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Behind the Checkered Curtain

Rweb Note: We are pleased to welcome Mike Leone as a new columnist for . You may reach Mike by e-mail at

Behind the Checkered Curtain
April 8, 2004
By Mike Leone

Rain can make one do crazy things. Case in point, with cold, wet weather shrouding the Northeast last weekend and tracks falling to cancellations faster than Georgia Tech fell behind UConn Monday night, the search for a sprint car race with dry weather was on.

700 miles later the “Show Me State” was the end destination as myself and pal Rick Rarer crossed the Midwest via I-70 as the thermometer rose from 37 to a sunny 71 degrees by the time we pulled into the parking lot at Saint Francois County (Fairgrounds) Raceway.

Located about an hour south of Saint Louis, just north of Farmington, Missouri off highway 67, Saint Francois would commence the 2004 campaign for the All Star Circuit of Champion Sprint Cars.

This 1/3-mile high-banked track is a cross between Pennsylvania’s Lincoln Speedway and Ohio’s Attica Raceway Park. The track was conducive to two and three groove racing throughout much of the night, but by feature time (after an e-mod feature), the track slicked off and took rubber on the bottom turning into a follow-the-leader train.

Guy Webb’s gang would bring 15 card-carrying members, who would look to get revenge on last year’s whooping by local Tim Montgomery. While SFCR has some quality local cars, the statement by All Star announcer Justin Zoch they have one of the toughest weekly sprint fields in the country is a stretch by any imagination.

This year’s group of All Stars is one of the most interesting and diverse crosses of racers in some time. While the amount of “full-time stars” is down, the quantity is up. The only question is how long will many of these “rookies” last on Webb’s vigorous slate.

Led by Chad Kemenah, the driver of the Jimmy Harble #15K, is almost a lock for a third straight crown barring any unforeseen setbacks. This is probably the only team that is equipped to run the entire 20-state plus Canada docket. The first weekend of action did nothing but solidify those expectations for the Findlay, Ohio racer who has jumped out to an early point lead.

Greg Wilson: The driver with the most realistic shot of knocking Kemenah from the top returns to pilot the Bob Hampshire #63. With Kemenah’s recent marriage to Hamp’s daughter Tracy, these two teams have become family. The Benton Ridge, Ohio will continue to add to his 12 career All Star wins in ’04 and will look to better his career best fourth place ranking last season.

Danny Smith: One of the true “Outlaws”; the Danville, Indiana great always spends a lot of time on the All Star trail, but has made a living racing sprint cars by picking and choosing his way to fame. Last year, the driver of the #4 earned his first championship taking the now-defunct GLOSS crown. Smith kicked off the All Star campaign with his 25th career ASCoC win on April 2 at Paducah, Kentucky in his first race since losing his crew chief, Jim Bennett, to a heart attack.

Dale Blaney: The ’95 & ’96 champion now has the distinction of the All Stars’ all-time active winner. The Fowler, Ohio resident will be behind the wheel of Fritz Andrews’ #72 once again looking to break his fifth place tie of 44 wins with brother Dave.

Kelly Kinser: This Bloomington, Indiana veteran joins Smith and Blaney as three of the semi-regulars that could easily challenge Kemenah if they stuck with the entire tour. Kinser, like Smith, runs his own operation and picks and chooses smartly where he wants to race. The #4K is always a threat especially on the bullrings.

Bill Rose: The Plainfield, Indiana racer will pilot his red #6 for the third straight year on the All Star tour. The former wingless standout should be able to improve his point placing once again after a ninth in his ’02 rookie season and a seventh last season. A first win could be right around the corner.

Phil Gressman: The Clyde, Ohio racer will sub for an injured Bruce Robenalt through at least mid-August, if not the entire season in the #98. Gressman brings a wealth of talent and experience to probably the least financed team on the circuit. Robenalt was ninth in his first full season last year. Gressman would like nothing more than to add to his three career ASCoC wins and give Team Robenalt their first career win.

Ryan Coniam: One of the most interesting combinations of the circuit finds the Burlington, Ontario racer teaming with long-time Ohio driver and car owner Pete Grove. Coniam earned rookie-of-the-year honors racing his #6c last season, but will step into the #70 driven for most of ’03 by Kenny Jacobs, who took third at the Knoxville Nationals.

