This past weekend saw the Chariot visit four tracks. My original plans had to be revamped because of weather and the sudden death of one of my closest high school friends.
Wednesday I started out by going to Illiana Motor Speedway, IN for the new USAC regional Sprint Car race. A disappointing three sprints showed up, but luckily they also had USAC Midgets, Ford Focus Midgets, and Kenyon Car Midgets on the card, so it well made up for the short field of sprints. I sat with Mike K as he was in the area on business. USAC history may have been made in the Focus feature as Austin Harris may well be the first African-American to win a USAC main event. He looked very impressive in doing so. In the Midget headliner Brian Olson held Bobby East at bay for all 30 laps. The Sprints ended up just running one 8 lap race with East winning.
The next night I headed the mini-van south (instead of west because of the chance of tornados, they had 60 of them that day in Iowa) and ended up at the USCS Sprint Car show at Camden Speedway, TN. I sat with good friend Bruce Carley who recently moved from Ohio to Pulaski, TN. They had 21 sprint car show up. The track surface was a big surprise. It was really smooth with very little dust. Wayne Johnson took the win the 25 lapper over Terry Gray. The track looks older than the five years it is, but it and is well worth a visit.
Then it was west to Lebanon Midway Speedway in southern Missouri for Friday where the Show-Me Late Models were the headliner. They had 28 Late Models (actually Limited Late Models as they have 350 engines with steel heads). The feature was a barnburner as Conner Ward looked like he'd hold off the Essary bunch, but for the last 8 laps of the 25 lapper Shane Essary kept trying the high side but came up short coming off turn four, but on the drop of the white flag Shane got a great run going into one and came out ahead of Ward by a hair out of two. Shane kept his momentum up and beat Ward by a couple of feet at the checkered. What a great finish. Leslie Essary and Ken Essary were close behind. Midway is also a relatively new track. It was built in 2004. Nice track, and just like the night before very little dust.
The next morning saw me getting up earlier than I wanted, as a 4am alarm went off so I could make the 400 mile journey to Knoxville, IA for the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony that afternoon. I stayed that night for the regular show at Knoxville where Billy Alley won a hard earned victory in the 410 feature. I sat with Jim Harris.
The next day I had planned on going to the USMTS show at Quad City Raceway near Davenport, but my high school buddy Terry Nawrocki died on Thursday and I high-tailed it home for the funeral this morning. Terry and I met during high school and our mutual love of auto racing had kept us close ever since. We had gone to the Indy 500 a couple of times. Back in the 1960's he went with me to USAC Sprint at Winchester and the Little 500. The last race he went with me was a World Of Outlaw race about three years ago at I-96. Terry was just six months older than me and was one of the nice guys. He was never selfish and was a giver and a sharer from the day I met him. He was a retired County Sheriff, reaching the rank of Sergeant and was the commander at one of the post in our county. He was also an EMT, and a volunteer fireman as well as a devote Detroit Tiger and Red Wing fan. He leaves a wife of 38 years, two boys (one is also a police officer. The other is a teacher at our high school, West Catholic), and four grandchildren. I usually ran into Terry and Betty after Sunday mass. Terry was diagnosed with cancer less than a month ago. The doctors had figured he'd make a good recovery after surgery. Two weeks later they did the surgery only to find the cancer had grown substantially in that short time. Instead he lingered in a coma for a week, never regaining consciousness. This was hard blow to everyone who knew him. He was a great guy.
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