Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

August 28, 2012

de la Bastide: U.S. Nationals set for this weekend

Stewart endures forgettable night at Bristol

By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune auto racing columnist

— The last big racing event of the year in Indianapolis will take place this weekend with the NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Action begins today at 8:30 a.m. and culminates on Labor Day with the champions decided in the Funny Car, Top Fuel, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle Divisions.

On Saturday and Sunday are the competition in the TRAXXUS Nitro Shootout for the Top Fuel and Funny Cars that offer $100,000 to the winners of the special events.

The track record for the Top Fuel dragsters is 324.83 miles per hour and for the Funny Cars stands at 315.19 mph.

Over the years at the US Nationals I have always found the best time for spectators is at night when the Top Fuel dragsters light up the night with flames shooting from the exhaust pipes.

What stands out is the roar of the engines, use ear plugs, and the vibration the engines send out, literally causing your chest to pound.

Scott Smith with Lucas Oil Raceway said this is the last event leading up to the countdown for the NHRA Nationals. He said drivers will be looking to be in the top ten in the point standings when the series leaves Indiana.

He said the Nitro Shootout is for bragging rights among the teams, in additional to a potential $100,000 payday.

With threatening weather forecast for the weekend, Smith said it may make for some longer nights at the facility. He said Lucas Oil Raceway has lights and there is no noise curfew in effect in Clermont.

In other racing news

• Tempers flared at Bristol during the Sprint Cup night race with Tony Stewart throwing his helmet at the car of Matt Kenseth following an altercation and crash on the track.

Stewart’s aim was perfect as his helmet bounced off the front of Kenseth’s Ford as it came down pit road.

“Smoke” claimed the accident was caused by Kenseth, but video replays showed that both drivers were beating and banging on each other for the better part of a lap.

Danica Patrick ended up shaking a finger at Regan Smith after her Go Daddy Chevrolet found the wall. Hard to tell if Patrick came down or Smith went up the track to cause the crash.

Overall, it was a bad night for Stewart. Not only was his car wrecked, the cars he owns for Patrick and Ryan Newman also were heavily damaged.

There are two races left for Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards to capture a wild card spot for the Chase. Edwards ran out of fuel while contending for the win, making his quest for a repeat appearance in the Chase more doubtful.

• Longtime sprint car driver Jeff Bloom suffered burns to his arms and legs during last Saturday’s Must See Racing event at Berlin Raceway in Michigan.

Bloom has made 35 starts in the Pay Less Little 500 at Anderson Speedway, winning in 1972, 1977 and 1991. During his career he has finished in the top ten a total of 12 times.

Bloom can be reached at: 4065 Baseline Road, Bloomingdale, MI., 49026. I’m sure a get well card would be welcomed.

• California driver JoJo Helberg won the Must See Racing Winged Sprint Car race at Berlin and captured the championship.

• Ken de la Bastide may be reached at ken.delabastide@kokomotribune.com or 765-454-8580.