By T.J. Buffenbarger
Weather was the major theme again last weekend as multiple races were impacted by rain. From the time our event list was posted on Friday morning 46 events (55 main events in total) were rained out in 12 states and Victoria, Australia. The most frustrating part being how impacted areas such as Indiana and Ohio neighbored states like Michigan and Wisconsin that were not impacted by the rain on Saturday.
One has to feel particularly bad for the teams with the World of Outlaws and ASCS National Tour. Those teams are committed to their various series to the point where they had to drive into the impending rain no matter how hopeless it looked. This was one of the primary reasons I decided years ago to quit working for any race track or series and focus on TJSlideways.com so I wasn’t committed to driving into rain storms.
When the weather reaches this level of terrible it’s all about making the best of the bad situation. Over the past weekend several teams decided to blow off cabin fever and venture out to do some racing.
One of the tracks that benefitted from all of cancellations was Knoxville Raceway. 31 410 and 31 360 sprint cars checked in with several traveling teams including World of Outlaws competitor Sheldon Haudenschild. Brian Brown stood out from the crowd again in the 410 sprint car feature in dominating fashion in route to his second win at Knoxville this season. Brown has shown a lot of speed early this season at the Marion County Fairgrounds a little more than a month away from when the World of Outlaws make their first appearance of the year at Knoxville.
If you have not seen the highlights from Saturday’s 360 sprint car main at Knoxville take a moment to watch it. Saturday’s 360 main might have been one of the best weekly features I’ve seen on the Pay Per View program. Local drivers (literally, both live in Knoxville) Jon Agan and eventual winner Joe Beaver didn’t leave anything on the table during their intense race for the lead. Several successfull years including a track championship made the fact that Beaver had not won a Knoxville since 2016 astounding.
Thankfully with DIRTVision.com fans all across the world could witness this for just slightly more than a general admission ticket to get their sprint car fix.
The most usual rain out had to be the Sprint Car Bandits series in Texas. The Bandits were originally slated to race at Buffalo Creek Speedway until weather intervened. Calling an early morning audible the Bandit series made the interesting decision to move the race to 82 Speedway that day. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a series decide to reschedule the day of the race and find a promoter willing to accept the program.
Rain can also give fans in different areas a look at drivers and teams they would normally not see compete in their area. Ohio was hit particularly hard with rain with most of the events being called early on Friday and Saturday. There were a handful of teams that found refuge in Michigan at Butler Motor Speedway for Stuart Brubaker and Chad Wilson while Tyler Gunn ventured up to Crystal Motor Speedway. Kelsey Ivy went as far as driving to Wilmot Raceway in Wisconsin to compete with the Interstate Racing Association.
Every spring has its ups and downs with the weather. In today’s world we have more of a window into what is going on thanks to technology. Thankfully I haven’t made any drives to race tracks far away because I someone told me it wasn’t raining at the race track when I called from the pay phone only to arrive finding a cancelled event. I would argue having weather radar in my hand has caused me to GO to more races where I thought there was a chance of getting it in than seeing a morning forecast and opting to stay home.
The grass is turning green, the sky has been gray, and this will likely happen more often than not every spring (some worse than others). Thankfully we are turning the corner into summer where we will so complain about it being too hot and dry….hopefully!
Notes from this past weekend…
- Michael Pickens tremendous 2019 season continued on Saturday winning the SpeedCar 50 lap special at Valvoline Raceway from 18th starting position. Pickens will remain on atop of the feature win list when it is released on Tuesday. This also sets Pickens up to be able to win in three different countries in the same calendar year if he can score a victory in the United States.
- Another standout performance from the weekend was Troy Rutherford topping the USAC / CRA 410 Sprint Car Series regulars with his 360 powered entry. Granted Ventura’s tight layout combined with a veteran driver such as Cline with a lot of laps around Ventura doesn’t make this quite as much of a surprise, the way Cline had to battle back after losing the lead to work back into the top spot was impressive.
- Justin Sanders continues to garner more attention by winning a lot of races on the West Coast. Sanders swept the weekend at Silver Dollar Speedway culminating with a win in the prestigious Dave Bradway Jr. Memorial. Sanders is quickly proving that he is not just a 360 star based on his wins at Ocean Speedway on a weekly basis.
Factor in D.J. Netto, Dominic Scelzi, Tim Kaeding, and other drivers that racing more in California to tend to home and business requirements and the California Sprint Car scene is gaining some veterans that are not going to run off to the Midwest to try and become the next big thing. This is a huge positive for the west coast.
- Winged pavement sprint car counts have been a hot topic at times with a low turnout for several races last year and the King of the Wing series struggling to draw a full field early in the year. Must See Racing has managed to keep their car counts into the upper teens/early 20’s and had a nice field of cars for their season opener at Anderson Speedway. Non-wing wise the WILROC series in British Columbia, Canada had a really nice car county for their season opener at Western Speedway for what used to be their “lites” division.
- Best name that visited victory lane last week…Lachlan McHugh, your 2019 QLD Sprintcar Champion after his win at Hi-Tec Oils Speedway in Toowoomba (also best city name of the week).
- If you wanted a podium finish 81 Speedway was the place to be. Three cars showed up for their 360 sprint car program.