Column: Short-track Saturday night
Published 10:03 am Saturday, May 6, 2006
There is something about night racing that really gets me fired up. It doesn't matter if the racing is with the big boys from NASCAR or watching the local drivers giving it all they have at Hartford Speedway, M-40, Kalamazoo Speedway, or the track at South Bend. The lights make the paint jobs stand out at you, seem brighter and increase the sense of speed.
This weekend, the NASCAR Busch Series and NEXTEL Cup Series are headed to Richmond, Va. for a date with the mile short track. This is a huge difference to Talladega, which was 2.66 miles long and had banking of over 30 degrees, launching the cars to nearly 200 miles per hour. Richmond is short, flat and, compared to Talladega, gives a sense that an Amish buggy could go faster.
The typical short-track aces are atop the list of favorites for Saturday night. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to name a few. The NEXTEL Cup visited Richmond twice last year with Kasey Kahne winning the spring race and Kevin Harvick taking home the trophy in the fall. Speaking of Harvick, he is on a roll this year posting some very impressive runs with one of them being a win at Phoenix. I expect to see him up front at the end on Saturday.
There are some pretty juicy rumors flying around the Internet this week and they all focus on Toyota. The Japanese automaker will be fielding Camrys in NEXTEL Cup beginning next year and they have been very busy forming their teams. Michael Waltrip has been working very hard to find a driver for his second car and Harvick was a leading candidate. But Richard Childress racing, whom Kevin drives for now, is expected to announce they have signed a long-term contract extension. With Harvick out of the picture the biggest rumor is that Dale Jarrett may leave the big brown truck to drive a Toyota. This comes as a big surprise considering most teams are signing young guns with very little experience to pilot their rides. Hiring Jarrett makes sense, though, as this new team will have to qualify on speed for the first five races. If they are slow Jarrett could use his past-champions provisional guaranteeing them a spot in the field. Time will tell my friends.
The race at Talladega on Monday proved to be very unkind to two of our local drivers. David Stremme was the highest qualifier starting 17th. But a crash on lap nine damaged his car, as well as Ryan Newmans, and they finished 33rd and 34th respectively. Laportes Tony Raines made it through the carnage to finish 17th.
Tempers were kept in check on Monday, but I have a feeling that wont be the case on Saturday. There could be a waiting line to see the NASCAR officials after the race following some exciting action at Richmond. Enjoy the race my friends, I know I will.