I had the opportunity to chat with local USAC sprint car racer Amy Barnes last week, and got caught up on her season and career.
Amy will be returning to her racing roots next weekend, driving an Outlaw Kart at Thunder Bowl Speedway as part of the special benefit race for Outlaw racer Ron Williams, who is battling cancer.
Amy is looking forward to reliving her childhood, much of which was spent at Outlaw Speedway in Carson City's Fuji Park.
"I won the 250cc Championship my last year in karts, and had some success in the 125cc and Box Stock classes, too," she said. I recall announcing her last few seasons at Fuji, when she
was known as "The Barnburner." She has not had the opportunity to try one of the potent 500cc karts such as the one she will race on Sept. 27, but her USAC sprint car experience of the past six years should serve here in good stead. The power-to-weight ratio of an Open Outlaw Kart (up to 500cc) is similar to that of a sprint car. Amy's biggest adjustment will be getting
back on dirt after several years of racing on asphalt.
Her sprint car career has had some good moments, with a main event win and several heat race and B main victories, but the past year has been tough.
"We're going to an Eagle chassis for next year, and if all goes well we'll have it ready for the Irwindale Turkey Shoot in November," said Barnes. "We've been running a Drinan chassis for the last three years, and we've just never gotten it to run consistently well. My dad has been terrific at preparing the car, but that chassis and my driving style just haven't meshed."
When I alluded to the "basic" nature of the sprint car chassis, I got an earful from Barnes, who rather forcefully informed me that the same technology that goes into Indy cars can be found these days in the sprinters. Sorry, Amy. I must have been thinking about those sprint cars I remember from before you were born!
Another local driver, who has piloted Ron Williams' kart at Thunder Bowl the past couple of weekends, will be racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway next weekend. Jerry Allec Jr. has had sporadic outings in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series over the past couple of seasons, and Las Vegas will be his only series start this year. Sponsorship is the big barrier that is keeping him from running more events.
Strange, but NASCAR, which has been dragging its feet on the SAFER "soft wall" and other safety enhancements citing the fact that further research is needed, has jumped on the roof hatch idea for Winston Cup cars, authorizing its use as an "optional" feature for the upcoming Talladega race. Of course, NASCAR being NASCAR the feature isn't called a "roof hatch" but rather an "alternate exit."
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for anything that enhances racing safety. I'm just wondering if there's a "not invented here" reluctance on some safety items while those dreamed up by NASCAR get the fast track. In any event, taller and larger drivers like Michael Waltrip and Jimmy Spencer will benefit if they ever
have to exit their racecars in a hurry. The design also allows rescue crews to access the roof hatch in an emergency, eliminating the need to saw the roof off a car in order to get to the driver. The hatch design will be available from "independent vendors," will cost $150 and will require 15 hours to install. Cheap by racing standards, and priceless if it saves one driver from death or serious injury.
Here's an update on a guy who's one of my personal heroes in racing, Alex Zanardi. Zanardi lost his legs and nearly lost his life two years ago, then came back earlier this year to complete his unfinished laps in a Champ car. Zanardi will return to competition on October 19 driving a BMW in the European Touring Car Championship race at Monza, and is toying with the idea of running "low key" events like the Daytona Rolex 24 hour. Go, Alex!
The TT motorcycle races slated for October 11 and 17 at Thunder Bowl Speedway have been cancelled due to a scheduling conflict.
Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist.