Thursday, February 17, 2011

Daytona 500 coming up; "Diesel-mania" at Canyon Speedway; WalMart employees fired for apprehending armed shoplifter; Arizona cop killer sues for negligence in his arrest

I got my weekly racing fix over the weekend by listening to the races from Canyon Speedway near Phoenix, Arizona Sunday afternoon, then following that up by watching Dirt Knights on Versus. I also caught some of the ARCA race from Daytona as well as some of the NASCAR practices and pole qualifying from Daytona. I was also able to listen to parts of the Budweiser Clash on Saturday evening. This week the NASCAR season will start its points race with the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Earlier practice speeds climbed to the 203 MPH mark and there was excellent racing in the Budweiser clash. Hendrick teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr and Jeff Gordon will start on the pole and outside pole respectively, with the rest of the field being determined by the twin qualifying races on Thursday.  Unfortunately, Earnhardt was involved in an incident on Wednesday and will be in a back-up car, which means he will have to go to the back of the field when they take the green flag.

The most famous mascot in racing - at least in Arizona - is currently from Nebraska. While Dylan Smith is in 2nd place in points in the winter series at Canyon Speedway- he trails by 4 points going into the last weekend - the team mascot, “Diesel” is getting all of the attention. Diesel is a Great Dane and he has his own “Hero” cards. For those of you not familiar with racing, Hero cards are the racers’ version of the baseball cards we had growing up. As I listened to the races from Phoenix on Sunday, I learned that during intermission Diesel was going to be in front of the grandstands, “signing” and giving away Hero cards. Diesel is a dog of few words, so I didn’t hear anything of the interview, but I heard a lot of shouting as his Hero cards were given away.

After the interview and give-aways were done, the IMCA modified A Feature took to the track. Dylan Smith of Osceola, Nebraska, who won last Sunday’s A Feature from the outside pole, started on the inside of the 3rd row. He did not have as easy of a time of it as last week, as he took the lead a few laps into the race, but lost it later as several drivers battled for the lead. In the end, Dylan scored his 2nd A Feature win of the young season.

I did a search on You Tube and found a video of the complete A Feature from February 6th. Hopefully there will be one from February 13th posted soon.

Back in Nebraska, work on my own race car seems to be going at a snail’s pace. With in-service training, then Valentines’ Day on Monday, and both Jan & I having the day off, nothing got done that day. I worked on making brackets for the drivers’ door and getting them welded on today. I hope to be able to put in a few hours on Friday, but it looks like the rest of the weekend will be taken up. The possibility of racing at McCool Junction on March 4th & 5th is looking pretty dim. I’m still trying to hang the doors and fenders. Once everything is in place, I plan to pull it back off and paint everything individually, then put it back together.

In hindsight, if I were to put up a garage again, it would be a conventional wood frame or pole barn type that could be relatively inexpensively insulated. That way, once I had the stove going, it would warm up faster and stay warm longer.

The ice is finally almost all melted out of our driveway and I was able to get the Gold Wing out yesterday. I decided to take it instead of the pickup when I had to get a blade for the band saw, which inconveniently broke in the middle of cutting my body brackets. It was a pleasant ride and I just can’t wait for the weather to warm up enough so it does not freeze overnight. When that happens, I’ll be riding to work every night again. With the price of gas 50 cents higher than it was in August, I really hate driving any more than I absolutely have to. If I am able to ride instead of drive, at least it doesn’t cost as much to do so.

I keep looking ahead to the time when I can retire. The bottom fell out of our retirement funds 2 ½ years ago, but it is slowly coming back up. I fear it may not ever be back to where it was before I finally retire. Social Security recipients have not had an increase for the last 2 years, and military retirement and disability payments have not increased due to the government claiming that the cost of living has not gone up. I think we can all dispute that.

Having defense attorneys personally attack arresting officers has become the norm. In the 27 years I’ve been a police officer, I’d never had my integrity challenged. If I do something wrong procedurally, that’s one thing and I can understand that. However, one particular defense attorney attacks the department, saying that the entire department is crooked. I have been questioned about my age and if I can see well enough to know that a car crossed the lane dividing lines. This is stress that I can do without and I will not miss when the time comes to walk away.

That’s not to say that I’ll retire and just do nothing. I’m sure I will be able to find another full time job that I will enjoy. I’ve even thought about selling and installing video surveillance systems for businesses. With today’s tough economic times, more and more businesses as well as homeowners are having surveillance installed, and setting up a great system is something that interests me. Of course, whatever I do, I will be sure to leave enough time for racing and riding.  That is still a few years down the road, though.

