Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Got A December Race!

Expand Messages
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2001

      The streak lives! Long live the streak! Yes, when the final 2000 issue of
      AARN went to press, it seemed unlikely that RTR would get to see a race for
      the 168th consecutive month.

      The original plan was to get a December race on the first weekend of the
      month. Pam and I headed south to Nashville with the intent of seeing Late
      Models on the dirt at Tennessee’s Duck River Speedway. Duck River canceled
      on the forecast of rain and snow, which didn’t hit until three and a half
      hours after the scheduled starting time. The second week of December I
      looked at flying to Memphis for an indoor Champ Kart race, but couldn’t get a
      flight for less than $750 because of trying to book it just two days before
      race day. I also toyed with the idea of a rescheduled dirt Late Model event
      at Cleveland, TN; but after getting burned by a Tennessee dirt track the week
      before I chickened out of the solo drive of twelve hours each way. One of
      the reasons I didn’t go to Cleveland was because the third weekend of
      December the Legends were running on the road course at Charlotte. It was
      not a new track for RTR, but in the second half of the month I was now just
      looking for any race. I wasn’t too worried about this one canceling, as
      Bruce and Pat Eckel had attended the December 2nd Legends race on Charlotte’s
      road course and they reported the race ran in the rain. Apparently they
      don’t always race in the rain, as RTR had drove eight of the nine hours
      before the cancellation. That’s where I left you in the last issue.

      I didn’t know of any races on the fourth weekend of December, not surprising
      since Sunday was Christmas Eve. But on Friday evening Gordy Killian called
      me with info about an ice race at Lac Morin (also known as Mont Carmel) in
      Quebec on Saturday afternoon. And he was nuts enough to want to go! But we
      had not decorated our Christmas tree, and I knew it wouldn’t be right to
      leave Pam to decorate alone while I headed to Quebec at the last minute. So
      it still seemed the streak was over.

      But surprisingly, the AARN readers didn’t want the streak to end. RTR
      received about a dozen e-mails and calls from readers with race suggestions
      for the final weekend of 2000. Some suggested Georgia, where Albany,
      Cochrin, and Cordele were all scheduled to run. Cordele, by the way,
      canceled the week before the race. Others suggested Florida, where Lake City
      was to run Late Models, Sebring Vintage Sports Cars, Orlando Half Midgets,
      and Daytona Beach Memorial Stadium Champ Karts. That’s where TrackChaser
      World Champion Rick Schneider and number three Gordy Killian were headed.
      Again, Killian reported that Sebring canceled before he ever left
      Pennsylvania. By far the majority of those that contacted RTR suggested the
      four-day Legends show at Hardeeville, SC. I considered Hardeeville, since
      they were to run Wednesday thru Saturday, and I could go in the middle of the
      week and still be home in plenty of time for New Year’s Eve since spending
      that day with my wife was more important to me than the streak. I ultimately
      decided against Hardeeville since I had already been there in August of this
      year. Good thing, too, as Hardeeville was rained and/or sleeted out on
      Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Friday was the only day of four that they
      raced, and the finals are now scheduled for the end of March.

      The only race considered was the indoor Midget show at the Expo in Fort
      Wayne, IN. RTR likes indoor racing, loves Midgets, and thoroughly enjoyed
      the inaugural show there in December of 1998. The only problem was that the
      race was on Saturday, December 30. If I drove to Fort Wayne on Saturday for
      the evening races, that would mean a ten hour drive home on the 31st, leaving
      RTR none to peppy for the New Year’s Eve festivities. Flying didn’t seem
      like a viable option as we had already flown once this month to Nashville.
      But Pam said the streak was cool and after yet another phone call from a
      reader urging a December race trip told me to go ahead and book a flight to
      Fort Wayne. RTR says Pam is cool. I found a flight from Allentown to
      Detroit to Fort Wayne, and at a decent price to boot.

      It looked like the streak would continue for the 14th consecutive year. But
      Winter weather is unpredictable, and a noreaster came barreling up the east
      coast on Friday night, putting the Saturday morning flight in doubt. The
      storm was supposed to hit between 3:00 - 6:00 a.m., and when we went to bed
      Friday night the storm was predicted to drop 10 to 16 inches of snow on the
      Lehigh Valley. My flight to Detroit was scheduled for 9:35. It was a race
      against time. Who would win? The flight to Detroit, and thus the streak, or
      the storm, leaving me with a day of shoveling instead of racing?

