TJ’s Notes & Quotes From the 2001 Front Row Challenge

By TJ Buffenbarger

The Slideways Red Rocket has finally arrived here in Knoxville, Iowa for the week of the Nationals. Coming into town it was evident quite a bit has changed here since my last visit. Sonic and Wal Mart have settled into the edge of town off of highway 14. I am pretty excited about this because I have yet to eat at Sonic, so that should be my lunch before going to Udders tonight for dinner.

Originally I had been scheduled to judge the Queen’s Contest this afternoon. However, something went haywire and somehow I the organizers did not have my address and dropped me from judging, even though I had sent in the information in March. Not really a big deal however as it allowed me to catch up with today’s events.

The Front Row Challenge Notes:

41 winged sprint cars and 14 non-wing sprint cars checked in for this year’s front row challenge. Surprisingly the crowd was much lighter than previous years early on.

J.J. Yeley pulled from Indianapolis over to run the Non-Wing race. Even more important to Yeley than just the money was the chance to promote non-wing racing in front of a high profile audience.

“I am a strong believer in the non-wing deal, and Terry is giving us an opportunity to race next year. So I hope the fans get a good taste of it tonight and will come out next year to see us.”

Yeley did his best to show the fans what he hopes they will be in store for next year by demolishing the field winning by a sizable margin over Bud Kaeding. Yeley, who drives a Iowa built Twister Chassis, would carry the left front wheel down the backstretch each time to the fans’ delight.

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“Write something good about me…” is what Corey Kruseman jokingly said after a tough run during the non-wing challenge after missing the setup on his TCR Chassis.

“I went out for hot laps, and thought ‘Man, this thing is tight’. So we went and loosened the car up a bunch and just went too far”.

Kruseman was supposed to drive Howie Gleason’s winged sprinter as will at the front row challenge, but Gleason’s car was a no-show.

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Many of the Indiana competitors shared Dickie Gaines view of being surprised on how well the racetrack holds up.

“I expected this to be way more dry slick, this track is actually excellent. It stayed real nice”, said Gaines just prior to the Non-Wing Challenge. Gaines unfortunately had a first lap meeting with the turn two wall that ended his run.

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Next year the SCRA Non-Wing World Championship series will come to the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa on Tuesday August 5th.

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Bud Kaeding started “Dead Donkey” in the non-wing challenge and was able to race his way into second. Kaeding, who many believed was the fastest car on the track late in the going, was unable to catch Yeley who had built up a half-track lead by the finish.

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Don Droud, Jr. took the wing off his sprint car for the very first time on Monday at Oskaloosa and led the opening laps before Yeley moved past. Droud ended up in fourth position after battling with Terry Pletch for much of the event.

“This is the first time (without a wing). I took me a while to get used to the slower corner speeds at first, but towards the end of hot laps it really

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Terry Pletch had his winged sprinter on hand as well during the Front Row Challenege, but the car was not quite put back together still after major repairs from two crashes in the same night at Kokomo Speedway during the GLOSS event earlier this season. Pletch will run the Amoco Ultimate Knoxville Nationals this year. Pletch was the 2000 winner of the Goodyear Masters Classic.

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Winged feature winner Lance DeWease had Danny Lasoski right on his tail with five laps to go when the caution flag came out for Jerrod Hull stopping in turn one. DeWease was able to pull away from the Dude on the restart and held on for the feature victory.

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One of the most impressive things during the night was Don Droud, Jr. running down Danny Lasoski in the first Weld Racing Dash and passing “the Dude” on the outside of turn four on the last lap for a commanding victory. After Mike Goodman won the second dash Droud played to the crowd, and then consulted with car owner Mark Burch to and decided to start at the back of the pack.

With Droud going to the back Lasoski was on the pole for the main event. Then in a strange twist of events Bill McCroskey put up $1,000 for Lasoski to go to the tail, and he accepted. Lasoski was able to move up to second place, while Droud finished in the sixth position.

Tuesday Knoxville Leftovers & Hangovers

Tonight during the queens contest check out “Racetalk Live” in front of the Dyer/Hudson building on the Marion County Fairgrounds. Kathy Bell and Mike Roberts will have a slew of guests including yours truly (baring no major screw-ups in planning, aka: the queen’s contest deal) tonight during the program. You can check it out live on the web tonight at

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After heading back from the Dyer Hudson Hall I ran into Brian Paulus in the Casey’s General Store across the street from the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum. Paulus is all ready to race for the first time since breaking two bones in his hand at the Bristol Motor Speedway earlier this season.

Paulus mentioned as well that their Coors Light Silver Bullet Series program is now on hold until next season.

“We only had one more race with the Silver Bullet car that we were going to do this year at Gateway (International Speedway), but we’ve just gotten so far behind (with Brian’s injury) that we have just decided to start focusing on next season”

Paulus will also have a teammate this week as Blake Feese will pilot a second Salad car for the Nationals. Blake was going to run the Front Row Challenge on Monday night, but destroyed his car at Eldora during the Historical Big One Weekend when a power steering line blew while at full speed.

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That is all for now before heading off to eat some good steak down at Udders. Make sure to stop by on Friday at meet the media day to say hello. Starting tonight I should have photos to go with all the stories from my week long trip here at the Nationals.