Blog Description

This blog will discuss racing from a the perspective of a fan. Whether it be NASCAR to my local dirt track, and anything in between, this blog will cover it. It will be honest and uncut, so there may be some adult language.

Monday, March 17, 2014

2014 Florida Speedweeks: The trip I never seen coming.

To say this Florida Speedweeks trip this season was planned well in advance would be a lie.  It all started in early February when I seen that Belle-Clair Speedway was doing a giveaway for 4 tickets to the 56th Annual Daytona 500.  I had to that point only been to a single NASCAR Sprint Cup race, the 2002 Brickyard 400 for the THEN Winston Cup Series.  It was a contest on who fans of the Belle-Clair Speedway fan page thought would win the 500.  I went with Tony Stewart, thinking after all he had been through recovering from his broken leg suffered in a winged sprint car accident, he would be hungry as ever and driven to FINALLY win The Great American Race.  February 6th, I get QUITE the shock.  I have WON 4 tickets to the 56th Annual Daytona 500.  Now the interesting part, figuring out how this trip will even happen.

After some discussion and deliberation, Pops threw out the idea of going old school, pulling the seats out of the van, and making room to sleep and put our things.  Not the most ideal situation, but going on as little of a budget as possible, this was a great alternative to trying to find a hotel room.  We talked too about when to leave as well.  Do we go Thursday to get there that night, or leave to get there Friday?  We decided to leave LATE Wednesday night to make the trek down and try and make the World of Outlaws first race of the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park.  This would be my first race event of any kind in the state of Florida.

As the time came, I loaded up with citrus water and Red Bull for the long drive, as well as plenty of snacks and food, as well as the luggage for the weekend.  It was raining and close to freezing as we left home.  With stops thrown in for fuel and food, the trip down took around 14 hours, with the longest break for dinner of around 30 minutes.  Hauling ass and watching the time, we roll into Volusia Speedway Park, which is PACKED.  We stumble into a great parking spot, and decide to get a ticket to go in.  We catch the final Super DIRTcar Series consi.  No clue what had happened that evening, but we are ready to see racing.  I am in a short sleeved shirt with no jacket and comfortable.  It feels wonderful.  The smell of race fuel is in the air.  When the late models roll out, those familiar first night goosebumps were there.  IT IS TIME.  Racing season for me is officially beginning.  The feature would go on to not disappoint, as I see something that I may never see but a handful of times.  Scott Bloomquist took the lead from Casey Roberts after the 101 machine made a mistake, and he looked to be in command.  Roberts rebounds, reels Bloomer in, and is there with 2 to go.  The move he makes is one that had the entire crowd cheering and on their feet, as I am sure those who were tuned into the Dirt on Dirt/DIRTvision PPV broadcast around the world were as well.  Roberts makes a power move, and takes the checkers.  It is his first Speedweeks win ever, as well as first ever World of Outlaws Late Model Series win.  It was one of those moments I will definitely remember.  And that was only feature 1.  Pops had NEVER seen the Big Block Modifieds before, but this was his chance.  It was another reason we dug AS HARD AS POSSIBLE to make it there as well.  Stewart Friesen would go on to absolutely blister the field, but there was great racing behind him.  Night 1 was in the books, and we found a quiet spot at the track, and camped much like he had in the 60's in Indianapolis for the 500 when it was possibly the single biggest race in the entire world.

Waking up Friday, it was a huge disappointment to see rain falling.  We decide to head to Daytona to do the tourist thing, get some souveniers, look around to see where exactly our grandstand is, etc.  We at the time didn't look to sell the other tickets we had.  After eating, we headed back to Volusia Speedway Park to wait and see how bad it was.  With it rained out, we sat around.  Then, after some talking and convincing we head BACK to Daytona and the big track.  We were fortunate that handicapped parking was free and close to the track.  We go in, park again as we did earlier, and run into a gentlemen who it didn't take much to figure out he was a ticket broker.  After some discussion and watching, we see he is buying/selling for all races.  We make a deal on the tickets, and decide to see what he has for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event that evening (also my 2nd event, the first at 2002 at Gateway).  We make a deal for tickets in Sprint Tower, and still have a chunk of money in hand.  First going in, we are bombarded as we are closer to the wall by the deafening sound of the jet dryers.  As we make the trek up, we are both wondering, are we gambling on getting rained out, and what will happen.  With it being the first series event of the season, I KNEW NASCAR would do all they could to get it in.  This was also neat for me (and Pops too I am sure) as it was a chance to see someone who we have seen racing since he was a young kid in mini-sprints at Macon, the Southern Illinois Center, and other places, and seeing him progress to a midget, and then a Super Late Model, The California Kid Tyler Reddick.  It was his debut event for Brad Keselowski Racing. 

