“Behind the Checkered Curtain”

by Mike Leone

Rain can make one do crazy things. Case in point, with cold, wet weather shrouding the Northeast last weekend and tracks falling to cancellations faster than Georgia Tech fell behind UConn Monday night, the search for a sprint car race with dry weather was on.

700 miles later the “Show Me State” was the end destination as myself and pal Rick Rarer crossed the Midwest via I-70 as the thermometer rose from 37 to a sunny 71 degrees by the time we pulled into the parking lot at Saint Francois County (Fairgrounds) Raceway.

Located about an hour south of Saint Louis, just north of Farmington, Missouri off highway 67, Saint Francois would commence the 2004 campaign for the All Star Circuit of Champion Sprint Cars.

This 1/3-mile high-banked track is a cross between Pennsylvania’s Lincoln Speedway and Ohio’s Attica Raceway Park. The track was conducive to two and three groove racing throughout much of the night, but by feature time (after an e-mod feature), the track slicked off and took rubber on the bottom turning into a follow-the-leader train.

Guy Webb’s gang would bring 15 card-carrying members, who would look to get revenge on last year’s whooping by local Tim Montgomery. While SFCR has some quality local cars, the statement by All Star announcer Justin Zoch they have one of the toughest weekly sprint fields in the country is a stretch by any imagination.

This year’s group of All Stars is one of the most interesting and diverse crosses of racers in some time. While the amount of “full-time stars” is down, the quantity is up. The only question is how long will many of these “rookies” last on Webb’s vigorous slate.

Led by Chad Kemenah , the driver of the Jimmy Harble #15K, is almost a lock for a third straight crown barring any unforeseen setbacks. This is probably the only team that is equipped to run the entire 20-state plus Canada docket. The first weekend of action did nothing but solidify those expectations for the Findlay, Ohio racer who has jumped out to an early point lead.

Greg Wilson : The driver with the most realistic shot of knocking Kemenah from the top returns to pilot the Bob Hampshire #63. With Kemenah’s recent marriage to Hamp’s daughter Tracy, these two teams have become family. The Benton Ridge, Ohio driver will continue to add to his 12 career All Star wins in ’04 and will look to better his career best fourth place ranking last season.

Danny Smith : One of the true “Outlaws”; the Danville, Indiana great always spends a lot of time on the All Star trail, but has made a living racing sprint cars by picking and choosing his way to fame. Last year, the driver of the #4 earned his first championship taking the now-defunct GLOSS crown. Smith kicked off the All Star campaign with his 25th career ASCoC win on April 2 at Paducah, Kentucky in his first race since losing his crew chief, Jim Bennett, to a heart attack.

Dale Blaney : The ’95 & ’96 champion now has the distinction of the All Stars’ all-time active winner. The Fowler, Ohio resident will be behind the wheel of Fritz Andrews’ #72 once again looking to break his fifth place tie of 44 wins with brother Dave.

Kelly Kinser : This Bloomington, Indiana veteran joins Smith and Blaney as three of the semi-regulars that could easily challenge Kemenah if they stuck with the entire tour. Kinser, like Smith, runs his own operation and picks and chooses smartly where he wants to race. The #4K is always a threat especially on the bullrings.

Bill Rose : The Plainfield, Indiana racer will pilot his red #6 for the third straight year on the All Star tour. The former wingless standout should be able to improve his point placing once again after a ninth in his ’02 rookie season and a seventh last season. A first win could be right around the corner.

Phil Gressman : The Clyde, Ohio racer will sub for an injured Bruce Robenalt through at least mid-August, if not the entire season in the #98. Gressman brings a wealth of talent and experience to probably the least financed team on the circuit. Robenalt was ninth in his first full season last year. Gressman would like nothing more than to add to his three career ASCoC wins and give Team Robenalt their first career win.

Ryan Coniam : One of the most interesting combinations of the circuit finds the Burlington, Ontario racer teaming with long-time Ohio driver and car owner Pete Grove. Coniam earned rookie-of-the-year honors racing his #6c last season, but will step into the #70 driven for most of ’03 by Kenny Jacobs, who took third at the Knoxville Nationals.

Jeremy Campbell : If there is a wild card on the tour, it would be this 20-year-old Monroe, Michigan wheelman. This driver has the talent, equipment, and road-experience from the defunct WoOII Series, to turn some heads and get his first career ASCoC win. The #10c is a perfect two-for-two in dashes after winning at both Paducah and St. Francois.

Barry Ruble : This seemingly low-dollar family operation from Burton, Ohio appears to improve its operation eeach year. The former asphalt late model and Sharon sprint winner ended three straight years of finishing 10th in points last year by improving to eight. Ruble carries an in memory of his late engine builder Jim Brauer on his car and has added Cody Prosser, son of racer George, to his crew.

Paul May : The Terre Haute, Indiana resident leads the large rookie crop in his #71m. The young 25-year-old stand-on-the-gas racer will undoubtedly score another career ASCoC win at some point in ’04, most likely on a bullring. The 2002 GLOSS Champion will certainly turn some heads.

Tim Hunter . The Killbuck, Ohio former 360 standout has added the Ray Pullins #29 equipment to his arsenal. Though there is no lack of desire or fear, the experience factor of being on the road may hamper this hard-charger. If Hunter can keep his cool, the 26-year-old driver of the #2H will turn in some good runs.

Jon Agan : If the name sounds familiar, it’s because this 25-year-old racer is the son of National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Marketing Director, Craig Agan. This rookie-of-the-year candidate certainly appears to have the equipment to turn in some quality runs with his #4.

Eddie Lynch : This driver no doubt will certainly get confused across the country with Ed Lynch, Jr., but the Springfield, Illinois driver would like to create his own legacy. This third-generation racer will chase the rookie-of-the-year in his #29 after years of running hit and miss shows throughout the Midwest.

Brock Mayes : This Bucyrus, Ohio driver brings the least experience of all to the table. The former 305 winner just earned rookie 410 honors last season at Attica and Fremont, Ohio speedways in his #11B. The 24-year-old driver will be glad when the tour graces the Buckeye state.

Motor problems at Paducah kept another rookie-of-the-year hopeful, Jan Howard, from action at St. Francois. Other rookies expected to hit numerous shows include Ohio driver Ben Rutan and Michigan’s Chad Blonde, a $2,000 Mercer winner last season.

Along with the 15 above All Stars, St. Francois boasted another 30 cars made up of a mix of track regulars, a few Knoxville cars, and other Midwest runners. A few of the non-All Star heavy hitters included Terry McCarl, Ricky Logan, Jerrod Hull, brothers Tim and Joey Montgomery, Jim Moughan, and Terry Babb.

Four heats, a C, and B main would set the 24-car field. Heats were shared by Campbell (from fourth), Alex Shanks (second), Babb (first), and Knoxville regular Jesse Gianetto (first). Agan topped the 10-lap C from the outside pole, while May topped the B from the pole.

Though Kemenah would lead all 40 laps from the pole for his 14th career All Star win, which was worth $5,000, he clearly didn’t have the fastest car. Blaney, McCarl, Logan, Kinser, and Campbell all seemed to be faster, but Kemenah had the starting spot and track conditions to his favor that was good enough to hold off his challengers.

Blaney turned in a second after starting fifth, but was unable to make a move on the “used-up” track. The ’95 & ’96 champion was just hoping Kemenah would slip off the bottom just enough to allow him to get under, but that didn’t happen. McCarl started third and finished a close third (second straight night) right on Blaney’s bumper. Logan started fourth and finished fourth in one of the best-looking cars. Long-time driver for Guy Webb’s #51, Jerrod Hull, came from 12th to place fifth in the #12.

