Saturday, March 20, 2010

34 Raceway/Westland Mall Car Show

Despite Mother Nature lacking a sense of humor by providing us with snowfall on the first day of spring, I decided to take in my first racing event of the season this weekend. Although they aren't going in circles, a number of cars are currently on display at Westland Mall in West Burlington, Iowa, for the annual 34 Raceway car show.

I did manage to snap a few pictures with my BlackBerry to get you a little more fired up for the racing season even though the snow is flying. Here are a few of the "looks" to anticipate in 2010.

Colby Springsteen (I.M.C.A. Late Model)

Bill Roberts (I.M.C.A. Modified)

Dustin Crear (I.M.C.A. Modified)

Brian Holmes (I.M.C.A. Stock Car)

Brodie Dopler (Hobby Stock)

Ray Raker (Hobby Stock)

Lane Kauffman (Hobby Stock)

Jay Johnson (I.M.C.A. Late Model)

Jacob Darbyshire (I.M.C.A. Late Model)

Tony Davis (305 Sprint)

Kirk Kinsley (I.M.C.A. Stock Car)

Jeff Mueller (I.M.C.A. Stock Car)

Jason Cook (I.M.C.A. Stock Car)

Brett Timmerman (I.M.C.A. Stock Car)

There are around 30 cars in attendance, which will be on display until 6 p.m. tonight. The car show continues tomorrow from noon to 6 p.m., so there's still plenty of time to get out and take a peek at a number of this year's competitors. If you're at home with nothing to do tonight, a pre-season racing kick-off party is scheduled at Whitey's in Burlington. Based on my previous experiences there, it will be nothing short of a blast. Come on out after UNI takes it to the Kansas Jayhawks in the big dance. A practice session is scheduled at 34 Raceway next weekend followed by the season opener the following Saturday, April 3, with the Brian Hetrick Memorial Race.
Fantasy Notes:
There has been a good response in the early stages of the Indee Fantasy Race Night of Champions. For those who haven't yet taken part in it, a season-long all-time challenge will be held on the Independence Motor Speedway facebook page. Qualifying heat races including the all-time winners at the speedway will be revealed throughout the season with facebook race fans having the opportunity to vote on who they think are the all-time best drivers at Independence. The first heat is in the books as all-time Hobby Stock wins leader Chris Wessner qualified for that division's feature with a heat win. Rick Johnson and Forrest Frost also qualified for the feature; the feature lineup will be revealed on facebook later this summer following the conclusion of all qualifying events. Currently, the first heat of Stock Cars is underway. Check out the daily race updates, available only on the track's facebook page.
The "real" stuff begins in Independence on Saturday, April 10, with the annual car show downtown followed by the test and tune session at the race track. Hope to see you there!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Indee Fantasy Race Night of Champions begins today!

After consulting with my partner in crime, Wes White, a decision was made to name the season-long fantasy race to determine the best-ever drivers in Independence Motor Speedway history. Since it will be comprised of 16 heat races (along with newly added last chance races) and four big features, it will be just like a "regular" race night... albeit spread out through the course of 24 weeks. The Fantasy Race Night of Champions has been born and the schedule of events is outlined below.

Those wishing to take part in the voting process will have one week to cast their votes for each race as they are posted. Heats will be announced every Friday (if everything goes according to plan), with voting closed for each race the following Thursday at noon Iowa time. The divisions will be rotated throughout the season so be sure to check the IMS facebook on a regular basis to see which event is scheduled for that week. The projected schedule of fantasy events is as follows:

