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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.

 

 

 

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Knoxville-Randomly

September 17, 2017 Leave a comment

After spending two nights at the track watching preliminary events and tuning into Lucas Oil Racing TV last night for the Knoxville Late Model Nationals finale, I have lots of thoughts, in no particular order.

Well, no particular order except the first thing I have to do is thank my son Matt for his thoughtfulness. My left knee is shot, getting worse every day, and I am having it replaced in early November. Our tickets for Thursday and Friday at Knoxville were in row 27-meaning a climb of 16 steps just to get to the grandstands, and then of 54 more steps without a rail to get to where our seats were. The thought of climbing all those steps, most without a rail was daunting, and the thought of coming back down to the ground was scary. However, Matt emailed the track and was able to get an elevator pass for us-meaning we were able to ride the track elevator to the top of the grandstands. We did have to climb down 13 rows, or 26 steps, but for some reason the track had aisle rails from row 40 down to row 26, so I had no fear of falling. This really gave me some peace of mind, and I greatly appreciated it.

-On Thursday we were sitting in our seats before the race, the sun was shining and it was about 90 out. And then it began to rain. It only rained for about 15 minutes, but that was enough to set back Thursday starting time by not quite an hour. Matt looked at a weather app on his phone and it appeared the only rain anywhere in Iowa was right over Knoxville.

-Jonathan Davenport had a near perfect point night on Thursday. He was second fast in time trials, won his heat, and finished 3rd in the feature, garnering 494 points. Mike Marlar did have a perfect point night on Friday, setting fast time, winning his heat, and finishing 1st in the feature, all in a back-up car. Davenport and Marlar made up the front row of Saturday’s feature.

-Brandon Sheppard started 22nd in Thursday’s feature and moved all the way to 4th at the finish.

-Jimmy Mars was the only driver to appear in all previous Knoxville Nationals 100 lap features, and he made it again this year, finishing 4th on Saturday night.

-Billy Moyer had nothing but woes this weekend, starting with scaling light after his Thursday night heat, and finishing 52nd out of 56 drivers in points that night. Friday was just as bad as a wreck on the last lap of the B feature kept him out of the second preliminary feature and ended up making the field for Saturday virtually impossible. Moyer did not race Saturday. I do hope he will be back next year, as this would be a said end to his racing in Iowa.

-This has nothing to do with Knoxville, but my 6 year old kindergarten grandson ran all 35 laps around a 1/16th mile track at his school’s PTA fundraiser. I had said on Facebook that I was sure he would go the distance, and he did not even stop for a water break, he wanted to finish before he drank any water. Yes, grandpa is very proud of Henry.

-Back to Knoxville. There were only 56 cars on hand for the Thursday program and it was down to 51 on Friday. I don’t mind that at all because all the drivers I wanted to watch were on hand. This car count was fairly typical of the count at other major races, except for Eldora.

-Even though I am not a great sprint car fan, I do enjoy visiting the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, which is just off turn two of Knoxville Raceway. The featured display at the museum was on Sammy Swindell and it was quite interesting-a number of cars, plus a touch screen that gave information on various aspects of Swindell’s career. Good stuff.

-I have enjoyed the Friday morning programs at NSCHoF in the past, and this year was no different. Commentator Dave Argabright interviewed drivers Don O’Neal and his 17 year old son Hudson. I have always enjoyed the elder O’Neal, and the youngster is not only a talented driver, but is well-spoken too.

-We have a Friday tradition in Knoxville. Matt and I have lunch at the Pizza Hut with Tony Anville and Lee Ackerman. When we got there O’Neal and his wife and Hudson had just arrived. Matt and I were able to talk with them for a moment, and I told the proud dad that with drivers like his son, the future of dirt late model racing was bright.

-Track prep at Knoxville is second to none. If only every track would put that much effort into preparing the racing surface for a program.

-With a grandstand that holds 20,000 people, even stands that are half full hide how many people are there. There must be enough in the stands so the track makes some money, because if it was a loser I am sure there would be no more Knoxville Late Model Nationals.

