There is only ONE Oklahoma

Monday, April 30, 2007

Every Sport has their 'Jungle Venue'

I would never defend the actions of the morons who decided to waste full cans of their beverage of choice at the conclusion of the Dega race yesterday. Their actions are in-excusable and they should be arrested, be banned from attendance of any future races, and bill boards should be plastered with all the offenders names, addresses and their fines from their stupid act.

Even the drivers like and even comment of the 'spectacle' that has become 'Dega'. They talk every year about the shenanigans going on in the infield, the craziness of the Dega race fans and the 'you never know what your are going to see' attitude. But it is this attitude that may actually promote the stupidity that was seen in the cool down lap yesterday.

But this problem is not just isolated to the Talladega Motor Speedway, the NFL has venues like Lincoln Financial Field and before that Veteran's Stadium in Philadelphia. This city can be very proud that they have the only NFL stadium with a working jail and booking area. Where fans have been known to actually cheer to the point of giving a standing ovation directed at opponents when injured and laying lifeless on the turf. Flash back to October 1999, as Michael Irvin lay crumpled and motionless on the Veterans Stadium turf Sunday afternoon, many of the Eagles' fans began cheering. The longer Irvin remained on the ground during the Cowboys' 13-10 loss, the more the crowd roared. The cheers reached an apex, when a stretcher was brought onto the field for Irvin.

The Cleveland Indians were once known for their rowdy fans that attended Municipal Stadium. Going so far as to cause the forfeiture of games, because fans were running onto the field, throwing objects at players and basically disrupting the game any why they could. The crescendo of this occurred in 1974 when a game with the Texas Rangers was forfeited in the bottom of the ninth inning because of fan behavior. This near riot went to the point of fans throwing folding chairs at opposing players.

Then there is Detroit, The Palace of Auburn Hills is home of the Pistons and the worst fans in the NBA. Here is a great idea, let's throw a beer on Ron Artest and see what happens. Even better idea, let's pick a fight with Jermaine O'Neil. Detroit fans, as a whole, are violent by nature, They have a knack for destroying their own city after winning a championship, at least that doesn't happen when a driver named 'Dale' wins a Dega.

I have witnessed live the same type of 'Dega stupidity' at last fall's race, and I for one am thankful that my tickets there are on the top row of the Allison Grandstand well clear of the possible bombardment of the lower seats. This is two races in a row where this has happened, and that is at the very least, one two many. I have seen that some think this problem would be solved if coolers were not allowed inside the venue. That remains to be seen, as coolers were not allowed in the Philadelphia, Cleveland or Detroit venues either.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Time to Pay the Piper

There are many that think that the reason the Hendricks cars are at the top of the pyramid week in and week out is because 'they cheat'. Frankly I don't believe that, not even close. But one thing I do see at HMS is their commitment to keeping up with technology and trying to use that at an advantage. Enter the 'Seven Post Rig'.
A NASCAR chasis being tested on the seven-post rig at Auto Research Center, Mooresville, N.C. in 2004

While this multi-million dollar technology has been around for almost a decade, it is just now making it's impact in Nascar, and more specifically, the financial impact to the teams. But if this technology has been available for years, why have the teams ignored it? The answer is pretty simple. What seemed to originally be a good idea to 'limit testing' by Nascar in order to help the teams save money, has turned into a 'keeping up with the Jones' dilemma for race teams. Since testing limits have been imposed, the teams that have ponied up their 'artificial testing' program are the teams that have gained a weekly advantage.

Ray Evernham said last week that he 'just spent more money on one piece of equipment recently than he spent for the entire 1998 championship season'. Now I don't know if this megabucks piece of equipment actually is a seven-post rig, but I think it is a pretty safe bet that it is. Robert Yates also announced this week, that he too is now a proud owner of one of these machines. Ginn Racing also has made a recent purchase as well. The list will surely continue to grow.

So just what does the 'magic machine' really do? Seven-post rigs at once test setup of an entire car including all four shocks. They incorporate seven hydraulic actuators, one under each wheel, one or two beneath the rear bumper area, and the rest under the front of the car. The actuators apply dynamic loads to the suspension and chassis to simulate the bumps, turns, banks, braking, and aerodynamic forces that a car would experience on a racetrack and they can do all of this in the cozy confines of the race shop. Pretty neat huh?

