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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Brian Vickers happy to be back in a racecar; Duno trying stock cars

It’s been a while since Brian Vickers, who had to stop racing after a health scare in 2010, has been behind the wheel of a racecar. That changed Monday, when he ran some laps at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando (former host of a Truck Series and Indycar races). The good news for Vickers fans is he thoroughly enjoyed himself and appears ready for his return to the top series in NASCAR.

"Today was just a huge weight off of my shoulders. It felt damn good to get back in the car. Everything fit. Everything felt right. Everything was just the way I left it last May,” Vickers said after the test.

Vickers will have to shake off any doubts about his ability to return to the level of competition he had established prior to his illness, but he appears confident, and the Red Bull Racing team stands behind him. I believe it will be a process that might not be short, but there’s nothing like running up front and winning to make Vickers forget about last year and the time off – so you can bet he’ll do his best to do well right off the bat.

Finally, the Nationwide series will get its own identity
For the first time in many years, drivers will not be able to compete for two championships at the same time. This means a Nationwide champion will be crowned who isn’t also racing for the Sprint Cup.

I have long supported this notion, and am happy to see it become a reality. It gives the series its own identity, and prevents the Cup guys from dipping down a level to win a title, like many have done in recent years (as my non-NASCAR fan friends have often said; isn’t that like a MLB player competing in AAA and the major leagues at the same time? How is that fair?).

According to Kenny Wallace, the new NASCAR license forms say: "A driver will only be permitted to earn driver championship points in one (1) of the following three series: NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide or NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Please select the series in which you would like to accumulate driver championship points. "

I look forward to seeing Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, Steven Wallace and other Nationwide full-timers battle for a title; the Cup guys will still visit and try to collect points and wins, but it’s nice to know they won’t steal the thunder from the series regulars come championship time.

It’s an overdue change that will make the series better. NASCAR will discuss this change, and probably some others, at a “competition update” on Jan. 21, which will be part of the "Preseason Thunder" Sprint Cup test session at Daytona International Speedway.

No rookies?
Well this is strange.

Currently, no driver is scheduled to run for Rookie of the Year in 2011. That’s a testament to how hard it is for younger guys to break through in the sport these days.

Heeere's Duno
Milka Duno, who has been referred to as a “moving chicane” in Indycar due to her knack of getting in the way of people by virtue of being so slow on track, will take part in the 2011 ARCA race at Daytona in February. She is currently testing the #63 Dodge Charger at Daytona for Sheltra Motorsports, and will attempt to qualify that car next month.

The team hinted that more information about Duno's 2011 season would become available in the next several weeks, so I’m guessing this isn’t a one-race deal. This is a team that won an ARCA championship last year, so the car will be fast. The question is: How will Duno do?

Duno has had some success in sports cars, at least when compared to her horrible Indycar efforts, so I hope she can catch on to stock cars quickly and avoid causing trouble for anyone in the race. With the cars so close and all that drafting going on at Daytona, the worst thing she can do is get in anyone’s way – as it could lead to a horrible wreck that impacts a lot of drivers.

Who knows, maybe she’ll shock the world and run well? I wouldn’t bet on it, but she’s got a chance to prove everyone – myself included – wrong and show that her past performance in Indycar doesn’t represent her true talent level. It will be interesting to watch.

New alliance
As the Furniture Row team and Regan Smith work toward being more competitive, they will be working in one area – the pit crew – with a more established team in Stewart-Haas Racing. The crew for Smith’s #78 car will be trained and employed by Stewart-Haas Racing this season. The #78 pit crew will be under the supervision of SHR pit crew coach Joe Piette, who also oversees the pit crews for Tony Stewart's #14 team and Ryan Newman's #39 team.

This leads me to think … could this be the start of something more? Will they work together more in the future and eventually merge? Just a thought.

Regan will get to test out his newly trained pit crew in the Bud Shootout on Feb. 12, which he now qualifies for since they added Rookie of the Year winners to the lineup.

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Anonymous Bob Abooey said...

The only reason Duno had success in sports cars was because she had co-drivers and she drove the bare minimum required to be scored, and was way off the pace when she drove.

January 13, 2011 at 11:28 AM 

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