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Archive for June, 2011

Track Closings, Trifecta, NASCAR Bad Boys, Iowa Speedway

June 29, 2011 1 comment

According to an Ernie Saxton column in Area Auto Racing News, there were 1044 oval race tracks in operation in 2004.  In 2010 there were 959 oval race tracks in operation.  That is an average loss of over 16 tracks per year.  At least six tracks have shut their gates already in 2011 and with the weather much of the country has been experiencing, it would not be surprising to read of more tracks closing before the end of the year and more not re-opening in 2012.

While the economy may have caused some of the problems all dirt tracks face, the inability of promoters to give their customers a product they want to experience weekly, monthly, or even a few times a year is a big reason behind the closings.  It is a grave error to assume that if you race the fans will pour in the front gate, and every bit as serious to think that back gate promoting will keep a track afloat for the long run.

Yes, I know I have done this column many different ways.  I felt that these new statistics are worth noting-unlike the Missouri River in 2011, there are no sand bags to hold back a flood of red ink.

Ernie’s column had another great line-“The goal for most successful tracks is to have the entire show of entertainment over in three hours or less. I think that is a great idea.”

I think that is a great idea too Ernie, and while I could say it is just coincidence that I placed it ahead of the following information, that isn’t really true. I remember ghosts of Midwest Trifecta’s past, and this Friday July 1st is the 2011 Midwest Trifecta at I-80 Speedway. IMCA modifieds, MLRA late models, and ASCS 360 sprints will be the classes racing, and I have been saying my prayers nightly that the show will end before my bedtime on Friday-and my bedtime is on Friday, NOT Saturday A.M.

Yes, Matt and I will be going, though the Matt delivery service will not be on hand for me or anyone else that night.  This is just Matt’s third race of the year, and I think he plans to enjoy himself.  I have no problem with that.

The headlines from several Scene Daily articles give a pretty good idea what the Sprint Cup race from Sonoma must have been like:

-Kurt Busch dominates rough road course race to win at Infineon

-Tony Stewart, Brian Vickers unapologetic after on-track skirmishes

-Juan Pablo Montoya makes more enemies with aggressive driving at Infineon

-Patient Jeff Gordon overcomes early struggles for runner-up finish at Sonoma

-Earnhardt Jr. enjoyed beating, banging at Sonoma, but damage to his car took toll

-Rough and tumble racing now the norm at Infineon Raceway

Now I wished I had watched more of the race. 

NASCAR might not realize that Iowa Speedway deserves a Sprint Cup race, but the Indy car series understands the potential of the Newton, Iowa track.  Not only are talks ongoing to renew a contract with Iowa Speedway, but Indy car officials would like to do a double header at the track.  No, not like at Texas Motor Speedway.  At Iowa a day race would follow a night race and both would count full points toward the championship.

I am heading to Omaha for lunch with a group of hard core race fans, and then have to drive downtown to take care of some company business.  I am looking forward to lunch.  As far as taking care of business, well, I would rather spend six hours watching sprint cars (or approximately four heats, a consolation race, and a feature).

Thanks for stopping by.

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I Realize There Is More To Racing Than The Silver Dollar Nationals, But——-

June 28, 2011 6 comments

I am not quite sure why, but yesterday I started thinking about going to the Fremont Drive-In Theater with my parents when I was a little kid.  Like so many other activities, it was a rare treat for us to go to the Drive-In.  I can remember getting out a cast iron pan and popping up a grocery bag full of popcorn (no using some wussy oil, it was Hormel lard).  My dad would put pop in a cooler, and not having to split the pop with my brothers was a big deal.  My brothers and I sat on the back seat of our ’57 Chevy, but if we got antsy, we might end up laying on the hood or even the roof of the car.  A special memory.

I hope the Silver Dollar Nationals will be a special memory too. I know  fans are thinking mostly of the late model race, me too, but the USMTS modifieds will put on a great show too.  There are several different theories floating around regarding USMTS car count at the SDN.  Chris from Iowa says it will be low, maybe the lowest car count of the season for a USMTS race because of the four day megabucks USMTS event at Deer Creek in Minnesota the following week, and no one will want to risk tearing up equipment before this big show. Chris has some valid points.

