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Prairie Dirt Classic-A BIG Thank You

July 30, 2018 Leave a comment

I didn’t include this in yesterday’s blog post because I thought it deserved attention on its own. This is my thank you to my son Matt for all he did to make our Fairbury trip special-which was pretty much everything.

-He reserved out seats at FALS. This is not as easy to do as it sounds, with the tremendous demand for tickets for the Prairie Dirt Classic. Still, he managed to get great tickets, AND as long as we continue to reserve them each year, they are our seats.

-He reserved a rental car and drove from Midway Airport in Chicago to FALS and back to the airport. My only task was paying for half of the rental fee, BUT I got to sit back, enjoy the ride, plus I learned new ways to group certain words as Chicago drivers acted nutty per Matt.

-He reserved our hotel room, checked in before we headed to FALS, and checked out when we left Sunday morning. Again, all I had to do was pay half of the charge. Matt even got up first to shower at 7:00 a.m., even though we didn’t get back to the hotel until 1:00 a.m.

-He ordered pop, water, ice, and a Styrofoam cooler that he picked up at Dave’s Grocery in downtown Fairbury. We all know that race track concessions are outrageous. 

-He has introduced me to some interesting and well known people who make a living from dirt late model racing-no, not drivers, but others important to the sport. They know he is a serious and knowledgeable fan. Yeah, he knows drivers too, but I usually don’t go into the pits.

-More than once he got concessions for me.

-At Midway Airport Matt took one of my bags-I have a CPAP machine, plus my wife insisted I pack for a week, even though we were staying only one night. Of course it could have been that he thought I was going too slowly, but no matter what I appreciated it-that damn airport has a lot of walking to it.

-He got us to the airport in time to switch flights yesterday. The flight we had booked was going to be delayed, but we managed to switch to an earlier flight. We got home before our original flight even left Chicago.

-More than anything, I enjoy talking racing with Matt. He knows more about the sport than 99% of the people involved, and quite frankly is smarter than any promoter I know. Dirt track racing would be far better if someone found a niche for Matt to fill.

And he is well versed on college sports, another road trip topic, and of course he is always willing to talk with me about my favorite subject, my grandson Henry.

He does similar things for the Silver Dollar Nationals, the Knoxville Late Model Nationals, and every other race or University of Nebraska sports event we attend. He makes going easy for me. I do not tell him often enough how much I appreciate all he does, but I do appreciate it more than he could ever know.

Thank you Matt.

P.S. Our next big event is the Knoxville Late Model Nationals in September, but I am ready to head back to Fairbury, dust and all.

 

 

 

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Young Moran Captures Biggest Win-The PDC At FALS.

July 29, 2018 Leave a comment

Matt and I took a flying trip to Fairbury, Illinois yesterday. Flying, in every sense of the word. Yes, several airplanes were involved-Southwest 7377’s from Omaha to Chicago Midway and back, and a rental car (driven by Matt made a fast trek down I-57 and U.S. 24 to Fairbury American Legion Speedway for the 29th annual Prairie Dirt Classic.

Normally, well, that would be the two other times we went to the PDC, we would leave on Thursday and drive the 500 miles to the Illinois town not far from Bloomington. This year though because of my new job I could not leave on Thursday. Yes, I do know I have had a number of jobs since I wised up and left the one I held for 29 years. I am just doing temporary gigs now, and my current job is my fifth such position, working anywhere from a month to a year.

Anyway, though we don’t have deep pockets like our favorite auditor, we discovered this was the way to go. From the time we left my house until I got home, I was gone just 33 2/2 hours. The drive from Midway to FALS is a piece of cake, although Matt considers Chicago drivers to be rude (that is my translation of what he actually said a number of times). The Omaha-Chicago flight is a short one and Midway is not a difficult airport to navigate. We stayed overnight at Pontiac, which is about 25 miles from FALS and on I-57.

A jumble of thoughts:

-4 drivers we thought might be there were missing in action, Scott Bloomquist, Darrell Lanigan, Josh Richards, and Tim McCredie. Lanigan is not having a Darrell Lanigan type season and since the Lucas Oil series is off for two weeks he might have headed home to regroup. Josh Richards had two cars to rebuild after the Silver Dollar Nationals last week. Tim McCreadie went home to race a big block modified. Oh, and the sport’s drama queen Bloomquist was banned from the race for the second time in three years.

-I have wondered why the track runs the PDC under a WoO sanction, but as long as the Lucas Oil Series does not schedule against this race it is a good idea. Obviously the PDC gets all the WoO regulars, a goodly number of national drivers like Billy Moyer and Shannon Babb, a fairly stout group of locals, and 6-10 Lucas Oil regulars. No way do the WoO regulars show up in those kinds of numbers if the Lucas Oil series sanctioned the event. 61 late models were on hand.

