NASCAR legends to be honored

Racing action is picking up! This past week more than 340 race teams made their annual trek to the River City Expo-Center for the 2018 Chili Bowl Nationals, presented by Lucas Oil Products.

On Saturday evening, thousands of fans on hand and countless others tuned in through MavTV to see 24 of the top race drivers from many different groups. NASCAR, World of Outlaws, drag racing and so many short track series across the country make up this super talented field.

Bet you are wondering how can you work through 340 cars to find the 24 for the feature? It is done through a series of qualifying races referred to the racers as the “Alphabet Soup.” Fields for these races are set by timed qualifying runs. Then the field is divided in half.

The Mains, as they are called, have a letter designation. This year the mains started with the letter “N.” You are required to finish in the top two positions to advance to the M main. Then you start in the rear and attempt to finish in the top two to move to the L main. This process continues till the C and B mains where six cars transfer.

Fast times are given a pass on the “Soup” and also last year’s winner automatically advances to the A main. The Trophy is really special also. It is a cast golden replica of the biggest landmark in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The 75-foot tall Golden Driller statue stands watch over the Expo-Center, reminding people that Tulsa was once the oil capitol of the world. The Golden Driller trophy would earn a valuable spot in any racer’s trophy case.

Kyle Larson got himself in hot water when he stated that “Winning this event would equal a Daytona 500 victory!” However, with the challenge this event presents I can see how he would say this. When the green flag flew, Larson appeared to be the car to beat. After each restart he would pull away from second place, the Camping World Truck series champion Christopher Bell.

Disaster struck on lap 41 of 55 when Larson’s engine expired and he coasted to the infield, out of the race. Bell inherited the lead and held on to capture his second win in a row. Rico Abreu, who is recovering from an early season accident, appeared to be in fine shape and finished second. The little man with the heavy left foot was coming on strong but ran out of laps.

Rookie Spenser Bayston finished third in his first bowl race. Tanner Thorson finished fourth. Mark Bernal did an amazing job grabbing fifth after starting last and gaining 18 positions. Mark transferred from the final B main to the A.

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The Barrett-Jackson Collector Car action is under way as your reading this. This mega event will continue on through this weekend. Check your local TV listings for coverage on the Velocity and Discovery networks. This is always exciting

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There is an event for NASCAR fans on Friday evening. NBCSN will televise the 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony from Charlotte, North Carolina, at 8 p.m.

Five NASCAR greats will be added to the group. I want to give you a little background on these great men. Some are very familiar while others are a little less well-known. These are grouped according to alphabetical order.

Red Byron was the first Strictly Stock points champion in 1949. He won two of eight races to earn the title. Byron drove for Atlanta businessman Raymond Parks. Byron was a World War II veteran and had to use a special brace on his left leg, which was literally bolted to the clutch pedal. He also won the 1948 Modified series championship. The Strictly Stock series evolved into what is now the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series. He will be the first inductee honored.

Second up is Ray Evernham. This master technician/mechanic is the man behind three-time champion Jeff Gordon. Ray brought Hendrick Motorsports to championship level. He made lots of innovations in those cars but one of the biggest contributions was his realization of the importance of pit crew preparations. He was the first to train and select professional athletes to perform those jobs on race day without other jobs or distractions. Ray also raced in the Featherlite Modified series as a driver. He became a team owner and was responsible for enabling Dodge to make a comeback to NASCAR Cup series racing in 2001.

Third up is Ron Hornaday Jr. He raced in all three of the top series of NASCAR and had four wins in the Xfinity division. He found a home in the Camping World Truck series. This California native won four CWTS points championships, in 1996, 1998, 2007 and 2009. Ron retired from competition as a driver in 2014. He continues to build racing cars for up and coming drivers in the Open Wheeled Dirt Modified class.

The fourth inductee will be Ken Squire. Ken was a race announcer extraordinaire. His smooth delivery set the standard for other announcers. He started the Motor Racing Network and brought our sport to homes all over the country by radio. He is well-known as the instrumental force in getting CBS television to cover the 1979 Daytona 500, which set the stage for all the TV coverage we enjoy today. He also worked as a broadcaster with TBN on television.

The final inductee is Robert Yates. This young man from the mountains of North Carolina began his career with the powerhouse Ford team of Holman and Moody in the 1960s. Well-known was the fact that Yates horse power could mean the difference between winning and finishing second.

In 1983 Robert, helped DiGard racing and Bobby Allison win the Winston Cup championship. His engines also powered Richard Petty to his two final wins. Robert formed Robert Yates Racing and with driver Davey Allison was a force to be reckoned with.

After Allison lost his life in a helicopter accident, Yates continued to win with drivers Ernie Irvan, Ricky Rudd and Elliott Sadler. Once again they captured the Winston Cup and the Daytona 500 in 1999 with driver Dale Jarrett.

Today his son, Doug Yates, carries on the family tradition of building race-winning engines at Roush Yates Performance. This is the top Ford engine builder in the country.

Wow, this was a long column so I’ll just close with my signature line, at the end of the straightaway there’s another left turn.

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