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A Knoxville Wrap, Plus For Your Viewing Pleasure

September 19, 2017 Leave a comment

Before calling it a wrap on the 2017 Knoxville Nationals, I would like to make a not so bold prediction for 2018. Josh Richards will finally add a Knoxville victory to his impressive resume. I would say the track owes him one, but in reality it owes him more than one. Richards led much of Saturday’s 100 lapper only to be passed by Mike Marlar on lap 92 and tire trouble ended his night a few laps earlier. Last year Richards was running second and ran out of fuel, and the West Virginia driver does have four runner-up finishes at Knoxville. Yeah, snake bit, Heartbreak Hotel, or any other cliché for a tough loss you want to add.

The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series heads to Brownstown Speedway in Indiana for two shows this weekend. Richards continues to lead the series point standings, followed by Tim McCreadie and Scott Bloomquist.

The World of Outlaws late models have a three night swing through the nation’s heartland. On Friday night the outlaws will be at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City. On Saturday they venture into Oklahoma for a $10,000 to win show at Salina Highbanks Speedway. They finish the weekend with a Sunday night race at 81 Speedway near Wichita, Kansas. Brandon Sheppard holds a commanding lead in the series point battle, with Chris Madden and Shane Clanton trailing.

Lucas Oil Racing TV will show all three nights of the Jesse Hockett/Daniel McMillin Memorial from Wheatland Missouri, starting on Thursday. The Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Cars and the WAR Sprint Cars will be featured. Speed Shift TV has multiple events this weekend, starting with 410 Sprints from Susquehanna Speedway on Thursday then going to Williams Grove Speedway on Friday and Lincoln Speedway on Saturday for more winged wonder racing.

If sprint cars aren’t your thing, Speed Shift TV will also show the IMCA Septemberfest from Beatrice Speedway on Friday and Saturday. What will I be watching? Some of the sprints and some of the IMCA action, especially the IMCA stock cars.

Although the 2017 season is coming to an end, Speed Shift TV still has 27 nights of racing on its schedule. Lucas Oil Racing TV has 10 live events scheduled through November. And www.DirtonDirt.com will be showing 11 nights of late models, including the season ending indoor Gateway Nationals in December. Yes, TROTD Speedway will be open for business no matter how cold the Nebraska weather may be.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

Knoxville? I’ll Go With Bloomquist Again

September 14, 2017 Leave a comment

In a few hours Matt and I will be heading east to Knoxville for 14th Annual Lucas Oil Late Model Nationals. The Thursday and Friday preliminary nights will include time trials, 6 heats, a D Main, C Main, B Main, and the A Feature.

The invert is a key at Knoxville. The fastest cars in time trials will start heat races 8th on the starting grid. Only four will qualify for the A feature from the heats. The rest will have to go through consolation races. And no, it is not easy at Knoxville to move up that many spots in a heat race.

If a driver has to race in a consolation race, the best he can start in the feature is 25th.  The preliminary features are just 25 laps, so achieving a good finish in the A feature would be very difficult. And since Saturday’s starting grid is determined by points, a bad night on Thursday puts a lot of pressure on the entire team to have a good Friday night.

Even if you time trial well and qualify well in the heats you can end up with a mediocre point night because the top 8 qualifiers are inverted in the feature. To start on the pole for Saturday’s 100 lap feature is quite an achievement.

So, who am I going to predict to finish first this weekend-aka who will I jinx this weekend? I did a good job of jinxing Bloomquist last weekend as he had a poor-for him-World 100. Since I am not a big fan of the Zero car and driver, and since I enjoy irritating my friend Tony, I will put the jinx on Bloomquist again this weekend. You can bet the Hall of Famer will not want two mediocre weekends in a row. I am betting his best preliminary night will be Friday though.

Other possibilities? The Rocketeers Brandon Sheppard and Josh Richards can’t be counted out. Darrell Lanigan had a great World 100 weekend with two preliminary feature wins and a top five in the Saturday race. Will Jonathan Davenport be Clark Kent or Superman this weekend? Mike Marlar had a good World 100 weekend with top five finishes in all three races, plus he is the defending Knoxville Nationals champion. Bobby Pierce? I am thinking not, but he has won other races where I thought he didn’t have a chance. A sentimental favorite would have to be 60 year old Iowa native Billy Moyer. Like many fans, I wonder if this will be his last Knoxville event.

