ISC back to drawing board after Seattle snub
Build a racetrack, and they will come. Well, Seattle ain't buying. Neither is New York City. So it's back to the drawing board for NASCAR and International Speedway Corp., writes Terry Blount.
News Monday that International Speedway Corp. has given up, for now, on building a track in the Seattle area wasn't a big surprise. The political battles were exhausting.
Essentially, the powers that be in Washington state have sent this message to NASCAR:
If you want to build a track in Podunk, we're all for it. If you want to build in the big city, forget it.
ISC couldn't find the support to build in Kitsap County, across Puget Sound from Seattle. And this was ISC's second attempt. It also tried unsuccessfully to get approval in Marysville, 30 miles north of Seattle.
Gov. Chris Gregoire suggested ISC try Lewis County, about 70 miles south of Seattle and 80 miles north of Portland, Ore. ISC also has fielded offers from Eastern Washington.
In other words, if you want to build in the middle of nowhere, go for it.
These Washington state officials don't get it. NASCAR and ISC want to build tracks in major markets. That's the point. That's what sponsors want.
Building a new facility that's more than an hour's drive from a major city defeats the purpose.
It also causes problems for people coming from other areas with fewer hotels rooms and restaurants, not to mention far fewer things to do near the track.
The Seattle failure is the second major blow to ISC in the last few months. It also gave up on plans to build a New York City track on Staten Island.
Most people will view this as NASCAR's getting rejected in the biggest city of the East Coast and one of the biggest cities on the West Coast.
Where's the love?
Maybe NASCAR isn't as popular in the blue states as it thought. Or maybe it's a different kind of politics, one to do with begging for public money in major markets.
"It's frustrating to me," said driver Greg Biffle, a Vancouver, Wash., native. "I think there's a ton of support, but a few bad apples in the basket ruin it for everyone. Just a few key people are against it and that's made it tough."
COT or no COT, the same guys are finishing up front on the short tracks.
Seven of the top 10 drivers at Martinsville one year ago in the old car also finished in the top 10 Sunday in the new model.
And only nine of those top-10 finishers from 2006 were competing because Brian Vickers, who was eighth in the spring Martinsville race last year, didn't make the field last weekend in his Toyota.
Three of the top five finishers at Bristol in the COT debut finished in the top eight at Thunder Valley a year ago.
It isn't the car, folks: It's the drivers and the teams. Give them a tractor and the best drivers on the best teams will find a way to get to the front.
NHRA Top Fuel driver Hillary Will didn't bluff well enough when she appeared on the NBC game show "Identity" last week.
A contestant has to try to guess the occupation of 12 people on stage. The contestants have a few friends giving them advice. One of the friends told last week's contestant (Toni Purry of Los Angeles), "Every time you say pro drag racer, that girl [Will] seems to light up.''
Will was wearing go-go-boots, which Purry thought was an indication of someone willing to take chances. She guessed right on Will.
Tech talk usually bores me to tears, but I found this little tidbit fascinating last weekend during the O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park.
Racers constantly deal with fractions of a second, but you wouldn't think .03 of a second would change much. NHRA motorcycle racers believe it can change the class for the better.
The first round of eliminations was the twilight zone for the Pro Stock Motorcycle category. Seven consecutive riders fouled (started too soon), handing the matchup to their opponent.
That included top qualifier Matt Smith, whose red light gave No. 16 qualifier Steve Johnson a free pass to the next round.
Matt Lewis, senior vice president for Don Schumacher Racing, says it isn't a fluke. Lewis recently wrote a letter to NHRA officials saying the number of red lights in the motorcycle class was 32 percent last year.
Lewis' solution is to speed up the Christmas Tree, the vertical yellow lights that flash before the start. Those lights flash four-tenths of a second before the green light.
Lewis believes .37 seconds on the tree would eliminate most of the red lights and make the class more exciting for the fans. His research showed that more than 75 percent of the fouls were less than .03 of a second.
Wow. Obviously, they aren't blinking at the line. We mean that literally. The average eye blink takes about four-tenths of a second.
Lewis also said 19 of the top 20 PSM riders are in favor of the change.
Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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