We have been in Wisconsin for more than a month now and have seen lots of great racing and racetracks. Our next three races mark the end of our stay in this region and we will be heading west to Montana soon.
When racers go to sign-in at the pit entrance at I-35 Speedway in Mason City, Iowa, this i
For this leg, we’ll be visiting I-35 Speedway in Mason City, Iowa, first, then the following week travel up to Kaukauna, Wisconsin, to Wisconsin International Speedway for a Thursday night show, then on up to the UP, or Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Norway Speedway for a special Friday event to support cancer awareness.
Each one of these tracks has something unique about them and we’ll tell you all about those features that stand out. All three are somewhat, if not totally, club tracks that exist because the racers banded together to make it happen, or continue making it happen. Otherwise, the racing would have ended long ago.
We arrived at I-35 on Sunday afternoon after a trip from Viking Speedway that is located far away in Minnessota above Minneapolis. It will be the third track in three days we will have visited in a journey that took us from Superior, Wisconsin, all the way down here to 25 miles south of the Wisconsin border into Iowa, some 350 miles traveling between the three.
The dirt at I-35 was very black. I don’t think I’ve see dirt this black at a dirt track be
This is a dirt track and it is surrounded on three sides by a huge corn field, not that that is so uncommon around here. It is bordered on the south by the North Iowa Fair Ground of which it is a part. The dirt for this track is black and I just have to wonder why? I don’t think I have ever seen dirt this black.
It had rained the day before we showed up and there was plenty of moisture in the dirt, so we never saw the water truck come out. By the time several heats had been run, the track had come in nicely and the racing got really good.
The track had some good banking, but the drivers took to the bottom most of the time. And the straights were very long at this track. The length is upwards of a half-mile and looks it. With the outside walls in the turns made up of concrete highway barriers, you don’t want to run too wide here, least you end up in the wall. Fortunately, with the track being so wide, there was little chance of that.
The classes run here are the Modifieds, Stock Cars, Sport Mods, Hobby Stock, Hornets, and Junior Hornets. There were a good many entries in all of the classes and the competition was close.
The “fence” around the pits at I-35 Speedway is corn. Is this the new field of dreams? It
One of the coolest things I saw here, aside from the racing, was a sign on the pit entrance hut that said, “No Cry Babies Allowed.” I thought that was great. How many times have you wanted to say that. It sets the tone for the whole evening.
After a fun night of great racing, we got up the next morning to travel to our base camp in central Wisconsin to rest up for our next two, and final, races before moving to Montana.
Wisconsin International Raceway
This track used to be known as Kaukauna, at least that is how I remember it when I first visited back in 1999. I remember it was my first race at a relatively flat track having been “raised” back east on the higher banked tracks in and around Virginia and North Carolina.
WIR was not on our original schedule if you remember, but I got a call from Dave Schneider who along with Mike Randerson, convinced me to include this track in our Tour. You can’t miss WIR, they told me. I looked at our plans for traveling up to Norway and decided that because WIR ran on Thursday nights, it wouldn’t be too much trouble to stop there on the way north.
The track is operated under the sanction of the Fox River Racing Club and run by Roger Vandaalwyk. It is a well run facility and well kept. There is a dedicated spotter area off Turn 4 where every part of the track can be seen easily.
The four-cylinder cars really do put on quite a show most times. Yeah, it’s not the faster
The tech areas at Wisconsin International Raceway was first class. The whole facility as c
The Sport Trucks were fun for the younger drivers. These small engine trucks ran the small
Here we can see the inner, quarter-mile track at WIR with the figure-8 configuration in th
The Super Stock cars were similar to what is called a Sportsman class of car. Modification
This spotters area is just outside of, and along the wall in Turn 4 at WIR and affords the
When I was here before, I tried to run a bigger right rear spring on the car I was consulting for and we could never get off of Turn 2 without spinning the rear tires. I reluctantly went to a 15-pound lower RR spring and raised the Panhard bar way up to compensate and we did fairly well finishing Third when this team couldn't get in the top ten here prior to this race. Of course, since then setups have evolved.
And so I learned that you sometimes have to adapt, in a calculated way, to the track conditions wherever you are. And the layout of this track is so different than what we usually see in a circle track. There is a sort of tri-oval design here and the track itself is extremely wide.
With the track being long and wide, it is therefore super fast. So much so that the lower stock classes run on a shorter and separate inner track that also contains a figure-8 track. I could see where the stockers would gain way too much speed for the way they are built to withstand an impact with the walls here.
The classes run here include the Late Models, Limited Late Models, Super Stock, Sport Truck, Sizzling 4's, and the always-fun, Figure 8. The Super Stocks were modified stockers and had bodies and chassis that were more like the purpose built Late Models.
