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SAXTON: Allison, Late Model stars coming to Georgetown Speedway

Hall of Famer Donnie Allison will be there. On Friday, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series makes its second-ever stop in the state of Delaware with the Melvin L. Joseph Memorial at Georgetown Speedway.

The nation’s top Super Late Model stars converge for a massive $19,049 winner’s share for 49 laps around the progressively banked four-tenths-mile oval.

The legendary Allison — a 2024 inductee into the NASCAR Hall of Fame — has been named the Grand Marshal for the Melvin L. Joseph Memorial.

Allison, a member of the “Alabama Gang” and ambassador for the sport for more than 50 years, will be on hand to meet fans and share stories from his career.

Allison will sign autographs from 5-6 p.m. in the grandstand area on Race Day. He will also address the crowd before Opening Ceremonies.

Allison was the 1967 Cup Series Rookie of the Year after getting his start in Modifieds and working his way to the top level of auto racing. Allison won the 1970 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, N.C., and finished fourth in the Indianapolis 500 the next weekend, the best combined finish in the two-race crossover that still stands today.

Allison, of course, is best known for his role in NASCAR’s most famous moment involving his brother Bobby: the 1979 fight with Cale Yarborough in the Daytona 500 during the first nationally televised NASCAR event. I was there to see that race and the fight.

The record books credit Donnie Allison with 10 victories, 28 poles and 78 top-five finishes on the Cup level, not to mention hundreds of victories on the short tracks of the Southeast.

Last August, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series made its rousing debut at Georgetown with Ricky Thornton Jr. picking up a dramatic victory. Thornton sits atop the standings as the series returns April 26.

The Lucas field will be boosted by NASCAR Cup Series star Ross Chastain, who will sign autographs at 6 p.m. and plans to compete in the event with a Ken Adams-backed Super Late Model in the event.

Andretti has F1 plans for 2026

Andretti Global is continuing to plan as though it will be racing in Formula One from 2026 and would be “100 percent” ready to join the grid, according to former Nazareth, Pa., resident Michael Andretti.

In January, F1 announced it had rejected the proposed Andretti-Cadillac F1 entry for 2025 or 2026, saying the team would neither be competitive nor contribute commercial value to the sport. It left the door open for 2028, by which point Cadillac’s parent company, General Motors, has committed to build its own power unit.

Andretti responded by saying it “strongly disagreed” with F1’s assessment of its entry, which had already been approved by the FIA, and that it would continue its work to join the grid “at pace.”

Recently Andretti formally opened its new Silverstone satellite factory that it plans to use as the European base for its F1 team. The 48,000 square foot site will work in conjunction with its planned global headquarters in Fishers, Indiana, where the F1 car would be built and manufactured, as well as with GM’s base in North Carolina.

Andretti F1 staff members attended an address given by Michael Andretti, the CEO and chairman of Andretti Global, and his father, Mario, the 1978 F1 world champion, to mark the official opening of the site.

Michael Andretti said in his address that entering F1 would “complete our goal” of competing in every top line racing series, expanding beyond its involvement in seven series including IndyCar, Formula E and Supercars.

He told The Athletic the opening of the factory was “a big step to show the commitment that we’re going to have” to F1, as well as helping create jobs. The team has already recruited talent from many of the existing F1 teams, and plans to eventually grow from its current headcount of around 120 to 400 at the new facility.

Andretti believes the go-ahead from F1 would accelerate the hiring process. “Once the people hear that it’s approved, the ones that are sitting on the sidelines are going to start jumping real fast,” he said.

“We need that to happen sooner than later, obviously, because we still have a big job to do. But in the meantime, we’re pretty far down the road.

“I think you’d be amazed to see how far we are with car development and things like that. It’s been really impressive.”

Prior to the rejection by F1 in January, Andretti revealed its extensive preparations included the running of a prototype F1 car model in the wind tunnel. It also plans to have a full-scale prototype F1 car designed by the end of this year.

Asked if an F1 car would be ready to race for 2026, Andretti said: “Absolutely, 100 percent. No question.” He added the team was “100 percent planning” for this eventuality.

The existing 10 F1 teams have always been lukewarm about Andretti’s aspirations, fearing the financial impact a possible dilution of the prize money could have on their business models.

Force in contention

The last time John Force, the winningest driver in NHRA history, won a race was three days before his 73rd birthday: May 1, 2022 in the 4-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, N.C.

Recently at Firebird Motorsports Park, Force gave himself an early 75th birthday present, capturing the rain-postponed final round of the Lucas Oil Winternationals, originally contested in Pomona, Calif., but which was rescheduled to be part of this weekend’s Arizona Nationals.