Another theory is that the USMTS car count at the SDN will be good because drivers from the USMTS southeast region will stop at I-80 Speedway on their way to Deer Creek.  At the Omaha Storm Chasers baseball game Steve Basch aka Race Guru, aka Belleville 100 Basch told me he had heard that Oklahoma and Texas modified drivers would be at the SDN. That may be a stretch, but some drivers might want to pick up some Nebraska cash before heading up to the land of 10,000 lakes. I would have no argument with this theory at all if the Friday show paid $3,000 to win and the Saturday show paid $5,000 to win.

I don’t think that drivers like Saathoff, Smith, or Grabouski will run the SDN.  These drivers are running for IMCA regional and national points, and can’t afford to miss their regular shows because a miss would make it very difficult for them to compete for track championships and the bonus points such championships give them in regional and national standings at the end of the season.

My thinking is that the SDN will have a full field of USMTS modifieds, somewhere between 24-30 cars.  Drivers like Kelly Shryock, Ryan Gustin, Zack Vanderbeek, Jon Tesch, and Corey Dripps will be on hand because they are competing for points in the USMTS Great Plains Division.  That makes for a quality field, no matter what the car count ends up at.  I also believe that drivers like Kyle Berck, Terry Phillips, Jeremy Payne, and Chris Spieker will race both late models and modifieds at the SDN.  Berck showed he could run with the bulls of the USMTS at Junction Motor Speedway, and both Phillips and Payne have won big dollar modified events in the past.   

Nick Johnson commented on yesterday’s blog and included a list of pre-entered drivers provided by the track.  Joe Kosiski has told me that he believes these entries are solid, that the drivers would not pay the entry fee if they were not coming.  My concern is that almost none of the websites of drivers Nick mentioned show the SDN on their schedule. That doesn’t mean they won’t be there, but I am not so sure that pre-entry means they will be there. I hope Joe has and will continue to follow up with these drivers.

Finally, from www.DirtonDirt.com

In a post race interview, Jimmy Mars had this to say about his tires and winning the Firecracker 100  at Lernerville, Pennsylvania on Saturday:

“You would have to be a moron to cheat tires for a $30,000 to win race, and an even bigger moron (referring to Bloomquist) to think somebody would cheat tires.”

With comments like that Mars could be an honorary member of the Sunday Night Irregulars.

Thanks for stopping by.

Categories: June 2011

Oh Hell, WoO, Lucas Oil, Plus Nobody Asked But I Am Giving My Opinion Anyway

June 28, 2011 9 comments

 

Mother Nature is doing her best to rain on the UMP Summer Nationals Hell Tour parade.  Of 11 events scheduled, five have been rained out.  Four of the rain-outs have been rescheduled, with the last day of the Masters at Cedar Lake being cancelled. Whether or not it is because of the rain, the tour has produced only one repeat winner, Scott James.  Mike Spatola, Jason Feger, Dan Schlieper, and Shannon Babb have also captured tour wins.

 

The Fairbury, Illinois Summer National event was rained out and rescheduled for July 23rd, putting it in competition with the Silver Dollar Nationals.  The SDN purse is better from top to bottom-a 34th finish in the SDN pays $1,000, same as a 7th place finish at Fairbury.  However, Fairbury is close to home for drivers like Jason Feger and Dennis Erb Jr., so it will be interesting to see what they do.

 

Jimmy Mars-yes he is entered in the Silver Dollar Nationals-won the Firecracker 100 at Lernerville, Pennsylvania on Saturday night.  Scott Bloomquist was second, with WoO point leader Rick Eckert finishing third.  The win was worth $30,050 for the Wisconsin driver.  Bloomquist filed a protest with WoO regarding Mars’ tires, so the left rear and right front tires off Mars’ car were confiscated and sent to a lab for testing.  Since Bloomquist lodged the protest he has to pay for the tests.  60 cars were on hand for the final night of the three day event.

