I found myself muttering those same words to myself several times last night at Hilltop. I think the first time was when I saw that the new and improved pit area was overflowing with cars. I kept watching the new grandstands to see just how much of them could get filled on their first night and was amazed when I looked up there at the start of the late model heats. I suppose you could pack people in tighter and get some more folks in there, but I'm not sure you could have fit in all the people sitting in their own chairs down towards turn one. Holy Shit, what a crowd! As I suspected, a few late model teams used last night to get warmed up for big show next week, and we were treated to preview of the level of cars to expect next week. Some pretty stout regulars were stuck in the B-main as a result, and the B-main looked like a field that you might expect as an A-Main at any local track.
While I tried to keep an eye on all the racing action, my main focus was on the pure stock class to see Jeff Facemire and Denny Shear in their first action of the year. Jeff looked damn good on practice day and I was hoping that was a sign of things to come. Holy SHIT, did he come through on that last night! The heat race had him chasing down Fred Snyder while hold off some very strong cars from behind. Due to having no brakes, he didn't get close enough to battle Fred for the win, but that would change in the feature. From his 5th starting spot, he made quick work of those in front of him until only Fred remained. Matching Fred move for move through lapped traffic, Jeff was putting on quite a show. Not only was he running with Fred Snyder, but he was looking to take the lead away from him. A quick look to the inside the first time convinced him that he could pull it off too. Unfortunately though, catching Fred and passing him are 2 very different things. Jeff dove under Fred into turn 1 and was poised to take the lead when the ol' veteran shut the door on him. Jeff stabbed the brakes to avoid hitting him and ended up spinning himself out. Now, there's alot of ways to look at this whole situation, and Jeff called it a rookie mistake for not waiting for a better place to make that move. I agree to an extent, but I say it also has alot to do with a very hungry driver that simply doesn't want to follow a car that he quickly ran down. That's exactly what I LOVE to see in a driver. Sure, I would have rather seen him make that move in a different spot, or maybe even force the issue a bit, but that will all come in time. Hell, he's just starting his second season behind the wheel. Fred didn't get to where he is on the racing food chain without many years of experience. He knows it's his job to keep his position, and he's very good at it. He also knows what to expect if he tries too hard at that job. Jeff has to be proud that he was able to put himself in the position to make Fred earn that win. Earning it next time could get even harder if Jeff continues to improve. If the improvement does continue, this should be one hell of a fun season.
Hat's off to the entire crew of Hilltop for one hell of a night. Yea, it got dusty, and pretty damn late, but they pulled it all together pretty well for an opening night that turned out a bit bigger than even I expected. Next week should be awesome! You folks might want to head to the track on Thursday to get a good parking spot and seat!!! ;-)
Holy SHIT!!!! Part 2-Saturday Night
"Holy Shit!" turned into "Summmbitch!" before the night was over at Midvale Speedway, but it was still a pretty interesting night. First off, I'm slowly learning the differences in the way they run a show compared to a dirt track. Some of their procedures just have me scratching my head. The feature is lined up by a roll of the dice (3 of them!!) by the fast qualifier to determine the number of cars that are inverted, NOT results of the heat races. Now, I'm all for making drivers race their way to the front, especially on dirt. It makes for a much better show for the fans too. However there's a reason many asphalt races look like parades, and it's even worse when you can see that the faster cars are being blocked. It looks like a train wreck waiting to happen. Of course the best drivers out there can make the outside groove work for them to an extent, so that's what they have to do while trying to avoid slower cars that may not be able to hold their own line. Interesting to say the least!
Anyway, the night started out well enough with Mike setting fast time in qualifying. The bad news is that qualifying fastest only seems to have disadvantages. It puts you on the tail of the heat, which I agree with, but it also can put you on the tail of the feature no matter where you finish in the heat race. The roll of the dice put Mike in 13th for the feature and he told me that his chances of a win were pretty much zilch. He's not an overly confident fella ya see, but it's best to be realistic in situations like this. I began to think he was pulling my leg though when a few laps into the race he was working the outside and headed to the front. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I'm almost positive I don't have the patience required to race on pavement. He was a man on a mission, but had to tip- toe his way through the field. When he slid into second position, all was looking great, and I dared to think he'd pull off the win. It wasn't meant to be due to a race ending caution while he was sitting in second. They found an oil leak on the car while he was sitting on the track and he was pushed into the pits. I'm still thinking he got screwed in the results over that whole deal, as he was scored in last place. Well, I guess I'm used to controversy at a race track by now, but it still sucks. I can honestly say that my first full night at an asphalt track didn't totally suck, and that's all a dirt guy like me can ask for. It was a nice change not needing to hit the shower as soon as I got home, and I didn't get dust in my eyes once all night! Ahhh hell, it was kinda fun I guess, so I suppose I'll be doing it again next week. ;-)