Racing result secondary to Zanardi’s journey to Daytona
By JENNA FRYER
AP Auto Racing Writer
Monday, January 28
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Alex Zanardi’s Rolex 24 at Daytona was problem-plagued, perhaps even forgettable.
That was just fine for one of the most beloved figures in motorsports, who found the racing to be secondary to the adulation and affection he received in his return to North America.
“I’m proud of the quotes, the comments, the love,” Zanardi said after the race concluded Sunday. “It’s what I got from all the fans, all the people that stopped me and all the people who keep telling me how inspirational my story is.”
Zanardi lost both his legs in a 2001 crash during a CART race in Germany but built a remarkable career after the devastating injury. He designed his own prosthetic legs after studying the best options for optimal mobility. Then he took up touring cars and was able to race again.
Zanardi moved to hand cycling and won that division in the New York City Marathon. The Italian qualified for two Paralympics and won six medals, four of them gold. He’s completed Iron Man competitions by using a wheelchair for the running portion and his handcycle for the biking.
But he’d yet to race in North America, where he built a tremendous following during his two championship seasons in CART. He pulled off one of the greatest passes in motorsports history in the corkscrew at the Laguna Seca, California road course, and invented the victory doughnut that NASCAR drivers do to this day.
It was the idea of longtime partner BMW to develop a steering wheel that would allow Zanardi to race without his prosthetics. The manufacturer assumed he’d want to use it in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but Zanardi instead chose Daytona International Speedway.
The yearlong project with BMW culminated in a reunion between Zanardi and so many of his old friends, teammates and rivals. His plotline was the richest in a race full of superstars, even if it didn’t go as planned.
When Zanardi got in the car for his first driving stint Saturday the steering wheel that had been exhaustively tested suddenly wouldn’t make an electrical connection with the car. Neither did the backup.
Zanardi nearly got out of the car before he’d even left pit lane, but one final flip of the switches at least got the wheel to connect. The problems stretched into the next driver change and put the Bobby Rahal-owned team in a hole that took it out of contention for the GT Le Mans victory. The class win went to the second Rahal car, which reinforced Zanardi’s belief that he had a team capable of winning the race.
“In the end of the day, I came here because I thought it was technically possible to do what we did together, and had I not believed it possible, I don’t think I would have come,” Zanardi said.
“But yeah, if someone can receive some type of inspiration from what I do, it fills my heart with pride. I’m just a very curious guy who has a lot of possibility. You say ‘Why do you do this?’ Why shouldn’t I? I’m having a lot of fun doing what I’m doing.”
Zanardi plans to resume training in hand cycling next in a bid to defend his Paralympic medals next year in Tokyo. He turns 53 later this year.
Other notable events from the Rolex:
Teams spent the final third of the race complaining about treacherous conditions that had drivers concerned for their safety.
“It rained like hell,” Zanardi said. “It was really beyond any limit. I’ve never seen so much rain falling from the sky.”
The final eight hours were marred by numerous on-track incidents as IMSA waffled back and forth in its decision making. There were long yellow flag periods in which the drivers circled the sloppy track behind the pace car, the two stoppages, and many, many on-track mishaps.
“It’s probably the worst conditions I’ve ever driven in,” said AJ Allmendinger. “You are just trying to hang on and hope when you catch that puddle the wrong way you can save the car. It’s just so nasty out there.”
Richard Westbrook believed IMSA’s indecision over the weather cost Chip Ganassi Racing a third consecutive GTLM victory. Westbrook was leading and adamant it was too dangerous but IMSA picked a random time to stop the race for the second and final time.
The stoppage came after Westbrook had pitted from the lead for fuel.
“I just thought they had to stop the race, it was ridiculous,” Westbrook said. “But once we pitted, that’s when they pulled out the red flag, and it cost us the win. The conditions were incredibly bad during that last period and it didn’t matter if you were driving 30 mph or 130 mph, you couldn’t keep the car on the track.”
