By T.J. Buffenbarger
Here are a trio of takeaways from the “fluid” situation of Ohio Sprint Speedweek…
- Wayne County Speedway took one of the biggest risks I’ve ever seen in 23 years of covering the sport and a lifetime of being involved in it essentially was a “pop-up” race during Ohio Sprint Speedweek with the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1. After Atomic Speedway’s program rained out on Wednesday the decision was made early morning to officially shift the race over to Wayne County. The possibility of this happening was stated the day before and almost happened on Tuesday when Sharon Speedway’s program was rained out, but talking about doing something and actually executing are two different things. Wayne County’s staff executed as well as could be expected under the circumstances.
Give credit to Wayne County promoters Jason and Kristin Flory taking on a task that 99% of the promoters I know wouldn’t even consider. The perfect storm of a rainy season to date, a captive audience in town for a week of racing in sprint car crazed Ohio, and social media made this as attractive as an option as any to attempt a last-minute venue change.
Even with the captive audience if you think of the track prep, getting the facility ready, getting staff in to run everything, and all of the other things tracks spend months planning and trying to do it at the last moment and to do it as well as Wayne County did on Wednesday was phenomenal. Having the track as good as it was with the amount of water standing in the infield from what has been one of the wettest summers on record added another degree of difficulty.
Polling several people on site I trust with enough experience to give me an honest assessment of the crowd and all of them rated the turnout maybe not as large as a typical All Star or Speedweek crowd, but still decent sized.
When it comes time to vote for promoter of the year at the end of the season in the National Sprint Car Poll awards the Floras deserve to at least make the final ballot. To take that kind of risk, essentially doing something I’ve never seen anyone try before, should be rewarded in some way. Hopefully it’s with a huge turnout of fans and nice weather for the Speedweek finale on Saturday.
- One of the most interesting sequences of the night started third heart race when Dale Blaney and Jac Haudenschild made slight contact off turn four that got Blaney sideways while Haudenschild spun, allowing Buddy Kofoid to take the final position in the dash and relegating Blaney a starting spot in row 12.
While pushing off for the dash Kofoid’s motor started to stumble and was unable to make the call for the dash. Kofoid’s bad luck continued dropping back through the field in the feature before rallying to a seventh-place finish. Haudenschild transferred through the B-Main and ended as hard charger in the feature moving up from 21st starting spot to 15th. Blaney finished 11th which allowed him to maintain a 8 point advantage in the Speedweek points over Tim Shaffer, but lost 22 points to Rutzel in the points for the All Star season championship.
- I’ve gone on record for my distaste of provisional starting spots and Wayne County Speedway’s Ohio Sprint Speedweek program was the perfect example to justify those feelings. After losing a wheel in qualifying, pounding the wall, and having to pull out a backup car Spencer Bayston had already secured the hard luck award for the night from the All Stars before taking a brutal flip down the backstretch with tremendous airtime. George Horbaugh also took a provisional to start 26th and ended up with a 25th place finish. It makes me wonder at what point is your night so bad that it’s just not worth taking the provisional because of something happening like Bayston?
All the provisional added to the program was a red flag that stopped the initial start of the race. Not to mention Bayston may have only destroyed one car had that provisional not been available. Often provisional starters don’t add anything to the show and often cause a caution flag that all too often ends up disrupting a great race for position through slower traffic.
End point is if you are not good enough on a given night to make the program through the preliminaries the likelihood of your night getting better by tailing the feature is unlikely.