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    Sooner Circles

     

    By John Rittenoure

     

     

    (September 25, 2012) - Port City Raceway in Tulsa hosted the Race4Life Donnie Ray Crawford Memorial over the Labor Day weekend and I attended the first two days of the event. The event was held to honor the late Donnie Ray Crawford and raise money for the Donnie Ray Crawford Scholarship Fund which was started by his family. Donnie Ray lost his life last January in a domestic altercation at the family home in Broken Arrow which is a suburb to Tulsa. The Chili Bowl Midget Nationals was being held that weekend in Tulsa and Donnie Ray was scheduled to race in feature competition that Saturday afternoon. Word quickly spread through the pit area of what happened just hours earlier leaving everyone in shock and disbelief. Donnie Ray was liked and high respected by everyone. Donnie Ray had won many races at Port City Raceway where he started his career racing micros. He also won several titles at the annual indoor Tulsa Shootout and had moved up to sprint cars racing in some ASCS regional races. The Crawford family has been a big part of Tulsa auto racing since the sixties. It started with Ray Crawford who won six Tulsa Fairgrounds Speedway championships while racing in a friendly rivalry with another crowd favorite, (Chili Bowl co-promoter) Emmett Hahn. When racing left the fairgrounds and moved north to Tulsa Speedway in 1984 Ray passed the torch to son Donnie who won 14 track championships to become the winningest driver in Tulsa history. After Tulsa Speedway closed it was Donnie Ray’s turn and it was no surprise when he began winning races at Port City Raceway in east Tulsa. And where ever Donnie Ray raced you would find dad, Donnie, and grandfather Ray. It was a three-generation family team.

     


    Granddad (Ray Crawford, black car) and father (Donnie, red car) take a parade lap prior to Saturday's feature events at Port City Raceway.

    Just two weeks before Donnie Ray lost his life I interviewed him as part of a Tulsa World story I was doing on 17-year old racer Harli White. In 2008 White was racing in her first micro sprint race at I-44 Speedway in Oklahoma City when her micro hit the wall, flipped and caught fire. She was trapped in the burning car and no one could get to her. Donnie Ray was sitting in the staging area in his micro waiting for Harli’s race to finish when he suddenly jumped from his car and ran to Harli’s burning micro where he reached in and pulled her out. In the Tulsa World story Crawford had these comments. “I had my firesuit on and rushed in there and it was a huge fire around her. My only thought was I am not going to get her out. The next thing I know I reached in and pulled her out and she was still on fire. I laid on her and smothered the fire out. “She was stuck in there. One of her seat belts was stuck on her pocket and could pull and pull and she was not budging. I reached in there and was able to move the seat belt. “It was a miracle that I was able to help. There were people there who should have been able to help.” That was Donnie Ray. It is no surprise that former racer and Port City promoter Aaron Lemmons reached out to the family with the idea of a Memorial race. “Donnie Ray has raced out there since I bought the track,” said promoter Aaron Lemmons who took over Port City Raceway nine years ago. “He was a good competitor and you never heard any whining out of him. “Donnie Ray was a very polite young man, well respected and he respected other people as well. Donnie Ray was not only a very good kid but a very good race driver and a good mentor for the sport.” Obviously many felt the same way. Lemmons teamed with the Race4Life foundation to put on what will become an annual event and a Race4Life Foundation record 208 teams from seven states entered the three-day event. In addition, through an auction, tee-shirt sales and various other donations $47,000 was raised for the Donnie Ray Crawford Scholarship Fund which was established to further the education of young race car drivers.

    The above two photos show the front stretch activities and the packed grandstands.

    Last weekend I attended the ASCS Sooner Region event at Creek County Speedway and was impressed with the performance of feature winner Matt Covington. Covington, who lives in the Tulsa area, is leading the Sooner region and Lone Star region points. Running two regions and leading the points race in both is an impressive accomplishment. “Dennis Marshal wanted to win both championships so that is what we are trying to do,” Covington said. “Actually we already have the Lonestar championship locked up. I have a good shot at the Sooner with a 179 point lead. If we just keep finishing races we will be alright.” Covington originally planned to run the National Tour at the start of the season but changed his mind after going out West. “We started out the whole season planning to run the whole National tour,” recalled Covington. “The first few races out in that sand did not go our way. We kind of backed off that decided to go for these two championships. “We tried to do this last year and Joe (Wood, Jr.) beat us out.” Fortunately there were no scheduling conflicts and Covington had made all the regional shows. “There was one but it worked out,” Covington said. “They cancelled the one conflicting date at Salina (Salina Highbanks Speedway) so that worked out good for us. If they had not cancelled we would have stayed with the Lonestar region.” Next season Covington plans to try the National tour again. “We are planning on doing the full National tour,” Covington said. “Dennis is on board with us again next year and we are talking with Shawn Peterson of Print Place funding the rest of it. It is expensive to run the National tour. Verbally it is going to happen.” Friday’s win at Creek County gave Matt three Sooner Region wins to go with his four Lonestar Region wins. Kevin Swindell dropped in on the Sooner Region event at Creek County and it looked like the feature would be his after he shot from the second row inside to the lead in turn two of the opening lap. But just a lap later Swindell clipped a turn one infield tire knocking down his left front tire. Swindell returned to start on the rear but a few laps later suffered front end damage and was done. He finished last. Very uncharacteristic for Swindell. The next night at Caney Valley Speedway in Caney, Kansas Mike Goodman came away with the win. Logan Forler was second and Covington picked up third to keep his points lead in good shape.

