Craig Murto: The racing has been fantastic

Craig Murto

It boggles my mind that crowds and TV ratings are down at racing events this season, as the racing has been fantastic.

Take NASCAR, for example. Did anybody expect on Lap 350 that Jimmie Johnson would win the race in Dover, Delaware, and tie Cale Yarborough with 83 Cup wins?

Now that the cars are actually more difficult to drive, racers sometimes push the limits. Crews also push the limits to try to get more performance.

TV coverage didn’t question the high number of tire failures at Dover, probably so as not to shine a negative light on tire supplier Goodyear. But I suspect the problem wasn’t actually the tires, the problem was aggressive camber put into the setup to help the car turn. It tends to wear the edge of the tire and cause a failure.

Even without the numerous cautions related to blown tires, we saw drivers push themselves beyond their limits. It’s nice to see that the lower down force package is working to create excitement. Hopefully the rules will continue to go in this direction. NASCAR competes at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania this weekend.

NASCAR’s not the only series that provides excitement. IndyCar has had some very good races lately.

On paper the Detroit Grand Prix may appear to have been a Graham Rahal blowout, but in actuality the twin features on the Belle Isle course both were exciting. Texas Motor Speedway hosts the series on Saturday night, and nothing is more breathtaking than IndyCar on the fast tri-oval. Set your DVR to record this race before you head out.

The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) continually thrills it fans. The New England Nationals were run in Epping, New Hampshire, last week. Brittany Force grabbed the Top Fuel win, Matt Hagan scored a victory in Funny Car and Erica Enders in Pro Stock.

This weekend NHRA is in Englishtown, New Jersey, for the Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.

Even Formula One has been intriguing this season. They went the wrong way with their new rules, giving the cars more down force, which makes them faster, but also makes it harder to pass. But the new regulations gave Ferrari and Red Bull a chance to catch up to Mercedes, so now we actually have a battle among manufacturers again.

Dirt racing is always popular, and we have plenty of it close by. Not too far away in Pennsylvania you can see all the Sprint Car action you could hope for, at tracks such as Lincoln Speedway and Williams Grove. But closer to home Late Models rule.

Justin Weaver won the Late Model Sportsman feature at Hagerstown  Speedway in Maryland last week. Super Late Models had the night off, but will return this weekend.

Winchester Speedway will be closed Saturday night, but will return to action June 17 with a show featuring Super Late Models and Limited Late Models.

Winchester will be closed, but just south in Waynesboro racing continues at Eastside Speedway. It’ll be Eastside’s Legend Reunion, with a regular show featuring Late Models and an appearance of the Blue Ridge Vintage Racers group.

Maryland’s Potomac Speedway in Budds Creek is a Friday night track. They’re closed this week, but racing returns June 16 with Limited Late Models and Crate Late Models on the program.

Other dirt tracks you should explore include Natural Bridge Speedway, Virginia Motor Speedway, and Wythe Raceway.

If you prefer pavement racing, Shenandoah Speedway is closed this week but returns June 17 with Late Models headlining. With Shenandoah closed this weekend, it gives their racers a chance to run at Dominion Raceway, which hosts a 100-lap Late Model Stock Car feature Saturday night.

Other paved tracks in Virginia worth visiting are Langley Speedway, South Boston Speedway, Motor Mile Speedway, Southside Speedway and Lonesome Pine Raceway.

If you consider yourself a “race chaser,” you’ve probably been to most, if not all, of these tracks already. Every short track is worth at least one visit, and every track deserves support.

If you want to know where the tracks are, you need to visit www.speedwaysonline.com and order yourself a copy (or two, or three) of the National Speedway Directory. It lists every automobile racetrack in the United States and Canada, including ovals, drag strips, and road courses. It also includes a listing of sanctions, publications, museums and race schedules. I keep one in my car and one in my office; if you like racing, you’ll find it very useful.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.