Josef Newgarden on the streets of St. Petersburg. (Chris Owens photo)

KERCHNER: Friday Morning Heat Race

It’s time for our weekly Friday tour around the racing world. From hot laps to the main event, here’s what’s on our mind this week.

Hot Laps: Elect Larry Phillips

We’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it until he’s elected — Larry Phillips belongs in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Nominated on the Pioneer Ballot this year, Phillips is up against Ray Hendrick, Banjo Matthews, Ralph Moody and Bob Welborn for one spot in the Hall.

Qualifying: 51 Years & Still Winning

National Sprint Car Hall of Famer Danny Smith picked up his first victory of the season April 19 at Ohio Valley Speedway in Washington, W. Va. Smith, 67, is beginning his 51st season racing sprint cars.

First Heat: Versatile Hall Of Famer

Another Hall of Famer, Tim Shaffer, has already won sprint car and late model features this season, with both victories coming at his home track, Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway.

Shaffer topped the FAST winged sprint car feature there on March 16 and then collected the April 20 RUSH late model race at the fast half-mile oval. It was the sixth career RUSH victory for the 2010 Knoxville Nationals winner.

“I’m finally learning how to drive these things and set them up,” Shaffer said after his late model victory. “It gets fun when you’re able to win on top of it and especially here at home. We’ll keep plugging away. I’m not sure how many I’ll be able to run this year, but I’m going to try and be as competitive as I can be.”

Second Heat: Broken Record

While we’re repeating ourselves like an overplayed record of our youth, what’s the fascination with NASCAR races at Daytona Int’l Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway?

It’s expensive and it’s a game of hurry up and wait for the big wreck. It never fails.

The amount of money spent replacing and rebuilding wrecked cars is astounding. If demolition derbies are what you like, check out this weekend’s Total Maddness event on SPEED SPORT affiliate

Third Heat: Big Opportunity

Corey Heim, who ranks second in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standings, gets a big opportunity this weekend at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway. Heim, 21, will make his NASCAR Cup Series debut, subbing for Eric Jones, who suffered a fractured vertebra in one of Sunday’s crashes at Talladega.

Heim, a Toyota development driver, is a proven winner in both the Truck Series and the ARCA Racing Series.

Fourth Heat: Bragging Rights

Sprint car racing fans from coast to coast will have one eye on the action at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway this weekend.

It will be one of three visits to the legendary half-mile track for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series this season and as an extra chance to tune up for August’s Knoxville Nationals, the top High Limit Racing teams are expected to join the Outlaws and the Knoxville Raceway regulars for two nights of action.

Bragging rights will be on the line.

Fifth Heat: All Star Tires

We like the addition of alternate tires to the format for the NASCAR All-Star Race that will be run May 19 at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway. It adds an element of strategy to a race where passing is expected to be at a premium.

As well, it provides a perfect test platform for NASCAR to consider adding multiple tire choices to Cup Series points races. It’s a format already used in the NTT IndyCar Series and Formula 1.

Dash: No Gas & Go

It appears that popular Gas City I-69 Speedway will not be opening this season.

Promoter Larry Boos left his post after last season and track ownership has yet to hire a new promoter to run the racy quarter-mile dirt track. USAC has moved its Indiana Midget Week event from Gas City to Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway

B Main: Sebastien & Tony

Some things in motorsports and in the world in general seem impossible.

Many of those can be chalked up to the rapid passing of time. Both Sebastien Bourdais and Tony Schumacher were elected to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America last week. It seems like only weeks ago that both were youngsters tearing up their respective racing circuits.

Bourdais, 45, is chasing the IMSA GTP title this season, while 56-year-old Schumacher is pursuing his ninth NHRA Top Fuel championship.

Feature: St. Petersburg Debacle

I can’t imagine going to a race, watching a winner celebrate in victory lane and finding out five weeks later that the driver and his or her team were disqualified and a new driver was awarded the victory.

It’s a scenario that played out from time to time during the early days of motorsports, but has mostly been absent from the scene for several decades.

But it happened this week when the NTT IndyCar Series disqualified the first and second-place Team Penske cars of Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin from the season opening event March 10 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

It’s a complicated situation involving IndyCar’s Push-To-Pass system and the sanctioning body has taken steps to detect such violations in a more rapid manner moving forward. Team Penske officials accepted the penalty and acknowledged “mistakes” were made.

Still, it was an unnecessary black eye for IndyCar and Team Penske.