Monday, July 2, 2012

This Blog Has Moved

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

SHORT TRACK: 2012 Hoosier Hundred Review

On Friday night at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, several thousand die-hard race fans got a glimpse of what real auto racing is supposed to look like. The 59th running of the Hoosier Hundred was held on the appropriately named “Track of Champions,” the historic one-mile dirt oval where Barney Oldfield drove a mile in less than a minute for the first time in history on June 19, 1903. READ MORE

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

SHORT TRACK: Hoosier Hundred Still Reigns Supreme

I would like to invite you to attend an auto race with me this weekend. But first, let me tell you a quick story.

It was 11 o’clock on a Saturday morning and I was tired of job hunting. Since graduating from college the previous spring my time was consumed with courting my lovely bride-to-be and finding a job. But thank goodness, this particular Saturday was set aside for fun. READ MORE

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

INDYCAR: Pippa Mann's Courageous Return

Pippa Mann
The death of Dan Wheldon has justifiably become the overriding memory of last fall's tragic Indycar race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

But lost in the shuffle were several other serious injuries that left both physical and emotional scars on the drivers. While the media quite naturally focuses on the loss of Dan Wheldon, other drivers suffering from serious injuries are unintentionally passed over.

One of those injured parties was Pippa Mann. READ MORE 

Monday, May 21, 2012

INDYCAR: Post Qualifying Report from Indianapolis

It's really hard to say whether this is a whopping awesome year for the Indy 500 or an aggravating disappointment. READ MORE 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

COLLECTOR CARS: Live from Indianapolis

The 25th edition of Mecum's Spring Classic was held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds last week, producing high-dollar sales on some of the most desirable automobiles in the world. Most of those sales made perfect sense. A couple of them surprised me. READ MORE 

Monday, May 14, 2012

INDYCAR: Practice Report from the Indy 500

The opening weekend of practice for the 2012 Indianapolis 500 is behind us and things just get weirder and weirder. Rather than dwell on headlines that are already well covered in mainstream news releases, let me dive into a few behind-the-scenes observations and some educated guesswork. READ MORE

Saturday, May 12, 2012

VINTAGE RACING: Driving a 1969 Corvette

Have you ever wondered what it was like to drive a production-based sportscar in the golden era of American road racing?

Well, so did I. And now I know. READ MORE

Sunday, May 6, 2012

INDY 500: Is The Dream Still Alive?

Dave Darland represents American racing's lost generation
(Photo: Nelson Skinner/Sopwith Motorsports) 
There was a day when the greatest race in the world - the Indianapolis 500 - was within reach of the average local racecar driver. Sure, it was a long shot for anyone, but it was within reach.

Larry Cannon was a barber from a small town in Illinois. He raced Indy in 1971. Long Beach hippie Jan Opperman ran Indy in 1976 after making a name in sprint cars. The dream was alive.

Roger Rager bought his first racecar at age 14. He paid $35 for it. I watched Rager drive - brilliantly - on Paragon Speedway's 3/8th's mile dirt oval in the 1970's. In 1980 he started in row 4 at Indy alongside A. J. Foyt. The dream was alive.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

INDYCAR: Sao Paulo Review

Rain, rain, go away... 

The Super Cup Performance Fiberglass 100 at Columbus Motor Speedway was rained out last weekend, so I have no story to share with you about my own race.

Once the event was officially called, I stopped at a nearby gas station to grab a bag of Munchos and six Lindor truffles (kryptonite for Stephen), slipped REO Speedwagon’s Greatest Hits into the CD player, cranked up the oddly appropriate “Roll With the Changes” and bolted home in the rain to watch the Indycar race on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

PREVIEW: Performance Fiberglass 100

Hey... there are worse gigs. 
Here we are, just days before the season opener for the Super Cup Stock Car Series in Columbus, Ohio on April 28. I've been writing about everyone else's events all year long, and finally it's time to write about mine.

Super Cup is a short track series that races throughout the mid-east from Ohio to Virginia. For many of these cars, their last full-time job was in the Nationwide series.

Since NASCAR's top series abandoned short track racing years ago, Super Cup is the biggest stock car show that the average guy can see at his local race track. The series has a very nice national television package and pays a decent purse.

