Strong Start

Getting set for a full-on motorsports weekend. For the first time NASCAR is taking its top divisions to Phoenix for a spring event, bringing the GN West teams along as well.

It’ll be most interesting to see how the Finch -BGN carburetor DQ story from Texas last Saturday will play out. James Finch was quoted this morning as saying NASCAR had looked at the carb for the 1 car before the event, and had apparently OK’ed its use. Reportedly a NASCAR tech official has been released, in the wake of the incident. Finch reportedly is planning to appeal the penalties levied against his team, and hopefully there’ll be a clearer explanation as to what really went on in the Busch garage in Texas last weekend.

Back here in the East, the issues are a bit simpler. We’re hoping for a dry evening Saturday at Concord Motorsports Park just outside Charlotte, where the Hooters Pro Cup South stars will strap it on.

Hooters Cup, under the capable leadership of veteran motorsports exec Gene Cox and his son Tony, has quietly been digging its way to the top of the non-NASCAR racing ladder for the past several seasons. During our TV production session Wednesday for last week’s HPC event at Peach State Speedway in Georgia, we talked about how, later this summer, the tour will mark its 200th race. And it’s safe to say that Hooters Cup has never been stronger.

If you’ve never visited a Pro Cup race, you’re in for a treat. I don’t know that there’s a tougher, more competitive touring short track stock car series anywhere in the land. Each week in the South, you’ll see 35-40 well-prepared cars unload to take a crack at the 32-car lineup for one of the 250 lap events. The tour features a nice mix of semi-grizzled veterans like Bobby Gill, Gary St. Amant and Mike Garvey, some young vets like this year’s dominator Shane Huffman and defending champ Clay Rogers, several newcomers with NASCAR ties like Mark McFarlane and Steven Wallace, and some teenage phenoms like Chase Pistone.

There are a couple of new kids planning to visit the block this summer as well. 17 year old Late Model standout Mike Mason from California is planning to run a couple of shows this year in preparation for a full title assault next year, and soon-to-be-15 year old Joey Lagano from Connecticut is about to launch a North Tour championship bid, under the capable stewardship of my broadcast partner Scott Sutherland. Add in young winners like Joel Kauffman and Danny O’Quinn and you’ve got a terrific show in either the North or South.

This year the Rookie of the Year pot is much larger, and the season-ending Championship Series (launched way before the Chase for the Championship) will again be a slugfest…what with $1 million or so on the line in post-season awards.

The HPC tour made a major leap last year in aligning with BFGoodrich, putting its short track radial tires on the race cars. HPC cars are much like an older-style Busch series car, weighing about 3300 lbs, with V8, carburetored motors making about 550 HP. So drivers and crews can earn plenty of valuable experience in NASCAR-type machines without the pressure of having to race on superspeedways in an ARCA program. It’s a combination that’s hard to resist for drivers and fans.

In fact, it might be an unbelievable combination: good race cars on good tracks, drivers on the rise, tough competition, and plenty of visability. The TV show is great, but don’t miss your chance to see ‘em in person.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2005

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