Hello all. I've returned from Indiana's Sprintweeks and while I was
away it seems a fair bit of news has occurred at home. As you probably
already now, George Gervais was seriously injured at Perris. As of this
writing, he seems to be regaining conciousness. That's great news.
We all hope for a speedy recovery for one of the nice guys in the pit area.
Speaking of nice guys in the pit area, I ran into Rusty McClure in Indiana.
He was trying to arrange a meeting with his employer of 23 years to allow him to
go back to work. I hope that works out for Rusty. There are a couple
of recovery fund accounts for both George and Rusty and you find out about them
at www.scrafan.com and www.sprintcars.com
respectively. When a driver gets injured, the insurance money never seems
to go far enough and these guys could use any help you can spare.
On a happier note, I see that Casey Shuman won his first feature at Ventura and
Larry Brown won his first midget feature at Bakersfield. Good going guys.
I wish to thank Kevin Eckert of Flat Out Illustrated (plug) for picking me up at
the airport and hosting me on a night on the town in Indianapolis. Kevin
is a guy who has slept on numerous couches from coast to coast while race
chasing and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to be one of the rare people who
turned the tables around on him. Thanks Kev. Oh, and for you still keeping
track, Mr. Eckert is still not welcome at Eldora and couldn't work the King's
Royal for TNN. 10 years is a long time.
After waking up and recovering from the Irish flu, I sleazed myself a ride to JJ
Yeley's shop on Gasoline Alley where I would spend a good portion of the next
week. Indiana Sprintweek is a brutal week. 7 races in 9 days.
Going to bed at 3am after washing the cars is not uncommon and then getting up
and turning the cars around so you can leave at noon or 1pm. JJ had his
chassis builder, Wayne Simmons of Twister with him all week. Chuck Hobbs
came out for AZ after the first couple races and Tracey Pickens also helped out
when he wasn't having pig trouble or something.
The west coast cars that came out were Cory Krusemann and the Willis #45.
They were going to run the Silver Crown race at IRP the next week so they
brought the sprint car out too. Mike English ran the whole week in Mark
Priestly's #7, Jeremy Sherman also ran the whole week in the Ellis #21.
Jeff Martin came out from Tucson but didn't have much luck and got upside down
at Haubstadt. Troy Rutherford drove the Gorman #18 and couldn't get it to
work. This was a former Kunz car from earlier in the year. I'd
venture to say that if you buy one of their cars in the same year that they have
run it, you might have gotten a problem car. Who wants to get beat with their
own car if it's really good? Brad Nofsinger drove the K & D #6 until
it broke a rear end and tagged the
valves at Haubstaudt. Rickie Gaunt was going to drive it later in the
First night out was Putnamville (Saturday) where we drew a lousy number for
qualifying. If fact, we drew lousy almost every night except North Vernon.
USAC changed their rules and if you "accidentally" drew more than one
pill, you had to take the highest numbered pill. You might want to check
with Harlan Willis about that new rule change. JJ qualified 7th quick at
Putnamville. USAC inverts the quick 6 cars in the main and so JJ was one
spot away from the pole. Kruseman and English were 2nd and 11th quick with
Rutherford 29th and everyone else
not making it out of the C main. JJ won his heat with one of those cover
your eyes and hope it works out shot through the middle of the pack coming off
the 2nd turn. Those guys make me nervous when they pull that stuff.
3 of the quick 6 couldn't make it through the heat but made it through the B
main. This is where I like the SCRA type of invert where only the guys who
transfer through their heat start up front. It makes the fast guys race in
the heats. Jon Stanbrough and Brian Hayden traded the lead at the start of
the main while 3rd through 10th was one big pack. The top had the usual
Putnamville cushion, no make that curb, no make that wall which was tricky to
run so most went the huggy pole route. JJ was up to 4th at one point but
eventually got shuffled back to 9th. Don't ask me how, all I saw was cars
appearing out of the dust in turn two, slide through 3 and 4 and disappear back
into the dust in turn one. Whooo Racin! as DO would say. Cory lead
the 3rd through 10th pack at one point and finished 5th. Dave Darland
huggy poled his way from way back to challenge Stanbrough for the win. It
was close but
Stanbrough beat Darland to the line.
