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Minter: Hard Work Fizzles

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 25 2010

Intense efforts at promoting races at Auto Club Speedway have just not paid off. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Intense efforts at promoting races at Auto Club Speedway have just not paid off. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

A few random racing thoughts on a cold, windy Thursday morning in Georgia:

There once was a time when I started my day by picking up the newspaper first thing in the morning and reading a great columnist like the late Lewis Grizzard.

Now, I get my day off to a good start by turning on the computer and dialing up a column by my RacinToday colleague Larry Woody.

As quick-witted as Woodrow can be live and in person, he’s even better in print, or online I should say.

His commentary on the TV coverage of the California race was spot-on. I listened to most of the race on the radio, and I kept wondering to myself whether I’d somehow tuned in to a race at Rockingham the way the announcers were excitedly calling the action.

But the fact is that Auto Club Speedway’s races just aren’t that good, especially compared to those at shorter tracks elsewhere, and its crowds are disappointing as well.

Now there are stories out there making the case for taking one of the track’s races and moving it to Kansas Speedway, where a casino is to be built adjacent to the track. The sad part of all of that is that Auto Club track president Gillian Zucker isn’t being rewarded for her Herculean efforts to promote her race track.

But, as it is with a lot of things in racing today, including some involving the struggling media corps, hard work doesn’t necessarily deliver the payoff it should.

One-year wonder: It looks from here like Kevin Harvick ought to try for one-year driving contracts. In 2006, the last time Harvick’s contract with Richard Childress Racing was about to expire, the early season speculation was that Harvick would soon be leaving for greener pastures.

The next thing we all knew, he suddenly found himself driving one of the fastest cars in the garage. He wound up winning a career-high five Cup races that season and finished fourth in the points.

Now, he’s in another contract negotiation year and just about the time the ink dried on all those stories about Harvick moving on, he’s back in one of the best cars again. He had a good shot at winning the first two races of the season and is leading the standings heading into this weekend’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Harvick was asked about the similarities in 2006 and this year on the weekly NASCAR teleconferences and here’s his response, in full: “You know, we are just going to go out and do the things that we have been doing and race as hard as we can. They can worry about all of that stuff.”

Too bad for him he didn’t do as good a job dodging the wall at California as he did that question.

Shrinking Bristol: The folks at Bristol Motor Speedway seem to have found a way to make the close-quarters racing even closer.

They’re adding 160 feet of SAFER barriers, at the exits of Turns 2 and 4. The new walls will be in place for the March 19-21 Food City 500 weekend.

“We believe with these modifications, we will not only increase driver safety, but will also create a different transition at the exit of the turns,” Jeff Byrd, BMS President and General Manager said in a statement. “While we don’t know exactly how this will impact the racing, the more confined racing area should create less elbow room and tighten up the racing groove at those points.”

In 2007, when the track put down a fresh layer of concrete, an additional four feet of width to the racing groove was part of the change. The walls will use up a good bit of that added room.

“Without question, this extra four feet added room and aided in creating three and, at times, even four-wide racing,” Byrd said. “However, while it is breathtaking, many of our fans have responded that we went too far, in actuality, giving too much racing room to the greatest drivers in the world.”

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 25 2010
One Comment

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  • Terrell Davis says:

    Ah, yes Minter, I remember the yesterdays when I looked forward to reading Grizzard. And in Middle Tennessee, I couldn’t wait to read about what Woody and the late Jerry Thompson were waxing eloquently. And I always looked forward to what you wrote about in racing. Now, fortunately for me and a lot of other lovers of good writing, we can, thanks to the internet and folks like Jim Pedley, once again read the best writers in motorsports…or any place else for that matter.
    In fact the only reason we still subscribe to The Tennessean is so my wife can clip coupons. Now, that is sad. The Tennessean and The Journal Constitution have gone the way of may other papers. They have become little more than shopper papers. Unfortunately, even their internet sites are as bad as the papers.
    It truly is good to know that at least some internet sites can still employee good writers and reporters.
    Three cheers for racintoday.com!