Lost interest in open-wheel racing | NevadaAppeal.com

Lost interest in open-wheel racing

Roger Diez

I hate to admit this, but the state of open-wheel racing has reached the point where I, a lifelong open-wheel race fan, have begun to lose interest.

Champ Car, which at one time was the top open-wheel series in the country, second only to Formula 1, can only get TV air time on Spike, and then only by buying the time. The Indy Racing League is now dominated by ex-Champ Car teams, like Penske Racing, Rahal-Letterman, Andretti Green, and Target-Ganassi, relegating the old IRL standard bearers either to the scrap heap or to also-ran status.

It’s as though four top NFL teams were suddenly dropped into the Northern Nevada Triple-A high school league. After almost 10 years of schism and infighting in American open-wheel racing, NASCAR has captured the imagination and loyalty of the general public, and wants to become the next NFL, NBA, or MLB.

Remember the old biblical admonition, “Pride goeth before the falla” I’m just wondering if inbreeding isn’t weakening the once-strong NASCAR strain. Current CEO Brian France, the third generation of the France family to run the organization, is suspected of not being the brightest bulb on the France family Christmas tree. We shall see how his “Chase for the Championship” idea pans out over the next couple of months.

I hope it fares better than some of the “ready, fire, aim” ideas that have popped up this year, i.e. “freezing the field,” and “green/white/checker.” Even though NASCAR is the 600 pound gorilla in the American racing jungle, it seems to be becoming its own worst enemy.

For those of you who just can’t get enough NASCAR, there’s good news. SPEED Channel is expanding its live NASCAR TV coverage from every Nextel Cup Series event beginning with the Fontana race next weekend. The cable outlet will air as much as two hours per day, culled from a 10-hour live feed that will enable them to cut to live track action at any moment. It’s going to be a dilemma for soap opera buffs who are also NASCAR fans. “All My Children or Speed. . . what am I gonna watch?”

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Next weekend will see the biggest race ever at Thunder Bowl Speedway in Mound House. The Outlaw Karts of the QRC Cup traveling series will make a stop right here in Northern Nevada, with 100-plus karts in four divisions on hand. Local racers who will be on hand include Zachary Heinz, who is at the top of the QRC points in the Box Stock division, Mackena Bell, who’s among the top runners in 125cc, Tommy Purcell, racing in the Open division and his sister Jenny, who races in Box Stock along with Mackena’s sister Kellcy. Several other local racers will be on hand to try their skills against the traveling all-stars. So if you want to see some exciting racing, be at Thunder Bowl Saturday night. Action starts at 5 pm with hot laps.

Recent rumors that had CART star Paul Tracy migrating to the Richard Childress team in Nextel Cup for 2005 seem to be unfounded. Tracy, who had been approached to run a Childress car at Sears Point this year, was touted to be the replacement for Robby Gordon if he left Childress to start his own Cup team, but Tracy and CART team owner Gerry Forsythe have both iterated Tracy’s commitment to stay in CART, at least for 2005.

I received some sad news last week via email from Glenn Hopper. Sprint Car racer Mike McCreary, who has been competing at Champion Speedway for almost 40 years, is in his last season of racing. Mike has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and has few if any treatment options. Having lost a close friend just this past week to this dreaded disease, I can only wish Mike as painless a time as possible with his illness.

I’m told that plans are in the works for a CASA tribute race at Champion on September 18 to honor Mike’s long and successful racing career. A special website guest book has been installed on both the CASA (www.casaracing.com) and Oval Chassis Research (www.ocr71.com) web pages for Mike’s friends and fans to share a moment or story with him. Godspeed, Mike.

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist. Contact him at racytalker@aol.com.