Murto: Historic Battle at the Beach poses questions

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^ Posted Feb. 13

By Craig Murto

The Feb. 18-19 running of the UNOH Battle at the Beach at Daytona International Speedway may be the best racing of all Speed Weeks. Then again, it could prove to be a single-file parade.

NASCAR seemed to be at a loss when Irwindale Speedway in California ran into financial trouble. Gone was the Toyota All Star Showdown, which featured the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and West Coast Late Models. The races were broadcast live on SPEED, and helped NASCAR demonstrate its loyalty to the regional touring racers as it gave those racers a chance to shine on live TV.

Now NASCAR has devised the Battle at the Beach, which not only features races for the K&N Pro Series, but also Late Models and Modifieds. The Late Model race will be live on SPEED Monday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. Tuesday's coverage of the Modified and K&N races begins at 7 as well.

The track is a makeshift .4-mile circuit using part of the backstretch. It looks like a small version of Martinsville, probably even flatter than that historic circuit. That makes the racing a question: Will the racing be good, or will it be single file?

Another question is what NASCAR will do with the Late Models. Supposedly the race is open to any Late Model competitor at a NASCAR-sanctioned facility. But Late Model rules on pavement are radically different in each region of the country. It will be interesting how NASCAR adjusts the rules -- most likely using gear and weight -- to provide an equal chance to all competitors.

It's interesting that normally nearby New Smyrna Speedway would be engaged in the running of its annual World Series of Asphalt Racing, which includes Modified competition and Late Models, as well as other divisions. New Smyrna's schedule has been adjusted.

Hopefully the UNOH Battle at the Beach will be a success. Maybe the racers will find it helps make their trip to Florida worthwhile, since they can race at Daytona and New Smyrna during Speed Weeks. Be sure to tune in on SPEED to see how the inaugural event turns out.

And be sure to pay attention to 19-year-old C.J. Faison, driver of the No. 39 K&N Pro Series East car. Faison -- a Delaware native now living in Mooresville, N.C. -- cut his teeth racing Late Models at Old Dominion Speedway before heading to North Carolina. His crew chief is Winchester native mark McFarland, a former national Weekly Racing Series champ and former driver in the Nationwide Series. The team grabbed the pole for the K&N race at Rockingham last year and looks for big things in 2013.

Expect big things in the Nationwide Series in 2013. With drivers such as Brian Vickers, Regan Smith, Elliot Sadler and Sam Hornish, there is no shortage of talent. Add to that Nelson Piquet Jr. and Kyle Larson, both of whom will drive full time for Turner Scott Motorsports, and you've got even more talent to compete against Trevor Bayne and Austin Dillon for the Nationwide title. It may be the best, most competitive year we've ever seen in the Nationwide ranks.

It's certainly the best season for AMA Monster Energy Supercross rider Davi Millsaps, who led flag to flag for the 450cc win in San Diego, Calif. Millsap's Suzuki beat Justin Barcia on a Honda and Ryan Dungey's KTM. Dungey now trails Millsaps in points by 19, followed by former champ Ryan Villopoto.

In the 250 class, Eli Tomac grabbed his fourth win of the year on his Honda. Ken Roczen on a KTM and Jason Anderson's Suzuki followed. Despite four wins in the 250 East class, Tomac trails Roczen by 17 points, with Cole Seely in third.

Local motocross racing begins at Shenandoah Speedway on March 2. The paved oval will begin its season of Late Model racing on April 13. The Virginia Sprint Series and the Super Cup Stock Car Series will visit Shenandoah this year, so it should be a good season.

Winchester Speedway opens for racing on March 23. Maryland's Hagerstown Speedway will open on March 17 with the continuation of last year's postponed Brawl in the Fall, featuring Late Models, Sprints and Modifieds. But before we get to the Brawl in the Fall, we get to watch the Battle at the Beach on SPEED, live from Daytona, on Monday and Tuesday nights at 7.


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