by David Vodden
This weekend Thunderhill Park will be abuzz with automobile road racing under the Sports Car Club of America banner in what is their las trace of the 2023 season. Yours truly plans to race on Saturday at 3pm in the Spec Miata class for the last time as an SCCA road racer. I started my road racing experience at Sears Point Raceway back in the late 80’s with the SCCA and feel that ending it with them at Thunderhill is a fitting way to close that chapter in my racing saga.
If you get this in time to attend, the Willows Rotary Club will be serving FREE pancakes at Thunderhill on Saturday morning from 7am to9am. If you are coming to see what’s going on at the track just west of town on Highway 162, come early and have breakfast with the Rotarians and all the SCCA people that flooded the town with tourism dollars this weekend.
Kyle Larson and Brad Sweet did indeed buy the All-Star Sprint Car series from owner Tony Stewart this week. Clearly this new effort is a full-time effort instead of a part time, mid-week program that was the High Limit Series that ran this year. Making the series happen will require a great deal more leadership and management from the two California sprint car drivers. They can and likely will hire staff to do the race weekends but any business, especially one that is new to you, requires a serious presence to make it work and succeed over time. I wonder which one of these two fine drivers will give up his racing career to do all that it will take to make this new sprint car series work? What will they call it? High Limit Series II or stay with the All Stars? Stay tuned.
Last week in Florida Chris Bell became the second driver guaranteed a starting spot as one of the four finalists for the NASCAR CUP series championship for 2023. He joins Larson who looked like a winner at Homestead before he was brake-checked entering the pits by Ryan Blaney and smashed into the sand-filled barrels that abut the end of the pit wall. Larson was eliminated in a race that also saw Denny Hamlin crash and a very frustrated Martin Truex Jr., blow up his engine by over revving a shift accidentally? Maybe?
When the dust settled Bell won with Ryan Blaney second, Tyler Reddick third, William Byron fourth and A. J. Almendinger fifth. With one more race before the final Larson and Bell are in for sure. Byron has a30-point cushion which really means that he is in, maybe? Ryan Blaney is in by ten points. Below him are Reddick [-10], Martin Truex Jr., [-17], Denny Hamlin [-17] and Chris Buscher who is 43 points in the hole which really means he must win to get in this weekend at Martinsville. With only one spot open in the final four it is going to be tough for Blaney and Reddick and mostly impossible for Truex, and Hamlin. For the record, Hamlin can win at Martinsville as can Truex so tune in on Sunday and see who the final four will be for the 2023 championship face-off in Phoenix Arizona on November 5th.
The Xfinity series also races this weekend at Martinsville Raceway in Virginia. Sam Mayer won last Saturday at Homestead which means he is in. He is the only seated entry in the final four because second place finisher last weekend, Riley Herbst won the first race in this final three race series two weeks ago in Las Vegas. He finished second at Homestead. This leaves John Hunter Nemechek, Austin Hill, and Cole Custer holding on to the three openings available entering this weekend. Justin Allgaier, Sammy Smith, Chandler Smith, and Sheldon Creed are on the outside looking in. Allgaier is a good bet to jump the line and knock out either Hillor Custer. Stay tuned again.
The Camping World truck series saw Carson Hocevar won at Homestead and earned a spot in their final four set to go at Phoenix. Coery Heim, Ben Rhodes and Grant Enfinger complete the foursome in the season-long battle to see who would race in the truck series final. This series is done, and these are the four drivers that will compete on Friday in the Arizona desert. The one who finishes ahead of the other three will be the truck series champion for 2023.
It is a long season of racing for the NASCAR drivers in each of the three premier racing classes. Thirty-five races end with four drivers in one race on a playing surface with thirty-two more drivers in a man-to-manface-off that has elements of a team but that is nothing like the World Series or the Super Bowl. In these playoffs a team or many players face off against one another team of many players on a fixed playing surface with very specific playing rules.
The National Hot Rod Association will stage its penultimate race meet this weekend in Las Vegas. The top four classes with the eligible contenders in each class will earn points for all that they do on track up to winning in the final. With points piled up, the drivers will meet in Pomona on November12 with even more points on the line to decide the 2023 Top fuel Dragster, Top Fuel Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle NHRA champions. You should drive down to Pomona and check this out, especially if you have never seen and NHRA National meet!