The past couple of weeks you've read about some of the NASCAR "silly season" changes coming up for 2006.
Well, it's not the only series to experience this phenomenon. Over at the Indy Racing League, the big buzz is the defection of 2005 series champion and Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon from Andretti-Green Racing to Target Ganassi Racing. Wheldon has been looking at a number of options for 2006, including Formula 1, but has elected to stay in the IRL.
He'll have the same chassis and powerplant he has been used to (Dallara/Honda) at Ganassi, plus a raise in basic salary from an estimated $500,000 to around $3 million. Not a bad bump! The Ganassi team will be down to two cars from three for the upcoming season, and rumor has it that Tony George is worried enough about car count to pour some more money into his Vision Racing team, hiring Tomas Scheckter to partner with Ed Carpenter.
Have you heard of the National Sprintcar League? It's a new series for 410 cubic inch sprint cars that threatens to unseat the venerable World of Outlaws series as the premier sprint car organization in the country. Former multi-time WoO champion Steve Kinser is just one of the stars that have defected to the new organization.
The NSL is in the process of finalizing the 2006 racing schedule, negotiating with major track promoters all over the country. A series sponsor, TV schedule, and website are also being worked on. The League had tentatively teamed with the Richard Petty Driving Experience but that deal fell through November 22 when the Petty folks withdrew.
In addition to Kinser, other major teams have defected from the WoO organization including Tony Stewart Racing, Kasey Kahne Racing, Elite Racing, Roth Motorsports with driver Danny Lasoski, Rudeen Racing, Selma Shell Racing, P&P Motorsports, and several other high-profile teams. If you are a fan of big-motor winged sprint cars, this new series promises to provide all the excitement you can stand.
Speaking of open-wheel winged excitement, our local racers continue to do well in the Outlaw Kart winter series in Red Bluff, Calif. On Nov. 19, a baker's dozen of area racers descended upon Red Bluff to challenge the best California has to offer. A pair of youngsters, Cory Combs and Samantha Schultz, represented the area in the Beginner Box division.
Schultz qualified seventh and took second in her heat race before finishing fifth in the A main. Combs posted a fifth-quick qualifying time, finished sixth in his heat, and followed that up with a C main victory and ended the B main just one spot short of a transfer spot in fifth.
Box Stock was the most heavily subscribed division, with six of our young racers entered. Five qualified in the top 10 with Kellcy Bell second fast, Jennifer Purcell third, Mason Millard fifth, Tanner Thorson eighth, and Zachary Heinz 10th. Keith Combs qualified 18th. Three of the kids made the trophy dash, finishing second (Purcell), third (Bell), and sixth (Millard).
Thorson was top finisher in the A main, taking second. Bell was sixth, Millard seventh, Purcell ninth, and Heinz 16th. Thorson and Heinz won their respective heat races, with Bell and Purcell second in the heats. Millard took fourth in his heat, while Combs was sixth in the heat and eighth in the B main.
The Intermediate and Open Intermediate divisions had one local entry each. Cameron Millard qualified 16th, ran fifth in his heat, and finished 10th in the B main in the Intermediate class. In Open Intermediate, Daniel Thorson also qualified 16th and took a fifth in his heat, but finished a bit higher, eighth, in the B main.
Finally, three locals took to the track in the fast and powerful Open Outlaw division. Christian Steele had the best evening, qualifying 15th, taking seventh in his heat, second in the D main, and 14th in the C main. Chris Rytting qualified 40th, ran eighth in his heat, and didn't run in the mains. Sean Natenstedt, usually seen aboard an IMCA Modified or Pro Stock car at Reno-Fernley Raceway, struggled with a much smaller ride, qualifying 44th, running ninth in his heat, and 13th in the D main.