Roger Diez: A more normal racing season ahead? | NevadaAppeal.com
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Roger Diez: A more normal racing season ahead?

By Roger Diez

Here’s wishing a Happy New Year to all race fans! 2020 is finally behind us, and there’s hope for a more normal racing season (along with a more normal daily existence). All major sanctioning bodies have released their 2021 schedules, with competitors and fans hoping that they will be able to stick to them. 

In just 20 days racing engines will roar for the first time in 2021 as IMSA kicks off the “Roar Before the 24” precursor to the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. The three-day event will feature practice for all IMSA classes, qualifying for the 24, and the Prototype Challenge race. The twice around the clock endurance race itself will take place the following weekend with the green flag on Saturday and the checkered flag set to fly on Sunday, Jan. 31. 

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The NASCAR season starts 38 days from now, with Florida-only races only February. The Clash will kick off Speedweeks on the Daytona road course Tuesday, Feb. 9. The Duels to set starting positions for the Daytona 500 will run on Thursday, Feb. 11. The 500 takes place on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, followed by the Daytona road course on the 21st.The Dixie Vodka 400 at Miami-Homestead on Feb. 28 will round out the Florida series, with Las Vegas on the schedule for March 7. The schedule has an expanded road course component, with Circuit of the Americas and Road America added to the traditional Sonoma and Watkins Glen road races and the Charlotte Roval. The Playoffs will start Sept. 5 at the Darlington Southern 500 and the season finale at Phoenix is scheduled for Nov. 7.

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The NTT IndyCar series also starts in Florida with their season opener at St. Petersburg on March 7. It’s the first race of a 16-race season that ends on Sept. 26 at Long Beach. The season venues are four ovals – Indianapolis, World Wide Technology Raceway in St. Louis, and a doubleheader at Texas Motor Speedway. There is one new venue on the schedule, a street race in Nashville. The most accessible event for us in northern Nevada is the Sept. 9 race at Laguna Seca.

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Another series beginning in Florida is the NHRA, which kicks off 2021 on March 14 with the Gainesville Gatornationals. There are 22 races scheduled, ending on Nov. 14 with the Auto Club Speedway NHRA Finals. The July 23-25 Sonoma Nationals is the nearest the series comes to our neck of the woods.

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The Formula 1 series begins their provisional 23-race scheduled with the Australian Grand Prix on March 21 and ends in Abu Dhabi on Dec. 5. One race location is yet to be announced (possibly Vietnam, which was canceled in 2020). There is also one new venue, Saudi Arabia, scheduled as the second to last race of the season. The only race on U.S. soil is at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas on Oct. 24. 

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Last week we got good news concerning Alex Zanardi. He was the CART/Champ Car champion in 1997/98 for Chip Ganassi Racing and lost his legs in a tragic on-track accident in 2001. He returned to compete in touring cars and became a Paralympic champion in handbike racing. Seriously injured in a collision between his handbike and a truck last June, he has undergone five head and facial surgeries. Last week he was reported have recovered his sight and hearing, and to be responding to questions and shaking hands. Best wishes on his continued recovery.

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Finally, next time you run into F1 driver Lewis Hamilton, be sure to address him as Sir Lewis. He was knighted recently for his contributions to British Motorsport.