This past weekend’s on-track action at Talladega Superspeedway will be remembered for three notable things: One is the shear number of lead changes (64, the most since the Talladega 500 in July, 1984). Another is the now infamous judgment call that gave Tony Stewart the victory and dropkicked Regan Smith back to 18th. However, the one factor that was prevalent all weekend were the tires and their propensity to fail, once again.
I remember one of those looonnng ARCA races (we ran a couple that were 600-lappers) when Shorty was still flagging. I was in the infield, and somebody grabbed my shoulder and pointed to the flagstand. Shorty was pointing at me, wanting my attention. When I looked his way, he started patting his head – the accepted signal (again, before radios) for “I need relief.” When I noticed that his legs were also crossed, I knew what the problem was.
The last few weeks have definitely been filled with many learning experiences. In the Truck Series, I made my first start at Bristol Motor Speedway in the No. 22 Red Bull Toyota for Bill Davis Racing. We had great success there, as I won my first Craftsman Truck Series pole and finished third. I will tell you that Bristol is one of my new favorite racetracks. The place is incredible with how all the seats surround the entire place — there is no other venue like it. The racing was great as well. It’s close to a two-groove racetrack, and the competition is exciting. I’m looking forward to going back there next year. For now, though, our next focus for the Truck Series will be on Las Vegas, where I will make my next start on September 20th.
Back in the ’60s and early ’70s, one of the most popular watering holes in Daytona Beach was Mac’s Famous Bar on South Atlantic Avenue. They used to show racing films each night, some of them from back in the beach/road course days. If you wanted a table, you had to get there early, so the plan was usually to go over as soon as you left the track, order a pizza, enjoy the rest of the evening, and then stagger to the motel when the show was over. One night in February of 1968, Darel Dieringer came in, and one of the only open seats happened to be at our table. He asked if he could sit down, and naturally we were glad to have a driver there with us.
Ken Schrader in a way, WAS Rockingham Speedway on Sunday, or perhaps Rockingham Speedway was Ken Schrader. Coming from a 31st-place starting spot to finish second, Schrader passed cars by using the track to his advantage. It was a brilliant performance by the veteran driver with the reputation of being one who will race anything, anytime. At one point late in the race, Schrader took the lead and proceeded to school Logano in the finer points of holding a lead-switching from the bottom-hugging low line in the turns to the high line, the only place where Logano was really able to make his best moves. It didn’t work forever, but it was great, clean racing, the way Schrader has run for most of his 53 years.
1. Now We’re Talking… Real Fascists! – Formula 1 racing is embroiled in a nasty and controversial sex scandal and some within the organization are asking for the removal of its president, Max Mosley. Mosley has been accused (complete with video) of engaging in a kinky XXX Nazi-role playing session with five prostitutes. Mosley and the paid performers were play-acting, he as a Nazi soldier and the prostitutes as Jewish women in a Nazi concentration camp. The 68-year old Mosley’s father was a well-known political figure in pre-war Britain and was a leader of the British Union of Fascists. In fact, Mosley’s parents were married at Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels’ home in Berlin, with Adolph Hitler in attendance as a guest of honor.
One of the more interesting people I’ve been privileged to meet in my 50-plus years in this sport was the late Tiny Lund, the big affable guy originally from Iowa who simply loved to race – anywhere, anytime, any kind of car. I first met him when he came to Salem (Ind.) Speedway to race in an ARCA event in 1973, when John Marcum was allowing the pony cars to compete. He brought the familiar No. 55 Camaro which at the time was owned by Charlie Blanton, and which I understand Tiny later purchased. Charlie had won the ARCA race at Daytona in that car, and Tiny won races at Selinsgrove, Lincoln, and Mt. Clemens with it that season.
The offseason certainly did not provide any off time for several members of the ARCA circuit, as many of the drivers changed teams, and teams themselves changed names. Perhaps the most notable Silly Season move involved Frank Kimmel, who will no longer pilot Larry Clement’s familiar No. 46 Ford — the team which Kimmel won nine ARCA championships with. Instead, the veteran has partnered with Cunningham Motorsports to form Kimmel Racing, and will now drive the No. 44 Dodge Charger. Taking Kimmel’s place in the vaunted No. 46 is rookie Matt Carter, son of long-time Sprint Cup crew chief Travis Carter.
Blaise Alexander, just 25 years old, passed away on Oct. 4th, 2001, after injuries sustained in an accident in that night’s ARCA EasyCare 100. Good friend Kerry Earnhardt was racing the young man hard for the win with three laps to go when his car touched Alexander’s No. 75, sending it into the retaining wall beyond turn four even as Earnhardt’s car was sliding on its roof toward the tri-oval. That slam into the concrete was all it took – in the blink of an eye, racing lost an up-and-coming star, and the sport lost another shred of innocence that had not been taken by the other losses – Adam, Kenny, Tony, Dale – that were still fresh in our minds.