Open Wheel Overload

By T.J. Buffenbarger, photo courtesy of Danny Hawk

Wyoming, MI — Bad weather can make a mess out of any open wheel racing weekend. Big or small any event encountering rain can potentially produce scheduling nightmares. Entertainment pursued during early rain outs can cost more than going to the race track. This weekend a perfect storm hits at the end of 2009 with several major events stacked on top of each other.

The Short Track Nationals (STN) at I-30 Speedway has become one of the most popular events among racers, teams, and hard core sprint car fans. Drivers that normally do not pursue races with 360 cubic inch engine displacement will beg, borrow, or steal a ride or motor to compete in this event. Scheduled to take place on Halloween weekend with the World of Outlaws and other winged 410 sprint car series inactive several invaders dotted the over 100 driver entry list.

When the STN was canceled due to inclement weather and pushed back a weekend it landed squarely on the same weekend as two other big dirt track events, the World of Outlaws World Finals at the Dirt Track @ Lowe’s Motor Speedway and the Perris Oval Nationals in Perris, California. For good measure one of the biggest season ending pavement sprint car races, the North/South Shootout, is taking place just down the road from the World Finals at Concord Motor Speedway.
For fans staying home it could produce sensory overload. You can watch the Outlaws live on television, listen to the ASCS Lucas Oil tour on, and likely watch and or follow the action from the Perris Oval Nationals right from your own couch. If you look hard enough you probably can find updates from Concord.

Many race teams will have to make difficult decisions. Jesse Hockett is the defending Oval Nationals champion, but also is 10th in the ASCS Lucas Oil series point standings and stands to lose out on ASCS point fund money if he went to Perris and his heading towards Little Rock. Tim Shaffer, Brad Sweet, and Sam Hafertepe, Jr. were entered for the Short Track Nationals, but the lure of racing with the Outlaws at Charlotte could lure them away (for Sweet it has). Wayne Johnson normally opts for 410 action, but Bill W. informed us on the Open Wheel Spectacular on Tuesday that WJ will head towards Little Rock instead of Charlotte. Where will the uncommitted Sammy Swindell end up next weekend?

Brian Brown has the most interesting predicament. Brown’s wedding is scheduled for next Saturday. It’s possible if Brown opts for the Short Track Nationals instead of marital bliss he could be looking for a win and a new place to put his belongings.

While for some this weather has produced a scheduling nightmare, for journalists and fans it has created an aura of excitement of who will go where and buzz about three of the biggest open wheel races of the season. It seems like a great way to end the 2009 season with a bang.