This column canít even start off by saying that winter is over and it now race season. It seems as though this season is off to a more prolonged start than usual. While few races have been able to sneak past grumpy ol Mother Nature, a lot more have been lost to her cantankerous ways.
Races arenít the only thing lost to start this race season. I have to start off on a sad note this time around. Many of you from the western PA area know my dad and his group of friends that traveled and sat together at races from Ohio to Central PA, but especially at Lernerville, Mercer, and Tri-City. With dadís health failing he isnít able to get to the races anymore, but the rest of the gang still does. On Saturday April 16th, two of them went to Sharon. On the way home from the races, Simon ďJuniorĒ Berdar suffered a fatal heart attack as they were going through Sharpsville, PA. Bill Poole was the one driving and was able to pull into the city police station immediately, but it was too late. Iím just glad he was able to get one last race in and didnít have to suffer. The gang is now one man short.
This season has already had itsí share of things happening. From Steve Kinser having a new series lined up to run if their DIRT contract issues didnít get resolved, to Kevin Swindell flipping out of the park at Eldora while lining up for the A-Main. What made Kevinís even stranger was that they had just bought his way into the A-Main after he finished fifth in the B-Main. Sammy was even up to his own old tricks as he ran his pit buggy into a car on the track that had tangled with Kevin at a USCS asphalt show. A DQ for Kevin was the result of that action.
Craig Dollansky actually held the point lead for a little while over Steve, but the ďPickle GuyĒ (car is green and his mechanic is Gerkin) is now back out front and won three in a row before Daryn Pittman stopped the streak. That win gave Australian car owner Reeve Kruck his first win with the Outlaws. Challenges to Kingís throne are rare and short lived, but maybe Craig, or even someone else, might be able to reel him in a little closer this year. Lasoski hasnít been as strong of a contender as usual so far and Schatz doesnít hit his stride until mid to late summer.
The All Star northern opener at Attica once again proved to be a great way to open the season for the group. There was a lot of concern as to how this weekend was going to shake out due to the just completed reconfiguration of the track. They took the top 18Ē off the track and every one, myself included, was concerned that it would make it a bottom only track. Those fears were short lived as the racing was great both nights. Stevie Smith had his easter egg dialed in both nights, but running over Dean Jacobs right rear the second night cost him a sweep of the weekend.
Craig Mintz sure has something figured out at Attica so far this year as he is making a habit out of running up front and coming up through the pack to the front. It sure looks like he should find his way to the horse track in front of the crowd this season on a Friday night.
A lot of northern Ohio sprint car fans are anxiously awaiting the return of the Outlaws to Attica this summer. Glad to see that Janet was finally able to make that happen this year. She had wanted to have them in before but politics (in racing? No, never! Cough cough) kept the little speedplant off the schedule. It should make for a great night of racing.
The other much anticipated sprint car race in Ohio this year was the Ohio Challenge at Jim Nierís K-C Raceway. The billing of being the Outlaws vs the All Stars had a lot of people fired up for this race. They were even more fired up after it didnít happen. And no one is saying why it didnít happen, other than the Outlaw press release that claimed rain in the afternoon forced the cancellation. Rain was the easy reason to use, but not the honest one. People camped out at the speedway reported very minimal rain at the track. Through the grapevine I was told that many of the teams were in Indy on Friday night and wanted to officials to call the show then, based on the forecast, so that they could go run Knoxville on Saturday night. As it turned out, two teams did go to Knoxville, Terry McCarl and Brooke Tatnell. Now since these two are not contracted drivers in the Mean 15, they didnít have to worry about any legal ramifications. They would have been subjected to the Outlaws point penalty rules if the race had been run and they werenít there and raced at Knoxville. The race was called just before 2:00 in the afternoon, so if those two were close enough to drive in to K-C before race time, there is no way they could have turned and made it to Knoxville, so they had to have made their decisions long before the race was called. Did they know something that others didnít? Were they taking a calculated risk? Did they not care about the risk? Other teams were reported to have been witnessed in places 2-3 hours away from the track in early afternoon. If so, were they forcing the officials to call the show off due to the fear of not having all their teams there? If so, looks like the drivers just trumped the contracts. If not, was it that they didnít want to cause more unrest by having to enforce the contracts against the drivers that didnít show? Another story making the rounds is that they called it early so they wouldnĎt have to pay tow money. Could that really be the reason for it? Hard to tell, but it seems to be a safe bet that there was a lot more to this cancellation than just the weather. Maybe the grapevine will produce some more information on this subject somewhere down the line.
It didnít take Dean Jacobs long to get the Pullins Motorsports car running back at the front of the pack. The Butler, Michigan All Star show saw Dean lead every lap to collect the win. The All Star show at Attica on May 27 will see Dean introduce another Jacobs to the world of sprint cars, as his oldest son, Cody, will be behind the wheel of Deanís #27 he ran last year on the All Stars. A lot of people remember Cody from his younger days when he would stand behind the flagman and flag each race with his own set of custom made race flags. Once he got enough to go the pits, he put the flags down in order to go help work on his dadís cars. Now he wants to try it out behind the wheel of one of the most wicked types of race cars out there. Itís pretty cool that it will happen at Attica too as Janet has always been one of Deanís biggest supporters. Good luck Cody!
Young Kyle Wilson, son of driver Rick Wilson, picked up his first win with the Patriot Sprints. The Canadian Wilsons are some real throttle mashers with the New York based 360 circuit. This circuit keeps growing and getting better every year. Owner, Tom Taber, has made some real progress with this group and the 2006 season looks to have even more in store. The Patriots are coming to Central PA Speedway in Clearfield, PA on June 3 and return to Mercer Raceway Park in Mercer, PA the following night. This will be two great nights of 360 racing.
While we sit here and ponder if a hearse carrying a corpse can use the car pool lane, your news, notes, and other racing info can be sent to me using the e-mail link at www.blairsigns.com.
Once again the month of September rolled around and lots of big races came with it. Two of my favorite races are in September and always make great road trips. The annual Bully Hill Vineyards 360 Nationals at Black Rock Speedway in Dundee, New York is always a good trip and lots of great racing. The following week itís always off to Lawrenceburg, Indiana for the Hoosier Fall Classic.
This year it was photographer, Ken Potter, along on the Black Rock trip for his time to the Yates County oval. The MartMan decided to make the trip with his wife and daughter this year instead of in the Road Trip Express. Thatís what happens when the races are in wine country and the wife likes wine and wineries I guess.
