Franchitti shakes off Pocono cobwebs

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The only driver of those testing an IndyCar at Pocono Raceway with prior experience at the track was Dario Franchitti, who raced in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car there in 2008. Not that he’d be privy to giving away any secrets.

“No, they haven’t. I wouldn’t tell them anyway!” Franchitti joked to the assembled press when asked whether the other drivers were asking for advice.

The track has been repaved and had other safety improvements made since that time.

“No, the difference from being here in 2008 is remarkable,” he said. “This was a bumpy old place before. I don’t need to tell you guys that. Now it’s very, very smooth. There’s obviously been a great deal of investment in the track, the SAFER barrier in different places, as well. That’s really allowed us as IndyCar as a group to come back here. It’s very much appreciated. All those investments have been made.  I said at the time to run an IndyCar around here would be a blast, and it is.”

Couple in the night-and-day car difference and it was pretty much all new for Franchitti.

“It feels like a different track,” he said. “Going down the straight, any straight this length, is going to feel long. When you turn into turn one here wide open, just keep it flat, the car compresses, all those Gs build up, it is a helluva feeling.

“The tunnel turn is probably the most similar car-to-car. We’re still I think 20 miles an hour quicker, 30 miles an hour quicker in the IndyCar.  But Turn 3, I mean, as Will (Power) said, you’re going through there wide open right now, which defies logic really when you consider we have Indianapolis spec wings on the car.”

Two nightmare weekends have seen two DNFs to start the IndyCar season, although Franchitti was pleased with the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team’s improvements in Barber as a whole. He inherited the pole position at Long Beach a year ago when Ryan Briscoe, the fastest qualifier, took a 10-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).