    ASCS tidbits: Back in August Cody Branchcomb sold a race ready car to the Hahn’s for Blake to drive. With very little time to prep the car they made the National Tour show at Salina Highbanks Speedway in late August arriving just before hot laps. Misfortune struck in the main event with Logan Forler made unintentional contact with Hahn causing him to crash into the turn two wall. The car suffered damage. However Hahn did manage to race the next night at I-30 Speedway in Little Rock. Sean McClelland has sold his sprint car to Layne Himebaugh. McClelland, who has raced with ASCS, NCRA and OCRS in recent years, feels he needs to take a break from racing and spend more time away from the track.

    On Saturday, Sept. 22, I visited the OCRS show at Salina and a first time winner emerged. The season had been dominated by 11-time winner Jamie Passmore who wrapped up the 2012 title the week before at Oklahoma Sports Park. But Saturday Jeremy Allen, who was returning to action after destroying his car at OSP in June, cruised to his first career victory. Casey Wills moved up behind Allen late in the race and finished second. It was his best career finish. 17-year old Harli White, who we spoke of in our Donnie Ray Crawford comments above, is racing with OCRS this season and finished third for the second week in a row. Harli is a very talented driver and is very smart behind the wheel. She shows experience beyond her years. It is only a matter of time before some car owners will wake up and realize the potential that is there. We will see more of Harli in the years to come.

    Visit My Web Site That is all the news I have for now. I hope you will check back next month when I will have another Sooner Circles. Meanwhile visit my news website at www.speedwaynews.net to keep up on what is happening in the Sooner State. If you have news for Sooner Circles or any other correspondence email me at: jrittenoure@cox.net.

     

     


     

     

    (August 21, 2012) - The dog days of summer has taken its toll in Oklahoma. Double digit consecutive days of 100 plus temperatures have fans sweating in the stands and race tracks looking like the dust bowl days of the 1930’s. Several tracks have taken a week or two off due to the heat.
    But the heat is finally letting up and I ventured out to Creek County Speedway last Friday to catch the ASCS National Tour show.
    You can always expect a good show at ASCS founder Emmett Hahn’s track which is billed as the birth place of ASCS. Friday was no exception as a turnout of 35 race teams turned out for the third race in the mini-speedweek series.
    The mini series was scheduled to start on Wednesday night at Humboldt Speedway but rain forced that show to be cancelled. The next night it was on to Salina, Kansas where Kevin Swindell battled his way to victory. Seth Bergman led the first 20 laps before giving way the top spot to Jason Johnson. But Johnson was in front for only three laps before Swindell took over for the final six circuits.
    Friday night at Creek County in Sapulpa, Oklahoma it was Brady Bacon’s night. Bacon hails from nearby Broken Arrow and winning near home in front of hometown friends is always a good motivation.
    “My family does not get to come a lot so that makes it even better,” said Bacon. “I had a bunch of them here tonight and that makes it even better.”
    Bacon battled with early leader Aaron Reutzel during the first seven laps before taking over for good on lap eight. Bacon went on to win the 35-lapper on the tight quarter-mile oval for his sixth series victory of the season.
    Finding the right line around the Creek County Speedway was tricky according to Bacon.
    “You really had to find a good balance with your car,” recalled Bacon. “You had to roll around the slick on the bottom and be calm enough to run the top in three and four. That cushion was really big and gnarly. It would really catch you off guard if you were not careful.
    “I slipped up there on the last lap but other than that it did not really catch us off too much.”
    Bacon relieved on past experience at Creek County to help him get to the front.
    “I went back to what I use to run here and it worked pretty good,” Bacon said. “Being familiar with the track and kind of what it was going to do (helped).
    “No matter how heavy it gets it usually slicks off at the end. I prefer tracks like this where it is really technical and you really have to drive the car. If you slip up off the bottom you are going to get passed and if you mess up on top you are going to get passed.
    “A lot of tracks we run with these big wings you can run right up the middle but here the wings are not hardly doing anything. But it makes for a good race.”

    Watch video of the Creek County Speedway ASCS National Tour main event
View action in the pit area from Creek County Speedway

    The next night the mini series visited Lanny Edwards Lawton Speedway where Jason Johnson was disqualified after taking the checkered flag first when it was discovered his left muffler was missing. Series points leader Wayne Johnson was awarded the victory with Sam Hafertepe, Jr. finishing second. Early leader Mike Goodman was third.
    This coming weekend the ASCS National Tour travels to the Salina Highbanks Speedway and I plan to visit that show as well as the OCRS event at Southern Oklahoma Speedway. I will report on both shows in my next column.
    Visit My Web Site
    That is all the news I have for now. I hope you will check back next month when I will have another Sooner Circles. Meanwhile visit my news website at www.speedwaynews.net to keep up on what is happening in the Sooner State.
    If you have news for Sooner Circles or any other correspondence email me at: jrittenoure@cox.net.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    (June 2, 2012) - The past month and a half has been a busy one for sprint car racing in Oklahoma with everything from OCRS to ASCS National and Regional events taking place.

