This Week In Motorsports

 
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Motorsports News by David Vodden

With the 2017 racing season in the books I would give the year a big “A” for overall value and entertainment. Change was a key component in NASCAR on many fronts.  Martin Truex Jr. rightfully won the coveted title, “Monster Energy Champion” when the thirty-six-race season ended in late November. He did so in convincing style driving for a team that was not “big and bad” and expected to beat all the Goliath teams that compete in the Monster Energy sponsored series. The championship winning Toyota-powered, Furniture Row racing effort was a two-car team located in Denver Colorado.  The owner, Barney Visser, paid the bills with personal funds based on his passion for the whole experience. Toyota earned the car-brand title for the second time in a world historically dominated by Chevrolet and Ford. It is worth noting that no Chevrolet teams made it to the final four in the ten-race NASACAR playoff in 2017. Toyota also got second in the car-brand battle with that other driver who earned them a car title in NASCAR in 2015 - Kyle Busch. The Xfinity series title was won by youngster and video-gaming-expert, William Byron who drove a Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet to the title. 2017 truck champion, Christopher Bell of Chili Bowl fame and sprint cars, dominated the Camping World Truck series in NASCAR behind the wheel of a Kyle Busch Racing Toyota Tundra. Both Bell and Byron are moving up to the next class in their career paths targeting the top tier of NASCAR stock car racing.  Toyota won the Monster Energy Cup and the Camping World Cup brand titles and had more wins in the Xfinity series at almost double of Ford who won that car-brand title. Swapping Xfinity drivers is what kept Toyota from winning all three NASCAR premier series car titles. The loss of Danica Patrick, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Michael McDowell, Landon Cassel and others will change the draw-power of the sport for seasoned fans. The constant harping about empty seats and lower television ratings by media at all levels and silly fans was, in fact, just a change in the way veteran and new fans experienced the sport. If anything, the sport of NASCAR stock car racing is more popular and more widely viewed than ever before. Do you have a smart phone? Too many races, races that are too long for the millennials and Gen- “X’ers” and Gen “Z’ers”, plus market saturation are real issues that face the big-money NASCAR company. I expect 2018 to be good for all the right reasons. Daytona will start it all over again on February 18th.

 Indy Car Racing showed signs of improvement at all levels with good racing and growing recognition for their international cast of racers driving uniquely American cars. Josef Newgarden captured the championship in his sixth season in the series driving Roger Penske to his 15th Indy Car title. Forty-year old Takuma Sato won the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 making history on many fronts with the result. He drove a Michael Andretti/Bryan Herta - Honda powered car to the win as both driver and engine representing Japan. Indy car racing is big in Japan. The Indy 500 is clearly climbing back to its place of prominence in the world of great motorsports events. New car designs with less down force are suggesting that Indy race cars will require driver throttle control to win in 2018. This, as opposed to putting the gas on the floor and just steering, had become part of the program in recent years.

The World of Outlaw, winged sprint car series saw Donny Schatz continue his climb to match the legendary Steve Kinser as the best of all winged sprint car pilots in the long history of this form of racing. He earned his ninth W.o.O. driving title in what is arguably one of the most grueling race schedules in sport. Schatz has 249 wins which is third overall behind Sammy Swindell [294] and Kinser [577]. The traveling series has ninety-one races on the schedule as of today in 2018 This will be the 40th season since the first W.o.O. race in Texas in 1978.

In NHRA drag racing Brittany Force stole the Top Fuel title from Steve Torrence in last chapter drama at the season finals in Pomona California. John Force’ driver Robert Hight won the Top Fuel title adding to the legacy of team owner and sixteen-time NHRA National Champion, John Force. Force has an unequaled 144 wins in side-by-side racing on America’s drag strips. Bo Butner won the Pro Stock title and Eddie Krawiec won the Pro Stock Motorcycle title.

 Formula One was more of the same but with that international back-drop and global personalities that makes Formula One racing unique. Lewis Hamilton won his fourth world title. The British racing celebrity has sixty-two Formula one wins adding nine to the Mercedes team effort in 2017 in route to beating his Ferrari-team rival and four-time F-1 champion Sebastian Vettel, who finished second in the world points.  

Moto GP saw Marc Marques of Spain repeat as the big-bike world champion on a Honda making him a four-time titlist. Ducati powered Andrea Dovizioso of Italy took second with Spaniard Maverick Vinales earning the final spot on the year-end podium riding a Yamaha. Moto GP circumnavigates the globe and will stop in America in Austin Texas in April of 2018.

The Flying Lizards race team, headed by team owner Darren Law, drove their blue and white Audi to its third consecutive win in the 15th running of the 25 hours of Thunderhill in 2017. The annual longest endurance auto race in America continues to grow in international stature in the world of motorsports. The big race will return on the first weekend in December to the Willows road course in 2018.

At Silver Dollar Speedway Andy Forsberg won his third 410 cubic inch winged sprint car track championship. Phil Marino took the street stock title. Tony Richards was number one in wingless sprints. Phillip Shelby won the modified championship and Kyle Allen was number one in Hobby stocks. Silver Dollar Speedway will abandon the 410 sprint car motors in 2018 switching to a weekly 360 cubic inch sprint car class. Their 2018 season begins in late March. Bud Kaeding won the 410- king of the West winged sprint car title by one point over Geo Scelzi.

The Red Bluff Outlaw kart series at the Fairgrounds there runs tonight and will continue, after a short Christmas break, into March on the small indoor-dirt oval. Thunderhill Raceway Park never stops running with events most days, every day, all year long. Go to www.thunderhill.com to see what is on track. Finally, the best gift for Christmas for that office party or person in your life who has everything is a Thunderhill Park winter jacket, dress shirt or even a day at the track for dad or that precious 16-year old new driver in the form of a coupon for a teen car control clinic day/Merry Christmas! 530-934-5588 extension 101 will give you all the answers.

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