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.