The old guard is leaving
Another major shift in the racing universe is in the offing. Rusty Wallace has already announced his plans for retirement with his “Rusty’s Last Call” tour in 2005.
Now Terry Labonte has decided to follow Bill Elliott into “semi-retirementa” planning to turn over his full-time Rick Hendrick ride to newcomer Kyle Busch and run a limited 10-race schedule for the next two seasons. And late last week Mark Martin, the man who should be a Cup (you pick, Winston or Nextel) Champion but isn’t, will emulate Wallace with a 2005 farewell tour titled, “My Salute to You.”
For those of us who remember when the aforementioned trio were young lions, just breaking into the sport, it’s the closing of a chapter. A lot of younger racing fans have latched onto today’s young lions, who seem to be aging as we watch. I mean, in another couple of seasons Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, even Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be the “old guarda” the grizzled veterans trying to beat the new young guns who are after their titles and their seats. It isn’t easy getting old, but it’s even tougher when there’s a teenage tiger after your job!
The Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Championship is now halfway over with last night’s race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, the fifth in the 10-race Chase for the Cup. Unfortunately, I can’t comment on last night’s race because the deadline for this column was before the start.
However, going into the race there were several drivers whose continued opportunity to win the title hinged on the outcome. Jimmy Johnson, who has had a terrible run of luck, needed a win or at least a top five finish to stay alive. Ryan Newman, who started from the pole, needed a good finish to stay in contention as well. Kurt Bush, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. needed to stay out of trouble and score decent finishes to remain at the top of the heap. The good thing about night racing at this time of year is that it doesn’t interfere with the local racetracks’ live shows
Over in open-wheel land, it’s been just a year since Kenny Brack was severely injured and nearly lost his life in a horrifying crash in the Indy Racing League round at Texas Motor Speedway. Brack had tested a car in June, but determined at that time that his recovery hadn’t progressed far enough to allow him to race. However, Brack is about to get back in an IRL car in November to see if he is fit enough to drive in 2005. Retirement is not the choice he had planned to make at this stage in his career, and he has a strong desire to get back into racing, at least for the next few years.
“I hadn’t planned to stop racing at this point,” said Brack in a press conference. “I had planned a few more years to be active as a driver because I feel I’m very competitive still. I’ve been running up front in races, won races a lot in the past, and I still feel that I have race wins in me.”
I wish him well, and hope he can return to win more races for the Rahal-Letterman team.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that Kathryn Nunn and Lyn St. James of Nunn Motorsports were in the process of selecting six female drivers to test an Indy Racing League Menards Infiniti Pro Series car. The results of the test will determine who will get a chance at a full-season ride for 2005. Unfortunately, our own Amy Barnes was not on the short list, although the roster did include other ladies with sprint car experience. Maybe next year, Amy.
Now that the season is over at Champion Speedway, the Goss Brothers (Big Al and Ed) have gone dirt track racing with a Chevelle they resurrected recently. Big Al pretty much swept the honors at Fallon last weekend, and this weekend they’re at Hawthorne with teammate Chet Danburg in a second car. These guys just love to race! If Lake Tahoe ever freezes over, look for the Goss boys to start an ice-racing winter series!
Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.