One of the greatest traditions in racing in the state of Ohio is neither NASCAR nor IndyCar related, but rather a collection of some of the best racers in the country descending on the Buckeye State for a weeklong marathon of racing 800-plus-hp 410 winged dirt Sprint Cars. It has taken place every summer for the last 30 years and it's called the UNOH All Stars Circuit of Champions Ohio Sprint Car Speedweek tradition. The week long bash made stops at eight different tracks in nine days. That's a lot of racing at a lot of tracks in a very short period of time.
It kicked off June 22 at Attica Raceway Park and ended at Fremont Speedway a little over a week later where the winner walked off with a hefty 10 grand. In between were stops at Waynesfield Raceway Park, Cannonball Speedway, Wayne County, Sharon, Fremont (first stop), Hilltop Speedway, and Limaland Motorsports Park, all paying $5,000 to win, including the opening night at Attica. For the racers it was late nights and long days. For the race fans it was like a vacation in their own back yard during the record-setting hot summer days of 2012.
Start ’em young we say here at Circle Track!
The Division as We Know It
The University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH) All Star Circuit is one of the premier Sprint Car sanctioning bodies in the U.S. Now in its 30th year of operation, the UNOH All Stars takes pride in its reputation of providing highly competitive, fair, exciting racing for Outlaw Sprint Cars with many different winners in a season. The "outlaw racer" designation goes back to the 1930s when any driver not belonging to a particular racing club was considered an "outlaw." Today, membership is not necessary to participate in All Star events or to receive prize money. However, a membership is available for those car owners and drivers who want to earn points, be eligible for the driver's point fund, receive travel money, special cash or products, and numerous other benefits.
About 400 drivers participate in the UNOH All Star races yearly in front of an average of 5,000 spectators per event. Races are typically scheduled in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Kansas. The schedule is flexible to include other states and Canada as well. The typical UNOH All Star race program consists of time trials, qualifying heat races, a Fast Dash and C, B, and A Main events, determined by the number of cars signed in for an event. Usually, a $25,700 purse is posted, paying $5,000 to win, but over the season, several $6,000-, $7,000-, and $10,000-to-win special events are held. Prize money adds up to $1.5 million in a season. More than $200,000 cash is paid out by point fund sponsors to those drivers and owners who finish highest in the point standings, with an additional $100,000 worth of contingency prizes provided by many supporting companies.
David Gravel (No. 89G) and Danny Smith (No. 4) glide through a corner at Waynesfield Ohio.
The UNOH All Star Sprint Car
Like most Sprint Cars, the All Star cars are alcohol-burning, fire-breathing, open-wheel race cars, weighing about 1,200 pounds with engines putting out 850 horsepower. They are the fastest accelerating closed-course race cars running today, due to their high power-to-weight ratio. The All Stars race on quarter- to half-mile oval dirt tracks, where 130-mph wheel-to-wheel and four-wheel-drift excitement keeps fans on the edge of their seats. The 25 square-foot aluminum "wing" above the rollcage improves aerodynamics and provides an additional safety factor, plus gives a high visibility surface for sponsor logos. A 1,375-pound minimum weight rule with the driver in the car has been implemented to help maintain the close competition.
Randy Hanigan (L) and Lance Dewease (R) also competed during the Ohio Speedweek races.
The Week of Weeks
The beauty of Speedweek, and why fans flock to it, is you just never know who might show up on any given night. It's guaranteed exciting finishes, great car counts, and with the emphasis put on heat races and qualifying, it's all-out on the gas, all the time. For the 2012 version of Speedweek, a one-lap qualifying effort was adopted. Qualifying was very important, as was your heat race. Getting to one of the five heat race transfer positions meant the difference between continuing on or putting it on the trailer for many racers.
Eighty-two different drivers competed over the eight events, as the event at Limaland was rained out. The drivers earn points during Speedweek for the national and Ohio region All Star title chases, however Speedweek points are kept separate so that they can crown a champion at the end of the week. Drivers Stevie Smith, Tim Shaffer, Dale Blaney, Bryan Sebetto, Greg Wilson, Paul McMahan, Cap Henry, and Danny Holtgraver made all eight features. This year that Champion was Stevie Smith, who also won the Ohio Sprint Speedweek title in 2009.
Speedweek 2012 brought the All Stars back to tracks like Wayne County and Sharon that were a part of the original Ohio Sprint Speedweek some 30 years ago. It also made a stop at Cannonball Speedway which had sat idle for nine years.
Hard work is common in any short track racing, but during Speedweek it is magnified nine t
Speedweek started with Cap Henry leading the first 36 laps at Attica, only to get caught up when a lapped car flipped in front of him. That paved the way for Danny Holtgraver to score his first career All Star win at Attica. Stevie Smith would take an exciting victory at Waynesfield Raceway Park on the second night. It was his 200th career Sprint Car victory. Henry rebounded for a Second Place finish, again, after leading the first 31 laps. Amazingly, on this night, qualifying positions 1-34 were separated by just 6/10-second: 10.363-10.584.
On Sunday at Cannonball, phenom Kyle Larson, having never raced on the track, would hold off Tim Shaffer for his first career All Star win. He would follow that up with a victory the next night at Wayne County Speedway, another track he had never even seen, let alone raced.
