ROGER DIEZ: Reno-Fernley will operate under NASCAR sanctioning in 2011 | NevadaAppeal.com

ROGER DIEZ: Reno-Fernley will operate under NASCAR sanctioning in 2011

Roger Diez
For the Nevada Appeal

Reno-Fernley Raceway’s meeting on Wednesday was well attended, with nearly an overflow crowd. The track announced that it will operate under NASCAR sanctioning for 2011, with Modified, Pro Stock, Hobby Stock and Dwarf divisions, with a mini-stock division still under consideration.

The track will run 14 Saturday night shows with 18 points races (some are double points) beginning April 23 and ending with a two-day shootout Oct. 8-9. The schedule is set up so as not to conflict with Rattlesnake Raceway in Fallon, so most months will have two races except July, when the track will run four.

Bob Duvall, NASCAR’s Director of Developmental Racing Series Operations was on hand to present the benefits of NASCAR sanctioning and to answer questions. Duvall noted that there are 57 tracks in the U.S. and Canada in the Whelen short-track program, 12 of them dirt tracks. Reno-Fernley and the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway are the only two in Nevada. Track owner Rich Cable said that he is in it for the long haul, and that is why he pursued the NASCAR sanctioning to provide some stability. I’m looking forward to an exciting 2011 season at the RFR clay oval.

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The Formula 1 season had a surprise ending last Sunday in Dubai, as Sebastian Vettel became the youngest F1 drivers’ champion in history. Going in, it was Fernando Alonso’s championship to lose, and he did. A bad strategy call by the Ferrari team trapped Fernando Alonso behind the Renaults and his old, tired engine didn’t have the power to pass them. Vettel led from flag to flag, and alternated between laughing and crying on the podium after the race. All the concern about “team orders” and who might move over for whom was never an issue, as Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber, was never close enough for it to come into play.

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Speaking of team orders, there are several interesting scenarios that might play out in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup season finale. If, for instance, points leader Denny Hamlin needs to pick up a spot late in the race to secure the championship and Kyle Busch or Joey Logano is running right in front of him, will they let him by? Similarly, would Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, or Dale Earnhardt Jr. move over for Jimmie Johnson, or Jeff Burton or Clint Bowyer for Kevin Harvick if one spot was all that was needed to clinch the title? I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t hear such a suggestion on the team radio, because NASCAR would undoubtedly take a very dim view of such actions. But you can bet that all the teams involved have discussed it internally. Friday’s qualifying set the stage for Sunday’s final dash for the title, with four-time defending champion Johnson starting sixth, Harvick 28th, and Hamlin 37th. Hamlin won the race last year from a 38th starting spot, and if he can do it again, the title is his.

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The Camping World Truck and Nationwide series titles have already been decided, with Todd Bodine taking his cash-strapped team to the Truck championship and Brad Keselowski winning the first-ever NASCAR title for the Penske organization after almost 40 years in the sport. So this weekend’s races in those two series are somewhat of an anticlimax, which is one of the reasons NASCAR went to the Chase format for their premier Sprint Cup series. Might we see the format in Trucks and Nationwide in years to come?

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There were a couple of interesting announcements from the IndyCar series recently. The first and biggest was the announcement that General Motors is re-entering the series with an Ilmor-built engine that will be badged as a Chevrolet. Roger Penske was the first to sign up for a bowtie powerplant, and others are sure to follow. Hot on the heels of the Chevy news, Lotus announced that they would be supplying not only engines, but aero packages for Indy Cars. I expect to see some other aero package suppliers signing on, and possibly another engine provider. The changes will all take place for the 2012 season, so we’re stuck with another year of watching the aging Dallara chassis that Paul Tracy colorfully dubbed a “crapwagon.”