But here is a catch. While Seven-post rigs do simulate close to 90% of the cars reaction to a physical on track test session, there is one element missing. That element might be the most important too, the driver still has to understand, classify, and prioritize the reactions of chassis changed and the preferred 'feel' of the car. Or on the other hand, the absence of a driver in these 'tests', only show that the engineers are findings more ways to make a car go faster, and it is up to the driver that can adjust to that. I'm thinking the drivers that can do that in the near future are the ones that we will see as 'front runners'.

So what were good intentions by Nascar to save money for the teams may have not turned out the way they expected. This problem may only get worse, as when this very expensive technology surge becomes balanced among the full time teams, it will be only a matter of time before teams will be force to purchase even more expensive technology that is already being used in Formula One. Currently in F-1, 11 post rigs are being used. This even more expensive technology applies vertical forces to the wheels and chassis like the 7 post rig, however also apply side loads to wheel posts for simulating cornering, lateral, and g-force. Some rigs spin-up wheels to quantify changes in tire spring rate with rotational speed, while others allow steering input. We are talking big bucks here and it is just a matter of time before some owner feels the need to buy one. Then the cycle starts all over again.

So it looks like Nascar owners will have to pay the piper because of the rules in an attempt to maintain some competitive edge. But I can't help to think that this reality has been going on since the days of the 'Beach Course'. Nobody said that going fast and turning left would be cheap did they? Of course some 'knee-jerk' reaction fans might think that just because their favorite driver's owner has now purchased one of these 'maricle' machines, they should see some sort of improvement next race. But it most likely will not return immediate results, after all, just as the wind tunnel technology took time to perfect, this will as well.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tony, Tony, Tony

Let me get this straight, Tony Stewart just a couple of weeks ago was upset because a large number of fans 'booed' him. Upset so much to the point that he threatened retirement. I have two words of advice for who I consider one of the three most talented drivers in the Cup series.

Grow up!

Then just a week later, much of the same contingent of fans showered Jeff Gordon's car with Budweiser cans, after the 24's attempt to honor the 'Man in black'. But what was missing from this story is a response from Gordon threatening to retire because of some 'boos'.

But Tony doesn't stop there. Tuesday night in Sirius Radio, Tony breaks out his tin foil hat and falls back on the 'phantom debris caution' theory. You gotta love his determination and keen eye site, traveling in a car at over 140 mph and his ability to see every inch of the race track. Let alone that since conspiracy theories of this nature have been spawned, I have yet to see any Nascar track worker, be it former or present, actually admit that these cautions are fabricated. Surely the France family has ticked off some track worker that is willing to go public with such a claim. But I am not holding my breath that this will happen.

The next time Tony decides to actually speak to the press, maybe he should get some advice from this person. After all, the tin foiled hat fits perfect on her.
Click on pic to enlarge

You are arguably the best over-all driver in Cup, don't blow that rep with your choice of head gear.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Throwing Some Darts

Long term verses short term thinking:
Some owners are still whining about the expense of the C.O.T. and also running the current chassis. Short term thinking would show that they are correct, and yes for this year it is more expensive to run a race team. But what about when the C.O.T. is run full time in the series? Just with the little use so far of the C.O.T. some race teams have taken the same car to all three races. That is something that never would have been considered with the 'car of yesterday'. Also, years ago, the implementation of the restrictor plate added to the annual cost to race teams, but somehow that has been forgotten by some of these owners. In the short term, the C.O.T. will be more expensive, but in the long term, this car will keep annual cost from rising at an alarming rate.

Fan Suicide watches:
The doom and gloom cloud has now reached the Ricky Rudd, Elliott Sadler, Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers, and of course the Micheal Waltrip fan message boards. What started out as high hopes and expectations for the season has now turned to finger pointing and discontent. But any one of these group's world would change in a heartbeat with a top ten finish at Dega. Or in "Jet Fuel's" case, just making the race.

Even David forgets:
A couple of weeks ago before the TMS race, David Poole spoke out against allowing coolers into the grandstand areas at race tracks. As a rule I usually agree with David's opinions, however in this case I find it hard to swallow coming from a person who spends much of his race day sitting in air conditioned press box, and having FREE and catered food brought to him at his beckon call. But like some of my email nemeses' like to point out about some of my opinions, I don't think David has ever turned a competitive lap in a race car, so how can he possibly know what he is talking about. Irony alert!

