Wednesday, April 20, 2011

60 Years of Marriage; Beatrice Speedway Factory Stock rules are (FINALLY) posted

After making plans since late January, family and friends of my parents gathered in Crete, Nebraska Sunday, April 3rd, to celebrate their upcoming 60th wedding anniversary. After Mom decided on a date, my brother’s wife Anita and my wife Jan did a lot of planning. We took a Saturday to go to Lincoln with Dave & Anita to get table decorations and some other items. We split up a grocery list for the day of the party, and at our house Jan spent all of Saturday making a pasta and fruit salad called “Frog eye salad.” We ended up with 3 buckets full of the stuff - and now there are a lot of blind frogs out there!

With the weather being nice one day and not so nice the next, we hit upon a nice day. