The line from Shakespeare, "This is the winter of our discontent," could well be applied to race fans everywhere.
We're all just waiting for Speedweeks, that festival of speed at Daytona also known as the "Redneck High Holy Days" to start. In the meantime, there have been some interesting off-season
developments that I'll share with you here.
First is the announcement that Kenny Schrader will be driving the No. 49 BAM Motorsports car this season. BAM (which stands for Beth Ann Morganthau) had entered the Winston Cup scene in 2002 with Shawna Robinson, hoping for a full rookie season. Unfortunately sponsorship didn't materialize, and Ron Hornaday
and Stacy Compton replaced Robinson for some of the remaining races.
Schrader, a driver's driver who will race anything with four wheels on it, has had less than sterling success in recent years. He was replaced in the No. 36 MB2 Pontiac for 2003 by Jerry Nadeau, and his name hadn't been linked to any of the major Winston Cup teams. At 48, Schrader is a veteran of 18 seasons in Winston Cup, and the BAM folks hope that his name recognition will attract sponsors. If it doesn't the team will probably not last beyond the first nine or 10 races.
NASCAR may be the beneficiary of yet another CART castoff, as Ray Evernham is looking to test Mad Max Papis at Daytona this week. Papis, a veteran of top-level sports car racing as well as a CART star, was scheduled to test one of the Evernham Dodges at Kentucky Motor Speedway in December, but Casey Mears blew an engine and spun into the wall, putting the car out of
commission before Papis could get more than a few installation laps. If the Evernham ride doesn't materialize, Papis is also looking at open-wheel options in IRL and CART.
Speaking of the top open-wheel series, it appears that all the defections from CART to IRL for the 2003 season aren't the whole story. It appears that the Indianapolis-based Mi-Jack Conquest IRL team is seriously considering a move to the CART series for the upcoming season. Team co-owner Eric Bachelart
drove CART Champ Cars in the early 1990s and was involved in CART's feeder series, Indy Lights and Toyota Atlantics before joining the IRL ranks for the past two seasons.
Moving to the local scene, Champion Motor Speedway recently announce the new "Racin' Bucks Bonus Plan" for the 2003 racing season. The plan will provide larger purses for racers who support the weekly racing program at CMS. The idea behind the plan is for the racers to talk up racing at CMS and get local
fans to attend more races. The racers themselves will help promote the races and will benefit from enhanced purses. If there are more than 1500 fans attend on any given night the purse will be increased by 25 percent of the normal purse. If 2000 or more fans show up, racers will get 55 percent of the purse bonus. And if there are 2500 or more fans in the seats, the extra money will be increased to 85 percent of the normal purse. So if your neighbor with that race car in his garage drops by to ask you to come watch him race, he's doing you both a favor. He'll get more money for racing, and you and your family will have a terrific time!
By the way, Jeb Onweiler pointed out that I listed an incorrect web address for the track in my last column. The correct web address for Champion Motor Speedway is www.championspeedway.com. The site will contain the racing
schedule for 2003 as well as the rules for all the divisions that will run at CMS this season.
While we're on the subject of the Internet, there is a site dedicated to racers who have, or will soon be, called to military duty. The tribute page will be located on the RaceFan website, with a working address of www.racefan.com/val/military.htm. If you are a driver or know a driver who is on active military duty, you can send information on him or her to: email@example.com. You can also fax the information to Valerie Perkins at 877-553-4435.
Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist.