Memory lane at Sears Point
September 3, 2005
There was lots of good racing on the tube last weekend, but my favorite was the Indy Racing League’s first outing on a natural road course at Sears Point (OK, Infineon) Raceway in Sonoma.
This was my “home track” for a lot of years, and I have lots of racing miles under my belt there. I was a turn marshal at the only other Indy Car race ever held at the facility, in 1970, so when last Sunday’s TV coverage opened with a retrospective of that race, it brought back memories of some of the giants of racing. They were all there that weekend: Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, the Unser brothers, Johnny Rutherford, Mark Donohue, and race winner Dan Gurney along with a host of others. The track made some modifications to the configuration you normally see the NASCAR Nextel Cup cars run.
The IRL cars used the Carousel, a sweeping downhill left-hander, they added a right-left chicane to the esses (to slow the cars down for turn 10), and what I found oddest of all was that they moved turn 11 about 100 feet closer to the start/finish line. I wish I had been able to attend the race, but my Saturday night announcing duties at Reno-Fernley raceway prevented that. Maybe next year. In case you missed it, defending IRL Champion Tony Kanaan won, and Danica Patrick got taken out by another driver while running mid-pack.
Speaking of Danica, the spotlight may be focused on another woman in Motorsports soon. I refer to Erin Crocker, the first woman to win a World of Outlaws race. She is in the Evernham Motorsports driver development program and will make her NASCAR Busch series debut this coming Friday at Richmond International Raceway. She has been running the ARCA series, and has three top-five and four top-ten finishes in just five races this season.
At 24, Crocker is about the same age as Patrick and is at least as photogenic. She is also a racer, as her resume indicates. She has been racing since the age of seven, starting in quarter midgets and moving up to sprint cars. In 2003 she was the first woman in the history of the World of Outlaws to qualify for the Knoxville Nationals, where she won Rookie of the Year honors. Her first feature event win came last year at Tulare, Calif. So keep an eye on this young lady in Friday’s Busch race. And Danica, watch your back . . . Erin might be gaining on you.
Moving to local news, the Historic Motor Sports Association (HMSA) has its second event of the season slated for this weekend. A variety of vintage road racing cars dating from the 1940s to the 1970s will take part in racing on the 2.16 mile Reno-Fernley road course on Saturday and Sunday.
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If you want to come out and watch the fun, admission is free. I plan to be there for press day on Friday to get a ride at speed in the 1950s-era Bocar owned and driven by Carson City resident Wes Abendroth. Wes will be giving rides to members of the print and electronic press as well as other dignitaries who show up and are brave enough to get into the Bocar’s passenger seat.
By the way, paving of the final section of the track is imminent, according to road course manager Jeremy Cable. When complete, Reno-Fernley will be the longest natural road course in the United States, at an estimated 4.2 miles.
Also at Reno-Fernley last Saturday night was one of the more unusual vehicles I’ve run across. Minden resident Chuck Bullwinkle had the “Ack Attack” on display in the concession area of the 3/8 mile clay oval. This vehicle is a land speed record holder at more than 328 miles per hour on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
The cigar-shaped two-wheeler is powered by two stock Suzuki 1299cc motorcycle engines and is sponsored by Top Oil Products. It drew an interested crowd among the Reno-Fernley race fans. I’ll keep in touch with Chuck and let you know when the “Ack Attack” is ready to try and break that class speed record.