Saturday, July 28 – The drive from Raleigh to Winston Salem, our stop for the night, was a short one so we decided to take in some sights along the way. Our first stop was at Duke University where we drove through the simply gorgeous campus and then took a stroll through Cameron Indoor Stadium where the Duke Blue Devils play basketball. It was really neat and the pictures and stories that outlined the entire concourse made you feel like you were in a museum of Duke basketball. We left the Duke Campus and headed 10 miles southwest to North Carolina University. Here again we drove throughout the campus but the Dean Smith Center was not open so we only got to look through the front windows.
We then drove the rest of the way over to Winston Salem and after checking in at the downtown Marriott we headed over to Bowman Gray Stadium. If you recall Bowman Gray was the track featured on a show called Madhouse that ran for two years on the History Channel. The show featured racing plus the top driver’s lives during their week and made names like Bert and Jason Myers, Tim Brown, Jonathon Brown and Junior Miller household names. This would not be our first visit to Bowman Gray but it has been at least 20 years since we last entered the Stadium. We knew they drew large crowds and the parking was limited so we headed over to the track early.
We arrived at 5:20 and the gates were scheduled to open at 6:00. There were already fans lined up at the gate and tailgating in the parking lot. The Stadium holds around 10,000 fans and it never appears to be empty. It was sunny with temperatures in the high 90’s and a threat of thunder storms but that did not keep the fans away. The gates actually opened early and by the time we walked up to the gate, just prior to 6:00, the fans in line had all filed in and the cars were out on the track practicing. This is the one element I do not care for with asphalt racing. Why do they have to practice so much. On dirt it is called warm-ups and it is a few laps. On asphalt it is called practice and it went on for over an hour. We put a blanket down on the homestretch and walked along the top of the stadium. The food prices were out of control for a Saturday night short track. They surpassed the prices of the New Jersey tracks where the cost of living is much higher than in Winston Salem NC. The cost of a bottle of water was $3.50 and the price of a plain hot dog was $3.50. Both Bruce and I had fried bologna sandwiches and they were $5.50 each. We could not understand the high cost of concessions but they did allow fans to bring in a cooler with their own drinks and food.
Times trials for the modifieds got under way at 6:58 and 20 cars took one lap each in preparation for the twin 50 lap features. Tim Brown set fast time for the 6th time this season with a time of 13.392. At the conclusion of time trials it started to rain. It seemed there was one black cloud over the top of us and it decided to spritz rain. It only delayed the show for about 15 minutes and then the Stadium Stocks came out for their 15 lap event. By this time the stands were filled with fans surrounding the track. If the place holds 10,000 there had to be 7,500 fans in the stands. There were no empty sections. Where we sat on the homestretch there were no additional seats to be had. When the green dropped at 8:07 the place ignited with cars making contact and fans cheering and waving both their arms and their middle finger. Derek Taylor won the event, which went 15 laps or 15 minutes, picking up his 2nd win of the season. Speaking of the season, this is the 64th season for Bowman Gray Stadium and this was their 13th race of the year.
The late model sportsman ran next and the 20 lap event saw only 3 cautions. It was a bit more subdued then the stadium stocks with Taylor Branch picking up win number 2 of the year. Now the mighty modifieds took to the asphalt and the crowd erupted. Everyone had their favorite and they wanted everyone else to know who it was. It was a heads up start from the time trials so the fast cars started up front. Although being fast is not what wins races here. Being able to stay out of a skirmish is what wins races. Tim Brown led all 50 laps. It was his 7th win of 2012 and his 65th win overall at Bowman Gray. Jonathan Brown was second followed by Michael Clifton, Ronnie Clifton and Jason Myers. Jonathan Brown started 6th and Jason Myers started 8th. Overall it was a pretty mild event. Perhaps they were saving their weapons; I mean cars, for the second 50 lapper. Next up was the second 20 lap sportsman race and Michael Adams took home the top honors. The event saw the caution wave 4 times and even though there was quite a bit of pushing and shoving it was nothing like what was to come.
The time was 9:58 when the green dropped on the second 50 lap modified event with 19 of the original 20 cars still in competition. However, this time the big guns were in the back. Tim Brown pulled the number 16 for the inversion. It was during the next 40 minutes that the fireworks flew. No they did not shoot off fireworks in the sky. The cars set them off on the track. It was during this time the fans screamed, yelled, hung out over the cement wall showing their displeasure or pleasure with some of the moves that were being made. It was during this time you stood to watch the racing rather then sat in your seat. It was during this time that many a car part was broken and bent. It was during this time that I got caught up in all the mayhem and starting cheering and yelling right along with the other 7,500 fans in the stadium.
