Positivity - By Bobby Gerould
Up on the high side in turns one and two at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare is the place to be if you want to be a winner there. The other end of the track seems to be faster in the middle to lower portions. The Trophy Cup was held at the Thunderbowl this past weekend (October 28-29, 2005). It marked the first year of the TC in Tulare after prior stints at San Jose, Watsonville, and Hanford. I liked/like all those track but I really enjoy watching sprint cars at the high-banked 1/3-mile dirt Thunderbowl. The track consistently has a thick cushion that challenges drivers on every turn. Seeing these guys fling their winged 360 sprint cars around the track was truly exciting. Kyle Hirst took my breath away in his Saturday heat race. He was 'on the fence', rim-riding like a young Jac Haudenschild. …We had a chance to catch up with Randy Hannagan during the Saturday afternoon spaghetti feed. "The Hurricane" is set to play with the 2006 World of Outlaws. His love of sprint car racing should never ever come into question. Many drivers may have hung their helmets up if they went through what Randy did in recent years. A shattered leg at Calistoga, deaths in his family, relationship changes, and an out of state move are just some of the obstacles Randy has been dealing with. Through it all, Hannagan has emerged a better race car driver than he was previously. He has six wins this season; three at Eldora in the last two years. At Tulare he put the Walt Branco #6x where it needed to be on the track. ...Hannagan made a strong argument to me that he would like to see more entertainment at the sprint car tracks during downtime. Fresh off a visit to NHRA drag races at Las Vegas, Hannagan says sprint car promoters and sanctioning bodies should follow NHRA's lead. During any delay at a drag race, a huge 'Diamond Vision' screen shows video driver profiles, highlights, and features. They also have a team of 'hypers' shoot T-shirts into the grandstands. …Roger Crockett was running his Dad's #11 Maxim with a borrowed engine from Ray Rust. He wound up eleventh in points for the weekend. …Garrett Ishii has really improved as a driver. Jerry's boy finished ninth overall in points out of a field of 64 teams. …I enjoyed getting a chance to see Travis Jacobson race. The Lake Stevens, WA driver did a nice job in his first visit to the Thunderbowl. Earlier this season he ran second to Jon Allard at the Dirt Cup at Skagit Speedway. Jacobson drove his J&J tuned by Stephen Allard to an eighth place overall finish. …Jason Meyers had over 200 fans in the Tulare grandstands on Saturday night. Meyers' #14 was sporting a special paint scheme for the Trophy Cup. The networking Clovis driver is set to attack the National Sprint Car League tour in 2006. …Henry Van Dam was much faster than I've seen him be previously. Van Dam finished eighth in the Saturday feature event helping him to 20th overall in points. …Billy Alley flew in from Lincoln, NE to run for Mark Flachman in the #55. Alley was smooth and calculating in driving to a fifth in points in his first two nights of California competition. …Mike Faria raced better than ever this weekend. The Tipton, CA pilot was hard charging in earning second place to Brent Kaeding in the event point standings. Faria made over $6,000 for two nights of driving. …"BK" looked like the world-class driver he is. He won Friday, and charged from 24th to fourth on Saturday night. He 'cruised' for the first three-quarters of the Saturday 40-lapper, and then he pounced. I wrote a couple weeks back that outside of Fred Rahmer, Chad Kemenah was the best driver that doesn't tour nationally. I should have included Brent Kaeding and Gary Wright in that group. Kaeding passed guys high and low. He used finesse, and bravery in a run that left fans nodding in acknowledgment of his greatness. …Ron Shaver and Bud Kaeding were two additions to Kaeding's pit crew this weekend. …Dennis Moore Jr. reported to George Haugue that he is "about 40%" healthy after the compound arm fracture and multiple surgeries that resulted. DMJ says he will be back stronger than ever in 2006. His teammate for Morrie Williams Racing, Jon Allard finished third overall in TC points. Allard is easily having his best year as a racer having won the Dave Bradway Jr. Memorial and the Dirt Cup in 2005. …Other stuff we learned this week: Tony Stewart's Winged 410 sprint car team is parting company with Danny Lasoski. ...The Larry Woodward owned Volcano Joe's #2 is without a driver presently. Joey Saldana will not be back in the car. …We believe Saldana is headed to Kasey Kahne's sprint car operation in 2006. …However, as much as I try to keep things right, and