The final World of Outlaws...
The final World of Outlaws salute to the fans at Manzanita Speedway. The stands were packed for the last race the Outlaws would be having at the famed Speedway. The fans were all jazzed and on their feet in appreciation for the coming show.
Chad Kemenah standing on the...
Chad Kemenah standing on the gas through the corner. The guy is hooked up and moving. This is the kind of on the gas racing that typified Manzanita Speedway.
Chad Kemenah in the 8 car...
Chad Kemenah in the 8 car followed by Danny "The Dude" Lasoski at the flag stand. Notice the deformation of the left rear tire on Danny's car. The track was fast and the cars were hooked up for the final show. Manzanita was going out in true style.
Ronnie Shuman, former World...
Ronnie Shuman, former World of Outlaw road warrior, and Manzanita alumni. Ronnie had proven his mettle over and over again at the Manzy.
Sammy Swindel taking the time...
Sammy Swindel taking the time to autograph a vintage t-shirt for a fan. Sammy was as focused and dedicated to charging for the win as ever. He looked as sharp and as aggressive on the track as he ever has.
Jac Haudenschild, spending...
Jac Haudenschild, spending some time catching up with legendary midget owner Larry Howard. There was a good bit of storytelling and general reminiscing in the pits. All of the famous and not so famous "Rail Birds" had made the trip to Manzy for the last big show.
The last World of Outlaw Sprint Car race, ever! Have I got your attention? Well it got the attention of every Sprint Car fan in Phoenix, Arizona. The stands were packed and field was full. What was the reason for the last WoO Sprint Car race? Manzanita Speedway, the storied half mile in the desert was sold, the Grand Dame of Southwest dirt tracks had been sold for, depending on who you believe, 10 to 18 million dollars! Even at 10 million dollars it is not difficult to understand the motivation of the owners. Not that I am trying to mitigate the activity, but it is a large sum of money. The last time the WoO raced at Manzy was be March 28th 2009.
There are some things in this world that are sacrosanct, things that just should never be allowed to happen. Things like having warm chocolate chip cookies with a soda instead of a cold glass of milk; running the Indy 500 in a clockwise direction just for the sake of change; or making the Daytona 500 the Daytona 50, just because it would be a shorter day and the fans could go home earlier. There are just some things that don't need to be changed. But often, we are forced to accept change even if we do like the change. The new owners will be tearing down the stands and all the support buildings, taking down the fence, leveling the track, all so they can park cranes on the some of the fastest clay in the United States. Hey it's their track now and they can do what they feel is best for their business. It might have been more acceptable to the racing fan if Manzanita was going to be turned into a world class Cancer Treatment center. But not a parking lot?Sad, yes, it is tragic. As the cornerstone of dirt track racing in the greater South West United States Manzanita, is gone, a victim of skyrocketing industrial land prices and falling racing attendance. The South East Corner of 35th Avenue and Broadway was Mecca to many of racings faithful pilgrims. Many of the hero's of racing, past and present, have gotten their start or at least cut their teeth at Manzanita. But the current owner is well aware of the history that Manzanita has to the racing community. They could have just shut the place down, but instead there is a short reprieve, to allow the fans to get their last chance to see some dirt racing prior to starting the tear down and remediation process. There was some of the local racing going on with some special events taking place at the speedway until the gates closed for good on April 11, 2009. On March 28th the World of Outlaw Sprint Cars made their last appearance at Manzy. In what has been a long storied history with traveling Sprint Car legends the last Saturday night of March of 2009 will be the last time the Outlaws will run the storied half mile of clay. So what did the Outlaws think of losing Manzanita Speedway? What was their feeling about the loss of the track? How was this loss impacting them? Just how were they feeling about the loss? Some of the drivers were visibly saddened when questioned about the loss of the track others were less moved but still sad about the loss of a real racing hallmark.
What can you say about Steve Kinser? He is the acknowledged King of the Outlaws. He has more championships than any other driver past or present. When you look up Sprint Car driver in the dictionary, you will see Steve Kinser's picture first in the line.
CT: Steve, what are your emotions about losing Manzanita Speedway?
Steve Kinser: I really hate to see this loss. Not just for me but for all of the racing community. I have been coming here for many years. I remember coming here with my Dad. I have memories here with my son too. I have a lot of fond memories about this place. This track has launched the careers of many of the greatest drivers of the past 50 years. I really hate for all of this history to be turned into a parking lot. It's just sad very sad.
Billy Boat cut his racing teeth at Manzanita Speedway Racing with the local Sprint Car association. This track was the launching point of a very successful racing career which has taken Billy all the way to the Pole position of the Indy 500, and a very profitable career in Indy Cars. Billy now owns and runs a very successful exhaust system fabrication company. Building specialized exhaust systems for high end automobiles and racecars.
CT: Billy, what are your emotions about losing Manzanita Speedway?
