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Murto: September is a busy month for race fans

The toughest question for local race fans in September won't be if they're going to the races, but where and when.

September is a great month for local motorsports. It doesn't matter what type of racing you enjoy, you'll be able to get your fix at a local track.

If motorcycle racing is your thing, you can see motocross racing at Shenandoah Speedway on Saturday at 11 a.m. Admission is only $10 for spectators. If you prefer your two-wheeled racing on a road course, the Western-Eastern Racing Association will be at Summit Point (W.Va.) Motorsports Park on Sept. 22-23.

Drag racing is on the bill at Old Dominion Speedway on Sept. 23. The drag strip at Old Dominion is the oldest drag strip east of the Mississippi River. Sept. 23 is the rain date for the racing program that was part of its "60 Years of Cars and Stars Show," and to quote from the track's website, "We will be running the drag races with a cruise-in from 10 a.m. to [noon]. Drag races will include $2,000-to-win Footbrake, $750-to-win Nostalgia and $1,000-to-win C&C Top Sportsman (5.49 and quicker, all run with one round of buybacks). You will need to bring your wristband and run card from the Aug. 19 event for free entry."

There is a persistent rumor that this may be the last year for the track in Manassas. As the housing market improves, the property may become too valuable to continue operating as a racing facility. It'll be a real shame, but inevitable given the growth in the region. There has been no official word from the track itself -- the rumor is essentially speculation -- but if it's true, then you don't want to miss the final events at the track, including the Sept. 15 200-lap "Old Dominion Big One" on the oval. Racers such as Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip have won on the oval; if the Sept. 15 event turns out to be the final NASCAR Late Model race at the facility, do you want to miss it?

If open-wheel racing is more your thing, the Virginia Sprint Series will have its final pavement race of the year at Shenandoah Speedway on Sept. 15. The Sprint Cars on pavement are fast and furious; local fans have some tough decisions to make.

Of course, if dirt racing is your thing you'll be at Winchester Speedway Sept. 21-22 for the Winchester 200. The dirt Late Model event just gets better every year.

Last week we discussed Bruton Smith's attempts to make Bristol better. The track was recently ground down at the top -- at least two degrees, maybe four if you consider it was claimed to be 36 degrees and now, depending on who's reporting, it is either 32 or 28 degrees. Apparently Smith is seriously considering changing the track again, despite the exciting race recently held there. Some people don't know when to leave well enough alone.

Take Brad Keselowski, for example. Though it was downplayed by NASCAR, he was caught on camera throwing a bottle out of his car during the Nationwide race at Atlanta. It wasn't too many years ago NASCAR threatened severe penalties for just that thing. It's been done in the past -- throwing a bottle or roll-bar padding onto the track to get a caution is an old trick -- but I suggest NASCAR spread the word that throwing anything out of a car during green-flag racing to get a caution will result in penalties. A two-lap penalty without the prospect of a Lucky Dog ought to do the trick.

Local media support often does the trick when it comes to promoting successful racing events. If anybody has a problem with the turnout for the Baltimore Grand Prix, explain to me why there were reports that local TV stations didn't even mention the race in their sports broadcast. Maybe they don't deserve the race.

San Hornish Jr. deserved a better run at Atlanta in the Cup race. He finished 11th, but was definitely headed for a top 10 until he got squeezed by Jimmie Johnson in a wreck that took Johnson and Ryan Newman out of the race. Hornish is a class act, and has been very consistent with the car; he deserves the ride full time in the Penske machine next season, just as much as you deserve to get out and catch some of the great local racing in September.

-- Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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