Craig Murto: North Carolina enjoys November racing

CRAIG MURTO

Our local tracks may be closed for the racing season, but there is still good racing to be found only a few hours south.

Saturday night another Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Model season will go into the books at Concord Speedway. The PASS Super Late Models will compete for 125 laps in the Mason-Dixon Meltdown as part of the 14th Annual North-South Shootout. Both the PASS National Championship and PASS South Super Late Model titles will be decided on Saturday afternoon in the Meltdown.

The North-South Shootout has been a major event for a decade, and to incorporate the PASS Mason-Dixon Meltdown as part of the Shootout makes for a major short track event.

All the action gets underway on Thursday at Concord with an optional practice for all divisions. On Friday, practice begins at 10 a.m., with qualifying at 5 p.m., and features for the Vintage Modifieds, Street Stocks, Vintage Sportsman, and Mini Stock starting around 6:30. On Saturday, practice starts at 9 a.m., with main events going green at 2 p.m. for the PASS South Super Late Models, NASCAR Tour-type Modifieds, Limited Late Models, SK Modifieds and Vintage Cars.

Complete weekend schedules for the events at Concord Speedway can be found at ProAllStarsSeries.com.

If you’re unable to attend Concord’s arcing this weekend, on Nov. 12 the Championship Auto Racing Series (CARS) tour will compete at Southern National Motorsports Park near Kenly, North Carolina. CARS Tour events consist of both a 125-lap Late Model Stock Car feature and a 125-lap Super Late Model feature. Grandstand gates open at 1 p.m., racing begins at 3.

Last weekend the CARS Tour raced at Hickory, North Carolina. Brandon Setzer won the Super Late Model event, and Deac McCaskill battled JR Motorsports driver Josh Berry to grab the Late Model Stock Car win.

Not all the action in North Carolina last week was on pavement. The World of Outlaws held their World Finals at the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The packed grandstands were greeted with chamber-of-commerce weather. Donny Schatz scored his 229th World of Outlaws Sprint Car victory, followed by David Gravel and Pennsylvania Posse member Greg Hodnett. In Late Models, Chris Madden scored the win followed by Tim McCreadie and Don O’Neal. Matt Sheppard was the big winner in Super Dirtcar Big-Block Modified competition.

The Thanksgiving Classic at Southern National Motorsports Park is the final big event in the region. Held Nov. 25-27, it features the track’s Late Model and Pro Late Model divisions, as well as nearly every other division they can think to include. It makes for a great weekend of racing.

Martinsville Speedway held a great weekend of racing, during which Camping World Truck Series racer Johnny Sauter and Sprint Cup competitor Jimmie Johnson scored wins and guaranteed that they’ll race for championships at Homestead-Miami in a few weeks.

Jimmie Johnson now has the chance to match Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt by winning a seventh Sprint Cup championship. Don’t count him out.

NASCAR changed the rules regarding Cup drivers competing in the lower divisions. A Cup driver with five years experience can only compete in 10 Xfinity Series races and seven Camping World Truck events in 2017. They will also not be allowed to compete in any of the Chase races for those divisions.

It’s a good start, but hopefully more changes will be on the way. Given the new rules, Kyle Larson still would have been in the Xfinity race a couple weeks ago to wreck Chase contender Erik Jones. NASCAR was right to move slowly with the changes, however, as it doesn’t want to interfere with teams’ sponsor arrangements.

Actually, not much will change during the regular season. In fact, it may be better for sponsors. Monster Energy, for example, may not be able to have Kyle Busch behind the wheel for 16 Xfinity races next year. Instead, they may find that they’re now getting Busch for eight races and Denny Hamlin for eight. For the price of one the sponsor may be able to be associated with two or more Sprint Cup drivers.

The Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico was disappointing for a couple drivers. First, Max Verstappen thought he was on the podium, but before the celebration was given a five-second penalty for cutting a corner and gaining an advantage. That put Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari on the podium. But after the celebration, Vettel was given a penalty for “moving in a braking zone,” moving him to fifth behind Verstappen and giving the podium finish position to Daniel Ricciardo.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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