Motorsports Column

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Yet another racing death marred motorsports activities last weekend when Tony Roper succumbed to injuries suffered during the Craftsman Truck race at Texas Speedway. Each of NASCAR's major divisions has suffered a fatality this year: Adam Petty in the Busch Grand National, Kenny Irwin Jr. in the Winston Cup and now Roper in the Truck division.

I'm sure the situation is going to have certain folks calling for a ban on racing activities. However, Brock Yates makes an interesting comparison in his latest column on Although you won't read about it in the sporting press, Yates points out that since August, 11 high school football players have been killed and another 29 have suffered critical injuries resulting in paralysis or major disabilities.

And it's not even an unusual year, but just about average. Given these statistics, one could make a case for the banning of high school football as well. Unfortunately for racing, our sport is the subject of all the hue and cry about safety issues while the stick and ball press ignores the death and maiming that take place elsewhere.

I've talked before about how specialized racing has become, recently pointing out Joe Gibbs' departure from drag racing to concentrate on his NASCAR efforts. Reversing this trend is the Earnhardt family, Dale Senior and Junior, who have announced their plans to drive in 2001 Rolex 24 hour race at Daytona. Of course, the fact that the Corvette C5-R is a legitimate contender for a class win and maybe the overall victory, might have something to do with the decision.

Dale Sr. has been looking at doing the endurance classic for a few years, and there were rumors that he would drive last year until a physical problem canceled his plans. The pair will team with long-time Corvette racer Andy Pilgrim, who finished third in class in this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans and took the second Corvette victory of the year over the factory Dodge Viper team at the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta last month.

With any luck, I'll be in the announcers booth at the Daytona race next year, which ought to provide some good stories to share with my Appeal readers.

Look for more participation from CART teams and drivers in the Indy 500 next May. As you read this, Team Penske is at the Speedway for its second test using an Indy Racing Northern Light Series chassis as part of a multi-team test for Firestone. Penske driver Gil de Ferran is driving a Dallara/Oldsmobile during the two-day test that starts today. De Ferran's test chassis is said to be a factory car loaned to the team by Dallara, since Penske denies buying it and it doesn't belong to another team. De Ferran's teammate, Helio Castroneves, ran 300 miles at the 2.5 mile oval in July,

driving a GForce chassis borrowed from Treadway racing.

Will we see the winningest team in Indy 500 history (10 wins from 1971 - 1994) back at the

Brickyard in May? Don't bet against it.

Yet another young American driver will get the chance to race in the CART season finale at Fontana next weekend. Casey Mears, son of former Champ car driver Roger Mears and nephew of CART legend Rick Mears, will run his first CART FedEx Championship event driving for Team Rahal at California Speedway.

It was just a year ago that Greg Moore lost his life at the Southern California facility. Although changes have been made to the track as a result, some drivers, Dario Franchitti in particular, have been critical of the improvements, saying they don't go far enough. Hopefully, this year's race will be a safe one.

Local racer Dangerous Dale Lamborn won another super modified feature, this one his second in a row at El Cajon Speedway last weekend. Check last Monday's Appeal for the full story, or if you're "on the web", check out

I also spoke with Thunderbowl owner Charlie Brandenburg last week. Thunderbowl has been dark this season as Charlie is trying to get lights up at the track while recovering from knee surgery. He assures me he will be up and running sometime in 2001.

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal motorsports columnist. Write to him at


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