I received an article from a friend about a WalMart in Utah firing four employees that detained a shoplifter. After taking the shoplifter into the loss prevention office, the suspect pulled out a gun and held it on the employees. The employees jumped the suspect, took the gun away and held him until the police arrived. I would call them heroes when you consider what might have happened if the suspect had gotten back in the store with a gun. Howevewr, WalMart fired the employees, saying they violated company policy by apprehending an armed violator!! An officer on our department told me he worked for WalMart a few years ago and he was fired under similar circumstances, so this is not made up! Chalk up another one for the bad guys; the people who are trying to do the right thing are now the “bad guys.”

A final note on how crazy things are in today’s world, a suspect in the murder of a Phoenix Police Lieutenant in January 2010 has filed a lawsuit against the Mesa Police Department, Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department alleging negligence on the part of the officers who arrested him.

Lt. Eric Shuhandler made a traffic stop on a vehicle occupied by two males. During the contact, Lt Shuhandler was shot one time and later died. Responding officers engaged in a 50 mile pursuit with the suspects before their vehicle was stopped. Both suspects got out of their vehicle and engaged officers in a gun battle. The report of the incident said the suspects were shot in their legs and feet. The lawsuit alleges that the arresting officers were negligent when they shot the suspects multiple times in their legs and feet. The suspects had taken cover behind their vehicle and officers shot under their vehicle, striking the suspects in their legs and ending the gun battle. The suspect has been found guilty of eight felony counts, but is now looking for a big pay day! I can think of only one kind of pay day for him, and it does NOT include any money!!!

R.I.P. Lt. Shuhandler, you will not be forgotten……

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Somewhere in the pits, a Great Dane is going wild!"; "You have an understanding wife, no kids at home, and two dogs that don't care"

With the cold weather over the weekend, I still did not get out to the shop to work on the race car. Due to training, I have not been home all week, but even if I had been, it would have been too cold to try to heat the garage. The weather in the next few days is starting to look a bit more promising.

Even though we’ve been in the deep freeze, I was able to get a racing fix over the weekend. The 2009 IMCA modified National Champion, Dylan Smith of Osceola, Nebraska, has been racing in the Winter Series at Canyon Speedway near Phoenix, Arizona. With today’s technology, I have been able to follow his progress and actually have listened to a couple of A Feature races. He won his first A Feature of the year on Sunday February 6th, leading the entire 25 lap race. For those who don’t know Dylan or his car owners, Mike & Lisa Gocke, their traveling companion and mascot is a Great Dane named Diesel. As the race was winding down Sunday afternoon, Dylan was in lap traffic and the 2nd place car was closing the gap. One of the announcers excitedly proclaimed “Somewhere in the pits a Great Dane is going wild!” I don’t think I’ve heard that sort of proclamation before.

Not long after the Arizona races were over, Dirt Knights came on Versus channel. This reality series chronicles the travels of several USMTS drivers at the end of the 2010 season and comes on at 5 PM Central time on Sundays. The episodes can also be viewed over the internet later in the week by going to dirt There is some great race footage from in car cameras, as well as pit action. If you watch it over the internet, there are no commercials, either. I really enjoy watching the show, and have watched it a second time over the internet. I hope it continues to be aired.

There is now a new and, from the looks of it, greatly improved Beatrice Speedway website. It has been a long time in development and I’ve been told there will be a lot of information added to it. I’ve heard here may be some things on it later on that haven’t been tried before.

Just by the very nature of our chosen profession, law enforcement officers don’t always have the best hours, meet the nicest people, or have a stress free life. Some departments ask that their officers put in their vacation requests almost a year in advance. For many years, I have spent some of my vacation riding the Gold Wing to a Blue Knights function and this summer will be no different. My two main “stress relievers” are riding and racing. If I could somehow incorporate them, I would have the best of both worlds. Last summer I raced at Columbus, Nebraska a few times. However, with gas for the hauler currently 50 cents a gallon higher than it was last summer, I doubt that I will be making many of those 230 mile round trips at 8 miles to the gallon. Maybe I’ll be riding there to watch instead.

That’s not all bad. When I’m going to watch, our car isn’t on the track and we aren’t burning fuel to get to the track and we’re not burning fuel in the race car. When Jeremy was in High school, we rode to Eagle on Saturday night to watch the races, then rode to Columbus the next night. He thoroughly enjoyed doing that and at 30 years old, still talks about it. I hope that in a few years down the road there will still be races that he can take his son to. Maybe I’ll even be lucky enough to still be alive so I can go too.

It’s really a family effort to race in our case. One time in the pits after the races, somebody asked me how Jan puts up with my racing. I pointed out another place in the pits and told him, “That’s where we met.” That’s not to say she was a racer herself, but she was at least interested in racing. Our first date was going to watch the late models at Sunset Speedway. We would have ridden the motorcycle that night, but it was pretty windy and I didn’t want to scare her off on the first date. Now, she tells me that I do the things I do because “You have an understanding wife, no kids at home and two dogs that don’t care!” You can just bet that when we’re on a long trip on the Gold Wing, I’m looking for race tracks along the way that we may get to stop at and watch a race!

