Photo: Tony DiZinno

SEMA, GRC Las Vegas week notes, musings, observations

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LAS VEGAS – While endurance races for sports car racing generally don’t take place in November, the week that is SEMA Show week in Las Vegas is still something of a marathon. And with most of this only being written on Thursday, there’s still a day to go (today).

Anyway, this is a bit of a different week in terms of motors coverage, because while there’s plenty of drivers from the worlds of NASCAR, IndyCar, drag racing and sports cars present, it’s primarily an industry-focused event.

Some thoughts and observations from the week, then:

  • Logano’s graciousness. In series you cover full-time, you may occasionally take interviews for granted. You know the key players, stakeholders and manufacturers – or at least you should, otherwise you’re in an abnormal position. So in my case, yesterday’s NASCAR Talk interview I did with Joey Logano at the Whelen display was only the second time I’d ever interviewed him (January for an MST preseason piece, prior to NASCAR Talk site launch). And all things considered, I was expecting a “no comment” or something similar considering my colleagues Nate Ryan and Dustin Long – both of whom were huge helps on the story – are the primary NASCAR writers and know Logano, and his team, far better. So when Logano not only gave the interview, but then proceeded to be as candid as he was, I was both relieved and a bit stupefied, to be honest. Ordinarily you don’t get that kind of quality content on a whim, but after waiting the better part of an hour considering Logano was there for a Whelen appearance and to sign autographs, it was all-too-kind of him to provide the three minutes and change. It’s the things like that you don’t necessarily see from the outside that go into a story, but helps create the content. Say what you will about what he said, but the fact he said anything, I’m hugely appreciative of.
  • Sheer size and volume. If you’ve never been to SEMA, you need to plan for several things: time management, a heck of a lot of walking and even more pre-planning. Mapping out schedules, appointments, locations and where in what part of the Las Vegas Convention Center (it’s four giant halls, with tens of thousands of booths) is a job in-and-of itself. Preparation for this event is the single most important part of making a productive SEMA week. In just three days, I think I’ve banked close to 60,000 steps and nearly 30 miles of walking in-and-around Las Vegas between the SEMA Show and the Red Bull Global Rallycross event.
  • Red Bull Global Rallycross is quirky but cool. I think I’ll put together a separate column on my thoughts on Red Bull Global Rallycross likely for next week, and will also have an interview with the series’ newly crowned champion Scott Speed out next week. Initial thoughts after finally attending my first race? It’s certainly different than what I’m used to, but the format seems to appeal to a younger generation, which is the goal. There seems enough positivity in the paddock of optimism for a better 2016 to build on this year. Flexibility is something required in spades, given how frequently the schedule can and does change. But the racing’s generally fun, and that’s important. The cars, as I found out thanks to a ride-along the other day, are fantastic.
  • Sports car odds and ends. A lot of would-be, potential and eventual 2016 programs seemed to come out of the woodwork this week – all at once – and I’d refer you to more sports car-focused sites for more details on what they were. I spent a lot of time talking with various drivers, all of whom were here in some capacity either chasing deals, asking about programs or some combination of both. Busy times, especially as the IMSA series has a test in two weeks and Pirelli World Challenge confirmed several news items during its “State of the Series” presentation on Tuesday.
  • Respectable IndyCar presence for both. I imagine the Verizon IndyCar Series will have a greater presence at next month’s PRI show in Indianapolis, but it was well-represented out in Las Vegas. There were two cars (Graham Rahal and Josef Newgarden’s respective cars, the latter adorned in a special GoPro livery) on display at SEMA, and Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe, Gabby Chaves, Stefan Wilson and Anders Krohn were among the IndyCar crowd at the GRC race. It was good to see that bit of cross pollination, especially as so many IndyCar teams have GRC programs.

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).