By Jim Fisher
When Mark Aldrich buckles into his winged sprint car this Saturday, April 30 during the opening race of 2011 at Butler Speedway, he’ll be beginning his 31st season of auto racing.
And he’d like to accomplish something that’s been just out of his grasp: A Butler Speedway points title.
“We’d like to win the championship,” said Aldrich, who finished fourth in last season’s sprint car standings at Butler. “We’d like to get a couple of feature wins and win the points — that’s eluded me for a long time.”
Butler Speedway remains the only track in the state of Michigan with a weekly sprint car program, the premier division in all of short track racing. The 3/8-mile dirt track has played host to auto racing for over 50 years and has saw many of the top short track stars in the nation tour its high banks over that timespan.
Aldrich has finished as high as third in the standings at the Michigan oval.
“It seems like every year we have something go down or motor problems that just kills me,” Aldrich explained.
Manitou Beach driver Ken Mackey was the 2010 sprint car champion at Butler, taking his tenth track title, more than any other driver.
But Mackey has no plans to chase the title this season. He’ll be taking a break from the tough routine of chasing points at Butler.
“It was nice to win No. 10,” Mackey said. “(But) we don’t need to prove anything, we just want to run up front.”
Mackey says he’ll take to the road and race a 360 sprint car part of the time. He’ll make several Butler visits in his 410 as well.
Chad Blonde will return to the wheel of the #1 owned by Sean Robinson and will make several appearances at the track this season. Robinson has turned all duties over to Blonde and will most likely not see any seat time this season. Blonde took last season’s opener.
“Chad is going to wheel it,” said Robinson. “With gas prices you don’t want to be chasing things too far away. A little of this and a little of that, and the local shows.”
Doug Zimmerman will return in his familiar red #19 and should be among the top contenders on a weekly basis at the speedway. Zimmerman finished second in the final points tally a year ago.
Joining the winged sprints again this season will be the UMP Modifieds, Sportsman, and Street Stocks.
Indiana driver Tommy Beezley took his second-straight championship in the modifieds last season.
Marty French was the sportsman class champ and Glenn Heath was crowned the champ in the exciting street stock division.
The street stocks have the first “special” on the 2011 schedule on May 21. The sprint cars will be off that night, but will be part of the program for a scheduled 20 nights of racing. The sprint cars have a special slated for July 30 and then the All Stars series makes its Butler return on August 20. The Michigan Traditional Sprints (MTS) non-wing cars make their annual stop July 16.
Other special events are the Michigan Modified Dirt Cup Series on June 11, Mid-Season Championships and the Josh Hadley Memorial on July 2, and Season Championship Night on September 17.
The season concludes with the Butler Spectacular 3-Day Event on Sept. 23-25.