By T.J. Buffenbarger
More than not the World of Outlaws sprint car series is the biggest event to take place at a short track during their racing season. The traveling circus of giant haulers, t-shirt trailers, flashy uniforms, and other hoopla that surrounds the event draws people to the track in droves. The teams have become accustomed to being the big show in town, but I have a feeling that even the most veteran of observers will be impressed at the fandom shown in Quebec at Autodrome Drummond tonight.
From the first time I visited Canada in May of 2000 the excitement over a regional traveling series from the United States going to Ontario surprised me. Since that time making friends over in Canada and becoming more familiar with the Canadian sprint car scene in Ontario I am always impressed at the fandom that exists for sprint car racing. When I speak to teams from ESS and the ASCS Patriot Sprint region they all seem to agree that then fans in Quebec are just as rabid, if not more so. Acquaintances from both groups always mention how enthusiastic the Quebec fans are, and the All Star Circuit of Champions recently contested some events in front of full houses mid-week in the same region the World of Outlaws are visiting tonight.
I predict that an inordinate amount of t-shirts and other apparel will be peddled compared to your typical mid-week one night World of Outlaws stand.
Looking at sprint car racing as a whole on the east side of Canada it is amazing to see how much it has grown from Southern Ontario Sprints, Ohsweken Speedway and the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals, and now the Greatest Show on Dirt making an actual tour through our neighbors to the north. Most of all I am happy for all the Canadian fans I have met throughout my lifetime. When I was a child my Dad and I would often run into fans from Canada at Eldora and other venues we traveled to. They would talk about how far they had to drive to see a sprint car race. Now they have a very interesting selection of sprint car events in their own backyard, and are very deserving of them.
For American teams there is some extra work involved in going to Canada. Most of it paperwork and making sure everyone on your team has a clean enough record to cross the border, but the net result of Americans going to Canadian sprint car events along with the growth of Canadian based teams getting stronger every season has produced one of my favorite stories of the past 10 years. Hopefully sprint car racing in Canada can continue to penetrate the mainstream and grow at the same rate or better than it has over the last ten years.
Notes from around the country…
- In a year that seems to bring nothing but endless bad news Doug Esh’s win Sunday at Lebanon Valley Speedway was a small bright spot. Esh, filling in for Jac Haudenschild after aggravating a hand injury in a vicious crash at Eldora Speedway, scored the victory for Lon Carnahan’s #R19 team. Esh has bounced around since leaving the Trone teams on the Central Pa. circuit a few weeks ago, and has endured a couple of lackluster seasons. The win was uplifting for both team and driver.
- Sammy Swindell started as a fill in for Terry McCarl, and parlayed strong performances into a full time ride that took McCarl out of the Big Game Tree Stands team picture. Paul McMahan has also performed admirably aboard the Kasey Kahne Racing/Great Clips sponsored #91 car filling in for Cody Darrah an unfortunate passenger car accident. The situation has even spilled over into the 305 division where Travis Cram scored the 305 sprint car feature win filling in for Ray Evernham.
The KKR situation could be the most interesting as they have stood behind Darrah, but will be interesting to see what becomes of McMahan once Darrah is ready to return to the cockpit. For McMahan the renascence of his World of Outlaws career is a great break for one of the nicest people in the pit area of any sprint car track. Hopefully all parties end up with something good coming out of the situation.
- The news from the Wayne Johnson and Travis Rilat camps has been positive the past few days. Johnson is on the way to recovery from a nasty leg injury that could have been even worse had it not been for the work of an EMT that properly immobilized and held Johnson’s injury for a long ride to the hospital. Rilat continues to recover from burns after a tragic shop accident. Rialt just went through his third surgery and is looking at some extended time in Washington. Facebook pages for both drivers are available and had frequent updates on Johnson and Rilat’s conditions, places to send cards, and upcoming fund raisers. To find both Facebook pages search for, “Wayne Johnson Benefit” and for Rilat search for “Team Travis- Race for Recovery”.
It’s been way too long between columns, but Brian Barnhart kept throwing blocking penalties at us. Along with being MIA from the columns, the radio show is supposed to return next week as well.