Minter: Danica Has Us Talking About Auto Racing
A few random thoughts on the first week in months in which there’s been no official NASCAR-sanctioned activity, unless you count the announcement of Danica Patrick’s decision to add a part-time Nationwide Series schedule to her 2010 agenda.
One of the most refreshing parts of the Danica debate is that it’s a big NASCAR story that doesn’t involve points or the Chase. It’s about racing, whether she can cut it in NASCAR, how other drivers will react, how fans will react.
Darrell Waltrip is among those who say Patrick faces an uphill battle.
“I just think the pressure of performing and being as good as people expect her to be is probably more than any person can handle,” Waltrip said. “She’s going to be under such a magnifying glass.”
It was surprising – and refreshing – to read Jeff Gluck’s piece on SceneDaily.com in which he predicted that John Wes Townley, the Nationwide Series driver Gluck once called the worst in NASCAR and one who is referred to by some as “John Wrecks Weekly,” would finish ahead of Patrick more than half the time.
The response was fun too. Gluck, and 40 others the first day, pledged money to various charities, mostly the Victory Junction Gang Camp, saying they believed Townley would do just what Gluck said. Only 17 placed the donations on Patrick’s side.
And just where was Patrick’s highest profile NASCAR car owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. during the announcement and ensuing press conferences?
The points debate came up again this week during a visit with an old short-track friend, the retired dirt racer and car builder Roscoe Smith.
Smith pointed out that even on TV broadcasts of dirt Late Model races, the broadcasters have begun to ape their NASCAR counterparts and focus on the series points leaders, even if the most interesting racing on the track doesn’t involve them.
Smith recalled a time back in his driving days when he clinched the track championship at a Georgia dirt track, which was NASCAR-sanctioned at the time.
Excited about the prospects of a substantial post-season bonus, he contacted friends at headquarters in Daytona Beach to inquire about the payoff only to find out that the local promoter hadn’t paid into the points fund in months, and there would be no season end bonus for him.
Smith’s take on points is similar to the one often voiced by promoting genius Humpy Wheeler, who says he’s “never been able to sell tickets to a points race.”
Ford’s decision to develop a new Pro Stock engine, one that ran for the first time last month at Pomona, was a success on the track and a plus for the NHRA.
Ford engine engineer Mose Nowland, who has been with Ford since 1955, talked with reporters about the engine this week and gave it a clear thumbs up. It was used at Pomona by the Cunningham Motorsports duo of Jim Cunningham and Erica Enders and will undergo more testing next week.
“The engine, as I can recall, has had in the number of 50 to 60 dyno pulls on it and then in the weekend at Pomona it saw probably 14 launches from the start line,” he said. “That’s a pretty good workload.”
The engine commitment by Ford also sends a strong signal about the benefits of a manufacturer’s participation in professional drag racing, especially during tough economic times.
“[Ford] management coming in also identified the importance of NHRA and how it connects to the working man, the man in the street,” Nowland said. “Our products are there. So, it was ready and we just followed through with it.”
– Rick Minter can be reached at email@example.com Comments