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Not Just Another Racing Column Pastor Dudley Balmer
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NOT JUST ANOTHER RACING COLUMN
by Pastor Dudley Balmer
One Fortunate Ole Guy
Recently I received the call that
Pittsburgh’s Gus Linder had died. Thirty years plus of memories
overshadowed the normal activities of the next couple of days. Gus and I
have a history, a real history. From Steeler football tickets together,
traveling to central Pennsylvania races in the Mickey Banas days, to a
later more challenging history. Gus was the other car in the crash that
caused my loss of an entire season with serious neck injuries. Two
seasons later we got together again and this time it was Gus on the
short end of the stick. Again the relationship suffered serious stress
but somehow survived. No matter what the status of our friendship, never
did I lose sight of the fact that Gus Linder was one of the best to ever
strap into a sprint car. Gus was my friend, adversary and hero. I have
decades of memories thanks to the “man in black”.
The loss of Gus brought back so many more memories. How fortunate I have been. Friends like Lou Blaney, Larry Dickson, Dave Lundy, Jan Opperman, Lynn Paxton and so many more. Memories of working all night at Bobby Allen’s shop. Johnny Draucher bringing me parts on the night he was killed. Remembering a Saturday spent in the garage of Kenny Weld. Thinking of bench racing with Ralph Ligouri. What a ride. It was a time to remember friend Herb Scott from the old Pittsburgh Racing Association (PRA) and special friend and sponsor Whitey Hollowood, the face of the long gone Greater Pittsburgh Speedway. Speaking of promoters Don and Helen Martin were so special. Earl at Eldora, Jack Gunn of the “Grove” and Hilly Rife giving me a handful of cash to get back together after a serious crash at Lincoln. Racing with Nolan and Gordon Johncock at The Grove and Heidelberg. There was also a night at The Greater Pittsburg Speedway when Hooker Hood pulled that monstrosity into the pits. Competitors laughed till the end of the night when he left with the money. I certainly can’t forget Jack Hewitt on the friends list along with Steve Kinser and Danny Smith. I have been blessed to take the green with URC great Earl Haliquist then fifty years later with Cole Witt and Kyle Larson. After a spur of the moment meeting with Shirley and the Kears family at the speed shop we dropped by the home of another old friend, Rick Ferkel.
You just can’t make this stuff up.
From days gone by you looked forward to the 100 lap or even 150 lap
events. Now it is hard to find any feature over 40 laps. Yes, and for
many years we did it without power steering. From diamond diggers to
huge stagger and tire bleeders. That first year in URC was without a
roll cage, arm restraints or full face helmet. It certainly has been an
adventure. From Hooker Hood to Bryan Clausan. Now they call our cars
vintage and us, well it depends on who you ask. When you see Ryan Blaney
finish fourth at Talladega and remember you raced not only with his
daddy but also with his grand dad. Where did the seasons go? Racing with
both, Ed Lynch Sr. and Ed Jr. and knowing everyone’s favorite, Jean
Lynch. It is funny how the bad is over shadowed by all the good
memories. The remembering of the All Star’s Bert Emick paying me out of
his pocket so we could make it to the next show. Watching my nine year
old son take down the “No Women In Pits” sign at Jennerstown as we enter
with my crew chief Gloria Chambers in the 70’s. Many who should be on
this page have gone ahead and many more are still indelible in my hall
of memories. The list of special relationships born of this sport
continue to grow. Gus will be missed as will the many who have gone
before. When they finally install me in the “home” certainly these and
many more memories will keep me busy between my medications.
Rick Ferkel & Doug Wolfgang
To those who have reminded me that we have been remiss in our column, thank you. Seven weeks ago I went to the VA for a check up and was sold on taking this new industrial strength pneumonia shot. It worked, as three days later I had walking pneumonia and after seven weeks I am at last ninety percent back to normal, what ever normal is. Pastor duties also have grown and that is a good thing. In regard to pastor duties, we are available for conventional, race track, beach or wedding setting of your choice. Opposite sex only please. Our 2015 northern swing hopefully will bring us to a location near you. The only problem with leaving Wewahitchka and The Taunton Children's Home is trying to figure how to get about thirty kids and seven house parents into our motorhome for the trip. Late July is our departure date if all goes as planned. Until we roll in to your neck of the woods, God Bless and see you at the races.
Old Modified + Children = Memories
When I was 5 years old my dad took me to Pittsburgh's Heidelberg Raceway
for my first racing experience. During a red flag period, I like many
other kids, ran to the fence to get a closer look at the cars. As I
looked into the car of Lee “Smokey” Stover, he looked up and waved. That
wave was from a real race driver and it was just for me. That night
began a relationship that has kept me in the sport in some capacity
since that night in 1950. From a kid hitch hiking to the races, to a
crew member, to driver, to racing pastor, the love affair has persisted.
