Battle over local racing continues

Ferris grimaces in pain as Roman from Carson Tries to pin him in the final seconds of their match. Roman failed to pin Ferris, but did win to advance. Photo by Brian Corley

Ferris grimaces in pain as Roman from Carson Tries to pin him in the final seconds of their match. Roman failed to pin Ferris, but did win to advance. Photo by Brian Corley

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The battle over local racing continues, as a scheduled motocross event last weekend was halted by a "cease and desist" order Friday afternoon. The justification was that winter motocross events were not "grandfathered" by being run previously. However, I have it on good authority that such races were run as early as the 1970's. Research of old publications to prove this is being done, and competitors (and some right-minded track neighbors) have signed a petition to allow winter motocross events to go forward.

I recently mentioned that troubled K-Mart had cancelled their sponsorship of the two Haas-Carter Motorsports cars driven by Joe Nemechek and Todd Bodine.

Last week, both parties issued a "clarification" of the situation: Both said that K-Mart will remain with the team for the first two races of the year, the Daytona 500 and the Rockingham 400. However, Kmart has petitioned the bankruptcy court to be released from its $1.5 million deal with Daytona International Speedway to be the track's official mass retailer and corporate sponsor. Aren't you glad Enron didn't get involved in racing sponsorship?

More bad economic news for racing: Chicago Motor Speedway, which opened with much fanfare in 1999, has suspended its 2002 auto racing schedule. This means cancellation of the CART and Craftsman Truck races scheduled for the facility. Horse racing at Sportsman's Park, located on the same property, will not be affected. Maybe they should put in pari-mutuel windows for the auto races?

Today's non-points Budweiser Shootout kicks off the NASCAR Winston Cup season, and race fans everywhere are applauding the end of the winter hiatus. Sports bar operators and fantasy league aficionados can hardly wait for the first engine to be fired in anger. But behind the scenes, NASCAR is fulfilling some of the promises of improved safety in the wake of Dale Earnhardt's tragic accident just a year ago. The sanctioning body announced Thursday that it had appointed Jerry Kaproth, a retired former district commander of the Minnesota State Patrol, as NASCAR's Safety Analyst. Kaproth's primary task will be accident investigation and reconstruction. He will work out of NASCAR's Charlotte-based Research Center, investigating crashes, particularly those involving injury or fatality, and advising the sanctioning body on what needs to be done to improve safety. Unfortunately, NASCAR chose not to follow the lead of other major sanctioning bodies and appoint a traveling medical team. What they have done is to hire three nurses as medical liaisons for each of the three major series: Winston Cup, Busch Grand National, and Craftsman Trucks. They will be responsible for maintaining driver medical histories and interacting with local doctors and hospitals at race venues. Why NASCAR steadfastly refuses to implement a traveling medical team, when the value of such an organization has been proven time and again in CART, IRL, and NHRA, is beyond me. But at least it is taking baby steps in that direction.

I'm looking forward to the Indy 500 this year, as once again the best open-wheel drivers in the world are returning to the Brickyard. With Roger Penske's team now in the IRL fold, and other CART owners looking seriously at Indy, some of the luster that has been lost in recent years will be restored.

And last week Team Green announced that Michael Andretti has secured sponsorship to join CART teammates Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy for the 2002 Memorial Day classic. Although he has managed many race wins and championships, Andretti has yet to win the major crown in American open-wheel racing, a victory at Indianapolis.

Bad luck has dogged the Andretti family at the track. Michael's father Mario has only his 1969 victory there, but should

by all rights be a four or five time winner. Michael has the dubious honor of having led the most laps at Indy (398) without a victory. Last year, in his first Indy start since the CART/IRL split, he led twice for sixteen laps, overcame a punctured tire and a pit-road collision to finish third in a car fielded by Panther Racing. This year, he will have his regular CART team behind him in his only planned IRL start.

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal motorsports columnist


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