Murto: Charlotte event a success

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^ Posted Nov. 7

Fans from 47 states, five Canadian provinces, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom reportedly packed the grandstands for the third night of the sixth annual World of Outlaws World Finals at the four-tenths-mile clay oval known as the Dirt Track at Charlotte.

The three-day event brought together three of dirt racing's premier divisions -- the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series, the World of Outlaws Late Model Series and the Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modifieds -- to end their seasons and crown their champions.
In the 50-lap Late Model feature, Jimmy Owens, a Tennessee native, grabbed the lead on the fifth lap and never looked back. Saturday's victory was his fifth at the track. Darrell Lanigan took the 2012 championship.

Ohio native Dale Blaney started the 30-lap Sprint Car feature third, but quickly moved to the front and passed Stevie Smith for the lead. A number of drivers challenged, but Blaney beat Paul McMahan to the line for the win. Donny Schatz, driving for Tony Stewart, grabbed the title.

Brett Hearn, of Sussex, N.J., picked up his third win at Charlotte and fourth of the season with a victory in the Big-Block Modified feature, while Matt Sheppard clinched his third consecutive series championship with a fourth-place finish.

The Speed Channel TV coverage was very well done. Hopefully when Speed disappears and becomes the Fox Sports Channel they'll still bring us top short track racing.

Some of these dirt racers may have been expected at Hagerstown this weekend for the postponed Brawl in the Fall, but because the track sustained some damage in Superstorm Sandy and the fact that the temperature outside is getting colder, the race will be run sometime in the spring. Save your ticket stub.

In another week or so fans will head to Austin, Texas, for the F1 grand prix at the new Circuit of the Americas. Don't be surprised to hear of major traffic problems. Last week 5,000 people tried to get to the circuit for a foot race and caused major traffic congestion; the F1 race is expected to attract 120,000.

Kimi Raikkonen won last week's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, his first win since 2009 and the first win for Lotus since 1987. At one point Raikkonen's team told him on the radio that they'd keep him posted as to how close his competition was. Raikkonen's response?
"Just leave me alone, I know what I'm doing."

Tyler Reddick may not have known exactly what he was doing when he entered the K&N Pro Series East race at Rockingham, N.C., but he sure made the most of his NASCAR debut. The 16-year-old California native -- a winner on dirt in Late Models and Sprint Cars -- spun Brett Moffitt on the last lap to take the victory. Kyle Larson grabbed the K&N East championship, winning the title in his rookie year. The only other two drivers to win the K&N title in their rookie years were Joey Logano and Ryan Truex.

At least the K&N race at Rockingham wasn't a fuel-mileage race. The Cup race in Texas was spared that fate due to late-race cautions, but teams were calculating fuel mileage with 150 laps to go.

Fans are tired of fuel-mileage races. They've always existed. But have really come into play since the Car of Tomorrow was introduced, as the size was reduced from 22 gallons to 18. And it doesn't help that the cars now mix ethanol with their race fuel, as it means they burn fuel faster.

NASCAR needs to bring back the 22-gallon fuel cell. Four extra gallons of fuel won't make the cars unsafe -- fuel cells are made to be safe. And fans would appreciate it if there were fewer green-flag stops, and fewer races determined by fuel mileage.

There's nothing wrong with fuel-mileage races per se. They've existed since the earliest days of the sport. A race is a race, which means the winner is the one who finishes the distance in the least amount of time. Sometimes that happens to be by stretching your fuel mileage.

But they seem to happen all the time now. If there were fewer fuel-mileage races -- without throwing the bogus caution flags for debris we never see on TV -- it might go a long way to filling the empty seats we see each week at the track.

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


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