Now a vintage modified has perhaps began a similar journey for another
youngster over a half a century later.
As the 2015 racing season ramps up so does our anticipation for our
northern swing. Our hope is to visit shows of various sprint series as
well as several vintage events throughout the second half of the season.
We hope to meet with as many track chaplains and racing folks as
possible. The Tom Hagar modified restoration is still in he works as
well. Lots remain to be done before age forces us to the front porch
rocking chair. We hope it is you that we get to visit in our upcoming
travels. Until then we will simply say God Bless and see you at the
Racing Musings For 2015
The following are just a few thoughts, notes, grumblings and rumblings from the desk of an old guy being blessed to be part of sprint car racing for my 54th year. So here we go...... A. J Foyt just turned 80 years old. Though most folks associate A.J. with his Indy career which continues, A.J raced NASCAR and was one of the fiercest sprint car competitors of his day. From Langhorne to Ascot, A.J. beat the best. I always found A.J. friendly and willing to talk till one time I mistakenly parked my golf cart in his spot at the old Speedway Motel. Ooops. Next.....Tony Stewart heading up the All Star Circuit of Champions. Tony was, is and always has been a sprint car racer and it will be interesting to watch the elevation of the All Star group. Conflict with the other series has been worked out and I'm sure a lot of teams are looking at the All Stars in a new light. Also...... As Jimmy Jeep Knapp starts his 30th season of pushing race cars. The familiar yellow “War Wagon” will be sporting a new motor, transmission and other updates. Congratulations to Jimmy on his passing 100 race tracks at which he has pushed and on his 30th season. Next...... Long time New York racer Jon Button has passed away at the age of 76. Jon competed on dirt, pavement and at the drag races. Later he restored vintage race cars many of which he raced. Son Gordy is in the Empire Super Sprints Hall of Fame. Jon will be missed by his many fans and friends. In addition...... Indiana sprint car racer Jamie Frederickson who sold personal name signings on his race car for $100. to sponsor the car found the idea so successful in 2014 that the Frederickson team is doing the same deal for the upcoming season. Look up Jamie Frederickson Racing on Facebook or Twitter to participate. Next......Rico Abreu will be jumping into the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East with H Scott Motorsports and Justin Marks. The 15 race schedule will be Rico's priority for the 2015 racing series. Rico stated that he plans to run 110-120 races this year so sprint car and midget fans will still get plenty of opportunity to see Rico on the dirt tracks. His first race will be February 15 at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida. Talk about a guy rising to the top in a hurry. Another young guy...... Christopher Bell wound up 2014 with an unbelievable 27 A-main wins, competed in the Chili Bowl Nationals to kick off 2015 and immediately left for five consecutive nights of sprint car racing in Australia. This young gun plans an even more aggressive schedule in 2015 than last year. Oh to be young. In addition..... Retirement seems to be working well for Steve Kinser. He has already won one event since announcing his retirement from the World Of Outlaws as a regular competitor. The 20-time World of Outlaws champion may no longer be competing full-time, but he was at full song winning the A-main at Cocopah, Arizona. Somehow I believe this will only be the first of many. And for our 305 friends.......Attention all 305 Sprints, Eagle Jet Top Gun Sprints would like to invite you to join us for our 2015 Speed Weeks races. The first two nights will be at East Bay Speedway Park on Friday and Saturday, January 30th &31st. Then on to Golden Isles Speedway in South Georgia for two events on Saturday night February 14th and Sunday afternoon February 15th. All events will be complete shows with a pill draw for heats and passing points for “B” and “A” mains. Any questions about tires and rules please call Don Rehm at (813) 677-7326.12/27. Bummer.....Volusia County and Daytona International Speedway have decided to cancel the popular Daytona Beach ½ Marathon, which has been held during Speedweeks in February. Organizers said it is being cancelled due to construction at the track. Runners began at Daytona International Speedway, went to the beach and then back, with a “victory” lap around the speedway. The county is currently looking at ways to better grow the race, hoping to attract upwards of 15,000 runners.The route was named one of the seven most scenic half-marathon courses in the United States by Active.com. In past races, several of the NASCAR stars took part in the run. And in the not gone department...... The United Racing Club is alive and well and anyone interested in scheduling races, sponsorship opportunities or racing with the United Racing Club may contact Curt Michael at 302-344-1882 Fans and competitors can follow all of the news and announcements concerning the club via its facebook page under United Racing Club or on twitter @UrcClub Continuing on club info. The United Racing Club is a traveling 360 sprint car organization run by racers for racers. The Club's concept was started in 1947 and was very successful for over 50 years. Now, the Club makes its return to the racing world in 2015 and the idea is that the group will be governed by its racers. Now for all the vintage racers...... Daytona Antique Auto Racing Assoc Nationals are set for February 25th 26th and 27th at Bronson Speedway in Archer, Florida near Gainsville. Contact Karen Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 321-720-7283 for information. Complete info also at darraracing.org. Association president J.T. Dunn is recovering from a stint in the hospital and we pray for his complete recovery. Enough for now..... This is only a bit of the news that comes by our desk. Much of it you probably have heard, some, maybe not. Bikini clad spring breakers are heading to Florida and so are the racers of every flavor. Pastoring and other commitments may limit our involvement a bit but we will make some of this years Speedweeks we hope. Thanks for your response to our column. Pros and cons are all welcome. So, until we get the National Speedway Ministries motorhome loaded and headed east. God Bless and see you at the races.
