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Sprints could be a good fit for Fernley

Roger Diez

Last weekend Mark Beck and a couple of other local sprint car drivers ran demonstration laps at Reno-Fernley Raceway during the BCRA Midget show.

Fan reaction was good, which bodes well for the possibility of a sprint car division at Reno-Fernley in 2004. Unfortunately, Champion Motor Speedway and the local sprint car drivers couldn’t agree on a format this season, leaving a void in the local racing scene for sprint car fans. Personally, I think sprint cars belong on dirt anyway and I think Reno-Fernley’s reputation as a smooth, fast track would draw not only local cars but a good contingent of California machines as well.

I’ll keep my ear to the ground and let you know if plans begin to gel for this program.

I spoke with former sprint car ace Paul Purcell at Reno-Fernley that evening and he indicated that he knew where he could pick up a car if a division develops at Reno-Fernley. Paul has been out of racing for a few years, but since his home in Stagecoach is only a few miles from Reno-Fernley, he thinks he could be persuaded to come out of retirement. I also learned that Paul is a big Formula 1 fan, as was his late father. It’s amazing the things you find out about people when you’re just standing around the racetrack talking!

Well, the other shoe has finally dropped in the Sam Hornish saga. It appears that Sam will be taking Gil de Ferran’s place on the Penske IRL team and that Rusty Wallace will keep his driving shoes on through 2005.

The de Ferran retirement announcement came as a bit of a surprise because he only recently indicated that although he would retire when the time was right, it wasn’t going to be this soon. Well, with two CART Championships and an Indy 500 win to his credit, not to mention complications if he is re-injured, it’s probably time for Gil to bow out. At least he’s going out on top of his game.

Personally, I think it’s sad when racers hang around too long. For example, the final few seasons of both Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip were an embarrassment to both of them and their fans. They were both multiple champions and fierce competitors, and should have hung it up while they were still front-runners. At least Darrell gets to run his mouth for half the NASCAR season!

Remember last season, when Home Depot fined Tony Stewart for anti-social behavior on and off the race track, and he had to attend anger management classes? Well, it’s dej^ vu all over again with Kurt Busch. Sponsor Newell Rubbermaid has put young Mr. Busch on notice, compounding his sentence of probation by NASCAR for altercations with Jimmy Spencer.

Eric Pinkham, Rubbermaid’s director of event marketing, said, “We will be taking an active role with Roush Racing in helping Kurt get guidance and working closely in developing a mentoring program. This program includes scheduled meetings with Roush teammates and veteran competitors, so Kurt can learn from their years of racing experience, both on and off the track.” Hmmmm . . . I wonder if one of those “veteran competitors” will be Jimmy Spencer?

Look, I realize that some of the younger NASCAR competitors (Busch, Stewart, Kevin Harvick, and others) are brash and perhaps a bit immature, but that’s part of what makes them competitive drivers! I realize the sponsors have a lot of money invested in the teams and the drivers, and want to protect that investment. But, geez! I’m sure that Curtis Turner, Fireball Roberts, Lee Petty and some of the other hell-raisers of NASCAR’s early years are spinning faster than a turbocharger in their graves at the “corporatification” of the sport.

A short while back I did a feature on local kart racer Nick Halen, who has been racing in the prestigious Stars of Tomorrow series. Here’s a quick update. Nick will be racing Sept. 12-14 at Chilliwack, B.C., Canada, in the fourth and final Western Division Stars of Tomorrow event and hopes to show well in the Championship event Nov. 1-2 at California Speedway.

His goal is winning the scholarship to the Barber formula car series, the next step on the steep ladder to professional racing.