Paint that wing!
I have stated before and will probably state again that I actually like the 'look' of the C.O.T. But I do have one suggestion. Nascar and the teams need to come up with a solution so teams can get that black rear wing painted or decaled to match the car's individual paint scheme. Worse comes to worse, allow the teams to keep the wings each week, and have them inspected prior to mounting during pre-qualifying tech. If that wing didn't pass inspection for what ever reason, then the team would have a new wing issued to them.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Saturday Night Fever

I completely love Saturday night racing, but am I the only one that feels that their weekend schedule is a bit 'out of whack'? The whole weekend just doesn't seem right, and even seems a rushed somewhat. I have often wondered if the teams have this same problem as well.

I have also heard theories how local tracks suffer from Saturday Night Cup races and that very well could be true in some parts of the country, but from what I have seen the past few years at the local dirt tracks that I regularly attend, those 'conflict' of interests don't seem to effect attendance much.

This very race last year, I attended my favorite local dirt track, however with the aid of a small hand held TeVee, I was able to somewhat follow the Cup race. The grandstands seemed just as full as a normal night and like always the racing was great.

For the handful of Saturday Night Cup races on the schedule, it maybe a small sacrifice for the 'local track owner' if it effects his attendance at all. Having Cup races on prime time TeVee can only be good for the sport as a whole. But I wouldn't want to see many more Sunday races moved to Saturday. That wheel cannot get any more rounder, but it still makes the weekend as a whole seem different for this Nascar fan.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It Never Gets Old

Another TMS race weekend has come and gone and as usual, the weekend can only be called a success. A few quick hits from the week's activities.

You never know who you are going to meet
A full week before the race, we take the RV to the track and begin a small set-up of the camp site. It just is much easier to do as the areas have not filled up and there is more room to maneuver and get parked. But while waiting in line to fill the water tank at the track, Kevin Harvick's motor coach driver pulls up in a very nice rig. Instead of going back to North Carolina after the Busch race in Nashville, he simply made the haul to Ft. Worth.

A ticking time bomb
We have all heard and read about the storms that blew through the track area Friday evening and the praise for the Motor Speedway being pro-active, but lets be realistic here. There are very few places in this world that are fully prepared to evacuate over 90,000 RVers and campers to 'safety' at a race, football stadium or festival. While TMS did make attempts to let people know that there was bad weather approaching, the problem was where to go, and how long it would take to get there. By the time that our camping area was notified to 'take cover' and head 'under the track grandstands', the impending storms were just 'minutes away'. Being over a mile from this 'shelter', there was not nearly enough time so like most campers, we just had to ride the storm out. Thankfully for us, the brunt of the storm seem to split the track area and pretty much missed us . Just a bit of high wind and heavy rain for about 5 minutes, followed by a rainbow and even some sunshine. But someday the unthinkable will happen, and a storm will hit a venue filled with fans (be it a football game, race, or concert) and yes, there will be finger pointing for responsibility. My only question would be, 'just where does that many people go, on such short notice'?

Another reason not to watch the Busch Wackers!
The unseasonably cold weather Saturday gave me just one more excuse not to attend that day's race. So once again, Okla21fan gives his tickets away to some RVers who wanted to go. According to them, they had a great time. I also had a great time watching the broadcast on the TeVee at the campsite. Gotta love Dish Network.

Texas is becoming more and more bi-lingual
And listening to the the 19's scanner chat, one would think that the driver/Crew Chief conversation were just as bi-lingual. As they certainly don't seem to be on the same page. But then again, this problem has haunted the driver over the years when it came to communication with his crew chiefs, so I am not surprised that this has continued. I really don't have an answer or solution other than to site an observation from some other successful race teams. Those teams seem to have someone (be it the driver or the CC) that has the hammer when it comes to making the calls. It seems that both the 19 driver and his CC are walking on eggshells when it comes to making early race chassis changes. To me, this is the CC's responsibility, and the driver's job is to report what the car is doing, and how the changes effected the car, and of course to drive. But don't tell that to some of the old-school drivers like Rusty Wallace or Mark Martin.