-There were also 61 modifieds on hand for the PDC. I realize you can never get rid of these cars, but here is an ID. Run modified time trials and heats on Thursday, along with practice sessions for late models drivers. You have hundreds of RV’s and campers surrounding the track from Wednesday on, so this could be a new income source for the track. You get pit passes from mods and late model teams and aren’t paying out a penny that night. I am sure MANY fans would wander over to the track to watch. On Friday run modified last chance races and the championship feature. Since promoters seems to equate number of races with how much admission they can charge, have a $2,000 to win modified invitational on Saturday night. The top 24 in Friday’s feature will race in one of two heats on Saturday and then in a 25 laps feature.

I say this because the last chance modified races are at the very least an irritation, and border on a joke. In the first two modified last chance races on Saturday, there were 11 cautions. Friday’s program as I described above would not be longer than previous Friday programs because time trials are eliminated. Saturday’s program would be shorter-no way does 2 heats of A feature type mods take as long as 3 last chance races of B feature caliber modifieds. And the mod feature that night would be 15 laps shorter than last night’s mod feature. That would darn sure get the program done before midnight, which it seems is fairly common anymore.

Or maybe I am just getting chauvinistic about mods again. I bitched about the weekly mods at the Silver Dollar Nationals too.

-Texas Tornado Tyler Erb did it again. If you haven’t figured out my nickname, how much damage does a tornado do? During the 100 lap PDC feature, Erb spun out in turn 3. Don O’Neal could not avoid Erb’s car and ran over the nose, ending what could have been a top ten finish for The Real Deal.

-We sat in the middle of the backstretch grandstands this year, instead of close to turn 3. I didn’t think anything in dirt racing could top watching late models fly into FALS turn 3, but I was wrong. Watching them roar out of turn 2, side by side or even three wide, and slide up to the backstretch wall is even cooler.

-Iowan Chris Simpson started on the pole for Saturday’s feature, but pitted early and often and finally pulled in. Superman Jonathan Davenport hoped to back up his SDN win with a PDC win. Early in the race Davenport moved from 16th to 8th place, but like Simpson pitted often and was never a factor in the race. Simpson ended up 21st and Davenport finished 16th.

-Brandon Sheppard looked like he might run away with the race, but a caution bunched the field, and young Devin Moran grabbed the lead from Sheppard. Moran held the lead despite numerous cautions, but Sheppard caught up with him and looked to regain the lead. Moran changed racing grooves and ended up distancing himself from the field. WoO point leader Mike Marlar finished 2nd and Sheppard was 3rd.

-One of the many things I like about FALS is there is action everywhere on the track, with 2 and 3 wide and pack racing the norm. Unlike sprint car fans who think single file, going really fast, and turning left is racing, FALS produces what I have loved about racing since 1955.

-Illinois fans are rather passionate about the sport. In three trips to FALS I have seen more “you’re #1, one finger salutes” from backstretch fans than I did in years at Sunset Speedway or I-80 Speedway. Just stating a fact.

-Yes, the American Legion Commander should speak at this race. However, how about doing it during one of the farming sessions. That would shave another 10 minutes off the length of the program. And yeah, I do think that is important. Every minute any race lasts past 11:00 p.m. is a bad thing.

-I cannot believe the number of golf carts being driven around FALS-AND on the streets of Fairbury. MORE than any golf course has for sure.

-Two local businesses, Dave’s Grocery and Casey’s General Store must be solid gold during the PDC weekend. We stopped for pop and ice at Dave’s Grocery, and the person helping Matt said this weekend was the second best of the year for the store.

-I may make certain “Ill-annoy-uns” unhappy, but for the second year in a row, I think the SDN feature was better than the PDC feature. Both tracks have set the bar high for fan expectations, so what was a good race last night was not what I would call a classic. I am very glad Devin Moran won-I am always happy when someone I wrote about in Dirt Late Model magazine wins a race, but the young man is simply a good kid. Here’s to more success for the #9.

-At least part of the PDC lived up to its name last night. Dirt. In the early 70’s, one of the first Cornhusker-Hawkeye Challenges at Sunset Speedway was rained out on Saturday, so they held it on a Sunday afternoon. I remember that well. Jane and I had not been married long. We were poor. I did have a new parka I wore to the track, and at the end of the afternoon it was coated in dirt. BUT, that was nothing to last night at FALS.

Now, I do not mind getting hit by small dirt clods during a race. That reminds me of Sunset Speedway. But the dust was unreal. I had dust in every uncovered bodily orifice-that would be eyes, ears, nose, and throat. I don’t know if fingernails are considered to be orifice like, but I had dirt under every fingernail as well. And yes, I ate dirt for those of you who have been at least thinking I should eat dirt. I was eating a sandwich and fries during the modified featured and I thought the fries seemed a little gritty. I looked at the cardboard tray the food came in, and the entire area above the food was covered in dust. This morning I opened my wallet to see how much money I had left, and the inside of my wallet was dusty. I am not lying and I have no clue how that could have happened. But it did. And the roof of our car rental held enough soil I could have planted corn-and the car was parked behind the backstretch bleachers. Perhaps this was a little too much dust?

