Motorsports Column for February 3, 2002

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Some people just don't get it. I'm referring to a handful of neighbors (one in particular) of Champion Speedway. These people moved in next door to a track that has been in continuous operation since 1963, and now they want it shut down for their convenience. They knew the track was there when they moved in! It's all part of the deterioration of our society brought on by people's refusal to take responsibility for their own actions.

What really made my blood boil were statements made in Thursday's Nevada Appeal article by Amanda Hammon. The most vocal individual stated that he could not enjoy his property during the nine months of the track's operation. Excuse me, but last year's schedule, as well as this year's, calls for racing from April through September. According to my calendar, that's six months, not nine. He also complained of "The majority of a seven day week with objectionable noise." Again, referring to the trusty calendar, Saturday night and the occasional Friday do not appear to constitute the majority of a seven-day week. Let's not confuse the issue with outright lies, OK? Bottom line: if you didn't want the noise, why didn't you buy property somewhere else.

How about over by Governor's Field, for instance, where you could complain about the lights being on for night games?

While Champion deals with these issues, the warmer climes of Florida are hosting the beginning of Speedweeks at Daytona. If you're reading this over your Sunday morning coffee, flip on your TV and tune to Channel 77 on Charter Cable for the finish of the 24 hours of Daytona. You might even see one of your favorite stars on the podium, if the machinery has stood up to the grueling pace. NASCAR's Tony Stewart is aboard one of the faster Sports Racing Prototype entries, as is Robbie Gordon, teaming with IRL's Scott Sharp. CART's Max Papis is also in one of the fast SRP cars, as well as Wally Dallenbach Jr., ex-Winston Cup racer and TV commentator. Kevin Harvick will be driving an American GT class Corvette, and Kyle Petty is slated to drive a Porsche GT entry, as he did last year.

Of course, next weekend kicks off the Winston Cup season, with all the attendant hype and hullabaloo. I've been talking to local folks about the upcoming season for the past couple of weeks, and the consensus is pretty much that Jeff Gordon is going to be tough to beat again this year. The Ford teams look to be pretty much out of it at the restrictor plate races unless, a) they've been sandbagging, or b) they haven't, and NASCAR gives them some more aero help. I look for Dodge to build incrementally on last year's success, and for Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte to carry the standard for the dwindling Pontiac contingent. My pick for the Daytona 500 win? Sterling Marlin.

One of the more interesting rule changes NASCAR has made this year is the "one engine" rule. Teams will no longer be using "hand grenade" engines, built with minimum friction and maximum horsepower for qualifying. They will have to use their qualifying engine in the race, except for Daytona, where the Twin 125 qualifying format makes it impractical. In recent years teams have been making parts (engines, shocks, springs, etc.) specifically for qualifying, changing everything to a totally different setup for the race.

The "one engine" rule is a step towards reducing the costs of running a competitive race car, something that a lot of teams probably welcome as the slow economy makes sponsor dollars harder to come by.

Speaking of which, giant retailer Kmart, which recently declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy, has yanked its sponsorship of the Travis Carter Winston Cup teams of Joe Nemechek and Todd Bodine. Kmart joins a growing list of NASCAR sponsor defections over the last year, including NationsRent, Ralph's, Mobil 1, Oakwood Homes, Kodiak, Amoco, and McDonald's. In the good news column, Alltel, Sirius Satellite Radio, Target, and C.F. Sauer have joined the ranks of NASCAR sponsors. It's the mid-field teams who will be hurt worst, as the front-runners have largely maintained the necessary sponsorship to stay up front.

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal motorsports columnist.


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