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Archive for February, 2010

Blue Island’s Raceway Park-Were You Expecting Some Other Raceway Park?

February 26, 2010 3 comments

I first heard of Blue Island Raceway Park in the late 60’s.  I am a Sunday newspaper junkie, and early in my freshman year of college I worked at a local drugstore that sold Sunday papers from around the Midwest.  One of the papers happened to be the Chicago Tribune, and I always enjoyed the paper’s sports section.  Of course it covered Chicago land auto racing, and Blue Island Raceway Park was an important part of that scene.

Not long ago I learned on Facebook that a book on the track was going to be published.  I was interested because of my memories of reading about it, but also, in the highly unlikely event that I am ever involved in writing a book about a now departed, legendary Omaha venue, I wanted to see how others did such a book.

Blue Island’s Raceway Park is a collection of over 200 photos from the 60 years the track operated.  It opened in 1938, running midgets of course, and started running late models as a feature class in 1949.  It was called the “World’s Busiest Track,” and in the 60’s raced four nights a week.  Yes, I got that right.  I know a lot of tracks today struggle to do one show, but Raceway Park ran Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  Of course that was long before computers, cable TV, and electronic games.

I can remember when KETV-7 in Omaha televised wrestling at 10:30 p.m. on Monday nights.  Local stations were always in need of programming.  In 1954, channel WBKB televised Raceway Park races from 9:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. on 17 Sunday nights.  I can’t imagine an Omaha or Lincoln TV station going live to a local track today, not even KPTM.

I love old pictures.  Family photos, old buildings, trains, planes, and early baseball parks are among my favorites.  Give me a book featuring steam engine locomotives or early 1900’s ball parks, and I can amuse myself for hours.  And, I love photos of old race cars.  I love photos from races in the 1950’s because they bring back many pleasant memories.  I do have to shake my head seeing drivers wheeling around the track wearing t-shirts and open-faced helmets, while chomping down on a cigar.

With late models as its feature class, Raceway Park had its share of Chevys, Fords, and Pontiacs, but surprisingly enough, a lot of drivers raced Studebakers.  In 1960 two of the top six finishers in the point standings drove Studebakers.  The Hawks had an almost sports car look about them.

There was no shortage of beating and banging in the good old days of racing.  An opening day photo of the late model of 11 time track champion Bud Koehler shows an immaculate, almost show room type car.  A photo of the same car later in the season looks like something belonging in a junk yard.

Fisticuffs were far more common in the 50’s and 60’s than they are today.  One of my favorite photo captions from the book reads “Ted Janecyk and Bob Pronger wrecked during the first of Twin-50’s held on July 4th, and after exiting their race cars, they fist-fought each other on the race track.  Larry Janecyk climbed the 15 foot high safety fence separating the track from the grandstands to help his brother beat up Pronger.”  These drivers were good at more than fighting-Janecyk won one championship, and Pronger took home two late model titles.

One thing that surprised me was the late models of this asphalt track (it was paved in the early 50’s) looked a great deal like their counterparts that raced on dirt.  That isn’t so anymore.

Like so many other tracks, Blue Island Raceway Park was a victim of progress.  The last race at the track was run in 2000, and the final photos in the book show it being demolished in 2001.

If you are a fan of racing history, you will definitely enjoy perusing ‘Blue Island’s Raceway Park.’  Check out the Facebook page, or order it directly from Amazon.com.  The price is $14.95 plus shipping.

Thanks for stopping by. Oh, and sorry if you thought I was going to be writing about another Midwest Raceway Park today.  I don’t do that very often.

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Tomorrow-Raceway Park, Today-Something Else

February 26, 2010 2 comments

Occasionally my editor gives me permission to talk about something other than racing on this blog. This usually occurs when I don’t have any racing topic in mind.  I could talk about my $1,200 nose bleed, but if you want to learn more about that you will have to visit my Stepping up To the Plate blog.  And yes, I did indeed have a $1,200 nose bleed.

The temperature was a measly six degrees when I came to work this morning, and the piles of snow look like they may be around until July.  This isn’t racing weather, it is basketball weather.  Despite lousy weather all winter, I have received a lot of enjoyment watching two basketball teams this year, my alma mater Fremont High School boys team, and the 26-0, Big 12 Conference champion UNL Lady Huskers.

