Sunday, June 03, 2001

Auto Racing Insider

Busch crowd could beat Bengals' record

By Tom Groschen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Kentucky Speedway officials believe they will set a Greater Cincinnati sports attendance record June 16 with their NASCAR Busch race, the Outback Steakhouse 300.

        Mark Cassis, speedway vice president, said nearly 60,000 seats have been sold. Grandstand capacity is 66,089. The largest recorded crowd in Cincinnati sports history was 64,006 for the Bengals-Browns opener at new Paul Brown Stadium last September.

        Unofficially, the record was set at an Indy-style automobile race May 30, 1917, at the old Cincinnati Motor Speedway in Sharonville. There were no turnstiles that day, but the old Commercial-Tribune newspa per estimated 65,000 people attended a race that, in effect, replaced the Indianapolis 500 that year.

        The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with its traditional 500-mile Memorial Day race, had canceled its 1917 schedule because of World War I and was using its facility as an airplane repair depot. Cincinnati Motor Speedway applied for the May 30 race date and was awarded a 250-mile race.

        The race was won by Louis Chevrolet, who had designed passenger cars before selling his patent to General Motors. The race, according to Cincinnati racing historian Tom Konop, also featured four men who were past or future winners of the Indy 500: Ralph DePalma, Tommy Milton, Dario Resta and Chevrolet's brother, Gaston.

        Today, 84 years later, the big names in the Kentucky Busch race will be Winston Cup driver Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt's son Kerry. The race will be televised nationally on FX, featuring the top FOX/FX team of Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds.

        LOCAL AUTHOR: John Regruth, a 1988 graduate of St. Xavier High School, has published a book about Dale Earnhardt.

        Unlike some of the “in stant books” that flooded the market after Earnhardt's death in February, Regruth's project had been two years in the making.

        Regruth's book is called Dale Earnhardt: The Final Record and is available in major bookstores for $19.99. The softbound, 144-page book features many photos but also is, in Regruth's estimation, “The most complete racing bio ever on Earnhardt.”

        By that, he means racing only. It's a complete, exhaustive list of all 676 Winston Cup races Earnhardt ran, on a season-by-season, track-by-track basis.

        This is no in-depth life story, Regruth freely acknowledges.

        “I didn't know Dale Earnhardt and never met him,” Regruth said. “This is more of his racing career. I figured with a lot of insightful writing on his races, and lots of great photos, it would be a complete story of his career.”

        Regruth, a former sports writer for Indiana papers the Bloomington Herald-Times and Columbus Republic, lives in Seymour, Ind., with his wife and daughter. His book, published by Motorbooks International in Minnesota, has nearly sold out of its first printing of 9,000 copies. The publisher just ordered another printing of 10,000 copies.

        Regruth, who works as a Web site developer by day, also is working on a Jeff Gordon book.

        “It's nothing that's going to make me rich,” he said of the books. “I'm just a race fan with a computer. It's fun to do.”

        STILL GOT IT: Drag racing superstar Kenny Bernstein said recently he will retire after the 2002 season. But Bernstein, 56, can still do it. He moved into the NHRA Winston Top Fuel points lead after winning last week at Topeka, Kan.

        Bernstein was the first driver to win NHRA championships in both Funny Car and Top Fuel. He also has owned NASCAR Winston Cup and IndyCar teams.



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