HEDGER: The Long Look
THE VILLAGES, Fla. — The 2012 SuperFans entries have been reviewed and ranked and we’re ready to announce the winner in the professional category.
We’ll wait until our mail is forwarded from New York to name the amateur champion in a future column.
Eddie Reichert, of Spooner, Wis., a many-time amateur, pro and overall SuperFans champion, again claimed the pro title and, unless an entry with an outstanding total reaches us soon, will repeat as overall champion as well. A writer for All The Dirt Racing News and Hawkeye Racing News, Reichert attended a personal-best 169 races in 2012, hitting 55 different speedways in a dozen states, beating his old record by nine races thanks to the Midwest’s extremely dry summer.
Reichert has hit at least 100 races for the past 30 years and over the last 20 years has averaged an amazing 144 races per year. In the process, he’s been to 284 tracks in 27 states and three Canadian provinces, a feat he says would be impossible if his wife, Linda, did not like the races at least as much as he does.
Reichert saw his three favorite events at the same track— Rice Lake Speedway in Wisconsin. He loved a USMTS show featuring a 20-lap, side-by-side duel between Joey Jensen and Rodney Sanders, a super stock special event honoring George Rhoe of Intercomp Scales and the Little Dream race for street stocks, where fan contributions raised the $500 winner’s share of the purse to some $6,000.
Reichert also lauded the January series at Tucson Int’l Raceway, an August modified and late model doubleheader at Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway, the five-night Iowa Frostbuster IMCA modified tour and the Badger modified tour organized by Green Bay media personality Joe Verdegan.
On the down side, he cites not a race or speedway but the general downward trend in spectator attendance at all speedways, something he attributes to a fundamental change in our society where people just aren’t as interested in automobiles as they once were and far fewer people work on their own cars.
“My gut instinct,” said Reichert, “is that as the world moves on, we race fans are going to be left behind.”
Let’s hope that in this case, he’s wrong.
Second in the pro standings went to MRN pit road announcer and NASCAR Performance Live host Steve Post, who used his extensive travel schedule to hit 109 races of all varieties at 41 speedways in 20 states and Quebec.
The best, declared Post, was the Friday night WoO sprint car feature at Charlotte’s World Finals, where Dale Blaney and Brian Brown traded the lead back and forth until Sammy Swindell took over going to the white flag. His choice for second best was the Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen with Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and winner Marcos Ambrose swapping the lead — and paint off their cars — throughout the last lap while fighting the oil-slicked racing surface as well. Third best honors were a tie between the two qualifying nights at the Knoxville Nationals, where he describes the action as “intense from hot laps to the checkered flag.”
Post’s “downer” for 2012 was something fans across America can identify with. “The track announcer at Lancaster (S.C.) Speedway talked up the thunder and lightning storm off turns three and four while doing endless, long-winded victory lane interviews for the winners in the support divisions. Then, as the late model feature hit the track, so did the storm.”
Longtime SuperFan Ron Rodda, who covers sprint car racing both in his native California and across the nation, checkered third in the pro category with an even 100 shows at 32 tracks in eight states.
“My highlights included the January racing in Arizona and, as always, the Trophy Cup,” declared Rodda. “The Trophy Cup has the most entertaining format in short-track racing, made even more special this year with the addition of a non-wing show on Thursday.”
He also had high praise for the “Duel in the Desert” at the Las Vegas Dirt Track, with “superb organization, 308 IMCA modifieds and excellent racing,” and shows he caught on his annual Midwest racing vacation at Stuart, Iowa, and Grand Forks, N.D.
New Yorker Don Davies, who with wife JoAnne, pens a column in Area Auto Racing News, hit the stripe just three events behind Rodda, with most of the 97 being modified events around the Northeast.
While he didn’t identify a specific race as the best he saw, Davies said, “It was great to have Albany-Saratoga back on the roster of dirt tracks. The weekly racing was excellent with a high level of enthusiasm on the part of drivers and fans alike — a very positive thing.”
Davies had seen the results of the speedway’s short-lived conversion back to an asphalt surface, with crowds in the 200 to 300 range and was overjoyed to see the stands again jam packed after dirt was put back over the asphalt for 2012.
“On the disappointing side,” added Davies, “it was disappointing to see additional tracks closing or becoming marginal at best. Without true promoting by the responsible individuals, this probably will continue and we will lose even more speedways.”
Pennsylvanians Bruce and Pat Eckel, who blog for Gaternews.com, ranked fifth and sixth with 84 and 75 races, respectively, as they hit 45 different tracks in 10 states. The best of the bunch, they agreed, was the Night Before the 500 USAC midget show at Lucas Oil Raceway Park at Indianapolis where Tracy Hines went from third to the lead over the last five laps.
Their No. 2 race came during Indiana Midget Week with Levi Jones scoring an emotional win at Bloomington Speedway in Shane Hmiel’s No. 56, while they rated Kyle Larson’s midget and sprint car sweep at Kokomo two nights later a close third.
On the down side, the Eckels said the biggest loser by far was the U.S. Open at Dunn Tire Speedway in Lancaster, N.Y. Bad weather pushed the Friday portion of the Open to Saturday, doubling up Saturday’s schedule, but the start was not moved up, meaning that the show ran to over 11 hours and the premier event, the modifieds, run on a damp, cold track and did not finish until well after midnight.
Dale Danielski rounded out the pro standings with some 31 races while writing for the Midwest Racing Connection newspaper. The Onalaska, Wis., resident rated his first-time visit to the Iowa Speedway in Newton the highlight of his year, though he rated a Midwest Tour event at Elko Speedway as the best race. Dan Fredrickson finally won over Jacob Geode after a back and forth battle topped by contact on the last turn of the last lap that turned Goede around and sent him backward across the finish line for second after leading most of the race.
Danielski also commented on seeing smaller crowds most places he went, especially the asphalt speedways, with car counts also slipping, something he attributes to the difficulty of getting started in racing at a reasonable cost.
Next time we’ll start a two-part look at the amateur standings and let you know just who will be receiving the SuperFans champions plaques graciously sponsored by Tim Frost’s National Speedway Directory.