true in this Positivity column, I screw up too. Things are changing weekly on the World of Outlaws / National Sprintcar League front. We reported two weeks ago that Chad Kemenah was set to run WoO in `06. It now appears that was wrong. We also said the NSL would not be on Speed TV in 2006. That may not be true either. It now appears that talks are ongoing between the startup sprint car series and the Speed folks. I apologize for letting unconfirmed news seep into this space. I will try to do better. ...Food and Lodging for the weekend (October 27-29, 2005). I drove down to Visalia on Thursday night and stayed two nights at the Radisson. As usual the place was very good. Thick walls, good staffers. I grabbed some Baked Squid with Spicy Salt, and rice from Mayflower Chinese Restaurant on the way Thursday night. That stuff is addictive. Friday's lunch was at Pick-Up-Stix in Visalia. I had the always good House Fried Rice and a fat Mountain Dew. Mmmm. After the race's I had a hankering for pizza but we were done late at the track and by the time I made a call from the hotel it was past midnight. Already making concessions - I figured Dominoes was going o be my only choice that late. The guy answered the phone and said they were already closed. He also said he knew of no other pizza joint open in Visalia. I was hungry and that was upsetting. So I got back into the car and trolled down Mooney Blvd. to see what my choices were. Denny's (yuck), Taco Bell (I banned them years ago), Merle's Drive In (I ate there last time and was not impressed), or …In-N-Out Burger. I did the cheeseburger deal and a vanilla shake. That's healthy! Saturday, I never sampled the spaghetti from the feed at the track so I rolled around town looking for Me N Ed's Pizza. I found one and the pie was good but this particular franchise was filthy. Like it had not been vacuumed or swept in weeks. It was ill. I drove home (about three hours 45 minutes) after the event Saturday night. With the 'fall back on the clocks I was home by 2:30 AM or so.
Gary Costa has some thoughts about a controversial ruling at a sprint car race in Chowchilla, CA. ...Jim Morrison offers an update on Cameron Dodson. Dodson of Greenfield, Ind., drove in the USAC National Sprint Car race Sunday at Winchester.A junior in High School, he won a winged sprint car feature at Winchester in May and won the Auto Value Super Sprint driving championship this season. Dodson's speed was the slowest in practice, but he then posted the ninth quickest qualifying lap of 14.987 seconds. He finished second in his heat race and eighth in the feature. Dodson won the Hoosier Outlaw Sprint Series title last season and ran twice with the ASA stock car division this year. ...The Friday night World of Outlaws show at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare CA was one of the best feature events in recent memory. Donny Schatz, and Sammy Swindell traded the lead several times in the 30-lapper on the 1/3-mile high banked oval. …Kevin Swindell has five feature wins to his credit driving a winged sprint car on pavement tracks. Kevin is going to run the WoO season finale at Vegas, and then the Short Track Nationals to cap his 2005 season. He tells HammerDown! He would like to race Turkey Night but he hasn't lined up a ride yet. The young Swindell (16) broke the Thunderbowl track record Saturday. The way he charges in qualifying is a sight to behold. …I miss Andy Hillenburg flinging a car around. …Promoter Steve Faria at Tulare is a good guy. We were very happy to see him smiling after the Friday night races. His track is one of the best places in the Golden State to hold an open-wheel event. We are hopeful that USAC's Western Midgets, Ford Focus, and CRA series will all see laps at track in 2006. …The latest on the National Sprint Car League is that it appears there may not be television coverage on SPEED of the start-up series in 2006. Also, Brad Noffsinger is one of the first to be named as an executive in the NSCL. Noffsinger will help solicit tracks to sign on for the 2006 season. Noffsinger has deep roots in sprint car racing, and he has worked for, and has the trust of, Barry Graham in Charlotte NC. Noffsinger will be the 'at the track' director. Publicly, only Eldora Speedway has given a firm commitment to the NSCL so far. This is not to say or imply that the NSCL is struggling to gain tracks. It may just be too early in the game. One thing seems clear to me; that the WoO is not going to go away or bow out quietly. Their managed DIRT Motorsports money is deep enough to keep the Woo series spinning. The World of Outlaws are presently offering track promoters 'advertising rebates' that lower the bottom line expenses for a track putting on