-One thing the grounds crew at FALS did that I-80 Speedway ought to actually think about doing is water the roads in the parking area.

-Perhaps it is karma, but once again I sat by an idiot, just like last week, although the SDN idiot was simply an idiot about facts. Last night’s idiot was beyond believe. If he had one beer, he had 15-and I know he had one beer because he was holding one in his hand and had two more beers sitting on my seat. Then he smoked almost the entire time he wasn’t drinking beer, at least early in the night. I always love someone’s cigarette smoke blowing in my face. Since I look stupid-I admit it-this guy decided to enlighten me on dirt late model racing. Perhaps you did not know it, but the PDC is the second richest dirt late model race, exceeded only by the World 100. That is what he told me, among other things that had me wishing I wasn’t so polite. So, being stumbling drunk, sharing totally incorrect information and cigarette smoke wasn’t enough to irritate me. About halfway through the evening he pulled out some Beechnut chewing tobacco. I swear I am not making this up. We were sitting in the front row and this guy thought he could spit unto the grassy area in front of the stands, maybe three feet away. Mostly he couldn’t.

Matt got Jonathan Davenport’s autograph for Henry. Henry likes Davenport, aka Superman, and loves it when he beats Darth Vader, aka Scott Bloomquist. In NASCAR he likes Kyle Busch-driver of the M & M’s car, and calls Keselowski “Bad Brad,” and says Denny Hamlin is a crybaby. Two guesses where he got that from, and no it is NOT grandpa.

Yes, I still believe you should visit FALS during the PDC weekend if you are a dirt late model fan. 29 cars starting on a 1/4th mile track means action all over. The backstretch midway is awesome-and includes popcorn, BBQ, sweetcorn, and pizza vendors as well as a ton of t-shirt trailers. You can enter the pits from the backstretch midway-you do have to upgrade your admission to a pit pass, which Matt did, talking with Shannon Babb and going to the WoO driver meeting. The small town atmosphere is awesome, and 500+ RV’s and campers is mind blowing. It is like a dirt racing state fair.

Are Matt and I going again? Very likely in 2019 we will do what we did this year, a fast flying trip to Illinois.

Thanks for stopping by.

-Darn, I almost forgot. The best race of the night was the 25 laps Prairie Dirt Shoot-Out, a race similar to the Belt Bash at the Silver Dollar Nationals. The winner can take $2,000 first place money or start at the back of the 100 lap PDC. As he did at the Silver Dollar Nationals, Bobby Pierce did not impress in PDC qualifying. He was so bad he started far back in the Prairie Dirt Shoot-Out. And then proceeded to give fans and drivers a 25 lap clinic. Running close enough to the wall to bend his spoiler and bouncing through turn 2 time after time did not stop Pierce from passing Jason Feger late in the race and claiming a PDC spot. I have not been a Pierce fan, but after his SDN run last week, and this race, I do admit he can driver the wheels off a race car.

 

Superman Leaps Tall Buildings-And Passes Pierce Late

July 22, 2018 Leave a comment

A Silver Dollar Nationals recap:

If you have money-a lot of money-you can buy a dirt late model. That doesn’t mean you should, just that you could. And if you buy a dirt late model, you can race it anywhere it is legal to track or sanction rules. That doesn’t mean you should, just that you could.

I know all about racing being a hobby, and have heard the cliché “to get better you have to race against the best.” The Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series is the dirt track equivalent of NASCAR’s top divisions. For series regulars, racing is not a hobby it is how they make their living. AND, if a driver is getting lapped by lap 7 of a 15 lap race, he is not getting better racing against the best-he is a road block and a danger to other drivers on the track and to himself.

I don’t often agree with dirt track legend Scott Bloomquist, but in an interview with Dave Despain several years ago he talked about crown jewel events and how if a driver had not won at a certain level in racing he should not be participating in a crown jewel event. Last night at I-80 Speedway proved what Bloomquist said. A local racer who is not a winner at the local level was being lapped by four Lucas Oil drivers not quite midway through a qualifying race. Somehow he managed to put one driver into the infield wall and end his weekend, and put last year’s Lucas Oil champion Josh Richards into the outer wall, causing much damage to his car. Sorry, two thumbs down to the local.

Again, racing might be a hobby for the local driver, but it is not for Lucas Oil series drivers. They make their living racing. I am not saying there aren’t local drivers capable of running with the Lucas Oil series at an event like the Silver Dollar Nationals. There are, BUT they have been winners at the local level. They were ones who could say they were getting better racing the best, not acting as road blocks.

Random thoughts:

-If you know me, you know I don’t really wear racing t-shirts. I have purchased on shirt in the last 20 years, a Prairie Dirt Classic shirt simply because I love Fairbury American Legion Speedway. However, if I did wear racing t-shirts, Jonathan Davenport and Hudson O’Neal t-shirts are ones that I would wear.

-My grandson has never been to a race, but he has watched some of the computer offerings, and he does have a Jonathan Davenport Superman t-shirt that he wears. When Matt explained Thursday’s Lucas Oil feature to him, it was in terms Henry understands-it was not Davenport vs. Bloomquist, it was Superman vs. Darth Vader and Superman won.

