Who's revved up over NASCAR? Baltimore

ON MOTOR SPORTS

Auto Racing

April 20, 2003|By SANDRA McKEE

Where's the hottest-growing spot in the country for Winston Cup racing?

It's right here.

According to the folks at Fox TV, through last Sunday's race at Martinsville, Va., Baltimore is averaging a 5.0/11 rating/share, which is a 35 percent increase over last year's mark of 3.7/8 to this same point in the season.

The rating is the percentage of television households watching a broadcast, and each point represents 1,055,000 homes. The share is the percentage watching a program among those households with televisions on at the time.

This sharp increase makes the city the nation's fastest-growing TV market and puts it into the vanguard of a group of NASCAR "hot pockets" that fall outside the sport's traditional Southeastern market.

Other surging markets include Boston (up 24 percent), Seattle (21 percent) and Minneapolis (15 percent).

Stage set

It took years for four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon to put to rest rumors that he would depart for the open-wheel Formula One Series.

Now, with the news that he and F1 star Juan Pablo Montoya will participate in speed demonstration laps in their cars June 11 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there is every chance that Gordon will have to deal with those rumors again.

Why? Because he is not only going to drive his stock car on the famed speedway's road course, he is also going to swap cars with Montoya.

Gordon and Montoya will trade places, taking turns driving laps around the 2.606-mile road course in Gordon's Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Montoya's BMW Williams F1 car.

It will be a first-time experience for both.

"There are a lot of things to coordinate to make this happen," Gordon said. "I'm just excited about this opportunity. It's something I've dreamed of, just getting behind the wheel of an F1 car, seeing what it was like.

"I don't plan on going F1 racing, but I would love to just get that experience."

In past conversations, Gordon has explained that while he would love to race an F1 car, he is too well-established and too successful where he is to go off on an F1 adventure that would require at least a five-year commitment with no guarantees at the end of it.

Montoya, remembered well by open-wheel fans in this country from his CART championship days, is in his third season with BMW Williams F1 and has no plans to go into stock-car racing.

"The experience will be very interesting, and driving a big, heavy NASCAR car will certainly be different," Montoya said. "I don't think Jeff should be concerned that I will take away his job, but I will enjoy the opportunity of driving his Chevrolet and letting him take my BMW Williams F1 Team car for a drive on Indy's road course."

If you're interested in seeing this demonstration, the Speedway says fans will have free access to IMS' South Terrace grandstands for viewing.

More weather woes

Rain and cold weather again forced Hagerstown Speedway promoter Frank Plessinger to postpone another racing program.

The Hagerstown Speedway Shootout was scheduled for Friday and has been rescheduled for Memorial Day weekend, on May 25.

The Shootout is the fourth program this season the track has had to cancel or postpone due to bad weather.

On Saturday, Hagerstown returns to action with the first appearance of the Renegade DirtCar Racing Series. The invading late-model circuit will take on the Hagerstown regulars in the Stanley Schetrompf Memorial.

The 50-lap race will pay $7,000 to the winner. Joining the ITSI late models will be the Hoosier Tires Mid-Atlantic late model sportsman and the Ernie's Salvage Yard pure stocks. Race time is 7:30 p.m., with warm-ups at 7.

For those who like to attend the track on a regular basis, the speedway is offering a six-pack VIP card to fans now through the end of this month. The card entitles the cardholder to six regular-show general admission passes at a 25 percent discount.

No do-over needed

Winston Cup driver Ken Schrader used to tell a story about how he got interested in racing. He said it was because his mom liked to tan herself in the back yard when he was just a tyke.

"I had a little pedal-powered race car, and she would tie it to the clothesline pole," Schrader once said. "So, she'd sit and sun-tan and I'd pedal the afternoon away racing the car in circles around her."

On a conference call last week, Schrader was asked whether he could be reincarnated, what he would like to come back as.

It didn't take him long to answer. "I'd probably like to come back and do the same deal just one more time and try to do it better," he said.

Schrader simply enjoys racing. That's apparent by how he is spending the Easter weekend, racing a late-model on a Louisiana dirt track.

"I'm going to run somewhere between 90, 100 races this year," he said.

Why?

"It's because I've got an off night and there's a race and I want to go race in it. I'd say I've probably got more desire to race now than I ever have."

Asked how long he plans to keep this up, the 47-year-old said he never plans to quit.

"I just dread the day I don't get to race," he said. "When I don't Winston Cup-race, I'm still going to race. I'm going to race a bunch. Maybe run ... the dirt car until I just can't drive it anymore."

Team Lexus soars

Baltimore sports-car racer and the owner of Team Lexus, Chuck Goldsborough, had a fine outing last weekend at Homestead, Fla.

Goldsborough's team finished first and second, with him driving the second-place car, in the Grand-Am Cup Series, ST 1 class.

The win puts his team into the lead for the manufacturer points championship and for the team points championship. It also puts Goldsborough into second place among 70 drivers vying for the driver's title.

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