Better get a restrictor plate on that thing

Sure, Super Late Models are faster than Late Models. Supermodifieds are faster than tour-type Modifieds. Super Streets are even faster than Street Stocks.

But it's all relative, isn't it? Just ask Russ Wicks.

Driving what was supposedly a stock car built to "NASCAR specifications," Wicks set a new world speed record in a Dodge Charger on Tuesday. Wicks, who holds world records of more than 200 miles per hour on both land and water, has set the stock car mark of 244.9 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

The record was confirmed by Guinness World Records. The new mark shatters Wicks’ previous stock car world speed record of 222 miles per hour.

Long John practice rained out

If the rain doesn't let up, maybe they can make this Long John Open into a speedboat race.

Practice for the annual season-ending event at Unity Raceway was rained out by persistent showers across the state on Friday, though track officials remained optimistic that the grounds would be ready in time for practice to begin on Saturday morning.

In addition to the $1,500-to-win Long John 100 for the Super Street division, there is also a 100-lap event for the Limited Sportsman machines paying $750 to the winner. There are 5 other divisions on the card, too, running features varying in length from 15 to 30 laps.

Heat racing begins at 1 p.m. Saturday.

No All-Star makeup for PASS, season ends this weekend

This likely qualifies as old news by now, but the rained out PASS 150 at All-Star Speedway will not be made up.

Weather has not been kind to the PASS North Series over the last 2 seasons, and this fall has been no exception. After already moving the D.J. Equipment 150 at White Mountain Motorsports Park from mid-September to this weekend because of rain, PASS was left without any wiggle room at the end of its schedule.

This weekend's 150-lapper at White Mountain will serve as the official end of the PASS North season. 3-time series champion Ben Rowe leads his father, Mike Rowe, by 12 points entering the race. Richie Dearborn is 40 points behind Ben -- giving him, at least technically, an outside shot at his 1st championship.

The reality is that Dearborn would have to win the race in a field featuring upwards of 30 cars -- plus not lose any points in the heat races -- while both Rowes would have to finish in the final few spots in the running order. It's highly unlikely, particularly considering the seasons each of the Rowes' respective teams have put together.


Open door policy for open-wheelers

In another move that can hardly be called surprising, Patrick Carpentier is making the jump to NASCAR.

Someone should tell New Englander Jeff Simmons that the market is hot right now for open-wheel drivers over on the stock car side. So hot that, well, Patrick Carpentier can make the move straight to Cup.

Gillett Evernham Motorsports made it official on Wednesday, the former CART driver will run a full-time Sprint Cup Series schedule and part-time Nationwide Series schedule for the team in 2008. Carpentier debuted with the team by finishing 2nd in a Busch race in Montreal, following that up by leading 7 laps in the Cup race at Watkins Glen the next week.

These days, you don't have do a whole lot more than that to warrant a million-dollar Cup contract. Carpentier resume is as follows: 2 Champ Car wins, 3 CART victories and a Toyota Atlantic Championship. That's it.

Still, GEM is ready to roll Carpentier out.

“Patrick (Carpentier) has shown tremendous talent in every series he has driven throughout his career and has a bright future in NASCAR," George Gillett said in a release. "We are committed to giving Patrick the best resources and opportunities available to make this transition and we look forward to a great deal of success together both on and off the track.”


An identity all his own

On Friday night, assuming he qualifies for the race, Jason Keller will make his 418th career Busch Series start at Lowe's Motor Speedway. It will break the mark held by Tommy Houston.

As NASCAR readies to make a switch to the Nationwide Series and the Busch Series' identity erodes bit by bit, it's understandable that NASCAR wants to tout the achievement of someone like Keller. What we have to hope is that this business won't all get run over by a pace car after Friday's Dollar General 300 is complete.

There are so many agendas in the Busch Series, I hope that we maintain enough spots for all those agendas and not just become a series with 25 or 30 Cup drivers on a Saturday, and then just a couple of spots just left for everybody else," Keller said. "That's what concerns me.

"I mean, I think the series is great when you have 12 to 14 or so Cup drivers, because they are more recognizable. They are more known to the fans, and that brings notoriety to our series, so I'm all for that. But when you start getting up to the 24, 25, even higher, numbers of Cup drivers in the series, it kind of puts it over to one side and that concerns me a little bit."

Keller is a driver with a different agenda. Like former series champion Randy Lajoie before him, Keller has no real interest in Cup Series racing and the circus that goes along with it. He's far too happy spending Sundays at home with his wife and kids.

But choosing his family has come at the cost of his racing career. And, because he's 37 years old and not the 18- or 19-year-old polished kid that every team is looking for in its development program, he's had to settle for what he can get this year.

