---- — Anderson Speedway kicks off the 2014 season Saturday with a pair of 75-lap features for the McGunegill Engine Performance Late Models and the NASH-FM Thunder Cars. Qualifications start at 4:30 p.m. with racing following at 6 p.m.
Anderson’s opening day also marks the start of the season for the Champion Racing Association Late Model Sportsman that will be competing with the local late model drivers. The 75-lap feature is a points race for both the CRA and MEP divisions.
Defending track champion Ronnie Rose is expected to be in competition along with Rob Allman, Jeff Marcum and Kent Baledge.
Baledge is returning to action after not competing for several seasons and plans to run the entire Anderson and CRA late model schedules. He previously competed in a CRA Super Series super late model.
CRA drivers expected to be on hand include defending champion Mark Lambert, K.C. Spillers, Jason Atkinson and teenager Chris Hacker, who recorded a CRA Late Model Sportsman win at Anderson Speedway last year.
The Thunder Cars will be led into action by defending champion Curtis Chapman, Trent Gossar, Robbie Wyman, Allman, and Tom Gossar.
As is always the case, there are several drivers who will make the trip from Kentucky to compete in the 75-lap event along with local favorite Johnny Magee.
This weekend also marks the start of the Verizon IndyCar Series on the street course at St. Petersburg. The race is Sunday.
Returning to open wheel racing is Juan Pablo Montoya, who will be teammates with Helio Castroneves and Will Power on Team Penske Racing. They will be challenged by Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Ryan Briscoe of Ganassi Racing and Andretti Auto Sport team drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe.
With Verizon secured as the series sponsor for the next decade, it will be interesting to see if the nation’s premier open wheel series can take the next step toward increasing its fan base.
IN OTHER RACING NEWS
NASCAR and Goodyear officials are denying any blame for the fiasco that was Sunday’s Sprint Cup race in California.
Tires that failed to last 25 laps before going flat resulted in numerous cautions, wrecked race cars during practice and in the race.
This was very similar to the tire problem that Goodyear had in the Brickyard 400 several years ago when the caution flag was waved every 25 laps for the teams to change tires.
That incident almost killed NASCAR racing at Indy. The only difference between IMS and California was that NASCAR didn’t throw a caution flag and let the tires go flat, altering the outcome of the race.
Goodyear tried to shift blame to the teams, claiming they didn’t use the recommended tire pressures. It was a claim that many drivers said was not the case.
We’ll see what happens the next time the series runs on a track longer than a half-mile.
Ken de la Bastide may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.