The first two races on our 2011 AMSOIL Great American CT Tour were dirt tracks and I can say we enjoyed both of them a lot. Now we have two asphalt tracks to visit that are within an hour or so of each other in and around Columbus, Ohio. Kil-Kare Speedway, located in Xenia, Ohio, is a Friday night track and Columbus Speedway runs its show on Saturday night. Both were interesting and provided some insight into subjects of interest on this Tour. And, they are both different in construction than most other tracks we see.

This year had very strange spring weather across the Midwest and into Ohio and Pennsylvania where we saw late snow and lots of rain with high winds. It was definitely not racing weather by any means.

So, each week we would study the weather for the area around the tracks where we would visit next. Most of the time it showed rain, but as the days grew closer, the patterns changed and miraculously it cleared just in time to allow the tracks to open, most of the time. We had already been forced to cancel our visit to Hagerstown Speedway because of rain.

For this weekend, Kil-Kare looked OK, but Columbus on Saturday night looked not so good. One funny thing that happened on the way to the race on Friday was when we stopped to get the bus washed. We pulled in to the Professional Truck Wash located off I-270 on the west side of Columbus to get rid of the mud and dirt we had accumulated and spent the next two and a half hours there. We were fourth in line behind three semi tractors, no trailers.

The team who hand-washed these trucks and our bus took almost 45 minutes on each tractor and nearly the same on our bus. That is a long time. I’ve never seen such attention to detail, going to excess at times, as we saw them brush the exhaust pipes three and four times. It was unbelievable. But we had set aside some time, luckily, and we came away with a very clean motorhome.

Kil-Kare Speedway
This track is a 1⁄3-mile asphalt NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racetrack that is a bit odd shaped. Looking at it from above, we see a configuration that doesn’t resemble an oval, but rather a shape that takes some getting used to by the drivers.

Coming here for the first time must feel very different. And, there is a Figure 8 track inside the "oval." We saw very good action with two- and three-wide racing, but the number of cars as well as the fan attendance was low. Some of this was due to the cold temperatures that were still hanging around.

Teams that reside in and around Columbus, about 60 miles away, can’t get here in time coming from work to race on a Friday night. So, this promoter loses the opportunity to draw from that large populated area.

The event was well organized and ran very smoothly. The classes run here are the Late Models (NASCAR rules), IMCA-type Modifieds, Sport Stocks, and Compacts. It’s nice to be able to run for national points under the NASCAR home tracks umbrella, but in places like this, with low car counts, which in itself provide points toward the national rankings, it’s hard to compete.

The facility was clean and well maintained and could be a money maker when the weather warms up, but in this economy, drawing better numbers of teams will be hard. One idea might be to offer the longer practice sessions needed when running on asphalt on Thursday night, allow teams to park the rigs at the track overnight, and then all the teams would need to do for Friday night is drive to the track in a transporter and be ready to run qualifiers and main events that night. That may attract more teams from Columbus and elsewhere.

Columbus Motor Speedway
We arrived at Columbus Motor Speedway and were greeted by the promoter, Jeff Nuckles. I had consulted for several teams who raced here over the past 10 years, but were gone by now. For that reason, I had always wanted to see this track and had heard so much about it. This too is sanctioned by NASCAR under its Whelen All-American Series banner.

It’s one where you must be completely on your game to succeed and that means the car has to be handling very well and stay that way. There is opportunity for faster cars to pass their way to the front if situations find them back in the pack. And I had the opportunity to witness that. This comes from a combination of little or no banking and short to non-existent straightaways.

When we arrived it was raining and looked like it was there to stay. But Jeff never backed off running the show and by 5:00 that evening the skies were breaking and the drops stopped falling. It’s a testament to the management that they stuck it out. The teams had already made the trip to the track and waiting a few more minutes or hours was worth it to try to get the show in.

The facility was typical of an older track, but well run and had features we liked and didn’t like. There was a police presence and we always like that. Lack of security can be a problem sometimes and it only takes one incident to keep fans and teams away forever.

There was an on-track incident where a Late Model driver was turned into the backstretch wall head-on hard. He had to be cut from the car and taken by ambulance to the hospital for observation. He survived with only bruising and a sore neck, but he didn’t have either of his head-and-neck restraints on at the time of the crash.

His son was very upset that Dad had left both at home. Jeff told me later on that the head-and-neck restraints weren’t required, but they were highly recommended. I asked why they couldn’t require them and it had to do with cost to the lower classes. I offered this information that I would like to present to all promoters across the country.

The stock class cars are just that, stock. Detroit and elsewhere, car manufacturers have had to meet crash safety standards for some time now. A stock car will crush and absorb energy in a frontal impact by mandate of the Federal government. So, there is less opportunity for neck injuries in those cars.

An example is NASCAR racing at Daytona in the ’70s and early ’80s. Those cars were, by all accounts, stock production cars and were running upwards of 200 mph. There were plenty of frontal impacts with the walls and we never heard of a death like Earnhardt’s in those days. It wasn’t until the teams started building fabricated front clips that the injuries began to happen.

In contrast to stock division cars, fabricated race cars are purposely built to be stiff to resist torsional twisting to help the setup of the car. It’s that stiffness that gets us into trouble when the car makes contact with the concrete wall. There is less deflection of the chassis during high g-force impacts in those cars.

As the head moves forward more quickly in a crash with the fabricated race car, something has to give and it’s usually the upper spine, neck, and associated tendons and blood vessels. This is referred to as a Basal skull injury and it’s the process of ripping the head off of the rest of the body. Get the point?

The H&N restraint devices offered to racers today deal with this specific type of injury and help prevent it. No device is perfect or works to save you in all instances, but it has been proven to reduce injury significantly. No driver wants to burn up in a race car as evidenced by the numbers of fire suits worn. But why would you want to break your neck and possibly die? It makes no sense to me.

I see drivers in lower divisions like the Mini cars, where they wouldn’t climb in the car without their H&N products on. It’s past time for sanctions like NASCAR, ASA, and other short track sanctions to take the lead and start requiring H&N restraint systems to be worn for fabricated race car racing. And that includes Mini car-types as well.

In this crash at Columbus, it could have been worse and the driver was most likely on the brink of not surviving this impact. Had he been wearing the device he owned, he might have walked away instead of being carried away. Now he has a hospital bill to take care of, a race car with a cut-off roof, and a pissed-off family. I would be willing to bet he has one on the next time he climbs into the car.

Aside from that, we loved the racing at Columbus and despite the weather delays and usual racing incidents, we were very entertained and witnessed some heated battles on a very competitive racetrack.

Conclusion
When we visit these racetracks across America, we keep an eye out for anything that will relate to our readership in the way of promotion, performance, and safety with the intent of improving our sport. If that includes comments that seem negative toward anyone, I can assure you that our intent is to improve through observation. What we see and experience is what anyone would see and some of those are often times unseen by the persons who run the speedways and/or sanction the races.

I’m open for discussion any time with anyone on the topics outlined above and what we can do to promote rules and requirements that can help reduce injuries. We’ve always been that way and won’t stop any time soon.

Next week we’ll make our way into the beautiful state of Pennsylvania, where I was born, for our next series of races. We’ll eventually end up in Maine next September. For now, our next race report is on Motordrome Speedway in Smithton, Pennsylvania, and then (after a rainout at Sharon Speedway), on to Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pennsylvania.

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