For nearly 70 years the URC banner has been a mainstay
in sprint car sanctioning. The other day I received an email saying that
the United Racing Company was folding its tent. A bit of internet
searching confirmed the fact. My first thought was that the URC banner
was gone forever. This is personal because in 1962 this organization
under the direction of president Louis Kunz welcomed this young kid with
no experience into the clubs ranks. I got to follow such names a Earl
Halaquist, Lou Johnson, Jiggs Peters and many other legends, usually
from far enough back that it was barely possible to read the numbers on
the tail of their cars. I was however, treated like one of the traveling
gang. Though we were a bit more competitive in later seasons on
occasional hookups with the group it was that first season that made the
URC “family” impression. Not knowing all the factors that led to the
incorporation and the formation of the United Racing Company from the
United Racing Club, any opinion on my part would be purely conjecture.
As of December of this year, the United Racing Company has pulled the
plug and the United Racing Club is being resurrected as a “club” as in
the beginning. We are aware of the turmoil of sprint car racing in the
east. There is the 305 contingent which in itself is a good concept.
There are those of the 358 persuasion and the 360 group. Add into this
mix the folks that are promoting the non wing cars and there are a lot
of people vying for a limited number of cars. Through years of
experience we know that having a meeting of sprint car folks is sort of
like having a hockey game without passing out sticks at the door. The
idea of reaching a goal is somewhere lost in the fight. We have been
made aware that the ARDC midget folks are not as secure as in past
seasons. Cost have always been the issue but even more today than a
decade ago. Equipment costs to be even remotely competitive and travel
expenses challenge independent teams. Insurance costs, the ability to
guarantee purses and administrative expenses test sanctioning bodies.
URC and ARDC are two names that have provided legendary teams and
drivers for generations. We are pleased to learn Curt Michael, 8 time
URC Champion and several others have been working to bring back the
original club concept. The following information was gleaned from the
new United Racing “Club” web site. It goes as follows.
Those Most Thankful
As we give thanks this Thanksgiving Day for our many blessings and launch an attack on the golden turkey, the 2014 racing season for the most part is only a memory. There are a few names that come to mind from the past season that might have special thanks to offer for an extra special racing season. Rico Abreu certainly had a memorable season and became a 2014 fan favorite. His personality and aggressive driving whether in a midget or sprint car has brought him respect and an abundance of new fans. In addition to being one of the winningest drivers in the country we all have seen the video of him along with Jonathan Allard pull Tim Kaeding from his burning car. Coast to coast, he was a factor where ever he competed. It will certainly be fun to watch where this young man's career takes him in future seasons. Likewise Christopher Bell has much to be thankful for this season. We met Christopher at Rick Ferkle's a couple years ago at the beginning of his career. A nicer young man you would never want to meet and he can wheel any type of race car to victory lane. Dirt or pavement, even a full bodied stock car. It makes little difference to this talented driver. There is no limit to where his future may lead and to the checks he will be able to cash. Christopher and Rico are two rising stars that are on their way to dominance in their sport. Another driver who again has defended his perch on top of the national sprint car scene is the tough Donny Schatz. Some would say that it is someone else's turn to win the WOO trophy but Donny has taken on all comers and once again stolen the hardware and the big money. After a difficult season for himself, Tony Stewart has to feel good about his sprint car operation. There is not much we can say about Tony's other driver, Steve Kinser. Steve has given the sprint car world much to be thankful for through the years as being the one to beat. This veteran has nothing left to prove. He has done it all. We can only imagine Thanksgiving dinner with the Kinser clan.
