By Bill W:
We have been witnessing the "calm before the storm" here at Knoxville this season. June 14 witnessed the long awaited return of "The Storm" Tony Norem to Knoxville. The 32 year old sprint pilot from Dassell, MN returned in what could have been his last ride in Mike Botzek's B1st. The team suffered from a shock problem on Friday night, and a track not conducive to passing on Saturday, leading to a disappointing B main showing.
The team started the year strong by winning the Billy Anderson Memorial at Cedar Lake Speedway near Somerset, WI. After putting in a 410 powerplant, the team had hopes of running in that class often this year. Unfortunately, the team burned a couple of pistons in the motor when the B1st returned to Cedar Lake for an IRA show, May 11. The culprit was bad fuel that was sold to them at another raceway. Tony's desire to run in the 410 class did not go away.
Tony's aspirations of returning to the 410 ranks also came to fruition the weekend of the 360 Nationals as he was offered the seat of the famed Sonner 47, vacated by John VanDenBerg, who is again in his own V10. He borrowed a seat from Ricky Logan, and promptly went out and won his heat race. A one groove racetrack made passing virtually impossible so he ended deep in the pack, but he will be in the car at least another weekend, and possibly beyond. "I'm excited to get back in the 410s and come to race at Knoxville again," said the fan favorite.
Tony won rookie of the year honors in the 410 class in 1998, competing in George Sibet's 45. Norem had raced with Sibet at Cedar Lake in the 360 class, capturing the championship there in 1996, a fourth in 1995, and a second place points finish in 1997. In his first trip to Knoxville in 1997 Tony recorded a fourth place finish in the 360 feature. An unheard of accomplishment in the highly competitive class. The team raced a bit in 1999 with the 410, but Tony was back in the 360 class the following year with Mike Botzek.
The team clicked immediately in 2000, winning the Wissota Championship, the Fargo track championship, finishing third in the Knoxville points, winning 12 features, with 21 top threes, 26 top fives, and 33 top tens in only 36 races. Tony won over a lot of fans with his back to front charges. Those efforts also earned him the Knoxville 360 "Hard Charger" award.
Bad fortune plagued the team in 2001. Unexplained mechanical problems and other matters caused inconsistency. Despite that, the team did finish third in the points race at Knoxville, and they registered three wins, two of them at the famous half-mile. In addition, Tony was given the prestigous 360 "Wild Card" Award from the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame's voting panel, and accepted the award in Indianapolis, IN.
Norem's racing talents haven't been in sprints alone. He has won numerous features and a total of five rookie of the year awards and has competed in no less than eight classes of cars including asphalt and dirt modifieds, asphalt and dirt late models, go-karts, formula Dodge, Artgo Challenge Series, and 360 and 410 sprints.
Norem's wife Jessica and six year old son, Ashton provide support for the self-employed remodeler. Look out Knoxville, "The Storm" is back!