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2017- Something Exciting for Every Racing Fan

Josef Newgarden at Road America. [John Wiedemann Photo]

Josef Newgarden and IndyCar were among the brightspots in the 2017 motorsports season. [John Wiedemann Photo]

Turk’s Tracks
A Few Loose Lug Nuts from Pit Row

by Gene Turk

As I am writing this, it is late-November and most of the motor sport racing schedules have ended their racing season, or like F1 are down to their last race. So, I thought that I would take a look back at a few of the series and how they fared in 2017. Let me start by saying that the December issue of Road and Track had an article stating that by many measures racing has never been healthier. I tend to agree, but there are some dark clouds forming on the horizon. So, let’s start with Indy Car.

I wish to start by giving a big attaboy to Josef Newgarden for winning his first championship. He ran well most of the year and I wish him the very best in 2018. Speaking of 2018, a report came out that 25 cars have already signed up for the 2018 Indy 500. This is the most cars that have signed up this early. It looks like the Honda vs. Chevy engine choice is going in favor of Honda. By the latest count, there should be at least 18 cars powered by Honda. The Indy cars provided many thrills in 2017 with race winners being decided on the last lap or even last turn. If Danica Patrick drives in the 2018 Indy 500, I’m sure that there will be a media circus around her that will most likely peak some more interest in the race. With that said, let’s check in with the gang that does it in the dirt.

From what I’ve seen, dirt track racing is alive and well in America’s Heartland. There seems to be no shortage of Midgets and Sprint cars along with some very talented drivers. The World of Outlaw guys seems to have no problem in filling up the stands at a race. If anything, they could use some more seating capacity at the tracks. I would suggest that they could learn something from the motorcycle flat track boys and upgrade the race tracks that are starting to show their age. But overall, 2018 looks bright for this group. Let’s now move on to sports cars.

The same Road and Track article writer has stated that we just might be in the golden age of sports car racing. More manufacturers than ever are now involved in the sport. Fans are flocking to the races and the races are usually held on picturesque tracks. Their advantage is a large number of classes that one can chose his type of racing based on how deep his pockets are. What I like about this type of racing is that the guy or gal can drive his or her Miata or Mini Cooper to work from Monday to Friday, and then go race that car on the weekend. Now on to Formula E.

This could be the breakout series in 2018. There is a new rule package and some really great looking cars are being built. This series is only three years old and is staring to attract fans from the larger cities. The battery technology is truly awesome. Tesla now claims that their sports car can do 0-60 mph in 1.9 seconds with a top speed of 250 MPH. If the “going green” attitude continues to gain strength, this form of racing may just be the path to future racing. Let’s head over to NASCAR.

Homestead-Miami race track was one busy place this last weekend. We’ll start on Friday by presenting Christopher Bell the championship trophy for the Camping World Truck series. He is a nice, young talented man that should have a bright future ahead of him in the racing world.

Saturday finds us crowning another young driver his first Xfinity Championship. William Bryon drove a smart race and made his car owner-Dale Earhardt Jr. very proud. But a few days later, an announcement by Richard Childress Racing (RCR) caught my eye. RCR stated that it would no longer run five cars in 2018 and cut back to three cars. And then Mr. Childress stated that running a five car team was the worst mistake he made. I wonder if other car owners feel the same out large multi-car teams? What if the three car teams go to two cars or two cars teams go to only one car in 2018? With sponsorship money being tight, it could happen.

Sunday finds a very exciting race for the Monster Energy Championship. Martin Truex Jr. wins the race and championship. A tip of the hat to a great year and his eight wins. Sunday was kind of bittersweet with it being the last race for Dale Earnhardt Jr, Matt Kenseth, and Danica Patrick as a full time racer. Without a doubt, Dale Jr. and Matt will both get into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. And don’t feel sorry for Danica, she is leaving NASCAR as a multi-millionaire. Not bad for not winning a single race and finishing in the mid 20’s in points every year. Now for those dark clouds on the horizon.

2017 continued the downward trend for attendance and T.V. viewership for NASCAR. The first half of the season had a 12% drop in attendance from 2016. Too many races had way too many empty seats. 2018 could be a real challenge for NASCAR to fill up those empty seats.

In closing, I was skimming through a racing article in the December Road and Track when a sentence caught my eye on page 80. Mr. Tanner Foust said, “Something has scared the crap out of me. I was reading a study that found 16-year-olds wanted a smartphone more than a driver’s license.” I wonder where will the next generation of race fans come from if all the young people want to do is gaze into a glorified bug light all day? Maybe that insurance ad about the kid with a flat tire asking his buddy if a tool he is holding is a lug wrench has more truth to it. Then his buddy answers “maybe?” Well, just something to ponder until my next article.

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Gene Turk was born with racing in his blood. At age 8 he started racing Quarter Midgets as member of the Great Milwaukee Quarter Midget club. For five years he raced the #7 car that his father built. He then graduated from the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) with a degree in Industrial Engineering and Internal Combustion Engineering.

While in college he obtained his Private Pilot’s License.

Along the way he has attended numerous Indy car and stock car races at the Milwaukee Mile during the 60s, 70sand 80s along with area Midget car races. He would also frequently fly to the Brickyard to watch the Indy 500 time trials in the 60s and 70s and more recently attended the 2014 Indy 500.

He has also attended numerous sports car and NASCAR races at Elkhart Lake Road America. Finally, Gene has owned many classic cars including his present 1990 Corvette and is a self-described “Gear Head.”