Before the race, a group of...
Before the race, a group of drivers and media chose to support cancer research and have their heads shaved. Brave The Shave was a huge success and was spearheaded by driver Jeep VanWormer.
Our next two stops on the AMSOIL Great American Circle Track Tour took us to extremes. The dirt track located in Crossville, Tennessee, is one of the more out-of-the-way tracks we will visit on our four-year tour, but it does attract dirt racers from around the Nashville area as well as a few asphalt converts. The very next weekend took us to one of the most famous and well attended racetracks in America, from both a team and a spectator standpoint: Eldora Speedway.
Crossville is about 110 miles east of downtown Nashville. It's a small track, meaning it doesn't attract large numbers of racers or fans per se. But it does run a very good show. The track is family owned and the racers are loyal. We even ran into a few former asphalt racers who decided to make the switch to dirt this year. They were lovin' every minute of it.
The gang of local AMSOIL dealers...
The gang of local AMSOIL dealers was on hand to spread the word about the benefits of all of the line of products. Even though this was a relatively small venue, the group thought it made significant contacts with the race fans. AMSOIL is our primary sponsor for the Great American Circle Track Tour.
Our trip to Crossville was a hurried one. We were at Paducah, Kentucky, on Friday night, August 27, and had to get up early and make the 250-mile trek to this track, stopping in Clarksville, Tennessee, to drop off our 28-foot trailer on the way.
When we arrived, we were greeted by the owners, Buddy and Sandy Sheehan. They were both very glad to be chosen to be represented on our Tour, but somewhat confused as to why. Why would Circle Track choose, out of all of the other tracks around the Southeast, to come to little ol' Crossville?
We explained that our goals for the Tour did not only include large purse races, but that we needed to see what the regular Friday/Saturday night tracks were doing and to get a feel for the health of short track racing across America.
The track at Crossville was...
The track at Crossville was in very good shape and maintained a smooth and moist consistency throughout the event. With that, the cars were able to run several grooves and there was plenty of side-by-side action all night long. One driver's driving style and setup would be just right for those conditions for the Late Model races.
As is often the case personally, when I visit racetracks I've never been to before, something magical happens in one way or another. It happened again at this track. It wasn't necessarily the friendly atmosphere, or even the warm welcome we received from the people who ran the track and the racers, it was in the competition.
In one of the four-cylinder classes, the feature became a classic battle between two cars for the win. All during the race, they changed the lead, they worked lapped traffic, and time and time again each would come back from multiple car lengths back to retake the lead. It was honestly one of the very best races I've ever seen.
But that was just a prelude to a very interesting and telling race in the Late Model division. There was a fairly large contingent of teams in this class and as usual there were a few top teams who, rumors had it, were the ones to beat.
The chrome car of Mark Martin...
The chrome car of Mark Martin (no, not that Mark) was rumored to be the team to beat here. He qualified on the pole, but was not able to beat out a new comer to dirt racing and former asphalt racer for both Late Model races.
Each of the top two competitors had big-dollar built motors, but at this track, crate motor cars were allowed, with a weight break, to run with the built motors. Qualifying proved out the rumors as the two built motor cars qualified first and second. The third fastest time, interestingly enough, was a crate motor car.
In the heat races, each of these three cars won. Now it was time for the showdown. The A-main featured two separate races with a roll of the dice to determine the invert for the second race. Chris Wilson, in the third-qualifying crate motor car won both. It was how he did it that was interesting.
I watched as he circled the track, entering the corner smoothly and straight ahead almost as if braking, then running the middle groove again straight ahead, and then motoring off the corners with barely a wiggle. The other cars, especially the top two qualifiers, were entering the corners at full speed, throwing the car sideways, running the top groove, and using a small cushion up there, and watching as Wilson ran off with the show.