Never in my life have I started a racing season at an asphalt track. Well until this year anyway. Mother Nature has screwed up Hilltop's plans for practice the past couple of weeks so I got my first dose of racing fumes and noise at Midvale Speedway on Saturday. The weather wasn't exactly perfect there either, but practice for Mike Miller went as well as anybody could ever hope for. Right out of the trailer the car was quick, and the veteran behind the wheel showed little signs of any rust from the off season. That gave us time to try a couple different things on the car and get those changes dialed in. When the day was done, Mike had turned the fastest laps of anybody there, and there was some stout competition there. You all know I'm no expert in the world of asphalt racing, so I spent much of the day trying to focus on driving styles and car attitides at different points on the track. Without strapping into one of these things, I don't think I could completely analyze everything I was watching, but it's clear that certain things are different on pavement. Some differences are obvious, while others aren't. I honestly believe that drivers from both sides could learn something from each other, and the ones that can master both, truly have this circle track stuff by the ass. Practice day with Miller showed exactly why he spends the time he does during the winter on every little thing. It all paid off with no problems on the car and some pretty quick lap times. Isn't that what we all shoot for?
Sunday morning I thought I was the victim of some stupid April Fools joke when Jeff Norris called to tell me that practice was not cancelled. When I got to the track, I was still in doubt. That place was a friggin mess! We're talking about the parking lot, the pits, and the track and nothing looked like it could be ready within a day. Well, once again Jeff proved to us that if he says he'll do his best to get a show in, he'll do exactly that, even if it's just a practice day. It took a dozer to make the pits usable, and plenty of help from many others to get the track run in, but they got it done. Hell, even Mother Nature seemed to give in and finally sent us some sunshine to help out. Everybody got their laps in before the day was over, including those who showed up late. Hats off to the crew there for making sure that EVERYBODY got their fair shot at track time. Jason, you are the best in the business!!!
Speaking of those who showed up late, Jeff Facemire struggled with clutch problems, but finally made it to the track to try out the new power plant. I accused Jeff of watching videos of Denny all winter because he sure seemed to have turns 1 & 2 handled much better this year. Without really working the motor too hard, he was turning some damn nice laps already. Hopefully that's a sign of how his season will go this year. He finished last season pretty strong and if he improves from there, things could get pretty damn interesting.
On a final note, it was great having a nice long chat with Jerry Snyder yesterday. This guy has done so much for the local racing community it's just unreal. Some day I hope to have time to put together a story covering some of those things. Not only is he one hell of a supporter of local racing, he's got the coolest truck at any race track. That's one KICKASS Mopar!! ;-)
THANKS goes out to Ken Cunningham for the obviously better picture here. ;-)