JJ built a new Twister to replace the one sold to Levi Jones. The new car
was built to be a "tighter" car than the two previous. It also
had some aero tricks to it, which USAC immediately didn't like. We ended
up shaving about a half inch off the left side sail panel. That had about
the same net aero effect as taping fireflys on the tailtank but they didn't like
the look and had to do something about it. A few others like Bud Kaeding
and Jonathon Vennard had to do some bodywork modifications since USAC took a
renewed interest in bodywork. We made a big mistake and brought the new
car to Haubstaudt (Sunday) The whole day didn't really go right. We were
really late getting to the track and JJ got a ticket in his car trying to get
there on time. About the only highlight of the day was passing by the
place where they nuked Timothy McVeigh. JJ had won 2 out the last three
races at Haubstaudt and
finished 3rd the other time so we all felt comfortable in going there and even
though we were late, we figured we'd be okay. Wrong. We were too
tight in qualifying and qualified 37th. JJ got passed for the last
transfer spot on the last lap of the C main. "And the meek shall
inherit the earth" We inherit a lot of something that night. JJ
even run a "B" main on dirt to that point in the year. Okay, so
we laid an egg and just had to move on making sure not get embarrassed like
that again. We left early so I can't tell you what happened in the
main other than I heard Jay Drake won it.
We had a day off after Haubstadt and as usual, spent it getting the cars ready
for the next races. We had been having hauler problems and dropped it off
after the races at Haubstadt. It took a couple of return trips to get it
fixed but those are the type of annoyances you don't need during Sprintweek.
Tuesday was North Vernon. After the races, I watched tape of the SCRA race
that was held here a couple years ago. At that time I think I said
something to the effect that they lost the keys to the water truck. I
don't think they've found them yet as the track looked a lot wetter for the SCRA
race. I still think it could be the raciest of the Indiana short tracks if
they ever figured out how to prepare it and to remove some of the reverse
banking it has in places. But alas, we had to deal with dust raining from
the skies like ashes from Mt. Pompei. Fortunately, we drew an early qualifying
number and JJ timed in 4th quick. We were using the new car again.
Cory was 20th, English was 23rd, Sherman was 25th and Rutherford was 37th.
Ed Carpenter withdrew one car after timing in and ran even slower with the 2nd
car. He struggled the whole week. I heard the team had a sit down
with Ed later in the week but I don't think it's his entire fault. The car
looked unhappy almost every time I saw it and it had the nose way up in the air.
It had great forward but little else. Jay Drake spun twice in his heat and
couldn't get out of the semi. English and Rutherford also missed the show.
Rutherford did some great driving to get out of the C main and into a heat.
In his heat he worked his way up from dead last into contention for the last
transfer spot. He got sandwiched against the wall coming off the line and
barely missed the spot. If you come out of the C main, basically your only
hope of making the main is through your heat. Otherwise you are buried in the
semi. We were in heat four and that's where our fun started. JJ was
coming through the field when the engine started cutting out. He dropped
back and eventually stopped. He restarted and it seemed to run fine but
started cutting out again just as he got into 4th place. JJ ran 5th.
We knew we weren't going to get much time to work on the car before they called
for the semi. Bud Kaeding's crew jumped in and started helping. The
problem was a crazy set of circumstances. One, the fuel flow was
restricted from the tank. Two, while checking the fuel flow we found
gasoline in the tank. Both are very bad things. It took a while to
find it but what had happened was that when they bought the tank they handed us
a bolt kit for the tank. What we didn't know was that there was another
bolt kit stuck in the trap door of the bladder. It wasn't found when they
rolled the fuel bladder around on the ground to check for things like loose bolt
kits. That's what was causing the fuel blockage. The gasoline
problem came from the last race at Haubstadt when we sent someone to buy 5
gallons of fuel and they got gas instead. Gas is very bad for alcohol motors.
