Roger Diez: Wild West racetrack to host new event
The Wild West Motorsports Park is expanding its 2014 racing schedule. On Wednesday the track announced a new event, the Hell’s Gate Grand Prix. The event, sponsored by John Ascuaga’s Nugget, will run July 14-19. In addition, the Lucas Oil Offroad Series will visit Wild West twice this year, on May 29-31 and August 22-24. There will also be three races for the Lucas Oil Regional Series on June 7, August 30, and September 27. The track is located on Interstate 80 east of Sparks, near the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center.
Mackena Bell started 30th in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East at Bristol last Saturday, and managed to bring her battered race car home in 21st. The race will air at 8:30 this morning on Fox Sports 1. Today Bell races at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, a track with which she is much more familiar. The South Carolina asphalt half-mile track saw her score a fifth-place finish in the second of two races at the speedway in 2013, so she’s going into the race with high hopes.
Kudos to NASCAR for moving rapidly to address a safety issue that reared its head at Phoenix and Las Vegas during the new knockout qualifying sessions. The engine cooling machines on pit row eliminated the horrendous speed differentials created by cars trundling around the apron trying to cool the engines. The race itself was another rain-delayed marathon, but it produced the fourth different winner in four races when Carl Edwards took the checker under caution in yet another downpour. At this rate, there may be more than 16 drivers scoring a win this season, meaning that one or more race winners might not make the Chase.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide series are at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California this weekend. We are poised to see a fifth winner, as a number of drivers who have not yet gone to victory lane do very well at the two-mile oval. Jimmie Johnson is far and away the favorite at Fontana. He has a 119.8 driver rating, five wins, and the best average finish at 5.1. But the Fords have been strong this season, and Edwards is coming off a win and has momentum. Edwards has the second-best average finish at Fontana, 8.6, and has a win at the track. Matt Kenseth has three wins and a 9.1 average finish, and he’s hungry. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch has not had a stellar 2014 season thus far, but he won at Fontana last fall and has the fourth-best average finish at 9.8. Jeff Gordon has three wins at Fontana, and is having his best season in a while, so he is also a threat to win. It should be a very interesting race.
Farther afield, the 2014 Formula 1 season opened to mixed reviews. A double thumbs down is the judgment of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel and polesitter Louis Hamilton, both of whom retired in the early going with engine failures. It’s thumbs up for Hamilton’s teammate Niko Rosberg, who took the checkered flag by a huge margin. The Australian fans gave a big thumbs up for Aussie Daniel Ricciardo who finished second, only to be disappointed when he was excluded from the event for an illegal fuel flow rate. Red Bull has filed an appeal of the penalty. And finally, a huge thumbs down from just about everyone for the sound of the new engines, which has been compared to a pack of flatulent elephants. In fact, the race organizers are talking of filing a lawsuit against F1 poobah Bernie Ecclestone for breach of contract because the cars don’t sound like race cars. It reminds me of the early days of the Indy Racing League, when the shrieking turbocharged powerplants that fans were used to were replaced by engines that sounded more like dump trucks.