    Two women have also been in the headlines recently. Nineteen year old Shayla Waddell and seventeen year old Harli White have made their presence known on the OCRS circuit in recent weeks.

    Waddell became the first women in OCRS history to win a main event with her victory at the Salina Highbanks Speedway on May 19. Waddell won her heat race, the pole dash then led start to finish in the feature outrunning Matt Sherrell and defending series champion Sean McClelland for the win.

    In victory lane the soft spoken college student flashed a smile and commented, “I knew they were there (on her bumper) because I could hear them. I just told myself to keep it in the right spots and just hold on. This is such an exciting win for the team and Im just really happy to be here (victory lane).”

    It was not the first time Waddell has won in a sprint car. She also won at State Fair Speedway in Oklahoma City in 2008 and 2009.

     

    Left to right: Shayla Waddell and Harli White. Mike Howard photo.Photos below by Phil Pace.

       

    White of Lindsay, Oklahoma has been eager to climb back into a sprint car since her first OCRS appearance last season. White got her wish the week after Waddell’s victory in a new family owned sprinter.White had little trouble adapting to the Thunderbird Speedway half-mile in Muskogee. Driving a new car she had yet to drive a lap in and her first time on a half-mile, White worked her way to a second place heat finish and ran third in the pole dash which earned her a starting spot in second row of the feature. However four plug wires came loose and White eventually left the race leaving her with a 13th place finish. “It was pretty good until the feature came around,” White said of her first night in the sprint. “We had some problems in the feature. Four of the spark plug wires came off so it would not run the whole feature. Other than that I think it was pretty great.”It was the end to a busy night as her dad had to change a fuel pump before hot laps only to have to borrow another fuel pump when they damaged a seal on the first one. “We had to change the fuel pump and broke the seal,” White said.  “Something was not right with the second one so we had to change another fuel pump. Finally got the third one to work. We borrowed from (Jamie) Passmore.”The next night White ran second in her heat at Caney Valley Speedway and finished 10th in the feature before a sold out grandstand. It was the largest crowd to ever watch a sprint car event at the quarter mile facility.For those who don’t know White’s story, it was April 5, 2008 when White suffered third-degree burns over 40 percent of her body in a crash in a micro sprint at I-44 Speedway in Oklahoma City. It was her first time in a race car. She remembers her seat beat leg was hung. Unable to move she was pulled from the burning car by Donnie Ray Crawford who was waiting in his car for the next race. Crawford ran from his race car and ran down the track where he reached and pulled her free. After spending six months at the Shriners Burn Center in Houston White was more determined then ever to return to racing and did so a year later (April, 2009). She returned to micro sprint racing where she has won her share of races and picked up a midget ride at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals this past January. But her desire is to drive a sprint and now that has become a reality. I look forward to following her sprint car career in the years to come.     

    The ASCS National Tour returned to Oklahoma on April 27 stopping at the Salina Highbanks Speedway. The National Tour had not been at the highbanks since 2001 and many fans were eager to see the ASCS regulars take on the high banked 3/8’s mile oval.  Wayne Johnson won the event in 2001 and the years away did not erase his memory of the win. Johnson returned to victory lane as if his last win there was only yesterday. Johnson went the distance to win over Brian Brown and Jack Dover. Johnson commented later that he just went back to his notes from his 2001 win and it helped him win again. It pays to do your homework. Johnson won his second feature of the season on May 23 at Grain Valley and as of this writing trails Jason Johnson in the points race by just 4 points.    

    Sooner state race fans were also treated to a couple of good ASCS Sooner Region shows. The night after Salina the Sooner Region visited Lanny Edward’s Lawton Speedway for the season opener and Sean McClelland captured the win over a strong field of competitors. A week later the tour stopped at Emmett Hahn’s Creek County Speedway where Seth Bergman won. After a stop at the Edwards owned Devil’s Bowl on May 19 where Matt Covington won the Sooner Region was back at Lawton on May 26 with Danny Jennings topping the show. Covington currently leads the standings and will be looking to protect his points lead when the tour stops at the Salina Highbanks on June 22 followed by a show at Creek County on June 29. On June 30 the series takes a short trip North of Tulsa to visit the Caney Valley Speedway quarter mile. A lot of good sprint racing is coming up in June.

    Creek County Speedway has been running the champ sprint cars weekly this season under the management of ASCS car owner David Chappell and over 20 cars a night have made the four shows run so far. The class has been competitive with no repeat winners yet. Matt Sherrell, Darin Roberts, Brian McClelland and rookie Alex DeCamp are the feature winners to-date.

    Photo: Alex DeCamp. Phil Pace photo.

