Go see the Vintage cars | NevadaAppeal.com

Go see the Vintage cars

Roger Diez
Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist

If you don’t have any plans for today, I highly recommend that you head out to the road course at Reno-Fernley Raceway for the fourth annual Reno Historic races.

As a matter of fact, if you do have plans, cancel them . . . it will be worth it. And a portion of the $15 ticket goes to support the National Automobile Museum in Reno.

I was in downtown Reno on a cold and threatening Wednesday evening last week when 25 of the cars that are racing in the Historics formed a parade from the National Auto Museum as part of the celebration for the re-opening of Virginia Street. I saw some cars I remembered from my early days of involvement in racing and got to talk to the current owners.

I also had a brief conversation with Reno native T.J. Bell, who is pursuing a racing career. T.J. cut his racing teeth on karts locally, and then moved into the open-wheel ladder system, racing in Formula 2000 and Formula Atlantic. Like a lot of open-wheel drivers, he made the move to stock cars a couple of years ago, racing in ARCA. I saw his name on the charts during last weekend’s Craftsman Truck race, and T.J. told me he has a 15-race deal to drive in the series.

My appetite for vintage race cars whetted by Wednesday night’s festivities, I had to attend the media day on Friday at the race track. After drinking in the sights, smells, and sounds of these fast and sleek thoroughbred machines, the highlight of the day was getting a track ride in one of them.

I was assigned to an early 1960s Porsche-powered Abarth, a gorgeous Italian-built coupe. Reno resident and Porsche aficionado Ranson Webster was my chauffeur, and after a couple of laps getting the car warmed up we took a couple of flying laps. Ranson was obviously intent upon catching a Porsche 356 that had passed us on our first warm-up circuit with a British racing journalist onboard, and we passed them a lap before the ride was over.

The amazing thing about these vintage races is that the cars must be raced as they were back in the day . . . no modern technology allowed.

As Carson City vintage racer Wes Abendroth told me, “The cars are raced as they were, not as they could have been.”

I also got a chance to talk to Tony Settember, the event’s special guest for the weekend. Three cars that Tony drove in the 1960s were there, and he and I had a good time reminiscing about the “good old days.” I was a corner marshal when Tony was racing in the Trans-Am, Can-Am and Formula 5000 series, but I missed his Formula 1 days in 1962 and 1963. I asked him if he was going to race, but he laughed and said he’d be lucky if they let him drive the pace car.

Warm-ups start at 8:30 this morning with races for all seven race groups starting at 12:45. For you NASCAR fans, there is a group for historic Winston Cup cars, including cars formerly driven by Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace, Ernie Irvan, Harry Gant, and other NASCAR stars.

Speaking of NASCAR, a small percentage of the crowd at last weekend’s Talladega Nextel Cup race unfortunately perpetuated the image of the NASCAR fan as drunken lout. Whether you’re a Jeff Gordon fan or not, throwing full beer cans at a driver on a victory lap is just inexcusable. Not to mention the cans that fell short and injured fans who were just there to enjoy the racing.

A few of the perpetrators were arrested, but not nearly enough of them. It’s unfortunate that such behavior will probably lead to Talladega and other tracks following the example of other sports by banning coolers. As usual, a few bad apples ruin things for everybody, but there’s no denying that a plastic cup holding a five-dollar concession stand beer isn’t as deadly a projectile as a full can of Bud at $4.99 a six-pack.