State NHRA schedule remains same

Jane Miller

The U.S. Nationals is the NHRA's biggest race and often teams save a season's worth of major announcements for the festivities.

And yes, there are some big ones coming out of Indianapolis this weekend.

One piece of news of major interest to fans locally is the release of the series' 2008 schedule.

The Illinois races are at the same times as this year, with the Gateway race at Madison on May 2-4 and the Route 66 Raceway race at Joliet on June 5-8.

There is a TBA slot Sept. 11-14, which will go to a new, unnamed venue. This is an addition to the schedule rather than a replacement for another race, so the series now numbers 24 events, at least for 2008.

The new race will include Pro Stock Motorcycles, which increases the number of competitions in that class to 17.

The schedule begins and ends, as always, at Pomona, Calif.

Silly Season also is in full force in the series. Melanie Troxell is leaving Top Fuel and will join her husband, Tommy Johnson Jr., in the Funny Car ranks next year. She'll be a teammate to Mike Ashley.

J.R. Todd also is moving on, says NHRA.com's Rod Geiger, because his current team is running a limited schedule next year. Among the options he's exploring is joining Kenny Bernstein's team.

HONORING ERIC:

John Force announced this week the creation of the Eric Medlen Project, designed to enhance race car safety in all forms of motorsports.

At the announcement, Force also unveiled a life-size bronze statue that has been placed outside Force's Brownsburg, Ind., race complex.

A room at the complex has been dedicated to Medlen's memory.

NUMBERS GAME:

Not to discuss the Dale Earnhardt Jr. number saga to the point of nausea, but there was news this week that Hendrick Motorsports had asked for patents on a number of numbers, including the 38.

38. What a perfect number. Unfortunately, it's in use right now by Robert Yates Racing.

Still, one of the rumors circulating is Yates might be willing to relinquish the number. A nice gesture, to be sure.

Late this week, however, Robert's son, Doug, said that was not likely to happen.

'It's almost a little strange. It's like somebody asking if they can take your girlfriend or your wife out,' Doug Yates told ESPN.com. 'We feel we're going to have the 38 and 88 (next year).'

Yates' affection for the number would be one thing if RYR had any kind of long history with the 38. But it hasn't. In fact, the 38 really only came into being at RYR after a series of tragedies befell the drivers of the team's signature number, 28, and Yates decided to make a clean start with the 38 in 2003 when Elliott Sadler joined the team.

Should the quest for that number come to nothing for Earnhardt, Hendrick Motorsports requested patents on the numbers 51, 58, 81 and 82 as well as the 38.

The story continues.

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HONORING HERB:

The Peoria Oldtimers Racing Club will have its 18th annual reunion and vintage stock car meet Sept. 9 at Peoria Speedway.

The day will include races and a special tribute to Peoria racing legend Herb Shannon on his 77th birthday.

All of the track's regular divisions will race along with the Vintage Illinois State Championships with Shannon competing in his 1972 Chevelle.

There also will be King of the Hill pursuit races, a mechanics race, a powder puff race and grudge races.

Gates open at 11 a.m. with racing from 1-5 p.m. Admission is $1.

Jane Miller

is Journal Star motorsports columnist. Write her at 1 News Plaza, Peoria, IL 61643, call (309) 686-3207 or e-mail jmiller@pjstar.com.?