August 29, 2011

I’ll be back…

Farmer City, Ill. (August 28, 2011) – Sometimes, it only takes one word to catch your attention.

As I was surfing the World Wide Web Sunday morning while drinking my coffee, that word turned out to be “Terminator”. Actually it was two words, “The Terminator”.

Curiosity got the best of me and I needed to know more…

I remember the first time curiosity got the best of me. I wanted to know what warm apple pie tasted like. Needless to say, I discovered very quickly that all pie doesn’t taste the same. Some pie taste great, the kind that you'll remember for years’ afterwards even if you haven’t tasted a slice for a long time. On the other hand, some pie can leave a nasty taste in your mouth, end in a quicky divorce and an half-empty bank account. How do you like them apples?

"The Terminator" as it was called, was a special event put on by the fine folks at Farmer City Raceway, a semi high-banked quarter mile nestled in the heart of the Land of Lincoln. The undercard of the event was $1,000 to win UMP Crate Late Models and $1,000 to UMP Modifieds. The main event, however, is what grabbed my attention; $2,000 to win 410 sprint cars...non wing. NON WING BABY!!!

Usually, for me to catch a non-wing sprint car show, it requires a six hour or more trip to the Hoosier state. I know what you're probably saying..."Kyle, non-wing sprint cars were at Oskaloosa and Knoxville earlier this month." Okay, let me rephrase my statement; In order to see "good" (if not great) non-wing sprint car racing, I have to drive six hours (or more) to the Hoosier state. The non-wing shows that have every year at Oskaloosa and Knoxville are a waste of my time and other people's money.

Not having gotten my non-wing fix this season, this was going to be my golden opportunity. I gassed up the company car and headed in an easternly direction for a nice leisurely four hour drive by way of the pave.

As I crossed the clear, blue waters of the Mississippi River, it dawned on me that it had been several years (2006 actually) since I had been to Farmer City Raceway. I couldn't even remember what was on the program that day, but it wasn't a non-wing show.

Farmer City Raceway was just the way I had left it, minus a few improvements made over the past few years. It was still located on an old county fairground, with an old covered grandstand, and a pungent smell coming from the men's urinal. Settling myself up in the turn one bleachers, a breeze at my back blew the smell of grilled food my way. Combined with the pleasant aroma of racing fuel, it was pleasing to the nostrils. Kind of like warm apple pie...I wouldn't want it any other way.

Jeff Hammer and Kyle Logue, doing business as J.K. Promotions, have taken over the reigns at Farmer City this year and if I may quote the great Barney Fife, “they seem to have things running in apple pie order”. Already this year, they’ve had a Northern All-Stars program, a UMP Summer Nationals event and a couple of POWRi midget shows with positive feedback from drivers and fans alike, The weekly show has shown good numbers as well on both sides of the fence.

I would have been thrilled with 20 to 25 sprint cars but when hot laps commenced, 35 sprints had knocked on the back door. Tack on a healthy count of modifieds, crate late models, street stocks and a few hornets to pad the back gate purse for good measure, and I tallied approximately 115 cars total in the back parking lot. The grandstand and bleachers were filled out nicely too, so all in all, not a bad Sunday for the dynamic duo of Hammer and Logue.

Their was a nice mix of 410 drivers front and center tonight, with the local weekend warriors, Korey Weyant, Mitch Wissmiller, Tommy Rockwell, Chris Urish, Brett Triplett and Hud Cone, mixing it up with the boys from USAC, Levi Jones, Critter Malone, J.C. Bland, Kent Christian, Kevin Thomas and Coleman Gulick.

The track surface looked to be in great shape for the evening’s festivities with some good traction. Throughout the evening, the track had multiple grooves, with plenty of room to pass at your own discretion. And passing was plentiful with all four heat winners (Hud Cone, Levi Jones, Gary “Bubba” Altig and Korey Weyant) coming from a sixth starting spot or further back in their respective races to win. On the last lap of heat #2, Levi pulled a slide job on Malone that had the fans off their butts and on their feet wanting more. Heat #4 saw Korey Weyant charge the high side coming out of turn four as the checkers waved to nip Eric Gentry. The 4-lap dash saw another thriller as Urish barely held off Levi to earn the pole position.

The feature saw Levi Jones out to a quick lead with Gulick and Cone a couple of car lengths behind and not making any ground, it appeared that Mr. Jones was going to run away with the grand prize. But then, Levi pulled a “Un-Levi” type move. In my opinion, he got a little too complacent. Running the low side of the oval, Levi encountered lap traffic midway through the 30-lapper, got jammed in, not able to go thru or around the slower-paced cars. To sum it up...Levi stepped on his own dick and it cost him $2,000.

Gulick, seeing Levi's mistake, made a major change in his plan of attack. Like Levi, he been running down low, but upon seeing his worthy opponent bottle-necked, he abandoned the low line in the first two turns and just went hammer down, in the cushion, all the way around. He reeled in Levi and sped past him, making it look relatively easy. Before Levi could adjust, Gulick had checked out. It was great strategy on the youngster’s part and to outfox a cagey veteran like Levi Jones, it was truly a thing of beauty.

The fans, myself included, had witnessed a crafty display of driving from the Binghamton, N.Y., speedster and everyone let the young hot shoe know how much his talents were appreciated when he received his check and beautiful trophy.

I have to give some kudos to the young man announcing the action. Apparently the regular play by play guy at FCR couldn’t make it, so he was making his announcing debut tonight. He came right out and said, “I’ll try to keep you informed as best as possible on who is who, but please bear with me.” As cars rolled out onto the track, he did a fabulous job of letting you know who was driving what car and where they were from. He certainly didn’t sound like someone doing this for the first time. I would have been scared shitless myself. It was a great job by someone who came to the track, was handed a microphone and told, “The regular guy isn’t coming, and you’re the announcer tonight. Now go entertain them for the next 5 hours”.

The crate late model main event featured a couple of second-generation youngsters putting on quite the show. Steve Lance Jr. and Gordy Gundaker ran one-two for most of the 20-lap A main and showed that they’re well on their way to establishing their own identity in racing. Lance was very impressive with a couple of ballsy moves while making his way through lap traffic, including one where he split two cars while sliding through turns three and four that left me, and I’m sure a few others, with their jaws dropped.

With a four-drive home, I decided to cut my evening short and head home before the rest of the features. I certainly came away feeling like I had gotten more than my $15 worth of racing this evening. Hammer announced after the sprint car feature that he would like to make “The Terminator” an annual event which drew a roar of approval from the crowd, myself included.

Thanks to Jeff Hammer, Kyle Logue and Farmer City Racing for an entertaining night of racing. In the words of the greatest terminator of all time, “I'll be back”.

Thanks for picking us up. See you at the races...


August 28, 2011

ARCA 200 - Madison Int'l Speedway (August 26)

Photos courtesy of ARCA Racing

Alex Bowman celebrates his win in the Herr’s Live Life with Flavor! 200 in Madison International Speedway’s Victory Lane.

Alex Bowman (55) drives inside Brad Lloyd (11) in the Herr’s Live Life with Flavor! 200 at Madison International Speedway

Clint King (right) celebrates winning the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell. King competed in the Herr’s Live Life with Flavor! 200 on his 16th birthday, his first possible day of ARCA Racing Series eligibility.

August 23, 2011

ARCA Allen Crowe Memorial 100 (August 21)

All photos courtesy of ARCA Racing

Chad McCumbee (center) celebrates his Allen Crowe 100 win in Victory Lane with team owners Andy Belmont (left) and Jennifer Belmont.

Chad McCumbee takes the checkered flag to win the Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. McCumbee had not won in the ARCA Racing Series since 2007.

Chad McCumbee (front) leads a pack of cars before winning the Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

Points leader Ty Dillon leads the ARCA Racing Series field early in the Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

With the Illinois State Fair as a backdrop, Ty Dillon (41) leads Frank Kimmel (44) and Grant Enfinger (36) early in the Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

Ty Dillon (black, front right) leads Josh Richards (white, front left) and 29 other drivers to the green flag to start the Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

August 21, 2011

Rockford Speedway (August 20)

The Mountain Dew Roadrunners 20-lap feature won by Terry Ciano from Janesville, Wis. Fans would see a side-by-side race for the top spot for over half of the event with Johnny Robinson II, who was making his first Roadrunner start of 2011 - Jim Ambruoso Photo

A frantic 25-lap feature that saw Elk Grove Village driver Sean Murphy of the Illini Midgets capture his first Rockford Speedway win - Jim Ambruoso Photo

Ryan Carlson is shown in victory circle after a hard fought late model feature race - Jim Ambruoso Photo

The Illini Midgets shown on their pace lap prior to the start of their 25 lap feature event - Jim Ambruoso Photo

Ryan Carlson # 55 fends off a late race charge from # 99 Jerry Gille in the Stanley Steemer Nascar Late Models 30 lap main event - Jim Ambruoso Photo

BJ Sparkman makes claim to his 6th Budweiser American Short Trackers feature win for 2011 - Jim Ambruoso Photo

August 13, 2011

A Twist of Fate...

Jonathan Eilen celebrates his Miller 100 victory at Hawkeye Downs Speedway - Mike Ruefer Photo

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (August 12, 2011) – Thirty-nine years ago, a father took his son to the races for the first time to Hawkeye Downs Speedway. The then 8-year-old kid watched some guy named Darrell Dake pass two cars coming out of turns three and four to win the feature that night. The kid was hooked on racing for life.

Later that year, that same father and son went to a race called the Falstaff 100, a stock car race organized by a local beer distributor named Keith Fleck. It was a USAC-sanctioned race and a driver from Zanesville, Ohio, named Butch Hartman would be come its first winner. Despite some setbacks and glitches at the first race, it would become an annual event for the next four decades.

The 1984 Miller 100 winner, Kenny Walton (left), talks with two-time Miller 100 winner ('83 and '86) Roger Dolan during an autograph session. - Kyle Ealy Photo

While it would go thru a few different name changes (Falstaff 100, Falstaff 50, Falstaff Classic, Miller 100, Miller American 100, Miller Genuine Draft 100, and the Miller Lite 150) over the years, the race would quickly become one of the premier late model racing events not only in the Midwest but the country and some of the legendary names in racing would compete in it. Even after the track switched racing surfaces from dirt to asphalt, the event kept going and top notch drivers kept coming.

Verlin Eaker, the 1979 Miller 100 champion, was on hand to take part in festivities at the Miller 100. - Kyle Ealy Photo

As I was making the short drive to Hawkeye Downs Speedway yesterday afternoon, I got to thinking about annual racing events here in the state of Iowa and it came to me that the Miller 100 at Hawkeye Downs holds the distinction of being the longest, continuous late model event in this area. This being the 39th year for the race, only the Knoxville Nationals has run for more years continuously.

Out of 39 events, this year’s Miller 100 was number 35 for me that I’ve attended. I didn’t attend the event from 1989 to 1991 because I was still pissed that Hawkeye Downs had changed from dirt to asphalt. In hindsight, I regret not going now because I missed out watching two of the most decorated short track drivers in history winning the event, Larry Phillips and Joe Shear.

I skipped the 2005 event because I was skeptical of this new American Stockcar League, the sanctioning body for the race that year. As it turns out, I remember reading the box scores the next day and they only had 13 or 14 late models show up for the 150-lap event (the ASL went belly up after only one season).

Despite the four that I skipped, the Miller 100 has always been on my “races I need to see” list every year. No matter what, I have to be there…it’s my hometown track.

For example; In 2007, I had four wisdom teeth extracted the morning of the race, but just as they were starting driver introductions on the front straightaway, here I stroll in, bloody gauze in my mouth, cheeks swollen like a chip monk, looking like I had mouthed off to the wrong sailor.

I was so doped up on the car ride home from the dentist that morning I don’t remember telling my mother to stop at the store to pick up some ice cream. Later that day, after I awoke from a 5-hour nap, she handed me a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“It’s the ice cream you wanted,” responded my mother.

“What do you mean, ‘the ice cream I wanted’?” I replied. "I don't even like mint chocolate chip."

“I asked if you wanted anything on the way home and you said you wanted ice cream, so I stopped at the grocery store. As I was walking from the car to the store, you rolled down the window and yelled, ‘I WANT MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP MOM!!’ at the top of your lungs. You don’t remember that?”

Apparently I didn’t…that was some good shit they gave me that day.

The memories of the Miller 100’s I've attended over the years I can still see as if it just happened yesterday. Fred Horn coming from the fourth row to win in 1977 race. An unknown driver from West Virginia named Rodney Combs showing up in 1980 and giving the local boys an ass-whooping. My favorite NASCAR driver of all-time Bobby Allison, making an appearance in 1983. Kenny Walton of Viola, Iowa finally winning the big race in 1984 after coming oh-so-close in previous tries. Billy Moyer coming from the back of the pack, not once, but twice in 1989. Dudley Fleck skidding across the finish line on his lid in the 1992 race. Steve Carlson capturing his first of a record seven Miller 100’s in 1996. Two local boys, Justin Diercks and Johnny Spaw dueling for 100 laps before Diercks prevailed in 2003. Trent Snyder holding off a determined Landon Cassill in the 2006 race. Every Miller 100 I’ve attended holds a special memory.

Besides Steve Carlson winning a record seventh Miller 100 in 2010, I also can remember seeing Jonathan Eilen of Hampton, Minn., tagging the turn two wall that night. As it would turn out, he hit the wall so hard that the injuries he sustained put him in a area hospital for a couple of days and put a abrupt halt to his season altogether.

In a twist of fate, the same track that almost cost Eilen his career in 2010, smiled upon him Friday night. Some great strategy and a solid restart, got Eilen to the front at the midway point of the race and he now has his name forever etched in Miller 100 history.

What made his victory so much more rewarding was the way he decided to celebrate. Instead of doing the customary burn-out, smoke show on the front stretch, Eilen kept on rolling past the grandstand, into turn one and came to a complete stop in turn two, the same spot where he met trouble head on last year.

The Hoosier victory dance then ensued…The wall won last year but revenge was Eilen’s this time around. “I was so happy to be able to come back to this track and show that wall who is boss,” he stated afterwards.

It was another Miller 100 memory that I’ll keep with me forever.

Thanks to Dudley Fleck, Mike McGrath, Steve Einhaus, Kari Shear-Carlson and the ASA Midwest Tour for making the 39th annual Miller 100 another special race for yours truly.

Thanks for picking us up. See you at the races…


39th annual Miller 100 - Hawkeye Downs Speedway

Jonathan Eilen of Hampton, Minn., is all smiles after winning the 2011 ASA Midwest Tour Miller 100 at Hawkeye Downs Speedway. - Mike Ruefer Photo

Nathan Haseleu of Marshall, Wis., would lead the first half of the race before settling for runner-up honors. - Mike Ruefer Photo

Travis Sauter (5) of Necedah, Wis., slips past Chris Wimmer (52) of Wausau, Wis. in turns three and four. - Mike Ruefer Photo

Tim Schendel (21) of Sparta, Wis., puts a lap on Joey Gase (35) of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. - Mike Ruefer Photo

Jeff "Hurricane" Storm (25) of Waterford, Wis., and Brad Osborn (00) of Janesville, Iowa race side-by-side. - Mike Ruefer Photo

ASA Midwest Tour point leader Andrew Morrissey (39) of DeForest, Wis. and Jonathan Eilen (77) of Hampton, Minn., battle early in the 100-lap contest. - Mike Ruefer Photo

Jacob Goede (72) of Carver, Minn., looks inside of 15-year-old Matt Tift (89) of Hinckley, Ohio. - Mike Ruefer Photo

August 8, 2011

Rockford Speedway - World Famous Trailer Races (August 6th)

Jerry Gille, Roscoe, Illinois, charged to the front of the pack to win the mayhem-filled 30-lap NASCAR late model main event. Jerry is shown with his crew in support of his victory. - Jim Ambruoso Photo

Matt Lundberg, Rockford, Illinois, in his ‘Family Truckster’ station wagon is shown with his daughter as he took home the honors in winning the 25-lap Bargain Hunter Sportsman feature. - Jim Ambruoso Photo

Jarrod Sutherland, Venice, California, soared to the lead to win the 20-lap Mountain Dew RoadRunners main event. - Jim Ambruoso Photo

A full house of race fans of all ages were treated to an evening of great racing and of couse the World Famous Figure 8 Trailer Race. - Jim Ambruoso Photo