Jeremy Campbell: If there is a wild card on the tour, it would be this 20-year-old Monroe, Michigan wheelman. This driver has the talent, equipment, and road-experience from the defunct WoOII Series, to turn some heads and get his first career ASCoC win. The #10c is a perfect two-for-two in dashes after winning at both Paducah and St. Francois.

Barry Ruble: This seemingly low-dollar family operation from Burton, Ohio appears to improve its operation eeach year. The former asphalt late model and Sharon sprint winner ended three straight years of finishing 10th in points last year by improving to eight. Ruble carries an in memory of his late engine builder Jim Brauer on his car and has added Cody Prosser, son of racer George, to his crew.

Paul May: The Terre Haute, Indiana resident leads the large rookie crop in his #71m. The young 25-year-old stand-on-the-gas racer will undoubtedly score his first career ASCoC win at some point in ’04, most likely on a bullring. The 2002 GLOSS Champion will certainly turn some heads.

Tim Hunter. The Killbuck, Ohio former 360 standout has added the Ray Pullins #29 equipment to his arsenal. Though there is no lack of desire or fear, the experience factor of being on the road may hamper this hard-charger. If Hunter can keep his cool, the 26-year-old driver of the #2H will turn in some good runs.

Jon Agan: If the name sounds familiar, it’s because this 25-year-old racer is the son of National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Marketing Director, Craig Agan. This rookie-of-the-year candidate certainly appears to have the equipment to turn in some quality runs with his #4.

Eddie Lynch: This driver no doubt will certainly get confused across the country with Ed Lynch, Jr., but the Springfield, Illinois driver would like to create his own legacy. This third-generation racer will chase the rookie-of-the-year in his #29 after years of running hit and miss shows throughout the Midwest.

Brock Mayes: This Bucyrus, Ohio driver brings the least experience of all to the table. The former 305 winner just earned rookie 410 honors last season at Attica and Fremont, Ohio speedways in his #11B. The 24-year-old driver will be glad when the tour graces the Buckeye state.

Motor problems at Paducah kept another rookie-of-the-year hopeful, Jan Howard, from action at St. Francois. Other rookies expected to hit numerous shows include Ohio driver Ben Rutan and Michigan’s Chad Blonde, a $2,000 Mercer winner last season.

Along with the 15 above All Stars, St. Francois boasted another 30 cars made up of a mix of track regulars, a few Knoxville cars, and other Midwest runners. A few of the non-All Star heavy hitters included Terry McCarl, Ricky Logan, Jerrod Hull, brothers Tim and Joey Montgomery, Jim Moughan, and Terry Babb.

Four heats, a C, and B main would set the 24-car field. Heats were shared by Campbell (from fourth), Alex Shanks (second), Babb (first), and Knoxville regular Jesse Gianetto (first). Agan topped the 10-lap C from the outside pole, while May topped the B from the pole.

Though Kemenah would lead all 40 laps from the pole for his 14th career All Star win, which was worth $5,000, he clearly didn’t have the fastest car. Blaney, McCarl, Logan, Kinser, and Campbell all seemed to be faster, but Kemenah had the starting spot and track conditions to his favor that was good enough to hold off his challengers.

Blaney turned in a second after starting fifth, but was unable to make a move on the “used-up” track. The ’95 & ’96 champion was just hoping Kemenah would slip off the bottom just enough to allow him to get under, but that didn’t happen. McCarl started third and finished a close third (second straight night) right on Blaney’s bumper. Logan started fourth and finished fourth in one of the best-looking cars. Long-time driver for Guy Webb’s #51, Jerrod Hull, came from 12th to place fifth in the #12.

The e-mod feature ran before the All Star feature. That wasn’t so bad, but having a 30 or so minute intermission after the e-mods was uncalled for especially on a very chilly night that started an hour late when people were already departing. Then we wonder why our sport struggles to not only reach a new fan bas, but preserve the existing one.

A call goes out to Curtis Boyer, who qualified for the feature both nights with a 360-powered engine. The New Haven, Missouri racer finished 18th at Paducah and 16th at St. Francois in his #72.

Five of the 35 cars at Paducah did not show at St. Francois meaning 51 cars competed over the two days.

Team of the week: Marshall Skaggs. Ya’ gotta love this team. The name is a perfect fit for the Skaggs Trucking #606. They’d fit in just fine at any speedway in Texas or the any part of the south for that matter. This team fits the racing redneck stereotypical mold.

