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    The Infield

    by Paul Pittman

    9/5     Things that Make Me Say “Hmmmm….”

     

    Charlotte, NC (Sep 5, 2012):  So I am sitting and watching the news this morning and hearing about all the traffic problems that the DNC is potentially causing this week and wondering to myself, people actually pay to get pissed off?  Think about it!  The DNC is bringing thousands into the Charlotte area this week for what is essentially a week long party.  Many of these delegates and representatives we as citizens are paying for in one form or another.  On top of that, throw in the extra security not only in Charlotte, but basically within a 150 mile radius of Charlotte (just ask anyone who traveled anywhere around the Charlotte area this past weekend).  Add to that all of the additional “clean-up” efforts that have been going on for the past week and other odds and ends that get paid for at our expense.  All in hopes of hearing a speech promising to keep taxes low.  Huh?  Seriously…

    So anyway, how are things in your neck of the woods?  With many racing seasons beginning to wind down, I figured it might be interesting to take a look at some of the more prevalent series around just to see how they did this year while we are on the subject of odd things happening. 

    Let’s start with the World of Outlaws.    Here is a series that, despite it long run at the top continues to create controversy at every opportunity.  Perhaps the biggest story of the season coming out of the Outlaw camp and, for that matter, the country now is the tire issue.  Here is the way I see it.  Several years ago, Goodyear seemed to be unable to even buy a car to mount its tires to. (Does anyone else remember this?)  There were a couple cars that were doing development but overall, they sucked, plain and simple.  I will give it to them though.  They worked through it and actually developed a good tire program and introduced some nice benefits to the sport.  Take for instance the whole tire sponsorship deals that seemingly every club came to depend on.  Regardless of what brand they ran, it seemed like every track or series had some sort of tire deal going which reduced the price to the buyer or offered some sort of incentive program. This is nice but it only lasts as long as things remain status quo.  2012 saw the WoO and Goodyear part ways and now it seems like every series is trying to come up with some sort of deal that may or will take the place of potentially lost revenue.  I guess what I have a problem with is that, much like we as Americans have the tendency to get used to things, so do these organizations and their memberships. They get used to having the money and then when that is threatened, everyone wants to blame the club for not being ready or looking bad because they “lost that sponsorship program”.  I guess the question I have to ask is simply, what did you do before it? 

    Overall, it looks as though the WoO will have another successful year though.  Signing STP as the series sponsor will definitely help give the series some confidence and chances are that by the time Christmas rolls around, no one will even give the tire deal another thought.  It will be resolved and things will move on.  The only other thing that seems to stand out is that rule about competing in other races prior to a sanctioned WoO race within a defined radius.  For anyone not familiar, it was something that was instituted back when the WoO had a hint of competition called the USA series.  It was a way of making sure their talent stayed where it was contracted to.  Well, those days are gone yet fans continue to get screwed when it is convenient to enforce.  It’s stupid so do us all a favor and grow up.

    Now on to the IRA, or what has seemingly become the Billy Balog Benefit Tour this season:  Holy Cow!  15 wins and counting!  Looking back when Brian Coleman brought Billy in to drive his #4 years ago, I remember him saying that there was something about Billy that really stood out.  Well Brian: Rookie of the year, 4 Championships and 2nd on the win list later, I would have to say that Brian was definitely onto something.  In all seriousness, I was looking forward to seeing him represent the IRA in the Nationals or some other bigger stage event but never saw him.  At some point, he will need to make a decision.  Does he stay a big fish in a little pond or venture out to see if he can prove himself to the rest of the country.  That is a decision he will have to make and I wish him well in whichever way he decides to go.  Meanwhile, it just seems like the same story with Scott Nietzel, Mike Reinke, Scott Uttech and the rest of the top IRA teams:  Wrong place at the wrong time.   If you want to compare it to anything, I remember back in the 80s when this young guy from Sioux Falls, SD was dominating the central PA circuit in the Weikert Livestock #29.  Doug Wolfgang was tearing up tracks in the region and for that matter, pretty much anywhere he went.  Meanwhile, guys like Keith Kaufman, Smokey Snellbaker and Steve Smith (I could go on and on) were doing well, but because of all the fuss being made about Doug, they just blended in the background and sortta lost in the shuffle. 

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not taking anything away from any one of the drivers I mentioned above.  Every one of these guys does one heck of a job along with more than I can mention, but the point I am making is that sometimes, the timing of things and events tend to hide the accomplishments of others so that we do not see someone’s accomplishments because of the things that others do and do not receive the accolades that they deserve as well.

    Well, this is getting a bit longer that I originally expected so let me finish up with the Carolina Sprints.  I guess there is one thing that I find puzzling here which is why a series that is founded on uniformity and growth seems to get bound up in politics.  Now I realize that this will more than likely ruffle some feathers (like I need to do that more than I have already), but why does there always have to be a control issue in this sport?  OK:  I get it!  We are all control freaks in a way but the whole RaceSaver deal is about uniformity, cost effectiveness and growth so it would make sense (wouldn’t it) to do things to help it grow in the specific areas or regions.  And before you start, no I am not talking about changing any of the car rules AT ALL, that is the uniformity that is going to bind this.  It is the mindset behind it that gets my goat. 

    And to all you guys that still insist on sitting behind your keyboards looking for different ways to badmouth something just because you want things in your universe to be your way (again – the control thing), WE KNOW that the RaceSaver package is not the same as a 360 or 410.  The idiots that keep comparing them are, well… IDIOTS!  They are like this for a specific reason.  To allow those who may not otherwise race a way to race!  If you want the power and all that go with the other divisions, then run them.  No one is stopping you.  It makes very little sense to sit back and complain about issues or rules that you feel should be unique to your area that set you up on an island by yourself.  Maybe you are lucky and have a huge car count but most of us do not so our only option is to keep things uniform across the regions.  You know what?  Enough about this for now: You get the point.

     SO, like it or not, these are just a few of the things that have been on my mind of late.  Thank you for allowing me to share them with you.  Hey, it makes great therapy and who knows; maybe someone out there may actually read it and explain some of it to me in such a way that makes sense.  Stranger things have happened.  Just do me a favor please.  I don’t care if you don’t like what I said or even get offended.  All I am asking is to think about it before you jump all over me or anyone else on the message boards or at the track.  Scratch that:  You can at the track because then at least I know you read it.  I’ll still probably just walk away from you if I am working but at least I will do so knowing that I made you think about an issue that needs to be looked at in order to help this sport we all love.  Until then, keep it shiny side up!

     

     

     

     

    You would think that after experiencing the mind-numbing pain of an infected tooth already once in my life, I would be smart enough to avoid it from happening again. You would be wrong. Last Saturday night at East Lincoln was definitely an exercise in pain mitigation. In fact, one of the primary things that helped was the fact that I do enjoy working with this bunch of guys. Otherwise I would have just simply skipped the show and wallowed in my own medicated pain relief. But I have to admit that every time a car idled by, the vibration was felt loud and clear! Still though, not a bad evening overall. The car count is still lower than we want but the actual racing has been really good and Saturday night was no exception. To be honest, once again there was no clear cut winner until the checkered fell. In fact, afterward I found out that Gary (Troutman) thought the checkered was waving instead of the white or it may have gone an entirely different way. And Mike (Leraas) was right there in the thick of it as well. Then too, if you want to go further back, Johnny (Petrozelle) actually looked to have everyone covered early had it not been for the incident he was involved in, but that is racing. That is why we race until the checkered flag and that is what drives us to work through pain.
    It was really good to work with two new teams (for me anyway) in the form of Darren Hasty and Drake Moore. Both have competed with the Carolina RaceSaver Sprints before my arrival and I am glad that both took the effort to come back and see for themselves how much things have already changed. I hope both are happy and I am very glad to see the same approach and attitude towards the series and the overall efforts from them as everyone else. I cannot tell you enough how much of a pleasure it is to work with this caliber of professionalism and enthusiasm. Darren has the aura of a champion about him and will be a force to be reckoned with as we move forward. Drake is fairly new to this level of sprint racing but is smart and catching on quickly. He too will develop into a contender as we move along. It is just really great to work with this much talent.
    Speaking of talent: The aforementioned Johnny Petrozelle showed a lot of it on Saturday night when he managed to keep his #59 wing side up after getting into Drake’s rear tire at the fastest part of the rack. This could have and by all rights should have been a lot worse than it was. While Johnny’s car received some serious damage, once again the pit area was buzzing with teamwork to get the #59 back out for the feature. Not only his but Drake’s and Darren’s as well. I neglected to mention Darren’s skirmish early in the night but he too showed a lot of raw talent reeling in his car at the start of the dash on a greasy track. Then running the dash the entire way without the nose wing and manhandling it through the race earned my respect as well.
    As for the feature itself, Drake realized that he may have had a problem with his driveline that could have really messed his night up. Recognizing the problem and acting instead of pushing it was a mark of maturity that many racers don’t quite understand. I like that! You don’t get to work with many drivers who know how to race with the seat of their pants anymore. And speaking of driving with the seat of their pants; Gary Troutman really got up on the wheel of his #44 and was the happiest I have seen him in a while after a race. I got a quick chance to talk to him before he got out and after taking a deep breath of satisfaction, he smiled and said that they (Team #44) had the motor finally figured out and that now he can focus on his setups. If his drive on Saturday night is any indication, he very well could pick up a feature winner board of his own for his shop before the end of the season.
    However, Mike Leraas might have something to say about that as well. He was asking questions about our little rewards program on Saturday before the show and now seems quite determined to hang up a feature winner board in his own shop. He could have easily picked one up on Saturday night himself if the chips would have fallen his way. He looked racy and hungry for a win. A dangerous combination if you are the competition.
    So with all this being said, we travel up North to Elkin again on Labor Day weekend. I like this trip up there as it does remind me a lot of the traveling we used to do with the IRA and even the countryside reminds us a little of home. I am glad Drake got some good laps in last weekend as we head up to his neck of the woods for this show. Confidence improved, watch for him to show good for a hometown crowd. And of course this is all leading up to our inaugural King of Carolina Shootout on September 15th at East Lincoln.
    The King of Carolina deal really has an appeal surrounding it already. I like having the idea of a format that we can call our own and showcasing the event around the end of the year also gives it an air of Championship feel as well that I hope parlays into coming years. As East Lincoln is the home track for the series, doing it there feels right too and that place has been fast lately as well. We are all looking forward to hosting it on the 15th. As far as anyone looking to race, consider the invitation open as we welcome anyone who is able to compete under the RaceSaver rules package to come in and join the party. I know that there is apparently a little professional jealousy already starting up this year but I look at that as nothing more than a message that we are doing something right. I also view it as a challenge to do even more so consider yourself warned! We still have some laps for sale for the feature as well so if you are interested in getting in on the fun for $25 a lap, check it out over on www.carolinasprints.com.
    One more thing that I view as a big positive going forward is the amount of questions we have been getting about the 2013 racing schedule already. So to those who want to see the series at a track near you, contact your local track and have them contact us as early as possible about booking a show for next year. Their point of contact for the series for is Keith Frye and he is easily reached at keith@carolinasprints.com. The sooner we can start getting these requests in, the sooner we can start formulating a plan for the upcoming season and hopefully, visit as many of these tracks as possible. The initial response has been great and our mission to put on the best quality show as possible with a minimal disruption from the normal program as possible has been proving very popular. Not only is it affordable, it is becoming even more self-sufficient and is often ready to go before even the tracks have realized it. We feel strongly about the manner and professionalism of which we present our product and look as any opportunity to provide a good show as a way to portray sprint car racing in a positive light. If you are not sure, you still have 2 opportunities to check us out this year. But hurry as time is ticking.

