NWWC TOUR ENDS WITH LOCAL WINNER JESSE ďTHE ROCKETĒ HOCKETT TAKING HOME THE PEDAL CAR.!!!!
The SCRA started out with 17 familiar cars at the Albuquerque stop, but lost a few along the way for one reason or another. One went home after one race on purpose, another went home, came back, and then left after 5 races because of work. Another left after blowing a motor in the 2nd race, so it was not as many cars traveling as in the past. For the dozen or so who made it to the trails end, Lakeside Speedway was a balm for their nerves and peace of mind. The hot weather and dry slick tracks were the norm along the route, but they fought tooth and nail to make a strong showing at each stop. Things really were up to date in Kansas City at the end, where they found a track they could win on. Some of the tracks were friendlier than others, but it was a hard trip to make and run the nine races and the practice night.
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Forget about the whining I usually go thru after one of our tours of the ďotherĒ non-wing land that wonít be reciprocated by USAC in November. The truth is the USAC rules make it hard for the SCRA cars to be competitive on the slick ovals back there. Off set motors and their 1200 pound minimum weight rule gives the advantage to USAC on paper, and it really worked out that way on the slicker tracks. Rubber laid down on dirt tracks makes the Twisters smile while the Stingers and TCRís frown. The SCRA travelers were always looking for the right set-up on tracks that they had no experience on. They did well, considering the uphill battle, and look forward to a tour with equal rules next time, but for now most teams were not happy with what they experienced and may think twice about going on the always expensive annual long distance trip.
Nine races in two weeks is a lot for the weekend warriors from the West Coast, and yet they persevered, rarely complaining in the heat as they worked their plan to make it to the end. Imagine the maintenance that was required, if no bumps occurred on the track, after each and every race. Consider the extra time it takes for replumbing their cars that were reorganized from incidents. Most teams spent their days under EZ-UPís rebuilding their race cars in the extreme heat.
There were many positives along the way, even when it seemed the travelers were outmaneuvered in qualifying and making the main events in the early races. Things got better when the bull rings of Illinois appeared as the entry list also dwindled due to USAC. Once again the tour proved that the wing guys can take off the rain shields and be competitive in non-wing racing. It proved the California boys had to step up to the plate, and they did. It proved these low buck guys can make these trips and earn precious points, but the big question is, should they travel again this far from home and for what?
Tracks are prepared different, have less water in them, and are sculptured different when you leave the West Coast. I donít know if they are lazy and using the regular WOO set-ups that donít require much real work to get ready. Some tracks they ran on had a top shelf where the surface leveled off, leaving a lot of wasted space over to the wall that was unusable, and sometimes even dangerous to go over the top of the cushion. That kept some of the real rim riders from getting their jollies up there. It might appear that track prep creates that sometimes, but it takes away usable racetrack that can make for better side by side action. The SCRA racers want the track to go up to the wall like at Eagle Raceway in Lincoln, Nebraska. Donít make the shelf like at Hollywood Hills that makes it next to impossible to pass without a wall encounter. Since the tacky track runners need help on the road, we could use an advanced track prep scout sent out to help make the final track surface that will make racing better for the racers and fans.
Safety is a tough one as many tracks have things that personally bother me, but none more obvious than the Highland track that had fences designed for go carts, not sprinters. In the first turn, there were two 12Ē diameter posts sticking up with nothing to keep a car from impaling itself on them. I would have looked for a chain saw to correct that problem. A tree hung onto the track where leaves could hit the cars. The surface was racy, but the low fence in turn 1 looked like a car launcher to me! Oskaloosa might want to consider putting the jagged posts inside the fencing there. The party people in the infield was also a concern for me, but a gold mine for the promoter. I just worry about a bunch of families out there wandering around during racing and getting on the track.
Farmer City was interesting with the only fence around turns three and four because the pits were beyond that wall. The rest was wide open and even though the track went slick in the main, if they found a way to keep it tacky, the feature would have been awesome there! Godfrey has that low metal wall that needs to be much higher in the turns and not made of the metal corrugated style from the highways in the old days. Granite City needs work on their fence. It too was that metal stuff that caused Damion Gardner to crash when a piece that was hit earlier by another car, bent out and he caught it with his right rear tire.
