ECONOMAKI: USAC’s Rev Limit Rules For Midgets Are Set

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SAYING GOODBYE: Racing fans bid farewell to Gateway Int’l Raceway in Madison, Ill., by writing messages on the walls of the 1.25-mile speedway, which held its final race on Saturday. (Don Figler Photo)

HARRISBURG, N.C. — USAC’s mandate of RPM limits (see story on page two) for midget engines was the big topic of conversation in the racing world this week. We applaud USAC for attempting to do something to curb the costs of midget racing. There is no question the expense is out of control. We’ve also heard from more than a few competitors who question the move and particularly how the sanctioning body will police the RPM limit rule. Others questioned USAC’s approval of the Esslinger EST, a powerplant featuring electronic fuel injection, when the sanctioning body has not approved other engines, which feature electronic fuel injection. Most of those quizzed refused to go on the record, understanding that it’s USAC’s ballgame and that they won’t gain anything by publicly criticizing USAC. We even heard from a few folks who believe USAC didn’t go far enough with its rev limits and that they should have been dropped below any of the engine builder’s “comfort zones.” Others have shown strong support for USAC’s initiative. Keith Iaia, who operates Revolution Racing Engines which produces the Chevrolet ECOtec engine, told this newspaper, “I agree that reducing RPM for a given design is a key to extending the service life of that design, and getting more races out of your engine is one important way to reduce operating cost. At the same time, using RPM to strike a balance between the various designs will improve competition.” USAC President Kevin Miller knows what he thinks a competitive midget engine should cost. “What we lack today is production-based motors that cost $3,000 to $4,000 that can be made into a midget engine and end up costing $10,000 to $15,000, which is probably the right price point for a midget engine,” Miller told NSSN. “We don’t have that.” Miller was aware of the controversy this move would create. “There is argument and debate in everything that you want to talk about,” Miller said. “That is why we spent an entire day with the engine builders and then we spent a full year to chase it. We needed to make the first move and do it the right way. So we did that and we are looking forward to 2011.”

We asked Levi Jones if he thought the opportunity to race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway had passed him by. The three-time USAC sprint-car champion’s response: “In the past five years driving past the Speedway, whether it be to pick up parts or taking a car to get painted, I’ve looked at the Speedway as, ‘Man, it would have been cool to get a shot to race there.’” Jones and other USAC drivers may now get their chance thanks to the partnership between USAC and IndyCar to give an Indy Lights ride to the USAC National Driving Champion. Bryan Clauson leads Jones by 20 points in those standings with eight races remaining.

It was a busy week for USAC, in addition to its high-profile midget-engine announcement and its partnership with IndyCar to place the USAC national champ in an Indy Lights ride, USAC continued its steady regional growth. Using the model that Emmett Hahn perfected with the American Sprint Car Series, USAC will sanction the Central Florida Wingless Sprint Car Ass’n as the USAC Southeast Sprint Car Series. It is the second regional sprint-car tour USAC has added in as many years with the USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series having run a full season in 2010.

We remember the hoopla surrounding the opening of the Daytona 500 Experience, then known as Daytona USA, in 1996. There is certainly less publicity regarding the closing of the Official Attraction of NASCAR next month. While Daytona Int’l Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said the closing is part of the evolution of the sport, there seems little doubt the attraction has hosted fewer guests in recent years and has struggled in a similar fashion to Charlotte’s brand-new NASCAR Hall of Fame. The on-site theatre and velectorium will be available for rental and the speedway will now offer an expanded tram tour of the facility.

New Jersey is the latest state to offer a line of NASCAR-themed license plates, featuring 12 NASCAR drivers including Garden State native Martin Truex, Jr.

The Dayton Auto Racing Fan Club will hold its 41st annual banquet Dec. 4 at Celebrations Banquet Center in Vandalia, Ohio. Eight days later, DARF will present its traditional Children’s Christmas Party at the Church of the Brethren. Log on to www.darfnews.com for more information.

NASCAR Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps appeared in a recent episode of the CBS show “Undercover Boss.” Phelps worked as a sign painter at Daytona Int’l Speedway, served concessions, loaded a transporter and served as a pit-road tire specialist among other undercover assignments. The show averages 17.7 million viewers and should expose NASCAR to new fans.

Six-time IHRA Top Fuel champion Clay Millican may not be racing much these days, but that isn’t keeping him off of television. Millican has been selected to host “Burnout, the Ultimate Drag Race Challenge,” which will air on MTV2 beginning in April. The program will feature students from Universal Technical Institute at Phoenix constructing two competition-ready drag cars. Drag racers Antron Brown and Jason Line will serve as judges.

It was a successful season for members of the Road Racing Drivers Club. Its members earned championships in the American Le Mans Series, Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series, IZOD IndyCar Series, SCCA World Challenge and the SCCA National Runoffs.

The proposed merger of Dover Motorsports Inc. and Dover Downs Gaming & Entertainment has hit a snag in the form of Marathon Partners, which owns 18 percent of Dover Motorsports. Marathon Partners has publicly expressed opposition to the arrangement and would like for Dover Motorsports to be offered on the free market in an effort to receive a higher price per share for stockholders.

Has NASCAR’s pre-season “have at it, boys” edict trickled down to the short-track level? It sure seems like there have been more reports of fights and misconduct among grass-roots racers this year. The latest is the disorderly conduct arrest of driver Earl Wayne Kopp, Jr. at Pennsylvania’s Shippensburg Speedway after he failed to heed the black flag and eventually became embroiled in a confrontation with track officials and the father of two young children that Kopp’s thrown helmet narrowly missed. And in New Hampshire, super street drivers Daniel Frederick and Scott MacMichael each face felony charges of reckless conduct with a deadly weapon after battering into one another with their race cars at Twin State Speedway in August. Have at it, indeed.

NASCAR’s Facebook page recently surpassed one million “likes.” To reach that standard the National Speed Sport News Facebook page needs — well some more “likes.”

Iowa Speedway was named the 2010 Tourism Attraction of the Year by the Iowa Tourism Office.

Phyllis Donlavey, wife of longtime NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey, died over the weekend. Also passing on recently was Carol June Bodine, mother of Geoff, Brett and Todd Bodine.

Wisconsin Collegiate DECA and Skills USA college students recently attended seminars presented by ASA Racing and Ford officials. Joe Graziano, co-owner of Wisconsin’s Dells Raceway Park, ASA’s Kevin Ramsell and Mike Lemke, and Mike Delehanty, Ford’s Program Manager Sportsman Circle Track Racing were among speakers explaining how students could become more involved in racing.

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