UPDATED: Fan climbs to top of RIR catchfence during NASCAR race, brings out ‘security caution’

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UPDATE: In what seemed almost like a comedy routine, here’s what drivers Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin had to say during a press conference after Saturday’s race about the wayward fan:

            DENNY HAMLIN:  Yeah, I saw that.

            KEVIN HARVICK:  Those Virginia folks.

            DENNY HAMLIN:  That caution put me two laps down.  Knucklehead.

            KEVIN HARVICK:  It used to be okay.  I remember the first race I won, the whole backstretch grandstand was hanging on the fence.  They never threw a caution then.

            DENNY HAMLIN:  If he wants to play in traffic, it’s his problem.

            KEVIN HARVICK:  Wasn’t a NASCAR employee, was he (smiling)?

 

It had to be encouraging to NASCAR officials that Richmond International Raceway was close to having a sellout for Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 Sprint Cup race.

But one fan apparently wasn’t happy with the big crowd, or maybe he just wanted to get a better perspective or be closer to the action.

Whatever his motivation, the unidentified and shirtless race fan decided it would be a good idea to climb the catchfence near Turn 4.

While the race was going on, we might add.

When informed of the interloper, NASCAR officials immediately called a caution on the event with about 70 laps remaining. Officials also apparently instructed drivers to go low at that part of the track – just in case the fan, well, fell over and went splat.

If that happened, it likely would have qualified as a caution for debris on the pavement.

Okay, we’re joking on that one.

But to be serious, the apparent real ruling for the caution from NASCAR was for one of the rarest calls you’ll likely ever hear at a race – for “security.”

Fortunately, the fan’s better judgment and common sense finally caught up with him and he realized just how bad of an idea it was to be perched where he was.

With a posse of police and security personnel waiting for him back on terra firma, the fan climbed back down and was immediately taken into custody.

(It’s a good bet he wasn’t allowed to stick around to see the rest of the race.)

What we don’t understand is how the guy got past what appeared to be a massive security presence and climbed the estimated 75-foot high catchfence without being initially detected.

Not only did the fan get to the top of the fence, he appeared to make himself at home for at least a couple of minutes before he drew attention to himself, thus bringing out the caution.

Methinks someone with RIR security, as the late Desi Arnaz used to tell Lucille Ball, has some ‘splainin’ to do to racetrack and NASCAR officials, which was confirmed in a tweet by Jenna Fryer of The Associated Press.

As for the so-called fan, he’s been booked by police for, what else, “drunk and disorderly,” according to another tweet by Fryer .

Drunk and disorderly, huh? Somehow, we’re not surprised.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”