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Pedley: TMS, Stewart Ideas Have Roots

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, August 19 2010

Texas Motor Speedway will hold its spring Sprint Cup race under the lights next season. It will also host two IndyCar races - on the same day. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

The guess here isthat the reaction to Tuesday’s announcement that Texas Motor Speedway will host two IZOD IndyCar Series races on the same day next season is being shredded by the auto racing traditionalists.

Just like Tony Stewart’s suggestion that NASCAR insert a dirt-track race into the Chase lineup evokes more rolling of eyes than thoughtful analysis when he gives the idea semi-regular airings.

Neither idea, however, should offend the traditionalists.

In fact, they should be embraced by those folks because both are terrific ideas whose roots run deep into the soil of American racing tradition. In fact, the ideas should have went further.

Seventeen twin major open-wheel races were held in North America in the 1960s through the 1981. They were sanctioned by both USAC and CART. The races were held on ovals and road courses.

The twofer at Texas will be held on the track’s oval. Both will be 275 kilometers in length and each will pay championship points – half the normal amount of points per race. They will be run virtually back to back.

“The concept has Indy-car history to it, but at the same time provides a new dynamic event to our fans as well as the drivers themselves,” TMS president Eddie Gossage said Tuesday night in announcing the event.

Agreed.

Then there is the Stewart suggestion. He tossed it out – again – last week when he was asked about changes to the Sprint Cup schedule and to the Chase playoff system.

“I would love to see a dirt race at Eldora (Speedway, a track he owns in Ohio) in the Chase which, I’ve mentioned for 10 years,” Stewart said. “So, hopefully I won’t have to go 11 years before we get one but I’m not going to hold my breath that it’s going to happen.”

Love it.

NASCAR, of course, got its start on the clay-based back roads, the red dirt and yellow beach sand of the Southeast.

What could be more traditional than holding a NASCAR race or two on a dirt track?

And yes, one in the Chase. Let’s find out which team and driver are the all-around best in the sport.

In fact, go further. Combine the Gossage and Stewart ideas and add some steroids. Think Saturday night short track. Think sprint cars.

How about heat races and B- and C-Mains to determine starting positions for the A-Main? How about trophy dashes?

One of the great events in all of racing is the Knoxville Nationals. It is non-stop action. It’s race after race of clawing and hacking and scrambling for the right to be called champion.

When it all finally does stop at the end of the A-Main, the fans and the last team standing know that victory was earned.

Of course because this has been an academic exercise, financial considerations and logistical stumbling blocks have been left out of the discussion. And those considerations and stumbling blocks are likely quite daunting in this era of economic chaos.

But please, do not dismiss the idea on the grounds of being non-traditional.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, August 19 2010
One Comment

One Comment »

  • ed g says:

    Jim, you and I are getting old. How many of NASCAR’s new yuppie fans even know what a heat race or a trophy dash is? Local tracks don’t have the panache they used to. I was lucky enough to be raised near Belleville, Kansas and in the sixties, saw the superstars of open wheel racing compete on the High Banks year after year. A.J. Foyt, Bobby and Al Unser, Jim Hurtubise, Johnny Rutherford, Parnelli Jones, just to name a few, raced the wheels off the place in their time. Kind of like paying $10 today to go to a local track and see Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan racing hard for a few dollars (like that would happen).

    Later, names like Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Khane, Stan Fox and J.J. Yeley came to Belleville to build their resumes. Earlier this month, I saw up and comers Brad Sweet, Bryan Clausen, Brad Loyet, Bobby East and others with a good shot at top rides in bigger series burn up the track at the Belleville Midget Nationals. Short prelim and main events lead to all out racing, tons of passing; no “burning laps” to wait for the end of several hundred laps to then race. If you could just get Brian France, Mike Helton, etc. to a good 1/2 mile dirt bull ring and see a real show then something you are talking about may not be such a wild idea.