When we got to our seats, we realized we had gotten a great deal from the broker.  Working with him and making a fair deal paid off with the reward of great seats and money in hand.  We were right by maybe one of the most important places at the track, the start/finish line.  Many incredibly close finishes have happened in that spot, and the possibility was there that we could witness something like that.  When the pre-race festivities had wrapped up, and the command given, I had goosebumps then as well.  This was going to be my VERY FIRST race of ANY KIND at The World Center of Racing, Daytona International Speedway.  I had visited there ONCE as a child in the summer of 1998.  How fortunate I was then to get to see the race-winning car of Dale Earnhardt.  A man who had worked so hard to win the big one there.  Now, I am there, in the stands, ready to watch 36 trucks go at it for 100 laps, 250 miles in the NextEra Energy Resouces 250.  The green flies, and the sound is just awesome.  As the motors come up to full song the first lap, the sound as they come out of 4 and towards us sounds exactly like a term used frequently in motorsports, a thundering heard.  There was a low rumble that grew louder as they approached, then scream by at full song.  The sensation of speed under the lights is incredible.  We watched as there were numerous close calls, tight pack racing, and the action from pit road.  Tyler struggled at first, stalling the first few pit stops.  He finally got it figured out, and was running well.  There were a couple of accidents, but thankfully everyone was okay, and we were also treated to what was an exciting late race finish.  Kyle Busch, who had never won there in a truck, make a move coming off of 4 into the short straight just before the tri-oval curve where we are.  Timothy Peters runs him up as far as possible, but realizes Kyle is coming, and if he isn't winning, will take Peters with him.  He slips by for a CLOSE finish at the line.  A GREAT ending to a race we had originally not even planned on attending.  After getting some photos of where we were and listening/watching the victory lane ceremonies, we are ran out, and we head to one of the favorite post-race destination of fans and racers alike, Steak-n-Shake to eat, then head back to VSP to sleep.

Saturday rolls around, and it is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL day.  We decide to head back to Daytona Beach, but not to go to the race.  We get breakfast by the track, then decide to cruise over towards A1A and go check out the ocean front, and cruise around to see numerous sights.  We decide to stop seeing some people fishing just north of Daytona Beach, which happened to be a cool stop in Ormand-By-The-Beach, FL.  What looked like a watch tower, indeed was.  However, it turns out to be a World War II watch tower used to watch for enemy planes approaching the shoreline.  Very cool historical marker that was unexpected and neat.  We also there watched people fishing along the shore for what they called whities, which I still haven't figured out exactly what they are.  After seeing some be caught, we headed back, and met with good friend Ernie to eat lunch at Bahama Breeze.  After some good conversation and good food, it was time to head back to VSP for the DIRTcar Nationals finale with 50 lap main events for both the WoO LMS and SDS Mods.  I get the free pit pass upgrade offered, and walk the pits, taking some shots of cars, as well as the track itself including the famed Gator Pond.  The racing this night was fantastic all the way around.  The late models would see ANOTHER upset with local driver Kyle Bronson outdueling some of the best cars in the country to score HIS FIRST World of Outlaws Late Model Series and DIRTcar Nationals win, with more great 2 and 3 wide racing and drivers advancing through the field to put on one helluva race.  The Big Blocks were interesting as Stewart Friesen pitted early, changed tires, and STORMED through the field, just NARROWLY running out of time, finishing second in what was a GREAT end to the DIRTcar Nationals.  After speaking to a lot of familiar people, it was time to leave and find a spot to get a few hours of sleep and prepare to leave for the big track and what had brought this whole journey to a start in the first place, The Daytona 500.