Name of the week: Jesse Gianetto. Not only do I love the name (it’s an Italian thing), but the big bulldog on the side of the black #D1 is really kewl and pretty intimidating.

The shot at pulling the double at Kenny Schrader’s I-55 at Peverly, Missouri went out the door as the track was dark and the last remaining trailers were exiting the track around midnight as we made our way back northeast.

St. Francois accounted for my ninth race of the year at my 72nd career track in the 12th different state. Since October 18, 2003, I have added Ohio Valley (WV), Midway (OH), BeaveRun (PA), Mid-Ohio, Bridgeport (NJ), Indianapolis Speedrome (IN), Anderson (IN), and now St. Francois (MO) to my list.

How amazing is it that Lincoln Speedway has got in all seven of their scheduled shows? While you may say that doesn’t sound like a big deal, remember, Lincoln opened up on February 21! That’s pretty remarkable for a Pennsylvania track in springtime or any time for that matter. Cris Eash’s 37th career Lincoln win Saturday was worth $2,500 for the Hanover driver. A call goes out to Johnstown racer Dan Shetler, who led the first 11 laps and a finished a career best Lincoln finish of fourth.

Pennsylvania racer, Brian Paulus, made the headlines Saturday by winning the World of Outlaw race at Texas Motor Speedway. The Mechanicsburg native passed Kraig Kinser on lap 28 to win the 30-lap $10,000 to-win event for his second career WoO win. The young Kinser came home second just missing his first ever WoO win. Following the race, Kraig’s dad Steve, who finished fifth, was recognized for winning his 500th career WoO A main victory recently in Houston, Texas.

Robert Frost once said, “A liberal is a man too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel.” You think about that. Ideas for another spur-of-the-moment jaunt can be e-mailed to

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Behind the Checkered Curtain
March 3, 2004
By Mike Leone

I wasn’t intending on doing another column so soon, but random thoughts from a mild February weekend in central Pa. possessed me.

Hearing Wayne Harper at Lincoln and Bruce Ellis at The Grove makes you feel at home at those two tracks. Somehow it just wouldn’t be right not hearing their voices come across the p.a. systems. Nothing against Bill Meyer, who does a great a job at Lincoln, but even hearing him call the thundercar action is a little strange.

Fred Rahmer’s quote that “Only in south central Pa. can you see kids playing in a snow bank at a sprint car race” epitomizes us diehard Pennsylvania sprint car fans. Rahmer is announcer and writer’s dream with always captivating quotes. I’ve yet to see any driver as entertaining on the mic.

Greg Hodnett is one of the classiest and most intelligent sprint car drivers in the land. He speaks eloquently and always gives an excellent interview. If there was an ambassador for sprint car racing, Hodnett would definitely be the man. I think the evidence is clear when you win over the hardcore central Pa. fans even though you call Memphis, Tennessee home. You never hear a boo from the crowd when he’s introduced or in victory lane. Hodnett seems to be quite content at his place in racing and the PA Posse is happy to have Hodnett on their team.

Probably the biggest story and talk is Keith Kauffman and his induction into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum in Knoxville, Iowa. The problem is Kauffman is still active and the induction ceremony is in June while racing of course is still going on. Everyone has an opinion on the matter. Keith said in an interview Sunday that he is going to do everything in his power to be there. Car owner Dave Middleswarth isn’t thrilled about giving up a night of racing and a possible championship at Port Royal. Some have suggested The Port should not award points that night, but is that really fair to the other drivers?

I have to agree with Kevin Eckert who wrote, “The fact that Kauffman will likely maintain points at Port Royal rather than accept his Hall of Fame plaque in person is precisely why those still in the business of creating history should not get inducted ahead of those who are fading further from memory.” Can you imagine this happening in professional sports?

In the meantime, Kauffman has gotten off to a terrible start in ‘04. Opening day at Lincoln saw “The Man from Mifflintown” get upside down by no fault of his own. Saturday at Lincoln Kauffman may have had the fastest car. He had a ½-lap lead in his heat only to be unable to avoid the spinning duo of Brian Leppo and Sam Schulsberg. In the feature, he charged from his 18th starting spot to a 7th place finish. Then on Sunday, Kauffman got upside down on the opening lap of the feature for the second time in three races.

