By TJ Buffenbarger
This is an extremely big week for racing here in the Midwest. The Wolverine Mid-Season Nationals, The Brad Doty Classic, and the Mopar Kings Royal are the main focus this week around here. Following that will be Pennzoil Sprint Week, which is just around the corner. We’re totally geeked to bring it all to you, and can’t wait for things to start getting cranked up on Wednesday.
I’ll be starting my week at the Wolverine Mid-Season Nationals at Kalamazoo Speedway. Kazoo is my favorite pavement track, as it boasts lots of two and three wide racing around the 3/8-mile oval. It’s probably the best midget track in the Midwest for the pavement set, and some 50+ midgets should be on hand as MARA, ARCA, and NAMARS are all taking part in the event. Check out the entry lists in the Open Wheel Wire, and then make sure to click on our extensive coverage of King Royal and our little racing adventure this weekend.
We’ll have Scott and Andrew down to cover the Brad Doty Classic at the Attica Raceway Park. Normally I would jump at the chance to go to Attica for this event, but I’m currently saving some pennies towards getting a car so I can get to some more races next season, and Kalamazoo is a lot closer to home. So next year I hope to be able to make it to the Doty race and many other races down in Ohio and Indiana I haven’t been able to make this season.
From there we’ll pack up the car and head off to Eldora Speedway for the Pennzoil World of Outlaws race at Eldora Speedway. I usually try to make at least one day of the Royal to scope out what’s going on at the Big E in mid July. Also it’s a chance to run into a lot of people with the Outlaws I don’t get to see much during the season because of chasing other events all around the area. Feature was wild with the race going 17 laps without a caution, and just one for the entire event.
Last weekend I was at another weekly show at the New 96 Speedway. It was great to see sprint cars again as I was forced to endure a “Redneck Rocket” race that featured only one pass the entire feature as it was a true huggie pole affair. Racetrack was in great shape as the support divisions put on a great show the just before the Late Model race.
Van Gurley, Jr. took the win after jumping his teammates’ car normally driven by Drew Bible. When the car is running Gurley and the Bible’s might be the strongest running team at New 96, and could have a great All Star finish if they can get the problems sorted out with their Brayton engine in the Eagle Chassis. So far Brayton’s haven’t had good luck with a dirt motor in a winged sprint car as the car has only finished one feature event.
The great bench racing session at 96 this week was shorter than normal due to Joe Conway’s engine problems this week. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, the reason this page is sometimes updated really early or really late on Saturday is usually because I’m sitting around bench racing after the show at 96 with the Conway team. They usually go until the gas runs out of the generator. Nothing really wild, but just some good racin’ talk sitting around and sipping on some ginger ales.
Joe’s day started bad when he had something break on the front of the motor while doing some maintenance on his sprint car. Then when Joe got to the racetrack, Greg Wheeler had taken the Conway Racing teams normal spot. That was greeted by a signal from Joe saying Wheeler was still #1 in his bookJ Promptly the self built power in his J&J Chassis started smoking, and Conway was relegated as a bleacher creature with the rest of the Slideways bunch. We hope Joe gets back soon, because the post race scene just isn’t the same without him.
The championship race at the New 96 Speedway is tight with only 15 points separating the top five cars. Robert Huisken is leading the points right now after taking a two-year layoff from sprint car racing. We spoke with Huisken Saturday at 96, and he believes the Don’s Frame and Unibody sponsored car is quite bit heavier than the rest of his competition. Even though Robert hasn’t won a race, he’s probably been the most consistent driver usually ending up around the top five finishers at the end of the feature.
Also found out Charlie Baker will be carrying a giant New 96 Speedway decal on his wing Thursday and Friday night at the Kings Royal. Baker is so glad to have a place to run on Saturday night, and appreciates the great payoff so much he’s going to try to get the word out on where you can catch Saturday night 410 racing up in this neck of the woods. Baker also has three ARCA races on his schedule for next season. Doesn’t Charlie Baker just sound like a stock car name? We hope Mr. Baker can do well this weekend and with his ARCA deal next season.
Greg Litten also made the trip up once again from Holland, Ohio. Greg had a pretty good night going by setting second quick time, but broke a shock mount in the feature and had a difficult time moving up after that. Dad and myself were treated afterwords to a little bench racing at technical talk at the Litten trailer. The entire team is a first class bunch of people, and we have had fun seeing them throughout the season. Hopefully the Litten racing team will make some more treks up to Lake Odessa this season.
We’ll be back at 96 Saturday with our brand new webcam. The camera will upload pictures from the racetrack every 2 minuets or so. I’ve been testing the camera at work this week and I think we’ll get some great photos from it. As of now I’m going to try to mount the camera on the roof of the press tower using a tripod. It should provide for some interesting views of the track and the pit area. We’ll have the camera on about 3:00 p.m., and the live play by play starts around 7:00 p.m. EST.
Word out of Indianapolis was the Summer Sizzle was more of a Summer Fizzle, and Kenny Allison might be on his way out at the 16th Street Speedway. We’ve already heard some names being tossed around for a replacement, but that could be short lived as the lease with the city on the facility is up next year. We’re hearing rumors the lease might with the City of Indianapolis may not be renewed. Nothing official on that lease yet, but let’s show some support and get out to the 16th Street track. I’m going to try to make an event by the end of the season. They get around 40 midgets per week there, and Open Wheel racing cannot afford to loose a strong shows like that.
Look for a major sponsor announcement from one of the USAC Stoops/Freightliner Sprint Car Series teams soon. Currently Tonka is involved with the USAC team of Brian Tyler and Scott Hull, and another major company could be on it’s way to joining the USAC ranks.
Who ever happens to be buddies with the people running the parts truck at Butler, make sure they are buying this week. I guess the All Star show there was a tire monster. Some of our Slideways crew informants told us this week that some of the tires off the All Star cars were burned off so bad you couldn’t even make out the compound numbers or the make of the tire! One thing about the All Stars at Butler, you never know what is going to happen. The first time I ever actually worked there at least three fights broke out in the pit area, with the most memorable being Tyler Walker and Terry McCarl chasing each other around with suspension parts.
From the, “Thanks for winning, and here is your prize” department. Jody Keegan took home the feature in over John Ivy and Todd Heller. It’s a good thing because earlier in the night a loose wheel of a stock car hit Keegan’s trailer. We were told it put a pretty good dent in Keegan’s trailer.
Many of the teams will probably be breaking in the motor that will be used in the big money race at Eldora on Saturday throughout the week. We spoke to some teams that were going to break out the big gun as early as Attica on Wednesday night, while others were waiting for Eldora Thursday and Friday. I wonder if any teams will have a one race ticking time bomb for Saturday night?
That’s all the hot news for this week. One of these days I’ll finish up the feature stories I’ve been writing for the past couple of weeks. I’ve been putting in some 10-hour days at work with this little Y2K thing coming up, so things are a little crazy. I’ll be happy when January 1st rolls around because our stuff will be ready. Just a few little loose ends we’re tying up now, but it’s also tying up a lot of time making sure it gets done. About ready to hit the road to Kalamazoo, Eldora, Gas City, and 96 for a little racing adventure. Hope everyone enjoys reading about it! See ya down the road.