Fremont goes into district play Monday night with a 16-4 record and a #1 district seed.  This is by far the best Fremont team in over a decade. They play Grand Island in the first round-a team they already defeated this year, and if they advance to the district finals, they will likely play a good Omaha Benson team for a spot in the state tournament. A Fremont trip to the state tournament would certainly liven up my annual March madness journey to Lincoln.  Matt and I have been going to the state tournament since he was a 3rd grader, and he is now 33.  There is nothing quite like the noise, excitement, and drama of this event and I am already looking forward to March 11th and 12th.

The UNL Lady Huskers are beyond amazing.  They have won nine games against teams rated in the top 25, and are 13-0 in the Big 12 conference, the toughest basketball conference in women’s Division I basketball by far.  Big 12 teams regularly beat up on each other-Oklahoma is in second place in the league, and they have league losses, including last night to Nebraska.

As Nebraska continued to ring up win after win this season, I saw last night’s game as one the Lady Huskers might lose.  Oklahoma has been a major force in Big 12 basketball for years.  They have been to the Final Four and know how to win big ball games.  The game was at Oklahoma.  A win by the Sooners would prevent the Huskers from sweeping the conference, something only one other team has done-you guessed it, Oklahoma.  A little over a week before Connecticut played against the Sooners in Norman.  They ended up winning by about 15, and the Nebraska vs. Oklahoma game was a chance for national pundits to see just how real the Lady Huskers are.

In between watching the Nebraska men lose to Iowa State, I listened to the Lady Huskers game.  Time after time Nebraska would go ahead by seven or more points and time after time Oklahoma rallied.  With just under 4 minutes left in the game, Oklahoma pulled ahead by one point.  The rest of the game must have seemed like an eternity for the Sooners.  A Nebraska basket put the Lady Huskers back in front.  A steal, a basket, and a made free throw was a big turning point in the game.  An Oklahoma miss and a Nebraska three pointer gave the Huskers a seven point lead, and they went into overdrive then.  Nebraska finished with a 20-3 run over those last four minutes, defeating the Sooners 80-64.

What is fun about watching this team play is that there are other teams with more talent in the country, probably in the league.  However no one and I mean no one plays more like a team than the Huskers.  They play tough, they play in your face defense, they run, they shoot threes, they pass well, and their substitutes know their roles and play well.  Plus, the girls are intelligent and well-spoken and represent Nebraska well. 

This may be Coach Connie Yori’s once in a lifetime team, though Coach Yori is building a great program.  Nebraskans love teams like Yori’s and are flocking to the Devaney Center to watch them play.  This has been a lousy weather winter, but the Lady Huskers have made it much easier to get through.

Tomorrow, Raceway Park.  Thanks for stopping by.

Jim Wilson, Danica Patrick, Paul Menard, and Fan X

February 24, 2010 Leave a comment

I heard from Jim Wilson today.  The new promoter of Bethany Speedway has a website up now.  Go to www.bethanyspeedway.com to check it out.  One of the first items on Wilson’s agenda is a meeting with drivers and owners to discuss rules and other track issues.  The meeting will be held at the Bethany Community Center at 2:00 p.m. Saturday, March 6th. Good luck to Jim and Nancy this season.

With Danica Patrick scheduled to leave the NASCAR Nationwide Series to return to the IRL after Saturday’s Las Vegas race, who will motorsports writers cover?  It seems like for every one story about someone else there have been three about Danica.

My friend Tony Anville suggests I write about Paul Menard-his resurgence in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and his run for the Nationwide Series championship.  OK, I am not sure that 18th in the Sprint Cup point standings is resurgence.  He is just 9 points behind Dale Earnhardt Jr., but that really isn’t anything to brag about.  He is ahead of Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, and Juan Pablo Montoya (currently 21-21-23 in point standings) but that probably won’t last past this weekend.  Menard is running for the Nationwide championship, but is already 79 points behind leader Carl Edwards.  If Edwards and Kyle Busch run for the championship, Menard is at best running for 3rd in this series.  Sorry Tony.

It seems like undercover reporting is the newest rage in sports coverage.  ESPN Magazine has several anonymous athlete writers, including a NASCAR driver.  Dirtondirt.com just added an anonymous late model driver to its roster of reporters.  I think that site could use a “Fan X” too.  Someone who will represent the view of those of use who fill-or don’t fill-race track bleachers around the country.  Of course if I did that, it would only take one story for everyone to figure out that Fan X was me.  Oh well. It is still a good idea.

Thanks for stopping by.

