Overheard at Barber – Saturday

The rain and fog finally moved out to get IndyCar qualifying in late Saturday morning. Right after qualifying during the Grand-Am race several cars went off and just augured into the sodden grass. The Shank car went off in the corkscrew and wedged into the mud and stopped so fast it appeared to hit a wall. The Grand-Am cars are making the beautiful track a muddy mess.

Rumor has it that Stefan Wilson is trying to put a deal together to run the Indy 500 as a rookie……Dario Franchitti never made it out of Group 1 qualifying and he still appears to be struggling with the handling of the diabolical new IndyCar. It just does not appear to fit his driving style.

Acura NSX

We hear that Honda is looking to race the new Acura NSX in a series where they will be able keep the hybrid element of the powertrain. It gives many tuning options and a big torque advantage. So that scratches it from the Grand-Am series, but it fits right in with ALMS. Look for it to race in Japan first.

While all the teams were still working on their cars after qualifying the Dragon Team was all packed up and gone for the day. Hmm……

After winning Saturday's Grand-Am race, Chevrolet is on pace to sweep the entire weekend…could happen for the first time in history. They swept in NASCAR more than once (though not in a while). But it has never happened that one manufacturer has swept all the races they have entered across different forms of racing.

Decent Saturday crowd. My feeling is that it is much bigger than last year. Certainly from the paddock crowds I would say so.

Word is that the Jean Alesi Lotus deal fell apart for Indy. Or was it that Alesi heard the car's handling on ovals is diabolical and thought twice at his age?

IndyCar has decided not to allow two Ganassi cars at Wednesday's IndyCar test at IMS given the one-car-per-team policy. Scott Dixon will test. And the general consensus for Indy is that there probably won't be any bumping on bump day. The cost of the new cars, and figuring them out has most teams stretched thin.

Acting Qingdao Mayor Zhang Xinqi, soon to be Mayor

Zhang Xinqi, the former deputy secretary of Qingdao Municipal Party Committee, was appointed as the vice and acting mayor of Qingdao City, Shandong Province, on Jan. 21st. Supposedly he is becoming the formal Mayor any day now. Our sources say the holdup on the announcement of the race in China (so far it has been dead silent) is waiting for him to become officially the mayor. They are running out of time to sell tickets and sign on sponsors. There is a genuine concern this race could be stillborn. The silence is deafening.

However, everyone in China works for the government one way or the other, so we suppose if they tell the workers to attend the race they will.

The former Qingdao Mayor, Xia Geng, was promoted to vice governor of Shandong Province.

Many IndyCar teams outsmarted themselves on Saturday. Teams usually sit out the first 1/4 to 1/3 of a qualifying session to wait for the very end to put in a quick lap. They also save tires by running as few laps as possible. Well when Ryan Hunter-Reay spun in Turn 9 in the second round qualifying and Scott Dixon in the Fast Six session, both bringing out the red flag and ending the session, many drivers and teams were left wondering if their tactics are prudent.

As an example, Simon Pagenaud didn’t turn a fast lap in the second round because team leaders chose to keep the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car in the pits for most of the session. They sent Pagenaud out with just a few minutes left in the session, but with plenty of time to produce some fast laps.

Unfortunately, the plan did not get to play out for Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports. Before Pagenaud could click off a fast lap, Ryan Hunter-Reay crashed in Turn 9 to bring out the red flag and ending that session.

Pagenaud’s lap of 1 minute, 14.2839 seconds at 111.646 mph was still good enough for 10th on the grid.

“We got caught out with the flag," said Pagenaud. “We didn’t even get one fast lap on the last set of good tires. That’s racing, you know. But you always want to start as high up as possible. We had a good car for that last run. It felt very well balanced and hooked up."

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