Many top NASCAR drivers will take a respite from oval tracks this weekend and steer their way through desert or road courses before heading to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for testing next week.
Robbie Gordon will compete in the SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge, which begins with qualifying today for racing on Saturday and Sunday.
Several of his Sprint Cup brethren will compete in the 24-hour road-course race beginning at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.
Among the teams competing in the Rolex 24 opener for the Grand-Am Sports Car series at Daytona are: defending prototype race winners Scott Pruett, Juan Pablo Montoya and Salvador Duran; Jimmie Johnson, Jon Fogarty and Jimmy Vasser; and Kurt Busch, Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe and Wayne Taylor.
Gordon, whose racing career began in the desert, will challenge two-time Laughlin winner B.J. Baldwin and series champion Rob MacCachren in the SCORE Trophy Truck division.
Times will be combined from each race over the six-mile loop course to determine event winners.
Gordon won’t have a long ride to the speedway when two days of Cup testing begins at 9 a.m. Monday. It will be the first time Las Vegas fans can see veteran open-wheel racers and Cup rookies Dario Franchitti, Patrick Carpentier and Sam Hornish Jr. drive Cup cars on the 1.5-mile tri-oval.
Every Cup team will be at the test, which will feature the first time most have been able to drive the new-generation Cup car at Las Vegas.
Admission is free to the grandstand, but no access will be permitted into the Neon Garage.
The Nationwide series (formerly Busch series) will test Wednesday and Thursday at the speedway.
• SUPERCROSS — Kawasaki’s James Stewart had surgery Wednesday to repair his injured knee and will miss the rest of the AMA Supercross season, preventing him from defending his series title.
The 22-year-old rider injured his knee while practicing last month but won the second race of the season.
Chad Reed has won twice and leads the standings heading into Saturday’s race in San Francisco.
• NASCAR — Bill Elliott, the 1998 Cup series champion, will drive 17 races this year in the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Ford. The March 2 race in Las Vegas is not on his schedule. …
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the focus of a five-part TV series that begins Feb. 8 on ESPN2 (Cable 31). “Dale Jr. — Shifting Gears” chronicles his move this season from Dale Earnhardt Inc. to Hendrick Motorsports.
• DRAG RACING — The NHRA announced Thursday that a Sept. 11 to 14 Powerade Drag Racing Series event will take place at the dragstrip being built at Lowe’s Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C. The new event expands the series schedule to 24 events, including two at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The Lowe’s track is the fourth owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc., including LVMS, to host NHRA national events. …
This weekend’s Pacific Street Car Association Winternationals at the LVMS dragstrip has been canceled because of inclement weather around the country that would have kept many teams from competing.
• NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS — Monday’s third annual Mel Larson Night of Champions at Bally’s will honor Dr. Dale Carrison for his contribution to Southern Nevada motor sports.
Carrison, the chairman of emergency services at University Medical Center, is the medical director at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and has worked extensively with desert racing.
NASCAR driver Kyle Petty will be the featured speaker.
Tickets are $250 to $400, with proceeds going to the Las Vegas chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities. Call 644-4444 for information.