Friday, March 16, 2012

Is It June??

As I was standing there pumping some of that BP liquid gold into my tank last evening, the six o’clock sun was still warm, there was waves of heat coming off the asphalt and the smell of freshly cut grass was in the air. All of a sudden it hit me, whenever I have all of these senses hitting me at once, more often than not I am fueling up for a trip to the races. But this was March 14th, just the middle of March, and it is eighty degrees for the second day in a row with an extended forecast that calls for highs in the sixties or higher for the next fifteen days. Amazing!

With this kind of weather I would usually be scrambling to try and make it to my first race of the year and there would have been options within a reasonable distance this weekend. Beatrice, Nebraska, and Humboldt, Kansas, are both running two-day shows this Friday and Saturday while down in the St. Louis area Belle-Clair Speedway kicks things off tonight with the “Shamrock 40” and Highland Speedway follows that up on Saturday night with the “Lucky 40”. And, if you wanted to drive past St. Louis down to Malden, Missouri, the USCS Bootheel 200 is going on this weekend. However, playing the odds and knowing how the weather usually is around St. Patty’s Day, I actually made plans that do not include racing for the next two weekends. Here is hoping that all of these events are a great success with full pit areas and overflowing grandstands. It takes guts to schedule a race for mid-March in this part of the country, and when Mother Nature does give that risk her blessing you hope that the reward is handsome.

As of right now the extended forecast for next weekend’s events looks good as well with the USMTS running at LA Raceway on Friday night and at I-35 Speedway in Winston, Missouri on Saturday night. The MLRA Late Models will kick off their season in Springfield, Missouri, on Saturday night and Belle-Clair will also be back in action with the POWRi midgets that night.

Hopefully the weather will continue to cooperate as we end March and start April as my “first race” target is now the Deery Brothers opener at Farley on the 31st and then either Vinton or Quincy on April 1st.

Dismal weather forecasts for March 10th in Springield, Missouri, gradually improved as the date neared the Springfield Raceway was able to get their rescheduled Turkey Classic in the books last Saturday. The pessimistic weatherman actually caused the Batesville Raceway in northern Arkansas to cancel their three-day show early and, as it turned out, it looks they would have been just fine all three days. Twenty-eight Late Models made the trip to Springfield with Jack Sullivan taking the win in the GRT house car. Fellow Arkansas drivers Jon Kirby and Kyle Beard made a rare trip north and finished fourth and seventh respectively. Al Humphrey pulled his #6 Late Model down from Nebraska, this time with Dylan Smith on board taking a ninth place finish. The week before Humphrey’s driver was Missourian Jesse Stovall who found himself on the throne, literally, after winning the Tuckasee Toilet Bowl Classic in Clarksville, Tennessee. I believe that Stovall was in his own equipment at Springfield where he finished 16th.

There 34 cars each in the A-Mods and the B-Mods with Terry Phillips and Kris Jackson taking the wins. Jesse Sobbing, the defending Turkey B-Mod champion, finished fifth. As noted before, I would have liked to have been at Springfield last Saturday night, but I sure am glad that I missed it and you can check out the next two entries down the page to see why.

Here’s hoping that you have the opportunity to go racing somewhere soon to kick off the 2012 in style!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mount Pleasant 66 Western Dubuque 62 In Two Overtimes

Missed some great racing in Springfield today.......but it was well worth it!

Class 3A Iowa High School Basketball 2012 State Champions - The Mount Pleasant Panthers!

Go Panthers!

It is a beautiful day for racing down in Springfield, Missouri, today and normally I would be on the road and anxiously anticipating my first race of a new season. But today is different. Something that can be described as a "once in a lifetime" situation has priority over racing as the Mount Pleasant high school boys basketball team will play Epworth Western Dubuque tonight for the Class 3A state championship.

The last time that the Panthers played for the state title was in 1918 when they won their second straight. Having grown up here and playing for the Panthers in 1980 and '81, and then having both of my boys play here, obviously my blood runs maroon and gold so it was an easy choice of a destination between Des Moines and Springfield. There will be plenty of races coming up soon, but this could be the only time that I will ever get to see my hometown school play for the state championship.

As of right now, that is a "once in a lifetime opportunity". Hopefully, we'll see them there again soon. Now if I can just see the Cubs in the World Series!

Keep an eye out for the results from Springfield, they should have a huge field of cars after other shows down south washed out early.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Young Guns, Monday TV, Danica, Jill and Twitter

A few random thoughts as we head into the first weekend of March…..

