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A Knoxville Wrap Up-Unless I Decide To Write More Tomorrow

September 29, 2013 1 comment

Much to my dismay, Darrell Lanigan and Josh Richards finished 1-2 in the 100 lap finale of the Knoxville Nationals.  I am sure that Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series officials were somewhat dismayed that the top three finishers in their marquee event were all WoO regulars as Tim McCreadie came home in third place.  I am still a Lucas Oil series fan, but this weekend certainly adds fuel to the debate over which series has the better drivers, as not only were the 1-2-3 from the other national tour, only three Lucas Oil drivers finished in the top 12.

Steve Francis was the first Lucas Oil series regular to cross the finish line.  John Blankenship in 6th place and Jimmy Owens in 9th place were the other Lucas Oil drivers to earn top ten finishes. After a tough weekend, Dennis Erb Jr. needed a series provisional to start the race, but used it well.  Erb ended up finishing 13th. Oh, for Dirt Late Model subscribers, there is an article on Erb and his crew chief Heather Lynne in the November issue. Finally-I happen to know it was written in June.

I don’t think Jason Feger will be exchanging anything other than harsh words with Don O’Neal for quite some time.  Feger was running near the front of the 100 lapper when O’Neal tried a slide job that didn’t quite work, sending Feger into the wall and upside down too.  O’Neal also collected Dale McDowell and Scott Bloomquist in his madness.  Only Bloomquist was able to continue racing. 

Acting like a real journalist, I took pages of notes on Thursday and Friday, so I could share my thinking of this unique event:

-Steve Francis was featured in Thursday afternoon’s National Sprint Car Hall of Fame program.  Matt and I did not arrive until after the program, but friend Tony Anville did and mentioned a comment that Francis made about there being two national tours.

Francis believes it is a good thing to have two national series.  There are so many drivers trying to earn a living racing on dirt that the races two series provide enable these drivers to feed their families.  If there was just one series and most top drivers were in attendance it would be difficult to make a living.

As a fan I am greedy and want to see all the top drivers at specials I attend, but it is hard to argue with the logic of Francis.  I am glad that the drivers do get together for 4-5 crown jewel events.

Matt was texting with a race promoter he knows and mentioned that 72 late models were in the pits Thursday night.  The promoter wrote back that with a purse $100,000 bigger than his event, the Knoxville Nationals only drew 16 more cars.  Of course the 16 it drew, 13 made Saturday’s feature.

Anyway, this got me thinking that someday-probably not yet, the Silver Dollar Nationals at I-80 Speedway will outgrow having the USMTS modifieds on the bill, and that $30,000 or so of the purse that goes to the USMTS can be used to attract even more quality drivers to Nebraska in July. The winner’s share of the purse could go to $40,000 and the rest could make for an even better payback.

Billy Moyer was interviewed by Dave Argabright during the Friday morning program at the NSCHoF. He mentioned that Knoxville had a good payback-that drivers outside the top five would get a decent check, and that was important to them.  He was asked about racing on a heavy, fast track and his reply was what I have been saying for years.  He commented that the best late model racing at the track would not be when they were running 17 or 18 second laps, but when the lap times were a little slower, the track a little slicker and the cars were two and three wide with drivers dicing for position throughout the race.  Amen said the choir.

Random thoughts:

-I wish I had the money spent on t-shirts this weekend.  Heck, I wish I had 10% of what was spend on t-shirts at Knoxville.

-I like that only one night, obviously the best night of points determines who qualifies for Saturday’s features.  An off night can be overcome-Tim McCreadie is proof of that.  After Thursday was 57th in points, but his Friday night efforts gained a 3rd row outside starting spot for Saturday night.

-Brian Birkhofer gave it a helluva shot to get into Saturday’s feature.  After not so good performances on Thursday and Friday, Birkhofer won the C feature and had made it to an A feature qualifying spot when he blew a tire on the final lap of the B feature.

