One race can truly make or break a season if it is scheduled after Labor Day. The prestigious events in terms of stature and payday will generally come in September and beyond. Drivers who have had mediocre seasons can rebound nicely with just one good showing. It can breathe new life into a staggering program. It can also create massive disappointment because it's 365 days until you get another chance like this.
In September, three big racing events occur on dirt tracks that get plenty of national attention. These three races are different in some ways but similar in others. The tracks are located in different states with their own unique characteristics. A couple of the events involve just one division of car in competition. Points are not the most important consideration for this race. The cash is nice, but the prestige is even better.
Regretfully, two of the events are held at the same time, forcing the American racing fan to make a choice. Judging from the crowds, though, the choice wasn't to stay home. In fact, these events went up against the venerable "NASCAR Saturday night" and no one cared.
Heat race action determines...
Heat race action determines the starting lineup for the World 100. Each of the six preliminaries generally offers a star-studded field. Since only three can advance, some good drivers have to make it through the B feature. This year was no exception.
Dateline: Rossburg, OH
33rd Annual World 100
UMP Late Models
History has shown that a driver with a hot hand coming into the Eldora race has to be considered a favorite. Wisconsin racer Dan Schlieper, winner of a $50,000 payday at the North-South 100 at Florence (Kentucky) Speedway two weeks before, was among the favorites. Darrell Lanigan, winner of Eldora's prestigious Dream in June, had broken through, and all eyes were on him. Former winners were abundant, but so were the hopefuls. A near-record 222 cars were entered-one of the highest totals since the rules allowed one car per driver, cramming the Eldora pits and overflow area.
The unique format of the World 100 makes it tough for drivers with little track time. A three-lap practice session is all the time you can get at speed-not much if you're looking for a winning combination. Drivers drew for their qualifying order. They drew one pill for round one and another for round two. The worst luck is a late pill in round one and an early pill for round two. It means no time for changes between sessions. It happens. It did this year.
A popular souvenir at the...
A popular souvenir at the '03 World 100 was the Earl Baltes bobble head, seen here with its namesake.
Even worse is having bad luck on track during qualifying. A number of cars impacted the wall in their search for first-round speed. They essentially threw away 50 percent of their hopes in an instant.
For 102 drivers, there would be no tomorrow. Only the fastest 120 get to attempt the six qualifying heats. Most of the rest get to run nonqualifying races on Friday night into the wee hours of the morning. You can take heart that you get track time, but there's little joy in knowing that even a win won't guarantee a shot. You may make it as an alternate, but your odds are small.
How important is qualifying? Elvin Herschberger was 121st fastest. His time was .001 second slower than John Provenzano. It meant Provenzano raced on Saturday. Herschberger ended up winning a nonqualifier's race. At least he can say he won a feature at Eldora.
The field salutes the fans...
The field salutes the fans in the traditional four-abreast pace lap. The fans came in droves as veteran observers felt the crowd was up this year. It's a big part of why so many drivers want to be there.
You never know what you'll...
You never know what you'll see at Eldora. The preliminaries this year included a wedding on the victory stage.
Indiana racer John Gill is...
Indiana racer John Gill is a fan favorite. Like most drivers, Gill will take the time to meet his fans and appreciates their support.
Shane McDowell gives signals...
Shane McDowell gives signals to brother Dale coming off Turn 2.
(instead of staying home to watch a NASCAR race on TV)
1 - Caution laps don't count. You get racing every lap.
2 - Drivers can be approached. They'll even take the time to chat with you.
3 - There is respect for tradition with this race.
4 - Races are won with the preparation and on-track ability, not because the computer calculated the fuel mileage correctly.
5 - Earl Baltes
The UMP rules make it clear. Rule No. 15 says no radios are allowed in the race car or on anyone connected with the race car. The spotters have a different job to do here. Their only means of communication is visual, and teams will place crewmembers at different spots on the track to communicate to the driver. The message is usually the gap between the driver and a car in front or behind. The driver doesn't know who is behind or how far because rule No. 15 also doesn't allow mirrors.
