Bob’s Indiana/Ohio Swing

Last Friday was my annual “Go to Ohio for My Birthday” trip, except this year I changed things up a bit. Usually it’s Eldora for two days of the 4 Crown. After returning from a successful Canadian Sprint Car Nationals, Wednesday found me heading down the road to Hartford Motor Speedway for the World of Outlaws.

Joey Saldana won that race on his first start after suffering a serious arm injury in July. So, with WoO at Eldora Friday and since I desperately needed to get to Gas City Speedway one more time, my path was set. Next week Sept 30th is Gas City’s final show of the year but I already committed to the rescheduled Sprints on Dirt “King of Michigan”. Therefore after some birthday cake at home Gas City was in my sights.

This weekend was also the James Dean Festival in Fairmont, Indiana just down the road from Gas City. This is a gigantic custom car show that has grown so large, Gas City has their own show called “The Ducktail”. Street rods and custom cars by the thousands for a weekend can only mean one thing. There are no vacant motels for many many miles around.

 

Solution ? Throw the Coleman tent in the trunk and go camping for a night. After a un-eventful trip, I had my home away from home set up next to Bob and his wife’s (Sue?) from Kokomo travel trailer in the parking lot at the black dirt speed plant, Gas City I-69 Speedway. Then over to talk with Dick and Helen Nichols to get caught up on the Gas City news.

A chilly but nice evening greeted the hardy fans and racers that joined me for my birthday. After the mudclods settled down, the track was in awesome condition and never needed additional prep the rest of the evening. This track is what non wing sprint car racing is all about and you can’t go wrong with a regular show any Friday night. The track crew is top notch from promoter Jiggs Thomason, Phil, Barb and everyone else.

Justin Grant had some issues with his trailer in Ohio and didn’t arrive until the heats had been completed so he had to start on the tail of the B  main. After transferring, he started 18th in the feature which he won in exciting fashion.

 

After a comfortable night in the tent I broke camp to a cloudy sky and the prediction of a rainy day. After much deliberation and radar guessing, I decided to make my way east to Eldora for day two of the 4 Crown. Of course much of my trip saw my windshield wipers getting a good workout. But just as I arrived at the track, it really began raining. But that didn’t last long and surprisingly, that was the last moisture from the sky for the day.

After being signed in by the always friendly staff I didn’t get far until I ran into a fit and trim “Wisconsin Jeff” and chatted a bit. I took a few more steps and heard someone say hi Bob. Darci, Barb and Mark Fuzi from Gaylord, Michigan were taking in some open wheel racing. Always good to see them.

 

After walking around I realized the knee was not dealing with hill descending and climbing too well today, so I didn’t get down to the pits therefore any pictures I took were from above today.

 

By late in the afternoon 19 midgets, 40 sprint cars and 24 Silver Crown cars were in the pits. Hot laps were scheduled for 5 and shortly before that, sprint cars took to the track to run it in. It’s always fun to watch the Silver Crown cars rumble around Eldora. After hotlaps and qualifying three midget heats and four sprint car heats ran off mostly trouble free. I thought the sprint heats were extremely fast and pretty exciting.

 

Shortly before racing got underway I was talking with long time friend Mel Strong and his wife Mary who were sitting only three rows behind me. While standing there a fellow also sitting close by shook my hand and says, “you’re TJ’s dad right? “.  Turned out he is a friend of a friend that went to lunch with us, Matt Westfalls group and several others in Indy during a Hoosier-Dome race years ago. Great memory on his part. Lee also worked for AT&T like myself and I did recall that from before.

 

Just before racing got underway Lee came down and sat with me and brought a racing buddy of his. Mia is an avid open wheel fan and was a blast to spend the evening with. She had us laughing all night and had all kinds of racing info coming into her phone .

I became more of a fan Saturday than a reporter simply because we had fun.