All of the racing was great and the competition on the shorter track was fierce. When it came time for the big track races, with the wide layout, it got wild. With all of that room to run, the racing went three-wide plenty of times going into Turn 1. But as the cars got to Turn 2, they must funnel down to at most two-wide. Even then, the outside car gets squeezed into the wall at some point.
We had great seats and were invited to sit in the VIP, air conditioned suite. This was amazing. It was nicer than the suite our company had at Daytona a few years ago! There were attendants who delivered food and beverages all night long. This was a pay-to-attend suite that I thought was reasonably priced. It sure was nice and afforded a complete view of the entire track.
After the event was over, we spent the night at the track as usual and the next morning we headed up Highway 41 to Menominee to visit and have lunch with Gene Coleman, owner of Coleman Racing and his driver (and ours), Dalton Zehr.
Dalton spends part of the year in this area of the country during the summers to run Gene's Late Model at local tracks and we support what Dalton does. He and his dad, Marty, have helped us in so many ways with our various projects over the past few years.
The Race For A Cure to benefit the cancer research program at Dickinson County Memorial Hospital was a special race that we were urged to attend on our 2012 Tour and we squeezed it in. I had been here before a couple of times and I really like the way the racers are a part of the operation and support this track so much.
This is way north, just 50 miles by air to Lake Superior and our border with Canada. There is only one track more north than this and it is Sands Speedway in Marquette, Michigan, right on the shore of the big lake.
And so I learned that you sometimes have to adapt, in a calculated way, to the track conditions wherever you are
Norway is not what I would call an attractive track like we saw at Elko for instance. It is, as usual, located in an older fairgrounds facility and is showing its age. That being said, there is no lack of enthusiasm for the racing here. In both the grandstands and in the pits, the excitement level was high.
This is an ASA–sanctioned track and as such, is tech'ed by Mike "Lumpy" Lemke, as is State Line Speedway. Lumpy is a trusted advisor to the ASA organization and Dennis Huth. When we want clarification on some rule, or advice on what to push for with rules changes (and Lord knows some of these rules need tweaking), we call Lumpy. Not that we always agree with his opinion, but if he can see the light, many in this part of the country follow his lead.
Norway is a very flat and short track. To race well here, you've got to know how to drive. I am an acute observer of driving styles and techniques and I saw many of the racers who drove here continually pinch the corners into turns one and three.
This hand-painted sign at Norway Speedway set the tone for what this club track is. And th
Norway is a part of the local fairgrounds. I particularly like the covered grandstands. Sh
I saw a lot of socialization at Norway and isn’t that what it is all about? It seems like
We continue to see a growing number of female racers getting into the sport. Some tracks h
This a novel way to outfit a school bus that I don’t think I have ever seen before. The ca
I took this photo not realizing at the time that this was an advertisement for the Sands S
It seems difficult to explain to a driver and have them understand that it's not how fast you get into a corner that counts, it is how fast you run the middle and that carries speed for coming off the corner. There is a gain when you pinch the corner entry, but the loss in the middle and off is two or three times that gain. If I could change anything with a driver's style, it would be to move up coming into a corner, lift early, brake late, and then accelerate sooner.
Throttle modulation is the key to running fast laps. It is never good to lift or push quickly on the throttle. All great drivers developed skills related to throttle modulation. Many of them hardly noticed when they did that. It just comes naturally to some, and with practice for others.
This was a track where it is more noticeable. You can easily see how the separation distance between cars changes with the errors, or preferred line. A driver blasts into the corner, gains a bit, then loses ground the rest of the way to the next entry. It's sometimes tough to watch for me, especially when it happens over and over with the same driver.
The races were great and in the feature Late Model race, the winner was a girl. Amanda Ferguson held off some hard charging cars to take the checkered flag for the very first super Late Model win of her career. We see more and more girls getting into circle track racing yet very few moving up to the top divisions. It's nice to see the progression and success with someone like Amanda.
Our night ended this portion of our Midwest Tour in and around Wisconsin. Next week we will be heading out to Kalispell, Montana, for the Get Rich 2012 race and then down to Colorado. It will be good to get into a higher elevation. The heat in Wisconsin has been hard to deal with sometimes. One racetrack cancelled its program on the weekend we went to Madison. Our race went on as scheduled in 100-plus-degree heat.
Once we hit the mile high mark in elevation, it will be all better. With Kalispell being right next to the Glacier National Park, I'm sure the winds coming down off those ice capped mountains will be cool indeed. Our next installment will include that track as well as Colorado National Speedway just north of Denver. Each has an interesting story to tell.