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Sears Point going through a facelift

Roger Diez

The recent NHRA Nationals at nearby Sears Point were the last to be held on the venerable surface.

The day after the event, John Force and Gary Scelzi were back, ripping up the track. Literally. The pair took the controls of a

couple of bulldozers to formally begin the second phase of Sears Point’s multi-million dollar renovation, started soon after Bruton Smith purchased the facility. The old asphalt is being removed to repave the track with a new 660-foot concrete launch pad, which is designed to make Sears Point one of the quickest and fastest drag strips in the country.

An additional 15,000 seats will be added in a permanent grandstand along the west side of the track. The ebullient Force joked that he had spun the treads on his ride after dismounting, adding that he couldn’t wait to return next year to try

out the new surface. Hopefully the weather will be a little cooler for the 2002 Sears Point Nationals.

GORDON SHOULD WIN

Anybody want to bet me that Jeff Gordon wona?Tt win the NASCAR Winston Cup Championship this year? It seems that the now mature Gordon (who turned 30 last week, in case you missed it), has developed a rapport with crew chief Robbie Loomis that is the equal of the synergy developed in the Evernham/Gordon brain trust that culminated in three Winston Cup titles.

Everybody else is running for second place (again). Gordon set a record of three NASCAR victories at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway with his win on Sunday. Another record was set as well, because for the first time the TV ratings for the Brickyard 400 surpassed those of the Indy 500. The 400 pulled a 6.2 final rating, compared to a 5.8 for the 500. And if Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske hadn’t fielded teams in the 500 this year, the gap might have been even greater!

CART IN EUROPE

CART is getting ready to run its European oval races next month. Dale Coyne, who had to park his two-car team earlier this season due to lack of sponsorship, was chosen to run tests at the Rockingham, England facility and the Eurospeedway in Lausitz, Germany. Scotsman and Team Green driver Dario Franchitti joined Coyne in England for PR purposes, and ran laps in the Coyne Racing Ford/Cosworth-powered Lola B2K/00 along with former Formula One star Johnny Herbert and Coyne test driver Alex Barron, possibly the most talented young American without a full time CART ride.

Barron continued testing alone in Germany. The Rockingham track is a 1.5 mile oval, while the Lausitz oval is a two-mile tri-oval with less banking in the corners. The test team gathered data on tire performance and aero packages, which will be fed back to CART teams for initial setups when they arrive at the two new tracks. It doesn’t appear that the sort of speeds and g-forces that caused the Texas Motor Speedway cancellation will come into play. Straight-line speeds at Lausitz reached only 213 miles per hour, with lap speeds in the 190 range.

Two-hundred-seven miles an hour was the top straight-line speed at Rockingham.

Unfortunately, Barron lost it and backed into the wall while testing a low-downforce setup at Lausitz, ending the test prematurely. Coyne said he feels that both tracks are well-suited to lots of passing and close racing.

LOCAL SCENE

Things are definitely looking up for local racing fans. Some of the more exciting touring shows are starting to come to the area. Last night it was the USAC sprint cars at Champion Speedway, with the USAC and BCRA midgets putting on a combined open-wheel show a few weeks ago. Recently, the BCRA midgets ran on the dirt at Reno-Fernley Raceway, and the Supermodified Racing League appeared at Champion.

In addition, the new Late Model division at Champion provides some beautiful, fast racecars just about every Saturday

night. Next year, look for sprint cars to alternate Saturday nights with the Late Models at Champion, if the new open-wheel local series materializes as planned. Legends, Outlaw Karts, Hobby Stocks and Sportsmen round out Champion’s offerings, while Fernley provides Modifieds, Legends, Street Stocks, Mini Stocks, and Sprint 100s on a regular basis. For the racing fan,

life is good in Northern Nevada!

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal motorsports columnist.