As we give thanks this Thanksgiving Day for our many blessings and launch an attack on the golden turkey, the 2014 racing season for the most part is only a memory. There are a few names that come to mind from the past season that might have special thanks to offer for an extra special racing season. Rico Abreu certainly had a memorable season and became a 2014 fan favorite. His personality and aggressive driving whether in a midget or sprint car has brought him respect and an abundance of new fans. In addition to being one of the winningest drivers in the country we all have seen the video of him along with Jonathan Allard pull Tim Kaeding from his burning car. Coast to coast, he was a factor where ever he competed. It will certainly be fun to watch where this young man's career takes him in future seasons. Likewise Christopher Bell has much to be thankful for this season. We met Christopher at Rick Ferkle's a couple years ago at the beginning of his career. A nicer young man you would never want to meet and he can wheel any type of race car to victory lane. Dirt or pavement, even a full bodied stock car. It makes little difference to this talented driver. There is no limit to where his future may lead and to the checks he will be able to cash. Christopher and Rico are two rising stars that are on their way to dominance in their sport. Another driver who again has defended his perch on top of the national sprint car scene is the tough Donny Schatz. Some would say that it is someone else's turn to win the WOO trophy but Donny has taken on all comers and once again stolen the hardware and the big money. After a difficult season for himself, Tony Stewart has to feel good about his sprint car operation. There is not much we can say about Tony's other driver, Steve Kinser. Steve has given the sprint car world much to be thankful for through the years as being the one to beat. This veteran has nothing left to prove. He has done it all. We can only imagine Thanksgiving dinner with the Kinser clan.
National Speedway Ministries has given Nancy and I an opportunity to interact with many racing folks from all over country, as does this column. For that we are most thankful. Knowing and working with folks like those mentioned above is certainly a privilege. We continue to be amazed at the response to this column. The relationships with the drivers, crews, track personnel, fans and press are what makes the effort worthwhile. Our involvement in vintage racing is also an exciting part of what we do. We are thankful for the opportunity to interact with the stars of seasons past and their cars that preceded the machines of today. Our friend, Bill Wendt is recovering from shoulder surgery after flipping his vintage midget at a recent DARRA event. Bill and the David Johnston crew plan again to attempt to set a speed record on the salt for a vintage Indy car in 2015. We are hoping this is the year all will fall into place for this monumental task. Also on another positive note, Millstream Speedway near Findlay, Ohio will reopen for the 2015 season. We have written about the failings of tracks around the country and we give thanks when one comes back after being dark for several seasons. New dirt is being hauled in for Eldora as that famed oval gets a racing surface facelift for the 2015 season. Another positive for the upcoming season.
We are thankful for every team, official and fan that has made the effort to make and keep sprint car racing the sport it is. We add to that the thanks to every man and woman of our military that through their service, we can celebrate our day of thanks with the freedom of prayer and speech. We look forward to the new season with thanks of being able to participate in some capacity in fifty four past seasons since that first lap at The Greater Pittsburgh Speedway in 1961. Happy Thanksgiving to all. Enjoy the day with thanksgiving, fellowship, food and football. As ever, God Bless and see you at the races.
This past week brought a long overdue close to the Stewart / Ward incident. With our prayers still going out for the Ward family for their loss, the autopsy certainly opened a new can of worms. Within minutes of the revelation of the toxicology results I was getting phone calls, emails and texts saying that others frequently see or have seen drug use in the pits by competitors. Weed was not the only substance mentioned by these folks as hard drugs apparently are in use as well. A well known driver in a major series was witnessed doing a line of coke in his trailer so I'm told, again hearsay, before strapping in the race car. We all knew that many years ago there was occasional smoke around a few of the cars but certainly nothing like what we apparently have today. One father said it was very troubling to him that his son was racing next to someone who was under the influence of a mind altering substance. Adult beverages have never been allowed in the pits. There is sound reasoning behind that long standing practice. This recent death brought sprint car racing into the spotlight in a negative way. Since there was enough marijuana in Mr. Ward to impair his judgement, their observation not mine, one would imagine that a wrongful death suit against Tony Stewart would not carry much weight. The racing community however can not survive if on track incidents become subject to legal scrutiny. Racers and racing as a whole would not survive continual legal attacks. All the legal ramifications aside, which of us want to run into a corner with someone who is not in complete control of his faculties. What lies in store for us in the future? Will we have to pee in a bottle before we get our arm bands or will officials ignore the problem till a major tragedy forces the issue to the forefront again? Certainly all major sports are finding that if they don't keep their house in order there is an outsider more than ready to do it for them. While discussing the drug situation with a retired state detective, light was brought to my attention of the responsibility of track management and their being held complicit in a fatality. He also stated that with the rate of dissipation of marijuana in the body and considering the amount reported in the young man in the New York incident and considering the time line, he was surely partaking while on speedway grounds. His family's attacks on Tony Stewart and others are perhaps understandable, but also regrettable and ill-advised. The whole family supposedly loves racing and must realize that it is a contact sport, often with high emotion. Note the response of Kevin Ward Jr. to the on track incident. Is the high of racing a sprint car lacking for these individuals? When a fatality results from someone found to be under the influence where will the legal responsibilities end? Certainly not only the driver but the owner, sponsors and the track itself will be accountable. All will share in the legal ramifications. The names and information shared with me in confidence by the concerned observers will remain in confidence. As I follow the careers of the folks mentioned to me, I can only hope that future press releases will contain only details of their competition activities. Teams can not compete under the constant threat of legal action for every on track mishap. Once the doors to the attorneys office are swung open they can never again be closed. Apparently this issue is far more common than most of us have known. The challenges of our sport seem to be mounting and it is disappointing to know that some are coming from the participants themselves. If those in charge fail to address the issue now that it has surfaced, someone else surely will.
With the Daron Clayton family dealing with the loss of their little son Kinser it was heartwarming to see the push vehicles making the trip to lead his procession. Jimmy Jeep Knapp said that seven vehicles were on hand to lend their support. The racing family continues to care for its own. Good job ladies and gentlemen.
Our recent trip to North Florida Speedway was a great evening with our Daytona Antique Auto Racing Assoc. friends. Much of the evening was spent with past president Dale Miller. It was good to catch up with a good friend while watching some fast on track competition. A fun night for sure. All folks planning to attend the DAARA Winter Nationals should be getting their banquet reservations in as not to have to sit in the parking lot and smell the good food from a distance. Remember, the time is earlier this year with activities beginning November 5th running through the 8th.
Much of our racing excitement this season has come from you folks. Thanks for keeping us in the loop. We still look forward to meeting as many of you as possible. Remember too that online signup for the CAP program can be done through our nationalspeedwayministries.com web site. The 2015 season is just around the corner. What better Christmas gift could you give your favorite racer than a year of CAP protection? Till next time, as always, God Bless and see you at the races.
NASCAR driver Tony Stewart ran over a competitor, 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr., during a confrontation at a sprint car race on Saturday night.
Kevin Ward Jr., a 20-year-old race car driver, was killed Saturday night after he was struck on the track by NASCAR star Tony Stewart.
Famed race car driver Tony Stewart hit fellow driver Kevin Ward, Jr. at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Saturday night.
