Saturday, June 25 - Every year my dad goes to a big picnic at one of the local rod and gun clubs on Father’s Day. Therefore it is usually the week after Father’s Day that we get together. This year Bruce and I decided to take my dad shopping, to dinner and to a show. Well kind of. The shopping was over to the Majestic store at Vanity Fair Outlets in Reading, PA, where my father lives. We all got new baseball shirts. Bruce and I purchased Philadelphia Phillies shirts and bought my dad New York Yankees t-shirts, for a trip we were taking to Yankee Stadium on June 28, as well as a Dale Earnhardt Jr. tee. Sometimes I think I was adopted. After the purchase we ate steaks at Texas Roadhouse and then we were off to the races. My dad started taking me to the races since the year I was born and I was raised on modifieds. So the show we went to was at the Grandview Speedway. Tee shirts, steaks and dirt modifieds it doesn’t get any better.
It was a sunny warm, humid day with a slight chance of rain but I was sure this Father’s Day celebration would be a success. We arrived at Grandview at 6:40 for the 7:30 start and managed to secure seats on the top row of the grandstand right at the start/finish line. The breeze was blowing in our face so going home clean at the end of the night was not an option. Racing started at 7:35 with two heats for the 19 late models followed by 4 heats for the 44 358 modifieds in the pits. They ran four 12 lap heats with 11 cars in each and only the top 5 qualified for the feature. Not to mention the top drivers started in the back, not halfway back but the last row. They had to race hard to make the top four so they could start in the rear of the top 16 inversion having the high point men in the rear. If you were lucky enough to finish fifth you could start in front of the final 8 cars that qualified in the two consolations. If you told drivers at most tracks in this country that this was the qualifying procedure they would threaten never to race there. Yet week after week the cars pull into the pits off turn one and two at this 1/3 mile high banked bull ring. Crash? Oh yes, there are some nights when it seems they crash every lap. As a matter of fact the 20 lap late model feature was just that. It took 1/2 hour to run the race which had 9 cautions. In the end, which could not come quick enough for me, Chuck Schutz won followed by Shawn Merkle and Rick Todorow. The two modified consies followed the late model feature and then at 9:45 there was a 1/2 hour intermission.
So far the modifeds heats were really good and the late models were not on their game. We had the modified feature left and as much as I wanted to see a good race I really wanted it to be a good race for my dad. He wanted to see all of the Oley, PA drivers do well, that being Duane Howard, Craig VonDohren and rookie Nate Christman. The green flag dropped at 10:15 and there were two quick cautions on lap 5 and 6. The first for an over anxious Craig VonDohren. VonDohren started 15th and wanted to make it to the front first when he spun the 1C in turn one. A quick caution one lap later saw a multi car tangle in turn one. Then the race began. For the next 7 laps they ran hard, close and fierce and how they did not wreck I do not know. Unfortunately on lap 13 the caution came out again for a spinning car in turn 1. With 17 laps to go there was a lot of racing left to go and it was all great. In the end Nate Christman almost pulled off his first win but Doug Manmiller passed him on the low side with two to go and Jeff Strunk got him at the line on the final circuit. Manmiller took his first win at Grandview since July 8, 2006. Strunk finished second with Christman third. Howard was right on their heels in fourth with Mike Gular finishing fifth. It was an excellent feature. Bruce thought it was in the top five feature events so far this year. We were very pleased but my dad, he couldn’t stop talking about how much he enjoyed the races. You know, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Fruday, June 24 - The original plan was to head west to Williams Grove Speedway but the weather looked better as we ventured out of the Lehigh Valley and we decided to travel up Rt. 61 instead and take in the action at the Big Diamond Speedway. We arrived at 7:55 after dining at Hoss’s Steakhouse in Cressona and found a nice crowd of fans on hand. Starting time was 8:15 and they actually got things underway three minutes early. The roadrunners would go first tonight as they were scheduled to run two 15 lap features and their events would be worked in between the other races run on the evening. A 16 car field turned out for the double features tonight and this second tier division is one of the better ones in the tri-state area. They run close and fast sometimes three and four wide and put on a good show for the fans. Their two heats were followed by three heats for the 28 358 modifieds in attendence and three more heats for the other division, the sportsman and their 26 car field. All heat qualifying was in the books by 9:02 and the first of two 15 lap roadrunner features rolled onto the racing surface. What followed was the most entertaining race of the evening as the roadrunner boys duked it out over the 15 lap distance. Jeremy Becker scored his first win of the year holding off Ed Kuperavage and Marc Berzowski in a fine battle for the top spots. Only the sportsman needed a consie and Meme DeSantis’ youngest son, Nick, won this race.
Next up was a 25 minute intermission as the track crew worked on the racing surface and Brett Deyo gave away prizes to the crowd. At 10:11 the 25 lap 358 modified feature went green and the event got off to a very rough start. It suffered four cautions in the first two laps before things settled down and they strung some green flag laps together. Danny Mazy in his Racer X car led early until 10th starting Craig VonDohren stormed into the lead entering turn one on lap 8. The all time feature winner at Big Diamond was on a rail and was not going to be touched the rest of the distance. The caution appeared with just two laps to go and then the fun began. Billy Pauch Jr. was running second and Mike Gular third on the last restart as they raced down the backstretch with Gular trying a topside pass of Pauch with the two becoming entangled and slipping off the backstretch losing valuable positions. Pauch recovered for fourth but racing to the checkered Glenn Strunk muscled to his inside and bounched him off the homestretch wall. Pauch ended up sixth with Gular seventh at the finish. Gular bumped Pauch a few times after the checkered waved and we couldn’t understand why he felt Pauch was at fault when he was the one running behind Pauch when they became entangled. Anyhow the final finish was VonDohren in for his third win of the year and 72nd career win at Big Diamond over 13th starting Rick Laubach second with 12th starting Jeff Strunk coming in third. Glenn Strunk started 15th and came home fourth with 14th starting Meme DeSantis rounding out the top five. It was now 10:40 and after a long week at work we were both tired and decided to call it an evening forgoing the sportsman and second roadrunner features.
Tomorrow we will bring you the second end of our two race weekend.