The e-mod feature ran before the All Star feature. That wasn’t so bad, but having a 30 or so minute intermission after the e-mods was uncalled for especially on a very chilly night that started an hour late when people were already departing. Then we wonder why our sport struggles to not only reach a new fan base, but preserve the existing one.

A call goes out to Curtis Boyer, who qualified for the feature both nights with a 360-powered engine. The New Haven, Missouri racer finished 18th at Paducah and 16th at St. Francois in his #72.

Five of the 35 cars at Paducah did not show at St. Francois meaning 51 cars competed over the two days.

Team of the week: Marshall Skaggs. Ya’ gotta love this team. The name is a perfect fit for the Skaggs Trucking #606. They’d fit in just fine at any speedway in Texas or the any part of the south for that matter. This team fits the racing redneck stereotypical mold.

Name of the week: Jesse Gianetto. Not only do I love the name (it’s an Italian thing), but the big bulldog on the side of the black #D1 is really kewl and pretty intimidating.

The shot at pulling the double at Kenny Schrader’s I-55 at Pevely, Missouri went out the door as the track was dark and the last remaining trailers were exiting the track around midnight as we made our way back northeast.

St. Francois accounted for my ninth race of the year at my 72nd career track in the 12th different state. Since October 18, 2003, I have added Ohio Valley (WV), Midway (OH), BeaveRun (PA), Mid-Ohio, Bridgeport (NJ), Indianapolis Speedrome (IN), Anderson (IN), and now St. Francois (MO) to my list.

How amazing is it that Lincoln Speedway has got in all seven of their scheduled shows? While you may say that doesn’t sound like a big deal, remember, Lincoln opened up on February 21! That’s pretty remarkable for a Pennsylvania track in springtime or any time for that matter. Cris Eash’s 37th career Lincoln win Saturday was worth $2,500 for the Hanover driver. A call goes out to Johnstown racer Dan Shetler, who led the first 11 laps and a finished a career best Lincoln finish of fourth.

Pennsylvania racer, Brian Paulus, made the headlines Saturday by winning the World of Outlaw race at Texas Motor Speedway. The Mechanicsburg native passed Kraig Kinser on lap 28 to win the 30-lap $10,000 to-win event for his second career WoO win. The young Kinser came home second just missing his first ever WoO win. Following the race, Kraig’s dad Steve, who finished fifth, was recognized for winning his 500th career WoO A main victory recently in Houston, Texas.

Robert Frost once said, “A liberal is a man too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel.” You think about that. Ideas for another spur-of-the-moment jaunt can be e-mailed to mleone@infonline.net.


Ahhh.opening day. There's just nothing like it for us race fans. It's all the sights and sounds that puts a smile on our faces and makes us glad that we're back again to do it all over again for another year.

It's seeing the new shiny cars unload, catching the first smell of methanol, racing to put your blanket down to find your perfect seat, scouring out the facility to see what's new, chatting with friends you haven't seen all winter, hamburgers cooking on the grill, the call from 50/50 girls and program sellers, and I could go on and on, but ya'll know exactly what I mean.

For some, the above starts in February at Florida Speedweeks, others may have to wait until April, maybe even May to see racing in some parts of the country, but if you're in central Pennsylvania and it's the Saturday following the Daytona 500, you know that means- sprint car racing at Lincoln Speedway.

Situated just west of the Adams/York County-border in Abbottstown, Adams County lies the Pigeon Hills of Lincoln Speedway- named after President Abraham Lincoln, who gave the "Gettysburg Address" on November 19, 1863 some 10 miles west.

Lincoln (the speedway that is) has always had the propensity to get races in and always give it there best try nonetheless. Saturday, February 21 was no different. With snow still blanketing the overlooking hillside and adjacent shaded golf course, high temps predicted in the mid-40s, and precipitation of both natures littered all over the Keystone State, racing was on.

While just about any other track would have thrown in the towel, Lincoln not only went on with their program, but probably was the only track in the commonwealth that could have even got the show in.

Snow showers fell from the sky with temps in the low to mid-30s for over half of my trip from the far western part of the state before turning to light showers and around 40 degrees in the Port Royal vicinity. By the time I reached the Capital Beltway some breaks in the cloud cover developed, but off and on sprinkles and light showers persisted until about five miles north of the track. Pulling into the muddy parking lot saw the temps skyrocket to wind-blown 47 degrees and a mostly cloudy sky- but hey it was opening day who cares, right?

Thoughts of snowy western Pa. were a distant memory when Joe Harz's #88H and his new truck and trailer are first in line. Harz's now third-year driver, Fred Rahmer, was one of the first to buy a pit pass as the gates opened at 12 noon sharp and said a brief, "How's everyone doing," before he shot through the crowd and headed toward the pit area. That must have been an omen because five hours later, Fred Rahmer was in victory lane ending an unthinkable Lincoln winless streak that dated back to October 5, 2002.

How do you know it's opening day in central Pa.? Fans are waiting in line to get in despite the weather conditions, people don't mind what they look like or care that they have mud all over themselves and their vehicle, no one cares that there only 20 sprints and just 9 finish the feature, there were more passes at the concession stand line than there was on the race track, no one complains when the races start a few minutes late and the grader appears on the track at different points in the program not because of the roughness of the track but because water is running onto the frontstretch from the melting snow, and fans cheer when colder airs moves in ushering in a brief snow shower.

The fact that Fred Putney and company got the track in any kind of racing condition let alone a raceable, smooth, dust-free afternoon surface is admirable. The fact that only nine cars finished the feature was another thing and goes back to the above question.How do you know it's opening day? It looked like over half the drivers were way over anxious and you certainly could tell they hadn't raced all winter. Most of the accidents and spills definitely were uncalled for and was something you wouldn't see in July. Some of the guys spent more time on the hook and in the pits and fixing their cars than they did racing.

Opening day experience at Williams Grove Speedway will have to wait a week as they pulled the plug on Saturday for Sunday's scheduled opener due to wet grounds and unworkable track conditions. In 2000, I watched then teenager Kasey Kahne score an upset win on opening day at Williams Grove in his father Kelly's #23K. Four years later from the couch instead of the grandstands, I watch Kahne nearly pull off another upset, this time in NASCAR's Nextel Cup race at Rockingham (NC) in Ray Evernham's #9.

I'm not a big NASCAR fan as the first two races are probably the last two of the year that I'll watch in their entirety; however, seeing Kahne run up front like he did and nearly pull off the win was great. His last lap near pass for the win and honest non-staged-like interview put a smile on my face and was a breath of fresh air. It sure is neat to see sprint guys like Kahne, Stewart, and Newman contend for the win.

Boy you have to feel for Carl Long, who barrel-rolled after being shot into the wall and ended up with a destroyed race car- the only Cup car he possessed. Long was only at the Rock because of the short field and was equipped with an old used engine and borrowed wheels and tires. Reminds you of the days gone by, but sure no Cinderella, storybook ending.

One thing in observing that I never noticed or paid attention to is that the numbers on the roof face toward the infield rather than grandstands like local racing. My guess would be the difference in location of the information/scoring tower and for camera television purposes.

