Indy Brings Out the Kid in Me

By TJ Buffenbarger

Charlotte, MI — (05/14/2002) — After starting the year with gale force winds, arctic conditions, and lots of rain mother nature finally spotted the Slideways crew a decent weekend last week when we headed out to Gas City I-69 Speedway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and US 24 Speedway in Logansport, Indiana. Granted that Logan got rained out before we even departed to head to the track, but it was difficult to be too upset considering we got to see an entire pole day when we figured all we would see is trucks pacing around the Speedway to dry the track.

Gas City

After work I headed down to meet Mudclodbob and Lightning Rod down at Gas City. We arrived just in time to see Chris Gurley’s steaming mount turned back over from a first lap heat race flip.

While signing into the office I found out that “Mr. Tony Stewart” was up in the booth taking in a great night of racing at Gas City. Stewart was in my normal position in the tower for time trials, but since it was a King of Indiana Sprint Series event I could forgot my spot for a nightJ LOL! I hope Tony had a great time watching what ended up being the best feature I have seen of 2002.

Another thing I noticed is that Gas City is no longer a secret. When Dad and I first started going down to Gas City the facility was nice, but nowhere near what it is today. The saying used for Gas City here at the Slideways pad is “Just when you think it can’t get any better, it somehow does”. Friday night lived up to that billing.

After not being able to get any equipment on the track until Thursday, the Gas City crew did a tremendous job! It was fun watching some of the big guns having to put their spurs on and gas it up through the cushion.

Best save of the night has to go to Derek Davidson while in his heat race went for a tantalizingly long bicycle into turn one, gathered it up, gassed it up, and kept right on going without leaving the racing surface. Derek moved on to the feature event and gassed the BWB Racing/Hannig Construction mount to a top five finish.

The feature was another Gas City classic that featured John Wolfe getting the lead, throwing it away by driving off the race track, and then muscling his way back up front to take the impressive victory. Wolfe was as hooked up as we have ever seen him and it was a pleasure to see John take the victory.

Boston Reid in Scott Benic’s Big Max that seems to handle as smooth as a Cadalac and Levi Jones in the second Jeff Walker machine also put in impressive runs. Boston’s second outing in the Benic car at Gas City was much more successful than his first as he scored his second top five non-wing finish in three races. If “Beaner” keeps running that well he might even make the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum’s Non-Wing Sprint Car Poll. Look for Boston to show up with some wild card votes while coming down the home stretch. Jones ran hard and made his way up to second place before getting schooled by teammate Tony Elliott with a nifty high/low move we have seen so many times. It is amazing the car control Elliott has at times at Gas City where it seems he can turn the car on a dime and just dart under other competitors.

Along with several old faces I saw plenty of new ones, most all with smiles. One of the largest crowds I can ever recall seeing in person at Gas City saw one heck of show. I can’t want to get back later this summer for more Gas City action. If you go anywhere within 200 miles of Gas City I-69 Speedway on a Friday night, GO!

Saturday: “The Speedway”

Saturday it was time for pole day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In years past we have had a one off sprint car/midget/silver crown driver to cheer on such as Steve Kinser, Jack Hewitt, and others. This year it was pretty much the regular cast of characters from goCARTS and IRL, but this day would turn out to be one of the most memorable I have ever had at the Speedway.

At camp Slideways we found out right away there were two schools of thought on how to handle going to the Speedway for practice. Mudclod and Lightning Rod decided to wake up at 6:00 a.m., grab a chocolate doughnut, and take their place up in turn three to check out the morning practice. The late risers like myself slept until 8:00ish, had a tremendous breakfast at Cracker Barrel, and then headed over to the Speedway just in time to see Mudclod and Rod grabbed corndogs for “brunch”.

On the way to the track I was trying to do my best Tom Carnage impression saying things such as “And it’s a NEEWWW TRAAACK REEECORD”, and “And Heeeeee’S ON IT!”. When Bruno Junqueira took to the track as the first qualifier and the sound system at the Speedway belted out those words, my face dawned the smile of a small child. The same small child that would race home for school to watch Indy practice on our satellite dish, that dreamed of going to the Speedway someday to see race cars on the track, and the same college kid that found ways of watching Indy practice at work (gotta love T1 lines) and kept track of practice through every computer glass that I took.

We watched from turn three for a while before going to the infield for shelter from a brief shower. It was there when we found out Logansport was canceled, so we decided just to hang out at the Speedway all day.

Perhaps the most magical moment we saw at Indianapolis during our trip was when Sarah Fisher took to the track for her qualification attempt. Indy was rockin’ and rollin’ when Sarah ripped off those 229 and 230 mile per hour laps. It was great to see what Sarah could do with a good engineer and coach like Robbie Buhl on her side.

After relaxing for a bit we thought the day was done until on our way out we heard Robbie Buhl turn a quick lap. Marie and I ran up the stairs to watch the final two laps of what would be the second fastest attempt of the day. If Robbie had not been so slow on the first lap, we would have seen the pole run.

After soaking it all in I still have the enthusiasm of when I was younger. When it comes to Indy I’m still a kid at heart, and I can’t wait to go back.