Sunday, June 19 - By 9:00 we were up and about in the motorhome and after watching a Dale Snyder DVD on open wheel racing at Langhorne, Reading and Williams Grove in the 50’s and 60’s we pulled out of the parking lot of the Woodhull Raceway. It was a short drive over to Watkins Glen and then a leisurely drive up route 14 along Seneca Lake. We stopped for lunch in Waterloo and then across the New York Thruway we went. It was a perfect day with blue skies and temperatures around 80 when we pulled into the parking lot at Utica Rome Speedway at 4:00.
Racing at Utica Rome starts at 6:00 and they usually run a 4 division but tonight the Mod Lites were also on the card. I must say I do not think I was ever here that it was not dusty but at the same time I must also say the racing is usually always good. Tonight was no different. They had 18 pro stocks running two heats, 13 mod lites running two heats, 23 modifieds running three heats, 28 sportsman running three heats and 13 pure stocks running two heats. All the qualifying heats as well as the sportsman consolation were run off in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Even though they started 15 minutes late they wasted no time in running off the qualifying events. As the one race pulls off the next enters the track on turn two and the green comes out as they come out of turn four. They do not drive around several laps under the caution like some tracks do. During the modifed and sportsman heats it was extremely dusty and with a breeze blowing in our face it was difficult at times to watch. Because of this they decided to work on the track during intermission and what is usually a very short break turned into a 50 minute stand still. Keep in mind the reason we were at Utica Rome on a Sunday night is because of their reputation of having the modified feature in the books by 8:30. With a 4 hour drive home, 12:30 is not that bad. Not tonight.
The pro stock feature was first and took over 20 minutes to run the 20 lap event. The problem was the caution waved 9 times during the event. The front runners were trying to put on a good race for the fans but the back of the pack drivers were determined to spin, spin and spin again. Mark Effner won followed by Brett Belden. The mod lite feature was next with Ryan Charland picking up the win. It was already after 9:00 and the modified feature did not set a tire on the track yet. By this time we thought we would be well on our way back home.
It was not until 9:10 until the green dropped on the modified 30 lap feature. This was unusually late but what we saw was some real good racing. The track maintenance during intermission did help with the dust and the breeze died down. It was still dusty but it did not interfere with the watching of the action on the track nor did it interfere with the racing. We saw a fine race with only three cautions. We all throughly enjoyed the race which saw Stewart Friesen win from 15th over Paul Kinney, Ronnie Johnson from 17th, Bill Trexler Jr. and Todd Burley.
There was a very good crowd on hand and while Jeff, Russ and I stayed in the stands to watch the start of the sportsman feature, Bruce went to the parking lot to see if he could manueverer the motorhome through the parked cars so we could make our exit. The sportsman race turned out to be a real good one for the first 15 laps. There were cars running all over the track and there was a lot of passing but when the first caution came out on lap 15 of the 20 lap event we headed for the parking lot as Bruce was ready to make the long drive home.
It was close to 10:00 when we started out for home and it takes a little longer in a motorhome then it does in a car. But the good racing we saw kept us pumped for the first part of the ride. I must admit by the time we got back into the Lehigh Valley we were pretty tired and Bruce did an excellent job of driving. It was after 2:30 when we parked in the driveway and Jeff and Russ still had 1/2 hour to get back to Quakertown. But in the end we would do it all again. So we were tired for a day. We saw some real good racing and had a fun time during our wekend in the Empire State.
Saturday, June 18 - Jeff Alhum had an off weekend from his announcing duties at Bridgeport Speedway so he wanted to go on the road to visit some different tracks so we told him to pick a Saturday/Sunday doubleheader and we would provide the wheels and beds for the trip via our 31 foot Jamboree motorhome. Russ Frei, a mutual friend of both parties, was also invited on the weekend jaunt and so it was off to the Empire state of New York for first a visit to the Woodhull Raceway, a 1/3 mile high banked dirt oval, on the Southern Tier of New York. The track is billed as racing in the boondocks and when you visit Woodhull that is an appropiate discription of the surroundings. Jeff described the track as a smaller version of Lebanon Valley and it has a nice wooden grandstand that stretches the entire length of the homestretch. The pit area is located off of turns one and two and the cars enter the speedway off of turn two. The backdrop of scenery off the backstretch was very beautiful and just added to the splendor of the setup.
Racing got underway at 6:37, just 7 minutes off the scheduled starting time and was moved along swiftly for the remainder of the evening with one heat ending with the next rolling onto the raceway for their racing. There was a total of 146 cars in the pit area spread among seven divisions with the following individual counts: crate sportsman (26), 358 modifieds (24), 360 late models (27), vintage cars (11), street stocks (22), mini stocks (20) and front wheel drive (16). The racing was good in almost all the divisions especially the sportsman and 358 modifieds and all qualifying was completed in two hours. That is 23 qualifying events in two hours. To me that is quite good.
The features would run in the same order (as above) as the heats were run with the 25 lap crate sportsman first up. This one had nine annoying cautions which took away from the racing up front where A-jay Potrzebowski took the lead around the halfway mark and went on to his fourth win of the year winning over Brady Fultz and Lynn Burrell. The 25 lap 358 modified feature was much better with Billy VanPelt cutting his way through the field from his 12th starting position to take the lead on the backstretch on lap 6 and hold off 17th starting Donnie Lawson to score his third win of the year. Ron White took home third with Mike Bills fourth and Bob Davis rounding out the top five. Steve Hartman Jr. ran a strong race advancing from 22nd to finish 7th and gets the hard charger award. The 25 lap 360 late model feature was next up and was the Scott Dennsion Memorial and was spun off in 25 minutes. Jeremy Wonderling started on the front row and was never headed with Greg Galligan coming from 5th to finish second with Mike Wonderling Sr. third, Glen Whritenour fourth and Brian Knowles fifth. It was now 10:40 and I was starting to grow tired but decided to watch the 20 street stock feature which ran in 14 minutes with only three cautions. Joe Layfield scored the clean sweep winning his heat and the feature event. Pat and I decided we had seen our fill of racing for the evening and headed out to the motorhome while Jeff and Russ stayed for the last two feature races. It was 12:05 when the two entered the side door of the motorhome and we sat around in the living room area discussing the evening’s happenings. It was after 1 AM when we finally called it an evening and after the night’s racing some teams stayed and practiced to try to work on bettering themselves.
It was a good night competitive racing and everyone in our group enjoyed the action and were glad they came for the evening of racing. To me seven divisions is too many but a good thing they did was run the top classes first giving the racing fan choices on whether they wanted to stay for more or head home having seen the top classes complete their features by 10:40. It was a good start to the two days of racing on the weekend.
