Future of short tracks discussed | NevadaAppeal.com

Future of short tracks discussed

Roger Diez

More than 100 short track operators from diverse markets all over the United States are meeting in Las Vegas for the inaugural Short Track Racing Summit at the Orleans Hotel and Casino this weekend.

Industry leaders, including NASCAR, are supporting this trade show/sports conference. The idea is to help track owners and promoters in areas such as ticket sales, sponsorships, website production, and effective radio/TV advertising.

Humpy Wheeler, President of Lowes Motor Speedway, addressed the conference via video, calling the event, “. . .one of the most important conferences in the history of the American short track industry.”

He continued, “We can build a new business model in the face of a tough economy. . . America’s middle class is the backbone of our audience. Those are our fans, and we need to keep them within our embrace.”

Wheeler said he feels the best format consists of a three-hour, three division short track race night. Other speakers include Brett Yormark, NASCAR VP of Marketing, ABC Sports’ Jack Arute, and XM Satellite Radio’s Claire B Lang. I’ll have to check with Les Kynett of Champion Speedway, Charlie Brandenburg of Thunder Bowl Speedway, and Rich Cable of Reno-Fernley next week to see who attended and maybe get some first-hand impressions of the conference.

Speaking of Reno-Fernley Raceway, the road course is being expanded with a technical section. When completed, the total track length will be more than four miles. The only other road course of this length that I know of in the U.S. is Road America.

The track has also finished a 250 foot by 300 foot skid pad, and will be adding a motorcycle training school to the current driving school. One of the road course events schedule for the 2005 season is a Historic Motorsports Association (HMSA) event featuring vintage NASCAR Cup cars. The road course will be open on weekends for test and tune from December through February by appointment. Call (775) 575-7217 to schedule or to get further information.

The Carson Kart Kids were back in action at Red Bluff last weekend, after taking Thanksgiving weekend off. Mackena Bell dusted off her 125cc kart to tune up for this weekend’s QRC Cup season finale. The outing was highly successful.

After qualifying fourth-fastest, Bell went on to win her heat, the trophy dash, and the 25 lap feature. She sits third in QRC points in 125, and is also third in the Open Intermediate class in the Red Bluff weekly series. She was quickest qualifier in the Open Intermediates on Saturday night, finished third in the trophy dash, and ended up seventh in the main after being involved in a multi-kart crash late in the race. Afterwards, she complained of neck pain and blurred vision, but refused treatment.

The Box Stock division has a couple of Carson racers that seem to be well-matched and always battling with each other. I refer to Zachary Heinz and Kellcy Bell, who were at it again on Saturday night.

Heinz, coming off a feature win two weeks before, qualified sixth, ran second in his heat, and won yet another trophy dash, while Bell started off with a string of thirds (qualifying, dash, heat). Third place was the position in contention in the A main, with Heinz taking the spot from Bell after hounding her for several circuits. So intense was the competition that each spun once, and Heinz had an uncharacteristic tangle with lapped traffic. Finally, a bump between the two left Heinz without power. Bell went on to finish fourth, with Heinz 13th.

Off-season changes continue in NASCAR. To absolutely no one’s surprise, Brendan Gaughan has been released as driver of the No. 77 Penske-Jasper Nextel Cup ride for 2005. He will be replaced by Craftsman Truck standout Travis Kvapil, who drove three Cup races this season in a Penske companion car. Kodak will continue as sponsor.

And DEI has replaced Tony Eury Sr. as crew chief on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 8 Budweiser Chevy with Pete Rondeau. The thinking is that after five years, Eury has not brought the consistency needed to win a Championship to the team. Rondeau, with a solid engineering background, is expected to better compliment Junior’s driving skills, which are considerable, and his communication skills, which are not.

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist. Contact him at racytalker@aol.com.