Cars and Craps -- by SMM Chief Editorial Writer, Ira Ostenheimer 
Saturday, December 5, 2009, 04:04 PM
Posted by Administrator
It was only a matter of time before someone got the idea of building the ultimate adult playground consisting of a NASCAR facility and a casino all under one roof. I wish I would have thought of it first because I’d love to take credit for it myself but the folks at Kansas Speedway and Penn National Gaming Inc. beat me to the punch and now it appears there will be a Hollywood themed casino opening in 2012, overlooking Kansas Speedway’s Turn 2, which will include a 100,000 square foot casino with capacity for 2,300 slot machines and 86 game tables, a lounge, and a variety of dining and entertainment venues. Future phases include a hotel, expanded gaming space, a spa, a convention center and an entertainment retail district. WOW! It sounds like a combination of Disneyland and the Mall of America for gearheads.

It seems that International Speedway Corp. has been looking to enhance its present offerings to the NASCAR Nation by taking a giant step into the world of casino gambling, hoping that by doing so they’d also be able to score another race date in the “Land of Dorothy”. At this point, it’s unclear what Auntie Em thinks about all of this and whether she’d approve of such truck is still up for discussion. One thing is certain, her neighbors at the Kansas Lottery Facility Gaming Review Board think it’s a good idea and they voted 7-0 in favor just to prove it.

Talk about stacking the deck. Kansas has been lusting after a second race date for years and it appears that ISC has hit on something. The only problem is where is the extra race going to come from? Martinsville, Richmond, Fontana, Dover or Talladega, your guess is as good as mine.

It doesn’t matter which town you choose because the fans who attend the races in that area will be upset if ISC decides to yank the one in their backyard. At this point, the odds makers seem to have their money on Fontana losing one race even though it’s the second largest market in the country. Fan attendance has been spotty at Auto Club Speedway, it’s a long drive from the east and the race dates have not fallen on the best of Southern California weather patterns in recent years. It all comes down to dollars and cents and packing them in twice a year in Kansas sounds a lot better than the potential revenues up for grabs in the L.A. Basin.

The success or failure of such a venture will determine whether this concept amounts to nothing more than an aberration or will it become a trend that will spark similar projects in the future? Many purists are outraged but others like the idea of “Hollywood in the Heartland”. Just remember to give me naming credit and calling a spade a spade when you see it plastered on t-shirts from Kansas City all the way to Goodland.

Auto Club Speedway/Fontana, California
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NHRA Summit E.T. Series Bracket Drags/Sonoma, California -- Sandy Christianson, SMM Feature Contributor 
Thursday, December 3, 2009, 12:27 AM
Posted by Administrator
The post-Thanksgiving “Gobble Fest” at Infineon Raceway pitted some of Northern California’s premier bracket racers under clear skies and mid 70’s temperatures to the delight of those in attendance. It was a “run what ya brung” event with all the drama, action and competition one comes to expect from the guys and gals of NHRA’s Division 7. There were a few surprises when the final rounds were run but there was no question that the winners had to earn their way to the top … the hard way.

A month ago, the Division 7 Infineon Raceway NorCal contingent captured its second team championship in as many years at the Summit Racing Series Pacific Division Finals held on October 2-4, 2009, at Firebird International Raceway Park in Chandler, Arizona.

The NHRA Summit Racing Series features a bracket racing format that allows drivers in many types of vehicles, including dragsters, roadsters, sedans and coupes, to compete on an equal basis against each other. In addition to three categories of cars, a motorcycle category is also featured.

NHRA Summit Racing Series participants compete for points and cash awards at a number of qualifying events at 140 NHRA member tracks throughout North America. Drivers who earn the most points are eligible to compete for individual and team honors at the Summit Racing Finals in each of NHRA’s seven national divisions which includes a purse of $5000, a national championship trophy and bragging rights for the year.

Motorcycle crash sequence photography by Randy Jones, SMM Staff Photographer

Photos by J. R. Andres/Deborah Hepper

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France’s Fall from A-List Status -- by J. R. Andres 
Sunday, October 11, 2009, 02:02 PM
Posted by Administrator
It couldn’t have come at a worse time. The integrity of NASCAR’s infrastructure had already been brought into question with the Mayfield mess that still hasn’t been resolved and now this involving one of their own. On the surface, it appears to be one more example of privileged excess gone bad, someone with too much money and too much time on their hands to follow the path of the Plebeians who have to play by the rules the Patricians have made for them.

