It’s that time once again….we’re hitting the road to
begin covering a wide range of significant motorsports action for a
variety of TV networks and racing series throughout 2006. Just back
from a couple of days at Daytona and DIRT Motorsports’ Volusia
Speedway Park, and preparing to call our first Hooters Pro Cup stock
car action of the new year on SPEED.
Short track racing doesn’t get too much attention here, but that’s
not for lack of quality. Short tracks are where most new fans and
drivers come from. As we see week in and week out in NASCAR and
elsewhere, the drivers at the top of the scoring pylon are usually
short track graduates. Now, Sunday’s 500 mile snoozer at California
Speedway probably won’t go down in history as one of the most
entertaining Cup events in recent memory, but it did serve as a
textbook example of the worth and strength of short track racing.
Dominant force Greg Biffle is a graduate of the short tracks of the
Pacific Northwest. The eventual winner, Matt Kenseth, cut his teeth
not too many years back on Wisconsin’s incredibly tough late model
tracks at Madison and Slinger. Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson is a
bit of an anomaly; he came from the off-road ranks before moving
into the old ASA National Tour. But ASA in the late 90’s saw some of
the all-time great short trackers doing battle on a weekly basis.
Johnson learned at the knee of legendary Midwestern crew chief Howie
Lettow and continues to put Lettow’s teachings into practice weekly
in his Hendrick Chevrolet.
course Mark Martin, now two for two in his return to the Craftsman
Truck tour, is perhaps ASA’s greatest graduate and a walking
advertisement for the value of a short track racing education.
Martin’s accomplished something I wouldn’t have thought
possible…putting a Ford truck back in an NCTS winner’s circle. While
Ford has done a fine job in the Cup series and with its involvement
in Champ Car, their recent history in the Truck Series has been
anything but stellar. Mark, though, is still one of the world’s best
and now it appears Roush Racing has found some new strength for
their F150 NASCAR program The rest of NASCAR’s Truckers may find
themselves battling for second when Martin buckles in for the final
five events on his NCTS schedule this year.
couple of interesting developments as we head toward this first
racing weekend of March. While several Champ Car teams have yet to
make their final announcements regarding their driver lineups, some
of the tour’s top stars know where they’ll be in the next few weeks.
Former Champ Car champion Paul Tracy heads to Mexico City this
weekend to run at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, his second
NASCAR Busch Series start of 2006.
And there’s word today that Sebastien Bourdais and
Bruno Junqueira will join the Multimatic Panoz GT team for the 12
Hours of Sebring in a couple more weeks. That move immediately gives
the Multimatic bunch a huge boost heading into the season opener for
the American LeMans Series, and opens the door to some Champ Car
stars doing double duty the weekend the two series move into Houston
As for NASCAR in Mexico, PT should be right at home this week at a
place where he waxed the Champ Car field in ’03. Tracy moves into
the Biagi Brothers’ Dodge for this event, and he’ll have some tough
competition from a group of road course ringers come Sunday. ALMS
superstar Ron Fellows will drive Kevin Harvick’s 33 car, and Boris
Said makes his first run for Ray Evernham’s Dodge team in the Busch
Series. Marc Goossens, newly signed to a development deal by Robert
Yates, makes his first NASCAR try in the RYR 90 car. And don’t
overlook the return of Michel Jourdain, who’ll no doubt have plenty
of incentive to do well given what’s become of his NASCAR effort
since last season.
I’ll also be watching to see how John Andretti does in his ppc
racing Ford. John has long been one of my favorite guys, another
driver who doesn’t get the respect his glittering resume’ deserves.
He’s truly an accomplished road racer with a CART victory at
Surfers Paradise among his many wins. Don’t be surprised at all if
John or Adrian Fernandez should end up in Victory Lane come Sunday.
In fact, those seven drivers would make quite a road racing All-Star
team. Any of them could drive for me any day of the week.
I’ll be off to a place that’s about as far removed from Mexico City
as you could get, as a racing venue. It’s Finals Weekend for the All-American Driver Challenge, and when the final laps have been run at
Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina Saturday evening, we will
have picked one young gun for a fully-funded Focus Midget ride this
season. I’d say that come this Sunday night you’d be able to find at
least two very happy race drivers in North America.
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