     

     

     

     

    Charlotte, NC (8/8/12):  Isn’t this a wonderful age we live in?  Gone are the days of driving to the track while watching the skies, worrying if the races have been cancelled because you have no way to call ahead.  Back in the day, we used to think nothing about driving for an hour or so in the Central PA area for the opportunity to breath in the methanol fumes for an evening.  It was fun driving by the motels and store parking lots and seeing the haulers parked in there or teams working to try and get ready.  I can remember, you knew when you were getting closer to the Gettysburg area on Saturdays because from Chambersburg to Gettysburg on Route 30, the number of haulers steadily increased.

    Gone also are the days of open trailers where you knew who was pulling into the pits and the anticipation built accordingly. Wait a minute – Strike that last comment because they are not all gone.  In fact, there are several teams on the Carolina Sprint tour still boasting the wide open views of the open trailers.  Yes we also have our share of those with enclosed too; hey you get what you can at our level but it is still neat watching kids look at the trailer hauling a sprint car in plain view because there is something about watching their reaction.  It’s really cool to see.  Of course when it does rain, it just plain sux which is why we have evolved to the nice enclosed trailers complete with retractable awnings!  Those are the really sweet ones; I am here to tell you!

    For anyone wondering where the heck I am going with all this, I am not sure I can really tell you because as I write this column, we are down for a short break.  In a way it is nice because it does give me a chance to reflect on things while I recuperate.  I had forgotten just how much I walk in a single night at the track and do not even realize it.  Call it the adrenaline or the excitement, all I know is that I am having fun doing it and when it is all said and done, that is what matters.

    I can’t tell you how many times I have interviewed drivers at all kinds of levels and when the subject comes up, the answer is the same, “I’ll stop when it’s no longer fun.”  The simple truth is though, by that time it’s hard to stop because you are usually in over your head.  Then the frustration sets in and before you know it, you are sitting in your truck one day wondering why you are still killing yourself trying to keep a car on the track by yourself because all of your help has abandoned you.  I’ll tell you why:  Because it stopped being fun for them as well.

    We are all social creatures by nature. We enjoy the good times and pleasantries that go with having fun.  When was the last time you heard someone say that they were going to do something in order to have a rotten time?  Better yet, think of a time when someone mentioned going out and having a good time and no one wanted to go along?  Fun attracts and frustration repels.  Let’s call it “Physchoracing”.  I only say that because school has really been taking up more time lately than I want it to but it is also “fun” to play around with too. 

    So let’s explore “Physchoracing” for a bit.  I think that maybe we should look at it from an angle of a disease because maybe then we can all get some help from the government and charitable committees in search of a cure.  We can even publish TV commercials with sprint cars flying around the track and a popular spokesperson asking for help for the millions of us afflicted by the disease.   “Through your generous donation we can all help those who need it!”

    So what are the symptoms of “Physchoracing”?  That’s easy:

    1.      A heightened sense of awareness to your physical location in relation to the nearest dirt track.

    2.      The need to squint to see because you are so used to watching the action through dust.

    3.      In order to get the same flavor in your beverage, you find yourself sprinkling dust onto the top of it.

    4.      The feeling that you have lost your sense of hearing because you cannot hear the roar of race engines at full throttle.

    5.      A loss of good balance because you are used to feeling the rumble of high horsepower accelerating by you all night long.

