NOTEBOOK: Racing Action About To Heat Up

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GET IT SIGNED: A huge crowd waits in an autograph line prior to the recent Toyota All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.). (Albert Wong Photo)

HARRISBURG, N.C. — Ready or not, the racing season begins in earnest this week. Rain hampered the handful of events scheduled in Florida and Georgia this past weekend, but action jumps into full swing this week with a whole week of competition at East Bay Raceway Park (Lucas late models) and Volusia Speedway Park (World of Outlaws sprint cars) dirt tracks in Florida. New Smyrna Speedway kicks off its World Series of Asphalt Racing Friday night and the stock car Speedweeks officially begin at Daytona Int’l Speedway with the ARCA Racing Series Saturday afternoon followed by the Budweiser Shootout for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Saturday evening. Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is Sunday. Things get underway out West, too, with the American Sprint Car Series kicking off the campaign Thursday night at California’s Thunderbowl Raceway.

We receive some unusual releases in the NSSN newsroom. There were two that stood out this week. The first was from NASCAR touting the Dale Tour, which will be held in the Charlotte, N.C., area Feb. 17-18. According to the press release, the stop at DEI will include “a candlelight visual,” which we are guessing is different from the traditional candlelight vigil. Wonder if that means Dale Earnhardt will make an appearance in recognition of the 10th anniversary of his death at Daytona Int’l Speedway on Feb. 17, 2001? The second press release was titled: “NASCAR Legend Scott Wimmer Signs With Key Motorsports.” Six Nationwide Series victories hardly makes a legend, a word which is used more loosely every day.

IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway are being sued by Florida-based CV Sports Marketing. The company was paid 10 percent of an apparel sponsorship it negotiated with IZOD in 2008. That agreement eventually led to IZOD becoming the title sponsor for the IndyCar Series, and the suit alleges that CV Sports Marketing is entitled to a cut of that money. CV Sports Marketing also alleges IndyCar officials made negative statements about the company, costing it potential clients. The suit was filed in Marion County Superior Court in Indianapolis.

It was a pleasant surprise to see that former NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. executive Les Richter, known to many as Coach, was finally elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But unfortunately Richter died last June at age 79. Before turning to auto racing for his post-football career, Richter played eight seasons for the Los Angeles Rams and was picked for the Pro Bowl eight times. He’ll be enshrined to the Canton, Ohio, Hall of Fame in August along with fellow NFL greats Marshall Faulk, Deion Sanders, Richard Dent, Shannon Sharpe, Chris Hamburger and Ed Sabol.

Andy Hillenburg, who operates the Fast Track Driving School, is planning the inaugural Andy Hillenburg’s Fast Track Blue Collar Driver Challenge. All drivers who complete Fast Track’s Advanced Short Track Driver Development Course will earn a chance to win the Blue Collar Driver Challenge at no additional cost. The winner of the Driver Challenge will win a ride in a Hillenburg prepared stock car for the ARCA Racing Series event at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis July 28. For more, log on to www.fasttrackracing.com.

Three IndyCar Series championships and two Indianapolis 500 victories have not ended Dario Franchitti’s quest for speed. Franchitti recently told the Daily Record that he has been approached about attempting to break the world speed record, which is held by former Royal Air Force fighter pilot Andy Green, who ran 763 miles per hour in 1997. Franchitti did not reveal the particulars of the group that approached him, nor has he accepted the ride. “The thought of it scares the hell out of me, but sometimes you have to do stuff like that,” Franchitti told the Record. “I’m scared of heights, but I learned to fly a helicopter. Sometimes it is all about conquering your fear.”

Williams has confirmed that it will sell shares of its F-1 team on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. The IPO will consist of 27.39 percent of the shares of the company. Sir Frank Williams will remain the majority and controlling shareholder of Williams and team principal. He stated previously that selling shares was the best way to ensure the team remained independent and financially healthy.