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ThatsRacin.com


It's a busy weekend; we'd better send in the clones

THATSRACIN.COM OPINION

- dpoole@charlotteobserver.com
Thursday, Apr. 23, 2009

Some thoughts at midweek on NASCAR, motorsports and more:

Observations

This would be a good weekend to have some clones running around.

I will be in Talladega for the Aaron's 499 and its associated events, but I could just as well be at three other places within driving distance of Charlotte and seeing some pretty fun stuff.

At zMax Dragway on Saturday, Speed's “PINKS All Out” show will pack the grandstands and the staging lanes with people who race cars because they love to race cars.

There were just over 500 slots available for the show's taping here and they were snapped up in about three hours.

The interesting thing about this version of the “PINKS” franchise is that series creator Rich Christensen has taken all the sandbagging and the negotiating out of the formula. Each car gets two runs and Christensen and his team pick a group that they think will put on the best show in the elimination round. It's not necessarily about going the fastest, it's about going all out.

Professional drag racers, meanwhile, will be down at Steve Earwood's Rockingham Dragway for the International Hot Rod Association's Spring Nationals beginning Friday and running through Sunday.

And don't forget the first “racers reunion” scheduled for Saturday at the site of the former Columbia Speedway in Cayce, S.C.

Everybody who is anybody from the dirt-track era of NASCAR racing competed on the half-mile before it was paved and then closed in the early 1970s, and thousands are expected to come by this weekend to recall those glorious days.

Observations

Darlington Raceway has added a touch of class to its Sprint Cup race May 9. The track has commissioned a beautiful new permanent trophy that includes engraved photos around its base of every driver who has won a Cup race at Darlington. It is named the Johnny Mantz Trophy after the winner of the first Southern 500, in 1950, and it will remain on display at the track's museum year-round.

A whole lot of racing history will be honored Thursday night when five men are inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at the Talladega Superspeedway. The class includes legendary car owner Raymond Parks, the Georgian whose car won the first NASCAR Strictly Stock (now Sprint Cup) championship with driver Red Byron in 1949. Donnie Allison, one of the original “Alabama Gang,” also will go in as will legendary car owner Bud Moore and six-time modified champion Jerry Cook. They're joined by longtime car owner and promoter J.C. Agajanian.

Notes

Never a dull moment at the Rock

Rockingham Dragway just about always has a full dance card. There's something scheduled at the track pretty much all the time.

Two of the track's biggest events, though, are the International Hot Rod Association's annual races at The Rock. And in true Rockingham style, this weekend's Spring Nationals has something going on pretty much all day and part of the night from Friday right on through to Sunday's eliminations.

Sure, all of the IHRA's teams in top fuel, pro stock and pro modified will be racing toward Sunday's finals. But there will also be racing in sportsman classes as well as the Summit All-stars competition among the top eight point earners from all seven sportsman categories in 2008.

Friday's “night of fire” round of professional qualifying will also feature a match race between the Grave Digger Monster Truck and Les Shockley's Super Shockwave Jet-powered '57 Chevrolet truck. There'll be a rematch of those trucks Saturday along with a wheelie contest for sportsman cars.

Friday's schedule includes sportsman qualifying beginning at 9 a.m. and pro qualifying sessions at 3 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday's sportsman eliminations begin at 11 a.m. and pro qualifying is again at 3 and 6:30 p.m. Pro eliminations begin at 11 a.m. Sunday with final rounds scheduled for 4 p.m. Order tickets at www.rockinghamdragway.com or call (910) 582-3400 for more information.

Briefly

The Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau has an updated pullout map of the Sprint Cup race shops in its newly released annual visitors guide. The guides can be ordered online at www.visitcabarrus.com.

Key Motorsports will scale back to a limited schedule on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, running only a limited schedule with Mike Bliss driving the rest of this year.

Corey LaJoie, the son of two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champ Randy LaJoie, got his first United Auto Racing Association Stars series win Saturday at Rockingham Speedway.