Today is your last chance to see some local stock car racing action, as Reno-Fernley wraps up the season at its 3/8 mile clay oval with the fifth annual Western States Shootout.
Two-hundred cars in five divisions are expected, and main event action starts at 2 p.m. today. If you haven't been to Reno-Fernley Raceway, take Highway 50 East to Silver Springs, turn left onto 95A, and the track is on the left about 10 miles up the road. If you're a road racing fan, you might also want to check out the newly-laid paving on the road course, which is now more than four miles long.
NASCAR has closed another loophole in its attempt to make Nextel Cup a "spec" car series. It seems that the Hendrick Chevrolets of Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch, which finished first and second at Dover last weekend, were found to be too high in the rear immediately after the race, but passed inspection after being allowed time to "settle."
The cars failed inspection for the same reason at Las Vegas in March, and the crew chiefs were suspended for two races. The suspensions were overturned on appeal. Apparently the shocks used by the teams caused the rear ends to rise when the suspension encounters bumps on the track. This increases rear downforce. NASCAR confiscated shocks from six cars after the Dover race and this weekend will issue a technical bulletin reducing maximum shock pressure from 175 pounds per square inch to 75 psi. However, since the parts met the letter of the law at the time of the race, no penalties will be assessed against the teams.
Other drivers had differing perspectives on the issue, but my favorite comment came from Jamie McMurray, who said, as a wise old race car mechanic once told me,
"The tighter the rules get, the more expensive cheating becomes. I hope they don't change the rules. I hope they make everyone else go figure out what they're doing. I think that's cool that those guys have caught on to something. I think it's wrong to get penalized when you work hard and figure something out."
Or as a wise old race car mechanic once told me, "All that happens when you tighten the rules is to make it more expensive to cheat."
Speaking of which, Kevin Harvick's crew chief Todd Berrier was ejected from the Talladega track Friday afternoon after NASCAR inspectors found aerodynamic irregularities on Harvick's Chevrolet. Berrier, who served a four-race suspension earlier in the season for an illegal fuel system at Las Vegas, was summarily dealt with as a "repeat offender." Car owner Richard Childress had a heated discussion Saturday morning with NASCAR officials, to no avail. Harvick will start at the back for today's race.
Congratulations to 2005 Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon, who clinched the Indy Racing League championship last weekend at Watkins Glen. I first saw Wheldon racing in the F2000 series at Mid-Ohio about five years ago, and his talent was obvious even then. I was not been a big fan of the IRL when it started, preferring the type of racing that rival series CART put on.
But over the years the IRL has morphed into what CART then was, with big name teams and drivers, and now road course racing. I still wish the two series would re-unite, though. It would be best for open-wheel racing in the U.S. IRL team owner Bobby Rahal's drivers didn't have a good weekend at Watkins Glen, but Bobby himself did. Bobby participated in a 10-lap race for vintage Formula 1 cars and won the race driving an ex-Carlos Reutemann 1974 Brabham. Rahal had watched Reutemann win the U.S. Grand Prix at the Glen 31 years before.
"It is a thrill to drive cars like this," Rahal said. "I came up here for my first Atlantic race in October 1974 and watched that car win the race."
To top off the weekend, Rahal's 16 year old son Graham won the SCCA Formula Atlantic National Championship race at Mid-Ohio on Friday. I'll wager that it won't be long before Graham is a teammate to Danica Patrick in a Rahal-Letterman Indy car.