Local racing kicks off today with the first points race at Rattlesnake Raceway in Fallon and a play day at Reno-Tahoe-Fernley Speedway. Rattlesnake’s show starts at 4:30 p.m. for the Outlaw Karts, and the stock cars take to the track at 6 p.m. R-T-F’s play day will run from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., with the first points race on April 13. I plan to attend the RTF play day, so I’ll give you a preview of the new track configuration and spectator amenities in next week’s column.
Also back on track this weekend is Carson City’s Mackena Bell, who will make her second start of the season in the K&N Pro Series East at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. This is a make-up date for the race that was rained out two weeks ago. Bell has late model experience at this track, which should help her. The race will be shown on SPEED at a later date. When I get an air date for the race I will pass it along so Mackena’s fans can watch her in action.
NASCAR is back in action this weekend at Martinsville, and Mark Martin will be taking over the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, subbing for the injured Denny Hamlin. Mark’s comment on Twitter Tuesday was “Got my little seat in the 11 this morning. Ready for Martinsville.”
Brian Vickers will drive the 11 car at Texas next week, as Hamlin is expected to be out for five races. Last week, I wrote that Hamlin was out of the Chase due to the layoff, but I forgot about the two wild card spots. Denny still could make the Chase if he can stay in the top 20 in points and puts a couple in the win column this season. Judging from his performance after knee surgery a couple of years ago, it’s too early to count him out.
Hamlin was injured in a wreck on the last lap as he and Joey Logano raced side by side for the win. Logano has been criticized for wrecking Hamlin and making some rather insensitive remarks after the race. In an interview Tuesday with Adam Smith, Logano defended himself, saying that the wreck was in no way intentional, that both drivers were going for the win. As for the post-race remarks, Logano said he was unaware that Hamlin had been injured.
“I feel like my comments after the race that I made were taken way out of context . . . my mind wasn’t straight and I didn’t know Denny was hurt. There was no way for me to know,” he said.
It remains to be seen whether Hamlin’s teammates will take it upon themselves to extract punishment on Logano, as the Childress drivers did with Kyle Busch a couple of years ago. If not, perhaps Tony Stewart will get even for his grievance with Logano at California. Short tracks are famous for payback moves, so Martinsville should be interesting.
The IndyCar series is also racing this weekend on the natural road course at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. Saint Petersburg winner James Hinchcliffe has been doing the talk show circuit, and will be back in the car trying for a repeat win for Andretti Autosport. But perhaps a more intriguing story is the return on A.J. Allmendinger to open wheel racing, driving a third Penske car. Penske has won all three rounds in IndyCar competition at Barber, with Helio Castroneves taking the 2010 win and Will Power going to victory in 2011 and 2012. Allmendinger recently did a test at Texas Motor Speedway in preparation for his Indy rookie test next week.
The NHRA Mello Yello drag racing series races this week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The teams arrived Thursday for pre-race activities, qualifying runs are today, and final eliminations are scheduled for tomorrow.
Formula One has another week off, returning to competition for the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai next weekend. With any luck, Red Bull teammates Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber will be on speaking terms by then.