Downforce won't mean much today

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Earlier this week, it was looking like the Winston Cup race at Bristol might have to be cancelled in favor of a bass fishing tournament.

Much of the facility was underwater, but fortunately the rains stopped and the track was ready for racing, even if the same couldn't be said for the parking lots (mud bog racing, anyone?). While I usually find attending live races preferable to watching them on TV, I can skip the traffic jams trying to get off the

property after the races.

Fortunately for the Chevrolet contingent, aero downforce doesn't mean much at Bristol. Mechanical grip and driver talent are both at a premium for today's race, and Jeff Gordon proved he had both, setting a new track record in qualifying in cold weather conditions. He's trying to get his racing program back on the championship track, and a win at Bristol would certainly


Tony Stewart will start 13th, just a week after his horrendous crash at Darlington. I'm sure he'll be suffering from "racing rheumatism," that ache-all-over feeling you have after a hard crash. He expects to be able to get into and out of the car without assistance, and there is no relief driver standing by. Bristol is one of Stewart's favorite tracks, and he plans not

only to run, but also to be at the front. The Joe Gibbs team had both its cars in the top five at Darlington, with Stewart dominating the race until Buckshot Jones messed up everybody's day. I mentioned Buckshot's propensity to collide with other cars a couple of years ago, when he was starting out in the Busch series. It seemed in those days that his car had a big magnet that just attracted it to any other car in its immediate vicinity. Things don't seem to have changed much now that he's in a full-time Cup ride.

NASCAR continues to make changes to the rules, the latest being a modification to the inspection process. The Chevrolet Monte Carlo has finally been given a bit of a break, with a measurement change: the change is to the location of the reference line (located on the inspection room floor) used to

measure the overall length of the front of the car. Chevy's reference line has been moved from 99 inches to 100.25 inches, the same as the Fords and Dodges. The reference line for the Pontiacs is 100.50 inches. What does all this mean? Well, it ought to improve the Chevy's front downforce and help the car turn a little better. The change will go into effect for the April 7 race

at Texas Motor Speedway.

Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) has finally announced the long-awaited St. Petersburg (Florida) street race. It will take place February 21-23, 2003, replacing the Monterrey, Mexico season opener. It is not yet known if Monterrey will be rescheduled for later in the season. CART and St. Petersburg signed a seven-year contract for the street race, which will be

run on a temporary circuit incorporating downtown streets and a portion of the airport. Next year will be the first season of CART's new normally aspirated 3.5 liter engine formula. I keep hoping that CART and the IRL will come to some sort of truce, and put together a system like the National and American Leagues in baseball, or the NFC/AFC in Pro football, maybe with CART running road and street courses and IRL running ovals, with teams allowed to run as many of either as they wish.

It was reported recently in this space that the Planning Commission had voted to allow Champion Speedway to run a full range of events for the 2002 season, including Motocross. Predictably, the track opponents have appealed that decision to the Board of Supervisors, who will address the issue at their

April 4 public meeting. If you want to see racing at Champion this season and in the future, call your supervisor or Mayor Masayko and voice your support of the track. I'm sure that the strong show of support on the part of racers and fans was instrumental in influencing the Planning Commission's decision.

I hope to have more information on the Supervisors' meeting agenda next week.

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist.


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