“Right now, I’m alive,” sad Force, driver of the PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car. “I was going to quit this morning and walk out the gate. And now I’ve changed my mind. I told Prock (young teammate Austin Prock), ‘John don’t quit.’”

The 156th win (4.033 seconds/318.24 mph) of Force’s legendary career came against one of his chief rivals, four-time Funny Car champ Matt Hagan (4.048 seconds/283.61 mph).

“I’m really excited to have pulled this off,” Force said with a big smile on his face. “I didn’t imagine there’d be drivers like Prock, Robert Hight, like Hagan, like (Ron) Capps. I mean, I’m too old to even race these kids. It’s exciting. I give it all I have and push the limits wherever I can.”

The 16-time Funny Car champion then thanked John Force Racing president and 3-time Funny Car champ Robert Hight, who has been sidelined this season.

“Robert, thank you for everything you’ve done when I’m struggling, sending me back for new glasses, doing everything to get this old man back in the game,” Force said of Hight.

Force dedicated the win to friend and former sponsor, the late Frank Tiegs, who passed away in February. Force still keeps a sticker from one of Tiegs’ companies, Flav-R-Pac, on his race car to honor his late friend. Force was one of approximately 1,700 attendees of a Celebration of Life in memory of Tiegs a short time back in Kennewick, Wash.

Force has come into the 2024 season with a renewed level of inspiration and motivation, still hungry for his 17th NHRA Funny Car championship (his last was in 2013).

Force may turn 75 on May 4th, but he’s driving – and now winning – as if he was back in his 30s.

“I better take it now,” he quipped when asked if Saturday’s win was an early birthday present to himself. “I just realized I’m going to be 75 in another month, May 4, and I’m doing some serious thinking where I’m going. But my mood’s changing right now.”

Force remains the most popular driver in the sport, a lofty position he has held for nearly 30 years. While he’s mulled retirement, Saturday’s wild cheers and standing ovation from fans in the sold-out crowd just may prompt Force to stick around longer.

“Probably the best thing about today was the sold out crowd, yeah, I love that,” Force said. “I told myself, ‘How bad do you want to win?’ I was mad, mad at myself. I started saying you just need to get out of the seat, you’re just too old for this stuff.

“Or you get out there and fight the fight. And I did, things went right and I got the win. So I’m excited.”

Although the win came at Firebird Motorsports Park, it was the conclusion of the Winternationals race that started two weeks ago in Pomona, Calif. As such, it will be credited as the eighth time Force has won the Winternationals in his career.

“What I’m saying is that to have a day like this, first of all at my age, I can’t remember the first (win). I think it was in Montreal (June 28, 1987). But then you get something like this and all of a sudden, your life’s back. I can see my wife looking at me at the other end (of the track) with the two (grandsons). I can see that gleam back in her eye ‘cuz she was happy for me.

“She knows what I go through in the middle of the night, setting up in the bed and she’ll say, ‘John, the race is three days away, go to sleep.’ I’ve done it all a million times. And boy, it gets old. But then this fixes you.

“You know, I just can’t believe I’m still doing this. But man, I love it so much. And if I quit, that’s what really scares me.”

So Force tells himself simply, “Don’t quit. I don’t want to do that.”

Grandview docket

Racing coming up at Grandview Speedway includes this Saturday — T.P. Trailer Modifieds, T.P. Truck Equipment Sportsman — at 6 p.m.

The April 19 racing program at Williams Grove Speedway was cancelled due to rain showers and inclement weather. They return to action on Friday, April 26 with the first Yellow Breeches 500 race of the season for the Lawrence Chevrolet 410 sprint cars.

Limited Late Models will also be on the racing card, competing in a Topless 25, paying $2,500 to win.

Lincoln Speedway offers 410 Sprints along with 358 Sprints. 6 PM on Saturday, April 27.

Bridgeport, NJ Speedway has an April 27th show that includes Modifieds, MASS Sprints, Sportsman, NEWS Sprints, Street Stocks and Rookies with warm-ups at 5 p.m.

Ernie Saxton is an auto racing contributor for MediaNews Group. He co-founded the Eastern Motorsports Press Association, served as public relations director for Grandview Speedway for 47 years, and is in multiple halls of fame for his promotion and journalism related to the sport. He has announced races at more than 100 tracks, and he is the only person to have announced a race at Madison Square Garden. Email him at ESaxton144@aol.com.


Source: Berkshire mont

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