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Murto: NHRA's four-wide racing a hit

By Craig Murto

The National Hot Rod Association's Four-Wide Nationals at Charlotte are always a huge success, and this year's running was no exception.

A full grandstand witnessed the four-wide drag racing at Bruton Smith's palace. Spencer Massey grabbed the Top Fuel Dragster win. Other winners included Matt Hagan in Funny Car, Mike Edwards in Pro Stock and Hector Arana in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

The appeal is the novelty of watching four cars drag race side by side at one time. And it is an appeal that attracts fans of other forms of motorsports.

Jim Randerson, an acquaintance from Wisconsin, is former owner of RanderCar, one of the top pavement Late Model car builders in the Midwest. Randerson had great success in the old ASA National Tour, and cars that he built continue to race on short tracks all over the country.

"If every drag race were four-wide like this one, I could give up stock car racing," Randerson said a couple years ago after attending the Four-Wide Nationals. "This is great stuff!"

Drivers initially didn't like the idea, nor did they like the racing. Used to staging against a single competitor, it made it impossible to know when other competitors two or three lanes away were staging. And drivers had safety concerns.

But now, after successfully running the event for a number of years, drivers are more receptive to the idea.

Bruton smith has the ability to open up his Las Vegas track to four-wide racing. It's about time the NHRA agreed to it. Let's give the fans some variety, and let's attract new fans while we're at it.

During Saturday's qualifying runs, Robert Hight's Funny car exploded an engine. The concussion sent the carbon-fiber body into the crowd. Two spectators were treated for minor injuries by paramedics and released. But the incident serves as a reminder that no matter what measures are taken to protect those involved in racing -- including spectators -- there is no way to ensure 100 percent safety.

It's been a long time since anybody led 100 percent of a NASCAR Cup race, but Matt Kenseth tried at Kansas Speedway. He dominated for his second win of the year and 26th of his career. It was third consecutive Cup race won by the pole sitter, something that hasn't happened since 1985.

Matt Crafton won the Camping World Truck race at Kansas. He now sits second in points behind his Thor Motorsports teammate Johnny Sauter, who won the first two races of the year. There could be trouble for the team, however, as NASCAR officials confiscated Sauter's fuel cell after the race for further inspection.

Takuma Sato won the IndyCar Long Beach Grand Prix, his first win in his 52nd IndyCar start. He is the first Japanese driver to win an Indycar race, and it's the first win for A.J. Foyt's team in more than a decade. Sato is in his fifth season in IndyCar after spending seven years in F1.

The best road-racing motorcyclists in the world descended upon Austin, Texas, as the Circuit of the Americas hosted MotoGP. Marc Marquez, 20, became the youngest pole winner and race winner when he rode his Honda to victory in only his second start. He is now tied for the championship with Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo.

Locally, Jimmy Owens won the Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series visit to Hagerstown Speedway. The Steel Block Bandits compete on the fast half-mile Saturday night.

Jonathan DeHaven won the Bob Carter Memorial for Limited Late Models at Winchester Speedway. On Saturday night, Super Late Models return to compete for $3,000 to win.

Shenandoah Speedway has the week off, but by all accounts the Super Cup Stock Car Series put on a great show Saturday night with a healthy car count, much better than Pro Cup has seen at its races this year. Hopefully Shenandoah can bring the series back for another visit ... and find somebody to update their website with weekly results.

Sebastian Vettel won the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain. Racing through the field was great -- unfortunately, Vettel ran away once he grabbed the lead. The win puts Vettel sixth on the all-time win list ahead of Sir Jackie Stewart. The F1 circus takes three weeks off before their European swing begins in Spain.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.


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