These were the kinds of headlines we woke up to that recent Sunday morning following the death of Kevin Ward Jr. First and foremost our hearts go out to the Ward family, his crew and all who are affected by his passing. This will long be remembered as a black day for sprint car racing in general. Reading the first accounts by writers that obviously know little about dirt track racing and less about Tony Stewart, one would have thought that he had chased down the other driver with a mindset to do him harm. After seeing the video and the computer reconstruction more times than I care to remember, certainly it is the lack of forethought by Mr. Ward that is responsible for his death. Slow motion and some video experts state the the angry driver was actually attempting to jump on Stewart's car. Whether this is actually the case or not he was clearly going after the moving 14. After nearly being hit by the blue car he was undeterred in his pursuit of Stewart. How can responsibility be placed on a driver who held his line and was respecting the speed dictated by the yellow? Many of us have gotten out of our race cars in anger but most have not lost all reason or self control. Watching the cars enter the fateful corner it is easy to see the hard slick shiny surface. Tony got in a bit too hard and lost side bite. Something not mentioned is the possibility that as the 14 slid up that Ward could possibly have lifted, dove under the loose 14 and might have pulled him coming off the corner since the 14 had obviously lost bite on the slick track. Other brilliant minds ask why did Stewart have to go in so hard against lesser competition. My reply to that would be what driver straps in with the attitude of just making laps and allowing other drivers to just feel good? When the green comes out a race driver races. Tony races because he loves sprint car racing and he wants to promote the sport and he does this at great personal expense. The brilliant reporters who appeared on all the news outlets portrayed Stewart as an uncaring hothead bent on doing harm to any competitor who got in his way. Most of these journalists did not even have a picture of his sprint car to post and many inferred that the race was somehow sanctioned by NASCAR. There is so much wrong with what happened that night and the period that followed. A racing deal gone bad. A young man dead. Perhaps the greatest ambassador for sprint car racing in recent memory on the sidelines from sprint car racing for who knows how long. Sprint car racing in general taking an unneeded hit by an uneducated media that is intent on making the story rather than reporting the facts. It was truly a bad night in so many ways. Certainly Tony is getting advice from an innumerable amount of sources, legal, financial, sponsors, family and fans. If I could ad my two cents worth I would just say racing in general and sprint car racing in particular needs you back. Sprint car racing would take a serious hit if Tony picked up all his toys and went home. It is good to hear Tony will be back in the Stewart Hass 14 at Atlanta.
I first met Tony in 1996 at Indy. He was good for Indy car racing as he has been for NASCAR and sprint car racing. He is one of the few that transcends labels and territories. He is private in his charities, public in his support for our sport and an asset we can ill afford to lose. Again, it was a bad racing deal and our hearts go out to the Ward family. Our support for Tony in no way lessens our concern for the Wards and everything they are going through.
The big news this week in sprint car racing has to be the sudden retirement of Sammy Swindell which caught most of us by surprise. We wish Sammy and Amy the best in their future ventures. Watching Sammy and Steve battle through the years has been a treat indeed. Sammy has done so much for racing, in and out of the car for over four decades. Thanks for the memories. Both Sammy and Steve will leave a big vacancy in our sport.
Though our motorhome took a lightning hit recently we still plan to take in the upcoming DAARA Southern Vintage Series event at North Florida Speedway on September 13th. No tv or fridge so we will have to rough it a bit. Also, the DAARA Nationals are early this year so make plans soon to head to the “Bullring” Nov. 5th for three days of vintage racing at its best. Reservations for the banquet absolutely must be in by October 27th. It would probably be a good idea not to wait to the last minute. As they say on tv, place your order now. That is about it for this round from the Dead Lakes in Wewahitchka. We appreciate the comments, both good and bad. As always, God bless and see you at the races.
Last season I had the pleasure of taking in a Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series show at Pennsylvania Motor Speedway. What I saw that night was truly impressive. First there was a full field of satisfied competitors. No one I talked with had anything negative to say about the BOSS organization, actually just the opposite. This was reinforced by the Frederickson race team from Kokomo, IN at the recent Waynesfield, Ohio show where there were over fifty cars in the pits. The senior Frederickson said they signed in, raced, got paid and went home. I had the pleasure of talking to Aalan Fry, head of the Buckeye Machine Outlaw Sprint Series about the positive aspects of racing with the Buckeye boys. Aalan reminded me that former Ohio driver Rusty McClure is a big asset to, and promoter of the BOSS organization. Some of the positives of BOSS are no tire rule, no organization to join, and teams can race the rest of the season where they want and maintain their BOSS points. Race one show with BOSS or make every event, its your choice. These things are truly big in the budgets of independent teams. When talking to Aalan he reminded me that teams don't need a raceiver or a transponder to compete with the BOSS group. This is another money saver. This is truly an “outlaw” non wing deal with the race teams in mind. The tire rule is a tremendous burden to any team that wants to travel away from home. Every season the tire rule changes so last years tires are now useless. Tires must be bought for racing at home and if traveling, most series maintain their own tire specs, so another inventory of tires are required. If you want to run with most series you must join their organization, adhere to their tire rule and their regulations. With the BOSS series, show up with a safe sprint car, pay your normal pit fee and race. Also, there is a $50.00 bonus for the top finishing steel block motor. They have other contingency awards each week as well. There are no van loads of paid staff in neat uniforms for BOSS as they get it done with four folks, one being a videographer. Lernerville has said that the BOSS show was one of the most competitive and best received shows they have had in a while. Other tracks echo their sentiment. It was great to have friend and BOSS regular Tony Beaber win the point title in 2013. To repeat will be a serious challenge as this is a very competitive organization. Some former winged teams have chosen to take advantage of the less costly non wing racing with BOSS bringing the number of regular series competitors to seventeen. Whatever your engine choice, favorite tire and compound, or budget limitations, it doesn't matter. Just be prepared to be fast and enjoy running for a respectable purse. Aalan reminded me that while there are series paying bigger dollars, none make it as affordable to compete. This series is in its fourth year and is continuing to grow with more dates and exciting things to come in the future.
Northern neighbor Ken Bayless in Ontario has put together a non winged organization across the border with the Ontario Topless Sprints. The growing OTS series venture across the border into the US on frequent occasions. Ken assures me that the racers and driver safety are of utmost importance to his series. This group will soon make the trek as far south as PA's Big Diamond and Lincoln speedways respectfully. What a unique idea. Outlaw sprint cars with an organization that is doing it with common sense and with the race teams as the paramount concern rather than extracting money at every turn. We wish both the BOSS group and the Ontario Topless Sprints success in seasons to come. Information on the BOSS series may be found at buckeyesprints.com while ontariotoplesssprints.com has their particulars.
Okay, some thoughts from us here on Lake Alice. We were sorry to hear of the passing of Bill Gardiner, the founder of IndianaOpenWheel.com. He will be missed and his family are in our prayers as they deal with their loss. On the positive side, Jimmy Jeep Knapp continues to improve from his injury back in February. Jimmy, Glenda and the yellow Jeep plan to return to pushing sprint cars this coming month. Great news for sure. Family and ministry obligations have kept us close to the lake up to this point. That is subject to change and we hope to do a limited race schedule yet this season. The Daytona Antique Auto Racing Association Nationals will be here before we know it. It is time for the distant teams to be planning their Florida visit. We hope drivers will take advantage of the online signup capabilities for the CAP program on our nationalspeedwayministries.com web site. If you sign up at this point of the season, coverage is good till this time next year. Don't strap in without it. With that, I will close with thanking everyone for their comments, God Bless and see you at the races.
We get to talk with a lot of folks in all areas of sprint car racing. We talk with drivers, crew members, builders, a lot of fans and an occasional promoter. On one of these rare promoter calls, things went from bad to worse rather quickly. He made the mistake of asking me why he couldn't put butts in the bleachers and when I had finished sharing the obvious with him he hung up not wanting to deal with the subject he had actually called about. The last time we took on the subject of promoters or the lack thereof, particularly in parts of the midwest we had threats of bodily harm and were told not to show up at certain tracks or else. I never figured out exactly what “else” was so we were never deterred from visiting their neck of the woods. Certainly good for a laugh considering who made the threats. I digress.