-Matt and I had talked of staying for all three nights of racing, going home after Saturday’s 100 lap feature. With the L-O-N-G rain delay, I am glad we decided to go home early on Saturday and watch on Lucas Oil Racing TV. If we had stayed, we would not have left Knoxville until 12:30 a.m. and arrived home around 3:30 a.m. Instead I was in bed shortly after midnight. Plus the TROTD Speedway concessions served birthday cake and ice cream, and I know Knoxville would not have served birthday cake, at least not my birthday cake.

-We already have our reservations at the Cobblestone Hotel for 2018. And they are for three days Tony. Of course that could change over the next year. Just like the Knoxville Sprint Nationals is for sprint car fans, the Knoxville Late Model Nationals should be on the bucket list of every late model fan.

I am sure I am missing something-oh yeah, Mike Marlar became the first back to back winner of the event-and if I did, I will write more tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by.

 

USMTS, WoO-LM’s AND Sprints, Plus Lucas Oil Goes Topless

August 17, 2013 1 comment

The USMTS modifieds have finished 3/5th’s of this week’s tour through Wisconsin and Minnesota. Johnny Scott won at Cedar Lake on Wednesday. His twin brother Stormy took the checkered flag at Rice Lake on Thursday, and Jason Hughes finished first last night at Mississippi Thunder Speedway in Fountain City, Wisconsin last night. The series will be in Ogilvie, Minnesota tonight, and Sauk Rapids, Minnesota tomorrow.
Johnny Scott continues to lead the Hunt for the Casey’s Cup, followed closely by brother Stormy, Rodney Sanders, and Jason Hughes. To me, the big surprise in the Hunt has been the struggles of Ryan Gustin. Gustin dominated this series in 2011 and 2012, but has only been racing with the USMTS part-time this year. He finished 23rd at Cedar Lake, 10th at Rice Lake and 7th at Fountain City. He is currently 13th in Hunt standings.
I wonder if his heart is in modified racing after racing a late model much of the season, and knowing that the late model is his future. Matt was convinced that the young Iowan was racing hard last Sunday night at I-80 Speedway, but just not going anywhere. Maybe knowing that next year Gustin will be racing the late model has kept Gressel Racing from investing heavily in the modified as the season nears an end.
The big guns of the WoO may have invaded Michigan for the weekend, but a local boy silenced them at Winston Speedway last night. Pinconning, Michigan driver Jeep Van Wormer captured his second career WoO feature win and left the track $10,000 richer. Current WoO point leader Josh Richards increased his lead over Shane Clanton and Darrell Lanigan. Richards finished second to Van Wormer, while Lanigan came home sixth and Clanton ran seventh.
Mike Marlar will be on the pole for tonight’s Topless 100 in Batesville, Arkansas. Dale McDowell will start beside him, with Jimmy Owens and Jesse Stovall following them in row two. Don O’Neal actually set fast time, but was light coming across the scales, giving the fast time to Marlar. O’Neal later crashed in his heat and will run a consolation tonight.
A.J. Diemel of USA Nationals fame was 10th quickest in his group in time trials, and finished 8th in his heat. In addition to O’Neal and Diemel, Steve Francis and Eddie Carrier Jr. will have to qualify through a consolation race tonight. AND, TRODT’s jinx started the weekend off well, as Jared Landers finished 6th in his heat and will start in row three of the third consolation tonight.
Batesville home-town heroes Billy Moyer, Billy Moyer Jr., and Wendell Wallace each raced their way into the $40,000 to win feature. So did Scott Bloomquist. Actually, like most other Lucas Oil races, the starting line-up looks like a Who’s Who of dirt late model drivers.
North Dakotan Donny Schatz made the most of his visit to Grand Forks last night. Yes, Schatz won the WoO sprint car feature, nothing surprising there, but he also won the late model feature, bettering 23 other NLRA drivers. The WoO sprint cars have tonight off, but the NLRA late models will be running at Devil’s Lake Speedway. I wonder if Schatz will try to make it two in a row in a late model. If he does, maybe he should think of joining the WoO late models next year. Just kidding Ivan.
Thanks for stopping by.