Cops racing at Beatrice Speedway
When we get ready for the upcoming racing season, we always look ahead to the schedules of not only Beatrice Speedway, but other area tracks. My work schedule only lets me have every other Friday, Saturday and Sunday off. Last year, I raced on my weekend off and Jeremy and Jason traded off on my weekends to work. This year we ended up with two cars. With a change in rules, the factory stock class at Beatrice Speedway has had a better car count than last year.
A lot of people my age look at more sedentary hobbies. I’m probably a bit different. When I’m not working on the race car or racing, I’m riding the Gold Wing. When I’d come back to work on Monday, other officers would ask me “Did you win??” They didn’t believe me when I said that there is a lot more to it than jumping in a car and driving in circles.
After thinking about it for a while, I posted a list of dates when I would be racing at Beatrice Speedway. I asked officers to sign up for a date, and I would take both cars to the race track and they could take a turn at the wheel. Several people signed up, but with changing work schedules, only Chief Bruce Lang and Sgt Jay Murphy were able to race during the regular season. The last officer that was signed up for a regular season night, Colleen Morabito, lost her chance when the car she was scheduled to drive was damaged beyond repair.
Earlier in the season, I thought about how cool it would be if a bunch of the officers could race against each other. At a lodge meeting of the FOP, I brought up the idea of a “Charity Race” in which we raised funds and donated the money to local charities according to how each driver finished in the race. There was enough interest in the idea that we moved forward.
The charities that were selected were the Salvation Army, the YMCA, Make a Wish Foundation, the Beatrice Youth Center, the Food Pantry, Special Olympics, American Cancer Society Relay for Life, Habitat for Humanity and Mother to Mother Ministry.
Once again, with work schedules and other unexpected things, several people signed up that ultimately could not make it that night. The Women for Racing organization made a generous donation, as did Gage County Auto Racing and FOP Lodge 45. A collection bucket was set up at the WFR booth and individual donations were made by Cheryl & Mike Honea, Jason & Emily Rosenthal and Jay Murphy. Jan and I also made a donation.
During the week, we matched drivers with cars by a draw. We also matched the drivers up with a charity. The final driver’s list was Chief Lang, Sgt Jay Murphy, Sgt Wes Henning, Officer Rob Mierau, Officer Colleen Morabito, Dispatcher Cecilia Rosentreader, Corrections Officer Tiffanie Lottman and I. I hadn’t planned to drive as I had organized this, but we ended up with enough cars so I could get behind the wheel, too.
During the Gage County Fair, I had information sheets handed out to all the factory stock and hobby stock drivers about the race. I asked them to allow us to use their cars for the event and they stepped forward. There’s always the “What if??” in the back of everyone’s minds…. What if somebody’s car gets wrecked?
I stressed to everybody that the cars are very expensive to fix and that we were not in a demolition derby. All joking aside, everybody knew this would be a “test drive” and if all went well, we would be allowed to do it again next year.
Talk about a busy day for me! I made some last minute contacts to be sure the cars we had lined up were still available. At the last minute, it looked like we’d be one short. However, Travis Burger came over and asked if I had enough cars and if not, we could use his. As it worked out, it was Travis’ car that I ended up in. First time I ever raced a Ford!!
We did a draw in my pit for starting positions, then the drivers headed out to meet up with the drivers & crews they would be working with for the evening. Chief Lang was paired up with Tony Spangle’s #6s factory stock and Wes Henning ended up with my #6 factory stock. Tiffanie had Justin Theasmeyer’s #19 hobby stock while Colleen got Joel Hespen’s Y85 factory stock. Jay ended up with Ryan Roschewski’s #2 hobby stock and Rob Mierau with Pete Kruse’s #69 hobby stock. Robert Soldo got Gary Laflin’s #9 factory stock and Cecilia Rosentreader was in Nathan Rosentreader’s #C4 factory stock. I started last in Travis Burger’s #6b hobby stock.