Whitey Hollowood, promoter in the 1950's and early 60's of the Greater Pittsburgh Speedway told me that “you can't have a secret race and make money.” Those words of wisdom from the middle of the last century ring just as true or even more so today. If you turn on the lights and open the gate you are not promoting. Hollowood paid kids to put out flyers, used the print and broadcast media incessantly. Everyone in the tri-state area knew Greater Pgh. Speedway ran every Friday night. There was some story about the upcoming show in every paper, every week. Ahh, promoting. General admission passes were given out at local businesses. Yes, free passes. Empty seats don't spend money. They don't buy concessions and they don't bring paying customers with them. If you want to fill the stands give two passes to each competitor. Stock cars one week, modifieds the next week, etc. Then repeat the process. It doesn't cost you a dime. It makes you money and they will return as paying customers along with their spouses and neighbors. Try it. Speaking of the competitors, they are your assets, try treating them as such. Don Martin used to put visiting teams up in a local motel and provide them the use of his shop. He also made sure they had money to get home on. After a serious crash at Lincoln, Hilley Rife checked on my welfare, chewed a bit on his cigar and handed me $200 to help with getting the car back together. If there were a half a dozen teams in Wolf's diner, up the road from “The Grove” and Jack Gunn came in he would pick up their tab. How many “promoters” today even greet the competitors and welcome them to the track? Speaking of butts in the bleachers, nails and splinters in those butts don't lend themselves to return visits. Perhaps the greatest complaint, at least from casual fans, is that by the end of the heats you cant see the race cars any more. Dirt race fans wear their track dirt as a badge of honor but the dry dust bowls are out of control. When I get emails and calls from racers about the terrible track conditions on a weekly basis it is cause for change. The casual fan and his family will not be back. Explain it away anyway you want but it is promotional failure and lack of consideration for racer and fan alike. I remember loading up at Eldora after mid-night and Earl was on the grader. Track preparation should not begin the day of the race but the night the race ends. All this stuff is just preparing and marketing your product. The gate gestapo is another often heard complaint. If you have good and reasonably priced concessions people will buy them. Being strip searched for a possible concealed bottle of water by an off duty TSA agent is not good public relations. Limit the size of the cooler if you must. How much can a family pack into one small cooler? When they need a restroom break the cooler will be empty and they will go to the concession stand. Restrooms are another overlooked area. Women especially desire a clean, regularly serviced rest room. Often it is the wife that determines how the entertainment dollar will be spent. It would pay to keep this in mind. Perhaps, the most important issue of all is race night. If you race on Friday race on Friday, every Friday. A Saturday track runs Saturday, every Saturday. Special shows are in addition to, not in place of. We can't run because of USAC, WOO, Must See or someone else is within 200 miles is a great way to lose racers and customers. I recently got a call from a man who drove a couple of hours out of his way while on vacation from Connecticut to take in the Friday night sprint races in central IN. To his dismay the place was dark because someone else was running a special show. He and his carload of would-be patrons will certainly never return. Spending many hours piloting our motorhome along the interstates the radio announces every activity one can imagine. We hear about the local fair, high school activities, the local mid-week revival at Brother Ned's church but whats going on at the local race track... deafening silence. We visited Oak Shades Speedway in northern OH for a vintage show last season. This place in the middle of Ohio corn fields gave away fifty bicycles that had been donated by local businesses. The place was packed. First responders night, military and veteran's night, bicycle races on the track, think....give people a reason to come through the gates. My gate opener friend on the other end of the call failed to address the subject about which he called. I have found in pastoring and counseling that brutal honesty sometimes is the only way to affect positive change. I'm not betting on it in this situation however. If you have empty seats, quite possibly it is your lack of effort to fill them.
We are excited about the possibilities of partnering with a few young men from our local children's home (Taunton Family Children's Home) in the restoration of our Tom Hagar dirt modified. Young guys focused on a positive project. We would hope this could be a fun and rewarding experience for us all. DAARA and vintage racing in general remains paramount in our racing focus. Join us as we proudly remember our country this 4th of July weekend and all who have given so much for it, from its beginning till today. Also, if you haven't signed up for the CAP benefit program yet we invite you to do so before you get back in a race car. Internet signup is now available. Details are on our NationalSpeedwayMinistries.com web site. If you sign up now it will be in effect till this time next season. In the mean time, wherever your racing travels may take you, we hope to see you somewhere along the way. God Bless and see you at the races.
Everyone who reads this column knows of my interest in vintage racing, the history, the cars and legends that drove them. This is something a bit different. May 3rd my friend Jim Buchanan asked me to accompany him to Whitfield Speedway in nearby Scotts Ferry, Florida. We turned off state hwy. 71 and rode back into the wilderness on a one lane dirt road and finally there it was, Whitfield Speedway. This well kept 1/8th mile, semi-banked clay speedway was more than I had imagined. It was complete with a nice press box, aluminum grandstands, refreshments and a crowded pit area. My first thought was that I sure would like to get a midget on that thing. This would have been a great place for TQ midgets or even full midgets, but this is strictly a kart track and there was a bunch of them.
There were kart operations that totally operated out of the back of the family pickup and there were enclosed trailers and tow vehicles that would do sprint car teams proud. One thing they all had in common was that they came to have fun and they came to race and race they did. Rains had been nearly constant for over a week, but the track was well prepared and was still racy at the end of the night. The pits were as busy as those of any sprint car track in the country. Tires were being prepared, motors changed and strategies contemplated. Thirteen year old Hunter Horne had his dad and mom hard at work on his entry. No baseball or other stick and ball sports for this family. They were into kart racing big time and Hunter was quick to say he wanted to go as far up the racing ladder as he could. Mom was more than willing to promote the family racing endeavors. Hunter however, was not alone in his enthusiasm. Nine year old Layne Duboise had the same aspirations. His daddy was a dirt modified driver and Layne's grand dad was heading up the pit operations. Layne is a big boy for his age and again totally focused on his racing. Cole Galbreath tracked me down and asked me to come over and look at his operation. This 12 year old was fast on the track and wanted to be mentioned in the article. With the name Cole and the ability for promotion who knows where we might see this young man in the future. Whether it was Hunter, Layne, Cole or any of the other racers they came to race and have a chance to win the $200 or $500 depending on the class and experience. They were racing for pride as much as the money and they were serious about it. When I finally went back to sit with Jim in the stands, I found we were in the hot corner of the track. Several karts crashed into the fence coming off turn two just in front of us. Though there was an abundance of incidents it was by no means a crash fest and the competition was really quite good. I came home thinking that perhaps I had seen a future sprint car or NASCAR star at the beginning of their career. The track, out in the wilderness where you expected to see a bear or pack of coyotes appear at any moment, was really a pleasant surprise. That famous southern hospitality was evident at each pit and with the staff as ell. Perhaps it wasn't Knoxville or Eldora but it was an evening of racing enjoyed by everyone in the large crowd. I probably would not have searched out the well hidden kart track had it not been for Jim's invitation, but it turned into a fun evening watching our next racing generation in action.
As for our operation, we are in the midst of planning our northern venture. Pastor duties and our new association with the Competitive Advantage folks are keeping us busy. I am really a believer that anyone who gets in a race car of any kind needs to be covered by the Competitive Advantage Program. We are working on getting the CAP sign up available on line. For this and all CAP details just go to our NationalSpeedwayMinistries.com web site and click on the CAP logo. It has been a bit of a rough start for PA drivers as we have had three injured in two weeks. There are a lot of new names out there this season and that is a good thing for the future of our sport. Our adding Twitter to our media capabilities has connected us with some of these new folks as well as friends from seasons past. We plan to do vintage shows with DAARA and VARC during our travels. Until we visit your neck of the woods, we are always as close as your phone or computer. Until then, God Bless and see you at the races.