Many people forget that a few years back, you could go to your local bullring and watch NASCAR's best duke it out. Well, Super Cup is what NASCAR was.

There are plenty of short track series around the country, but when it comes to genuine, 3400-lb, steel-bodied, high horsepower racing, Super Cup is the show to see.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

INDYCAR: Long Beach Grand Prix Review

Indycar/LAT USA
Okay, let's cut through the official press releases and other bovine excrement and talk about the real stories from Indycar's Long Beach Grand Prix.

Ready... set...
  • Chevy scored four of the top five quickest times in qualifying at Long Beach. If you think Chevy is dominant now, wait til the Indy 500. You ain't seen nothing yet. Chevy's long-time affiliation with Ilmor Engineering (the real brains behind the Chevy Indycar engine) and their early signing with Penske Racing virtually guaranteed success. See? I told you so.

LIVE: Mecum Classic Car Auction from Houston

L-R: John Kraman, Scott Hoke, Bill Stephens, Stephen Cox 
The first-ever Mecum auto auction in Houston kicked off in style this weekend with a packed house and buckets of money flowing like the Rio Grande.

I've hosted the Mecum auction for nearly 5 years on Velocity channel but I don't know that I've ever seen cars sell like they did at this show. About 80% of the cars that crossed the block found new owners. That has to be some kind of record for a reserve auction.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

INDYCAR: Barber Motorsports Park Review

Indycar's visit to Barber Motorsports Park was chock full of revealing incidents. Here are a few of them:

Half the field complained of severe understeer, with many teams switching to used “red” tires to compensate. That tells us a lot of things.

First, these tires aren't wearing out. I can tell you from experience that racing tires generally last much longer than fans think. Tire changes are as much about advertising and selling tires to race teams as they are gaining speed on the track.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

LIVE: Mecum Auction, Kansas City (Part 2)

I never thought I'd see the day when a Corvette represented one of the best values in the entire automotive world, yet here it is.

Corvettes are ordinarily considered exclusive, high-end automobiles reserved for the affluent. But I'm going to tell you about a window of opportunity that is open right now that will allow you to scoop up one of the most prestigious marques in the history of the automobile at a bargain-basement price.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

LIVE: Mecum Auto Auction, Kansas City

Everyman's hotrod... the Plymouth Duster
Just finished the first of three days broadcasting the Mecum Auto Auction live from Kansas City. We had a few Mopars on the block tonight that reminded me of a conversation I had recently. 

I was talking to a well-known car collector in the Chicago area and he was explaining the reasons he had switched from collecting Mopar products to General Motors products. He said that the GM vehicles drove better, felt more solid and were better quality cars while the Mopars "drove like a tin can." 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Indycar: St. Petersburg Review

Random thoughts while wondering how Lotus engineers are sleeping tonight...

  1. Fan sentiment for the late Dan Wheldon runs deep. Real deep. 
  2. Sorry, but the rear wheel pods must go. Remember those go-karts they had at amusement parks when you were a kid... the ones with the steel, wraparound skirts to prevent them from flipping? That's what the DW12 looks like. Insert childhood bumper car flashback here. 
  3. A shocking lack of crashes at St. Pete. It's almost like E. J. Viso and Marco Andretti weren't even there. 
  4. Almost as shocking as ABC not carrying 20 minutes of Danica Patrick coverage. Even though she wasn't in the race. But that never stopped them before. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Motoring: The Case for Radar Detectors

I'm a firm believer that every motorist should have a radar detector and know how to use it effectively. Every now and then I am asked, “Why should it be legal to own a radar detector, when its only purpose is to help you break the law?”  

In reality, assisting someone with a regulatory violation is not the "only" purpose for a radar detector… in fact, that’s not even one of its purposes. A radar detector will help you clear the roadway for an approaching ambulance, observe the Safety Alert system (or several other systems like it), gain advance warning of a construction zone, or reroute around a traffic accident. 

The simple fact is that driving without a radar detector is considerably less safe than driving with one. Radar detector owners are aware of ambulances, emergencies, construction and accidents long before anyone else. 

