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Auto racing’s biggest day is here again

Updated May 27, 2017 - 10:20 am

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, a time for Americas to pay homage and respect to those who have given their lives on fields of battle so the rest of us can live as free men, women and children.

It’s also a time for auto racing fans to start their engines and get totally buzzed on engine exhaust.

With the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 on tap and, for those who rise really early or stay out really late, Formula One’s Monaco Grand Prix on the other side of the pond, Sunday is the biggest day of the year in motorsports.

In keeping with the pedal-to-the-metal theme, today’s Insider is dedicated to the pursuit of speed in its various forms, with the caveat that not a single sponsor will be thanked:

Open-road warrior

Stock car racing fans with grease under their fingernails may recall the No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevy that journeyman driver Joe Nemechek once wheeled on the NASCAR circuit. Or they may not. Anyway, a modified version of that car helped an electrical contractor from Tucson, Arizona, set a speed record at the Nevada Open Road Challenge (a companion event to September’s Silver State Classic) last weekend.

“It’s obviously pretty intense and pretty exciting,” Bob Allyn, 60, said after averaging a center-stripe blistering 219.643 mph — a lot faster than Joe Nemechek ever drove that car — on a 90-mile sprint over Nevada State Route 318 from Lund to Hiko that took just 24 minutes, 35 seconds. The previous record was 217.557 mph, set by Jim Peruto in a modified Dodge Charger.

The car looks almost identical to Nemechek’s 2001 Monte Carlo, with the exception that Allyn put a decal of his name where Nemechek’s was. After Andy Petrie shuttered his NASCAR team, Allyn said Nemechek’s car was used for ride-alongs at Texas Motor Speedway and then was sold a couple of times.

“I bought it from a guy in Texas who wanted to put headlights on it and drive it around Houston,” said Allen, who described himself as a 24-year-mind trapped in a 60-year-old body. “By the time he got home, reality set in.”

Three cars for Schmidt

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, the IndyCar race team headed by Henderson’s Sam Schmidt, will have three starters in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. The team has been relatively quiet compared to last May, when SPM’s James Hinchcliffe started on the pole for the celebrated 100th running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Hinchcliffe will roll off the grid 17th Sunday, and experienced an engine failure during the traditional Carburetion Day final practice on Friday — usually not a good omen for race day (although Hinchcliffe’s crew finished second in Friday’s pit stop challenge). Teammates Mikhail Aleshi and Jay Howard, who is driving the third Schmidt entry with an assist from retired NASCAR star Tony Stewart, will start 13th and 20th, respectively.

On Thursday night, Schmidt presided over the Conquer Paralysis Now gala at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, the annual fundraiser of the Sam Schmidt Foundation to cure paralysis.

0:03

■ After driving in five Indy 500s and winning the 2013 race as a co-car owner with Tony Kanaan as driver, longtime Las Vegas resident Jimmy Vasser has been bumped from the field. The assets of KV Racing Technology, which produced six other victories over 13 seasons, were sold in February to Juncos Racing, a startup IndyCar team. Spencer Pigot will drive the familiar No. 11 car in Sunday’s race.

■ Las Vegan Kyle Busch made news at Charlotte Motor Speedway, site of Sunday night’s NASCAR Coca-Cola 600, when he revealed how much it costs to race in the Truck Series, and how much he is losing. “Our cost is 3.2 (million dollars) … and that number should be around 2,” Busch said of fielding one competitive race truck. “I wouldn’t say that the model is working for us.”

■ Upon reading that defending Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi was the first American rookie to win the race since Louis Meyer in 1928, R-J reader Donna Andress wanted to know a little more about Meyer, a longtime resident of Searchlight who was 91 when he died in 1995. How’s this, Donna: Not only was Louie Meyer the first three-time Indy winner, he invented the time-honored tradition of drinking milk in Victory Lane after finishing first in 1933.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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