The first 19 laps went caution free and then it started to happen one by one with drivers became inpatient and simply took other cars out of the event. Now the spun car would usually retaliate by hitting the car that spun him under caution and that appeared to be allowed, as nothing was done by the officials. By lap 35 things were actually running smoothly when a fictitious caution was thrown, no one spun, hit the wall nor was there any debris. This got things rolling. On lap 40 Jonathan Brown tried to run Danny Bohn, grandson of the late Parker Bohn long time runner at Wall Stadium in New Jersey, into the fourth turn wall. It did not work. They raced into the first turn and the sparks flew and the metal crunched. Bohn made it through but Jonathan Brown did not as well as several other cars. Bert Myers who hit many cars during the event was one of the cars left sitting in the turn. Racing resumed and one lap later the caution was out again. Jonathan Brown was involved again this time with Tim Brown, no relation, on the backstretch. There would be 6 more green flag laps before the 8th and final caution on lap 47. Bert Myers spun off the track on the homestretch after yet another tangle with Jonathan Brown. Then the car slid out of the infield into turn one making contact with Joe (Bo Bo) Brown, brother of Jonathan. They briefly got hooked together and you could almost see the anger spewing from the cars. When Brown pulled away and drove down the backstretch, Myers rammed him hard from behind and both slid into the grass infield. Here they stalked each other like the final two running cars in a destruction derby, running into each other. Next they were front bumper to front bumper and both accelerated only to be at a standstill with their tires spinning. It was like nothing I have ever seen before during a so called professional race. It was like two bulls with their horns and steam coming out of their nostrils. Finally Myers pulled away and Brown jumped out of his car and chased after him on foot. Now the officials intervened and stopped Brown. The final three laps were run and Danny Bohn, from Freehold, NJ, picked up his second win of the year followed by Michael Clifton, Tommy Neal, Jonathan Brown and Jason Myers. Cars were still deliberately hitting each other as they pulled off the third turn pit entrance. This was the 1288th modified race run here and I don’t know if any of the others were as wild as this one!!
There were cars crashing, fans yelling and hanging over the cement wall telling drivers they were number 1, arguments in the stands and it was approximately 7,500 strong. You would never see this as the norm in the Northeast, but this is the way it is here every Saturday night. If you ever get the chance to come here take it. Is it good racing? NO! Is it entertaining? Hell Yes! It is a Madhouse, Just like seen on TV.
Friday, July 27 - Today was the start of our vacation to Myrtle Beach and would originate from the Philadelphia International Airport. We were flying Southwest Airlines (our favorite for many reasons with the bags fly free one of the biggest) to Raleigh, North Carolina. We would be spending two days in North Carolina before venturing further south to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Things went smoothly on the flight and retrieving our luggage and securing the rental car and we were on our way to the Radisson Hotel in Research Triangle Park before 5. After checking in we spent some time at the hotel before pointing the Chevy Impala rental east on I-40. We pulled into the parking lot of the Wake County Speedway by 7 and promptly purchased our tickets and entered the grounds.
What we found was a 1/4 mile semi-banked asphalt oval with concrete walls on both the outside and inside areas. The pit area was in the infield plus also located outside of turns one and two. Two wooden grandstands were located on the homestretch with wide panels for your seating pleasure. One was a high rise located to the left of the flagger’s stand and the other was located to the right of the flagger’s stand. We choose the one to the right and going about five rows up could see the entire track from that vantage point. An additional wooden grandstand was located in turn four There was a nice scoreboard on the backstretch with a lap counter and top five position indicator. The track surface was starting to show its age being converted to asphalt in 1982. There were six divisions on hand all with low car counts. They were super late models (4), limited late models (8), legend cars (9), four cylinders (7), Southern Ground Pounders (6) and U cars (6). The Southern Ground Pounders were an assortment of vintage race cars, many of the late model variety, but the one which stood out was a classic modified coupe which was a beauty. Shortly after we arrived warmups began for each of the classes as the skies turned from partly cloudy to very cloudy with black clouds approaching. The warmups continued until 8 when the legends were called to the infield to line up and they began their time trials. It started to sprinkle and by the looks of the sky it was time to hightail it to the nearby car. It began to rain steadily and the lightning flashed and the remainder of the grandstands emptied quickly as it turned into a deluge. We waited out the heavier rain until it let up somewhat and I ventured back inside and up to the scoring booth. The promoter’s wife was symphatetic to a couple of travelers and gladly refunded our $20 for admission. I thanked her and promised her that we would return sometime in the future and God willing we will.
It is always a shame when you get rained out but it hurts even more when it is a new track you are visiting. It has been a rough season so far with 12 rainouts already suffered and the upcoming weather for the entire week has a chance of rain in it. We stopped on our way back to the hotel at a place where the food was good but it was too loud to have a conversation in. The rest of the evening consisted of 20/20 and the news before the lights went out for the evening. Let’s hope that tomorrow will bring brighter skies and no evening rain.
Sunday, July 22 - It was a nice summer day with temperatures approaching 90 with a 30% chance of isolated thunderstorms for the Susquehanna, Pennsylvania but Jeff Ahlum and I decided to take the risk and venture north to the Penn Can Speedway for their Northeast Small Car Summer Nationals. The starting time bounced around between 5 and 6 during the course of the week and finally on Saturday the website read warmups at 4:30 and racing at 5:00. I met Jeff at the William Penn Highway Park and Ride and he drove us north to Penn Can. We arrived at 4:30 and heard some engines fired in the pit area. Eight dollars got you in the front gate and we sat one row from the top of the wooden plank grandstand in front of friends, Dwight, Bobby, Marshall and John. Jeff wandered off and the next thing we knew he was welcoming everyone to the Penn Can Speedway for an afternoon of racing. Jeff bumped into promoter, Reed Miller, and he asked Jeff if he wanted to announce the event. I was glad that some of our other racing friends were in attendence so I was not sitting alone.
Five divisions of small cars were on the card with the car counts in parenthesises as follows in order of heat races: slingshots (22), 270 micro sprints (22), 600 modifieds (19), 600 micro sprints (21) and Tobias Speedsters (11). Racing started late at 5:22 from the posted starting time but once underway the program was moved along very well. As one heat exited the track into the pit area entering turn one the next one was entering the track off the backstretch. The only gripe I have was the policy of bringing the aligned racecars around to take the white flag before starting them the following lap. It may not seem like much but at a minute per start or restart that can add up to over a half hour or more. This could have been alleviated by informing the drivers during the driver’s meeting that when the pace truck pulls into the infield on the backstretch we will be going as you exit turn four.
