KERCHNER: Friday Morning Heat Race


The Daytona 500 is only two days away, so let’s get started on this week’s Friday Morning Heat Race.

Scheduled distance is 12 laps:

1. Hendrick Motorsports may have pulled off the coup of the next 20 years when it signed 15-year-old driver Chase Elliott, the son of Bill Elliott, to a contract. Elliott may be the closest thing to a “can’t miss driver” auto racing has seen since Jeff Gordon 20 years ago. It should also be considered a blow to Ford Motor Co. to lose this up and comer to a rival manufacturer as Elliott’s late-model success has come wheeling cars adorned with the blue oval.

2. How about those old guys? Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell, each in his mid-50s, claimed a pair of victories each during the sprint-car portion of the DIRTcar Winternationals at Volusia Speedway Park.

3. Speaking of Volusia, it will be interesting to see if car counts in the UMP modified division decrease at next year’s DIRTcar Nationals. Why would a local racer take vacation time to tow to Florida and get beaten up by NASCAR super teams? There’s no way the little guy can compete with Richard Childress Racing.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer (33) en route to winning the DIRTcar Nationals championship for UMP modifieds. (Julia Johnson photo)

4. Rule Change! We were on the verge of out-of-control, so we’re being forced to carry a little extra weight. Time to call Jenny Craig.

4a. After crashing Wednesday at Daytona Int’l Speedway, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. complained that he didn’t think his team should have practiced in the first place. We’re betting that had he not practiced and performed poorly during his Gatorade Duel, he would have complained about that, too.

5. It’s an interesting schedule that former USAC champion Josh Wise has put together. He’ll race the JR Motorsports No. 7 on the weekends that Danica Patrick is not driving the car in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and will pick up rides with other teams to help fill his season. One of those rides is at Daytona with Roush Fenway Racing. That means he’ll be driving in the same series with one of the best Ford teams and one of the best Chevrolet teams. To complicate the manufacturer scenario further, Wise ran the Chili Bowl in a Toyota-powered midget.

6. It’s been six days since Bobby Gerhart dominated the ARCA Racing Series race at Daytona Int’l Speedway, and we can still hear Darrell Waltrip criticizing Gerhart for leaving the bottom groove open as he led lap after lap. Seems it worked out pretty well for the now seven-time Daytona winner.

7a. Time to pause to digest another rule change.

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Mike Kerchner
Mike Kerchner is a veteran racing journalist and has been a member of the SPEED SPORT family since joining Chris Economaki at National Speed Sport News in 1991. He is now the Editor-in-Chief of SPEED SPORT Magazine.