Roger Diez: Fernley 95A track ready for racing
Last Saturday I took the drive from Carson to the Fernley 95A Motorsports Complex to observe the test and tune session on the 3/8-mile clay oval. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of race cars on hand in the pits. Although I didn’t get an exact count, I estimated about 50 cars on hand, about half of them Modifieds. Observing social distancing, I parked above turns three and four and watched hot laps for several groups. In addition to the Modifieds, there were Hobby Stocks, Dwarfs, Pro Stocks, Pro Fours, Mini Stocks (Gen-X), winged and non-winged Sprint Cars, and one 1940s-style Jalopy racer. It was good to hear the sound of racing engines at full song again. The track appeared to be in really good shape, with a well-rubbered-in racing line, and some of the faster cars were turning laps in under 20 seconds. There’s no word yet on when racing will start because it all depends on how quickly the state reopens. However, there is a second test and tune scheduled for next Saturday, May 16, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. The fee for cars taking part on track will again be $45, and spectators will pay $5 to watch. The track will again be enforcing social distancing rules as required by whatever regulations are in place at the time. I will be there, and hopefully there will be more news about the racing schedule by then.
Saturday is the final race of the NASCAR iRacing invitational series, at a venue that NASCAR abandoned a quarter-century ago. The venerable North Wilkesboro Speedway was part of NASCAR’s first Strictly Stock season in 1949, but by the mid-1990s NASCAR had outgrown it. Last month a group of drivers and broadcasters, led by Dale Earnhardt Jr., participated in a cleanup of the track surface to allow iRacing to scan and map the venue for simulated racing. Jeff Gordon, who won the final NASCAR Cup series race at North Wilkesboro in 1996, is stepping out of the broadcast booth to take part in the sim race. He will be one of 28 drivers on the virtual 5/8-mile oval for the 160-lap contest. Coverage on FOX will start at noon.
Next Sunday the NASCAR Cup teams will take to the track for real, racing 400 miles at Charlotte Motor Speedway with no spectators, no practice, and no qualifying. It will be the first live, on-track event since Phoenix on March 8. While most teams will have the same personnel as they did then, there are a couple of changes. Ryan Newman is set to be back in the No. 6 Roush-Fenway Ford after recovering from his Daytona 500 crash, and Matt Kenseth will be aboard the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy, replacing the suspended Kyle Larson.
The NTT IndyCar Series has announced plans for a reduced 15-race season beginning June 6, at Texas Motor Speedway. The NBC Sports Network air the race, which will run without fans in attendance. Like NASCAR, the IndyCar series will adopt a truncated schedule in Texas. Practice, qualifying, and the race will all occur in one day, and the race length will be shortened from 248 laps to 200. All participants will go through a health screening upon entering the facility, personal protection equipment will be issued, and social distancing will be enforced. Precautions for subsequent races will be determined according to requirements dictated by the venue and date of each event. The Indy 500, which has run on Memorial Day weekend for over a century except for a pause for two world wars, will take place in August.