 

It appears 14 drivers are regulars in the WoO late model series.  I wonder how many drivers will run all of the WoO Wild West tour.  The Wild West tour has six races; two nights in Oklahoma followed by races in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wyoming.  That’s a lot of miles, but the six races span twelve days and after the Gopher 50 at Deer Creek, there are just two races in six days.

 

I hope things work out for promoters in Grand Forks, and especially in Gillette. Grand Forks might be able to attract some WISSOTA drivers for back pack money, but I am not sure that Gillette, Wyoming would have many local late model drivers that could fill out a field. 

 

This season at least, the Lucas Oil Dirt Series for late models seems to have it all over the WoO.  There is less travel, with many of the events scheduled in two or three day weekends.  The Lucas Oil series has more of the big name, big dollar events too.  I realize this is 20/20 hindsight, but a Lucas Oil/MLRA co-sanction for the Silver Dollar Nationals would have given I-80 Speedway the national drivers that I am starting to fear will not be on hand, and allow the Midwest drivers to compete too. 

 

I am not a big fan of time trials, but the Lucas Oil series method is not a bad way to go if time trials are run.  The field is divided into two groups, so drivers are not timing against everyone in the field, and qualifying races are made up the drivers they time against.  Give two provisionals to each series, two to SLMR drivers, and two to the track.  Take $10,000 off the winners take home share, but keep the overall purse the same.  Use this money to run a 15 lap non-qualifiers race. 

 

The track would get some locals just like it is going to as set up.  It would get most of the MLRA regulars, just as it is going to now.  BUT, in addition to Brian Birkhofer and Jimmy Mars, the track would also get Jimmy Owens, Scott Bloomquist, Don O’Neal, Jared Landers, Brad Neat, Ray Cook, Earl Pearson Jr., Mike Marlar, Dale McDowell, and several others likely including Billy Moyer.  They may get some of them in 2011 anyway, but not all of them. Like I said, 20/20 hindsight, promoters don’t listen much to me  anyway, and I am still  hoping for the best.

 

Finally, raceceivers is going to be a magic word for the next 27 days.  Most drivers entering the Silver Dollar Nationals already have one. The only drivers who may not have them are locals who have never been required to use them at I-80 Speedway.  My argument is that raceceivers should be mandatory for the event. The USMTS modified drivers will all have them.  For the late model drivers to not be required to have them would be a joke.  They are needed for safety and for keeping the races organized.  Sorry, but if you cannot afford a raceceiver you do not belong in a $25,000 to win show.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chasing Storms, Mining Silver Dollar National Entrants, And A Little NASCAR Too

June 26, 2011 25 comments

Last night Matt and I attended a Storm Chasers baseball game.  Like any successful minor league operation, arriving at Werner Park gives you a feel of arriving at a carnival, and later a ball game just happens to break out.  The Storm Chasers go all out to attract families including providing cheap berm seating and a kid’s fun zone (with a merry go-round-originator of I-80 Speedway Rich Belino was ahead of his time with carnival rides). In between innings provides opportunities for an array of contests and giveaways.  The club has three larger than life mascots to entertain kids, and 8 attractive young Storm Girls.  The announcer or assistant makes very good use of sound effects to involve fans in the action.  It works-the Storm Chasers regularly have crowds of over 5,000 and last night the attendance was 8,658. There are lessons to be learned if dirt track promoters would merely make the effort.

Our mid-July race trip has been cut to just Deer Creek Speedway for the Gopher 50 super late model and USMTS modified action.  I have a business commitment I can’t change and can’t get out of, meaning we won’t be going to the WoO late model race at Independence Motor Speedway.

Someone who should make both the Independence and Deer Creek shows is Joe Kosiski.  I have been checking out driver websites the past few days, and I think Kosiski most definitely needs to be at these races to not only firm up that Silver Dollar Nationals pre-registered entrants are going to be at I-80, but to do a heavy recruiting job to.  Kosiski is a positive spokesman for the track, and after looking at driver schedules on the websites, he needs to push hard with WoO drivers.  I also think Joe needs to travel to Granite City, Illinois and Wheatland, Missouri for Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series races July 14th-16th and recruit drivers from that series who like the WoO have the Silver Dollar National weekend off.

