Local racers back in action tonight at Fernley
May 11, 2013
Lots to talk about this week — local racing, NASCAR appeals and rule changes, Talladega in the rear view mirror and Darlington in the windshield, Indy 500 preparations, and Formula 1 in Spain. Oh, and happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there. You know who you are.
Reno-Tahoe-Fernley Speedway is back in action tonight, with the 95A Series on the 3/8 mile dirt oval. Modifieds, Sport Mods, Pro Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Dwarf Cars, Pure Stocks, and Outlaw Karts are on the card. Next week the King of the West Sprint Car Series makes its debut at the track with a two-day show Friday and Saturday. Mod Minis and Dwarf Cars will also run on Friday, with Pro Stocks and Hobby Stocks racing on Saturday.
Congratulations to David Ragan and David Gilliland and the Front Row Motorsports team on a fantastic win at Talladega last weekend. It's always gratifying to see an underdog win, and it proves once again that restrictor plate racing levels the playing field. I also want to congratulate James Hinchcliffe on his last-turn, last-lap pass for the IndyCar win in Brazil. It was the best IndyCar street race I've seen in a very long time.
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The NASCAR appeals board heard the case against Joe Gibbs Racing for having a connecting rod that was found to be too light in a post-race inspection. The original penalty was far too harsh in my opinion, because the infraction was out of the team's control. Apparently the appeals board agreed, and reduced the points penalties on car owner Joe Gibbs and driver Matt Kenseth from 50 points to 12. Crew chief Jason Ratliff's $200,000 fine stands, but his suspension was reduced from six races to one, with probation for the next three events after the suspension. Because the Toyota Racing Division (TRD) built the engine and was really the responsible party, the appeals board increased Toyota's penalty from loss of five manufacturer's points to seven. Penske Racing also caught a break from NASCAR Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook, who acts as the Supreme Court for the sanctioning body. Although he let stand the point penalties and fines for unapproved rear suspension parts on the No. 2 and 22 cars, he reduced the seven crew suspensions from six races to two. Middlebrook has heard six cases since being appointed to the position in 2010, and has overturned or modified penalties in five of them. So Penske went with the odds and came away with a partial victory.
When the NASCAR Sprint Cup series hits Sonoma next month, fans will see a new qualifying procedure. NASCAR has announced that henceforth qualifying at road courses will be group sessions rather than single car qualifying. Some years back, I did PA announcing at Sonoma for qualifying, and trying to make a single car run on a 2.5 mile road course is a stretch. The way NASCAR has set it up, cars will be divided into a number of groups with several cars in each group, depending on the number of entries. Group assignments will be based on practice times, and each group will get a set time on track, determined by the Series Director. Each car's best lap time during the qualifying session will determine their starting position.
The run up to the Indy 500 starts today with rookie orientation and practice, with qualifying set for next weekend. There are 32 drivers in the lineup, with an additional three "unofficial" but probable entries. Potentially, there could be five past champions taking the green flag on May 26 along with four rookies including A.J. Allmendinger. Speaking of rookies, Kurt Busch tested at Indy last week in an Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12, setting a fast lap of 218 miles an hour. Busch is looking at the possibility of attempting the Memorial Day double in 2014, running both the Indy 500 and the Coca Cola 600 NASCAR race. John Andretti, Tony Stewart, and Robby Gordon have all tried it in the past, but without notable success.