NASCAR & Auto Racing

Chase run? It's not like these guys haven't done this before

Some notes and a midweek look at NASCAR, motorsports and more from the Observer's beat writer:


Why has Jimmie Johnson won the Chase for the Sprint Cup twice and why does he have a leg up on making it three in a row? Maybe it's because in the 45 Chase races that have ever been held, Johnson has finished in the top 10 in 33 of them. Or that he's finished no worse than 14th in the past 21. If you're waiting for Johnson and his team to mess up and let others get back into the Chase, don't hold your breath.

I think the NASCAR Hall of Fame's commemorative brick program is a great idea, but the price is a little steep. It will run you $150 for the smallest size and you have to pay another $65 if you want a replica of your brick to keep in your home or office. If people who think that's a good price are also among those who get involved in setting the admission price fans will have to pay to get into the hall, that worries me.


Bruton Smith has not threatened to move a Cup race from Lowe's Motor Speedway, but there have been murmurings that he could play that chip if his ongoing dispute with Concord and Cabarrus County officials keeps gets uglier.

"I have not said that," Smith said this week in response to reports he might make such a threat. When asked if moving a race from Charlotte is something he might consider, all Smith would say is "no comment."

Perhaps it's ominous that Smith didn't rule out moving a race, but there's a difference between keeping all of your cards in your hand and in going all-in.

Smith did say that if you're going to prioritize what's coming for Speedway Motorsports Inc., a date for Kentucky Speedway would come before a second race at Las Vegas. "You can say that I am coming to a fork in the road," he said. "Kentucky is going to need a date, and it looks like the only way that will happen is if we move one there."

So a race date from an SMI track clearly could be in play.

Smith is not happy with officials and feels have backtracked on a deal for $80 million in incentives related to improvements around Lowe's Motor Speedway. He had at his fingertips the total of $2,781,819.89 he feels that SMI is owed for work already done on road project engineering and for sound barriers at zMax Dragway, and his company has sent a bill seeking payment of that amount.

Smith contends the incentive deal worked out in November called for the money to be paid over two to three years. Concord and Cabarrus County want to spread that out over 40 years. There's a wide chasm between those two positions.

What's next? My guess is that once the upcoming election is over the grandstanding on both sides won't seem as necessary to them as it does now. Maybe this year something will get done without the threats that were part of this story a year ago. For all our sakes, let's hope so.


IHRA titles on line at Rockingham

Bruce Litton is not exaggerating when he says he feels like he knows every inch of Rockingham Dragway.

"I've walked that track so many times that I feel like I know where every crack is," said Litton, the 52-year-old defending Top Fuel champion in the International Hot Rod Association. "I know where our clutch should come in so I try to find out what the track is like at those spots, and I am also looking for the high spots and low spots."

Coming into this weekend's season-ending IHRA World Finals at Rockingham, Litton's year has had some high spots and low spots of its own. He won this year's Motor City Nationals, but has fought his way through fuel issues that saw him burning cylinders through the summer months.

As a result, Litton comes to Rockingham 65 points behind Top Fuel rookie Spencer Massey in Litton's effort to win a second straight title. Litton needs to be the No. 1 qualifier and at least make it to Sunday's final round to force Massey to have to win at least one round to wrap up the title.

"Rockingham always has been one of my favorite tracks," said Litton, who got his first IHRA win there in 1999. "You've got to try to do your own thing and race the track. It's like you have to remind yourself sometimes there's somebody in the other lane."

Professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Eliminations begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Adult tickets are $35 for Friday, $40 for Saturday and $35 for Sunday. Three-day passes are $85. Tickets for juniors ages 6 to 12 are $5 each day. Reserved seats are an additional $5 on Friday and Sunday and $10 on Saturday. General admission tickets are $20 for those with military identification.

Tickets can be purchased at the World Finals event page at

Scholarship fund to honor Peterson

The family of Steve Peterson, the former NASCAR technical director who died in July at his home in Concord, has established a scholarship fund to honor Peterson's work in motorsports safety and education.

The Steve Peterson Memorial Trust Fund will be for students who aspire to study motorsports engineering and work in the safety field. Contributions can be made through deposits to the Steve Peterson Memorial Trust Fund for Motorsports Education and Safety at Wachovia bank.

For information, call Greg Peterson at (616) 662-1612.

There's music in the air

Two major racing-related fund-raising concerts are planned for this weekend.

Bobby Labonte and world champion bull rider Jerome Davis are hosting a concert Friday at Davis' ranch near Archdale, N.C., with Tracy Byrd and Rockie Lynne as the featured performers. Tickets are $30 for general admission and $40 for stage-front floor seats. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the show begins at 7.

Tickets are available at Proceeds benefit the Bobby Labonte Foundation and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

Saturday night's concert is the annual WAM Jam benefiting by the Women's Auxiliary of Motorsports. Rick Springfield, Eddie Money, Lou Gramm and John Waite will perform at Verizon Amphitheater in Charlotte - a different site that originally planned. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. with the first act appearing at 5:30.

Tickets can be purchased by calling (704) 522-6500 or at For more information on WAM please visit

Capps to take a racing turn

Ron Capps, who drives a Funny Car in the National Hot Rod Association's Powerade Series, will try his hand at driving a Late Model in a race Oct. 25 at All-American Speedway in Roseville, Calif.

Capps will drive a car owned by Bill McAnnaly in a support race on the weekend of a Camping World West Series race at that track.