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Local racing already underway

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Roger Diez

Local racing action has already started. The Super Outlaw Karts of Nevada had a play day at Thunder Bowl Speedway in Mound House last Saturday, with a non-points race scheduled for last night.

The first points race of the season is set for April 10. Motorcycles will also be racing at Thunder Bowl this season, with the first open practice day scheduled for April 4. If you have a TT, flat track, or oval bike, you can take advantage of some very inexpensive track time. The bikes will be back at Thunder Bowl on April 17 for a final practice session before the season starts.

Track owner Charlie Brandenburg promised to give me more information on the bike races soon. Amenities like grandstands and a scoring tower have been added to the facility for 2004.

Over in Fernley, the 3/8 mile clay oval racers have their first practice runs this coming Sunday, April 3, followed by more test and tune sessions on April 10 and 17. The season kicks off April 24 with IMCA Modifieds, Pro Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Modified Minis and Pure Stock Minis on the card. That night will also see the first of the season’s pit parties after the races. Sprint cars, both the 360 and 410 varieties, will also appear at Reno-Fernley in 2004, along with BCRA Midgets, Dwarf Cars, Open Wheel Modifieds, and possibly a return of the blindingly fast Dirt Late Models that ran last November.

The paved road course is also in the process of being lengthened for the 2004 season. I plan to attend a racing school there in April, and I’ll be writing about it in the Appeal.

As you’ve no doubt read in the Appeal, there is yet another new management team at Champion Speedway. Les Kynett, who owned the track a number of years ago and returned as General Manager for the 2001 season, is back in the saddle again. I’m planning to meet with Les next week to get the complete scoop on the upcoming season.

Last week, I commented on the fact that the Champ Car series seemed to be imploding, with teams departing like rats from a sinking ship. Well, this week the announcements are more positive, as the car count appears to be increasing. Mi-Jack Conquest Racing has named British driver Justin Wilson to drive the team’s Lola. Brazilian rookie Alex Sperafico will pilot a Reynard chassis for Conquest. Sperafico made a couple of starts last season for Dale Coyne, a long-time CART back marker. Coyne has revealed that he will also field a two-car effort for the upcoming season, although chassis and drivers have not yet been revealed.

Over in the rival IRL camp, there may be a departure in the making. Reigning IRL Champ Scott Dixon got a test drive for the Williams Formula 1 team Friday at the Paul Ricard circuit in France. Team owner Sir Frank Williams is known to be somewhat disenchanted with Ralf Schumacher, younger brother of superstar Michael Schumacher. New Zealander Dixon may well replace the German driver at Williams in 2005. Dixon was enthralled with the handling and quickness of the F1 car compared to an IRL or even Champ Car machine. He noted that the brakes on the Williams were probably 100 times better than what he was used to, and that the comparative light weight of the Grand Prix car makes it far more nimble than the American series cars.

Finally, Daytona International Speedway will be undergoing a serious facelift following the Pepsi 400 this summer. The track and the grandstands will remain as is, but there are big plans for upgrading the infield. A new, larger tunnel will be constructed under Turn One that will accommodate larger vehicles, for starters. That will certainly be a help if I ever announce another race there. It will speed the trip from the announce booth at start-finish to Victory Circle to do winner interviews!

Besides the tunnel, new Nextel Cup garages will be constructed along with new NASCAR Busch garages, a new Gatorade Victory Lane, new scoring trylons, an expanded media center, and a Fan Zone. The expansion will cost several million dollars and is scheduled for completion in time for the Speedway’s World Karting Association meet in December.

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist.