T.J.’s Takeaways: Covering the COVID Race from the Couch

The view from my computer on Saturday courtesy of SpeedShift TV of the event at Park Jefferson.

By T.J. Buffenbarger

I’ve covered a lot of unusual events during my tenure running TJSlideways.com, but writing about the first live auto race since in over a month since the COVID-19 pandemic hit may top the list. Add in that the feature was a wild, lead swapping affair with lots of drama added fuel to the much needed fire for this writer. Here are my takeaways from Saturday’s event:

• While the term “outlaw” is commonly associated with the premier sprint car touring series the term goes back much further in reference to random sprint car teams chasing big money races across the country. Having a non-sanctioned (aka Outlaw) sprint car race be one of the first sporting events to take place after the world came to a virtual standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic might be one of the most on-brand things that has taken place over the past month.

I made the comment on Twitter early in the evening that sitting at home watching a race with no fans after a month of no activity other than various iRacing events sponsored by a CBD Oil product during a pandemic is 2020 in a nutshell.

The final eight laps of the feature gave everyone more than their money’s worth at home with three wide racing for the lead, Parker Price-Miller and Aaron Reutzel’s misfortunes while leading, with one of sports up and coming stars in Brock Zearfoss coming away win the victory.

Most of all it was a welcome distraction from current events. For a few hours people were able to log in (once SpeedShift TV’s servers were resourced in a manner that the incoming traffic was not recognized as denial of service attack) and have something normal in our lives.

Despite what your feelings are about if the race should have taken place or not kudos need to go out to Terry McCarl, the crew at Park Jefferson International Speedway, and everyone involved for putting on the event and taking proper precautions to do so. It was one of the biggest promotional risks I’ve seen in a long time.

• One of the most interesting aspects of Saturday’s event was the eclectic mix of race teams that converged on Jefferson, South Dakota to get their racing fix. One would be hard pressed to find a race that would have Kyle Offill (California), Dylan Norris (Pennsylvania), Channin Tankersley (Texas), and Scotty Thiel (Wisconsin) in the field.

The strange mix of teams and the relatively neutral turf of Park Jefferson International Speedway produced some wondering cars at the back of the pack that helped the racing for the lead on a fast, heavy surface following some intermittent showers.

It might be difficult to find a more unusual gathering of racers this season, event at the major events.

• I have made the point on a couple of occasions that Aaron Reutzel is on the verge of finding another level in the sport once some of the unusual happenings and mistakes that take place are minimized. Reutzel was likely the fastest car at Park Jefferson Saturday before running out of fuel at the end of the feature event. I still stand by that if some of these situations are minimized Reutzel is on the verge of doing some incredibly special things in the sport of sprint car racing.

• The obvious question is what happens next? While World Racing Group has outlined their return to racing in a very formal manner laid out here where else will we see pop up events over the next month? Will those events be able to capture the same lightening in bottle that Park Jefferson did on Saturday? Were there enough people watching a home and sponsorship to make it financially make sense? After a month of not doing much other than watching simulation races we finally have some real world racing to speculate about.