As I mentioned earlier the show was moved along well and slightly over an hour later 13 heat races had been recorded into the record book with some very competitive racing witnessed. Intermission was next and at 35 minutes was about 15 minutes too long on a Sunday evening. All feature events would be 20 laps in distance on the 3/8 mile semi banked dirt oval. The slingshots would run first and I must say this might have been the best slingshot feature I have ever witnessed. Usually passing is at a premium but on the bigger oval there was oodles of passing. It was a very enjoyable race with Tyler Dippel marching from 9th to take the lead from Simon Egan, the Atlantic City slingshot winner, who started alongside the winner. Seventh starter, Benn Whitaker ran a strong race to claim third with Shannon Smith coming home fourth and Wes Hearn rounding out the top five at 7:37.
The 270 micro sprint race was next and was another competitive feature event. Ninth starting Ryan Smith, who seems to drive anything with four wheels on it, took the lead on lap 5 and looked like a sure winner until he broke and pulled off the track on lap 13. Pat Bealer took command at this point and he didn’t waste his second chance holding off tenth starting Braydon Winters over the remaining seven circuits. Rob Pajauis ran a heady race to take third with Ken Hockenbroch improving four positions to fourth and Dane Tobias, son of Diane Tobias and grandson of the late Dick Tobias, putting on the driving display of the day slicing from 21st to nail down 5th at the finish. I must commend the fine officiating applied during this feature when one driver intentionaly spun another at the front of the field which could have caused some serious car damage or injuries. The offender was sent to the rear of the field and did not quite go back the full number of cars. During the next caution the starter made sure the offending driver was clear what he meant by the rear and placed him back the remaining three spots he failed to take before. I found out later from Jeff that the race director this evening was normally the flagger and the flagger tonight was his brother. Penn Can should seriously consider moving the flagger permanently into the race director position and his brother who also did a youman’s job as the new starter.
The third of five features was for the 600 modifieds and usually this guys have caution fever but if it wasn’t for one driver who spun three times this race would have gone non-stop. Butch Getz came out of the fourth hole to claim the lead on lap 13 from Ryan Higgs who finished second with tenth starting Nick Mady running third, 11th starter, Sean Weiss taking fourth and 8th starter, Chris Stockham, claiming fifth. The 600 micro sprint feature was waved off at 8:32 and Jeff and I agreed that this was the best feature race of the day. Tyler Walton started 12th and by lap 11 was on top of the heap passing ARDC midget regular, Tim Buckwalter, for the lead. Ryan Smith started and finished third with 11th starting Tyler Walker (not the sprint car driver) fourth and Tyler Ross starting ninth and finishing fifth. It was a Tyler dominated top five with some very good racing throughout the field. The last feature of the evening would be for the Tobias Speedsters with third starting Paul Lotier Jr., son of former sprint car driver of the same name, taking the lead from Brittany Wixon in the early going but Wixon stayed with and pressured Lotier the rest of the way and actually seemed faster but the track was slick at this point and it was difficult to pass. Wixon slipped up in the last two laps with Fred Rahmer Jr., yes the son of Sprint Car Hall of Fame driver Fred Rahmer, taking second from her. Richie Tobias, the creator of the Speedster made a late charge to finish fourth with sportsman and modified driver, Anthony Perrego taking down fifth. Fred Jr’s brother, Brandon, finished sixth.
All was completed by 9 PM and in a new world’s record announcer Jeff Alhum was ready to hit the road by 9:18 as I guess the last person to talk with had already left!! It was a very enjoyable evening of racing at the Can and the racing was much better than the bigger car events witnessed the past two Saturdays. This one maybe penciled in on the calendar for next year as a fine program was presented.
Saturday, July 21 - We debated between Susquehanna for Super Sportsman and Grandview for URC sprints. We decided on Grandview for two reasons, the proximity to home and the fact that they were only running two divisions on this Saturday night. We figured it would be over early and we could be home in time to attend first church service instead of second. Well, as the story unfolds below you will see which church service we ended up at.
It was a partly sunny and hot day in the low 90’s and we attended an Easton High School summer basketball tournament game before working our way south to Grandview Speedway. We had plenty of time to kill so we stopped at an antique mall on Route 100 before stopping below the track for dinner at a family restaurant. We still arrived at Grandview early around 5:30 and I ventured into the pit area while Pat secured our seats in the wooden grandstand on the homestretch. At 7:37 the green flag flew on the first of three URC sprint heats and the wrecking promptly began. Three flips (one a Tommy tipover) marred the heat racing along with numerous spins and caused the plenty of down time. In fact it took almost an hour (51 minutes to be exact) to complete the three heat races. The 358 modifieds on the other hand spun their heat races, four in all, off in just 37 minutes. Next up was the sprint consie and not only did they have another flip in this one they also had two cars wreck under caution!! Was it a full moon by any chance?? Two modified consies followed and it was already 9:50.
