Lots of action ahead of marquee races


It seems as though it should be a slow weekend for motor sports because we're a week from two Memorial Day weekend classics.

But there's enough action on television and at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to feed your fix until the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 run May 24.

The NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series featuring four nostalgia Nitro Funny Cars will race at the LVMS dragstrip all weekend, and the Bullring features NASCAR Super Late Models and a bevy of open-wheel Modifieds on Saturday night.

Or if you want to beat the heat, stay home and be entertained by nonpoints Cup races Saturday night and final qualifying for the Indy 500 on Saturday and Sunday.

NASCAR calls Saturday night's featured event the Sprint All-Star Race. But where's the "all-star" factor if every regular Cup driver gets a shot at the $1 million winner's paycheck?

And if the event is supposed to showcase the all-star quality of the sport, then why sell exclusive TV rights to a cable network that has an audience limited to those in homes with either a satellite dish or high-end Cox cable service?

The "all-cars" races will be on Speed TV (Cox Digital 329), a great racing network but one offered to a limited number of homes.

Cup race winners from 2008 and this year are ensured spots in the featured race along with former Cup season champions and previous All-Star race winners. That accounts for 19 of 22 spots.

The night begins with the Showdown preliminary race for every other regular Cup driver, with the top two finishers advancing to the main.

One driver who doesn't qualify through the Showdown can be voted into the big show by fans text-messaging on Sprint phones. Last year, Kasey Kahne won the vote, then won the race.

Meanwhile, the IndyCar Series' newest qualifying format for the 500 has been stretched over three weekends. Yawn.

Eleven drivers secured spots in the starting field each of the past two weekends, and the final 11 for the 33-car field will be determined Saturday.

Sort of.

Sunday is Bump Day, when at least 12 drivers are expected to vie for the final 11 spots, which would give the nonqualified cars another chance to "bump" their way into the field.

Maybe it's worth fighting the local heat Sunday to watch some old-school funny cars after all.

• INDY TIDBIT -- If Las Vegas resident Alex Tagliani cracks the Indy field, he will be the fourth driver in the 500 with ties to Southern Nevada.

Alex Lloyd qualified 11th for owner Sam Schmidt of Henderson, Las Vegas resident Paul Tracy is 13th and former resident Davey Hamilton is 22nd.

• MAYFIELD FAILS -- Jeremy Mayfield visited the Review-Journal a couple of days before this year's Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to write the first of several blogs for lvrj.com/motorsports.

It was a popular feature, but it came to an end when limited funding forced the veteran driver and rookie team owner to cut the team's publicist, who coordinated the blogs.

That's the least of Mayfield's worries today.

NASCAR announced Saturday before the Cup race at Darlington, S.C., that it had suspended Mayfield indefinitely for failing a random drug test the week before during an event at Richmond, Va., after two blood samples came up positive for a banned substance.

Officials told Mayfield the Tuesday of Darlington race week that his first sample had failed. Mayfield then asked for the second sample to be tested, which is his right under testing guidelines.

The result was the same as the first, but it was not provided to NASCAR until after he had practiced and tried to qualify May 8.

NASCAR will not reveal the banned substance.

Maybe the public and media do not need to know, but drivers who shared a track with Mayfield last week certainly should have.

Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com. Visit Wolf's motor sports blog at lvrj.com/blogs/heavypedal/ throughout the week.

 

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