Tuesday would be a tire wear issue at Sharon Speedway, with only three cars not having a flat tire. Young local racer Brandon Matus would nurse his tires to take his first ever All Star win—the biggest victory of his career.
Marty Perovich traveled from Australia to compete in the week long ordeal. He was joined b
Wednesday, for the first of two stops at Fremont Speedway, four-time Ohio Sprint Speedweek champion Dale Blaney would hold off a last lap challenge from 2011 Speedweek champ Tim Shaffer to score the victory. Thursday at Hilltop Speedway, Shane Stewart would take a new team, owned by Fremont Speedway promoter Rich Farmer, to victory. Friday, severe storms would force the cancellation of Limaland.
At Fremont for the $10,000-to-win finale, Dale Blaney would pass Bryan Sebetto with just eight laps to go and held off Shaffer again for the win. It was Blaney's sixth All Star win of 2012 and 90th series win of his career, moving him just eight away from tying Kenny Jacobs for the All Stars' all-time victory lead. In the end, the car count for the 30th Annual Ohio Sprint Speedweek averaged right around 40 cars per event with 45 being the high and 30 being the low.
Dean Jacobs (No. 97) and Mike Linder (No. 3) race for position at Waynesfield Ohio.
Craig Mintz (No. 09) and Travis Philo (No. 5T) on the gas coming off Turn 4.
Stevie Smith got career win number 200 during the UNOH Ohio Speedweek.
Former Learnerville (PA) Speedway Champion Danny Holtgraver got his first ever UNOH All St
What the Racers Said
"We just had a really good week," stated Stevie Smith. "We were really consistent, we won one race, but were in the top five the rest of the week. We wish we could have won more, but it's always nice to win Ohio Speedweek. Most of the credit goes to the crew and car owner. I just had a really consistent car to drive. This was our second speedweeks Championship. I am just proud to say I won speedweeks; it's a tough deal. The competition level is great. You will have all the All Stars, along with a lot of cars coming in from Pennsylvania, and Tony Stewart ran a couple, as did Kasey Kahne.
"The week draws a lot of very good cars and drivers. The rainout kind of gave us a little break, but if it would not have rained we could have stuck it out and raced for sure. There are quite a few races in a row with some distance in between. There is definitely some variety of tracks in that state, we were all over it. The tracks are big, small, smooth, and rough. They just had a really good following this year, and every year," finished the 2012 Ohio Speedweek Champion. Broken Arrow, Oklahoma's Smith would finish Fifth in the final race at Fremont and earn his second Ohio Sprint Speedweek championship, having won the title in 2009 as well.
Ohio driver Dale Blaney really enjoys the speedweeks events. "This was a great week for me," stated Blaney. "I enjoy racing at every track in Ohio. I do well at all of them. For me, as a racer, I race to make money, and this is a great week for me to make money. To win the points is great; there is a lot of history involved with this deal. The longer the week goes along, the stronger we get. We did not have too many problems during the week and it is always good to win the one that pays the most. I love doing well at Fremont, as there is a lot of history involved there. I did not win the points this year, but I won the most money," finished Blaney.
Travis Philo (No. 5) and Tim Shaffer (No. 83) are hard on the gas and in close quarters at
The Hartford, Ohio, native chased down race-long leader Bryan Sebetto and passed him with eight laps to go in the 50-lap Ohio Speedweek final. He went on to claim the checkered flag, pocketing the $10,000 as well.
Blaney swept the four UNOH All Star shows at Fremont in 2012 and leads the series' all-time win list at "The Track That Action Built" with 11 wins. It was also Blaney's 16th career win at Fremont. The popular Ohio fan favorite would Finish third in the Ohio Sprint Speedweek points and continued to hold down the lead in the Ohio Region points of the UNOH All Stars, while holding second in the series' national points.
Close action in front of packed stands made for another great week in Ohio Sprint Car raci
"This is a very tough, unique week," stated Championship driver Tim Shaffer. "It is so hard to be consistent each night; you really have to be on your game. That's what makes it so special. The Ohio week always seems to be so tough. It's hot out, you're traveling, and it's night after night. The Pennsylvania speedweeks are very similar, but the Ohio speedweek seems to be really tough. Not just the outside drivers, Speedweek is tough on the Ohio racers as well. My guys did a great job this year. We were prepared each night," finished Shaffer. Defending Ohio Speedweek champion and three-time UNOH All Star Champion Shaffer raced from his 11th starting spot to edge Sebetto in the Fremont final for second place. Shaffer, who leads the national UNOH All Star points, would come home Second in the speedweek points.
With the UNOH Ohio Speedweek over, the racers continue on to their next stop, another track in another town. Water trucks will once again spray down the clay as hauler tailgates open. The sweet smell of methanol will fill the pit areas as smoke from the concessions' grills rise above the grandstands. 365 days will pass then the drivers, teams and crowds will once again descend on Ohio for th 31st running of the UNOH All Stars Circuit of Champions Ohio Sprint Car Speedweek.
The Ohio traveler legendary Rick Ferkel with Lee Jacobs behind the wheel.
Tony Stewart made a couple stops during the UNOH Ohio All Stars Speedweek in between NASCA
Stevie Smith would win his second career Ohio Sprint Car Speedweek Championship in 2012.