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...