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The Big Go Just May Be The Greatest Go In Racing

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 27 2013

Tony Schumacher is defending Top Fuel champion at the U.S. Nationals. The 2013 'Big Go' gets going this week. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

A lot of people have written a lot of words about the allure of the NHRA’s U.S. Nationals, the 2013 edition of which is scheduled for this week.

Last week during a media teleconference, Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Michael Ray offered his two cents. It was a response which surely resonated with every fan who has ever attended the event. It went like this:

“Seeing all the race teams that come out for that one event. I remember going when I was a young kid when my father was racing Top Fuel and Pro Stock bike, and just seeing all the families, all the teams. I mean the Sportsman pits they’re as exciting and as happening as the pro pits. Indy is where legends are made. Indy is where you go and turn the corner to win a championship. So for me, I was there in 1996 as a young guy when we tragically lost Blaine Johnson and Elmer Trett. I mean, you have great memories and you have these horrible memories, but they also can all transform into what makes our sport amazing and what makes that race so prestigious. Seeing all the different teams.

“The five days of just awesome action, the Cacklefest, all the really old HotRods, all the old Top Fuel cars. I mean, for me being a really, really young fan of the sport, I just turned 29, I know nothing about those old Top Fuel cars. But when I go up and I see them and just being a fan of it, it just blows me away to see where we’ve come. And to see the old highlights of the fuelers smoking the tires through the lights, that’s what drag racing is all about, and that is exactly what the U.S. National is all about. It’s every bit the history that got us to the point and present that we’re at and everything moving forward.

“It’s the biggest drag race in the world, and to see all the people that come out, the fans, the families, the racers, it’s everything that any young racer, whether you’re a fan or you’re putting on a fire suit fixing to pull underneath the tower, the walkover there at Indy and blast down through there, it gives me chicken skin sitting here talking about it. I’ve got chill bumps talking about it. It’s just an amazing facility.”

Well said or what?

INDYCar set a horrible precedent when it penalized Scott Dixon after a pit road incident late in Sunday’s race in Sonoma.

The incident: Dixon, running first in the race and vying for a series championship, pitted in the stall behind Will Power under green. Dixon’s crew dropped the jacks and their driver took off. As he did, the right-rear wheel changer for Power was casually carrying the outgoing tire on his left hip and Dixon clipped it.

Power’s crew member was knocked down and when he was, he took a second crew member with him.

INDYCAR issued a drive-through penalty to Dixon and his chance to win the race – and, potentially, the championship – ended.

The bad precedent:  Will crew members now be able to aid their drivers by becoming “wide” during stops? Can they swing a tire into the sidepod of a car going past to force a penalty? If that Penske crew member had stopped and just stood there, Dixon could still be in his stall waiting to rejoin the race.

Yes, INDYCAR needs to keep crew members safe. But the guys in the pits need to protect themselves as well. They can’t be mindlessly wandering around the pits.

One of the first things a veteran racing journalist told me on my first foray into the NASCAR garages during a practice: Head on a swivel, because the drivers are trusting that you know your biz.

For the record: Ganassi’s Mike Hull showed wonderful class in talking about the incident, as did Tim Cindric of Penske. They talked about the safety and they each put themselves in the other’s shoes.

Dixon was calm at first.

Then: “Bit of a dick move,” Dixon said, while watching a replay of the incident, correctly pointing out that the tire changer is walking directly at him. At least he didn’t flash a double bird to race control.

Beau Farfield’s explanation seemed contradicted by the replays.

Starworks Motorsport is entering the remaining four rounds of the 2013 American Le Mans Series in the Le Mans Prototype Challenge category. With the team taking delivery of a second LMPC car shortly, its plan is to also enter the LMPC class alongside its two Daytona Protoypes in the new United Sports Car Racing series for 2014.

The Fort Lauderdale team has purchased the ORECA FLM09 from RSR Racing. Run by Paul Gentilozzi and his sons John and Tony, the team is currently third in the ALMS team standings

The Starworks car will be entered and run by ‘RSR Racing’ at the Grand Prix Baltimore next weekend.

Regular Starworks driver Alex Popow will drive in Maryland with current RSR Racing driver Bruno Junqueira (who is currently fifth in the ALMS drivers’ standings). RSR Racing plans to continue with Bruno and Duncan Ende at the following round at Circuit of the Americas, Texas.

After the Grand Prix of Baltimore Starworks plans to run the LMPC car as ‘Starworks Popow’ for the remaining three ALMS races. Alex will be joined by Ryan Dalziel at COTA and for the Oak Tree Grand Prix, Virginia International Raceway. The team is currently looking at driver options for the final round of the season – Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, October 16-19.

“We have had tremendous interest from drivers wanting us to run a LMPC car for this and next season,” Starworks owner Peter Baron said. “There are a ton of unanswered questions for the merged DP and LMP2 class in the USCR series and people seem to be hesitant to jump in for 2014. The beautiful thing about LMPC is that it matches equally rated drivers in an incredibly fun car, with no worries about balance of performance.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 27 2013
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