An Idea For Start and Park-ers: Stay Home

February 24, 2010 3 comments

Thanks to everyone who voted for me in the Prilosec OTC sponsorship contest.  Winners will be announced in March.

It appears NASCAR may finally be getting tough on the Sprint Cup series start and park teams.  At the Fontana race, the Prism Motorsports cars of Dave Blaney and Michael McDowell ran a total of 83 laps (40 and 43 laps) before dropping out due to “engine failure.”  NASCAR confiscated both cars for testing, and they won’t be returned to Prism until next Saturday, well after qualifying is over for the Las Vegas race. Since these are the only two cars Prism has available to race, that is the equivalent of a one race penalty for starting and parking.

Some may decry that NASCAR is taking away the right for a team to race-which actually isn’t a right anyway, but teams like Prism aren’t showing up at Sprint Cup events to race anyway, they are there are a hefty paycheck.  Between them the two Prism cars took home over $160,000 for running 166 miles.  You would have to go well into the top ten finishers-all who ran 500 miles-to find a take home amount roughly equal to that. 

Fans pay good money to see 43 cars trying to win a race.  Not 41 or 39 or 38 cars, but all 43 cars.  My personal feeling is if the team doesn’t have enough funds to actually race, it shouldn’t be at the track anyway.  Of course the same can be said for thousands of Saturday night racers, especially in the ultra-expensive classes like late models and sprint cars.  I am sorry if this offends anyone, but I am not a big fan of skipping house payments, or not taking a kid to the doctor because the race car needs some new parts.

I am still amazed at how much snow remains on the ground in Nebraska.  We have had a few bouts of 2”-4” of snow, but nothing really big since the Christmas blizzard.  I can’t ever remember the huge piles of snow on the ground for such a long period of time.  If Junction Motor Speedway had not postponed their opener until late March they would have had to use snow mobiles to race. I really hope we can avoid spring flooding this year.

Thanks for stopping by.

A Perspective, Ho-Hum Fontana, And Please Vote For Me

February 22, 2010 3 comments

In last week’s whine about possibly having to take insulin if I didn’t get my act together, I put together quite a sob story.  There are tens of millions of people who are far worse off than I am, something I forgot that day.  I was reminded of it today when I received my weekly email from Dusty Reynolds, a missionary in Mali.  Many of you remember Dusty as a long-time member of Terry Golder’s crew.

Anyway, Dusty was walking through a shopping area near where he lives when out of the corner of his eye he spotted what he first thought were several dogs.  When he turned, he found it was two elderly men with no legs. No legs in a terribly poor African nation certainly adds some perspective to what I am facing.

I truthfully do not know what to say about the NASCAR Sprint Cup series race from Fontana, California.  I watched it, though if there had been a basketball game on that I wanted to see, I would not have watched the racing. I didn’t fall asleep, but I probably put as much energy into the Sunday crossword and Sudoku puzzles as I did watching the race.

I hate seeing Jimmie Johnson win any race, especially when there is a good bit of luck involved.  Still, the 48 team seems to manage to be in the right place at the right time quite often, and that isn’t luck.  My wife had the two best lines of the day.  While watching the early part of the race she said “these announcers are terrible, and there are too many of them.”  I couldn’t argue either point.

After a trip to the grocery store she arrived back home at the end of the race.  She asked who was leading and I told her Jimmie Johnson.  She does not like Johnson and hates crew chief Chad Knaus, and said “anybody but him, even Kiffle.”  I am pretty sure she meant Greg Biffle.

It looks like everything returned to normal after last week’s Daytona race.  Johnson wins the race, Earnhardt Jr. finishes 32nd, and I receive an email from my friend Tony Anville stating that once again Paul Menard finished ahead of Earnhardt Jr.

If you did not vote for me in the Prilosec OTC sponsor contest PLEASE vote for me today.  Actually, if you did, vote for me again today, you get one vote per day.  I think I put together a good entry, but I did not know of the contest until Matt pointed it out last Friday.  Others in the contest started months ahead of me, so I need everyone’s vote-and today is the last day to vote.

Go to:  www.OfficialSponsor.com  Click on candidates.  Find the ‘sports’ category and click on it.  Find my photo-it is likely on the first page and it is under Ron M. and shows me with my two grandpuppies.  Just click on vote to vote for me.

I really do appreciate you taking the time to vote for me.  A sponsorship would help me a lot to add some of the improvements I want to add to my blog.

