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RACING ROUNDUP | News and notes



Published: Fri, June 17, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Promotion: NASCAR and the All-American Soap Box Derby have teamed up to launch the first national advertising campaign centered around the derby. The print and broadcast spots will feature NASCAR Nextel Cup star Jimmie Johnson, last year's series runner-up and this year's points leader, who recently became the national spokesperson for the derby. The new campaign, titled "Wind Tunnel," is part of NASCAR's effort to raise awareness for the derby. A 30-second commercial created by Jump Co. of St. Louis, which will begin showing this month, shows Johnson assisting a group of children as they go through the steps of building a Soap Box Derby car. The spot is set to air during NASCAR race broadcasts on FOX, FX, NBC and TNT, as well as other NASCAR-related programming on Speed Channel.

Closing down: Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif., part of NASCAR's short-track racing program since 1977, will close at the end of the 2005 season. General manager Larry Collins, son of track founder Marion Collins, said the final race on the half-mile, high-banked paved oval will be Oct. 15. Cajon Speedway in El Cajon was closed prior to the start of the 2005 season and the closure of Mesa Marin will leave only Bakersfield Speedway, a third-mile Clay oval, operating in the area. NASCAR's Craftsman truck series was developed at Mesa Marin when a prototype was built by off-road racers Jimmy Smith, Dick Landfield, Jim Venable and Frank Vessels in 1994. Saturday night races will continue at Mesa Marin until the closing.

Diverse victory: Allison Duncan, who competes in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series at California's Stockton 99 Speedway as part of the Drive for Diversity program, won her first feature event last Saturday night in the track's Western Late Model class. Duncan's win marks the first victory by a Drive for Diversity participant since the program was founded in 2004. Duncan, of San Rafael, Calif., drives for team owners Bill McAnally and Richard Childress. "Winning my first race at Stockton 99 is just the best feeling. We've been close earlier in the season but we finally did it," Duncan said. "Our success on the track is due to the great driver development program between Bill McAnally Racing and Richard Childress Racing and their joint commitment to the Drive for Diversity initiative. This is great and we can't wait to do it again." The Drive for Diversity program, run by Access Marketing & amp; Communications, seeks to develop drivers and crew members. In 2005, eight drivers earned a place in the program and drive in either the weekly series or the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series. Twelve crew members from the program also earned jobs in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and NASCAR Busch Series.

First win: For Joey Logano, there was no victory champagne after his first professional win. At 15, Logano couldn't even drive himself home following his victory Saturday night on the half-mile oval at Mansfield (Ohio) Motorsports Speedway. The win came in Logano's second race in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series, just weeks after becoming eligible to run in the series. He is now the youngest driver to win in Pro Cup, breaking the record set by current NASCAR Nextel Cup regular Brian Vickers, who won a Pro Cup race in 2000 at 16. "This is awesome," Logano said. "I really didn't plan on winning this soon. I thought we might be able to win a race this year some time, but I never thought it would be in the second race that I ever ran. After the race, I didn't know what to do. It was a lot of fun. I never won a race that big, you know, a 250-lap race in a series that's so recognizable."

Ratings up: ESPN's coverage of the IndyCar Series Bombardier Learjet 500 last Saturday night from the Texas Motor Speedway averaged a 1.0 rating and 880,000 households, making it the network's highest-rated and most-viewed Indy Racing League telecast ever. It was a race full of stories as Tomas Scheckter beat Sam Hornish Jr. to the checkered flag by half a car length, Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon finished sixth as he fell short of his goal of a fourth straight victory and rookie sensation Danica Patrick finished 13th. The best previous IRL telecast on ESPN was the 2004 season-opening race from Miami-Homestead Speedway, which averaged an 0.9 rating and 809,000 households. Saturday's coverage was the first of five consecutive live IndyCar Series races on ESPN or ESPN2. Two of the four upcoming events will be in prime time, including ESPN2's telecast of the next race -- the Sun Trust Indy Challenge from Richmond International Raceway on Saturday, June 25. It was also announced that the 11 remaining 2005 IndyCar Series telecasts on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC will feature continuous coverage of race action during all national commercial breaks through use of a split screen. ESPN and ABC Sports introduced this innovation, called Side-by-Side, in the first two races of the season.

Associated Press




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