Being somewhat of a motorsports purist, I never got into some of the more outlandish forms of the sport, like Tractor Pulls or Monster Truck shows.
OK, I took the kids to a Monster Truck/Mud Bog Racing event at Lawlor Events Center in Reno about 15 years ago, and I occasionally channel-surf onto one on TV and watch for a while. But it's not my favorite form of motorsport.
However, when it appears in my backyard, I just can't resist going out to experience these outlandish, spectacular, rip-roaring machines, so I'll be at Champion Speedway this coming Thursday night for the only Monster Truck show scheduled for Northern Nevada in 2001.
Promoter Les Kynett has promised two full rounds of "Monster Truck wheel-standing, car smashing competition," and to sweeten the pot has added a jet car meltdown and the Wall of Steel car stunt.
Kids can get rides in a real Monster Truck, and the general public can participate in the "Tuff Truck" competition that will accompany the show. Think you have a rugged vehicle? Why not prove it by entering the Tuff Truck competition? There will be a prize of $200 for first place, $100 for second, and $50 for third. If you have a truck (or any other suitable vehicle), and a valid driver's license, you can enter. Registration forms will be available at the track ... oh, and lay off the Budweiser if you're planning to enter.
Another big show coming up at Champion is the second visit of the USAC Sprint Cars, on Sept. 15. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), I won't be able to attend. I'm going to be at Daytona International Raceway, announcing at the Grand Am road-racing event there. It will be my first time at Daytona, and seeing it from the announcer's booth will be a special treat.
Speaking of Daytona, the aftermath of Dale Earnhardt's death there continues. Some of the things that are happening are good, like the recent tests of the "Humpy Bumper" at the Charlotte 1.5 mile oval. The bumper was commissioned (but not designed) by Charlotte General Manager and Promoter Extraordinaire Humpy Wheeler. Like any good promoter, he takes full credit for the work of others.
Anyway, the Humpy Bumper is a device made out of composite fiber and mounted five or so inches behind the front fascia of a stock car. It is designed to provide "crush" space to absorb impact in a frontal contact with a wall, dissipating energy that might otherwise be transmitted to the driver's compartment. The bumper's designers believe that they can reduce
injury-causing G-forces by up to 50 percent in front-angle impacts.
Anyway, the most recent Humpy Bumper test was the latest in a series, and involved the actual crashing of a car into Charlotte's Turn One wall at high speed. Previous testing was done by dropping a car from a crane, and by using an impact sled at the University of Dayton Research Institute. Data from the various tests has been turned over to NASCAR for evaluation, although given the "Not invented here" attitude of NASCAR, who knows how much credence it will receive. On the positive side, NASCAR's Brian DeHart attended the most recent test, and there have been NASCAR observers at previous tests conducted in Las Vegas.
There has been no wind tunnel testing done on the bumper, so there are still some potential obstacles involved in relation to changes to a car's handling, particularly lift in the front end. There are also questions about how much abuse the bumper could take in normal racing contacts without losing its effectiveness and having to be replaced, at a cost of $6,000 per. Sounds like a number your local body shop would quote for a bumper replacement, huh?
In addition to evaluating the data on the Humpy Bumper, NASCAR will be busy figuring out the results of last week's testing at Talladega. Nineteen drivers participated, representing all manufacturers. Restrictor plates with 7/8, 29/32, and 15/16 diameters were tested, as well as the removal of the controversial roof blade air deflectors. Now NASCAR has to decide what to do with that data, not only to keep the racing competitive, but to avoid upsetting the auto manufacturers. I'm sure glad I don't have that job!
Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal motorsports columnist.