Thirteen points from a PR disaster. That's how close NASCAR came at Miami-Homestead last Sunday.
If Tony Stewart had beaten Mark Martin for the Winston Cup Championship by 25 points or less, imagine the uproar! Stewart
had a bad day, but not that bad. I'm sure Mike Helton and the France family heaved a big sigh of relief when Stewart made Martin's 25-point Richmond penalty a non-issue.
It will be interesting to see how Stewart handles his reign as champion.
Never happy with the PR aspects of racing (as evidenced by his repeated attacks on photographers), Stewart will undoubtedly chafe at the obligations placed on him in that area as Winston Cup champion. There's also the fact that in recent years champions have tended to have less than stellar years
immediately after winning the title. This likelihood is compounded by the fact that Joe Gibbs Racing (Stewart's car owner) is switching makes for 2003, dumping their venerable Pontiacs for shiny new Chevrolets.
Anyway, congratulations to all the 2002 champions: Tony Stewart (Winston Cup), Greg Biffle (Busch Grand National), Mike Bliss (Craftsman Trucks), Michael Schumacher (Formula 1), Christiano da Matta (CART), Sam Hornish (IRL), Larry Dixon (NHRA Top Fuel), Jeg Coughlin (NHRA Pro Stock) and John Force (NHRA Funny Car -- for the 12th time). I'm not even going to get into ALMS, Trans-Am, IHRA, Formula 3000, SCORE, NORRA, WRC, etc., etc. If I were
to name every champion in every professional racing series in the world, I'd have to make this a multi-part column that lasted until Christmas!
Our local champions received their trophies last weekend as both Champion Motor Speedway and the Outlaw Karts held their awards banquets. I was fortunate enough to be part of both ceremonies, acting as emcee for the Karts and presenting trophies to two of the divisions at Champion. I won't repeat
all the names, but if you're really curious buy a back issue of last Monday's Nevada Appeal.
By the time you read this racing season will be just about over for me. Today I'm at Infineon Raceway (the track formerly known as Sears Point) announcing the season finale for the American City Racing League. The event is sanctioned by the National Auto Sports Association, one of the fastest-growing sanctioning bodies in the country. There are a number of
other races going on there today including one for "stock cars." Perusing the entry list, I see a few familiar names from the Champion Motor Speedway Late Model division. Jim Bawden, Brian Colodny, and Tom Waters will all be competing at Sears (oops, Infineon) today. I know it's the first road course
outing for Bawden and Colodny, but I think Waters may have run a Southwest Tour race there in years past. I'll check it out while I'm there. Anyway, I'll let you know next week how your local circle-track heroes did on the big 2-mile-plus road course.
In an attempt to resuscitate the moribund CART organization, EMT (Emergency Motorsports Technician) Christopher Robin Pook has apparently succeeded in getting the series off of life support. Infusing some semblance of life into the series are Doctor FrankenFord and his assistant Igor Bridgestone. The
two-year partnership, announced Thursday, will be known as "Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford."
Cosworth-badged 2.65-liter turbocharged "spec" engines will power the cars, which will run on Bridgestone rubber.
The marketing and promotional efforts of Ford will, it is hoped, have the same effect that Winston's marketing machine brought to NASCAR. The deal coincides with Ford's 100th anniversary, and harkens back to 1901 when founder Henry Ford won his first and only automobile race. Ford's racing heritage is legendary, from drag racing through Formula 1 (the 3-liter Ford Cosworth is still the powerplant with the most F1 wins) and into Champ cars from 1962 on. In addition to Ford's CART manufacturers' championships in 1995 and 2000, Ford drivers won CART championships in 1993 (Nigel Mansell) and 1995 (Jacques Villeneuve). Ford has wins at the Indy 500, Daytona 500,
LeMans, and just about every major racing circuit or series in the world. And now they have exclusivity with CART, a series with nowhere to go but up.
Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist.