August 26, 2013

Rockford Speedway

Photos Courtesy of Jim Ambruoso
Battle of 'Champions' is 7-time Rockford Speedway Champion # 02 Ricky Bilderback, Rockton, Illinois and 3-time Rockford Speedway Champion # 99 Jerry Gille, Roscoe, Illinois battle side by side during the Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Model feature.

Kyle LaPier shows off his winning trophy in victory lane after posting the win in the American Short Tracker 25-lap feature.
Looking out of focus was #99 Justin Sellers, Carol Stream, Illinois as he limps back to the pit area after being involve in a multi car crash during his feature event.

 John Robinson, # 99r took home the honors in winning the Bargain Hunters Sportsman 25-lap feature.

Current point leader # 39 Alex Papini, Machesney, Park, Illinois finds himself boxed in with other competitors as he attempts to overtake # 36 Kyle Shear.

Ricky Bilderback # 02 Rockton, Illinois came from the back of the pack to battle for the lead with Driver 'X' Jon Reynolds, Jr.  As stake for Ricky Bilderback was the Gerber Challenge Fund of $1,800 he could win from the back of the pack.  Bilderback finished third.

 Jon Reynolds Jr, 'Driver X' in victory after winning the 30-lap NASCAR Late Model feature.

Autin Fowler # 29 Loves Park, Illinois and  Adam Cartwright, Belvidere, Illinois await the help from Rockford Speedways safety crew after both cars hit the point during the RoadRunner feature.

The checker flag waves over head to the 'Ole Man' # 98 Gene Marocco as he crosses the finish line first winning the RockStar RoadRunner 20-lap feature.

August 25, 2013

My Two CENT$ - "The Voice"

by Mike Ruefer
Davenport, IA - Earlier this summer when I was at the pit shack for a Deery Brothers Summer Series race at West Liberty Raceway the light bulb turned on. Getting inspiration for column topics can come from the weirdest ideas or from the serious situations that I think about concerning dirt late model racing.

As I was checking in for the race I did my usual thing and signed in on the release form for my pit pass. In most cases at many tracks you sign your name and describe your duties or media affiliation. As I signed in, I looked right above my name and under duties I saw, “The Voice”.

Jeff Broeg - Mike Ruefer Photo

It had nothing to do with the hit NBC television show but described the duties for that night’s announcer, Jeff Broeg from Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Jeff is a very talented writer and columnist but he is also a very good announcer. It made me think about how important an announcer is for a great night of racing and I knew that night the fans would be informed, enlightened and entertained. During the drive home I kept thinking about “The Voice” and just how important the job of announcer is for racing to be successful. It is probably the most important job at the track.

If you think about it, what type of sporting event does not have an announcer? They all do. Why, because it’s that important. As humans (at least most of us are) we need to know stuff. Even if we think we know, we need to hear and listen about who, what, why, where and how, of things that we see. Just think about this. How good would the experience of watching TV be if we did not have sound? Ok, maybe it would be better for a NASCAR race but overall it would be unsatisfying. We need talking heads, folks who can inform, enlighten and entertain us. Announcers bring audio stimulation to our senses. Without announcers we would just stare off into the sunset and leave the races wondering who won while we were standing in the beer concession line.

Jerry Mackey - Mike Ruefer Photo

The famous boxing announcer Michael Buffer has the classic line “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” and when he does that it ignites the crowd and TV audience. It’s exciting and makes you feel pumped up for the event. Now that’s probably an extreme and may be over the top for the average dirt track but I think every announcer has their own way to Fire up the crowd. One of my favorites has always been Jerry Mackey who has been doing announcing for 30 years. His “Hello Races Fans” at the beginning of the night and his closure “And we’ll see you at the races, good night everybody” still to this day makes me feel good and appreciated for coming.

When I think back to when Hav-A-Tampa came to Davenport Speedway, their long time announcer Roby Helm would play to the packed grandstand crowd like a fiddle and the roar would echo when he introduced the cars and stars of the series. Every series and track has “The Voice” and honestly I’m in awe on how they do their jobs. To be quick witted and talk without hesitation to thousands of die-hard fans is hard and they make it look so easy.

James Essex - Mike Ruefer Photo

Over the years I’ve been lucky to get to know most of the guys on the touring circuits who rattle the microphone and beat the drum. In many ways the announcer becomes the voice and face of the race or series to the fans. It would be hard for me to think about the Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series without James Essex with his classic cool sounds. He has become gold standard for excellent work and expert commentary.

On a sad note I was sorry to hear earlier in the year that former World of Outlaws Late Model Series announcer Rick Eshelman has taken a sabbatical from the rigors of the road. Rick does an outstanding job and brings a big ring wrestling hype that most others could not pull off. His enthusiasm, nick names and theatrics are entertaining. I still find his Uncle Sam outfit for the “Firecracker 100” at Lernerville Speedway to be very neat.

The Voice that has always resonated to me as almost perfection would be that of Bret Emrick. His radio tone during all the early years when I huddled in the Eldora Speedway grandstand while watching time trials or pre-race commentary still amplifies in my mind. The current WoO Race Director is still a star.

Tom Lathen - Mike Ruefer Photo

Not that those others don’t have these qualities but when I think of professionalism, attention to detail and hardworking I remember Tom Lathen and what he did for the World Dirt Racing League. Tom always was cool under fire and made his commentary fresh and thorough. He always had interesting side notes on the drivers and took care of all sponsors. It was always a pleasure to listen to his work.

