She may be NASCAR’s biggest fan
I met an interesting lady the other night. She might possibly be the biggest NASCAR fan in Northern Nevada, if not the country.
Her name is Suzy Truax, and she lives in Fernley. Suzy admits she didn’t “get” racing until her daughter, also a big fan, took her to a race. Seeing racing on TV is one thing, but as I’ve preached over and over in this space, you have to BE there to really appreciate the sport. Anyway, Suzy was hooked, and has now been to all but seven of the tracks the Winston Cup currently runs. But what makes her unique is her Daytona 500 party every year.
Suzy clears out her house, right down to the pictures on the walls, rents the biggest big-screen TV she can find, puts up bleachers, and sends out “tickets” to the race to her friends. You can bet on things like who will crash first, and she gives prizes to those who come in race-fan attire. There are prizes for “Best Bubba,” “Best Female Fan” (lots of makeup and big hair figure into this one) and other categories. Last year, a Tony Stewart fan with his face painted orange and black won. Suzy says she’s going to invite me this year, and I have to say it will probably be the most interesting Daytona 500 I’ve watched in years, no matter what happens on the track.
I asked Suzy her opinion of the new NASCAR scoring system for the Nextel Cup championship this year. She didn’t really know a lot about it, but thought it would make things more interesting. Several NASCAR luminaries have weighed in on the question this past week, and as you would expect there are differences of opinion. Roger Penske, who fields three cars in the Cup chase, is in favor of it.
“I’m not on the side of the drivers on this one,” said Penske. “I think it’ll only make the sport better. I think change is great.”
Penske went on to point out that consistency will remain a factor, and team strategy will be to stay within 400 points of the leader in order to have a shot at the playoff. Penske driver Ryan Newman, who would have finished far better in 2003 with the new points system, has a slightly different perspective.
“If I’ve got a 200-point lead with 10 races to go, I’m not going to be terribly happy about it, but if I’m 200 points behind with 10 races to go, I’ll look at it in a different way.”
Matt Kenseth, the last Winston Cup Champion in history, is fairly outspoken in his opposition to the new system.
“Honestly, it’s worse than I thought, because I at least felt if you had a 300-point lead going into the final 10 races that they might knock that down to 100 going in; but five points isn’t really that big of a deal, so I’m really not in favor of the change. I feel this is entertainment-driven, and it definitely is nothing like what it was when racing started for most of us.”
Personally, I agree with Kenseth. In my 35 years in motorsports, I’ve tended to look upon it as a sport, not primarily as entertainment. NASCAR, however, has been successful at packaging the entertainment side of things, and who am I to knock success? I just wish it wasn’t quite as close to professional wrestling as it has become in recent years.
For those of you who still care, another shot has been fired in the open-wheel war. The Indy Racing League (IRL) has filed a “substantial” bid with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Indianapolis to purchase certain assets of CART’s Champ Car World Series. Judge Frank Otte announced his decisions on the bids this coming Wednesday. The owners of Open Wheel Racing Series (OWRS), the other bidder for the series’ assets, feel that IRL’s Tony George can’t come up with a bid competitive with theirs. OWRS plans to continue operating the series, while George’s motivation appears to be to cherry-pick some of the CART venues, particularly the Long Beach Grand Prix, and add selected road races to the IRL schedule beginning in 2005.
Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org