So who will it be? Of all those I mentioned, I would most like Davenport to win Saturday’s 100 lapper. But I will go with Bloomquist. If he wins I can say I picked him. If he does badly, half the fans will thank me for jinxing him.

Again, if you can’t head to Knoxville, www.DirtonDirt.com will show the Thursday and Friday preliminary nights and Lucas Oil Racing TV will show Saturday’s racing. Go to their sites for details.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

Knoxville Nationals-No, Not The Winged Wonders, Real Race Cars

September 13, 2017 Leave a comment

Like the World 100, the Knoxville Nationals reads like a Who’s Who of dirt late model drivers with a solid group of locals added. Like Eldora, Knoxville track prep is first rate. The campgrounds will be full in Knoxville, and there is a plethora of golf carts and 4-wheelers clogging streets. The winner’s share of the 50-50 raffle at Knoxville won’t be in the $25,000-$35,000 range, but it will still be substantial. The Knoxville grandstands won’t host 20,000 be this weekend, but they should. This is definitely a crown jewel event.

Like the World 100, except for hot laps, every time a car is on the race track it is earning points. At Knoxville, only the best preliminary point night counts-I like that, and the points don’t determine starting spots in Saturday heats, they determine starting spots in the various features. I like that too. That is a just reward for a good effort.

I also like the Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series method of time trials. Well, if there has to be time trials, I like it. The field is divided in half and a driver’s best lap time is compared only with drivers in that half. I do wish a provision was added that would divide the top 20 drivers in Lucas Oil points so heats don’t become “top heavy.” Too many times I will watch a heat that is almost like the line-up of a feature, but the next heat will be what I call a “bozo heat,” full of drivers that would be more adept at racing locally than in a national event.

Having the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame adjacent to the track is something I enjoy. I will take a quick trip through the displays and head to the souvenir shop to buy a book or two. The programs are always fun to attend, and if it is hot, well, the theater is a good place to rest and take a nap.

The food at Pizza Hut is Pizza Hut food, but on Friday it is location, location, location. Matt, Lee, Tony, maybe Joe, and I will gather around a table and tell lies and eat pizza. I am not sure how I get stuck with the bill given I am the poorest in that group.

Later, we will head to Slideways Karting, just north of Knoxville. Matt and Tony will race-more like bumper cars for them, and I have always watched. In the immortal words of Sgt. Hulka, “I’m too old for this shit.” I hear a miniature golf course has been added to the site, so that I may do.

We’ll breakfast at the Hy-Vee store across from the track, but more importantly, we will park there as well, helping the Knoxville Boy Scout troop to raise funds. We do, but so do race fans from about a dozen states. When the race is over we can take a side street for about 8 blocks and miss all the congestion. Matt learned his logistics from an expert.

This is a great road trip. The conversation is always good, especially when we talk about my grandson. It only takes about 3 hours to get to Knoxville, and all but about 40 miles are divided highway. All the drivers we want to see will be on hand. The racing is great. The atmosphere is great. All the side events are great. I only have one complaint, and that is because of my soon to be replaced left knee. Aisle rails are needed.

Since Lucas Oil Racing TV is showing Saturday’s action, Matt and I are just going for the Thursday and Friday prelims. It should be a great time.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

A “Global” Event Plus Knoxville And More

September 4, 2017 Leave a comment

It is officially World 100 week. If you can’t journey to Rossburg, Ohio for dirt Late Model racing’s premier event, you can watch all three days on www.DirtonDirt.com. Michael and the DOD gang do a great job with every PPV, but save the best for Eldora.  Coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. Central time Thursday-Saturday. There are no 3-day packages. Thursday and Friday PPV’s cost $23.95, while Saturday’s show is $39.95. Prices are dictated by the track.

The DOD production is top notch, with multiple cameras and announcers, interviews, instant replays, and live scoring. I am just a little biased, but I enjoy DOD’s race coverage more than I do NASCAR coverage by FOX and NBC. Yes, the cost is a little more than we usually pay for race PPV’s, but it is worth it.

