Fernley road track on course
August 18, 2002
I spent last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway announcing a doubleheader race for the American City Racing League. Fortunately, Saturday’s race was run in the evening, when it had cooled down to the high 90s, but Sunday afternoon’s race was a real scorcher. I truly wish we had a facility like LVMS in the Reno area, but numerous attempts to build one have come to naught. However, Reno-Fernley Raceway should have their 3-mile road course paved and running before the end of the year. Track owner Rich Cable told me last week that he plans to have a 24-hour endurance race there next year, possibly sanctioned by the National Auto Sport Association, which sanctioned last weekend’s Las Vegas event.
Speaking of upcoming local events, there’s a treat in store for you motorcycle riders and fans on September 7. Thunderbowl Speedway is hosting a flat track TT bike race to be run under the lights. It’s a non-sanctioned “outlaw” event and is open to both regular TT bikes and knobby tire classes.
You motocross riders out there might want to check it out. Michael’s of Carson City and Carson RV are sponsoring the race. Overnight camping at the track is available. Call Terry McTimmonds at 691-7207 for more information.
The Indy Racing League’s race at Kentucky Speedway last weekend was plagued by injuries. Richie Hearn broke his right ankle in a crash and is out for the season. He was released on Wednesday to go home. Kelley Racing crewman Bernie Hallisky was hit by a car during a pit stop and suffered a broken
right leg, pelvis, and hip. Probably the worst injuries were sustained by actor Jason Priestly who suffered a concussion, head lacerations, broken bones in both feet, and a fracture of the ninth vertebrae. Priestly was racing in the fledgling Infiniti Pro Series when he lost control of the car and slammed head-on into the wall. I hope he’ll be able to race again because otherwise they might put him back on the IRL announcing team.
Anybody want to buy a really fast used Cadillac? The company is planning a low-profile withdrawal from racing after the 2002 season. The much-heralded assault on LeMans that was announced three years ago hasn’t produced the results Cadillac had expected although this year’s heavily redesigned Northstar LMP02 scored finishes of ninth and 12th at LeMans after running in the top five early in the race. A Cadillac also finished fourth in the Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington last month. Unfortunately, Cadillac’s timing for its entry into endurance racing coincided with the debut of the Audi R8, which has been absolutely dominant. A lot of pretty good heavyweight boxers who happened to be fighting when Muhammad Ali was in his prime know just how that feels.
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Tony Stewart redeemed himself at Watkins Glen after nearly losing his job over an altercation with a photographer after the Brickyard 400. He has agreed to take an anger management course (how he’ll find time for that in his schedule is a mystery), and received a $50,000 fine from sponsor Home Depot after a $10,000 slap on the wrist by NASCAR. Stewart, like Kevin Harvick, is a supremely talented driver who needs to get his emotions under control. Racing at the top levels has always differentiated itself from other major sports by the behavior of its participants. It has been free of the negative publicity spawned by drug use, violence, and other antisocial behavior that has plagued major league football, baseball, and basketball figures.
But with the recent revelation of drug and alcohol abuse by Al Unser Jr., and the antics of Harvick and Stewart, the facade has begun to crack. Personally, I don’t believe that racing has, or ever will have, the kinds of problems the other major sports do, just because of the nature of the sport. Drivers aren’t coddled and allowed to get away with bad behavior through high school and college, as many stick and ball athletes are. They need to be able to solicit sponsors and scrabble for rides in their early careers, sometimes financing their racing through family contributions. I hope the recent incidents are just aberrations, and that our sport will remain free of the problems that plague the others.
Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal motorsports columnist