• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

TOGETHER AT LAST

I'm going to keep my fingers crossed and wish all involved well as the Tudor United SportsCar Series makes its debut this weekend with the Rolex 24 at Daytona. As a sports car racing fan going back to the Shelby Cobra and Ford GT vs. Ferrari at Le Mans and the original (and GREAT!) Trans-Am and Can-Am series (and a member of the 1990 Jaguar team that finished 1-2 at Daytona), the overdue joining together of Grand-Am and the American Le Mans Series is most welcome.

Make no mistake, this now is essentially NASCAR sports car racing. Jim France bought-out Don Panoz and much of the NASCAR philosophy -- and staff people -- are hands-on on this venture. Combining Grand-Am's lower-cost/managed competition approach with ALMS' high-tech/green way of doing things is no small task. I have disagreed with some of the new staff hirings. I especially disagree with trying to performance-match the Daytona Prototypes with the LMP2 cars, of which there were so few, I still think those owners should have been given DPs the same way Tony George gave Champ Car owners IRL-spec chassis when that merger occurred. It will be huge to watch how that plays out at Daytona, not only in terms of competitiveness, but reliability. Honestly, I have my doubts. And one thing that made all the sense in the world in Grand-Am was two easy-to-understand classes: DP and GT. In an attempt to keep car counts and manufacturer and participant involvement up, and the political waters calm, United SportsCar has adopted ALMS' many -- and too confusing -- class structure. The American public doesn't have enough interest -- or the attention span -- to follow all of that.

As I've written here before, I expect this first season to be messy in some ways. However, I am hoping things will go well, we'll see a little growth in public and media interest, and in a few years things will advance to where a new era of prototypes emerge and the number of classes condensed. If that happens, that's when I'll really get excited again about sports car racing.


The 43d Barrett-Jackson collector car auction took place during a full week of Chamber of Commerce weather (sunny, mid-70s) here in Scottsdale. The event moved into its new facility at WestWorld that spanned almost one million square feet. After years of back-and-forth between the city and B-J management, the proper new structure should keep this fabulous show in Scottsdale for many years. 


Congratulations to Windy McDonald, the longtime PA voice and publicist for Manzanita Speedway and other tracks (including Phoenix International Raceway), elected last week to the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame. My friend Dave Argabright, the great writer and author whose "American Scene" column was a must-read in National Speed Sport News, also was elected. Others include Chuck Merrill, George Nesler, Larry Beckett, Dave Blaney, Mark Kinser and Bobby Davis Jr. I'm a HoF voter. Induction ceremony will be May 31 at Marion County Fairgrounds in Knoxville, Iowa.

[ more next Monday . . . ]