This year the Nationals added the NRA, Mercer, and Knoxville 360s as sanctions to the already loaded list of sanctions (ESS, PSG, URC). We have always wondered why the NRA scheduled against this event and had high hopes of seeing many of their regulars, such as Darren Long, JR Stewart, Mike Brecht, Tim Allison, and the Leibers, make the trip to run against the others. All of the hope went down the drain as the NRA cars all stayed away. I have heard no reason why, but my best guess would be due to the eastern sanctions dislike of the All Pro heads that many of the NRA run. Long was disqualified after a dominating win of an ESS show at Canandaigua earlier in the season due to the heads/gasket issue. That may have played into the reason none of the NRA showed.
ASCS/USCS hotshoe Terry Gray and USCS dominator, Kenny Adams were scheduled to make the trip in but neither one showed. Kenny stayed home due the hurricanes in his home state of Florida and the previous damage done and the impending Ivan due to hit. I never did hear why Terry didnít make the trip.
Knoxville only had one car and driver make the haul to New York. Josh Higday, the 2002 360 Tournament of Champions winner, came in and found a track surface that he said was like no other he had run on before. The unfamiliarity led to him not getting out of the C Main on the final night.
Kramer Williamson was on hand in his regular ride, the Patterson 33, but also had his own pink 73 along as a spare if needed. It looked like he might need it the way he ran his heat race on the first night. He was running the high line off of turn four and kept getting closer and closer to the wall coming off. While running second and pressuring the leader, he finally bounced the right rear off the wall. Dirt and dust flew but he was able to keep going and finish second. During the dash race festivities on the frontstretch I asked him about the hit on the wall and he said it didnít hurt anything but it did ruin his run at the leader. Someone else asked him if he held his breath when it hit. He said, ďI was just hoping that when the right rear hit that it didnít turn the front end and suck the right front into the wall. If that would have happened, then I would have held my breath.Ē Kramer then proceeded to give the photographers and the coordinator of the trophy ceremony fits by cracking jokes and making faces and keeping everyone laughing. He wasnít laughing too much the second night after the A Main as he and Bill Bailey were disqualified for their on track bumping of each other while lining up after a yellow. They slammed into each other numerous times down the front stretch at slow speed before spinning each other in turn one.
Rick Wilson, one of the top contenders going into the weekend, had a night he would like to forget on Friday. The impact he had might have been enough to cause him to forget too. He started off with a fairly poor qualifying run that put him up front in his heat as they were fully inverted. He started fourth and was dicing for position when another car he was racing with got out of shape and Rick made contact. The contact broke the front end and the car slid into the infield. His point total was still high enough to be locked into one of three Sweet Sixteen A Mains for the night. He started 16th in the second A. Early in the race, Rick was still running near the back. He slid high in three and four and fell to the tail. He got a good run on the high side of one and two and was passing the car in front of him coming off of two. That car drifted up and the two made contact. Rickís car mad a sudden jump to the right and slammed head first into the concrete wall. The car spun and flipped and came to a broken down rest. The frame was broken in at least six places. The front motor plate was not fully attached and this car was wasted. Rick remained in the car as the safety crew arrived to check on his condition. The crew was dealing with Rick, who really got his bell rung, as Patriot Sprint Group owner, former sprint car driver, and close personal friend of Rickís, was telling the EMT crew that they needed to put the neck collar on Rick before removing him from the car due to the severity of the impact. This is when things really got interesting. One of the members of the safety crew told Tom to stay out of the way and let him do his job (Tom was behind them talking to them). Tom then explained his background (EMT, driver hurt in these situations, etc) and the safety crew guy made a smart-ass comment to Tom and turned and pushed him out of the way as he told Rick to climb out of the car with no collar or board on. Big mistake on so many levels! Anyone that knows Tom knows that this is a very bad thing to do. Tom does not take it well when he is trying to help or protect one of his groupís drivers and some local yahoo tries to ply hero. Secondly, Patriot official, Jay Shaw, was behind the crew guy and about to latch onto him. Jay is no small guy and has the attitude to use his size if needed. Third, even in his hazy state, Rickís eyes lit up when the guy pushed Tom and told him, ďYou donít push that guyĒ. Rick is the kind of guy that doesnít let a fight happen unless he starts it or is able to get into it. He was making sure that if this guy tried anything else that he would finish the business. The safety crew guy was rumored later to have quit and tried to get the rest of the crew to quit also. The crew was back the next night but luckily wasnít needed for anything serious again.
Tomís weekend didnít get any better the following day either. There was a press release from URC about the ESS/URC challenge race at Rolling Wheels circulating the pits. The problem was, this race was to be an ESS/URC/PSG challenge race. Tom had an e-mail from Bob Miller of URC from back in February that explained how the format for the race would work. The e-mail stated that the top 60 cars (top 20 in points from each group) would be eligible for the redraw. All other cars there to run would be allowed to run but would not be eligible for the redraw. After Tom showed me the e-mail and Bobís new press release he headed off through the pits looking for Bob. Bob did a lot of gesturing and looked very uncomfortable during this meeting. He claimed that the e-mail wasnít from him but was generated by DIRT. I read the e-mail details and it showed it being sent to Tomís e-mail address from Bobís e-mail address. He made claims that it was never set up that way. He told Tom that the Patriot drivers could come to the race but would not be eligible for the redraw. Since that time, there have been numerous press releases concerning this race and how it would be run. It is still being called the ESS/URC challenge race, but the Patriot cars are allowed to run and will be eligible for the redraw if they pre-enter. If they do not pre-enter they have to buy a temporary permit, are not eligible for the redraw, and will race for a reduced payout. Myself, I think that ESS got to Bob as ESS has been hurt by the growth of the Patriots. Maybe Iím just playing ďconspiracy theoryĒ, but my sources tell me that it could have some merit.
One of the strangest things I have ever seen at a race took place on the second night. Howard Singer crashed in his heat and when the wing took an impact it broke the wing post mounts off of the frame. With no way to mount the wing, and wanting to be able to start the C Main to collect start money for the C, they set the wing on top of the cage and ran two of the three inch wide tie down straps from the trailer around the wing and through the cage to hold it down. During the line up he was reaching up and grabbing the sideboard and pulling on it to see if it was tight. He made one lap at the start and pulled in, thus collecting his start money for the C Main.