This week while viewing the ads for vintage sprint cars on hoseheads.com I came across an ad for a 1975 Heintzelman car currently in Wooster, Ohio. Memories immediately came flooding back of this particular car. It was purchased new by Gus Linder to replace the well worn Trevis he campaigned for many winning seasons for the late Mickey Banas. The car was sponsored several seasons by northern Pennsylvania car dealer Bruce Kimes of Kimes Chevrolet. The car was housed at the Linder Tire Store on Pittsburgh's Saw Mill Run Blvd. I attended many Pittsburgh Steeler games with Gus and friends and spent time at the shop with Frank Malesky who did much of the wrench work on the car. Gus, the man in black, was a potential winner wherever he competed. Linder and the Mickey Banas owned black 69 were practically unbeatable in the 1960's until Mickey's untimely passing in 1973. Gus continued to campaign the former Banas car until purchasing the Heintzelman machine in 1975. All memories brought back of the 69 are not particularly fond. During the early laps of a feature at Tri City Speedway in Franklin, PA the 69 came to a stop on the track. The two cars I was following opened up with one going on each side of the stopped car and I was left with no where to go except into the dead in the water Linder car. The 69 was damaged and my Bobby Allen car destroyed and I was out for the season with neck injuries. It was a racing deal which strained the relationship with Gus but in time all was well. Several seasons later at Lernerville I was coming off turn four high with Gus coming hard underneath. We touched wheels and the Kimes Chevy went flipping down the front stretch. State police had to separate the two teams in the pits as Gus and his crew felt I should have lifted and that it was retaliation for the Tri City incident. Again, time heals all wounds and many good memories remain of the 69 Banas days and the later Heintzelman car and one of the toughest drivers ever to wheel a sprint car.
An ad, a race car and a flood of memories. If I could afford it, I would own the black 69. This is the thing about this vintage stuff. Every car has a history to tell. Some are restored as is the 69 car, to their historically correct state. Others are brought back to a later configuration to have yet another chapter in historical significance. Everyone of these machines of racings past has a story that deserves to be told. Many of these surviving machines are still owned by the men that raced them while both the machines and the men were in their prime. The Daytona Antique Auto Racing Assoc. the Vintage American Race Cars group and other such organizations across the country keep our racing history alive. Vintage Oval Racing magazine is a welcome monthly visitor to my mailbox. Sometimes I get the privilege to climb behind the wheel of some of these great machines. Our restoration project on our Tom Hagar dirt modified has been on hold due to life commitments and finances to complete it in a way to do it justice. Nancy and I are determined that it will live again and will be a living testimony to an overachiever of the time, and his machine. I remember the senior Mr. Hollowood, father of the late promoter and founder of Speed Sport Uniforms Whitey Hollowood, tell of racing his midget on the old board tracks of yesteryear. Though most of these pre world war two drivers are gone some of their machines remain as witnesses to the early days of our sport. The ad on hoseheads.com opened memories of Gus and the black 69 that covered more than three decades. There are many more barn finds around the country just waiting to be resurrected. It is our desire that none of these treasures ever find their way to the scrap yard.
We here at National Speedway Ministries are about ready to announce an exciting partnership. Final details and some internet work is all that stands in the way of the press release. We have never endorsed or promoted a product but when something comes along that benefits everyone that signs into the pits at any event, we take a serious interest in it. Travel details are coming together as well. It is our desire to make more events in our home state of Florida as well as those on our northern schedule. Wherever we may be at the moment, we are as close as your phone or computer keyboard. Until next time, God bless and see you at the races.
Never in my years doing this article have I endorsed or promoted a product. This is the first time in over five years of writing this column that I have felt strongly enough about something to actively promote it here and through our ministry web site news page. If you strap yourself into any type of race car you need to take a serious look at this.
Several weeks ago fellow vintage racer Gene Steele on a visit to my home while he was returning to Ohio from Florida Speed Weeks dropped off a paper containing an ad for the Competitive Advantage Program. He suggested that it was something I might want to look into or at least obtain some follow up information on. After it laid on my desk for several weeks I decided reread the rather short amount of information in the ad and to track down the untold hidden details behind the “CAP” deal. My call to the Ft Wayne, Indiana headquarters put me in contact with Jeff Ladd, the man in charge. He informed me that the ad pretty much summed up the program and it is simply affordable insurance coverage for a driver or crew member over and above whatever the track or organization pays for the affordable sum of $217.00 per year. This $217.00 entitles you to $500,000 full excess accident medical expenses over the participant’s health insurance and track Participant Accident Insurance. This includes $10,000 accidental death or dismemberment coverage. The package is available anywhere in the United States and it doesn’t matter how many races you run or with how many organizations you may compete with. If you run with the PA Posse then do some World Of Outlaw shows and add in some All Star events, you are covered. If you run Indiana non wing shows and then do some USAC shows that is fine. You have coverage. These benefits kick in after the track or organization insurance is exhausted. If you have $25,000 in medical expense insurance where you race and you get seriously injured and have to do weeks or months of therapy and rehabilitation that $25,000 will quickly run out. With the “CAP” program you now have up to another $500,000 to pay for your recovery. Your death benefit is in addition to whatever your track or organization pays. Remember the cost of this coverage is less than the cost of a right rear tire that might be used up in one heat race. The $217 flat rate covers you for one full year no matter how much you race. If you run or crew a sprint car, modified, late model or any other type of race car you need to seriously look at this coverage. I would hope that your policy would be something that you could put in the trailer and never think of again. If however, the time comes that injury happens and medical bills pile up, that policy could be invaluable. If you think your track insurance is sufficient, ask someone who has been through a long recovery and is many thousands of dollars in debt. I am promoting this because I believe that every person that works as a crew member or everyone who straps into a race car at any level should have this coverage. We owe it to our families. Full information may be obtained on the internet at CompetitiveAdvantageProgram.com. You may sign up using the form on the web site or call 855.969.0305 for further information. The entire policy may be found on the web site. I appreciate Jeff Ladd taking time to answer my questions and sharing his insight into the benefits and aspirations for the program.
Added notes from here include an update on Jimmy Knapp. Jimmy is recovering from his fall and has been transferred from the hospital to a rehab facility and is making slow but steady progress. To send Jimmy get well wishes his email is firstname.lastname@example.org We remember too, the Petty family as they deal with the passing of Richard’s wife Lynda. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their many friends and fans. Our extended stay up north to do business for Nancy’s mom dealing with her entering a nursing home, then her being seriously injured in a fall, forced us to miss the DAARA Spring Nationals and all the other Florida Speed Week activities. We certainly missed fellowshipping with our vintage racing family and look forward to the next event. Our travel schedule for 2014 is unsure at the moment but whenever and wherever we may be, we hope to visit with you along the way. Until then, take a few minutes and investigate this Competitive Advantage Program. You shouldn’t race without it. God bless and see you at the races.
