Fan Notes from the 2019 Four Crown at Eldora

Saturday, September 28, 2019
Jack Hewitt talks with Kevin OldhamJack Hewitt talks with Kevin Oldham Tom Myers (9/29/2019) – I love the winged sprint cars….but I also like non-wing open wheel racing. I don’t get as many chances to see the non-wingers as I get to see the wingers….and that is why I love the Four Crown event at Eldora. At the Four Crown, I get the opportunity to see the USAC Sprints, midgets and Silver Crown cars as well as the All Star sprints. What more could a sprint car fan wish for?

This year’s Four Crown featured good weather….. thankfully. At 5 o’clock, it looked like some rain could possibly move in but by 6:30 the skies had started to clear. The temperatures were moderate and there was a slight breeze as the water truck circled the track and the push trucks turned the slop into a gooey racing surface.

After getting a seat and getting pops settled in the grandstands, I made my way to the pits to take some pictures and see who was signed in. Upon exiting the “love tunnel,” as it’s called, I made my way to the concrete path where the haulers enter the track from across the backstretch. Almost immediately I recognized Jack Hewitt, who was riding on the back of an extra large golf cart full of people, who had just come across the track and into the pits. As Jack was getting off the cart, I didn’t say “Hi Jack” or anything like that, I just walked up to him and asked, “Is this your first time at Eldora?” With a big grin he said, “I’ve been here one time before.” Then after we laughed I patted him on the back and we went our separate ways and I had a big smile on.

I was off across the pits to scope out the competitors and the cars. I have been intrigued with the Silver Crown power plants so I stopped to look at Brady Bacon’s #6 car. Wouldn’t you know, the hood was off and ….gasp…..there was a FORD motor staring at me! Honestly, I just thought the different looking pipes were on there because of maybe, different heads and these engines were all Chevys or something like that. With all the talk and sensationalism around the new FORD sprint car engine this year, I actually thought there were no FORDS in any sprint car type cars anymore. But it turns out that there are a lot of 360 Ford engines out there. It must be the transition to the larger 410 cubic inches that are mystifying to accomplish with a Ford block? Or just maybe the fact is not too many have attempted doing it since the Dave Blaney WoO days…. and the parts matching the rule book need developed again? In any case, sometimes I kind of feel like I am in the know and then sometimes I feel like I don’t know anything!
Billy BoatBilly Boat So I saw Joey Saldana in the 12N Nemesis car, the same car he drove at the Nationals this year. The 1G car was here but Cale Thomas was driving it, not Tim Shaffer. Around the corner was the Seeling 97 car Max Stambaugh is driving and Rick Ferkel is still helping wrench on that car. A few more cars down the line from Stambaugh, was Aaron Reutzel, who was sporting his Knoxville Nationals paint scheme. Aaron just needed to sign in to be this year’s All Star Champion. Reutzel has had a great year this year, is always bad fast and would have won a bunch more races if not for some untimely mechanical woes. I wonder which group he will race with next season? Further down the line was Gio Scelzi in the gray and green colored 71 numbered Indy Race Parts car. James McFadden was here driving Kasey Kahne’s 9 car. Dave Blaney was in attendance with his white 98 car. Dave had his top and front wings tilted so the right side of each wing was lower. Imagine cutting about 6 to 12 inches of length off your wing mounts…but just on the right side of the car…..that’s what it looked like. That’s the best way I can think of to describe it. Walking further down the line of cars, I came to a red #2 car driven by Wayne Johnson. I then saw Billy Boat signing autographs. He signed one and then someone else came up to him asking for an autograph and Billy, with a smile on his face, signed for that fellow as well. I really enjoyed the early days of the IRL. It was a thrill to see Jack Hewitt and Steve Kinser race in the 500, as well as Tony Stewart and Billy Boat. Ok, so walking further I saw Mason Daniel and the “Dude” and parked next to them was Dominic Scelzi. Buddy Kofoid was driving the black Keith Kunz 67 winged sprinter this evening and Rico Abreu had his blue 24 sprinter parked close by…..6 Toyota sponsored Kunz midgets were parked between Buddy’s 67 car and Rico’s 24 car. Moving along, I thought it was cool to see Chad Kemenah racing a Silver Crown car….numbered 15h…with a blue tail tank. Kory Crabtree was driving the Gulf Oil paint schemed 60 non-wing car.

As I continued my walk, I saw Duane Hancock over by the All Star trailer. As you may or may not know, Duane headed up the new AFCS this year. The AFCS stands for the Attica-Fremont Championship Series that took the place of the old FAST series for the 410 winged sprint cars. As I greeted Duane, I revealed to him that I knew the real secret behind the supposed lowering of the banking here at Eldora. There are so many conspiracy theories and grumblings and this and that and just being here in the pits, and being around the cars and taking in the atmosphere today, I figured it all out. I then explained that quite simply, the banking was lowered so the tow rigs, ever increasing in length, could more easily navigate the entry and exit of the track! Bingo, case closed! Duane laughed and then we both discussed how the current racing at Eldora always is really good.

I have to say, USAC has some awesome drivers. The way these guys throw these sprints, midgets and Silver Crown cars up against the wall around here is amazing. “Sunshine” Tyler Courtney is a beast. Kevin Thomas Jr., C.J. Leary, Chase Stockon, Brady “the Macho- man” Bacon, Chris Windom, Logan Seavey, Dave Darland…..and the list goes on. It’s a real treat to be able to watch these guys race. And they put on a whale of a show!

