IRL ready to ‘KISS’ up |

IRL ready to ‘KISS’ up

Roger Diez
Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist

OK, it’s official. Tony George has lost what little mind he had left. In a move that will have even the World Wrestling Entertainment folks laughing, the Indy Racing League has aligned itself with Gene Simmons of the KISS rock group and his partner, Hollywood mogul Richard Abramson.

The pair has come up with an “I am INDY” campaign, featuring a “signature song.” According to the IRL this is the first official theme song for a modern professional sport. Sport? Theme song? This move takes the IRL even further out of the realm of real sport than NASCAR!

Simmons, known as “the demon of KISS” is famous for his wild makeup and blood-spitting antics, just the thing a struggling racing series needs. Personally, I think the IRL should have stuck with hyping Danica Patrick! Of course, it could be worse. One of Abramson’s other management clients is Pee-wee Herman. Lord knows what the IRL could do with THAT connection!

The first NASCAR Nextel Cup test session at Daytona is in the books, and so far it looks like Hendrick Motorsports has done the best job on their off-season homework. Four-time Cup champ Jeff Gordon appeared at or near the top of the charts in just about every session. Teammate Jimmy Johnson was not far behind.

Speeds in the draft topped 189 miles per hour, with solo runs topping out in the mid-188 mph range. The test was for teams finishing in odd-numbered positions in last year’s points, and the even-numbered finishers will have their shot at a three-day test run starting this Tuesday.

One change to next week’s program is that Champ Car star Paul Tracy may not get his shot at the test run in Robbie Gordon’s car. Gordon dropped out of the Paris-Dakar Rally with a broken Hummer, so will be able to return to the U.S. earlier than expected.

With tweaks from what teams learn in these test runs, speeds in the draft will probably top 190 when Speed Weeks begin in a few weeks. Experts expect pole speed for the 500 this year to be 189 mph and change.

Tony Stewart took a pass on Daytona testing, putting Mike McLaughlin in the No. 20 car last week while the defending Nextel Cup champion raced at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Okla. Stewart was scheduled to run Wednesday’s qualifying races but scratched after a wild flip in hot laps and was put on the Friday card.

Sprint car ace Danny Lasoski took the Wednesday win, holding off Steve Kinser for the victory. 2001 Chili Bowl champ Jay Drake took the checkered flag in the A main in Thursday’s qualifying action.

In addition to all the big names at the Chili Bowl, local racer Doug Lippincott of Minden raced in the Friday qualifier. A number of Bay Cities Racing Association drivers who have appeared at now-defunct Champion Speedway and Reno-Fernley Raceway are also in the field, with BCRA ace Thomas Meseraull winning one of the last-chance races on Thursday.

Finally, are there wings in NASCAR’s future? The five-year Car of Tomorrow project is nearing completion, and a drafting test is scheduled for Jan. 19 at Daytona. Gary Nelson and Brett Bodine have done extensive track and wind tunnel testing with the prototype, but only actual track testing in traffic can determine how the car will handle in a draft.

The Car of Tomorrow, said to be the future of NASCAR, is two inches taller and four inches wider than the current Nextel Cup cars, and is designed to provide improved safety along with lower cost. One of the things being tested on the car is replacing the traditional rear spoiler with a wing.

The wing provides more adjustability of the car’s handling and also makes a significant difference in the turbulence of the car’s “wake” in the air. The hope is that the reduced turbulence achieved by using the wing will create more passing opportunities. A side benefit is that the improved adjustability will reduce or eliminate the need to have different configurations of cars for short tracks, superspeedways and road courses, thereby reducing costs to the teams. The downside, of course, is that the different “makes” of cars will be even less different than today’s common template examples.