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McCreadie Wins at 800 lb. Gorilla Known as Knoxville; Phillips Takes The World at Lakeside

September 30, 2008 Leave a comment

Congratulations to Tim McCreadie on winning the Lucas Oil Nationals at Knoxville Raceway.  McCreadie edged Josh Richards, who was followed by Shannon Babb, Jimmy Mars, and Rick Eckert.  Brian Birkhofer took the B Main Saturday night, and managed to climb to 7th in the A before the checkers flew.

 

At Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Denny Woodworth won Friday’s preliminary feature, and Terry Phillips took the A Main on Saturday.  Be watching for a Denny Woodworth article in an upcoming edition of Dirt Late Model magazine.  After the weekend’s action, Chad Simpson holds a five point lead over John Kaanta in the WDRL series, while John Anderson has a twenty-two point lead over David Turner in the MLRA.

 

Hawkeye Racing News correspondent Barry Johnson and I did not talk about this, but he wrote a column in the HRN latest edition regarding Knoxville and Lakeside racing on the same dates each year.  Both seem to want to tie in their year end special with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway.  That seems appropriate for Lakeside which is only a few miles a way from the asphalt speed plant.  It seems less so for Knoxville.

 

I believe Knoxville’s contention is that having a NASCAR race just a short flight from the track allows them to add NASCAR stars such as Tony Stewart and Ken Schrader to their list of entrants and this puts butts in the grandstands.  I have no doubt this is true.  I would contend that it ultimately takes away from the bottom line.  Ken Schrader is not the draw he was even a few years ago, if only for the fact that he does race in the area quite often.  His Midwest midweek racing jaunts are no longer a novelty.

 

While Stewart puts more people in the stands than Schrader, does Knoxville really benefit from this?  I would assume that both Schrader and Stewart race for a flat fee against winnings. In other words, no matter where they finish they are guaranteed a certain amount.  In the unlikely scenario where one would actually beat the best U.S. dirt late model drivers, the track would come out OK.  That didn’t happen this weekend.  I can’t say for certainly what the services of the NASCAR drivers cost Knoxville, but I would guess $20,000 for Stewart and $5,000 for Schrader, plus expenses.  If my math is close, it would take 1,000 people who came only to see Stewart and/or Schrader to pay their fees.  I do not believe this happened.

 

I contend that an event of this magnitude does not need NASCAR drivers to be a financial or competitive success.  Most fans who attend do so because they are super late model fans, NOT because they are NASCAR fans.  Not having NASCAR drivers involved would also mean Knoxville could switch to a different date and not compete against Lakeside.  This would be a benefit to both drivers and race fans.

 

Drivers such as Jimmy Mars, Brian Birkhofer, and the Eckrich brothers who competed at Knoxville would be able to also compete at Lakeside.  Racers such as Terry Phillips, Kelly Boen, John Anderson, and Kyle Berck who drove at Lakeside would be able to take to the Knoxville track.  Fans would not have to decide either/or, and already strong fields at each track would be even stronger.

 

Unfortunately Knoxville is the 800 pound gorilla or dirt track racing, and right or wrong will continue to do things as they please.  Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

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Specials, and More About Nice Guy Al Humphrey

September 27, 2008 Leave a comment

Night one of the Knoxville Nationals saw Josh Richards, aka Kid Rocket, lead a top field to the checkers.  I’m not sure why, but there were three roll-overs during heats, and the feature did not finish up until after 1:00 a.m.  My favorite, Brian Birkhofer, blew an engine in the second heat.

 

43 cars raced at the Adrian, Missouri MLRA show, boding well for a great late model car count at Lakeside Speedway this weekend.  Jeremy Payne took home the first place trophy.

 

A quick check of the IMCA website shows P.J. Egbert remains in front of Chris Alcorn by seven points in the Modified national point’s race, and Nick Deal has taken over first place in the Modified rookie of the year points.

 

Ernie Reiss of Beatrice sent me the following comments about Al Humphrey.  I am happy to see my post about Al is still drawing views.  Al may be a throw back to another era, but he is no dinosaur.  There are few who can match Al’s ability, his mechanical skills, and his passion for the sport.  I may have said that he’s forgotten more than most drivers will ever know, but I am not so sure that Al has forgotten much. He remains a tough competitor, and when I wonder about why I love this sport, I only need to think about racers like Al.

 

Thanks for the comments Ernie, and thank you for stopping by.

 

From Ernie Reiss of Beatrice:

 

After winning that Junior Trophy, we could not go to the races without going
to the pits afterward to see Al.  That’s how I really ended up helping Al on
his car.  In our conversations, I mentioned that I worked at Firestone in
Grand Island doing brake and front end work.  One night at Hastings, Al got
the front end bent up.  He asked if I could help him out the next morning.
He called Chuck Bosselman and arranged for me to borrow an alignment gauge,
and we got the front wheels pointing in the right direction.

