Nine Suspended After “Wild Night” At Airborne
By DAVE MOODY
Late Models return to Airborne Raceway in
drivers in the track’s Flying Tiger, Street Stock and Renegade divisions have
been fined and suspended from competition this week, after a series on pit road
confrontations during last Saturday night’s program. Defending Flying Tiger
champion Jerry Winch and fellow driver Jamy Begor have both been suspended for
one race, while Tiger driver Mike Terry, Street Stock competitors Aaron Maynard,
Chris LaVair, Jim Collins and Dustin Chris, and Renegade drivers Sherry Meunier
and Shawn Duquette have all been handed indefinite suspensions.
addition, as many as six fans will be barred from the speedway grounds until
further notice, after a series of similar incidents in the track’s parking
they had a wild night last Saturday, on both sides of the pit fence” said ACT
President Tom Curley. “(Technical Inspector) Dean Gallison personally broke up
seven fights. He said he barely had time to tech cars in between the brawls, and
quite frankly, he’s not real happy about it.”
who was traveling with the ACT Dodge Tour in
we first started at Airborne, we dealt with this kind of thing on an all-too
regular basis,” he said. “In fact, at one point, I threw up my hands and
said `enough’s enough.’ I turned the whole thing over to a New York-based
management team for half a season, then came back and tried to start fresh the
time around, Curley said the situation is more serious.
is a business, not some kind of private playground,” he said. “We’ve
invested a lot of money there over the years, but if things keep going the way
they have, we’re going to have to make some changes. There’s been talk in
the past about turning Airborne into a `special events only’ track that runs
four or five times a year, and while I would prefer not to do that, I’m also
not going to subject my people to that kind of abuse.
officials signed on to tech race cars, not break up fights,” he said. “They
have no desire to spend their Saturday nights pretending to be (boxing referee)
said he is at a loss to explain this season’s antics, as well as a weekly rash
of post-race disqualifications in the track’s Street Stock and Renegade
there’s a certain element there that just doesn’t get it,” he said.
“Unfortunately, their idea of fun seems to be to race for a while, then fight
for a while. And when you add in the group that spends the night drinking in the
parking lot, then comes to the pits after the race ready to start trouble,
you’ve got a recipe for disaster.”
said he will convene a special commission to hear appeals of the suspensions
this Saturday night, but added that most of the incidents appeared to be fairly
cut-and-dried. “When you’ve got people pounding on each other and pounding
on each other’s race cars, there doesn’t seem to much room for debate.”
walls” are still coming to New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, but
not as soon as many had hoped.
originally announcing their intent to install the new SAFER (Steel and Foam
Energy Reduction) barrier system at the Loudon oval, owners Bob and Gary Bahre
said this week that additional testing needs to be done before the technology
can be adapted from Indy Cars to NASCAR Winston Cup racers. Dr. Dean Sicking,
who developed the barriers for the Indy Racing League, and oversaw testing
during the month prior to the Indianapolis 500, said last week that he needs to
"go back to the drawing board and do testing to see what application will
work" at tracks other than Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
told a group of NASCAR officials that included President Mike Helton, Director
of Competition Gary Nelson, and Winston Cup Director John Darby that the barrier
system would work for the heavier NASCAR machines at
told us, `This wall will work for us at Indy for the Brickyard 400,’” said
NASCAR Vice President of Communications Jim Hunter. “(But he) does not
recommend this particular wall be put up at
officials had hoped to install the SAFER system in time for the first of two
NASCAR Winston Cup races there on July 21. Now, however, it appears Winston Cup
drivers will not get a chance to test the barriers until they race at the
Brickyard on August 4.
Teammates Michael Waltrip and Steve Park are feeling the heat these days. Both have been told that their jobs at Dale Earnhardt, Inc., are in jeopardy, and that they may be replaced prior to the 2003 season. Now, it’s up to them to do something about it.
job is in his hands,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. of his DEI teammate this week.
"It's been a tough situation over the past several weeks, and we have tried
to deal with it as best we can.”
close to the team say Waltrip – who has just one win in 511 career Winston Cup
starts -- has responded well to the challenge, rallying his team around him and
improving the team’s performance. The NAPA Chevrolet has strung together four
top-10 finishes in its last six starts, including a season best second-place
meanwhile, has no top-20 finishes in that span, with four finishes of 30th
or worse. His average finish this season is a woeful 30th, and he has
spun out or crashed more than a dozen times since returning from the injured
list in the fifth race of the season at Rockingham.
not going too good right now for Steve," admitted Earnhardt, Jr. "They
can't get their cars to do what they need them to do, and we're definitely going
to have to take a hard look at that situation. If we can't make it work, we've
got to make a change, and nobody is immune to change. I
don't care if it's a driver or a crew chief or a tire changer.”
said Park has admitted that he is still not totally recovered from the severe
head injuries suffered late last season.
admitted to not being 100 percent, but he still is capable of getting the car
around the race track,” said Earnhardt. “But we've had Steve for two or
three years, and we haven't (gotten) a full season out of him in the car. If we
can't make it work, we've got to make a change.”
Park said that despite assurances from Teresa Earnhardt that he will
remain in the Pennzoil Chevrolet until the end of the year, and despite news
that Pennzoil has re-signed for 2003, the ongoing speculation over his status
has grown tiring.
would never see rumors flying around if Dale (Earnhardt) was in place,” said
Park this week. “He didn’t pull any punches. If you didn’t do a good job,
he would tell you, ‘At the end of the year, we’re going to make a change.’
You always knew where you stood. Dale would want what’s best for the team. If
the team feels that it’s best for Steve Park to move on, then that’s what
will happen. If the deal is right for me to stay on and see this thing through
a number of drivers have been mentioned as possible replacements for Park, one
of the more interesting scenarios surfaced last week at Pocono. Unconfirmed
reports say that Pennzoil may be looking to cut costs by withdrawing its support
of Sam Hornish, Jr.’s IRL team, and that discussions are currently underway to
move the talented Hornish to NASCAR and DEI.
Short (Track) Subjects…
Lepage’s stint as relief driver for the injured Jeff Purvis continued last
weekend, with a 14th-place finish in the Inside Traxx 300 at
Nashville Superspeedway. The Shelburne native qualified 13th, but
battled an ill-handling racecar for much of the evening. Lepage will be back in
the car this Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.
ACT-alum Ricky Craven may have a teammate soon. With Craven’s Tide-sponsored
machine now flirting with the top-10 in NASCAR Winston Cup points, team owner
Cal Wells has once again begun discussing the possibility of expansion. Craven
said last week that he thinks a second PPI Motorsports team could be helpful,
but does not want talk of a second entry to divert focus away from the 2002
don't want it to become counterproductive, worrying about a second team,"
he says. "We're very good at doing more with less."
Wells debates the pro’s and con’s of a second car, he is also faces a major
decisions about what manufacturer to align with in 2003. Currently, Wells plays
second (or third, or fourth) fiddle to heavy hitters Jack Roush, Roger Penske
and Robert Yates in the Ford parts/technology pipeline. Jumping to the General
Motors camp -- most likely with the slick new 2003 Pontiac Grand Prix -- would
almost certainly mean more factory support, but would require him to give up his
current Robert Yates Racing powerplants.
a lot of upside to the General Motors relationship, but the engines are the
factor," he said.
Casella Waste Systems sponsors the second “Thursday Night Thunder” race
program of the season at
finally, at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven, a full Sunday night program
of events is set for the 358 Modifieds, Pro Streets, Hobby Stocks, and Cruisers
combines with the “Great American School Bus Race,” with a post-time of 7