Time for mid-week races? Jeff Gordon thinks so

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With the NBA and NHL having completed its seasons and the NFL still about a month away from the start of its preseason schedule, there would seem to be an opportunity for NASCAR, IndyCar, or any other form of racing to gain new fans with the concept of mid-week races.

Count Jeff Gordon among the ones that like the idea. The four-time Sprint Cup champion spent his early career in the USAC ranks, where mid-week races are common. It also bears noting that NASCAR’s lower-level Camping World Truck Series is slated to run two Wednesday night events this season.

But in comments made to the Associated Press earlier this week, Gordon believes that NASCAR isn’t ready to consider the idea for its top-tier Cup category because of…well, one thing or another, apparently.

“It seems like every time I talk to NASCAR about doing a weekly race or one midweek, they say, ‘Oh well, if you do it on this day, you won’t get as many people coming to the track, so the track suffers,’ and ‘If you do it on this day, then maybe the track does well but then the people at home won’t watch it because of this,'” he said. “So it always seems to be some kind of obstacle.”

It must be said that Gordon isn’t advocating for the idea of mid-week racing to be a regular occurrence, but rather something that can perhaps surround a big event or a holiday to make it worthwhile – like the 4th of July for example.

There’s a reason why the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway was once called the Firecracker 400. From 1959 to 1987, NASCAR’s mid-summer return to Daytona always ran on July 4, regardless of the day of the week.

But from 1988 onward, the race was moved to the first Saturday of July, closest to Independence Day. Since then, Daytona’s 400-miler has only ran twice on July 4 (1992, 2009).

“I am not saying we need to do it every week, but if we could find the right week in the schedule and mix it up, make it special, and make it make sense for the fans at home as well as the ones that could attend, then I think it would be awesome,” Gordon said.

“I think July 4th might make sense because everybody is off on that day and looking for something to do. Of course, we are not off, but I think that is why it could work.”

Theriault clinches ARCA title before finale at Kansas

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) There is no long, convoluted story about how Austin Theriault came to Ken Schrader Racing, forging a team that so dominated the ARCA Series that it captured the title simply by showing up for the finale.

“We both wanted something to do,” the folksy Schrader said with a smile and shrug before Friday night’s race at Kansas Speedway. “He didn’t have a car to drive and I didn’t have a driver.”

So, they solved each other’s problem.

Theriault hopped into the seat and proceeded to win seven times over the first 19 races, building such a lead on his nearest challenger that he sewed up the title at Kentucky. And that made for a rather enjoyable weekend at Kansas, where all the pressure was off their team.

Along the way, Theriault became the first driver to win at a superspeedway, short track, dirt track and road event in the same season, and he swept the superspeedway and short-track challenges.

If there was something to win, he won it.

“I hoped we’d have a shot at it and it’s proved out this year that we’ve really exceeded anybody’s expectations,” Theriault said. “We had some things to work on early. We kind of dusted off a bit, went back to work. We had some time between Daytona and the mile-and-a-halfs that came up later in the season, and we realized where we were strong and where we had to work.

“But in the end it came back to pure dedication, I think,” he explained. “The amount of time it took behind the scenes to make this happen.”

The 23-year-old driver from Fort Kent, Maine, knows something about dedication. He appeared to be on racing’s fast track, scoring a Truck Series ride a few years ago for Brad Keselowski, when a terrifying crash at Las Vegas left him with a broken back and sitting on the sidelines.

The best ride he could find last year was in the K&N Pro Series.

It was at a trade show in Indianapolis last December that Theriault ran into Schrader, who was busy putting together a team for this season. They had dinner a couple nights later and, Schrader said, it was his wife Ann who came away impressed by the yes-sir, no-sir driver.

“My wife doesn’t go to all the races,” Schrader said. “After we talked she said, `I like that guy. How good is he?’ She doesn’t know. I knew he was racing well in Keselowski’s truck, had an unfortunate wreck, had to sit out a bit. I told her, `That’s somebody who could make us very happy next year.”‘

Theriault delivered on that promise.

They weren’t the only ones happy Friday, either. Zane Smith earned his second pole of the season, beating teammate Sheldon Creed to earn the top spot for the Kansas ARCA 150, while 20-year-old Natalie Decker announced a full-time ride with Venturini Motorsports next season.

“This is obviously a big step in my career,” said Decker, who made six starts as a rookie this season. “I’m confident and ready for this next move. After tonight my focus shifts to next season. We’ll be ready to go at Daytona.”