Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson, Steve Kinser among those taking part in this week’s Winter Heat Showdown

4 Comments

A pair of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars and the “King of the Outlaws” will serve as marquee names for this week’s inaugural running of the Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown in Arizona.

Hendrick Motorsports veteran Kasey Kahne, reigning Sprint Cup rookie of the year Kyle Larson, and World of Outlaws icon Steve Kinser will be among those racing at the Cocopah Speedway.

The five-night run begins tomorrow and Saturday, then resumes next Tuesday (Jan. 6), and then closes out next Friday and Saturday (Jan. 9-10).

“This is going to be a treat,” track director of operations Greg Burgess told the Yuma (Ariz.) Sun. “I mean, watching Kasey and Kyle in a sprint car…That is going to be special. That’s where they got their start; it’s what they love to do. And they are going up against the best of the best in Steve Kinser, not to mention a bunch of other drivers who are also top tier talent.”

Due to testing commitments with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Rolex 24 program at Daytona International Speedway, Larson will only be competing on three of the five days (tomorrow, Saturday, and next Tuesday). He’ll be racing for the sprint car squad he co-owns, Larson Marks Racing, with this little Plan B Sales/Target-backed beauty:

Not to be outdone is Kahne, who will carry the Great Clips colors into the desert for his own Kasey Kahne Racing outfit:

View this post on Instagram

2015 @GreatClips car ready for AZ #kkwinterheat

A post shared by Kasey Kahne (@kaseykahne) on

Then there’s Steve Kinser, who finished full-time driving last season but will continue on a part-time schedule in 2015 for Tony Stewart Racing:

Sneak Peak: The King's 2015 ride. Debuting with the Winter Heat Series on Jan. 2,3,6,9,10 at Cocopah Speedway!!

Posted by Tony Stewart Racing on Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Speaking of Stewart, Burgess says that the three-time NASCAR champion is expected to be in attendance for the event. According to Burgess, Stewart first raised the possibility of a winter series at Cocopah to him back in the spring of 2013.

Stewart initially planned to be part of Winter Heat as a driver but that was before his involvement in the Aug. 9 sprint car accident in New York State that killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr.

“We are not expecting to see Tony in a sprint car,” Burgess notes. “Yes, it’s an unfortunate circumstance, but everyone understands and respects Tony’s position, and we are moving forward with the show he wanted to see happen.

“This was his idea, and we are going to do our best to make it an event everyone will remember and can’t wait to get back to in 2016.”

Other top sprint car drivers set to race this week at Cocopah include Turkey Night Grand Prix winner Christopher Bell, reigning USAC midget series champ Rico Abreu, former Outlaws champ Danny Lasoski, and more.

An IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Talladega? Drivers have discussed it

David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

If Dale Earnhardt Jr. is interested in an IndyCar iRacing event on an oval, he might like the latest idea being kicked around by NTT Series drivers.

“I personally would want to run at Talladega, but I don’t think that’s an option,” Arrow McLaren SP driver rookie Oliver Askew told NBCSports.com in a Friday interview about his simulation work for the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “IndyCar drivers have a group chat with iRacing, and someone had the idea of running at Talladega, and I thought it was brilliant.”

It actually would be a throwback of sorts as a USAC-sanctioned race with Indy cars at Talladega nearly happened 40 years ago.

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will be running its second consecutive road course Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or streaming here).

Of the four remaining races in the six-race series, there’s a chance that three of them could be ovals: A Drivers’ Choice track April 11; a “Random Draw” April 18 and a non-IndyCar “Dream” track May 2 (the April 25 race will be at Circuit of the Americas).

ENTRY LIST: Who will be racing at Barber

SPOTTER GUIDE: All 29 of this weekend’s paint schemes

IndyCar drivers are voting on next week’s track, and the options include high-speed ovals such as Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan Speedway.

A multicar crash at Talladega last October. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Talladega apparently isn’t on the list for next week, but surely it could be considered for a future race if it meant having Earnhardt in the field. The 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver is a six-time winner at Talladega, and the NASCAR on NBC analyst’s family is synonymous with the 2.66-mile oval where his late seven-time champion father won a record 10 times.

“I hope he can make that happen,” Askew said of racing against Earnhardt. “I hope IndyCar can grant his wish on that.”

The addition of Earnhardt would fit well with an IndyCar iRacing Challenge that already features champions from NASCAR (Jimmie Johnson) and Supercars (Scott McLaughlin).

Will Power would like to see more of that.

“I think that would be great if we can get big-name drivers from other series,” Power said. “Getting a couple guys from Europe would be cool.”