A few side trips while there, Watkins Glen to the track for the US Vintage Grand Prix, and to Bully Hill Vineyards to make some purchases from the place that sponsors the race and other races and cars always makes this an enjoyable trip.
The following week it was off to Indiana for the All Stars at Gas City and Lawrenceburg. These two tracks provided a weekend of great short track racing. Some of the local fans at Gas City that only attend the local wingless shows said they were really shocked during time trials when some of the guys were able to flat foot the entire lap of the track.
Dale Blaney had the field covered during the main as he led from the pole to the checker. Paul May had his best run of the year from the outside pole and staying in the top three the entire race.
Tim Hunter popped a motor and was debating whether to try and fix another one or just call it a year.
Matt Brun, who runs wingless at Gas City and Lawrenceburg put a wing on to run the weekend. He told me that the car came with a wing when he bought it, so they thought they would try it. The car is Jimmy Stinsonís car from last year that Jimmy ran the Million with. Matt has run dirt and asphalt and this was his first time with a wing on. He qualified 20th and transferred through his heat. He said that it isnít easy with the wing on like many people like to think. He says that with the wing you go into the corners faster and requires you to be more precise, thus leaving less room to save it if you arenít right on. He saw the other side of the spectrum the following night at the Burg as he qualified out of the heat invert and did not transfer through the heat or B main.
During Jac Haudenschildís qualifying run at the Burg he hauled it into three the first lap and then BANG! He pulled off the track as the torque tune and drive shaft laid on the track behind him. I asked him if it got into his legs and he said that it didnít and it just all went out the back. With no qualifying time he had to start at the back of the heat. He transferred through it and started tail of the A. He was up to 13th when he spun in turn four. He came back up through again before the driveline broke again.
Dale Blaney was leading and slipped off the top of four allowing Bobby Clark to slip past. Tom Busch and Jon Agan got together at the bottom of turn one on lap 14 just as the leaders approached. Clark backed out of the throttle and Dale climbed his right rear and flipped. Sale looked as though he could have won again on this night and his frustration in the infield was evident.
Dean Jacobs and Phil Gressman were waging a torrid battle for the lead when it all went wrong for Dean. He had a run on Phil up off the bottom of turn four. As he came up off the corner, his right front hit Philís left rear and it sent Dean into a long slow spin, thus ending his chance to become a two time Fall Classic winner.
Press releases and other racing news can be sent using the e-mail link at www.blairsigns.com. Now that racing season is coming to an end Iím getting ďSnow FeverĒ as it I canít wait to get the snowmobiles out again. Anyone wanting to hook up for some riding can contact me using the e-mail mentioned above. Do dyslexic atheists go to bed wondering if there is no dog?
Another year, another big wingless race at Eldora, another winged driver takes the cash. The Pup, Kevin Huntley, rained on USACís party by taking the win over Sammy Swindell. Although Kevin has won with USAC at Eldora previously, he has done the vast majority of his racing with the aluminum over his head. Kevin has only been running part time the last few years and spends time wheeling Stan Courtadís champ car also.
Last year after the Knoxville Nationals had ended, the top three drivers were in the press room for the press conference. Winner, Danny Lasoski, was joined by his car owner, Tony Stewart. Third place finisher, Kenny Jacobs, was as surprised as anyone when Stewart made the comment that he would pick up Kennyís tire bill for Knoxville the next year after his impressive performance. I decided to follow up on that situation last week to see if Tony was going to live up to his deal. As it turns out, Tony will be picking up the tab for Kennyís tires as he said he would. If only Tony knew who Kenny was. Tony was at the Kings Royal with his Outlaw team when he went up to Dean Jacobs and told him that he hadnít forgotten about their deal for Knoxville this year. Dean said the asked Tony if he really looked that old as he explained to him that he was Kennyís brother. Tony told Dean that they really look alike. Kenny and his Kline 22 team have been getting faster recently. They picked up another win at the Grove and had one get away from them there when a lapped car crashed him as he was leading. Besides veteran wrench, Moon Byers, the team has added vagabond mechanic, Dave Yingst, to the team. When I asked how it was working with two number one type mechanics on the team, Kenny says that it is just fine as Moon and Dave are good friends.
Poor Bill Rose. He had two races in one night to choose between. The Mopar Thunder at Eldora and the All Stars at Butler, Michigan. Bill was a regular on the USAC and wingless scenes for a long time before starting to run regularly with the All Stars a few seasons back. He knew if he went to Eldora that he would be penalized points by the All Stars. But he also knew that there was big money to be had at Eldora. So, he took his car to Eldora and sent another of his cars to Butler in order to keep up his owner points with the All Stars. At Eldora, Bill qualified 17th and won his heat. He started on the outside pole of the big money A-Main. He led the first lap and eventually finished third. Meanwhile at Butler, wouldnít you know it, wins the All Star race with substitute driver, Jeff Shepard, at the wheel. The Jet agreed to run the car while on his way to Knoxville and promptly proceeded to give the Rose Racing number 6 itís first ever All Star win.
After the fun it was reviewing the past in the last column, letís take at this week 15 years ago, 1989.
*The Outlaws ran a rain delayed event at Lernerville on Monday that was won by Tim Green in the Virgil Owen 14. Doug Wolfgang won at Millstream on Sunday. The old Eldora nationals were run Friday and Saturday and Wolfgang swept both days in the DP Motorsports 8d car.
*Speaking of DP Motorsports, team owner Danny Peace, made headlines as it was announced that he received stolen HUD money. The team was a force to be reckoned with all year as Wolfgang and mechanic Deuce Turrill won many races that year. The team was disbanded after the season due to Peaceís legal problems that saw him eventually wind up in jail.
*Chuck Gurney won the Belleville Nationals in Larry Howardís 71 midget as the 40 lap race went nonstop for the first time in history.
*The USAC midget race at IRP was called complete after 27 of 30 laps were run due to a horrific crash involving Mel Kenyon and Eddie Horne. Race leader at the time, Rich Vogler, was declared the winner.
*1989 was the year of the USA sprint series and Dave Blaney won at Moberly, Missouri while Sammy Swindell won at Jackson, Minnesota.
*A then 34 year old Rip Williams won the CRA race at the legendary Ascot Park.
*Glenn Fitzcharles took two URC mains winning at Grandview and Flemington.