The Budweiser American Short Trackers 25-lap headliner saw Scott Hoeft, Watertown, Wis winning his first feature of the 2011 season. - Jim Ambruoso Photo

Jack Atchison, Stillman Valley, Illinois, found himself headed in the wrong direction as on coming competitors made efforts to avoided his damaged race car. - Jim Ambruoso Photo

With over 20-plus trucks, vans, cars, and an assortment of other vehicles towing trailers, fans were certainly treated to a spectacular show in the main event of the evening's program, the Kar Korner World Famous Figure 8 Trailer Race. Matt Madey used some deft maneuvers to outlasted everyone to collect the hardware for his trophy case. - Jim Ambruoso Photo

Becomes the Rose...

Driver Buzz Rose (left) and owner Daryl Arend (right) pose with Ozark Airlines officials before the start of the 1973 IMCA Winternationals in Tampa, FL. - Buzz Rose Collection

Algona, Iowa (August 6, 2011) – As you may have gathered from reading past columns of mine, preserving the history of racing here in the Midwest is a big deal to me.

I’m extremely proud that my home track, Hawkeye Downs Speedway, has created a hall of fame to honor those who have a have contributed to it’s rich history. I’m even more honored to be apart of making sure that it happens.

As I’ve stated many times before, not enough tracks take the time to honor those who have made it what it is today. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice to make it work. Probably why a lot of tracks don’t do it.

One track that does honor its racing heroes is the Kossuth County Racing Hall of Fame in Algona, Iowa. Starting in 2007, Rick Klein, Chad Meyer and other fairboard members decided to honor those who have made an impact on the racing scene in Kossuth County. Drivers, car owners, promoters and significant others who have made an impact have been honored.

Some of the names that have already been inducted are names that are familiar to race fans statewide. They include Jim Edgington, Denny Hovinga, Gene Schattschneider, Bobby Grim, Butch Householder, Stacy Redmond and Dick Forbrook…just to name a few.

The Kossuth County Racing Hall of Fame, Class of 2011 inducted six more names, all very deserving. They included IMCA legend Emory Collins, super modified ace Marv DeWall, Bud Fair, Don Hiscocks, Stan Riedel and IMCA sprint car pilot turned author Newton “Buzz” Rose.

Last year, I made my first trip to the historic track to take part in the festivities and I walked away thoroughly impressed and even a little envious. It was as well planned, well-organized and well-run ceremony that I’ve ever seen. I must admit that I “stole” a few ideas from their ceremony and brought them back to implement into our Wall of Fame.

This year’s induction ceremony was of particular interest to me. Because I didn’t become apart of the Hawkeye Downs Wall of Fame until 2007, I never had the opportunity to meet Buzz Rose, a 2004 inductee. I had heard many a Buzz Rose story from my Wall of Fame cohorts and own several of his books about the history of IMCA but had never had the honor of speaking to him face to face. With his induction into the 2011 Kossuth County Racing Hall of Fame, this would be my opportunity.

The story behind Rose being inducted into the Kossuth County Racing Hall of Fame is an interesting one. Near the conclusion of the 1972 season Rose was looking for a ride, and Algona’s Daryl Arend needed a driver. Rose and Arend paired up for race dates at the historic Knoxville Raceway and at the Clay County Fairgrounds in Spencer, Iowa.

They both took a trip to California to pick up a brand new front spring sprinter built by the legendary Don Edmunds. Rose, who at the time was a successful ground transportation business owner at the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids airports, helped secure sponsorship from Ozark Airlines on the Arend’s #1.

During the 1973 season, Rose and Arend traveled the Midwest, racing across Iowa plus stops at big state fairs such as Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Sedalia, Missouri; Lincoln, Nebraska. They would go on to secure a fifth place finish in the final point standings that season.

Rose says that his relationship with Arend was a great one and he cherished their time together. He stated in his book, Show Biz Auto Racing that he was the best owner he ever wheeled a car for. As an car owner, I’m sure that Daryl Arends must have felt the same about Rose. Upon receiving his plaque, Arends was the first to offer Rose a heartfelt hug and congratulations.

I spent some time with Buzz and his two sons before the race and heard some wonderful stories that you won’t find in any book. For me, it was well worth the three-hour trip to hear from someone who was part of IMCA in it’s hey days.

Thanks to Chad Meyer for his hospitality during my visit. I’m already looking forward to next year’s induction ceremonies.

Thanks for picking us up. See you at the races…


August 3, 2011

The good, the bad and the pretzel…

Loves Park, Ill. (July 30, 2011) – Sometimes, pre-planned racing trips can turn out to be real duds when it’s all said and done. And sometimes, the last minute racing trips can be the most fruitful.

This was the case when, at the last minute, I decided to make the three hour drive to what has become not only one of my favorite tracks in the Midwest, but what I consider home away from home for me; Rockford Speedway.

I had no racing plans for the weekend. In fact, the only plans I had was to stay inside where the cool air could filter it’s way thru my golden locks. That was, until I was checking my emails Friday night and saw that my favorite track by way of the pave was not only having a 30-lap weekly late model feature but the 20th running of the JEGS/CRA All-Star Tour 'All-Star 100'. Also on the card were the rough and tumble roadrunner division competing in a “pretzel race”. What the hell is a “pretzel race”?

Included in the email was a $5 off coupon, bring the grand total for a ticket to this extravaganza to only $15.

Good marketing (and promoting) always catch my attention. Curiosity (and a $5 off coupon) got the best of me, so with my lucky ticket in hand, I took to the highway and headed in an easterly direction.

Usually by this time of the year, I would have already graced Rockford Speedway with my presence a couple of times, but this year has been the exception. I've always attended the Spring Classic, which kicks off the season. Missed it....On July 4th weekend, the Extreme Sprint Car Series blew into town and I was looking forward to seeing winged 410 sprint cars do the wild thing on the high-banked quarter-mile. I over slept for that one....So here it was, almost August, and I was just now making my first official visit. Better late than never, is what they say.

"Which form of proverb do you prefer Better late than never, or Better never than late?" - Lewis Carroll

Like I mentioned before, Rockford has become my home away from home. They roll the red carpet out upon my arrival and I enjoy a few luxuries not given to the common folk. For example; while most of the race fans sat in the grandstand, sweating under the hot sun, I sat in the air-conditioned media room above the grandstand with my feet kicked up. I'm not saying this to rub anyone's face in the turd-pile, I'm simply pointing out how privileged I always feel when attending one of the many fine events there.

The late model division at Rockford has been struggling with numbers this season. Ace track announcer Eric Huenefeld mentioned, "We've had some nights with only 10 or 12 cars but they were the best 10 or 12-car late model races you'll ever see." Tonight was no different. There were only 11 weekly late models checked in but they put on a fantastic 11-car feature.

Jon Reynolds Jr., affectionately known in these parts as "Driver X", took the Gerber Collision & Glass Challenge during prerace ceremonies and started in the back of the pack for the chance to earn an extra $400 in cash. With only 10 cars to pass and 30 laps in which to do it, Reynolds thought tonight would be as good as any to earn a little extra folding money.

Reynolds looked like he had made the right decision as he methodically picked off cars on his way to the front and was comfortably in second. He then set his sights on Jerry Gille, who had grabbed the lead early. With Reynolds knocking at his back door for the next 20 laps, Gille, who has become one of my personal favorites, managed to hold off the young upstart for his fourth victory this season. In victory lane, Gille stated, “Yeah, starting up front can help you, sometimes it can hurt you,” It definitely helped on this evening...

At Rockford each and every week, it’s survival of the fittest. That goes for any division, and any race; be it an 8-lap heat race or a 30-lap feature.

The main objective for each driver when competing here is to stay patient, avoid trouble and more importantly, keep their nose clean; that’s pretty plain and simple. That couldn’t have held truer than for the evening’s 100-lapper.

Tonight’s event turned out to be one of those prize fights that would go the full 15 rounds and whoever was standing at the end would be declared the winner. In this case, the winner was going to be the guy who had the most sheet metal left on their car. It was a knock down, drag out affair if I ever saw one. Multiple cautions plagued this race but you wanted to stick around and see how it ended.

With Rockford Speedway veterans, Rich Bickle and “Fast” Eddie Hoffman in the field, you’d naturally have to go with either one of them as the pre-race favorite. They’ve driven the track many a time and know what it takes to win there.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, what does it take to succeed at Rockford? That’s right; stay patient, avoid trouble and something about blowing your nose.