The Pepsi Challenge was next on the race card which would pit the top 11 in points running one lap challenge races against each other starting with the 11th place man in points, Tommy Sheetz III, picking any of the other 10 to start off the competition. The winner of each round received $100 with the final paying $1500 to win. Sheetz won his first race but challenged Jon Kellner Sr. in round two and fell to the rim riding Kellner. The next four rounds were dominated by Kellner and he pocketed a cool $500 for his efforts. He met his demise when he picked Craig VonDohren for his next foe. VonDohren polished off the next four finally leaving points leader and eight time feature winner in 2012 at Grandview, Duane Howard, as his last opponent. The crowd went wild as VonDohren used the preferred outside groove to romp over Howard as the inside was not working anywhere as good as the outside. A few minutes later VonDohren stood in victory lane $1900 richer as the crowd roared its approval. It was a fun event to watch but now it was almost 10:30 and we had two features still to run. At this point track maintenance was performed for 25 minutes and at this point it was unnecessary as the track would not get any better for the rest of the evening. Unless you cut it up and water it water alone added to the top is not going to do any good.
And indeed as the green waved at 10:51 the dust reappeared and would remain the rest of the evening. As bad as the URC heats were the feature was just the opposite. With only one minor caution the entire 25 lap event was completed in 10 minutes. Passing was minimal with Josh Weller starting first and finishing there. We have never understood the URC handicap system and probably never will. Davey Franek tried to track down the high flying Weller coming from sixth to apply the pressure but it seems his tires wore out and Mark Bitner who started second repassed him for the runnerup spot near the end. Tenth starting Robbie Stillwagon, the current URC point leader, passed the most cars but could not advance any further after arriving in fourth. Kevin Nagy, the third starter, rounded out the top five at 11:01.
The 30 lap 358 modified feature would take the green flag at 11:13 and they didn’t have much of a track to work with. Third starting Jon Kellner Jr. established a huge lead until tangling with a lap car in turn two on lap 16 and spinning out of the lead. It was a tough break for Kellner but a good break for second running Brad Grim. On the restart Grim powered out front and held the lead until lap 18 when eighth starting Don Norris Jr. powered by for the lead. Norris would pull away from his challengers and flashed under the checkered flag at 11:44 for his first win of the year over Grim with 14th starter, Jeff Strunk, claiming third with Chris Esposito turning in a fine performance for fourth and Mike Gular blasting from 13th to take fifth. Kyle Weiss was sixth with Craig VonDohren going to the back after a flat tire on lap 3 to come back to seventh. Meme DeSantis took home eighth with Duane Howard ninth after pitting with a flat tire on lap 2 and Doug Manmiller rallying for tenth.
To us the two division program took much too long to spin off and after chatting with some friends after the finish in the parking lot it was 12:30 before we left the grounds and second church service would be the choice.
Saturday, July 14 – After spending the majority of the day out in the hot sun watching a high school basketball tournament at Cedar Beach Park in Allentown, we decided to stay close to home. We narrowed it down to Grandview Speedway and Mahoning Valley Speedway which both are approximately 45 to 50 minutes from home. We needed to get up at 6:45 Sunday morning so we chose Mahoning because they started at 6:00 vs. Grandview’s start of 7:30. The weather also had to be taken into consideration. Throughout the day while watching basketball I was receiving text messages from Rainedout.com and several tracks were already cancelled from the random thunderstorms that were in the area.
We arrived at 5:20 for the 6:00 start and tonight we would get a bonus because the first event on the card was a previously rained out modified 35 lap feature. Mahoning is a small 1/4 mile asphalt oval that looks more like a circle. It takes a mere 10 to 11 seconds to run one lap. The crowd is always into the racing, booing and cheering more than any other track around. We found some of our racing buddies and were set for the night.
The modified feature started at 6:07 and was anything but smooth. A first lap oil spill caused a multi- car spin on lap one holding up the race for 12 minutes while the track crew threw down the kitty litter and then took brooms to brush off the residue. Racing resumed at 6:19 and there would be 4 more cautions prior to the checkered flag falling. Earl Paules seemed to be the driver that everyone had an opinion on. You either loved him or hated him. When Paules slowed with a flat rear tire late in the event the crowd cheered loudly. In the end Tommy Flannigan was in victory lane followed by Matt Hirshman and Bobby Jones. This opening feature was followed by time trials for the late models that would later run a 50 lap main event, then heat races for the 4 cylinders, street stocks and modifieds. Still all was complete by 7:40 and I thought we were running right along until we took a 40 minute intermission prior to the first of the regular show features.
Barry Christman picked up his 24th career win at Mahoning in the 4 cylinder 20 lap event. Chris Graver won the 20 lap dirt modified event. Yes, I know it is an asphalt track but dirt modifieds run there. However there were only 8 cars in the field. Graver won 7 of the 10 events that were run this year and his 14th overall feature win. Twelve, yes twelve year old Kyle Stohl picked up the street stock feature and then we were back to the modifieds.
If I thought the rained out feature did not run smoothly then this feature was very bumpy. There were 8 cautions in the 35 lap event and it almost seemed that they wanted to run into each other. Shawn Sitarchyk won the event and the victory interview was concluded after 10:00. We thought we would be on our way home by 10:00 but here we still were with a 50 lap late model feature left to run. It started at 10:18, 30 minutes and 9 cautions later there were still laps to be run. Maybe it was sitting out all day in the 100 heat and humidity but both of us were beat. We looked at each other when the 9th caution flag fell and said lets go home and that is what we did. I know there was at least one more caution because we heard the cars slow prior to getting into the car. Aside from the socializing with friends it was really not that good of a night of racing. Road construction on the way home delayed us another 10 to 15 minutes and the night that we wanted to be home early turned out to be an after midnight venture.
Marshall it has been a busy week sorry for the delay!!