*The All Stars ran a midweek special at Sandusky Speedway on the asphalt. The orange 23s McBride & Shoff car was in victory lane with Jeff Gordon doing the driving duties. David Harrison, Bentley Warren, Gary Fedewa, and Rusty McClure rounded out the top five.
*Robby Flock won the USAC midget event at Eagle, Nebraska.
*The NARC sprints were at Chico, California for a two day show and Brent Kaeding swept the weekend.
*Stevie Smith won at Selinsgrove.
*Steve Stambaugh picked up the win at the Grove.
*The Badger midgets were at Sun Prairie, Wisconsin and Kevin Olson took the win.
*Sharon, the ESS, Lawrenceburg, and Attica were rained out.
*Ricky Stenhouse won at Riverside Speedway in Arkansas.
*Danny Lasoski won his eighth of the year at Husets Speedway and sixth of the year at Knoxville.
*Tony Elliott won at Kokomo.
*Chuck Amati took the win at Lincoln Park.
*Michael Andretti won the CART race at Michigan and Michael Waltrip won the Busch race at IRP.
After his hard crash at Eldora that KOíd him, Dean Jacobs missed the Saturday All Star show at Butler. There wasnít a whole lot left to save off the car and a new one is being put together on Monday at Jac Haudenschildís nearby shop and they are leaving Tuesday for Knoxville. Dean has a black and blue eye and he says his one cheek still hurts, but he is ready to get the new car together and get to Knoxville.
The in box is always open at www.blairsigns.comn for your racing e-mail while you are contemplating this: If you try to fail and succeed, which have you done?
Been too gone, too long. So, letís put some heat in the engine, stand back and smell the methanol and let the madness begin.
It seems as though some people have been sniffing more than methanol with the way the madness is running rampant in the World of Outlaws situation. I have said from the start that this deal can be nothing but smoke and mirrors. How can Boundless supposedly come up with so much cash to buy the things they are buying when they do not offer a product or service to generate income? They are trying to do a lot of it by stock sales. But what is the stock for? When this first started the stock was to be in their huge motorsports complex in Texas. Their website no longer includes any mention of this facility. Now with people doing more checking into the past business dealings of Paul Kruger and Bobby Hartslief, itís not giving anyone a warm and fuzzy. The past business dealings of these two appear to be shaky at best. Things havenít been going smoothly in their late model series and the DIRT deal is on very shaky ground according to some sources out of New York state. Stay tuned for the next episode of ďAs the Stomach TurnsĒ. As I heard one person say, ďI got my $8 popcorn and my $6 Coke, Iíll just sit back and see how this movie endsĒ.
More madness from the Mountaineer State as the All Stars were back at West Virginia Motor Speedway for the first time since a rained out (more like a hurricane) attempt in 1997. A rain shower before the scheduled hot laps time put a big back up on the schedule for the night. Being as the facility only runs a couple of shows a year, they were not prepared for this type of situation. They only had four vehicles to run the track in with. None of the push trucks or wreckers that were on hand went onto the track to help run it in. The sprints went out and rolled it in and they were then pushed out for hot laps at 10:00. Qualifying was completed at 11:40. Then during the qualifying for the e-mods, fog rolled in quick and heavy from behind the hillside seating area. A short red to let it roll through and the mods were able to complete their time trials. The sprints were back on the track for their heats at 12:55 a.m. The A-Main pushed off at 3:25. One red flag and a few yellows and Dean Jacobs took the win from ninth with a borrowed engine at 4:15 in the morning. The e-mods still had their B-Mains and A-Main to run yet. Photographer Ken Potter and I were back close to home by the time their A-Main ended at 6:00.
The madness continued four (three?) days later at Attica Raceway Park for the Brad Doty Classic. Just as the track crew was running in the water on the track after qualifying, a storm hit. We had just enough time to get to one of the barns in the parking lot before the real hard rain started. After a lengthy delay they were able to start trying to run the track back in. Even though they had many more track vehicles that they did at West Virginia, the sprints were called on again to help with the run in process. On this night the checkered would fall at 3:00 over Greg Wilson and the Bob Hampshire 63.
Now for some rambling madness.
*Vapor trails were in the air off the cars at West Virginia. A very humid and damp evening made for some impressive compressed air.
*Wayne Johnson came in from the Midwest for the Doty race at Attica. He was looking impressive in his heat until he was bit by the rim like so many others. He went to the high side of Lee Jacobs going into three and straddled the rim and got hung up to bring out the yellow. In the B-Main he was the victim of a car getting hung out off the top of two and the ensuing contact ended up with Wayne on his head on the backchute.
*Upon walking into the pits at Attica the first thing I see is an ambulance at one of the cars. I walk up to see an EMT with Tony Beaber in the back of his trailer. Tony said he almost crashed during hot laps as he got dizzy. He then said that he felt better other than the fact that the trailer wouldnít stop spinning. Needless to say, he scratched for the night.
*Bill Rose pulled into the pits at West Virginia after the rain was over. Danny Smith gave him a hard time for being on time when he thought he was going to be late.
*Bill missed a race earlier in the year when he had trailer problems. The floor of the trailer was bowed up six inches between the wheel wells. Upon taking the flooring off, he found that there was no cross frame between the frame rails. It turns out that the company that made the trailer (no longer in business Ė go figure) converted standard trailers to race car haulers. When they cut the frame out to put in the air ride suspension they didnít put the frame back in when they were done.
*Danny Smith always runs an Indy 500 pool among the drivers. He said in May that he always takes the last spot open in it to make sure people know he doesnít rig it. He also has never won it. This year he once again took the last opening in the 33 car field. The driver he drew? Buddy Rice.
Letís turn back the clock to this week 20 years ago in 1984.
*Tom Bigelow won the USAC midget show at Hales Corners, Wisconsin.
*Ricky Hood won the USAC?NCRA Silver Crown race at Oklahoma City.
*Chip Ganassi was injured when he crashed and flipped multiple times in the Michigan 500 Indy Car race.
*Steve Butler won the USAC spint car race at Paragon, Indiana while Sheldon Kinser collected the USAC win at Lincoln Park, Indiana.
*World Of Outlaws wins went to Steve Kinser at Cedar Lake, Wisconsin for his seventh win in a row, while Ron Shuman ended that streak for him at Santa FE Speedway in Hinsdale, IL.
*Greg Staab took the win at Lawrenceburg, IN.
