NASCAR season could be interesting

Is anybody else out there old enough to remember the great gas crisis of 1973? Then we had long lines, gas stations displaying red or green flags to denote whether or not they had gas, and a variety of groups trying to shut down racing because of its supposed drain on our precious fuel supplies (never mind the fact that they targeted the Indy 500, where racers run on methanol, non-petroleum based fuel).

This time there are no shortages, but the escalating price of fuel could certainly have an effect on the racing world. The fuel the cars burn on the track is only a small portion of the added cost. Think of the fuel used to get teams, press, officials, and fans to and from the tracks. Yes, I'm afraid that once the baseball steroid political opportunity runs its course, our sport may come in for some scrutiny from the politicos looking for their next public spectacle. Better to attack an innocent but highly visible victim than to actually try to fix the problem.

Speaking of methanol-burning race cars, the Indy Racing League's road racing debut at St. Petersburg was a success by any measurement; big crowds, exciting racing, and not a hint of the mechanical mayhem that was predicted by some. As Dave Despain somewhat snidely commented on Wind Tunnel, all the IRL needed to do all along to draw a crowd was to stage a road race.

And the 70,000 on hand at St. Pete certainly eclipsed the 8,000 who turned out to watch the Phoenix race a couple of weeks earlier. But remember why Tony George started the IRL 10 years ago? He wanted an all-oval series that would promote American circle track racers, end the evil practice of engine leasing, keep costs down, etc. At St. Pete the last tenet of the George manifesto was laid to rest, making the IRL look exactly like CART did before Tony turned the open-wheel racing world upside down. Tony, remember the famous saying of the cartoon character Pogo? "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

There seems to be a trend developing in NASCAR of the same driver winning both the Busch race on Saturday and the Cup contest on Sunday. At Bristol Kevin Harvick duplicated Carl Edwards' Atlanta feat, although he didn't win the Cup race in quite as exciting a fashion. And as for the predictions of a lot of pundits (myself included) that the season would be a Roush/Hendrick duel, it appears that the Childress organization disagrees. So is it now a three-horse race, or are the Gibbs teams or maybe the Yates boys going to wake up and make it a free-for-all? This promises to be a far more interesting NASCAR season than it was expected to be.

The latest driver to fall afoul of the NASCAR Puritan philosophy was Shane Hmiel, who let his temper get the better of him after an altercation with Dale Jarrett at Monday's delayed Busch race. After Jarrett remonstrated with Hmiel for a questionable on-track move, Shane responded with the international racing salute, sometimes interpreted to mean, "You're number one!"

The unfortunate finger flip was caught on his in-car camera, thus drawing the attention and ire of NASCAR, and resulting in a $10,000 fine and loss of 25 points. One wonders why FOX, which is supposed to be using a 7-second delay to prevent errant profanity or wardrobe malfunctions, chose to air that particular moment rather than stopping it before it hit the airwaves. Would that have made a difference? It prompts the philosophical question, "If a finger is flipped in the forest and nobody sees it, will it draw a fine?"

Locally, Thunder Bowl Speedway in Mound House kicked off its racing season last evening (weather permitting) with the first points race in the Super Outlaw Karts of Nevada spring series. The karts will run on Saturday nights April 30, May 7, May 21, June 11, and June 25. A summer series schedule is still in the works. The karts will alternate with TT motorcycle and quad races, which will run on April 16, May 14, June 4, and July 16. Additional events may be added to the TT series as well.


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