By hanging out with the drivers and crews, the guys and gals rubbed shoulders with them and saw what went into making the cars go around in circles. Jay’s ride was in question most of the evening as the Roschewski crew fought to get the car to even run. Gary Laflin was involved in a mishap in his heat race and he wasn’t even sure if he’d be able to finish the A Feature, let alone the charity race. Justin Theasmeyer had some minor overheating problems, and Joel Hespen got caught up in another driver’s spin in the A Feature, bending an upper control arm. They had to really push in order to get their car going. At any time, these guys could have thrown their hands up and giving up, but not one of them did. When the charity race began to line up, all 9 drivers had a car to race!
I made arrangements to let the drivers get a few hot laps before the race went green. Rob Mierau drew the pole and Chief lined up on the outside pole. The 6s is a fast car, and with Chief having the experience, I knew he’d be hard to beat. Jay and Wes were in the 2nd row, with Colleen and Cecilia in the 3rd row, and Robert “Tin Man” Soldo and Tiffanie in the 4th row. I was just wanting to try to get through traffic without any mishaps.
Once lined up, we got our customary parade lap. Cars got pretty well lined up on the back stretch and as we came out of turn 4, the green was waving. We are racing!
Chief jumped out to the early lead and stretched it out immediately. In the meantime, I was wheeling the 6b toward the front of the field. Having never been in the car, I felt a bit out of place as the pedals and seat just didn’t feel the same as in my own car. I got past Tiff, Cecilia and Colleen on the 1st lap and set sail on the next car, which was my own 6 that Wes was piloting. I caught up to him going into turn 1 and passed him on the outside, hoping that both cars would turn the corner. I got around him without any contact. Next car was Tin Man in the 9 of Gary Laflin. I passed him on the bottom coming out of 2, putting me in 4th place. Chief was still leading, with Rob in 2nd and Jay in 3rd. It looked like I had a long way to go to catch Jay. In the meantime, he looked like he was catching up to Rob.
With 4 laps to go, I knew time was running out. The 6b was handling flawlessly and I was wishing that my own car handled that good. Another lap and I was on Murphy’s back bumper. It looked like I could maybe pass him on the bottom on the back straightaway, but he moved down, blocking me. I tried him higher for the next lap, but he seemed like he had a mirror and moved up. We were also gaining on Rob and Chief while this was going on. Going into 3, Rob went in a bit high and jumped the cushion, with Jay and I passing him at that point.
Coming up on lap traffic out of 4, I was able to pass Jay on the outside on the front chute. Then, in 1, I went wide around a lap car and Jay led me out of 2. Down the back chute, I moved to the bottom again. Into 3, and we touched fenders. I backed off a bit to avoid a crash, and jay beat me out of 4. White flag is out and we’re bearing down on Chief! Out of 2 and I have just a couple of more chances to get past Jay. Into 3 and Chief goes high - we both pass him! Out of 4 and it’s a drag race for the checkers - Jay beat me to the line by a car length! What a race!
During the post race interview, Jay mentioned that he may not be a day shift sergeant any more after beating Chief. His crew was really happy as they finally got their car running and they got a win for the evening. The crowd really got into the race before the end, yelling and cheering for Jay when he got out of the car. But, the biggest winners of the night were the charities that we had chosen to race for. Jay took home 40% of the purse for the YMCA, I nailed down 30% for Special Olympics, Chief made 20% for the Salvation Army and Rob made 10% for American Cancer Society Relay for Life.
In addition, we all got a 9-minute spot on the radio show “Speed Secrets,” hosted by Wayne Dake, who announces at Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction. Everybody thought that was cool. We’ll also be on Beatrice radio station KWBE this Friday at 5:30 in the afternoon.
Plans are already being made to do this race again in 2010. Our FOP Lodge will be doing some fund raisers during the year to try to make the purse big enough so all of the chosen charities get a piece of the pie. We hope to be able to get more advertising out there so there is more awareness of what we will be doing.
Now I need to get busy working on my car so we can finish out the last week of the season on a good note. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.