    6.      Methanol withdrawals experienced when away from the sport for any length of time.

    7.      A sense of accomplishment after seeing a good night of close racing.

    So there you have it.  Seven symptoms that indicate that you may be addicted to racing: specifically sprint car racing. At the present time, the only cure for this disease is to participate at your weekly racing venue.   In fact, some have it so bad that they need to attend multiple times per week in order to achieve that feeling of bliss.  The ultimate fix is to travel half way around the globe periodically in order to achieve this fix for the entire year.  At least those in the Knoxville area are getting their treatment as the IA Speed week and the Nationals are up.  God bless you all!

    So all this makes me wonder if I am stricken by this newly discovered ailment.  Have I been a sufferer of “Physchoracing” for my entire life?  Am I a victim of an unknown disease that has guided me to some of the country’s best facilities in search for my own fix?  Am I at a point now where by investing my own time and effort into a fledgling organization to help it grow into something that everyone associated with it can be proud of be enough to help me overcome my dependency on the thrill of watching a sprint car entering the corner at full throttle, never lifting and man handling it through turn two and down the backstretch …   Umm sorry about that.  Had a little flashback there! 

    Actually, the answer to all these questions, thankfully, is YES.  Yes, I do have it bad.  I even tried a recovery plan and couldn’t stay on the wagon.  Yes, I am happy to have not only been to each and every venue I have been too, good and bad because you have to experience the bad to appreciate the good one.  Yes, I am very happy to be a part of the Carolina Sprint Series as we start growing.  We are already excited about what the 2013 season holds (given the Mayans are wrong) and the prospects that await us.  And yes, I do have the disease.  I admit it and I fully embrace it.   In fact, I do not want to be cured anymore.  I am ready for our next race! 

     

     

     

    REAL RACERS…
    Charlotte, NC: In case anyone has missed it, I am really having fun working with this new group of sprinters in the Charlotte area. It’s no secret that I pretty much burnt myself out of racing a few years back. Between the politics of racing, my health and economy, it really just got the better of me so I left. That’s why when this deal came up down here, Amanda was really worried, and for good reason. You see, I am passionate about the things I like doing, to a fault. I take my work very seriously and try my best to make sure that the details are covered. As my business instructors have defined; this is a contingency type strategy: Only mine tends to run amok at times.
    We are just over a month into it now for our part and please notice I said OUR part because Amanda is just as excited to be helping on this as I am. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still watching me like a hawk and perhaps that was her initial reasoning, but as we move along, I can see her excitement and enthusiasm building in this and I have to tell you, that is making me feel that much better about this whole thing.
    One thing that I want to address this week is the concept of quantity vs. quality. I will be the first to admit that for years, I like so many sat and counted cars as they arrived and felt like I was being cheated out of a decent show because of a limited car count. Working with the IRA for so many years also spoiled me as there are so many teams to compete in winged sprint car racing in the area. Yet they complain in the area on message boards and such, but I’ll touch on that subject in a bit.
    The point I want to get to is this. As a club that is currently in the building phase, we do not have a lot of cars but what that does allow us to do is build correctly. You see, if you make mistakes with 18 to 24 cars racing, it becomes your worst nightmare. Time is needed to sort things out and worst case scenario is that equipment gets broken or god-forbid; someone gets hurt. By only having a limited number of teams at the time, we can and do make some mistakes in the learning process and as a result, we can correct them and set policy to make sure they are identified and corrective actions are in place to make sure that as more cars come around and begin competing with us, we know how to react or avoid situations completely.
    This means a smoother operation and a higher quality show for the fans because ultimately, if we cannot provide a good quality level of entertainment for them, we will not be back. Trust me when I say that we have already handicapped ourselves by starting a winged sprint organization in the heart of NASCAR country but I have to say that the reception we have received at each track we have been at has been terrific.
    Sure it is new to a lot of fans around here but we all continue to hear all of the old stereotypes of how the sprint cars slow up the show and this and that but I think in the last month we have really done our part to turn heads by providing a level of competition that no one expected while being professional about everything from the way we conduct ourselves in the pit area to how we conduct ourselves on the track. Again, I have to applaud these core teams for their efforts. Gary, Mike, Jake, Ray, Johnny, Scott, Obie, you and your teams as well as your fans are all a welcome breath in a sport that has been caught up far too long in the money and political backlashes that have helped to build it to where it has become on a national level today. These are true race fans who understand what they need to do and appreciate the opportunity to race in front of new fans. They are on the ball on getting staged and more importantly, have not forgotten that being invited to race at a track is not something to be taken for granted.
    Now then, with that all being said, I want to touch on a couple issues that still bother me. First and foremost are the message boards and forums that exist to seemingly do nothing but breed hate and discontentment to the racing community in general. Originally, these were set up to allow fans to communicate between each other and even get some results communicated quickly. Unfortunately though, over the years there have been those bottom dwellers evolve that do nothing but sit up apparently late at night in order to try and pick arguments with others. This is something that has been going on for years so it is nothing new. I had just hoped that they would have grown up some by now but apparently that is a part of the evolutionary process that is different from real race fans as well.
    You see, to me a race fan is someone who care enough about the sport to respect others and what they have to say. If they have something to say on the subject that is informative or even helpful, they say it in the context it was originally written and then feel good about the subject. Not about the feeling that they have outdone someone or even made them feel like an idiot. Childish behavior such as this is exactly why there are so few forums in racing and also why, as a series, I always hate the idea of sponsors or potential sponsors glancing at these and seeing such negativity or bashing going on. These so called fans have no idea that all they are doing is helping those who would rather see racing fade away or dismissed as a red-neck way of passing the night away because the electric is out or their TV doesn’t pick up the NASCAR race this week. These fans in fact, do more harm than good.
    And they usually hide behind some very creative aliases. You know who you are so I am not going to dignify you with any identification but the bravest always seem to have the tags that actually sound like race fans but in reality, as I said before, whole purpose seems to be to destroy racing. It almost reminds me of a political election gone badly at times.
    Now that I have gotten that all off my chest, I want to let everyone know that Amanda is still working hard on the club’s new website (carolinasprints.com) and there are some things in the works that will help to establish our own presence online as well as on the track. She has already set up an email link for those wishing to get news and information via email. Colette Troutman is helping out now at the track by providing updates on racing information as we go along via Twitter. So keep checking in to keep up with this as they continue to build. The momentum for the Carolina RaceSaver Sprint Series is building so here is your chance to get in on the ground floor of something that is being built one block at a time and in a way to help keep racing fun and enjoyable for everyone. So until next week, here’s a bit of advice. Instead of trying to portray yourself as an expert on a subject, take a few minutes to think about the impact of what you are thinking or better yet. Actually go out and support your local track as a fan and help get this sport growing again.

