F1, Cup made for wildly different day

3/31/2009 - NASCAR

The Sprint Cup race at Martinsville and the season-opening Formula One race in Australia took place only 12 hours apart this past weekend. In many ways, that's as similar as it gets.

The gap between the two disciplines is a world apart, and we aren't talking about the distance between rural Virginia and Down Under in Melbourne.

Few sports have such dramatic differences as auto racing. Baseball in Japan is pretty much the same as baseball here, except the Japanese now can say they are better at it than we are after winning this past month's World Baseball Classic.

Aside from a few minor rules variations, basketball is still basketball whether it's played in Moscow, Idaho, or Moscow, Russia.

Not true for racing. The differences are stark, from the cars to the stars.

It was fun to make some comparisons between the Cup and F1 races this past weekend, two major events that defined just how wide the racing spectrum can be. Here are a few examples:

Time to complete the race
F1: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Cup: 3 hours, 27 minutes

Cars entered and lead-lap finishers
F1: 12 of 20 for 60 percent
Cup: 19 of 43 for 44 percent

Type of track and laps
F1: 58 laps on a 3.3-mile road course
Cup: 500 laps on a .526-mile paper-clip shaped oval

Number of American drivers
F1: 0
Cup: 41

Signature food for the venue
F1: barbecued shrimp
Cup: red hot dog

But there were similarities, believe it or not.

Australians in the race
F1: 1 (Mark Webber, who finished an unimpressive 13th)
Cup: 1 (Tasmanian Marcos Ambrose, who finished a very impressive 14th)

Cars the fans and drivers complain about
F1: a new design this season with a smaller and taller back wing and a lower and wider front wing that has dramatically changed handling characteristics.
Cup: an almost-new design (the Car of Tomorrow implemented full-time last year) that is taller and boxier and has dramatically changed handling characteristics.

Bumping and banging
F1: Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica, running second and third, respectively, with four laps to go, got side-by-side in a turn and wrecked each other.
Cup: Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin traded paint and almost wrecked each other while battling for the lead late in the race.

So there you have it, two vastly different disciplines of the same idea -- driving an automobile as fast as you can to reach the checkered flag.


Speaking of different disciplines, holding an 8,000-horsepower car in a straight line at 300 mph for 1,000 feet is another specialized skill of racing that Ashley Force Hood is starting to master.

Force Hood

Force Hood

Only a few days after NHRA legend Shirley Muldowney said Force Hood needed to show more toughness, she was tough enough to win the O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park for her second career victory.

And Force Hood had a darn tough path to victory Sunday. She beat season points leader Ron Capps in the first round before pedaling her Mustang past her dad, John Force, in the second round.

Force Hood won her semifinals matchup against Del Worsham, the man who beat her in the finals at Houston last year.

In the finals this time, it was the pupil outrunning the teacher. Force Hood defeated Jack Beckman, her Funny Car instructor when she was learning the ropes at the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School three years ago.

Proving things was the theme of the day in the Houston event. Force Hood is proving she can be a serious championship contender.

Tony Schumacher proved he could win again without Alan Johnson as his tuner. Schumacher's Top Fuel victory Sunday was the first time he has won since Johnson left to form his own team this season.


What do Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin and Greg Biffle have in common after the first six Cup races this season?

They all rank below A.J. Allmendinger in the standings. Allmendinger's effort in an underfunded, fourth Richard Petty Motorsports car has been remarkable, ranking 15th in the standings after a ninth-place finish at Martinsville.

The No. 44 Dodge team continues to evolve with pit crew changes in the past two weeks, but what an injustice it would be if RPM can't find the sponsorship to race Allmendinger the full season.

Allmendinger ranks ahead of teammates Elliott Sadler (24th) and Reed Sorenson (30th). Only Kasey Kahne (ninth in the standings) has raced better among the RPM drivers.


Of the eight events this season in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, Cup regulars have won seven of them. The Cup guys are a perfect 4-for-4 in the Nationwide races and 3-for-4 in the Truck events.

Kyle Busch has won three times (two Truck races and one Nationwide event), and Kevin Harvick has won twice (one race in each series).

The Cup stars have won the past seven races in the two feeder leagues. Todd Bodine's victory in the season-opening Daytona CWTS race is the only exception to the Cup dominance.


Some people are saying the eighth-place finish by Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Sunday shows the team meeting last week with Rick Hendrick paid off.

Maybe it did, but finishing eighth at Martinsville wasn't proof. Earnhardt was sixth at Martinsville one year ago and second in the October Martinsville event.


Not only is Tony Stewart proving he can compete with his new team, but it's also debatable whether he would have been any better had he stayed in the No. 20 Toyota at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Rookie Joey Logano ranks 34th in the No. 20 Camry. OK, that's not a fair comparison, so let's look at the other two JGR drivers.

Denny Hamlin is fifth in the standings, Kyle Busch is sixth and Stewart is seventh, only two points behind Busch. Stewart easily could have been in the same spot in the 20 car.


After his victory Monday in the rain-delayed Truck race, Kevin Harvick was asked what he thought about Kyle Busch's getting out of his truck and bolting for the Martinsville Speedway exit. Busch led the most laps but finished 17th after a penalty.

"It's frustrating when you have a good day and it doesn't turn out," Harvick said. "I'd probably be right there with him. I'm a sore loser, too."

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Terry can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.