Around the Track with Jalopy Jack

Extenuating circumstances. That’s the story. That’s my story, that’s the racers story, that’s the promoter’s story, that’s everybody’s story. Call it what you want, whether Mother Nature, precipitation, etc. We all put up with it and I think we all made the best of it.

The big show at Wall Stadium wisely had a rain date on Sunday 10/25. People I see in Belmar on my way to the track said “strange seeing you on a Sunday”. And I think a lot of people didn’t expect this to happen on a Sunday. At $25 and $30 a ticket, the stands were more then 1/2 full. For another non-point but big money Tour-Type Modified extravaganza, I’d say the 27 cars was pretty good. Did I hear rumors of 40 cars? Yes I did. But that was before all these wet problems hit us. At the same time Wall was racing, so was Thompson Int’l Speedway and the actual Whelan Modified Tour Series in possibly their biggest race of the year and final point race, the fabled World Series. Last year, I personally witnessed over 40 cars for that event. This year only 29.

Now this is a case of shared cars. Now let us take it up from the driver’s angle. Many of the top Modified drivers also raced other series. Among these “the Race of Champions” and my favorite, the True Value Modified Series. Also at this time, Lee USA Speedway up in New Hampshire had their final True Value “race of the year”, plus Caraway Speedway had the “Final of the Year” for the Southern Whelen Modified Tour. So you see, Wall did really well drawing their 27 cars. Twenty four cars actually started each 66 lapper, both offering $6,600 to the winner. And was that money ever fought over.

Now there’s something called “VHT”. This is something that a few tracks use on the surface of the tracks on the outside of the turns. It improves traction greatly so cars on the outside have a chance. Therefore it improves racing, right? Well, I found out that recently “VHT” was used at Wall. Not the day of the race. How recently I don’t know. But it was used. I have wondered since I heard of this stuff, why more tracks don’t use it. I’ve always believed that everything has a downside. After what we’ve seen in the first 66 lapper, I now really wonder. I got to tell you that many of the restarts and they were all double file, were really hard fought. It can’t be the money, if the car can’t handle the outside, it just can’t handle the outside. But a lot of these restarts were very even and some of them even had the outside cars taking the lead.

When I inquired about the “VHT”, “management” admitted to using “VHT”, but also said the rain washed most of it off and there was only a little left. I have rarely missed a race in the last 5 years and I don’t remember an outside advantage like this since the days of the coups and coaches. And that was great. Problem is the first 66 lapper looked like “amateur hour”. Now competition was really keen. And with the quality of equipment and talent we had, even the time trials were exciting. When times of 12.1 doesn’t land you in the fast 5, you know the competition’s at its best. So what was the reason that for most of the race they couldn’t go 2 to 3 laps without something else happening? Was it the money? Was it the competition going overboard? Was it what a lot of people have been feeling for a long time, that the cars are just too fast for this track? Or did possibly the “VHT” have something to do with it? And do people in the industry know this and that’s why they don’t use it?

The second 66 lapper started wild, but calmed down to mostly normal racing. As most of you know, “Showtime” Jimmy Blewett in that beautiful #66 creation won the first 66 lapper. If you were rooting for him, it looked a little scary because he had smoke coming from the rear with about 5 more laps to go. He also had a hot Matt Hirschman on his tail and in case that #60 slipped, Jimmy’s former Tour ride, the #12 with Keith Rocco was next followed by a very talented bright yellow, #06 of Les Hinckley. And in case those 4 cars bobbled, the fifth place finishing Ray Evernham was next in line. So the Blewett fans got what they wanted. As for Jimmy’s actual performance, I can’t really put it on top of the list of great achievements. You’ve all heard of “process of elimination”. Well this 1 came by way of “process of circumstance”. Of the 24 starters at least 22 were in the top 5 at 1 time of another, mostly by “process of elimination”. And just about everybody in this race had their share of spins and tangles. Why do you think I call this “amateur hour”? The second 66 lapper had the beautiful black, white and red of #11 of Anthony Sesely started on the pole. And yes, he did win it. But this guy earned it. Every restart he fought tooth and nail with whomever was challenging. He fought inside and outside. And he also had long periods of green flag racing to prove it was no fluke. And to prove there were some strong cars with consistency; Matt Hirschman and Keith Rocco were again second and third! So with only 3 replacements needed in the second feature, I’d have to say that these racing teams did a good job of keeping these cars race-ready. I’ve often said after many a weekly show, that it was the Modifieds that had most restarts. I thought the first 66 lapper was pretty excessive, but we don’t know if there was a reason, either logical or hidden [perhaps the "VHT"] or it was just 1 of those things. During the winter I’ll explore a further theory on this subject matter. So this first 66 lapper’s going to be a key race for that “discussion”.

The other divisions all had decent to good car counts. In some cases there were more cars in the pits for some divisions then what showed up on the track. The show was Features only. Only the Legend cars had 1 Feature. The Factory Stocks, the Sportsmen and the Street Stocks each had 2 Features as their first race was left over from the 9/26 interruption due to weather. So some cars that were in the first Feature couldn’t return for the second Feature and other cars that came to the track weren’t eligible for the first Feature. The Legends car count was down to about 12 cars and a lot of competitive cars were very likely at the Sundance Vacations Speedway, as part of their “NELMA” Late Model race. This left the Legends field pretty wide open and some cars that were having a rough time during the season while looking good for these 25 laps. The #67 of Zach Alspach actually won his “second of the year” with #07 of Brian Spencer and #47 of Derek Hopkinson right on his tail.

The Factory Stocks ended as bookends for the show. The first one starting at 1:15PM saw 16 cars take the green flag. Mr. Elliot Wohl had his #14 ahead of the field most of the way right up until the checkered flag. I understand that this car has been around for a while, much of the time out of action. This was a leftover Feature from 9/26 and it was non-points. Their second Feature ended the show at 7:15PM and the same man who finished third in the first Feature, won this one and that’s #67 of Jon Meyer. Hot on his tail and all over him in the final laps was the old Gary Pein #38. Now the #77X driven by former champ Rob Longo. This was the race to decide the 2009 Factory Stock champ. And that went to sixth place #5 of Mike Bilello and he takes the title as #27 Whitey Miller wound up eighth. Twenty four cars started this one. The Street Stocks had 15 cars start the first 25 lapper and the #09 Greg Miranda with his fourth place finish, got himself second place in points for the season. Greg’s happy about that and we all know that if he didn’t spend the first 1/2 of the season getting spun out, it might’ve been even better. Greg knows the deal with the title winner and knows what he’s up against. The man who finished just ahead of Greg was #28 of Howie Conk and he came back to take the second 25 lapper which started 20 cars. Mr. Conk really had Carl Thomas’ number in this one as Thomas had to settle for a first and second on the day. Conk had the last 2 restarts down just right and Thomas could do nothing about it. That leaves 1 more division on this card and that’s the Sportsmen. You want to talk about action? The 16 cars that started the first 25 lapper and the 19 cars that started the second 25 lapper, provided the 3 hardest crashes of the day and the most frightening crackup of the season. It was almost “goodbye flag stand” in that one.

You could view the action by ordering a 2 DVD set of the entire show via PayPal orders. They can be reached at http://www.bigjimsvideos.net/ or at 732-415-5423. The man behind it is Mike O’Brien. Mike regularly does Motorsport Video Production. With a Dot.com that’s his website and his cell number is 732-735-2177. Majority of his work’s with Sprint cars, Late Models, Midgets and Micro Sprints. He has complete shows from Selinsgrove Speedway and Path Valley Speedway and Mike’s renowned for his “End Of Season Crash” DVD’s. His work’s been seen on Speed TV, Spike TV and the Discovery Network. Those attending Turkey Derby can obtain his work in person. All the fantastic crashes and other action that happened this day at Wall Stadium can be seen on this 2 DVD set.

The same man won both 25 lappers and that’s #48 of Kevin Davison. He was a little lucky to win the first and more skillful by taking the second. I believe that’s his third Feature of the season. Look for this improved driver to be strong at Turkey Derby and next year at Wall, should he continue in Sportsmen. That’s about all that I can say about the racing. As I said before, we could’ve fitted in more fans but the quality of the people there was really great. If it was intelligent racing conversation that you wanted during downtime and informative aficionados you wanted to converse with, this was also a good day for it. Perhaps the only sport that you can get closer to the participants then local auto racing, is the dart game at your nearby bar. Turkey Derby’s next up on the high banks of Wall Stadium and that’s the afternoons of 11/27 and 11/28 right after Thanksgiving. In addition to all of the divisions already mentioned, the weekly SK Modifieds will also be in action and on Friday only, we’ll see the very swift TQ Midgets and for the first time on Turkey Derby, they’ll have the Late Models. The format’s not yet set and it’s always high anticipation awaiting the announcement of the format for the 2 Modified divisions.

This weekend looks good for attending Susquehanna Speedway Park, the headline division is the wingless ARDC Midgets. It’s only a 20 lapper but it should be really intense. I somehow managed to see them once a year and of course this is their ’09 finale. Some other cool stuff’s also taking place on this 4/10th mile dirt track.

This week on WLAR [We Love Auto Racing] at 718-707-1052 I’m talking about keeping the sport in auto racing. Any other ideas I have I like to hold until there’s less actual live racing to get into. Before I sign off, I want to let you fans know of another way to keep racing close to you on all the non-racing nights that are coming up. That’d be GSP Video Productions by going on http://gspvideo.com/or by calling 732-754-0065. Gary Silverman’s 1 of the best around and he’s been doing complete shows at Big Diamond Raceway and Grandview Speedway for the last few years. He’s also the man for the indoor races and also used to be the videographer of Wall Stadium. His prices are very reasonable and I think his work’s also an excellent holiday gift. So until my next column which’ll appear fairly soon, keeping the fans in the stands and the cars on the track, this has been Jalopy Jack.