American may join Formula One

There hasn't been an American driver In Formula One competition since Michael Andretti abandoned his McLaren ride in 1993.

Now there may be a Yank in the World Championship series as early as the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis. Ex-Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) and current American LeMans Series

(ALMS) driver Brian Herta will soon test with the Minardi team, with an eye to replacing Alex Yoong for the last three races of the 2002 season. The last American to race a Formula One car in a U.S. Grand Prix was Danny Sullivan in 1983.

It appears that there is a distinct possibility that Kool will follow

Marlboro's lead from last season and that Team Kool Green will be joining Penske Racing in the Indy Racing League (IRL) for 2003. The reason is the increasingly international flavor of the CART series, and the need for the cigarette companies to spend their advertising dollars in the United States where their biggest market is. However, if the team makes the move, it will make it without veteran drivers Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti. In

fact, Tracy may already have signed with Player's/Forsythe racing, pending the departure of the renamed Andretti Green team to the IRL. Tracy, who feels that the future of CART is with street races in major population centers, was his usual candid self about his feelings for the IRL and its equipment,

saying, ". . . I'm not going to drive one of those crap wagons." Franchitti is reportedly negotiating with the Newman/Haas team which faces losing its star, Cristiano da Matta, to Toyota's Formula One program. What was I saying just the other week about silly season starting early this year?

By the time you read this, my outing in the Top Gun celebrity race will be history. Due to column deadlines, I have to have this piece in before I suit up for the Saturday night race, so I have no idea of how I will do (did?).

This past/present/future tense stuff makes my head hurt. However, just participating is a thrill in itself, and being able to help contribute to a good cause like the Brian Sweeney Memorial Fund is reward enough. I highly recommend that you check out the Champion Driving Experience in either a Bandolero or Legends car, especially if you've ever wondered what driving a

race car is really like.

If you've ever wanted to meet your favorite local driver up close and personal, this coming Friday night will be your chance. Model Dairy and Champion Speedway have teamed up for a "Meet the Drivers" barbecue in the parking lot of the new Albertson's at U.S. 395 and College Parkway in Carson

City. All proceeds from the event will go to the Make a Wish Foundation of Northern Nevada. Although a number of drivers are already signed up, Champion General Manager Kris Martin told me that she would like even more cars and drivers at the event. It doesn't matter where they race, they are welcome.

Drag cars, Outlaw Karts, Dirt Modifieds -- any cars from any track are eligible. There is a $10 entry fee for the cars, but it includes two New York steak dinners with beverage. Entry to the event is free to the public with two dinner choices available: New York steak for $7, or barbecued hamburgers for $5.

The event is the kickoff for Saturday night's big open-wheel show at Champion Speedway, featuring both United States Auto Club (USAC) sprint cars and Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) midgets. Some of the drivers that will be on hand are local USAC sprint car driver Amy Barnes, moving off the mommy track

and back to the race track; Supermodified pilots Eric Silsby and "Dangerous" Dale Lamborn; USAC sprint car ace Tony Hunt; local sprint car drivers Bob and Mark Beck; local late model wheelmen Chet "The Jet" Danburg, Jim Bawden, and Rich "The Pizza Man" Lawlor; and many more. The event runs from 6 pm to 9 p.m., but drivers need to arrive with their cars by 5 p.m. in order to unload and set up. It should be a great time for fans to get some autographs and rub elbows with their heroes while helping out a great cause.

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist.


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