T.J.’s Notebook: Forget Looking Back, the Future Looks Promising

(T.J. Buffenbarger photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

The trendy writing topic the past couple of weeks of writing memories and reflections of the past decade will not been seen here. Normally I enjoy waxing nostalgia for everyone to read. Going to sprint car races since birth and running this website since 1996 has given me plenty to reflect on.

The reason I don’t care to look back isn’t because I didn’t enjoy the past 10 years. I am happy to tell everyone the past 10 years have been excellent. I wrapped up my announcing career to refocus entirely on the website, which I enjoy thoroughly. My life personally and professionally (yes, I still have a day job) couldn’t have been better over the past decade.

The reason I’m choosing not to look back is because so many things in our sport have positive momentum. We live in an era where you can watch a variety of sprint car races from your couch on any given night from all over the globe. I can personally attest that you can see upticks in the interest in the various series that are streaming because people can follow them when they race far away from where they live.

Many of the facilities that house the sports major events are continually improving. I’ve seen a steady growth in crowds at a variety of local, regional, and national sprint car races. The part of the growth that excites me is the growth has been steady and sustainable over the past 10 years. Going into 2020 I don’t see that trend reversing.

Going into 2020 there are more big paying sprint car races than I’ve seen in my lifetime. There is off season anticipation of change and what might be the next big race announced. We’re also seeing more local sprint car racing than ever. Some look at lower car counts and wonder if we’re seeing growth, but if you look at the number of people and tracks participating on any given weekend between all the different kinds of sprint car racing (305, 360, crate, sportsman, 410, etc) there are some solid growth numbers in sprint car racing.

The resurgence in midget car racing has been fun to watch as well. When the USAC National Midget Car series was largely pavement and big racetracks many of us wondered what it would look like being all short tracks or all dirt. That trend has happened. The number of cars and races for midgets going into 2020 is astounding to me. I haven’t been this excited about midget racing since the days where NAMARS and 16th street speedway was going strong.

This growth is driven by the same things I’ve see work my entire life in racing. If you have good people in charge that can delegate to other quality people tracks and series succeed. Promoting is too big of a job for one person today. Last year I came to the realization that every great promoter from a bygone era I can point to one or more people on the supporting cast that were just as influential at making it happen.

I’m ready to say goodbye to the past year and decade and ready for the first races of 2020 in New Zealand and Australia to push off. I won’t be making it to midnight because I’m going to get up early to watch them.


  • I hope the NASCAR beat media sent Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell thank you cards this week after their crashes in New Zealand to break up the monotony of debating 2020 scenarios and the 2021 schedule realignment. I was amazed that people that are fans of our sport were outraged that media on a NASCAR satellite radio station would be criticizing Larson and Bell for racing in New Zealand. It’s a purchased and paid for NASCAR station. Had Larson or Bell won the feature that night those same media members would be praising their versatility or wouldn’t have mentioned it at all. Had either of these drivers been injured while testing or competing in the Rolex 24 I don’t think it would have garnered as much criticism as well due to the track and series being a France family owned entity.

    At the end of the day NASCAR affiliated people often preach togetherness in motor sports and “rising tides raise all ships,” but truth be known this wasn’t the case when things were going well in NASCAR world. I view pleads like this from the hard-core NASCAR portion of the sport for togetherness only being sincere when its convent for them.

    The way I’ve always viewed this in partial amazement that people like Larson and Bell get to perform in midgets and sprint cars. I grew up in an era where many of my elders still remembered Gary Bettenhausen losing his Penske ride after being injured in a Silver Crown car crash at the Syracuse mile. Largely because of that contracts were structured to where the moonlighting couldn’t happen. People like Ken Schrader and Tony Stewart broke down that door for drivers like Larson and Bell to run through it.

    At the end of the day what Bell and Larson’s extra circular racing looks like is between them and their employer. If they are allowed to race outside of NASCAR I’m happy to witness it. If they are not comfortable with it I am okay with that as well.

  • On the same lane as the above-mentioned topic this is the time of year where a lot of the same NASCAR focused media mentioned above rediscover midget car racing at the Chili Bowl Nationals. Thankfully it’s a time where more well-rounded media folks can get to a midget car race because of NASCAR and IndyCar being idle. With several projects finishing up I won’t be in Tulsa, but Serena Dalhamer be taking photos and we may have Trevor Hollis working for us as well. I’ll be working from my home office that entire week.
  • Congratulations to Emmett Hahn for being announced as an inductee into the Tulsa Public Schools Hall of Fame class for 2020. Hahn was recognized by the group for his performances at Tulsa Speedway where he won five consecutive track titles and being one of the co-founders of the Chili Bowl Nationals. Being recognized by a local hall of fame focused on stick and ball sports in a city the size of Tulsa is quite the accomplishment.
  • Today we shift the Allstar Performance Open Wheel Calendar to the 2020 season. With the last race we had on record for the year competing in Australia, won by Stephen Lyall and Jayd Matthews, you will see the 2019 calendar archived and the 2020 calendar in the forefront.