National Speedway Ministries has given Nancy and I an opportunity to interact with many racing folks from all over country, as does this column. For that we are most thankful. Knowing and working with folks like those mentioned above is certainly a privilege. We continue to be amazed at the response to this column. The relationships with the drivers, crews, track personnel, fans and press are what makes the effort worthwhile. Our involvement in vintage racing is also an exciting part of what we do. We are thankful for the opportunity to interact with the stars of seasons past and their cars that preceded the machines of today. Our friend, Bill Wendt is recovering from shoulder surgery after flipping his vintage midget at a recent DARRA event. Bill and the David Johnson crew plan again to attempt to set a speed record on the salt for a vintage Indy car in 2015. We are hoping this is the year all will fall into place for this monumental task. Also on another positive note, Millstream Speedway near Findlay, Ohio will reopen for the 2015 season. We have written about the failings of tracks around the country and we give thanks when one comes back after being dark for several seasons. New dirt is being hauled in for Eldora as that famed oval gets a racing surface facelift for the 2015 season. Another positive for the upcoming season.
Rick Ferkel Dudley Balmer Christopher Bell
A New Can Of Worms
This past week brought a long overdue close to the Stewart / Ward incident. With our prayers still going out for the Ward family for their loss, the autopsy certainly opened a new can of worms. Within minutes of the revelation of the toxicology results I was getting phone calls, emails and texts saying that others frequently see or have seen drug use in the pits by competitors. Weed was not the only substance mentioned by these folks as hard drugs apparently are in use as well. A well known driver in a major series was witnessed doing a line of coke in his trailer so I'm told, again hearsay, before strapping in the race car. We all knew that many years ago there was occasional smoke around a few of the cars but certainly nothing like what we apparently have today. One father said it was very troubling to him that his son was racing next to someone who was under the influence of a mind altering substance. Adult beverages have never been allowed in the pits. There is sound reasoning behind that long standing practice. This recent death brought sprint car racing into the spotlight in a negative way. Since there was enough marijuana in Mr. Ward to impair his judgement, their observation not mine, one would imagine that a wrongful death suit against Tony Stewart would not carry much weight. The racing community however can not survive if on track incidents become subject to legal scrutiny. Racers and racing as a whole would not survive continual legal attacks. All the legal ramifications aside, which of us want to run into a corner with someone who is not in complete control of his faculties. What lies in store for us in the future? Will we have to pee in a bottle before we get our arm bands or will officials ignore the problem till a major tragedy forces the issue to the forefront again? Certainly all major sports are finding that if they don't keep their house in order there is an outsider more than ready to do it for them. While discussing the drug situation with a retired state detective, light was brought to my attention of the responsibility of track management and their being held complicit in a fatality. He also stated that with the rate of dissipation of marijuana in the body and considering the amount reported in the young man in the New York incident and considering the time line, he was surely partaking while on speedway grounds. His family's attacks on Tony Stewart and others are perhaps understandable, but also regrettable and ill-advised. The whole family supposedly loves racing and must realize that it is a contact sport, often with high emotion. Note the response of Kevin Ward Jr. to the on track incident. Is the high of racing a sprint car lacking for these individuals? When a fatality results from someone found to be under the influence where will the legal responsibilities end? Certainly not only the driver but the owner, sponsors and the track itself will be accountable. All will share in the legal ramifications. The names and information shared with me in confidence by the concerned observers will remain in confidence. As I follow the careers of the folks mentioned to me, I can only hope that future press releases will contain only details of their competition activities. Teams can not compete under the constant threat of legal action for every on track mishap. Once the doors to the attorneys office are swung open they can never again be closed. Apparently this issue is far more common than most of us have known. The challenges of our sport seem to be mounting and it is disappointing to know that some are coming from the participants themselves. If those in charge fail to address the issue now that it has surfaced, someone else surely will.
With the Daron Clayton family dealing with the loss of their little son Kinser it was heartwarming to see the push vehicles making the trip to lead his procession. Jimmy Jeep Knapp said that seven vehicles were on hand to lend their support. The racing family continues to care for its own. Good job ladies and gentlemen.
Our recent trip to North Florida Speedway was a great evening with our Daytona Antique Auto Racing Assoc. friends. Much of the evening was spent with past president Dale Miller. It was good to catch up with a good friend while watching some fast on track competition. A fun night for sure. All folks planning to attend the DAARA Winter Nationals should be getting their banquet reservations in as not to have to sit in the parking lot and smell the good food from a distance. Remember, the time is earlier this year with activities beginning November 5th running through the 8th.
Much of our racing excitement this season has come from you folks. Thanks for keeping us in the loop. We still look forward to meeting as many of you as possible. Remember too that online signup for the CAP program can be done through our nationalspeedwayministries.com web site. The 2015 season is just around the corner. What better Christmas gift could you give your favorite racer than a year of CAP protection? Till next time, as always, God Bless and see you at the races.
Time To Move Forward
NASCAR driver Tony Stewart ran over a competitor, 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr., during a confrontation at a sprint car race on Saturday night.
Kevin Ward Jr., a 20-year-old race car driver, was killed Saturday night after he was struck on the track by NASCAR star Tony Stewart.
Famed race car driver Tony Stewart hit fellow driver Kevin Ward, Jr. at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Saturday night.
These were the kinds of headlines we woke up to that recent Sunday morning following the death of Kevin Ward Jr. First and foremost our hearts go out to the Ward family, his crew and all who are affected by his passing. This will long be remembered as a black day for sprint car racing in general. Reading the first accounts by writers that obviously know little about dirt track racing and less about Tony Stewart, one would have thought that he had chased down the other driver with a mindset to do him harm. After seeing the video and the computer reconstruction more times than I care to remember, certainly it is the lack of forethought by Mr. Ward that is responsible for his death. Slow motion and some video experts state the the angry driver was actually attempting to jump on Stewart's car. Whether this is actually the case or not he was clearly going after the moving 14. After nearly being hit by the blue car he was undeterred in his pursuit of Stewart. How can responsibility be placed on a driver who held his line and was respecting the speed dictated by the yellow? Many of us have gotten out of our race cars in anger but most have not lost all reason or self control. Watching the cars enter the fateful corner it is easy to see the hard slick shiny surface. Tony got in a bit too hard and lost side bite. Something not mentioned is the possibility that as the 14 slid up that Ward could possibly have lifted, dove under the loose 14 and might have pulled him coming off the corner since the 14 had obviously lost bite on the slick track. Other brilliant minds ask why did Stewart have to go in so hard against lesser competition. My reply to that would be what driver straps in with the attitude of just making laps and allowing other drivers to just feel good? When the green comes out a race driver races. Tony races because he loves sprint car racing and he wants to promote the sport and he does this at great personal expense. The brilliant reporters who appeared on all the news outlets portrayed Stewart as an uncaring hothead bent on doing harm to any competitor who got in his way. Most of these journalists did not even have a picture of his sprint car to post and many inferred that the race was somehow sanctioned by NASCAR. There is so much wrong with what happened that night and the period that followed. A racing deal gone bad. A young man dead. Perhaps the greatest ambassador for sprint car racing in recent memory on the sidelines from sprint car racing for who knows how long. Sprint car racing in general taking an unneeded hit by an uneducated media that is intent on making the story rather than reporting the facts. It was truly a bad night in so many ways. Certainly Tony is getting advice from an innumerable amount of sources, legal, financial, sponsors, family and fans. If I could ad my two cents worth I would just say racing in general and sprint car racing in particular needs you back. Sprint car racing would take a serious hit if Tony picked up all his toys and went home. It is good to hear Tony will be back in the Stewart Hass 14 at Atlanta.
I first met Tony in 1996 at Indy. He was good for Indy car racing as he has been for NASCAR and sprint car racing. He is one of the few that transcends labels and territories. He is private in his charities, public in his support for our sport and an asset we can ill afford to lose. Again, it was a bad racing deal and our hearts go out to the Ward family. Our support for Tony in no way lessens our concern for the Wards and everything they are going through.
The big news this week in sprint car racing has to be the sudden retirement of Sammy Swindell which caught most of us by surprise. We wish Sammy and Amy the best in their future ventures. Watching Sammy and Steve battle through the years has been a treat indeed. Sammy has done so much for racing, in and out of the car for over four decades. Thanks for the memories. Both Sammy and Steve will leave a big vacancy in our sport.
Though our motorhome took a lightning hit recently we still plan to take in the upcoming DAARA Southern Vintage Series event at North Florida Speedway on September 13th. No tv or fridge so we will have to rough it a bit. Also, the DAARA Nationals are early this year so make plans soon to head to the “Bullring” Nov. 5th for three days of vintage racing at its best. Reservations for the banquet absolutely must be in by October 27th. It would probably be a good idea not to wait to the last minute. As they say on tv, place your order now. That is about it for this round from the Dead Lakes in Wewahitchka. We appreciate the comments, both good and bad. As always, God bless and see you at the races.
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Copyright © 2015 by "Hosehead's Sprint Car Photos & News." Do not reproduce anything from these pages without the permission of the photographers, writers or webmaster.
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