Archive for September, 2015

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Labor Day weekend means the end of summer here in Central, NY. It also means dirt racing is fast and furious in the area. This year it all started on Saturday night at a Thunder Mountain Speedway in Center Lisle, NY. 

The Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints headlined the show with a 25 lap main event, along with the CRSA 305 Sprints, open Sportsman, 692 Soortsman, Rookie Sportsman, Empore Lighting Sprints, SRP Sprints, Street Stocks,Xcell 600 Modifieds, and the always popular Modifieds. 

Yes all of this for $20 on a Saturday night. 177 cars, 10 features were on the bill for the night atop the Mountain. The stands were packed for a full programs of dirt racing. Only the ESS and CRSA classes ran heat races during the program. The rest of the classes ran just a feature race making it a great show for the fans. 

I wasn’t shooting this event, so the images below are ESS cars from a event at Rolling Wheels Raceway a few weeks ago

   
 
All of the races were great, but the ESS main event was awesome. Eventual winner Curt Michael fought his way to the front from the 10th starting spot. Early leader Chuck Hebing, Robbie Stillwagon and defending series champion Steve Poirier battled wheel to wheel for most of the 25 laps. Lap traffic was thick on the small dirtoval, making it hard for the leaders to get out on the guy behind him. Michael made a pass for the lead on the outside of Hebing late in the race, but the caution flew and they reverted back to the last lap putting Curt back in the second spot. ESS does side by side restarts up till one or two laps to go. This means Hebing had his choice of starting inside or outside on the restart. Chuck choose the outside, putting Michael on the inside. Michael had been running the top most of the night, so this would be interesting to see if he could make the car work on the bottom. As the field mashed the gas coming out of turn four, Hebing pulled out a small lead going into turn one on Miichael. Chuck drove it deep into the first turn with Curt right next to him on the bottom. The two made slight contact, giving Michael the advantage coming out of two. That was just enough to get out on the top five and take the win over a stellar field of cars. Stillwagon tried to get around Hebing on the last lap, but came up a bit short, to finish third. 

I haven’t had the chance to see ESS in a few years, but I must say they put on a great show, with top notch Cars and Drivers. 

Next up for the weekend was the Lucas Oil ESS at Utica Rome Raceway. We planned on going to see Steve Miller at the New York State Fair Sunday night, but with the high temps we decided to travel east to watch some more Sprint car racing. Again I didn’t shoot this race, so I will use a few pictures from a race a few weeks ago at Utica Rome and Rolling Wheels. 

  
Stewert Friesen above was on hand in both the Sprint cars and Stampede Steakhouse Modifieds. Mike Mahaney, Larry Wight, and Danny Varin also pulled double duty Sunday night at Utica Rome. 38 sprint cars were on hand for the nights Lucas Oil ESS show. Four heats, Dash for cash and a B main were in the docket for the sprint cars. 

  
The track was dry slick from the hot weather and full sunshine beating on the track. This made it tricky for the competitors in all classes, but just a touch more for the super fast light weight sprint cars. During the heat races the middle of the track was pretty slick, but the inside and top had a decent amount of bite for the 360 cars to get a hold of. The top four in the heats went to the redraw, to set up the starting g grid for the A-main. The dash and B-Main would fill out the rest of the 25 car field.

  
By the time the ESS drivers pulled out onto the track, the bottom groove had been diminished to a 12-14inch piece of tacky dirt. The top had been blown off, making it a very thin line to run for 25 laps. One slip on the top could end up being a costly mistake. At the drop of the green the fast guys from the heat races set off on their quest to find some traction to help them get to the front. Early leader #33 Mike Mahaney pulled out to a decent lead on second place#51 Bryan Howland. Mike was on the bottom scratching for that little bit of relastate next to the tires. Local favorite #1 Stewert Friesen, (behind the Wherl of his wife’s 360 sprint car) was searching high and low for traction. Friesen ran the top to get around cars on the bottom line, and sneak under the guys running the middle of the track. By the time Stewert made it to the second spot leader Mahaney was deep in lap traffic. Mahaney is new in the sprint cars. Doug Emery put Mike behind the wheel of his we’ll know #33 car for the weekend. Friesen was on the bottom so far when he came out if turn four the car would get bite and move hard toward the outside wall on the front stretch. 

  
Friesen made his way to the back bumper of Mahaney, in lap traffic. He worked in Mike for a few laps on the bottom. Finally Mike slipped up a touch and Stewert drove by him down the back stretch. Mahaney tried to stay close to Friesen, but Stewart was to strong out front in clean air. Saturday nights winner at Thunder Mountain Curt Michael worked his way up to the third spot behind Mahaney at the end of 25 laps. Michael said he was happy with his weekends results, because he wasn’t used to the slick tracks in NY. Curt is used to running on the high bite tracks in PA.. Brian Howland, and Larry Wight, rounded out the top five.  

  
It was a great weekend of sprint car racing in Central, NY. We had a great time at these tracks, and look forward to seeing the Empire Super Sprints in the near future. I you get a chance to see this show, do it it is worth every penny. Visit Empire Super Sprints for their full schedule. 