Thursday, June 16 - It was one of those iffy days with the weather forecast in the Bridgeport, New Jersey area predicting anywhere from 30 to 50 percent change of showers. Tonight was the George Wingate Classic honoring the former promoter at Bridgeport and on the racing card this evening was the first time the big block modifieds would return to Bridgeport since last year when they were jettisoned in favor of the crate modifieds (Bridgeport modifieds) which are the top weekly class at Bridgeport in 2011. We left the Easton, Pa area around 5:10 and arrived in good time at Bridgeport at 6:40. Traffic was not an issue and the drive was good.
Tonight’s George Wingate Classic would consist of the big block modifieds with a less than expected 21 car count while the Bridgeport modifieds brought 33 cars through the pit gate. Things started precisely on time at 7:30 with three heats for the Bridgeport modifieds followed by three heats for the big block modifieds. All heat racing was completed by 8:20 with only the Bridgeport modifieds needing a consie which wrapped up at 8:33. At this point the critical mistake was made by promoter, Jay James, as we brought the water trucks out to lay down some moisture while everyone around us including Pat checked their cell phones and saw the big green blob coming dead straight toward Bridgeport. With the weather being touch and go all night long with some light showers earlier the watering should have been skipped and instead the big block modifieds should have been instructed that ten minutes after the Bridgeport modified consie ended they should be trackside and ready to go. Instead for the next 32 minutes the water trucks ran around the 5/8 mile oval with the natives getting more and more restless with every passing minute. By the time the big blocks hit the track at 9:05 it was raining fairly good. Not long afterward the rain’s intensity increased and the remainder of the card was postponed. Everyone around us and after seeking cover from the rain in the pavilion behind the main grandstands voiced their displeasure over the rainout.
Their displeasure was not the fact that the features were rained out but the fact that management did not try their best to at least complete the big block modified feature. It all comes down to a person’s mindset and if the watering had been skipped and management started the big block feature at 8:45 and proceeded from that point no matter what happen going forward the vast majority of the paying clientiele would have said that they tried their best. But making the critical mistake to water and run in the track for close to 30 minutes changed the fan’s mindset to one of that management did not try their best to complete the big block modified feature and they lost their $25 investment which made them feel cheated. The only way I feel that Bridgeport can win back their creditibility is to offer the ones that came out and supported them in less than ideal weather conditions should be rewarded not penalized for their support. When this race is rescheduled anyone with a raincheck from the June 16th program should be admitted for $10. My logic being that if the original crowd of 1000 (could have been more but for my explaination I am using round figures) is rewarded for their support and even if only 600 show up that is another $6000 added to the money already taken in and that does not include anyone showing up for the first time to catch double features and paying the full $25. This I feel would please the majority of the people on hand for the Thursday program and repair the tarnished reputation that Bridgeport suffered from this rainout. Otherwise I believe if nothing is done the next show could play to a virtually empty grandstand.
Just my thoughts from someone who has been addicted to this sport for over 47 years of my life. Your views or comments and opinions on this issue would be greatly appreciated.
Sorry for the delay in getting this report to you but coming home after being away for two weeks has a way of keeping you busy. Especially when it took all day Monday to drive home from Indiana, then it was back to work Tuesday morning, an Iron Pigs minor league baseball game Tuesday night, haircut Wednesday night and mid week racing Thursday night. Writing this I now understand way I am so tired. Well you know that old saying “keeping the best until last"? It is true and here comes Kokomo.
Sunday, June 12 - After 4 days in a row of racing, we pulled into our last stop of the journey at 1:30 Sunday afternoon. Of course this came right after eating at my favorite place, Steak & Shake. We found a great spot for the motorhome, pulled out the awning and set up the chairs. It was cool with a breeze or you might say it was perfect. Perfect weather and in my opinion the perfect track, Kokomo Speedway. It was relaxing. I snoozed, read in a book and at one point Steve and Mindy Buckwalter stopped by to get a tour of the motorhome. Life was good and then, this is usually the part of the story when everything goes bad, it got better. At 6:00 we were in our seats waiting for the program to begin.
We found ourselves sitting with the grandparents and cousin of Kyle Larson, an 18 year old midget and winged sprint car ace from California, who came into the last race of the Speedweek as the point leader. They were a lot of fun as we chatted all through the evening. Time trials started at 6:48 and 1/2 hour later it was Darren Hagen who set fast time, with a time of 13.342 around the 1/4 mile slightly baked dirt oval. Following the midget time trials were the sprint heats and they ran three for the 24 sprints in the pits. Next up were four midgets heats for the 27 midgets on hand. The racing was hard and the groove was high. After the heats the fans were really anticipating some great main events. They also ran two other division; street stocks and thunder cars. Each ran two heats and acted as filler. Kokomo’s normal night to run is Sunday so this way the normal competitors still could race on their regular Sunday night. The sprint B main and midget B main followed and all was set for the feature events. It was 9:10.
The midget feature was up first and took the green at 9:45. There were 6 cautions in the race so you could not say it was a great race but you could sure say it was exciting. Even though the track got dusty the cars could run everywhere. High, low and anywhere in between. They actually used the four turn wall as a cushion that they bumped the right rear tire off it prior to shooting down the homestretch. My only problem was USAC only seemed to know the name of Bryan Clauson and no one else. All they kept telling you was where he needed to finish to win the point title and never even mentioned Kyle Larson who actually was in first. Larson lead the entire race until a mysterious caution came out on lap 25. No mention of why but when racing resumed Larson lost the lead and eventually would lose the point championship to none other than Bryan Clauson.
It was Michael Pickens, from New Zealand, who would pick up the win, with Tracy Hines coming home second. Larson dropped back to third with Brad Kuhn fourth and Bryan Clauson fifth.
The sprint feature was next and was stopped twice for flipping sprints. The first saw Anthony Peterman flip and take out third place running Thomas Messerall. Meserall continued on but he was the next red as he jumped the cushion and flipped over in turn two. Again they bounced the right rear tire off of the turn four wall and used every inch of the track to run. Shane Cottle took the win with Chris Windom, Jon Stambrough, Andrew Elson and Tracy Hines rounding out the top five. It was 10:45 and we walked into the pits to wish the Buckwalters’ a safe drive home before heading back to the motorhome.
