Welcome to 2010 everyone! I've already cashed in a poker tournament and the racing season is about to begin!
In fact, I'm looking forward to the first big racing weekend of 2010. No, I'm not talking about the Daytona 500 or Speedweeks. I'm talking about the last weekend of January where there will be several races across the United States and even one major event overseas.
In my opinion, the Free State 500 sanctioned by the American Speed Association taking place at Phakisa Freeway in South Africa will be the most interesting race of the weekend. There are two ways to look at this event and they're both valid points. On a track similar to Las Vegas Motor Speedway with cars very similar to the NASCAR Camping World East and West Series, some have been saying that it's going to be a very inexperienced field and could potentially be a disaster. I'm taking the optimistic approach and applauding ASA president Dennis Huth for giving several drivers, their crews and families an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of this race. Two very experienced drivers, Geoff Bodine and Ron Barfield, could be the favorites but they are no doubt going to be helping out some of these inexperienced drivers prior to the race. Many time Midwest late model champion Steve Carlson and many time Northwest late model champion Gary Lewis have deserved a shot like this for several years. Don't count them out, as well as NASCAR competitor Scott Wimmer's younger brother and my pick to win Chris Wimmer, and young drivers Marc Davis and Tiffany Daniels. Also, who knows what the international competitors in the field will have for the drivers from the states. It should be an exciting race, and is supposedly going to be televised although I haven't seen anything official.
Perhaps the most notable race of the weekend will be the 24 Hours of Daytona. Although I don't follow sports car racing very much, the annual endurance event always has an interesting mix of drivers and this year is no different. There will once again be a strong presence of NASCAR and IRL drivers, including Jimmie Johnson, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, and Bobby Labonte. My picks to win are one of the Ganassi teams in the Daytona Prototypes and one of The Racer's Group teams in the GTs. The race will be televised once again on SPEED and the weekend will also feature the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge as a support race.
Also being televised once again on SPEED this year will be the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in Irwindale, California. After last year's rain-plagued and shortened events this year may be a little up in the air as to who will show up. Already some big names have announced they will run in the Camping World Series event though, including Joey Logano who was involved in a controversial finish in 2009. This year; however, Logano may be a slight underdog driving for former East Series champion Mike Olsen rather than the big buck Joe Gibbs equipment. Short track up and comer Matt DiBenedetto will drive for JGR. Local driver Nick Joanides made news that he will compete in all three events during the weekend. There will once again be a super late model and late model race, and hopefully the bad weather will stay away this year and not drastically shorten the support events. I'm going with somewhat of an underdog to win the Showdown: making the tow all the way from New England, Eddie MacDonald.
If the Showdown in California isn't enough, there will be plenty of short track racing on the East Coast as well. The annual Speedfest will return again to Lanier National Speedway in Georgia for a 250 lap CRA sanctioned event. This race will feature a star-studded field with defending race winner Kyle Busch being joined by David Stremme and Steven Wallace. Short track standouts currently entered include Eddie Hoffman, Johanna Long, Brian Campbell, Bubba Pollard, John VanDoorn, Jeff Fultz, Scott Hantz, Casey Smith and Ryan Blaney. My pick to win will be the local guy Jason Hogan who went winless in 2009 and is hungry for a victory. There will also be a 150 lap Pro Late Model race and if a driver wins both races they will win a $10,000 bonus. Speedfest can be heard live on Race Talk Radio.
Entering the trend of early season races will be the Pro All Stars Series with a 150 lap Winter Fest event at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida for their super late models. This will be a PASS National points event so expect some teams to come down all the way from Maine. One driver that will not be competing is 2009 PASS South and National champion Ben Rowe whose team parted ways with him following the season. Former NASCAR Camping World East Series champion Brad Leighton takes over in that ride and could definitely be a threat to win right away. The exciting thing I find about PASS especially in the South is there never seems to be a clear cut favorite to win during the season and for the championship. With Rowe departing it appears to be that way again. Maybe this could be the breakthrough year for Cassius Clark from Maine. However, with this particular race being in Florida the local favorites are going to be hard to beat which is why my pick to win is Tim Russell.
Finally we come to the race that I will be attending in much colder Atlantic City, New Jersey: the Gambler's Classic Atlantic City Indoor Race! There are already over 80 TQ Midgets/Micro Sprints entered, including former NASCAR Modified champion Mike Stefanik who will definitely give 2009 winner and another former NASCAR Modified champion Ted Christopher a run for his money. Other notable racers entered for this event include Bobby Santos III, Billy Pauch, former Gambler's Classic winners Mike Tidaback and Joey Payne, 2009 ATQMRA champion Alison Cumens, sprint car racer Becca Anderson and an Indy 500 veteran (which I'm assuming will be Davey Hamilton). Slingshots and Champ Karts will also be in competition during the weekend. My roulette money will be on Mike Stefanik coming down from Rhode Island to steal the win away!
I'll be debuting my recently purchased Flip Video at the Atlantic City Indoor Races and will post the videos to my YouTube account upon my return. I'll also post a blog update when I get back, which will include a link to photos from my visit to the Motorsports 2010 Race Car & Trade Show the weekend prior, a summary of the January events and perhaps a Daytona preview.
Who's ready to begin the 2010 racing season?!
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