Saturday, July 7 - It was another scorcher today as the temperatures were again 100 + degrees. Our accomodations on Friday night were in South Bend, the home of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, and in fact we were across the street from the campus in the Ivory Court Suites, a very nice set of buildings set up like a condo complex. In fact from our third floor window we could see Touchdown Jesus on the building wall looking toward the football stadium. Alan and Nancy Brown arrived around 11 and we all piled into the latest version of the Chariot to first take a driving tour of the Notre Dame campus before visiting the Studebaker Museum in the town where these cars were built. It was an enjoyable couple of hours spent looking and reading about the many models produced in the factory in South Bend and some of the history behind it. The Studebaker family started out in Gettysburg, PA before moving to Ashland, Ohio and finally ending up in South Bend, Indiana. The Studebaker family started building Conestoga wagons for the early settlers before switching to farm wagons and then into the car business. There were many fine examples of their work and then there was the Avanti. Boy was that car ugly!! The Hawk model from the 1950’s was gorgeous and I could see myself driving down the back roads of Indiana in one of the Flamingo colored beauties. After touring the museum we stop to get a bite to eat before heading down to Plymouth to check into our hotel for the evening. While plotting some future potential vacations with our friends from Michigan we received a phone call from the Breadman, Gordy Killian, of the Reading, PA area. He was on the tail end of his week racing tour through the midwest and told us he was in Indianapolis and was on his way north.
Around 4 PM as we were all sitting together in the Brown’s hotel room Alan received an e-mail on his phone informing us that the USAC midget portion of the races tonight at Plymouth were cancelled due to the excessive heat. We immediately phoned the speedway to find if everything was cancelled and were informed that they were still running with 600 cc mini sprints and hornets on the card and that the admission price was dropped to $7. We decided since we were already here with a hotel booked why not venture over and take in the remaining action on the new dirt track built inside the asphalt oval. Upon approaching the ticket booth we were met by a track employee informing us that the USAC midgets were off the program and the admission price was reduced to $7. That was a good move!! Upon entering the gates we were presented with a cold bottle of spring water. Another good move!! Soon thereafter promoter, Eric “Irish” Saunders, approached Alan and started conversing with us all. He informed us that USAC had contacted him this afternoon and had cancelled because several of the top car owners had called and complained that the temperatures would hurt their racing engines. Well, that did not pass inspection with us as yesterday was hotter than today and we did not see any engine problems the evening before. Could it have been the fact that the dirt oval was a small 1/5 mile and the big boys didn’t want to run on it? We think that was more the reason and not the heat issue. Gee, they’ve run midgets in Arizona when the temperatures have been in triple digits, why not here? When Irish informed USAC he was still running they said how will that make us look. Did they really want an answer to that question? Saunders told them that he had 30 600 cc mini sprints commit to run tonight and he was honoring his commitment. Too bad USAC didn’t honor their commitment!!
We placed our lounge chairs at the top of the grandstand behind the top row and settled in for a night of racing minus USAC. They overwatered the track, not a good move, and the racing started almost a half hour late. The 600 cc mini sprints ran three heats with the first two being decided by mere inches. The hornet field was a meager 4 and they ran one heat. It was decided to run a second set of heats for the mini sprints before going to intermission at 9:15. Again the water truck overwatered the track and the intermission lasted 45 minutes before they were able to run the wetness in. We believe the lack of dirt track preperation played a major role in the double overwaterings. Hopefully time and experience will win out here. Two B mains were contested for the mini sprints and it was 10:28 when the 10 lap hornet feature took the green flag. Five minutes later after using some muscle moves Sal Bustamante stood in victory lane for the second night in a row. The twenty car starting field for the 30 lap mini sprint feature would race for $500 to win with the initial green waving at 10:47. The red flew on lap 2 for a flip before the drivers settled down and raced cleanly for 19 straight laps. Nate Lauderbuagh was strong all evening and came out of the third hole to take the lead. Rodney Stealy who started ninth really put the pressure on Lauderbaugh but could not slip by. Fifth starter, Cole Bodine, finished third with Austin Thomas taking fourth and Cole Ketcham rounding out the top five after starting 11th. The final checker waved at 11:09 making this too long of a racing program with management having to work on tightening things up. It may not have been the greatest race but the company was priceless.
Friday, July 6 - It was another trip to Indiana and this one was going to be a hot one!! We left Indianapolis around 1 PM and headed north on Rt.31 toward our destination of Plymouth, Indiana. Plymouth Speedway has a unique setup this year adding a 1/5 mile dirt oval completely inside the existing 3/8 mile semi-banked asphalt oval. Tonight was the first night of a two day USAC midget show at Plymouth racing on the asphalt surface tonight. Temperatures along the road read 105 degrees and by the time we arrived at the track’s parking lot the temperature read 112. That’s hot!!
Plymouth is a small town in northern Indiana about 30 miles south of South Bend, the home to the University of Notre Dame. Plymouth Speedway is south of town and the 3/8 mile asphalt oval is a nice looking facility with plenty of parking and you enter the grandstands walking up a slight hill. The grandstands are based on a slab of concrete with metal piping imbedded into the concrete with wooden planks bolted on top of the piping. The infield is clear with the exception of some Jersey barriers protecting the flagger’s stand in the infield for the dirt track. The walls are Jersey barriers also and the pits are located outside of turns one and two. Concession stands are located behind the grandstand and in turn four is a wooden pavilion used for performing bands and such.