It was another cool night in Indiana with the temperatures down in the 50’s. No need to run the air conditioning. As we sat there eating a snack we looked back on the past few days here in Indiana. It was a really good time and Kokomo well it is just the best. The only track with a lap counter, pork loin sandwiches that are fantastic and racing that is too good to explain. It is like showing someone a picture of the Grand Canyon. You can see from the picture it is big but unless you really see it you will never know how awesome it really is. I can tell you about the racing at Kokomo but unless you actually come here and experience it you will never know how awesome it is.
Saturday, June 11 - We decided not to make the tow south to Lawrenceburg for USAC midgets but instead decided to go north, all the way up to South Bend, Indiana. The South Bend Motor Speedway had been closed for several years and just reopened in April under new owner, Steve Brown. The track is showing its age and looks worn but there is a new coat of paint on the track walls, two new light towers in the infield and a new metal starter’s stand. There is more work to do but that is a start. The track itself is a 1/4 mile high banked asphalt oval with the pits located behind the backstretch which has a grandstand area as well as the concrete stands with metal supports for the wooden boards you sit on in the homestretch stands. Just after you enter the front gate there is a large concrete stairway that leads you to the stands which sit down in the side of a hill. You basically sit real close to the homestretch wall.
When we arrived a little after 4:30 the temperature was 62 degrees under overcast skies. It was scheduled to drop into the mid 50’s at night. In comparsion when we arrived it was 81 degrees in Lawrenceburg. We were thankful that we had brought along two sweatshirts as we would need them tonight. It was a welcomed break from the 90’s and high humidity.
Scheduled starting time was 7 PM but the first action was at 7:20 when a Michigan vintage car group ran their collection of supers, sprints, midgets and modifieds around the bullring in an exhibition display. At 7:30 after having run time trials for all divisions earlier they ran dash races for all their regular divisions which consisted of sportsman, street stocks, mini stocks and front wheel drive cars. At 7:54 the first of two heats for the Midwest Supermodified Association (MSA) were trackside. This group brought 15 cars to the fight and really zipped around the track and passed even though the track seemed tight to pass on. Amherst, Ohio’s Brandon Fisher and Aston, Pennsylvania’s Lou Cicconi won the fast paced heat races. The sportsman ran two heats for their 11 car field, the street stocks two heats for their 14 car field, the mini stocks one heat for their 9 car field and one heat for the front wheel drive cars and their 9 car field. All qualifying was completed by 9:15 and now it was intermission. During the down time the vintage cars came out and exhibited their machinery again and some of the supermodified drivers brought out their winged monsters and signed autographs for around 20 minutes.
The sportsman would run their feature first, one of 25 laps in distance with Rodney Smith taking the lead on lap 5 and driving away from his competitors to score the sweep of the evening having previously won his heat and the dash race. It was 10:45 when the MSA supermodifieds took the green flag and the winged warriors were off and running. It was great entertainment watching “Liquid” Lou Cicconi pick his way through the field taking the lead on lap 15 and then encountering lap traffic which he handled well. His teammate, Trent Stephens, closed at times but never made a serious challenge for the lead. Cicconi started 8th and flashed under the checkered flag ten minutes later grabbing the win over 7th starting Stephens, 10th starting Charlie Schultz gaining third with Brandon Fisher fourth and Dave Shullick Jr. nailing down the fifth position at the finish. It was now 10:55 and we decided to depart at this point to travel to our camp site for the evening and get a good night’s sleep.
Check back soon for the report on the final night of Indiana Midget Week held at the awesome Kokomo Speedway, one of the best dirt tracks in the entire country.
Friday, June 10 - The ride from the RV Campground we stayed at near Lincoln Park was only around 35 miles from Bloomington and the drive through the back roads of Indiana took less than an hour. We pulled into the parking lot at the Bloomington Speedway around 11:45 in the morning only to find more than a dozen motorhomes had arrived before us, leaving us parked alone the tree line pretty far from the front gate. It was very hot and humid and we relaxed most of the afternoon reading and sometimes snoozing. Around 5:30 we headed over into the Bloomington pits and spoke with the ARDC contingency that made the trip west to Indiana to compete in USAC Midget Week. Billy Pauch Jr. told us of his engine problems and how he really likes Bloomington. Alex Bright, the 22 year old who looks like he is 15, told us about his thoughts of running at Lincoln Park for the first time and his amazement of the high cushion that they do not drive down with push trucks. He seems to be a very nice, polite young man and Bruce and I surely wish him the best in his racing career. Of course we had to visit with our favorite midget driver, Steve Buckwalter, and as he showed Bruce the rev limiter USAC made them place on the car I watched Gracie, his 4 year old daughter, help her grandfather place the transponder on the rear bumper. After awhile we bid everyone the best and headed back to relax before the events of the night. It was so hot and humid it seemed to drain the life out of you. Although several times during the day it rained it did not help to cool things down. If anything it became more humid.
We were in our seats in the grandstand as the midgets were taking warm-ps and at 7:33 the first of 32 midgets took time trials. Twenty minutes later they were over and Jerry Coons set a fast time of 12.275. There was a 20 minute delay before the first of four midget heats were run. Tonight we had 5 ARDC Midget drivers in the pits and all 5, Pauch, Wean, Kobylarz, Buckwalter and Bright would make the main event. The only one to not qualify in his heat was Buckwalter and he won the B main.
The wingless sprints were also on the card and they had 32 cars in the pit area. In addition to the midgets they also ran four heats and a B main. Both Dave Darland and Brady Short won big time in their heats and looked to be the men to beat in the main event.
It was only 9:45 when the green dropped on the 30 lap midget main event and the track stayed in very good condition. In years past for this event it seemed the track was great during the qualifying but during the feature would turn black slick. Tonight it stayed racey. Although the top two finishers started first and second that is not to say they were always running in first and second. The lead changed hands numerous times and that was sometimes during the same lap. It was a hard fought win for Kyle Larson and this was his first ever USAC midget win. In the final laps it could have been one of three drivers in the winner’s circle. As our good friend and announcer Jeff Alhum would say, “You could have thrown a tablecloth over them". Following Larson was Chris Windom and Shane Cottle with Caleb Armstrong and Bobby East rounding out the top five. The highest finishing ARDC driver was Steve Buckwalter in ninth. There were four cautions during the event and it took 20 minutes to run. It was one exciting event!!