Darrell Waltrip's comments that Cup racing is the only series that could race that long and produce a finish that close was typical from the "Oval Office" as they now refer to it as. First, how many racing series actually run 4 or 500-mile events? And second, go to any Saturday night short track and you can usually find a close finish. Now grant you, you're not going to see that many races decided by .01 of a second no matter the distance, but it's where it came from just like his comments on the new point system, which he stated is basically the best thing since sliced bread. I understand that he works for NASCAR, but don't try to b.s. those of us that truly know better. Makes you appreciate how genuine Bob Jenkins and Larry Nuber were in the days of ESPN.

If Kahne was going to lose that one, I was glad to see Matt Kenseth come out swinging after NASCAR's brass probably changed the point system for basically his amount of wins last season. Despite only one victory, Kenseth was consistent and later in the year may have raced for points rather than for wins, a syndrome that happens to racers all over the country at a short track near you.

I found it laughable how everyone seemed puzzled how Kenseth and Kahne, who pitted under green, could restart ahead of Jamie McMurray, who pitted following the caution, until Mike Joy piped in with the answer. Now whether or not he knew personally or it came from elsewhere is besides the point. The answer was quite simple and really is similar to scoring at a local track.

Because NASCAR now freezes the field and it was determined that Kenseth and Kahne didn't lose a lap, the two went to the tail of the tail of the field. Then when all of the other lead lap cars including McMurray pitted under caution, they came out of the pits and was rightfully behind Kenseth and Kahne, who both pitted first. The answer would be the same at any track that doesn't race back to the yellow to count the additional lap. Maybe I should try wearing a helmet when discussing a scoring issue like the NASCAR officials, who were explaining the procedure to McMurray's crew- just kidding!

Okay, I know, enough about NASCAR. It'll be interesting to monitor 410 winged sprint car counts across the nation, which have slowed dropped at all of the major events throughout the nation the last couple seasons. Numbers have been low at these opening events across the nation. Volusia barely had enough cars for a full field during Florida Speedweeks then the following week at East Bay counts, which always have far exceeded Volusia, only jumped to the low 30s. Lincoln opened up with a meager 20 against no competition. The World of Outlaws' opener at Manzanita (AZ) drew 32 and 31 for the two nights.

What in the world is going on with the All Star Sprints schedule? First, Lincoln cancels their May date. Second, Emmett Hahn's Sprint bandits book a two-day show at Little Rock (AR) when the All Stars thought they had the event. Third, the scheduled March opener at Oglethorpe (GA) was never on the track's website and now has been postponed to September. And finally, a mini-August PA Speedweek appears to be scrapped because of the sanction fees.

Some dates to put on your calendar for can't miss unique shows.May 15 at Mercer 410 sprints, ESS/NRA 360 Sprints, & PA 305 Sprints, June 25 Central PA Speedway BRP Modified Tour $2,500 to-win and 358 modifieds $1,000 to-win, and August 13 Lake Erie Speedway USAC Sprints.

In 1798 John Adams stated, "Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any others." Is it any wonder why we have the problems of today. Groups like the ACLU makes Adams and our fellow Founding Fathers role over in their graves. You think about that. E-mail will make its way to the inbox at mleone@infonline.net


Two of probably the most significant accomplishments from the 2003 season at Mercer Raceway Park were honored at the banquet on January 17. Lonny Riggs received an Outstanding Achievement Award for becoming just the second driver in the speedway’s history to win in four different classes. Riggs has scored victories in the big-block modifieds, 358 modifieds, sportsman modifieds, and stock cars at the 3/8-mile oval. Last season, Riggs’ two victories came in the two biggest modified races of the season- the $2,000 Bill Emig Memorial for big blocks and the $2,000 Little Guy Nationals for 358s.

Erin Crocker earned “The Legacy” Award, while she was racing Down Under. Crocker broke two track records in ’03. She first set a new 360 sprint standard against URC on July 5 then two and a half months later shattered the 410 mark against the All Stars. The fact that she did it against two of the most recognizable sprint car sanctioning bodies in the country makes the achievement all the more impressive. In relatively a short period of time, Crocker has become the most successful female sprint car racer in the history of the sport.

I urge everyone to read Hewitt’s Law. A very entertaining piece that really shows another side of one’s the toughest and greatest sprint car racers of all time. Hewitt’s always been one of my racing heroes and after reading his work it just reconfirms that notion. It really is a miracle that Jack Hewitt is still with us here. It’s not too hard to see that God wants to use Hewitt in ways Jack could have never dreamed of in his earlier days.

The tragic death of Don Goodson last fall made me think just how much he and J.W. Hunt were alike. The ‘Strawberry Kings’ certainly liked to give their money away at the racetracks. It makes you realize how rare a Don Goodson and J.W. Hunt really are in racing.

J.W. Hunt was certainly a one-of-a-kind. I’ll never forget 1989 at Fremont Speedway. J.W. is down on the track doing his typical WWF/Bob Weikert-style interview to get everyone riled up. This guy beside me in the grandstands is going off on old J.W. The next thing you know, J.W. and a couple of his body guards, as I guess you’d call them, are up the stands right in the face of this race fan. Now Mr. Race Fan is not so mouthy as J.W’s gang roughs the man up and his glasses end up in my 11-year-old lap. I suppose it was just a typical day at the races for Mr. Hunt. Something I’ll never forget- that’s for sure. Heck it’s the type story that should have been in Hewitt’s book.

Boy you have to really feel for Jason Johnson. Johnson was literally on top of the world. The Louisiana native was coming off his career best season in 2003 and had since added three victories in Australia, then the bottom fell out. His 18-year-old sister was tragically killed in an automobile accident, then days later he learned his ride in the states was no more. Long-time Ohio car owner, All Harrison, pulled on the plug on the HTI #22 citing increasing politics in sprint car racing. It sure will seem like strange without the #22, Ray Pullins’ #29, and Denny Ashworth’s #92 on the All Star tour and in the Buckeye State.

It appears that Guy Webb’s All Stars and Florida speedplants East Bay and Volusia have their “differences” squared away and the All Stars will return to the Sunshine State in ’05. It’s kind of a shame it couldn’t have been hashed out back in the fall. Seems weird to be seeing press releases stating the above prior to this year’s non-sanctioned sprint races at both tracks, which we’ve heard and seen little about during the off-season. It’ll be interesting to see how both the fan and spectator turnout is. One thing’s for certain, Danny Lasoski, is the clear cut favorite.

Lasoski’s quotes from the Chili Bowl on the World of Outlaws in Australia were interesting. “Not a chance,” Danny said when asked if he’d be docked points. “I told Ted (Johnson), ‘Go without me.’ I made my plans to come here. I knew for a fact that it was gonna be a special event. And I wasn’t gonna jeopardize the rest of my year just to go to Australia. I’ve been there five years. And I enjoy going, but I didn’t wanna have a race car and two motors tied up from November to February.” (From Kevin Eckert)

The United Racing Club (URC) has always impressed me. Their professionalism speaks volumes. From their staff, to their card-carrying members, to their sponsors right down to their yearbook, everything is first class. When they roll into a track, it’s the World of Outlaws of 360 racing. One tidbit that speaks for itself is that 7 of the top 11 in points actually drive for a car owner, and I’m not talking about a family member. It’s not a surprise that the nation’s oldest sprint car sanctioning body just keeps on ticking. This is one club that has its act together and keeps the ship pointed in the right direction.