-Glenn Robey was at I-80 Speedway this weekend taking in all the action. The octogenarian still looks like he could pilot a late model, though he said not. He did say he wouldn’t mind racing against Bob Kosiski again though. Here is a thought-find GOTRA cars similar to their old coupes and have Stan Cisar of Action Signs make up 53 and 8-Ball wraps for the cars and let Bob and Glenn do some parade laps at the 2019 Silver Dollar Nationals. Glenn won the first ever feature and Sunset Speedway and Bob won so many races at the famed Irvington, Nebraska track you would have thought he owned the place. Yeah, nostalgia, but both deserve such recognition.

-The weather was very unlike typical SDN weather. All three nights were comfortable, not the 110 in the shade SDN weather we are used to.

-The last 12 laps of the Go 50 with Bloomquist and Davenport racing side by side was about as good as racing gets. Superman high, Darth Vader low, almost like synchronized swimming go through turns 1 and 2. No room for mistakes, none made. And the good guy won.

-Every year I am amazed at the cars that come from the back of the starting grid and move to the front. Ryan Gustin several years ago, Brandon Sheppard last year, and this year is was Bobby Pierce from 28th to first, running away from the field before his car broke. Pierce had not had a great on-track performance until the feature. Actually he had not had a good on-track performance until the 80 lapper. His talent showed last night, thrilling the crowd with his high side charge to the front.

-Tim McCreadie was another far to the back starter who ended the weekend on a good note. T-Mac started 31st and moved all the way to 8th place when the checkered flags flew. Last year’s SDN winner has not had a great 2018, but maybe he is getting better as the dirt late model season moves into its big money month.

-Ricky Weiss was the surprise of the weekend. Ricky Who? It shouldn’t have been Ricky Who after his success at the Wild West Shootout in Arizona in January-2 wins, 1 second place finish and 1 third place finish in 6 nights of racing. After finishing 4th in a WoO late model race in Grand Forks, North Dakota last week, the driver from Manitoba, Canada raced with the Lucas Oil series all week, and finished 4th in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and 7th at Jackson Motorplex in Minnesota. Weiss made the Go 50 feature at I-80 Speedway on Thursday, but mechanical issues on lap 10 gave him a DNF. Weiss had a good Friday night qualifying and started Saturday’s feature on the inside of row 3. He challenged early leader Scott Bloomquist and actually passed him for several laps. Weiss remained in the top five the entire race, and his $20,000 pay-out for finishing 2nd to Davenport at the SDN had to be the biggest of his career.

-There is no doubt Jonathan Davenport earns his Superman nickname every time he takes to the track. It takes guts to run as high as he runs. He bounced off the outer wall several times in his charge to the front, but hung on to claim his second SDN victory. Obviously amazingly talented, Davenport is also well-spoken, nice appearing, and a really good super hero role model. I would be more than pleased to see him pick up a few big dollar wins in the coming weeks, and of course finish atop the Lucas Oil point standings at the end of the season.

-For a few laps Billy Moyer and Scott Bloomquist ran side by side around the I-80 oval. Bloomquist was lapping the 60 year old from Arkansas, but Moyer did not make it easy for the 54 year old from Tennessee. I hope others watched this skirmish too as there aren’t going to be that many more times these Hall of Famers do battle. Well, maybe there will be more times. Moyer supposedly retired after last season, but has raced 38 times this year and finished first 6 times, including his 100th UMP Hell Tour win. And much to my pleasure, Moyer will be racing in the Prairie Dirt Classic in Fairbury, Illinois next weekend.

-Like I said, random. In Friday’s 10 heat races, 9 winners came from the front row. There were 10 different winners, and only Scott Bloomquist came close to winning both of his heats, with a 1st and 2nd place finish.

-I like the fact that sponsors provide cash for the top three finishers in Friday night heats. With payouts of $300 for a win, $200 for a runner-up finish, and $100 to place 3rd, that meant $6,000 more to late model drivers. I wish a sponsor could be found to increase the purse for the bottom 2/3rds of the drivers racing in the 80 lap feature.

-My sandwich of choice this weekend was not the famed Pork Tenderloin, but the BBQ sandwich instead. And I do love the track’s popcorn.

-A Russian oligarch, Anatoly Hakobanbahr, was seen leaving I-80 Speedway before Friday’s USMTS modified feature races. According to Matt, Hakobanbahr has known ties to Vladimir Putin and Scott Bloomquist-he read that on the internet. Matt tried to take a photo, but only got the back of the Russian’s head as he quickly left the track. Still, there was something about the photo that seemed familiar. The Russians fixed our elections in 2016 and now they are trying to fix races to the benefit of the leader of dirt racing’s evil empire? We are watching you Anatoly and like Superman, aka Jonathan Davenport, seek nothing but truth, justice, and the American way-meaning the driver of the Zero car does not win the Lucas Oil point championship.