-Matt wants the Marion County Fair Board to do an I-80 Speedway i.e. bring in a dirt contractor and lower the infield pits several feet.  With nearly six dozen big haulers parked in the infield, it is impossible to see all of the back stretch unless you sit very high.  On Thursday we were in row 25 and the haulers did partially block our view.  On Friday we sat in row 29 and could see most of the back straight away.  I suspect that nothing will be done to lower the pits.

-One thing the track does (OK, no official told me) is to bring in new dirt from the bottom of the Des Moines River every year.  I do wish that other tracks would bring in new dirt on some kind of regular schedule, something more than once ever.

-Billy Moyer has 774 feature wins.

-Thursday’s B feature included the following drivers:  Shannon Babb, Mike Marlar, Brian Shirley, Terry Phillips, Don O’Neal, Eddie Carrier Jr., Scott Bloomquist, Jimmy Owens, John Blankenship, Jimmy Mars, Brian Birkhofer, Earl Pearson Jr., and Brady Smith. Only six drivers moved on to the A feature, and there were no provisionals on either of the preliminary nights. Tell me how many promoters would not foam at the mouth to get an A feature like that at their track.

-Matt is like his grandfather and Henry is just like Matt.  They talk to complete strangers as if they were good friends.  That talent obviously skipped me.  I am not aloof like many people think, rather I am very shy.

-Brandon Sheppard was not only the UMP Summernationals champion, he was also the UMP weekly champion.  Sheppard is another of the young guns that are starting to claim spots among the elite late model drivers.

Like so many others, I think this event is going to continue to grow every year. Matt and I have already talked about next year and maybe even staying for the Saturday finale.  This would mean Matt would sell his Nebraska football tickets, so that is a strong endorsement as to how exciting this event is.  If you have never been there, you simply have to go.  If you have been there, you will go every year.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

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Birkhofer, Richards, Gustin-Knoxville 2013

September 28, 2013 Leave a comment

I am sure it will take me at least several days to talk about the past two I spent in Knoxville at the late model nationals.  I’ll start with three story lines that interested me:

-Brian Birkhofer’s continuing injury problems.

-Josh Richards goes for a sweep.

-Ryan Gustin, a new fan favorite.

 

Brian Birkhofer may not admit that the hand he broke in an accident at I-80 Speedway in July is still bothering him, but watching him on the track both Thursday and Friday says it is.  Something I like about Birkhofer is his consistency-lap after lap after lap look nearly identical.  Not so at Knoxville.  He would have several good laps. And then have a bad lap that negated any gains he had made the previous few laps.  That happened every time he was on the track.  He will start 6th in the C feature tonight-meaning his best point night ranked his 48th out of 72 drivers on hand.  He might advance to the B feature, but I just don’t see the winner of the First Knoxville Nationals advancing to the A main.

Matt is an even bigger Birky fan than me and he thinks that Birky should call it quits after this race.  That thought isn’t meant to be mean spirited, just that Birkhofer needs to let his hand heal, and start pointing to next year.

Josh Richards won both preliminary night features, and is poised to accomplish what only Billy Moyer has so far-a sweep of all three nights of the Knoxville Nationals.  His point total has Richards starting on the outside of the front row of tonight’s 100 lap feature, and I can see him running away from the field.  At one point during Friday’s 25 lap preliminary Richards held a 7 second lead over second place Jimmy Owens.  I am not a Richards’ fan at all, but he clearly looks like the Jimmie Johnson of dirt late models.

Richards did create some controversy Friday night though.  He tried a slide job on Darrell Lanigan and didn’t quite clear him.  Lanigan went spinning along with several other cars.  The caution flew and as other cars were coming up the front stretch, Lanigan drove his damaged racer to a stop by Richards.  I’m pretty sure he was not inviting him for a post race beer. 

When was the last time you saw fans stand at the finish of a C feature?  If you were in Knoxville, it was Thursday night.  Former USMTS champion Ryan Gustin was second quickest in time trials, but on the first lap of his heat race a banzai charge had him flying into turn three out of control, and causing a wreck.  He started on the pole of the D feature and led all 12 laps.  This gave him a 19th place start on the C feature grid, with only the top four cars advancing to the B main.  The Reaper advanced through the field and was right behind 4th place running Terry Phillips the last few laps.  Gustin tried moving around Phillips on the high side, but Phillips moved up just enough to keep the 19R out of the B main. It would have been fun to see if the young Iowa driver could have run the alphabet and qualified for the A feature.