     

     

    Somewhere, Under the Rainbow

    Charlotte, NC:  So much for cooler weather this week.  OK, granted it didn’t hit the triple digit mark but it was still hot!  But I guess you will have that on a hot summer day in North Carolina, or at least that is what I am told.  Looking at the weather forecast has never really been something I like doing but since my daughter is back home and wanted to take her friend along to the races; I wanted to make sure that they were prepared.  Before leaving the house, a 95% chance of rain was predicted for the evening.  Worst case scenario, it rains and we take the girls to a movie; no problem. 

    Fortunately, Keith Frye apparently has some sort of mystic power that keeps it from raining over the East Lincoln Speedway.  All night long we watched the heavy storm clouds all around us.  We watched the rainbow from turn 3 to turn 2, the lightening dance and yes, even enjoyed an occasional breeze that smelled a lot like rain.  But not a single drop of rain fell.  As such, the girls got to watch a full night of racing and, although I may be taking things a bit for granted, I think the world has another sprint car fan. 

    While Amanda and I worked the Carolina RaceSaver Sprint portion of the program, things went pretty smooth.  I spent some time talking with Keith about the organization, the direction he wants it to grow toward and his short term goals for the series.  Being a business major in school right now, it was the perfect mix of information I needed in order to begin formulating a plan for the 2013 season. 

    For this season, right now we as an organization are still working on building the momentum the series has been building on the past few weeks and Saturday night went a long way to help.  Despite the car count, the program itself went off without a flaw.  We had a few wrenches thrown at us (figuratively of course – we haven’t gotten to that point yet) and worked through them as a group.  I’ve already said it before but this group of racers loves to race and recognize the importance of being professional and more importantly, how to have fun while respecting each other.  Every one of the teams I have had the pleasure of working with so far, whether seasoned veterans or new to sprint racing, all have the same goal: To make this work.  And damnit, I am going to do my best to make it work for them too. 

    Overall, things went well.  Jake McLane hit the wall after the checkered flag fell on the dash which took care of any extra time the team may have had to relax as they replaced the front axle on their car.  Obie Hall made the trip up to race and got in some important seat time and started to get into a decent rhythm during the feature.  Obie was also caught behind the 8-ball early as injector issues forced him to the pits early in the dash.  By the way, he wanted me to say thanks to Shawn Mott for the effort and help to get his #18 ready for the feature.  Speaking of thanks, in victory lane, Jake wanted to make sure he thanked everyone who not only helped get the car ready in time to make the feature, but his sponsors as well for making it possible for him. Johnny Petrozelle wasn’t as fortunate however as he fell victim to a faulty in/out cable and was unable to start the feature.  A tough break for a talented young driver looking forward to a good night in front of a home track crowd.

    Looking ahead, next week’s trip to the Friendship Speedway in Elkin, NC.  Everyone is looking forward to making the trip north, as am I.  Further down the road, 2013 is already starting to look like things will be coming together for the series itself.  Several teams have expressed or are already in the process of putting cars together to run the series.  The reception we have received thus far is more than I really anticipated.  As it turns out, there is a deeply hidden and secret love for sprint car racing around the Charlotte area.  Yeah: I know!  I could hardly believe it myself.  Just imagine what is going to happen when it actually becomes acceptable to say you enjoy watching a winged sprint car race in this area.  The possibilities are endless and I can’t wait!

