Roger Diez: Reno-Tahoe-Fernley preparing for season opener
I had the opportunity to visit the 3/8 mile dirt oval at Reno-Tahoe-Fernley Speedway on Tuesday to check out the preparations for the upcoming season. Matt, Ramthun, dirt track manager, was busy with several projects, but took some time to update me on the progress. The track itself is being totally redone, with higher banking and new clay. When I visited, workers were busy screening piles of dirt to remove all the rocks. When that’s finished, the old dirt will be mixed with new clay and re-deposited on the track. Banking in the turns will be 12 degrees or more, which should increase corner speeds. Ramthun said the goal is to make the racing faster, safer and more exciting.
Another crew was water-blasting the grandstand seats to remove the old paint in preparation for repainting. There will be a new spectator parking lot, much of the fencing is being removed, and the vendor area will be relocated to make room for the addition of more bleachers. Eventually, bleachers and grandstands will extend all the way from turn four to turn one. Matt told me that permanent toilets are on the way, along with my favorite change, an upgraded public address system. The track has a play day scheduled for April 6, which will cost $20 for car and driver. Spectator admission is $10 and will include pit access. The first points race for the 95A Series will take place on April 13, with Modifieds, Sport Mods, Pro Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Dwarfs, Mod Minis, KWS Lite sprint cars, and Outlaw Karts on the card. Admission prices for the 95A Series shows will be $12 for spectators 13 and older; $8 for kids 6-12, and free for kids up to five and military in uniform. For the full season schedule, go to http://www.rtfspeedway.com and click on the “Schedule” button.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup season is off to a good start, with three different winners in the first three races. Jimmie Johnson leads the points, but Brad Keselowski is hanging right with him, intent on becoming Cup’s next back-to-back champion. So far, the Gen-6 car has competed on a restrictor plate superspeedway, a flat mile, and a high- banked mile and a half. This weekend is the first short-track race of the season, the wicked Bristol half-mile. Jimmy Spencer described racing at Bristol best, comparing it to flying a jet fighter plane in a gymnasium. It’s one of those races that can upset somebody’s season very easily, and there are usually some hard feelings among drivers by the end of the race.
Also racing at Bristol this weekend is Carson City’s own Mackena Bell, making her first season start in the K&N Pro Series East, driving the Toyota Racing Development Toyota for Revolution Racing. Bell improved from 31st and 30th in the two practices to 25th out of 40 drivers in Thursday’s qualifying runs. The race is scheduled for 1:45 p.m. today.
This weekend marks the opening of the 2013 Formula 1 season with the Australian Grand Prix. Due to the time differences, the race will air at 11 p.m. this evening, which will be Sunday afternoon in Melbourne. And remember, this season the F1 races are moving from SPEEDTV to NBC Sports. The biggest factor in the race will probably be the 2013 Pirelli tire, with the white-sidewall medium and red-sidewall supersoft compounds in use for the first race. Expect most teams to be on a three-stop strategy, as the supersoft tire will probably be much faster but will also wear more rapidly. Early season testing results show that the gap between the top teams and the back of the grid has narrowed considerably. Of course, Red Bull, Ferrari, and McLaren will probably still have an edge, but Mercedes and Lotus will be nipping at their heels with Williams and Sauber not far behind. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel will be going for his fourth consecutive world championship, the next step in equaling the record of NASCAR’s “Five-Time” Jimmie Johnson. The field is down two cars from last season to 22 with the departure of the HRT team.