Time trials for the 19 USAC National midgets on hand began at 7:02 and were over in 25 minutes with Kyle Hamilton setting a new track record with a time of 12.582 seconds. Times trials were also run for the street stocks (13) and the hornets (4) on hand followed by heat races for the Midwest Ignite midgets (formally known as the Ford Focus midgets) with two for the 13 car field. The USAC midgets ran three heats and all qualifying was completed by 8:30. It was right into the features with the street stocks up first to go a distance of 20 laps taking the green at 8:34. This was a real good race up front with the top three cars swapping positions throughout. Bobby Stremme, the brother of David, took the lead for good on a lap 16 restart in turn three and raced to victory in his mom’s car. It was has first win at Plymouth since 2006 and he explained in victory lane that mom and dad thought it was too hot to go race but he said what the hell I’m going. He borrowed his mom’s new tires also and commented that he would have to replace those for her. Scott Frost won the race for second with Derek Wunder taking the show position. The 10 lap hornet feature went non-stop and only took three minutes to spin off. Young Sal Bustamante took down the win in this one.
Now it was time for the 25 lap Midwest Ignite midget feature and this one was competitive also. Nick Hamilton, the younger brother of Kyle, ran in third until the front two tangled on lap 20 and spun. Nick took advantage of the huge break and held off Cooper Clouse and Neshanic Station, New Jersey youngester, Ryan Krachun. Krachun was disqualified in post race tech inspection and Ross Rankine moved up to third in the final rundown. The 50 lap USAC midget feature was ready to go by 9:42 and even though you can’t call this a great race because of the eight caution flags it was a real war up front among Darren Hagen, Kyle Hamilton and Tracy Hines with these three dicing it up for the top spot. Hagen, the current USAC National midget point’s leader, took the lead from the start but it was anything but easy. Hamilton pressured him throughout the 50 lap distance and even made a diamond move entering turn one diving to the inside of Hagen with the two making contact and skating up the track but both were able to regain control and not lose any positions. Hines looked high and low but couldn’t figure a way by the front two and waited for a mistake in front of him. Coming off turn four for the checkered Hamilton made a run to the outside and the top two crossed the line side by side with the transponders flashing the Hamilton #33 first but a review of the official photo at the wire had Hagen holding on by just mere inches!! This the only the second midget race we have seen on asphalt this year and both had come down to the wire in very exciting finishes. Darren Hagen scored his 4th win of 2012 and his 19th career USAC midget win over Hamilton with Tracy Hines third, Caleb Armstrong fourth and Dalton Armstrong fifth. The final checkered waved at 10:16 in a finely run program which sent the fans home buzzing after the close, close finish.
Tuesday, July 3 – It was the day before a holiday and most people leave work early. Unfortunately I stayed late until 5:20 and then headed straight to the Grandview Speedway. Bruce only worked half a day and went to slingshot races earlier in the day at Pocono and I would be meeting him at the track. He arrived 45 minutes before I did. After getting caught up in some holiday traffic I arrived at the track at 7:10 to an unbelievable crowd. I never saw so many cars looking for a place to park. It was crazy. I paid my $3 to park in the yard across the street from the track and then proceeded to park behind the house in the bowels of the property. It took me 15 minutes to hike to the pit shack to sign in and then back to the grandstands. It was very hot and humid and now I felt like I needed oxygen too. Luckily I did not need to worry about a seat because Rich Rauser always saves us a seat for the Thunder on the Hill shows and this PA Sprint Week show was also a part of that series. As I was walking in the front gate I heard Jeff Alhum, the track announcer, ask the fans to move together to make room for the many fans still looking for a seat as the sprints were starting to take their warm-up laps.
This was a double show hosting the 410 sprints and the 358 modifieds that normally run here on Saturday night. There were 32 sprints and 42 modifieds. My first thought was this was going to be too much racing for the track to hold up. It started at 7:47 with time trials for the sprints and Danny Lasoski set fast time. Bob Miller kept the show moving along as the modified heats came out within 10 minutes of the time trials being complete. The first heat started out with a crash in turn one and the sprint fans started to groan as Grandview has a reputation of a lot of contact and crashing. Yes there is a lot of contact but in the past couple of years the crashing has lessened and the racing is quite good. After this first encounter racing went smoothly and it only took a little over 20 minutes to run off the 4 qualifying heats. The winners were Duane Howard, Billy Pauch Jr., Jordan Umbenhauer and Jeff Strunk. Later they would all complete in a 4 lap dash race paying $200 to the winner. Howard would win this event.
The sprint heats were next and they also ran four 10 laps qualifying events that were lined up from the time trials. The match race won by Howard followed and then it was consolation time. There were two for the modifieds and one for the sprints. I was surprised when all qualifying was complete in 2 hours. Tonight the surface took on rubber early and you already knew the passing would be minimal in the feature events. They did some minor track maintenance during the modified position draw and in 25 minutes the green was dropping on the 35 lap sprint main event.
