Following in the footsteps (or tire tracks) of drivers like Mike Skinner and Steve Portenga, another local hot shoe has a chance at the big time.
I received a call last week informing me that former Champion Speedway track champion Jerry Allec Jr. will be testing a NASCAR Craftsman Truck at Daytona next weekend. Allec has been diligently marketing himself, and his efforts finally paid off. I spoke with him on Wednesday, and he filled me in on some
of the details. He'll be testing with the two-car McDonald team, the No. 93 and No. 72 trucks out of Tennessee. Allec saw an article mentioning that the team had been through seven drivers in the past two seasons, and couldn't seem to finish in the top 20. Allec contacted them via email, and was rewarded with
an offer to test.
NASCAR requires a lot of paperwork before it will allow a driver to take part in its testing program. Allec had to submit a racing resume and a portfolio, and fill out a mountain of paperwork for NASCAR. Several of Yours Truly's articles are included in the portfolio, he informs me. Key to his approval was the fact that he has previously run with a NASCAR series (Southwest Tour) and has driven at a 1.5 mile or longer track (Las Vegas).
Paperwork completed, he has his plane tickets and is ready to go. The tests will run January 18, 19, and 20. He is taking along Clark Boucher, who has done setup on most, if not all, of Allec's race cars. If Allec is selected to drive for the team, his first outing will be at Martinsville on April 13.
Speaking of Daytona, the first round of Winston Cup testing is complete, with cars finishing in odd-numbered positions in last season's owner points allowed to take part. Chevrolets were fast early on, with rookie Jimmie Johnson the big surprise in the speed department. However, Fords showed a lot of strength in the draft and out-sped the Chevys in the final day of the
test. Ward Burton's Dodge came out on top in the speed department, with a fast lap at 184.961 miles an hour. Based on the testing results, pundits give Chevy and Dodge the edge for Daytona qualifying, but note that under race conditions (read: drafting), the Fords will be quite competitive. Of course,
drivers and car owners complained bitterly about the unfairness of NASCAR's aerodynamic rules on their particular make, no matter whether it was Ford, Chevy, Pontiac or Dodge. It's the typical pre-season maneuvering to try and get as many concessions for your car make as possible from NASCAR.
The good news is that the new NASCAR package of restrictor plate/aero changes seems to have eliminated the tight packs that were both crowd-pleasing and driver-terrifying last season. It appears that with the latest changes, passing will be more difficult and track position will be key to winning the
500. This really puts the emphasis on the crews and fast, perfect pit stopsa not to mention a little luck with the yellow flags.
The even-numbered teams will begin their testing tomorrow, so by mid-week there should be more data available on relative performance between car makes and whether NASCAR truly has a handle on the tight, dangerous, pack racing at Daytona and Talladega.
In the world of American open wheel racing, new CART CEO Chris Pook has his work cut out for him trying to resuscitate the series. He's making some bold moves, but it may be too late. It's too bad that mismanagement has brought down one of the most exciting racing series on the planet. Not that the rival Indy Racing League has a walk in the park ahead of it. The IRL is once again in search of a title sponsor, as the long-rumored split with Northern Light Technologies was made official last Monday, two years into a five-year contract. The IRL's marketing department is facing some serious challenges, sponsorship-wise, with no sponsorship for the first four races of 2002.
Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist.