Posted on 25 February 2013.
By Craig Revelle – February 24, 2013 – Here we are at the end of February, another season of racing is fast approaching. To many area race team’s, the countdown to the new season begins with the Daytona 500, which gets people back in the racing groove, and puts them in hurry up mode to get their own cars completed for the coming season. I will have more on the Daytona 500 and the races at Daytona a little further down in this column.
My allegiance is with dirt track racing, and our Dirt Northeast style Modifieds. They were on hand in Florida at Volusia Motorsports Park this past week with four action packed nights of racing. A strong field of 38 cars were on hand this year. Danny Johnson got the best of long time rival Brett Hearn, and went on to win the first feature event of the week for the Big Block Modifieds. Mario Clair finished in third, with Australian racer Peter Britten in fourth and Jimmy Horton completing the top five. Thursday night’s battle at Volusia was won by Stewart Friesen from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario Canada. Justin Haers finished with a strong second place finish ahead of Peter Britten, Matt Sheppard and Danny Johnson. It was a surprise winner on Friday night as Rich Laubach of Quakertown, Pennsylvania took home the win over Danny Johnson, Peter Britten, H.J. Bunting and Stewart Friesen. Saturday night’s winner was the legendary Brett Hearn taking the 50 lap main event over Mario Clair, Justin Haers, Stewart Friesen and Matt Sheppard. Johnson was the overall Big Block Modified champion, by 12 points over Friesen. Peter Britten, Justin Haers and Rick Laubach were the top five overall for the four nights of racing.
There was plenty of other racing events held on area short tracks in Florida over the past couple weeks. World of Outlaw Sprint Cars and Late Models, Lucas Oil Late Models, 360 Sprint cars and much more shared the spotlight. Tim McCreadie of Watertown, New York was a winner at Volusia earlier in the week in his Late Model and had several other strong performances to start the year. Steve Poirier and Michel Parent, both from Quebec finished 1st and 2nd in the same event at East Bay Speedway near Tampa, Florida as well.
At the beginning of the week, there were some exciting short track events covered live on SPEED TV. They had the UNOH (University of Northern Ohio) Battle at the Beach, where they turned the backstretch and part of the infield into a short track for a few days early last week. They had the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, NASCAR Whelen Modifieds and the K&N Pro Series in action. All three main events produced caution filled races, but most people will remember the controversial finishes of all three events. Kyle Larson, arguably the most talented up and coming star in this sport made an aggressive move to bump the leader C.E. Falk in the final corner of the final lap, and when the bump wasn’t quite enough to get the win, he pushed a little further and spun out Falk coming to the checkered flag. Larson, of course went on to take the win, but the after effects had the social media world talking for the next 24 hours. The next night had plenty of controversy again, as former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Steve Park used the front bumper to move multi-time Whelen Modified champion Mike Stefanik out of the way on the final lap to score the $20000 top prize and the prestige of winning at a place like Daytona, Park was also getting the bumper from the third place car at the same time, which ultimately caused the chain reaction spin of the race leader. Cameron Haley of Calgary, Alberta won the final event of the Battle at the Beach, taking the checkered flag in the K&N Pro Series after becoming a benefactor of a bump and run gone bad by 15 year old racing phenomenon Gray Gaulding. The racing on the makeshift track was tough, there were plenty of fireworks with the controversial finishes, and in my opinion, it couldn’t have gone any better for NASCAR.
Speaking of NASCAR, there has been so much hype behind Danica Patrick leading up to the Daytona 500. That hype was ramped up into ridiculous proportions after she won the pole position for the Great America Race. As a true race fan, that really loves the sport, gender shouldn’t even be an issue when a team owner is selecting a driver for their car. It should be about getting the best available driver to help your team win. NASCAR is….or used to be for the most elite of drivers, much like other sports. I would welcome any female racer to step up and challenge to be a star in this sport, but I would hope they would do so by earning the spot coming up through the ranks. Today, making NASCAR means you brought the most money to the table, and because of that I have a hard time accepting Danica as a racecar driver. She is extremely marketable, with the deep pockets of GoDaddy.com along for the ride, among others, and has landed in a premier NASCAR ride with Stewart-Haas Racing. She had a top ten finish at Daytona, but lets see how well she does when they tackle other tracks that require more skill. By the way, it was Jimmie Johnson picking up the Daytona 500 win over Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman.
Saturday’s Nationwide Series race was won by Tony Stewart, but a wild finish at the end overshadowed the final results. Kyle Larson’s car got airborne during a big crash coming to the checkered flag and the front end of the car was completely sheared off upon impact with the catch fence, sending debris, including a tire and the motor through the fence and into the grandstand area. It was reported that 28 people were injured, with 14 of those being transported to area hospitals. There were a couple of serious injuries that occurred, but both have since been upgraded to stable condition. That was a disaster that could have been a whole lot worse. I have never been a big fan of racing at these big tracks with restrictor plates slowing the cars down and keeping them in big groups, and its certainly not much fun for the drivers to be a part of the big wrecks. It was very unfortunate that the fans were involved, and NASCAR can be thankful that the situation didn’t end up worse than it was.
Much like other columns over this off-season, I have to end it with sad news. Ryan Baye, a former Sportsman and Modified competitor, lost his life in a tragic snowmobile accident over the weekend. Baye was married to the daughter of Future DIRTcar Hall of Fame racer Alan Johnson, and had two young boys, aged four and six. I send my deepest condolences to Ryan’s family and friends. He was just 34 years old.
As always, any comments or suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit me online at www.finishlinewebdesign.ca, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/crevelle, and on twitter at www.twitter.com/finishlineweb17.