HEDGER: The Long Look
BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. — With many longtime readers and participants not aware that NSSN continued electronically after the demise of the printed version, we had fewer than usual SuperFans entries for 2011.
But some sent reports along out of habit and along with sponsor Tim Frost of the National Speedway Directory, we reminded others by e-mail, so the tradition lives on for yet another year.
We will make one change, however, as we’ve combined the pro or press pass people with the ticket buying amateurs in the rundown, though we will again designate winners in both longstanding classes.
Both the 2011 SuperFans overall championship and pro honors go to Ed Reichert, of Spooner, Wis., a former winner in both divisions who continued to use his Hawkeye Racing News press pass while attending 159 races at 55 speedways in 13 states.
Reichert says he’s lost without having the printed NSSN to fall back on for nationwide results and upcoming events, but he still had a remarkable season, a single event off his best ever.
Looking back at his 31st season over the 100-race mark, Ed says the best race came in October at Minnesota’s Elko Speedway, with dirt put down on the blacktop for a “heart stopping” UMSS sprint car show.
He also loved the John Seitz Memorial at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks and the IMCA modifieds Duel in the Desert at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. And while he used to say nothing topped the Chili Bowl, Reichert tells us he now goes to the Wild West Shootout at USA Raceway in Tucson, a “top notch race that’s one of the most enjoyable of the year, not to mention a chance to relax in the sun.”
Defending amateur titlist David Garrison, of Bedford, Ky., was just a tick off Reichert’s pace at 156 races and would have claimed overall honors, as well had he not missed 16 shows in August due to a bout with pneumonia. As it was, he got to 78 tracks in 21 states, traveling more than 40,000 miles by himself and making 54 races just in Indiana. A diehard USAC fan, David supported 54 USAC shows and would have seen every sprint, midget and Silver Crown show had he not become ill.
Garrison says the “worst show this year was the IMCA mods at the Vegas Dirt track. The first night the track was awesome. The second night the track totally came apart. The air filled with dust that was like fine cement dust, breathing was difficult and passing was improbable.”
He also panned the Eastern Storm USAC tour, saying “Lernerville and Lincoln had terrible surfaces, Grandview was awesome as always and New Egypt put on a decent show on a terribly windy day that made track prep a real challenge. I don’t plan on going back.”
On the positive side, David says the best midget shows were the USAC midget week race at Lincoln Park and the same group at Grundy County, while Terre Haute had the best sprint show. He also liked the USAC sprints at Ocala and Canyon, Chase Elliot’s win in the Snowball Derby and the Chili Bowl, of which he says 2011 was the best ever.
Ed Esser, of Madison, Wis., made it an all former champions podium, notching 130 races in 26 states despite health problems. He got to 78 tracks for the first time, including venturing to Utah and New Mexico, while logging nearly 67,000 miles on his car. Ed’s admissions totaled $1,745, with the money spread around among120 speedways.
He maintained that you can’t beat the Chili Bowl but also liked the midgets at McCool Junction, Neb., and Belle-Clair Speedway in Illinois along with the USAC sprints at Ocala, where we ran into both Ed and David Garrison, who unknowingly were seated about 10 feet apart.
Unfortunately, word has just reached us that Ed passed away March 1 after suffering a heart attack at home. He was a man who focused on both racing and his children and grandchildren, deriving great joy from both. Among the lead pack in both SuperFans and track chasers, a group of dedicated fans devoted to getting to as many different speedways as possible, Ed will be missed by all.
Kevin Babcock, of Des Moines, checkered fourth with 126 races at 39 tracks in seven states. Kevin’s favorites included the Dart Challenge Series at Dakota State Fair Speedway and Modified Mania at Tri-City in Illinois. Kevin dedicated his 2011 tour, the best of his SuperFan career, to the late Gary Storey, another Iowan devoted to short track racing and a former SuperFans champion.
Bill Hull was fifth with a weather-restricted 121 races at 18 speedways in just three states, topped by Florida and his home state of New York. His favorite was a Paul Kinney win over Pat Ward and Stewart Friesen at Utica-Rome Speedway while his low point was New Symrna, Volusia and Ocala going to shorter seasons.
