I don’t like hit and run tactics | NevadaAppeal.com

I don’t like hit and run tactics

Roger Diez
Nevada Appeal Motorsports columnist

Jeff Burton took a lot of flak from a certain element among race fans for being a gentleman at Atlanta a couple of weeks ago and not taking out Kyle Busch in the closing laps to win the race.

Well, last Sunday at Texas Burton proved that he can win by racing the same way he raced at Bristol . . . clean. Interestingly, Burton’s late race pass for the win was made on Jeff Gordon, who also came under fire for not taking out teammate Jimmy Johnson to win at Martinsville. Personally, I am in favor of the sort of hard, clean racing we saw last Sunday rather than the hit and run style that some fans seem to prefer. My feeling is that it takes a lot more talent to get by another driver than to simply run him off the road.

This controversy was the topic of a lot of conversation on the NASCAR channel on Sirius satellite radio over the past few weeks. My family got me a Sirius radio for Christmas, and I must say it is a lot of fun to listen to the 24/7 NASCAR broadcasts.

Thursday afternoon I caught Nextel Cup qualifying on the way home from Reno, and I also enjoy listening to some of the talk shows that feature drivers, crew chiefs, TV and radio racing commentators, racing writers, and others. And of course there are the call-in listeners, who range from insightful, knowledgeable fans to raving lunatics . . . pretty much like any sports call-in show. So if you don’t get enough NASCAR on TV, you might consider getting a satellite radio so you can fill your commute hours with racing talk as well.

It’s a busy race weekend again, although most of the action will already be over by the time this hits the newsstands and driveways. The Busch race at Phoenix ran Friday night and the Nextel Cup event was last night. Even the Indy Racing Series from Motegi Japan was televised on a Saturday (since Japan is 17 hours ahead of us).

Today is the Champ Car street race from Houston, televised on ESPN. Missing from the already thin Champ Car ranks will be Paul Tracy, easily the most entertaining of the series’ stars.

Tracy suffered a compression fracture of a lumbar vertebra in a practice crash at Long Beach last weekend. His Forsythe Racing seat was filled by veteran Oriol Servia, who acquitted himself well at Long Beach and is in the cockpit for today’s race as well.

Tracy’s accident points out a possible problem with the spec Panoz chassis that all cars in the series must run. I recall when the Indy Racing League first rolled out its new chassis 10 years ago, a number of drivers suffered similar back injuries due to the excessively stiff design, which transmitted the force of a crash into the driver’s compartment.

In that case, a crush box was extended from the transmission to absorb impact in a rear-end crash. Tracy hit nose-first, but video of the accident showed the car bounding into the air and rebounding from the wall instead of absorbing the energy by crushing and shedding parts. I hope the Champ Car officials are looking into possible design modifications before any more drivers are hurt.

Locally, last night was opening night for Reno-Fernley Raceway’s 3/8 mile clay oval. Watch for the race report in tomorrow’s paper, provided our Nevada April weather didn’t drown out the proceedings.

There are a number of changes to the program at Reno-Fernley this season. For instance, the track will hold races only three weekends per month, giving drivers, fans, and track personnel some time off to spend with family.

And a new feature that is sure to be popular is a two-seater race car that will be used to give one lucky fan some hot laps during intermission. Different race drivers will take the wheel and the evening’s drawing winner will be strapped into the passenger seat to find out what racing a stock car on dirt feels like, up close and personal.