It was reported in a police report that J. C. France, grandson of NASCAR’s founding father Bill France Sr., was arrested early Thursday morning for an alleged street race in Daytona Beach, Florida. Before he was released on a $4,500 bail, France was charged with DUI and possession of cocaine. His roommate and relative, Russ Van Richmond, the alleged driver of the other car involved, was also charged with DUI, possession of cocaine and possession of a controlled substance. It was said to be Lambo vs. Porsche … France vs. Van Richmond … but both were losers and I count myself and the rest of the NASCAR and the Grand-Am Series community as losers, too, if what was alleged turns out to be true.

It’s premature to condemn either individual at this point because the verdict hasn’t been reached but on the surface it looks pretty bad for an organization that prides itself upon squeaky clean images. There’s a mantra of leading, governing and living by example and everyone is expected to walk the line -- the drivers, the officials, the management staff and by way of extension, the family. Reputations that have taken years to establish can be destroyed in the blink of an eye and the damage rendered injures every one of us a little bit each and every time it happens because it matters to those involved in racing.

For those who are clueless, it's time they were given the big picture, the same one the rest of us have already seen.
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NASCAR TV Ratings Slip, Sliding Away -- by J. R. Andres 
Wednesday, October 7, 2009, 01:00 AM
Posted by Administrator
It depends on who you speak to and the demographics you’re referring to but one thing is certain, NASCAR TV ratings are down this year. After a considerable period of growth it appears that stock car racing viewership is dwindling. Some cite the recession or the COT cars or the NFL or the CHASE format or the start times or the broadcasters. Whatever the reason, the networks and the sponsors are fidgeting in their seats. Those in the know, i.e., FOX, ABC, SPEED, TNT and ESPN with few exceptions, are experiencing overnight ratings share and viewer numbers in decline. There are other concerns, too. Most if not all contracts between NASCAR and the networks extend to 2014 and there is no provision for the networks to pay less even if the ratings continue in their present downward trend.

One would think that Mark Martin’s quest for the CHASE Championship would be the "magic bullet" that would cure the disease but so far the patient’s condition remains guarded. No one is considering calling a "Code Blue" at this point but the specialists are scratching their heads trying to establish the etiology, a diagnosis and a cure. Everyone has an opinion but no one has the answer.

One popular notion is that NASCAR has peaked in popularity due to several recent changes in format that have caused the traditionalists to become unglued. Other potential reasons may be attributed to the generic COT cars or restrictor plate races that have taken the "edge" off a sport that was weaned upon individual innovation, nerve, gall and temerity.

It will remain to be seen what NASCAR comes up with and whether this year’s championship will generate sufficient interest to push the snowball back up the hill against the forces of momentum and gravity. NASCAR can’t make things better for everybody but it must listen and make things better for more than it has up to this point before that snowball reaches the point of no return.

Photos by J.R. Andres/Deborah Hepper


Or this?

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Fast Times with a Quarter-Mile High -- by J. R. Andres 
Wednesday, August 12, 2009, 06:23 PM
Posted by Administrator
The summer was almost over and the waves of Lake Huron gently curled and rolled onto the white sand beaches of East Tawas, Michigan. It was August 31, 1964, and we were planning our next cruise before heading home. Was it going to be the pier or Main Street? We sat there on the shore listening to “The House of the Rising Sun” on our Philco transistor radio talking about girls and cars, swapping lies about our conquests, always trying to outdo the other guy.

Suddenly the music was interrupted by a news flash that said Don Garlits had set a quarter mile record of 200 mph at Island Dragway in Great Meadows, N.J. The announcer seemed out of breath, hardly able to contain himself. We looked at one another and wondered how such a feat was possible. Garlits had gone where no man had ever gone before and it was the stuff of legends as far as we were concerned. It warranted a special news report that was tailor made for a motley group of Detroit 16 year-olds who thrived on a need for speed at a time when the automobile was more than just a means of conveyance from Point A to Point B.

From Ted’s Drive-In at the northern end of Woodward to the Totem Pole in Royal Oak, the story seemed to become larger than life as it was told and retold from Eight Mile to Square Lake Road. For street racers it was an event that rivaled the first man in space. The “quarter-milers” had a hero, someone to look up to, someone to emulate. He was one of us.

It’s difficult to imagine any radio station interrupting their playlist to announce such an event today, the significance to the populace being way down on the list of daily newsworthy happenings to all but a few gearheads who still maintain the lifestyle that has fallen from favor in the “green” world which surrounds us.

The primal excitement of top fuel drag racing continues to this day at strips throughout the country and it was once again evident at the recent FRAM Nationals that fast times and quarter-mile highs are available for the price of a ticket, an E-ticket of sorts that rekindled memories of that day 45 years ago when a simple guy from Tampa Florida accomplished something that others continue to strive for today. It all seemed so important in 1964 and for three days in July 2009 it became important once again.

Photos by J. R. Andres, Nate Jacobsen, Deborah Hepper

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