The sprints were up next for the final event of the evening and their race went non-stop taking a mere 5 minutes to run. Just as expected Brady Short took command early from his sixth starting spot and it was all over. He won by more than a straight away and also as expected Dave Darland finished second. CJ Leary was third with Jon Stanbrough and Bobby Stines fifth. It was only 10:30 when all was complete. It was a well run show, with excellent racing and good track conditions. It is what brings us back here every year.
We were sleeping here on the grounds tonight and during the night we had some very nasty thunderstorms. I was awake most of the night. Saturday we are going to deviate from the midget shows to pick up a new track as the MSA supermodifieds will roar at the new venture.
Wednesday, June 8 - If you know Bruce and I you know we plan to retire to Indiana in four years for just the reason we pulled into Indiana today, the race tracks, the midgets and the wingless sprints. After driving for 4 days we passed into Terre Haute, Indiana on Interstate 70 around noon time on Wednesday. We still had a ways to drive to our destination but driving in the Hoosier State made us feel like we were already there. It wasn’t until 3:30 that we actually pulled into the parking lot at Gas City Speedway and found our parking space for the night. It was hot with temperatures in the upper 90’s but there was a constance breeze that made it somewhat tolerable. We were also excited because our good friends Allan and Nancy Brown were going to be meeting us and staying with us for the night. This is the first we saw them in over a year and it was great to spend some time with them. Most know Allan as the man who sells the National Speedway Directory. The Browns’showed up around 5:00 and we caught up a bit before heading into the speedway.
As we settled into our seats another old friend, Indiana’s own Roger Ferrell was spotted down below and we waved him up to join us for the evening. Time trials started at 7:12 and for some reason they scrapped the group time trials they used in the past and went to single car. If you know me I do not like time trials and in Indiana I do not like them any better than any place else in the country. Thirty-six midgets took time and fast time was set by Bryan Clauson. They took 30 minutes to run and by 8:05 the first of four qualifying heats was on the track for the midgets. They were spun off quickly with only the top 4 qualifying in the heats with an additional 6 making it through the B main. Along with the midgets were thunder cars (8) and wingless sprints (31). They ran two heats for the thunder cars and four for the sprints. After the heats they went right into the Midget B main which saw 20 cars fight for the 6 remaining positions.
The ARDC Midget club sent out a nice contingency of cars totaling 6. They were Alex Bright, Ryan Smith, Steve Buckwalter, Billy Pauch Jr., Nick Wean and Trevor Kobylarz. All would qualify for the main event except Wean and Buckwalter. There was no real intermission and following the Midget B main was the sprint B main and the thunder car 15 lap feature. This feature was a hard run event with Chris Leonard picking up the win in the caution free event.
The midget feature started at 10:00 and we were disappointed that they did not rework the track as they have in years past and what we feared, happened. For the midgets the track became one groove and the race was one big follow the leader. If you were ever at Gas City you know this is not the norm. If you looked at the first five starting positions prior to the initial green and the top five finishers you would see they were exactly the same. Darren Hagen won followed by Zach Daum, Tracy Hines, Bobby East and Hunter Schuerenberg. It was boring and we were disappointed because the past eseveral years this race as been among the best.
Well we still had one race to go and it proved that wingless sprints can be competitive no matter how the surface is. Their 25 lap event went non-stop and there was so much action it was hard to keep track of where the leaders were on the track. Brett Burdette was in vitory lane when the dust settled and yes there was dust. He was followed by Levi Jones, Dave Darland, Coleman Gulick and Critter Malone. It made us feel a bit better about the racing for the night and all was complete by 10:44.
We all went back to the motorhome and sat around and talked until after midnight when we turned out the lights. Of course not all was quiet for long as around 3:00 in the morning a nasty thunderstorm rolled through the area and it’s heavy rain drops sounded like someone was throwing baseball at us. Eventually the thudding sound put me back to sleep which was good because tomorrow we do it all over again.
Thursday, June 9 - Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana is an awesome joint. The 5/16 mile high banked dirt oval develops what I feel is the best cushion in the state. On a typical night the cushion has to be anywhere from 6 inches to a foot high in spots in all four corners but especially turns three and four. And they did not disappoint on this evening either. It was another very hot and humid day in the Hoosier state with temperatures in the low 90’s. It was one of those days where your t-shirt clings to you and you feel all wet and clammy. I asked the track officials if I could park the motorhome up against the tree line on the backstretch outside of the pit area. They gave their approval and that is where we stuck it for the evening. We decided to view the races from the nice backstretch bleachers instead of the concrete grandstands on the hillside on the homestretch. I really feel it is the better seat of the two as you can really see them bounce it off the turn three and four cushions.
The evening got underway at 7:15 with time trials for the 35 car midget field with Bobby East who recently won his first dirt USAC sprint car race at Grandview set fast time with a time of 12.809 seconds. All time trials were completed by 7:48. There were two other divisions sharing the card with the midgets tonight with the modifieds (21) and the wingless sprint cars (24) being the two other classes. The heat order would be the midgets first followed by the modifieds and lastly the sprint cars and that would be the way they would run the feature events also. The four midget heats were eight laps in distance with four to qualify and produced some great cushion pounding action with Bryan Clauson, Darren Hagen, Pennsylvania’s Steve Buckwalter and Chris Windom, the new driver of the Wilke #11 winning the exciting heats. The modifieds ran two good heats and the sprint cars ran three wicked heat races bouncing that right rear tire off the cushion and then racing down the straightaways and repeating the motion again in the next turns. Chris Windom, Casey Shuman and Seth Parker taking the heat wins. The three heat race was red flagged for 13 minutes while the ambulance attended to a fan in the homestretch grandstands. Two B mains were run for the midgets and the sprint cars with all remaining qualifying wrapped up by 9:55.