A lineup of four female drivers was in contention for a podium finish until Katherine Legge slipped and spun her Acura in the rain with under four hours remaining. Legge was fourth when she spun.
The team, run through Meyer Shank Racing, featured Legge, Simona de Silvestro, Bia Figueiredo and Christina Nielsen. It was created by Jackie Heinricher, a racing enthusiast and scientist who wanted to promote female drivers, and landed sponsor Caterpillar to fund her vision.
The lineup remained on the lead lap for almost 20 hours and under normal weather conditions might have raced for the class victory.
“It’s disappointing to have a situation like this so close to the end of the race, but it’s super tricky conditions out there and it could happen to anyone,” Nielsen said. “If you’re playing tennis and you drop a ball, you just get a new one and try again. Here, if you make one mistake, there are high consequences.”
Christian Fittipaldi needed several moments to compose himself after the final stint of his career. The Brazilian openly cried after completing his final Rolex 24.
A three-time Rolex winner and part of last year’s overall title, this race was the farewell party. The two-time IMSA champion is transitioning into a brand ambassador for Cadillac and the Action Express Racing team.
Fittipaldi debuted in Formula One in 1992 and has raced NASCAR, sports cars, and Indy cars since.
“I am sad, happy, relieved, but I think most of all at peace with myself and I think that’s most important,” he said.
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Alonso anchors victory in first Rolex 24 stopped for rain
By JENNA FRYER
AP Auto Racing Writer
Monday, January 28
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Fernando Alonso was the only driver on the Wayne Taylor Racing team with extensive experience racing in the rain, so he was the natural choice to carry the heaviest load in the weather-ruined Rolex 24 at Daytona.
But when the puddles turned to small ponds and the unrelenting rain made it nearly impossible to see, the two-time Formula One champion had enough.
He argued the conditions were too treacherous to continue, a complaint he lodged even when running second in the closing hours of the twice-round-the-clock endurance event. Despite the challenges, Alonso deftly dodged the danger to grab another victory in a bucket-list event.
Alonso drove a Cadillac DPi to the front of the field in each of his three stints in the Rolex, including the final pass for the lead minutes before IMSA finally parked the cars. The race was red-flagged minutes after Alonso cruised past Filipe Nasr, who had missed a turn and drove off course into a deep pool of standing water.
“I think the last five or seven laps of the race were not, I think, right for anyone that we were on track because the visibility was nearly zero,” Alonso said. “I was calling the team for a safety car immediately because I could not see anything.”
When the safety car finally pulled the field down pit lane, Alonso grabbed an umbrella and went to talk to the driver. Although he leaned in the open door for a discussion with someone, he said later it was a different IMSA official because the driver had already left the car following a near-wreck in the rain.
“I went to talk to him because he nearly crashed,” Alonso said. “I was following him, and he had a massive moment of hydroplaning. Immediately after, he called red flag. I think he was a little bit scared in that moment, and when I jumped out of the car and I went to the safety car to see him, he was not there anymore.
“They called to the driver, and I said ‘Are you OK? You nearly crashed. Conditions are tricky.’ He said like, ‘It’s not my call’ or something like that.”
Teams waited nearly two hours before IMSA called the race 10 minutes before the scheduled conclusion. It marked the first time rain prevented the Rolex from going the full 24 hours, and it was the first time in race history the event was stopped twice for red flags for rain.
Alonso was sitting under a blanket on the Taylor pit stand when the race was called.
“It’s too bad we didn’t get to race the full distance, but we led the race in night, day, dry, wet, so I think we all kind of deserve this one,” he said.
Alonso joined Phil Hill (1964) and Mario Andretti (1972) as F1 champions to also win the most prestigious sports car event in North America. Alonso, who has two F1 titles, retired from that series in November.
The Spaniard now has won the Rolex, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix. The next big event on his schedule is the Indianapolis 500 in May, the one victory he needs to complete auto racing’s unofficial version of the Triple Crown.
