Stewart should become a boxer
Happy Fourth of July! I hope everyone enjoyed last night’s Firecracker (oh, yeah, Pepsi) 400 at Daytona.
Unfortunately, the race was run after column deadline, so I can’t comment on it. I can, however, share some thoughts on last week’s road race at Sears Point (oh, yeaha Infineon) Raceway.
First thought: Jeff Gordon, no matter what your opinion of him, is head and shoulders the best road racer in NASCAR. Second thought: I used to race at Sears Point (oh, yeaha Infineon), and as I discussed with Dave Price the other day, seeing true professionals play on your home field brings a sense of humility and a realization of just how good these guys really are!
Third thought: I’m going to have to farm out commentary on Tony Stewart to the Appeal’s boxing columnist, Mike Houser. Stewart is definitely becoming the Mike Tyson of the racing world. Unfortunately, the penalty of $50,000, 25 points, and a six-week probation levied by NASCAR is far too light in my opinion. As I said in a recent column, it’s well past time that NASCAR got tough on hooliganism, both on and off the track.
But if violence and controversy sell tickets, don’t count on a crackdown anytime soon. And a word of advice for Nextel Cup drivers: when Tony comes over to talk to you after the race, keep your helmet on!
Another member of one of America’s racing dynasties stepped down last week, as Al Unser Jr. announced his retirement. The Unsers, the Pettys, the Andrettis, and the like are the aristocracy of American racing.
I’m probably dating myself when I say that I remember when Little Al (as he was known then) and Michael Andretti were teenagers racing in the Formula Super Vee series. Now they’re retired, and I’m still working!
I remember when Al’s dad retired just 10 years ago. I had just acquired a puppy at the time, and named him Big Al in honor of the elder Unser. The puppy is now a large, semi-obnoxious dog, and another Unser is gone from the racing scene. Well, not gone completely. Like Michael, Al will remain with his team, Patrick Racing, in the role of consultant/advisor/driver coach.
“l’ll even be a spotter if it keeps me involved in Indy Car racing,” said Al. I wouldn’t mind being a young driver with a three-time Indy winner giving me advice!
After asking readers for input in last week’s column, I was overwhelmed by two whole emails. One of them asked me to talk more about drag racing, particularly local race teams involved in the sport. Since I’m not personally involved in drag racing, as I am in oval and road racing, I have to admit that I’ve not covered that aspect of Motorsports particularly well.
Unfortunately, just as I was asked to give more space to drag racing, tragedy struck at the NHRA round at Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis, Mo. Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell succumbed to injuries sustained when his car disintegrated at 320 miles an hour at the end of a run. This incident, like Dale Earnhardt’s death at Daytona, Ayrton Senna’s demise at Imola, and Tony Renna’s fatal accident at Indianapolis last year, reminds us that motor racing, no matter what the variation, is a dangerous sport. No matter what the sanctioning bodies and engineers can do to make it safer, there will always be that element of risk, the potential for death or injury. The risk is part of the sport’s allure, the actuality is sobering and depressing, but will not stop men and women from taking the dare to go faster.
You have to hand it to the officials at Champion Speedway in Carson City. During last Saturday night’s 100-lap Desert Rose event, they made a mistake on a caution flag and put the wrong car in the lead. However, unlike a major national stock-car racing sanctioning body that shall remain nameless, the Champion people corrected their error mid-race, restoring the former leader to his rightful place on the next caution. He finished third, by the way. But it just shows that some race officials aren’t too arrogant to admit an error and correct it.
Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.