    As for Lexi and her friend’s first trip to the races, Lexi did her best to show her around.  She told her what to expect and that it would be dirty, but it would be fun and that, my friends, is where the importance lies.  If fans are going to spend their money, they want to be entertained and they want to know that they got their money’s worth.  Keith experimented a little bit with the running order and it seemed to pay off big time for him as the tracked seemed to stay ultra smooth all night long.  By running the sprints early to help get the track dialed in from the get-go, it held up nicely for all of the remaining divisions all night long giving everyone multi-groove racing and lots of excitement.

    And that was something that Lexi and her friend ranked as one of the best things they enjoyed about the night.  The excitement of the racing in all of the divisions and the speed of the sprint cars were at the top, but there were also a lot of other things that they wouldn’t stop talking about too.  A couple things I expected like being able to easily move around and even sit where they wanted to during the evening.  Apparently they found a nice shady spot early in the afternoon and then moved later.  Like I said, I was working so I don’t know where they actually sat all night but I know they paid attention.  They were able to tell me things that I missed. 

    They like the sound of racing.  According to Lexi, it sounded cool to get back to a racetrack.  In case you are wondering, yes, she basically grew up at racetracks.  In fact her first race was at the Knoxville Raceway with the IRA when she was only 6 weeks old and Cappy was nice enough to put her and her mom in a suite for the night.  Another thing they liked was the interaction of the drivers in the grandstands.  The way East Lincoln is situated; teams can routinely walk from the pits to the grandstands throughout the night.  This puts the drivers right with the fans and really brings the family feel down to Earth. 

    Another thing they liked was the car on display.  Mike Leraas had his #77 on display prior to the night’s activities up in the grandstand area and Lexi was able to show her friend exactly what she had brought her to see.  Mike is great with fans as are all of our teams and was answering questions and explaining things about the sprint cars that they may not understand.  But they also let the cat out of the bag as well and said they also liked the bubble gum he had. 

    Apparently kudos goes out to the kitchen as well as the food was given 2 thumbs up by both girls.  Both got their fill through the night and believe it or not, there was money left over from what we gave them to start with.  As a parent, I’ll take that any night!  Personally, I do not eat much at all when I am working so I rarely get the chance to sample the local cuisine but from a couple of 11 year old girls, I will take their word on it.

    So Keith, it would seem that both ventures you are currently managing are showing positive results.  The track itself provided what it promises, plenty of race action all night long while being able to go out for a night of wholesome family entertainment that will not break the bank.  And the sprint series seems to moving in the right direction as well.  While it does suck that because of one, you can’t get out to the other when we are on the road but the core drivers definitely have your direction in sight and share your goals and dreams to help grow the sprint cars in the Carolinas.

     

     

    Air Conditioning in the Restrooms!

    Charlotte, NC:  There may be some places that have not had to deal with the recent heat over the last couple weeks at the track.  Whether you are in the grandstand, an official, track crew member or driver, you have to deal with it in way or another and we all have our own ways to deal with it.  I think the push truck drivers may actually be the luckiest ones here, but they have to clean their trucks sometime! 

    So while working last Saturday nights Carolina RaceSaver Sprint race at I-77 in South Carolina, well, we’ll just agree that it was hot!  Those who know me are well aware that I sweat like a pig.  It’s just me and you learn to except it.  Besides, it makes it look like you are working your ass off sometimes.  Anyway, while walking around on Saturday afternoon in the heat, I happened across some of the friendliest people I have had the pleasure meeting in quite some time.  They kept telling me that I needed to go to the bathroom.  Laughingly I just blew it off as nothing more than a joke, but eventually nature called and I am here to tell you, I found out quickly what these gentlemen were making the fuss about.  Quite possibly one of the best kept secrets in dirt track racing.  We are talking air conditioned bathrooms! 

    Now I’ve been around and I’ve seen my share of weird things at tracks, but Saturday I found myself just a little taken back.  Initially, the track looked fast just walking through the gate.  It’s wet red dirt glistening in the bright sunshine.  The banked turns just waiting to greet and escort any car looking to speed from one end of the track to the other.  Hey – this is a track in late model country that almost looks like it was built for sprints!  Too good to be true.  Yeah, access to and off the track is a bit limited but hey, we can live with that. 

    The pit area reminded me a bit of Hagerstown when we pitting IN the infield of the track was the norm.  As a kid, this was great.  We got to see everything happening while sitting in the grandstand and then growing up in the pit area itself, everyone was conveniently nearby.  While taking my little tours and meeting others, I noticed a few things that seemed odd.  For starters, it may sound naļve but let me ask when the last time you saw people openly walking around in the pits drinking beer during race action?  I don’t know but apparently it is allowed and none of my business.  Just odd and enough o make me chuckle a bit.  Then there was the treating of a tire by a late model team with fire.  I have to admit that was the first time I’ve seen the tread burned off a tire to try and make it faster.  Maybe it is a secret that I just let out of the bag but the way others were steering clear and laughing, somehow I don’t think so.  Then there were those nice cool restrooms.  Such a welcome relief from the triple digit heat.