After Kyle Larson won the midget feature we thought this kid is good. He has won in all types of open wheel cars this year. The sprint car feature was up next. First Levi Jones had troubles and got into the wall taking Jerry Coons Jr. with him while he was leading. Then Chris Windom was well on his way when he too had trouble, taking him out of the hunt. Suddenly it was Dave Darland in front with Larson 2nd. Larson was driving like he had raced Eldora for years when actually tonight was his first time here. Larson high, bumps Darland and passes low. The crowd knew this youngster is something when he took the checkered flags.

 

Lap four of the Silver Crown race saw Larson take the lead as he never looked back and hung on through several caution periods. It seemed improbable, but Kyle Larson had just won all three USAC features in his first trip to Eldora Speedway.

It had been a long day and night of racing as I left the parking lot at midnight four hours from home. At first I had planned on getting a motel and getting some shuteye. After driving an hour and a half and stopping for coffee and a sandwich in Auburn,In. I decided to keep on keeping on and rolled into the garage at 4 a.m. Another fun weekend. I need a nap.

Sprint Cars are Great in Canada….eh?

Thursday September 15th had been marked on the calendar for a year as TJ, Rod Robbins and myself were ready to steer northward for the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals at Ohsweken near Brantford, Ontario. TJ and I had bragged on this show to Rod for years so he caved in and went with us this trip.

 

60 to 70 sprint cars always make this the “must see” race of the year so off we go in the slightly overloaded Grand Prix packed with race reporting gear and clothing suited for ice fishing. A couple hours later finds us at the border crossing and chatting with the guard entering Canada. When he found out this is Rods very first venture into the frozen white north he gave Rod the 3rd degree but after some questions we’re traveling east.

 

Shane Stewart

After arriving at “The Telephone City” (from an ex telephone guy) and checking into the Best Western we found 52 cars ready to race on opening night. Shane Stewart won in the Joe Gaetre/Tim Norman car. Ohsweken is without doubt one of the best run tracks in North America. Ken and Cheryl Pelkie always make us feel welcome.

 

Stopping for a late night snack at Tim Horton’s and back in the motel writing stories and posting photos from the night we realize TJ had neglected to fill his air mattress (since he was the elected floor sleeper). I went out to the car and lowered a front window so we could run the cord for the pump out and fill the mattress. Sounds easy enough. Ok, in the dark it really isn’t easy. I locked the car and went in to get TJ for some assistance. After we finished that task we locked the car again and continued our racing reporting duties.

 

Finally turning in around 1:30 a.m.. I was just getting over a cold and was still feeling it’s effects. Sometime around 3 a.m. I realize my cold medicine is out in the car and I don’t want to go out. Suddenly, did I roll up the window on the car before I locked it a few hours previous ? After an hour of visualizing what consequence an open window in my  car in a motel parking lot could end up like I put on a hat and at 4a.m. and ventured out.

 

Arrived at the car, put my hand in and touched the steering wheel. Crap, I did leave the window open. Naturally, I reached in, pulled up the lock and opened the door…………..CAR ALARM!  I quickly rolled up the window, grabbed my cold medicine, shut off the alarm and ran to the room with cat like reflexes before the cops arrive. I was able to get about three hours sleep.

 

After an awesome breakfast at the Best Western (complete with custom made omlettes) we decided Rod needed to visit the nearby Canadian Tire Store. This place has just about everything from tires to toys. Being hockey fans we had to cruise the many aisles of hockey equipment. Hundreds of hockey sticks, skates, pucks and pads. TJ found a stick for Ethan to practice with.

 

I had long wanted a Toronto Maple Leaf cap. The clerks told us they were in aisle 19. Wrong, could not find one except high on top of a display mannequin about 20 feet overhead. Rod found another use for a Sherwood hockey stick as he was able to fish my prize Maple Leaf hat off that display.

