Notes and remembering Burton |

Notes and remembering Burton

Roger Diez
Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist

A couple of weeks ago Darrell Waltrip was on one of the 314 different NASCAR TV shows talking about Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s move to Hendrick Racing next season, and in response to a question about Budweiser following Earnhardt, Waltrip opined that Junior’s sponsor wouldn’t come in a red can.

Well, crafty old Darrell was right again. On Friday Earnhardt announced that he had inked a multi-year partnership with adidas starting in 2008. The partnership includes a complete line of products including footwear, apparel, accessories, and an innovative driving suit featuring the adidas ClimaCool technology.

Earnhardt says he will be involved in the design and development of both the technical race gear and fan products. Dale Jr. licensed products will be available in adidas’ retail stores and other sporting goods retailers, and will roll out beginning in February 2008, just in time for the Daytona 500.

Speaking of Daytona, hopefully the Nextel Cup race went off on schedule last night, unlike the Friday night Busch race which was rained out and run on Saturday morning. If the Cup guys ran last night, today will be an all open-wheel racing day with Lewis Hamilton on the pole for the British Grand Prix in Formula 1, Dario Franchitti coming off a two-race short track win streak in the Indy Racing Series heading into Watkins Glen, and the Champ Car circus on the second race of its three-race Canadian swing in Toronto.

Last weekend’s Champ Car race at Mt. Tremblant in wet weather conditions put Robert Doornbos on the top of the podium for the first time, as he held off Sebastien Bourdais for the win. Doornbos, a veteran of Formula 3, Formula 3000, and Formula 1 in Europe, is now tied with Bourdais for the points championship. Doornbos drives for Team Minardi USA, a re-invention of the F1 Minardi team that was sold to Red Bull a season ago. Former Minardi boss Paul Stoddart decided that Champ Car was the place to be, and last weekend’s results bear out his judgment.

I got a phone call the other day from Les Kynett, informing me of the passing of Larry Burton. If you were a racer or a race fan in Carson City in the 1990s, you knew, or knew of, Larry Burton. Burton came to Carson City in 1990 from the Sacramento area and purchased Silver State Raceway from Kynett.

Larry was a colorful character with a lifetime of racing already behind him. If you knew Larry, you probably had a run-in with him at one time or another, because at Silver State it was his way or the highway.

He ran the track until he was diagnosed with cancer in 1999, and after the 2000 season leased the operation of the track to Jim Bawden and Henry Hodges Jr. until a developer bought the property in 2005 and Larry moved back to Rocklin. Unfortunately, his cancer returned, and last week he took his final checkered flag at the age of 73.

But what many people don’t know about Larry Burton was his record as a driver, dating back to the 1950s. Burton drove jalopies, then moved up to what were then called super modifieds, and then into sprint cars. He racked up 21 individual track championships in his career, along with half a dozen titles in the old Central California Racing Association. In those days he was known as the “Roseville Rocket.”

Burton also was instrumental in an annual trek of sprint car stars to Australia, drivers like Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell. For fourteen years Burton’s troupe of drivers made the trek down under to give Aussie race fans (and race drivers) a taste of good old American sprint car racing. He became a promoter in the 1970s, operating All American Speedway in Roseville before taking the reins at Silver State Raceway here in Carson City. So next time you’re bench racing over an adult beverage, hoist one for the “Roseville Rocket” . . . if he were here, he’d join you in the toast.