Lead Lap: Gettin’ Dirty
SACRAMENTO- CBS Sports 1140- If Stockton 99 Speedway was looking for a way to draw fans to their first big national series event next Friday night (3/22), there’s not much bigger draw than a NASCAR Champion. Or, in this case, a three-time Cup Series Champion.
TONY STEWART is headlining the first World Of Outlaws Sprint Car event on the newly constructed half-mile oval built on the old horse racing track at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds. Stewart, who will race almost anything with four wheels and an engine when he’s not driving for his co-owned NASCAR team, will be challenging his two team drivers, STEVE KINSER and DONNY SCHATZ, on the surface that features 15 degrees of corner banking. Schatz sits third in WoO Series points heading into this weekends’ doubleheader in Tulare; Kinser is 13th. As for “Smoke,” he plans to run more than 70 non-NASCAR related racing events – many, if not most, on dirt tracks – this year.
Friday night’s events are the culmination of a full days’ schedule which includes a pre-race car show in the Fairgrounds Midway, starting at 1pm.
BEATIN’ AND BANGIN’: NASCAR’s top two national series are headed for “Thunder Valley” – Bristol Motor Speedway. Guys named BUSCH have almost mastered the half-mile bullring, with KURT winning four times in the 500-lap March event (including three straight from 2002-2004); baby brother KYLE has won half of the last spring Cup Series races. Series Champion BRAD KESELOWSKI is the defending race winner. Bristol, the loudest track on the NASCAR circuit, is known for aggressive racing resulting in crumpled fenders; missing rear bumpers; and frequent outbursts of driver temper – both during and after the race.
HAMLIN UPDATE: As of Wednesday, Joe Gibbs Racing driver DENNY HAMLIN had not yet acted upon NASCAR’s $25,000 fine for “conduct detrimental to stock-car racing.” Hamlin was ticketed for disparaging remarks he made to reporters about the performance of the new “Gen-6” car after the Cup series race two weeks ago in Phoenix. He has until Friday to either pay the fine or send a letter of intent to appeal to the sanctioning body; NASCAR can deduct the fine from any prize money won if no action is taken by the driver. Hamlin sits fourth in the points, 27 markers behind leader JIMMIE JOHNSON.
FORMULA 1 DOWN UNDER: Melbourne, Australia’s Albert Park Circuit hosts the 2013 Formula 1 season opener this weekend. Defending Champion SEBASTIAN VETTEL is the pre-season favorite to pick up his fourth F1 title and put Red Bull Racing and Renault in prime position to win the coveted, multi-million dollar-paying constructors’ championship. The opening event goes green just after 11pm Saturday night, Pacific Time.
INDYCAR TESTING: With just under two weeks before its season opener, INDYCAR pre-season testing has hit its stride. At Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama Tuesday 2012 Championship runner-up WILL POWER topped the speed charts on the 2.38 mile road course. TONY KANAAN, JAMES HINCHCLIFFE and defending Series Champion RYAN HUNTER-REAY make up the four fastest drivers. A 1.8-mile, 14 turn course through the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida opens the IndyCar season on Sunday, March 24. HELIO CASTRONEVES is the defending race winner.
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