The “Dirty Dozen” who have bolted for Boundless’ World of Outlaws Late Models brings back thoughts of those who left DIRT for the short-lived USNA of the modified sect. For awhile it seemed like the world was good for Doug Bland’s Xtreme Series. Boundless could have bought Xtreme and really made headlines, but then again they’ve been trying to do that with the WoO & DIRT. Guess they figured this time it was easier to start their own than to acquire. Time will tell how everything will shake out.

Like it or not, crate engine racing is slowing seeping into all facets of racing. A few years, this little talked about subject is now starring in the faces of promoters and racers across the country. Thunder Road’s (VT) Tom Curley has preached about the success of his program for years at the Promoter’s Workshops. Crate engine divisions are not for everyone, but the implementation in the right situation can save many types of classes and keep drivers in racing for the long run.

We must realize local racing is not touring body racing. Too many times we’re more worried about those around us than what’s actually the best for ourselves. There are very few, and I mean very few, Williams Groves of the world that can put their local racers head-to-head with the best the World of Outlaws have to offer. The same goes for all divisions across the board at locals tracks near you. How many local drivers today go on the road and compete? In fact, most racers stick to their home track and maybe one other night. There are very few three-night-a-week racers anywhere in any division. We all know change is hard, and I’ll be first to fight change, but sometimes in the long run change is good.

While speaking of change, does NASCAR really need to change its Cup point system? Would they have changed the system had Matt Kenseth won eight races? I don’t think so. Kenseth will be forever known as the champion who caused the change. All those years NASCAR’s brass always told us they were happy with the system. While I know change is inevitable, I think in certain situations consistency and tradition speaks for itself. One thing is certain, you won’t be able to compare Winston Cup Champions with Nextel Cup Champions.

Joe Gibbs has been so successful in everything he puts his efforts to. I’m real curious to see if he can get the Daniel Snyder’s Washington Redskins back on track. The ‘Skins haven’t been the same since his departure.

Last time I mentioned that the internet has given anyone that wants to a chance to speak their mind. When you come to think of it, there are a lot of columnists in print that leave little to be desired and it amazes me that they are where they are.

Whatever happened to Racing Champion’s die-cast sprint cars?

I still find myself laughing as hard at “Seinfeld” repeats as I did when they initialed aired.

Okay I’m starting to get off track; time to put this one to rest…In 1940, American teachers listed the worst problems as talking out of turn, chewing gum, cutting in line, and running in the hall. In contrast, teachers in 1990 said the top problems were drug use, alcohol abuse, pregnancy, suicide, rape, robbery, and assault! And that was 1990! You think about and until then I’ll be filtering spam at mleone@infonline.net.


Welcome to 2004! What better way to ring in the new year than to see live racing. Traditionally New Years Day features racing at tracks across America. Past experience for me includes the famous Hangover event at Sandusky (OH) and the day following at Mansfield (OH).

With fair and relatively mild weather forecasted, I made the trek to Anderson (IN) Speedway, which is located 45 miles northeast from downtown Indianapolis on Pendleton Avenue in the city of Anderson.. Since 1949, Anderson has been home of the “Little 500” for sprint cars- 500 laps around what Anderson calls “The World’s Fastest High-Banked Quarter-Mile Oval” two days before the running of the Indianapolis 500.

Anderson is one of those tracks you can feel the history and nostalgia even with temps in the mid-40s and support-division, amateur-type racing. A good crowd and approximately 100 cars turned out for action in the stock cars, strictly stocks oval and figure eight, FWD mini stocks, and mini cups.

The figure eight racing was wild, stock cars were turning 12-second laps, there were some hellish crashes, and the mini stocks saw last lap contact between first and second place, which resulted in the apparent winner being Dqed by “race control,” as they called it, in a wild victory lane ceremony. What a way to start 2004! Anderson’s oval and figure eight accounted for my 70th and 71st racetracks.

I don’t know if it’s the time of the year and/or the types of divisions competing, but these winter events sure bring a different breed of people out of the woodwork. You sure do see some sights, but nothing will ever beat Sandusky’s Helmet Lady or the guy that played with the turbo heaters. Oh it takes all types in this world.

Onward and upward to better things and hey, live racing is better than BCS ‘bs’ any day. Can we please create ‘any’ kind of College Football playoff system and eliminate the stupid co-national champions? I digress.

The Chili Bowl has to be considered one of the biggest short-track races of the year. Not because of the payoff, but what other event can bring together 218 cars from a wide diverse and cross of racing? NASCAR’s Tony Stewart, Kenny Schrader, Jason Leffler, & Kasey Kahne, NHRA’s Ron Capps, World of Outlaw’s Danny Lasoski & Randy Hannagan, late model’s Rick Eckert & Bart Hartman, stars J.J. Yeley, Jimmy Sills, Dave Darland, Tracy Hines, Jay Drake, Wally Pankratz, Corey Kruseman, Bud Kaeding, Gary Wright, Robbie Flock, Johnny Heydenreich, Boston Reid, Rickie Gaunt, & Aaron Berryhill, and throw in the nation’s top midget racers and you have quite the assemblage of short-track racers.

While the Chili Bowl will be going on in American soil, Down Under at Parramatta City Raceway in Australia, the World of Outlaws will be competing in their first ever overseas event. A lot of eyes will be closely watching how this event goes down. While the event has been promoted all along as a WoO event, the big question is, will points be awarded? With Danny Lasoski in Tulsa and other so-called WoO point chasers not competing, the prospects of awarding points seems highly-doubtful. Even Erin Crocker, who is supposed to run the full WoO sked for Mike Woodring, will skip the WoO event for alternative Aussie sprint racing. Since I was a little kid, I have always wanted to go to Australia to see sprint cars and God-willing I will make it one day.

Chris Matthews will celebrate his first ever track championship January 17 at Mercer Raceway Park’s banquet. The former go-kart and 305 sprint car standout will then head to Florida for 360 competition at East Bay. Matthews capped off the season with a career best third against the 410s on August 23 then finished runner-up to Scott Bonnell in the 360 finale on September 28.

Speaking of Bonnell, the 2004 season will not get started as soon as planned. A snowmobile accident last month may keep the Fairview, Pa. racer sidelined until April missing Florida Speedweeks and early central Pa. competition. Definitely a disappointment for Bonnell, who couldn’t have ended 2003 any better. A $4,000 Bully Hill 360 Fall Nationals crown at Black Rock, a charge from 24th to 5th against the All Stars at Mercer, and a his second straight win in the 360 finale at Mercer capped off an unbelievable three-week stretch in September.

Will any All Stars break ranks and compete in the non-All Star events in Florida? Most have said no and so far according to the East Bay entry list it appears the answer will be no. The closest All Star member that could be called a semi-regular that has entered thus far is Danny Smith.

University of Northwestern Ohio (UNO) President, Jeff Jarvis, owns and operates Limaland (OH) Speedway and is part owner of the NRA 360 Sprint Invaders. The western Ohio series will make three appearances in 2004 at Mercer Raceway Park. UNO student, Andy Paden, had a breakout season in 2003 with four victories in the sportsman modifieds including his first career win on Flag Day- June 14 (my birthday). The Greenville, Pa. racer’s three other wins all came on the final lap and ended the season with seven straight top two finishes.

The PA 305 Sprint Series do a great job promoting themselves. An affordable spec engine and a reasonable, fair purse for all concerned has helped this series grow with baby steps each year. This year appears to be their best yet with visits to some high-profile tracks and what should be record car counts as 40 teams are already active. The series says, “A competent race car can be on the track for less than $10,000, utilizing a one-year-old rolling chassis and a new spec 305 engine.” Rod Ort does a nice job with their website at www.pa305sprints.com.