Surprisingly, it was the youngest pilot in the field that stayed out of trouble, showed the most patience, and kept his nose clean all the way to victory lane. Erik Jones of Byron, Mich., only 15 years of age, grabbed the lead around the midway point of the race and won by a quarter of a lap.

Jones’ running mate, 15-year-old Cody Coughlin of Delaware, Ohio finished a strong second. Bickle and Hoffman both saw their share of trouble but managed to take the third and fourth spots while an old Rockford regular, Mike Beyer of Machesney Park, Ill., pulled his car out of the weeds, decided to give it a go, and rounded out the top five.

This was one of those nights where having plenty of duct tape on hand was a neccessity.

After the race, Rich Bickle summed it up best, “Cautions breed cautions out here. At the end of the night, I guess I'm just happy we don't have a torn up race car and everything's intact.”

Now, to the fabulous “Pretzel Race”

As far as I could figure, this Gregg McKarns brain storm was probably dreamed up during the season-ending race party when the GM had already consumed a few too many drinks. Here’s how the conversation probably went...

Gregg McKarns; “I got it” (standing up suddenly, flailing his arms)

Angie McKarns: “Well, whatever it is, get a shot and get it cleared up. I don’t want the kids catching anything before Christmas break.”

Gregg McKarns: “No pussy cat. I have a great idea for a race we can have next year. I’ll call it the ‘Pretzel Race’.”

Angie McKarns; That’s super sweetie. Why don’t you put down the scotch and water, hand me the keys to the car and tell the guys you have to leave now.”

The “Pretzel Race” is exactly how it sounds. Using the Figure 8 track in the middle, five cars from the roadrunner division raced around Rockford in the same manner that a baker would make a pretzel. Instead of trying to explain what exactly happened, I copyed Rockford public relations guru Jordan Kuehne's play by play;

“The Sam’s Drive-In RoadRunner Challenge debuted the inaugural Pretzel Race tonight and it was Arlyn Roush that burst into the early lead before missing a sharp hairpin turn in the event that turned the quarter-mile asphalt oval into a twisting pretzel.”

“Roush went from fourth to first when Adam Cartwright went the wrong way. The mayhem continued as Sam Dover used his knowledge of the pretzel’s shape to snag the lead with one lap remaining. After Dover spun himself out on the last circuit, Cartwright assumed command again and hit his marks on the way to the trophy.”

I thoroughly enjoyed it and the fans loved it. It's what makes Rockford Speedway a step above everyone else. It’s also why I keep coming back each year.

Thanks to Jody Deery, Gregg McKarns, Jim Ambruoso, Eric Huenefeld and Jordan Kuehne for another enjoyable evening at Rockford Speedway.

Thanks for picking us up. See you at the races…


August 1, 2011

Rockford Speedway's All-Star 100 (July 30)

Two young drivers, Erik Jones, Byron, Mich. (center) and Cody Coughlin, Delaware, Ohio (left) stand tall with veteran driver in Rich Bickle, Janesville, Wis (right) in victory circle as they represent the top three finishers in the JEGS/CRA All-Star Tour 'All-Star 100'. - Photo by Jim Ambruoso

The 30-lap Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Models headliner, went to Jerry Gille's, Roscoe, Illinois way as the two-time division champ is shown in victory circle with his #1 supporter his father Ed Gille (right) and the division sponsor of Stanley Steemer (left). - Jim Ambruoso Photo

Ryan Carlson, Loves Park, Illinois and ‘Fast’ Eddie Hoffman, Wheaton, Ill.; slide in tandem entering turn four. Both drivers were able to continue but at the back of the pack. - Jim Ambruoso Photo

A red flag stopped the proceedings just three laps into the main event for a huge incident that started on the backstretch and carried into turn three as Danny Jackson careened into the tire that buffers the point and made hard contact. - Jim Ambruoso Photo

Mountain Dew RoadRunners points leader Alex Papini, Machesney Park, Illinois, wasted no time moving from his sixth place starting spot into the lead to bring home a victory in the 20-lap headliner. - Jim Ambruoso Photo