Jerry Bowersock works in the...
Jerry Bowersock works in the engine compartment of his Eldora entry.
Making the top 120 drivers has been considered as difficult as making the 24-car starting field for the 100-lap main event. Though it is difficult to weather the Friday night storm, drivers often find themselves in a position to face more work on Saturday.
Case in point is local racer Jerry Bowersock. After his qualifying run put him into the sixth heat, Bowersock discovered the engine wasn't keeping oil pressure. The only recourse was a Saturday engine change. At first, the new engine wouldn't fit correctly. Then, after some grinding allowed the powerplant to settle into its cradle, the process of hooking it up began. A test fire indicated it was good to go by late afternoon.
When the sixth heat race was called to the grid, Bowersock's car did not answer the call, and an alternate received a free pass. The new engine suffered fuel pressure problems, denying the Miracle Motorsports team the chance to realize the fruit of their labor.
Ted Loomis fixes the damage...
Ted Loomis fixes the damage created by a brush with the Eldora wall. Despite the damage, Loomis qualified in the top third of the class.
More than a dozen drivers had first-round qualifying tries snatched away by the Eldora concrete. Some of the fortunate few were able to rebound and put together a good second-round time, but they had to do it with slightly damaged cars.
Ted Loomis spent his Saturday putting the car back into respect- able form after the right side was heavily damaged. Loomis made the field qualifying 66th with just one lap.
It wasn't the way he had hoped to spend his Saturday afternoon, but it exemplified the effort of the American short-track racer. Loomis did much of the repair work himself, with an occasional helping hand. On the hot Saturday afternoon, he redrilled, reformed, and replaced sheetmetal on his No. 23. His effort allowed him the chance to run the heat race, but his starting position deep in the field denied him a chance to contest for starting spot. A second lap may have yielded a better starting position, but the never-say-die attitude kept this racer in the field for a chance at glory. It also gave him valuable track time for a future assault at Eldora.
Dan Schlieper adds the World...
Dan Schlieper adds the World 100 title to his resume.
It wasn't long ago that Dan Schlieper's future in a race car of any kind was in jeopardy. A four-wheeler accident left him with head and neck injuries. With time and therapy, he returned to racing-and it has been a good ride.
Schlieper went to a Rayburn chassis in August 2003, going back to a brand he had experienced before. The change helped. The engines are provided by Pro Power, a company operated by Bill and John Schlieper. It's all in the family.
Schlieper's World 100 domination started with a solid qualifying run, which earned him a spot in the pivotal sixth heat. After fast qualifier Scott Bloomquist drew the inversion of three cars, Schlieper was shuffled to a starting spot inside row two for the heat.
At the drop of the green, he was gone, taking the lead from polesitter Tim Hitt before the field passed the flagstand for the first lap. Schlieper stayed in front and earned the pole starting position for the World 100. When that race went green, he sent a message to everyone. The car was strong and Schlieper worked to keep the field at bay. He led every lap in getting his first win. His previous best was Fifth in last year's event.
Kevin Salter is joined by...
Kevin Salter is joined by son Seth and car owner Dorothy Hopper in Victory Lane, with trophies and a $10,000 check collected for winning the 8th Annual Schoenfeld Headers Street Stock Championship.
Dateline: Batesville, AR
8th Annual Schoenfeld Headers Mid-America Championships
Racers deserve respect, and it should come regardless of the type of car they drive.
Street Stock racers across the country are beginning to get respect. Many weekly race tracks realize that Street Stocks are an important part of the racing environment. They may not pull in the headlines like Late Models or Modifieds, but they are quite capable of putting together wheel-to-wheel racing action that you won't soon forget.
Batesville Speedway has put together an annual race for the Street Stockers that continues to grow. With the help of Schoenfeld Headers, the purse and prestige draw racers from a 10-state area. For the '03 event, more than 120 teams came out for a shot at the $10,000 on top. At many tracks, the drivers would have to win 20 features to get that kind of money.