Score five bonus point for 'Spotterman'
The year after the 'Southern Gentleman' made his only Chase run, one of my biggest complaints about the team was their lack of situational awareness when it came to 'stealing' five bonus points for leading a race. This was especially disconcerting when the team would be deep in the pack, and were going to make some pretty big chassis changes under the caution thus re-starting at the tail of the field. I counted over 50 points of 'opportunity' that was missed in that season. While that is not a huge deal, it very well could be the difference in making the Chase or not this season. Well, 'Spotterman' must be on the same page, as coming out of turn four, he suggested to stay out and not pit, thus leading a lap and getting five bonus points. This would have been the only opportunity for the 19 to do this the rest of the 200 or so laps remaining in the race. The 'keystone cop' banter from the driver and CC on the following lap concerning if they pitted or not and would they still lead a lap only goes further to show the need for a 'in race strategy' coach, to pre-determine these calls. But still a nice call by the eyes in the sky, now just figure out the Monday thru Thursday stuff!

Who says nice guys finish last
Sure was great to see the last 20 or so laps and really not knowing who was going to drive into victory lane. No need to use the chrome horn, not 'moving' the guy in front of you. Just some could old fashion door to door, making a run, lifting when the pass was not quite completed to avoid hitting the other guy. Both drivers involved in that shootout should be commended for their clean racing of each other. I for one, enjoyed it. (but then again, i enjoyed the last few laps at Mville a couple of weeks ago simply because both drivers tried to win the race as cleanly as possible).

Eddie gets it right again

TMS General Manager Eddie Gossage must be proud of his legacy that he is building as each race passes. Not only does he put a good product out on the track, he also does his best to make sure the the Nascar race day fan has the most enjoyable experience possible. It seems that each year there is some tweaking that I notice and this year it was the advertising on a couple of portions covering the backstretch seating. Knowing that TMS (and few other two race date venues) will completely sell out their seating. Gossage decides to not let that space go unused. Instead he sells that space for advertising and I am guessing the gross sales of that advertising was more than what would have been the gross sales for those 10,000 or so tickets. Even with those unused seats, TMS still is a top 5 draw when it comes to race day attendance. But there will always be someone who will complain about that. You can bet on that. After all, most race venues use there back stretch for 50 or so Prevost Motor Coaches, instead of over 30,000 grandstand seating and thats just fine and dandy. Not an empty seat could be seen on the 'world longest continuous grandstand ' representing over 125,000 race fans.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

It's TMS week

The RV is already set up in it's space at the track (note to 'spotterman', our group is one row over from last fall, so if you plan on making an impromptu visit, we are one row closer to 'corner'. But I'm not staying up after 'curfew'!!!) The food and beverage lists have been made and are just waiting for Wednesday night to go to the store. The firewood has been loaded and ready to burn. So Thursday morning, it will be off to the track for what has become a spring ritual and tradition. For me, this marks the beginning of the 'live' racing season.

That being said, how about a few random thoughts:

When will they learn?
Once again, at the last Cup race, TeVee was able to capture race fans disguised as 'empty seats', and come this Sunday at TMS, you will most likely see the same. But there is a bit of a difference between Martinsville and TMS. When a track is 'targeted' of being in jeopardy of losing one of their two race dates, one of the first things to stick out, is capacity and sell outs. East Coast Nascar fans are an interesting bunch when it comes to this. They want to complain that 'Nascar is forgetting their roots', yet those same fans will not sell out a long standing traditional race venue no matter how 'good' the racing is there. (See the Rock as well) MVille has a 65,000 seat capacity, while TMS boasts a over 159,000 in permanent seating alone. (not to mention the other 50+K of suites, condo and Speedway Club seating.) So seeing a few empty seats this Sunday is all relative, in the big picture. It is too bad that MVille is just a short drive from two or three very large population centers, yet has trouble filling 65,000 seats, I would hate to see a race date removed from this track for the 'lack of attendance' reason.

The never ending question:
Posed to me these days is, 'who is your driver now'? Actually, my diver loyalty has not changed in almost 10 years now, but my perspective of said driver has. I still like the on-track Elliott Sadler, the way he drives, the way he respects his fellow racers and the way he races as cleanly as possible the majority of the time. But I have been very clear in my disgust of the weekday activities and priotities, and when needed, I will continue to be critical. Criticism is easy to deal with. If it's true, listen to it and learn from it. If it's not true, ignore it. Judging from the hit counter and IP tracker, ignoring doesn't seem to be the case here. And I have also given credit where credit is due on this blog concerning the "Southern Gentleman' and his posse. (and yes, that includes his spotter). So once again, I will be sitting in my seats of 11 years and will have my scanner tuned to the 19 team listening to 'my' driver and whom I consider one of the best spotters is the business, after all it will be Sunday, not a Tuesday or Wednesday. And honestly, if I posted every 'email' claim that is sent to me, some people's worlds might be unraveling at the seams.