With the World 100 on tap, the Knoxville Late Model Nationals are just around the corner. DOD will cover the first two nights of this crown jewel event, while Lucas Oil Racing TV will provide Saturday night coverage. The Prairie Dirt Classic remains my favorite event, but Knoxville is a close second.

I enjoy the travel to Central Iowa, always good conversation with my son Matt. And we do talk about things other than racing and my grandson Henry. Cinnamon bears for me on the way over are a must. Yeah, I do know I am 66-actually the last day of Knoxville I will be 67-but the candy is just one more item on our Knoxville check list. Visiting the Sprint Car Hall of Fame is a good use of our time, but not sure if there will be a Friday morning program or not this year-come on Lee Ackerman, get it done. Being creatures of habit, we will visit the same eating establishments for breakfast and lunch, and of course at least much of one afternoon will be spent at Slideways Karting. Matt has a really sore shoulder and may have surgery on it later in the fall, so I don’t think he will be climbing in a go-kart this year. Maybe he can play miniature golf with me.

It has been announced that Saturday’s feature will be just 80 laps instead of 100. I have mixed feelings on this. If the race had been just 80 laps a few years ago, we would not have had the all-time feel good moment of Brian Birkhofer winning his swan song race. On the other hand, I have watched some real last 20 lap stinkers at Knoxville. So, since Birky already has his big win for all of us to remember, I have to say 80 laps instead of 100 is a good thing.

Something I do wish the governing Marion County Fair Board would have installed at the track for the safety of all old people like me is aisle rails. I am having knee replacement surgery in early November, and climbing all the steps to our row 20-something seats is not fun and quite honestly the fear of falling is present in my mind each step I climb. There is no good reason why these rails have not been put in. While I am at it, I would say the same thing to the Fairbury American Legion about the back stretch grandstands at FALS-put is aisle rails.

I watched time trials and heat races of USAC and CRA Sprint Cars and Midgets from Calistoga Speedway in the northern Napa Valley of California. Years ago Jane and I visited Calistoga-the town, not the track-when I had a financial management conference at the Silverado in Napa. The area is beautiful, and the track looks well prepared too.

Jonathan Davenport won a big race after a long drought-his last previous Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory was September 3, 2016. Davenport took the checkered flags at the Hillbilly 100, held at Tyler County Speedway in West Virginia, NOT in Nemaha County, Nebraska. Davenport received a $25,000 check for his efforts. Next year the winner’s share of this major event will be a whopping $50,000.

Thanks for stopping by.

P.S. For what they are worth-nothing-I will make my World 100 predictions tomorrow.

 

 

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.

 

 

A Final 1300 Words On The Silver Dollar Nationals

August 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Here are some thoughts from several others regarding the Silver Dollar Nationals a few weeks ago.

 

From Jim Hitzemann:

 

My take is always a little different as I am busy working with explosives and don’t get to watch a whole lot but the 80 lap feature which I did with Jimmy and Glenda Wyman and Jack McKee from the infield grandstand by the scale… I thought that O’Neal was going to pedal it to a victory but Shirley had a different plan and that damage to his car was enough to take the possibility away.  He must have gotten something else fixed when he went in the second time because he was coming late in the race…

 

McCreadie was the class of the field however and I don’t think that Bloomquist would have been able to catch him as it sounded as though he was lifting awful early and just kind of coasting around there after he would his get his half straightaway lead time and again.  Brandon Shepperd’s run from the butt was amazing, he just kept picking them off one by one…He and Richards were coming for a bit but Richards leveled off. Hudson O’Neal is going to be a heck of a shoe once he settles down a little, I’m sure there were several drivers that weren’t thrilled with some of the moves he made and he is lucky that Pearson Jr didn’t put him in the wall harder coming off of 4 when the race was getting to “go time”.   Overall a hell of a race with multiple grooves on the track very race able!!!!  The view from the backstretch amazes me as you see them come off of 2 and it is as when they really start biting they were wanting to head to the outside wall more than normal, which is something that I’m sure was a handful for some of them out there… Not sure but, I would guess that is from the track not slicking off as much as it usually does.