*Doug Wolfgang won his first race in the Wiekert 29 at an All Star show at Sharon. I remember watching him chase down Jac Haudenschild in the Hampshire 63.
*Other All Star winners that week were Haudenschild and Rich Vogler at Butler, Michigan while Kenny Jacobs put the Reno 4j in victory lane Millstream.
*Tony Weyant won at Godrey, Illinois.
*Ascot Park, California saw Rip Williams take the win after Bubby Jones spun out while leading.
*Jack Hewitt collected the Wilmot Winged Open Sprint Series show at Wilmot, WI.
*Pennsylvania driver Len Krautheim won the ESS show at Accord, NY.
*Brent Kaeding won at Hanford, CA.
*Bobby Davis Jr won both of the twin 16 lap features at Knoxville.
*At 81 Speedway in Wichita, Kansas, a heat ended with a car losing a wheel. The wheel bounced over a fence went across a road and knocked down a fence in someoneís yard then hit the house. The homeowner held the tire and wheel hostage until he was helped in putting the fence back up.
*MeMe DeSantis won the 30lap feature at Lincoln over Richard Lupo.
*The Tempe Tornado, Leland McSpadden, won at Baylands.
*Lernerville saw a young Steve Smith Jr win his first ever sprint car feature.
*Ralph Spithaler won at Jennerstown.
*Devils Bowl saw Ricky Summers win for the second week in a row.
*SOD wins went to John Naida at Crystal, MI while Mike Shaw took the Thunderbird Raceway show.
*Marvin Carman won the supermodified main at Sandusky.
*Van May was leading at Williams Grove when his motor blew with five laps to go. Keith Kauffman went on to take the win.
*George Bischoff won at Sharon and Selinsgrove. *and Harry Gant won the NASCAR Like Cola 500 at Pocono.
And now back to our regularly scheduled madness. *It looks as though the Patriot Sprints in New York are putting a cramp in the Empire Super Sprints. The ESS has instituted a new rule that says if you run a non-ESS show on a night that ESS is running, you have to start last for the next two ESS shows that you run. That didnít bother Patriot regular Rick Wilson as he started 22nd in his first ESS show after the rule change as he proceeded to smoke the field from the tail.
*It looks like all Erin Crocker needed in order to get a good finish with the Outlaws was to go back home. She ran fourth after Joey Saldana got her at the line at Lebanon Valley, NY, the closest track to home on the schedule.
*Sprints are back at the reopened Sportsmans Speedway in Knox, PA. I saw a lot of good sprint races during my eight years there.
*Former Kenny and Lee Jacobs crew chief, Aaron Hammer, has Tim Hunter running better since being hired on the All Star Rookie of the Year contender.
*Good column a few weeks back by Gordy. Even if I am the cause of one of those situations. But I have one big question concerning the Kevin Kovac situation he mentioned. Why does the track revoke credentials for all Area Auto Racing staff when Kevin includes a quote from a driver in his column that the track did not like? It would certainly seem to me like the track should have had issue with the driver instead of a reporter. This is like a sports team revoking credentials for all USA Today staff because they printed a quote that they didnít like from one of their players. Seems like playground politics; Itís my ball and Iím going home.
You can send your racing news to me via the e-mail link at www.blairsigns.com, where you can also pick up your racing window decals from the online store. There is one good thing about egotistical people; they never talk about other people.
Itís always a bad thing when a racetrack closes down. But sometimes I wonder if itís an even worse thing when a racetrack stays open and runs such a poor show that it chases fans away from it. This seems to be the case at Wayne County Speedway this year. A new owner, Ernie Coffman, has taken over the controls of the Orrville, Ohio speedplant and things are taking some strange twists.
Letís start with the Pete Jacobs Memorial All Star sprint show last Wednesday. I quickly found out that these people are doing everything they can to not help the media. Every media member I talked to had some sort of problem or issue with the people or process involved. If he doesnít want coverage, just say so (I have had one track owner tell me that, but he has enough money that he doesnít care about getting more coverage).
The way the program was run was enough to send people heading for the gates before the sprint feature ever ran. After qualifying they decided to water the track. That wasnít too bad, except that they packed the track, packed it some more, and then, just for the fun of it, packed it some more. The track was packed back in so tight that when the first heat cars came on the track, they were blowing dirt within three hot laps. This delayed the start of the program for an hour. Not a good thing to begin with, but especially bad for a midweek show. The half hour intermission wasnít a good idea either on top of this.
A two car crash in a heat race exposed another slow down in the program. When it came time to clear the two cars form the track, there was only one wrecker (a converted pick-up type wrecker, not an actual wrecker) on the grounds. Both cars had front end damage and needed to be towed. After 15 minutes of getting one car off the track, someone came out onto the track with a tilt bed. It was slow also, but it did help. This situation was magnified in the B-Main when there was a multiple car pile up. Another half hour delay was the end of the line for some of the smaller than usual crowd in the stands.
I have been told multiple times since that night, that during that show, Coffman told All Star owner, Guy Webb, to not come back for Speedweek. I havenít been able to get confirmation of this directly from Webb, but if it is true, this would seem to be a very bad thing to do. The Speedweek show always fills the place, even on a Monday, as there are a lot of fans that travel the week as a racing vacation. Also, there is the issue of race contracts being involved. If there are signed contracts for that race, which there are supposed to be, then it could get really ugly. Hopefully I will have an update on this subject in my next column after I get the chance to talk to Guy about it.
These issues, and others, arenít just reserved for special shows only. The regular Saturday night shows have issues too. At the start of the season, it wasnít considered a regular Saturday night show. It was an all day Saturday show. He had the idea to drag a regular show out over 12 hours. The mini stocks and the street stocks were to arrive at the track in the 10 am to 11 am range and run their hot laps and preliminary events in the early afternoon. Then they sat and waited. The late models and e-mods were to be there in the 3 pm range to run their hot laps. The rest of the preliminaries and the features were then run at the ďregularĒ starting time. The mini stocks and the street stocks were the last features to run. For a fan to see the entire program, they would need to be at the track for 12 hours. The same was true for the participants and team members of those two divisions. That idea didnít last very long and was quickly changed back to the normal operating schedule.