    Like I said though earlier, the trip for the show at I-77 allowed me to meet and spend some time with some of the friendliest people I’ve met at a track in a very long time.  Many of the track officials were more than courteous and such a pleasure to work with.  Proof positive that a touring group can work with a local track and their officials.  All it takes is a little professionalism and communication.  That is the advantage of working with a group that is just starting out.  Being courteous and professional at this point is so important.  Unfortunately it is something that is often forgotten as their popularity grows and heads swell.  What I like though is that unlike most touring series, this deal is geared to take care of itself and not be imposing on the track.   The competitors are doing this for the fun of racing and the ability to be able to do what they love.  It’s not the money.  Expenses are met and the atmosphere is very congenial.  That’s not to say there is no competitive spirit.  There is bragging rights and pride at stake all the time.  The difference is these guys do not have to spend the big dollars to be competitive. 

    In fact, I had a couple representatives from teams approach me recently about what it costs to run with the series.  For me, when I break it down and listen to them give me a comparison as to what they have invested in their current operation is both fun and sorry at the same time.  For the most part I see them shaking their head in disbelief.  It is a good comparison when a team in a stock class even lower than the Crate Late models find out that they can actually be competitive with an engine that costs between $5,000 to $7,500 for a who season and they look at their car sitting with a $4,000 motor having to replace sheet metal, suspension parts and more every week.  The bottom line in case anyone wants to know is that you can be competitive in this series for between $10 to 12k for the season.  All you need to do is be smart and learn how to race for the enjoyment of it.  That is where the concept seems to get lost most of the time.  I guess I just need to chalk that up to yet another oddity of the local racing scene.

    And before I forget, I want to give a shout out to probably one of the nicest gentlemen you will ever meet in racing.  Maybe it was divine inspiration or dumb luck; call it what you will but as hot as it was, I forgot my towel so while walking around, I noticed a box truck with a gentleman selling shop towels out of the back.  Now given everything else I was seeing and taking in, I didn’t think much of it.  I just figured that he was filling a need that existed at the track.  So Amanda and I strolled up to him and asked him if any samples that I could use.  As we stood there enjoying a cool breeze, he told me about what he was doing and why.  He represented the Kentucky Mission and he mission was to sell his inventory of boxed paper shop rags (yes the same you buy at major automotive stores across the country) for a fraction of the price.  Once done, the money is used to help families and children right here in America suffering from poverty in need of clothing in winter, school supplies and much needed upgrades to their houses that they live in.  Before I knew it, I had a box of rags for the evening which, by the way came in very handy all night long.  This is another great example of the many good things that happen in racing all the time.  While I was not able to get a lot in the way of the actual background of the mission, a little research on line soon lead to a great story published by the Middlesboro Daily News by Brandy Calvert that goes into detail about the organization and its cause.  If you are reading this online, take a minute to read more about it at http://www.middlesborodailynews.com/view/full_story/1346561/article-At-work-God-8217-s-way.  Otherwise you can contact them at 803-389-4409.  I know their story touched me on a hot steamy night in South Carolina when the last thing on my mind was the well-being of some kids in Kentucky. 

    As for my involvement with the Carolina RaceSaver group, I guess that is still a little up in the air right now but I will say that both Amanda and I felt very welcomed by the teams on Saturday night and really enjoyed the opportunity to help out a little.  Time will tell yet how things will go with the group itself but at present, things are looking very good for growth in the future as people are being exposed to the concept of actually racing respectfully and competitively on a budget.  In the meantime, we will keep giving it all of our efforts to try and help it succeed.  From my short dealings with the core group already, their attitude towards this whole thing is the real thing.  There are no pretenses about it. No empty promises and no misgivings about being involved.  No one is going to get rich doing this, that much is certain but there is something even better at the bottom of it.  Everyone is doing this for the love of the sport.   In the meantime, Amanda is hard at work at building the group’s new website at www.carolinasprints.com while I start getting ready for next week’s show at East Lincoln Speedway.  At least they are saying that the weather is supposed to be cooler but like I have always said, when I grow up I want to be a weather man.  That is the only job I know that you can mess up that bad on and not get fired. 

     

     

     