I learned something from that first day that I still remember 33 years
later.  Actually, more than one thing.  First, while sitting in the
grandstands watching the races and listening to people talking, I thought
that the drivers were bitter rivals and enemies.  Nothing could have been
farther from the truth.  I also thought that Al was running a high-dollar
operation.  Once again, nothing was farther from the truth.  We even used
cotter keys over and over!  If something needed to be built, Al would figure
out how to build it. 

There were times during the week when I would go to Al’s shop to work on the
race car that there were a lot of youngsters there.  They weren’t near old
enough to help in the pits on the weekends, but during the week they were at
the shop, cleaning parts and sweeping the floor, or doing whatever they
could to help out.  Al actually had the original “Six Pack” crew.

Then there was the night Al and I went down the road for parts, and Al Z got
on the ATV and used it to take down a barbed wire fence.  His mom was not
happy with either of us when we got to the emergency room, but that didn’t
damper his enthusiasm any for going with me to the shop.  It was a little
while before he got back on an ATV, though. 

Yes, Ron, Al designed and built that hauler between the 1975 and 1976 racing
seasons.  Actually, the ramp was re-designed and rebuilt after several
seasons.  In 1976, on the way to Sunset Speedway, the engine quit on the
edge of Lincoln.  A quick change of plans – somebody with a chain towed Al
to Midwest Speedway where Dick Jensen won the A Feature over Al by inches.
That hauler (by the way, it’s a Ford) has been going to the races almost as
long as Al has. 

Now we’re 33 years down the road and in the last few years, Al has a CNCTA
Championship, an I-80 Speedway Championship, and a SLMR Championship.  Not
to mention, his son, Alex, also having an I-80 Championship. 

I spent this last Sunday afternoon in the pits with Al at I-80.  He may not
be racing 3 or more nights a week any more, but his passion for winning is
still the same.  When we talked about set-ups, he admitted he doesn’t have
all the answers and still refers to all his set-up sheets and notes to try
to keep going in the right direction. 

I now have my own race car, although it’s entry-level, and race at Beatrice
Speedway.  I’d never even considered driving myself, but a few years’
circumstances put me behind the wheel.  This year, due to work schedules, I
shared seat time with my stepsons, one who had never been behind the wheel
in his life.  Now, he’s enthused about getting more driving time in 2009.
And, there are grandkids in the wings…..

No Guilt Trip Today. Today I’m Just Feeling Sorry For Myself.

September 25, 2008 Leave a comment

Two late model specials will be held at Midwest tracks this week.  Both Knoxville Raceway in Iowa and Lakeside Speedway in Kansas will host the horsepower heavy brutes.  Knoxville’s Lucas Oil Nationals will see many of the top “national” drivers do battle, while the WDRL/MLRA shows at Lakeside will see top regional drivers take to the track.

 

From my perspective as a fan, I hate to see these shows go head to head.  There is no longer an abundance of quality late model events in the Midwest, and for fans to have to choose one over the other is unfortunate.  However, both specials appear to be successful, and promoters at both tracks have valid reasons for racing when they do.

 

For Lakeside Speedway, it is a no-brainer.  With NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series racing at nearby Kansas Speedway, no other weekend would see more race fans in such proximity.  Knoxville also ties in with the Kansas Speedway date, though it is too far away for fans to do both.  For the Iowa facility, having their special this weekend allows them to fly in drivers like Tony Stewart and Ken Schrader, thus attracting more casual fans to the event.  I am sure it does put more fans in the football stadium like grandstands of the Marion County track, but I question it brings enough new fans to pay the fees of these drivers.

 

I used to be a fan of bigger is better, but not anymore.  Not that many years ago I thought you needed hundreds of cars to make an event special, and I believed that every late model special should be 100 laps long.  Now my thoughts lean toward 50 really good drivers makes for better racing, as does a race of just 60 or 75 laps.  The Saturday night race at Knoxville would be perfect at 60 laps.

 

Who will the winners be?  I like Brian Birkhofer at Knoxville.  OK, I always like Brian Birkhofer, but he does well at the big half-mile.  Billy Moyer is another possibility.  The Iowa native is having a great year.  And, you can never count out Scott Bloomquist.

 

At Lakeside, I am guessing Kelly Boen with his balls to the wall driving style.  He broke at I-80 Speedway last week, and it seems doubtful he will have two bad weekends in a row.  Kyle Berck won the Cornhusker Classic last weekend, and has looked like the Berck of old all season.  John Anderson and Terry Phillips are also threats.

 

I will be cheering for John Kaanta of Elk Mound, WI.  After leading the WDRL points most of the season, Kaanta now trails Chad Simpson by 4 points heading into the two day, two show event.  I have to cheer for anyone my age driving a late model that well, and Kaanta is also a really nice guy.

 

305 Sprints are the support class at Knoxville, while Modifieds are the support class at Lakeside.  The mods at Lakeside really deserve equal billing.  Last year 75 mods toured the fast Kansas track, and 41 mod drivers have already pre-registered for this year’s race, including NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace, and some of the USMTS elite.

 

Today I am feeling less guilty about missing the races this weekend, and more sorry for myself.  I’ll get over it.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

A Major Guilt Trip

September 25, 2008 Leave a comment

A friend of mine provided me with a great opportunity today, and though I am kicking myself, I passed.  It seems a certain Nebraska Dept. of Revenue auditor has Kansas Speedway Nationwide Series tickets he is not going to be able to use, and would give them to my son Matt and I.  Of course to justify driving that far, we would also “have” to attend the season ending late model special at Lakeside Speedway.  It sounds like a great road trip.  I have never been to Kansas Speedway, and it has been at least five years since I visited Lakeside.  Alas, it will be at least one more.

 

And why did I pass up this wonderful opportunity?  Prepare to scold me.  Because Matt and I are going to the Nebraska vs. Virginia Tech football game.  Yes, I could record the game and go to the races.  Yes, Matt could sell his tickets.  Yes, I have complained about climbing 90 or so steps to our seats in Memorial Stadium, and I know that at Lakeside at least, you enter at the top of the grandstands.  But I am still going to the game.  I guess that does mean I will be home before midnight, not at 3:00 a.m. if I would go to KC.

 

And next week is the second verse of this sad song.  Matt and my daughter in-law Steph are going to the Nebraska vs. Missouri football game, and I am staying home.  Not just home from the game, but the Beatrice fall special too.  Of course I don’t think that any race track in Nebraska should ever butt heads against a Nebraska home game, so maybe there is a little less guilty feeling on missing this race. 

 

A little less is all-this time of year there is only one race per weekend in this area, year-end specials for Nebraska tracks.  And you don’t even need all the fingers on one hand to count how many races are left before six months of no races.

 

Depressing isn’t it?  Well, I hope this blog will keep me from succumbing from race withdrawal this year.  But it doesn’t make me feel any matter right now.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

Asphalt Isn’t All Bad

September 24, 2008 Leave a comment

In the past few months I have admitted that there is much more to dirt track racing than super late models.  I have learned much from hobby stock, stock car, and modified drivers, crew, and fans.  Even a little bit from sprint car people too.  Now I have to admit that dirt track people can occasionally learn from asphalt people.

 

Seth Sands is an assistant at Stateline Stadium Speedway in Idaho.  He has made some insightful comments on my blog, and since I hear a lot of these ideas from my son Matt, I suspected at first that Matt was commenting under an assumed name.  Not so, and I am introducing these two, because they have great ideas.

 

Anyway, Stateline Stadium Speedway races on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  Saturday would be the typical weekly show we are all familiar with, while “Wednesday Night Fever is a midweek series for affordable 4cyl cars, intermediate 4cyl class and a entertainment based Bump to Pass “Bumper Cars” division. Admission is only $5.75 for adults and kids under 10 are free.”

 

This targets a group with a low disposable income, but who are race fans just like you and me, and gives them an opportunity to get to the track and take in some racing action.  On weekends the track is going to lose these customers to free events, i.e. NASCAR on Saturday nights, but during the week the track can compete for their entertainment dollar. It is a low buck show, that is affordable for fans and competitors alike, and I am for anything that can strengthen a track’s relationship with its fans. If you go to http:www.youtube.com/raceidaho, you can watch a video of the track’s Wednesday Night Fever.

 

Thank you Seth, and please keep commenting.  You keep me on my toes.

 

The IMCA 2008 season is nearly over, and P.J. Egbert holds an eight point lead over Scotty Brown and Chris Alcorn in the famed Modified division.  Egbert has 1197 points, with Brown and Alcorn at 1189 each.  David Murray is only a point further back at 1188.  I am sure Chris Alcorn would love to have had one or two nights fewer rainouts at US 30 Speedway near Columbus, NE.

 

Nick Deal has been super hot at the end of the season, and has climbed to 12th place in the national modified standings. According to the IMCA website, the Iowa youngster is in first place in rookie of the year standings as well, leading Randy Brown by one point, 1161 to 1160.

 

Deal, and Jase Kaser, a GN late model driver from near Lincoln, NE, are two young guns who seem to have a very bright racing future.  Good luck to each of them, and thanks too for entertaining us this year.

 

And thank you for stopping by.

 

 

 

I Was In Las Vegas, But Didn’t Go To The Truck Race

September 23, 2008 Leave a comment

I got back from Las Vegas late yesterday afternoon, the end of approximately 24 hours of hell for me.  I can’t state with certainty that I had food poisoning, but believe me you do not want details.  I am not sure how I managed to make it home, but thanks to a lady at American Airlines in Las Vegas for making my trip a little more comfortable, and thanks to another lady at the security check for getting me through security without having to wait in a very long line.

 

The Blog World Expo was interesting, and I came away with some new knowledge that could be important, as well as making several good contacts.  As far as Las Vegas itself, well, I never thought I would say this, but I have a trip to New York City coming up in December, and after Las Vegas I am actually looking forward to Manhattan.

 

Since I am not a gambler, I am not interested at all in what 99% of the city’s visitors make a trek to the desert.  I stayed in the “conference hotel” which was adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center.  Unfortunately the conference center is a huge building, and while the north halls of the center are a short walk from the Hilton, the south halls are a long walk.  And I did not bring walking shoes.  Like everything with Las Vegas, the convention center should be modified with the words “too much.” 

 

The city is just too much in your face, and I guess I am more reserved.  Read that square if you want, but you would be wrong.  Anyway, I was there for the conference, it was good, and whining about the city just gave me a few hundred words for today’s post.

 

I was paging through the current issue of Hawkeye Racing News and saw and ad selling Kyle Berck’s hauler and trailer.  The combination is obviously top flight equipment, but made in 2001, Berck wants and might get $179,000 for this equipment.  Kyle is one of the top regional level drivers in America. It does make me wonder just how much the equipment cost when new.  And it shows how absurd the purse vs. investment is in this form of auto racing.  True, Berck’s hauler and trailer is a moving billboard for his sponsor and his own business, but in the past seven years he has never won a purse of more than $10,000, and many times he raced in weekly features that paid $650 to win. Amazing.

 

Of course on the opposite end of the spectrum is someone like modified veteran Doug Deterding.  His hauler is a beat-up, old Chevy Silverado, and his trailer is borrowed.  I wonder who has more fun racing.

 

As we are nearing the end of the 2008 racing season, I hope that more drivers will be available for interviews, and I can do more reporting about people.  That is the purpose of this blog, and I would rather write about the racing Smith family of Iowa, or Julie McDermid of Wisconsin, than how sick I was in Las Vegas.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

Quit Stealing My Ideas He Said

September 19, 2008 3 comments

I received a phone call today from someone who told me to quit stealing his idea, and that he had come up with the “food court at a race track” idea ten years ago.  He might very well have.  The call was from my son Matt, and on many of our race excursions we discussed “what if we won the lottery.”  Building a race track was a common topic, and making it different from every other race track was an important theme.  Hence the food court to replace some track concessions.

 

The track we “would” have built would have been the exact dimensions of Sunset Speedway, and yes those dimensions have been recorded.  We talked of family sections and drive-in sections similar to Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City.  Pits outside the track, and hard surface stalls for several hundred cars.  Spectator parking would be hard surface-no weeds growing through rocks or gravel like at some tracks, no dusty roads like some of the same tracks.  A bar/restaurant with a view of the track would be important, and several suites would be built atop the restaurant.  Aluminum planks for seats, no stickers in the butt for our track, oh, and cup holders too.  Matt is really big on cup holders.  A big screen and we had that idea long before Eagle Raceway.  We also had the idea of using interns from the University of Nebraska to run the big screen, just like Eagle, though we also were going to send a TV camera along with our pit reporter.

 

There would be turn-ins off each corner, and places for safety equipment at each end of the track.  There would also be a Victory Lane.  The rest of the infield would be park like, with grass and flowers.  Maybe even picnic tables and playground equipment for pre-race activities.  There would also be a place to bring in a portable stage for concerts.  Meaning the track would have a helluva sound system, none of this can’t hear the announcer during the races. 

 

Sounds like a nice venue doesn’t it?  Of course, having just won the lottery it could be built without the need for a decent return on investment.  Maybe someday.  Although to quote Sgt. Hukka in the movie Stripes, “I’m getting too old for this shit.”

 

I won’t be posting the next couple of days.  I am going to the Blog World Expo in Las Vegas.  Everyone laughs when I say I am going to a conference in Las Vegas, but I am not much of a gambler, so my big thrill is going to be learning how to produce a better blog for my readers.  You don’t have to skip my blog this weekend though.  There are over 70 posts, and some really aren’t too bad.  I hope you will look them over, or visit the article archive on my website.

 

Thanks for stopping by.