The regular Saturday show following the Wednesday fiasco ended up with a lot of disgruntled competitors in the mini stock division. The promise of a ďsharpĒ tech guy looks to have gone by the wayside, as has Ernieís credibility. After the winning car of the second mini stock feature was found to be in violation of the rules, the win was allowed to stand. Two of the reasons that were given as to why he allowed the win to stand were that he was, ďStill getting the show under controlĒ and that, ďIím not to the point where Iím looking for cheaters, but when we are and I find them, they are done for good.Ē I wonder why he has a rules section on the track website if they arenít going to enforce them. Maybe if the mini stocks all just decide to stay home for one week, he might get the point.
Itís sad to see this happen at Wayne County. Again. For us that were around back in the 70s, Wellman Lehman spoiled us with the way he ran the place. The Gross family had some small issues, but they did a very respectable job of running it. Then came Harold Detillian. A car salesman that ran the track the same way he sold cars. Then Wayne Phillips took over and spoiled us all over again. Then came the Hessís and it went back down the tubes again. Now it appears as though this bad streak is going to continue. Itís just too bad. This is a nice place for a racetrack, there used to be one there.
The racing itself was very good that night. David Harrison was the surprise fast qualifier, but then had to transfer out of the B when he missed making it out of his heat. That took him out of the invert and put him seventh on the grid.
Kenny Jacobs was on hand with his new ride out of Central PA, the Kline 22. It wasnít a good night for Kenny. He qualified early, which on this night was a bad thing. The track got faster and he ended up 26th quick. He missed a transfer out of the heat by one spot and got caught up in the big crash in the B. He had some not too pleasant words for Jon Agan after that incident. That would become a common theme for Jon, as others felt the same way, and he was involved in another incident on Friday at Attica.
Lee Jacobs was in the crash in the heat and missed a transfer in the B, thus leaving Dean as the only Jacobs in the A that was in memorial to his grandfather that built the track.
Dean was running his own car for the first time. He put together a car with a lot of help from a lot of people. The Woodward team that he drove for earlier in the year helped (thus showing it wasnít an ugly split between them), Janet Holbrook, last yearís owner Ray Pullins, some smaller personal sponsors, some of the parts suppliers, manufacturers, and even a silent supporter that used to be involved in All Star racing. The engine in the car is a Don Ott motor that was loaned to him from former Western PA All Star regular, Brian Ellenberger. Brian sold all of his equipment except for this engine. The car showed up at the track with a number 27 on it, which surprised some people. Dean says it was pretty simple. Itís his oldest son, Codyís, high school football number. Dean lead the first dozen laps before Dale Blaney went by for the win. Dean ended up running third.
Dale won again Friday at Attica, but not without some controversy. Dale was running fifth during the race when his right side header came off. The header laid on the track and a yellow was thrown for debris. Even though the All Star rules specifically say that if debris from your car causes a yellow that you will be sent to the tail, Dale was not sent back. The officials claimed that they couldnít tell which car it was off of since it was on the right side of the car. The win was protested, but the officials said that it was too late to make a correction and that they couldnít strip Dale of the win. Saturday night at the drivers meeting at K-C, All Star official, Steve Failor, answered his critics. Without being asked about it, he asked if, ďanyone else wanted to take a bite out of my assĒ as many others had since the previous night. When no one else hammered him, Steve stepped up and took the blame and said, ďGuys, I f!@#ed up last night.Ē Not very often you hear an official take the hit.
The annual Night the Stars Come Out at K-C Raceway was again a good show. The late model (dirt car, or whatever they call them these days) car count was down for the Northern Extreme Series part of the show, but the quality was good. Donnie Moran had the 22 car field covered, although it looked like Davey Johnson might have had something for him if it werenít for his nightlong string of bad luck. He broke in his heat. Started dead last and was up to fourth before halfway. He then had trouble and brought out the yellow. He was back up to fifth when the car broke again. This time another car collected him as he stopped on the track.
Over 40 sprints made up a very good field of cars. Jimmy Stinson was third quick and his night went straight down from there. He flipped in his heat then came out for the B with a wing borrowed from the Miller 6 team. The car then broke in the B, ending his night.
The Miller 6 team of Jamie Miller out of Dayton, Ohio has really taken off as of late. Jamie put Jac Haudenschild in the car at Eldora earlier in the year and they have been together ever since. Last wee Jac won the All Star show at Butler, Michigan and they have gained the support of Jacís former car owner, Jack Elden. The Elden decals now adorn the top wing and a new Kistler powerplant sits between the frame rails. Jac was his usual self on this night as he found the high side to his liking and he stuck it up there and flew. Late in the race he slammed through the cushion coming off of turn two and the front wing mounts slipped and the wing laid down. Dean Jacobs caught Jac and had a wheel under him looking to make the winning pass when the yellow came outon lap 25 for a crashed Byron Reed. At this point the yellow was changed to a red for a fuel stop due to the amount of yellow flag laps that had been run. This enabled Jacís crew to fix his wing. The restart saw Jac take off and run away to the win. Dean slipped back and even lost second to Chad Kemenah. When the race restarted, Dean dove into turn one and went through a big hole there and it bent the floorboard up into the cockpit. He was able to push it back down enough for the pedals to work, but by then it was too late.
While thinking about this: why do they call them buildings when they are already built, you can send your news, notes, releases, and general nonsense to me using the e-mail link at www.blairsigns.com.
Bad luck. Funny how it works isnít it? So far this season, I have been to tracks in four different states and I have seen varying degrees of bad luck at each of them. Even in the different types of cars, from the IRL Indy cars to the winged sprints, the wingless midgets and champ cars, or even dirt or asphalt. Bad luck knows no boundaries in racing. Or in life either, for that matter.
Sometimes it is someone elseís fault and you are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Others it was something you did yourself or it could even be the dreaded part failure. Some people claim that there is no such thing as luck, good or bad. But sometimes there is just no other way to explain the things that happen to a person.
During the IRL race at Phoenix, Robbie Buhl had crashed and was in the outside wall in turn four. Tomas Scheckter and Dario Franchitti were closing on the crash scene. Franchitti was tucked up tight on Scheckter and could not see the crash. When Tomas slowed, Dario punted him and they both spun and crashed into Buhl. Dario complained after the race that he did not get the call for ďyellowĒ from his spotter. His spotter said that he did call out the yellow. To figure out what happened, the team did a little internal investigating and they found out what happened. It was a case of bad luck. The team reviewed their radio transmission tapes. The spotter did call out the yellow, but it was at the same time that Dario keyed his mike to talk to the crew. Just plain old-fashioned bad luck. No other way to describe it.
