By T.J. Buffenbarger
Between rain, races held at alternate locations with 24-hours’ notice, and unusual accidents last week the 2019 Ohio Sprint Speedweek will be remembered for a long time.
The past couple of years of weather during racing season has been challenging. The All Star Circuit of Champions managed to rain out four shows in three days and hold two races at alternate locations with a day or less notice. While the pop-up show at Wayne County was great public relations wide for series and track the makeup show at Atomic Speedway before their wall project was fully completed was mildly terrifying before cancellation after a massive crash by Brinton Marvel into the grandstands.
Even with these challenges our sport showed its best at times during all these situations. The cooperation shown to promote the “pop-up race” at Wayne County mid-week was a prefect example of what can be accomplished when everyone is rowing the boat together in the same direction. In the aftermath of the terrifying accident at Atomic Speedway the injured fan, Bruce Caplinger, seems to be in good spirits. The racing community is rallying around him with fundraisers including Marvel donating proceeds from his souvenir sales this week to Caplinger.
Thankfully Ohio Sprint Speedweek ended on a high note with a spectacular last lap surge by Buddy Kofoid to win the Ohio Sprint Speedweek finale and Dale Blaney continuing his second or third resurgence of his sprint car career winning the overall Speedweek title.
The strangeness was not just limited to Ohio Sprint Speedweek.
Other anomalies including:
• This massive flip into the turn one grandstands during Badger Midget Auto Racing Association competition a Sycamore Speedway by Dave Collins Jr. Thankfully nobody was injured in this terrifying incident.
• A massive fire at Oswego Speedway when Dalton Doyle hit the wall (Side note: Stunned they run gasoline instead of methanol!?!?!). Thankfully Oswego has one of the best safety crews in the business combined with Doyle wearing top notch safety equipment helped keep his injuries from being much worse. Syracuse.com reports Doyle is recovering in Upstate Medical Center.
• Robert Ballou suffered a compound facture of his arm just as he took the checkered flag to win the Bob Darland Memorial on Sunday night at Kokomo Speedway. The car running just ahead of Ballou on track that was just about to be lapped had just hit the wall down the front stretch and was tagged by another car. With little to no time to react Ballou kicked his car sideways and slammed into the slower car.
Hopefully everyone involved in the wild and weird accidents over the weekend return to the race track after a full recovery.
Kofoid and Blaney were not the only standout performers this weekend.
- Drivers will often say its difficult to perform well when racing in front of your home crowd. Robbie Price was up for the task in a big way becoming the youngest driver to ever win the Jim Raper Memorial Dirt Cup at Skagit Speedway. Considering Skagit his home track the win was Price’s first career ASCS National Tour victory and the first Canadian to win the Northwest most prestigious sprint car event. Price will be a guest on the TJSlideways.com Podcast this week.
If you didn’t see the Dirt Cup feature on Saturday, make sure to check out the highlight clip of what was by far the best main event I witnessed this weekend. Between Blake Hahn’s spin and comeback through the field to nearly catch Price (Hahn’s theme for the year is needing one more lap), Price’s race with Matt Covington for the lead, and at one point having the top seven racing through lapped traffic was one for the ages at Skagit.
As the undercard Northwest open wheel fans should be proud of what the Northwest Focus Midget Series has become. With 40 cars showing up for Dirt Cup and strong car counts throughout the northwest the focus series in that part of the country is a model for what a working man’s racing series should look like.
- Davie Franek pulled off a rare double of winning Patriot Sprint Tour and Empire Super Sprints events during the same weekend. Franek backed up his win with the Patriots on Saturday at Land of Legends Raceway by winning the 50-lap Cole Cup on Sunday with ESS. Franek now has wins with ESS, Patriots, and USCS so far this season.
- Central Pennsylvania had some interesting developments with Danny Dietrich picking up his 10th win of the season Friday at Williams Grove Speedway following a trip to Ohio Sprint Speedweek. Freddie Rahmer made headlines in two different ways on Saturday winning at Lincoln Speedway and seeing his entry appear on the Knoxville Raceway website for the 2019 NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Stores.
- The discussion about west coast up and coming talent most of the discussion the past couple of seasons has centered around Gio Scelzi. While well deserved Gio’s brother Dominic has the same number of feature wins so far this season (four) and is putting together another solid season. Something started to click for Dominic outside of California last season and its been fun to watch his progress.
- I was glad to see the Auto Value Bumper to Bumper Super Sprint event at Winchester Speedway go off without a hitch. Fans and teams were able to witness sprint cars blast around the historic high banks of Winchester with Caleb Armstrong picking up the $8,000 top prize. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Winchester as rumors have swirled about what the racing future might be at one of the oldest racetracks in the country.
- Obscure race of the week: Dalton Cristani won the 305 sprint car feature Saturday night at Rattlesnake Raceway in Fallon, Nevada.