Press boxes in the middle of the infield drive me nuts, but I donít have to be out there like Robert Mayson, the SCRA publicist, during the races. He says you need a lazy susan to help, but getting dizzy is always possible as you go in circles trying to keep up. How do the announcers see all the action from out there? We had five tracks set up that way on tour with Terre Haute, Oskaloosa, Farmer City, Highland and Granite City.
Flagstand protection, or lack of, was a big item on this trip to the SCRA starter. The worst starter box was Farmer City where Lee Jaskowiak and John Lemon were but a couple of feet in the airÖ.. on the infield! Word was, there had been an incident a few weeks before to the regular starter, yikes! There is no place to go if a car gets flying their way. Highland wasnít much better with itís traditional spot above the front stretch. There were no protective poles anywhere near the box, and it was so cramped! There was hardly room for Leeís helper, John, because if he backed up, he was down on the ground.
Great grandstands begin with Highland and itís underneath concessions, like the long gone San Jose track, with ceiling fans under the covered roof. They actually helped in the heat by moving some air above you! Terre Haute is not bad, but they all pale next to the monster grandstands at Hollywood Hills. Lakeside is good with individual seats and easy viewing. Oskaloosaís grandstands only had one problem, they were too packed. I had to give up trying to sit on a row with what seemed like a dozen widebody Iowa farm boys smashed together in the 16Ē wide seats.
What up with USAC, again? They agreed to schedule three points races on the NWWC Tour and then changed their minds when the tour started. No points at Terre Haute, Farmer City and Granite City left the co-sanctioned effort in the toilet. Then, they scheduled a pavement make-up race off in Ohio on a Sunday that made it two long tows in two days if you wanted to run both. Great planning, because it could have happened the next weekend or some other time. Now, I hear they are scheduling a pointís race that conflicts with the Perris Oval Nationals NWWC show. Is this what is called co-operation? And if it is, the racers and fans donít need it! Iíve said it before, if there really is a non-wing championship, it has to be run equally in Indiana and California, period. USAC could get their licks in on Indiana soil and the California boys could get even on the coast, neither being a level playing field. What is wrong with that!!!!! Every year SCRA sends some 15 to 25 teams back East and USAC responds with 2 to 4 out West, and sometimes just drivers come to run the SCRA cars. If USAC schedules races in California that are well attended by USAC sprint cars, midgets and Silver Crown, they come for that, so why canít this happen? True the NWWC Tour should naturally be scheduled during the fast growing Indiana Sprint Week, but leave the ďotherĒ classes out! Go run Indiana, then a stop at Eagle and the finale at Lakeside, and thatís what I call relief! Then let them come run Manzy, Perris and Ventura, boy would that be a match!
Lakeside Speedway was the shining example of how to have an event, prepare the track and treat the people. From the moment you arrive until you finally pull out, the courtesy and smiles are the order of the day. Marc Olson and his staff put out the welcome mat and they believe in it. The three day affair is very unique. The Thursday night media/practice day allows the racers a chance to test the track, and for the fans to get in a night of free racing. The annual Jerry Weld Memorial 15 lap invitational is just another chance to get some laps in on the opening day. Marc puts on an annual barbeque feed for the racers and this year it was inside the air-conditioned ballroom instead of outside in the record setting heat wave. Gates barbeque is legendary in these parts and it was a feast.
The water truck actually works at Lakeside and makes many more dump trips than probably all the tracks we ran on together this trip. The result was tacky track racing and the crowd loved it. Among the many extraís Marc adds, the neatest is what is now traditional at Lakeside, the winner gets a decorated pedal car, this year it was white with SCRA blue graphics. Last yearís winner got a chrome one! Could a red one with polka dots be next year?
The best racing was at Lakeside, then Highland, then probably Granite City and Terre Haute. Best track food, according to my part time traveling buddy, Mike Clark, was Highland beef sandwiches. Too bad he didnít get to try the Gates Barbeque feed at Lakeside, as he was gone home. Best weather was the cool night at Godfrey with most other races a little warm and humid. It was a long trip, but some good racing happened.
