By T.J. Buffenbarger
Wyoming, MI — It was a lot easier when I was a college kid with a part time job to keep you up on my racing adventures. Temporary additional day job responsibilities that led to some long days and nights did not afford time to recap my travels. If you follow me on Twitter or read the race reports you are probably up on where I’ve been. For everyone else here is I’ve done so far with my summer non-vacation in brief.
June 4th, 2011 – Berlin Raceway, Biobased Must-See Racing X-Treme Sprint Car Series: Troy DeCaire still holds the single handed best driving performance I’ve seen this year with his much discussed miracle victory at Berlin Raceway. The win in Ron Koehler’s 19 year old car was so remarkable it got some decent ink in Flat Out Magazine and several other media outlets. Berlin was our first experience with the Must-See Racing X-Treme Sprint Car Series flying solo and with the American Racer pavement tires. With 20 cars heat races went off without a hitch and the feature was a real barn burner. Throw in a thrilling battle with DeCaire and Blonde through lapped traffic, Jacob Wilson and Aaron Pierce coming from the back of the field to after changing tires to finish third and sixth respectively, and taking it in only 10 minutes from home was icing on the cake. One of the better pavement races I’ve seen in some time.
June 18, 2011 – I-96 Speedway, Engine Pro ASCS Sprints on Dirt presented by ARP: I decided in July of last year I was going to give up my announcing gig with the ASCS SOD series to focus on the website and pick and choose the races I wanted to see. It wasn’t until June that I had time for a reunion of sorts at I-96 Speedway. It was nice to be able to wonder the grounds with no other responsibility other than the race report that night and focusing on working some inside stories for the future (now that my day job schedule is returning to normal). I witnessed the same Dustin Daggett ass kicking that I saw from one end of Michigan to the other for several years. Lapping into the top five Daggett annihilated the feature field. I left thinking, “The race for second was pretty good” and marveling at Daggett’s decimation of the feature field. It was surprising that after that event Ryan Grubaugh left the Jim Wohlfiel team to drive his family owned car, Ryan Ruhl went into the 3w seat, and Daggett may win the ASCS SOD points after missing a handful of races this year. It was also the first non-stop green to checkered feature I witnessed this season.
June 25, 2011 – Spartan Speedway: So far I’ve been to three Spartan Speedway sprint car races, all three were good, and the combined low temperatures from all three nights might not add up to how hot its going to be today in Grand Rapids. Snake bit by horrific weather a record field of 22 cars pushed off for double features at Spartan, both won by Tommy Fedewa.
The Spartan deal continues to impress us. As I tell people “Spartan is what it is” and doesn’t try to be more or less. Hopefully some more fans turn out when the weather is nice to see the continued improvement (and good racing) the Spartan Sprint Cars have to offer. The facility is top notch and the racing is too. There are still a few weeks of Spartan Sprint car racing left, so make sure to get out and see a couple of races before fall at the, “Track the Stars Call Home”.
June 25, 2011 – Ohio Speedweek Finale at Fremont Speedway: Driving into Fremont, Ohio mid-afternoon on the way to the Ohio Speedweek finale saw trailers coming out of what seemed like every side street in the city heading towards the Sandusky County Fairgrounds. The atmosphere on any given week at Fremont Speedway is unmatched. It reminds me of a big time high school football game atmosphere mixed with fans that passionately have local heroes and villains. When you attend this event it makes one wonder why it took so long for organizers to place the series finale at Fremont? After some pretty good heat races and intense B-Main racing that saw drivers such as Stevie Smith go on the trailer before the A-Main started, Tim Shaffer went out and “Daggett’ed” the field with such Fremont mastery that would make Frankie Kerr wince. Even so, the Fremont/Attica circuit is like my racing home away from home and it was nice to catch up with everyone there.
The biggest surprise from Fremont was seeing the driver I dubbed, “Mr. Obvious” last year, Mike Moore, after he raced at Spartan the night before. I’m pretty sure Moore, Mudclodbob, and myself were the only people that pulled off a Spartan/Fremont double.