-I paid big bucks for a three day SDN ticket. I paid big bucks to see the Lucas Oil late models, NOT weekly modifieds. If I wanted to watch weekly modifieds, I could go to a weekly show much cheaper. Having the mods on Thursday’s bill added at least an hour and 15 minutes to the show. Perhaps a lot of people had Friday off, but a lot of people had to work, and would rather have had the show end shortly after 10:00 p.m. rather than 11:30 p.m. I was one of them. Getting home close to 1:00 a.m. and getting up at 5:15 a.m. to get ready for work was not a lot of fun. My thinking is that if 80 something USMTS modifieds and Lucas Oil late models are a good enough car count for Friday and Saturday shows, 80 something SLMR and Lucas Oil late models should be a good enough car count for the Thursday night program.

-I do like the idea of the Go 50 being a part of the SDN weekend rather than in May. The May date never has worked out well for the track, drivers, or fans. As I said above though, make Thursday a nothing but late model night. And I will take a vacation day on Friday.

-I rarely jump out of my seat at a race, but I admit I did when Davenport passed Pierce with just two laps to go in Saturday’s feature. Davenport is certainly my favorite late model driver now, with 17 year old Hudson O’Neal a close second.

I am probably forgetting a lot about the SDN, and not bitching about some things Matt had to listen to on the way home Thursday and Friday. Not the best of the 8 SDN’s, but it darn sure had some memorable moments and these days that is about all you can hope for.

This coming week is the Prairie Dirt Classic in Fairbury, Illinois. I love the track and enjoy the back stretch fans too. Matt and I are flying into Chicago on Saturday morning and driving the few hours south to Fairbury. It is a WoO sanctioned event, but I expect many of the Lucas Oil regulars to be on hand, along with national drivers like Moyer and Babb and a slew of tough Illinois locals as well. I love walking around the back stretch midway and through the pits. We sit so close to the action we are pelted with dirt clods, just like at Sunset Speedway years ago. FALS and the PDC are a good reminder to me why I have loved dirt tracks since 1955. I do not do weekly racing anymore, but I am afraid if I lived close to FALS that I would be

 

showing up at the track every Saturday night. If you have never been there, make the pilgrimage. You will not be disappointed. Check out the link about the PDC below. Love it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mJHcrC4LWY

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

More Knoxville

September 18, 2017 Leave a comment

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.

 

 

 

Silver Dollar Nationals vs. Prairie Dirt Classic-And The Winner Is: Race Fans

August 6, 2017 Leave a comment

I watched some of both nights of the Belleville Nationals. I was disappointed that a legendary event had only 24 cars in the pits. I am not into open wheel racing enough to comment on the obvious difference of opinion between USAC and POWRi, but there were 35 cars at the POWRi show in Peveley, Missouri.

One of last night’s heat races was supposed to start eight cars, started only six, and one car was black flagged for not maintaining a competitive speed. Five cars on the track at Belleville is simply ridiculous.

The grandstands at Belleville seemed full, but the pits certainly weren’t. For shame.

Earlier this week I mentioned I would do a blog on comparing fields at Late Model crown jewel events. I would rank the events as follows:

#1-The World 100 at Eldora.

#2-The Dream at Eldora

#3-The Knoxville Nationals

#4-Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury American Legion Speedway

#5-Silver Dollar Nationals at I-80 Speedway

#6-USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway

#7-Show Me 100 at Lucas Oil Speedway

#8-North/South 100 at Florence Speedway

Some might argue about #4-#8, and I admit there is room for argument. I am just going to compare the PDC and the SDN though.

Josh Richards was at the SDN, but not at the PDC. Bobby Pierce was at the PDC but not the SDN. Both have won major events. Richards is a multiple time WoO champion, while Pierce is a multiple time Hell Tour champion. Both are capable of winning any event they enter. I would give a slight nod to Richards and the SDN though as Richards does not make the too aggressive mistakes Pierce does.

Steve Francis was at the SDN, but not at the PDC. Rick Eckert was at the PDC, but not at the SDN. Francis is on the Lucas Oil tour, Eckert races with the World of Outlaws. Eckert has several wins this season, so a slight edge to the Eckert and the PDC.

Hudson O’Neal was at the SDN, Devin Moran was not. Moran was at the PDC, young O’Neal was at home. Both have plenty of potential. Moran does have a national tour win on his resume, so slight edge to Moran and the PDC.

Jimmy Mars was at the SDN, Shane Clanton was not. Shane Clanton was at the PDC, Mars stayed closer to home to race with WISSOTA. Both have big wins and Clanton is a former WoO champion. Mars is on the downhill slope of his career, Clanton is in his prime. Big edge to Clanton and the PDC.

Nebraska locals were at the SDN, Illinois locals were at the PDC. If 12 local Nebraska Late Model drivers were in a feature race with 12 local Illinois Late Model drivers, I believe the top half of the finishers would show far more Illinois drivers than those from the Cornhusker state. So talent wise the PDC comes out ahead of the SDN on local drivers involved, but also on numbers. There were 65 Late Models entered in the PDC, just over 50 in the SDN. To me, the big difference is the number of local drivers entered in each event.