Friday night Gustin ended up first in time trials, but did not finish in the top 3 of his heat and needed to run in the B feature.  He was one of six drivers moving on to the A, and started 19th.  Again he moved through the field, sometimes in a not very smooth fashion.  The 19R bumped Jimmy Mars, fighting for a top ten spot.  Mars returned the favor and several cars were able to get past Gustin as a result.  Gustin did manage a top ten finish though, and will start tonight’s 100 lapper on the outside of row 5.

On the way back to our hotel after Thursday’s races Matt made the comment “if Gustin doesn’t cause his owner to go broke first, he is going to make him a lot of money.”  Basically Gustin has only one button on his control panel right now-fast forward.  As he gains late model experience, maybe learning to go fast sometimes you have to go a little slower, he could be dominant force in dirt late model racing.  Matt also called him an “unpolished Josh Richards.”

After his 34th to first trip in the Silver Dollar Nationals feature, and his efforts at Knoxville, Gustin is already a fan favorite.  No question he will be going late model full-time next year.  I was hoping for perhaps a season of MLRA racing along with some major events for the youngster to gain experience, but he wants to run either the WoO or Lucas Oil series, and I suspect he will.  When it comes to on track excitement, Gustin is a likable Kelly Boen.

Enough for now.  Lots more tomorrow.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

I’m Leaving On A Jet Plane-Well, With Matt Driving It Seems That Way

September 26, 2013 Leave a comment

I am ready for Knoxville.  I have watched videos, read everything about the Nationals on www.DirtonDirt.com, looked at the track and Lucas Oil Series websites, checked out driver’s websites, made hotel reservations (AARP discount), visited the bank for some ready cash, packed my suitcase and finished my Dirt Late Model article on Jase Kaser so I don’t have to worry about my end of the month deadline.

 

I have exchanged cell #’s with DLM publisher Mike O’Connor so we can finally meet-I think he would like to have a face to go with all the excuse emails he gets from me as to why I am so late with every article.  I have harassed Tony Anville-and will continue to do so throughout the weekend.  I am getting ready to harass Steve ‘Raceguru’ Basch, aka Belleville 100 Basch, figuring I should fire the first shot in our race day battle of wits.

 

I even made a spread sheet of my DOD Top 25 drivers so I can their finishes this weekend and vote intelligently on Monday.  Am I into this event or what?  Now all I have to do is wait for Matt to pick me up for the trip to central Iowa.

 

Remember, if you can’t actually make it to Knoxville, PPV’s of the preliminary nights’ action can be obtained on the DOD website.  Along with the Silver Dollar Nationals, this is a favorite dirt racing weekend for me.  With all that is going on, I doubt I will post tomorrow, but I will definitely have a post on Saturday.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Sandwiches, Rain, Winter, Tail Bones-Broken, Man From MARS, Plus I’m Kind Of Smart

September 25, 2013 1 comment

Jimmy John’s will be a major sponsor of Kevin Harvick in 2014 when California driver goes to Stewart-Haas Racing.  The sandwich giant will be the primary sponsor of Harvick for 12 races, and a “major” associate sponsor for the other 26 races. I assume major has something to do with $$$.

 

I mentioned last week that I would have enjoyed going to WoO sprint car races at Eldora and Lernerville.  Actually I would not have enjoyed the trip at all-both races were rained out and will not be made up. I still want to go to Australia though. Maybe we can start a “Send Ron Down Under” fund, though it would have to have enough for a round trip.

 

The NDRL has added three more winter races to its schedule.  The series already scheduled 6 shows in Tucson between 1/10-1/19, and now El Paso Speedway in Texas is set to host events on 1/24-1/26.  Winner’s share of the El Paso races will be $3,000-$5,000-$5,000. Just like with NASCAR, dirt late model racing is becoming a 12 months a year sport.

