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Cars n' Stars: Ford's New T-Bird, NASA Goes Road Racing, Force Sets Record and Loses

22 May 1998

There's been a lot of talk about the new 2000 Ford Thunderbird. As the
smoke clears and the buff book artists use their imaginations for the
styling of the new Bird, the concensus seems to maintain that it will
be a two-seater and have styling cues reminiscent of the 1957 models.
VW is doing it, why not FOMOCO?  Since the vehicle debuted in 1955,
Ford sold 4,148,716 T-Birds.

NASA racing? Well not THAT NASA, but the National Auto Sports
Association sanctioning body from Northern California.  According to
Prexy Jerry Kunzman this group races sports type cars for money and
fun and usually turn out over 150 cars in classes such as Renault
Sport, Mazda Challenge, Mustang/Camaro challenge and a variety of
sedan classes.  The shows--like the one last weekend at Pomona
Fairgrounds in California--are well run and well officiated. We all
know speed costs money.  NASA, says Kunzman, is for the racer that
wants to break even at the end of the season, hopefully getting a few
bucks from wins and sponsors.  NASA gave out $63,000 in 1997; they run
on road courses in California and Arizona.  On hand Sunday, co-driving
a Mazda with his son John, was SCCA legend Lee Mueller.  A few years
ago Lee fought a successful battle against heart ailments, even
surviving a heart transplant.  Lee now runs a fabrication shop in
Garden Grove, CA.

Speaking of racing legends, NHRA Funny Car pilot John Force went out
at Englishtown, N.J. last weekend and ran THE fastest quarter mile in
NHRA history at 323.35 mph.  While his terminal speed topped everyone
his ET was a tick slower than winner Cruz Pedregon who had an ET of
4.832 to Johns 4.843.

As pointed out here a few weeks ago, 1997 Trans Am winner Tommy
Kendall just can't seem to get a steady ride for this season.  His
four IROC appearances for this year, plus the possibility of two
NASCAR races on road courses are all he has.  He gets phone calls and
offers, but says the deal has to be with a competitive team. His 6'4"
inch frame doesn't help matters, at least as far as fitting into an
Indy type car is concerned.

Lots of great motorsports events coming up on the left coast.  June
6-7 the Gilmore Heritage show of old single seat racers will be held
at the Farmers Market in L.A.  On June 7 (not too far away from the
Gilmore cars) there's the annual LeCercle Concours d'Elegance at
Loyola Marymount college--this is one of the best west coast classic
car shows.  August 14-16 is THE vintage car weekend of the western
Hemisphere in Monterey, California.  Friday, August 14 it's the
Concours Italiano at Quail Lodge, and the honored marque is Alpha
Romeo.  It starts at noon, so go early and be willing to wait for
horrible traffic lines when you leave to go to Monterey for the Rick
Cole Auction, or to Laguna to glimpse Steve Earle's 25th annual
Monterey Historics vintage race weekend.  Friday you can see cars and
some practice. Saturday and Sunday it's all racing with 400 great cars
entered.  The honored Marque is Porsche; look for about 200 plus
Porsches on the track for their noontime parade. Very dramatic.  This
is Porsche's 50th anniversary.  For information: 916 362 3400.  Sunday
is the big Pebble Beach Concours day, and the honored marque at this
event is the American made Minerva.  Fantastic array of concours
automobiles. November 27-29 vintage car racing comes back to Palm
Springs, and this is always a great event. For info call (818)
787-3497.  The race weekend also will see a fashion show, Concours,
concerts and a charity golf tourney.  If you are thinking long range,
then call 888 954 2500 for info on Southern California's newest race
track, which will open in early 1999.  Irwindale Raceway is 35 miles
from L.A. and the builders say the 1/2 mile and 1/3 mile oval will be
the best in the west and will feature stocks, modifieds, Sprinters,
Midgets, Legends, you name it, plus concerts.

Everyone knows that Mercedes Benz bought Chrysler, and the deal is
probably set.  A fly has been found in the ointment, however.  An
outfit in Maryland that owns a few shares has filed suit to block the
sale saying Chrysler should get more money.

Nigel Mansell is joining a British Touring Car championship team and
will be driving a Ford Mondeo. In his first practice sessions his was a
tick back of his teammates Will Hoy and Craig Baird. In FIA Touring cars
it's still the Mercedes CLK-GTR dominating.  They won the season opener
at the Oestrichring. Have you wondered how the producers of the NASCAR
Hollywood bash at the Wiltern theatre selected the "Hollywood stars" to
participate in the event?  I have. Actor Martin Sheen said he's never
seen an auto race.  

The Goodwood, England festival of speed takes place June 12-14, and
the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is sending two cars to this
international affair--the 1950 Cummins Diesel racer and the 1968 Lotus
56 Turbine.  

The Nissan Infiniti motor will power two cars (out of 33) at Indy this
coming Sunday, but Lyn St. James' Infiniti/Dallara will not be one of

Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel