U.S. Grand Prix may have gone unnoticed
October 6, 2002
Well, the U.S. Grand Prix is in the history books and it may be the only Formula 1 race the typical American race fan watches all year.
Come to think of it, since it was on opposite the Kansas City Winston Cup race probably no typical American race fans were tuned in. Anyway, Michael Schumacher evened the score with Teammate Rubens Barrichello, paying him back for his sacrifice
in Austria. Schumacher mysteriously slowed on the last lap and crossed the finish line in a near dead heat, with Barrichello taking the win by a whisker. Of course, Ferrari is so dominant in F1 these days that they can afford to play games like that. It’s a dilemma that has F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone clamoring for rules that will dumb down the technology in the series. Maybe Bernie’s been paying attention to NASCAR?
Also coming out of Indianapolis was the announcement of an American Formula 1 team, to be put together by racing legends Dan Gurney and Phil Hill. Hill, who claimed he hadn’t even heard of the project until just before the announcement, almost immediately repudiated the announcement. One wag noted
that Gurney’s proposed $80 million budget would scarcely buy office supplies for the average F1 operation.
There seem to have been some immediate repercussions from Dale Earnhardt Jr’s announcement last week that he had been driving for much of the season with a concussion. Earnhardt was summoned to a closed-door session with NASCAR chief Mike Helton.
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“Most of what [Helton] said is between him and me,” Earnhardt said afterward. “But he did tell me that I could have handled it
NASCAR, which is far less proactive on safety issues than the other major sanctioning bodies, was swift to react to the situation, announcing mandatory CT scans by NASCAR-authorized medical facilities if a driver may be suffering from a concussion. The first victim of the new rule was Sterling Marlin, who
was found to have a fractured vertebra in his neck after a vicious crash at Kansas City last Sunday. Marlin is out for the season, but should be fully recovered for 2003.
Reaction was also swift from the assembled motorsports press, who generally took an “it’s about time” stance. Former Winston Cup Champion and FOX commentator Darryl Waltrip suggested that car owners be able to use a designated driver when their primary driver is injured without losing driver points in the championship chase. Personally, I think that a lot of NASCAR’s
rules encourage unsafe behavior. The point system encourages building cars with insufficient crush and energy absorption, so that they can continue to run for points after accidents. Drivers hiding injuries and driving hurt is another result of the system.
Locally, it appears that the NevadaDaze CrashClassic originally scheduled for October 26 at Champion Motor Speedway has been canceled. Apparently a hitherto-unnoticed Modified race in Hawthorne is going to draw most of the cars in the area, leaving Champion’s new General Manager Jeb Onweiler with the choice of having a short field or canceling the event.
“We want Champion to have only quality shows, so we made the hard choice and canceled,” Onweiler told me earlier this week. He mentioned that a lot of the Modified drivers he has talked to are planning to convert their cars to run on asphalt over the winter, but wanted to run the last big dirt show in Hawthorne. I
mentioned in an earlier column that Humpy Wheeler is one of Onweiler’s heroes, and he plans feature some Wheeler-like flamboyant stunts at Champion Motor Speedway next season. So please, nobody tell him about the pre-race festivities scheduled for Lowe’s Motor Speedway next Sunday, where Paul Stender’s jet-powered outhouse will treat fans to a full-throttle demonstration run. We don’t want him getting ideas!
Speaking of Champion, last Saturday night saw Chris Betz crowned Hobby Stock Champion for 2002, Jim Klopp taking the Legends title, Bobby Hodges receiving the honors in the Bandolero division and Glenn Hopper winning his first career championship by a mere 15 points over race winner Mark Beck.
They join the champions we mentioned last week in the Sportsman and Late Model divisions. Congratulations to all!
Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist.
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