Another driver off to a miserable start is Lance Dewease. After a lackluster Florida Speedweeks, Dewease has had little success back home in the Keystone State. Opening day at Lincoln saw Dewease yield his pole position as a DNS with driveline problems. Dewease drew the highest pill for his heat forcing him to start on the tail of his heat Saturday at Lincoln. An eighth place finish forced the Hamilton #77 to lineup 15th in the feature and the Fayetteville driver was only able to advance two spots for a disappointing 13th. On Sunday, Dewease changed motors after hot laps and another bad pill draw put him on the tail of his heat again. More mechanical woes in his heat caused a DNF for the defending track champion and a spot in the B main, which he won and lined him up 19th in the feature. At the end of 25 laps, Dewease advanced up to fifth place at the checkered. I wonder how much the team misses Moon Byers?

Byers is turning the wrenches for the #22 of Darren Eash, the older brother to Grove winner, Cris Eash. Byers has been unable to spark Darren who has recorded a 17th and a 16th at Lincoln and only a 13th at The Grove.

Brian Leppo and Brian Montieth haven’t become fan or driver favorites after two weeks of racing at Lincoln. The two have been involved in numerous accidents and have resulted in the casualties of many other fellow competitors.

When Wayne Harper asked Brook Weibley during his pill draw Saturday at Lincoln what happened last week referring to his all by himself after the red flag flip, Weibley responded, “I’d tell you, but it would take too long.”

Bruce Ellis asked Todd Shaffer during his pill draw Sunday if he was glad to be here. Shaffer responded, “Yeah we’re happy to be here. They paid my medical bills so now I can go out and race.”

I got to thinking how nice it was be able to see the entire track at both Lincoln and The Grove. Up until last year, the cars at Lincoln pitted in the infield until the trucks and trailers continued to grow each year like trees. The Grove kept everyone parked outside the speedway due to the wet infield. That was the first I had ever been to The Grove and could see the entire backstretch. Of course I still heard someone complaining. This guy in front of me complained about everything under the sun. Then again, I think some people like to go to the races just to bitch.

How rare was it to see Rahmer, Dewease, and Shaffer all undergo engine changes at relatively the same time? Rahmer attributed the three’s sucked valves to the air and track conditions which leaned the motors out.

Josh Wells led the first eight laps at Lincoln in search of his first career win before fading to sixth at the finish. Wells was the highest finishing driver at Lincoln that skipped The Grove’s opener. Eric Stambaugh, Brian Leppo, Sam Schlusberg, Bobby Weaver, Billy Dietrich, Aaron Long, Brian Montieth, and Jim Siegel were the others. Meanwhile at The Grove, Todd Hestor, Chad Layton, Mike Erdley, Len Thompson, Ron Kramer, Lucas Wolfe, Kevin Schaeffer, Daryl Becker, Rick Lafferty, and Wade Hendrickson were the 10 that opted to skip the first two weeks of Lincoln racing. Kevin Drury was the lone driver in the opening day 20-car field that was MIA on the second weekend of action.

Hendrickson was leading the meaningless B main on Sunday until he smacked the turn three wall. The New Jersey modified star joins Lafferty as the track’s two Garden State regulars. After Blaine Heimbach pulled off the track on the pace lap, just six cars remained all of which transferred to the feature. Though The Grove cut the distance from 10 laps down to 5, I question the need to run such an event. Yes it does set the lineup for positions 19-24, but the heat races do that any other time when there are 24 cars or less. I just hate to have cars possibly get tore up and put wear and tear on a car for nothing. Hendrickson is the perfect example. Had Heimbach scratched prior to the B main, the event would not have taken to the track.

The somewhat low car counts of 20 and 23 at Lincoln and 25 at The Grove aren’t as surprising to me as they are to others. What surprised me this past weekend was the fact that Ohio’s Jim Nier and western Pa’s Kevin Schaeffer were the only two out-of-towners to make an appearance on a warm and clear weekend. And Schaeffer isn’t a real invader as he has called Port Royal home the last two years. In years past when such a weekend was forecasted, several Ohio/Indiana/western Pa. drivers would come east to play.

When you think that other than the WoO race in California, there weren’t any other sprint car racing taking place in the nation. I’ve been to The Grove before for early season shows when they haven’t even had 20 cars. Looking at last year’s top 20 driver points from The Grove shows only Sean Michael and Jason Hagenbuch missing from competition. Lincoln on the other hand in the first two weeks has missed 12 of its top 25 from 2003.