Thanks for stopping by.

Help Me If You Can, I’m Feeling Down

February 22, 2010 1 comment

Like the Beatles sang:

Help,

I need somebody,

Help, not just anybody,

Help, you know I need someone’s help.

Thanks to my son Matt, I learned that Prilosec OTC is going to award between 25-100 blog sponsorships worth $1,000-$4,000.  I think I put together a good application, but 20% of the criteria is votes received. 

I would appreciate it if you would go to www.OfficialSponsor.com and vote for me.  Click on the candidates icon, then ‘sports.’  Click on my photo, and click vote.  You can also leave a comment.

I hope to do several things with any sponsorship I receive.  First, would be to purchase good quality audio/visual equipment.  I really have wanted to take my blog from a words only platform to more of a multi-media platform, with words, videos, and podcasts.  With this equipment I would be able to interview a big block modified driver from New York, or a hobby stock driver in the pits at Eagle Raceway.  I could video before or after race interviews, and I could even video on track action.  I thing this would greatly enhance what I am trying to do with my blog.

On more than one occasion I have spoken of being technically challenged.  An important aspect of getting more people visiting my site is something called SEO-search engine optimization.  It is rather technical, so naturally I know little about it.  Heck, I don’t even know much about getting others to link to my site, and this lack of knowledge hurts my blog.  I would like to use part of the sponsorship funds to attend a seminar or conference that would improve my technical blogging skills.

Please vote ASAP as the contest closes on Monday, February 22nd.

Thanks for stopping by.

May The Best Cheater Win

February 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Earl Pearson Jr. is the latest “name” driver to get caught cheating with tires.  Below is the press release from the Southern All-Stars Dirt Series:

Southern All Stars Dirt Racing Series Levies Fines, Suspension and Disqualification Following Lab Results from Golden Isles Speedway Events

Clinton, TN (2-18-10) Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, FL has been suspended from Southern All Stars Dirt Racing Series competition pending fines and penalties for using chemically altered tires at Golden Isles Speedway in Waynesville, GA during the three day Southern All Stars Dirt Racing Series sanctioned Super Bowl of Racing VI.

Multiple tire samples were taken each night at Golden isles Speedway January 28th, 29th and 30th. Tire samples from the winner’s and tire samples from a randomly selected driver were taken. The samples were then sent to an independent laboratory for analysis the following week. Southern All Stars Officials held the purse money from each driver who had samples taken pending the lab results.

Pearson’s right rear tire was confiscated by Series Officials just before the final feature on Saturday night January 30th. Each sample was analyzed by the lab using two separate procedures. Results from the initial lab tests indicated the likelihood that chemicals had been used. The lab then conducted a more in-depth testing procedure and these tests indicated that Pearson’s tire samples tested positive for chemical alterations.

According to Southern All Stars Dirt Racing Series Rules, the fine will be $2,500 for the driver and a suspension of 60 days from all Southern All Stars Dirt Racing Series sanctioned events, a 150 point deduction from the current point standings and the driver will forfeit all winnings from the event from which the tire samples were taken. The Crew Chief will also be fined $500. The suspension will begin after satisfactory of all fines and costs of testing have been met.

Pearson’s sixth place finish on Saturday night January 30th will be forfeited and all drivers finishing seventh on back will be compensated with points and purse money from that event. Earl Pearson Jr. and Bobby Labonte Motorsports have been notified of the Lab’s findings and of the fines and suspension.

What interests me isn’t that Pearson was caught cheating, but that Lucas Oil is the sponsor of his car.  That is the same Lucas Oil that sponsors the Lucas Oil Dirt Car Series in which Pearson is a past champ, which sponsors the Lucas Oil MLRA series, which owns the Lucas Oil Speedway in Missouri, and sponsors many other series from off-road racing to tractor and truck pulls.  What exactly does Forest Lucas think of this matter?

If there are no repercussions on this, doesn’t that say the boss is taking a boys will be boys attitude to the matter?  If that is the case, does that call into question the credibility of tech in these series, especially the series that Pearson runs regularly?  I am not so naïve as to not understand there is a lot of cheating going on in racing.  Isn’t that why cars go through tech before and after races?  At least an attempt is supposed to be made to stop it.  If Forest Lucas has no reaction to this, then why bother with tech at all in his series. Let the drivers run what they brung, and may the best cheater win.

Thanks for stopping by.