Racing’s offseason changes continues at all levels

COMMENTARY

The offseason doesn’t seem to exist in racing anymore.

Dale Blaney will pilot the the John and Pee Wee Zemaitis-owned Zemco No. 1 in 2017. The 52-year-old Ohio native is a six-time All Star Circuit of Champions title holder. Blaney scored seven All Star wins last season en route to a runner-up finish to champion Chad Kemenah.

Blaney is excited about his venture into Pennsylvania where he plans to enter 50 to 60 races next season. The team will start the year in Florida in February.

Blaney has a knack of rebounding from adversity quickly. His longtime mechanic, George Fisher, recently passed away. Compounding problems was sponsor Big Game Motorsports’ withdrawal from racing. With the changes Blaney has filled most of his 2017 racing schedule. Some openings remain — Blaney is attempting to find a local ride in Ohio for about 20 events to supplement his schedule.

Port Royal Speedway will pay the Tuscarora 50 winner $50,000 dollars in 2017. The payoff coincides with the 50th anniversary of the event. Track officials indicate this payoff is planned to be a one-time thing. They’ve also said they intend continue to improve future prize money in 2018 and beyond.

Tony Stewart’s All Star Circuit of Champions released their 2017 schedule this week. The group has ambitious plans for our region. Port Royal is on the card April 29 and Sept. 8-9. Williams Grove is slated for April 28 and Aug. 18. Bedford Speedway hosts April 30 and Sept. 17. Grandview has a lone date on Aug. 17. Other single race dates include Lincoln, Aug. 19; Susquehanna, Aug. 20; and Selinsgrove, Sept. 16. The touring group will compete at Lernerville and Mercer as well.

Monster Energy has been named the new title sponsor for the top NASCAR series. Currently it appears the name “Cup” will no longer be used with this sponsorship.

Earlier this week it was announced Ty Dillon will pilot the Germain Racing No. 13 in the top division next season. That’s the same car vacated by Casey Mears. This team is a spinoff  of Richard Childress Racing.

Roush Fenway Racing is downsizing to two cars next season with drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne. The organization will lease their  charter for one car to JTG Daugherty Racing along with loaning driver Chris Buescher to drive the car. An interesting side note: While Roush Fenway fields Fords, Buescher will drive a Chevrolet. Is a future brand change coming for Roush Fenway?

The Chili Bowl will be held next month in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Six Pennsylvania drivers including Steve Buckwalter intend to compete among the 183 already entered.

Did you notice Kenny Schrader recently went old school in his racing for a weekend? Kenny Wallace shared a picture of Schrader on social media towing an open trailer with his modified stock car to an event at Springfield, Michigan. How did Schrader do? He won the A-Main, proving once again the trailer doesn’t make you a better racer.

Stenhouse and Alex Bowman are two NASCAR drivers reinvesting in the dirt track racing world. Stenhouse teamed with Matt Wood in hiring driver Joey Saldana to pilot the No. 17 for World of Outlaws action next year. Bowman is helping Pennsylvania sprint car driver Ryan Smith compete at the Chili Bowl next month.

It appears Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart will likely compete in the 24 Hours of Daytona road race to start the new season. The event is the lead off program for  Speedweeks. There’s also talk of Stewart possibly driving on the world endurance racing circuit at Le Mans, France. That event is considered one of racing’s triple crown events along with the Indy 500 and Monaco Grand Prix. On the dirt track side, look for Stewart’s sprint car schedule to be released shortly. One definite sprint car show for Stewart is the two day program at the dirt track at Texas Motor Speedway April 7-8.

Until next time, please drive safely!

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Craig Rutherford writes about motorsports for The Sentinel.

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