The Paragonized Edition of TJ’s Notes and Quotes

By TJ Buffenbarger

(April 25, 2006) — 56 cars, six 10-lap heat races, and three 25 lap sprint car features later my first visit to Paragon Speedway is complete. To put it mildly Paragon is simply different. Different cars, different format, and a different attitude than any other sprint car event I have ever attended.

Granted I see people having fun at every track, but the people racing Paragon might be having more fun than anyone else in sprint car racing. With a payout of only $500.00 to win and the promise that everyone will run a feature their does not appear to be any real pressure on the competitors other than enjoying their evening at the racetrack.

Fun seems to be the key word when talking to teams about Paragon. There is not pressure to win big money and be the next Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart. Drivers at Paragon and looking to run laps, learn, and have fun. Even the veteran drivers that have been racing at Paragon for years are relaxed and enjoy being at the track.

The Facility…

For years people told me stories on what a dump Paragon is. I arrived to find a very clean facility, good food, and a various seating options for spectators. The hill that serves as Paragon’s grandstands has a road where people drive their vehicles to end of the front stretch towards turn one and watch the races from their vehicles. There are some bleachers on top of the hill, but a majority of the boards are built onto the hill with plenty of room for lawn chair seating.

The view of the facility is one of the best in the area. Hills, forest, and beautiful green grass surrounds Paragon to give it a wonderful backdrop for the racing action.

The Track…

The National Speedway Directory officially lists Paragon as a ¼-mile facility. The track has extremely long straightaways with banked tight turns. Turn one is built right into the hill that makes up the grandstands and it is not unusual to see drivers bounce off the ledge going into turn one throughout the evening.

With all of the races the track held up remarkably well. Early on the high groove was the preferred line, but throughout the first two features the bottom started to come in. By the third feature both the bottom and top grooves took rubber. The racing surface remains pool table smooth.

The features…

The first and third features were barn burners while Jon Siscoe destroyed the field during the second main event. In A-Main #1 Donny Gentry drove out to a big lead before Josh Cunningham finished his charge from 12th to challenge Gentry for the lead. The young Cunningham made a triumphant return to victory lane, keeping his promise to have more fun racing the family operation.

The second feature Siscoe was in a class of the field. It was a pleasure to watching him blast around the top of the track and move around through traffic.

Feature #3 came down to a three-car race between track champion Doug Heck, Jonathan Vennard, and Mike Gibbs. The three cars pulled away from the rest of the field when Heck came upon Johnny Johnson. Johnson was in the groove and Heck hesitated and allowed Vennard by on the last lap for the win.

Around the pit area…

Jack Hewitt was helping rookie Lee Stark with his sprint car program. Even Hewitt seemed catch on to the laid-back atmosphere as throughout the night he sipped a soda and dealt out advice.

Dakota Armstrong made his fourth sprint car start and first at Paragon. Armstrong was running third in his heat race when he tapped David Hair (see story below) . To start the day Armstrong’s stacker trailer ended up sinking in the parking lot and ended up needing assistance from a couple of tractors and pickup trucks to enter the pit area. Armstrong then ran a smooth feature event to a 10th place finish.

* Hair won the long-haul award to race at Paragon. Hair drove up from Dover, Delaware to participate in the season opener. Hair purchased his 1987 Challenger chassis car complete for $5,000 to get laps at Paragon. Shortly after his wife enrolled in the Air Force and the Hair family moved out west. Hair made a few starts with the SCRA 360 sprint cars, but the goal eventually was to get laps at Paragon. After the move to Dover Hair was able to get someone to keep his car in Indianapolis and thrashed to get it ready for the season opener. Hair managed to lead several laps of his heat race and started on the pole of the feature event and ended up finishing 19th.

* Brook Pence has a new look for the 2006 season. After buying a tail tank from the team driven by Scotty Neitzel, Pence decided he liked the look of the car and pained his to look exactly like Neitzel’s.

* USAC Ford Focus midget driver Kyle Robbins has obtained a sprint car and picked up some seat time Saturday. Robbins unfortunately was involved in a pair of yellow flags in the feature, one of which was when the front of his car mounted a dirt mount surrounding a light pole in turn two.

* Arin McIntosh had an impressive run in the third feature event. McIntosh was part of the five-car battle for the lead for a majority of the event by putting her blacktop experience to use by running a smooth line around the bottom of the speedway. The track changed towards the end of the feature through with the top became faster and McIntosh backed up to finishing 7th.

* Mike Gibbs returned after a couple of years off to drive for Brent Portoff this season.

“(Portoff) gave me a call, and sprint car racing is like a bad drug. You just can’t stay away”, said Gibbs. “Last year Doug Heck drove this car a couple of times and won with it, so I’m hoping that I can get a few wins with it as well”.

* Midget veteran Tony Reed was back in action at Paragon flying his white, red, and black colors aboard a J&J chassis sprint car.

* One thing not accomplished at Paragon Saturday was introducing Bobby Barger to Bob Buffenbarger.

In closing…

For everyone I spoke to at Winchester, I did not lose my mind by not going to Lawrenceburg Saturday. Instead I sought out a story that needed to be told and something that we can all learn from. Don’t knock it until you try it, and remember that Paragon is feeding all of the other tracks new racers that are better than ever thanks to the laps they get by running one of the two, three, and I hope someday four sprint car features every Saturday night.

Look for a full feature story on Paragon later this week if and when we can get a hold of Keith Ford to finish up. We spoke to drivers like Kevin Chambers and others that will be features. With Winchester notes still looming you can send comments, concerns, and compliments to