One of the best parts of doing the traveling part of our racing ministry is visiting with racing folks away from the race track. Our frequent visits to the Beaberbuilt shop in Gibsonburg,Ohio is always an anticipated stop when we are in the area. I have followed Johnny around many a race track through the years and visiting with Johnny, Pam, Tony and the family is always a good experience. Johnny’s career is legendary to anyone who follows sprint car racing and son Tony is a talented driver in his own right. After surviving a hard heat race crash which destroyed his car on the final 2013 point race of the Buckeye Ohio Sprint Series, Tony jumped into his dad’s car and finished high enough in the feature to win the “BOSS” season championship. The only time I got to see Johnny and Tony race last season was at Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway. On this big half mile it was Tony that parked in victory lane with dad Johnny bringing home an eleventh place finish. The sprint cars fabricated at the Beaberbuilt shop equate themselves well against any name manufacture. Pam runs the business end of the Beaber operation and Tony and John run the shop. First class repair, chassis updates and complete car construction along with quick turn around time keep the Beabers busy when not at a race track.
The Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series is a growing series for the non wing cars. They had eleven different winners in the 2013 season. The 2014 schedule begins in May and goes into mid October and finds them at tracks in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. Tony looks forward to defending his title against some of the best non wing cars and drivers in the country. Born in 1977 Tony was raised at dirt race tracks across the eastern half of the US. As Johnny built his stellar career Pam kept the traveling young family together. Though she was advised not marry this crazy young race driver, she ignored the well meant advise, persevered, and still keeps shop and family in line. Johnny's career actually started when he was 15 years old under an assumed name to skirt the track age rules. His career took him across the country where he posted wins with the World of Outlaws and All Star Circuit of Champions and was respected as one of the best drivers in the country. With over 200 career feature wins, he became a legend on the Western Pennsylvania circuit, winning championships at Tri-City Speedway, Mercer Raceway, Lernerville Speedway and where he started, Fremont Speedway. As for Tony , his career began in karts and he has successfully competed in midgets, 360 and 410 sprints, with and without a wing. Tony’s first victory came in 2006 at the tough Lawrenceburg Speedway over the nationally known Jon Stanbrough. Winning the BOSS championship the hard way was a great way to end the 2013 season and build optimism for 2014. In addition to his driving ability Tony is a skilled fabricator at the Beaberbuilt shop. The Beaber name, whether you are talking about Johnny or Tony, you are talking about not only a great race car driver but a quality person as well. We certainly wish them the very best for the upcoming season.
As I complete this column we are preparing to leave West Virginia for our Florida home. We arrived December 16 for what we thought would be a three week order of business preparing for Nancy’s mom to go into a nursing home. What was to be a three week stay turned into three months enduring the coldest winter in memory. If you remember the movie Groundhog Day you know how we feel. We certainly will miss all the Florida Speedweek activity and possibly the Daytona Antique Auto Racing spring event which will begin February 27. (See note at the bottom of page). Our National Speedway Ministry motorhome will need a couple of weeks of work after setting through the winter before heading out again. As we thaw out we will plan our 2014 activities. Wherever our travels lead, we hope to see you along the way. Follow us on our NationalSpeedwayMinistries.com web site. As always, God bless and see you at the races.
Few pictures we have posted have gotten the response as the picture of the “R Z” #42 Trevis car featured in the last column. Several emailed with names of drivers that had been in the car at one time or another. Others had raced against the car at some time and others remembered it as the car flipping at Terre Haute at the opening of ABC’s Wide World of Sports. We thank all who took the time to call or write. Maybe we should spend a few minutes and remember the era of the Trevis Craft sprint cars and their place in eastern sprint car history.
First we all drove’em. Few drivers from the sixties and seventies have not spent some nights in a Trevis built sprint car. This was the time that the supermodified coupes had given way to the caged sprint cars with a little piece of tin on top of the cage that allowed them to be run as a “super”. There were several builders at the time but if you were racing in Ohio or further east the Trevis Craft was the way to go. These rugged four bar cars became the beast of burden for area racers and travelers alike. There was a time that in a field of twenty cars, fifteen quite possibly were out of the North Lima, Ohio shop of Floyd Trevis. Most owners of the day had one car, would freshen it up over the winter and run it for several seasons. If you twisted it up too badly to fix it at home it would take the ride back to North Lima for repairs. They were built to survive the rigors of weekly racing for multiple seasons. I remember helping Ted Swiontek bolt the injection and mag on a Chevy crate engine, set it in his Trevis #12, run it for twenty minutes, change oil and head to the track for Dave Lundy to win the feature. Ted later built his own school bus yellow #12 creations. No tie down shocks, hydraulic wings or trick stuff of today. Race it this weekend, wash it and race it next week end.
The Trevis legacy didn’t mean much to the guys running his cars on a regular basis. The fact that he had been building midgets since the 1940s didn’t mean a whole lot. His Indy car history likewise was well known but not the focus of the sprint car contingent. Trevis’ first Indy effort was in 1946. At least five Indy roadsters followed. Trevis also rebuilt and updated some Indy roadsters, a few of which were mistakenly credited to be his original creations. The fact that he was the pole winning mechanic in 1958 and was to be inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1990 meant little to the guys that campaigned his sprinters. They only cared that the cars were competitive everywhere they ran and that Trevis and son Ron would put them back together in short order if need be. One can’t really list the names of drivers that have driven Trevis creations. During the 60’s and 70’s nearly every driver had a turn in a Trevis. During the years I have driven three of them and last year had the opportunity to drive Dale Miller’s Trevis midget roadster. Supposedly only four of these were ever built and this is the only one that survives in racing condition. Probably the most storied of the Trevis sprinters was Bob Weikert’s 1971 car known as “Old Blue”. The car had a total of 146 feature wins. Some of the more notable were the 1973 and 74 Knoxville Nationals, the 1972 Florida IMCA Winternationals and the 1972 and 73 Willliams Grove National Open 150- lappers. There has to be many Trevis sprint cars surviving in old garages and barns around the country. We still hope to come across one of these survivors to use in the vintage portion of our ministry. Trevis sprint cars, everybody drove one.
Just a reminder to our vintage racing friends. The Daytona Antique Auto Racing Association Fall Nationals are just around the corner. The dates are November 14 through 17 and the venue is Florida’s Marion County Speedway. The heat and humidity have passed and it should be a great time of the year for some dirt racing vintage style. The annual business meeting will also be held during the banquet at the Holiday Inn & Suites Ocala Conference Center. Area rooms can be had for $59.00 and up with information available on the web site. All members should make an effort to attend. With the weather cooling down and hopefully the rain tapering off for the season we should expect a good field of cars in each division. The only negative about the upcoming DAARA fall event is that it will be missing Jim Kaserman. Jim passed away October 18th. Please keep Sarah Jane and the family in prayer. Further event information may be found at www.mydaara.com . For additional details you may contact Karen Dunn at email@example.com. Midgets, sprints, stock cars, coupes, speedsters all make their way onto “The Bull Ring “ for some high speed exhibition racing. An absolutely great way to wind down your racing activities for the season. I would be remiss if I failed to thank all who added me to their prayers and well wishes for my eye problems. The specialists in Tallahassee gave me a clean bill of health. Two conditions resemble each other upon examination. One requires surgery and presents future challenges. The other, though appearing similar requires no intervention. Again I was blessed and all is well. Pastor commitments and the failing of Nancy’s mother will determine how we end up the 2013 season. An emergency trip to West Virginia could be necessary at a moment’s notice. I am also filling in for a pastor who is recovering from open heart surgery. Retirement? No thoughts of that in the foreseeable future. As we look forward to the 2014 season, we hope it is you that we see somewhere along the way. God bless and see you at the races.
We see names like Larson, Windom, Keading, Shatz, Kinser and so many more week in and week out. They have become part of our racing vocabulary. Preceding them, marquise names were those like Foyt, Andretti, Rutherford and Mc Cluskey and many other heroes of my younger years. Yet they followed another generation of mud slinging stars with names like Hinnershitz, Horn, Shaw and Bryan. Our history now goes back over a hundred years. We have inherited a truly fascinating legacy. Daredevils racing on fairground horse tracks, board tracks, pavement and about any other place that would draw a bunch of people and a gathering of race cars.