Billy Boat: This track was the cornerstone to my racing career. Racing here was the launching point of a very good career in auto racing. The largest enabler that provided the visibility for was in 1997, driving for John Lawson, we started 15th in a Main event here at Manzanita and went on to win and then the following day we went to the Copper World Classic at Phoenix International Raceway and won the Midget event. It was huge. Another big memory for me was when Ronnie Schuman won the Western World Championship in my dad's Sprint Car. That was and continues to be a special memory to both me and to my whole family. This place will be missed.
Jonny Herrera waiting for...
Jonny Herrera waiting for his turn at hot laps. It was like a class reunion, everybody wanted an opportunity to grab the last brass ring at Manzy.
Local Phoenix hot shoe and...
Local Phoenix hot shoe and Manzanita Speedway Regular Bob Ream Jr. Bob was not happy about the closure but he was very thankful that the owners still gave the racers and the fans five more weeks of racing after the announced closure of the track.
Engine builder Ron Shaver...
Engine builder Ron Shaver had been coming to Manzy since he was a little guy of seven years old with his dad. Manzy held some very special memories for him.
The King of the Outlaws. Steve...
The King of the Outlaws. Steve Kinser has been the icon for Sprint Car fans for the over the past 30 years. He pulled off a second place finish at the last Manzy race.
Donny Schatz getting ready...
Donny Schatz getting ready to be pushed off for qualifying. A series of two laps that netted the three time WoO champion the pole position.
Chad completes the obligatory...
Chad completes the obligatory victory circle interview. Chad may not have realized the historic position he just earned by winning the last WoO race ever at Manzanita Speedway.
Steve Kinser being interviewed...
Steve Kinser being interviewed after finishing second. He got everything the car had trying to win the race. Notice the right rear tire in the background is worn down to the chords. Another lap or two and the second spot might have gone to Danny Lasoski.
Ron Shaver, Owner of Shaver Specialties, builds some of the most powerful Sprint Car engines in the country and has been a fixture in Spring Car racing. He built the engine of the pole sitter for this event, Donny Schatz.
CT: Ron you have been coming here as a fan and an engine builder for many years. You have to be having some emotions about the sale and subsequent closure.
Ron Shaver: I have been coming here since I was seven years old with my Dad. There are just a ton of memories for me. The track has changed over the years. The guys used to run the top of the track, at least the fast guys. The track is much wider now and the top is not used as much. Things change. In the past the "Man" here was Leland McSpadden. Manzanita is the last of the "Big Houses" a big track and the speeds here are high. There is not a lot of banking so you have to really drive the car and from an engine guy's perspective you have to have the power. I'm really sad to see this place go.
Jonny Herrera has raced and won all over the country. He spent a good number of years racing with the Outlaws and has proven he is a genuine stand on the gas kind of guy.
CT: Jonny, what are your feelings about the loss of Manzanita Speedway?
Jonny Herrera: You know there have been just a ton of the really great guys come through this place, all of the Unser's, Boat, the Shuman brothers, Leland McSpadden, Gene Brown. It is sad to see this part of history just vanish and be turned into to a parking lot. It is almost sacrilegious. I have some really great memories of some really great runs and great finishes here. This place is special and it is too bad that we will see the end of era today.
Bob Ream Jr.
Bob Ream Jr is a local fixture at Manzanita. He is a past champion here with the local 360 non wing sprint association. He has run thousands of laps on the 3/8th and the mile tracks here at Manzanita. He has a very vested interest in the track and the history.
CT: Bob how do you view the closing of the track?
Bob Ream Jr. This place is very special to me. Many very good memories and many nights of great racing, both as a driver and a fan. I am very thankful that we are still racing; the owner and the new owners could have just locked the gate and told everybody to just go home and find someplace else to race. We were given five weeks to get some last shows in and I am very thankful for that opportunity to get some last laps of racing in prior to the closing. Manzanita always tried to get the biggest names in racing here to race and it was nothing but good for guys like me to race with the best in the land. It just let you know where you stood as a driver. I keep hoping the deal will fall through and we can keep racing. It has happened before and it could happen again. I think that it's a great thing the Outlaws have one more chance run the big track here at Manzanita. Good for the fans good for the Outlaws.
Jac Haudenschild "The Wild Child"
Jac Haudenschild has been a traveling Sprint Car driver for probably longer that he would like to remember. He is always fast and a real threat to win at any track he races. Always smiling and making the best out of any situation is a characteristic that makes it fun to be around him. Jac is truly a stand on the gas kind of guy.
CT: Jac what do you think about Manzanita closing?
Jac Haudenschild: It is a real pity, but for the kind of money we were told was changing hands I understand the decision. I don't like it, but it is not my track. I have some great memories of racing here. Winning the Turkey Night midget race, when they moved it from Ascot when that track was going through its own closing. I think they called Thanksgiving on Dirt. I won the dash, my heat and the feature. It was a dream night for a racer. It is a real pity, there is just so much history here it will be a sad day when the gates close for good.
Ronnie Shuman "The Flying Shoe"Ronnie Shuman and his brother Billy were terrors at Manzanita. Ronnie won just about every big race that was to be won here at Manzanita. Then after he won it all here he went on the road and won some more. He toured with the World of Outlaws and won more than his fair share of races. Ronnie has stepped out of the driver's seat with exception of a few special races and has taken a turn at promoting races and is the current race director for the ASCS (American Sprint Car Series).
