Low Down At Lowes

Getting set to head back to Lowe’s Motor Speedway to take in the Busch Series’ 300 miler and of course Saturday’s UAW-GM 500 for the Nextel Cup stars, another step on the ladder towards this year’s Championship. Most of the talk thus far during Fall Race Week here in Charlotte centers around the jump in speeds posted during practice and Cup qualifying. The track record was sent to the trash bin quickly again this time around, with Elliott Sadler’s pole speed of 193.316 mph a couple tenths faster than the existing mark, set by Ryan Newman back in the spring.

Drivers seem to like the adjustments made in the surface at Lowe’s since May, when both the Busch Series and the Cup events saw caution after caution…22 in all during Sunday evening’s Coke 600. But the additional grinding performed on the LMS surface has surely made the place faster, and should make the weekend’s racing even more of a nail-biter. There are rumblings that the Speedway is going to have to be resurfaced before next year’s May events, but that will have to be done carefully, since new asphalt generally is even faster and tends to create less passing for the first few events.

Quite an accomplishment for David Reutimann to make his first Cup show at Charlotte, driving Michael Waltrip’s Aaron’s car. David, yet another second-generation racer who’s really worked hard to get to this level, has another reason to be proud…his legendary dad Buzzie continues to race effectively in Florida, leading the IMCA Modified points at East Bay at an age when many are collecting Social Security. I’m bummed for Boris Said who missed the show in his MBSutton Chevy, but Boris will bounce back.

David Reutimann’s dad Buzzie made his name in the Northeast 30 years ago, piloting the wild big-block Modifieds. I wrote in this space a few days ago about the steady rainfall that put a major damper on the 34th annual Super DIRT Week festivities at the New York State Fair mile in Syracuse. Now, DIRT Motorsports has come up with a plan that should please most of those whose weekend hopes floated away last Sunday. The Eckerd 200, the biggest race of any season for the Mods, will be run on Saturday, November 5, with Sunday of that weekend available for a rain date.

The best idea of all in my mind is DIRT’s plan to pick up the 200 after lap 52, when the red flag flew last Sunday. Originally officials had talked about a complete restart, but that would have opened the door for Brett Hearn and perhaps a few others to plug in new motors and have another chance at victory. Now things will pick up where they left off and it should be a terrific battle between Billy Decker and the rest of the field to the checkers.

On the opposite coast the American LeMans Series is wrapping up its ’05 campaign at Laguna Seca. It’s been my privelege to broadcast this event several times in recent seasons, at one of the most beautiful venues anywhere on the continent. The ALMS finale is noteworthy for another key reason: this event marks the debut of the latest Porsche RS Spyder in the hands of Penske Racing. Porsche GT vets Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr are driving this time, finally getting their shot at an overall win. For ALMS the debut of this car marks a sea change: after years of speculation about such an event, there will finally be an LMP2 category machine in the field capable of overall victory.

Word on the Porsche has been that the car suffered from some fragility in its gearbox and drivetrain, but knowing how the Porsche motorsports engineering staff operates one can assume those woes have been solved. Maassen and Luhr were third quick Thursday night, just a few tenths off the lap times posted by the Zytek during early practice rounds. And given the Zytek’s history of failing to finish races one suspects the Porsche could well be a contender in its first outing. With Penske Racing in charge you know that everything possible will have been done to put the RS in position to win at least in its class. Should this car quickly become the best car in the series it will put enormous pressure on ALMS and its key teams, such as Champion, Dyson, Intersport and others. There could soon be a lot of obsolete prototype cars available to collectors, and Porsche could be in position to bag an overall win at LeMans in the very near future.

Plenty to ponder at the start of another big Race Week here in Charlotte. Enjoy the action.

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NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2005

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