Michigan’s Chad Blonde is a true outlaw sprint car racer. Ohio’s Jason Dolick can really wheel a sprint car. He was a winner in micro sprints and was fast last year in Pete Grove’s 360. What ever happened to former WoO racer, Lance Blevins?

The third edition of the History of America’s Speedways Past and Present is now available. Allan Brown’s third edition. Brown’s latest work boasts more than 850 pages some 300 more than 1994’s second edition. You can add this book to your racing library by sending $35 by check or money order to P.O Box 448, Comstock Park, MI, 49321-0448. Brown also publishes the National Speedway Directory and the National Sprint Car Annual.

Condolences go to the families of former racers Steve Ungar and Jim Brauer, who both passed away over the Christmas holiday.

The internet has allowed anyone that wishes to express their opinion publicly through websites, columns, and message boards, and it definitely doesn’t discriminate on proficiency, written talent, intelligence, or the like. Good or bad, it’s here to stay. You think about that and thanks for reading. Still waiting for Boundless to take over the WoO at mleone@infonline.net.


I really like what Ron Smoker did at the recent BRP Modified Tour banquet. The New York driver called his entire crew to the podium and presented each one with a championship leather jacket. While the public constantly sees the driver name in the spotlight, it’s nice to see the behind-the-scene efforts get rewarded. The former midget car racer has won the lucrative Tour title and the $4,000 that goes with it the past two seasons. The Tour has already scheduled new stops at Ohio’s Raceway 7 and Bicknell’s home track- Merrittville Speedway across the border in Thorold, Canada.

Attend the PRI show and you quickly realize just how big the Motorsports industry is. Every nook and cranny of the Indianapolis Convention Center and RCA dome is filled. It takes every bit of two days to cover the show and then you’re still not sure if you’ve hit it all. The PRI show brings out a who’s who of racing to Peyton Manning’s playground. You just never know who you’ll see next when you turn the corner trying to get a “deal” for the upcoming season. It’s a wheel & deal, wine & dine, pr, rumor-filled, news-breaking, show-off, etc. week. Watch you don’t trip trying to read name tags and matching names with faces.

Marriott tips…Don’t drink the “courtesy” bottled water or you’ll get charged $4. Be prepared to pay $18/night to park in the wonderful parking garage that if you leave, you probably won’t be allowed back in because it’s full. Hungry? The breakfast buffet is only $10.95 and the lunch buffet is only $14.95 or go for the $4 slice of pizza in the Convention Center. Ahh nothing like city-life.

Did you know that while Sunoco Race Fuels replaces the orange balls of Unocal 76 at NASCAR Cup, Busch, and Truck Series events in 2004, Sunoco receives $0 on the use of the fuels? I recently learned this tidbit at PRI from Sunoco/Bazell Fuels, Russ Bradford. Bradford worked as the assistant flagmen at Mercer Raceway Park in the mid-90s.

The use of radios and transponders is becoming more and more common in the operations of short track auto racing. I suspect that in the next five years or so, the majority of race tracks and sanctioning bodies will use such a system. After the initial costs to the drivers and tracks, it will be plus for all involved including the fans. The radios make for quicker lineups, which translates into a more efficient show and less fuel used for the competitors. The transponders eliminate the human element and ends the majority of scoring complaints. Drivers are also able to review all of their laps and how they fared against their competitors. Ohio’s Raceway 7 is the first local speedway to implement such a system. After the initial grumblings from the drivers, I have heard nothing but praise.

While at the PRI show, I stopped by the West Virginia Motorsports Council (yes that’s right) booth and picked up a card on late model racer Larry Moore. On the back of the card below the WVMC mission statement blib reads, “The state of West Virginia is proud to have the legendary Larry Moore declare West Virginia as his official vacation land.” Need I say more.

Did I miss something here? According to Bev Thompson’s column in the December 2 issue of Area Auto Racing News, “The All Stars banquet went well and everyone had a good time, especially Champ Chad Kemenah.” However, according to the All Stars, December 19 is the date of the affair where Kemenah will pocket 50 grand according to Guy Webb. Maybe they had a dress rehearsal somewhere. I still wonder why the All Stars moved their banquet from PRI weekend. All kidding aside, Bev always writes a touching Christmas racing story that appears in AARN’s Christmas edition.

It looks like at this point the All Star will be shutout of the Sunshine State for Florida Speedweeks. Oops, Daytona said a few years ago that we’re not supposed to use that phrase unless we’re talking about them. Volusia calls the 33rd Winter Nationals “Raceweeks 2004,” which will include USCS 360 Sprints February 3&4 and non-sanctioned 410 sprints February 5-8 paying $4,000 to-win, $400 to-start.

After some conversations with Jack Hewitt in the fall, his departure from his whistle-blowing All Star role is not surprising. I look forward to reading Hewitt’s book. I’ll never forget my ride with Hewitt at Mercer in the real, original two-seat sprint car. It gave me a whole new appreciation of sprint car racing.

One website I find myself checking almost every morning, is Mike Lauterborn’s News & Gossip Sprint Car Racing Stuff site. The New York 360 sprint racer has one of the most unique racing sites I’ve come across. He gets info almost as fasts as it comes out of one’s mouth. From birthdays, to jokes, to roomers (as he calls them), to press releases, to funny pictures, and everything in between, you’ll find it at www.sprint41.com. Lauterborn updates his site every night and posts the time as Pacific Time. I spotted Lauterborn at the Racing Electronics booth at the PRI show as ESS, the Patriots, and SOS will all make one-way radios mandatory in 2004.

Something you don’t see everyday…Van May walking the streets of downtown Indianapolis.

With Gamblers Raceway Park dropping 358 modifieds from their weekly card and asphalt-to-dirt Friday night Central PA Speedway using a more conservative 358 rules, what will this do to some of the exotic 358 motor cars that have existed for years in the Clearfield area? It always has amazed me that the former Hidden Valley Speedway (now Gamblers), which opened in 1992, has hung on to the modifieds as long as they have. Although in recent years, the modifieds have been the track’s highest car count. HVS/GRP probably had the most liberal 358 modified rules in the nation. The track made a name for drivers like Mike Stine, George Sankey, Bobby Roos, and Bob Garvey.

I have a real problem with Lake Moc-A-Tek’s decision to allow 10-year-olds to compete in the 250 cc micro sprint division. How low can we go? Any parent that would let their 10-year-old compete needs their head checked. Ten-year-olds should be playing with Matchbox & Hot Wheels cars not competing with adults. No pre-teen or any teen under 16 for that matter has the maturity level to compete in these circumstances. Can you imagine a judge or jury’s reaction to 10-year-old that ran over a track official? Then we wonder why the insurance industry is the way it is today. Where has common sense gone to in America?

It will sure seem strange in 2004 not to have the Martin Family running Lernerville Speedway after 37 years of doing so. Those leasing the track from the Martins all have ties to past promotional teams (Bauman & Roenigk).

Three years ago, New Castle’s Hickory Speedway and Sportsman’s Speedway were both running on Sunday night and Sharon Speedway was a ½-mile running on Friday nights.

I love reading and comparing tracks and sanctioning bodies rules. You just never know what you’ll find. This comes out of the PA 305 Sprints rules, “If you race your 305 with the 410’s or 358’s on a night we have a scheduled 305 race you will start at the rear of your heat and will not start ahead of the previous winner at that track for 2 weeks,” and, “If you race your 305 at a non sanctioned 305 race at any time you will not be allowed to race with our series for 2 months on 1st offense On 2nd offense your are done with our series.”