Now it was feature time with the midgets taking the green at 10:12. An early slow roll in turn three by Hunter Scheurenberg brought out the first red and two other minor rolls brought out two other reds and really broke up the momentum of an exciting race. Bryan Clauson started second and almost everyone figured with the way he looked in his heat race the battle would be for second. But someone forgot to tell young California driver, Kyle Larson, in one of the Keith Kuntz entries as he passed and repassed Clauson at least six times in the course of the race. Laron would pass Clauson and a few laps later would jump the cushion with Clauson racing back by. Then the top two would slip job one another back and forth for several more laps. It all came down to the last lap and the last corner with Larson with a slight lead on the inside with Clauson up high and suddenly Brad Kuhn split the pair in the middle and looked like he was going to steal the win. Clauson bounced the right rear off the cushion and it propelled him pass the other two and he raced under the double checker first with Larson second and Brad Kuhn third. Bobby East and Jerry Coons Jr. had a battle royale for fourth with East prevailing. What a race and what a finish!! Steve Buckwalter was the highest finishing ARDC racer coming home 10th. That might not sound impressive but if you asked him he would probably tell you he worked harder for that finish than most other races he has run in. The 20 lap modified feature was next and took the green at 11:09. They suffered two quick cautions and then ran the next 14 laps until the third caution appeared. The last six laps found the modifieds using every inch of the racing surface with Brian Hayden scoring the win over Schuyler Nahre and Clint DeMoss. It was already 11:26 and we still had the 25 lap sprint car feature to spin off. The green waved at 11:37 and the wingless sprinters cooperated as only two cautions slowed the race. The battles throughout the field were incredible and fierce. The sprints looked like bucking broncos doing wheelies and attacking the cushion with reckless abandom. Chris Windom, one of the hottest wingless drivers in the country, won this one after battling with Jon Stanbrough who likes to use the inside for his racing and passing. Joshua Clemons, a youngster who almost won this race last year, impressed again this year, came home third after starting 7th with Casey Shuman fourth and young Binghamton, New York driver, Coleman Gulick, with another solid run buttoning down the fifth position after starting 10th.
A good night of racing indeed but I must be fair and say that it was a rather long program not ending until 11:50 on a week night. I can’t say it is OK since I am on vacation and then make note of the time that a race when I am not on vacation. We try to be truthful, equal and fair in our reporting here. Check back sometime tomorrow to find out what happened at night three of Indiana midget week at Bloomington Speedway.
Although we call it a typical weekend it hardly was typical for us. If you recall last November we traveled to California and got snowed in up at Big Bear Lake. We managed to get in a few races but missed four due to the weather. The last day we were there was a Sunday and the races were cancelled due to the weather. We had nothing to do so like so many other times while travelng we stopped at an RV center and walked through motorhomes. But this time was different because we bought one. A 2007 31 foot Fleetwood Jamboree with only 10,450 miles. Problem was we were going home and we did not want to drive it across the country during the winter. So for 6 months it sat in sunny California awaiting our return. This past weekend we traveled to California to bring our new family member home. We arrived at midnight in the Ontario, CA airport and the next morning at 10:00 we were getting a quick briefing on how to use this new addition. We stopped at the Walmart next to the RV Center to pick up a few items we needed that did not fit into one of the three large suitcases we brought with us and by 1:30 Bruce pulled out onto Interstate 10 to bring this baby home. Of course you knew it was not going to be without stops. Bruce did an excellent job of driving and at 7:40 we pulled into the first track of the trip.
Saturday, June 4 - After Manzanita Speedway was closed in Phoenix, AZ there was no real reason to come see a wingless sprint race in Phoenix but then a new track was born and it’s name is the Arizona Speedway. A 1/3 mile semi-banked clay oval that is part of ET Motopark in Apache Junction located southeast of Phoenix. Luckily they did not start on time as the 20 minute lateness gave us time to park, not as easy as it used to be, and get into the stands. There was a huge crowd on hand for the three division show and we missed the first of three heats for the mod lites. There were three heats for the 22 mod lites, two heats for the 13 wingless sprints and three heats for the 23 bombers. The temperature was still 102 degrees when we entered the speedway and the track was dusty and the wind was blowing in our face.
The heats were run off quickly and even though the car count was low for the sprints you could tell that was what the vast majority of the fans came to see. During intermission the announcer remarked how great it was to see this many fans at a track in the Greater Phoenix area. The 20 lap mod lite feature was up first and the 23 cars took the green at 9:28. Twenty minutes and four cautions later Mike Martin was standing in victory lane with Steve Marairty and John Priest following in second and third.
Now came the event we were all there to see, the 25 lap main for the sprints. Even though there were only 13 sprints participating in the event it was, well lets say it is the quality of the race not the quanity of the cars. Lately back home I have seen some strung out events, but then they do have wings. Tonight I watched some drivers, whose names I not real familiar with but they ran side by side and put on one heck of a battle for the 25 laps. In the end Shon Deskins took to the outside and passed R.J. Johnson for the win. It was a real exciting finish with Bob Ream Jr, Josh Pelkey and Nathan High rounding out the top five. In the end the fans were left with exactly what they came to see. They would not be talking about the fact that there were only 13 sprints or that the track dried out in the 100+ degree heat. They would tell their friends about the fantastic finish and they would be right in doing so.
It was only 10:15 but are bodies were telling us it was 1:15 and we had only a few hours sleep the previous night so we decided to drive over to our next destination, park the motorhome and sleep for the night. But when we arrived the gates were locked so we headed 15 miles down the Interstate to sleep in a rest area among the noisy tractor trailer trucks. It is going to take a while to used to this new hotel on wheels.
Sunday, June 5 - We arose early as 15 miles up the road the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) of Arizona was hosting day two of a two day meet at the Firebird East Course located on the grounds of the Firebird International Speedway. This road course is located right alongside I-10 with the traffic rolling down I-10 toward Tucson looking like they were racing the sport cars down the homestretch. This course is not a small one either measuring 2.75 miles with 11 turns in the circuit. NASA decided to complete their program early this morning as the temperature was suppose to top out at 102 degrees. That was fine with us as we had a lot of ground to cover over the next four days before arriving in Indiana. The first race was scheduled for 7:45 AM and went off at precisely at the scheduled starting time. That is one big thing that road racing has over its oval counterparts. They publish a schedule and stick to it. No twenty to thirty minute late starts like the oval lot but on time like the stick and ball sports.
The first of two races was for the small bore class in a 25 minute timed event which ended up being 19 laps in distance. Norm Hamden in his #99 Porsche 944 spec jumped off the front row and led the entire distance. The race for second through fourth was good with Darren Griffith also in a 944 spec trying to track down Hamden but never got closer than 3 seconds to the leader. Dave Hauck held off another challenger in his 944 spec to nail down the third podium position. The checkered waved on this one at 8:10. Next were some timed runs for individual cars and at 8:40 the second race of the day featuring the big bore cars went green at 8:45. Their 25 minute timed run produced 21 laps with Mark Alger in his Dodge Viper cutting through the field like the proverbial hot knife through butter. He made shambles of the field winning handily over the Porsche 911 of Ricky Johnson and the Audi of Bryan McCormick with the checker falling at 9:05 AM. We viewed the action from a small hill separating the East course from the lake where they race boats and were able to view the entire 2.75 mile course with ease.