This is especially so after the email I received this morning:

“UMP SummerNationals race at Fairbury was rained out tonight and re-scheduled for Saturday, July 23rd as a non-points race; this is a $10K to win race if they keep it the same purse as tonight.
 
Jason Feger, Dennis Erb, and others, what will they do now?”

That is a good question, and one I will be addressing soon with Jason Feger.  I hope the Fans Fund does not have to find a new driver to assist.

Speaking of the fans fund, we received two donations on Saturday, one from Bruce Van Kooten of Omaha, and one from Tony Anville, citizen of the world, resident of Auburn, Nebraska. These donations bring the total to $700, but we need more-especially with the Jason Feger situation.  Go to http://www.therestofthedirt.com and find the Fans Choice information on the right hand side of my home page.  The ‘Donate Now’ icon takes you to our PayPal account, and you can donate to the fund with a credit card.

Joey Logano on the pole of a road course NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race?  That was one I didn’t see coming.  Who should I jinx by picking to win today?  I don’t think Carl Edwards will win, so no need to jinx him.  I say it is a toss up between Greg Biffle and Juan Pablo Montoya.  Maybe I’ll jinx both of them.

Thanks for stopping by.

Speedweek, Rejection, Infineon, Cash Influx, Plus Some Storm Chasing

June 25, 2011 3 comments

Next week is Iowa Speedweek, with races at Buena Vista Raceway in Alta,  Marshalltown Speedway in Marshalltown ,  Independence Motor Speedway in Independence , Hancock County Speedway in Britt, and Lee County Speedway in Donnellson.  The races are being run Monday-Thursday, with Britt and Donnellson being separate shows on Thursday. IMCA stock cars are running at all five events, including three $1,000 to win World Products Stock Car Series Races.  Deery Brothers late models will race at Independence with $5,004 going to the winner, and the Hawkeye Dirt Tour modifieds will race at Donnellson.

 

A Nebraska Speedweek with me as the money man and Matt as the promoter is on my “Bucket List if I ever win the lottery.” Of course having won a lottery, I would not have to worry about making money on the event, so it could be one week long party for hard-core race fans.  With Matt involved there would be at least one big dollar late model show, and my involvement would mean a few USMTS shows and you can hardly go wrong if you feature IMCA modifieds at a special or two. 

 

A Pro Blogger article yesterday mentioned how bloggers deeply fear your rejection. All writers fear rejection.  Every time I present an idea to an editor I cringe and hope I have my most vulnerable spots covered.  It is not easy to have someone tell you that a story you thought was a winner sucked big time. Fortunately my editor at The Rest of the Dirt likes my style, and he has only told me a few times that what I wrote was a piece of garbage. 

 

Anyway, the Pro Blogger article wasn’t 100% true.  There are some who by rejecting me confirm I am doing the right thing, and there is at least one person who I simply do not care enough about to fear their rejection.

 

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is at Infineon Raceway in California this weekend.  I am in love with the area, and would feel I had a blessed retirement if I could spend part of every year there, and the rest back in Nebraska or traveling to races or blogging/writing events.  I have been to the track and even watched a practice session for a classic car race.  BUT, this Sunday I am planning on spending my afternoon at Werner Park watching the Storm Chasers baseball game.  Sorry Stan, I like sports cars on a road course, just not the heavy stock cars.

 

If you get the KC Metro Area Sports Channel-and if you have one of the Time Warner Cable sport packages you probably do, check out races from Lakeside Speedway tonight.  After a week off because of a threat of flooding, the track was back in action last night, and those races are shown tonight on tape delay.

 

Another well known dirt track has closed its doors.  Beckley Motorsports Park in West Virginia is shutting down because of low car counts and poor attendance.  The track was slated to host a Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series event on July 1st.

 

We received a $100 donation for the Fans Fund from Conrad’s Pillow Pet Store of Corning, Iowa yesterday.  Thanks-it is much appreciated, and brings our total to $630.  Ivan Tracy had a good idea-and that isn’t easy for me to admit about a sprint car fan.  He suggested that the 17 people who had donated find a donor to match them.  That may be difficult for the people who have donated a lot, but if they could even find $10 donors it would help.  Ivan can work on Randy Palmer-I think he should donate the equivalent of one bicycle, which he has me donating to another cause.  Jim Hitzemann-there is a lawyer we both know quite well who needs to be making a donation.  I have two people in mind-the two people who greeted me with bizarre emails this morning. Three weeks to go-go to www.therestofthedirt.com.

