It's time for another week of racing. I'm glad the weather cooperated and allowed area tracks to operate last week. Here's what is planned for this weekend.
Port Royal Speedway hosts a three-division show of sprint cars, late models and 305 sprints. Pit gates open at 3:30 p.m. and general admission gates at 4. At Lincoln Speedway, the 358 and 410 sprint cars are joined by the thunder cars. Action gets under way at 7. Selinsgrove Speedway entertains the Empire Super Sprint Organization for a 358/360 sprint car challenge series combo race. Late Models, pro stocks and roadrunners complete the show. Race time is 6. It should be a great week end of action and the weather is finally starting to break.
Last weekend was crazy for area racers. Port Royal Speedway had plenty of reasons to smile. A quality field of sprint cars and late models. NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Dave Blaney returned to his roots of sprint car racing and ended up winning Port Royal's feature event. Former late model champion Scotty Haus came home the late model winner. Keith Garman was awarded the pro stock victory after a rules infraction by Tim Krape's team.
Blaney returned to sprint car racing at Williams Grove and Port Royal. Mechanical woes sidelined Blaney at the Grove. I spoke with Blaney after the Port Royal race and he told me he intends to race sprint cars when ever his NASCAR schedule will allow it. He may eventually come back to sprint cars full time some day. One thing I know is Blaney had fun.
Keith Kauffman started his farewell tour with a seventh-place finish after surviving a red- and caution-filled event. Greg Hodnett and Mark Coldren weren't as lucky.
Hodnett crashed hard into the industrial loader tires placed in front of the fourth turn guide rail just past the pit exit. Hodnett's accident was quick and there was little time to react. Speedway personnel informed me Hodnett's hand hit the wing slider adjustment and his pointer finger was broken in four places going back to his wrist. Surgery is not needed and a removable cast was applied. In fact, Hodnett was back behind the wheel Friday at Williams Grove.
Coldren also took a nasty spill that caused his car to rise above the tin fence in turns one and two. Coldren was not injured but will miss this week due to another commitments that will take him to Georgia.
Both accidents raised eyebrows and drivers told me the track is too fast. I've heard that argument before. Several years back when Bedford Speedway was resurfaced racers raised the same concerns.
The situation goes way beyond Port Royal Speedway. As long as national sprint car organizations allow cars to be so light bad things have the potential to happen. Here are solutions to consider. First, return sprint cars to a heavier weight - in the 1,500 pound plus range, or more with the driver. This would allow frames to be repaired and reused instead of being thrown away.
That also helps lower costs. From a history point of view there may actually be some cars left again to be restored for future generations to enjoy.
Second, follow what has been a successful format for the late models: Get rid of the 410 cubic inch motor limit and allow drivers and mechanics a chance to work with whatever size motor they are comfortable using. This will allow drivers the power to actually catch and pass others instead of following the leader. I have spoken with at least one prominent area promoter who agrees it's time for motor limits to go.
Wings may need to be looked at. Several years ago the World of Outlaws conducted wing tests and found that a 4-by-5-foot wing produced more competitive racing than today's wing. No changes were made except to play with the wickerbill across the top of the wing. The Outlaws and All Star Sprint Car organizations are policing tires but I'm not sure that helps.
So what can the tracks do? Jeremy Elliott wrote an excellent column in the Patriot News earlier this week in which he spoke with Hodnett and chief mechanic Lee Stauffer. Stauffer is an advocate for dry slick race tracks from top to bottom. I'm not sold on that. Stauffer also made a good case for the installation of soft walls in area's of dirt tracks where crashes are most likely. The insurance companies paying claims could agree.
Here is another thing tracks can do. Reduce the degree of grade in the corners. Cut them down. Drivers will be able to use more of the track. I've seen very few sprint car races the last three years where a driver can run the top half of the race track successfully. This is the same problem that Daytona and Talledaga have in NASCAR - they are banked too much and are faster than drivers can safely race. Fans don't care about the fastest lap. The want to see competitive racing and we are not always seeing it right now. To often it is a follow the leader program unless lapped traffic, wrecks or a good restart allow a driver to move by.
I don't claim to have all the answers but I hope my thought give everyone some points to consider.
Justin Henderson will drive Coldren's racer in the World of Outlaws races in May. Henderson also drove the car during the winter races in Florida.
Tyler Walker will return to the state soon to resume racing. Walker's off season issues have been placed under control. Walker was involved in a four-state police chase.
I understand the area will also see more frequent appearances from Jessica Zemken in 2013. The female sensation is one of several talented lady racers to invade our region.
Get out and visit a track near you this weekend. I'll be back next week with more news and opinions. Please drive safely!
Craig Rutherford writes about motorsports for The Sentinel.