    Brill’s Motor Speedway in Meeker also runs champ sprints on Friday nights but have only run two point shows for the sprints as weather has forced a couple of rainouts. Kyle Cobb has won both features run to-date and is leading the points over David Lambert and Brandon Jennings.

    In area track news Mid-America Speedway in South Coffeyville, Oklahoma has shutdown for the season. Track owner Kenny Gariss had worked out a partnership with Bill McMurtrie to operate the facility while Gariss focused on managing the South 69 Speedway in Muskogee for owner Jeff Morgan. But after a couple of weeks the deal fell through and McMurtrie turned the operation back to Gariss. Gariss has closed the facility for the remainder of the season but hopes to re-open next year.

     

    Visit My Web Site

    That is all the news I have for now. I hope you will check back next month when I will have another Sooner Circles. Meanwhile visit my news website at www.speedwaynews.net to keep up on what is happening in the Sooner State.

    If you have news for Sooner Circles or any other correspondence email me at: jrittenoure@cox.net.

     

     

     

     

     

    (April 5, 2012) - Sprint car racing got underway this past weekend with three area tracks opening their season and I visited two of them. Twenty sprinters were on hand for Brill’s Motor Speedway Spring Nationals on Friday and Oil Capital Racing Association competitor Mike Goodman captured the feature win in his first trip to the Meeker, Oklahoma oval. Eleven of the 20 competitors on hand are OCRS regulars and the race was their chance to check out the Meeker track prior to their season opener at Meeker on April 20. But for a couple of them it was not a good night. Whit Gastineau bent a new frame when the right rear tire of his sprinter ended up sticking through the front straightway fence on the opening lap of the feature. Fellow OCRS competitor Danny Smith was involved along with area driver Strike Hill. A few laps later OCRS Rookie of the Year Josh Toho flipped in turn one ending his night. Still, it was a good night of racing for most and a good crowd turned out for the event.

    The next night Lawton Speedway opened their season with 17 sprints on hand. I did not attend the show but the main event was won by Shane Sellers.

    Sunday night I made a trip to C. Ray Hall’s 81 Speedway in Wichita for the NCRA sprint series season opener. A total of 39 sprints were signed in and a full grandstand witnessed a good night of racing with several name drivers in the field.

    Wayne Johnson and Jason Johnson battled early in the feature before Jason went on to win. Danny Lasoski made a drive from the rear of the field, after transferring from the B main, to finish second ahead of Brian Brown in third. Wayne Johnson fell to back fourth and Don Droud, Jr rounded out the top five. The race paid $4,000 to win and the turnout was like a who’s who of NCRA and ASCS racing.

     

     

     

    Mike Peters

     

     

     

    Prior to the show I visited with veteran Mike Peters who is in his 31st year of racing. A past NCRA champion along with numerous area track titles over the years, Peters was driving a new sprinter put together with his son Ojar who is the car owner. Peters made the cut to the main event only to cut a tire and later retire from the field where he finished 16th. Mike informed us that Larry Allen of Oklahoma City is building an engine for OCRS competition and Mike will use the engine to run select events this summer. Mike and Ojar’s first event will be the OCRS opener at Brill’s Motor Speedway in Meeker, Oklahoma. That is good news to many long-time Oklahoma fans who watched Peters run the Phillips Trop Arctic Court Grandstaff owned 410 sprint at Tulsa Speedway and on the NCRA circuit. Over the years Peters raced at other area tracks winning championships at the old Dewey Speedway not to mention his days at Fairgrounds Speedway in Oklahoma City along with his home track in Wichita. I hope Mike can make several OCRS events this summer when he is not busy campaigning with NCRA.

     

     

     

    Haley and Miranda Arnold

     

     

     

    I could not help but notice that three young ladies were in the field at 81 Speedway. Kris Miller of Woodward and Haley and Miranda Arnold of Sedalia, Missouri. Haley and Miranda started in ATV racing and raced in 305 sprints before moving up to try 360 sprints. All three ladies finished in the B feature but all three look very capable and I expect we will hear more from them as they gain more experience.

       

    Speaking of Mike Peters and the OCRS earlier, the 360 Sprint Car series and Goodyear are gearing up for another exciting season with the season’s first race to be held at Brill’s Motor Speedway on April 20.  The opener should draw a good field of competitors and fans alike as Brill is located between Oklahoma City and Tulsa where the majority of OCRS competitors and fans are from. A total of 19 OCRS shows are booked with a couple more expected to be added. Last year a total of 93 competitors entered OCRS events hoping to earn a cut of the $25,000 Goodyear tire point fund. With Goodyear back in 2012 another competitive season is expected.

     

    Sprint racing in the Tulsa area gets underway this week as Creek County Speedway opens on Friday, April 6. Long-time sprint car driver and owner David Chappell along with son Zach will manage the speedway for track owner Emmett Hahn. Chappell will run 360 2-barrel sprints every Friday night along with  Dwarf cars and modifieds. During the season several ASCS events are planned. I will bring you more on Creek County Speedway in my next column.

