Fuel and Tires

All about auto racing with Gazette staffer Dave von Falkenstein.

Fuel & Tires: IndyCar returns to Road America; Stewart's lawsuit; local race results

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Dave von Falkenstein
August 12, 2015

The Sprint Cup Series had an exciting road course race last weekend while IndyCar announced the return of an old friend and NASCAR legend Buddy Baker lost his battle with cancer.


Verizon IndyCar Series fans around the state of Wisconsin got a welcome announcement over the weekend when it was confirmed that Road America in Elkhart Lake will be back on the schedule next season. The track, which hosted IndyCar from 1982 through 2004 and from 2006-2007, is regarded as one of the best road courses in North America, if not the world.

Personally, my dad and I have been to quite a few IndyCar races at the track, our first time in 1994 when Jacques Villeneuve won and immediately ran out of gas just past the start/finish line. We were also there when eventual three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti got his first series win at the track in 1998 and when Paul Tracy won in 2000 after losing power coming to the green flag and fell back to last place.

One of the great things about the picturesque track located in the Kettle Moraine area is the many vantage points where one can enjoy the racing action. You can pretty much walk anywhere within the interior of the 4-mile track and it seems like you're watching multiple different races.

The series is scheduled to be at the track the weekend of June 25-26 with IndyCar running on Sunday and the Pirelli World Championship race taking place Saturday. Be sure to check it out!


For the second and final time this season, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series raced on a road course. Joey Logano sealed the deal Sunday after running out of gas the previous week at Pocono by winning the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International. Logano completed a weekend sweep at the track by also winning the Xfinity Series race on Saturday.

Kyle Busch, looking to sweep the road course races after winning at Sonoma in June, finished second and cracked the top 30 in points and will now make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Points leader Kevin Harvick led the most laps but finished third. Jeff Gordon's run for a series-record fifth win at the track fell apart as Gordon experienced brake issues and finished 41st, his worst finish ever at the track.

If you ask me, I think NASCAR needs to add a road course to the ten race Chase for the Sprint Cup. The eventual series champion would have to be able to run well on all types of courses the series races on. Imagine that!


The family of Kevin Ward Jr., the driver who was stuck and killed by Tony Stewart during a sprint car race in New York last year, named Stewart in a wrongful death lawsuit filed Friday.

Ward was killed last August at Canandaigua Motorsports Park when he got out of his car after wrecking and ran toward Stewart's car as he Stewart drove around under caution. Ward was then struck by Stewart's car and pronounced dead about 45 minutes later due to massive blunt force trauma. Stewart was not criminally charged in Ward's death.

The lawsuit doesn't specify the amount of damages sought by the Ward family in claims of wrongful death, reckless conduct, gross negligence and Ward's suffering between the time he was struck and his death. The lawsuit further states that “Stewart could have easily acted reasonably and with prudence to avoid striking Ward, just as all other drivers had done as they passed Ward during the yellow caution flag.”

I think this sad story just needs to go away. It seems like a money grab by a grieving family who are looking for somebody to blame and have targeted Stewart. It was reported that Ward had marijuana in his system at the time of his death, so how can his family expect Stewart to be held responsible? Anybody who follows racing could tell you it was just an unfortunate accident. I honestly don't think there's any way Stewart would be that reckless on purpose.


NASCAR great Buddy Baker died Monday at age 74 after a short battle with cancer. Baker won 19 races over his 34-year NASCAR career, including the 1980 Daytona 500. He was the first driver to exceed the 200 mph mark during a closed course test run at Talladega Superspeedway in 1970.

Nicknamed the 'Gentle Giant' because of his 6-foot-6 stature, Baker was a commentator for NASCAR races both on TV and radio following his retirement from driving. He recently co-hosted a show two nights a week on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Baker announced July 7 that he had inoperable lung cancer and was immediately leaving the network.


—At Madison International Speedway last Friday, Sun Prairie's Rusty Hansen won the Late Model feature while Stoughton's Dan Snyder took the Bandits feature, Beloit's Robert Hansberry won the Sportsman feature and Madison's Roy Sleeder won the 6Shooters feature. Action continues Friday with the Late Model, Sportsman, Bandit and Legends divisions as well as the first annual school bus jump. Gates open at 6 p.m. with racing starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 adults, $10 seniors, $8 students ages 12-17 and free for kids ages 11 and younger. Get tickets here.

—Racing at Rockford Speedway last Saturday saw Daryl Gerke win the Late Model feature while Brett McCoy won the Sportsman feature, Dennis Smith Jr. won the Roadrunner event for the second straight week and Justin Mikel won the Hornet feature. This Saturday will see a full roster of races by the Late Model, Sportsman, Short Tracker and Road Runner divisions. Gates open at 5 p.m. with racing at 7:05 p.m. Tickets are $12 adults, $8 students ages 12-17 and $5 kids ages 6-11. Get tickets here.

—Action at Jefferson Speedway on Saturday includes Late Model, Sportsman, International, Hobby Stock, Road Warrior and Bandit division races. Gates open at 3 p.m. with time trials at 5 p.m. and racing at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 adults, $8 seniors and students ages 12-15 and $4 kids ages 8-11.

Dave von Falkenstein is a digital content coordinator for The Gazette and an auto racing fan. Follow him on Twitter at @achtungvon or email him at [email protected].

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