I miss guys like Steve Siegel, Jesse Wentz, Todd Gracey, Dan Dietrich, Dave Haight, Bobby Fletcher, Jeff Rohrbaugh, Danny Jones, and Chuck Reinert, who were all former Lincoln 410 regulars. It just seems like something is missing without the Tanger #07 and the Cooper #25.

Not too many tracks can boast their top four all-time winners are still active at their speedway. That’s the case at The Grove. The top four reads Dewease 57, Rahmer 54, Kreitz 49, Kauffman 47. The next active driver is Steve Kinser, who is tied for eighth with Bobby Allen, with an amazing 36 wins at a track he never ran at regularly. Todd Shaffer is in the next active driver in 11th with 30 scores. Coming in 14th is Sunday’s winner, Greg Hodnett, who clicked off win #23.

Watching Doug Esh the first two weeks shows you why he’s appropriately labeled “The Hammer”. Esh was always exciting to watch in the 358s. Esh won three times at Lincoln in 2003 and is going to win some races in 2004. He’s off to a good start with a pair of thirds at Lincoln and a seventh at The Grove.

There wasn’t one open trailer Saturday or Sunday, but does that really surprise you?

Tom Schmeh tells me mall shows are “an eastern thing”. Seems like just about every track in Pa. holds one or two. Killing time Saturday evening after the races at Lincoln, I headed to the Camp Hill Mall only to find race trailers and the Silver Springs car show taking place. The Springs is located just minutes down busy Carlisle Pike in nearby Mechanicsburg.

I picked up a copy of Allan Brown’s 19th annual National Sprint Car Annual. This is probably the only yearbook-type book that hasn’t increased in price since debuting at $5 in 1986 reviewing the 1985 season. Its format and content has changed little over the years except for the expanding listing of every sprint car driver’s hometown. By the way, I’m missing only the editions that review the 1986 and 1991 seasons. If anyone has these and would like to get rid of them let me know.

Why does Trackside magazine have so much trouble getting their periodical out in a timely manner? The last issue I received was dated November 2003 and it didn’t come all that long ago! This has always been a continuing problem.

Lost in all the WoO vs. Xtreme Late Model hoopla is the former Renegade/STARS Series, which was renamed Northern Xtreme Dirtcar Series. As of March 3, they have yet to post a schedule and haven’t released any info.

Liberals fear George W. Bush more than they do Saddam Hussein. They know that Bush is more of a threat to their so-called personal freedoms and his talk of God and faith threatens them more than any evil Saddam-type could ever possess. You think about that. Deleting e-mails that promise to increase anatomy parts at

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Behind the Checkered Curtain
February 23, 2004
By Mike Leone

Ahhh…opening day- there’s just nothing like it for us race fans. It’s all the sights and sounds that puts a smile on our faces and makes us glad that we’re back again to do it all over again for another year.

It’s seeing the new shiny cars unload, catching the first smell of methanol, racing to put your blanket down to find your perfect seat, scouring out the facility to see what’s new, chatting with friends you haven’t seen all winter, hamburgers cooking on the grill, the call from 50/50 girls and program sellers, and I could go on and on, but ya’ll know exactly what I mean.

For some, the above starts in February at Florida Speedweeks, others may have to wait until April, maybe even May to see racing in some parts of the country, but if you’re in central Pennsylvania and it’s the Saturday following the Daytona 500, you know that means- sprint car racing at Lincoln Speedway.

Situated just west of the Adams/York County-border in Abbottstown, Adams County lays the Pigeon Hills of Lincoln Speedway- named after President Abraham Lincoln, who gave the “Gettysburg Address” on November 19, 1863 some 10 miles west.

Lincoln (the speedway that is) has always had the propensity to get races in and always give it their best try nonetheless. Saturday, February 21 was no different. With snow still blanketing the overlooking hillside and adjacent shaded golf course, high temps predicted in the mid-40s, and precipitation of both natures littered all over the Keystone State, racing was on.

While just about any other track would have thrown in the towel, Lincoln not only went on with their program, but probably was the only track in the commonwealth that could have even got the show in.

Snow showers fell from the sky with temps in the low to mid-30s for over half of my trip from the far western part of the state before turning to light showers and around 40 degrees in the Port Royal vicinity. By the time I reached the Capital Beltway some breaks in the cloud cover developed, but off and on sprinkles and light showers persisted until about five miles north of the track. Pulling into the muddy parking lot saw the temps skyrocket to wind-blown 47 degrees and a mostly cloudy sky- but hey it was opening day who cares, right?

