Thunder On The Hill #4
This is the weekend that starts it all in earnest for NASCAR fans. It began Thursday with the twin 150 qualifying races. Last night the new, boxier, Camping World Trucks returned to the Daytona International Speedway. While you are reading this the Nationwide Series, NASCAR’S double AA program, is on the 2.5 mile, high banked oval. Note A: Nationwide Insurance is dropping the series sponsorship in 2015. Tomorrow history will be made again as the 56th running of the Daytona 500 pits 43 not-so-stock, stock cars and their celebrity drivers against each other in a 200 lap race. There are so many
story lines you would need Google to sort them all out. At the simplest level there is you and your favorite driver in a contest that you want him [or her] to win. This is sort of like rooting for the 49ers starting in January. Then there is the people drama. This driver, that story, the hope, the dream and so it goes. The main attraction is always the people. Real racing can also be part of it all at least on the last few laps where the drivers decision making will be the difference between winning or losing coming to the finish line at the 500 mile mark.
There is also the Ford vs. Chevy vs. Toyota. Then there is Rick Hendrick vs. Joe Gibbs vs. Jack Rousch vs. Richard Childress and all of them vs. the upstarts Stewart/Haas and Richard Petty and even Furniture Row. You know you are on the outside when “your “car is referred to by its sponsor’s name rather than your own. This refers to the # 78 entry of Martin Truex Jr. who will start on the outside of the front row on Sunday alongside this year’s rookie pole sitter, Austin Dillon. A rookie has set on the pole for the last two years with Danica being the rookie pole sitter last year.
Remember I said that grandpa Richard Childress would do anything to get his grandson into stardom? Well he did. Ask anyone in the pits at Daytona and they will say that the car wins the pole not the driver. Childress has found something that no one else has at this restrictor plate race in 2014. The other race teams are all scratching their collective heads trying to figure out what Childress has. If history is true it will involve an “interpretation of the rules” and it will be big. If it is not a blatant violation of the rules, NASCAR will either outlaw it down the road or make sure everyone else knows what the advantage is. No doubt Hendrick’s people have tried to acquire one of Childress’s new engines from one of his satellite teams in hopes of finding the advantage, assuming, as I believe it is, that the advantage is in the engine and not in the chassis or aero body elements of this formula for the car. Did I say formula car? We will know Sunday because if Childress’s engines remain as far ahead of the class as they are now, the race will be a Childress benefit. That may be a bit extreme because Denny Hamlin won everything last weekend in the Sprint Unlimited. The Toyota that he was driving was, along with all the other not-so-Japanese cars, among the slowest in qualifying. Go figure. But do know that winning the Daytona 500 requires such a heavy dose of luck, being in the right place at the right time, luck, surviving until the race begins on lap 290, luck and good pit stops, durability and divine intervention, that anyone can win, as long as they put this list of ingredients in the right order and have them in place on lap 199 1/2.
You recall that I picked Tony Stewart to win the race on Sunday. So far that looks like the worst possible choice. He has managed to earn the last starting spot in the race due, as if the starting spot wasn’t bad enough, an engine failure. The good news is that anyone who starts this race, except for Danica Patrick according to the King, can win. Starting last in a race, which I have done many times, takes all the pressure off. You have nowhere to go but up. I think the less Stewart tries to win this race the better his chances. This may be that circumstance on Sunday. I hope so. I picked him to win the Daytona 500 in 2104 and Sunday is the only time that he can make that a reality. Following the Daytona 500 NASCAR will begin a series of weekly races that, with only two weekends off, will end in November back in Florida. There will be lots of drama to be sure. I hope you enjoy the racing and the people drama that makes it all exciting.
This weekend the owners of Thunderhill Park, the cadre known as the San Francisco Region of the Sports Car Club of America [SFR/SCCA], will conduct their annual race-driver licensing school. You need a license to race with the SCCA. This three day school at Thunderhill is how you get that license. About 60 new students will earn the license after on-track and classroom training.
For most of us here in Willows the return of the SCCA means reacquainting ourselves with old friends at the track, hotels and restaurants and other local businesses. Many of these SCCA people have been coming to Willows since it was first discovered back in 1993 by Christopher Columbus-Vodden. This is true of many of the regular customers at the local track. The same people come back over and over again and visit their “second home”. They support their old hang outs and make new friends. This is why having a sign at the track that touts your local business opportunities is so effective. All the hotels are there along with all the most aggressive businesses in town. Signage tells the people at the track that the local business value their sport and their reason for coming to the area. Sharp companies like Louie Cairo’s know that this works. They know that a lot of the people who come to Thunderhill Park travel right past their restaurant in the evening day after day, year after year. Their sign is a winner! If you consider that Thunderhill brings over 50,000 people from outside the area to the highway 162 exit for days at a time, many days a year, both repeaters and newbies, the idea of reaching out to these people seems obvious. I think it is fair to say that Thunderhill Park is that ideal opportunity to create new and lasting impacts on the economy of Willows and beyond in the most effective and efficient way.
Saturday March 1st is the final point event for the micro midgets at the Red Bluff Fairgrounds. This program is fantastic and worth the trip and the nominal admission fee. Action starts at about 1pm and continues into the evening. This is the Championship final so there is more money and prestige on the line along with seeing a lot of very active and engaged young people enjoying the sport of dirt track racing. Check it out. Call the Red Bluff/ Tehama County Fair grounds for more information. For reasons that I will not delineate the program is now being identified as the WWF or WBA of youth motorsports.
The Ford Mustang is 50 years old this year having popped onto the market in April of 1964. The compromise between the Ford Falcon and the Ford Thunderbird sold for just under $2,400 and was the brain child of industry visionary Lee Iacocca. There are a great many Ford Mustangs in the North Valley so happy birthday to all of you who have a 1964 Mustang or one of its many iterations since that April debut. Thunderhill will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Mustang on its schedule in 2014. Come share in the glory and fun.
Silver Dollar Speedway is only a few weeks from opening. The famous World of Outlaws will be on the scene in March and feature the final year-tour of the legendary Steven Kinser of Bloomington Indiana. Like Richard Petty, also referred to as “The King” for his reign atop the NASCAR world, Kinser is the stuff of legends. It is worth finding out more and seeing this legend race again at the Chico Fairgrounds dirt oval race track. In three races run thus far in 2014 in Florida, Kinser is 33% in the win column. Incredible sports history!
John Force, the 64 year old top fuel funny car drive has also won already in 2014. Like Kinser and Petty, there is no mistaking the personality and performance of this motorsports star. Like Kinser, Force has the opportunity of capturing another national championship in his chosen arena of the sport. At 66 I too have a chance at another championship as the clock winds down for us sexagenarians. Stay tuned and enjoy the sport!