Phil Roberts - Mike Ruefer Photo

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the patriarch of the Iowa/Illinois Quad City area announcers with that being Phil Roberts. He has done it all over his career while at the track but also with his renowned old radio show “Around the Track”. I can remember listening to him and his weekly stories. His firsthand accounts of the racing action and a journalistic quality have made him the example for perfection that others should try to follow.

Kyle Bentley - Mike Ruefer Photo

The future is upon us and luckily we have young talented announcers honing their craft while adding their new flair to the chore. Guys like Ben Shelton currently filling in for the Outlaws and doing the Dirt on Dirt broadcasts. Dustin Jarrett has one of racing’s biggest stages at Eldora Speedway which could make him legendary. Around Iowa we have Ryan Clark with Independence Motor Speedway and Kyle Bentley with the Corn Belt Clash who will make their mark and have announcing greatness. Last but not least I’d like to mention Eric Huenefeld. Whether its dirt, asphalt or Friday night football, Eric is can do it all. I only hope he stays with racing and when he goes Big Time, we can say we heard him first.

Eric Huenefeld - Mike Ruefer Photo
For all of you who have ever announced racing events past or present I thank you for what you do for racing. I wish I could mention you all as you all deserve it. On all of your shelves, bookcases and fireplace mantles you should have a golden microphone with no more description than the “The Voice,” it says it all.

August 19, 2013

Rockford Speedway

Photos Courtesy of Jim Ambruoso
Adding another trophy to his collection is Jason Van Hise, #71 Loves Park, Illinois as he claims victory in the Sam's Drive-In RoadRunner Challenge.

Time for the kids to take to the track as they were not clowning around when it was time for them to race in the Hogwash Kids Mini Grand Prix feature. Those smiles are worth a thousands words.

American Super Cup Feature winner Erle Hoth

Kyle LaPier #55 Belvidere, Illinois raced to the front to win the Miller Lite American Short Trackers 25-Lap feature.
After a long week of searching for the problems that have plagued him for some time Jon Reynolds, Jr. "Driver X"  found his hard work would pay off as he returns to victory lane for the Stanley Steemer Late Models in his 30-lap feature.

Dennis Smith, Jr., South Beloit; #08 claims yet another feature win in the RockStar RoadRunners 20-lap main event..

August 14, 2013

Marshalltown Speedway - Corn Belt Clash

Photos Courtesy of Mike Ruefer
Jason Utter was victorious at the Corn Belt Clash event at Marshalltown
Chad Simpson (25) and Jason Utter (31)
Pete Parker (10), Justin Mitchell (28x), and Curt Martin (45)
Denny Eckrich (50) and Dave Eckrich (58)
Tuesday Night Titan; Utter clamed his second Tuesday night open late model win in as many weeks
Darrel DeFrance (99d) and Justin Mitchell (28x)
Justin Mitchell garnered a top-five finish
Chris Simpson (32) and Dave Eckrich (58)
Jason Jaggers (32j) and Denny Eckrich (50)

Junction Motor Speedway - World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series

Photos Courtesy of Joe Orth
Steve Kinser claimed his second World of Outlaws win of the season at Junction Motor Speedway.
JMS promoter Delmar Friesen with Steve Kinser in victory lane.
Natalie Sather interviews feature winner Steve Kinser.
Top Three; Kerry Madsen (2nd), Steve Kinser (1st), and Donny Schatz (3rd).

August 12, 2013

Quincy Raceways - American Late Model Series

Photos Courtesy of John Vass
Bobby Pierce is very happy after winning the 40-lap ALMS feature at the Quincy Raceway.
Steve Thorston runs low racing with Brian Divley at Quincy
Denny Woodworth digs low trying to keep the early lead from Bobby Pierce in the ALMS feature at the Quincy Raceway
Ricky Frankel and Mark Burgtorf racing hard at Quincy Raceway
Dustin Griffin- Brandon Thirlby- Billy Genenbacher playing nicely at the Quincy Raceway
Michael Long runs low while Rickey Frankel has the high side with Clint Kirkham being caught in the middle
Bobby Pierce on his way to winning the 40-lap ALMS feature at the Quincy Raceway
Kevin Weaver and Mark Burgtorf racing hard at Quincy
Jason Perry takes a run at getting by the high flying Brandon Sheppard at Quincy

August 11, 2013

Rockford Speedway

Photos Courtesy of Jim Ambruoso
Kodee Busekros, Loves Park #86 wins his heat race in the Hornet class.

Patrick Featherston II, Byron #71 in victory lane winning the Sportsman heat race.

 Its not whether you placed first or last; its knowing you took part as this young bike racer gets assistance from Rockford Speedway's GM Gregg McKarns to the finish line. 

Winner of the Nationwide Insurance KIDS BIKE RACES.

Arlyn Roush, Woodstock, IL #24 raced to a feature win in the RockStar Energy RoadRunner 20-lap main event. 

Justin Sellers, Carol Stream, IL #99 topped the field to win the Bargain Hunters Sportsman 25-lap feature.
Rockford Speedways CEO Jody Deery in victory lane with Alex Papini Machesney Park, IL #39 after winning the Stanley Steemer NASCAR LATE MODEL feature.

Shawn Rickelman, Rockton, IL #50 wins his first feature of the 2013 season for the RoadRunner Non-Feature Winner 15-lap feature.

Rich Schinderling Jr, Port Charlotte, FL #68 returns home and to Rockford Speedway and wins the Hornet Swarm 15-lap feature.