Yes, it was dusty. I expected that. Yes, we got dirty and I expected that. However I did not realize that the addition of 5 laps on to what usually is a 30 lap event would turn a ho-hum race into a disaster. You are normally accustomed to seeing the sprints running high on the upper groove at Grandview but tonight it was the low groove, which usually does not lead to very exciting racing. The first caution came out on lap 23 for Danny Dietrich and this closed up the field. To this point Alan Krimes lead all circuits. On lap 25 the caution came out for Chad Layton who stopped in turn two with a flat tire. It was also at this time that Tim Tanner Jr. dropped to the infield, also with a flat tire. Tanner who was driving a sprint car in competition for the very first time not only qualified but did a commendable job on a not so perfect surface. This would be the first of two flat tires that would finish at over a dozen. Racing resumed and on lap 30 the leader Alan Krimes dropped to the wayside with a right rear flat. Now according to the rules if a flat tire occurs while racing the crew is given two laps to change the tire and return to the rear of the field. This adds time and caution laps to the race and we all know that sprints can only run so many laps before they require a fuel stop. Lap 31 it was Lance Dewease with a right rear flat. Lap 32 it was Brian Leppo. Lap 33 it was then leader Steve Smith Jr. and Brent Marks. Also during this time we had a red for refueling. Remember you cannot change tires during a red flag. The final two laps looked like nobody wanted to really push it much. They just wanted to survive the final two circuits. Kyle Larson was one of the few sprints with rubber left on his right rear tire and in those final two circuits he passed three or four cars to move into third. As the checkered flag fell it was Greg Hodnett picking up the $5,000 first price followed by Brian Montieth, Larson, Fred Rahmer and Brian Leppo. Also on the last lap Daryn Pittman, Aaron Ott and Paul McMahon experienced right rear flat tires. Six cautions, 25 minutes and a dozen right rear flat tires are why you should not run 35 laps. I was told that they run 35 laps as to not cheat the fans because it is a smaller track. Tonight not only were the fans cheated out of exciting racing but so were the drivers.
Now we still had a 25 lap modified race to run and more than ¾ of the over flow crowd remained to see the final event of the night. Would Duane Howard pick up another win? This race was not plagued with flat tires, there was just no surface left to run on. It was single file racing around the bottom. Ryan Godown inherited the lead when leader Ryan Grim dropped out on the fifth lap. He had Howard on his bumper the remainder of the event but unless he moved from the low groove he was not going to be passed. On lap 23 the fourth caution of the race came out for Terry Meitzler for a flat tire and at the same time Billy Pauch also had the right rear go down. Here we go again. No this is only a 25 lap event. Godown hung on for the win and blew a right rear tire in turn two after taking the checkered. Howard finished second with Billy Pauch Jr., Kyle Weiss and Craig VonDohren rounding out the top five.
It was a full night of racing. The promoter had to have made some decent money with the record crowd and I think this is great. Promoters need to make money if we want to keep seeing races. The show was run efficiently but the surface and tire situation put a black mark on the event. Yes, it was hot in the 90’s and it has not rained for a while. I still do not think they should have run the modifieds with the sprints as there were too many high powered cars on the track and it took its toll. My night was not over as I could not remember exactly where I parked the car and it took me a while to find it and then make the 45 minute jaunt home.
In the end there were a lot of fans, a lot of cars and a lot of flat tires. Now it would have been a different story for a lot if they had only run 30 laps.
Sunday, July 1 - Pat’s father, Junior, would join us tonight for the second night of Pennsylvania Sprint Week being contested at the Big Diamond Speedway. Upon our arrival we found a good sized crowd on hand to witness the three division program of 410 sprints (24), legend cars (29) and roadrunners (16). Warmups started at 7:30 with time trials on time at 8 PM. Twenty minutes later Daryn Pittman had bested the 24 car field with a time of 13.430 seconds around the 3/8 mile semi-banked dirt oval. The roadrunners would run two heats first with the 410 sprints running three heats with Brian Montieth, Alan Krimes and Lance Dewease winning. The legend cars spun off three heats quickly and all heats were in by 9:25. Things were moving along nicely to this point and by 9:28 the 20 lap roadrunner feature was ready to go. This was by far the best we have seen these guys run in our limited appearances with only two cautions and Joey Brennan executing the winning move on lap 18. Only the legend cars needed a consie and by 9:51 it was intermission time.
At this point we felt the show fell apart as the intermission stretched out to 33 minutes until the first sprint car was rolled onto the track to be pushed off. Track maintenance was performed in this time period and to us and many of our friends around us this was unnecesary as the track was in good enough condition to contest the 30 lap sprint feature at this point. On a Sunday night especially the goal should be to have the crowd on the road back home between 10 and 10:30 as the majority of them have to work on a Monday. Another big mistake was when you are running sprint cars you need more than four push trucks to push off the field. From the time the first sprint car was rolled onto the track and the green flag was waved was an additional 15 minutes pushing the start to 10:40. When the green flag waved the dust rose off the racing surface and everyone wondered why we spent 33 minutes “grooming” the track. Unlike the USAC sprint feature back in early June which went non-stop this one had one red and two cautions to allow the dust to settle down a little. The first stoppage occured on lap 7 when Paul McMahon flipped the Buch #13 in turn four to bring the action to a swift halt. With one tow truck/push vehicle tending to the damaged race car that left only three vehicles to push off 23 sprint cars. You do the math and figure out how long that must have taken. Brian Montieth started first and that is where he finished collecting another $5000 for the win and bringing his weekend total to $17,260 for winning three races totalling 85 laps. Not too shabby, eh!! Can you say hot, hot, hot!! Finishing second behind the high flying Montieth was another rim rider in Danny Dietrich with Daryn Pittman netting third, Lance Dewease nailing down fourth and Alan Krimes rounding out the top five. Four of the five finishers came out of the top six so you can see passing was at a minimum. Australian visitor, Darren Mollenoyux turned in another good run being nipped at the line for the ninth position. It was not until 11:10 that this one saw the checkered and that to us is much too late for a Sunday night. And there was still one feature to go.