I walked over to the turn 3 area to watch the All Star hot laps. I stood right in front of some track equipment and looked out at the track where the fence opening was right in turn 3. As the winged sprints screamed by at an insane speed, and not being used to standing that close to the cars at speed, I understood how someone could stain their britches. After taking a few pictures there, I started walking toward the tunnel to get back to the stands for time trials and I saw my new friend Jack Schilb standing there. I met Jack during Ohio Speedweek this year and we have been running into each other at the races ever since. Jack reads my stories and knowing he was an English major in college, his positive feedback really encourages me, I must say. Thank you Jack!
Buddy KofoidBuddy Kofoid And now onto the racing! Eldora is certainly over the top these days. There were lots of fireworks….and flaming whooshes. Horses trotted around the track during the Star Spangled Banner as more fireworks went off. There is a huge jumbo-tron that not only shows victory lane interviews, but it shows commercials between events. There was a really big crowd…the stands looked to be pretty full all the way around the place…..and because of the big crowd, the 50/50 was over $18,000 dollars, which was a record for this event!

After the hot laps and time trials and heat races, we had the features. There were 42 All Star Sprints on hand, 35 USAC sprints, 20 midgets and 27 Silver Crown cars. The 20 lap midget feature was first and when it started, I thought Rico was going to dash to the front and run away with it based upon his heat race domination, and also how the midget feature started. Rico started in 5th and by the 2nd lap was in third and catching the top 2 cars. However, on lap 3 or so, Jason McDougal the turn 4 wall and flipped. It was a bad one because I saw him flipping out of the corner of my eye and then when I looked over, the car slammed into the concrete wall and abruptly stopped. The deceleration! Somehow he got out on his own and although he was done for the midget race, he raced in the USAC sprint race and the Silver Crown race! When the race resumed Rico didn’t have the speed and fell back as Sunshine drove to the front and the win from the 6th spot. It was really cool to watch the midgets slide job each other almost in every turn. And by this point in the evening, the track had developed a cushion, yes, a cushion. It was about 2 yards off the wall and you could hear the right rear tires on these midgets hit the cushion and spin in it as the cars came around turn 4. It kind of sounded like distant rolling thunder and at first I didn’t know what that sound was but quickly figured it out. You could only hear this tire noise with the midgets…..the other classes of cars were too loud.

The USAC sprints came out next and I was excited to see that one of the wingers, Kory Crabtree, made the feature. Kevin Thomas Jr grabbed the lead in the 30 lap race with C.J. Leary following. Sunshine surged from 6th to 3rd on the first lap. By lap 6 Sunshine had passed Leary and set sail for Thomas Jr. The racers were ramming the cushion with abandon because when they slid up into it with the right rear, they got a good boost of speed off the corner. Sunshine kept getting closer and closer to Thomas Jr. and then on lap 17, with Sunshine a few car lengths back, Thomas Jr hit the turn 4 wall and I think he knocked his steering or suspension out of whack. Courtney raced right by with a slider entering turn 3 and went on to a big lead. Leary spun on lap 20 and had a left rear tire go down. His crew couldn’t get it off the axle to change it and he missed the restart of the race. Sunshine wins it followed by Windom in 2nd with Justin Grant in 3rd and Thomas Jr. faded to 4th.

And then the All Stars were up. I was very thankful the All Stars were up next because during the USAC midget and sprint races, we had some rowdy USAC fans sitting in front of us, like in the very row in front of us, and they would stand up from time to time, like 3 or 4 of them at a time, to yell at each other, pass beers and hoot and holler for their favorite USAC driver….like in the middle of the race. It was hard to see the racing action sometimes. One of these jokers was wearing a Rico 24 hat with the mullet hair hanging out the back of it. I love those hats by the way, I love the way Rico is injecting his personality into the sport. Rico’s mullet hats remind me of the wing hats years ago. The wing hats actually had a replica aluminum top wing attached to them. They sold Kinser and Swindell and Haudenschild hats and there were a lot of them.
Aaron Reutzel in Victory Lane at EldoraAaron Reutzel in Victory Lane at Eldora When the All Stars came out, this group of people in front of us got up and left for awhile…and pops and I could see again! Outside front row starter Cale Thomas got out to the early lead followed by pole sitter Cale Conley and Gio Scelzi. Cory Eliason stuck his nose in there and got past Scelzi and then raced after Conley as Thomas extended his lead. It didn’t take long for 6th starting Ruetzel to enter the picture as well. Eliason passed Thomas for the lead on lap 6 as Scelzi was working well on the extreme low side and was now in 3rd. Ruetzel passed Conley for 4th place on lap 6 by using the middle of the track. Scelzi grabs 2nd from Thomas on lap 8 as Reutzel moves in and passes Thomas as well. Thomas looses it in turn 3 and spins but keeps it going….and the yellow comes out. He has to go to the tail. On lap 10 Reutzel, who is still running the middle, passes Scelzi and starts catching Eliason. On lap 15 Reutzel slide jobs Eliason at the turn 2 exit and then runs away for the win. Blaney and Kofoid mope up but run out of steam at the end. The top 5 finish is Reutzel, Eliason, Scelzi, Kofoid and Blaney.

Now pops wants to go back to the hotel room, it’s midnight, so we leave Eldora with another race still to be run. That was some good racing. Tyler Courtney wins both the midget race and the USAC sprint race in convincing style and with a barrage of slide jobs. Brady Bacon wins the Silver Crown race with a FORD engine. Aaron Reutzel, who is on fire right now, winning 6 All Star races in September, wins his 16th All Star feature to cap off a great All Star Championship year.

Thank you Eldora Speedway! Thank you All Star Circuit of Champions and thank you USAC for putting on such a great event each year! Hopefully we will see you next year!

This is probably my last race of the season. Thank you for reading and I hope to be able to do this again next racing season!