But on the other hand, it has been very enjoyable 'starting over' and following the 38 team as well. It is truly amazing to how that 'green driver' excitement and hearing the 'ole man' crew chief work his magic. Brings back some nice memories.

Speaking of the 19
While the early season results have not been exactly what was hoped for, it could be alot worse. Looking at the point standing the next couple of race may force the owner's hand a bit as the 9 and 10 cars maybe too far out to make a run for the Chase (if they are not already). This may put the 19 in position for this year at least as being the 'primary' team. So check the 'bad equipment' excuse at the door.

And when will race teams employ a 'race manager' on race days. Much like the 'clock management coach' many NFL and major college team have. This 'race managers' job once the green flag drops is to determine just what other cars or on the same lap as the team is on. Monitoring those team's scanner chats (especially under cautions). And over all give input to the Crew Chief concerning race strategy. Now we have heard the Spotter making many of these calls and input, but frankly he has enough to worry about, than trying to decide what lap under caution the team should 'top off' the tank and still maintain track position, or possibly gain a position or two. (a nice call btw)

The Crew Chief as well should not be burdened with looking at the constant changing of Nascar scoring to determine much of the race strategy, his focus should be on making the car better. To me, with all the race weekend personnel, surely there is someone that could help manage this much needed information.

RVing at the track
Probably my favorite race weekend activity and especially at TMS. We have RVed with the same group now going on 6 years. Our group has grown from a half dozen or so, to now a Sunday attendance in the mid 20s at times. Like most Nascar events, we are a microcosm of the 'Nascar melting pot', ranging from Cajun from Louisiana, Opera Debs from Dallas, computer nerds from Illinois, attorneys from Fort Worth, construction workers from Houston, the whole gambit. As always, it is alot of fun and the only way to get a full Nascar experience.

side bar:
I am now contributing to 1/3 of another blog
check it out!

Friday, April 06, 2007

"M&Ms", the wrong stuff

The first 'M'

It is the 'Masters' weekend and probably one of the only weekends (other than the U.S. Open) that I will follow a PGA tournament very closely. Here are a few observations:
If Nascar ran a race like the Masters run their tournament, we might see some interesting things, some good, some bad.

1) There would be no female race officials, team members or even wifes/girlfriends/pit lizards being allowed in some areas of the garage.
2) Who ever broadcast the race would only be allowed to broadcast under the condition of 'limited commercial breaks'. Less than 1/3 of the 'normal' commercial break time allotted.
3) Past race winners would get an automatic qualifying exemption and would be allowed to participate come race day.
4) Concession vendors would be required to sell their goods at a 'reasonable' prices dictated by the race venue. ($1.25 sandwiches, and $.75 soft drinks for example)
5) If a race team dominated a venue too much, the venue would drastically change the race conditions to 'Tigerize' the venue.
6) No cameras would be allowed into a race venue after qualifying.
7) Because of sponsorship conflicts, never would you see a high angle camera shot or a camera shot from outside the track, for fear of a competing sponsor's sign or T-Shirt being seen.

the second 'M'

Major League Baseball is now in the middle of a quandary with a possible 'cheating' scandal. Angels pitcher Francisco Rodriquez is under investigation for possibly doctoring the baseball in just the first three games of this baseball season. Now this really isn't a huge deal over-all, but MLB could be held to a bit of scrutiny and penalty consistency.

Lets take a look at what we know as if right now:

1) 4-2-2007, against the Texas Rangers, Rodriquez put something on the ball repeatedly during the 9th inning, and wasn’t even subtle about it. In every instance the type of pitch thrown after 'going to the brim of the cap', was a breaking ball. Never once did Rodriquez make this action prior to throwing a fastball.
2) 4-3-07 game, there isn’t the kind of totally blatant grab-the-brim-then-rub-thumb repeatedly, but it’s even more clear that there’s something on his hat brim and he’s putting his thumb right on it.

So how does this relate to Nascar? Other than the fact that this is cheating, the real relativity might come from just how MLB chooses to punish the offender (if they do anything at all). Then let the conspiracy theories fly, just as they do in Nascar for the 'certain drivers can get away with doing the same thing, that other drivers are penalized for'.