        

     

    Last month I reported on the progress of Black Gold Speedway that is under construction near Bartlesville. The track surface is in place but construction has come to a temporary halt. Several area neighbors voiced concerns about potential noise and traffic from a speedway operating in their rural area. County officials were alerted and informed owner Robert and Bill McMurtie that they did not have the proper zoning for a speedway on their family owned land. A hearing to either grant or deny a zoning variance is schedule for April 12 at the Osage county court house. If the variance is granted construction will resume at the speedway. The McMurtrie’s have promised to require mufflers and impose a curfew to insure the show completes at a neighbor friendly hour. News from the zoning hearing will be in my next column.

       

    I also previously reported the closing of Outlaw Motor Speedway south of Muskogee. New track owner Jeff Morgan of Charlotte, N.C. Purchased the speedway over the winter with the intention of running the weekly show at the 3/8’s mile oval. But business issues arose and Morgan became discouraged and as I reported in my last column put the track up for sale.

    After I reported the news Mid-America Speedway promoter Kenny Gariss contacted me and I put him in touch with Morgan. Gariss and Morgan worked out a deal and the track will re-open April 20 under the name of South 69 Speedway.  Gariss will manage the track for Morgan, who will remain in Charlotte, while continuing to operate Mid-America Speedway in South Coffeyville, Oklahoma. South 69 will hold races on Friday night while Mid-America continues to operate on Saturday’s. Gariss said he wanted to see South 69 stay open and felt the track could be a sister track to Mid-America. Gariss wants to work toward a more standard set of track rules throughout the area. Morgan remains the track owner and will handle the financial end of the business.

     

     

    Visit My Web Site

    That is all the news I have for now. I hope you will check back next month when I will have another Sooner Circles. Meanwhile visit my news website at www.speedwaynews.net to keep up on what is happening in the Sooner State.

    If you have news for Sooner Circles or any other correspondence email me at: jrittenoure@cox.net.

     

     

     

     

    (February 21, 2012) - How time flies when you are having fun. Here I am bringing you my second Sooner Circles and racing season just about a month away. All the area tracks have their schedules out and my feet are ready to hit the ground running.

    In this column I will touch on some breaking news with several area tracks, the latest with the OCRS and I will also fill you in on some accomplishments of two area drivers. So lets get started.

     

    Outlaw Motor Speedway

    In my last column I mentioned that Jeff Morgan of Charlotte, N.C. Had purchased Outlaw Motor Speedway. I talked with Jeff just after that and he was excited with his purchase and could not wait to venture into the world of racetrack promotion. Morgan had a schedule posted on the track website complete with special attractions and by all indications he was getting ready to open. But all that suddenly changed. Within a month Morgan has put the track up for sale and Outlaw Motor Speedway will be closed until a new buyer is found.

    When I first talked with Jeff he told me all about his plans for Outlaw.

    “We want to attract back attendance in both driver car counts and grandstands,” Morgan said. “Lynn (Skinner) did a lot of work to bring that back up and I want to continue in the direction he was going to get things back to where we were a couple of years ago. That is my biggest challenge to bring that back.”Morgan originally tried to purchase the track over five years ago.“I was out here five years ago and heard about the track and went out to take a look,” recalled Morgan. “I was blown away by what a beautiful track it was and when I heard it was for sale I started talking to Gary Clay about buying it. Lynn (Skinner) and Danny (Womack) were also interested in buying it and were further along with it so I let them proceed.“I kept in touch with Eric (Shannon) who was the general manager and I stopped in last summer. We started talking with Lynn and he said that he and Danny wanted to go a different direction and wanted to sell. So here I am.”

    But this past month the challenges became to much and Morgan decided it was more than he could deal with so the track was put up for sale.

    "It is just a business decision," Morgan said when asked why he is putting the track up for sale. "It will take a lot more effort then I can give it. "It is a great track. It can survive."

    Morgan has setup an email address (omsforsale@yahoo.com) for anyone that would like to inquire about purchasing the track.

    For now the future of Outlaw Motor Speedway is up in the air. A new owner will have to move fast to be ready for the upcoming season. Until a buyer is found Outlaw Motor Speedway will remain in the dark.

    Creek County Speedway  Chili Bowl co-promoter and ASCS President Emmett Hahn has been trying to find a buyer for his Creek County Speedway in Kellyville, Oklahoma since the middle of last summer. The track closed at mid-season when promoter Jackie Green could not continue to operate it and gave the keys back to Hahn. The track remained closed until late in the season when Hahn ran a couple of ASCS2 mini sprint specials along with 360 sprints. No one has stepped up to purchased the track so Hahn has found someone to manage it for him.

    Former sprint car driver David Chappell will manage the track along with his son Zach.  Practice days have been set for March 18 and 25 with the season to open on Friday, April 6.

    Classes will consist of 360 champ sprints, micro sprints, dwarf cars and ECOTec midgets. Three ASCS Sooner Region shows are planned plus one National Tour event. A new website is also under development and could be up as soon as Feb. 28.

    Why did Chappell decide to become a promoter after 34 years as a driver-owner?Emmett and I were talking about the National tour (ASCS) and he said he wanted somebody to promote Creek County Speedway.