a 2006 WoO show. We hear that Randy Hannagan, Jeremy Campbell, and Justin Henderson are going to be named as 2006 Outlaws in the very near future. Perhaps equally important was the World of Outlaws retaining Chris Dolack as their PR man. Dolack brought ground-breaking media efficiency to the WoO series this season. His pre race reports with a healthy amount of driver quotes and stats should be the model all PR racing reps. …I saw 48 cars and great competition at Tulare. I wish there was a way where everyone could get along and race together. OR if somehow the two series would respect each others 2006 schedules so that WoO guys could race NSCL events and vice versa. The problem is that in this world of contracts, and signing bonus' - teams are waiving that right to race wherever whenever. Sure, maybe they can run a handful of races away from their contracted series - but I strongly believe we will see the two series racing at different tracks on the same dates. I am digging watching Donny Schatz' team's run of success too much to see him not be challenged by Steve Kinser and the NSCL guys. I agree with Terry McCarl when he says that the racing will be good in both series'. It will. These are the best 410 sprint car racers in the world and they will get my attention even if they split. I saw some fantastic racing in 1989 when the USA series was the rival to WoO. The Jeff Swindell, Jac Haudenschild battle at Calistoga was epic. True - it was hard to not think about whether they would be racing for third if Kinser and Doug Wolfgang were not off in the USA deal. But while watching the race - it was great! …At this web space we will continue with our own Racer's Racing Series. We are still going to reward points at 60 of the best, biggest 2006 events regardless of their sanction (or if they are unsanctioned). We will again split between 30 winged, and 30 non-winged events. We promote the top 40 drivers in the USA, by displaying their names prominently on our site, and consistently promoting our sport's biggest races. …Thanks to Chris Luck again for donating further to the 2005 RRS kitty. …Kyle Hirst was in the #99 car owned by Dennis Wright. I wish I could see more of Kyle's races but I hear from people I respect that Rick and Kim's boy is a hero in the making. Congratulations to Jon Allard and his new bride, the former Carly Rolfe. Allard got hitched two weeks ago. …Rodney Tiner and Tim Kaeding were reunited on the Rick Wright #35 team at Tulare. Tim looked sharp. The duo was responsible for many wins as a mechanic-driver team when Tim was steering for Terry Cowan in the #7T car. …Brent Kaeding is the driver with the most winged 410-sprint car wins at the Thunderbowl. His eight checkered flags top three wins for Jason Meyers, and Steve Kent. …Tommy Tarlton, a two-time Thunderbowl track champion may be the winningest winged 360 driver. ...Gary Scelzi, NHRA Superstar, will drive a Ford Focus car that he owns at Turkey Night. Scelzi tipped to Tulare infield announcer George Hague that Michael Faccinto (Monte's kid) will run the car in 2006 on the USAC Ford Focus California Pavement circuit.
The Trophy Cup is looming and we hear that Jac Haudenschild and Jason Johnson will be the Beef Packers drivers in the #83, and #83jr. respectively. Tim Kaeding will run for Rick Wright in the #35 during the World of Outlaws event at Tulare's Thunderbowl Raceway Friday and Saturday. Also - Billy Alley of Lincoln, NE will fly in to steer for Mark Flachman in the #55. Alley is a big-time winner that owns two straight Knoxville 360 Nationals titles. ...Dick Jordan notes that Bryan Clauson of Noblesville, Ind. became the youngest driver in USAC history to win a National feature race Saturday, leading the final nine laps of the "Open Wheel Oktoberfest" Midget race at the Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway. At 16 years, three months and 23 days of age, he eclipses the previous record set by Bobby East, who was 16 years, seven months and 25 days old when he won a Midget race at Schereville, Ind. in 2001. The youngest driver ever to win a USAC feature in any series remains Dakoda Armstrong, who won a Kenyon Midget feature last year at the age of 13 years and 26 days! ...Irwindale Notes - October 8, 2005 - Josh Ford of Camarillo, CA. appeared on the USAC Western pavement sprint car scene for the first time of 2005 at Irwindale. Ford's #73 is a former Keith Kunz sprint car that was driven by Jay Drake on the National pavement tour a couple years back. …Jason McCord was scheduled to drive for the McClish Racing team at Irwindale but was forced to scratch after suffering a neck injury. There was no further explanation of how McCord was injured. …Destiney Hays had to miss the Irwindale action because she was competing in Columbus, Ohio at a USAC National Midget event. Hays says she will be at Irwindale on Thanksgiving for the annual Turkey Night races. She will race in both the midget and sprint car classes. …Qualifying was done in three groups using transponders. On a half-mile, that system sure works well and speeds up the boring process. Michael Lewis, the track-record holder, was quickest followed by rookie Kody Swanson. 