Sister Virginia (305) Sprint Series offers the following, “No chop or slide jobs. A leading car is required to leave a racing lane for a car that is positioned alongside of the leading car. Repeated chop or slide jobs will be penalized. The overtaking car has the responsibility to show themselves to the leading car in time for the leading car to leave a lane open. The leading car has the responsibility to turn their head to look for an overtaking car before committing to a line that uses up most of the race track.”

VSS limits their shows to two heats races and a feature. The first 26 cars that pre-enter for an event comprise the field. Any new competitor that registers for VSS goes on a waiting list. Kind of interesting. Both the PA 305 Sprints and VSS require the Racesaver 305 Spec Head and all cars must be sealed to compete.

It’s hard to imagine no slide jobs in sprint car racing.

A site long gone, but not forgotten…Tim Kuhn pulling his #2Cents (can’t do the cents symbol on a computer) sprint car on an open trailer with his old station wagon filled with tires going from track to track all over God’s country. Bobby Allen, Joey Allen, Tim Kuhn, and Joey Kuhn were quite a bunch that could really wheel a sprinter with limited funds, but now are all names of the past. You can even throw in old Richard Lupo, Jr., who ran a team car (2a) for a while to Bobby Allen.

Speaking of the Allens & Kuhns, will it be the Hatfields vs. the McCoys in URC? Actually it will be the Brians vs. the Michaels. Isn’t it cool that brothers Cliff and Bill Brian along with brothers Sean and Curt Michael will all chase after the 2004 URC Championship. I can see some pretty heated battles there in the oldest and probably strongest 360 sprint group in the world. None of the four are slouches either as they all have quite a bit of 410 experience.

Praise God for the capture of Saddam Hussein no matter what the liberal media tries to tell us differently. Remember the real reason why we celebrate Christmas. You think about that. Waiting for your Christmas wishes at mleone@infonline.net.


Boarding is underway. Take your seat, hold on, and enjoy the smell of methanol. This ain’t no kiddie ride at the local fair.

Last time I remarked on the successes of weekly full-time racer, Greg Hodnett. The biggest story though of the 2003 central Pa. Sprint Car scene has to be Fred Rahmer. The Salfordville resident was shutout of victory lane (0-for-23) at his home track, Lincoln Speedway. Not only did the driver of the Joe Harz #88H fail to take a checkered flag first, but also his six-year championship reign ended thanks to rival Lance Dewease. Keep in mind, Rahmer owns 122 scores at the track named after President Abe, who delivered his Gettysburg Address just miles from the Pigeon Hills oval.

When you take into account that Rahmer became the first driver in speedway history to score at least 10 wins each year during his six-year championship run, then only you realize the magnitude of his disappointing season. I hate Hard Luck Awards. They’re like hitting someone when they’re already down. Giving Rahmer the Hard Luck Award is like giving it to Steve Kinser the next time he has an off year and doesn’t win the WoO title. Don’t look for the skein to last too far into 2004. Rahmer is still one of today’s most fiercest and intense racers.

Who would have guessed it would be a sprint car that would end Steve Paine’s domination of Black Rock Speedway? No Mike Woodring’s sprint car didn’t beat Paine’s modified in a race, but Saturday night 360 sprint cars has replaced Friday night 358 modifieds in New York’s Finger Lakes Wine Country. Paine’s six straight championships and 67 wins (since 1998) won’t add up in 2004. Now when someone asks you what Fred Rahmer and Steve Paine have in common, you’ll know the answer.

Every sprint car fan, driver, owner, crew member, etc. should be a member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum in Knoxville, Iowa. I’ve been a member since 1995 (the first year I attended the Knoxville Nationals). Even if you never make it to the HoF&M, the $25 annual membership is well worth it. Your membership helps the HoF&M’s positioning statement, “Promoting the Future by Preserving the Past”.

I finally got to meet HoF&M Executive Director, Tom Schmeh, at Syracuse during the Northeastern 360 Sprint Forum November 23. Schmeh does an excellent job at not only the HoF&M, but also promoting sprint car racing in general. Sprint car racing needs more Tom Schmehs. Do the HoF&M a favor, go to www.sprintcarhof.com and become a member.

Did you know that Dave and Dale Blaney both have 44 career wins on the All Star Circuit of Champions tour? They are tied for fifth all-time with Kevin Huntley. Kenny Jacobs needs three more wins for the magic 100. The Jacobs brothers are both ride-hunting for 2004. With the seat open again in the Denny Ashworth #92, look for one if not both of them to get some time in that ride at some point during 2004.

Looking down through the All Star all-time win list brings back stars of days gone by that are all but forgotten. Frankie Kerr, Rocky Hodges, Bobby Davis, Jr., Joe Gaerte, Fred Linder, Terry Shepherd, Steve Butler, Lee Brewer, Jr., and Rick Ungar all had success with the ASCoC and gave me fond childhood memories, but are heard very little from today.

As a follow up to last time’s soap box on the traction control ad that appeared in Flat Out, I received an e-mail from Bill Woodside, who is the National Advertising Manager for Sprint Car & Midget magazine. Woodside stated, “We were contacted by the traction control folks who wanted to buy ads in our magazine, but decided quickly that it was not in our best interests, or the best interests of sprint car racing to run such an ad. Sadly, others do not see things the same way we do, but we stand by our decision and feel proud of what we do.”

As a sprint car purist, I say thank you to Woodside and Sprint Car & Midget for taking the correct stand. You may remember my November 8 column complimenting the efforts of this periodical and this just confirms my beliefs. I’ll agree that Flat Out has every right to run such an ad, but if you’re like me, it gives you a sour feeling in your stomach.

Speaking of racing magazines, it’s great to see Pennsylvania’s Chub Frank on the cover of Speedway Illustrated. Frank becomes the first short-track dirt racer to make the cover. His “How Dirt Races are Won” story is featured inside the January 2004 issue. Frank is a great inspriational story to any local racer dreaming of making it big. Dick Berggren has done an excellent job recruiting a talented staff that includes Rob Sneddon, Bones Bourcier, Doug Gore, and Karl Frederickson. It’s nice to see a quality national magazine devote as much space as it does to short track racing. SI’s no-holds-bar, honest, and truth style of writing is a welcome breath of fresh air in a day when many cater to higher ups and those they are trying to impress.

This week’s soap box…I’m so sick of Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition/diversity crap. Motorsports needs Jackson and his reverse discrimination about as much as California needs another liberal. No one tells a black they can’t enter racing and no one tells a white they can’t play basketball (but the movie “White Men Can’t Jump” is okay?). Tiger Woods is in golf because of his talents, not because of his color and that’s the way it should be in all aspects of life, not just sports. Jackson’s probably trying to figure out he can charge God with discrimination in heaven. Clouds just may be the dust on God’s shoes. In other words, God is bigger than life. Jesse, stay out of things you shouldn’t be trying to control.

Let’s move on. Borger’s Speedway in Saylorsburg, Pa. is still racing weekly featuring micro sprints. They have a race this Sunday (12/7). There’s been weekends in November that have been nicer than some this past miserable summer.

The World of Outlaws will be racing at Parramatta Speedway in Sydney, Australia January 8-10. The WoO once raced in Ciuadad Juárez, Mexico. I’ve been to Ciuadad Juárez and it’s hard to imagine a sprint car race taking place there. This is a city where children roam the streets, teenagers are drinking, old painted school buses rule, and I mean rule, the highways, crime is prevalent, soccer is the national pastime, and I could go on and on. If you think drivers in American cities are bad, you should see Ciuadad Juárez. Ciuadad translates to city for those of you not fluent in Spanish.