 

Dain Naida

Friday afternoon at the track found us wondering and checking things out in the pits and talking with several familiar teams and taking some photos. We met a couple also checking things and we struck up a conversation with Jim and Nancy that live nearby (sorry I forgot the town). Turned out they follow tjslideways.com daily, so we had a nice chat and also they were in the top row of the bleachers with us the next two nights.

 

What we now call “The Hastings Gang” Kirk Cheney, Andy Teunessen and Matt Lumbert made the trip over and their pit was located in a spot that became Rod and my headquarters for the weekend. Three good guys with plenty of funny stories.

 

"The Hastings Gang"

Friday and Saturday duties for myself and Rod were to get as many pictures of cars being pushed off and going on track as possible without getting run over. Hundreds of photos were taken and neither of us were run over although I was surprised by a few sprint cars that drove through openings not wide enough for a sprint car. Rod found a disabled water truck to hide behind as he snapped pictures. I guess we did ok as TJ used quite a few of our photos.

 

Friday’s two feature winners had Sprints on Dirt connections as Dustin Daggett took a win and the Shane Stewart driven, Joe Gaerte/Tim Norman owned 3G took the other victory. Friday saw a very scary crash involving  Kyle Patrick but Saturday morning at breakfast he confirmed he was a bit sore but otherwise fine and headed for home with a destroyed race car.

 

Two races down and one to go with a great weather forecast. With all cars required to go through tech on Saturday we headed out early to watch 65 sprint cars run the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals. It is one of those races that is not just a race, it’s an event. More entertainment provided by the “The Hastings Gang”, even more pictures and more drama with Brett Mann piloting the 3w finally showing up and making the feature with an exciting 3rd place finish in his heat.

 

Off subject here, what does Tim Hortons, Ohsweken Speedway, the restaurant at Best Western and the Canadian Duty Free Store all have in common ? They all have great coffee.

 

After six heat races, three B mains (one of which was won by Greg Dalman), a 28 car Little Feature (won by Dain Naida) and the 30 car, 35 lap feature won by Texan Sam Hafertepe Jr., another CSCN was in the books.

 

Sam Hafertepe

Just before the feature, track owner Glen Stryes came up to the press box with former wingless driver Tony Elliot. It was suprising to see Elliot in Canada. We said hi and shook his hand. He said “good to see you guys”. He didn’t have any idea who we were. I think he was just surprised someone up there knew him.

 

Unusual happenings over the weekend became crazy as the 3w car switched drivers with Brett Mann in the seat after Ryan Ruhl drove Thursday night. Saturday morning came the news Ben Rutan had his entire operation stolen from the motel parking lot. Saturday night unfortunately Andy Teunessen had a rough tumble after a car spun and Andy had nowhere to go. Then even more trouble as Brett Mann crashed the truck on the way home Saturday night. He did limp it home Sunday morning.

 

One more bit of action on our way home Sunday. While waiting to cross the border we noticed all traffic had stopped and all lanes were closed. Soon we were watching weapons drawn and guards running all directions with some crouching behind barricades. This could be more than we were hoping for. Shortly we spotted a handcuffed suspect being escorted away and traffic resumed. In the end it was a great weekend and we had a fantastic time covering this race. Can’t wait until next year.

 

Wednesday is the World of Outlaws at Hartford and the 4 Crown Friday and Saturday at Eldora.

Bob, Rod Todd

August Adventures Aren’t All Awesome

After just watching Ryan Hunter Ray being interviewed after his Indy Car win, he mentioned  “you never know what’s going to happen in racing”. Well, the same thing is true if you happen to be MudclodBob as I sit here wearing an ankle to hip length knee immobilizer. More on that later.