      Needless to say RTR didn’t sleep well, waking up frequently to look out the
      window. The storm began at 5:30, and by 7:30 when we Pam took me to the
      airport, things were getting pretty bad. We had called the airline before
      leaving home and they told us the flight was on. When we arrived at the
      airport, I checked the departure board, and eight of 18 flights out were
      already canceled. But my flight was still listed as leaving on time, so I
      kissed Pam goodbye and headed off to see some racin’. At 8:00 a.m. I went to
      check in, and was told that the flight was still on the ground in Detroit and
      they just canceled it. I was supposed to get into Fort Wayne at 1:00, and
      since the races weren’t until 7:30 I asked if there was any other way to get
      to Fort Wayne by then and was told no, there was no way. So with the streak
      now ended, I called Pam and told her to come back to the airport and pick me
      up. She was confused because when she arrived back home, she had called the
      airline again and they said the flight was still on. But she agreed to come
      get me, even though the driving was getting pretty bad.

      If I had my own car, or if I would have waited outside for Pam, I would have
      gone home thinking the flight was canceled. But just minutes before Pam
      returned the departure board for the flight changed from “on time” to
      “delayed until 9:55” and not “canceled”. Wait a second. Was this flight
      really canceled or not? I returned to the counter and they told me that the
      flight really wasn’t canceled and that it had now left Detroit. They seemed
      to discourage me from hanging around, since they had already canceled my
      flight and didn’t feel like re-booking it. Plus, with the delay I couldn’t
      make the Detroit to Fort Wayne connection and needed to re-book that on a
      later flight. But when they saw I was adamant about going they re-booked me
      on the Allentown to Detroit flight and found me a later flight from Detroit
      to Fort Wayne. They issued the boarding passes, and told me I was all set if
      the flight could take off. Luckily, I asked if they had earlier canceled my
      return flights for the next day, because the Northwest Airlines professionals
      hadn’t thought of that. And with all the confusion, in violation of Federal
      law, no one ever asked my for any identification. Now all I had to do was to
      explain to Pam that she had just driven through the snow for nothing and that
      it wasn’t my fault.

      The flight arrived from Detroit at 9:35 and they decided to give it a go.
      One person decided not to get on the plane. We boarded the little prop plane
      in blinding snow, and they went through the de-icing procedure. Everything
      looked good, but during the taxi process to get to the runway, the wings
      started to ice up again. The pilot said we had to return to the terminal to
      de-ice again, and that he would try to take off as quickly as possible. But
      if the wings iced up again before takeoff, they would have to give up and
      stay on the ground. Luckily, we got off the ground and in less than five
      minutes we were flying above the clouds and the sun was shining.

      I landed in Detroit where it was also snowing, with about three inches on the
      ground. Nothing like in Allentown, though. With the delay, I barely made
      the connection to Fort Wayne, but had a minute to call Pam, who had no idea
      where I was as the Northwest Airline website listed the Allentown flight at
      canceled. Three hours behind schedule, but in plenty of time for the races,
      I landed in Fort Wayne, where there was, of course, light snow.

      After getting a rental car from Avis, checking into the Red Roof Inn, and
      grabbing a spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy’s, I headed over to the track.
      I soon spotted NSSN SuperFan champ Ed Esser of Wisconsin, who congratulated
      me for getting a December race. Not so fast. After all I had been through
      this month, I wasn’t counting on anything until I saw a green and checkered
      flag fly. I sat with RPM columnist Steve Stone, Racing News columnists Bruce
      and Pat Eckel, and former MARC Times columnists Roger and Brenda Farrell.
      This was a TrackChaser milestone for Bruce, as it was his 400th track, just
      one behind his wife’s 401.

      All heats for the Midgets and the supporting Modified Midgets (Micro Sprints
      for East Coasters), had been completed Friday night, and a great field of
      cars was on hand in each class, necessitating four Midget heats, and five
      heats for the Modified Midgets. Each heat transferred the top two to the
      A-main. The Sportsman Champ Karts and five classes of go karts apparently
      ran both a heat and feature both nights. Racing started almost right on time
      at 7:30 with three Midget semi’s, each qualifying three more cars for the 75
      lap feature. The Midget semi’s went to Dave Fuhrman, Matt Estep, and Tony
      Elliott. The eight cars that qualified Friday night in the heats, plus the
      nine more from the semi’s, plus one promoter’s option (Derek Davidson) made
      for the 18 car feature field.

      After the Midgets, the Modified Midgets also had three semi’s, and the karts
      had their heats, with all qualifying over by 9:00 p.m. Admission for the
      show was $15 plus two more to park, decent for the nice indoor facility at
      the Fort Wayne Expo. This is not the same arena that hosted the Midgets
      through 1989, but is located right next door to that arena. While the
      admission seemed reasonable, the food and beverage prices are not. RTR
      highly recommends that fans eat before arriving at the Expo. Of course, the
      race promoters have nothing to do with the food prices, so don’t hold it
      against them. The past couple of winters RTR has seen some good indoor
      Midget racing at Fort Wayne, Toledo, Detroit, and Milwaukee. The indoor
      Midget racing seems to be better than ever. I was looking forward to the

      The feature lineup had a complete redraw among the 17 qualifiers, with the
      promoter’s option starting 18th. This added a bit of excitement to the show,
      and is something northeast tracks should consider. Perhaps they should think
      about what would put on the best show for the fans, instead of always giving
      in to the prima donna drivers and going with the straight up start, fixed
      draws, or racing where only the top few cars are inverted or redraw. Kudos
      to the promoter for thinking of the fans. They also thought of the fans by
      running the 75 lap Midget feature first.