Still wondering how many people really have the Outdoor Channel or watch it for that matter. OC signed a three-year agreement with the WoO back in September to televise a minimum 27 races on a tape-delayed basis in 2004. According to the OC, it’s a “national cable network dedicated to providing the best in traditional outdoor programming to America’s sixty million anglers and hunters. The Outdoor Channel is available to nearly sixty million homes in the U.S. through a combination of cable networks and satellite providers. The network recently announced its launch to an international audience, reaching nearly eight million homes in Latin America.” Okay then. Guess it could be worse, like the Oxygen Channel.

Racing withdrawals are setting in for the first time, no races for me since November 15. PRI is calling me.

Remember that Thanksgiving shouldn’t be the only time you are thankful for what you have been blessed with. You think about that. Waiting for your e-mail at mleone@infonline.net.


Pin your ears back and hold on. Don’t push the panic button now. Here we go again…

Is Greg Hodnett simply the nation’s best local racer? Hodnett backed up last year’s two-day sweep of the World of Outlaws at Ted Johnson’s favorite track- Lowe’s Motor Speedway by doing another two-day drubbing of Ted’s boys at Delta, Mississippi on October 17 & 18. Ironically, Delta Bowl replaced Lowe’s on this year’s third weekend of October. Hodnett finished off his year a week later by adding another 10-grand to Apple Motorsport’s racing fund by winning the Octoberfest at Hagerstown, Maryland for his 25th score of 2003.

Only at Hagerstown’s Octoberfest would you see the flagman sitting on a stool during the features. I just can’t picture Knoxville’s Doug Clark sitting for the Nationals.

Does anyone else find it disturbing to see an ad for traction control in the December issue of Flat Out? Why is a magazine that’s promoting sprint car racing at the same time taking money from a company, that I won’t even name, that for all intents and purposes trying to ruin racing? Somehow I can’t believe you’d see that ad if Kevin Eckert was still the editor. Unfortunately though I think traction control is here to stay in all forms of auto racing due to its near impossibility of detection. Wonder if Jan Opperman ever thought about traction control? Isn’t technology wonderful.

Remember ASCOF (American Sprint Car Organization and Fans)? This group folded before it even took off a few years ago. Trying to lease tracks to put on your own sanctioned high-paying events just doesn’t work out financially. This was also the same time when the ill-fated WoO Gumout Series was starting out.

Can you believe it will be 10 years this spring since Howard Michaels revived Mercer Raceway Park from the dead? The track has come a long way since then and so has Mike Lutz. Lutz, who now calls Mercer home, celebrated his biggest career accomplishment November 15 accepting the championship accolades for ESS. Despite his success, Lutz will once again be ride-hunting for the upcoming season.

Since ’94, Lutz has drove more cars at Mercer at 12 than the 10 years the track has run. The list includes in numeric order the Norton Southard 00, Jim Siciliano Y5, Powell Family 27, P.J. Kerr 32, P.J. Kerr’s second entry 32K, Todd Bauer 45, Fred Scott 45, Mike VanDusen 58, Dick Bulling 68, Andy Lutz, Sr. 86, Chuck Steinbrick 92, and the John Toth 96. During that time, Lutz also drove and won in one of the most famous ride’s America, the Bob Weikert #29, though not at Mercer.

What do Mike Shearer, Chad Hill, Gary McCollum, and Jason Jacoby all have in common? All four drivers scored “feel-good” first wins of some sort during the 2003 western Pa. sprint car season. This is what all the hard work, all the blood, sweat, and tears is about- it’s every racer’s dream.

Shearer’s first career win came June 20 at Lernerville then backed up that win by adding a second less than 24 hours later at Mercer. Hill’s emotional first career sprint car checkered flag came a week later at Lernerville and was dedicated to his ill father, who was fighting cancer and wanted his son to win one for him. McCollum’s win on July 26 was his first ever in a 410, first career at Mercer, and first of any kind in eight years for the 39-year racing veteran. Jacoby won his first career Tri-City score in front of his hometown fans on August 17 and more importantly became the first driver in over two years to beat Ed Lynch, Jr. and Rod George in a regular race event.

Is the latest craze sweeping the east coast to put dirt on existing asphalt tracks? That’s what’s going on at Evans Mill (NY) and Clearfield (PA). If the All Stars’ have anything to say about it that same asphalt-to-dirt transformation would give them a February show at Desoto (FL). Maybe PPMS and Motordrome promoter, Red Miley, will covert his Motordrome back to dirt again. It could be like Volusia (FL), where you need the National Speedway Directory to keep track of their two tracks.

Speaking of Clearfield, can the Clearfield/DuBois area support more dirt tracks? With Central Pa. Speedway going to dirt on Friday nights and the continuing rumors of the new Thunder Mountain Speedway opening up in nearby Knoxdale added to the already existing Saturday night Gambler’s Raceway Park in Clearfield and Hummingbird Speedway in nearby Falls Creek. For years, the former Hidden Valley Speedway (Gambler’s) struggled being the area’s only dirt track. Are there that many cars and fans to go around? One has to wonder who’s going to suffer here.

Hard to believe the same Mansfield, Ohio (a track that went the other way, dirt-to-asphalt) that a few years ago hosted year-round holiday races that played to sparse crowds and car counts in a not so pleasant environment will now host a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at a place that will seat 15,000 in twentyofour. I’ll never forget their handwritten menu board at their concession, which included “Bowels of Chili” and “Crackers & Chews,” sitting in front of a huge jar of pickles.

Sitting in the shadow of downtown Indy is the Indianapolis Speedrome. The 1/5-mile flat asphalt oval is rightfully named as bleachers surrounding the entire speedway, which was established way back in 1941. With a stadium-like atmosphere that includes lined parking spaces, folding chairs for much of its seating, $2 hot dogs, $3.50 cheeseburgers, $2 water, and $3 beer, you know you’re in the city. A pass-out gate and signs that include bans on coolers and video cameras only confirms the fact. This is definitely not a track you’d see in Pennsylvania.

On November 8, Speedrome accounted for my 68th track I’ve seen races and 10th different state. Speedrome hosts action three nights a week and has replaced Thursday night NAMARS with Wednesday night USAC in 2004. The trio of divisions will include USAC Regional Midgets, Ford Focus Midgets, and Kenyon Midgets. According to Speedrome’s website, “If you pass the Visteon factory, the Navistar factory or spot a vegetable and fruit stand, you're near the Speedrome.”

Just outside “The City of Brotherly Love” across the bridge and border lies Bridgeport (NJ) Speedway. The only thing that resembles Philadelphia is the size! We’re talking every bit of 5/8ths. It makes the inside ¼-mile track look like a go-kart track. Hard to believe a track that can draw from 2 million people from in its backyard of Philadelphia, Camden (NJ), and Wilmington (DE) struggles like it does. In all likelihood, the majority do not know it even exists on its sandy outskirts.

Promotional guru, Bob Miller, put on “The Great Turkey Chase”/Big Show III as a tribute to the late promoter George Wingate on November 15. What a turnout of cars and fans for mid-November! 77 big-block modifieds and 58 sportsman modifieds along with a great crowd. Miller is heavily involved with URC and also promotes the “Thunder of the Hill Series” as well as other eastern events.