 

Originally diagnosed as a severe lower lumbar sprain, Steve Francis found out his injuries were worse.  The Kentucky Colonel has a broken tail bone and two bulging discs.  At 46 bones don’t heal quite as fast as they do for younger drivers, but Francis still has a doctor’s OK to race at Knoxville this weekend. I am a big Steve Francis fan and have said in the past I would pay to watch him hot lap, but I am almost hoping he does not race this weekend. Three nights on that track could really do damage, and his long-term health is more important than any racing event.

 

Also, Jesse Stovall can be added to the list of drivers racing in Knoxville.  Stovall is coming off two MARS series wins last weekend at the Salina High Banks Speedway in Oklahoma. The Missouri driver has 3 wins, 1 second, and 1 third place finish in 5 September races.

 

Once again the other 22 voters in the www.DirtonDirt.com Top 25 Poll showed their brilliance as all 25 of the drivers on my ballot made the overall Top 25.  Listed below is my ballot:

 

2013 WEEKLY DRIVER POLL BALLOT
 

Name

Ron Meyer

Please Enter Date   Below

Position

09/23/13

1

Josh   Richards

2

Darrell   Lanigan

3

John   Blankenship

4

Jimmy   Owens

5

Tim   McCreadie

6

Shane   Clanton

7

Steve   Francis

8

Bobby   Pierce

9

Billy   Moyer

10

Don O’Neal

11

Brandon   Sheppard

12

Shannon   Babb

13

Scott   Bloomquist

14

Rick   Eckert

15

Terry   Phillips

16

Dale   McDowell

17

Brian   Birkhofer

18

Chris   Madden

19

Dennis Erb   Jr.

20

Jason   Feger

21

Earl   Pearson Jr.

22

Gregg   Satterlee

23

Jonathan   Davenport

24

Mike   Marlar

25

Tony   Jackson Jr.

 

 

 

I’ll try to post early tomorrow before heading over to Knoxville, and on Saturday I will blog about the trip-including the steak dinner a certain auditor from Auburn said he was going to buy me.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

Texas, Iowa, And Me

September 24, 2013 1 comment

If I had the money of some of my friends-including one who is demanding I buy him lunch in Knoxville on Friday-I would already be planning to attend the NCAA Final Four in Arlington, Texas the first weekend in April, 2014 and also plan on attending the NASCAR Sprint Cup Texas 500 that same weekend. I’ve visited three NASCAR Sprint Cup tracks, but have never been to a Sprint Cup race.  I’ll put that weekend on my already long “if I win the lottery” list.

 

I won’t be heading to Texas anytime soon, but in two days I’ll be heading to Knoxville and am really excited about the trip.  It will be a chance to visit with good friends, sit in on several programs at the Sprint Car Hall of Fame, and of course, watch some incredible racing at one of America’s most famous race tracks.  That isn’t even counting getting away from work, which is icing on this cake.

 

The list of possible winners is a long one.  Don O’Neal comes off a big win in the Jackson 100.  Steve Francis won last year.  Brian Birkhofer will be the home state favorite.  All three have been injured this year, though Francis was injured just a few days ago and even with treatment, I would think a severe back sprain would be no fun riding around in a dirt late model.

 

Scott Bloomquist won The Dream and a Knoxville win would turn a so-so season into a very good one for the Hall of Famer.  The season is so-so by Bloomquist standards; it would be a great season for most late model drivers. Not that long ago Billy Moyer dominated the event, winning all three A features.  I wonder how many more years we will be able to enjoy his incredible talents.

 

John Blankenship won The World 100 and is having a break-out season.  Jimmy Owens and Josh Richards lead the point races in the two national touring series.  Could a youngster win the big one?  After his Silver Dollar Nationals charge I was hoping we would see Ryan Gustin in this event, but his schedule shows only USMTS modified events for the rest of 2013.  It is not on the schedule of Bobby Pierce, and if you can find a Brandon Sheppard schedule, well, good for you because I can’t. And yes, I did check his Facebook page.