But in order to fully understand this, flashback to the 2006 MLB post season and Detroit Tiger pitcher Kenny Rogers. On more than one occasion Rogers was seen with a 'substance' on his pitching hand. An obvious rules violation.
This isn't the first time cameras have caught Kenny Rogers with a foreign substance on his pitching hand. Rogers clearly had a similar substance beneath his thumb during Game 3 of the ALCS on Oct. 13. and on July 20 start against the White Sox, there appears to be a trace of something in the same place.

Just what are the odds of having 'dirt/mud' three different times on the same place on a pitching hand?
The moral of the story is that Rogers was not punished at all, other than told by the umpires to 'wash his hands' before returning to the mound in game 3 of the World Series.

Monday, April 02, 2007

If it was a snake, it would have bit me!

Almost three years ago, I wrote an opinion on Catchfence.com titled, "IT WAS JUST FUN" re-telling an enjoyable evening I spent at a local dirt track. While I love 'dirt trackin', my real passion for racing as on the Asphalt, but unfortunately for me, where I live, the availability of non dirt surfaced tracks is very limited.

The closest track that I was aware of was 5 plus hours away in Houston, and every time I made plans to attend a race there, the weather would not co-operate and the race night would be rained out. But little did I know even after a few years of searching, that there was a nice track just a little over 3 hours away.

Enter Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, Texas (just minutes south of Austin) and what a great facility it is. I thought this past weekend was 'opening' weekend, and while I was technically correct, it was the opening weekend for the racing season, it was a 'special event' weekend and not a regular weekend show. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Friday, aprox 6:00 pm
The trusty RV pulled into the track late Friday afternoon and although it had rained most the day, there was plenty of 'high ground' area to park the RV along with a few other race fans who had done the same. The track parking staff were very helpful and tried to make our stay as pleasant as possible, even to the point of 'fetching' us some potable water to fill our empty water tanks (oops).

Friday 7:15 pm
I should have realized something up this race weekend, as even Friday evening the sounds of cars on the track could be heard but still I was oblivious to the actual weekend's race schedule. I knew that a touring late model series was going to run that weekend, but still I was thinking it was simply 'another regular' race weekend.

Saturday 10:00 am
My ignorance all changed the Next morning when I took my first view if this wonderful racing facility from inside the track. It was then that I noticed 'Nextel West' officials wandering around the facility and some familiar looking cars. These were not Late Models, these were what I fondly call 'Winston West' cars tweaking during pre-qualifying practice.
Nextel West car practices before qualifying on Saturday morning

One of my favorite things to do if the opportunity arises, is to see as many different race series as possible and I have never attended a Nascar Grand National Touring Division series to date. That would change that Saturday night.
the Nextel West cars are basically 'old' Nextel Cup/Busch chassis

The Nextel West Series in a nutshell uses older Busch and Cup chassis and have either 105 or 110 wheel base. This year, the series is using a spec engine as well. But other than that, the car looks very much like any Cup/Busch car seen at any Nextel track.

Saturday 4:10 pm
As the grandstand gates open some 3 or so hours before the dropping of the first race's green flag, the line had already formed at the ticket window. Once we received our tickets, the track staff once again seemed to go out of their way to make the race fans feel welcomed and appreciated. A genuine sense of 'we are glad that you are here', was the over-all impression I got when encountering any track employee/volunteer.

Saturday 4:25 pm
Upon entering the track, we almost immediately flowed into the pit area and what a treat that was. The Nextel West teams were more than willing to answer questions, be it if they were some of the most elementary onces. For example, I would be the first to admit my ignorance of this racing series, and the first thing I noticed were the Goodyear tires being used. After questioning one very nice gentleman of my observation, he informed me that not only are the teams issued just two full sets of tires for the whole race weekend, but the tires were not Radials that are used in Cup.

Saturday 6:05 pm
We also got an up close and personal view of the 'preliminary race' teams on the card that night which was the Texas Super Racing Series. This Late Model series also had their season opening race and just to see the pride these teams took with their cars was really a joy to experience.
this TSRS late model team had thier 'game face' on before the race, this team finished a respectable 3rd

Saturday 6:55 pm
The grandstands were filling up so it was on to find some seats, and while I don't know just what the capacity of Thunderhill is, there were very few seats left just 15 or so minutes before before the first scheduled race. We were able to find some very nice seats with a great view (really there is not a bad seat anywhere) coming out of turn 4.