Wayne Taylor Racing now has four overall Rolex victories. The team won in 1996 and 2005 with team owner Wayne Taylor driving, and Jeff Gordon was part of its 2017 victory. The team this year brought in Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi, teammates at Le Mans, to join full-time drivers Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande. Jordan Taylor was part of the winning team two years ago.
Alex Zanardi’s return to a North American race for the first time since his legs were severed in a 2001 crash was hampered by mechanical problems, including an early electrical issue with the BMW-designed steering wheel that allowed the Italian to race without his prosthetic legs.
Zanardi used the wheel to accelerate, brake, shift and communicate with the car. Even though the Bobby Rahal-owned team finished 18 laps down in the GT Le Mans class, the venture was a success. Zanardi drove three times totaling 6 hours, 17 minutes; his final stint was disrupted by the heavy rain at daybreak.
“He shows very clearly that life isn’t over and you can still go out and live and do whatever it is you want,” Rahal said.
Rahal’s second BMW M8 entry won the GTLM class with Augsto Farfus, Connor De Phillippi, Phillipp Eng and Colton Herta.
The LMP2 class was won by the No. 18 DragonSpeed Oreca with drivers Roberto Gonzalez, Pastor Maldonado, Sebastian Saavedra and Ryan Cullen, while the No. 11 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan won the GT Daytona class for the second consecutive year with Rolf Ineichen, Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Englehart and Rik Breukers.
Alonso, meanwhile, was the heavyweight in the Wayne Taylor lineup and dazzled every time he got into the Cadillac. He competed in the Rolex last year as a warmup for Le Mans but returned this time intent on winning the Rolex watch. His first time in the rotation Saturday night was a triple stint in which he took the lead away from both of Roger Penske’s Acura entries.
He drove again early Sunday morning and had the car out front for a lengthy yellow period that ultimately ended in the first stoppage for rain since 2004.
Alonso got the car back one final time to close out the race and took the lead when Felipe Nasr missed a turn and drove through a deep patch of water. Alonso stayed on course to move to the point, and when IMSA brought the cars to pit road minutes later under red, he walked under an umbrella to IMSA’s pace car and leaned inside the open door to discuss the conditions with the driver.
Alonso then joined his teammates in the pits to await IMSA’s decision.
“It was a very difficult race. The conditions were quite a shock sometimes,” Alonso said. “You had to survive every lap. It wasn’t a matter of lap times or anything like that. It was a matter of crossing the line, putting the lap together and at the end, it worked.”
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Rolex 24 such a party Roger Penske vows to pull all-nighter
By JENNA FRYER
AP Auto Racing Writer
Saturday, January 26
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Someone has to throw the first party of the year and IMSA has built its Rolex 24 at Daytona into a bucket-list event on a calendar full of motorsports elite races. There’s a Corvette Corral just inside the fourth turn and the Ferris wheel lifts fans 150 feet above Daytona International Speedway to watch the sportiest cars from the top manufacturers in the world.
It is a festival in the infield that includes a wine-and-cheese event, a parade of historically significant cars and collectors from all over the world. Those roaring engines? One of the most prestigious sports car races in the world is the background noise for this very unique event.
The twice-round-the-clock endurance race begins Saturday and Roger Penske, a week away from his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, vowed to stay awake for the entire event. Penske, who turns 82 next month, pulled the all-nighter last year when he returned to sports cars with a stacked Acura program.
It was apparently not a stunt because the team owner said the Team Penske pit stand has been upgraded since its inaugural race with elevated heaters to use during the brisk overnight shifts and an expanded area for the team owner to stand and stretch his legs. A stack of thermal underwear had been neatly folded and Penske said there was no reason for him to wander too far away from his DPi entries, which start second and third overall.