START - RACE - ENTRY DEADLINE (12 Noon for each date listed)
March 12 - Hobby Stock (1st heat) - March 18
March 19 - Stock Car (1st heat) - March 25
March 26 - Modified (1st heat) - April 1
April 2 - Late Model (1st heat) - April 8
April 9 - Hobby Stock (2nd heat) - April 15
April 16 - Stock Car (2nd heat) - April 22
April 23 - Modified (2nd heat) - April 29
April 30 - Late Model (2nd heat) - May 6
May 7 - Hobby Stock (3rd heat) - May 13
May 14 - Stock Car (3rd heat) - May 20
May 21 - Modified (3rd heat) - May 27
May 28 - Late Model (3rd heat) - June 3
June 4 - Hobby Stock (4th heat) - June 10
June 11 - Stock Car (4th heat) - June 17
June 18 - Modified (4th heat) - June 24
June 25 - Late Model (4th heat) - July 1
July 2 - Hobby Stock (last chance) - July 8
July 9 - Stock Car (last chance) - July 15
July 16 - Modified (last chance) - July 22
July 23 - Late Model (last chance) - July 29
July 30 - Hobby Stock (feature) - August 5
August 6 - Stock Car (feature) - August 12
August 13 - Modified (feature) - August 19
August 20 - Late Model (feature) - August 26

The last chance races will include one race for all non-qualifiers from each division. The drivers who earn the top 3 in voter points during that week's voting will tag the rear of the feature field. One provisional will also be awarded per division. That position will be determined by the driver who earned the most voter points in both heat and feature events that did not already qualify for the feature. A total of 16 drivers will qualify for each division's all-time feature event. Those feature events will be lined up as follows: The 12 heat race qualifiers will be inverted based on career wins - least wins toward the front and the most wins toward the back. The last chance qualifers will follow the qualifiers and the provisional starter will tag the rear of the 16-car field.

The results for each heat and last chance race will be announced when the following week's lineup is posted. The vote winners of the four August features will remain unavailable until they are announced during the August 28 season championships at Independence.

Please remember, lineups will be posted only on the Independence Motor Speedway facebook page and the only votes that count will be those that are sent to the inbox of that page. Check out that page sometime tonight for the very first heat event for the Hobby Stocks. Voting will end at noon next Thursday, March 18.

Let's go racing!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Who's the best ever? You tell me

While chatting on facebook earlier tonight with friend and fellow race fan Wes White, we discussed the statistics I put together earlier this winter. It's interesting to see how the numbers compare through the years and to check out who the dominant drivers were from each decade and generation. What you can't see, however, and what we will never know for sure, is how the greats of each generation would compare if they competed against each other head-to-head. While that's impossible in the literal sense, I thought it would be fun and interesting to see what race fans thought by creating an imaginary field of the all-time greats at Independence Motor Speedway.

I pondered a number of ways to generate a who's who list of the top drivers over the past 40-plus years at the track and how to pit them against each other in an ultimate fantasy race. I figured the easiest way was to take the top feature winners in each division, divide them into qualifying heat races and let the race fans have their say, voting who they think is the best into their respective features.

I decided to take the top 32 feature winners (and all ties) in the Late Model, Modified, Stock Car and Hobby Stock divisions and break them into four qualifying heat races per division. In the end, 33 Late Models, 34 Modifieds, 38 Stock Cars and 41 Hobby Stocks made the cut. The heat race lineup "draw" was determined by career wins. I set it up similarly to how NCAA seeds the men's basketball tournament in such a way that the heats in each division were as equal as possible. The lineups were created with the drivers earning the fewest feature races on the pole and staggered to the back where the drivers with the most career wins would start.

Next, I determined the best way to present each "race" to the race fans was through the Independence Motor Speedway facebook page, which is growing in "friends" every day. If you know of someone who's not on facebook, but may be interested in this generation-transcending contest, tell them to sign up! Via the IMS facebook page, I'll present new heat races, one at a time, throughout the season and let the drivers, crews and fans decide for themselves who they feel would win each qualifier if the drivers were able to compete head-to-head. I know times have changed, rules have changed, and the sport as a whole has changed, but that doesn't mean you can't wonder or imagine what it would be like to watch Darin Duffy battle Jack Mitchell or Curt Martin go wheel-to-wheel with Chub Liebe and Doc Mayner today.

With that said, in the coming days, weeks and months, different heat race lineups will be posted on the IMS facebook page. It will be up to the fans to e-mail/message the inbox on that page with their final predicted results for each race posted. For every vote for every position, each driver will be awared a certain number of points. For instance, the driver picked as a heat race winner will receive 10 points, second will get 9 points, and so on. I'll add everyone's votes together to produce the final results for each fantasy heat race. The top 3 in each heat will then qualify for that division's ultimate fantasy feature at the end of the 2010 season. Fans will again have the chance to vote in each of the four 12-car fantasy features.

With that said, here are a few ground rules:
* Each time a new heat lineup is posted, I will include a voting deadline by which time all votes must be received for that race.
* All votes must be sent to the inbox of the IMS facebook page or they will not count. Individuals may only submit one vote per race per username.
* All participants are encouraged to complete each race's entire lineup and not just include the winner or top two. I'd like this to be as thorough and complete as possible.
* If there are ties for third place in a qualifier, all drivers tied for the third position will qualify for that division's feature.
* After all qualifying events are completed, feature events will be posted toward the end of the season. Feature lineups will be inverted based on total points earned through their heat races.
* This isn't meant to be a popularity contest. This is about who you think would win, not who you'd want to win. If you're a young race fan and aren't familiar with some of the drivers from the early years, ask around, you never know who would be able to help you out by offering their thoughts.

I plan to start with the first heat race in the very near future and expect to allow approximately one week for voting for each race. I will post results of each race when the following race's lineup is revealed.

If you have questions, contact me by mailing me on the IMS facebook page. Have fun!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Controversy in NASCAR: Its desired image

I rarely weigh in on many things NASCAR-related, but last weekend's controversy in Atlanta has held my interest. The Carl Edwards/Brad Keselowski wreck/payback/revenge/bed-wetting episode not only created quite a stir for the sport, but NASCAR's response, or lack thereof, was controversial in itself.

I am a huge fan of many televised sports - basketball, football, baseball, tennis and even golf and bowling, but I'll be honest, I've lacked much of a taste for NASCAR since the early-to-mid '90s when it took on its Hollywood persona and moved far away from its grassroots foundation. The events of last weekend, however, were alarming to me on many levels regarding the direction the sport is headed.

Off and on, I watched much of Sunday's race and actually started a trip back home from out of town with about 30 laps remaining. I did come across the race on the radio while searching for college basketball games, so I decided to tune in for the final few laps. Even on the radio, Kurt Busch's first win of the year was over-shadowed by Edwards initiating the most memorable on-track move of the weekend.

For Edwards, there are no excuses. For Keselowski, hopefully, it's a lesson learned in a very unfortunate way. At first, I was torn. Edwards did probably what most Cup drivers wish they had the nerve to do while Keselowski learned a rough lesson about the consequences of being a rough driver. My shock wasn't necessarily in the deed itself, rather the reaction it got throughout much of NASCAR-land. Almost immediately, commentators and "race experts" questioned the timing of Edwards' retaliation, going so far as to say (multiple times by numerous different "experts"), "Revenge would have been better suited for Bristol in two weeks." Really? I mean, really? Since when do we promote revenge and retaliation by use of a motor vehicle? The last I checked, that could fall under the category of attempted murder.

Even more disturbing than the immediate reaction was the thought that, had the #12 car not gotten air under it and flipped, nobody would be talking about the incident beyond the end of the race. Many were even joking that Edwards would be on the receiving end of endless high-5s in the garage area had the crash been less severe. The only question I could come up with in response to this was, "So?" So, if the man who robbed the bank had forgotten to load the gun, we wouldn't be talking about it anymore? Intended result or not, the action was wrong and the individual responsible for that action should be punished.