"It's tough because I want to be a part of a series week-in and week-out," said Keller, whose made only 16 starts this season. "I mean, I equate it to only playing golf once a month. It's hard to get in a rhythm. It's very tough for me to get in a rhythm over the summer months because I raced for a couple of different teams. I mean, there for 2 months, I had a team for every other week and a different spotter every other week, and some of the small things that go along with that — it's just it's hard to get into a rhythm."


Don't pass on good PR

"The most important thing I have is credibility," Bill Quirk tells me. "All it takes is one time, and that credibility is shot -- and then I've got nothing."

These are the words a PR man must live by, and Quirk has done the job.

Spend any amount of time in the newspaper business, and you'll quickly lose track of the hundreds of PR people who aren't worth the threads in their own shoelaces. The flip side of that equation, of course, is that you can count on one hand the number of people who excel in the position.

Quirk is one of those people I count on my hand. Problem is, PASS doesn't always see the need for someone who is media savvy.

At some point last season, Quirk and PASS had a falling out. Quirk isn't usually one to tell tales out of school -- particularly to some snot-nosed little racing writer -- so the details of that divorce have remained somewhat muddled. Suffice it to say, through piecing it all together from a variety of sources, Quirk and PASS president Tom Mayberry disagreed on a few things, Mayberry turned to the bigger PR monster at 51 Sports and Quirk was out.

While Quirk was out, a few things happened in 2007. Or, better said, a few things failed to happen -- namely, press releases and results were not getting out to media outlets. If you weren't willing to subject yourself to what Speed51.com purports to be journalism and motorsports coverage (you know, as long as you're one of its clients), you could find the results a day or so later.

At races, there were no entry lists, no media kits, no starting lineups and, if you weren't quick enough to tackle a scorer with a copy of the finishing order before they left the tower, no results. From April through mid-June at Unity Raceway, I received exactly ZERO in the way of literature from PASS.

For those of you that may or may not care, that's no correspondence on behalf of PASS with the one media member who regularly covers its events. You can read between the lines.

On Sunday morning July 1st, my first interaction of any kind with a PASS PR representative came as the sun was coming up. That morning, I'd written about how Kyle Busch had been wrongly credited with a PASS North Series win less than 6 hours earlier at All-Star Speedway.

A few minutes before 7 a.m., Bob Dillner approached me in the media center at New Hampshire International Speedway. Diller, the SPEED Channel reporter covering the Nextel Cup Series, is the founder of 51 Sports and, as of then, handling PR for PASS.

After first telling me he hadn't actually read the entire article (uh, rule no. 1, Bob, at least do the author the service of reading something in its entirety before quibbling with it), he told me what I wrote was wrong (again, without having read all of it) and followed up by lecturing me on how I should have done my job. Imagine that -- the guy who erroneously broke the story in 2006 of Richard Childress Racing teams using tricked-up shocks in the 1st race of the Chase that year lecturing me on responsible journalism. It was laughable.

I told Dillner that until PASS reversed its decision, I was absolutely right. Dillner said that something would likely come about "in the next few days." I said until that happened, I wasn't going to back off my story. Dillner told me he hoped I'd write something more positive when a decision was announced. I told him I always called it like I saw it.

Two hours later, Mike Rowe was officially credited with that victory as Busch was stripped. I did not hear a word from PASS (or Dillner) in the aftermath. PASS has since (in a good move) divorced itself from Dillner's 51 Sports.

The next time I heard anything from PASS? When Mayberry asked Quirk to help him out with some press releases in August.

Not coincidentally, PASS coverage has been easier to come by in newspapers, in trade papers and on the Web since Quirk was brought back into the fold. There have been timely press releases and results from PASS, not just for the Super Late Models, but also for the Modified and Sportsman divisions, too, which were essentially ignored previously.

The upgrade in coverage is entirely Quirk's doing, and it shouldn't be overlooked. Officially, Quirk still doesn't have a job with the series -- he's simply being used as a "PR consultant."

It's time to remove that label and put him on the payroll. ACT gets a ton of attention in New England, in part, because its PR staff is second-to-none when it comes to being both accessible and personable. They have information, they are willing to share it, and they are available when you need anything and everything, both at the race track and away from it.

Without someone like Quirk, PASS boasts none of the above. With someone like Quirk, the media remains more inclined to pay attention to all of your series, because they know where to turn when they have questions.

The job of a PR man can't be an afterthought, not when people have so many entertainment choices these days. A PR man who's on the job can have a direct impact on the perception of a series.

In these parts, there are few in that group.

Gear jammin': Talladega

Top 4 stories from Sunday's UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Superspeedway:

1st gear -- Gordon is the master: If Jeff Gordon's not careful, people are going to start saying he can see the air the way Dale Earnhardt was often accused of. The move he pulled off to cut in front of Tony Stewart and take advantage of that momentum was masterful, plain and simple, Gordon fan or Gordon hater. If there's a better driver out there in the Cup Series right now, I say prove it. He's got 6 career wins at Talladega now, 5 series wins in 2007 and inherited the points lead from teammate Jimmie Johnson with the victory.

