Best Racing Ahead

Count me among the many who’ll be pleased to see Mark Martin saddling up for one more season in Jack Roush’s 6 car come next year. If Editor Pete’s reckoning is correct, Mark’s post-IROC comments mean only one thing: Jamie McMurray will remain with Chip Ganassi’s bunch in 2006, and Mark will have to ride the grueling Cup train a final time.

And I wouldn’t be unhappy if Rusty Wallace could be persuaded that he, too, has unfinished business in the Penske South 2 car next year. I’m surely among those who hate to see our sport’s heroes hang around too long, but with both Mark and Rusty having Chase-worthy years, I doubt seriously either would fail to be competitive another season. That said, it doesn’t appear Rusty is having any second thoughts about leaving too soon, and I’m guessing we’ll be saying goodbye to at least one of NASCAR’s all-time greats in mid-November.

As we head towards fall and the homestretch of the racing year, I’m reminded why this is one of my favorite parts of any season. This is the time of short-track special events coast to coast, and the time when championship battles get tense just about everywhere.

While the points races in the Champ Car World Series and the IRL are about over at least at the top, we have the Chase for the Nextel Cup to anticipate. Frank Kimmel may have locked down yet another ARCA crown, and Steve Kinser is all but assured of another World of Outlaws title. But the WoO Late Model championship is still very close, the NHRA’s titles are still in play, and there are any number of other series where the title fight is anything but decided. The wild Hooters Pro Cup short trackers are gearing up now for their five-race Championship Series, with the top 30 from the North and the South Tours being reseeded for a run at the $200,000 title. Not NASCAR money by any means, but huge dollars for short track racing.

Add in the USAC championships and the dozens of short-track All-Star events ahead like Super DIRT Week for the East Coast Modifieds, the Four-Crown Nationals at Eldora, the non-wing Sprint Car Nationals upcoming at Perris, the NASCAR Busch North/GN West gunfight at Irwindale, and so many more, and you have a race fan’s smorgasbord of epic proportions in the weeks ahead. I’m also looking forward to the Champ Car finale weekend at Mexico City in November, when the CCWS stars share the bill with the Grand Am closer. Wonder how many Champ Car stars might be called on for double duty that week?

Any time we get to see great drivers tackle new challenges, it’s a real treat. And any time a ticket-buying fan gets extra value, I’m all for it. That’s why this weekend at Richmond is one of my all-time favorites too. Thursday night’s IROC/Trucks double dip on the Virginia short track yielded two great finishes, two wild races green to checkers. And you can bet that Saturday’s Chevy 400, with the final Chase spots on the line, will also be one to remember.

The lesson’s simple: Make your plans early, order your tickets now, and strap in. The best racing of the year is just ahead.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2005

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