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Motorsports: Robby Gordon finally growing up

by Roger Diez

Robby Gordon must finally be growing up. The cause of the fire that put him out of last Sunday’s Watkins Glen Winston Cup race was the on board GPS system installed by NBC to monitor car position on track.

The fact that Robby didn’t kick in the sides of the NASCAR trailer or toss a grenade into the NBC Control Center shows remarkable restraint.

And what did I tell you about Jeff Gordon? Championship No. 4, coming up!

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the CART race at Mid-Ohio in my capacity as series announcer for the American City Racing League, one of the support events. You don’t really get the feeling of how brutally fast these cars are from watching them on TV, but when you see them in person you are in awe of the driver talent it must take just to keep them on the track!

While at Mid-Ohio, I had the opportunity to speak briefly with Memo Gidley, and get him to autograph the results sheet of an endurance race we both drove in six years ago. Memo is enjoying his opportunity with Target/Chip Ganassi racing. Even though he didn’t qualify well (17th of 26 starters), he had moved

himself into a points-paying position by the checkered flag, taking 11th place, two positions ahead of teammate Bruno Junqueira.

It’s good Memo has been finishing ahead of Bruno, because rumors are flying that Kenny Brack, former IRL star, Indy 500 winner, and current CART points leader, will apparently be leaving Team Rahal at the end of the season for a Target/Chip Ganassi ride. Team Rahal may be looking for two drivers, as rumors are also strong that the services of Max Papis will no longer be required. Papis was on thin ice even before punting Brack out of the race last Sunday (his third such faux pas this season).

This opens the door to more young American drivers in the ultimate open-wheel series. Buddy Rice, the 2000 Toyota Atlantic champion, is favored for one of the Team Rahal seats, having signed an option with the team for 2002. Dario Franchitti was on the short list, but recently re-enlisted with Team Kool Green through the 2003 season. If Ganassi elects to keep Junqueira, Gidley could become the second Team Rahal driver. Or might Alex Barron get the nod for the position?

It appears that Team Kool Green has solidified its lineup of Franchitti, Paul Tracy, and Michael Andretti as a “technical partner.” Patrick Carpentier and Alexandre Tagliani have had excellent results recently, so it looks like they’re good to go with Player’s/Forsythe Racing for next season. Roger Penske would have to be nuts to think about replacing either Gil de Ferran or “Spiderman” Helio Castroneves, who ran at the front on nearly any given weekend. Most other teams will stay with the status quo, although Patrick

Racing is looking very hard at Indy Lights front-runner Townsend Bell, who had an excellent Champ Car test at Mid-Ohio the Monday following the race. Bell can also bring DirecPC sponsorship to the team, just to sweeten the pot.

Moving to local racing action, the Champion Speedway will have the local late models back next Saturday night after two weeks off for the USAC sprint cars and the Tri-State Late Model series.

It will be a special night at Champion – a fund-raiser for four-year-old Ashley Kisman of Sparks. Ashley was diagnosed this past February with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), and has spent most of her time since then at the Oakland Childrens Hospital. The Angel Kiss Foundation, with help from Carson-Tahoe Hospital and many local media outlets, is conducting a raffle and Balloon Launch to raise money for

Ashley’s family to help with travel expenses and medical bills.

Outlaw Kart racer Mackena Bell will be carrying a picture of Ashley on her kart, and will orchestrate the balloon launch, which is open to all the kids attending the races. So come on out to Champion Speedway to see some great racing and contribute to a good cause at the same time.