Time for racing’s final countdown
BY ROGER DIEZ
Nevada Appeal Motorsports Writer
As NASCAR’s racing season goes down to the wire, all three top series have become two-horse races. In fact, the closest race of all, for the Craftsman Truck Series title, will be over by the time you read this. Johnny Benson led Ron Hornaday by a mere three points heading into Friday’s series finale, and the championship may have been settled by merely one position at the finish, or by the five bonus points for leading a lap. Unfortunately, my deadline for this column came prior to the race. I watched it, and I hope you did as well.
The Nationwide Series points battle is a bit more wide-open, with Clint Bowyer 56 counters ahead of a charging Carl Edwards. If Bowyer can manage an eighth place or better finish, he is the Nationwide Champion. If he finishes further down the order, there are a multitude of scenarios where either driver could take the title.
Edwards is currently in the runner-up spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship as well, 141 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. The largest point count Edwards has ever made up on Johnson is 127, ironically also at Homestead in 2005.
Johnson only has to finish 36th or better to put the championship away for the third straight year. If Edwards fails to win and lead the most laps, Johnson can finish even further down the order and still win the title. It’s interesting that, as Darrell Waltrip noted, only the Cup series has the Chase format, yet the other two series have closer points battles. Kind of makes you wonder, huh?
Jeff Gordon has just one more race to avoid his first shutout in 15 years in the Cup series. He has won at least one race every season since 1993, but is winless so far this year. Do you think he’s motivated? And another motivated driver is Marcos Ambrose, whose No. 47 Toyota is currently 35th in owner points, and the last car to be locked into a starting spot in the first five races of 2009 if he can stay there. He is only 17 points ahead of the No. 84 Toyota, which will be driven next season by its current driver, ex-Formula 1 ace Scott Speed.
Some racing pundits are already talking about a fourth championship in a row for Johnson (a bit prematurely, since he has yet to win the third). If he can do it, he would equal the record of Sebastien Bourdais, who won four straight CART/Champ Car titles, and four-peat Formula 1 champions Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher. Anybody betting against five in a row for Johnson?
While the big boys are wrapping their season in Florida, Carson City outlaw kart racers are just getting into their winter series in Red Bluff, Calif. Last Saturday all three of our 250 cc division racers once again made the A main, with Mason Millard finishing sixth, Tanner Thorson 14th and Zachary Heinz 16th.
Heinz won heat race three, narrowly edging Millard in second, and Thorson came home fifth in heat race two. Millard was the fastest qualifier of the three, second quick, and finished fifth in the trophy dash. Heinz qualified 12th and Thorson 14th. Daniel Thorson was the only Carson area racer to make the A main in the Open division, finishing eighth. Mackena Bell transferred from the C main to the B main with a fifth, but her 12th place finish wasn’t high enough to transfer to the A.
Cameron Millard and Chris Rytting didn’t transfer from the C, finishing eighth and 12th respectively. Heat race finishes were: Thorson fourth, Millard fifth, Rytting and Bell each sixth. Thorson qualified ninth, Millard 22nd, Bell 25th and Rytting 36th.
Speaking of Mackena Bell, she and her sister Kellcy, also a former outlaw kart star, are holding the First Annual Mackena Bell Motorsports Coat and Toy Drive on December 6 in front of Little Caesars Pizza at the Carson Mall on south Carson Street. The Bell girls are trying to fill Mackena’s late model race car and trailer with as many coats and toys as possible for area children. I’ll have more details as the event draws closer.