 

It looks like I may be watching the Sprint Cup race after all.  My plans have changed-I am going to the Storm Chasers game tonight instead of tomorrow.  Apparently my fellow race and baseball watcher has a kitchen pass for tonight.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tasteless-Fine-Pure Genius-Expectations Not Met

June 24, 2011 16 comments

I find many things that NASCAR fans purchase as memorabilia to be silly.  Some are so strange that even redneck pick-up drivers call them strange.  Bad taste doesn’t mean an item won’t sell.  Go to www.bleacherreport.com and look for the story “Check out This Completely Absurd NASCAR Souvenir.” Other than Randy Palmer, I am sure none of my readers would buy such an item. And no, I am not going to believe that a similar “rstar” item has sold several thousand units.

NASCAR fined the three Joe Gibbs Racing crew chiefs $50,000 each for bringing unapproved oil pans to last week’s Michigan Sprint Cup Series race.  The three crew chiefs, competition director Jimmy Makar, and three car chiefs were also placed on probation for the rest of the year. Since all fines are added to the year end point fund, JGR seems likely to get back a fair share of these fines with at least Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin making The Chase.

A certain person related to me has provided many interesting promotional ideas over the years.  One of his fans-or maybe his only fan, calls him “Boy Genius.” I am more likely to call him “try my patience.”  This person related to me did come up with a very good idea to make lemonade out of the lemons rain in the Sioux City area gave us this week.  He suggested that the USMTS reschedule their show at Buena Vista Raceway in Alta, Iowa for Wednesday July 6th, a regular night of racing at BVR. Park Jefferson could run the next night, Thursday July 7th, and to make the program more attractive than several support classes and the USMTS mods, schedule a postponed SLMR late model race with the USMTS.  I like the idea, but wonder if all of the necessary parties could actually reach an agreement to make it happen.

This same person came up with an idea called 2012 in 2012.  His idea is to get 2,012 fans to donate $20.12 to a race related non-profit organization. He figures coming up with crazy ideas is his contribution to the process, while someone with organizational skills (like me) can fill in the details.  Apparently he sees me as St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes.  I have to admit that the idea intrigues me because it becomes a fan’s union.  2012 people with a wad of cash becomes a force to be reckoned with.  That kind of money could be spent on a goodly number of special events in the area, making them more attractive to drivers and fans.

Having said the above idea is intriguing, I doubt that it is one I will run with.  I am really, really disappointed in the reaction to the Fans Fund for the Silver Dollar Nationals, the 2012 in 2012 would take hundreds of hours more to do and the reaction might not result in much more collected than the $530 donated so far to the Fans Fund for the SDN.  To date Fans Fund donations have been received from John McClain, Scott McBride, Richard Merchant, Dwight Kline, Mark Arnold, Ivan Tracy, Tom McLaughlin, Dale Smith, Jim Hitzemann, Steve Basch, Ryan Wolcott, Bonnie Estabrook, Daniel Shea, Dan Schmidt, Dianne Smith, and Ron Meyer. No need to count, that is donations from 17 people. 

When I started Fans Fund, my goal was 100 donations of $10 each, or $1,000 to be divided between two drivers.  A lot of time has been spent lining up a committee to decide on drivers to support, contacting drivers, adding a PayPal link to my website, lining up prizes for donors, and promoting the Fund on Facebook, several race forums, and my blog.  Scott McBride has spent more time on this project than me, and I have spent plenty of hours.  Scott put his money where his mouth is too, as he has contributed $105 to the fund.  Dale Smith has contributed $100.  Since it was my idea to go with this program, I have put in $100 and will also donate additional money to cover PayPal fees, which stand at $18.50 today.

