Motosports Column |

Motosports Column

Roger Diez

Hot on the heels of the announcement that PPG was dropping its CART sponsorship comes the news that Pep Boys is out of the Indy Racing League as title sponsor.

Although no formal announcement was made, IRL failed to mention Pep Boys in a recent press release and the League admitted that an unresolved contract dispute had led to the split.

It apparently concerns non-payment of “several million dollars” in contractual sponsorship obligations by Pep Boys, and effectively cancels the five-year contract between the two bodies that went into effect just under a year ago.

The IRL filed suit in Chicago on Nov. 19, but no court date has yet been set. The IRL is currently looking at potential sponsors to step into the gap, but it is highly unlikely that anything will be in place for the season opener at Walt Disney World Speedway on Jan. 29.

— Toyota has been very active in motorsports for nearly two decades, in off-road competition, the Formula Atlantic championship, IMSA GTP, and CART. However, the company is expanding into some new areas for the next millennium.

Not only is Toyota putting a lot of resources into a Formula 1 effort for 2001, but is said to have paid very large yen for the four-time champion Ganassi/Target team to move their CART program forward.

Although Ganassi has already taken delivery on new Reynard Chassis, Toyota has purchased a couple of Lola chassis for delivery to the team for testing.

And the company is also testing the waters of the stock car world. Les Unger, manager of Toyota’s motorsports program in the US, recently revealed that final testing of its four-valve V6 NASCAR Goody’s Dash engine will take place next week at Daytona International Speedway.

The car will make its competition debut during Daytona’s Speedweeks in February. It will be in the hands of Eric Van Cleef, and the company is looking for a second team for the 2000 season.

Since the four-valve engine, designed for fuel injection, has been converted to a carbureted version, NASCAR is anxious to observe the test at Daytona. NASCAR wants to determine how much or how little they will have to adjust the carburetors to make the car competitive with current two-valve cars in the series.

Now that Toyota is in NASCAR, are there any bets on how long it will be before we see an Avalon or Lexus in Winston cup trim?

— Darrell Waltrip, never at a loss for words, recently offered some insights on the past, present, and future of Winston Cup racing.

Comparing demands on today’s drivers versus the drivers of 30 years ago, Waltrip said, “A lot of people look at racing like it is only mechanical. They think it’s all cars, tracks and going around in circles, but now racing is way beyond that. There is much more emphasis on entertainment. Drivers are racing the clock on and off the track. We are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When the phone rings, we know we have a job to do.”

The growth of the sport in the last 10 years has created an industry and greatly intensified the demands on its participants.

“It’s a lifestyle that has a great potential for burnout. I don’t think people realize the stress that race-car drivers live with,” Waltrip said. “All of the drivers I have ever been around have never been able to say no. But with sponsors spending more money, wanting more races and more appearances, they want to capitalize on their investments. They want more than just their name on the car.”

Hey, Darrell, I’ll trade you jobs any day.

— Quote of the week: Dale Earnhardt at the NASCAR banquet about his last-lap bump of Terry Labonte at the night Bristol race:

“We’re speaking again,” Earnhardt said. “He even asked me to go deer hunting with him in Texas in the offseason. I’m not sure I’m going to go, though. Matter of fact, I usually go down there to go hunting, but I’m going to call ahead and find out when Terry is not going to be there.”

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal motorsports columnist.