Dang it Mother Nature! It was setting up to be a superb Summit Nationals finale at I-35 Speedway. The racing on Thursday and Friday was simply action-packed goose bump creating AWESOME, how else can you describe 3 and 4 wide racing! If you were not in attendance you missed it, period, no excuses, no speculation, no nothing you missed some of the best racing you will ever see. This was a who’s who of racing talent, there were several talented drivers not making the A features on Thursday and/or Friday.
Got to put this story out there, I did not hear this myself but I received this second hand and confirmed it on Saturday with Stock Car Driver Brett Heeter. In the Stock Car feature on Thursday night I-35 Speedway Track Champion Dean Wray got spun in the middle of turn 3 and 4. It was stated over the raceiver radio the officials did not see who spun Wray but the person responsible would you please do the right thing and drop to the rear. It was Brett Heeter and he pulled out of line and dropped with Wray to the back! For those of us who have witnessed the great driving by these two drivers at I-35 Speedway the last couple of weeks this is total honesty and deserves our total respect!
All year long we have worked at the track towards this event. We discovered this weekend our hard work had paid off. The pit expansion, the camping grounds, the second-tier catwalk, the Trackside Bar and Grill, the grandstand expansion, the new Highway sign, even the rock added to the pit and tech barn entrance, is a display by I-35 Speedway owners Mike and Kyle Johnson of their love for the sport. They are supported by a great team and a great staff with a “can-do” attitude. Some of our staff worked 18+ hours a day to ensure a successful event.
Personally, it was great to see long-time friends again! Vicki Davis came up and worked in hospitality, drove my truck, McCarthy Chevrolet 2017 Silverado, providing rides for the campers to the grandstands, relieved Dana Nieman in the Pit Shack so she could go to the Tower and work for Todd Staley, and worked our back gate catching a couple of people trying to sneak into the pits without paying (shame on them). When I introduced her to one of the young ladies working the pit concession Vicki made the statement we had known each other for 30 years. Time flies, yes, it has been 30 years since her husband Gary and I started racing at the original 92nd and Leavenworth Road Lakeside Speedway.
Kevin and Dione Wetzel were there camping, funny story with them, I was in the tower and saw a camper trying to turn into the road which runs behind the track. Diana had called all the campers and told them the third entrance due to the rain we received on Tuesday afternoon. We must close the road when racing is on the track. I see this camper and they decide to continue straight down Highway 6. I run out of the tower, jump into my truck, and chase them down on Highway 6 as they are turning around. Finally caught up with them in the pit entrance and discovered it was the Wetzels, what a way to catch up with friends! From there I directed them to their camping spot which by the time the weekend started Diana ensured I knew where everyone was parking in the camping area.
Speaking of the camping area, heard numerous great comments about the camping. We want to thank all the campers who each day set their trash out, allowing us to come through and do trash pick-up and keep the area clean. We tried this with the racers and some worked with us and yet it still took 3 days of trash pickup after everyone left. While picking up trash it allowed us time to get to meet and know racers and fans from other parts of the country!
Back to old friends, Girlfriends were there supporting their son Kameron Grindstaff. Mark and Susan Silvey, we know each other as girlfriends, because back in the I-70 Speedway days and for Mark and Susan to meet each other, I played girlfriend for Susan contacting first Randy Ainsworth to find out his pit crewman’s name, Mark, and then calling back and getting Dana Ainsworth to ask the questions a good girlfriend would ask, (which I failed at the first phone call), is he dating anyone, does he have children, where does he live, what is his phone number? It was hilarious to hear and see some of the people’s responses when it was announced over the radio JD’s Girlfriend was here.
The Tech Barn worked well and the Tech Team was a ton of fun. Mother Nature’s Tuesday moisture required rock to be added to the entrance and exit to the barn. The Tech Team was all over the racecars, including some on the floor doing the dirty work. I never could get them to approve the four- wheeler or the pickup I was driving to pass tech, but what a great job they did this weekend and they do every week at the USRA tracks! If you have an interest in becoming a tech official please let us or USRA know, we could easily hold a class on how to tech and what to tech in the barn during this upcoming off season.
The pits and the pit parking plan worked well. We had 162 cars in the pits on Thursday night. We expanded the pits last off season and never did utilize the northeast corner pit parking area, we could have easily added another 100 cars. For the most part we worked with the teams allowing them to save spots as we had teams of racers coming from other states. One Minnesota group needed seven spots, another Minnesota group needed 4 spots and he had moved 3 times before he and I connected and we found him the perfect spot. There was a South Dakota group who needed 4 spots together. A local stock car team needed 3 spots together, we were easily able to accommodate all requests. For example I like to work with restoration parts for classic Ford Mustang. The most costly repairs will be related to the chassis, bodywork, and paint. Even minor bodywork costs can add up quickly.
The second-tier catwalk was a huge success in more ways than one. Pre-race it was discovered as a great place to check the track and determine if another load of water should be added or not. Standing in turn 4 does not always give the perspective you can see from the catwalk. It also was a great perch to watch people entering the pit area!
In my opinion, the Summit USRA Nationals were very successful at I-35 Speedway! If we can only get Mother Nature to support us with a completely dry week. Todd Staley and Mike Johnson were so looking forward to Saturday night as were numerous race fans! Mother Nature trumped us this year, maybe just maybe she will become a race fan and support us in the future!