At the season opener for Mercer Raceway Park, bad luck was all over the place. Less than a week before the opener there was snow on the grounds. Then it rained during the week. The wetness made for a heavy but choppy track. Two drivers that had good luck turn bad were Matt Alloway and Ron Davies. Matt towed in from Western Ohio to race on the track that he would run on later in the year with the NRA. He was running in the top five in the last half of the race when the good luck turned bad. He hooked it in turn one and ended up with a wrecked race car in the aftermath of the flip. From good trip to a long ride home in one quick instant. Davies, a veteran late model driver in Western PA for many years, put on the show of the night, only to have bad luck end it for him. Ron had found lines on the track that allowed him to miss a lot of the choppy spots. He was one of the few drivers to run a high line in the treacherous turn four to go above the rough area. He started at the back of the pack and picked cars off at an alarming rate. He eventually made it up to second place only to find that David Scott was long gone. Ron was still running hard after he got to second and on the last lap in turn two, it all went down the tubes as he hooked a rut as he was under a lapped car. It bounced him into the lapped car and the two cars became tangled together. After getting to second place from the tail, it all ended with a DNF as the cars got themselves untangled after the field crossed the line. Good races gone bad for two drivers and nothing to blame but bad luck.
The Spring Nationals for the All Stars at Attica saw the most common type of bad luck in racing: a very indecisive Mother Nature. The first night of the two day show got in just fine. Although it did involve a strong breeze coming out of the southwest, that same breeze was in the air for the second day of the show only this time there were storms in the area around the track. None of the storms hit the track until the dreaded Lake Erie wind shift kicked in. What had been a breeze out of the southwest suddenly turned and came straight from the north, bringing back a storm that had just gone past the track. Rain, hail, thunder, and lightning wiped out night number two. Now I know some of you are wondering what that has to do with bad luck. Well, there are varying types of bad luck in this situation. Track promoter, Janet Holbrook, has the bad luck of not getting in the second night of the show, which should have drawn a bigger crowd. Plus, she has the expense of having the track opened and the nightís activities under way when the storm hit. Some of the race teams would consider it bad luck that they didnít get to run because of all the work some of them had to do overnight to make repairs for the second day. Certainly some of the fans are calling it that as they drove many hours to be there only to see the storm hit just before race time. What other term could you use to describe it?
At the season opener at Black Rock Speedway, also the opening the opening race for the season for the Patriot Sprint Group, a strange type of back luck reared itís head at sprint car driver Gary Troutman. Gary is your typical racer. Cars and engines are what he knows and what he does. He teaches mechanics at Alfred State, the same school where Patriot owner, and former sprint car driver, Tom Taber, teaches his Motorsports Technology course. Like most drivers, Gary had everything ready for the first night at the track where he last ran the Bully Hill Vineyards 360 Nationals in September. Although in his heat race you wouldnít know that Gary had been there before. The car just was working and Gary didnít look like the veteran driver he is. He did not transfer to the A-Main and was relegated to having to try and transfer out of the B. The B-Main looked like a whole different Gary out there. The car ran fast and smooth and he was well on his way to winning the B. Then it happened. He hooked one of the ruts in the middle of turn one. The car then slowed out of two and everyone, including me, thought he had broken a driveline or rear end. But that was not the case. Looking at the car afterward in the pits, I saw a much different answer. When the car bounced through that rut, it caused the car to bottom out on the track. When it did that, the dragging on the track ripped the floorboard loose from the bottom of the car. In the pits, the car sat there with the floorboard hanging down and bent. For Gary, bad luck teased him, as it appeared his earlier bad luck was gone and that he was having some good luck. Kind of like the old Al Bundy syndrome, beware of the good luck because the bad luck will come back even worse.
Gary got to see what happens when a driver has incredibly good luck that night too. Rookie sprint car driver, Rich Swarthout, had a lot of it with him that night. Rich, a former modified driver, was running his first race in a sprint car. He started his heat race in the middle of the pack and he proceeded to run down veteran Rick Wilson and passed him for the win. To add to that, Rick is the one who was helping him with his car set ups. Rich then has more good luck and draws the pole in the redraw for the A-Main starting line up. He then goes out and smokes the field in his first ever sprint car A-Main. He almost had some bad luck a few times as he picked up the throttle too soon coming out of two and almost spun the car. But he collected it up and kept on going. He even admitted to getting tired near the end and screwing up and letting a lapped car get back past. But the good luck was too much for the bad luck to overcome that night.
Luck sure is a funny thing. Racers are no different than other athletes and competitors. Some are superstitious as can be over good luck and bad luck. Some follow rituals to try to keep good luck. Some will change something if they have bad luck. Some donít like certain things around or certain things to happen if they are associated with being bad luck. But can anyone really cause these things to change and determine the outcome? Maybe someone should phone the physic hotline and find out for us.
Along that line, while the in box awaits your e-mail news and releases at www.blairsigns.com, why havenít I ever heard of any physics winning the lottery?
When the locals in Phoenix complain that it is too hot too soon, you know itís hot. Thatís just how it was for the Copper World Classic at Phoenix International Raceway in March. Record breaking highs in the upper 90s, including 98 on Sunday for the IRL race, were 15 degrees above normal. They even broke a record for the highest low temperature one day as it only went down to 73 overnight.
The Copper World has changed in recent years from the long standing format of USAC champ cars, sprints, midgets, and west coast supermodifieds to now having the sprints and midgets along with the Infiniti Pro Series and the IRL Indy Cars. The NASCAR Southwest Series was part of the show for a while also during the transition period. The format isnít the only thing to undergo change there. The facility itself has undergone massive changes in recent years. There is now a tunnel under turn four into the infield, a new victory lane has been constructed, the wall on the dogleg in turn two has been reconfigured, and the media center is a very nice operation. The staff of the media center kept the information flowing and made sure that everyone had everything that they needed. The crew there did a fine job.
The big track wasnít the only racing going on as there was a quarter midget track set up on the concourse behind the main grandstand. These kids were really getting with the program on the tight little track. And donít let the small size of the cars and drivers fool you, they get with program. There was a lot of action during their day long events. There was even a trip to the hospital involved for one young competitor. There was always a crowd on hand watching the kids race. Even during the qualifying session for the IRL cars, the small track had a good crowd too.