The racing? It started out slow at Hollywood hills, a non tour event, with a low groove train that entertained only the winner, Richard Griffin. Too many cars at the $30,000 race and only 4 of our boys made it to the feature on a tragedy marred night that saddened us all, but we went on. Terre Haute was two grooves, but slick enough the SCRA heroes struggled a little and Mr Yeley grabbed his only tour win. USAC cancelled the co-sanctioned races and the car count fell off drastically. Farmer City was really good in the heats and Semi, but the good only lasted about 7 laps in the main, leaving another train event the rest of the way as Tracy Hines took his fast new Twister to the winners circle from the pole. Troy Rutherford made the travelers proud with his come from behind win at Granite City, as he used the track perfectly to get the lead and run away from the feared Mopar monster that is chewing up USAC this year. J J Yeley was mostly awesome on the tour and he continues to earn his spot in the history books.
Highland looked weird when the racers arrived, but was very wet with a high banked oval they could all race on. Cory Kruseman won his first of two tour stops and showed off his new Kunz car after abandoning the TCR he loved so well for the west coast racing. At Godfrey he started 8th in the dash and 5th in the feature, but still prevailed when he passed the whiz kid, Boston Reid, on a restart. Lots of action, but the track slicked off more than the year before. Then came the big fast Lakeside track that had water and great racing opportunities by all the travelers. I canít really compare Lakeside with Manzy or Terre Haute, but it is still big and fast. Local wing driver, Jesse Hockett, was a popular winner after the Gasman and the Kruser managed to take each other out going for the win with three laps to go. GAWD!
My thanks to all who donated to the tow money for the travelers as we collected $2700 and passed it out after the last night at KC. Those that made all nine events received $225. It was far less than last year, but everybody who received it says thanks to you all. Special thanks to Glenn Crossno, Don Read, Tim Reilly, Ray Vodden, Jim & Doris Van Natta, Jerry and Marcia Phillips, Jim Thurman, Steve & Sarah Lombardo, Russ Creason, Mort & Drew, Yucaipa Auto & Trailer and a bunch of people along the way whose names I forgot as they handed me money, and a few anonymous others who believe in helping the racers. Thank you!
My trip was long, but I didnít have to work on any race cars. I vow to take Terry next year or not go at all, as it was lonely out there without my Mrs Wags. I tried to do the best with my photos, but I canít top her work, so enjoy what I did and also what I stole from D J Renwick and Steve Lombardo and those Sarah Lombardo added with my camera. Thanks to the SCRA for making sure I got in all those tracks and thanks to the racers who put on the greatest show on dirt, it was memorable!
Finally, to Mike Kirby, Tony Jones, Rip Williams, Mike English, Troy Rutherford, Bob Ream Jr, Adam Mitchell, Seth Wilson, Jimmy Crawford, Levi Jones, Bobby Graham, Mike Spencer, Damion Gardner, Richard Griffin, Josh Ford, Tony Everhart, Mel Murphy, Charles Davis Jr and Alan Ballard, thanks for representing the left coast so well.
Sleep tight were back and a double header weekend is next at Ventura and Perris, the hot and cold of our racing. We will have the annual racers t-shirt quilt ready for raffling and will be selling spots on the annual Wagsdash T-shirt, so to get your name or biz on it, come see me! The new non-wing 2004 calendar is ready, get yours! Yep, Iím well doneÖ.. -
1 J.J. Yeley 453, 2 Cory Kruseman 416, 3 Bud Kaeding 392, 4 Levi Jones 376, 5 Troy Rutherford 341, 6 Damion Gardner 337, 7 Richard Griffin 321, 8 Rip Williams 246, 9 Mike English 230, 10 Mike Spencer 221, 11 Boston Reid 198, 12 Josh Ford 181, 13 Alan Ballard 129, 14 Jimmy Crawford 122, 15 Bob Ream, Jr. 62, 16 Charles Davis, Jr. 62, 17 Jac Haudenschild 58, 18 Seth Wilson 52, 19 Mel Murphy 35, 20 Adam Mitchell 14.
SCRA Driver Point Standings as of: 08/23/03
1. Richard Griffin 1553, 2. Troy Rutherford 1504, 3. Damion Gardner 1466, 4. Rip Williams 1271, 5. Mike Spencer 977, 6. Steve Ostling 859, 7. Mike English 838, B. Rickie Gaunt 803, 9. Levi Jones 750, 10. Cory Kruseman 709, 11. Josh Ford 704, 12. Tony Jones 644, 13. Adam Mitchell 636, 14. Alan Ballard 575, 15. J.J. Yeley 552, 16. Jimmy Crawford 464, 17. Bryan Stanfill 462, 18. Verne Sweeney 431, 19. Seth Wilson 400, 20. Lance Gremett 385,