Here are a few thoughts after a long and winding weekend on the racing trail:
•Obviously, I would be very remiss if I didn’t start out with the horrible news from the NHRA on the passing of champion drag racer Scott Kalitta.
Kalitta lost his life in a tragic crash that occurred in the final round of qualifying for the Lucas Oil Supernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J. Saturday.
Kalitta was a second-generation racer, following in the footsteps of the legendary “Bounty Hunter,” Connie Kalitta. Scott was a two-time NHRA Top Fuel champ, picking up 18 wins in his career. He’s one of only 14 drivers to earn victories in both Top Fuel and Funny Car nitro categories.
Kalitta was a formidable opponent. He was a racer’s racer, one that would fight hard in every round for the win. Those who knew him outside of the car say not only was he a great driver, but a great father and person.
Kalitta was scheduled to face off against Robert Hight in the first round of final eliminations on Sunday. Hight made a solo run, with Kalitta’s crew members standing at the starting line where Scott’s car would have been.
Hight slowly idled his car down the quarter-mile strip in honor of Scott, as the fans applauded.
It was a powerful tribute to a competitor who wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Scott Kalitta was 46 years of age. He leaves behind a wife and two sons. He will be missed by his friends, his family and his fans.
•How much fun was it on Sunday to finally get to see what Marcos Ambrose can do in a Sprint Cup Car? The likeable driver from Tasmania, Australia, drove the Wood Brothers Ford like a champ at Infineon Raceway, until his transmission went south on lap 83, relegating him to a 42nd place finish.
Despite that, Ambrose had a smile on his face afterwards. Other than an on-track run in with Juan Pablo Montoya, and getting punted by Elliott Sadler, the former Australian V-8 series champion carried the Wood Brothers banner high, giving them one of their most competitive outings of the year.
Ambrose has worked his way up since debuting in the Craftsman Truck series in 2006, where he recorded two top five and four top ten finishes. Last year, he recorded one top five and six top tens in his first year in Nationwide series competition, including a controversial near miss for the win at Montreal. So far this year in the Nationwide series, he has one top five and three top tens in 17 events.
While his background in Australia comes on road courses, he has shown himself a diverse racer by adapting quickly to the daunting oval tracks that make up NASCAR’s top three series. He has a fourth place finish at Memphis, a sixth at Kentucky, and a sixth place finish at the grueling Darlington Raceway.
Ambrose will make Sunday a lot more interesting once he moves up to the Sprint Cup Series full time, that’s for sure.
•There have been arguments for years among sports buffs as to the athleticism of automobile racers.
I think this may help to put any doubters to rest. For years it’s been known that one of the big factors a racer has to battle over the course of a race is heat.
This weekend, according to ESPN, NASCAR monitored in-car temperatures during qualifying at Infineon Raceway.
The temperature inside Brian Vickers’ car reportedly reached 130 degrees, while another less insulated car reached 105 degrees.
Temperatures in the old car used in the Cup series reportedly had gotten as high as 148 degrees.
The closest you can come to experiencing that would be to go down the interstate on a 95-degree day, roll up all your windows and turn your heater on at full tilt for three and a half hours.