We decided to stay and watch the 20 lap legend car feature while the parking lot emptied out and we were glad we did. These guys put on a very exciting 20 laps of racing including a last lap, last turn pass for the lead. In between there was some intense side by side racing and plenty of passing. Greg Burd gave everyone a few scary moments when his car erupted in a ball of fire racing down the backstretch on lap 16 while running in the top five. The oil fire went out quick but it was scary until Burd climbed out of his racer and signaled to the relieved crowd that everything was OK. Scott Houdeshell looked like a sure winner ffrom the fifth hole until Jason Rochelle dove under him coming off turn four for the checkered and outraced Houdeshell by a half car length to claim the win as the clock struck 11:42. Rochelle started back in 12th and earned this one over Houdeshell with Chris Spidle taking third, Bill Diehl fourth and Paul Rochelle III capping the top five. The quote of the night came from our friend, Marshall, who stated afterwards that it was so dusty during the evening that you couldn’t see the moon anymore!! And I don’t want to bash someone but sometimes announcers feel that they must talk all the time and Tim Pitts is one of them. When you do this you tend to come up with some stupid statements and Pitts’ pre-race testimonal prior to the sprint car feature to the Big Diamond track crew for the “awesome” track surface they produced might go down as one of those occurances!!! One last thing to mention as constructive criticism is if you are going to play music to entertain the fans during the intermission period you might want to keep it to a level that people are able to have conversations with each other and don’t have to hold their hands over their ears because it is sooooo loud!!!
Tuesday, July 3 - I decided to take a half day at work so I could attend the special program that was going to be held in the afternoon on part of the infield configuration of the long road course at the Pocono International Raceway. The Tobias slingshots would be running a rare Tuesday afternoon race on a 3/4 mile road course set up with two chicanes, one on the homestretch and the other on the backstretch to reduce the speed on the long straights. A good field of 20 cars pulled into the facility to race on this sunny, hot afternoon as I arrived around 1:30 and walked pit road to check out the cars and drivers of various ages. The driver’s meeting was conducted at 2:15 and by 2:30 the cars were taking practice laps around the road circuit. This was a special day for me as it would be the 100th track I have attended in the state of Pennsylvania becoming the 14th trackchaser to cross the 100 track mark in this state. Guy Smith was first to greet me at Pocono and also is first in the state in tracks attended at 186. His wife, Pam, along with Paul Weisel, Bing Metz, Mike Knappenberger and Jeff Sands were other trackchasers in town for this event.
The first 15 lap feature took the green at 3:50 with Linda’s Speedway track champion, Justin Thompson, jumping out to the early lead. Four full course cautions slowed this event but each time Thompson clung onto the lead. The veteran racer, Randy Smith, made a last lap charge at the wire to try to pass Thompson but was not able to pull off the move and I’m sure starter, Mike Feltenberger’s eyes were as big as saucers as Smith bore down on him at the line!! Kyle Luck made the biggest move in this one advancing from 8th to claim the last podium position. This one took a while at 32 minutes with time spent removing broken down cars and the such so the second round was cut to 10 laps and the officials learned from the first one leaving any disabled cars off the racing surface remain sitting where they pulled off and continued racing. The second race went non-stop in 7 minutes with Tom Arntz coming from fifth to score the win over Ray Nemeth second and Scott Miller placing third. The final checkered waved at 4:54 and according to one report the racing had to be finished by 5 so they accomplished their mission. It was an enjoyable afternoon on a sunny day and a unique way to register my 100th PA track.
Saturday, June 30 – The original plan was to stay overnight in the York area and go see the Lancaster Barnstormers during the day before heading out to the opening night of Pennsylvania Sprint Week. It turned out to be another hot day in Central Pennsylvania and we decided to scrap the idea of going to a minor league baseball game during the day fearing that by the time we got to Lincoln Speedway we would be drained of all of our body water. Instead we went to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant and then spent a couple of hours browsing through Ollie’s Discount Store. I love Ollie’s, it is where you go to spent money you do not have on stuff you do not need and will never use. It is a great time.
By 4:15 we pulled into the parking lot at Lincoln Speedway. Bruce walked in and secured seats in the cement grandstands and we relaxed in our lawn chairs under a shade tree until it was time to go in and watch warm-ups. Even though it was hot there was a good crowd on hand to see night number 1 of sprint week and the Central PA Legends were also on the agenda. These cars are good fillers and always run well on this track. On this night everything ran like a fine tuned clock. Warm-ups started promptly at 7:00 with the first sprint taking to the track at exactly 7:30 to start time trials. All 29 cars took time in 18 minutes and Brent Marks set fast time with a time of 13.666. The legends came out for their warm-up laps and at 8:04 the three sprint qualifying heats took the green. The show was literally whizzing by. The caution only waved one time during the sprint heats when Kyle Larson, invading the sprint week from California, spun and backed into the turn one wall. In all they ran off three sprint heats, a B main for the sprints, three legends heats and a consolation with the only caution being for Kyle Larson. It seemed by the time qualifying got under way it was over and it was only 8:52.
A half hour intermission ensued and then it was feature time for the sprints. The 30 lap event was paying $7,000 to win and the field was lined up by time trials. The field was 24 cars but Logan Schuchart was unable to start making the field 23 strong when they took the green. This was a race where the position to watch was not first. Brian Montieth took the lead and ran away with the event. The real action was back in the pack. For a few laps Fred Rahmer, Danny Dietrich and Gerard McIntyre put on a real show, sometimes running three wide. The race only had three minor cautions and at its completion Brian Montieth was standing in victory lane for the second night in a row. It was his fifth win of the season at Lincoln Speedway and a Montieth win is always a crowd pleaser.
The race was over prior to 10:00 so we decided to stay and see the legend race and I was glad we did. The legends ran with only two cautions and it was real good 15 lap feature. Harlon Leppo won the event. By 10:15 we were in the car driving home. It was a good night of racing with a race surface that held up well in the high heat, plus a show well run.