Surprisingly, the track held up quite well for daytime racing as two and three-wide racing was featured all day long. As hard as it’s to believe, Brett Hearn was beat from the pole position. Doug Hoffman raced from the eight starting spot to make a nice inside move of Hearn off turn four on lap 20 to beat the DIRT star in the 50-lap $4,000 to-win event.

Passing really was the story of the day. Frank Cozze came all the way from 18th to place third. Pat Ward came clear out of the C main, the back of the B, and then raced from 28th in the feature to an eighth place finish. Ward’s new teammate, Billy Decker, dropped out of the feature early on. It will be tough to get used to Decker not in the Randy Ross 91.

The star-laden field also included Bob McCreadie (Mills 30), Danny Johnson, Billy Pauch, Jimmy Horton, Kenny and Keith Brightbill, Tim Fuller, Ricky Elliott, Jimmy Chester, Duane Howard, Keith Hoffman, Kevin Hirthler, and many other winners made this a tough task just to qualify for the feature. Gotta love the name of sportsman racer, Dominick Buffalino, Jr.

Philly cheese steak, fried turkey legs, and barbecue ribs were just sampling of their menu. Of course I went with the Philly! Bridgeport goes down as race 85 for the season, career track #69, and state #11.

Always remember, the race season doesn’t have to end if you don’t want it to. You think about that and until next time, fan mail can reach this author at mleone@infonline.net.

After a two-year absence from internet writing, I’m back. I’m not going to bore you with an intro like others may, as I’m sure most of you know who I am.

This column won’t be a rehash of results or earth-shattering breaking news. It’ll be like the name of the column implies- “Behind the Checkered Curtain”. A back-stage pit pass you might call it. It’ll take you behind the story or race. I’ll get you to think and question. To be honest, I’m tired of reading the same old stuff and I do miss penning a column; so let’s hit it.

In my 20 years or so of being a “Motorsports Junkie” never do I remember a season like this past one. All it takes is one four-letter word to describe 2003: rain. It came early and often and it never left. With a record number of rainouts and more than a dozen or more threatening nights at most speedways, the 2003 season was a tough one for promoters just about everywhere.

Path Valley (PA) Speedway, who runs at least two nights per week, had 33 washouts and who knows how many threatening nights, which is even worse by killing front-gate attendance and concession/vendor sales. It just may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back at well-known Winchester (IN), Interstate 79 (WV), and Five Mile Point (NY) Speedways, whose future at this point looks bleak.

Case in point…Fayette County (IL) Speedway’s “Brownstown Bash,” which was attempted to be put on by Brian Thompson. Thompson leased the track for the scheduled October 25 event that was to feature sprints, late models, e-mods, and 600 micros. Rain of course won take #1 despite what forecasters were saying was to be a “weak cold front” with little precipitation.

Take #2: November 1; weather forecast: mostly cloudy mid 60s. Actual weather: cloudy, afternoon showers, barely mid 50s. Nonetheless a great field of cars are assembling through the mud-hole pit area. Then comes the unpredicted rain. Now we’re towing some of the trailers out the pit area by a tractor after cancellation #2 comes.

Thompson won’t quit though. Sunday is calling for sunny skies and upper 70s. He tells everyone gates will open at 9 a.m., hot laps at noon, and racing at 1 p.m. Hey the weatherman was actually right; Sunday’s weather is nicer than most of the days were all summer. But guess what, now the entire grounds are more suitable for a mud bog than for racing after the rains lasted well into Saturday evening.

With bright sunny skies, no one even questions that they’re racing, and now Thompson has to stand at the gate and tell everyone that tows in again, “Sorry boys, the grounds are too wet”. Thompson tells me “Three gut-wrenching days of this makes me want to puke. I don’t care if I ever see another f-ing race again.” Anyone wanna be a promoter? Think again.

Is Hagerstown’s (MD) “Octoberfest” becoming one of the biggest event’s in the Northeast? This year’s record fan and racer turnout was quite impressive. While the $10K to-win carrot for the sprints, big-block modifieds, 358 modifieds, and late models is certainly enticing, it’s the season ending tradition that keeps the fans and drivers coming back.

What other event can pay $300 to-start for 100 laps (50 for the sprinters), $0 for non-qualifiers, still charge an entry fee and boast 249 cars? It’s quite amazing. Whatever it is, it keeps local modified racers like George Hobaugh and Dave Reges coming back year after year. The two-day $30 grandstand admission is probably one of the best bargains of the year. Fans usually see a good 358 race, which is always first. Unfortunately each feature from thereafter becomes increasingly follow the leader as drivers try to keep their cars planted on the bottom. The difference in nighttime to daytime racing at Hagerstown is literally night-to-day.

My recent visit to Ohio Valley (WV) and Midway (OH) Speedways confirms my suspicions that people in southern Ohio and West Virginia in general are a different breed. Their mindsets, accents, and the general surroundings tells it all. But if you think the Mountaineer state is bad, take a drive through Bill Clinton’s Arkansas sometime.

Is there any excuse today for a speedway not to have a website or to have someone send out press releases? It amazes me how many tracks that don’t and the lack of updates on many. Websites like Whowon.com posts every press release from every go-kart track right up to Daytona, WoO, F-1- you name it. I find it very troubling that people turn down free PR.

Hard to believe that STARS/Renegade DirtCar is now part of the Xtreme Dirt Car late model fold and will be known as the Northern Xtreme DirtCar Series Glad to hear Bret Emerick will be staying on. Hard to find a better guy to run an organization. Emerick is still one of the best and most knowledgeable announcers out there, and always writes a good press release.

I wish someone would just buy the WoO and DIRT and get it over with. I’m tired of all the hype and listening to Ted Johnson and Glenn Donnelly continue to dispel rumors or go on and on about the proposed buyout. I can just here Boundless’ accountants now telling CEO Paul Kruger, “Congratulations you are the proud owner of the World of Outlaws. Your only assets are the name WoO and a whole lot of goodwill that you’ll be amortizing over the next 40 years.”

Sprint Car and Midget has evolved into one stout periodical. I commend Doug Auld for his efforts. His writings are usually dead on. I find myself agreeing with him more than just about anyone out there. For many years, I never thought there would be anything better than Open Wheel. Nothing’s finer than seeing a glossy mag with a sprinter on the cover sitting in the snail mailbox.

Is there a better writer and historian of sprint car racing than Kevin Eckert? If there is I’d sure like to know who. If you’re like me, you’ve followed his unique writings in Open Wheel to Trackside to his Flat Out creation, to his fledgling Openwheeltimes.com. His plethora of information and writings can be mind-boggling. I find myself reading and re-reading. If Eckert ever gets his way, Openwheeltimes.com will be an encyclopedia of sprint car racing.

Does any else besides me miss Mike Lysakowski’s Penn-Ohio Oval Track Annual? From 1995-1999, Lysakowski’s publications were a great keepsake that thoroughly recapped the year through track and series’ points standings and great photos. I have yet to see a better yearbook-type racing publication. In today’s electronic age, it’s very tough to make a go at programs and yearbooks.

Is it just me or is there anything cooler than seeing a sprint car going down the highway on an open trailer being pulled by an old pick-up truck? Seeing Indiana’s Tom Busch parked at the Econo Lodge and traveling down I-70 was a neat sight. Maybe I’m just starting to show my age.

Out of breath from the first time back at it. Electronic mail still flows to the inbox at mleone@infonline.net.

Ohio/Pa Sprint Car Racing