Even MORE disturbing than this was how NASCAR "came down" on the Edwards camp. A three-race probation? No penalty, no suspension, no fine, no loss of points, nothing. I would venture to guess that Edwards had no intention of driving as aggressively in the coming weeks anyway based on the simple fact that all eyes would be on him following his outrageous display of immaturity in Atlanta.

I don't care where Edwards planned his revenge. Yes, the timing of his retaliation put many race fans at risk, but his intent was the same. I don't care if the #12 car could have simply spun to the infield or flipped into the wall, the intent was the same. I don't care that Keselowski is a young, arrogant, rough driving, waste of talent, Edwards' intent was the same. There's no excuse for intentional rough driving and there is even less room for failing to penalize it.

The shared fault, I believe, does fall at the hands of both Keselwoski and Edwards. Simply put, both drivers should know better. As for Keselowski, he's a professional race car driver who should know better than to repeatedly take part in rough, aggressive driving that led to someone wanting to intentionally take him out; not to mention earning himself the nickname Crashalotski after such a short time on the national scene. As for Edwards, he's a veteran of the circuit and multi-time winner who had established himself as a "nice guy" in the sport, yet is a professional race car driver who should know better, especially for a new father.

The ultimate responsibility, however, falls with NASCAR. Tolerating such reckless behavior is as good as promoting it. If you don't take a firm stand, step out on that ledge and actually punish individuals for this type of behavior, it's evident that you welcome it. Unless you sideline Edwards for a few weeks AND put him on probation, you're just as despicable as the act that blackened the eye of the sport to begin with. For proof, check out the link to a feature story on NASCAR's home page called, "Executed well, retaliation creates moments for highlight reels." If that isn't proof enough, once you click on it you're taken to a story with the headline, "It's not a matter of right or wrong, but time and place." You think the powers-that-be ever considered, even for a moment, more than probation for Edwards? Absolutely not. That cash cow started mooing before the final checkered flag even waved on Sunday.

NASCAR's integrity and future lie with the direction it takes itself. It lies with NASCAR's willingness to do the right thing. It lies with the guts to ensure, as much as it can, the safety of its participants and fans. From what I've seen over the past few weeks, I have gathered just that... NASCAR lies.

But hey, Bristol is in two weeks, right? We're talking the excitement of hot tempers on a short track, right? Nothing like getting the ratings up with a huge driver controversy, right? Yep, let's all settle in for Bristol in a week-and-a-half and see, just see, who signed on to become the "Official Body Bag and Bail Bondsmen of NASCAR."

Now, where is that basketball game I was looking for on the radio?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pics of days gone by... Independence and more

Lisa Duffy, race fan and daughter of longtime Late Model driver Gary Crawford, was kind enough to take the time to scan and send some photos from the Crawford family racing archives. Below is a collection of 16 photos that she sent, which includes some on-track action, along with victory lane photos of some familiar faces through the years. While some are from Independence Motor Speedway and others are not, I don't have the locations where (or all of the years when) the pics were taken. I'm sure race fans who take the time to look over them may be able to figure out all of that. The information I do have is located below each photo. If you have any photos you'd like to share, let me know and I'll see what I can do to share them with our readers of Enjoy!
Al " Doc" Mayner goes for a wild ride entering turn three at Independence.

Left to Right: Unidentified race promoter?, Gary Crawford, Clayton Peterson, Dick Schiltz

Assortment... Can you name them?

Gary Crawford

Gary Crawford in victory lane in a familiar yellow #95 Sanger machine

Denny Osborn

Larry Wasserfort

Left to Right: Jerald Burco, Kenny Hoeppner, Kyle Petty, Gary Crawford, Gaylen Burco, Rick Crawford

Left to Right: Ed Sanger, Stan Stover, Larry Wasserfort, Doc Mayner, Red Dralle, Gary Crawford

Gary Crawford's first race car.

All of the remaining photos below are of Gary Crawford through the years. Thanks again, Lisa!