Thoughts of snowy western Pa. were a distant memory when Joe Harz’s #88H and his new truck and trailer are first in line. Harz’s now third-year driver, Fred Rahmer, was one of the first to buy a pit pass as the gates opened at 12 noon sharp and said a brief, “How’s everyone doing,” before he shot through the crowd and headed toward the pit area. That must have been an omen because five hours later, Fred Rahmer was in victory lane ending an unthinkable Lincoln winless streak that dated back to October 5, 2002.

How do you know it is opening day in central Pa.? Fans are waiting in line to get in despite the weather conditions, people don’t mind what they look like or care that they have mud all over themselves and their vehicle, no one cares that there only 20 sprints and just 9 finish the feature, there were more passes at the concession stand line than there was on the race track, no one complains when the races start a few minutes late and the grader appears on the track at different points in the program not because of the roughness of the track but because water is running onto the frontstretch from the melting snow, and fans cheer when colder airs moves in ushering in a brief snow shower.

The fact that Fred Putney and company got the track in any kind of racing condition let alone a raceable, smooth, dust-free afternoon surface is admirable. The fact that only nine cars finished the feature was another thing and goes back to the above question…How do you know it is opening day? It looked like over half the drivers were way over anxious and you certainly could tell they hadn’t raced all winter. Most of the accidents and spills definitely were uncalled for and was something you wouldn’t see in July. Some of the guys spent more time on the hook and in the pits and fixing their cars than they did racing.

Opening day experience at Williams Grove Speedway will have to wait a week as they pulled the plug on Saturday for Sunday’s scheduled opener due to wet grounds and unworkable track conditions. In 2000, I watched then teenager Kasey Kahne score an upset win on opening day at Williams Grove in his father Kelly’s #23K. Four years later from the couch instead of the grandstands, I watch Kahne nearly pull off another upset, this time in NASCAR’s Nextel Cup race at Rockingham (NC) in Ray Evernham’s #9.

I’m not a big NASCAR fan as the first two races are probably the last two of the year that I’ll watch in their entirety; however, seeing Kahne run up front like he did and nearly pull off the win was great. His last lap near pass for the win and honest non-staged-like interview put a smile on my face and was a breath of fresh air. It sure is neat to see sprint guys like Kahne, Stewart, and Newman contend for the win.

Boy you have to feel for Carl Long, who barrel-rolled after being shot into the wall and ended up with a destroyed race car- the only Cup car he possessed. Long was only at the Rock because of the short field and was equipped with an old used engine and borrowed wheels and tires. Reminds you of the days gone by, but sure no Cinderella, storybook ending.

One thing in observing that I never noticed or paid attention to is that the numbers on the roof face toward the infield rather than grandstands like local racing. My guess would be the difference in location of the information/scoring tower and for camera television purposes.

Darrell Waltrip’s comments that Cup racing is the only series that could race that long and produce a finish that close was typical from the “Oval Office” as they now refer to it as. First, how many racing series actually run 4 or 500-mile events? And second, go to any Saturday night short track and you can usually find a close finish. Now grant you, you’re not going to see that many races decided by .01 of a second no matter the distance, but it’s where it came from just like his comments on the new point system, which he stated is basically the best thing since sliced bread. I understand that he works for NASCAR, but don’t try to b.s. those of us that truly know better. Makes you appreciate how genuine Bob Jenkins and Larry Nuber were in the days of ESPN.

If Kahne was going to lose that one, I was glad to see Matt Kenseth come out swinging after NASCAR’s brass probably changed the point system for basically his amount of wins last season. Despite only one victory, Kenseth was consistent and later in the year may have raced for points rather than for wins, a syndrome that happens to racers all over the country at a short track near you.

I found it laughable how everyone seemed puzzled how Kenseth and Kahne, who pitted under green, could restart ahead of Jamie McMurray, who pitted following the caution, until Mike Joy piped in with the answer. Now whether or not he knew personally or it came from elsewhere is beside the point. The answer was quite simple and really is similar to scoring at a local track.

