Some may say that the best seat at any race track is in the cockpit, and that would be very hard to argue against. However, to actually get a real feel of all the racing action, the flagstand is the place to be. I suppose Chuck and the gang in the tower have a great view too and they even get to stay clean, but that takes away from the realism of the thunder and fumes of a field of race cars ripping by wheel to wheel. It doesn't matter if it's smoking Bombers, or alcohol burning Sprints, it's the dirt and the fumes that make the experience like no other. The flagstand is where I ended up this past Friday night, and where you'll probably find me for some time to come. Last week Ed Fredrick asked me if I'd be interested in helping him out and I just couldn't say no. Most of you probably know that Ed and I haven't always seen eye to eye on things, and God knows I've given him a rough time more than once over the years. I can honestly say though that over the past few years I've not only come to respect what he does, but also how he goes about it. I've said many times before that I've never been to a track where every call went perfectly all night, and I'm certain that I'll never witness such a miracle. The difference in the way Ed runs things is that he truly takes it to heart when something goes wrong or mistakes are made. He may even take it too damn hard at times and many don't ever see that. I have witnessed that lately and after the bullshit I've witnessed at many tracks over the years, that's surprising to say the least. It's also the reason I agreed to be his assistant. My only advice to Ed would probably be to understand that the "perfect show" simply doesn't exist, and most racers know that even if it takes a day or two for them to realize it. The way those imperfections are handled seperates the good tracks from the bad ones. In that case I'd say Lakeville is ahead of the pack in every way. At some other tracks you simply get an "oh well, that's the way it goes" when bad calls or decisions are made. At Lakeville you'll at least get an explanation of the situation, and admission of errors if they're made. That's a refreshing change from that place I spend my Saturday nights for sure!
As an old fart that has spent many nights watching racing action at many different tracks I've certainly seen my share of missed calls and just plain wrong ones. In my younger days I was convinced that either the officials were blind, didn't give a shit, or were showing favoritism. In some cases I'm willing to bet that these things really did happen and still do at some tracks. However, the amount of time I've spent with track owners and officials over the years has proven to me that sometimes what the spectator sees isn't really what it seems. I'll give you some examples. The most common situation usually happens on line-ups after a caution. The people on the track pointing the cars into their spots get blamed if you don't agree with the position given to your driver. There's a couple things angry fans and drivers should keep in mind. First of all, most tracks revert to the last completed lap for their line-ups. Check the rules to see what is considered a "completed lap". At some tracks that means the entire field has crossed the stripe, while others only require the first 2 cars cross the line. The tower crew, NOT the folks on the track, decides the line-up order. Of course there's always the chance the tower has actually made an honest mistake and we'll discuss those shortly. In the past I've even seen what seemed to be a pattern of "not so honest" mistakes come from certain towers, and that's just bullshit. Either way, even a hissy fit on the track isn't going to change the line-up, so it's better to act like an adult and get back to racing. One of the other hot topics is of course rough driving. I can tell you first hand that most of it is spotted at Lakeville and dealt with in some way. While some may want to see every bump or shove into their favorite driver result in a black flag, that simply isn't reasonable. There's a couple reasons why. First, ask yourself if there's a chance that you yourself might slide into or bump another car if you were in the same situation. Did the other car lift early or drift down/up half a lane? These decisions must be made in a split second by officials all night long, while watching the entire field. That brings me to those honest mistakes. It may not sink in that track officials are always out numbered by the number of spectators and even race cars on the track in many cases. That makes it possible for some calls to be missed. The policy Ed uses is the only fair way in my opinion. If any official can't say with certainty what happened, the call can't be made in all fairness. I can assure you that calls aren't avoided for any other reason, especially favoritism, on Ed's watch. I know some of you out there may find that hard to believe, but I will stand by that statement, and if I ever witness evidence otherwise from the flagstand, it will be a short night for me. I'm telling you now that I don't expect absolute perfection from the officials at any track, including myself, but I can guarantee that any mistake I may make will not involve favoritism in any way. There's just no place for that crap at any track.
Lakeville has always felt like home to me, and the Youngs have done all they can to make me feel welcome every time I've walked through the gates. I guess that's another reason I enjoy spending my Friday nights there. It doesn't matter if I'm watching from the pits, wrenching on a car, or on the flagstand, it just feels right to be there. THANKS to Randy, Sue, and the entire Lakeville gang for working so hard to return Lakeville to what it once was. A great place to take in real grass roots racing with the focus on good clean (alright,,, sometimes dusty)) fun. Racing could sure use more "Lakeville Speedways" if ya ask me.
Enough of all that stuff, it's time to talk about racing stuff dammit. Last weekend was pretty tough on a couple racing veterans and even one young gun. When I got the news last week that Blaine Aber was burned in an explosion, I was shocked to say the least. I can't tell you how much I enjoy messing with this old timer in the pits each week, and seeing this senior citizen leading the field to the checkers on any given night. Guys like him are pretty rare nowadays and it's gonna seem kinda strange not seeing him out there throwing that car into places others may not be brave/crazy enough to try. Last Friday night the popular young gun of Lakeville, Matt Irey ended up with trouble of his own on the track. Finding out the hard way that those big tires lining the infield don't move easy he suffered a broken arm. That just plain sucks after seeing this kid pick up his first career feature win just weeks ago. I suppose since he's young he'll heal fast and he's got many more years of success ahead of him. We're all hoping to see Aber and Irey back in action as soon as possible and they'll certainly be missed until then. The other racing veteran that had a rough time last week was none other than Mike Miller. Not only did the car suffer some pretty ugly damage in that wreckfest/clusterfuck they called a feature, but he learned the value of racing gloves the hard way. Racers, if you EVER doubt that you need those racing gloves anytime you hit the track, THINK AGAIN. If it can happen to a guy with over 30 years of experience, it can sure as hell happen to anybody. The good news was that he was able to finish the race and would have probably won the damn thing if it wasn't for some of that bullshit I mentioned above about the way other tracks handle things. Side by side with the leader at the stripe wasn't how I envisioned the ending of the night after seeing the right side destroyed in an airborne fiasco, but maybe that just proves that you can never count this guy out. The car is back together after a long week, and we'll be ready for action next Saturday. Let's hope things are a bit more under control then.
In racing action this week we saw Crock Haven pick up the Pure Stock feature win so I guess I have to tone down all the ribbing I've been giving him about driving those Mopars. ;-) The Sprints treated the fans to some wild action all night including a pass for the lead late in the 30 lap feature by Tim Hunter with his front wheels high in the air. How cool is that?!! Lakeville made plans last week for a spectator type of race but with short notice things didn't quite work out. They hope to pull it off this Friday night so there's some important things to remember. Most importantly, you MUST show your title when signing up in order to prove that you own the car, not the bank. The car must be a daily driver, and no registered racers are allowed to participate. This event is for those fans that want to get out there on the track and show what they've got. Complete information can be found on Lakeville's website.
While we're on the topic of different types of events, Lakeville has taken on yet another type of show. Starting this Sunday, The Ohio Outlaw Motorsports schedule will continue with flat track racing at Lakeville Speedway. This is the series that has brought great bike and quad action to Hilltop Speedway in the past. They've found a new home at Lakeville and if you've never seen one of these shows, you owe it to yourself to make the trip. From young kids on little bikes to veteran riders on those big motored 2 wheelers, they all give it everything they have to put on a great show. and at a great price. Admission is just $10 for ages 7 and up, and that includes a pit pass! Ages 6 and under are FREE.