Saturday 7:10 pm
One of my pet peeves for almost any event is starting the event at the publicized schedule time (unless weather does not allow), and like clock work the Late Models rolled out on the track with ample time to meet the 7:15 start.

Saturday 7:15 pm
Like clock work, the green flag flies and what a show did these guys put on. Very few cautions and very clean racing was the theme of this 50 lap race. I cannot wait to return to a TSRS race in the near future.

Saturday 7:40 pm
A quick trip to the restroom (very clean facilities) and a jog by the concession stand. It was very clear that the track owner had the 'common race fan' in mind when looking over the prices of the ' good eats' and drinks. A family of four could come to a full race season at Thunderhill, and have refreshments each time, and spend less money then a full race weekend at a Cup track.

Saturday 7:45 pm
Main event pre-race festivities begin highlighted by introducing Terry Labonte . There was a bit a humor involved with this however, as it seemed that Terry was to give a 'ride along' to a lucky fan. After what seemed to be a couple of minutes of repeated 'here is Terry!' over the P.A. system, and the race fans not only looking at the pit area, but the grand stands and even towards the sky in anticipation of seeing just how Texas Terry might enter the track. (after all this is Texas, and you never know) A car appears from the pit area, and makes a few laps around the track, then stopping at the start/finish line. 'Lucky fan' exits car, and claims she would 'never do that again', and the car drives off back into the pit area. (Was it really Terry driven or just a scene from 'The Electric Horseman'?)
Terry Labonte does his best 'Robert Redford Electric Horseman' impression. (it really was Texas Terry, no impostor here)

Saturday 7:55 pm
Nextel West cars are pushed onto the track via the pit entrance and are lined up, diagonal along the front stretch and the front grandstands are now pretty much completely full.

Saturday 8:15 pm
Driver intros commence, and like the 'big boys' the drivers are driven into the track on the back of pick-up trucks. Gotta give a little credit to the race promoter here in trying to make this event as '1st class' as possible. I am sure it is not everyday these guys get introduced in this manner.

Saturday 8:27 pm
A short pre-race prayer, a very nice National Anthem, a few fireworks, and then 'confirmation' that Texas Terry is truly in attendance as a quick interview with him at the start/finish line before he gives the command to fire the engines.

Saturday 8:35 pm
'Gentleman, start your engines!'

Saturday 8:40 pm
Green flag, green flag....go go go!!!!

Saturday 8:40 -- 10:05 pm
150 laps of some great 'bullring' racing. Not really being familiar with the drivers I chose to program my scanner to 'race control' and listen to the Race Director. I don't know this gentleman's name, but this Nascar Official is a no nonsense type of guy. After repeated warnings to the whole field about showing on track patience, midway through the race he was not afraid to move even some front runners to the rear of the field for 'rough driving'. He used the sound philosophy that 'anyone can punt and pass in a bullring, but it takes skill to move the car ahead of you, without wrecking them'.

Saturday 10:15 pm
Back into the pit area to catch some of the post race inspection action. Many of these inspectors also double up when Cup events or on the west coast as while, so their insight was invaluable.
very nice Nextel West Official checks carburetor intakes and answers the countless questions from yours truly

Even while performing their jobs they were very happy to answer any questions directed to them by race fans. Again this was a common theme for the whole night. While I am not the biggest 'tech head', it did give me more appreciation for the due diligence of pre and post race inspections.
Yes, there is a post race 'check list' used

even though it doesn't take long to get a car all the way through post race tech, there are very few components that are not looked at

Over all, if I was going to give a grade to the Thunderhill Raceway, the Nextel West Series, and the TSRS for their race night presentation, it would be a solid 'A'. How this track has not been in my cross hairs over the past 5 or so years is beyond me. Even though the track is a little over a 3 and half hour drive, I plan on making at the very least a few more race weekends there this season. The track owner, promoter, employees and volunteers should be proud of the product they are putting out. I for one, will be spreading the word in two weeks at TMS among some of the other DFW area race fans who are starved for some good asphalt racing, as I think many of them would be willing to make the trek down to the Austin area.

I am just glad this great facility wasn't a snake, if so it would have bit me for sure! Like the line that 'Arnold' has made famous......