Sprint cars return to Champion

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Champion Speedway will open the 2002 race season on April 21 but when the 27th rolls around the evening will feature the return of a non-winged sprint car series.

The series has about 15 drivers from Carson City, Reno/Sparks and Northern California committed to driving here. Local drivers and teammates, Alan, Mark and Bob Beck hope that as the season progresses, more teams from outlying areas will join them.

"We're looking forward to racing at home," Mark said of the Beck family racing team. The Becks operate Beck's Automotive Machine Shop on Highway 50 East in Carson City.

"And we're very glad management at Champion Speedway is open to bringing back the (open-wheel) series this year and in future years. It's nice they're bringing it back on a regular basis."

The non-winged sprint cars in this series will follow the same motor specifications as those of United States Auto Club's Western Sprint Car series. Motors are 360 cubic-inches, wheel base is a minimum of 84 inches, maximum 90, run on methanol fuel, have safety approved chassis, but there is no set tire rule for this series. The cars average 700-horsepower and weigh about 1,400 pounds.

Bob, 66, is the veteran of the racing family, having more than 38 years experience in open-wheel racing.

"I started in modifieds in 1964, went to supermodifieds and had some sprint car experience in the '70s," said Bob. "Mostly on pavement with some dirt track racing."

Bob said he thinks Beck Racing has a good chance of winning the series. Better than good, actually.

"We're going to have close, competitive racing," said Alan.

"Provided we can keep all four wheels on the track, our chances are excellent. The competition will be stiff."

Alan, 32, has one year of racing experience in a supermodified. He finished 13th out of 53 cars overall in the division. His first year in a sprint car, he knows he will need to make driving adjustments.

"These cars are a lot looser (than a supermodified)," said Alan.

"They don't hug the track as well. I will have to change my driving style."

"These cars are a lot lighter, shorter and you have to be easy with the throttle and brakes," added Mark, who is 31.

"You have to calm down a little bit when you drive these."

Joining the series from Placerville, Calif. is longtime driver Mike McCreary. McCreary has been racing sprint cars exclusively for 35 years. He's won about one-third of the feature races in Carson City, about 20 total he said.

"Not bad for 59 years old," added McCreary with a laugh.

"There will be five cars from my shop, Oval Chassis Research in Placerville, racing in the series. That's all we do here is build sprint cars and sprint car motors."

McCreary said he might miss one or two races in Carson City, but expects to be up front in the points at the end of the season.

Other drivers joining McCreary include Mark Wells, Scott Clough (a fire captain in Sacramento), Marvin Mitchell from San Jose, Joe Kuderca from Paterson, Calif., and McCreary's son David, who will race the Oval Chassis house car.

"We're looking forward to a good series," said McCreary. "I love Carson City. It's a fun place to go, a fun place to stay and fun place to race.

"I love racing for the fans there. We're going to have some serious fun."

Bob Beck said he has one car complete, the second near completion and is beginning on the third. All three Beck men will be racing for points.

Newcomer Alan said he is excited about the racing opportunity.

"Racing's been my dream since I was really little," said Alan.

"These cars may not have the horsepower as other sprint cars. They were built with stuff sitting around the shop. But we're almost ready."

Alan added that during the one year he spent driving on the supermodified circuit, he earned the nickname "Shark."

"There was a tiger shark sticker on the nose of the car -- representing the Fighting Tigers from World War II -- and the other drivers said I wasn't afraid to stick my nose out. So, they started calling me Shark."

According to Bob, Beck Racing is basically self-funded and always is looking to pick up other sponsorship.

"The number one thing -- it's going to be fun," said Mark. "We're at home and the fans get some good, open-wheeled racing. Hopefully we can build a fan base and get more cars at the same time. I think everyone is headed in the right direction."

For racing or track information, visit www.championspeedway.com.


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