Ben Trask, of Cortland, Ohio, claimed sixth position with 114 races at 50 speedways in 13 states, highlighted by the Chili Bowl, as usual. But he also loved the ACT races at New Symrna, a Don O’Neal win at Volusia County, Dennis Erb’s victory at the Clarksville Toilet Bowl, Johnny Benson’s Kalamazoo Klash score and Eldora’s World 100.
Ben says that Attica and Motordrome has the best food but also suggests that more reasonable prices would boost sales considerably at all tracks. Other complains include excessive dust, slow wreckers, poor organization and late starts.
Seventh went to Bob Litton, of Iowa City, Iowa. He enjoyed 109 races at 33 speedways in a five-state area. He spent $1383 on admissions, showing the value of SuperFans to the region’s promoters.
California racing reporter Ron Rodda claimed eighth with 101 events at 22 tracks in four states, altering his usual mid-west heavy schedule to enjoy events in the northwest. His top three races included the Trophy Cup at Tulare, the IMCA Duel in the Desert at Las Vegas and the Wild West Shootout for LMs and modifieds at USA Raceway in Tucson.
Rodda, who says that the Trophy Cup format is the best in the world, also lauded the inaugural ASCS National Sprints show at Cottage Grove, Ore., along with shows at Placerville, Tulare and Hanford in his home state.
“Two continuing complaints are shows that are paced with no consideration that this is supposed to be an entertainment business and announcers who don’t realize their talent falls far short of what they think of themselves,” summed up the longstanding SuperFans contender.
One hundred races at 63 speedways in 11 states put Bruce Carley in ninth. His “no faults” venues included Attica, Ohio, Fairbury, Ill., and Florence, Ky., while saying, “for dragged out racing, too many classes and boredom, go to pavement races.”
Tenth place was our first tie of the 2011 season. Reta Litton went to 91 races with husband Bob, spending some $1207, while another Iowan, Steve Heston, matched her total after visiting 20 speedways in three states.
Steve, who announces at Mason City, names Webster City’s steak sandwich and Allison’s tenderloin the best food he sampled. He feels that Deer Creek has the best surface and Mineral City the worst, with Algona presenting the best stock car shows, Marshalltown the best modified events, and I-35 the top hobby stock and sport modified races.
Gater News blogger Bruce Eckel was 12th in the rundown, logging 90 races at 48 speedways in 10 states. He saw 231 features with 187 different winners and says the best was the Lincoln Park round of Indiana Midget week, won by Bryan Clausen after a wild battle with Kyle Larson and Brad Kuhn.
Second best was a Doug Manmiller win at Grandview, followed by a big-block modified/410 sprint doubleheader at New Egypt with Billy Pauch and J.J. Grasso prevailing and Grandview’s Halloween all-features show.
Area Auto Racing News columnist Don Davies caught 85 races to claim 13th. He was impressed by his first visit to Lincoln Speedway for the modifieds and 358 sprints, but named the World Finals in Charlotte the event of the year on the strength of great racing and tight point battles in both the modifieds and late models.
Pat Eckel was 14th, sharing the adventure with husband Bruce, while Iowa’s Kevin Trittien checkered 15th. He caught 73 races at 25 speedways and says that half of what he spent went for fuel in his car, a factor that may be even more significant this season. Kevin, who now blogs for PositivelyRacing.com, caught every event at Hamilton County Speedway in Webster City, saying that their purse increase to $1,100 to win for the IMCA modifieds attracted more cars, which in turn improved the show a great deal.
The 16th and final position in the rundown goes to the team of John Cross and Carolyn Kessler with 37 races at 15 speedways. The best show, they declared, was sprint cars at Attica Raceway Park, though they also loved Fremont’s sprint program and a twin -50s program at Bowman-Gray Stadium. Their only disappointment was side trip to Hickory, where they were disappointed by a 13- car field at one of NASCAR’s traditional sites.
That’s it for 2011. We expect more entries next time, once everyone gets into the new NSSN format, so keep good records as you enjoy the 2012 season.