Because NASCAR now freezes the field and it was determined that Kenseth and Kahne didn’t lose a lap, the two went to the tail of the tail of the field. Then when all of the other lead lap cars including McMurray pitted under caution, they came out of the pits and was rightfully behind Kenseth and Kahne, who both pitted first. The answer would be the same at any track that doesn’t race back to the yellow to count the additional lap. Maybe I should try wearing a helmet when discussing a scoring issue like the NASCAR officials, who were explaining the procedure to McMurray’s crew- just kidding!

Okay, I know, enough about NASCAR. It’ll be interesting to monitor 410 winged sprint car counts across the nation, which have slowed dropped at all of the major events throughout the nation the last couple seasons. Numbers have been low at these opening events across the nation. Volusia barely had enough cars for a full field during Florida Speedweeks then the following week at East Bay counts, which always have far exceeded Volusia, only jumped to the low 30s. Lincoln opened up with a meager 20 against no competition. The World of Outlaws’ opener at Manzanita (AZ) drew 32 and 31 for the two nights.

What in the world is going on with the All Star Sprints schedule? First, Lincoln cancels their May date. Second, Emmett Hahn’s Sprint bandits book a two-day show at Little Rock (AR) when the All Stars thought they had the event. Third, the scheduled March opener at Oglethorpe (GA) was never on the track’s website and now has been postponed to September. And finally, a mini-August PA Speedweek appears to be scrapped because of the sanction fees.

Some dates to put on your calendar for can’t miss unique shows…May 15 at Mercer 410 sprints, ESS/NRA 360 Sprints, & PA 305 Sprints, June 25 Central PA Speedway BRP Modified Tour $2,500 to-win and 358 modifieds $1,000 to-win, and August 13 Lake Erie Speedway USAC Sprints.

In 1798 John Adams stated, “Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any others.” Is it any wonder why we have the problems of today? Groups like the ACLU makes Adams and our fellow Founding Fathers role over in their graves. You think about that. E-mail will make its way to the inbox at

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Behind the Checkered Curtain
January 24, 2004

By Mike Leone

Two of probably the most significant accomplishments from the 2003 season at Mercer Raceway Park were honored at the banquet on January 17. Lonny Riggs received an Outstanding Achievement Award for becoming just the second driver in the speedway’s history to win in four different classes. Riggs has scored victories in the big-block modifieds, 358 modifieds, sportsman modifieds, and stock cars at the 3/8-mile oval. Last season, Riggs’ two victories came in the two biggest modified races of the season- the $2,000 Bill Emig Memorial for big blocks and the $2,000 Little Guy Nationals for 358s.

Erin Crocker earned “The Legacy” Award, while she was racing Down Under. Crocker broke two track records in ’03. She first set a new 360 sprint standard against URC on July 5 then two and a half months later shattered the 410 mark against the All Stars. The fact that she did it against two of the most recognizable sprint car sanctioning bodies in the country makes the achievement all the more impressive. In relatively a short period of time, Crocker has become the most successful female sprint car racer in the history of the sport.

I urge everyone to read Hewitt’s Law. A very entertaining piece that really shows another side of one’s the toughest and greatest sprint car racers of all time. Hewitt’s always been one of my racing heroes and after reading his work it just reconfirms that notion. It really is a miracle that Jack Hewitt is still with us here. It’s not too hard to see that God wants to use Hewitt in ways Jack could have never dreamed of in his earlier days.

The tragic death of Don Goodson last fall made me think just how much he and J.W. Hunt were alike. The ‘Strawberry Kings’ certainly liked to give their money away at the racetracks. It makes you realize how rare a Don Goodson and J.W. Hunt really are in racing.

J.W. Hunt was certainly a one-of-a-kind. I’ll never forget 1989 at Fremont Speedway. J.W. is down on the track doing his typical WWF/Bob Weikert-style interview to get everyone riled up. This guy beside me in the grandstands is going off on old J.W. The next thing you know, J.W. and a couple of his body guards, as I guess you’d call them, are up the stands right in the face of this race fan. Now Mr. Race Fan is not so mouthy as J.W’s gang roughs the man up and his glasses end up in my 11-year-old lap. I suppose it was just a typical day at the races for Mr. Hunt. Something I’ll never forget- that’s for sure. Heck it’s the type story that should have been in Hewitt’s book.

Boy you have to really feel for Jason Johnson. Johnson was literally on top of the world. The Louisiana native was coming off his career best season in 2003 and had since added three victories in Australia, then the bottom fell out. His 18-year-old sister was tragically killed in an automobile accident, then days later he learned his ride in the states was no more. Long-time Ohio car owner, All Harrison, pulled on the plug on the HTI #22 citing increasing politics in sprint car racing. It sure will seem like strange without the #22, Ray Pullins’ #29, and Denny Ashworth’s #92 on the All Star tour and in the Buckeye State.