Rested and ready to go, it was time to head in and park at the track.  Making some talk with the concession workers was a hoot, as they really enjoyed what they were doing and helped ADD to the experience.  We waited until just before the pre-race concert to head up and find our seats.  We were right at the end of pit-road, but we could see fairly well with everything in place.  It was up to 80 and it felt GREAT.  Weather, however, would go SOUTH in a hurry.  The engines fired, pace laps were in the books, and the green flag flies.  The Daytona 500, our first one, is underway.  We start feeling drops around 15 laps in, and the temperature starts to drop.  38 laps in, it starts coming down pretty good.  I decide to hit the restroom while people aren't really fleeing and hiding as the rain wasn't torrential at the time.  I come back out, and not even 2 minutes later it is absolutely pouring.  We find out too that tornadic weather passes by around 20 miles away.  It is absolutely pouring, and it isn't letting up after an hour.  Water is everywhere.  After 3, there is water pooling everywhere.  I then decide to get something to drink.  I ask what is cold at the beer stand, which also had water and soda.  Only cold thing is Budweiser.  I drink that, and the thirst is quenched.  Everything is selling like hotcakes.  People were even selling shirts that may or may not have been totally legit INSIDE THE TRACK. $10 would get you a dry, maybe not 100% authentic shirt.  They were going like crazy.  All kinds of other crazy things were going on or rumored to be happening.  Finally, after about 5 hours, rains subside.  I go out to the car, and the first thing I do is seek dry clothes to change into and to dry everything I couldn't change, like shoes, out as much as possible.  After 6 hours and 30 minutes, we were racing again in the Daytona 500, but it looked iffy, but we were racing under the lights.  Looking at the weather, we were racing it as well.  That led to frantic, fantastic racing with intensity that it was the last lap each lap.  It was crazy to see that much intensity lap after lap from these guys which hasn't been the norm.  Close to the end, NASCAR fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes the lead, and EVERYONE there was going crazy.  I was even happy as JR has struggled.  It was good seeing him run well.  He had to fend off HARD charges from numerous drivers including Keselowski, Hamlin, and more.  Junior went on to score his 2nd Daytona 500 win.  It was a spectacular sight in person.  He was truly excited for everyone on his crew, and showed it by thanking them all before doing anything else.

After that final checkered flag, it was time to roll out and hit the road north bound to leave the warmth and beauty of Florida to the dismal, bitterly cold weather of home, Central Illinois.  Another LONG, basically non-stop (fuel and food only stops) made it back home safely with memories I will cherish for a lifetime.  It was a first time experience where A LOT of crazy, fun, interesting things happened that all combined to make a trip I never seen something one helluva ride.

Thanks everyone for checking out this latest entry into The Race Blogger's World.  I am not sure when my next entry will be at this point as I am fully focused on bigger priorities in my life at this moment, such as employment.  I feel this is as good of a time as any to say I am taking a hiatus from here writing wise.  I am NOT DONE.  I don't want to leave a huge gap like I did before (same reason) without letting everyone know why.  Thank you for your support.  I will be back again writing on here! 

Pictures from the trip available at the following links to albums:

DIRTcar Nationals (plus the WWII Watch Tower): https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152330988289248.1073741850.503429247&type=1&l=bd89d44d62

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race video: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152331892644248&l=5044482216540084500

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Photos: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152330988289248.1073741850.503429247&type=1&l=bd89d44d62

56th Annual Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series video: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152331126489248&l=8928709340095303372

56th Annual Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152331040559248.1073741851.503429247&type=1&l=4c31464275



Sunday, December 29, 2013

A fan now a part of the industry

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a diehard race fan who tells things as they are in a direct, yet polite as possible, manner.  I love this sport.  I want to see it be successful.  Now, it will be partially because I now have a stake in it.  I have been named the new PR &Social Media Coordinator of CILTRAK,which manages Central Illinois race tracks Jacksonville Speedway, Quincy Raceways, and Lincoln Speedway, as well as partnering with the Midwest Open Wheel Association sprint car series.  It is an exciting opportunity to be a part of the sport.  My goal is to still try and be the same person, who is known for being an honest professional who's ONLY agenda is the health of the sport I have loved since childhood, and will continue to love, motorsports.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Denny Hamlin: He's not gonna take it!

First off, let me say, it feels great to write another piece again.  It has been a while.  School has been my priority as I finish up my pursuit of my Masters in Business Administration.  The plan is to start writing more in my free time again.  Anyways, on to the topic at hand.

For anyone who has followed NASCAR this season, the racing with the new car has been sub par AT BEST.  I know it is early with the new car, as does most everyone else.  Denny Hamlin was asked and gave an honest response about the car after the Phoenix Sprint Cup Series race last week, saying they were hard to pass in, and that there was a lot of work to get the cars to where they can pass.  He addressed tires, newness of the car, aero, and so on as the factors to it.  He wasn't snide or disrespectful, just honest and to the point with no sugar coating or political correctness. 

