Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More 2010 Line of Duty Deaths; Blue Knights at Chesapeake, VA; Progress on the race car; Beatrice Speedway releases 2011 schedule

Since I talked about the LOD death of Weld County, Colorado Deputy, 8 more law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty in the United States. As of today, 156 officers have lost their lives in 2010. Of these, 55 have been killed by gunfire. The Officer Down Memorial Page reports that the next highest cause of death in 2010 has been from automobile accidents. That does not include motorcycle accidents, of which 5 officers died.

The latest reported death was that of Officer Andrew Rameas of the Harker Heights, Texas Police Department. Officer Rameas was killed while providing a motorcycle escort for a funeral procession through Killeen, Texas on December 20th.

Of the 5 reported LOD deaths on motorcycles, four were in Texas and one was in Louisiana. The one in Louisiana also involved an escort; however, it was a parade escort.

Texas has had 16 officer LOD deaths, while both California and the Federal Government has had 11.

The National Transportation Safety Board released figures that showed that in 2009, 4,400 people were killed in motorcycle accidents. Miles traveled by motorcycle are on the increase, and will probably keep increasing as the price of gasoline keeps going up. I know that if it weren’t for having a motorcycle, there are a lot of places we’ve been that we couldn’t have afforded to have gone to. We’ve ridden close to 150,000 miles since I got my first Gold Wing. We got our ‘06 in July 2006 and currently have 32,000 miles on it. Many of those miles have been going to and from Blue Knights events. We plan to attend the Blue Knights International Convention at Chesapeake, Virginia in July of 2011. We will be doing a lot of sightseeing on the way there, once we get there and on the way home.

Given my occupation and my off duty pursuits of motorcycle touring and stock car racing, I am statistically more likely to be killed at work or play than the average person on the street. A few years ago, Jan & I both had our wills drawn up. Three years ago, a Gage County Deputy, who was also a volunteer firefighter, lost his life in a house fire. Shortly after that, officers in my department received data sheets to fill out with all our last wishes to include pallbearers, songs and music to be played, etc. This is something I haven’t done yet, and it’s something I really need to finish. I plan to finish our my career, retire, race every week and ride a million miles, but JUST IN CASE, I really need to finish filling out that paper!

Speaking of Chesapeake, the time will be here before we know it. I need to start planning routes and how long it will take to get there and home. Jan reminded me she will have to get her calendar marked so she will know how much time off she will have to take.

I’m spending some time in the garage working on the race car on my days off. I have most of the interior fitted and spot welded into place. I’d have liked to have spent more time working on it tonight, but I’m running out of firewood for the woodburner and it was getting pretty cold so I knocked off.

Beatrice Speedway has put up their 2011 schedule. They still haven’t put out anything about factory stocks & pro-ams being able to run together in 2011.

The season will kick off with Spring Nationals on Friday March 18th & Saturday March 19th. Sport compacts will be on the program on Friday and factory stocks will race on Friday. April 9th will be Test & Tune and the season will start on April 22nd. This will be the latest starting date in recent memory, but Beatrice always seems to have a lot of rain-outs the first part of the season, so maybe this will eliminate the rain-outs.

With the price of gasoline already being $3 a gallon, I probably won’t be going to Columbus this summer. Of course, maybe a sponsor will step up and offer to keep my hauler full of fuel for me…..  That's about as likely to happen as me winning an A Feature in 2011,

Friday, December 3, 2010

Beatrice Speedway 2011 schedule?? Cooperation between racers

It’s December 3rd, and still no word out of Beatrice Speedway about what will be happening in 2011. I sure hope something comes out soon. I’m not the only one - there was a question posed this afternoon on the Beatrice Speedway message board on about when the schedule would come out. The Beatrice Speedway website still hasn’t had an update - the last time that happened was August 24th.

I have heard from what I consider a reliable source that the Fair Board will make a decision on the Beatrice Speedway website in the next week. I hope this comes to fruit and changes are made SOON!!

Judging by the classifieds section on, a lot of people are either updating equipment, selling out, or changing classes. I’ve been asked why I don’t change classes - maybe go to a Sport Mod. There are many reasons for me not to change classes.

