Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An Eventful Off-Weekend Trip To Florida

After the completion of our World of Outlaws Late Model Series ‘Illini 100’ on March 31 at Farmer City (Ill.) Raceway, we had no races scheduled for a month. But I couldn’t go that long without seeing a race, so the weekend of April 13-14 I decided to load up my car and make a trip from my Phenix City, Ala., home to Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., for the two-day Mike Peters Open.

It was Friday the 13th when I headed south to the Sunshine State – and considering what I saw during my drive to BRP, the day lived up to its billing.

First, in Georgia, I saw a dump truck off the highway lying upside down in the trees, with EMS personnel on the scene. An ambulance streaked by me.

Then, in Cordele, Ga., a semi-truck (cab only, no trailer attached) was in the slow lane going around 60 mph as I was making a pass in the middle lane at 70 mph. The semi-truck appeared to be exiting the freeway off-ramp, but he inexplicably stayed on the shoulder at 60 mph so I moved over. All of a sudden the truck shot directly left behind me, missing my rear bumper by less than a foot, and went head-on into the guardrail on the fast-lane side of the interstate. Parts and pieces of the truck flew everywhere. I stopped, called 911, and had police and EMS dispatched to the scene as another driver tended to the driver, who was injured. I’m hoping the truck driver made it through the accident O.K.

Later, in Florida, another semi-truck suffered a blowout to the nth degree, as coming up over a hill I found shredded truck tire everywhere. To make matters worse, the truck’s rear steel fender was in the middle of the road!

Mercifully, the rest of the trip was uneventful for me and the Late Model races at BRP were run off well. It was an enjoyable off-weekend visit to Florida – and once again made it clear that when you live your life as an Outlaw, sometimes it gets a little exciting on the road.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Catching Up…

Well, as we’re taking a month-long break from World of Outlaws Late Model Series action, the time has come for me to get back to some ‘blogging’ and catch up on what we’ve been up to so far this year.

The 2012 WoO LMS season started, of course, back in February with a Georgia-Florida Speedweeks trip. The season-opening swing this year was like no other, as we found ourselves running four events on the World of Outlaws tour before ever reaching Volusia Speedway Park, which has traditionally kicked off every WoO LMS since 2004 except one (’06).

The 2012 campaign actually started with me taking an airplane ride – a rare occasion for me – to Pittsburgh to pick up our beloved ‘Matilda,’ the name we’ve given our WoO LMS hauler, which was in Pennsylvania for some off-season work. The flight included a stop-over in Philadelphia – and then a hairy final leg to Pittsburgh. I thought the short flight over to Pittsburgh was the end of the line for me! The plane shuttered, shook and dropped from altitude several times as we took off from Philly International…I thought this was how it was going to end for me. The good news (I told myself) was that if I was going to crash, at least it was going to be near a speedway as one was in sight below just after takeoff (I was later told that I had seen New Jersey’s Bridgeport Speedway from above). Everything worked out, however, and I made it to Pittsburgh to pick up the hauler.

After driving to World Racing Group headquarters in Concord, N.C., and loading up for the Georgia/Florida excursion, it was off to the races.

Our first stop was Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., for the ‘Winter Freeze’ on Feb. 10-11. The weather was nice for a while, but it got bitter cold for the $20,000-to-win finale on Saturday night. It was one of the coldest races I have ever been a part of. It was cold even inside the jam-packed officials’ booth, so I have to give all the fans and competitors credit for braving the elements outside all night. With the steady wind making the temperature feel like 13 degrees at feature time by one account, there were a lot of die-hard racing people at Screven.

Here I am in awe of pro wrestling legend Hulk Hogan.
Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., was the next stop for the ‘Bubba Army Late Model Winter Nationals’ from Feb. 16-18. The weather gods smiled on us there, and we saw some incredible racing over a three-day event that produced three different winners.

