Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

February 5, 2013

NASCAR flexes its muscle

VanMeter wins in Florida

By Ken De La Bastide

— Last week I was excited to learn that the Speed Channel was going to televise some short track racing from Florida later this month.

For many decades, New Smyrna Speedway has hosted the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing which attracted drivers from around the country in a number of divisions on the half-mile oval. This year, the track will host eight nights of racing including Modifieds, USAC Midgets, Pro and Super Late Models.

Unfortunately, what Speed is going to televise is racing in three NASCAR divisions on a make-shift track at Daytona International Speedway. A one-quarter mile oval is being configured on the back straight of the famed oval.

It would be like conducting racing on a flat parking lot and calling that a race track.

Anyone who has watched NASCAR racing on television has seen the commercials that I will call “Home Tracks.” The announcer proclaims this is where NASCAR got its start, which is a true statement.

Before the cookie-cutter tracks that NASCAR races on today, the events were staged at local short tracks along the East Coast.

Since NASCAR owns the Speed Channel, it really wasn’t a surprise that instead of featuring racing at New Smyrna and turning the spotlight on the drivers and teams that compete for the love of the sport, NASCAR had to flex its muscle and decide to conduct races that are competing with New Smyrna.

This is disappointing because the racing at Daytona International Speedway on a pancake flat surface with paper clip corners will be boring and loaded with caution flags.

Why didn’t NASCAR forget about laying out a temporary track and allow the Speed Channel crews to televise some of the live racing action at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. It could have shown two nights of Modified racing and the Super Late Model feature.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a network willing to take the chance on showing short track racing on a regular basis. I’m sure there is a market among fans who would like to view the Pay Less Little 500 sprint car race, the Winchester 400, Snowball Derby, All American 400, and other short track races.

With the ever growing number of cable networks, including NBC Sports, there is hope that real short track racing will eventually be available on television. If that’s ever offered, fans have to support the sponsors that fund the broadcasts.

In other racing news:

It was a good weekend for Indiana drivers at the inaugural Southern Figure 8 World Final Championships at Showtime Speedway in Florida.

It was a 120-lap special event and when the checkered flag waved, the winner was Indianapolis driver Eddie VanMeter. Mark Tunny, Doug Greig, and Charlie Hargraves made it a sweep of the top four positions for Hoosier drivers.

The win was worth $5,000 to VanMeter who said it was one of the biggest wins of his career.

Many of the drivers that made the trip from Indiana to Florida, including Shawn Cullen, Jesse Tunny, Ben Tunny, and Mike Riddle, are regular competitors in Figure-8 action at Anderson Speedway.

Ken de la Bastide writes for CNHI News Service. He may be reached by calling (765) 454-8580 or by e-mailing to ken.delabastide@kokomotribune.com.