According to a poster on the message board who calls himself Salty Dog “ ernie would run last if they gave him an unlimited budget! “ I know who “Salty Dog” is, and I wonder how he came to that conclusion. He constantly posts complaints about how long race programs last. He must turn into a pumpkin at 10 PM. I know that Salty Dog has been around racing a long time, but for the life of me I can’t remember ever seeing him drive a race car.

Even though I’ve been around stock car racing since 1973, I did not get behind the wheel until 2002, when I was 50 years old. For the most part, I have to fix anything that gets bent or broken. If I’d started driving these things when I was 18, like a lot of the people out there, maybe I’d have gone faster or would go faster. No matter where I finish at on the track, I do the best I can. If I see that the leaders are coming up on me, I try to stay out of their way. If I can run with somebody, I will do it, but I am also careful to not run into them in order to make a pass on them. Change to a faster class - nope!! I am going fast enough right now, and there are times I go fast enough that I scare myself!!

Ever since we started racing, we’ve been careful about how we spend money. I have always had a very hard time asking anybody for money for anything, and racing is not a money making venture. Expenses and costs go up, but purses don’t. For somebody just starting out, it will take 3 or 4 seasons before an operation such as ours starts to have spare parts. The first two seasons we raced, we did not have a spare engine.

We’ve had a lot of help along the way. We’ve been given used wheels and tires that other racers were throwing away. When we first started racing, we didn’t have a garage or a trailer to haul the car with. Tom & Lori Wolf let us use their garage in Blue Springs. Flip Bitting let us use his trailer. The garage wasn’t insulated and Guy Brollini gave us a small wood burning stove to heat the garage.

Ron’s Automotive in Beatrice allowed me to use their parts washer when I needed it. We didn’t have a welder for the first couple of years, and Jeff Shew let us use his shop and welder. Pat Wells at NAPA in Beatrice did a lot of machine work on our engines over the years and on some of it I am sure he did not charge full price.

Over the years, Blue Knights Nebraska I have given us sponsorship money. Early on, we also got a little sponsorship money from Huston Motors and Penner Insurance in Beatrice. Most recently, Fashionette Salon and Nancy Gerdes, C.P.A./ P.C.  in Beatrice have been my main supporters.

While racing is a sport driven by money, it is also a lesson in cooperation between competitors. I have borrowed tools and parts from other racers, and have also loaned tools and parts. I’ve had racers want to pay me for the parts, and I simply told them to bring me the same part the next time we saw each other. I can’t think of a time when they didn’t do that, be it a fan belt or a control arm. I’ve even loaned out an engine for a few weekends after we got to the point where we had a spare available.

New tires now cost $94 each and some of the more well-funded teams have new tires every 3 or 4 weeks. I’ve been able to buy the used tires for a fraction of what new ones cost. I’ve also been given tires that were in a lot better shape than the ones I have been using. I had a guy who owns a Sport Mod team give me 11 tires, 4 of which had only one race on them. He also gave me 4 wheels that he could not use. When I asked what I owed him, he told me “Nothing. If somebody else needs some of those tires, let them have them.”

I usually go to the track by myself or with just one pit crew member. However, once our pit stall is set up, our numbers fluctuate. I’ve always had plenty of help from the teams pitted near me. I’ve pulled in with a flat, thinking I was done for the night, and just like that, a half dozen guys are changing the tire for me so I can get back out.

I’ve had pictures posted showing the work I’ve been doing on my car during the off season. Believe me, I don’t have the tools, know-how and expertise to make a firewall and floor pan for my race car. However, there are other racers who do. Rod Latta told me to get the materials and he would cut & form everything for me. All I will have to do is take it home and weld it together.

Speaking of which, I found that the sheet metal is supposed to be available in Beatrice. I called a week ago and was told that I could pick up what I needed on Wednesday. I called Rod and made arrangements to have him cut & bend everything on Thursday evening. I stopped Wednesday afternoon to get the sheet metal - they were STILL out! It MIGHT be here today…… We’ll see if it is or not. So much for “buying local?”

As you can see, racing year in and year out on the local scene really comes down to cooperation between all of the racers in all of the classes helping each other out. Without that cooperation, a lot of us could not afford to be involved in the sport we all love.
Al Humphrey - Midwest Speedway, Lincoln, NE 1976