More racing than you can shake a big engine at this weekend
April 14, 2012
Racing returns this weekend after taking an Easter break, with an embarrassment of riches for the race fan. NASCAR has scrambled their normal schedule with the Nationwide series running Friday night, Sprint Cup under the lights tonight, both at Texas, and the Camping World Trucks running on Sunday in NASCAR’s return to Rockingham. The Izod IndyCar series will race in Long Beach Sunday, with the American Lemans series on the program at the southern California street course today. Formula One holds its fourth round of the season in China, while the NHRA races on the unique four-lane drag strip at Charlotte. And if you can tear yourself away from the TV, it’s opening night tonight at the Fernley 95A Speedway’s 3/8 mile clay oval. Spectator gates open at 3 p.m. and racing starts at 6 p.m. General admission is $8, with $5 tickets for seniors over 55 and kids younger than 8-14. Youngsters seven and younger are free, as are disabled persons and military in uniform. The tailgate section will cost you $30 per carload, or $20 for driver and one passenger.
The qualifying order for Sunday’s IndyCar race at Long Beach will be scrambled because of a problem with the Chevrolet engines. Chevy decided to swap engines in all 11 of their teams due to a problem discovered in testing at Sears Point. Because IndyCar officials ruled the engine change to be unauthorized, they will penalize all the Chevy-powered teams 10 grid positions for the race. Sebastian Bourdais’ Cosworth-powered car received a similar penalty. So if a Chevy driver (Will Power for instance) sets pole time in qualifying, he will start the race 11th. This is not a good thing on a tight street course like Long Beach. The Chevy penalties create a huge break for the Honda-powered teams, particularly defending series champion Dario Franchitti, who has not had stellar runs in the first two races. I was hoping that in the post-Brian Barnhart era the Indycar rules would become a bit more rational, but this particular rule makes little sense in a season with a brand new engine design. There are going to be bugs, and penalizing drivers doesn’t seem to be the right way to go about fixing them.
Does the return of the Camping World Truck series to the venerable Rockingham track signal a possible return of the other NASCAR national series in future years? One of the problems with Rockingham is the abrasiveness of the track surface. The joke goes that crews carry the tires to the pit lane rather than rolling them, which would wear away half the tire. The closing stages of the race should be interesting, with a mix of new and worn tires as some trucks stay out for track position.
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Meanwhile tonight will see the first scheduled Sprint Cup night race of the 2012 season (disregarding the rain-delayed Daytona 500 night race). Texas is one of the fastest tracks the Sprint Cup cars race at, and there are a lot of contenders to take the checkered flag tonight. Denny Hamlin, who won both rounds at Texas in 2010; Tony Stewart, who won the spring Texas race last year; the Roush-Fenway Fords, who have won eight races among them at Texas; all four Hendrick teams, hungrier than ever for the organization’s 200th victory after being denied at Martinsville. And Martin Truex Jr. who is tied for second in points with the likes of Stewart, Daytona winner Matt Kenseth, and Kevin Harvick.
The first Friday practice for Formula 1 in Shanghai was held on a wet track, with the second practice in the dry. The forecast is for dry qualifying but and the race, much to the chagrin of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who won three weeks ago in the rain in Malaysia. The Ferraris have not worked well in dry conditions so far this season, and both of the red cars were well down the order in Friday’s practice. Due to the time difference in China, the race will be televised on SPEED starting at 11:30 p.m. With any luck, you can catch it after you get home from the races at Fernley 95A Speedway.