This ‘outsider’ welcomes shot at cash

Blooming desert flowers and longer days aren’t the best part of spring in Southern Nevada.

This time of year, it’s the racing.

About 500 drag racers will be at Las Vegas Motor Speedway all weekend. Monster trucks race today and Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Mint 400 desert race returns north of town Saturday.

I’ve been offered a chance to drive a monster truck, but I’m afraid of heights.

I’ve been offered a chance to drive a desert racer, but I don’t take kindly to dust or flipping wildly over rocks.

One drag racer was willing to let me get licensed in his 180 mph dragster. That was a week before his car crashed.

With all the racing in the air and a desire to get out of debt, I think it’s time to become a race car driver.

But to make the big time, I’m too old to start at the speedway’s Bullring in a Bomber car. Bandolero cars for kids would be the logical place to begin, but, at my size, I’d never fit into one.

So I decided to make a pitch for one of the coveted five entries into the Oct. 16 IndyCar World Championship at LVMS, where an "outsider" can bank $5 million if he or she qualifies for that race and then wins it.

No one is more qualified to be an outsider than me.

Not only have I never driven an IndyCar, I’ve never raced anything.

Supercross star James Stewart is the latest to state publicly that he wants a shot at the big payday. He says he’s raced go-karts but nothing bigger.

IndyCar chairman Randy Bernard told me this week that Stewart’s lack of big-car racing experience wouldn’t necessarily preclude him from being considered.

"We might bring him to Indy in May and let him take some laps in an Indy Lights car and, if he did well, move him up to a big car," Bernard said.

That’s when I tossed my helmet into the ring, asking Bernard if he’d offer me the same tryout. He laughed. Loudly.

Stewart is one of the greats of Supercross, but he crashed out of Saturday’s AMA race in Jacksonville, Fla.

I can crash a motorcycle. In fact, I have.

I was 17 and learning to ride a Honda CB450 from my older brother, who was on his Triumph Bonneville. We were at a stop sign when I waved to a friend, but I forgot that that hand also controlled the clutch. So I flew across the street, ran through a shrub and nearly crashed into a house.

As I picked branches out of my helmet and the bike’s fork, my older brother — still at the stop sign — laughed. Loudly.

A couple of years before that, I proved to be as adept at crashing as IndyCar driver Milka Duno.

I rode with a buddy in his brother’s 1968 Roadrunner trying to reach 120 mph. Only a garage got in the way. A picture of the car parked perfectly in the demolished garage made the front page of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. I was an unnamed passenger. Lack of recognition still bums me out as I seek high-speed notoriety.

Now it’s time for some glory … and the $5 million.

Bernard would not release any names of prospective outsiders but said the five will be picked by August so there is time to prepare them for October qualifying and the race.

Bernard is clear that selected drivers must have enough experience to ensure safety, but the next criterion will be how much their participation could boost TV ratings and ticket sales.

I suggested what better draw than a 57-year-old with no racing experience? Bernard laughed again. Louder.

Jeff Wolf’s motor sports column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at jwolf@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0247. Visit lvrj.com/motorsports for more news and commentary. Follow Wolf on Twitter: @lvrjwolf.

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