I hope to see you at the track

Take Care

John 

Hello everybody, I am sure most of you have heard the sad news about Super Dirt Week in Syracuse, NY. This will be the last year for this event as we know it on the mile. New York State is tearing down the Granstands and removing the legendary “Moody Mile” race track. 

Last year marked the 43rd running of Super Dirt Week in Syracuse, NY. Since 1972 Northeast Dirt Modified have been coming together in Syracuse for their biggest race of the season. This event is run at the NYS Fairgrounds on a 1 mile dirt oval. This race has always been the race that would put a driver up a notch in Dirt Track Racing. Geoff Bodine, Bobby Allison, Six time winner Brett Hearn, Will Cagle, Jack Johnson and other top name drivers have competed at the Moody mile in early October.

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I started going to SDW in 1973, the second running of the event. It was called the Shaffer 100 back then. My dad and I joined some of our racing friends at the fairgrounds every year for a week of racing and fellowship. The first few years we camped in the horse barns located just outside the track. We loved staying in them, it was dry and a great place for young boys to have fun. After a few years of that some people started to burn the wood from the barns and ruined it for everybody.

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I love SDW it was such a big event for me to attend. Dirt racing was what I lived for. My friends and I would know all the drivers, where they were from, what kind of car they drove, that’s what we did. The first 7 years outsiders won the race every year, Reutmann, Osmun, Tobias and the always popular ( not ) Gary Balough. Balough won three in a row from 76-78. In 1979 one of our local champions finally won the big one for upstate NY. “Jumping” Jack Johnson piloted his famous 12a to victory  making all of us local fans really happy.I was a Will Cagle fan, but I still thought it was great that a local finally won the big one.

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In 1980 DIRT Modifieds changed forever. I remember a friend and I were walking down near turn one in the infield when we saw it. A beautiful black weird shaped car that went sailing down into turn one, we both looked at each other and said what and who the heck is that? Well we later found out that it was Gary Balough in a Kenny Weld built Lincoln Continental, AKA “The Batmobile”. After the first day of practice and qualifying, other teams started adding sheet metal to their now “old style” race cars. Merv Treichler raised his roof up, Kenny Brightbill added side panels to his Famous Pinto body, and Geoff Bodine added sheet metal everywhere he could, to try and use loophole in the rule book to his advantage. It was crazy that year, the sport was changing right in front of our eyes and we didn’t even realize it until the next year. That was the fun of SDW, guys would show up with brand new stuff that looked a little different from their Saturday night cars that they had run all season.

Open trailers with car covers is how it was in the early years, Then beautiful ramp trucks with Grant King Modifieds under cover on the back. We couldn’t wait to see what was under the covers early in the week. Then came the enclosed trailers that seemed to be a mile long, with two cars and spare engines stuffed inside. This was very cool to see.

The weather was always a issue at SDW. In 77 it rained so hard the tunnels under the track filled up with water. They postponed that years event until the spring of the next year. In April we didn’t have rain, but we did have snow. We bundled up in sleeping bags to watch the race from the Grandstands. Tigh Scott, Wayne Reutimann, Howie Cronce were involved in a huge wreck on the back stretch. That was crazy. Luckily no one was hurt. Wayne’s car had the entire roof ripped right off. 

 
I love Big Block Modifieds, but let’s talk about sprint cars at SDW. The Super Nationals wow what a show 👍🏻. The first few years the Super Modifieds were mixed in with the sprint cars. This very cool to see on the mile. Things changed when the World Of Outlaws started to sanction the event. There is nothing like a WOO sprint car making laps on the mile. The greats like Kinser, Swindell, Kauffman, Pauch had great Battles year after year. Kinser and Haud had an epic battle one year, when they both  got out of their cars they went over to each other with huge smiles saying that was one heck of a race.

   
 
It was sad day when SDW removed the Sprint Cars from the event. I loved watching my heros driving into turn three, never lifting. It is a memory that I try to explain to my sons, but just can’t explian as good as it was. 

Nowadays  SDW has Big Block Mods, Small Blocks, Sportsman, Prostock, and USAC Silver crown cars. It’s a great line up of dirt racing. Each class seems to be full and very competitive. 

   
I have meet so many friends at SDW. From Vinny at the Voodoo lounge, to guys that we see every year for a racing reunion. I remember riding my bike all over that place, from racing bikes on the front stretch at night, to riding over to the trade show that used to be in the center of progress building. 

My friends and I would hang out at the infield bar playing video games like Tron and watching our favorite drivers tip a few back after a long days of racing. One year my son and I were standing on a scaffolding in turn three, and up comes Jack Johnson (2 timer winner of SDW) to watch his son during practice. Billy Decker, Kenny Brightbill would show up at our campfire during the week. These memories can’t be replaced. 

  
Watching AJ Slidways come from the back to win. The Batmobile, Dick “Toby” Tobias, I could go on forever but I won’t. I hope that whereever SDW moves to, race fans can create memories,and start a new tradition with their friends and family. 

The first full week of October has always been marked SDW on my calender and always will be. It has been a wonderful ride. Super Dirt Week will live on in a new way. 

   
   
See you in October. 

Take care 

John