The Hamlin Interview

Denny was fined $25,000 for comments made in this interview by NASCAR for his comments which NASCAR found disparaging to the new, MUCH HYPED Gen 6 car.  The response by the fans was nearly unanimous.  #StandWithDenny trended on Twitter after the announcement, and MANY fans sent messages of encouragement to Denny on the social media site.  Media and fellow drivers were very mixed and not nearly as supportive.  Denny came out and said HE WOULDN'T TAKE IT and WILL NOT pay the fine.  He is in the process of appealing the fine as we speak.  For a series that wanted drivers to be honest and speak up and have personality, this is a total step in the wrong direction.  Some have pointed out other sports fine players/coaches/others for similar things.  My counter to them is simple.  Is it right JUST because others handle matters that way?  If there is something that NEEDS to be said, it SHOULD be said.  I'm not saying someone should just go out and openly bash a series.  State what an issue is, and be done with it.  That is exactly why I, and many others, are irritated with NASCAR.  I STAND WITH DENNY!!  HE'S NOT GONNA TAKE IT!!  Until next time friends, enjoy your racing on the dirt, pavement, road course, drag strip, short tracks and superspeedways.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Weather Safety: Who is responsible for being prepared?

Racing as we all know, 99% of the time is an outdoor sport.  We are out in the various elements nature can throw out at us.  However, thunderstorms, lightning, and other forms of severe weather are issues that have to be taken seriously.  We were reminded one week ago at Ponoco when their event was rained on and severe weather rolled through, and 9 fans were struck by lightning, killing one.  However, who is responsible in terms of being prepared?  Obviously, the track should be prepared.  They should be in contact with the local National Weather Service and law enforcement agencies in order to know what is going on.  Technology is also helpful, as promoters/organizers can have radar and updates in the palm of their hands with smartphone technology currently available. Plans should be in place how they will handle severe/inclement weather situations.  They should use the information gathered to make decisions that are in the best interest of fan/driver/employee safety.  This may not always be popular, but it will keep everyone safe.   However, the fans have to be aware as well.  That same technology promoters have, we do as well.  I was put in the position the night before Pocono at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55, as severe weather and lightning rolled through.  I had also been in that position at Peoria during the UMP Summernationals, which were all aluminum bleachers.  Some people don't put much thought into it, but all it takes is ONE strike and it can be devastating.  You have to be willing to leave before being told to, although some are too stubborn to.  I try to hold out myself, but I am not willing to risk my life sitting out in a dangerous situation for too long.
The event at Pocono serves us all a sobering reminder that lightning can, at ANY TIME, strike and injure/kill ANYONE.   We ALL, fans and promoters/track officials alike, ALL have to be prepared to take appropriate actions whenever weather arises.  Remember, no race is more valuable than your personal health and safety.  Be aware, stay alive.

Announcing...an underappreciated art I now appreciate more.

Announcers.  When you go to the track, their voice either graces the PA and informs the people of what is going on, including times, action, driver facts/statistics, and some advertising for the track.  Others can make the track experience much less enjoyable.  From butchering driver names, not being informed, being obnoxious, etc., they can make a fan experience much less enjoyable.  I have always had certain expectations/standards as to what makes a good announcer.   Someone who knows the names of drivers, facts/statistics about the drivers (nicknames, career accomplishments, season to date info), doesn't try to call what isn't there, and doesn't try to be funny and is just natural on the mic are those who I consider good or great.  Names that come to mind in all forms of motorsports include Tom Carnige, Bob Jenkins, James Essex, Rick Eschelman, Bret Emerick, Dustin Jarrett, Chris Nunn, Mike Meurer, Johnny Gibson, Mike Norris,  and Larry Limbach are all announcers whom have honed their craft after many years and who among their respective spectrums in the racing world, are considered the best at their craft.
On the Monday before the Mary Lee Standridge Memorial event at Jacksonville Speedway, I was discussing with a group of fans about Twitter, and the subject of whether I could do it and Tweet(something I have really become known for as of late) came up.  Like I said, I don't think it would be as easy, but promoter Kenny Dobson asked me if I wanted to take a shot at it and call the UMP Late Model portion of the program.  I had thought about announcing for a long time, and with the encouragement of a few friends/followers, I decided to give it a whirl, knowing that this was a big honor and I might just be able to leave my own positive mark on the program.  Needless to say, it just came naturally.  That was because I have watched the sport with knowledgeable people, and heard some of the best in racing call the action.  It was a fun experience, and I ended up calling home a big local/regional fan favorite, and good friend, "The Highside Hustler" Jason Feger.  The look on Jason's face when he got out and realized that I was the announcer and was going to be doing the interview was PRICELESS.  That night on social media and the next night at Macon Speedway, my Saturday night home track, friends and fans were coming up and letting me know I had done a great job.  Needless to say, it was humbling, and I was thankful for all of the kind words.  Apparently I do have a knack for it after all.  I will definitely pick up the mic gain in the future and give it another go.
After being put in the position, I do have a much greater appreciation for those who do this all the time.  It takes constant information, good sources/friends, a personable attitude, and a good presentation style to deliver on the mic.  Some parts of it you can learn.  However, you have to be comfortable speaking publicly. This is really one of those things you can learn some, but you either have it or you don't. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Daytona Speedweeks...unlike any in years past