The Cars The rules required the cars to weigh 3,300 pounds after the race with the driver. The minimum wheelbase was 101 inches, and the car had to remain stock with the engines in stock position. Bars could be added to protect the radiator and gas tank, but no exterior bars were permitted. The cars used two-barrel carburetors, and headers were allowed. No aftermarket transmissions were permitted. The rules also called for a $500 motor exchange with any car on the lead lap eligible to make a claim.
Spectators line up by the...
Spectators line up by the track to catch the action of the exciting heat races that were used to determine the feature lineup.
For suspension, racing shocks were OK, but all shocks had to be mounted in the stock location. Double shocks, weight jacks, and torque-absorbing devices were not allowed.
The cars ran on gasoline. Racing seatbelts were required, and no mirrors were permitted.
Six heat races were held on Friday night to pare down the field. The top three drivers from each heat transferred directly to the A, with three B feature races sending two more racers on to the big show. An average of 32 cars started each B feature-a healthy field for just two positions. Track provisionals were awarded to a pair of cars to fill out the 26-car starting grid.
Heat-one winner Tommy Porter started on the pole for the 50-lap feature but could hold the lead only briefly. Fourth-starting Kevin Salter, a Modified regular at Batesville, grabbed the lead on lap 2. Peyton Taylor took the top spot from Salter in a move that would set the tone for the rest of the race. A red flag on lap 11 put the field into a "MARS Late Model style" double-file restart, with Salter gaining the advantage a few laps later.
With the final caution coming late in the race, the stage was set for a classic matchup between Salter and Taylor. At the line, Salter edged Taylor for the win and the $10,000 prize. Taylor's $5,000 was a fair reward for a fine effort. Each finisher received a healthy payout with last place taking home $800.(Information provided by Shawna Snyder)
Race teams came from 10 states...
Race teams came from 10 states to get their share of the money and prestige offered by this event.
The eventual winner gears...
The eventual winner gears up during hot laps. Desha, Arkansas, racer Kevin Salter proved to be the best of the show on this September Saturday.
The field heads off Turn 4...
The field heads off Turn 4 to the starting line with every eye in the capacity crowd on them.
Rik Gropp (left) and his crew...
Rik Gropp (left) and his crew stay hard at work on the engine. For the first time in 15 years of trying, Gropp made the Saturday main. He came home with a Top-10 run.
Dateline: Boone, IA
21st Annual IMCA Speedway Motors Super Nationals
Modifieds, Stock Cars, Hobby Stocks, Late Models, and Sprints
It's the closest thing to nonstop action you're going to find in short-track racing. The IMCA Super Nationals started on a Monday and ended on a Saturday night. Along the way, there were around 200 races. On Wednesday and Friday alone, there were 40 Modified heat races, eight B mains, and a pair of A mains. If you go to Boone, you get your money's worth.
You would think the 31/48-mile, high-banked dirt oval would be worn to nothing. It would be if there wasn't meticulous preparation and an unwavering plan to keep the surface in best possible condition. You never hear drivers complain that the track wasn't good for their race, no matter when that race took the green.
Late Model fans got their thrills early with the running of the Deery Brothers Summer Series event on Labor Day Monday. These teams could get their one-day show, then make preparations for the few remaining races in the '03 season. There were points on the line as this activity represented a traveling series, while the remaining divisions were in point battles that revolved around their weekly track action.
Contact is inevitable when...
Contact is inevitable when so many cars are trying for so few positions. Jon Thompson (75) and Doug Firgard (42) made contact during a Saturday night last-chance race. Note the flying spring by Firgard's door.
The winner's circle was occupied by a Late Model rookie as Darin Duffy scored his first series win. Duffy had run well at the track in a Modified and parlayed his experience to outlast Darrell DeFrance. Both drivers had won their heat races to earn prime starting spots.