If the fuel flow hadn't been restricted, it's very likely the motor would have
been destroyed. We barely got out in time for the semi and were helped by
someone else's bad luck. I guess a spectator had fallen out of the stands
and the ambulance crew was needed to tend to that person. That bought us
enough time to get the car fixed and for JJ to win the semi. Mucho thanks
to Hoser (take off, eh) and Kevin from Kaeding's bunch and Jim McQueen for
jumping in to help.
Jack Hewitt was on the front row with JJ in the 2nd row. Hewitt took the
candy handed to him and lead the entire race. JJ raced Kevin Briscoe for
3rd behind Levi Jones. Briscoe got around Jones 1st and then JJ got by
both into 2nd. JJ was diamonding off the turn 4 corner and shooting out
onto the straight. The car was hooked up doing wheelies on a dry slick
track. JJ caught up to Hewitt and tried to pass him on the bottom of turn
1. About that time the track took rubber and Hewitt found it and rode
around in the rubber. JJ got close but once the lapped car of Critter
Malone let Hewitt by but not JJ it was all over. When tracks take rubber,
you'll see more passing on a merry-go-round than a rubber track. They just
keep going faster and faster and you just hope your tire holds out.
So, we got our first good finish of the week and at least had a shot at winning.
Not bad especially after the pit thrash. Kevin Briscoe ran 3rd with the
slickmaster Terry Pletch in 4th. The man on the move all race was Dickie
Gaines who came back from a first turn spin with Kruseman to finish 6th.
By the way, it's kind of humid in Indiana this time of year and when you have to
work hard, you tend to sweat a little. Combine sweat and dust and most of
the crew people end up looking like brown snowmen. It's lots of fun, I
highly recommend it to anyone. The next day (Wednesday) is another day off
to work on the cars and run up the mileage on the hauler running it back and
forth from the truck repair place.
Thursday brought us to Lawrenceburg. It had rained the night before and
rained some in the morning too. Coming from the west, I have a hard time
figuring out how tracks that received as much rainfall in one night as we do in
our rainiest MONTH can be dry slick by the end of qualifying. Even if it's
rolled in tight. And of course we drew
something like 68th out of the 75 qualifying numbers. JJ ran laps about a
second quicker than the cars around him but still ended up 27th quick. A
time 2/10ths quicker would have put him 10th. I would imagine that quick
time came fairly early. English was 3rd quick, Sherman was 25th, Kruseman
was 36th and Rutherford 46th.
Rutherford flipped in his C main and Kruseman ran 2nd. Neither made it to
the main event. English ran 3rd in the semi and I don't think Sherman made
it to the main. JJ ran a fairly uneventful 2nd in his heat. JJ
started on the 2nd to last row of the main and drove his way up to 8th. JJ
was working on English next but Mike kept running through
a water puddle and splashing water up onto the track. Combine that with a
late caution flag and what happened was that the tire we were using sealed over
from being heated and cooled repeatedly. After the late caution, JJ was
just holding on and fell back to 14th at the finish. Dave Darland and Jay Drake
put on a Jim Dandy show up front with Darland snatching the win on the
last lap. Good stuff for the fans.
Friday was Bloomington. I like tracks like that with a natural hillside
that the fans can watch from. It's also green and nice and neat. The
only drawback is that it's kind of narrow coming off the turns. The track
was in good shape and qualifying draw wasn't too important. JJ qualified
5th quick and Tony Elliott went out last to set fast time. JJ was running
the "old" car that had won 2 features earlier in the year. Kruseman's
bunch switched to McCreary/American Racer tires for this race. They hadn't
had much luck since the first night out. English was 10th quick, Kruseman
12th, Sherman took the last spot in the heats with 32nd and Rutherford was 45th.