Last week plans were laid to make a weekend of non-wing racing south of the Michigan border. Friday Gas City/I-69 Speedway saw a nice field of 24 sprinters ready to wage battle for the usual excellent weekly program. Tonight the track was tacky, dust free and very fast all night. Billy Puterbaugh Jr. made a late race pass on Shane Cottle to take an exciting win. Mudclod’s were plentiful all night requiring the “shovel guy” to make make three fence clearing trips during the evening. Black balls of clay thrown from the sprint cars rise higher than the lights and pack the wheel fence so full that it nearly blocks out the sun and obstructs the view of the action. Thus, the “shovel guy” knocking mud out of the fence with his shovel so the fans can see all the action. I had a great evening sitting with long time friends the Nichols. Later, Michigan racing friend Mike joined us for the night.

The following day was scheduled for the Jack Hewitt Classic at Waynesfield Raceway Park. As I headed east towards Ohio, the weather took

This the Gas City "shovel guy"

a turn for the worse and I began watching the radar while debating if I should continue. Soon I was traveling in heavy rain that was bearing down on the track. I was still 50 miles from the track but made the decision to turn tail and run. Years ago I would’ve continued on regardless. Of course they raced and Jonathan Hendrick won. Sorry I missed it.

The past week found my wife and I at my Mothers house in Kalkaska, Michigan for a visit. A campfire at my sister’s house with the family and spending a beautiful day in Traverse City complete with a delicious whitefish dinner at Scalawags Restaurant were a couple of highlights.

Friday was race night with the ASCS Sprints on Dirt at Cherry Speedway near Traverse City. 17 sprint cars made the long trip to northern Michigan despite rain all around. My duty for the night was to write the racing story and send it off to “Headquaters” in Tulsa,Ok..

Long tow winner award, hands down was young Blake Nimee and crew from Illinois. Short tow winner…………….Gary Fast from Kalkaska. Heat races went off with no problems and things seemed to be moving along nicely until rain began falling. Things looked dismal for about 30 minutes, but the rain stopped and racing continued. Third place starting Ryan Ruhl took the lead on lap three and was pressured early by Ryan Grubaugh and later in the feature by Brett Mann. Ruhl earned a well deserved first ever Sprints on Dirt victory. Long time racer and now car owner Jim Wohlfeil was extremely pleased with the win and Ruhl seemed almost surprised while holding the checkered flag in victory lane. It was an enjoyable night………….so far.

Ryan Ruhl and crew at Cherry

One more trip down to the pits to get official results for the story and back to Kalkaska to write up a race report. After completing the story at Mom’s house, I had to run back to town for a better internet connection for sending the report and a photo. Happy as a lark at around 1:30a.m. I ran up the three steps into the house, make quick left turn for the light switch and POP goes my knee. A perfect ending for the night, not. Not being able to walk or drive, my wife made the 4 hour drive home while I rode shotgun and went straight to ER. A shot, for pain, lots of x-rays, 3 prescriptions, a knee immobilizer I’m sitting with an ice pack on the knee writing this blog. Good news is no bone damage, but not sure yet about the ligaments.

While relating my story to the ER doctor, he asked where I went to see sprint cars. After I told him he informed me home for him was southern Iowa and he used to spend time at Knoxville Raceway. So, I am considering this a sprint car injury. I think it sounds more exciting than “reaching for the light switch”.

At this point I’m not sure if this is a season ending injury or not. If not, TJ will be pushing me around Spartan Speedway and Butler for the All Star show next week. Or maybe I’ll be using a walker :-(

 

 

MudclodBob Blog

TJ has created a blog area on his website for me to keep my travels, races and racing orientated adventures updated, so I will try to keep things current.

Most of you know I’m TJ’s Dad and have been mostly a racing fan for several decades. I have been helping TJ update tjslideways.com quite some time, but now that early retirement for me and TJ  becoming  a family man, has changed a few things, I have a more active role in keeping the ball rolling. It’s my part time job with benefits beyond expectations.

Unlimited vacation, great friends in several states, terrific travel opportunities, late night meals after the races, writing stories and posting results at 3a.m.. Oh yeah, I also have a great wife that tolerates this behavior.

I’m a small part of what keeps this website up to date so I’ll contribute a little information as time permits. This should be a busy weekend coming up, stay tuned.