I recently mentioned that open wheel phenom Kyle Larson had been signed as a NASCAR developmental driver and was sharpening his asphalt Late Model skills during Speed Weeks at New Smyrna Speedway actually winning on his first night out in the Pete Orr Memorial. I should also point out that a couple of other youngsters actually had a better week than Larson visiting victory lane more than once in the Super Late Models. Larson finished as a runner-up to fourteen-year-old South Carolina driver Kyle Benjamin during two of his three wins on the week, and Travis Cope, the son of Mike Cope, capped off the week with two straight victories. Perhaps all three of these young men will eventually earn their way to the big time at Daytona and beyond.

Monday Night NASCAR drew the highest TV ratings ever for a Daytona 500 on Fox and so now we are seeing media blurbs with titles like “Should NASCAR Consider Weeknight Racing?” Absolutely, as long as they are okay with only selling out half of the tickets, or less, for the grandstands. Heck, the viewership will pick up right there when 50,000 people stay home and watch it on TV rather than burning up additional vacation days to actually attend the event. NASCAR should stand tall and proud and proclaim that the Monday night telecast was, by far, not the primary reason for the record ratings. A spirited chase that went down to the final lap between two charismatic drivers has provided a nice carryover of interest into this season. The rule changes that brought back “pack racing” had produced some very watchable preliminary events during the week and, of course, there was the Sprint Cup debut of Danica Patrick. Like it or not race fans, Danica is enough of a recognizable figure outside of the sport that her presence will make people who would otherwise have no interest tune in to see how she does. And, if by chance you show those people some great racing including something out of the ordinary, perhaps like a huge bonfire being fed by jet fuel, some of those folks might just start tuning in to watch the races whether or not Danica is involved. I am still amazed by the naysayers who insist that Danica is not good for the sport. Seriously?? And I’ll admit that I used the phrase “recognizable figure” above on purpose since I would recognize her figure anywhere.

On a similar subject any mention of Late Model driver Jill George on one of the Iowa-based forum boards always leads to a multi-page debate as to whether or not she is worthy of racing with the World of Outlaws. Geesh, give it a rest people. When I visit the eastern-based forums I don’t see multiple discussions on whether or not John Lobb should be out on the tour or not, and you don’t see him running in the top ten yet or qualifying for all of the races either. If a driver has the resources and the desire to race nationally instead of locally or regionally, then good for them! Of course the fact that Jill is an attractive woman has a lot to do with generating the discussion. Or is it the fact that the forum’s resident lightning rod has to either bring her up in the first place, or always weigh in that makes the thread go on wayyyyyy longer than it should? The last time that I saw Jill she was officiating a women’s college basketball game. She is multi-talented and I can only guess that she wishes she could just race without all of the extra critique. Hint, hint, lightning rod.

I’m old, so I do not understand the fascination with Twitter. And someday when I finally do catch up with the times and open an account of my own you will be able to say that I flip-flopped on this issue just like a politician. So Brad Keselowksi had a special holder built so that he could have his phone in his car with him and when Juan Pablo’s Barbeque stopped the race for two hours, Keselowski was able to tweet a picture from inside his stopped car. Plus I can only imagine the fascinating stories that he was able to tell, 145 characters at a time, during the delay. It was reported that his followers grew from 65,000 to 230,000 this week and, in two separate headlines, I learned that first NASCAR and then Penske Racing determined that Keselowski could continue to use Twitter during a race. Before making these decisions I would guess that Brad promised to not attempt to tweet while he was actually driving the car, so at least there’s that. My disdain for Twitter started when ESPN’s Sports Center started using random thoughts from unknown “pundits” during its telecast. Do I really care that #heatr4real thought that “Lebron’s dunk was the best ever, Heat all the way!!” When did media come to this? My friends Brian Neal and “fasttrackfan” have used Twitter to send out race results as they happen from events that they are attending. I can understand that fans would find that valuable, but the rest of it? I’m just old I guess.

Racing season gets closer to home each week as the Springfield Raceway starts things off on March 10th with the rescheduled Turkey Classic featuring Late Models, USRA Modifieds, B-Mods and Legend Cars. Race time is 4 p.m. and the results of state tournament basketball games next Wednesday and Thursday will determine if I make the trip or not. If I do go, I will be a sad basketball fan, but a happy race fan and I hope to see you there!