    Hello... It’s Me Again!
    Charlotte, NC: It’s been far too long since taking the time to sit down and transfer my thoughts to text and a lot has happened since then. First things first though for those who may have never heard of The Infield. Back in the day of actual printed newspapers, I rated my column based on its readability in the most popular room in the house. Yes, the idea of being able to catch up on things while, ummm, relaxing. Unfortunately, the advent of the internet made reading while in the can pretty much a thing of the past: Although I have to admit that I am kind of excited that the tablets may be able to bring back a national past time.
    For those who do remember, you probably think that I disappeared because I simply pissed off the wrong person or crossed the line. While it is true that I have probably pissed off more people than Charlie Sheen over the lifetime of The Infield (so far), the reason for my self-imposed exile is simple; Politics! I just got tired of the politics involved between teams arguing over petty issues expecting others to take sides to justify their arguments against other teams and officials. It really started to make me question why I got back into racing at all. Exploring other avenues, I found that life is too short to spend your time playing silly games. Racing, just like music and really any other endeavor should be fun. As long as it stays fun, you are able to accomplish a number of things without even realizing that you are working at all. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the quote “I’ll quit racing when it’s not fun anymore” only to watch them wrestle later with crew members, other teams and even take out their feelings on fans. That crossed the line with me. I needed to get away and I did. Finding some escape in music, my band had fun for a while as well, even putting out a CD which is available on iTunes and Amazon (end of selfless plug) until the economy stepped in, which is why this new version of The Infield is coming to you from the heart of NASCAR country, Charlotte.
    So now that we are caught up, the question you may be asking now is why I would revive a column about sprint car racing from stock car country? To be honest, I was surprised myself. After moving down here, I had pretty much resigned myself that I would have to learn to like the full-fendered version of southern racing. Yeah, the visit twice a year by the WoO kinda helps take some of the sting out of it, but would that be enough to actually convince me to start writing again? NO. I actually was thinking about sitting back and doing nothing but finishing up my degree I am working on and then seeing where life took me.
    Oddly enough, my wife and kids who know me best took me out to a local dirt track on the West side of Charlotte one Saturday evening. East Lincoln Speedway was a chosen destination because they ran something a little different, micro-sprints. Hoping to satisfy a little of the hopelessness of living a life without sprint racing, what they did was inadvertently introduce me to a recently organized group of sprint car fans living their dreams in the land of fenders. So, allow me to introduce you to the reason I felt compelled to revive The Infield again: The Carolina RaceSaver® Sprint Car Series.
    Here are a group of guys who seem to have figured out that racing should not only be fun, but have figured out how to race to keep it fun. The RaceSaver® format and concept certainly isn’t new; it’s been around since 1997. The Carolina though just really got started in 2011 though, springing out of a couple guys with sprint cars who just wanted to get out on the track. Adopting the RaceSaver® concept allowed for the group to actually race a variety of tracks in the area to help satisfy their appetite for speed. Piggybacking off of French Grime’s VA RaceSaver® Sprints, the Carolina version and the VA contingent regularly compete in races which promotes, (wait for it)… RESPECT!
    The rules are basic and because they use 305’s, the lower compression and horsepower help to keep things like the tire bill and repairs down. The lack of cockpit adjustable wings and shocks mean that teams can salvage wings and parts from more heavily funded teams running under the outlaw banners. The motors are inspected and sealed by the series and reports are that motors can actually go a whole season without needing to be freshened. Some reports are even longer but I am still waiting for someone to confirm that. But seriously: A competitive 305 motor can go for $5,000 to $7,000 and throw in the savings of not having to constantly rebuild it, along with the savings of being able to “recycle” sprint parts that might normally be tossed and compete for a whole season? It definitely caught my eye but what really hooked me was the fact that these guys are adamant about racing competitively while having fun.
    While there may be some of you reading this asking why I would be making such a big deal about this so I will enlighten you. For decades while working in the full 410 sprint arena, one of the things that is constantly being tossed around is how to control costs. So much so that I honestly think the subject gets beat around so much that it has been more or less forgotten at times. Yet here we actually have a working model of a way to do it. And as far as the difference between 410s and 305s? Sure, a 305 is not going to compete with a 410 on the track but that is a good thing when you stop and think about it. Consider the 360s and their “revolution”. Now I am not knocking them but seriously, step back and consider the fact that teams buy a 360 motor because they cannot compete with 410s on a regular basis, only to pour tons of money into that 360 just because they are close enough TO compete with them. Call your local shrink because I never could understand the thought process here. By running a 305, there is no temptation to spend the extra money because it simply is not going to happen. BUT, when you are watching the 305s race together, it is actually hard to tell the difference. Really, it’s all relative as it is with any division. As long as the cars competing together are evenly matched, they are every bit as exciting to watch race because face it, racing should be fun! And by the way, congratulations to Jacob McClain for his win at East Lincoln Speedway on June 23rd and belated congrats to “The Professor “Gary Troutman and Ray Evernham for their wins this season so far.
    And these guys are having fun. It was so refreshing watching drivers and teams greeting each other in the pit area after racing hard on track. There is something about knowing that you are racing for as they call it, recreation! Personally, I can’t think of a better way to relax after a stressful week of work and traffic around the Queen city. Just jump into the sprint car and go out and have some fun with the guys. And before you start looking for ways to bash it, try it first. One of the first things you are going to say is why there aren’t so many cars. Hello! Did you miss the fact that I mentioned earlier that the Carolina group just got off the ground last year? Besides, it’s not like everyone around here dreams of putting a sprint car together. But if these guys have their way, tomorrow’s racers might just start thinking about it.
    If you want to learn more about these guys, you’ll need to check them out via Facebook for now. Remember, they are just starting out. There are plans for a website coming but then, what part of starting don’t you understand? Simply substitute “Carolina Racesaver” in the search box the next time you are playing on Facebook instead of searching for those long lost high school buddies. There you’ll be able to see a little about what I am talking about but the best way to judge is to see them for yourself. Otherwise, just take my word for it and keep watching for future editions of The Infield.
    And by the way, for those wondering, Amanda will be right by my side keeping me in check!

     


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