      After a too-long 55 minute break, it was time for the Midget feature. The
      quality lineup featured 1997 ARCA champ Jerry Nemire; 1993 UMARA champ John
      Meyers; 111 time USAC winner,7 time USAC, and 3 time NAMARS champ Mel Kenyon;
      USAC Sprint and Champ Car champion Dave Darland; 1998 UMARA champ Dave Gough;
      32 time ARCA winner and champ Mike Fedorcak; USAC Sprint Car winner Brian
      Gerster; and 8 time Kokomo Sprint champ, two time USAC Sprint champ, and two
      time Gas City Sprint champ Tony Elliott. Elliott won this race in 1998 from
      the back, and would be starting 17th tonight. It had the makings of a good

      The 75 lap feature was pretty good, but not quite up to the level of the
      indoor Midget races I have seen in the last three seasons. David Thompson
      practiced his starts on the pace laps, then bested pole starter Jerry Nemire
      on the start, and led the entire way for the win. This was no “huggy-pole
      and hold-’em-off” win, as Thompson was clearly the fastest car on the track,
      and stayed cool under the pressure of numerous restarts throughout. Elliott
      put on a great show again, charging from 17th to second at the finish. The
      race was marred by too many cautions (10), and some poor officiating on the
      last restart. On every restart up until that point, the lapped cars were
      left running wherever they were on the track, as it should be. When the last
      yellow came out, there were three lapped cars between leader Thompson and
      second place Elliott. Elliott tried to line up right behind Thompson, but he
      was told to go back. He only went back behind one of the three lapped cars
      that were ahead of him, and the race was restarted that way despite the howls
      of many fans in the stands over the unfairness of the lineup. I don’t know
      if Elliott was confused about where he was supposed to restart or not, but I
      do know that it is the officials job to align the cars correctly before the
      race is restarted. This was not done. The officials certainly knew
      something was amiss, as the crowd was up-in-arms, but they did nothing. It
      gave the appearance that they were trying to help Elliott, at the expense of
      Thompson who had worked to pass those lapped cars, and that is not good for
      the sport. RTR prefers fairness to favoritism, and by the crowd reaction, so
      do many others.

      On Sunday I posted a message on the excellent autoracingindoors.com website
      forum page, asking why Elliott was not put in his proper position for the
      restart. As of the writing of this column the following day, promoter Jack
      Calabrase did not answer the query, although he did answer another posted
      after mine. I guess they have nothing to say on that matter.

      Running third at the finish was Kevin Besecker who started 7th, Dave Darland
      who started 11th, and Bobby East who started 9th in his very first Midget
      feature. All of the top five advanced from their starting spots. In fact, 6
      th place finisher Matt Estep started 10th, 7th place finisher Dave Fuhrman
      started 8th, 8th place finisher Mike Fedorcak started 13th, 9th place
      finisher Derek Davidson started 18th, and 10th place finisher Brian Gerster
      started 15th. Thus, the entire top ten advanced from their starting
      positions. You would be hard pressed to find any weekly short track feature
      finish to match that claim. Don’t believe them when they say that Midgets
      can’t pass indoors. See how good the entire field draw worked out for the
      fans? Tony Elliott completed an outside pass without touching the car on the
      inside. Despite too many yellows, this feature has to be considered a good
      one, and was over at 10:30, three hours from the starting time.

      I told my friends that if the Modified Midgets were next I would watch them,
      but when one of the kart classes buzzed out, I headed for the exit with many
      others. I had been up since 3:30, had been through a lot just getting there,
      and had to get up at 5:30 for an early flight back to Pam for New Year’s Eve.

      My problems with Northwest Airline continued on Sunday morning, as the flight
      from Fort Wayne to Detroit was delayed 45 minutes, reportedly because the
      crew didn’t get the mandated rest time. That meant I again couldn’t make my
      connection in Detroit again. They transferred me over to US Air, and instead
      of Detroit I connected through Pittsburgh, and I arrived in Allentown three
      hours late, but still just in time to see the Eagles wallop the stuffing out
      of the Tampa Bay Bucs.

      So, the streak survives for another month. Keeping it alive in December cost
      me four nights in a hotel, three entire weekends, two plane tickets, and two
      rental cars. And I didn’t even get any new tracks. Although I’m starting
      2001 already tired, poor, and way behind in my reading pile, I hope to get a
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.