Our sophisticated equipment grew from Model T chassis to rail frames, to home assembled CAE kits to the off the shelf cars we run today. Gambler, Trostle and Nance were preceded by Trevis, Altfater, Edmonds, and earlier by Hillegass , Kurtis, and the list goes on. These beasts were powered by Frontenac Fords, V8-60s, Offys, Outboard motors, aircraft engines and later the small block configurations of today. But really, who cares? That is the problem. Who cares? At the vintage events we are able to make each season we see fewer and fewer young people involved in the restoration and running of the old cars and fewer participate in the event itself. If we as owners and proponents of the vintage equipment fail to share our interest with the younger generation, soon these roaring pieces of racing past will be relegated to a corner of the family barn, or worse, end up being sold by the pound for scrap. I’m getting older and possibly own my last racing machine of historical note. The one that I am currently restoring is a Tom Hagar eastern Pennsylvania dirt modified. Had it not been rescued by vintage restorer Gene Steele it would probably have suffered an un-ceremonial demise like so many others. It is sad to think that famous cars of our racing heroes would meet such an end, but that is often the case.
It is great fun to run into folks like “Ralphie the Racer” Liguori and listen to his racing memories. So many others likewise share the histories of their careers of another time during our travels. Listening to the tales of these aging racers is even more entertaining than their restored machines. It would be sad indeed if the racing lore related in these stories were lost forever. If you ask one of today’s young guns about a name from the 40’s, 50’s or even the 60’s, more often than not they get that deer in the headlight look and are completely oblivious as to what you are talking about. The sad part of the matter is that it is not their fault, but ours. We have publications like Vintage Oval Racing magazine and others that promote racing history. There are vintage auto organizations in every corner of the country but there won’t be in years to come if we don’t share our interest with the younger crowd. We grew up working on our cars and spent our free time making them faster, prettier and louder, but not so today. Souping up your car today consists of installing giant rims and low profile tires. They are not going to have an interest in vintage racing and pieces of racing history if we don’t introduce them to it. To many of today’s racers, racing history is last season or the season before. We can’t let those who fought the wild beasts of yesteryear, often paying the ultimate price, be lost in the dust of progress. It was a different time and to many a better time. Even if we don’t speak the language of the younger crowd, if we fail to cultivate an interest with them for preserving our racing roots, the roots will surely wither and not survive. Display your restored piece of history at every opportunity. We are always inviting folks to church, why not invite a group to join you at the next vintage event. If we don’t actively promote it we will watch it die.
Should you be inclined to take in one of these vintage events you are in luck. The Daytona Antique Auto Racing Association Fall Nationals are just around the corner. The dates are November 14 through 17 and the venue is Florida’s Marion County Speedway. This is a fun place hosted by good people that make you feel like they are really glad you came. It is a well maintained dirt track with plenty of pit parking. The annual business meeting will also be held during the banquet at the Holiday Inn & Suites Ocala Conference Center. Area rooms can be had for $59.00 and up with information available on the web site. All members should make an effort to attend. With the weather cooling down and hopefully the rain tapering off for the season we should expect a good field of cars in each division. Further information may be found at www.mydaara.com . For additional details you may contact Karen Dunn at totallydunn@aol,com. If you have never made a vintage event, load up and head to the “BullRing”. Great cars, better stories and good food as well. Check it out and we hope to see you there. Remember members, this is the business meeting and election of officers. As for Nancy and I, this has been a forgettable racing season. Family challenges and my impending eye surgery have combined to slow us down a bit but we hope to be back up to speed soon. The remainder of this season is in the hands of the eye wizards as far as scheduling goes. Prayers for the eye situation are appreciated. God has the whole deal in His hands and there is nothing else that needs to be said on that subject. In the mean time, until next edition, God bless you all and we will see you at the races.
We apologize for being behind on our column but travel and ministry commitments have taken priority for a few weeks. Our detractors that surfaced after our north vs south column have had no influence on our timely posting of these articles. Just to support my point, both northern speedways I mentioned were dark both on our way going north and on our way returning. Enough of that however as this is a positive column about a fun night at a place I had never visited but will long remember.
The trip due to family obligations was more of a challenge than expected. Our ability to attend our usual number of races was very limited. We did however make the trek to northern Ohio to spend a few days with vintage racer and restorer Gene Steele. Gene had two cars prepared for us to race at Oakshade Raceway a few exits west on I-80. This event was under the banner of Vintage America Race Cars and the able leadership of John Lawhorn. John is fellow Daytona Antique Auto Racing Assoc. member and always makes us welcome at his events. This one was no exception. We followed Gene across I-80 towing the 07 that was my designated ride for the night. What we found between cornfields just off the Wauseon exit of I-80 was a pleasant surprise. This 3/8 mile track was carved out by the Hendricks family a generation ago and they still hold the reigns and direct track operations. Pam Hendricks is designated as the promoter, Chrissy Hendricks does the public relations, Mike Smith was our contact in the pits. The whole deal is pretty much run by family and friends. The adult admission is $12.00. Always. No matter the special event or what it pays, admission is an affordable $12.00. Likewise, the pit passes remain at $20.00. You got it. If there is a big show with a larger purse, pit passes are $20.00. The concession stands reflect the family friendly pricing as well. All the help at every station were friendly and helpful. So what does this prove anyway? The place was packed. People filled the ample grandstands and the pits as well. Race cars packed the pits with five divisions of cars plus our vintage presentation of two races. There is even a division for 12 to 18 year olds. They also gave away fifty bicycles of all sizes during intermission. Yes fifty, as in five zero. There is truly something for everyone. Harry works the track every day except Sunday. Yes that is six days a week fellow track preparers. One division had six heats, others had at least three. That is a long night of racing but there was still a racing surface at the end of the program. All the promoters who are complaining of empty stands should visit this place and take notes.
The VARC vintage group had a good turn out with a variety of cars. Our cars ran a fifteen lap feature. Gene had his blue modified hooked up and passed everything in sight winning the event overall. I started third from the tail and kept Gene in sight and had more fun than probably anyone on the grounds. The 07 that I had wrecked the last time out was working with those six pistons switching holes and we were passing cars throughout the event. It was just plain fun as I remember racing used to be. We had a lot of people say that they enjoyed the vintage cars and looked forward to their return each year. Mike Smith came by to welcome us early in the evening and called us out in plenty of time to the staging area. He also came back after our feature to thank us for our participation. Yep, this place was a refreshing mental health night in the middle of an otherwise difficult trip. The action shots are compliments of Charlie Orns of Freeze Frame Photos. (freezeframephotos.net) We appreciate his forwarding us enough shots from which to select for our article. Also, thanks to Chrissy for taking time to call with the Oakshade history.
Jimmy Jeep Knapp called to update us on the David Johnston Indy Roadster crew and their 2nd attempt to set a Bonneville Salt Flats record. David, Bill Wendt, Jerry Carbone, Debra Emery and a crew of untold participants are back on the salt for what we hope will be a successful run and a new record. The whole story can be found at saltflatfever.com If you love the old Indy roadsters you will enjoy following this recreation featuring A.J. Watson himself. We certainly wish this adventuresome group a safe and successful attempt.
August 10th will find the DAARA vintage group at North Florida Speedway. This is a fun 3/8 mile speedway just off I-75 at Lake City, Florida. Anyone in the area might want to take in this event. It should be a good one.
