D.C. road course opens to good review


Auto Racing

May 19, 2002|By Sandra McKee

WASHINGTON - A shiny new strip of polymer-modified asphalt snakes around Parking Lot 6 at RFK Stadium. It is the new 1.7-mile road course that is being built for the July 19-21 Grand Prix of Washington.

Wednesday it was unveiled.

Wayne Taylor, who will drive Cadillac's No. 8 Northstar LMP in the 24 Hours of Le Mans next month, was the fellow giving test rides around the seven-turn track. As he drove, he talked.

"They still have to put the barriers up around the course," he said. "But they've done an outstanding job. Normally you use existing roads, which can be rough. This surface is so smooth, you can get the cars lower to the ground and that means faster lap times.

"There are two or three good braking points and that's important ... There will be several different classes of cars on the course at the same time, and that usually means passing is difficult. But heavy braking will allow you to pass and the main straight is quite wide [45 feet], and that will give you a lot of passing places, too."

He said he believes the new course measures up well by European standards, where road courses are popular. But he admitted there is no comparison between the 8.5-mile Le Mans course, where he will compete in June, and this 1.7-mile track.

Still, the American Le Mans Series cars that will race here will reach top speeds of about 170 mph before braking to 50 or 55 mph in a matter of seconds.

"It will require quite a lot of work to set the cars up for this race," Taylor said. "It's a race that will be hard on brakes, and they say it will be very hot here and that means you can start having problems with springs and brakes. Whoever gets it together first will win."

A surprise visitor to the unveiling was Winston Cup and Busch Series stock car driver Kenny Wallace, who simply dropped by to see what was going on. He wasn't shy about putting in his two cents.

"I think it's great," he said. "They've taken a place already in existence and done something with it. It's all about the people, and it looks to me like the people who come here are going to have a venue in which to have fun."

Wallace also thought it would be unlikely that anyone would complain about the noise, as he pointed to surrounding highways, the river, smokestacks and Metro train tracks. When I pointed out a nearby community, he cupped his hand around his ear and said, "I'm sorry, what did you say? I can't hear you for all the sirens."

When the residential area was again pointed out, he smiled.

"Well," he said. "The race cars will be here for three days one week. You can have that noise, or you can have sirens blasting at you 365 days a year. Maybe the racetrack will help the community come together and there will be fewer sirens."

Chris Lencheski, the race co-founder, said the site is on schedule in most categories and ahead of it in others.

It appears 65 to 70 percent of the track will be in view of the fans in the grandstands, an unusual and welcomed concept at a road course.

For information on the race, visit www.CadillacGrandPrix.com. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

Changing ballrooms

Who would have thought there would come a day when the Winston Cup Series would outgrow the Waldorf Astoria ballroom? Well, the day has come. NASCAR's 2002 year-ending awards ceremony, celebrating its champion and Top 10 points finishers, is moving to the more spacious Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City's Manhattan Center.

The Waldorf hosted the awards for the first time in 1981 in its famous Starlight Roof. In 1982, the ceremony moved to the Grand Ballroom. On Dec. 6, it will be held in the 20,000 square-foot Hammerstein, which offers seating for 1,600.

The NASCAR awards will be televised live on TNT and broadcast live by MRN radio. NBC also will televise portions of the ceremony on a tape-delayed basis at a later date.

Bonebrake Memorial

Memorial Day is a day of tradition, and Hagerstown Speedway traditionally schedules the Richard "Boney" Bonebrake Memorial that weekend, one of its special stock car events.

For the seventh time, the 40-lap memorial race for late models will run Saturday. The program is to begin at 7 p.m., with gates opening at 5 p.m.

Joining the late models will be spring championships for the Hoosier Tires Mid-Atlantic late model sportsman and the Ernie's Salvage Yard pure stocks. Added to the program will be the 30-lap enduro dash postponed from April 13.

Adult general admission is $12. Children under 12 are free.

The memorial late model program is held each year to honor Bonebrake, who played a major role in tri-state area racing for nearly 50 years. Bonebrake started as a driver in the mid-'50s and later became a successful car owner. He is a member of the Auto Racing Club of Hagerstown's Hall of Fame.

Bonebrake's son, Denny, drove his dad's car to six track titles and 79 feature wins from 1969 into the 1990s at Hagerstown. Some others who drove for Richard Bonebrake: Dick Warrenfeltz (Hagerstown's track champion 1965, 1967) and Shorty Bowers (1966 champion).

Nuts and Bolts

Crownsville stock car driver Kelly Sutton is currently 13th in points in the Goodies Dash Series, despite three "DNF's" over the past three races.

Baltimore's J.C. Beattie overcame the heat and a 26th-place starting position in the ASAracing.com 300 in Pensacola, Fla., last week to finish 13th. He'll be racing today at 2 p.m. at the ASA Tour's Hawkeye Downs Speedway event. The race will be broadcast live on TNN.

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