(Bill W) June 18 - It certainly has been a strange year to say the least on a number of counts. For those who started in Florida or PA, the wait was not quite as long for racing, but for the rest of us it was close to torture. I’ve never beaten myself up for not attending a race more than I did at my passing of the Shamrock Classic in March…but who knew?
My son Sam and I were enjoying Spring Break in the south when all of this started. We enjoyed our trip, then came home to well, stay home.
I was extremely fortunate to be asked by Terry McCarl to be a scorer for the “Corona Clash” in Park Jefferson April 25, so we were able to get our race fix a little. It was really a great race that many saw on PPV, won by Brock Zearfoss.
Check out the shirt in the picture. It was quickly handed to me by Glen Freeland. Are there more? I don’t know, but mine hangs with mask in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum for historical purposes.
Two weeks later, the World of Outlaws were at Knoxville, with David Gravel winning another thriller. Of course, many saw that as by all accounts it was one of the biggest (if not the biggest) PPV hits in sprint car history.
I was fortunate enough to cover a Jackson event that saw Brad Sweet get by Donny Schatz and Sheldon Haudenschild for the win (without fans)…and the following week found Jeff Broeg and myself on SpeedShiftTV announcing to the folks at home from 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa. California’s Kyle Offill bested 40 cars in Sprint Invaders action in the first time he’s ever seen the place.
Thank goodness that was the last race I was in attendance without fans. It is a very strange feeling, and very quiet. Jackson and Knoxville were extremely so. It just doesn’t feel right. We can be thankful that PPV, tracks and series were willing to roll the dice on such events, however.
It was back to Park Jeff at the end of May for the All Stars opener. What an odd occurrence for the series to race their first point events at venues they had never been at, and continue south and west. The IRA was also in attendance (for show-up points I believe). The racing was good on night one when Aaron Reutzel won, but Saturday’s show had the crowd on its feet! Austin McCarl and Reutzel went back and forth in a race that many will remember.
Catching most of the All Stars action through Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Louisiana on FloRacing, they had some barnburners! Be sure to catch the video highlights here on www.OpenWheel101.com!
Of course, Knoxville Raceway got things going with limited fans. They are doing their best to accommodate everyone in tough times. Some assume that 50% capacity actually means you can fit 50%, which is taken out of the equation with social distancing.
Every other row is being used, which is 50%. Now put three seats between yourself and the next group. If you are going solo, that’s three seats on your right, and three on your left. You get the idea. The percentage falls somewhere around 32-34% capacity. You can imagine what that does to those who want reserved tickets. It’s just not possible. The track is getting inundated with calls of complaint…don’t be one of them. Just be happy we have racing. The Nationals decision is said to be coming down on July 1.
Brian Brown, Carson McCarl and Russ Hall had them covered on opening night at Knoxville, and we all know how hot Kyle Larson is right now. He beat them all again last night at Gas City, bringing his win streak to seven (three with the All Stars, two with the WoO at Knoxville, and two during Indiana Midget Week at Paragon and Gas City).
Watching Indiana Midget Week is tough. It makes me wonder why I’m not there more than anything. Over forty midgets and sprints is where it’s at. Dream races. Thank goodness for FloRacing (they just bought SpeedShiftTV), but will keep Darren, Chet, Haley and the gang along for the ride. It’s great to tune in on PPV, but nothing like being at the show, especially when midgets are two and three-wide around a bullring.
Last Sunday, the Sprint Invaders had a great race in Moberly, Missouri. Twenty-seven cars showed up, and the high banks turned out to lend to an electrifying show. Austin McCarl had them covered with an incredible line in one and two, and had lapped up to tenth or so before a caution saw Ayrton Gennetten reel him in for the restart. After trading the lead again, Gennetten slid to the fore and held on for his first ever win with the group. As Gennetten told me afterwards, “It took serious balls for Austin to go up where he did on the banking in turn one.”
Jason Goble has been promoting at Quincy for a while now, and is leasing Moberly from the Claypool’s. He’s getting the bugs worked out in the program, but has had two tremendous shows with great attendance already. With nothing shaking in Illinois, Jason has moved the Sprint Invaders to Moberly again on Sunday, July 5. It’s a good way to cap your holiday weekend.
Speaking of schedules on the fly, which they are right now, you can catch the Sprint Invaders on the quarter-mile in Davenport on Friday, June 26, and at 34 Raceway in West Burlington on Saturday, June 27. That’s the same weekend Knoxville is off, and the Jackson Nationals commence June 25-27. The Sprint Invaders visit to Dubuque Speedway and the fairgrounds there has tentatively been moved back one day to Thursday, July 30.
It was great to see Anthony Macri do so well here at Knoxville, making the show both nights with the WoO and driving strong in the opener as well. He returned to his home state overnight and won Sunday night at Port Royal. The team plans to return to Knoxville for both the 360 and 410 Nationals in August. Certainly, his time racing against competition in the Midwest has paid off for him. Brent Marks also made the 927-mile journey overnight and finished third.
Speaking of Port Royal, it looked like they had great crowds on their first weekend back. Kudos to my friend, Steve O’Neal, who has won National 410 Promoter of the Year four straight times now. A new tunnel and victory lane area are just a couple of the new improvements at the “Speed Palace.” When Port bought those huge grandstands, I wondered how they would ever be filled, but they did just that when they sold out the Tuscarora 50 there last September. It was a great sight!
It was also a late start for my passion, the Midwest Thunder Sprint Series presented by OpenWheel101.com. The Knoxville opener usually marks the beginning and it was so this year as well.
Now things are clicking, but we can always use additions to the point fund. It you’re interested in sponsoring something where 100% of your dollars go to the drivers racing 410 sprint cars, this is it! This is our fourth year, and we’ve increased our point fund every year. We intend to do that again.
Let me know how you can help at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any amount works, and you get free advertising with it, or remain anonymous…you can’t beat that with a stick.
Well, heading to get married this next week to beautiful Ellen in North Carolina with the family. We’re planning on being back in time to call the Sprint Invaders at Burlington (honeymoon delayed until November). Until then, hoping we can get Knoxville in Saturday!