It was a great way to start the day and by 9:30 we were on the road again toward our next stop of Albuquerque, New Mexico where we would stop at our first RV park of the road trip from coast to coast.
Monday, June 6 - Today was going to be a long, long drive starting in New Mexico then passing through Amarillo, Texas before ending up in Meeker, Oklahoma for the evening. Brill Motor Speedway was our destination for the second night of the SMP modifieds (IMCA type modifieds) running a seven race series dubbed the Longhorn Speedweek. We hustled our way across three states passing on the NCAA Women’s College World Series in softball in Oklahoma City to attend the racing at Brill Motor Speedway. We arrived at 7:45 to find an empty facility and could not figure out the reason why as a call to the track phone yielded no answers as it only rang and rang with no one ever answering nor any recording playing to inform the fans of the situation. Later after we bedded down in Chandler, Oklahoma I logged onto the Brill Motor Speedway web site and found out the reason. Two days after printing out the material off the website it was updated on Sunday informing everyone that the grader broke on their normal Friday night of racing and they were unable to secure the necessary parts to repair it so the special Monday night race was cancelled. I was like the greyhound chasing the rabbit all day long and had the rabbit snatched away at the last moment. This one was a tough one to take but life goes on and we are headed for Indiana and five straight nights of USAC midget racing at some of our favorite race tracks in the country so if the weather cooperates my mood should improve over the next several days. So check back over the next five days or so to get updates on the happenings at USAC midget speedweek with the wingless sprints on the undercard. It don’t get much better than that!!
Monday, July 30 - Tonight was the final night of the Keystone Cup, a mini version of the Pennsylvania Sprintweek contested in late June and early July. Upon canavasing the pit area I found only 15 sprint cars on hand for this race. That is pathetic!! I don’t get the Pennsylvania primadonnas. Here is a race paying $5000 to win and only 15 sprinters show up!! What a joke! Thank goodness for the ARDC midgets being on the card also as they carried the show. Time trials got underway at 7:33 and were over by 7:50. Fred Rahmer toured the 1/3 mile dirt oval in a time of 13.679 seconds. That allowed him to start up front in his heat and if he finished in the top two in the heat racing then he would not start any further back than fourth in the feature. I am not picking on Fred Rahmer here but rather the joke of a lineup system that the Keystone Cup officials came up with for this year’s running. They better scrap this system quickly as I am not the only one who thought the system was highly flawed. There wasn’t one person in over two dozen that I spoke to who had anything good to murmur about the lineup procedures. In the entire night of racing Rahmer did not have to pass anyone whatsoever to collect the top check on the evening. And basically the same thing occured at Lincoln and Selinsgrove also. The Pennsylvania people want to see inversions of at least six and even to the number of twelve. They want to see side by side racing and lots of passing not the lame shows they suffered through this week. The paying customer is not going to fork out $20 of his or her hard earned money and not see a pass for the lead all night long. Scrap it officials and go back to inversion and send the whinners packing if they don’t want to try to pass some cars along the way to the front for the fan’s pleasure.
Anyhow back to the racing as the ARDC midgets ran three entertaining heats after the time trials for the 410 sprints for their 22 car field. Two heats were staged for the sprinters and all qualifying was completed by 8:44. A much too long 35 minute intermission was taken on a work night for track maintenance before the sprint cars took the green flag at 9:28 for their 30 lapper. Rahmer shot off the front row like a soaked cat and was never headed with Daryn Pittman coming out of the fifth hole to finish second with Aaron Ott third, Stevie Smith fourth and Chad Layton rounding out the top five. The only good thing about the feature was that it didn’t take long. One other gripe I have to share is when tracks have open cockpit racers that need to be pushed off why don’t they make sure they have plenty of push trucks to do the duty. At Big Diamond there were only four and that is surely not enough.
The 25 lap midget feature got off to a rocky start when a five car pileup occured in turn 1 on the start. After that was cleaned up they went the rest of the distance with only two other cautions. In between there was some great side by side racing and at the end Ryan Smith, who has been struggling so far, used his third starting spot to his advantage and build up a big enough lead to hold off the advances of 14th starting Steve Buckwalter for the popular win. Billy Pauch Jr. had made a big charge from 15th to battle with Buckwalter in the middle stages of the race but mechanical woes sidelined him too soon. Another impressive performance was turned in by Tim Buckwalter who started 18th and ended up 3rd at the end. Young Steve Bull ran hard and nailed down a top five spot finishing fourth with Dusty Heistand also running hard to round out the top five. All racing activity was in the record books by 10:20 as the crowd began to file out.
The midgets salvaged the night while the 410 sprinters should have snuck off into the night after that pathetic night of racing.
Tuesday, May 31 - The Eastern Storm, the invasion of the USAC wingless sprint cars, were in town tonight for their second night of Pennsylvania action appearing the evening before at the Lernerville Speedway in Western Pennsylvania where Jon Stanbrough prevailed. Tonight would find 30 wingless warriors in action along with 24 ARDC midgets running for the second straight evening. Time trials for the sprinters got started late at 7:41 and came to a grinding halt as the first time trialer, Steve Storrie, a 358 sprint driver from PA catapulated in turn one after the green flag. Storrie was OK but done for the evening. Coleman Gulick, a young talent from the Binghamton, New York area who has moved to Indiana to persue his driving career set fast time with a new track record of 13.767 seconds.
Four very competitive sprint car heats were spun off followed by three good heats for the midgets. All were completed by 9:19. Only the sprints needed a B main and fast timer, Coleman Guick, won that one. The midgets would get first honors to run their feature and it turned out to be another good one. The one for the highlight films would be the one when Steve Buckwalter running third on lap 10 drove hard and high into turns three and four running behind Nick Wean and Tim Buckwalter. He diamonded off the high side and dove in the hole left between the two and took the lead at the flag stand. That one had the fans buzzing. Steve Buckwalter went on to victory over Nick Wean with Alex Bright making a nifty move on Bruce Buckwalter Jr. to snatch third at the wire with Brett Arndt rounding out the top five.
