Well that was a whirlwind month since we last spoke. I have been ultra-busy with the wedding planning, and work, and blah, blah, blah. and oh yeah, I have a couple new friends; my beautiful baby nieces, Emily and Emerson. (although they sound like twins, they are a few months apart. Now when Eli gets here next month, Uncle Richard will be stretched pretty thin. Yes, indeed, for the next month, I can get away with this gem.
Last weekend, the legendary highbanks of the Salem Speedway Fueled by the Hoosier Lottery opened up with a two day show that featured the cars and stars of the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards. I have the fortune of being the announcer at the famed venue, and am able to see the future stars of the sport as they are starting to climb the ladder. For instance, in the last few years, I have seen several drivers make the leap to the Nationwide and even Sprint Cup Series that left their mark on the Salem Speedway. Drivers like Chase Elliott, Parker Kligerman, Alex Bowman, and a couple of boys with the last name Dillon. Maybe you’ve seen a few of these guys on the T.V. doing commercials about growing up fast, Well the Salem Speedway has taught a few of them some lessons.
It was on this “business trip”, that I got a chance to reconnect with an old flame. Actually it re-energized my passion for my first love, RACING. In the midst of everything that has been going on, I saw one heck of a race, and the culmination of a very historical start to the season. Fairhope Alabama’s Grant Enfinger has had an amazing start to the 2014 season in the ARCA series. Enfinger became the first driver since 1970 to win the first three races of an ARCA season. He would also go on to win the pole at Talladega this weekend. (spoiler alert, the streak came to an end Saturday, as Tom Hessert picked up the victory at Talladega.) Grant was also able to secure funding to race the entire season, and announced it this weekend. It’s feel good stories like this that make me love coming to the track, or turning the television, radio, or online stream of a race on.
Another feel good story swept NASCAR after this race last season. The Davids were able to slay the Goliaths when, well, see for yourself. Front Row Motorsports was fortunate to have its teams make the race. Mired back in points, with limited sponsorship dollars, and mostly funded out of pocket by the owners, They put their drivers first and second at the finish of a Sprint Cup Series race. That is what makes all the struggles, all the defeats, all the failures worth it in the end. To hold that trophy high, and know that against all odds, and in spite of the level of competition that you are facing, the draft equalizes all. In four races a season, (Both Daytona and Talladega events) NASCAR uses restrictor plates to limit the amount of fuel getting to the engine, thereby reducing horsepower and speed. The lower speeds do a better job of keeping the race cars on the racetracks, and not next to you in the stands. Sometimes.
Every race fan knows that the restrictor plates lead to closer speeds, and tight packs held together by the holes in the air that the cars create. The groups of cars will “draft together” (basically the cars not leading will follow as closely as possible in the tire tracks of the leaders, reducing the air resistance on the front of their cars, and enabling them to go faster than the leader) If the leader and a pack of cars are in agreement, this arrangement can last however long is necessary, as a few years ago, we saw some groups get together at the green flag, and run to the finishing laps before they tried to mix it up. It always seems to start with the adage, “Hey, I am going to stick with my teammate.” or Hey, I’m going to stick with the cars that are out of the same manufacturer.” It always comes down to the end of one of these with someone saying, “Hey, I am going to stick with anyone who wants to help me make a move…NOW!” Because of the similarities in horsepower, and the desperation of some competitors, they may be inclined to work with drivers that wouldn’t normally be on their radar. Someone like a David Ragan, or a Trevor Bayne could get up there again.
Ragan, Bayne, Jamie McMurray, and until recently, Kevin Harvick, and Dale Earnhardt Jr were a few drivers who shone on these tracks, but struggled most everywhere else. And we can’t forget this generation’s Plate Track Overachiever, Michael Waltrip. This style of racing seems to suit some drivers, and not so much others. For instance, Although he has won a Sprint cup Championship, and on every other style of track, Kurt Busch has never won a plate points race. He has been one of the most consistent drivers on finishing with a top-5 or top-10, but has never been in the right place, with the right partner at the end of one of these. Ryan Newman has had some memorable rides, but at least has a Daytona 500 victory to show for it. (ironically enough, Kurt Busch played good teammate to push Newman to the 2008 Daytona 500 win) For all his success at Daytona in July, Tony Stewart has only one Talladega trophy, and is still looking to cross the line first at NASCAR’S biggest track…until today.
That’s right. He has struggled mightily this season, but today will be a very bright day for Stewart Haas Racing as the owner returns to victory lane after last season was cut short due to a serious injury. Check out all of the action on KORN Country 100.3 FM, or listen live right here on www.korncountry.com