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Published: Friday, 4/15/2005

Home Depot Season Opener tonight at Toledo Speedway

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

After ideal weather allowed more than 75 teams to loosen up and run some tests laps around the Toledo Speedway track last weekend, they will be racing for real tonight in the Home Depot Season Opener at the half-mile facility located on Benore Road, near the I-75/Alexis Road exit.

The five-hour test session

attracted a broad mixture of cars from ARCA's various weekly divisions. Defending track champ Joe Hawes led the 18 Late Models in their preparation for the start of the season, with overall point champ Dennis Strickland, in his Allen Chevrolet-Cadillac/Budweiser ride, right in the thick of things.

The Opener will feature the ARCA Late Models and Sportsman class, as well as the ARCA Factory Stocks. The pits will open at 2 p.m., with practice at

4:30, time trials at 6:15 and racing at 7:30 p.m.

The Figure 8 machines make their 2005 debut at Toledo Speedway next Friday (April 22) on ABCO Towing Night. The racing card that night also includes the Sportsman class, 4-Cylinder and Factory Stocks. Friday-night racing at Toledo Speedway continues through September. Ticket information is available from the track at 419-727-1100, and on the official website at www.arcaracing.com.

KENSETH TRIPLE PLAY: Former Nextel Cup champ Matt Kenseth gets his fill of racing this weekend as he competes in the IROC, Busch and Cup races at Texas Motor Speedway.

The track has been good to Kenseth. In his seven starts at Texas in the Busch series, Kenseth has finished in the top 10 six times, including one win in 2004. He also won a Cup race on the 1.5-mile layout in 2002. "Texas is a track that I really like," Kenseth said. "It's always nice to go back to a track where you've won in the past because you feel that you have a better chance of success there. I will certainly get a lot of seat time this weekend, running all three races, so I hope that when we combine our past success here with the things I'll learn early this weekend, we'll be strong and come away with some good finishes."

WORKING ON MYSTERY: Ryan Newman makes his fourth start at Texas Speedway this weekend, running in the 123rd Nextel Cup Series race of his career. The Purdue grad won here in 2003, the first of his eight victories that season.

"Texas has really been a mystery track for the Alltell team," Newman said. "Up until 2003, we couldn't figure out qualifying or racing, really, at the track. Then 2003 came and we qualified in the top-five and won on Sunday. Last year, we qualified 15th, which isn't horrible, but we are a team that puts a lot of emphasis on qualifying. We were running pretty good in the race last year before the accident took us out. I guess you could safely say that we've experienced a lot of ups and downs in Texas."

Newman extended his streak of top-10 starts to 13 consecutive weeks last Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. Newman is the only driver in the Nextel Cup Series to qualify in the top 10 for all six races this season.

"This year, we made a point to test at Texas and learn all we could about the new rule package and the Dodge Charger before we got to the track. It was a good test session for us. Hopefully we unraveled a few mysteries and we'll be back to our 2003 performance level here this weekend."

GOD BLESS TEXAS: When the folks at NASCAR emerged from their formerly smoke-filled room last year and unveiled their 2005 schedule, Texas Motor Speedway was awarded a second race on the 1.5-mile quad-oval, to be run in early November as the third-

to-last stop on the Chase for the Nextel Cup.

"There's no doubt in my mind the right decision was made to award Texas with a second Cup race," Vickers said. "The facility is first-class, the fans are great and they pack the place year after year.

"I'm a native of North Carolina and I'll be the first to say I hate to see races being moved from my home state and other places in the Southeast. But the fact is that we already have a lot of races in the southeast and some of them don't fill the grandstands now. Fans can best voice their opinion by purchasing tickets and that's what the fans have done in Texas."



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