 

One young driver who will be there is Norfolk’s Travis Dickes.  I talked with Al Humphrey yesterday for a Dirt Late Model article I am doing on Jase Kaser, and Al mentioned that Dickes would be at Knoxville in the 21 car with a Humphrey motor. It will be the first time at the big half-mile oval for Dickes, but after his performance during the Show-Me 100 weekend I don’t expect him to be intimidated.

 

I asked Al how long he would be racing since he can put either Dickes or Dylan Smith (or both) in his cars.  He said he is not quite ready to step out of the car though there are nights he does wonder why he is in it.  I mentioned to Al a theory that someone who sits by me at races has espoused.  He said that Al should have a car for Dickes to run MLRA races and Dickes could run his own at I-80 Speedway and in the SLMR series.  That person also suggested that Al continue to have Dylan Smith run some races in a Humphrey car, mostly SLMR.  Interesting.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday To Someone, Plus Something For Everyone

September 23, 2013 Leave a comment

Bob Kosiski will be a member of the 2014 class of inductees into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame.  This is a well deserved and long overdue honor for patriarch of the Omaha Kosiski racing clan.  Bob joins sons Joe-inducted in 2008 and Steve-inducted in 2010 in the NDLMHoF.

 

Included in the 2014 class are drivers Steve Francis, Ken Walton, Denny Bonebrake, and Ed Gibbons, along with contributors Allan Brown, Walter Burson, and Larry and Penny Eckrich.  Over 100 drivers and contributors to the sport have are members of the Hall, including Scott Bloomquist, Billy Moyer, Donnie Moran, Ed Sanger, Verlin Eaker, Gary Webb, Ernie Derr, Bob Pierce, Mike Duvall, Larry Phillips, Earl Baltes, C.J. Rayburn, and Freddy Smith.

 

The Hall of Fame is located on the grounds of Florence Speedway in Kentucky.

 

Congratulations to all the winners of big dirt track races this weekend:

-Darrell Lanigan captured the WoO race at Berlin Raceway in Michigan

-Don O’Neal took finished first in the Jackson 100 at Brownstown Speedway, a Lucas Oil event.

-Jesse Stovall, back to back MARS events at the Salina High Banks Speedway in Oklahoma.

-Jeff Aikey in the Deery Brothers season finale at Davenport Speedway.

-BillLeighton Jr. in an SLMR race at I-80 Speedway.

-Jason Hughes in the USMTS Featherlite Fall Jamboree, his 4th win in this race in nine years.

-Jack Dover-back to back ASCS Midwest 360 sprint car features at I-80 Speedway, netting the Dover clan $27,000 for the weekend.

 

Steve Francis gets the playing hurt award for the weekend, if not the entire 2013 season.  On the opening lap of his heat race in Brownstown, Francis “bicycled” his car.  That is not to be confused with Tony Anville pedaling his bicycle around Auburn-the only chance Anville has of getting hurt is if someone doesn’t notice the “slow-moving vehicle” sign on the back of his bike.  Francis caught a rut on the wet, rough Indiana track surface, throwing his car into the air and coming down with enough force to smash the car’s floorboard and send a wave of pain through the 45 year old Kentucky driver.  A quick trip to a local hospital saw Francis diagnosed with a severe lower lumbar sprain, but no broken bones.  He hustled back to the track, took a Lucas Oil provisional and started the feature in 25th place-and a lot of pain.  He was still in plenty of pain 100 laps later when the checkered flag flew, but somehow Francis managed to pass 2o cars, finishing 5th in the race.

 

Francis finished just one spot behind Lucas Oil point leader Jimmy Owens, and with seven nights of racing remaining in the 2013 season, he is 150 points behind Owens in second place and 190 points ahead of third place John Blankenship.