Thanks to our friend Gene Steele for a fun night and to all the Oakshade Raceway family. Racing as it was meant to be. Also, we appreciate the hospitality of the Vintage American Race Cars organization. Our remaining schedule is still up in the air but we hope to see you somewhere along the way. We will close by asking everyone to remember the Kramer Williamson family in prayer. We have lost a good one. God bless and see you at the races.
One of our favorite stops when we get into the mid-west is the Lawrenceburg Speedway. Dave Rudisell and his wife have made this old fairground track into a super fast, fan accommodating and all around great place to watch open wheel racing. We pull in and Dave comes to our motorhome to welcome us to his speed plant. After we attend Jackie Apted’s pit prayer service we are treated to some of the best modified and sprint racing of the season. The staff is friendly, the accommodations clean and complete with camper hookups. We were not able to get to Lawrenceburg last season due to scheduling conflicts but look forward to stopping this trip. For any sprint car fan touring the mid-west Lawrenceburg is a must.
Likewise, was our 2011 World Of Outlaw experience at Bloomington. The WOO folks always treat us well and the Bloomington staff went out of their way to make us feel at home. We know the management has changed since our last visit but we hear Bloomington is still a great family venue for weekend racing. Another recommended stop for the visiting race fan. This place is fast, friendly and reminds one of the old days at the Blanket Hill Speedway in Kittanning, PA. People stake out their lawn chair spots, grab a beverage and sit back for an evening of high speed, wheel bang’n racing. This is another fun place that takes one back to a more simple time. Bring the family, park your camper in the ample lot, relax and enjoy.
Lincoln Park better known to the locals as simply Putnamville. This place is another family deal that actually makes you feel like they are glad you have made the trip to their facility. Credentials were no problem, the racing was fast and furious and the staff friendly. We accompanied the Frederickson #58 sprint car team on our most recent visit and we all commented at the end of the night on the great competition and the all around positive racing experience.
Recently I got a call from the Frederickson team asking me to please let people know about their experience this past Saturday. They towed to Haubstadt for a winged show at the Haubstadt Speedway. Bill, the senior Frederickson was amazed at the welcome they had received from track management. The announcer went out of his way to gain pertinent team information. Frederickson could not say enough about the positive experience at Haubstadt from the time they arrived till they were loaded and leaving the plant. They were even assisted in repairing a trailer tire failure.
Paragon is another family deal in southern IN. Many current and past USAC competitors cut their teeth on the Paragon dirt. This is not a high dollar, race for the big bucks venue, but a place for the weekend family racer to do it cause they love it. Lots of the big names in sprint car lore at some point slung the clay at Paragon.
Southern Indiana sprint car racing is alive and well. Promoters are thinking out of the box on how to put people in the stands and keep the coming back. But there are northern Indiana tracks running sprint cars as well. We have visited Kokomo and I-69 Gas City for many seasons. Kokomo is another animal indeed. We need our passport, birth certificate, marriage license, dog license and updated background check to secure credentials. Once admittance is granted the gates are locked behind you and you are monitored for any outside drinks, even water being smuggled into the seating area. The pit gate is not attended through the event and recently the ambulance could not leave the property after an on track accident. One never knows when this long time staple of area racing is going to be open. The sign advertising Sunday night racing can be misleading at best. Much of August finds the place dark. Who would think of Sunday night racing on a warm August night? Track preparation or lack of such is expected to be facilitated by the high dollar sprint cars for countless laps putting time on their engines and burning fuel. These secretly held races attract some of the best drivers and equipment in the mid-west but the hospitality, facilities and lack of promotion present a challenge.
I-69 Gas City is another fast non wing venue. Scheduling seems to be the big problem here. Most folks think of Gas City is the place to go on Friday night but this is often not the case. As we drove north into the Cincinnati area we thought of detouring further north for some Friday night action. Oops, not a good plan as they had run a Wednesday night special show therefore were closed on Friday. This scenario happens frequently throughout the season. I talked to vacationing folks from the state of Maine, in the Gas City parking lot a while back, who had driven out of their way to see some of their favorite sprint car drivers on a Friday night. They found only midgets and mini sprints on this particular Friday, they pulled out never to return.
Many of us old timers expect a Friday night track to run on Friday; a Sunday track to be open Sunday and so on. We don’t all live on the internet continually checking who is dark and who is not. If there is a special event it should be in addition to, not in place of the regular card. Promoters who are struggling might want to take a drive and learn from those who are not. A free pass or two to each race team on occasion would bring people to the track, and if they enjoyed the show they would return as paying customers often bringing a gang of friends and kids with them. Even when they are there as guests they consume food and drink and buy souvenirs, all high profit items. Empty seats bring in no money, look bad to those who do come, and lead to another closed overgrown racetrack. Everyone is fighting high costs, insurance battles, gov. regulations both local and national but some are doing it and winning the battle. We all love sprint car racing and want to see as many tracks as possible stay open and do so with full stands and full fields of cars. One compliments the other. Race track operation, as with any business, success comes to those who respect their customers and give the best service. Ask some of the teams that run both the northern and southern Indiana venues and you will get a clear picture of their preferences and reason why. We have, but won’t print those words here. One thought is that many tracks are under the direction of people who are not or have never been racers or race fans. A good example of this came home last Saturday night at Pittsburghs Pennsylvania Motor Speedway. The staff was friendly and the lady in the pit booth had my credentials and even took a minute to chat. The Mileys who run the place have been in racing forever and their staff are on top of their game. Pit steward Smokey Schemp has been heading pit activities about as long as I have been attending western PA tracks. Also the Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series brought 20 sprint cars to the game. The young man, who is a racer, along with his wife and one other fellow did the whole BOSS deal with just the three folks. He went around and talked to the teams, showed them that they were the important part of the evening and from all I heard everyone left with a good feeling. He did more with a team of three than some series do with a team of thirty. My compliments to the BOSS folks. This is a young series you might want to visit when they come to a track near you. Race teams are people and would like to be treated as such. Their needs should be a major consideration in scheduling and event operation.
Okay, now for us. We hope to take in the Vintage American Race Cars while we are visiting mid-west venues. Also DAARA has been invited ", to show our" Daytona Antique Auto Racing Association vintage race cars", inside the Coronado Resort Hotel at Disney World. They will be inside the hotel lobby. There is only room for approx. 50 of our DAARA cars. You must RSVP, to place your DAARA car into the event. Contact Hank Goodrich at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 386-405-9595 Understand that there is no charge for DAARA member’s cars. More information may be had by contacting Karen Dunn at email@example.com Sorry if we stepped on some toes but this racing thing is a business and race teams and fans needs should trump promoters whims. Nancy, Baby, the cat and I are on the road and it is you that we hope to see along the way. As always, God Bless and see you at the races.
I recently walked through the pit and observed a young woman putting on makeup using her reflection in a stainless race car trailer for a mirror. One would have been hard pressed to find even a bug spec on this eighteen wheel highly polished race car hauler. Lots of dollars invested here to say nothing of the contents which undoubtedly equal the value of the hauler. But it is necessary for this kind of investment to put on a show for the paying fans, or is it?
Is it more impressive today to field a mass produced, off the shelf race car, differentiated only by it’s graphics than a handmade, highly chromed, one of a kind show piece of days gone by? There was a time when cars were treasured for many seasons, sometimes decades as opposed to the throw away cars of today. Whether it was a midget, sprint car or a champ car, you could actually see the driver at work as opposed to a rare glimpse of a helmet if the car is right in front of you today. But of course the 900 hp beasts of today put on a better show right? Well, yes they are a couple of seconds faster than their predecessors, but is the competition better? It sure was great to see your favorite driver fighting the wheel (no power steering) with diamond digger tires throwing rooster tails high into the air. Yes they were sideways too and wilder to point in the desired direction than today’s machines. I can’t remember anyone in the stands, in earlier days, saying “I wish these things were a couple of seconds faster”. I wonder how many of the big dollar “shoes” of today could put on an open face helmet, a folded handkerchief and a pair of goggles and go run a hundred laps in one of the contrary animals of yesteryear.
