Remember some of the fabled race tracks of the past that have fallen to the wrecker's ball and the developer's grader?
Tracks like Ascot, Riverside, and San Jose Speedway? Well, a piece of northern Nevada racing will pass into history this year. Yes, Champion Speedway (aka Silver State Raceway, ake Tahoe-Carson Speedway, or T-CAR to a generation of fans and drivers) will close after the September 24 season finale, with demolition scheduled for mid-October.
I am planning a feature story on the track's history and upcoming demolition, but right now I urge race fans to make one last visit to a track that has brought excitement and joy to racers and fans for more than 40 years. Go tell the old girl goodbye before it's too late.
What is it about Las Vegas that breeds young drivers on the fast track to the top . . . the Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle, Brendan Gaughan, and now 20 year old Matt Jaskol? Jaskol was just selected as one of the 25 contestants in the Roush Racing "Gong Show," the annual driver talent search conducted by the twice-champion Roush Racing organization.
Twenty-five drivers from all over the U.S, Canada, and one from New Zealand, ranging in age from 19 to 28, will vie for a fully-sponsored ride in the 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. The 25 finalists were selected from 1,700 applicants, and the final selection process will be featured in a Discovery Channel series.
Driver backgrounds include competition in ARCA, USAC Sprints and Midgets, Legends, Modifieds, Late Models, and Craftsman Truck and Busch Series. Jaskol is the ASA Speed Truck Series points leader, and also competes in the Snap-on Stars of Karting series.
Another Nevada driver who may be a future Gong Show contender is a youngster from a racing family. Carson Iverson recently competed in the USAC Quarter Midgets Western Grand National event in Portland, Oregon, bringing home a fourth place finish in the Lt. 160 class.
All the more remarkable was the fact that Iverson qualified seventh in a brand new chassis that he had never driven before. The 10 year old driver already has a championship under his belt, winning the Sr. Honda class in the 2004 Western Grand Nationals. He also has several track championships and track records, and is currently in second place in two different series.
Iverson is the son of well-known Late Model driver Rob Iverson of Carson City, and has backing from a number of local sponsors including Michael Hohl Motor Company, Competition Carburetion, Kustom Kreations, Sierra Racing Products, and Ceramic Tile Center.
The fortunes of racing teams are fickle. Chip Ganassi, former journeyman driver in Indy Cars, has become far more successful as a team owner than he ever was behind the wheel. With Champ Car and Indy Car titles and success in NASCAR and Rolex Series sports car racing, Ganassi has been riding high for years.
But 2005 is showing some major cracks in the team's façade. With drivers Sterling Marlin and Casey Mears departing the Ganassi Nextel Cup team next season, and Jamie McMurray slated to move to the Roush No. 6 Ford in 2007, that division of Ganassi, Inc. is a big question mark.
The Indy Car team has not fared well this season, with crashes and other failures keeping its three drivers out of serious contention. Oops, make that two drivers. Darren Manning, highest points-scoring driver in the IRL series, was summarily dismissed last week in what Manning expected would be a routine meeting with team director Mike Hull.
Ganassi, in his best Donald Trump impression, told Hull to relay the message "You're Fired!" to the driver of the No. 10 car. It is not clear whether the team will replace Manning or continue the 2005 season as a two-car team.
Finally, the latest in the Danica Patrick saga. In protest of all the publicity hype over the Danica phenomenon, Andretti Green Racing's drivers boycotted the autograph session at the Milwaukee Mile last weekend. That's a no-no according to IRL rules, so the team has received a fine of an undisclosed amount, with a warning that more severe penalties, perhaps including loss of points, could result from further actions of the same nature. Play nice, boys.