NASCAR starting its engines |

NASCAR starting its engines

Roger Diez
Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist

Well, it’s showtime for NASCAR. The 2007 season is shaping up like a game show lineup, in fact.

While drivers and teams put themselves in Jeopardy competing for the Wheel of Fortune, the Earnhardts appear to be playing Family Feud. Junior has fired the latest shot in the battle, demanding controlling interest in Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (DEI) to stay with the team in 2008. The ball is now in step mom Teresa’s court.

Will she cede control of one of NASCAR’s top teams in order to keep what is arguably the sport’s biggest draw, or will she let Junior leave the nest to fly on his own? On the eve of the Daytona 500, that topic is first and foremost in the minds of many race fans, TV commentators, Motorsports writers, and probably a few lawyers.

There are too many twists and turns in this story to keep up with in a weekly column, so I’d suggest you watch NASCAR Now on ESPN2 for the latest daily updates. Unfortunately, the show airs at 3:30 p.m., so if you work for a living you’re going to have to set up the Tivo or the VCR and watch it when you get home.

I caught the show this week, and it is a vast improvement on the abominable NASCAR Nation that aired on SPEED a couple of years ago. The show’s talent seems knowledgeable, and sticks to topics that are of interest to serious race fans.

Race fans’ video recording devices will get a workout this week, with the Gatorade Duel at Daytona (formerly known as the Twin 125 qualifying races) due to air at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on SPEED this Thursday. Fortunately, most folks have the day off on Sunday, and will be in their favorite recliner, remote in hand, for both today’s qualifying and the 11 a.m.. start of the 2007 Daytona 500 next Sunday.

Of course, the Budweiser Shootout is already in the history books, but due to an early column deadline I have no idea of the outcome as I write this. All I know at this point is that Dale Jarrett’s Toyota is on the pole, and last year’s winner Denny Hamlin set fast time in final practice but will start at the back.

There is, of course, widespread speculation about how the Toyotas will fare, not only at Daytona but all season long. I predict that Toyota will win at least one race this season, possibly more, for the following reason: for 16 of the 36 points races everybody will be starting from scratch with the new Car of Tomorrow.

Strangely, after all the complaints and snide remarks over the past year, last week at Daytona there was universal praise in the garage area for both the Car of Tomorrow and the changes to the Chase format. I wonder what flavor Kool-Aid NASCAR is serving in the driver’s lounge.

If you haven’t bought your lady (or gentleman) a Valentine’s Day gift yet, and you want to purchase a gift that keeps on giving, consider “RACE DAY GRUB: Recipes from the NASCAR Family,” compiled by Mike Skinner’s wife Angela. Actually, you’ll have to put an IOU in the Valentine card, because the book won’t be available until March 5. At $17.95, the book is full of recipes from drivers, families, and fans, with the likes of Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, and Michael Waltrip contributing their favorite dishes.

How about some Lug-Nut Doughnuts to start your day, or some of David Starr’s Texas Hot Sauce? Maybe Elliot Sadler’s Race-Ready Rice makes your mouth water, or Martha Nemechek’s Sloppy Joes? I think Martha should have called them Front Row Joes, but that’s just me.

There’s also a chapter on kid-friendly recipes, just in case your little ones aren’t adventurous eaters. Angela also provides Crew Tips to make preparation easier, like having the seafood department clean the shrimp for you instead of doing it yourself. Hey, NASCAR drivers don’t glue the lug nuts on the wheels, the crew does that! If you’re not going to be near a Mike Skinner souvenir trailer anytime soon, I’m sure the book will be available on