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Sports Jeff Birchfield NASCAR/Racing

Racing has big stages this weekend

May 21st, 2013 7:48 pm by Jeff Birchfield

Racing has  big stages this weekend

It’s the biggest racing weekend of the year coming up with the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500, the Monaco Grand Prix and the Coca-Cola 600.
Which open-wheel race is more prestigious depends on who you ask. As a series, Formula One easily outdistances IndyCar. Still, I rank the 500 and its rich history ahead of Monaco.
Even as someone who grew up following NASCAR, I still see the Indy 500 as still a bigger race than the Daytona 500.
Ask any NASCAR driver if he would rather win the Daytona 500 or the Sprint Cup championship, and the vast majority would pick winning the championship.
Ask any IndyCar driver the same question, and the answer is always the Indianapolis 500. I posed the question to three-time and defending 500 champion Dario Franchitti in January. The IndyCar star was at the Ganassi Racing stop on the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour and offered this response.
“You have to go with the 500,” Franchitti said. “I know last year May seemed like a long time ago by the end of the season. As drivers we’re greedy and want to win both, but if you have to choose one, it’s the 500.”
The only exception to the NASCAR question is probably Tony Stewart, who is already a three-time series champion, but is yet to win a Daytona 500.
Even at that, Stewart is an Indiana native and has made no bones about it that he would rather win the Indianapolis 500 than any other race, including Daytona.
Visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s nowhere near as as newer race tracks, but there is something magical about the place.
While the Brickyard 400 is a great event on the NASCAR calendar, the Indy 500 has over a century of tradition. It is that
tradition which makes the 500 not only the biggest event on the open-wheel calendar, but the whole racing calendar in my opinion.
That’s not meant to downgrade NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600, in any way. The track’s website promotes it as the biggest Memorial Day weekend party in the country, and counting everything going on it really is.
A bonus is the race is held at Charlotte Motor Speedway, still one of the finest racing facilities in the country and the home track for almost all of the NASCAR teams.
With so many racing-related things to do in Charlotte like race shop visits, places like the NASCAR Hall of Fame, North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame and Memory Lane Museum, it’s as good as a racing-themed vacation as one can take.
Even the Carowinds theme park has a ride called the Intimidator, a Dale Earnhardt-themed roller coaster which starts out with the words, “Gentleman, start your engines!”
The track itself hosts a World Outlaws dirt track race on Friday night, the History 300 Nationwide Series race on Saturday, and the 600 on Sunday.
The track is offering several package deals to multiple events for those interested.
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Clay Rogers led only one lap of the Mahle 250 X1-R Pro Cup Series race last Friday night at Kingsport Speedway, but still came out the winner.
Mark McFarland appeared to be on his way to winning, when a caution came out for a blown engine. In the second green-white-checkered restart, Rogers got around McFarland for his third straight series victory.
Jason Ketron of Kingsport won the Pure 4 division feature and fellow Model City resident Brandon Byington won in Rookie Pure 4. Jacob Owens of Bean Station won in Legends Cars.
The track returns to its weekly program of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing this Friday night.  
Chad Finchum of Knoxville currently leads the Late Model Stock point standings, holding a two-point lead over Daniel Pope II of Smyrna. Johnson City driver Zeke Shell is fourth in the standings, 10 points out of the lead.
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Bristol Dragway hosted the K&N Spring Fling 20s Bracket Races this past weekend with Tommy Plott of Winston-Salem, N.C., the big winner.
Plott, driving a Ford Mustang, won $40,000 in prize money for the weekend. John Labbous Jr. capped off the weekend action with his fourth Spring Fling title on Sunday afternoon.
Round 7 of Bristol Dragway Street Fights is scheduled for Thursday with the DER Bracket Series on tap for Saturday and Sunday.
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Ken Schrader won the Menards 200 at Toledo Speedway on Sunday, thus becoming the oldest winner in ARCA Series history.
The 57-year-old Schrader led 163 laps in his No. 52 Chevrolet for his fifth win at the Ohio short track. Schrader, who has 16 ARCA Series wins in 61 starts, paid tribute to the recently deceased Dick Trickle afterwards, calling him, “One of the smartest racers there was.”
Schrader, still an occasional competitor in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, has made three Cup starts this season after running 13 races last season. The Missouri native has a couple of NASCAR Truck Series races on his schedule for the remainder of the year, including the Bristol race in August.

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