Month Of Money

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Getting comfortable with the idea it’s May now, the traditional “month of money” in our sport. Weather here in Charlotte is springlike to be sure, but summer hasn’t yet made its normal early appearance in these parts. Rest assured though, while Indy may be chilly the next couple of weeks, there’ll be plenty of heat generated everywhere, from the Speedway to Charlotte, to Milwaukee and Monterrey, Mexico.

First up though, NASCAR’s top two series head to the Track Too Tough To Tame, about 90 miles south of my keyboard in Darlington. Great news that Darlington President Chris Browning has engineered a sellout for Saturday night’s first Mother’s Day weekend Cup show at the original superspeedway. Here’s hoping NASCAR sees fit to keep Darlington on the slate for the foreseeable future, and that the sanctioning body might even create a second race weekend around the Truck and Busch Series in years to come. A race at Darlington is like nothing else in the sport. Racing will be better for having more events, not fewer, at a place some have suggested is our Fenway Park or Wrigley Field.

Midweek, Nextel Cup teams have a couple of chances to work on their intermediate-track setups in an open test at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Between the All-Star Challenge and the Coke 600 weekends this month, north of $6 million should be on the line; even though NASCAR teams don’t generally bank on purse money to operate, that's more than enough cash to get everyone’s attention. Add in the prestige of winning on what amounts to every team’s home court and you get a volatile, exciting mix of high-speed combat.

At the same time Champ Car World Series teams get to work on the Milwaukee Mile.
It’s the first of only two oval venues in this year two of Champ Car’s rebuilding effort, and just about all of the current 19 car and driver combinations will take part in the open test. The Time Warner 225 runs in its traditional early-June slot. The unique nature of the Mile requires a completely different setup from what Champ Car squads usually utilize…so the two-day test this week is crucial. CCWS teams also must think about their second event of the season in just a couple of weeks, in Monterrey, Mexico. Newman-Haas established their 2004 dominance there during the last trip to Monterrey, and any Champ Car teams hoping to derail NH’s drive for another title need to bring their A game South of the border. Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junquiera ran 1-2 last time out there, and it wasn’t close. FCR, PKV, RuSport, and the rest need to be ready come May 22nd.

And of course the IRL teams and Champ Car invaders Newman-Haas Racing are getting set to tackle Indy. Despite the 500’s loss of crowds, TV ratings, and some lustre, it’s still the biggest prize in the sport. I think Bourdais and Junquiera both have a great shot at embarrassing the IRL’s best at the end of the month, given their team’s strength, Honda horsepower, and the unquestioned talent of their drivers. Junquiera has had success at the Speedway before, and Bourdais has proven this year his great ability to adapt to new situations. Don’t be surprised if recent IROC winner Seabass qualifies well and steals the victory. Bruno, too, is a likely contender to roll into Victory Lane at the Speedway on the 29th.

I’ll be busy this weekend in upstate New York, calling our second World of Outlaws Late Model telecast of the new season from Lernerville Speedway, before heading off to take care of the Hooters Pro Cup stars at Ace Speedway in North Carolina. See you on TV.

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NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2005

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