While many of the major racing series across the country have managed to avoid the recent miserable weather across much of the Eastern half of the United States, it has been a rough start to the 2011 season for many local tracks. Some tracks in the area I live have canceled or postponed at least half of their events for the year so far! It has to be putting a dent in the tracks' and competitors' pockets when showers pop up nearly each and every weekend.
Luckily, after several consecutive days of wet weather the sky was sunny and clear for my first visit to Port Royal Speedway. This dirt track had a couple unique features such as a grassy fan accessible infield where you can bring the kids, the frisbee and the family dog for a bit of a day at the park feel at the race track. The flag stand was about three-quarters of the way down the front straightaway, which gave potential for some competitive and fast racing to the line. Despite all of this and some great side by side racing, I quickly remembered why I am not as fond of dirt track racing compared to asphalt short track racing. There were frequent delays due to the soft track from the recent weather, and a noticeable and potentially dangerous groove was forming at least from what I could see into turn one. This and the numerous red flags for clean up following wrecks made me want to go back to the closest asphalt oval where if the track is dry then it's time to go racing!
Mother nature played some havoc during Indianapolis 500 bump day qualifying this past weekend. That is fine and it's all part of the Indy 500 strategy, but what angered me was that almost immediately when the rain drops started falling the announcers part of the online broadcast I was listening to started naming off possibilities in which Danica Patrick could buy her way into the field. Is this what professional auto racing has come to? Buying your way into such a prestigious race like this and punishing those who worked hard to correctly strategize and make the field fair and square? Also, I think it would be a major slap in the face to former open wheel greats such as Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser Jr. and Bobby Rahal who all at one time had to deal with the frustration of missing the field for their biggest race of their season.
One of my goals in life has always been to travel to the Hoosier state for the entire month of May, and as that possibility draws closer to one of these years a situation such as this actually happening would completely change that goal. Luckily, it will not happen this year and it looks to be one of the most competitive Indy 500s in years! Ganassi and Penske could possibly be dethroned and many drivers making one off appearances have a realistic chance, much like how it used to be. I'm going quite a bit out on a limb and predicting Ed Carpenter to win in the Sarah Fisher Racing ride. He has been fast the entire month and why not choose the Greatest Spectacle in Racing for a breakthrough win. Don't count out veteran Dan Wheldon, the pole winner Alex Tagliani or former Indy 500 champion Buddy Rice among others either.
Shifting to the Coca-Cola 600, I'm thinking it will be one of the top drivers this year that will be the favorite. Carl Edwards was strong last weekend with his in win the All-Star race, but Jimmie Johnson is my pick to win the longest race of the year. Despite its longevity, this race always has the potential for a first time winner. Maybe Marcos Ambrose, David Ragan, A.J. Allmendinger or Ricky Stenhouse, who will make his debut subbing for Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, will breakthrough into victory lane. It would be nice to see a driver that hasn't won in awhile take the checkers, such as Bobby Labonte or Mark Martin.
As I sit on my couch for in my opinion the biggest overall day of racing during the year, I will be hoping for some precipitation free and less severe weather as we approach the summer months...during the weekends at least. I'll be taking a break from traveling to the races during the early summer due to some other events going on. One of these events will be a trip to The Borgata in Atlantic City to play in another poker tournament during their Summer Poker Open. I haven't decided which one I will play yet, but I am leaning towards the newly introduced bounty tournaments. The format of this is you are given a "bounty" chip as part of the tournament fee and every time you knock a player out you earn another chip. Each chip that you earn is worth a specified sum of money, regardless of whether you cash in the tournament.
My next post will report on my results and provide a preview of my various racing journeys during the months of July and August. Until then, take care and stay dry!
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