Gordon eyes No. 5 | NevadaAppeal.com

Gordon eyes No. 5

Roger DiezAppeal Motorsports Columnist

Race fans, you might see history made today. Only four men in the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have won four races there. A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, and Al Unser Sr. all won theirs in Champ cars, while Jeff Gordon scored his four in a Chevrolet stock car.

With the other three long since retired, Gordon has the best – and only – chance to become the first five-time winner in Indianapolis history. Just as importantly, he needs a win here to help him fight his way into the Chase for the Championship with just six races remaining in the Race to the Chase. This hasn’t been Gordon’s finest season so far, but he has a good team, good cars, and no one can deny his driving ability. So I give Gordon a very good chance to pull off his fifth Indy win.

If Gordon can’t do it, Tony Stewart looms large as the odds-on favorite to get his first Indy victory. Stewart has tried in both Indy cars and stock cars, but hasn’t been able to take the checker at his hometown race. And Stewart’s team has been as hot as Gordon’s has been cold for the last half-dozen races.

The newly-resurfaced track (levigating is what they call the procedure) seems to suit the Nextel Cup cars well, according to the results of recent testing. Without the high banking the NASCAR boys are used to, and with less downforce from this year’s aero package, mechanical grip will be the key to success at Indy today. The teams that get their tires to work best with the new surface will be the teams finishing at the front.

It looks like the Nextel Cup race at Michigan will see a new driver in the field, but he will have to qualify with a fast time to make the field. 2003 Champ Car champion Paul Tracy plans to drive a fourth car, sporting number 33, for Richard Childress Racing.

At 36 years of age, Tracy is getting a bit long in the tooth for the Champ Cars, especially on tracks like the bumpy San Jose course (see below). Looking at Stock cars as a venue where drivers can be competitive well into their 40’s, Tracy is considering a switch, possibly as early as 2006. If he makes the move, it will likely be to the team of his friend Childress.

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Tracy settled for second place at the inaugural San Jose Grand Prix last weekend, on a course that was the epitome of the term “Mickey Mouse.” Narrow, bumpy, lined with formidable concrete barriers, the track consumed half the field before the checkered flag flew. If you watched the race on TV, you might have thought you were seeing a new class of open-wheeled World Rally cars as the machines leaped and bounded over the trolley tracks and bounced off the barriers. Broken suspension parts (both from wall contact and from the bumps) sidelined nine of the 18 starters.

The event was deemed a success nevertheless, with 50,000-60,000 fans attending each of the three days. For 2006 the race will be moved to a different venue, promising a smoother, wider racecourse with actual room for passing!

Moving to local topics, the Super Outlaw Karts are set to begin their fall season at Thunder Bowl Speedway in Mound House. Champions for the Spring season are looking to repeat in the upcoming series.

Samantha Schultz, 9 years old, was the Spring Champion in the Beginner Box Stock class in her first year of racing. Ten-year-old Zachary Heinz, already a seasoned veteran, handily took the Box Stock crown, repeating his 2004 Championship. Blayke Olson, 14, moved up from Box Stock to the 125cc class and took the title his first time out in the division. Finally, 24 year old TJ Dobson, a third-year driver, won the Open class.

Several of the drivers, including Heinz and Dobson, will be going to Knoxville, Tenn., next week to race against drivers from all over the U.S.

Also on tap at Thunder Bowl this fall are TT races for motorcycles and quads, as well as the QRC Cup tour race for Outlaw Karts.

Starting next weekend, the track will host racing every Saturday night through the end of October.

n Contact Roger Diez at Racytalker@aol.com