Of course, the highlight for me was the opportunity to meet and interview professional wrestling immortal Hulk Hogan, a buddy of BRP owner Todd ‘Bubba The Love Sponge’ Clem’s who served as Grand Marshall on the final night. Being a huge WWE fan, it truly made my evening to ask the ‘Hulkster’ some questions and hold the microphone as he gave the command for drivers to start their engines. Hogan also shook hands and posed for a photo with every driver in the feature starting field – something all the drivers seemed to enjoy.

The trip concluded at Volusia with the UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment, which provided fans, drivers and officials with the best racing seen there in quite some time. There was also a DIRTcar Nationals first: not one, but two day-night doubleheaders thanks to rainouts during the 12 days. We rained out a Sprint/UMP Modified night and made it up with two shows in one day, and did the same with a UMP Late Model/Big-Block Modified card.

It was a long, grueling visit to Volusia, but it was truly one of the best DCNs I can ever remember! It was the kind of racing that makes you are happy to be living your life as an Outlaw…

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pavement vs. Dirt Racing

Pavement vs. Dirt racing…which surface provides better racing for fans and drivers?

This debate has been going on for quite a long time. I should know, because I grew up in asphalt racing country in southeastern Michigan and now I’m working in the dirt-track industry. I’ve heard – and seen – both sides of the argument.

Growing up, I lived five miles from Flat Rock (Mich.) Speedway and 30 miles from Toledo (Ohio) Speedway. Both venues were owned and run by the late John Marcum and the ARCA sanctioning body. At the time, Late Model racing on asphalt was the best around as drivers like Joy Fair, Bob Senneker, Junior Hanley, Butch Miller and Mike Eddy were just some of the big dogs to watch. The racing was side-by-side and exciting.

Then one day I ventured to a little dirt track in northwestern Ohio called Oakshade Raceway, and as the saying goes, the rest is history. The next thing I knew, I was announcing there and another Ohio dirt track, Limaland Motorsports Park. My love for dirt racing soon grew into an obsession; I was totally hooked on dirt racing and remain so to this day.

Don’t get me wrong – I still visit the paved venues when feasible, but the dirt is still where it’s at for me. Case in point: I got the chance at the end of August to go back to my old stomping grounds of Toledo Speedway for their season championships. The weather was perfect and the crowd was really good as well. The racing was pretty much how I remembered it, as there was a lot of speed and some decent passing too. All in all, I had a good time (the Figure 8 feature was, as always, terrific!), and I will continue to hit a few pavement races when possible. But I prefer the dirt…so that I can continue to live my ‘Life As An Outlaw.’

Thursday, July 28, 2011

You CAN Go Home Again…

The old saying goes, “You can’t go home again.” Well, you can, but you just can’t stay.

Such was the case when we traveled back to my old stomping grounds, the River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D., for a ‘Wild West Tour’ event on July 15. I was the track announcer there for the 1983, ‘84 and ‘85 seasons under the guidance of NRC president and Grand Forks Hall of Famer Jim Corcoran. The facility, although aging as it will, is still how I remember it from the ‘80s, with the occasional facelift having been done and a coat of paint or two having been applied over the years.

Of all of the great racers who passed through the River Cities gates during my years as a regular there, one dirt Late Model driver remains racing at the speedway to this day. That driver is my good friend Tom Corcoran of East Grand Forks, Minn. – and it was great to see him during our visit there. It was also great to see RCS promoters and longtime friends Linus and Don Mack, who in their time were really great 410 Sprint Car drivers, and I enjoyed seeing all the great fans that turned out on a hot evening in the Red River Valley.

My old Sgt. from the Grand Forks Air Force Base (where I was stationed in the ‘80s), Maurice Stansbury, couldn’t attend as he and his wife Ellen were in the process of moving into their new house that they purchased outside of Grand Forks. It was, however, good to see them both as they were really busy with tearing old rooms apart and mowing grass in their giant farm-sized yard property, which we were able to visit following the racing program because we had a couple off-days before our next show.

Old memories can stay with you forever and always be there for you. But you can revisit some of those days gone by if you can live your Life As An Outlaw….