I think all of us as fans were expecting some changes in NASCAR.  We knew the EFI engines were coming.  In testing, NASCAR tweaked with the cars to try and bring back pack racing.  They ended up lowering the spoilers and giving the cars/trucks bigger plates.  This combination has been seen in Indy Car in the past to make the drivers have to finesse and drive the cars again.  Early on, the drivers kept trying to do the 2 car tandem draft.  It showed early that the cars weren't as stable, and there were a few wrecks.  I figured they would figure it out and not do it until the very end and on the straightaways only.  Boy was I wrong.  The Budweiser Shootout was a wreckfest, but it ended in exciting fashion, with Kyle Busch timing the pass on Tony Stewart just right to slingshot around for the win.  This finish gave me some hope for some great racing.  Sadly, this wouldn't be the case.  The Camping World Truck Series was an absolute wreckfest.  Eventual winner John King even got into then leader Johnny Sauter.  John is a rookie, so it wasn't a big surprise.  Even the veterans were struggling with drafting..  King went on to win after 3 green white checkered attempts all saw yellows for accidents.  The Nationwide race Saturday also turned into a rolling demo derby.  Lots of cars ended up scrapped in that one.  Winner James Buescher was 11th coming off of turn 4 when the leaders wrecked, and he passed all of the slow and wrecked machines to capture one of the most bizarre wins I have ever seen.  The Daytona 500 last night was a spectacle, and I don't mean that in the good way.  For a while, it seemed like it would be fairly tame.  A few wrecks, always happens.  Then towards the end, the drivers got nuts, and lots of cars ended up wrecked...again.  This doesn't include the most bizarre accident I have EVER seen in all of my years watching NASCAR.  Cale Yarbrough has hit a fire truck in the past, but what happened to Juan Pablo Montoya will be something we remember forever. Seeing his car break and hit a jet dryer that ends up exploding into flames and dumping 200 gallons of fuel onto the Daytona International Speedway pavement, it's just unbelievable.  Thankfully Juan and the driver of the vehicle were okay. It will be one of those incidents that is brought up in the future and no one believes you until you show them the footage.  Also, how about Brad Keselowski using Twitter to interact during the red flag?  I actually find this cool.  Kind of funny that he had the phone in the car with him.  Definitely a sign of the times.  As for the last 40 laps.  Did Tony Stewart have a patton tank?  He got into 2 incidents that would most times damage a car, yet he came out no worse for wear.  Incredible.  Lots of other torn up cars in that final 100 miles.  The finish was one that had a LOT of people talking.  Should Biffle have protected his teammate and let him win, or should he try and pull out with Junior.  Biffle said he couldn't get a good enough run.  I don't buy it.  I'd have at LEAST liked to have seen Biffle work with Junior and make that VERY LAST effort.  I don't think he didn't try to win.  I just don't think he tried his hardest.  In the end, Matt Kenseth won his 2nd Daytona 500.  It wasn't a fluke as he had a great car the entire time in Daytona.  We will be talking about this 500 for many years to come...that is for sure.  I look forward to seeing this new package go to the other tracks this year.  I really think it will work well.  Congratulations to Matt and team on the win.  Let's just say it's good to have racing (NHRA, NASCAR) back in action again.  This season should be fun in all forms or racing.  Until next time friends...enjoy the action on the track/strip!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA and PIPA...acronyms of destruction

This is a RARE non-racing post on my part, but this topic is one that has wide ranging and serious consequences not only myself but EVERYONE who uses the internet.  The 2 acts currently threatening the internet as we know it are the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).  These 2 acts are threats to freedom of speech and expression for sites a s large as Facebook, Twitter, etc.  It would also affect small groups/individuals including bloggers like myself.  The simple act of posting a link to this blog could very well be a CRIME if this passes.  A simple link to information, that in no way steals anything from anyone, could result in fines, jail time, and possible ban from the internet.  Is THAT what we need?  I say, emphatically, HECK NO!!  There are already laws in place that work to protect copyrighted materials.  If you have been on YouTube any at all, you can see this by seeing that certain videos have been removed because of copyright violations.  This bill will open the door to censorship, and I DO NOT SUPPORT THAT.  Everyone deserves to have their own voice and opinion, even if it isn't one that I agree with.  I encourage you all to contact your lawmakers, sign petitions available at places like Google, and do your part to protect our freedom.  To quote the wise Benjamin Franklin, T"hose who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."