Roger Diez: Fernley Speedway hosts test and tune session today
March 15, 2014
The local racing season is just around the corner. Fernley 95A Speedway's pre-season test and tune session takes place today from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The cost for a car and driver is $20, but if you want to come out and watch, it is free for spectators. Opening day is March 29, with an early start time of 2:30 p.m. Fallon's Rattlesnake Raceway will hold a play day for all drivers March 22, and the season opener is scheduled for April 4.
Carson City's Mackena Bell is at Bristol this weekend for today's K&N Pro series third race of the season. Bell is currently 12th in points in the series. Unfortunately, a blown right front tire in practice put her into the wall. The car couldn't be fixed in time to qualify, so she will start at the back of the pack for today's race.
Speaking of Bristol, Friday's qualifying session for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series was interesting. After experiencing some hair-raising near misses at Phoenix and Las Vegas, NASCAR wisely decided to tweak the new knockout qualifying procedure a bit. The problem was the huge speed differentials between cars on a hot lap and cars trundling around the bottom of the race track trying to cool down their hot engines. As of Bristol, engine cooling machines that pump cold water through the engine on pit lane are allowed, and it worked very well yesterday. Most of the comments from race fans about the new procedure are positive. The knockout qualifying adds some drama and shortens the length of the qualifying sessions significantly. Drivers and crew chiefs are still trying to figure out the best way to take advantage of the procedure, but the end result still puts the better-prepared teams with the fastest cars up front. But it can be frustrating to miss the cut by one or two thousands of a second.
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With the help of a new tire compound from Goodyear and new aero and mechanical configurations, Denny Hamlin set a new qualifying record at Bristol. I think we will see a few more records fall this season as well. With a larger rear spoiler and changes to shock and spring configurations, the cars have more front and rear downforce this year, allowing them to go faster.
Of course, the additional speed caught several drivers out in the first practice session, leading to four drivers going to backup cars. Sunday's race should be a lot of fun to watch.
Formula 1 kicks off its 2014 season this weekend at Melbourne, Australia. The practice sessions were interesting, as teams struggled to come to grips with the new technical regulations. Due to cutbacks in testing in recent years, many teams are still a bit behind the eight-ball as they arrive at the first race. This is particularly true of the Renault-powered teams, which have experienced engine issues in testing. Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel missed most of the first practice session, although he turned in some quick times in Practice Two. Vettel expressed relief that the car ran reliably during the session. Qualifying took place after my deadline, but I anticipate a few surprises when the final checkered flag falls.
The new turbocharged engines in the F1 cars, coupled with a more powerful electric boost system give the new cars an unprecedented amount of torque. With no traction control, drivers were having difficulty getting power down without breaking the tires loose. Ironically, while lap times at Melbourne are slower than last year, top speed through the traps is higher. I think that when the drivers have more experience with the new systems, we will see lap times comparable to, or better than, last season's at most tracks. The new regulations have also engendered some interesting nose configurations. Some, like Mercedes and Ferrari, are clean and elegant, while others can only be called ugly.
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