    “Were were going to run the National Tour but that won’t happen now,” said Chappell who was going to travel with son Zach. “We are going to start the National tour but our sponsorship deal fell through so we decided to promote Creek County.”

     

    Chappell and Hahn have been working since to get to the facility in top shape.

    “We have already hauled about 200 loads of clay on top of the race track,” Chappell said. “We have re-done the track and filled it in, Emmett has been on the grader all day (Monday, Feb. 20). They are willing to help me get started. We needed a new surface because the old track was just worn out.

     

    “We will run the two-barrel champ sprint cars every Friday night, we will run dwarf cars and micros. I would like to run micros every Friday but I don’t know how much the ASCS2 will hurt me. We are looking at running the ECOTec midgets too. The sprints and dwarfs will run every Friday night.

     

    “We are going to run a point season. We have three Sooner (ASCS) shows scheduled and one National show. We start up the first weekend of April and will shutdown the end of September.”

     

    Chappell wants to see Creek County return to a family place to watch races.

    “I want to get people interested in coming out there,” Chappell said. “I still have to figure out the advertising and budget part of it. I have to surround myself with good people and it will do well.

    “I think it will be fun. Our whole deal is to get back to where their is a place to race. We have lost all the race tracks around here and we want to get it back to where it used to be.”

     

     

    Blackgold SpeedwayIn my last column I reported on a new unnamed speedway under construction outside of Bartlesville. Track owners Bill and Robert McMurtrie have finally decided on a name - Blackgold Speedway.

    Robert tells me that the track surface has been completed and clay added. They are now working on guardrail and fencing. Musco lighting has been purchased from a track in California and should arrive around March 1. Grandstands that will seat 1,200 have been located at a school in Wichita, Kansas and should arrive soon.

    Work continues as crews are taking advantage of the mild Oklahoma winter. No date has been set for opening but the track should be open this summer. Racing will take place on Friday nights. The weekly lineup has not been determined yet.

    Enid Speedway81 Speedway promoter C. Ray Hall has renewed his contract with the Garfield County Fairgrounds and will operate Enid Speedway this summer. Hall, who owns Speedways, Inc. Which operates 81 Speedway in Wichita and also the National Championship Racing Association series, will run races at Enid the fourth Sunday of the month April through the Winter Nationals in October.

    Classes will consist of modified, sport mod, factory stock, street stock and pure stock. Each month a special division will be rotated into the mix. The special divisions will consist of NCRA Modified, NCRA Sport Mod, NCRA 360 Sprints and NCRA Late Models. The OCRS Sprint Series will race there on May 27. You can visit the Enid Speedway website at www.enidspeedway.org.

    OCRS Update The Oil Capital Racing Series completed a highly successful 2011 racing season getting in 19 shows and the season was capped with a $25,000 point fund payout from Goodyear. 2011 champion Sean McClelland took home $5,000 for his efforts.

    Goodyear is back for 2012 with 19 shows booked to-date. Several new sponsors have jumped on board which means added payouts for the race teams according to OCRS PR director John Lemon. Lemon will be announcing all the extra bonus programs very soon but from early indications it appears the OCRS will have another strong season.

    The first race will be April 20 at Brill’s Motor Speedway in Meeker. The series will travel to Southern Oklahoma Speedway in Ardmore, Oklahoma Sports Park in Ada, Enid Speedway, Thunderbird Speedway in Muskogee, Salina Highbanks Speedway in Salina, Okla., Tri-State Speedway near Fort Smith, Monett Speedway in Monett, Missouri, Caney Valley Speedway in Caney, Kansas, Humboldt Speedway in Humboldt, Kansas and Mid-America Speedway in South Coffeyville, Oklahoma.

    Will Rogers Raceway Will Rogers Raceway near Claremore has been closed for several seasons but will re-open this year with racing on Friday and Saturday nights.

    Robby and Tracy Schmidt of Arkansas have leased the facility and will open April 6 racing Outlaw, A Class, Non-Wing, Sportsman, Restrictor and Jr. Every other Saturday it will be OMRA ECOTec midgets, A Class, Non-Wing and Restrictor. Their website is www.willrogersraceway.com .

    Port City Raceway The Race4Life foundation will join forces with Port City Raceway for the first annual Donnie Ray Crawford Memorial on August 30-Sept. 1. Competitors from across the nation will come together to honor and support Donnie Ray Crawford’s memory. Donnie Ray was killed in a domestic altercation at his home on th Saturday morning of the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals finals. Donnie Ray was scheduled to race that afternoon. 

    Donnie Ray drove a lot of laps around the Port City oval in his micro sprint and his family is creating a scholarship fund for drivers who, like their son, want to go to college after racing runs it course.

    No details yet on race classes, format, payout, etc. But it appears this will be a very big event to honor Donnie Ray’s memory. You can read more at www.portcityracin.com.

    Photo left to right: Salina Highbanks Speedway promoter Brian Ruth, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Joe Duvall and Salina track owner Bob Bohannon.