CT: Ronnie, you have a ton of history here just how are you feeling about the sale and closure?
Ronnie Shuman: It is very sad. There is just tons of history here and it is a shame that it is all going to end with the sale of the land. I had a great run here as did my brother and my son is racing here as well and he has done very well. I am thankful that we are still racing here until the final on April 11th but it is still a very sad. A chapter of racing's history is just going to go away. I have won some very special races here. I wish this was not happening.
The right rear tire from Chad...
The right rear tire from Chad Kemenah's car is in just a bit better condition than that of Steve Kinsers. It was still used up.
A historic win and a historic...
A historic win and a historic view. The Speedway was sold out and every fan in the seats got a world class show.
A segment off of a photo montage...
A segment off of a photo montage that was displayed as you walked in to the track. A glimpse of past Western World winners. Steve Kinser in his younger days. Notice the absence of sponsors names all over the driver suit. Just Bell and Valvoline were on the suit, a far cry of the suits that drivers wear today. Just another example of how things have changed.
CT: I have a very special racing memory here, back in the late 80"s at the Western World Championships the weather was not cooperating and the mile was flooded and the inner track at the time was a mile not the 3/8 it is today. They decided to race on the mile, you and Steve Kinser put on a driving clinic. I do not think a lap went by where there were not at least three lead changes, sometimes several in one corner. If I remember you and Steve were the only cars on the lead lap at the end. In my mind that was one of the best non-wing Sprint car races I had or have ever seen. Do you remember that race?
Ronnie Shuman: Yeah, I finished second, again. That was a great show. It was one of those days where everything was perfect. The car was perfect for the track and I was dialed. Unfortunately so was Steve. That was a great race; we were pulling wheelies, giving each other slide jobs, everything was perfect. A true Manzy moment.
Danny Lasoski "The Dude"
Danny Lasoski is a survivor; he has survived the ups and downs of the sport. He is a cancer survivor and a real racer. He keeps on keeping on and is still as competitive as ever. He is campaigning on the WoO series and he is as competitive as ever.
CT: Danny, what do you think about Manzanita closing?
Danny Lasoski: I love this place. I love racing here. This is the last of the big houses. I hate to see this happen. It is just so sad. I won the 1992 Western World Championships here and that was a special win for me. Any win here at Manzanita is a win you earn there are no easy wins here. People come here to win not participate. This is a special part of Sprint Car history. A lot of very talented racers have gone through the gates here and I hate to see the gates closing for good. I wish it would not happen.
Sammy SwindelOne half of the pair that seemed to personify the WoO in the early years of the series. It was the Sammy and Steve show. That was how it was billed. The battles were classic. Two men highly motivated to win. Sammy was always cast at the intellectual racer; meticulous about preparation and the appearance of the car. Each time the car rolled out of the trailer it was spotless. The preparation paid off he won on a very regular basis. There is now doubt about Sammy's ability to drive and work on the car.
CT: Sammy, what are you feelings about Manzanita closing?
Sammy Swindel: It is very sad. I hate to see it happen. It will be missed. I have no real emotional ties to this track but it will be very sad to see the track close. I liked racing here.
Chad Kemenah a relative newcomer on the Outlaw tour, but he has some very impressive wins in his short time on the series. He qualified 8th for the last race at Manzanita.CT: Chad, what are you feelings about Manzanita closing?
Chad Kemenah: I have only raced here 4 times but I really like the track it is fast and suits my particular style. I really like racing here. I remember coming here as a fan and the shows were always great. It is sad to see this track close; it is a real loss not to just the racers and the fans but to the local community as well.
The final race was a barn burner. Chad Kemenah led every lap and was only threatened for the win a couple times. The real show was for second place it was classic Steve and Sammy trading paint. There were several restarts but Chad held of the charging pair. Sammy would succumb to a blown right rear to take him out of the race. This is not to say that the race was handed to Chad, Steve put on some real valiant moves to try and get by Chad but it just was not going to happen. Chad was hooked up and just plain faster. It was his night to shine. It was a fitting last WoO race at Manzanita speedway.
In a cruel twist of irony the day after Chad's big win at Manzy his team owner, Jon Kantor announced he was closing the team and placed all of the assets for sale.Manzanita has been the bulwark of dirt racing in the Southwest; the place has always been about speed. The closing will cause some ripples within the racing community. The community at large will also suffer. There are a good number of jobs tied to the support of a racetrack and they are not all linked to racing. It will be a huge loss to the Phoenix area and the surrounding states. It truly is a sad day in Mudville.
There may still be hope for Manzanita Speedway; there is a group of concerned investors, racers, local business people, who are trying to save the Speedway. They are trying to develop a land swap and financing package that will allow the track to survive at the current location. If that is not possible there is plan B being developed. The plan is to secure some land and move the track. Take the clay, the stands and the announcer's tower along with the name and move the track to another location. There have been talks with some of the nearby Indian Reservations about securing long term leases on land. There may be a ray of sunshine yet to break through the dark clouds, a silver lining if your will.