A kinder, gentler Bristol

By Roger Diez

Appeal Motorsports Writer

This is another big race weekend, no matter what your racing preference. Tonight's Bristol race should prove to be exciting to watch, as usual. Someone, I think it was Jimmy Spencer, likened racing at Bristol to flying a jet fighter in a gymnasium. And when you get 43 cars on a half-mile track, fireworks are bound to ensue.

However, since the repaving of the track and the advent of the COT, Bristol doesn't seem to have the same level of, shall we say, mayhem. There's less bumping, banging, and crashing, and more actual racing. That may not sit well with a lot of Bristol fans, but it's OK with me.

- The Indy Cars are in the neighborhood this weekend, racing just over the hill on the Infineon road course in Sonoma. I was somewhat taken aback watching the IndyCar race at the track last year, noticing the modifications made to Turn 11 in particular.

I'm not sure what the idea of that is, and I don't like it. I admit to being somewhat of a purist, having run many miles on the original track configuration back when the track was still known as Sears Point. In any case, at least the series isn't head to head with a Cup race this weekend, so I can watch it in peace.

- And after a two-week layoff the Formula 1 circus is once again active. This weekend is the Grand Prix of Europe, which moves around from country to country, and this year is held in Valencia, Spain. If you get SPEEDTV, either get up at 5 a.m. on Saturday or set your recorder, because F1 knockout qualifying is one of the most interesting and exciting racing events ever. The race will be at the same time on Sunday, unless they decide to switch it to FOX, in which case they will undoubtedly schedule it opposite the IndyCar race. I hate it when they do that.

- Last week I discussed NASCAR's actions in reducing the horsepower of the Toyota teams in the Nationwide series. Well, it seems that a couple of crew chiefs for Joe Gibbs Racing decided they would take steps to get that horsepower back, or maybe forestall further cuts. So after the race, magnetic spacers were placed to act as throttle stops so the cars wouldn't get full throttle in the NASCAR post-race chassis dyno tests. It was ingenious " and worthy of Smokey Yunick on one of his better days " but unfortunately they got caught.

As a result, Tony Stewart and Joey Logano each lost 150 driver points and were placed on probation until Dec. 31, Joe Gibbs was docked 150 owner points, both crew chiefs were fined $50,000 apiece, plus they and five other team members were placed on indefinite suspension. Both the No. 18 and No. 20 Nationwide teams are on probation until Dec. 31, as well. Not only that, but the Gibbs team has announced that they are going to levy their own penalties on the parties involved, in addition to the NASCAR sanctions. Ouch!

- I ran into Dean Heller, our racing U.S. Congressman, on Thursday evening. He told me that he had spent the morning thrashing a GT-1 Ford Mustang around Reno-Fernley Raceway's road course in preparation for going road racing. He's converting a Late Model he used to race at Champion Speedway in Carson City to road racing specs and will contest a monthly West Coast racing series.

"You don't have to repair so much damage on the car when you road race, and I can handle the monthly schedule better than every Saturday night," he told me.

And judging by from the huge grin plastered on his face, I surmise that he also finds it a lot of fun.

- Finally, I want to express my gratitude to the young man in the red hatchback who stopped on Dayton Hill last Wednesday evening to help me change a flat tire. Due to recent surgery, I can't lift anything as heavy as a wheel and tire, so his assistance was greatly appreciated. I didn't get your name, my friend, but thanks.


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