Champion’s future up in the air |

Champion’s future up in the air

Roger Diez

After last night, only two races remain on the 2004 schedule for Champion Speedway. But will the venerable track see two more seasons?

I spoke with track General Manager Les Kynett on Thursday about what lies in store for Champion. Kynett confirmed rumors about the track’s sale, which may not be as imminent as I had thought. He disclosed that a purchase option has been accepted by track owner Larry Burton. The prospective buyer, a development company out of Sacramento, has until Mid-August of 2005 to exercise the option. According to Kynett, the purchase will not affect the 2005 racing season at Champion, and in fact the track may have a grace period after that.

“It may take them five years to get the development project underway, and we could operate the track during that period,” Kynett speculated.

He indicated that he was fairly confident that the track would continue to operate at least through the 2006 season.

Alternative plans for a replacement paved oval racing facility in the area include a track built on city land just east of Carson City on Highway 50. Plans for that are in limbo until a new Parks and Recreation Director is named. Also mentioned was the possibility of paving the Thunder Bowl track in Mound House.

Kynett told me that he has had preliminary discussions with Thunder Bowl owner Charlie Brandenburg and that further talks may ensue. Brandenburg confirmed that he had spoken with Kynett, but that any plans to convert the track to asphalt are speculative at this time.

Thunder Bowl currently hosts dirt Outlaw Kart racing and TT motorcycle and quad events at the facility, and hopes one day to bring midgets and sprint cars to run on the 1/3 mile oval. A third possibility mentioned by Kynett was an asphalt oval in the Sparks area. Kynett says that the currently proposed facility will be a short track, probably east of Sparks on Interstate 80. The track is in the tentative planning stages.

So what does this mean for local racers? If you want my personal opinion, after 2005 they’ll either be towing over the hill to California tracks or converting their cars to dirt specs for racing at Reno-Fernley, Thunder Bowl, or Rattlesnake Raceway in Fallon.

As expected, Rusty Wallace announced his retirement last week. His farewell 2005 Nextel Cup season will be called Rusty’s Last Call (an appropriate title for someone sponsored by a beer company, don’t you think)? I remember when I first got involved in racing, the NASCAR heroes were all older than me. Then they were my age, and now drivers (like Rusty) who were young pups are retiring, and most of today’s stars could be my kids. In fact, some of them could be my grandkids! How depressing is that?

Well, after my diatribe about being disenchanted with major league open wheel racing in last week’s column, what did I do? I went and watched BOTH series on the tube that afternoon.

The Indy Racing League race was pretty decent, although the patented hundredths-of-a-second finish was noticeably missing. The Champ Car (CART) race, on the other hand, showed just how far out in left field race officiating has gone these days.

I have taken NASCAR to task on numerous occasions about poor officiating, but CART set a new standard for poor officiating last Sunday. Zero tolerance policies just don’t work, in sports, law enforcement, school rules, or anything else. A.J. Allmendinger, a rising star (no, a skyrocket) in the racing world, was manhandled by two other competitors on the first lap, yet recovered to charge to the head of the field.

Then, when he made a move to overtake leader Sebastien Bourdais, who was on cold tires, they collided. Bourdais suffered broken suspension and limped to the pits, and officials penalized Allmendinger for initiating “avoidable contact.”

Commentator Tommy Kendall (who makes Darrell Waltrip’s opinions seem tentative) held his tongue for a while, but just couldn’t help finally going off on the officiating. I don’t always agree with Tommy, but I do most definitely in this case. Unfortunately, there was no Olympic committee to review the judges’ scoring and award two checkered flags. Pity.

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist. Contact him at