Congratulations to local champions | NevadaAppeal.com

Congratulations to local champions

Roger Diez

Congratulations to the local champions who were crowned last Saturday night at Champion Motor Speedway.

Carson City’s Chet Danburg didn’t repeat as Late Model Champion but he took home the title in the Tribute to America four-race series of 100-lap races. Rich Lawlor of Sparks won his first Late Model title at the Speedway, although he had previously been Limited Sportsman champ when that was the premier division.

And speaking of Sportsman cars, the popular Carson City driver Gary Nevers went home with the hardware in that division.

By the time you read this, championships will have been determined in the Sprint Car, Legends, Bandolero and Hobby Stock divisions. Watch Monday’s paper for last night’s race results and the names of the new champions. The 2002 awards banquet for Champion Motor Speedway will be held on Saturday, Nov. 16, at the Carson Valley Inn in Minden.

I have to hand it to the owners and management of Champion Motor Speedway for making the effort to find out what the fans want. Last Saturday fans were given survey forms to fill out, asking what they liked and disliked about the track’s show and what could be done to improve it. New General Manager Jeb Onweiler can use this information to fine-tune the format for next season.

A couple of weeks ago I was going to start a “police blotter” section in the column, noting fines and penalties meted out by sanctioning bodies to miscreants in the motorsports world. That week the news of Jeb Onweiler’s arrival at Champion broke, and the column ended up as a profile of Jeb. So here’s another stab at reporting the “crimes” on the motorsports beat:

NASCAR (which seems to hand out the most penalties of any sanctioning body) fined Chad Knaus, crew chief on the No. 48 Jimmy Johnson Chevrolet, $5,000 for his use of inappropriate language during a televised interview after Sunday’s races at Dover. Section 12-4-A in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series rulebook, “Actions detrimental to stock car racing: use of improper language,” was the citation.

A far more severe penalty was issued to Jimmy Elledge, crew chief for Andy Petree’s No. 55 team. Elledge was suspended for today’s Kansas race, busted on a probation violation. His initial crime, committed at Michigan in August, was to use “unapproved fuel cell spacers.” When the 55 car was apprehended brandishing “unapproved air directional devices” (type unspecified) at Dover last weekend, Elledge was fined $5,000 and suspended for one race.

Now if NASCAR would just get tough on some of the on-track muggings that seemingly go unpunished, I could get behind their enforcement efforts.

One driver who was under a more serious cloud has been exonerated. A grand jury in Sullivan County, Tennessee, found insufficient evidence to support charges that Tony Stewart assaulted female fan Amy Shaffer outside the Gibbs Racing hauler at the Bristol race last month. Had charges been filed, there’s no doubt Stewart would face severe sanctions from both NASCAR and sponsor Home Depot, who sent the volatile driver a message in the form of fines and probation after he was involved in an incident with a photographer after the Brickyard 400 race. Stewart subsequently apologized for the incident and has been undergoing anger management counseling.

Over in open-wheel land, Andretti Green Racing has lost its long-time sponsor KOOL cigarettes. Brown and Williamson Tobacco Co., makers of the KOOL brand, announced that it had evaluated its participation in motorsport and had elected to end its sponsorship program at the end of the 2002 season. Team Green’s recent switch from the CART series to the IRL was not cited as a reason for the decision.

With the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis running today, it is interesting to note that British American Racing driver Jacques Villeneuve has stated his preference for running on the oval rather than the road course at Indy. Of course he’s biased, having won the 1995 Indy 500 before the CART/IRL split.

I agree with him on one thing, though. It would be interesting to see just how much faster a Formula 1 car, properly set up for an oval, would be than the current IRL machines.

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist.