Archive

Archive for November, 2008

A Dirt Thank You

November 27, 2008 2 comments

Maybe it seems silly to talk about being thankful for auto racing, but it is Thanksgiving, and this is a racing blog, so I am going to give thanks to the sport we love.

 

I am thankful that Americans continue to have a love affair with their automobiles, and that Americans are highly competitive.

 

I thank my dad for taking me to see my first race at the fairgrounds track in Arlington, Nebraska over 50 years ago.  I was hooked forever before a single race was run.

 

I am thankful that my son Matt loves racing as much as I do.  Well, to be honest, he loves it even more than I do.  His mother and his wife contend I “wrecked” him with racing, but racing links us like no other connection.  Our road trips are very special to me, and mostly I don’t mind that he is now the driver and I am the rider on these trips.  The singing Johnny Cash songs is a hair-raising experience, but he offsets that with cranking up the speakers for “Free Bird.”  I love talking racing with him, and even the longest trips don’t seem so long when you are doing something you love with someone you love.

 

I am thankful for all the friends I have made through racing.  Actually, I should give a little credit to the internet forums on this.  Years ago Matt said “you have to go to a website called “Whowon.com.”  I did, and my comments on the forum led to meeting then Sunset Speedway promoter Craig Kelley and becoming a member of the Sunset Mafia.  The Mafia is made up of only the hardest of hard core race fans, but all my race friends are hard core.  When you see some of the same faces at tracks in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and Kansas, you know they are hard core.

 

I am thankful for a track like Eagle Raceway to call my home track.  It is a great venue with super racing, and just enough members of the old Sunset crew to give it a homey feeling.  If the IMCA Supernationals ever leave Boone, Iowa, Eagle would be the perfect venue to host the event.

 

I am also thankful that Tim Lee, former editor of Dirt Late Model magazine, gave me the chance to write an article for the magazine.  Seeing “by Ron Meyer” in the magazine is a thrill I will never forget.  Heck, I am still thrilled when I see my name shown as author. That article led to another article, and another, and seeing my name listed on the masthead of the magazine as a “Contributing Writer.” I have no idea how many articles I have written for the magazine, just that I don’t plan on stopping until I have written a lot more.

 

I am also thankful I got the opportunity to write for Dirt Modified magazine.  It caused me to look at mods in a totally different light, and to realize that I was wrong about this class of racing.  It took me a long time to realize it, but there are other divisions than late models, and the racing is as good in those classes as it is in late models. Actually many nights the support class racing is better than the feature class events, and a lot of good drivers do not get enough credit for the show they put on for us fans.

 

This is why there is a blog called The Rest of the Dirt.  I am passionate about dirt track racing.  I love the cars, the drivers, the noise, the speed, the excitement, and the fans.  I am grateful I have the opportunity to write about racing, and I am more than thankful that you give me a few minutes of your time to see what I have to say.

 

More than you know, I mean it when I say “thank you for stopping by.”

 

Have a great Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Round 27-The Internet Forums Vs. Promoters

November 25, 2008 2 comments

I posted on the General Racing forum on Dirt Drivers today.  I haven’t done much of that lately.  Trying to come up with 1,200 words three or four times a week for my blogs and writing for Dirt Late Model and Dirt Modified doesn’t leave me with a lot of time to make comments on the forums.  I am pretty sure that is not a bad thing.  There were times that bruton was a real ass on the forums, even when I was right. There were times when I thought “I wish I hadn’t said that.”  There were things I said that cost me dearly in my career as a writer.  Basher bruton is history, but from time to time I do feel the need to speak up.  Like today.

 

Stating that internet forums and those who post on them are a detriment to racing is nothing new.  Lots of promoters have said so, and if my information is correct, it was even stated by NASCAR officials at a promoter’s meeting in Daytona a number of years back. It is just a statement that I strongly, and I do mean STRONGLY disagree with.

 

I have mentioned interviewing promoter Mike Swims before he passed away.  It was the last interview he did for a racing publication, and I am honored that my son Matt and I were able to talk with this dirt track legend.  He was one of the few dirt track promoters who truly “got” what promoting a dirt track was all about.  Talking with him for several hours seemed like just a few minutes.  He was part of some of the biggest moments in dirt racing history, and his loss was a bigger loss to the sport than many realize.

 

I would like to take credit for asking this question, but Matt asked Mike what he thought about the internet and racing.  He couldn’t have been clearer in his answer.  He answered quickly with “any promoter who blames the forums for his problems is in a state of denial.”  The racing forums are for hard core fans that are exceedingly passionate about the sport.  We don’t have radio talk shows, so we spout our opinions on the forums.  But it is to other hard core fans we are talking.

 

Who are the hard core fans?  Well, I have seen them at Eagle and I-80, but also Fairmont, Minnesota and West Liberty, Iowa.  They may be regulars at ACS in Corning, but they regularly attend specials at places like Knoxville and West Plains and Cedar Lake.  They don’t go to an event because of what they read on a forum, and they don’t stay away from a track because of anything any “amateur journalists” state on the internet.  They go or stay away because of the product, and nothing else.

 

I have been as critical of race promoters as anyone.  I have also been accused of being a homer for some of my comments that were very positive.  Honestly, I would much rather everything I say be positive.  I criticize when I feel I have been lied to, or when I feel promoters are not giving their all to provide a great show for the fans.  Actually, if I feel they are trying and things were beyond their control, I don’t say anything about promoters. But I don’t think they should get a free pass on criticism.  I don’t get it at my job, and promoting is their job, and we are paying our hard earned money to them.

 

Instead of worrying about what is said on the internet, promoter should stand at the front gate as fans are leaving at the end of a show and listen to what they are saying.  Better yet, don’t just stand there, ask them what they think.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Memories-NASCAR, Knoxville, and Fair Grounds too.

November 24, 2008 Leave a comment

I had to make a flying trip to Blair this afternoon.  Blair is only about 25 miles from Fremont, but the hour round trip had me traveling down memory lane as much as down Highway 30.  That always happens when I pass the Washington County Fair Grounds in Arlington, about seven miles east of Fremont, and the site of my earliest racing memories.  The Fair Grounds look nothing like they did 50 years ago, but that doesn’t matter.

 

Today my thoughts weren’t of golden oldies, more like the 90’s and into this century, and trips to Denison, Harlan, and Knoxville.  We travel through Blair to get to each of these tracks, and the memories of past road trips are good ones.

 

Any thoughts of races at Denison always begin with the weather.  The races we went to at the Crawford County Fair Grounds were usually the first or last race of the season, and it was always cold.  Denison is the only place I sat through a snow flurry prior to a race.  I think the city must create its own weather, because I remember going to a July race there and it was cold then. 

 

We did not attend any weekly shows at Denison, only specials, and usually these were NASCAR Busch All-Star Tour events, meaning the best late model drivers in the region were on hand.  It was great seeing the likes of Gary Webb, Kyle Berck, and the Kosiski brothers in their prime.  Hearing the roar of the high horse power engines for the first or last time in a season seemed to offset the cold a little.  The track was a big half-mile, and I do mean big, with terribly long straight-aways that provided a lot of speed, though not as good of racing as some smaller tracks.  Still, for a number of years we never missed a tour event there, and always turned the heater on full as soon as we could on the way home.

 

Harlan is a big and very wide oval.  The Shelby County Speedway is fast, and I have some very good memories of Harlan.  Like many fair grounds ovals, it is located in town, and I always wonder about what living close to such a track must be like.  I went to several weekly shows at the half-mile oval, and also remember an MLRA event there.  One of these seasons I hope to make it to SCS for the Tiny Lund Memorial.

 

Knoxville is a long way from Fremont, but like Denison and Harlan, the trip does take us through Blair.  It also takes us through several score Iowa towns and cities, skirting Des Moines.  The first time we went to Knoxville was for the Knoxville Late Model Nationals.  Arriving at the track, you find parking sucks, and it is a lot like parking at a Nebraska football game-it costs bucks to park close to the track.  And, it the stands make the venue look somewhat like a football stadium.  They go on and on and on. 

 

Knoxville is another big half mile, and seeing all the big name late model drivers at one show is definitely worth the price of admission.  My only real complaint about Knoxville is the race should be 75 laps instead of 100.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot passing the last 25 laps, so let ‘em race balls to the wall for 75 laps.

 

Oh, one other thing I don’t like about Knoxville is getting home at 3:00 a.m.  To keep awake Matt starts singing Johnny Cash tunes on the way home.  I know they are Johnny Cash songs, because I am a Johnny Cash fan.  If you didn’t know the songs were by Johnny Cash before, you wouldn’t know after Matt sings them either.  But that is a part of the fun of the road trip.  Talking races for hours is another fun aspect.  Eating junk food is another-if it isn’t bad for you, we don’t eat it on a road trip.  When we first started road tripping to places like Denison, Harlan, and Knoxville, I was the pilot and navigator.  I am now relegated to navigator, but I am grateful for not having to drive.  These trips have brought many wonderful memories, and thinking of past trips made the trip to Blair today an enjoyable one.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

NFL Super Bowl vs. NASCAR Super Bowl? Who is the smartest?

November 20, 2008 4 comments

My son Matt continually amazes me with his ability to come up with odd but interesting information.  His latest tidbit is that the NFL is seriously considering doing away with some preseason exhibitions and going to an 18 game regular season schedule.  What makes this interesting for race fans is that if the NFL makes such a switch, it would still keep the traditional weekend after Labor Day opening.  This would send the playoffs into February and set up a conflict with NASCAR’s own Super Bowl, the Daytona 500.

 

Obviously NFL owners are looking toward the almighty dollar and filling stadiums with one more regular season home game.  As popular as MASCAR Sprint Cup racing may be, I cannot see it being able to compete with NFL championship games, and certainly not the Super Bowl, even though the football game would start about when the race finished.  If nothing else, this is an interesting rumor.

 

If you visit my website, you might notice that I have ads placed there my Google Adsense.  Believe me, these are not huge money makers for me, rather I hope they will offset some of my costs in developing and keeping up the site.  Right now the site is like Charlotte to Sonoma away from making a profit, so click on a few of these ads sometime.

 

Actually, why I brought up the ads was that I noticed one of the current ads asks if you are smarter than Tony Stewart.  I have a great answer to that for my friends who are Tony Stewart fans.  A similar ad has run, asking if you are smarter than Dale Earnhardt Jr.  What surprised me is that Dale Jr. is supposedly smarter than Stewart.  Well, maybe.  Dale Jr. left his own team to go with one of the top NASCAR teams, Hendricks Motorsports.  Tony just left one of the top teams, Joe Gibbs Racing, to start his own team.  Interesting.

 

Hall of Fame late model driver Mike Duvall recently ended his Blaze of Glory tour, and retired from driving.  Mike is one of racing’s good guys, and he lives the faithful live he proclaims.  Matt and I had the good fortune of meeting Duvall during one of his Mike Duvall Driving Schools.  Only weeks before this class, Duvall had surgery, and we were unsure if he was going to be able to conduct the school.  But conduct it he did. 

 

Twelve drivers participated in the session we visited, and one of the days of the class is devoted solely to on track teaching.  Despite his recent surgery, Duvall showed he was a true racer as he climbed in and out of several race cars, and drove or rode several hundred laps that day.  The Dirt Late Model article I wrote about the Duvall school is first in the article section of my website-www.therestofthedirt.com.  I enjoyed re-reading the article, and I hope you will take a look at it too.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

NASCAR Lay-Offs A Sign Of The Time

November 19, 2008 8 comments

The following was sent to me by my son Matt.  This was an Associated Press article from Charlotte dated 11/17/08.  It wasn’t that long ago that NASCAR and its top three series was the equivalent to minting money.  Anything that touched NASCAR turned golden.   It is sad and it is frightening for anyone to lose a job.  Nearing the holiday season adds to the angst. That this is happening in NASCAR is just an exclamation point to what is happening to the economy period. 

 

I wonder how long this situation will last.  Certainly the entire 2009 season, but no one knows when the economy will turn around.  Heck, no one knows if we have hit bottom yet which is the scariest thought of all.  Even when the economy is better, will sponsors rush out to spend $20-$25,000,000 dollars to fund a race team?  I would think corporations would be conscious of every penny they spend for quite some time.

 

Brian France has stated that NASCAR will survive, and I am sure it will.  Will the NASCAR of 2010 or 2011 look completely different from the NASCAR of 2008?  Are there other cost cutting measures that NASCAR should take?  SHOULD, not could.  Will every race have a full field of 43 cars?

 

Will there be even more depressing news before Daytona in February?  Cross your fingers, but don’t hold your breath.  Thanks for the article Matt, and thank you for stopping by.

 

 

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The glitz and glamour surrounding NASCAR’s championship-deciding race roared on at Homestead-Miami Speedway as if nothing was amiss.


Lucky fans still lined up for their pre-race garage tours, celebrities and CEO’s crowded pit road and the champagne flowed following Jimmie Johnson’s record-tying third consecutive title.
 
Yet it felt a little flat.
 
Above all the pomp of Sunday’s season-finale hung an air of uncertainty and, in some cases, sheer panic. Team members quietly passed around resumes, looking to latch on at stable organizations. Others worried that the checkered flag at the end of the race would also signify the end of a steady paycheck.
 
Mass layoffs are expected throughout the NASCAR this week, as team owners from all three national series adjust to the economic crisis. It’s difficult to say how many will be put out of work, but some guess as many as 1,000 will lose their jobs.
 
The cutbacks are most evident at the top-level Sprint Cup Series, where layoffs began a mere two months into the season when BAM Racing stopped showing up at the track. Then Chip Ganassi let 71 people go when he cut down to two cars in July.
 
The numbers have steadily grown since, reaching all the way to the elite teams of NASCAR. Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing — three teams that combined to grab nine of the 12 spots in the Chase for the championship — have all gone through a round of layoffs in the past month.
 
It all paled to last Wednesday, when Dale Earnhardt Inc. gave pink slips to 116 employees so it could ease the way for a merger with Ganassi. “It’s gut-wrenching to make those decisions,” DEI president Max Siegel said.
 
Several other teams will probably share that experience this week.
 
Sponsorship woes have put famed Petty Enterprises and the Wood Brothers on shaky ground, while the bottom might well be about to drop at Bill Davis Racing. The team won the Truck Series championship with Johnny Benson on Friday night, but the owner struggled to muster even a small celebratory smile.
 
“The entire economy, worldwide, is something that I don’t think many of us … certainly myself, has never seen in 40 years of business,” Davis said. People are angry and confused that after almost a decade of growth, the sport has turned so fast.
 
Some resentment is directed at NASCAR, which finds itself trying to help its teams while not creating a welfare system. Unlike most professional sports leagues, NASCAR doesn’t have franchises and all its participants are viewed as independent contractors free to come and go as they please.
 
So chairman Brian France isn’t about to start floating loans of credit to keep teams in business. The sport is and always will be a survival of the fastest and fittest.
But France and his staff are willing to look at cost-cutting measures, and just last weekend suspended all testing in 2009 to help teams save millions of dollars. The decision comes with consequences: If there’s no testing, teams no longer need employees dedicated to that part of the program.
 
It’s a given that NASCAR’s business model is best suited for NASCAR and its direct employees, and it should be noted the sanctioning body has no current plans for staff reductions. Car owners knew the rules when they decided to enter this big-time level of auto racing, and they can’t fault NASCAR if their businesses are now failing.
 
At some point, when those once employed by DEI or any other prominent team look for someone to blame, they need to consider this: Bad business decisions and mismanagement have as much to do with team stability as the crumbling economy does.
 
“We’ve all overspent,” seven-time series champion Richard Petty said. “We all had it so good we just kept going forward without saying, ‘What if it goes bad?’ ”
 
As the layoffs by Hendrick, Gibbs and Roush demonstrate, not every team that is downsizing is in financial crisis. Some are simply tightening the bulging staffs they created in their climb to the top. Teams added specialists to prepare for the Car of Tomorrow, which was meant to be phased in, but went to full-time use this season ahead of schedule. Now that teams are using one model of car instead of two, shop production has decreased and there’s not as much work to do.
 
 
“If you looked at where we were a year ago, we were running two different kinds of cars,” owner Jack Roush said. “So that required a staffing increase for most of the teams that enabled or justified a reduction. Most of our reduction was in the area of car building.”
 
But it’s not going to end there, and it’s likely to get much worse. Attendance is down at most tracks, sponsorships are harder to come by and the Big Three automakers are in deep financial trouble.
 
France said a little more than a week ago that NASCAR “won’t live or die” by a manufacturer pullback or pullout. But many teams most certainly will, and the trickle-down effect will be devastating to those who rely on racing to pay the bills.
 
“This is the way they pay their mortgages,” driver Jeff Burton said. “And this is the way they pay their car loans and send their children to school and pay their bills.”

So Much To Do, So Little Time

November 17, 2008 2 comments

So many options, so little time.  How should I spend my Sunday afternoon?  I could go to the Wellness Center and work out.  I could read a book.  I could watch NFL football.  I could play with my grand-puppy.  I could work on my blogs.  I could watch Duke basketball.  I could take a nap.  OR, I could watch the NASCAR Sprint Cup finale from Homestead, FL.  I did everything but take a nap.

 

Duke beat Rhode Island by 3 points.  I can’t tell you who won any NFL games, but I watched Denver vs. Atlanta, and Green Bay vs. Chicago while I was working out at the Wellness Center.  Sophie had too much energy to sit on my lap, but I threw her ball to her a few times-she doesn’t share well.  I read about Vic Powers in my “One Great Season” book.  I did not take a nap.  Oh, and I watched a lot of NASCAR racing today.

 

A lot of NASCAR racing, and it actually was a race with a lot of racing.  The progressive banking of the Homestead track makes for multiple grooves, and three wide racing was not uncommon.  How the various strategies unfolded was interesting.  Chad Knaus make several great calls and showed that the 48 car winning three straight championships is more than just driver Jimmy Johnson.  I did not even take a lap, and don’t have anything to bash NASCAR over this week.  Well, there were a few drivers with their head up their posteriors, but that is so during every race at any track.

 

I do have another NASCAR race I would like to attend now.  For me that is a pretty strong endorsement.  Miami in mid-November sounds nicer than Nebraska anyway.

 

Now comes the months of no racing activity.  Boo.  Whatever happened to televised racing from Arizona in January?  I can remember WoO sprint car races AND then origin of the NASCAR Truck Series. Why is now not as good as then for televising races? Instead of some of the gawd-awful stupid “reality” shows Speed Network pawns off on us, why not some real racing?  There are late model and modified races in Arizona in January.  Sprint cars, late models, and modifieds race at East Bay in Tampa, and Volusia County in February.  Why can’t some of those shows be televised? NASCAR has stated there will be no testing, including at Daytona, so are the next two months just going to be dead for fans?  OK-I know, I know, don’t forget the Chili Bowl.  I just want more races than that televised.  Even PPV would be OK.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

The Economy, NASCAR, and Las Vegas

November 14, 2008 2 comments

An Associated Press article in the Omaha World-Herald today speculated on a NASCAR without GM or Ford.  That is almost impossible to believe, but GM running out of cash would have been impossible to believe a few years ago.  NASCAR says it can survive without the two automotive giants participating in the sport, but I wonder how different the sport would look without them.

 

My timing could have been better, writing about NASCAR needs a woman driver.  The NASCAR diversity programs are an expense for the teams, and teams are laying off employees and even combining operations.  NASCAR does need a woman driver-look at all the excitement caused by a woman running for Vice-President, but with the economy suffering as it is now, I doubt that diversity will be a number one priority in the sport.

 

There have already been empty seats at NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events, something that would have been laughed at several years ago.  With the near certainty that things are going to get worse before they get better, I wonder if there will be more empty seats in 2009.  Running races on Sprint Cup Series races on Saturday nights is not a win/win for NASCAR and local tracks.  It is a win for NASCAR.  If the big tracks now need to get creative to fill seats, will that further damage grass roots tracks, especially asphalt racing where the product is so similar?

 

Promoters will be attending meetings in Reno and Daytona in the coming months.  I hope dirt track owners come home with valuable new ideas that they will actually try.  People may not be able to afford big ticket entertainment such as MLB, NFL, or NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but they still want to be entertained.  Local dirt tracks are reasonably priced venues, and if promoters don’t have a bury their heads in the sand attitude, maybe they can benefit from the down economy, or at least not take some giant steps backward.

 

I wish the Blog World Expo people would schedule their conference for November.  It would be great to go to the conference in the day, and head out to the speedway to take in the Dual In The Desert which starts tonight. I am not much of a gambler, and dirt track racing sounds like one sure winner in Las Vegas.

 

Thanks for stopping by.