September 24, 2012

Cajun Gasoline

Tad Popisil (04) & Alex Humphrey (16h) battle during Grand National action on Saturday night - Kyle Ealy Photo

Greenwood, Neb. – When the month of August came to a close, so was racing for me. Or so I thought…
A change of heart took me to I-80 Speedway for the two-day Midwest Fall Brawl featuring the ASCS sprint cars. I called my Midwest Racing Archives cohort Lee Ackerman and told him to prepare the guest room, I was heading his way. He said the back porch would be ready….bring a sleeping bag.
I’ve seen three expertly prepared tracks this season and two of them have been at I-80 Speedway (the other being Independence Motor Speedway for the World of Outlaw late models). It goes without saying; Joe and Steve Kosiski have track preparation down to a science. The surface was nice and heavy and the result was two nights of spectacular 360 sprint car racing.
There is a sprint car track about two hours east of Omaha that refers to themselves as the “Sprint Car Capital of the World” that could use some of their knowledge on how to prepare a racy surface for sprint cars. The difference, of course, is that the Kosiski’s give a shit and the other track…..not so much.
The ASCS drivers did themselves proud on these two nights. They ran a total of seven heats, two B-mains and two A-mains…total cautions for two nights of racing…one. That’s right folks, one caution for 11 races.
One of the reasons I showed up for this event was because of last year’s event. It was as star-studded as they came with all the heavy hitters in the 360 division in attendance. Unfortunately, last year’s two-day show never got off the ground. The Friday night program was cut short when a sprint car took a ride through the fencing in turns three and four, putting an abrupt ending to that evening and Saturday’s program was rained out.
Perfect fall weather greeted everyone this weekend and star power was in abundance, with 30 cars checking in on both nights. Jack Dover, Brian Brown, Jason Johnson, Justin Henderson, Clint Garner, Don Droud Jr., Danny Lasoski and Wayne Johnson were some of the heavy hitters in attendance.
Jack Dover won Friday night's ASCS preliminary feature - Kyle Ealy Photo

Jack “The Gas Man” Dover would make shambles of the field on Friday night, winning the 25-lap main on what I later learned was his dad’s birthday. What made it even more interesting was it was Marc Dover’s 53rd birthday. Jack’s car number is 53. Jason Johnson would start seventh and finish second. The track was so lightning fast, the 25 laps clicked off in a matter of minutes.
As I walked down the front stretch to victory lane, I could still feel the tackiness of the track. It was ready for another 25-lap main event. A nicely prepared racing surface makes all the difference in the world between a good a show and a great show…
As you may well know, I’m not a fan of B-modifieds but Friday night’s main event would prove interesting. Jesse Sobbing, who has pretty much dominated B-mod/SportMod racing in Iowa and Nebraska, started sixth, grabbed the lead halfway through and to no one’s surprise, grabbed the win. But that’s not who I was paying attention to, nor was anyone else.
Omaha’s Bill Flegg, who won the B-modified point’s championship at I-80 this season over Sobbing, started 14th and worked his way to second before running out of laps. If the feature had gotten a late caution, it would have been interesting to see if Flegg would have had anything for “Kid Sportmod.”
Not being familiar with drivers in this area, Lee had told me before the races that Flegg winning the B-modified title here at I-80 over Sobbing was something of a monumental achievement this season for the veteran. He told me that Flegg is one of the nice guys in the sport whose been racing a long time and winning the championship was long overdue. He certainly impressed me with his driving abilities on Friday night.
"My dad Jesse Sobbing is #1" - Kyle Ealy Photo

I did experience a first Friday night. Before the races, I stationed myself over between turns one and two where some of the B-modified drivers had set up camp.
One B-modified driver walked over by me, leaned over the guard rail and looked at the track. He turned to me and asked, “Do you think it’ll stay heavy tonight?”
I took a look myself and responded, “I think it’ll be good tonight.”
“Well, I sure hope so, I sure do like a heavy track,” he responded.
I about dropped over….I can’t think of a time when I heard a B-modified driver say he liked a heavy track over a dry-slick. It was then that I thought to myself, I was definitely not in IMCA country…
During my visit on I had the pleasure of running into some old friends. Joe Orth has been a photographer for many years and is by far, one of the best in the business. He’s an open wheel guy but also shoots weekly at Eagle Raceway, only 10 or 15 miles from I-80. As we got to talking, Joe told me that he had acquired an IMCA banner from the prehistoric days. After explaining what it looked like, he told me he’d bring it the next day. Sure enough, he brought it with him Saturday and after some major discussion we came to the conclusion that it’s from either 1965 or ’66. It’s about 12 foot long when spread out and Joe explained the difficulty in not having a wall in his race room that was long enough to display it. I joked with him if it was becoming a hassle, I’d be happy to take it off his hands. Pictured below is the banner…

If you’re a reader of our sister website, Midwest Racing Archives, the name Bob Mays may be familiar. Every time I write an article about the old IMCA sprint car days, I know exactly who to contact about photos. Bob, one of the more noted race historians in the United States, has probably one of the most unique and biggest collections of sprint car photos in the nation. Bob has also written several books, of which I am the proud owner of most of them.
It was great getting the chance to talk to both guys, there both tremendous assets to the sport of open wheel racing.
Saturday night’s 360 sprint car A-main would prove interesting as Johnson and Brian Brown would duke it out for the last quarter of the race. Johnson took the lead at the onset and it appeared as though he was going to win in a runaway, but Brian Brown, who started on the front row with Johnson but fell back at the start, made a late surge and gave Johnson all he could handle. Brown got his nose inside of Johnson on several occasions but couldn’t put the final nail in the coffin. 
This was as close as Brian Brown (21) would get to Jason Johnson (41) during Saturday night's ASCS 25-lap main event. - Kyle Ealy Photo

It was a hell of a show put on between the two hotshoes and the crowd, myself included, got their money’s worth tonight.
I’ll say it again (this time with clarity)…an expertly prepared track is the difference between a good show and a great show and everyone this weekend witnessed two nights of fantastic racing.
Thanks to Lee Ackerman for not making me sleep on the back porch and a special thanks to the Kosiski family for prepping a great track and giving the masses in attendance two solid nights of racing.
I’ll be back in 2013…
Thanks for picking us up,

Kyle Ealy