It was now the USAC boys turn and could they one up their smaller cousins. To state it short and sweet, YES. Levi Jones started first and many felt this one was a shoe in. Well, it was not to be so as they caught and passed Jones in the second half of the 40 lap event as the bottom became the perferred groove and Jones tried to remain up top. There was so much dicing and dueling throughout the field you didn’t know what to watch. Bobby East hooked up in the second half and grabbed the lead on lap 24. He would go on to score his first career USAC sprint car win on dirt fending off the hard charging Chris Windom from 12th, with Robert Ballou who is normally a cushion pounder used the low groove effectively marching from 16th to 3rd with Casey Shuman, son of the great Ron Shuman, showing some of his dad’s quick moves blistering from 19th to 4th and Dave Darland rounding out the top five. The top local was New Jersey’s Mark Bitner who came home 8th and really shows some prowess in the wingless cars.
It was a great night of racing and the wingless sprinters once again show that they are capable of more passing and side by side racing than their winged counterparts.
Thursday, June 2 - I teamed up with friend, Russ Frei, meeting at Art’s Radiator Shop in Flemington, New Jersey, to make the tow to the New Egypt Speedway for the fourth night of the Eastern Storm tour. The field of 25 USAC sprints would be joined by the New Egypt modified class with a field of 34 strong. Blake Fitzpatrick toured the black dirt oval in 17.282 seconds to set fast time. The modifieds ran their first of three heats before the sprints followed with their three heats. Then it was back to complete the other two modified heats. The sprint heats were the better of the two and then both classes needed a B main or a consie which is the same thing. All qualifying was done by 9:20 and then they went to intermission which consisted of the top 12 in the heats drawing pills to determine their starting positions and track maintenance. There did not seem to be a sense of urgency on this week night as the sprint feature did not go green until 10:11. Five cautions and 41 minutes after the sprint car feature was finished did a sense of urgency finally appear. But I have gotten ahead of the story at hand so back to the sprint car feature. Jon Stanbrough had things in hand for 39 of the 40 laps but not the most important one, the last one. I felt he might have run low on fuel on the backstretch and tried to shake his sprinter to find some precious fuel when he tagged the wall, recovered and then did a wheelie and lost control and banged the third turn wall backwards. A friend spoke with him afterwards and he made no excuses and said that he just screwed up. That is a sign of a good racer, not blaming everyone else when he was the one who was responsibile for the problem. Hunter Schuerenberg inherited the lead and had to fight off Robert Ballou (17th starter) to grab the win. Levi Jones claimed third with Tracy Hines fourth and Travis Rilat up from 15th to notch fifth. It was great to see Rilat back in action after suffering serious burns over much of his body last year.
Now that it was now 10:52 management figured they had to now hurry or they wouldn’t get in the modifieds. Well, they can be happy that the modifieds cooperated as the 30 lap feature went non-stop in 10 minutes to bring the final curtain down at 11:07. Billy Pauch won his second modified race in a row at New Egypt beating Jeff Strunk, Craig VonDohren who passed Danny Johnson on the last corner for third and
Dom Buffalino claiming the fifth position at the end. There was not a lot of passing in this one but there was still some good moments of hard racing side by side.
An OK show but could have been much better if the track surface would have held up better.
Saturday, May 28 - Lincoln would be only the second night of racing in the Keystone Cup series as Thursday and Friday night’s racing at Port Royal and Williams Grove were washed out by powerful storms rolling through the Central Pennsylvania area. The stormy weather rolled through the Pigeon Hills earlier in the day and by the time we arrived at 3:30 it was sunny and hot. As the starting time drew close a large crowd was on hand to watch the three division program of 410 sprints (35), legend cars (24) and thunder cars (18). Brian Leppo set fast time with a surprise in Bill Stine second and Brian Montieth third. Leppo’s night ended prematurely while leading the first heat when he rolled to a stop and his evening was over with engine problems. The heat races started straight up from the time trials with the top two finishers in the heats drawing for the top eight starting spots in the main event. All qualifying was completed by 9:00 and the next item on the schedule was fireworks. We all agreed that they were pretty bad fireworks and the crowd began to get restless and cheered when the last barrage went off at 9:45.
It was 9:50 when the green flag flew on the 30 lap Keystone Cup 410 sprint feature with Brian Montieth jumping from the outside of the front row into the lead which he would never relinquish. Nothing really happened in this race and we agreed that it was the worst sprint car race we have seen all year. With the top guns starting up front there was little passing and the top five all started in the top five. Montieth won over Aaron Ott, Fred Rahmer, Mark Smith and Daryn Pittman. The checker waved at 10:03 and with the thunder cars running next instead of the legend cars which we wanted to see we decided to cut our losses and make the 2 1/2 hour trek back to eastern Pennsylvania as tomorrow would be an early wakeup call.
Sunday, May 29 - After attending early church the plan was to head north and travel into the Wyoming County area of northern Pennsylvania west of Clarks Summit. The plan was to attend the enduro racing for four cylinders and six cylinders at the Wyoming County Fairgrounds near Meshoppen. We traveled Route 6 through Factoryville, the childhood home of major league baseball’s great pitcher Christy Mathewson who won 373 games and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 as one of the first five members elected to the Hall of Fame. We arrived at 12:30 for the scheduled 1 PM start which was delayed until 1:47 due to the ambulance having to leave on a call. What we didn’t know was that they also had tuff truck timed runs and mud bogs scheduled. The fairgrounds itself is nice with many buildings, a horse arena and an area for racing. Two big sections of bleacher seating was available along with some other smaller stands and plenty of hillside for your blankets and lawn chairs. The first round of mud bogs and tuff truck runs got underway and were entertaining but by the time the second round came around the mystic was gone. At this point sitting out in the hot sun we wondered if they were ever going to run the oval racing. Finally at 6:10 the first of two 4 cylinder enduro heats came trackside with ten total cars in the two events. They also ran one heat for the five six cylinder on hand with the heat races being 5 laps in distance. It was only 6:33 when the two classes ran a combo feature race starting 11 of the 15 vehicles on hand. It was an entertaining race with plenty of beating and banging for 20 laps ending at 6:47. The whole part of the program we came to see lasted all of 37 minutes and we had to sit through another 4 1/2 hours of other racing we would have passed on after round one.