July 8-9, 2011 – Indiana Sprintweek at Gas City I-69 Speedway and Kokomo Speedway: If Fremont Speedway is my racing home away from home for winged racing that Gas City and Kokomo would serve in the same roll for Indiana. With Avilla and Warsaw so far in the past Gas City and Kokomo provide the only dirt north of Indianapolis that provides sprint car action. Gas City’s heat races featured epic battles for the transfer positions. The racing for third in fourth in every heat race was as intense or more so than some of the Knoxville Nationals heat races I have witnessed. If I had been attending races at Gas City with the frequency I did in the past I might have been slightly disappointed at Sprint Week’s opening night non-stop feature event, but variety is the spice of life and its all about perspective. Relative to some of the racing I’ve seen other places it wasn’t half bad. Dave Darland’s win was popular with the standing room only crowd. Its fun to interview Dave after any win because of the excitement of friends and family after a win. Darland is one of two drivers I’ve known in my lifetime to have a cold beer waiting for him at an Eldora press conference after a win. The other, Steve Kinser.
Kokomo on the other hand provided for amazing qualifications, pretty good heat races, a torrid battle in the B-Main for the transfer spots, and a feature that was pretty close to epic. It was impressive watching Hunter Schuerenberg bounce back from taking a provisional the night before to winning at Kokomo. The track surface did earn the epic tag as the O’Conner family provided a surface that did not need to be touched the entire night other than to stripe the walls. Someone at RPM, IMIS, or one of these other places where promoters gather need to have someone from Kokomo come out and run a track preparation clinic. Its a shame Kokomo’s season is so short, Indiana goes back to school so early, and So far its the best racing program I have seen front to back and will be difficult to top in 2011.
Schuerenberg and Chris Windom were obviously impressive on my shortened Indiana Sprint Weekend. Justin Grant and Chad Boespflug also lit up my radar screens with impressive performances. One has to wonder what might have happened if Boesflug had not lost some time due to injury after moving to Indiana. Grant is really hustling the Hery family car. I’ll go out on a limb and say Grant picks up an NRA win to go with his North Vernon triumph during a non-sanctioned race during the break of Indiana Sprint Week to be in rare air of having winged and non-wigned sprint car wins before the year is out.
July 16, 2011 – Kalamazoo Speedway for the Must-See 50: When Mudclodbob informed me that he arrived in Charlotte, MI at 4:00 a.m. after the Knight Before the Kings Royal, I did not want to dodge deer until mid-morning the day after the Kings Royal and opted for Kalamazoo Speedway’s Must-See 50. People might be surprised I considered these two options 1 and 1a, but winged sprint cars happen more than once a year at the Big E while only happening once this year at my favorite paved track. Kalamazoo did not disappoint with good heat races and plenty of drama in the feature. Often times winged pavement races are too short in distance and tire management does not come into play. This was not the case at Kalamazoo as under a full moon it took approximately 130 laps to run 50 green ones including a asphalt rarity of two reds for overturned cars. Brian Gerster charged from 10th for Michigan’s Mad Scientist, Dick Myers, and is not seven for eight in his winged sprint car career. Tim Cox (or during our Twitter updates, known as Lil’Cox) made a huge charge from the back of the field after being involved in a crash
In conclusion I am enjoying this season more than ever. This website is built upon my belief that when it comes to midget, sprint, super modified and silver crown car racing variety is the spice of life. Within a four hour drive there are so many awesome things to see I like taking in a little bit of all of them. Do I miss announcing? Absolutely, I’ve had the itch to do it all season long. Each time that desire to grab the microphone comes up though the racing at Kokomo, atmosphere at Fremont, and knowing I have three or four options on every racing trip serves as calamine lotion to my announcing itch. The best part is my season is only halfway done, and the late summer and fall provides some of the biggest surprises in terms of great races.