Week off livens NASCAR year

May 4, 2004 2:06 AM

It’s hard to believe, but the NASCAR Nextel Cup series is actually getting a week off from racing. So far, counting this week, they will have had three weekends off since the beginning of February.

After this weekend, they’ll only have one more weekend off until the Nov. 21 finale in Miami. Think of what will be going on that weekend in Miami; The Hurricanes will have just pounded Wake Forest in an ACC conference clash and will be gearing up their season finale against another new ACC team, Virginia Tech.

The Dolphins will be in Week 11 at Seattle and the Miami Heat will be ending their first full month of the 2004-05 regular season campaign.

Overall, it does kind of give perspective to how long the season is and also how hard these teams and drivers really work at their profession. It’s been rumored that the season could go even further. There has been talk of the season extending an additional week and also taking a date away from a track that currently has two dates. That would make the season 37 races, ending on the last weekend in November.

The winners in lottery are likely to be from the two superpowers of ownership groups in NASCAR, Speedway Motorsports Inc. and International Speedway Corp. SMI owns Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which will be in the running with another SMI track, Texas. ISC is coming with Phoenix, Kansas, or Chicago.

Texas has an edge over Vegas because of it’s market size, seating, and most of all, the lawsuit SMI shareholders slapped on NASCAR . The shareholders said they were promised an additional date by NASCAR and it hasn’t happened yet.

It appears they may have a good case however, because NASCAR is attempting to make things happen for Texas. If it wasn’t a good case, they would just tell SMI to be quiet and run their tracks like they do on all other subjects that SMI complains about. Vegas still has a chance, but the lawsuit may swing the pendulum in Texas favor.

If drivers’ votes count, Vegas would win in a landslide. Think about all the places they go week after week. There is absolutely nothing to do in most of the cities they go to. After their day is finished, they go to the motel, watch TV, and go to bed, not exactly to glamorous life of the stereotypical professional athlete. When it’s time to hit Vegas, the teams actually take a vacation and have some fun away from the track. They bring their wives, girlfriends, parents, and anyone else they want to be around them for a fun NASCAR weekend.

Road to Richmond

Next weekend, the Cup boys travel to Virginia for a good old fashioned Saturday night special in Richmond, one of the most fun tracks on tour. Early favorites for the race are Dale Earnhardt Jr (7-1) and Tony Stewart (8-1).

There still are some betting options this weekend even though Cup is off this week. The Busch series travels to Gateway International Raceway in Madison (ILL), right across from St. Louis. The Busch series has been very competitive this season, but has still been dominated by the Cup regulars, or "Busch whackers" as the regulars like to call them.

This might be a good opportunity for one of the Busch drivers to step up. Look for a good run out of David Green (12-1) and Kyle Busch (7-1). Wagering can be done at all Station Casinos properties and the Palms Resort.

Odds are also available for the Indianapolis 500. Station Casinos has the Penske duo of Helio Castroneves (9-2) and Sam Hornish Jr (4-1) as the favorites. As of yet, the entire entry list hasn’t been filled, but we are all anticipating several top names from the CART series to enter.

Paul Tracy, CART’s top attraction, doesn’t have a deal with anyone as of yet. The only listed NASCAR driver is Robby Gordon. Speculation still has John Andretti driving for someone and Tony Stewart still hasn’t ruled out his options either. The class still belongs to Penske and all teams, including the much improved Team Green-Andretti crew, which will still be hard pressed to beat the duo of Hornish and Castroneves.