By T.J. Buffenbarger:
Charlotte, MI — (01/18/2002) — This week the United States Auto Club officially announced plans for an Ohio swing to feature the National Sprint Car and Midget series at four prominent dirt tracks. Ohio was the founding ground of the “Speedweek” format where winged racers crisscross the Buckeye state. Now USAC has taken this concept into a four-day weekend that makes way too much sense in a sport that does not make sense very often.
Less politics, more racing
Being a veteran of many Ohio Speedweeks the format for what night a particular track gets does not benefit the race fan or teams. The crisscrossing format is especially grueling. The politics involved between the racetracks has made it impossible to make any kind of sense out of traveling on Speedweek, and I believe has helped spawn several other copycat series the same week as Ohio’s with less travel. At the same time though Ohio Speedweek is still a wonderful event.
This is where USAC and all the track promoters involved in the “4 For All” deserve a round of applause. Politics were put aside and now race fans can enjoy eight big features in four nights within a driving distance of approximately 182 miles from Attica to Eldora driving from track to track. During Ohio Speedweek it is 189 miles from Limaland to the closer in Portsmouth for the last two shows!
Two mainstays, two new venues
The tour will include two tracks that have hosted USAC events this decade: Attica Raceway Park and Eldora Speedway. Last year’s Eldora double dip with sprints and midgets was one of the most fun and exciting weekends of racing we have ever seen at Earl’s speed palace. The first night featured some incredible heat racing, while the second night’s standout memory was from J.J. Yeley and Dave Darland’s rim riding game of chicken with Eldora’s famous concrete wall while racing with each other.
Attica always produces some of the best USAC sprint car racing of the season. Two seasons ago USAC put on the one of the greatest shows we have seen anywhere with a heat race that featured a four wide race for the lead for an entire lap! Midgets have not taken to Attica’s 1/3-mile since a NAMARS event several years ago. It will be interesting to see how the midgets take to Attica’s high road around the top, and who will trust it too long to hold their car up front.
Fremont and Limaland will be newcomers to the series this season. Last year Fremont ran a non-sanctioned traditional sprint car race to give loyal Fremont following a view of the sleek lines of an open wheel racer unobstructed by wings. Fremont turned out to be a back-it-in, elbows up, great little non-wing joint as the Ford family broke the crust to create the best surface I had seen in years at Fremont. The atmosphere was electric from opening hot laps featuring Tony Elliott blasting around Fremont barely lifting the throttle, time trials with Troy Rutherford backing his car in SCRA style to which the fans reacted with more ooohs and ahhs than a fourth of July fireworks show, through the great feature where Jon Stanbrough charged from near the back up to second.
Limaland has featured non-wing sprint car and midget action during the late 80’s and early 90’s with the CRA and NAMARS, but this event will be the wild card of the week. It seems every time the Slideways crew heads to Limaland Motorsports Park, the track prep crew turns on the faucet to create a true rock ‘n roll race track with a nice curb on it. Last year I attended a 360-sprint car show that was probably the best-winged sprint car feature I witnessed during the season when Greg Wilson used a last turn, last lap pass for the victory. It will be interesting to see how the traditional open wheel cars “climb the hill” at Limaland on the HIGH banked 1/4-mile oval.