    Joe Duvall Modified driver Joe Duvall is Oklahoma’s only reigning NASCAR champion and he was recently honored by Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin. Duvall competed at the NASCAR sanctioned Salina Highbanks Speedway this past summer winning his second Whalen All-American Series championship. His first came last season racing at Outlaw Motor Speedway. Duvall, who earned $10,000 from the NASCAR point fund, went to the state capital in Oklahoma City recently to receive an award from Fallin.

    Duvall plans to run 20-25 USMTS Casey Cup shows this year plus running the weekly Saturday show at Salina. His success with USMTS will determine whether he concentrates on the USMTS series or the NASCAR title.

    Photo: Edmund Bishop mini sprint.

    Edmund Bishop Edmund Bishop, the grandson of former sprint car driver-owner Court Grandstaff, is set to begin his second year behind the wheel of a mini sprint. The mini sprint will be powered by a Brady Morgan engine with carburetor work by Ray Crawford. The number 66 takes many of us back to the days of 410 sprint racing at Tulsa Speedway where the Grandstaff owned Trop Artic 66 sprinter was in action with several drivers over the years from Jim Bell to Mike Peters and Brooke Tatnell. Bishop grew up around racing at Tulsa Speedway and is now getting his chance. Bishop only ran a few shows last season but expects to see more time in the car this season.

    Visit My Web Site

    That is all the news I have for now. I hope you will check back next month when I will have another Sooner Circles. Meanwhile visit my news website at www.speedwaynews.net to keep up on what is happening in the Sooner State.

    If you have news for Sooner Circles or any other correspondence email me at: jrittenoure@cox.net.

     

     


     

     

    Sooner Circles is back!

    Yes, Sooner Circles is back on Hoseheads and I am honored to have this opportunity to bring it to you.

    Let me give you a brief bit of background on me for those who do not know who I am. I live in Tulsa and have been covering racing activities around the area and the state of Oklahoma for the past 48 years. I have known Don Hubbard for many years (too many to count) and during that time we have traveled to many races together and attended many other racing related events. A couple of yeas ago Don retired from writing his Sooner Circles column and moved back to the state of New York with his new wife Carol. But Don wants to see his column continue and he asked me if I would be interested in writing Sooner Circles. I said yes and here we are with my first column.

     

    Chili Bowl

    One of the great things about living in Tulsa is being able to take in the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals and I have been to all 26 of them. In fact, I live so close I usually just walk to the races. It is truly an exciting and unique event that would not be possible without a building like the QuikTrip Center located on the Tulsa State Fairgrounds. While many major arenas would provide a more comfortable seating arrangement for the fans the QuikTrip Center is the only building capable of housing the track, pits and trade show under one roof. It takes very little effort for a team to get their car from the pits to the track. The building is 10.5 acres (448,000 sq. Feet) under one roof. The QuikTrip Center, originally the International Petroleum Exposition Center, was built in 1966 to house the International Petroleum Exposition and the Golden Driller statue out front symbolizes that.

    The building is used year around for trade shows and the Tulsa State Fair. One of the fun things about living here is watching the track go in. It only takes promoters Emmett Hahn and Lanny Edwards about four days to haul in the dirt and shape the surface. Then of course you have to bring in the grandstands, fencing, etc. Once the event is over the dirt is hauled out in a days time. I watched the dump trucks hauling out the dirt on Monday after Saturday’s features and looked over in the west parking lot to see several big boats parked. In two weeks the building will be filled with boats for the Sport Boat and Travel show.

     

     

    A lot of events at the QuikTrip Center will dress up the Golden Driller with clothes that represent their event. He has worn everything from a kilt to a radio station tee shirt, a Ford belt buckle during the Fair and pink shoes for Cancer Awareness. I wish someone would make the Golden Driller a Henchmen race suit. I think he needs to be dressed in a racing suit, gloves, shoes and helmet for the event. Now that would be something to take a picture of.

     

    Now on to the racing. The racing is always top notch at the Chili Bowl with all the drivers from throughout the country (259 this year). But it looks like Sammy and Kevin Swindell might have broke the code for finding the fast way around the 1/5 mile oval. The Swindell family has won the last four years. This year Kevin drove off the pole and Sammy followed him all the way. It was their second straight 1-2 finish and third straight for Kevin. In the post race press conference Sammy said he sets up both cars the very same and it just a matter of who gets out front first.

    “Our cars are set up the same,” said Sammy. “If he (Kevin) drives it in the right place my car is not any better than his. If it had been the other way he would have had a hard time passing me.

    “I was able to get in the corners a little better. If he was in the wrong place I was held up by traffic. Sometimes when I had a good run there was no place to go.”

    I wonder how long it will take for someone to figure out what Sammy is doing to make his cars handle so well.

    In one the photos on this page you see the Swindell cars in the pit area. The other photo shows the pink midget that Dustin Morgan was driving for Breast Cancer awareness. His dad’s company, Ark Wrecking, also had a pink dump truck sitting out in the parking lot.

