ON PIT ROAD: More Unity, more safety and more ACT cheap shots

I was 12 or 13 years old, I forget which, the first time I went to a stock car race.

I didn’t come from a racing family. In fact, I didn’t even know anybody who raced cars. It wasn’t part of the lexicon of my universe, and to say that race car drivers were some kind of mythic warriors that existed on another plane somewhere wouldn’t even be fair — I didn’t even really know there was such a thing.

Then my parents, on a pure whim, loaded the us all into the back of a station wagon (without seat belts in those days, of course) on an early-July night for a trip to Unity Raceway. We were promised fireworks, but it rained before we ever got that far into the program.

All I saw were a bunch of heat races, but it was more than enough to hook me for good.

Look, it pained me to go to Unity the last few years as a card-carrying media member and have to see the place in such despair. It was at its lowest two years ago this July, when Gary Norris Jr. won a PASS Outlaw Late Model race in front of absolutely nobody in the grandstands.

I want to believe the Nason family when they say they truly are taking just a year off to feel things out and resurrect the place. I want to hope that somebody with deep pockets in a bad economy will walk in and lease the place and give it a desperate facelift. I want to believe that low-buck, high-fun racing can exist there in Unity.

Like I said, I want to believe all that. The fan in me really, truly does.

But if you press me for my opinion, and enough people have in the last few days, I’ll tell you this. I think we’ve seen our last race at Unity Raceway. That’s just the media guy in me talking.

* Michael McDowell’s crash in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying at Texas last week says two things to me, two things that are probably on the controversial side.

Not that I’ve ever shied away from that.

First, in the absence of any obvious equipment failure during the run, it speaks to the dangers of having young kids who haven’t “paid their dues” hopping into Cup cars because they can pay the steep asking price for a coveted seat behind the wheel. McDowell was all over the track in every corner before the mishap.

Second, why are we not using these cars in other NASCAR series? If it’s about safety — which, seeing McDowell walk away unscathed, it truly is — how can it not be in Nationwide and Camping World Series competiton each week? If it’s about protecting drivers, why on earth is NASCAR not doing everything it can to protect its drivers with the least amount of experience? And don’t tell me it’s about the cost. This COT thing was supposed to save teams from themselves, save them money by not forcing them to build as many cars.

Those Nationwide and Camping World teams are building new cars every off-season, some even as the season progresses. So what if they’re building a car to different specs — they’re still building race cars.

* “Deadliest Catch” returns Tuesday night. Yeah, I’m all in.

* Talked to Oxford Plains owner Bill Ryan today. He said he is “confident” that his track will open as planned on April 26, though he was wary about running an open practice a week earlier — the same day that PASS North is slated to open its campaign a few miles away at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.

How much rain the area gets this weekend will likely have a say in whether or not there’s racing in Maine next weekend.

* Sox-Yankees, baby. But really, it’s all got a different feel now. I can’t place it.

Maybe it’s because I know we can whoop up on them when it really counts...

* And while we’re on the subject of sports, don’t expect me to write a single word about the American-Canadian Tour for the next couple of weeks, at least not until the end of the Bruins-Canadiens Stanley Cup Playoffs series.

That pencil-pushing, four-eyed, blithering blah-blah PR director for ACT — and you know who you are! — proudly wears a Canadiens ballcap around the offices over there in Vermont. I hope he gets another 2 feet of snow, in his driveway alone, sometime in the next week.


Chris Roy said...

GO HABS!!! ;)

Anonymous said...

oh Travis!

Don't lose the faith....

I don't think for a second we've seen our last race at Unity

Penny P.

Anonymous said...

WAHOOOOO!!!!!! :)


RevJim said...

Michael McDowell certainly has paid his dues. He has been racing since the age of seven, which means he has been doing it for 18 years. He has raced and won in the Rolex Grand Am Series, and was runner up to Frank Kimmel in the ARCA/Remax series last year. His resume is just as impressive as Jeff Gordon's was at the time he started racing in Cup.
There is very little difference between the ARCA car and the Nationwide car--the ARCA cars are like the old Sprint Cup cars, except they use spec engines--and they race on some of the same tracks. So experience in the Nationwide Series would have made very little difference from experience in the ARCA series.
It is the team owners who decide what the "feeder" series is, not NASCAR.

Anonymous said...

It was still driver error that led to the crash. Now he's some sort of hero for it.

Andy B said...

NASCAR wanted a place for the Cup teams to sell off their old cars , so the Nationwide & Camping World series is still running that type of car.

Isn't it ironic that the two feeder series probably won't have any market (except maybe ARCA) to sell off their cars if/when they have to go the COT route.

To compare McDowell's experience to Jeff Gordon's is ridiculous. Gordon did about three years in the Busch series which gave him much more exposure to super speedways, while at the same time racing with better equipment and many times against Cup regulars - you just can’t get that type of experience any where else. Most ARCA races on super speedways are 180 mph minefields.

McDowell was way over his head and he’s lucky he didn’t get killed as a result.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand Nascar's stance on the Camping World series. Just try and find any info on this weekends race, can't do it. Their will be over 40 cars trying to qualify for 26-28 starting spots, where's the hype? Makes you wonder why Camping WOrld even signed on to be a sponsor. Also hearing Corey Williams will be trying to qualify in a ASM car.

TBarrett said...


NASCAR's stance is a lot like that of Major League Baseball. Low-level minor-league teams get virtually no coverage at all, but they've long been important feeder systems for the big leagues.

It's no different with the East Series now.