowned Scott Dixon its champion to end its tumultuous season. Dixon entered the road race at Sonoma as one of six drivers with a shot at the title and won the race while Juan Pablo Montoya, who led the points chase for most of the year, finished sixth. The finishes left Dixon and Montoya tied in points, but Dixon’s victory was his third of the year, one more than Montoya, giving Dixon the title in a tie-breaker.   Montoya’s chance at the season championship was crippled during the race when he and teammate Will Power made contact, forcing both to the pits. They came out far back in the field and Montoya was one position short of the championship when the checkered flag fell. (FORMULA 1)—Formula 1 was off this week. It’s next race is the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Points leader Lewis Hamilton will be seeking his seventh straight pole and his seventh victory of the year. (Photo credits: Cutaway stock car: Bob Priddy, 2015 Brickyard 400; Sumar streamliner: oilpressure.wordpress.com; Belond streamliner: trackforum.com)