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TJSlideways.com 4th Anniversary Racing Vacation

From T.J. Buffenbarger

This past weekend the Bob, Rod, Todd crew and company celebrated the fourth season of the TJ Slideways Midwest Sprint Car Racing Page by taking in four races featuring six of the divisions that have made this page worth reading on a regular basis. From midgets on pavement to the World of Outlaws, we pretty much saw everything we cover here on the Slideways page.

Here are some of the best tidbits from all the tracks we visited.

Wednesday

Kalamazoo Speedway kicked off my 4th season vacation with the Auto Value Super Sprints and a midget event co-sanctioned by the NAMARS, UMARA, and Auto Value ARCA Midget Series for the Wolverine Mid Season Nationals. 26 Sprint Cars and 46 Midgets took to the track for time trials around the 3/8-mile oval.

Good to see Scott Seaton racing for the first time during this season. Seaton has been trying all year to get a motor together for his sprint car, and finally accomplished that just before the Kalamazoo race. The hard work paid off as Seaton ran one of his strongest overall events that I’ve seen during his career. It’s great to see Seaton run well because a portion of what Scott wins is donated to the Michigan Special Olympics.

Another eye opener was Benny Rapp setting second quick time at 71 years of age. When the time was announced for Benny’s second lap, everyone in the midget pit that was on top of his or her trailers were cheering including Sarah Fisher. Rapp was the fast qualifier for much of the event until Curt Schumaker came out and blistered the track just a few ticks off Brett Mann’s track record set last season.

Got bad news in the drivers meeting on Wednesday night that Ricky Shelton had broken his neck in a crash during the Summer Sizzle at the 16th Street Speedway. Car owner and NAMARS head Joe Mershon informed us that Shelton was NOT wearing his neck brace. We can’t stress enough to all the drivers out there to have your safety equipment on, and make sure it’s in good shape. There was one well-known driver at Eldora on Thursday that really had some loved ones worried as they refused to use a neck brace. This person also has a very long career ahead of them, and a neck collar could help prolong it.

Dirt shoe Brett Mann was once again driving Warren Johnson’s U2 pavement car. Mann struggled against the specially built pavement cars with his converted Domelt Chassis. Mann was able to keep up for a few laps with the special built pavement cars. As the race wore on though it was obvious Mann’s car was outclassed by the pavement cars.

One thing that has happened is the racing is much less exciting than the AVSS pavement shows were even five years ago. The cars are so glued to the track that it’s pretty much a single file deal on the bottom even at Kalamazoo. We know it’s not the track as Kazoo provided two and three groove racing for the midgets all night. Both AVSS Pavement shows I have seen this year have been won off the front row with little or no passing.

Thursday

I usually make one or two visits to the Eldora Speedway during the summer in between frequent spring and fall visits. In all the years I’ve been coming to the Kings Royal, I have never seen as many campers on the grounds as I did on Thursday. The lot up by Earl’s house was completely full, and the field across the street from the track was filling up quickly. I can’t imagine what the place would look like on Saturday.

Eldora is one of dirt track racing’s mega facilities, yet a bottle of water will still only cost you a dollar. I still think it’s hard to beat Eldora’s track food for the price. Let’s just say I want to invest in my own water bottling plant after this weekend. The Royal is an event I can say for sure that I’ve never worn even long pants during the Royal. Shorts and lots of chugging down bottles of water are usually the way to go at Eldora in July.

One thing I did notice during the racing at Eldora is the way the Outlaws race verses the other sprint car racing I’ve witnessed this year. The drivers are taking runs up the track at the person they are trying to pass instead of trying to make a clean pass. I could understand this happening once in a while, but I saw this method used all night trying to pass. There were a few drivers in particular that seemed to use this style on each other for the entire feature. I believe some of this is contributed to many of the teams have three entire cars in the trailer, and six sitting in the shop, and really it if they wreck a car, just jump in another one. I’m starting to think some of the drivers are driving almost like they don’t think anything is going to happen to them or anyone else on the track. If some of the drivers would put as much effort into passing as they did taking runs at each other, we might see some better racing once in a while out of the Outlaws.

Now I just didn’t fall off the open trailer with one tire rack, and I don’t see this kind of driving anywhere else I go all season. I can see why Butch Schroeder and Byron Reed were a little upset after the last Outlaws show at Eldora is this is the kind of racing that was taking place. If I owned a local team that was going to run as Outlaw show, I might invest in a set of SCRA style “Battle Bars” to keep those guys off my race car.