Kruseman and Rutherford were flying home after this race and I don't think they
felt bad leaving.
I hate being in the first heat. You don't have a great handle on what the
track is doing before and you sit so long afterwards that you still don't know
what it's doing. In any case, JJ somehow worked his way up to 3rd and
transferred from the back. English and Kruseman got bounced around a fair
bit in their heats but only Kruseman made the main. Tight tracks make for
tight racing and Bloomington saw one of those nights where the semi couldn't get
going much less finished. There were tons of wrecks. I guess USAC
does not have a 2-stop rule as Darland stopped twice during the semi and got
pushed off both times. At times like these when you aren't in the semi,
you wish they had a time rule on the length of time they can go on.
JJ was on the front row of the main with Jay Drake. JJ got the jump but
Drake ended up with the lead. Drake started to pull away and JJ changed
the way he drove. Drake was running the middle bottom and hanging the
back end out in the corners. JJ started driving the car very straight and
reeled Drake back in. AJ Anderson was in 3rd and driving like Drake but
eventually switched to JJ's style. JJ caught Drake right about the same
time Drake caught traffic. They had a pretty good gap on Anderson.
Drake and JJ were getting held up and coming off the 4th turn JJ got under Drake
and appeared headed for the lead. Meanwhile, I never noticed that Anderson
had caught up and shot under JJ. Anderson hit JJ in the left rear getting
JJ sideways and then hit JJ in the left front
to straight him back out. Anderson went into the lead and JJ gathered it
all back in to catch and pass Drake for 2nd. Time ran out though and JJ
ended up 2nd again with Drake 3rd. AJ Anderson won his 1st USAC feature
and I'm sure that JJ would have liked another shot at him. Still, another good
run for JJ. Anderson's bunch celebrated in a big way after the race.
Terre Haute (Saturday) looked gloomy but we liked our chances there. I was
a bit disappointed in the track though. They no longer water the top half
of the track and it's no longer the widest track I think I've seen. They
took away half the racetrack. What's that all about? Now the place
is kind of ordinary to me. We were running the new car again and JJ timed
in 9th quick. We were a bit too tight. English was 8th quick with a
motor that seemed to hit the rev limiter halfway down the straight.
Sherman was 22nd quick. JJ moved around on the track in his heat and found
a spot he liked. He took it to the front and won his heat. Bud
Kaeding was slowly coming on towards the end of the week and he won his heat
too. They jacked around with Vintage cars and modifieds as lightning
flashed in the skies. It was raining lightly when it was time to send the
cars out for the main. JJ said he got pushed off and when he came off the
2nd turn it was raining so hard in turn 3 he couldn't see the corner. The
pit area is behind turns 3 & 4 and we knew full well how hard it was
raining. We got soaked in about 2 seconds.
JJ couldn't find the trailer and we had to go out in the rain and get him.
At least the car was now clean. They will run that feature as part of the
Oct 20th race. We missed the pole by one spot and maybe between now and
then somebody won't show. Wishful thinking.
Finally, the last race on Sunday at Kokomo. When we got there the water
truck keys evidently were left with the water truck keys from North Vernon.
So, they tried to make up for it by watering the hell out of the track an hour
before we were supposed to go onto it. The track was a mess and the
drivers didn't know what to do with it. When we used to run Bakersfield
Speedway, it was like that every time we went there. The procedure was to let
the cars wheel pack until it was apparent that the track wouldn't pack in.
Then send the cars out in groups of 4 or so and let them blow the snot off the
top of the track. It comes in pretty quick when you do that. JJ and
English were the only ones trying to blow it off but all they did was piss off
the drivers who were getting roosted. So all the cars came off the track
while the track crews jacked around. The show had to start at least 2
hours late. That's
real good for the fans who come out on a Sunday night. The sprint car
feature finished at 12:30 or so. I bet coffee was invented at about 7am
Monday after a Sunday night race at Kokomo.