Brian Birkhofer is going to come to the SDN anyway, but if I was Jason Feger I am not so sure I would with only $265 donated to help offset expenses.  I don’t begrudge giving my time or money to this project, but my expectations far exceeded results.  I am not going to turn The Rest of the Dirt into a blog equivalent of Public TV fundraisers, and I am not going to beg for dollars.  In the next three weeks I will announce the donation link and new donations several times a week, and will announce prize winners too.  The donation link is on the right side of my website home page, www.therestofthedirt.com .

I expected the Cedar Lake fund to do much better than us because it is established.  I thought we could better the total of Shawano Speedway for their WoO late model race fan fund because this is their first effort too.  We all better pray that the UNL football team does better against Wisconsin this fall than we have done against Shawano, because so far they have kicked our ass. Three weeks from tomorrow I will be sending account funds to the drivers we agreed to help.  I hope you will contribute and tell others about the Fund too.

Thanks for stopping by.

Zach Hensley, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Floods, And Tornadoes

June 23, 2011 Leave a comment

The Rest of the Dirt is about to surpass 2010 total views.  On June 23rd, the blog is a mere 74 views behind the total for all of 2011.  That number is just a fraction of daily views, so passing 2010 will happen today, probably by the time you read this.  Again, I am grateful that you are willing to spend time at my site.

 

The next issue of Dirt Modified magazine will feature an article I wrote on Zach Hensley. The Green River, Wyoming driver suffers from a rare disease called femoral hypoplasia.  He is unable to use his legs, so he drives a race car using hand controls.  His story is a really good one, well worth reading.

 

Zach is serious about becoming a better modified driver, and figures one way to get better is by racing against drivers from Iowa, the home of IMCA modifieds.  Zach is going to race in the IMCA Supernationals in Boone in September, but is traveling from Wyoming to Iowa one weekend a month this summer to race at Marshalltown, Boone, and Stuart.  His just completed June trip helped Zach gain some valuable experience as he finished 5th in his heat and 13th in the feature at Marshalltown, 6th in his heat and 18th in the feature at Boone, and 3rd in his heat and 9th in the feature at Stuart.

 

This email came from Zach’s father and crew chief Will:

 

“It is amazing.  Zach has more fans in Iowa than he has out west. It was staggering the amount of people that wanted to meet him and buy shirts and get autographs. Everyone we met was so hospitable. Iowan’s made us both feel at home and welcome with open arms.”

 

Two thumbs up to the Hensley family for their courage and for their passion for racing, and two thumbs up for Iowa fans.  The Hensley’s are looking to return to Iowa either the last weekend in July or the first weekend of August.  They aren’t sure which weekend as Zach has a fill-in race and two two-day tour races to run in July.

 

Fox Sports is in discussion with NASCAR to move six races it televises from Fox to Speed TV, which coincidentally is owned by the people who give us Fox.  To me this is a power play to increase the value of Speed TV-with NASCAR races on Speed TV, cable networks that don’t carry Speed will be forced to or risk the ire of NASCAR fans, and cable networks that do carry Speed will likely be charged more for the privilege.

 

I think that sucks too, but if NASCAR can somehow make a buck out of the deal it will probably allow Fox to put races on Speed-and I would bet before the current contract expires. He who has the money makes the rules, and the little guy  just gets stuck with the bill.

 

It isn’t often that I agree with Carl Edwards or Jimmie Johnson, but both have stated that NASCAR needs to develop a racier car.  Because of down force it is becoming more difficult to pass and pit strategy and fuel mileage are suddenly the be all and end all every Sunday afternoon.  Those aspects of racing should be a part of a plan to win a race, but I would rather watch passes being made on the track than on pit row.

 

Matt and I were planning to go to the USMTS races at Park Jefferson tonight, but they have been postponed because of heavy rains in the area earlier in the week.  It is disappointing, but it is also just an inconvenience for us.  However 5” of rain in 24 hours is not a good omen forMissouri River flooding.  Rain is the wild card in just how severe the flooding will be, and that heavy of a rain (the average rainfall for the month of June in the Sioux City area is 3.61”) just adds to the problems of cities and towns from the Siouxland area to Kansas City. The flooding makes my tornado downed branches and no electrical power for 36 hours seem pretty small.

 

Thanks for stopping by.