108 MPH on average was the top-speed for the fast guys on the smooth big track. …I enjoyed the fellowship of Norm Bogan, Tim Kennedy, Ed Hollowell and others in the Irwindale Media room. Between Norm, Tim and Ed, I learned all kinds of history. Did you know there was a board-track in Beverly Hills that seated 80,000? …Michael Lewis is way too good a driver to not have a gig in NASCAR's highest levels of competition. I've now watched this cat for two years and I feel comfortable saying he is the premier (along with Dave Steele) pavement racer still unsigned to a major deal in the USA. Lewis tipped that he will be in the Charlotte, NC area this coming week to "bang on doors". As easy as it was to foresee the success of Tony Stewart, and Kasey Kahne, the same holds true for Lewis. He is decisive, smart, and grounded. He should be in the Busch series at the least. Seriously, if you are a NASCAR team reading this - why not give Lewis a shot? Lewis is a difference maker. He could lead your team to success like it has never seen before. …While I'm on it - let me say I think the youth movement in major league racing is, in many cases, silly. Let's say that the average length of time a driver is with a given team is six years. If that is the case - and with the success of Mark Martin for example, you could sign a 44 year old guy and by time he is done with your team - he could still be fast. Forget potential for a minute and give the top driving gigs to the BEST drivers who actually know how to handle life situations as well as steer a machine. I'm not saying there are not good young drivers. Clearly, Kody Swanson, Josh Wise and Bryan Clauson are special talents but not every young driver is going to develop into a hero. Just like basketball scouting, the ones that can get it done at 'showtime' are not always the ones that test the best. Racing is more than a stopwatch timing laps. The intangibles like competitive drive, and desire reveal themselves over time. Tony Stewart carries a car because his competitive drive and desire are off the charts. Ditto Steve Kinser. Ditto Brent Kaeding. Kinser and Kaeding don't always set quick-time but they respond when the money is on the line. …Food, Travel and Lodging for the weekend (October 7-9, 2005). ...I left Sacramento Friday night on Southwest Airlines flying into the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, CA. I made the 15-20 minute journey to Monrovia where the Four Points Sheraton is the race headquarters. My ride was a Buick Lacrosse from National Rental Car. The car was a sluggish unattractive boat that I can imagine would appeal to maybe an 80 year old. I hit B.J.'s Bar & Grille for late eats at 11:30 PM. A couple appetizers to go got me primed for an in room movie. For $12.99 (can you believe that price?) I watched Wedding Crashers. Funny movie! The grub was beyond satisfactory. B.J.'s makes these mini pizzas that are the bomb. The Fresh Basil and Italian Sausage thin crust appetizer was excellent. Their version of Chicken Lettuce Wraps is no comp for PF Changs but it was horrible either. …Raceday - I ate lunch at Yoshinoya. A beef bowl was typical; tasty and fast. I waited until after the races to eat takeout from Macaroni Grill. The Chicken Scaloppini was as good as it should be. I drove into Hollywood in 'my' Buick to take in the scenery and returned after 2AM to find a card game in full swing in the lobby of the hotel. A quick chat with Bud Kaeding, and Michael Lewis preceded deep slumber. Bud was smiling wide as he shared news of a Brent Kaeding win in the Pacific Sprint Fall Nationals at Chico. …Sunday - I was early enough to be in Group A on Southwest. Just my luck - the one time I'm early for something, the plane was delayed by 45 minutes.
Greg DeCaires holds a slim ten-point lead over Colfax driver Colby Weisz in the battle for the coveted Civil War championship which concludes Saturday at Placerville Speedway. Bill Sullivan notes that Weisz is the winningest driver of the series in 2005 with three feature wins. Andy Forsberg took the checkered flag to score a victory in the Civil War race at Marysville, CA last Saturday. Shain Matthews had a solid run to finish second with Chuck Gurney Jr, Billy Wallace and Courtney Dozier completing the top five.