While making my rounds through the pits on Friday morning, I ran into Sarah Fisher, who was cruising the pits on a bicycle. We chatted some then and more later as we were joined by Tyler Walker. Tyler told her to get a sprint car team to go race again and Sarah said that racing was a whole lot more fun back in those days. She says that only running one race a year (she has a deal to drive for Kelley Racing in the Indy 500 as a teammate to Scott Sharp) really sucks. She hasnít given up on a full time IRL ride, but she sure sounds disgusted enough to explore other options. Although, word has it that if she leaves IRL to race something else her chances of getting into another IRL car are done. It sure seems strange to me that the way Tony George arranges rides for people, that he doesnít arrange one for the three time defending most popular driver on the circuit. It would only seem to make good business sense to help build the IRL fan base. But then again, he is now changing the IRL to look like the old CART series.
Speaking of Tyler Walker, he has a lot of irons in the fire for this season. He is running a World of Outlaws sprint car for Guy Forbrook when time allows (he won the season opening prelim at Manzanita), he drives the Zarounian champ car when able, and he has a few ARCA and Busch races on tap. He has no truck races scheduled for this year though as in the past. He was on hand to run the champ car and was wearing his red MOPAR Evernham Motorsports driving suit just like the rest of the rest of the Evernham team does. He says that MOPAR is helping to make some things happen for him. Sure would be interesting to see where he would do his back flip after winning a NASCAR sanctioned race. That is, if they would allow something like that.
Champ car qualifying saw USAC use a rule similar to what the Outlaws and All Stars use. On those circuits, if you miss your spot in the qualifying order, you get one lap at the end and can only be 11th fastest (subject to change) at best. Bentley Warren missed his qualifying spot and went out at the end and since there are no heat races, he would only be able to have the top spot in the LCQ at best. That team had problems all weekend. Former sprint car and champ car owner, Ohioís Rick Daugherty, was turning the wrenches on the car his Peterbuilt of Northwest Ohio helps to sponsor.
Duece Turrill was on hand with a champ car for former Indy 500 driver, Roger Rager. All time All Star winner, Kenny Jacobs, was driving a Trevis built car for Youngstown, Ohioís Joe Holtzman. Both teams had troubles all weekend and didnít advance out of the LCQ. It was too bad for two drivers that are talented enough to have been in the main event.
Richie Tobias had two cars, one for himself and one for Gary Hieber. One was of the new design he debuted last year and the other was standard champ car design. Danny Drinan was up to his old design tricks as he showed up with his newest creation. It was innovative, but I wonder about the safety of it. The top two bars of the roll cage come closer together as they go toward the front of the car. When they turn and come down in front of the steering wheel, they arenít very far apart. Only about as wide as the steering wheel itself.
Chet Fillip always has strange creations when he shows up at a racetrack and it was no exception in Phoenix. He had hoops on the side of the frame where the nerf bars usually mount. The front and rear radius rods both mounted to these hoops. This setup makes for some very long radius rods. Dave Steele once again proved to be ďMister AsphaltĒ in USAC as he took the pole for both divisions. He ran second to JJ Yeley in the midget main after taking the lead away late only to watch Yeley go back past. But Dave did dominate the champ car race.
By starting the midget main, Tracy Hines is the only driver to start every midget race of the Classic since 1994. But his fourth place finish this year was only his third top ten finish during that span.
The week after Phoenix it was a return trip to the old homeland for me as it was the season opener at Mercer Raceway Park. Having grown up in the same seat there from the mid-sixties to the early eighties, and later working there in 1989, it is always fun to go back and renew old acquaintances. The 360 sprints were on the card along with the ULMS late models and the stockers. The sprint show was to be sanctioned with the NRA, but the sanction was dropped after there were found to be some rules discrepancies between the local rules and the NRA. It seems to me to be hard to believe that rules issues were found just a couple weeks before the show considering that the show has been on the schedule for a month or two prior. But, the way things are going with sanctioning bodies this year, who knows what the deal was.
The track was on the heavy side, which of course lends itself to turning rough. The corners were choppy and claimed their fair share of victims during the night. Lots of late models saw more air time in one night than they normally do during an entire season. Ron Davies put on the show of the night as he came from near the tail to second, only to tangle with a lapped car on the last lap and not finish. The veteran was one of the few drivers not afraid to look for different lines through or high around the choppy stuff.
Arnie Kent made some aggressive moves early to move to the front from his ninth place starting spot. NRA driver (guess the rules issues werenít that big of a deal) JR Stewart ran second. JR was faster than Arnie on some laps, but just couldnít put together enough consistent laps to challenge for the win.
Track owner, Vicki Emig, keeps working on the facility every year making more and more improvements. She has quite a marketing program with a lot of promotions and cross promotions with non-racing related entities. But one thing remains the same: the egg shaped track with lots of tricky spots for the drivers to overcome.
The Attica Spring Nationals for the All Stars turned into a one day show as the second day saw weather more like midsummer. Sprinkles turned into rain and the rain was in big drops and those drops soon turned into large hail. Then the storm really kicked into gear. He rainout turned into a gathering at a Mexican restaurant in Willard with fellow writers DJ Johnson and Rick Rarer joining me. Former Attica track owner, Gene Frankart and his former announcer, Todd Tappel, then joined us. There was quite an array of racing stories flying around that table. Gene still goes to the track with his push Jeep and Todd is running a kart racing track just north of Attica that will be running every other Saturday starting on May 8. Looks like Gordy and all the other track chasers will have another one to try and add to their totals.
DJ will not have his internet radio show, The Sprint Car Show, as he did last year. Lack of time due to too many other commitments has put the project on hold for this year. His partner in crime from the show last year, racing lawyer Lou Long, has now become Captain Lou (canít imagine him with the rubber bands) the pit steward at Tri-City Speedway.
Rick has opened another website, www.sprintcarnews.com, to go along with his other site, www.racestud.com. The Racestud site has some very popular message boards on it and the new site is very news and photo oriented for sprint car fans. Rick was even brave enough to try a small dab of the habanero sauce (made for heat, not for flavor he says) before his meal arrived on two large platters. Then DJ gets the same thing. Bet it was an interesting ride home to PA for those two in DJs new ride. By the way Rick, did you ever find that woman you were looking for there?
Check out the new online store at: www.blairsigns.com for new window decals. There are different types of racing decals along with other non-racing ones too. You can also use the e-mail link on the site to send any racing news, press releases, and other info.
While lettering more race cars and going to more races, Iím pondering this: Can an atheist get insurance for acts of God?