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The Fourth Turn
Author: Paul Gohde
July 16th 2012 -

Racing has been getting its share of newspaper space in the past few weeks, but not all of the news has come from action on the race track.

As we know, NASCAR has suspended Penske Racing driver A.J.Allmendinger after failing a random drug test, and we now await the ‘B’ sample test results. Reportedly, stimulants from an energy drink are the culprit, and to his credit, Roger Penske is taking a wait-and-see posture while installing his Nationwide-series team driver Sam Hornish Jr. into the Shell-sponsored Dodge temporarily.

“Obviously the situation is disappointing because of the circumstances,” Penske said at the New Hampshire Cup race Sunday. “I’ve said it before. I’m more concerned with the individual than the situation, because that’ll take care of itself. I think, more importantly, if the (test) results go his way, meaning that he can get back in the car, he’ll be in the car at Indianapolis. If it’s not, then we’ll access Sam’s availability,”

Time and testing will decide the future for both former open-wheel pilots.

Fan-favorites Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are winless in 2012 as the Cup series moves toward the Brickyard 400, with Gordon and Edwards in danger of not making the Chase for the Sprint Cup that begins at Chicagoland Speedway on September 16. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will surely make the Chase field, but his popular win at Michigan recently hasn’t brought more.

With the Penske group switching to Ford in 2013, the future of Dodge in the series has yet to be resolved. An announcement as to the company’s plans is likely to come at Indianapolis during the Brickyard 400 weekend, with IndyCar’s Andretti Autosports considered as the favorite to enter NASCAR with Dodge backing- perhaps in partnership with an established series team. NASCAR thrives on manufacturer support, and would be taking a step backward if Dodge dropped out of series’ competition.  

After one of the most exciting Indianapolis 500 races in recent history, IndyCar roars along in its abbreviated 15-race season (after cancellation of its event in China) with a trail of question marks coming out of the exhaust pipe of its controversial Dallara DW12 chassis.

Rumors continue to swirl that IZOD may be on its way out as the series sponsor, with a communications company as a possible replacement. Car owners are more than upset with the higher-than-expected cost of parts for the almost year-old Dallara chassis, with the Twitter world calling for a variety of chassis makers to participate in the series to move it from its spec-series sameness to cars with a variety of looks and technology. Aero kits from several sources, designed to give the cars visual uniqueness and variety in aerodynamic set-ups, were to come on line, first in 2012 and then in 2013, but now it’s unknown whether that program will ever meet the approval of cost-conscious team owners.  

An invitation for engine suppliers to join long-time series’ partner Honda on the grid for 2012 brought Chevrolet and Lotus to the paddock. Chevy has proved to be a legitimate challenger, holding four of the top five spots in points, but Lotus got a delayed start in development and has lost all but one of its teams. No new engine partners are likely to appear for 2013, but IICS hopes for more in the years beyond.

American driver Ryan Hunter-Reay has been a regular visitor to victory lane for Andretti Autosports and Chevrolet lately, winning three races in a row, as Penske and Ganassi work to catch up with Michael’s revived program. Danica Patrick’s move to NASCAR seems to have had a positive effect on her former AA team, moving the popular James Hinchcliffe into a more prominent role both on the track and in promotional spots for the team’s GoDaddy sponsor.

For IndyCar, car owner discontent over ever-rising costs, a short list of oval tracks that want to join the series and the recent resignation of INDYCAR Chief Operating Officer Marc Koretzky, who joined the open wheel group in May, 2011, but lasted just seven months in the COO role, leave questions as to the series’ future direction. Engine availability, chassis development and number of cars on the grid are other issues that bear watching as five races remain and planning for 2013 becomes a priority.

Questions abound in both series, but answers will take a while to arrive. As with Roger Penske, we can only wait.

NOTES: Main Street in Speedway, IN will have a new tenant soon as Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing unveiled final plans for its new team race shop. Located next door to Dallara’s new U.S. plant, SFHR’s two-story, 37,000 square-foot facility will feature a visitors’ center and a training facility.

“The new SFHR facility will allow us the ability to further include our fans and promote our team as it grows into the future,” said Wink Hartman who was announced as the IndyCar team’s co-owner in December, 2011. ”It will be a vital asset to our team as we look into the future.”

Anniversaries are being celebrated by two iconic race series this summer. The Badger Midget Auto Racing Association sanctioning body marked its 76th year of operation Sunday with a 30-lap event on the third-mile dirt oval at Sun Prairie, WI. The event, won by Californian Rico Abreu, was his first midget feature win, as he became the 133rd feature winner in the 66-year history of the track located in suburban Madison.

The ARCA Racing Series, founded in 1953 by John Marcum, continues to mark its 60th season with the running of the Pennsylvania ARCA 125 at Pocono International Raceway on August 4th.

A long list of ARCA winners at Pocono includes the likes of Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Casey Mears and Travis Kvapil.

Their 2012 schedule features 20 events at 18 tracks.