Race Weekend Central

Scanner Static: NASCAR Racing Around the Western Hemisphere

Whew, After all this racing, I think everyone needs a break. What’s that? We’ve only run two races? Well, that’s NASCAR for ya. The excitement of Daytona is now long gone and the series has “triumphantly” (read: unnoticed) breezed in and out of southern California. Relax while you can, though; once the Cup Series gets through this off weekend, it’ll be time to settle in for 18 races in 19 weeks.

In the meantime, the Busch Series race in Mexico City conveniently satisfies our racing fix. The abnormal occurrence this weekend is that only nine of the 43 drivers on the entry list for the Telcel-Motorola Mexico 200 are Cup regulars. I think NASCAR was hoping for a little more participation from its golden boys when they decided to give them a week off from the Cup grind…

Another week, another late-race debris caution at California. Is this becoming a little too predictable? While we’re on the topic of California, I’m going to respectfully disagree with most every article I’ve read this week and say that I thought the racing was above average. Although I never thought I’d say it, I truly enjoyed the on-track product at California; so much so, I wish NASCAR had not thrown the “bunch the field up” caution with 25 laps to go.

Think about it; speeds were super fast, the cream had risen to the top, pit strategy had been in play all day, and it was imperative that drivers and crew adjust the cars to keep them up front. What more could a stock car fan want? Certainly not a hokey debris caution.

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The long-awaited Car of Tomorrow dress rehearsal at Bristol is upon us. My question: Why, if Mark Martin is actually handing over the reigns of his CoT sleigh come Bristol, is he testing the car? Shouldn’t Regan Smith be getting familiar with that new and improved greenhouse? Just some food for thought (and a little foreshadowing) there.

OK, enough of my rambling and onto some questions.

Q: Why is NASCAR not looking at going together with the Pacific Raceways facility expansion? It has been there four decades and is accepted by local residents; existing backers are spending $135 million, so there is a lot of money already available.

With NASCAR’s projected $165 million, they could have anything easily added or the road course slightly modified to accommodate any course configuration and facility additions. It’s located close enough to unlimited race fan infrastructure and accommodations, what gives? – Roger Hodge

A: First, a little background: Pacific Raceways is a multi-faceted motorsports complex in Kent, Wash., just south of Seattle that houses, among other things, a 0.375-mile paved oval, a drag strip and a 2.25-mile road course. Currently, the complex is undergoing renovations, trying to decide on a proposal that would add a banked tri-oval to the track. If they go through with the project, the track should resemble Pocono, with one cone of the triangle shaved down to a long, lazy tri-oval.

Pacific Raceways’ 10-turn road course changes 125 feet in elevation and has a reputation as one of the more challenging in the country. The majority of it meanders through wooded areas which, to the assumed chagrin of the current track owners, NASCAR would undoubtedly want to partially clear for safety reasons and for seating. If your question, Roger, centers on going road racing there, forget it. We already have two; if they ever race on another, it will be in Mexico City or Montreal. Why else do you think they’re sending the Busch Series to act as guinea pigs north and south of the border?

If you’d like to see the tri-oval added, then I believe the area is exactly what NASCAR and ISC are looking for. ISC, though, likes to call its own shots. It wants a track in the Northwest, but the only help it’s looking for is from taxpayers, to the tune of $164 million. Pacific Raceways on the surface seems a great solution.

However, when one figures the cost of building the new track on the grounds, adding seating to accommodate roughly 80,000 spectators and opening up means of access to the facility, it becomes quite clear ISC would be better off, from a business standpoint, building its own track with help from Joe Public.

Besides, isn’t a facility like Pacific Raceways too pure a racing complex? Personally, I’d hate to see the place converted into a NASCAR-first facility when it has such a long and rich road-racing heritage.

Q: How long before Formula 1 star turned NASCAR rookie Juan Pablo Montoya wins a race? Tony Stewart said he’d be “disappointed” if Montoya didn’t win at least once this year, and that he expects the Colombian to succeed sooner than later. Do you agree? Also, who do you think is the frontrunner for this season’s Rookie of the Year? – Rush Rocket

A: Truth is, JPM is learning a new racing discipline on the job against the best stock car drivers in the world, and the Ganassi equipment isn’t aiding one bit in his quest to figure it out. However, if the CoT is the great equalizer it’s being billed to be, Montoya could turn more heads at Infineon and Watkins Glen than Sue Ellen Mischke in a Seinfeld episode. Otherwise, I just don’t see it happening until 2008.

Speaking of road courses, I selected Kevin Harvick to win the Busch race at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez before I realized he wasn’t even making the trip. Guess I need to make a new pick, So I’ll take Juan Gone in an upset!

As for Rookie of the Year, I believe that’s one trophy Montoya can win this year. I was high on Paul Menard until he missed the Daytona 500; it’ll be tough for him to make up the points he forfeited there. What about David Ragan, you ask, who sits fifth in Nextel Cup points at the moment? Well, it’s hard to put your money on someone who’s had two spins in two races. Granted, Ragan recovered both times, but the fifth-place run he had at Daytona was due in large part to the 15 cars that crashed in front of him on the last lap. Montoya wins this battle.

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The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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