     

    Donnie Ray Crawford

    On a sad note is the passing of Tulsa area racing champion and Chili Bowl racer Donnie Ray Crawford. He was shot on the morning of the feature events at his home when his grandfather, Daniel Garcia, shot him. Donnie Ray’s mother, Jodie, was shot in the hip (she is recovering) and Garcia was killed. Word quickly spread through the QuikTrip Center and everyone was trying to cope with the news. It hit the Emmett Hahn and Lanny Edwards family hard. Hahn spent much of his racing career racing against Donnie Ray’s granddad, Ray Crawford. Donnie Ray was such a nice young man and a great race car driver just like is dad, Donnie, and granddad Ray. Donnie Ray has won numerous micro sprint titles at Port City Raceway, has six Tulsa Shootout trophies, raced on the ASCS2 micro sprint series and just last year became the first Oklahoman to win a Chili Bowl preliminary night feature. Dad Donnie is a 14-time Tulsa Speedway champion and Ray has four or five titles along with a National Championship Racing Association crown.

    I had talked with Donnie Ray just two weeks earlier to interview him for a story on Oklahoma driver Harli White. White was burned over 40 percent of her body at the age of 12 in 2008 and Donnie Ray pulled her from the car and laid on her to smothered the fire out. Donnie Ray was a caring individual who thought about others. He will be missed.

    Funeral services will be at Rhema Bible Church in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma on Saturday, January 21.

     

    RC RacesOne of the best kept secrets of Chili Bowl week is the RC races. Every year in a barn on the North side of the fairgrounds a large number of competitors meet for three days of RC racing. A large banked oval is constructed for sprint and late model RC cars and and another off road course. A lot of Chili Bowl fans wonder over each day to watch and the racing is exciting to watch. I have included some photos of the action.

                                                  

     

    Tulsa Shootout

    While visiting the Tulsa Shootout, which was two weeks before the Chili Bowl, a pair of micros caught my eye. Growing up at the old Tulsa Fairgrounds Speedway I remember watching Tom and Jim Lambert driving the Lambert Salvage cars carrying the 92 and 93 numbers. What I came across was two black mini sprints with Lambert’s Salvage on the side. It took me back.

          

     

    I have included two photos showing the number 91 and 93 micros. Trey, Austin and Cole are the sons of Jimmy Lambert.

    Tom Calloc painted his winged A class car to match the paint scheme of the old Lloyd K.Stephens OFIXCO driven by Ron Shuman as you can see in the photo with this story.

     

    New Dirt Track

    A new dirt track is under construction in Bartlesville. Racers Bill and Robert McMurtrie are building the track on some family owned land and they hope to open in April or May. When I visited about three weeks ago dirt work was underway. The photos show the beginnings of dirt work. By now the track should be pretty far along. Robert says the track will be a quarter on the inside and will be over 80 feet wide. They will run a weekly Friday night program but the classes they will run has yet to be determined. They plan to have some Show Me late model specials and sprint car events. The track has not yet been named.

    It is a scenic area with a nice view over the back stretch through some rolling hills. The track is located off highway 123 next to the Osage Casino. I will bring you more news as  construction progresses.

    The photos with this story give you a view of what is turn four, a look down the front chute toward turn one, and a look from the front stretch toward where the grandstands will sit.

     

     

    Pit Notes

    Outlaw Motor Speedway south of Muskogee has a new track operator. Jeff Morgan has purchased the speedway from Lynn Skinner and is working to get his schedule together. I will try to have more information from Jeff in my next column.

     

    Stanley and Dennis Slader are gearing up to open Thunderbird Speedway on the Muskogee fairgrounds again this year. They will be USRA sanctioned and they will hold the Charles Fulton Memorial race on April 6. It will be a MARS Late Model show paying $5,555 to win. This show is in honor of track owner and former promoter Charles Fulton who passed away last year.

     

    Bob Goins has named track PR director Brian Ruth to manage the Salina Highbanks Speedway for 2012. Ruth publishes the Chronicle of Grand Lake paper and has been heavily involved in the speedway. Salina will be NASCAR sanctioned again this year and will open April 14

    Salina will have one sprint car show a month consisting of either ASCS or OCRS sprints. NCRA Sport Mods and USMTS Modifieds will visit the track also.

     

    I talked with 81 Speedway owner and NCRA President C. Ray Hall during the Chili Bowl and he has released his NCRA schedule for 2012. The NCRA will sanction 360 sprint, 305 sprint, modified, late model and sport mods this season. You can visit the NCRA website at www.racencra.com.

     

    Brill Motor Speedway in Meeker will hold their banquet on Feb. 18 at the Midwest City Community Center. Brill will be racing 360 2-barrel sprints in 2012 along with modified, e-modified, pro-street stock and mini stocks. A decision on what classes if any will be USRA sanctioned is expected soon,

     

    Visit My Web Site

    That is all the news I have for now. I hope you will check back next month when I will have another Sooner Circles. Meanwhile to keep up with news around Oklahoma visit my news website at www.speedwaynews.net to keep up on what is happening in the Sooner State.

    If you have news for Sooner Circles or any other correspondence email me at: jrittenoure@cox.net.

     

     

     


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