 

Hopefully Francis will be able to race this weekend in Knoxville where he will try to repeat as the Knoxville Nationals champion.  The Knoxville weather forecast for Thursday and Friday gets a thumbs up, with highs in the lower 80’s, lows in the 60’s, and sunny both days. My fingers are crossed though-maybe that is why I found so many typo’s in this post, including “tupo” for typo.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

P.S. Someone who goes with me to the races is 37 today. My dad was 26 when I was born.  I was 26 when Matt was born.  If Henry had been born when Matt was 26 I would have been spoiling him for 11 years, not 2.

 

 

 

 

Food, Revenue “Stream,” Plus I-80 Is OK

September 20, 2013 2 comments

I admit that I am a card carrying member of the AARP, though I am far from being retired. Hey-it got me a discount for the hotel we are staying at when we go to Knoxville next week. Like several racing sites I receive daily emails from the AARP.  Yesterday one included a list of things to not consume prior to boarding an airplane.  Among them were beans, garlic, and hot peppers.  I wouldn’t mind if people sitting around me at the races skipped those items before heading to the track too.

 

The article also recommended not eating cheeseburgers or french fries before boarding.  I am sure all the airport McDonalds and Burger Kings appreciate that.  What surprised me though was that soda, alcohol, coffee, and fruit/fruit juices were included in the “don’t partake of” list.  Airlines offer every one of those items, and there aren’t many flights I remember not drinking a Coke or Diet Coke.

 

I probably shouldn’t have mentioned this.  I can think of a reader or two that will now eat beans and garlic every time he goes to the track or travels somewhere, especially one that is anti-Bo, pro-Callahan; anti-Gordon, pro-Edwards; and anti-mods, pro-NASCAR.

 

A bar in the Old Market area of Omaha is being refurbished, and for a donation of $500 you can name a urinal.  Perhaps in their search for a new income stream-no pun intended-race tracks can consider such a scheme.  Certainly, no race fan would be willing to pay $500, but perhaps naming rights for a season could be sold for $50.  Say at I-80 Speedway a sign could be placed saying “Matt Meyer obtained naming rights for this section of the urinal and has named it Ron Meyer.”

 

Speaking of I-80 Speedway, I was in no way knocking the track when I said I would rather go to Australia than to I-80 Speedway to watch sprint cars race.  That had nothing to do with the track, more my desire to travel, to get away from the everyday routine.  I have no complaints with I-80 Speedway at all this season-well, the barbecue sandwich could be cheaper, but that is it.  Actually, the only times I have ever traveled anywhere close to specifically see a sprint car race was back in the days of the Topless Bandits.

 

Yesterday I gave a link to a USA Today article about NAPA ending their sponsorship of Michael Waltrip Racing.  Unless MWR can replace that $16-18,000,000 hit, a lot of crew members are going to receive a termination notice after the season ends at Homestead.  If you are a major corporation looking to sponsor a NASCAR team, would you want your named linked to the team that created such negative publicity?  I think not.

 

5 Hour Energy is still reviewing their relationship with MWR, and NAPA leaving the team would certainly make it easier for them to go elsewhere too.  Matt pointed out the irony of 5 Hour leaving Clint Bowyer and sponsoring Ryan Newman instead. Matt definitely has a sense of humor.

 

Not only is www.Racindirt.TV covering this weekend’s Fall Jamboree from Deer Creek Speedway in Minnesota, they are also providing PPV for all four days of the Sunflower Showdown at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City.  Wednesday and Thursday October 2nd-3rd will feature USMTS Mods, with B-Mods, Grand Nationals, and Factory Stocks as support classes.  MLRA Late Models with be co-featured with the USMTS Mods on Friday and Saturday October 4th-5th.

 

The USMTS Mods are always joined by a stout group of local competitors when they visit Lakeside, and 2-3 wide racing can be expected throughout the field. It would be nice to head down I-29 another time this season, but I am afraid my road trip passes are going to be used up next week in Knoxville. It looks like www.RacinDirt.TV may be the ticket.

 

Oh, about the Fall Jamboree-after a three hour rain delay the track was butting against a midnight curfew.  The B-Mods got most of their races in, but the USMTS Mods only finished their heats, so tonight will see B mains and a feature ran before the Friday night program.

 

Thanks for stopping by.