“I came to watch the racing, to follow along,” said Penske, who snacked on an ice cream sandwich he snagged Friday from the infield food tent that serves the race teams all weekend. “What if I stepped away for a few hours and something happened? What’s the point of that?”
IMSA, the series backed largely by current NASCAR chairman Jim France, is celebrating its 50th season and the Rolex has cemented itself as the place for all top drivers to begin their seasons. This is the place for drivers to prove they can master multiple disciplines and fill useful roles for teams capable of winning the biggest races in the world. Alex Zanardi, in his first North American race since he lost both his legs in a 2001 crash , is the headliner this season.
“There’s only one driver in this race,” Bobby Rahal, a longtime BMW partner and owner of Zanardi’s race team, said of the attention directed to the Italian double-amputee. Zanardi is racing for the first time without his prosthetics by using a BMW-designed steering wheel of hand levers. His positivity and passion for life has enveloped the entire paddock, made this running of the Rolex an event packed with emotions, and created a pure excitement for the start of another long racing season.
“He’s a magician,” Penske said simply.
This is Fernando Alonso’s first race since he closed his Formula One career in November and Zanardi’s presence has made the Spaniard a secondary story line. Only this is the start of an action-packed year for the two-time F1 champion because he’s carving out a schedule to race events that bring him joy. So he’s booked solid into June, past the Indianapolis 500, and looking to kick this year off with a win.
“I am feeling like I need to go back to F1 to get some time off,” the Spaniard joked.
This is the final race of a long career for Christian Fittipaldi, one of four drivers in the Rolex field who last shared a track with Zanardi on the day he lost his legs. Fittipaldi is part of the defending race-winning Action Express Racing team and was feted this weekend with a surprise retirement party.
The Brazilian openly wept as his racing career zoomed toward the finish line. Then Action Express was thrown a curveball when British driver Mike Conway failed to get out of England for what a Cadillac representative would only say was “travel issues.” Conway’s absence meant Action Express had to whittle down from four drivers to just three, the same trio that won a year ago, but Fittipaldi will have to drive more stints than planned.
At least he’ll be going out with a full effort.
“I always knew I could not race forever, no one can do one thing forever,” Fittipaldi said. “So now I get a big send-off.”
Katherine Legge is headlining an all-female lineup full of so much talent that calling the team a gimmick would be an insult to its drivers. Townsend Bell is part of a new team fronted by IndyCar team owners Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan, and he will be juggling his jobs as driver and NBC Sports analyst.
NBC Sports is in the first year as IMSA’s television partner and pulled out all the stops for its inaugural sports car event. The Rolex is a massive kick off to a year in which NBC Sports has most of the major motorsports properties, and the network has almost all of its IndyCar and NASCAR talent lineups in Daytona. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and booth partner Steve Letarte are on site, carrying rosters, wandering the paddock, figuring out just who everyone is and what kind of car they drive.
The network will also use Bell and AJ Allmendinger, who is making the transition from racing into broadcasting, during their breaks from driving.
“NBC is really going all at it,” said five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon. “You’ve even got Junior here, bloody hell, that’s pretty big,”
Scott Dixon is an anchor on the GT Le Mans defending winning team from Chip Ganassi Racing, and its sister car won the year before. Now there’s been a balance of performance tweak that has the Ford GTs feeling a tad handcuffed headed into the race.
“Not that we can’t win it, but we’ll need the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth and the planets to all line up,” Ganassi said.
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How to have productive disagreements about politics and religion
January 29, 2019
Author: Larisa Heiphetz, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Columbia University
Larisa Heiphetz receives funding from the John Templeton Foundation. She has also received funding from American Psychological Association, American Psychological Foundation/Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology, Harvard University, National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, and National Science Foundation to conduct the work described here.
In the current polarized climate, it’s easy to find yourself in the midst of a political disagreement that morphs into a religious argument. People’s religious affiliation predicts their stances on abortion, immigration and other controversial topics, and disagreements about these issues can seem intractable.
