Ready for Formula 1 event at Indy

I would like to thank those of you who have called and sent emails wishing me a rapid recovery.

I'm making progress steadily, and I hope to be back in the announce booth at Reno-Fernley next Saturday night if all goes well.

Last weekend was a tough one for me. I ran out of TV sets, DVRs and VCRs to capture all the racing action! We had Nextel Cup, Formula One, Champ Car, Indy Racing League, and the Rolex Grand Am, many of them overlapping.

The Nextel Cup road race at Infineon was interesting, and I was rooting for Terry Labonte in the late stages to take the win. Tony Stewart and road racing specialist Boris Said had an interesting feud going. I wonder if Tony congratulated Boris on his Daytona pole. (I don't know what happened in the race, because my deadline is well before last night's green flag).

Today the big Motorsports event is what may be the final Formula One race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The contract is up for renewal, and F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone is already trash-talking, saying that the U.S. isn't really necessary for the international series.

When the deal was first struck several years ago, I speculated that Bernie would take Tony George to the cleaners, and after millions spent on the F1 road course and more millions lost after last year's six car race fiasco, I just might be right.

In any case, I'm going to enjoy the race after being kind of turned off by F1 the past few years, due to some of the crazy rules. However, I really like the new qualifying format, three sessions with the slowest six dropped out of each of the first two 15-minute segments and the fastest ten in a shootout for the pole in the final 20-minute session. It really provides some excitement. I'm not crazy about the rule requiring two races on one engine, but at least the teams aren't expected to run a whole race on one set of tires as they were last season.

For those of you who follow NASCAR's feeder series, there will be wholesale changes next season. An entirely new program is in place for the Grand National Division (formerly known as Winston West in this part of the country). A new spec engine will be phased in beginning August 1, and will be provided by North Carolina-based Provident Auto Supply. The company is owned by Gary Nelson, whose credentials include stints as VP of Competition, VP of Research and Development for NASCAR, Nextel Cup Series Director, and Nextel Cup championship crew chief.

In addition, Grand National Division teams are now able to use a composite body, with several suppliers including Summit Racing. Finally, competitors have the option of running either a 105 or 110 inch wheelbase. All these changes are intended to drastically reduce costs, thereby enabling drivers who want to move up from local track racing into the NASCAR touring series. To further build fields, the minimum driving age for the Grand National series has been reduced to 16 beginning in 2007.

Current graduates of the Grand National West Division currently running in NASCAR's premier series (Craftsman Trucks, Busch Grand National, and Nextel Cup) include Kevin Harvick, Ron Hornaday Jr., Brendan Gaughan, and David Gilliland.

Sadly, one of the changes for next season is the elimination of the Elite Division, which includes what used to be the Featherlight Southwest Tour series.

Even more sadly, I recently received an email concerning the death of legendary Motorsports writer Gary Jacob. Gary passed away of an apparent heart attack while attending a driver's meeting in Tulare, Calif.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Gary, but like most Motorsports fans on the West Coast, I read his race reports. He covered tracks in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and Arizona, writing for a variety of print publications and more recently on the internet at WhoWon.com.

Gary covered everything from Outlaw Karts to Sprint Cars to dirt and asphalt Stock Cars, beginning shortly after his graduation from high school in 1966. He will be sorely missed. Godspeed, Gary.

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