Fan Notes from Fremont Jim Ford Classic Night #2

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Fremont SpeedwayFremont Speedway (Tom Myers) Fremont, Ohio 9/16/2017 – Night #2 of the Jim Ford classic promised to be a good one because of the great race the night before and the bigger winner’s share up for grabs. New comers on night 2 included Cody Kinser and Tracy Hines. Jeff Swindell was back and his ride was on time too! Of note was the news that Jody Keegan would be racing in his last 410 sprint car race this evening.

The evening weather was perfect. Not too hot, not very breezy, with lots of sunshine. The dark Fremont dirt slicked off a little during time trials, but only at the turn two exit. The moisture came up as the evening went on and the sun went down. Once again, the track developed a high cushion with a sharp ledge. The track crew did cut it down once but the ledge came back and stayed through the remainder of the program. The dirt at Fremont is different than that at most of the Ohio tracks. It reminds me of the dirt at Knoxville. The Fremont dirt is darker and seems to be more gooey and not as dusty or sandy as Ohio tracks tend to be. However, unlike Knoxville, the dirt at Fremont can get kind of crusty, or flaky, with chunks breaking loose and holes forming sometimes. I don’t know how else to describe it. But for the most part, it stays smooth and racy and such was the case this evening.

Once again, forty cars were in the pits. It seems the Gressman engines are working well right now for Tim Shaffer. He said as much in victory lane last evening and also quipped about how much fun he is having…since they pick and choose where and when they race. Caleb Helms has had some recent success using a Gressman engine as well. In fact, many of the racers here are using Gressman power. You also see Level Performance, Griff’s , HP, Rider, Kistler, and Claxton.
Jody KeeganJody Keegan A couple of things always amaze me when I go to the races…..The first thing I want to mention is this…..Once again, as I was hiking up the bleachers to find a seat, I heard some fans talking about Wolfgang and Kinser and Swindell and Doty and Haudenschild. They were not talking about anything recent…… but they were going over memories of the past… twenty and thirty years ago! Wolfgang and Kinser and Swindell and Doty and Haudenschild have been so much larger than life it seems. When it comes to sprint car racing and the fans of sprint car racing……..the past exploits of these drivers have been permanently etched into their collective memories. So much so that, talking about the old days and especially these drivers is still exciting and exhilarating! I know, because sometimes I feel this exact same way. I think many of us share this experience. Some, no doubt, think of Kenny Weld or Dick Gaines, Rick Ferkel or Bobby Allen, Lynn Paxton or Smokey Snellbaker, Jan Opperman or Little Joe Saldana, Kramer Williamson or Steve Smith, Jim and Fred Linder or Harold McGilton. However, few racers have influenced and shaped the sport of sprint car racing like Kinser, Swindell and Wolfgang.

The other thing that amazes me is that here in Ohio, there is always a track chaplain or pastor or track announcer that says a prayer before the National Anthem. And these are not rinky dink prayers. These guys sound like they are close to God and they always pray in the name of Jesus. And then, the Anthem and everyone seems to be so respectful and grateful for our country and for those who fought to get us the freedoms we enjoy.
Tracy HinesTracy Hines You just don’t get this at any other sporting events…especially in big cities or if you are outside of the Midwest. This is one of the reasons I love being a race fan in Ohio. And if you come to Ohio to watch the races, make sure you visit Fremont. Put Fremont on your bucket list. It’s a great place to watch a race. And make sure you walk through the Fremont Speedway Museum right behind the grandstands. It’s a real treat.

Like the night before, there would be five heats, with the top three transferring to the A Main. The heats have the top four cars inverted based upon their time trial. In time trials, each driver gets one lap only. Tonight, Cole Duncan timed fastest and received $700 for doing so. Broc Martin was second quick and won $300 and Craig Mintz was third quick, earning him a quick $150. Shaffer was the last racer out to time and that hurt him. His time was not good enough to get him in the top two rows of his heat.

In the first heat, Brubaker and Andrews were on the front and they couldn’t start the heat right. There were two attempts and Brubaker was blamed for a poor start both times…moving him back a row. Then, on the next restart, Jeff Swindell, who started in the third row, got squeezed into the front straight concrete, and sparks were flying and he stopped with damage. As the cars paraded around the track during the clean-up, Jeff walked out to turn one and held both arms in the air as the remaining racers idled by. Not a good weekend for Jeff, that’s for sure. I was really looking forward to seeing how he would do and he just never got going, either night. The heat one finish was Andrews, Cole Duncan and Cale Conley. Brubaker and Tim Shaffer missed the transfer. The track was tacky and passing was difficult from the back. In heat two, Gary Taylor finished first, followed by Brian Lay and Broc Martin. In heat three, Lee Jacobs got home first, followed by Jody Keegan and Craig Mintz. That was a spirited battle among the top three in that heat. Heat four got us Cale Thomas, followed by McCarron and Philo. Heat five finished with Tyler Gunn in first, followed by Aryton Olsen and Byron Reed.
Byront Reed won the Jim Ford Classic at FremontByront Reed won the Jim Ford Classic at Fremont The dash finished with Cole Duncan at the front, earning him the pole for the big feature. Reed, Martin, Mintz, Philo and Conley followed in that order….setting the lineup for the first 3 rows of the A. The B main was stacked. Swindell had transferred from the C, but was too far back to even hope to make it with only twelve laps to do it. Brubaker won it, followed by Cap Henry, D.J. Foos, Jordan Ryan and Tim Shaffer, who came up to grab the last transfer spot…which put him on the tail end of the A main.

The A main was a 40 lapper. I was hoping for another miracle from Shaffer, like the night before…. but the odds were stacked against him. Even with 40 laps, this seemed impossible. Cole Duncan looked to be the favorite. But in a stroke of terrible luck, his racer came to a stop in turn two a few laps before the race would go green. He did not return. Man, I felt so bad for Cole! When the green dropped, Reed grabbed the lead followed by Mintz, Martin and Philo. We had a yellow on the first lap for Olsen. He left on the hook. The race went green and stayed that way until lap 19 when Henry tangled with Keegan. Henry was moving up too, coming up to sixth from seventeenth. The running order was now Reed, Mintz, Martin, Philo, Thomas, Keegan, Andrews and…and Tim Shaffer! Up to eight from last!

On the restart, Philo and Thomas get together with Thomas flipping violently. Both retired to the pits and were okay. Now Shaffer was in sixth…with 20 laps to go! The race went green the rest of the way. Reed’s lead evaporated when he got to traffic and on lap 34 or so, Martin passed Mintz for second and set after Reed. On the last lap, Martin had a run at Reed but just finished short at the checkers. The finish was Reed, Martin, Mintz, Andrews and Shaffer.

That was a good race and a great weekend spent at Fremont. Thank You Fremont, thank you racers, and thank you Jim Ford, for keeping the racetrack going. Hopefully, the next race on my schedule is at Wayne County for the All Stars on October seventh. Then at Mansfield the next weekend for the All Star make up feature and an All Star regular show….double features