The enclosed haulers everyone now must have are a far cry from the open trailers that carried the car, a few tires and four fuel cans. Most of us that towed these homemade trailers with the car proudly advertising the fact that this was a real race car, not some sedan with the glass removed and a number painted on the side, and we knew we were being watched. Often folks would follow us to the race track. Fueling up always meant you had to figure in time to take questions from admiring onlookers. The race car openly displayed on the trailer was a real testimonial to our intentions as opposed to a printed advertisement on a rolling billboard. I realize that the traveling series need their shops with them but we covered many states with what we could carry on the open trailer. Often someone was sent several hundred miles home to pick up a motor from the shop which would be installed under a tree in some race track or motel parking lot. Somehow it got done and the car was in the show at the end of the day. It wasn’t pretty but it got done. Sleep was often a memory from two or more days past. A hot shower was often a memory from the distant past as well.
Cheap motels were a treat and the order of the day whenever possible. Many nights were spent sleeping in front of a pickup, sometimes with a couple of your closest friends. Motorcoaches were not even a vision at the time. Lots of meals were shared in greasy spoon diners rather than in the kitchen of your own motorhome. In my experience, Bobby Allen’s shop often became home on a Friday or Saturday night. Likewise the late Don Martin’s truck shop for the travelers coming to Lernerville. Racers and fans alike would welcome traveling teams in need of a place to work or rest up for a night. No matter the part of the country, there would be an invitation to recoup for the next event. It sure is more comfortable today. We like pulling over, starting the generator, putting something in the microwave and watching a bit of tv. We did however survive the earlier days and have the memories to prove it.
V8 60’s gave way to Offys that gave way to Chevys that were replaced by the high dollar motors of today. Most of the drivers of 2013 never heard of the names Kuzma, Hillegass, Floyd Trevis, Curtis, Pop Dreyer or some of the other builders of what are now museum pieces. You could race all season for what today’s guys spend on tires. When we do the DAARA vintage shows we get to once again hear the roar of the mighty Offys and even see a race car being transported on an open trailer. My concern is, that as us senior citizens fade into the sunset are we the final generation that will treasure our racing history. Will the hand made roaring pieces of history survive future generations or will they expire under the weight of the chrusher to be recycled into disposable 21st century throwaway appliances. It is my hope that we can instill the value of racing history to the younger set, but I would not stake the farm on it. Each day pictures, films, cars and the people that made them famous are being lost forever. Okay, enough of the reminiscing of seasons long gone. Everything is better now, right? Families, values, government, entertainment, music, racing. Maybe your perspective depends on how many seasons you have under your belt.
Yes, we should be on the road by now but our ministry obligations have us a bit delayed. We are experiencing withdrawals from not smelling alcohol, and tasting a bit of race track dirt but that will come. Nancy and I hope it is you that we get to see somewhere along the way. Remember, if you would like to participate in the restoration of the Tom Hagar modified or be part of our ministry in some other way, just contact us through the information on our web site. Until next time, God bless and see you at the races.
Many seasons, okay, many, many seasons past, my dad took me regularly to the long since defunked Greater Pittsburgh Speedway. One of the rising stars in the supermodified division was a young kid from Hartford, Ohio named Lou Blaney. He piloted a white #10 coupe with Cadillac power. It stood out not only for the fact that it was usually near the front of the field, but by the distinct whine that it made when going down the straights of the quarter mile oval.
I began racing there as the coupes were giving way to the caged sprint cars in the early 1960’s. Blaney was by then driving the white Blaney Lumber #10 Trevis, and his regional success soon led to the forming of a three car team known as the “three white mice”. The other cars were driven by Gib Orr and Dale Johnson respectively. Upon arrival from Hartford, Ohio, Lou would back his Chevy convertible against the pit fence and Kate would often be seen changing diapers of the next Blaney generation on the back seat. Lou was always helpful as I was learning the ropes and ever remained the gentleman racer. The last time I talked with Lou about old times was after one of his last modified wins at Mercer. Again, Lou always had time for a friend.
The Blaney sons Dave and Dale, both basketball standouts in high school are well known in their own racing careers. Dave, former WOO and USAC Silver Crown Champ, pilots the Tommy Baldwin #7 in the Nascar Sprint Cup series and Dale is a three time All Star sprint car champ and consistent winner everywhere he races.
Dave took the Casey Luna Vivarin Ford that was called the “penalty box” by previous drivers to a World of Outlaws championship. Dave had campaigned his own #10 in Pennsylvania and Ohio before taking his show on the road. His sprint car trophies include 2 Kings Royal and a Knoxville Nationals mantle piece. Dave never got the big multi-team deal in Nascar but is consistent competitor and a trusted drafting partner of many drivers through his long Nascar tenure. Recently, when the Nascar contingent had a weekend off for Easter, Dave got in his own #10 sprint car and took the win at Pennsylvania’s Port Royal Speedway opener. He had also won the Port’s opener in 1984. Some things you just don’t forget.
Talking to tall, quiet Dale is very much like talking to Lou. After a standout basketball career at WVU, Dale has been successful with the World of Outlaws and the All Star Circuit of Champions. He has been All Star champion 3 times, Lernerville champion, won the Kings Royal and multiple times, Ohio Speed Week champion. From Pennsylvania to Knoxville, when Dale and the George Fisher TI-2 pull in, drivers know that very possibly they will be moving back a spot at the end of the night. While older brother Dave was winning at Port Royal, Dale was winning opening night at Attica, Ohio. Dale quipped after winning Attica, when he learned of Dave’s victory, that it might not be a good thing for the Ohio guys if Dave decided to run a lot of sprint shows in the area. Lou would certainly have had to be proud of his boys on this Saturday night.
If this Blaney legacy is not enough, here comes another one. Dave’s son Ryan is already making waves in the Nascar world. He is the full time driver of Brad Keselowski’s No.29 Cooper Standard Ford in the Camping World Truck Series. Ryan is in the Penske development program and will drive the Penske Discount Tire Ford in select Nationwide events in 2013. It appears the Blaney name will be prominent in the racing world for quite some time.
With roots at Sharon Speedway, the country’s dirt tracks and two generations of Nascar, the Blaney name and reputation are synonymous with racing success.. Bob Blaney, brother of Lou was multi-year champ of Sharon Speedway’s late model division. Bob lost his life in a racing accident in the late 1960s. I am fortunate to have spent many years racing with Lou, and also have raced with both Dave and Dale. One is hard pressed to hear anything not complimentary about any of the Blaney racing clan. Still the memories of the tall kid in the white Cadillac powered coupe come to mind. I can almost hear the whine as it streaked down the back straight over a half a century ago.
Speaking about vintage stuff, which I wasn’t, we missed the North Florida Speedway hosting of our Daytona Antique Auto Racing Assoc. group due to ministry commitments. Glad to hear Jimmy Jeep is again ready to push off with his recently repaired trusty Jeep after hit number two. Each time we attend one of our DAARA events it is a weekend of stories like those of the Blaney family. To be around and get to drive some of these storied cars is great but to hear the war stories of some of these heroes of seasons past is even greater. We are still putting together our travel plans for the current season but hope to see you somewhere along the way. Again, a race track wedding makes a great start of a life together of two people dedicated to racing. We are available as our schedule permits. In the mean time, we look forward to meeting you somewhere along the way. So, until then, God bless and see you at the races.