The seeming futility in arguing about politics and religion may arise partly because people misunderstand the nature of these beliefs. Many people approach an ideological disagreement the same way they would a disagreement about facts. If you disagree with someone about when water freezes, facts are convincing. It’s easy to think that if you disagree with someone about immigration, facts will be similarly persuasive.
This might work if people’s ideological beliefs worked the same way as their factual beliefs – but they don’t. As psychologists who focus on religious and moral cognition, my colleagues and I are investigating how people understand that these are two separate classes of belief. Our work suggests that an effective strategy for disagreement involves approaching ideological beliefs as a combination of fact and opinion.
Identifying a difference
To investigate whether people distinguish between facts and religious beliefs, my colleagues and I examined a database containing more than 520 million words from speeches, novels, newspapers and other sources.
Religious statements were typically preceded by the phrase “believe that” rather than “think that.” Phrases like “I believe that Jesus turned water into wine” were relatively common, whereas phrases like “I think that Jesus turned water into wine” were nearly nonexistent.
In four subsequent experiments, we asked adults to complete sentences like “Zane __ that Jesus turned water into wine.” Participants were more likely to use “believes” for religious and political claims and “thinks” for factual claims.
Taken together, these results suggest that people distinguish between factual beliefs, on the one hand, and religious and political claims, on the other.
Rather than equating ideologies and facts, people appear to view ideologies as a combination of fact and opinion. In two earlier studies, 5- to 10-year-old children and adults learned about pairs of characters who disagreed about religious, factual and opinion-based statements. For example, we told participants that one person thought that God could hear prayers while the other didn’t, or that two other people disagreed about whether or not blue is the prettiest color. Participants said that only one person could be right nearly every time they heard a factual disagreement, but they gave this answer less often when they heard a religious disagreement and less often still when they heard an opinion-based disagreement.
This result may occur because children and adults think that different types of beliefs provide different information. Participants told us that factual claims reveal information about the world, whereas opinions reveal information about the speaker. They also reported that religious claims reveal a moderate amount of information about both the world and the speaker. People who say that God exists are ostensibly making a claim about what kinds of beings exist in the world – but not everyone would agree with that claim, so they are also revealing information about themselves.
Recognizing the difference in everyday life
So how can you use our results when a contentious topic arises outside the lab?
When you find yourself in the midst of an ideological disagreement, it can be tempting to correct the other person’s facts. “Actually, scientific evidence shows that the earth is more than 4 billion years old and that humans did indeed evolve from other primates.” “Actually, recent data show that immigrants contribute to the economy and commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans.”
Yet this type of information alone is often insufficient to resolve disagreements. It’s addressing the part of ideological beliefs that is like a fact, the part where someone is trying to communicate information about the world. But it’s missing the part where ideological beliefs are also like an opinion. Without this part, saying, “Actually, evidence shows that X” sounds a lot like saying, “Actually, evidence proves that blue is not the prettiest color.” To be convincing, you need tools that address both the fact part and the opinion part of an ideology.
People rarely change their opinions because someone out-argued them. Rather, opinion-based change can come from exposure. People like the familiar, even when that familiarity comes from the briefest of prior exposures. The same could occur for viewpoints that they’ve heard before.
What does exposure look like when talking about ideological disagreements? “Hmm. I actually think something different.” “I really appreciated the way my science tutor was patient with me when I didn’t understand evolution. The way she explained things made a lot of sense to me after a while.” “I’m going to donate money to groups helping asylum seekers. Do you want to join me?”
Maybe you say just one of these sentences, but others pick up where you left off. By walking around in the world, someone might encounter numerous counterpoints to their opinions, perhaps leading to gradual change as other views become more familiar.
It’s not anyone’s responsibility to say these sentences, least of all people who are being harmed by the disagreement. But for those in a position to change minds via repeated exposure, this strategy can be a helpful addition to the “managing disagreement” toolboxes everyone carries.