But ultimately these are just side issues; the radar detector’s greatest service is the exercise of a fundamental right.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Racing News: Last Chance to Save a Racing Icon

You can feel the passion in Ralph Sheheen's voice even over the telephone. One of the principals behind the newly-invigorated National Speed Sport News, Sheheen's excitement is shared by thousands of race fans who grew up reading NSSN as their sole source of auto racing news.

"This was a big loss to me that - as a fan of the sport - just couldn't be replaced," Sheheen said of the recent demise of National Speed Sport News. "About a year ago, (former NSSN editor) Corrine Economacki came to me and said, 'If you wanna do something with it (to revive the publication), you can.'"

So Sheheen and his partners jumped in head first. Just when auto racing fans thought that the "motorsports bible" was gone forever, it came roaring back to life in a new, monthly format.

Listening to Sheheen talk, it was clear that his ownership group is taking a risk. He didn't have to say it... you could read between every word. Still, they're not being timid in their approach. This is a brand new, top-notch publication that pays homage to its roots while updating the way we receive automotive news in a welcome way.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Indycar: The Pivotal Season

We're two weeks away from what appears to be a critical juncture in the history of Indycar. When the series opens in St. Petersburg in two weeks, here are the important questions to keep in mind:
  1. Those ridiculous rear wheel pods... once they see the cars are on the racetrack, will fans still hate them? I think the pods will be short-lived. They serve no real purpose on road and street courses, which makes up two-thirds of the Indycar schedule. They are largely a reactionary, Johnny-come-lately public relations response to Dan Wheldon's death. Fans despise them for good reason. They're ugly. They ruin the concept of open wheel racing. They'll disappear on road and street courses within a year and no one will miss them.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jet Dryers: A Safety Regulator's Dream

Ever seen this before? Me neither. 
Word now has it that NASCAR and other sanctioning bodies may legislate new rules regarding the use of jet dryers that mandates custom-built fuel cells for the dryers and firesuits and helmets for all personnel associated with their use.

Before I continue, let me point out that I've been in the racing industry for 30 years. This not a hobby. It's my living. I am a racecar driver who also has a wife and children, so safety is paramount to me.

But in all my years of auto racing, I've never seen anything like the freak jet dryer accident that occurred at this year's Daytona 500. Never. Zippo. Nada. I've never witnessed anything remotely resembling such an incident.

For crying out loud... are they seriously going to start legislating new safety rules to prevent the repetition of an incident that likely has no precedent in the 100-year history of the sport? Honestly?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Great Racing: It's Really Not That Difficult

One would think that the world's biggest race series with the world's finest drivers would have a clue as to how put on good racing.
The track is so wide... why is the racing groove so narrow?

One would be wrong. 

Indycar, NASCAR and Formula 1 have all struggled to one extent or another with the task. Nothing manifested the desperate situation more than Daytona's Speedweeks, a week-long, tandem-pack parade where racing "three wide" is so common as to become meaningless. After all, you really can't race any other way. Lose the draft for three laps and your race is over. 

Leading the race is equally meaningless. It's actually a disadvantage. You can't find a single driver in NASCAR who wants to lead at Daytona with two laps to go.

The most valuable skill a driver can offer is the ability to avoid accidents. That ability won more races at Speedweeks than driving talent. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Right Now: What Car to Buy, What Race to Watch

What drivable collector car to buy right now?

The collector car market is really not as complex as you might think, especially if you’re going to drive the car you buy.

When a new car is manufactured, it is sold at the highest price the market will bear. As it ages, its value goes down before rising again after 15-25 years. The key is to buy just before a model's value begins to surge.

Here are some of the real bargains available right now for those who want to drive their collector car, get decent mileage, tons of fun, and sell it later for much more than they paid for it:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

LIVE from Kissimmee: Thursday, 11:16 pm

We had a pretty full night at the Mecum Auto Auction with 400 cars crossing the block along with bad sausage and ripped jeans.

The morning started with our usual production meeting, after which we had a catered breakfast. Our meals are usually pretty decent, but today's chicken sausage was questionable at best. When I asked if he thought any actual chicken was in these sausage links, Bill Stephens responded, "I'm sure that no animals were harmed during the production of this meat." We laughed and ate it anyway.