It appears that Guy Webb’s All Stars and Florida speedplants East Bay and Volusia have their “differences” squared away and the All Stars will return to the Sunshine State in ’05. It’s kind of a shame it couldn’t have been hashed out back in the fall. Seems weird to be seeing press releases stating the above prior to this year’s non-sanctioned sprint races at both tracks, which we’ve heard and seen little about during the off-season. It’ll be interesting to see how both the fan and spectator turnout is. One thing’s for certain, Danny Lasoski, is the clear cut favorite.

Lasoski’s quotes from the Chili Bowl on the World of Outlaws in Australia were interesting. “Not a chance,” Danny said when asked if he’d be docked points. “I told Ted (Johnson), ‘Go without me.’ I made my plans to come here. I knew for a fact that it was gonna be a special event. And I wasn’t gonna jeopardize the rest of my year just to go to Australia. I’ve been there five years. And I enjoy going, but I didn’t wanna have a race car and two motors tied up from November to February.” (From Kevin Eckert)

The United Racing Club (URC) has always impressed me. Their professionalism speaks volumes. From their staff, to their card-carrying members, to their sponsors right down to their yearbook, everything is first class. When they roll into a track, it’s the World of Outlaws of 360 racing. One tidbit that speaks for itself is that 7 of the top 11 in points actually drive for a car owner, and I’m not talking about a family member. It’s not a surprise that the nation’s oldest sprint car sanctioning body just keeps on ticking. This is one club that has its act together and keeps the ship pointed in the right direction.

The “Dirty Dozen” who have bolted for Boundless’ World of Outlaws Late Models brings back thoughts of those who left DIRT for the short-lived USNA of the modified sect. For awhile it seemed like the world was good for Doug Bland’s Xtreme Series. Boundless could have bought Xtreme and really made headlines, but then again they’ve been trying to do that with the WoO & DIRT. Guess they figured this time it was easier to start their own than to acquire. Time will tell how everything will shake out.

Like it or not, crate engine racing is slowing seeping into all facets of racing. A few years, this little talked about subject is now starring in the faces of promoters and racers across the country. Thunder Road’s (VT) Tom Curley has preached about the success of his program for years at the Promoter’s Workshops. Crate engine divisions are not for everyone, but the implementation in the right situation can save many types of classes and keep drivers in racing for the long run.

We must realize local racing is not touring body racing. Too many times we’re more worried about those around us than what’s actually the best for ourselves. There are very few, and I mean very few, Williams Groves of the world that can put their local racers head-to-head with the best the World of Outlaws have to offer. The same goes for all divisions across the board at locals tracks near you. How many local drivers today go on the road and compete? In fact, most racers stick to their home track and maybe one other night. There are very few three-night-a-week racers anywhere in any division. We all know change is hard, and I’ll be first to fight change, but sometimes in the long run change is good.

While speaking of change, does NASCAR really need to change its Cup point system? Would they have changed the system had Matt Kenseth won eight races? I don’t think so. Kenseth will be forever known as the champion who caused the change. All those years NASCAR’s brass always told us they were happy with the system. While I know change is inevitable, I think in certain situations consistency and tradition speaks for itself. One thing is certain, you won’t be able to compare Winston Cup Champions with Nextel Cup Champions.

Joe Gibbs has been so successful in everything he puts his efforts to. I’m real curious to see if he can get the Daniel Snyder’s Washington Redskins back on track. The ‘Skins haven’t been the same since his departure.

Last time I mentioned that the internet has given anyone that wants to a chance to speak their mind. When you come to think of it, there are a lot of columnists in print that leave little to be desired and it amazes me that they are where they are.

Whatever happened to Racing Champion’s die-cast sprint cars?

I still find myself laughing as hard at “Seinfeld” repeats as I did when they initialed aired.

Okay I’m starting to get off track; time to put this one to rest…In 1940, American teachers listed the worst problems as talking out of turn, chewing gum, cutting in line, and running in the hall. In contrast, teachers in 1990 said the top problems were drug use, alcohol abuse, pregnancy, suicide, rape, robbery, and assault! And that was 1990! You think about and until then I’ll be filtering spam at

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