On Friday Pam and I headed to Denver, Colorado. Our first stop was for some barbeque at Jim N Nick's. Our server was named Stevie. Stevie Nicks, get it? In the evening, we headed to see the Colorado Rockies game vs. San Fran Giants. That was my 16th MLB team to see (15 current plus Expos), so I'm halfway on that long-term goal.
Saturday we headed to Fountain and the Pikes Peak International Raceway. I had not been to any of the tracks at this facility before. The main track is the mile superspeedway. They have not used the mile for racing in several years, and I had been kicking myself as I thought I might have missed it. When it opened in 1997, it was a major track, hosting the IRL Indy Cars (1997-2005), NASCAR GN (1998-2005), and the NASCAR Trucks (1998-2002). They also had multiplel USAC races for both the Champ Cars and the Midgets. I hate to have missed any superspeedway, but especially one that raced Indy Cars or my favorite division, the USAC Silver Crown Champ Cars.
When USAC announced that they were returning to Pikes Peak this year, I made it my top priority track of 2013. It worked out perfectly, since Pam had not been to a race in Colorado and we try to add one new state for her each year. This would get two birds in one trip.
The PPIR website said that parking would be $10 (rip off in my opinion) and general admission tickets $25. The tickets would include all-access to the pits and garages. That seemed like a pretty good deal. Qualifying was set for 1:00 and we arrived just about that time. We paid the $10 parking, but when I went to buy the tickets I found they were only $20. Not a very good marketing department that advertises the admission price to be higher than it really is.
I told Pam to expect short fields in the teens for each class, and that I would be ecstatic if they had 20 of each. We were lucky to reach even the low teens in one class, as there were 14 Silver Crown cars and 11 Midgets.
The pavement races for the Silver Crown series continue to suffer from the attempt to suck up to NASCAR a decade ago and redesign the cars to be able to run more superspeedway races. That experiment failed when NASCAR relegated USAC to fourth banana on Cup weekends, and eventually turned their back on USAC all together leaving the Silver Crown series deeply wounded. An attempt to force all cars to run on Ethanol based fuel in 2012 also hurt the series as some car owners sat it out rather than switch. USAC is attempting to revive the pavement portion of the Silver Crown schedule this year, announcing races on big tracks like Gateway, Milwaukee, and Pikes Peak. Milwaukee was canceled, the first of two at IRP "postponed" (until never), and the schedule is now down to just three pavement shows, this being the second. In fact, the overall schedule, which was supposed to be about a dozen races, is down to just eight. I fear my favorite class of cars is running out of time.
The Midget series is also not looking too healthy. In 2011, USAC decided to split the National Sprint Car Championship into two series, one for pavement and one for dirt. That lasted one year, and by year two they had lost all of their pavement races completely. So what did they learn from that? In 2013, they are doing the same thing to the Midgets. The National Pavement Midget schedule has just eight races, with Pikes Peak being race number four.
The track is beautiful, and features an excellent mile oval, an infield paved road course, an inner short track oval, and in 2011 they had the GRC Rallycross series there on a mixed-surface course. The large grandstands are steep but the seats are very comfortable. t was a pleasant surprise to see fellow TrackChaser Edward Corrado from NY on hand as well.I The crowd was fairly small but not awful. Kyle Hamilton set fast time in the Midgets, Kody Swanson in the Champ Cars.
Bob Jenkins announced that due to the threat of bad weather, USAC was moving up their time table and the Midget race would start at 3:00. The ticket said that races would begin at 3:00. So basically, because of bad weather USAC decided to start on time? Thanks a lot. Oh, the many problems racing faces.
There were a bunch of vintage race cars on hand and they got some track time on the infield short track oval. Not real races though. Add another to the "Not Classified" track list. Too bad with such a small car count they didn't run the Midgets on the short track.
The 25 lap Midget race only started ten cars, but it was incredible. Here's the lap leader summary: Laps 1-9 Kyle O’Gara, Lap 10 Kyle Hamilton, Lap 11 Caleb.Armstrong, Lpas 12-13 Hamilton, Lap 14-15 Armstrong, Lap 16 Hamilton, Lap 17 Armstrong, Laps 18-23 Hamilton, Laps 24-25 Hines. Yes, Tracy Hines pulled it off at the end. USAC was right about the weather, as they did have a brief shower and a yellow for the wet track during the race. Hines won over Darren Hagen, Armstrong, and last starting Bobby Santos. Pam had state number 44 in the books, which Edward proclaimed to be "pretty good".
One annoyance was that they did not have the lap counter working. For a major event at a major track, you should not have to guess what lap they are on. Also, they did not have any of the track concession stands opened except one to sell beer. The only food was from two small trucks that were brought in. There was no event program or tee shirt, or any other type of USAC or track souviners available. The public address system is excellent, and of course Bob Jenkins is as knowledgeable about this type of racing as they come.
The second and final race was the 100 miler for the Champ Cars. I had thought I remembered reading that USAC had gone to a stupid "halftime break" in these races, but thankfully it was not the case. Tracey Hines led the first four laps, before being passed by Brian Tyler. He led the first quarter of the race, before Bob East took over on a restart and led the rest of the way. East pretty much had everyone covered easily and won over Jerry Coons, Hines, Tyler, and Swanson. Coons did close up with about ten to go, but East then pulled away again.
The race ended a bit after 5:00, making this a quick two races/two hour show. As it was overcast, it wasn't bad sitting in the sun for an afternoon race in summer. It wasn't the best, but it was a rare chance to see my favorite class race and on a track I had feared to miss forever. Last month, after seeing track 1,500, I speculated about the possibility of seeing another thousand tracks. As this was track 1510, only one month later I've got the first one percent of the next thousand in the books.
My goals for 2013 included racing in a new country for Pam and I, at a new region of the UK, in a new state for Pam, at a new superspeedway or North American major-event road circuit, and baseball for a new MLB team. We managed to squeeze all five of those into just a 15-day period. No wonder I'm exhausted.
Guy & Pam Smith 2013 Summary
2013 New Tracks--Guy 33 / Pam 21
2013 Events-- Guy 46 / Pam 25
2013 Total Tracks-- Guy 47 / Pam 26
2013 Additional new Non TC Tracks--Guy 4 / Pam NA
Lifetime Total Tracks--Guy 1,510 / Pam 858
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