I’ll be basking in Monterey
September 17, 2004
As you read this on a (forecasted) chilly Sunday morning in northern Nevada, I’ll be basking in the California sunshine in Monterey.
It’s my annual outing to announce the Cherry’s Jubilee car show at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca, and one of the more fun trips I get to make all year. The only drawback is that I have to negotiate California freeways and deal with California drivers. I sincerely believe the California Drivers’ motto is “Millions for SUVs, not one cent for driving lessons!” Fortunately, my racing experience has prepared me for this annual ordeal of taking violent evasive action at high speeds. Wish me luck on the return trip.
I’ve mentioned before in this space that I enjoy Dave Despain’s Wind Tunnel show on the SPEED channel. Despain is one of the most laid-back hosts in any genre of talk show, and brilliantly tap-dances that fine line between cheerleader and investigative reporter.
He asks the hard questions, but doesn’t beat the respondent to death if they engage in a little spin doctoring. This was evident in Despain’s interview last week with Brian France, the current throne-sitter in the NASCAR’s ruling dynasty.
One topic in particular caught my attention, because it’s one of my pet peeves. That is, the revisionist history version of NASCAR’s top series, Nextel Cup. Despain told France that he gets daily emails, letters, and calls reminding him that the winner of the 1992 championship was the WINSTON CUP, not the Nextel Cup Champion.
France tippy-toed around the question, noting irrelevantly that Richard Petty had won seven championships under a variety of rules, scoring systems and sponsors. Then he claimed that it wasn’t a hard and fast NASCAR rule to refer to all past champions as Nextel Cup winners, it was just “easier and less confusing.”
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If I’d been sitting in Despain’s seat, I think I would have held France’s feet a little closer to the fire, but Dave has his own style and I think it suits the show just fine. If you haven’t caught Wind Tunnel yet, check it out on the SPEED Channel at 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday. You’ll like it.
Along with a lot of people, I was not a fan of the new Nextel Cup Chase for the Championship system when it was announced. But I have to admit that it has added a lot of extra excitement to the last three or four races of the “regular” season, especially Richmond. With the points realignment of the ten “Chase” cars, only 50 points will separate first through 10th going to the green flag at New Hampshire, and any one of the top ten has a legitimate chance at the title.
Will other factors enter in as the “Chase” unfolds? Will teammates who are not championship contenders be a factor? Will Michael Waltrip throw a strategic block on Kurt Busch to help Dale Jr.? Will Greg Biffle run a pick on Jimmy Johnson to assist Mark Martin or Matt Kenseth? Will NASCAR do anything about it when it happens? It should be an interesting run.
Remember back in 1996, when Indianapolis Motor Speedway heir Tony George started the feud that has nearly destroyed open-wheel racing in America? Tony piously claimed it was for the good of the sport, and that his Indy Racing League would run only oval races, that it would keep costs down, and that it would foster young American open-wheel drivers coming out of midgets and sprint cars, giving them a career path into the big leagues.
Eight years later, costs are sky-high, with once-taboo engine leasing a common practice. There are more foreign than American drivers in the series, and now the final lie is exposed as the IRL prepares to leave its ovals-only format and go road racing.
This coming Thursday will see the first test of the road-course package at Homestead-Miami Speedway’s 2.21 mile infield road course. Five teams representing each possible engine-chassis combination will be included. Chassis and engine manufacturers will gather data on aero packages, engine, transmission, and brake performance, and tire wear. Changes resulting from any problems encountered can then be made to the rest of the cars in the series as necessary. And the costs escalate another notch.
Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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