I hope all you racers and race fans had a wonderful Christmas and got whatever you asked Santa for ... whether it be a new helmet or tickets to Daytona. Unfortunately, because of knee replacement surgery and subsequent recovery, I missed writing my annual Christmas gift guide for the racing-afflicted, as well as my usual cautionary column on safe driving in the snow. But I’m sure you did just fine on both counts without my help.
My new knee will serve me in good stead for climbing the stairs to the announcer’s booth at Reno-Tahoe-Fernley Speedway come spring. The track has a full season of racing planned, with two points races per month, April through September and several test and tune sessions on Sundays following a race. The season kicks off on March 29 with the inaugural Leroy Kay and David Richardson Memorial race, a tribute to the two Dwarf car drivers who lost their lives at the Speedway this past season. The final points race will take place on Oct. 4, with the annual two-day shootout bringing the season to a close one week later. Oval track manager Matt Ramthun also told me that there will be additional events at the facility, both automotive-related (such as demolition derbies) and other forms of entertainment. As soon as those are firmed up, I will let you know. For more detailed information about the upcoming season, visit the track’s website at www.fernley95aspeedway.com.
NASCAR fans won’t have to wait as long this year for some on-track action. The sanctioning body’s Pre-Season Thunder event at Daytona will be televised on Fox Sports 1 for the first time from Jan. 9 -11, with 12 hours of coverage. The Fox commentary gang will be on hand to report on the action from 4-9 p.m. on Jan. 9-10 while the Sprint Cup cars are tuning up for the 2014 season. And the Nationwide series tests will be televised on Jan. 11 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Jan. 11. Fox also will broadcast the Daytona 24-hour race two weeks later. It will be the first race for the United Sports Car Racing series, the amalgamation of the former American Lemans and Rolex Grand-Am series which are merging for 2014 and beyond. In addition to the series’ regular drivers, the Daytona 24 always showcases big name drivers from other series, most notably NASCAR, IndyCar, and Formula 1.
FOX Sports 1 also will air the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony live on Jan. 29. This year’s inductees are two drivers from NASCAR’s early days (Tim Flock and Fireball Roberts). Also on the list are modern-era driver Dale Jarrett, crew chief Maurice Petty, and Busch (now Nationwide) series legend Jack Ingram.
One thing we won’t see at the Daytona test will be rule changes. The rules for NASCAR’s two restrictor plate tracks will remain unchanged for 2014. However, not so the aero package for the half-mile tracks. The sanctioning body wants more passing and a reduction in the “clean air” advantage at the half mile venues. So after analyzing the results of a 30-car test at Charlotte recently, the 2014 rules will mandate a higher rear spoiler, a larger radiator pan under the front of the car, a square leading edge on the splitter, side skirt and fascia adjustments, and static ride-height settings. To increase visibility, the top two inches of the rear spoiler will now be made of transparent Lexan material.
Of course, some teams will figure out the changes faster than others, as usually happens. My money is on the Hendrick and Gibbs teams.