2nd gear -- DEI/Childress engines: What it is now, like every other race that Junior's blown up in? Clint Bowyer was the only DEI or Childress driver in the Chase not to grenade it at some point, which leaves you wondering not only what happened to the 2 teams -- who happen to have an engine alliance -- but why these problems are still popping up at DEI. The future is, at best, a tenuous one moving on to 2008.

3rd gear -- Villeneuve doesn't cause the big one!: So Jacques "He-Doesn't-Belong-Out-Here-With-Us-NACAR-Good-Old-Boys" Villeneuve ran all 188 laps, finished 21st, never got into a scrape and didn't wipe out all 12 Chase contenders by deciding to hang a hard right across 4 lanes of traffic. Amazing that a Formula 1 champ can drive, isn't it? And, for the record, for all the accusations of inexperience -- Bobby Labonte (yes, THAT Bobby Labonte, a former champion and guy with a resume that's 7 pages long) was the one who caused the dreaded "big one." Not that it was necessarily his fault, but it just served to show that restrictor plate racing is such a crapshoot, anyone can have troubles.

4th gear -- Cut to The Chase: It looks like it's down to a 4-horse race with 6 Chase events left. Gordon, Johnson (-9), Clint Bowyer (-63) and Stewart (-154) are the only guys with legitimate hopes. For 5th-place Carl Edwards, 200 points back (assuming his appeal is denied this week), is a lot of ground to make up on 4 teams that are running really well right now.


NASCAR and ACT: Lessons in points racing

If you take anything away from Tom Curley's American-Canadian Tour driver's meetings, it's what sounds like a mantra.

"We are not NASCAR."

Curley laments almost all things NASCAR -- in particular, he's not fan of the bump-and-run pass that has become commonplace in Cup Series events on short tracks. "That's not racing," Curley told a group of drivers before a race earlier this season.

Ironic, though, for a series founded on anti-NASCAR principles, that the kind of points racing that leaves NASCAR teams downright giddy is exactly the kind of points racing it takes to win an ACT championship. Winning isn't even close to being the most important thing -- just finishing in the top-10 every week is.

Exhibit A: Jean-Paul Cyr. Cyr won his series-record 7th championship on Saturday at Oxford Plains Speedway, and his series-record 5th straight title. And he did so without a single trip to victory lane. In 1994, the year of Cyr's first title, he won 1 race, the fewest during a championship run, according to ACT PR man Justin St. Louis.

The key to claiming the '07 crown, in Cyr's own words, "We were pretty consistent. We top-5'ed and top-3'ed them to death."

Still, Cyr was disappointed at not having won this season. He finished 2nd on 2 occasions -- at Oxford in the season opener in April and at Seekonk Speedway in early August -- and talked about the 2 events at White Mountain Motorsports Park he felt like he dominated without results.

"I'm the one that likes to win as many races as I can," said Cyr, whose 18 career wins put him second behind Brian Hoar (23). "We're second all-time in ACT as far as wins go, but I'd rather be first. We've been off our game a little bit this year. We spent the year experimenting and trying new things -- but I guess the old things were pretty good."

Cyr may not be happy about the manner in which you need to race to win an ACT championship, but the fact remains that with evenly-matched teams running spec equipment in heavily-handicapped starting fields, points racing is the only way to work toward a championship. Teams simply aren't going to dominate by winning 1/3 or 1/2 of the races on the schedule.

Strange was it to see Cyr's final shot at victory come at a track he has a love-hate relationship with. After years of the Thunder Road Milk Bowl being the series' finale, this year that honor went to Oxford. Even though Cyr has never won at Oxford, he thought it a fitting finish for the series.

"I'm used to it all being done at the Milk Bowl and not having to worry anymore," Cyr said. "But with the '250' being here, and us being able to participate in that now, I kind of felt it was fitting that this would be the last points race of the year."

Rain washed out PASS 150

Gary Norris Jr. and Mike Landry beat the rain Saturday night at All-Star Speedway, but the PASS North Series drivers weren't so lucky.

After a couple of rain delays, the PASS 150 was finally washed out. The cars were on the track taking their pace laps -- they'd even been given the "1-to-go" sign -- when showers pelted the track yet again.

Around 11 p.m., PASS made the decision to call things off. No decision on a possible makeup date was immediately announced, though the series is expected to make a decision by the middle of the coming week.

Norris won the PASS Modified feature at All-Star, his 4th win of the season in the division, while Landry picked up the victory in the Sportsman class. The victory was Landry's 1st this season -- after he won a 100-lap event at Beech Ridge on Sept. 24 but was disqualified in post-race tech.