That is just about the quality of the Late Model field. The USMTS Modifieds at the SDN are more talented as a group than the UMP Modifieds at the PDC. The USMTS does not time trial at the SDN and for some unknown to God or man reason, the UMP Modifieds do time trial at the PDC-a big waste of time in which a lot of the grandstands at FALS empty out.

There are multiple racing grooves during the feature races at both the SDN and PDC. Three wide racing is common. Both features are always exciting, and the reason I would give the nod to the PDC is that it is a smaller track and there is absolutely no let up to the action. It is simply insane for 100 laps. Perhaps some of that comes from being so close to the action-at the PDC we are close enough to be pelted with mud flying off cars entering turn three. At the SDN my left knees complains about the 47 steps I climb to my seat.

Anyway, while the PDC gets the nod over the SDN-just my opinion-BOTH are great races and the best back to back racing Late Model Specials period. Now if I could figure out how to post photos on Word Press I would show you a few Matt great overhead photos Matt sent me.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

Prairie Dirt Classic-Nothing Like It

July 31, 2017 1 comment

After riding in the Illinois 491 yesterday-the distance between our hotel in Bloomington and home, my mind rebelled at the thought of posting a blog. Instead I took a well-deserved nap.

I am not one who would tell someone he isn’t a race fan because he has never been to Daytona or Charlotte, Knoxville or Eldora. If you are reading this blog you are a race fan no matter where you have or have not been. BUT, since you are a race fan you do yourself an injustice if you never make a pilgrimage to the Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury American Legion Speedway in Fairbury, Illinois.

Perhaps the Meyer family endorsement means little to you, but we made the trek last year, returned this year, and on the way home yesterday Matt and I started planning our trip for 2018. AND, I believe for the first time-I can’t remember for sure if I bought a Final Sunset t-shirt, I bought a race event t-shirt. Yes, I did. And I’ll be wearing it in the future. The 28th Annual Prairie Dirt Classic. That is a very big statement from me.

In the best possible context, the PDC at FALS is insane, utter chaos, extreme motorsports, total excitement, and there is nothing else like it in dirt track racing. Heck, make it all of racing.

Start with a staff-mostly volunteers-that want to make fans happy. Add concessions that are reasonably priced. And a midway selling more souvenirs than anyone could possibly want. Throw in a well-prepared track and some great racing and you will see a sight rarely seen at any race track these days-signs reading “SOLD OUT.” I almost forgot-“Welcome Race Fans” signs on nearly every business in town.

Year after year people make the trip to central Illinois from all over the U.S. For three blocks-on both sides of the street, and outside of turns 1 and 2 and the back stretch are hundreds of campers and RV’s. There is a line waiting when campgrounds open, and the 300 available spots are gone long before any racer fires an engine. And golf carts-there are more golf carts driving around the track AND on city streets than you will find at any golf course in the country.

I need to add something to my endorsement. Our seats are 7 rows up on the backstretch grandstands where cars enter turn three. I was hit by mud clods during hot laps on both Saturday and Sunday. That is not a complaint-the last time I remember getting hit with mud at a race track was at Sunset Speedway and you know how I feel about that place.

Our seats not only give us a perfect view of turns 3 and 4, but also a great view of the entire backstretch. I have always defined good racing as side by side racing, but when 29 cars are racing around a 1/4th mile oval that is automatic. How about three wide for second place? Even better, how about three wide for first place? Or the first six cars in a pack so tight that barely a tick of your watch passes as the cars do? That is the PDC at FALS. A fan has to really concentrate to figure out just who is leading the race with cars all over the place.

OK, before I continue on with this love song, I did have one problem this weekend. No, thank you Lord, there were no B-mods on hand. But there were 72 UMP Modifieds signed in. And, my friend Big Show would be thrilled by this-71 of the Modifieds time trialed. That was 40 minutes of my life wasted. I am of the belief that NO support class should ever time trial. Actually I am not a big fan of the feature class time trialing, but that is an argument for another time.

Since UMP does not race in Nebraska I have no clue if time trials for Modifieds running the Summer Nationals is standard procedure. To me, it doesn’t matter if it is. If I-80 Speedway can get the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series to change its format for the Silver Dollar Nationals, FALS can get UMP to agree to no time trials. If they won’t agree, well, “hasta la vista baby.” Don’t let the pit gate hit you on the butt on the way out. The track could do unsanctioned Modifieds as a support class. Make the race open to drivers that have ran a weekly show at FALS at least twice in the season. Pay $3,000 to win and there would easily be 50 Modifieds in the pits.

Yes I do know that UMP and the WoO are owned by the same people. The WoO is NOT going to pull out of the PDC if the track says n Modified time trials. The WoO needs the PDC more than the PDC needs the WoO. The WoO has few crown jewel events, and if they pulled out, the Lucas Oil series would be there in the blink of an eye.

