SHEHEEN: Racing’s Best Kept Secret

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Ralph Sheheen Mug
Ralph Sheheen

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — In my 30 plus years of covering motorsports, there has never been a bigger story than Roger Penske’s Penske Corp. buying Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IndyCar and IMS Productions.

There had been rumors and rumblings among those in the know that maybe one day the speedway would be sold by the George family. No one — and I mean no one — thought it was going to be Nov. 4. Anyone besides Penske, Tony George and IndyCar CEO Mark Miles who tells you they knew about the sale is lying.

Ultimately, this is a fantastic situation for all of motorsports. The right man is taking the reins of the most-storied race track on the planet. Penske will take good care of racing’s most hallowed ground and the series that was born there.

This will bring more attention, sponsors and fans to Indy and IndyCar. It will also encourage people to get involved with other forms of motorsports. The trickle-down effect will be good for everyone.

We thank the Hulman-George family for all it has done for racing through the years and we can’t wait to see what Penske and his team are planning for Indy’s future.

– Tony Stewart was thrilled by the news of Roger Penske’s latest acquisition. He told us he was planning on sending Roger a congratulations note. Stewart was also planning on letting Penske know he would love to be a minority partner if the price is right.

– Things do not appear as rosy at California’s WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

As of this writing, there was a push underway from within the local county government to oust the Sports Car Racing Ass’n of the Monterey Peninsula, which has managed the legendary road course with a mostly volunteer staff since 1957.

While SCRAMP has had issues through the years, this current group knows racing. That may not necessarily be the case if the local government is calling the shots, which appears to be the case with county officials selecting A&D Narigi Consulting to manage the track during the days leading up to a scheduled Nov. 19 meeting of the Monterey County board of supervisors. Stay tuned.

– The last few years I’ve been part of a panel during the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas.

The group consists of General Motors’ Jim Campbell, David Wilson from Toyota Racing Development, Ford’s Mark Rushbrook and Ted Klaus of Honda Performance Development. All four men run the racing programs for their respective manufacturer.

During this year’s discussion, Wilson said to Klaus, “Why don’t you come join us in NASCAR?”

Klaus responded, “Why don’t you join us in IndyCar? At Honda we have always been interested in NASCAR. We are watching to see where they are going with the technology. We have talked with NASCAR and we would like a little more room with the freedom to explore on the tech side while balancing the cost.”

Wilson added, “Technology is like gravity. It’s coming.”

– Tony Stewart and World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series racer Jason Sides have been involved in a heated battle all year — a sticker war.

“Smoke” chuckled as we watched Sides get pushed off during the World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

He pointed to one of many Tony Stewart Racing stickers he secretly attached to Sides’ sprint car. Stewart explained those decals were in addition to others that have been applied to anything and everything on Sides’ motorhome. As we know, “Smoke” hates to lose at anything!

– If you’re looking for a great racing read for a Christmas gift, several have crossed our desk recently.

Respected F-1 reporter Will Buxton has authored “My Greatest Defeat,” which is available from Evro Publishing. Buxton interviewed some of racing’s greatest drivers, focusing on their most challenging moments instead of their glorious victories.

Mario Andretti, Jackie Stewart, Sebastien Loeb and Jeff Gordon are some of those with which he spoke. Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson talked about crashing during the Baja 1000 and surviving the night in the mountains of Mexico.

SPEED SPORT contributor John Close has released his most recent effort, “Barnyard to Brickyard.” It’s the story of legendary Wisconsin stock car racer Rich Bickle.

Close spent many years on the road and at the track with Bickle and spotted for him during some of his biggest victories. Go to Coastal181.com for information on this one.

One of the most anticipated new books of the year is “Life with Luke” by longtime SPEED SPORT columnist Dave Argabright.

This tome chronicles the story of National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee Jimmy Sills.

Argabright does an excellent job of bringing Sills’ stories of battling legends such as Jack Hewitt, Steve Kinser and Jeff Gordon to life.

Of course, the legend of the mysterious wheelman “Luke Warmwater” from Hot Springs, Ark., is finally uncovered. “Life with Luke” is available from daveargabright.com.

– Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at SPEED SPORT!