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February 25, 2009     The Westmoreland Journal
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February 25, 2009
 

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12 Wednesday, February 25, 2009, The Journal Movie stars, casinos and racing, NASCAR&apos;s "real" season set to begin . ' After the frustration of the rain short- ened Daytona 500, the series headed west to Southern California and the Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. The logistics of the long haul from Daytona to ............. southern California no doubt played a part in NASCAR's decision to calhhe Daytona 500 so quickly after the rains began. Asked last weekend in California about not waiting out the rain and running the Daytona 500 to completion, NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said, "That's fine if we didn't have other obligations further down the road. Teams had to start traveling out here Monday evening or Tuesday at some time. It's a great race. There's a lot of prestige that goes along with it, but it is just one of our many, many races that we conduct dur, ing the season and all of our races basically have the same guidelines whether it's rain shortened and we try to do for the faris and out of respect for the people who are sitting in the stands. For instance you can look at what we went through at Michigan a couple years ago. What if we had gotten 100 laps at Michigan and then actually sat there for three more days to get the race in? Where do you draw the line? I think everybody knows going in what we're faced with and understands." So last weekend the traveling circus that is NASCAR racing was offto lotus land with Matt Kenseth riding the crest of his first career Daytona 500. Roush Fenway Racing rules at Auto Club Speedway, especially of late. The team has a collective six wins at the 2 mile track near Los Angeles, including the last four February events there, and Kenseth owns two of them. Back to back triumphs in the February race in 2006 and '07. Teammate Carl Edwards is the defending Auto Club 500 champion. Another teammate Greg Biffle won the race in 2005. Speaking before last Sunday's race Kenseth said, "We know the equipment is there, I really feel like I've got the team to win." Three-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson finished a disappointing 31 st in the season opening Daytona 500. Since winning the 2006 Daytona 500, Johnson has finishes of 39 th in 2007, and 27 th in 2008 to pair with this seasons 31st place finish. "We knew we Weren't up to speed then," Johnson said of last season's poor start. "We were trying to work on it and correct it when we knew we were off. This year we don't have a clue. We haven't tested. My fingers are crossed, but I have to have the mindset that we're going to be off and just have to learn going forward from Fontana." After a weekend of fun in the sun in Southern California, the NASCAR contin- gent moves on to Las Vegas for a weeHong celebration of automobile racing, culminating in Sunday's Shelby 427. NASCAR week in Las Vegas begins today, featuring USAC Sprint Cars and Midgets on Las Vegas Motor Speedways half-mile dirt track. Thursday is the Parade of the NASCAR haulers on the Las Vegas Strip. In 2008, tens of thousands of people lined the Strip to watch the NASCAR team haulers parade down one of the country's most famous streets. The 2009 edition of the parade be- gins at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday. Feb 26. The colorful NASCARteam haulers, transporting the Sprint Cup race cars that will compete in Sunday's Shelby 427, will parade north on the Strip among the world's most well-known hotels and casinos. "During the week of the NASCAR events in Las Vegas this entire town becomes NA- SCAR crazy," said Chris Powell, Las Vegas Motor Speedway General Manager. The Speedway expects 48 to 50 haulers to take part in the parade. Thursday night the World of Outlaw Sprint Cars take to the LVMS dirt track. Friday is pole qualifying for the NASCAR Cup cars in the 1.5 mile Las Vegas Super Speedway. Carl Edwards is the defending race winner of last year's Las Vegas cup race. It also was the scene of last year's first big cheating dust up, when Edwards was allowed to keep the win but his team was docked 100 points and his crew chief was fined and suspended when NASCAR inspectors found the oil cooler cover loose in a post race inspection. Dlks on free agent signing begin Friday . With the NFL free agency signing period beginning.this Friday, Washington Redskins Head Coach Jim Zorn was asked his thoughts on his first season as the Skins coach. Zorn said, "There are a couple of things to look at. Number one, where we got stopped in our offensive thrust to try and get the ball in the end zone was really from the plus 50 to the plus 20. We have been taking a detailed look at that. There are some answers there and tMt is what we are trying to address as we are coming into our mini-camps, training camps as We start experimenting with some new ideas. "Our overall schemes are going to stay the same,[but it is how we get the ball into the red zone and then be able to score from the red zone. Those are concerns of mine because we didn't score enough points this football season." Asked about the team's approach to the free agency market opening up this Friday, Coach Zorn said, "I think every team will try to be active and we certainly will be as well, but I don't know. We will have some guys in and I think free agency has to do with both parties trying to get together, all sides of the issue trying to get together and coming to some kind of a need and then being able to agree on how to get it done. I think we will have some activity, but I wouldn't know how much or how little that is going to end up being." The team has been restructuring players' contracts to gain some room under the salary cap and last weekend released veteran Marcus Washington. Releasing Washington freed up about $4.5 million in cap space. Antwaan Randle-El's contract was also reworked. Asked if the Redskins will have room under the cap to sign free agents, Zorn commented, "Yes, I wouldn't know how much and that plays a part in how active we can be. The Redskins offensive line has been the subject of much criticism this past season. The five starters will all be over 31 years old when the new season starts. Asked if he felt it was time for some changes, Coach Zorn gave this assessment, "I wouldn't word it like that because that means that we are going in a 180 degree direction. We have got to get the younger guys, the Chad Rineharts and Devin Clarks, the guys who are battling to earn playing time; we have got to get them up to speed. I think the offseason program that starts in the middle of March will help them and will help us. "The guys that we have are older, veteran guys that have been around a long time. I fully suspect they will be back to prepare themselves physically. Healing wounds. We have got Chris Samuels in the office everyday. I see him there working, rehabbing, and trying to get ready so he can start on day one. The other issue is Randy Thomas who just had neck surgery, working on part of his spine, which calls for him to rest it completely. He has been itching to get back to lifting, running and doing those things, but there is a progression to it. The long answer is that all those guys are preparing themselves to be in our offseason program to get them ready for another year." Zorn's comments on the offensive line do not exactly have the ring of a fire breathing unit ready to kick tale and take names. If not getting some quality help through free agenc, the NFL draft is coming up April 25 and 26. 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