Applauding NASCAR for road races

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As I mentioned last week, I'm a big fan of road course racing, and I want to applaud NASCAR for providing not one, but two exciting road course events in one weekend.

Carl Edwards pretty much dominated the Nationwide event at Road America in Wisconsin on Saturday, but there was lots of racing from second place on back.

Jacques Villeneuve in particular showed why he is a world champion driver, and made me wonder why his NASCAR ride of a couple of seasons ago fizzled. Villeneuve showed he's not afraid to rub fenders and stick his nose underneath someone in a corner. Unfortunately, a late mechanical problem ruined what would have been a sure second place finish. Although the race had its share of wrecks, including a red flag for a multi-car crash, I thought the Nationwide drivers did very well on a track built for much more nimble vehicles than 3400 pound stock cars.

On Sunday, the Sprint Cup contingent put on the best race I've seen at Infineon in several years. Jimmy Johnson got back to championship form with the win, and he and Marcos Ambrose were the class of the field.

Unfortunately for Ambrose, an inexplicable order from the pits to save fuel when he had plenty left led to his car coasting to a halt going up the hill into turn 2. By the time he got the car re-fired, he had dropped back to seventh place and NASCAR, citing the rule that drivers must maintain pace car speed under caution, refused to let him back into the lead. Mired in traffic on the restart, he was unable to catch the flying Johnson. Maybe one of the saddest things I've ever seen in racing was the sight of a dejected Ambrose trudging through the paddock with his backpack after the race. But the Australian proved that he is a driver to beat on a road course, and Watkins Glen is coming in August.

The other story of the race was Jeff Gordon, who appeared to be channeling his old nemesis Dale Earnhardt as he hit everything but the pace car.

Going into this weekend's race at Loudon, New Hampshire, Gordon is going to have a target on his rear bumper, and Martin Truex Jr., Eliot Sadler, Kurt Busch and a few others will be out for revenge. After the race Gordon apologized for his behavior, particularly for the Truex incident, but I don't think the apology mattered much to his victims.

• Part of this weekend's NASCAR program at Loudon, New Hampshire this weekend is the fifth race of the season for the K&N Pro Series East.

Carson City racer Mackena Bell ran yesterday, but as this is written the race had not yet been run. The race will be televised on SPEED this coming Thursday.

Another local racer, Hunter Colodny of Reno, sits sixth in points in the Legends division at Toyota Speedway in Southern California with seven of the season's 16 races completed. Colodny is only eight points out of fifth.

• In local racing, John Schilling of Silver Springs leads the points in the Gen-X division at Rattlesnake Raceway in Fallon, while Carson City drivers Gary Nevers and Dean Chicowitz are fourth and seventh respectively in the Pro Stock division going into the July 4th races.

• Formula 1 is back in action this weekend with the European Grand Prix, which will be run on Spain's dramatic Valencia street circuit this year. Team McLaren will be trying for the hat trick, their third straight 1-2 finish, while Red Bull attempts to regain their earlier momentum. The Mercedes and Ferrari teams seem to be the only others in contention at all, with maybe an outside chance for Team Renault.

There were also some announcements that will affect the 2011 F1 season. Pirelli has been awarded the contract as sole tire supplier to F1 for the next three years, and the KERS (kinetic energy recovery system) will be back in play next season. Also for 2011 wheels will have two tethers each instead of just one, and another safety improvement, a Kevlar panel under the chassis, will also be required.


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