 

Fireworks central is located in the Steve McKee (Imperial Tile) and Al Belt campground on the backstretch.  Always have a fantastic time with them all and they treat me and my guys very well. Tons of people stop by so I get to see a lot of people that I don’t get to see with not going to I-80 much anymore.  I spent Friday night back there after my little bit of explosives that I had to do and agree wholeheartedly with you that it was a my kind of night.  Some of the heats were pretty good but I think not having any features for the USMTS kind of hurt the evening…. I think that if they are going to keep it that way they need to have another class there to run a full show.  Question is, what class would be best for that?   

 

Thursday was a pretty darn good night from what I got to watch but being so hot made it miserable… Don’t know that I have ever sweat that much while doing pyro.  Even standing in lot D at the phone booth setting up CWS or Home Run Derby…brutal

 

I know that I am going to take some crap for my premature explosion during the caution of the USMTS Feature and some things not going off after the Lucas race but, I know what happened now and trust me, that mistake won’t happen again if I can help it…. really embarrassing… almost as bad as causing a red flag for a corner on fire…. “Measure twice and cut once” falls right in line with what I do.  Hopefully everyone liked them and I hope that they have me back to redeem myself.

 

Got to meet Ryan Gustin after the dust all settled early Sunday morning… Very nice and respectful young man there!  He was ecstatic with the win and loves I-80.  He has a driving shoe for the money on that tour. Still don’t understand why no one has put him in a good Late Model to give him another shot.  Didn’t get to really follow him after the show he put on at the SDN a few years back so, I don’t know what the problem is there…but it seems to be a waste of some really smooth talent.

 

Don’t know if any of this will add to what you are doing for a follow up but, that is what I got.  Have a Great weekend!!! Hope all is well with your health wise as well!!!!!

 

 

 

From T-Mac, no, not the racer winner, another T-Mac:

Glad they got the show going on time Saturday.  Thursday and Friday dragged out entirely too long, especially for those of us who had to work Friday morning at 6:30.  An 8:00 start should mean cars are lined up and ready to roll out on the track at 7:59, not 20 minutes later.  I know they make money selling beer and tenderloins but don’t force me stay home and watch it on pay-per-viewer in the recliner where the weather is always perfect, the concessions are cheap and the bathroom is 10 feet away…

 

I really, really wish LOLMS would do away or at least minimize all the courtesy cautions for tires, helmet changes, etc.  It’s an 80-lap race, plan accordingly and run what you bolted on.  Having a great race stopped so some mid-packer or bad decision maker (see Don O’Neal) can change a tire or have a LOLMS official pull out bodywork is very frustrating to say the least.  We discussed this at length and if I ruled the world there would be no courtesy cautions for anyone after the race hits the midway point, no courtesy cautions at all for lapped cars (or about-to-be-lapped cars) and lone ranger rule in the feature for lapped cars.  At this level of the sport I expect to see a great, continuously flowing race, not a series of trophy dashes.  It was also very nice to see some of the more talented (and patient) local drivers rewarded with some respectable showings this weekend.

 

Having said all of that, the SDN is far and away the best weekend of the year for any late model fan.  If you didn’t like it, you need to turn in your fan card.  I don’t think anyone was unhappy to see Tim McCreadie win this race – he’s a very popular working-man kind of guy and he definitely had his car dialed in.  And Sheppard coming from 32nd to a close 2nd – that alone is the best advertisement for coming to the SDN.  Everyone at I-80 really does a great job with this show and it’s surprising how many fans come from a long way away just to see a star-studded show that’s not weighed down with b-mods, hornets and other assorted slow-moving, crash-happy weekly classes.  It does not need any changes, it does not need any extra classes, filler races or other stupid gimmicks.  It does not need any extra field-fillers that just become start-and-parkers or caution magnets and add nothing to the show besides a number.  This show is the cream of the crop on the perfect race track, no other track in the state could even come close to pulling this off.  Give us 3 hours of great racing with the best drivers in the country, awesome fireworks and a fully-stocked concession stand every night and we’ll be very happy to support it for years to come. 

From Anonymous:

Great A-Feature racing Saturday.  Kudos to whoever directed the show Saturday and made the early decision on order of events and on how things were going to be different on this aspect than years before.

I was also going to blog about the quality of fields at major Late Model events, but this post is long enough as is. I will save the quality of fields for another post.

Thanks for stopping by.