Motorsports Column: Roger Diez
July 7, 2012
Fans of off-road racing, you should check out the Fireworks 500 today at the Tahoe-Reno Motorplex.
Sanctioned by the High Desert Racing Association, it is being billed as the longest off-road race in the United States. The Motorplex is located near the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, off USA Parkway east of Sparks on Interstate 80. The course itself is 118 miles long, but built in a cloverleaf configuration so spectators can see the cars several time each lap from a graded level plateau that overlooks the pit area. Organizers plan to hold several races per year at the Motorplex. Scheduled start time for the race was at either seven or nine o’clock this morning, according to different sources. But with 500 miles to run you still have plenty of time to get out there and catch the action, which could go into the wee hours of Sunday morning.
If you’re not up for such a long day, head a little farther east to Fernley 95A Speedway and take in some good old fashioned stock car dirt track racing. Spectator gates open at 3 p.m., and racing starts at six.
Speedway Motorsports Corporation CEO Bruton Smith has weighed in again, proposing that NASCAR throw a caution flag whenever a long green flag run makes a race too “boring.”
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Smith recently tore up the paving at his Bristol track to eliminate the progressive banking that led to two and three-wide racing. It appears the fans preferred the old style “crash and bang” racing that was the Bristol trademark for many years. Which brings up the question, is racing a sport or a show? Being a purist, I much prefer that it remain as much a sport as possible, which is why I am a fan of local stock car racing, Formula 1, Indycar, and other forms of racing. To me, NASCAR has already gone too far down the WWE road with cautions for everything from a simple “spin and continue” to questionable “debris”.
At Fernley 95A Speedway, flagman Kenny Newberry holds the caution flag for a simple spin until it’s apparent that the car won’t get back underway before the leaders get back around. That may penalize the driver who spun, but isn’t avoiding mistakes what sport is about?
And most road-racing bodies use a “local yellow” flag at the site of a spin or accident unless it’s apparent that safety demands a full-course caution. Of course, NASCAR does the same thing on road courses as they do at ovals, with a full-course caution for just about any incident. NASCAR has made some good decisions (the double-file restart and the wave-around) and some so-so ones (the green/white/checker) in recent years, but both NASCAR CEO Brian France and President Mike Helton have called Smith’s proposal “nonsense.”
If you’re not going out to either of the local racing venues this evening, the NASCAR Sprint Cup is at Daytona for the Coke Zero 400. Since I’ll be announcing at Fernley 95A Speedway tonight, I’ll have to watch it on the DVR later. Roush Ford driver (for now) Matt Kenseth is on the pole, his first ever pole start at Daytona, with defending Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart alongside. However, with the draft being the key to winning at Daytona, pole position is not necessarily a good predictor of race performance. As Brad Keselowski said in an interview after his qualifying run that track position at the start doesn’t mean anything by the time you’re halfway down the back straightaway.
I hope my DVR holds up, since the Formula 1 British Grand Prix on FOX and the Toronto IndyCar race on ABC are opposite each other Sunday morning. Fortunately, it is supposed to be really hot, so I won’t feel too guilty sitting in the air conditioning watching races instead of doing yard work.