And, change the race order both nights. On Friday, run two of the Modified qualifiers first, then run all the Late Model qualifiers, and end the night with the final two Modified qualifiers. On Saturday, run the 40 lap Modified feature after the 100 laps Late Model feature. People are not coming to Fairbury from all over the country to watch Modifieds race. They want to see the Late Models. I am guessing no more than 10% of the crowd is there because of Modifieds-hey, they do have family and friends so 10% sounds about right. After the final Last Chance Race for Late Models ended, the backstretch grandstands almost emptied before the start of the Modified feature and stayed that way until the Late Models returned.

Kyle Bronson, Scott Bloomquist, and Shannon Babb finished 3rd-4th-5th in the Silver Dollar Nationals feature. Not one of them made the PDC feature in Friday night qualifiers. Neither did Billy Moyer, Don O’Neal, or Earl Pearson. Bronson, Bloomquist, Babb, and Moyer did not qualify in the Last Chance Races either. Amazing.

If you subscribe to www.DirtonDirt.com, you can go to the website and watch a 20 minute video of the 100 lap feature. It will be 20 minutes well spent if you do. So, I’ll skip a race recap and go right to my Random Thoughts:  

-I thought my friend Big Show was a PDC no show, but the track announcer kept on talking about “fat heads” in the backstretch grandstands. Made me wonder if he made it after all.

-Matt keeps telling me that Chris Simpson is the good brother and that Chad is bad. Well, the good brother put on a great show. Late in the race he was second and trying to pass Brandon Sheppard for the lead. He faded some at the end, but still ended up with a 7th place finish.

-I was the first person to write about Devin Moran, in an article for Dirt Late Model magazine some years ago. I think many more people will be writing about the son of Million Dollar Man Donnie Moran. The young Moran set fast time and won his qualifier on Friday, and ended up 3rd in the 100 lapper. Two thumbs up for the WoO Rookie of the Year contender.

-Ryan Unzicker is a solid Late Model driver from El Paso-the El Paso down the road from Fairbury, not the one in Texas. Unzicker vied for the lead early, faded, and then came back strong to finish second in the feature.

-Brandon Sheppard has my vote for driver of the year. Well, he would if I had a vote. Winning the PDC isn’t easy, though the Rocket house car pilot made it look that way. What a week B-Shepp had. From 32nd to 2nd at the Silver Dollar Nationals (that is what garnered my DOY vote), a WoO win at Fayette County Speedway in Illinois on Wednesday, a PDC qualifier win on Friday, and the big win on Saturday. Rocket Shepp has seven WoO feature wins, earlier this summer won five straight UMP Summernationals features, and his earning in the eight days through Saturday amounted to nearly $65,000. His season earning on the WoO circuit are $159,950. Not quite the year Jonathan Davenport had a few years ago, but still a super one.

-I like the farming done by the track prep crew at various times during both Friday and Saturday. Yes, it does at to the length of the show, but it also leads to incredibly competitive racing as well.

-I would like to thank a number of people for a very enjoyable weekend. First and foremost, my son Matt. All I had to do was show up, get in the car to ride, and he did all the rest. I appreciate all he did and his patience with me too. My g.d. left knee is going to be replaced sometime in the next six months, but right now I am terribly afraid it is going to lead me to a fall and far more damage than I need. He really did do so much for me this weekend and I can’t tell him enough how much I appreciate him and all he did.

-I would also like to thank Michael Rigsby for his hospitality. Michael is a class act and yes, he does a fantastic job with www.DirtonDirt.com. Matt counts Michael as a good racing friend, and loves to talk racing with Michael and the rest of the Rigsby Mafia at events like this.

-I would also like to thank Barry Rigsby for two outstanding pork chop sandwiches. Last time I had pork chops sandwiches at a race track was year’s ago at Fairmont Speedway in Minnesota. Those were good, Barry’s were great.

-I would also like to thank Matt Curl, FALS race director and promoter. First for the amazing job he does with this event, but also for the media pit pass. I don’t avail myself of this type of pass often, but then again I don’t do 1700 word blogs very often either. So thank you Matt. I know my Sprint Car fans will disagree and say the best two straight weeks of dirt track racing are the Knoxville 360 and 410 Nationals. Sorry, I think the best two straight weeks of dirt track racing are the Silver Dollar Nationals and the Prairie Dirt Classic.

Tomorrow I am going to post comments from a few people who wrote me about the Silver Dollar Nationals. I am also going to talk about the quality of fields in what I consider to be the top five Late Model events of the year.

For now, once again, if you are a Late Model fan you owe it to yourself to make at least one pilgrimage to FALS for the Prairie Dirt Classic. And yes, it is almost a religious experience. And yes tickets are incredibly difficult to come by, so plan early and watch for when they go on sale. There is nothing like the PDC.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silver Dollar Nationals-Or Why I Haven’t Posted Since December 17th

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment

No, I didn’t forget how to write. No, I don’t have writer’s block. I actually started a post after Christmas, but didn’t finish it. Yes, I do feel guilty, but obviously not enough to sit down at the keyboard before now. I’ll use the excuse of “the holidays,” plus working 98 hours this pay period. A little lame, but that’s all I have.