We drew another high number but the track held up and JJ qualified 4th quick.
Sherman was 3rd quick and English 22nd in his back up car. JJ was fast in
his heat and blew his way up to 2nd on a track where many
had a hard time passing. Sherman also was fast and finished 2nd in his
heat too. English transferred too and I think that made it the only night
that all the West Coast boys made the main. We had high hopes for this
race as it was the last chance to win one of the sprintweek races and we were
starting in the 2nd row. We screwed up though and changed the setup just
barely enough to make it not quite as fast as it was earlier. The 2 BWB
cars of Tracey Hines and Derek Davidson flipped early in the main. That
was probably as good of an ending as any for the BWB bunch as they struggled all
week long. Bud Kaeding led early then Brian Tyler who wins a lot more on
pavement took the lead. These two swapped the lead while JJ ran behind in
4th with Sherman 3rd Then some local guy named Tony Elliott who
sometimes runs pretty good here got up front. Sherman wasn't letting him
have it though and the two battled hard for the lead. Sherman led it on
the white flag lap but got squeezed into the wall by Elliott who went on to win.
Sherman ran 2nd, Kaeding 3rd and JJ 4th.
My impressions on the week? Glad it's over. That's a lot of work.
There's a lot more young talent here now than when I was here two years ago.
Guys like Jonathon Vennard, Levi Jones, AJ Anderson and Ande Possman to name a
few impressed me. The equipment is a hell of a lot better now too.
About the only knock I can make on some of those guys is that they run real good
at one place but not all of them. I noticed that about Derek Davidson a
few years ago but since then he's gotten pretty good everywhere. I suppose
experience changes that.
Something else that's kind of funny is that you could get away with running one
set of quick-change gears at all the tracks except Terre Haute if you wanted to.
But none of the tracks is really the same.
I get more amazed with Keith Kunz as time goes by. Whenever I watched, it
seemed like Keith rarely talks to Jay Drake during the night. Keith just
looks at the track and makes changes to the car without a lot of input from Jay.
And Jay just goes out and drives the hell out of the car. The guy is
I think there's a hell of a business opportunity in Gasoline Alley in Indy.
There's a fairly constant stream of visitors driving by all the race shops to
stop and shoot the bull. Since most of the people are the same every day,
I propose we set up a little shuttle service to drive people up and down
Gasoline Alley. Make stops at all the usual places. "You're still
shooting the bull?, no worries I'll be back in 5 minutes". The place
is only about two blocks long. Anybody want to fund my little business?
How anything gets done around there is beyond me.
Stopped by the Speedway to get fuel after our little fiasco at North Vernon.
Turns out the Speedway had a similar problem 20 years ago when a tanker
accidentally put a couple hundred gallons of gas in their 6000 gallon methanol
tank. The Speedway had to eat the cost of that little boo-boo.
Wonder where all that fuel went? I also wonder how many sprint cars ran a
little hot that summer.
I learned something interesting. The same Hoosier compounds we run the
SCRA are a fair bit cheaper from some Indiana tire dealers than they are out
west. I'm not ripping the Hoosier deal with SCRA at all. I remember
the original proposals from all three tire companies and the Hoosier deal was
the best by far. But maybe somebody should look into the price difference
and see where it is that the prices go up.
Dave Darland won sprintweek over Jay Drake, Tony Elliott and JJ. Darland never
seemed to qualify well but went like hell in the main events. I'd be
willing to bet he has a real tight car that is too tight in qualifying but is
just right come main event time.
I see that I'm now seven pages into this little report and I've probably lost
most of the readers by now. I think we're done. I thank those of you
who periodically send emails wondering where the hell the columns are. I
also thank those of you who remind me of the exact date of my last column.
If any of you want to come work as my personal assistant and free up some time
for me to write, I'll listen very closely. Failing that, I will continue to
write when I can.
So until the next time I write....
See ya at the races