Last summer, we stopped in Rawlins, Wyoming on the way back from Blue Knights International in Billings, Montana. My then 13-yr old granddaughter was on her first motorcycle trip. We were at a downtown ice cream shop with some other Blue Knights when a couple of race cars went by on trailers. I told Kayla to hurry up and finish her ice cream because we were going to the races. She’s not as understanding as her grandmother……. That was a race we did not go to.

Once the weather warms up and we are able to take to the road on two wheels, I hope to be riding a bit more this summer. Unless you’ve taken a trip on a touring motorcycle, you don’t know what you’re missing. Late May and early June is great- the smell of spring is all around. Flowers, clover, feedlots….. well, there aren’t that many feedlots. We try to stop about every 100 miles to stretch, top off the fuel tank and grab a snack, then it’s back on the road. If we see something we want to stop and look at, we’ll stop.

We’ve never been to Nashville or Memphis. We want to spend a couple of nights in Nashville and hopefully take in the Grand Ole Opry. Another night in Memphis, then 2 days to get back home from there. Probably go across Arkansas and into Oklahoma to get back home. If there any Blue Knights from around Nashville or Memphis reading this, I would sure appreciate any information about the area I can get.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Line of Duty Deaths in 2010 - 2011 is off to a bad start; more cold weather kills work on the race car

The Officer Down Memorial Page tells us that in 2010, 162 Law Enforcement Officers lost their lives in the line of duty. Of those, 59 were killed by gunfire. Ironically, 2009 had the fewest officers killed since 2001.

Unfortunately, 2011 has started off on an unhappy note. I had a message the other day that in a 24-hour period, 11 officers had been shot. As of February 3, 2011, sixteen officers have been killed in the line of duty. Ten of them were killed by gunfire.

Fox News had a special report on the other night about this. In the online publication,, an article says the Feds will be looking into the issue by appointing a commission to study why these officers have lost their lives. There is a comments section after the news articles and it looks like the people who commented are much smarter than the Feds.

When I saw the headline, my first thought was “How many of the suspects were out on bond or had recently been released from jail? What kind of criminal histories did each of these suspects have?” The same question was posed by many of the people in the comments section.

Officers constantly train in officer safety. We need to be constantly on alert in all situations. Last weekend, a man walked into a police department and immediately opened fire, wounding 4 officers before being killed. This goes to show that officers are not even safe where they should be safest at.

I wonder what the Feds will suggest? New laws? Better officer training? One comment in the article even suggested the killings were the fault of the officers involved. Four of the officers killed were in two separate incidents in which a wanted criminal was being sought. Maybe their deaths WERE their fault - they could have been avoided if the officers had not tried to arrest these dangerous felons!

How many of the suspects were out on bond or recently released from prison? Had they been previously charged with killing somebody? Why are these people out running around? The parole boards that parole these people or the judges who release them on bond should have them as their neighbors.

Once again, the weather became a deep freeze and I was not able to even think about starting a fire in the garage so I could work on the race car. Maybe this weekend - the forecast is looking a little better. I was able to get the right side door and fender hung before having to stop. I’m still pointing toward having the car on the track at McCool Junction on March 5th, but that seems to be a pretty lofty goal at this point. March 19th at Beatrice will be a bit more realistic, IF the weather starts to cooperate a bit more.

With snow covering the U.S. from Texas to New York and beyond, we haven’t heard much from the global warming people lately. I saw some video from Chicago that at first glance I thought was a large car dealership. I then heard the commentator say that it was Lakeshore Drive with abandoned cars sitting bumper to bumper!

The cold days that keep me out of the garage even make it hard to think about planning motorcycle trips. We’ll be pulling our trailer behind the Gold Wing on our trip to the Blue Knights convention, and will need to pack the wheel bearings on the trailer before we go. Another rider in our chapter said he wants to pack wheel bearings, so we will probably do both trailers at the same time. I just dread the thought of the price of gas this summer - I noticed today it went up another nickel since 3 AM today. With the price of fuel going up, more people seem to “forget” to pay after filling up. The simplest solution to this problem would be to make the customer pre-pay. However, many of the businesses in our area won’t do this because they don’t want to “inconvenience” the customer.

I found out a few years ago that in Nevada it is the state law that you must pre-pay for your fuel. I think that would be a good law for Nebraska to have; then the businesses could blame the inconvenience on the state law. On the other hand, law enforcement would not be taking reports on gas drive-offs that the clerks have no license plate number or even a description of the vehicle to give to the officer. It’s a winning situation for all of us.