Here is my unfinished Christmas blog:

It has been decades since I last dreamed of a white Christmas. To me, perfect December holiday weather is sunny, with temperatures in the 50’s. I can’t say that I have ever dreamed of a thunderstorm Christmas like we had on Sunday, but every drop of rain meant fewer snowflakes and less shoveling, so if it can’t be 55 and sunny on Christmas day, I am OK with 55 and rainy.

 

The Meyer family had a nice Christmas. Matt, Steph, and Mr. Henry Ross Meyer spent part of the day with Jane, Amanda, and me, as did my Mom. The excitement of five year old Henry opening presents would have made the day, but a nice meal (Amanda’s fantastic homemade vegetable beef soup, with sandwiches, relish tray, chips, and too many Christmas goodies) and good conversation made for an even better day.

 

I don’t want to admit that my family knows me too well, but among my gifts were five books and an Amazon gift certificate. I hadn’t finished the seven books my writer friends sent me as I was recovering from my surgery, so I have plenty of reading material stacked beside my bedside table, enough that I shouldn’t need more for a few months.

 

Anyway, I hope all of you had as nice of a Christmas as I did.

 

I don’t know how the chemicals in my brain work much of the time, why I think of things I haven’t thought about in years, but here is one I bet only a few of you remember-the McDonald’s All-American Meal. What was it? A hamburger, fries, a chocolate shake and change back from a buck. This was back when you walked up to a window to order, the sign out front said “Millions Sold,” and it was years before cities the size of Fremont saw the Golden Arches. I thought it was a big treat when we stopped at the 84th and Dodge location-no longer there. Even with changes I think their fries are still the best. The hamburgers? Tolerable. The chocolate shake? I don’t know what they have done with it, I hate it, and haven’t ordered it since I discovered they changed it.

 

Of course thinking of no McDonald’s in Fremont had me thinking of the Gold Key Drive-In (a bank is now there), and A & W Drive-In (now a parking lot for Mac’s Restaurant). Which led to missing my all-time favorite sandwich, A & W’s Mexiburger-a kind of sloppy joe. They had just the right amount of grease-i.e. the hamburger bun was soaked, and a Mexiburger with a frosty mug of A & W root beer definitely hit the spot. At least my spot.

 

And this let to thinking of what was really a cheap date-Putt Putt golf, which is now a Scooter’s Coffee shop across from the Fremont Medical Center, then known as the Dodge County Memorial Hospital. I read in the Fremont Tribune-no longer deserving of the title “newspaper” that when the new $15,000,000 aquatic center-next to the ice rink-is completed, the Fremont Y will be the largest in the United States. Wow. I can remember when old YMCA at 5th & Park, with a basketball court straight out of the movie “Hoosiers,” and a swimming pool a little bit bigger than a rich person’s hot tub.

 

Good memories. Too many bad ones from 2016. Jane nearly dying from being over-medicated after knee replacement surgery in October. My prostate cancer-I am now cancer free, but still not fully recovered from the cryoplasty procedure. And losing our beloved silky terrier Sophie in January.

 

I am counting on 2017 being a much better year. Unlike the 29 years previous, I love going to work in the morning, and don’t even mind the commute to Omaha. This will be the year I get 1, maybe 2 new knees-and hallelujah to that. Before and after the knee surgery I am going to have to lose weight. Hopefully I will be as successful at Jane in doing so.

 

Matt and I have talked-and talked, about racing plans for 2017. On our way to Fairbury, Illinois last year we detoured to visit Iowa Speedway. Just looking impressed us enough to want to return for a race-probably the NASCAR XFINITY Series event in June. Obviously we will not miss the Silver Dollar Nationals at I-80 Speedway, and cross your fingers the other Lucas Oil show there won’t be rained out.

 

Fairbury and the Prairie Dirt Classic is on our list too. If you have never been to Fairbury American Legion Speedway go. And try to get seats on the back stretch. Matt and I sat close to turn 3 and it was so good it was almost overwhelming.

 

The Knoxville Nationals-late model version-is a mainstay on our list, and this year there is no work conflict for me. The SLMR at US 30 Speedway makes our list, though I am hoping for a racier track there. Matt wants to go to Corning for a USMTS and SLMR show. I don’t much, but I am sure I will go.

And depending on knee surgeries, there might be a trip to Kansas City for one of the qualifying days for the NASCAR Sprint Cup oops, Monster Energy Cup races.

 

If I didn’t already know it was New Year’s Eve, my email inbox would tell me. So far I have had 17 different emails telling me that today is the last day to get a tax break by donating to their cause. Sorry, gave at the office. Well, actually I did give at the office, and many other places too.

 

Have a safe night and a good and Happy New Year too. Thanks for stopping by.