Motorsports column for May 6, 2000

I can tell the racing season is heating up by the frequent flyer miles I'm starting to accumulate. I'm starting my fifth season as announcer/publicist for the American City Racing League (ACRL), which has aligned itself with the new Grand American road racing series for the 2000 season.

Grand American has backing from the France Family and NASCAR, and the Daytona Rolex 24 hour race was the inaugural event for the new series. So I'll find myself not only all over the West this season, but also at several Eastern races, including this weekend's Miami-Homestead event.

Unfortunately it means I'll miss the Outlaw Kart season opener at Fuji Park tonight, but you can go for me and tell me who won.

A little added attraction for the Miami race is the fact that a couple of NASCAR Busch Grand Natiolnal series regulars will be getting some road course experience for the upcoming Watkins Glen Busch race.

Lyndon Amick and Hank Parker Jr. flew to Miami after Friday's Busch race at Richmond International Raceway to take part in the Motorola Cup race at the Miami combination road/oval course. They will co-drive a Team Amick Motorsports Dodge Viper, reprising their performance in the Daytona 24 hour race.

Amick's older brother David is a full-time participant in the Motorola Cup series, and currently leads the points in the Super Grand Sports class. Could this be the beginning of a crossover of NASCAR's stock car pilots to the road racing series?

- NASCAR dropped the first shoe on the Penske-Kranefuss Winston Cup team and Jeremy Mayfield on Tuesday, announcing penalties assessed against the team for using an illegal fuel additive in the April 16 Talladega race.

The decision was delayed until after the Fontana race (which Mayfield won) because NASCAR sent fuel samples to an independent outside lab for verification, wanting to be scrupulously fair. Team owner Michael Kranefuss was fined $50,000, crew chief Peter Sospenzo was suspended until June 6, and Mayfield was stripped of 151 driver points, the 126 he scored at Talladega plus another 25 ... call it punitive damages.

Said NASCAR Competition Director Mike Helton, "You remember when your father took off his belt. The first two whacks were for what you'd done. The third one was so you wouldn't do it again."

Then on Thursday, NASCAR picked Sospenzo's pocket for another $25,000 for the roof on Mayfield's car being too low. The crew insisted it was because of the dance Jeremy did on the roof after the race, but NASCAR wasn't buying it. Dale Earnhardt's crew chief, Kevin Hamlin, was also fined $2000 for unspecified parts violatons at Fontana.

The ironic thing in the Talladega brouhaha is that the additive put into a fuel can by a crewman acting on his own (did the Warren commission write this report?) probably robbed the finely tuned restrictor-plate engine of power, causing Mayfield to drop through the field to 14th at the checker. Had NASCAR found that the engine had been purposely tuned to run better on more highly oxygenated fuel (the conspiracy theory), then Kranefuss, Mayfield, and a lot of other people would probably be continuing their racing careers in ARCA or ASA due to a lifetime ban from NASCAR.

Cheating, or "liberal rules interpretation," has always been lurking beneath the pristine surface that NASCAR likes to project.

Remember the flap last season, with Jack Roush accusing the Jeff Gordon team of using a chemical compound on their tires to make them stick better and last longer? Or Richard Petty's getting caught with an oversized engine a number of years ago? Or the nitrous oxide system discovered in A.J. Foyt's roll cage? Or Junior Johnson's large-diameter gas filler neck that held a couple of extra gallons?

Other common cheating methods in years past included concrete-filled tires to help a lightened car make the minimum weight, along with simulated gloves, helmets and rolls of duct tape made of lead and "carelessly" left in the car at weigh-in time.

NASCAR may be a lot more technically sophisticated at catching cheaters these days, but things were certainly more colorful 30 or 40 years ago.

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal motorsports columnist.

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