Motorsports Column for June 15, 2003

Attention, motorcycle racers and fans. This coming Friday night Thunderbowl Speedway in Mound House will host the first of a series of three motorcycle TT races under the lights.

Competition is open to MX Bikes, Vintage, and Quads. Just $5 gets you in the gate, which opens at 5 p.m. with practice starting at 7. The first race entry is $30 if you want to try your hand at TT racing on dirt, and additional entries are only $15 if you have more than one bike. Entry fees for the 50cc classes are only $20 for the first entry and $10 for additional entries. Spectators will want to bring folding chairs and blankets and be prepared for a picnic/party atmosphere.

The second and third races of the series will take place on July 11 and July 25. Call Jack Morgan at 378-2342 or 883-9662 for more information.

I've got a busy weekend ahead myself. I'll be announcing the bike races at Thunderbowl on Friday night, then out to Reno-Fernley Raceway to cover the races Saturday night and back to Reno-Fernley Sunday for driver orientation and practice for the second annual Brian Sweeney Memorial Media/Celebrity Race. This year we'll be using dirt Hobby Stock cars and Blake Ramthun volunteered his very fast Camaro for me to use. I'll be racing against Channel 8's Brent Boynton, Joe Hart from Channel 4, Scott Harjo from KBUL radio, a couple of Top Gun pilots from Fallon Naval Air Station and other local media types. It promises to be lots of fun and I'll tell you all about driving a dirt stocker next week.

Nick Halen, a 16-year-old Carson City racer, won the ICC shifter class in Colorado Springs last weekend at the Champ Car Stars of Tomorrow kart race. The series is the first rung on the ladder to racing Champ cars and is supported by a number of famous racing stars and team owners, most notably Bobby Rahal. Nick cut his racing teeth in Outlaw Karts at Fuji Speedway, then switched to road racing at Desert Park Raceway in Reno a few years ago. His Colorado Springs victory is even sweeter and more unusual because he's racing as a privateer against factory-supported teams.

His father, Steve, hopes that this win will stimulate some sponsorship and factory support, which will enable Nick to become a consistent front-runner. I'm planning to do an in-depth article on Nick and the Stars of Tomorrow series in the near future.

"Silly Season," which traditionally has erupted in the last few weeks of the racing schedule, has been starting earlier every year. Driver terminations, crew chief replacements, and now factory support withdrawal and lawsuits (Dodge vs. Bill Davis Racing) have become the order of the day.

The latest victim in NASCAR Winston Cup is John Andretti, who is out after a five-year run with Petty Enterprises. He will be replaced by another Champ Car refugee, Christian Fittipaldi, who has run a few Busch and ARCA events for the Petty team. Interestingly, Andretti's record in a Petty Dodge is better than that of the other team driver, Kyle Petty. But I guess that when somebody has to go, it isn't going to be the boss! Meanwhile over in the Champ Car camp, Brian Herta has replaced Patrick LeMarie in the PK Racing Lola. He's racing today at Laguna Seca where he won twice for Team Rahal. With any luck, the ride is his for the rest of the season.

For those of you who missed the made-for-TV "Tradin' Paint" event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this week, watch your TV listings and pray for a rerun. Jeff Gordon swapped his Winston Cup Chevy ride for the Williams F1 car of Juan Montoya for the day.

I'm sure you'll see some snippets of the footage during the pre-show for today's Winston Cup race at Michigan. I've always had a lot of respect for Gordon's talent, but his alacrity in getting up to speed in the Williams was still mind-boggling. Given the right car, I think Jeff could give Michael Schumacher a run for his money. Oh, yeah, Montoya wasn't half bad in the Cup car, either.

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal motorsports columnist.


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