It was great to walk through the pits and see many people I have not seen since the spring race at the Big E. I had a nice visit with Mike Linder in the NRA 360 Sprint Car pit area. Linder has dominated the Econo Sprint division in the state of Ohio over the past few seasons. So when Linder switched over to the NRA 360’s this season, Mike expected the same kind of results. What he found was the competition is much higher in the 360’s, and the transition was difficult. However Linder has been going better of late and ended up winning the next night at the Limaland Motorsports Park.

Later in the afternoon I stopped by Kasey Kahne’s pit to say hi to the latest young superstar to break onto the sprint car scene. Kasey’s sister Shannon informed me they are headed to Knoxville soon to get ready for the Nationals. I think Kasey is going to do some real damage at Knoxville, and will be a strong A-Main candidate. Word out of Ohio is that Chad Kemenah will also be on his way to Knoxville next Saturday night.

A walk by Tim Allison’s pit area brought out the information that the Lotz racing team is selling all of their 410 sprint car equipment and is going to focus on their 360 effort. The deal was though that if Allison won the 360 feature Thursday night we would get to run the 410 one last time at the big show on Saturday. Allison tried his best, but couldn’t catch up to Kyle Sauder who dominated the A-Main event. Kyle reads this column quite often, so congrats to him.

Try to walk a few more feet, and then I run into Boston Reid slumming as a crew member on the Chesson boy’s cars helping Scott Benic who was with the team for the weekend. I think Boston has been following me all year as he was also hanging out at Kokomo July 4th when I was taking in an event there. Boston is a very likable young guy trying to make a career out of this racing deal. Reid’s luck hasn’t been the best of late, but

Friday

Gas City I-69 Speedway was the destination to cover the non-wing set. Bob Kramer was ragging on me at Eldora when I told him I was going to Gas City Friday.

“Don’t you go to Gas City 32 weeks a year?”

We do go to Gas City a lot, but it’s because the racing is terrific. Everyone from the fans, officials, and racers are great to be around. I must not be the only one as a full house was on hand to take in the weekly Old School sprint car show.

This night marked the return of Brandon Petty to race. Brandon has been out since his testing crash at the Anderson Speedway. Brandon actually returned to the seat testing Jack Yeley’s car out at Manzy during the week. The plan was to bring the car out for Sprint Week, but now that has changed and Petty might race the Yeley mobile out west towards the end of the season. Outfitted with a carbon fiber brace, Petty was leading the B-Main when he mysteriously spun into the infield (If you ask really nicely, he might actually show you how he managed to do this). Petty was able to come back up through the field to get a transfer spot. During the feature Petty was passing cars left and right, going two and three wide several times to get the job done. One particular move where he split two cars to move into sixth opened up everyone’s eyes, and proclaimed Petty is back hauling the mail in his sprint car, even though he won’t be doing so during his day job as a postman for a couple more weeks.

Speaking of Yeley, Scott Benic is building a car for J.J. to run in Indiana for a while after Indiana Sprint Week. This is great news to all of us in the Midwest that enjoy seeing Yeley three wheel tracks all over the Midwest.

When I write about Old School sprint cars in Indiana, I can’t go without writing about Terry Pletch. “The Pool Man” has really come on this season, and continued his career season with a win on Friday night from the 10th starting position (Passed every car without touching them I might add). I had the opportunity to meet Terry for the first time before hot laps at Gas City, and he’s totally a class act. At nearly 50 years old, Pletch could run circles around most people my age. So we’re starting a campaign with the help of the Bloodhound Gang from Kokomo for Terry as 1999 HARF Driver of the Year. So all the HARF members reading (Yes, I am finally going to join sometime this year! Really this time!) Let’s give it up to Terry. He’s earned it after years of trying.

I have to give a major thank you to the operators at Gas City and Bloomington Speedways. Next week Gas City is not running Old School Sprint Cars on Friday night to help Indiana Sprintweek, while Bloomington is not running their sprint cars when Gas City is running their Summer Classic for $2,500 to win the week after.

Saturday

Mother Nature claimed the weekly show at the New 96 Speedway, in what was going to be one of the strongest weekly shows of the season. That means that the TJ Slideways track cam is going to make it’s trial run at the All Star show on Friday night. Hopefully it will work okay, as tests we ran at my office proved to work very well.

So next week it’s the Michigan Fast Track Challenge and “Nice Shot Charity Golf Outing” on Friday and Saturday, and Kokomo’s leg of Indiana Sprint Week on Sunday at the Kokomo Speedway. Then the following weekend I’m going to put together a piece about what it’s like to be the webmaster of this site on a race weekend. With the trusty TJ cam, I’m going to make a little written and visual record of what, when, where, and how stuff is done while doing a typical Gas City/New 96 Weekend with the Slideways page.