Plenty of racing to follow | NevadaAppeal.com

Plenty of racing to follow

Roger Diez
Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist

The national racing season is well and truly underway. All three major NASCAR divisions are well into their season, the Indy Car Series has two events in the books, and the Champ Car World Series is at Long Beach this weekend, the second in three straight weekends of street races.

Last Sunday’s season opener at Las Vegas was a war of attrition, with only about half the starting field of 17 cars still running at the end. The rival Indy Car Series did much better with its street race at St. Petersburg, Fla., a couple of weeks ago, where nearly the whole 19-car field took the checkered flag.

Internationally, with two races in the books for the 2007 Formula 1 season, rookie Lewis Hamilton is having a record-breaking start to his F1 career with two podium finishes (third in Australia, second in Malaysia) out of two races for Team McLaren. It promises to be an interesting season, as there was more passing and close racing in the race at Kuala Lumpur alone than has been seen in a whole F1 season in years past.

Locally, the racing season began at the end of March with a one-day event at Fallon’s Top Gun drag strip. This weekend Top Gun is holding the first two ET races of the season, with ET races three and four set for May 5 and 6.

Reno-Fernley Raceway kicks off the oval racing season next Saturday night with Flag Night at the Races. The first 300 fans through the gate will each receive a free checkered flag, and will be entertained by the Pure Stock, Hobby Stock, Pro Stock, Dwarf, and IMCA Modified divisions.

Rattlesnake Raceway in Fallon will host its first event of the season on Saturday, April 28 with Gen X, Hobby Stock, Pro Stock, and IMCA Modifieds on the card. And in a rare show of cooperation between tracks, the Pro 4 and 318 Modified divisions will race at both Fallon and Reno-Fernley for a combined season championship.

One of my favorite country song titles is “If Today Was a Fish, I’d Throw it Back.” That must be the way Michael Waltrip feels about this whole year so far. Except for the Daytona 500, Michael hasn’t done any racing in Nextel Cup this year, and is still in the hole in driver points after the 100-point penalty for an illegal fuel additive at Daytona.

He won’t race at Texas today either, since the qualifying rainout set the field according to driver points. And to top it off, there was the highway incident at 2 a.m. Easter Sunday, when Waltrip fell asleep at the wheel of his Toyota Land Cruiser, hit a telephone pole, and rolled the vehicle. He has been cited for reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident. I’ll bet the folks at Toyota and NAPA are having some second thoughts about their association with Waltrip.

As if the already dominant Chevrolet teams in Nextel Cup needed any more help, more and more teams are switching over to the new R07 engine from the old reliable SB2 power plant. The new design has been in development since the late 1990s, and variations have been used in other racing applications such as USAC and drag racing. The cable-driven fuel pump that is part of the new engine design has caused a few problems (probably costing Tony Steward a win), but that piece has been beefed up to eliminate those failures.

I was saddened to receive a phone call last Sunday night from Carol Brandenburg, wife of Thunder Bowl Speedway owner Charlie Brandenburg. Charlie passed away last week after a battle with cancer. He was one of a kind, a maverick who got into racing late in life and built Thunder Bowl in Mound House practically single-handed.

I remember how proud he was when he got the lights at the track operating after running in daylight hours for a few seasons. Starting with stock cars on a 1/3 mile dirt oval, Thunder Bowl has been the venue for the Outlaw Karts and TT motorcycle and quad races in recent years. Godspeed, Charlie . . . you will be missed.