The Tuesday program brought open-wheel fans out in force as the Sprints occupied center stage. Russ Fletcher handled the field of 17 starters to earn his place as the first former champion to successfully defend his Sprint crown. Fletcher joins Brett Stegenga as the only drivers to win the title twice. Minnesota racer Stegenga pulled off the feat in 1992 and again in 1997.
The second day of racing also kept the ball rolling for the Stock Cars and Hobby Stocks, who had started the qualifying process on Monday. There were 10 more starting spots determined for the Stock Cars, while the remaining half of the 24-car starting field for the Hobby Stocks became known. These drivers could rest on their laurels until the main event on Saturday night.
Modified winner John Logue...
Modified winner John Logue (left) with flagman Bill Olson. It was Logue's fifth victory in the IMCA Super Nationals.
Wednesday brought Modifieds to the track for the first time, and the pits were starting to bulge. This was the first opportunity to make the main for the Modified drivers, and the competition was intense. A total of 40 heat races were followed by eight B mains and a pair of qualifying A mains. Most of the field ended up having to do it over again on Thursday-and maybe even Friday-before the ordeal was over. Stock Cars finished up their qualifying for the Saturday show, and it was the last chance for anyone wishing to move on.
Thursday was all about the Modifieds. More starting spots were determined for the Saturday running of the Dirt Works Ron Efkamp Race of Champions. This elite competition is open to only champions or runners-up from IMCA member tracks. Only 12 cars get to go green on Saturday. Six of the qualifiers came from Thursday, while the remainder came from Friday night.
Friday represented the last chance for anyone wishing to make a Saturday race. Off-track activity included a golf tournament and a queen contest. On-track action saw the field set for the Modified 40-lapper and the Race of Champions.
Saturday brought the biggest crowd, as the grandstands were filling with paying customers who shelled out only $15 for the privilege. The 24-car field of Hobby Stocks, which had been set for some time, consisted of 22 drivers from Iowa and a pair of Kansas interlopers. Andy Boeckman of Wall Lake won it for Iowa, taking the lead on the third lap of the 20-lap main and running the rest of the distance with the point. It was Boeckman's first Hobby Stock main win. The class has been part of the IMCA Super Nationals since 1998.
Drivers come from all over....
Drivers come from all over. The Lone Star State of Texas is a hotbed of IMCA Modified racing, so it's well represented. Mike McCarthy of Round Rock (20) and Bobby Sliva of Taylor (17) wait pitside.
The Stock Car crown was won by a first-timer as Randy Brands grabbed the lead near the halfway mark. Brands, who came into a Wednesday main through a last-chance race, became the 11th different champion in the division.
David Murray (Modifieds) and Ryan Rose (Stock Cars) were winners of the Race of Champion events in their respective divisions.
The stage was set for the final race of the week, with Modifieds hitting the track in three-wide fashion. Exciting racing throughout the contest found Al Hejna leading the field until the final turn of the final lap. A broken axle stopped Hejna's hopes and opened the door for a familiar face to take center stage.
For the second time, John Logue picked up a win by virtue of a last lap pass. It gave Logue his fifth Super Nationals title, tying Steve Jackson (Stock Cars) for the honor. Logue's last lap pass previously occurred in 1995 en route to his first title.
A cryptic message on the valve...
A cryptic message on the valve cover of a competitor's engine. He did make the 33-car main.
Entries in the '03 Super Nationals by class
|Modifieds: ||355 |
|Stock Cars: ||159 |
|Hobby Stocks: ||145 |
|Late Models: || 42 |
|Sprint Cars: || 17 |
|Total car count: ||718 |
The Stock Cars and Hobby Stocks set new all-time records for car count. The Stock Cars total was 5 higher than the previous record of 154, set at the 2002 IMCA Super Nationals. The Hobby Stock record of 123 cars fell in a big way with 22 more racers on hand this year. The record for this division was also set in 2002.
23Bill Davis Jr.