by David Vodden
The trio of racers started their careers in the north valley at Cycle Land, Red Bluff, Placerville, and Silver Dollar speedways. Larsen, the most notable of the trio, has always cherished his dirt track beginnings and was a likely candidate to invest in his grassroots racing past. Sweet is a three-time World of Outlaws sprint car champion but calls Grass Valley home. He is Larsen’s brother in-law. Copeland is still an up and coming sprint car racer but, more importantly, he is a close friend of Larsen. Long-time employee of Silver Dollar Speedway, Troy Heming, will play an important role in the local operation of the facility while Larsen and Sweet continue to race across the American landscape. Copeland is expected to be the interface between Sweet and Larsen and the track’s operations. Dirt track expert Lowell Morell will continue to make the quarter mile track racy while also running his Cycle Land Speedway just a bit south of Chico on Highway 99. The early reports indicate an abbreviated schedule made up of mostly special events. Look for Larsen and Sweet to add their star-drawing power to a few events to help bolster attendance. Former Silver Dollar Speedway promoter Dennis Gage will continue operation of the Marysville Speedway winding down a long career in circle track promotion. It is worth noting that the people needed to operate these fairgrounds race tracks are few and far between which, along with the inevitable demise of the local Fairgrounds facilities due to state economics, does not bode well for dirt track racing in California. There is no long-term planning going on to address this eventuality which leaves Saturday night racing heading the same direction as the circus and drive in movies from the distant past.
Lewis Hamilton won the Quatar’s Formula One event last weekend closing the global championship point battle between he and Max Verstappen to a mere eight points. There are two races remaining. Verstappen finished second at Quatar. It is not clear which of the two powerhouse teams, Mercedes, or Red Bull, will have the advantage at the Saudi Arabia or Abu Dhabi races that end the 2021 season. One thing for certain, both teams will stop at nothing to win the only global auto racing program in the world not counting Moto GP which has the same global presence but for motorcycles. Verstappen has nine wins this year compared to Hamilton’s seven. Valtteri Bottas is third in drivers points for Mercedes and Sergio Perez is fourth. He races for, you guessed it, the Red Bull/Honda team. The end should be interesting and hopefully close at the final race on December fifth. In the Constructors championship battle, which is important for economic reasons, Mercedes leads over Red Bull by five points.
NASCAR racing at the top levels is over and will resume in Los Angeles in early February on a small, specially built, track inside of the massive arena. The Daytona 500 follows in mid-February. For the record, the final driver’s championship top ten in the CUP series included Larsen, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, and William Byron. This list contains three Rick Hendrick Chevys, three Joe Gibbs Toyotas and four Fords, three from Roger Penske and one from Stuart Haas racing.
In the Xfinity series the rundown of the final top ten in points starts with the unlikely champion Daniel Hemric followed by Austin Cindric, Noah Gragson, A. J. Almendinger, Justin Algaier, Justin Haley, Brandon Jones, Harrison Burton, Myatt Snider, and Jeb Burton. The Camping World truck series saw Ben Rhodes win the title in an upset followed by Zane Smith, John Hunter Nemechek, Matt Crafton, Sheldon Creed, Stuart Friesen, Todd Gilliland, Chandler Smith, Austin Hill, and Carson Hocevar.
In the NASCAR ranks Harrison Burton is moving to the CUP Series to the Wood Brothers Ford. Sheldon Creed will race for Richard Childress in Xfinity. Kurt Busch will join Bubba Wallace in a new, number 45 CUP Toyota. Hemric will partner with Almendinger in the Xfinity series. Ryan Newman has not found a new ride yet but wants to. All of the Stewart/Haas drivers are set to return. Same for Gibbs drivers at this time. Keselowski will take over part ownership of the Jack Roush Ford racing team and drive the number six Ford when not managing the business. Cindric will take over Keselowski’s Ford ride. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., will still drive the #47 car as that team drops from two to only one entry leaving Ryan Preece without a ride. With the all-new car coming online next year the number of cars will fall short of the number of drivers so pay attention when it all resumes.
In Formula One Kimi Räikkönen will retire from the sport as will Moto GP super star, Valentino Rossi. Both are legendary in their chosen disciplines. Indy car racing is off the radar for now but rumor has it that there will be more than thirty-three entries trying to get in the world’s greatest race, the Indy 500, come the end of May.
Thunderhill will celebrate the return of the 25 Hours of Thunderhill December 4th and 5th on the world famous three-mile course. Thunderhill has hosted this event since its beginning fifteen years ago. The event was cancelled last year due to COVID. Admission at the gate will be $15 per car for each day. There are no pass-out privileges. Gates open at 8am Saturday and Sunday. Thunderhill has full food services, some grandstands and lots of viewing areas as long as it is not raining.
With the exception of the remaining two Formula One races the season for motorsports is over however, activity continues at Thunderhill non-stop forever. That is the plan. Happy Holidays.