Home > September 2017 > More Knoxville

More Knoxville

Yes, more Knoxville. Only two of the top ten WoO late model drivers were in Knoxville this weekend, Brandon Sheppard and Tyler Erb. Sheppard can race with anyone, anywhere, and Erb can wreck anytime, anywhere, but where were the rest of the WoO regulars. The series remains a national tour-it does travel across much of America-but a baseball comparison would be that the Lucas Oil series is Major League and the WoO is AAA.

As at Eldora for the World 100 and at FALS for the Prairie Dirt Classic, there was a large contingent of local drivers at Knoxville. I hate to admit it, being far less than a fan of the brothers, but Chad and Chris Simpson are really the only Iowa drivers that can seriously compete with national caliber drivers. Chad was 26th and Chris was 11th in Saturday’s feature.

Saturday’s rain made for a blazing fast track. It also made for lots of tire trouble. Rain or no rain, if the feature is to remain 100 laps, I think that in addition to a fuel stop on lap 51, that the stop can include changes that can be done in 10 minutes, such as tires. If this rule had been in effect, the outcome of the race would have been different. Yeah, I am saying this as a Jonathan Davenport fan, and the opposite argument is such a rule penalizes drivers who have not been as hard on their equipment.

Davenport has had a profitable three weeks, earning $25,000 at the Hillbilly 100, $50,000 at the World 100, and collecting 2nd place money of $20,000 at Knoxville. Of course with the nearly obscene cost of running nationally, weekends like those are needed. More on Davenport later.

In an interview last weekend, veteran Steve Francis hinted at retirement, suggesting that technology had taken the fun out of racing for him. Matt and I had talked about Francis on the drive over, not realizing he was considering retirement, and wondering just what he might do after his driving career was over. Francis just turned 50, and for those not in sports, that is a long way from retirement. With the cost of racing I wonder how much money the Hall of Famer has been able to save over the years.

Maybe it was because I was riding the elevator this weekend with lots of “old” people, but it seemed like the number of old people at the race far outnumbered the young people. Matt had an interesting idea about how to engage the very young. What driver might appeal to the very young like Mike Duvall did with his Flintstone Flyer? How about Superman, Jonathan Davenport? Matt bought Henry a Jonathan Davenport Superman t-shirt, his first dirt racing t-shirt, and Davenport has a way about him that I kids would love if they got close to him. Think of M & M’s sponsoring Davenport and kids visiting his trailer after a race getting a small bag of the candy treat.

If you want to involve teens more, Hudson O’Neal would be a perfect spokesman. His demeanor is that of a typical 17 year old, but he is an incredibly talented driver and for someone that young is quite polished when interviewed. He would be a great spokesperson for some company. What do teens love? Other than their phone? Or maybe he could have some smart phone for a sponsor.

At the NSCHoF program on Friday, the young O’Neal was asked about going NASCAR racing. Anymore talent is not enough. You have to show them the money, bringing big sponsorship dollars with you. That is a shame because there are plenty of young dirt car drivers with just as much-even more-talent than drivers on any of the top NASCAR circuits.

As far as young talent in dirt late model racing, I am less concerned about the future than I was several years ago. Brandon Sheppard in the Rocket house car has been amazing this year. Though I am not a big fan, Bobby Pierce has won a number of crown jewel events in little over a year. Devin Moran has won some races, and as I said, Hudson O’Neal is very talented. There are others too. Hopefully there will still be a sport for them to showcase their talents ten years from now.

I had not said much about Mike Marlar winning back to back Knoxville Nationals 100 lap races, but that really is a fete. Good equipment well prepared, talent, and luck is often not enough to accomplish what Marlar did, so two thumbs up to the driver from Tennessee.

Knoxville might be the last race I attend this season, though there are still plenty of races to watch on the computer. I guess Beatrice this weekend is a possibility, but I can watch it at home on Speed Shift TV. The Fall Brawl or Cornhusker Classic at I-80 are still to be run, but neither really grabs my attention. Matt has discussed going to Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City in October for World of Outlaw sprint cars. Ouch. Maybe. Or go to Kansas Speedway for NASCAR practice during the day and then to Lakeside. We’ll see.

Anyway if Knoxville was my last race of the season, it was very enjoyable. And next year maybe I will try one of the $10 ribeye steak sandwiches one of the midway vendors has for sale.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

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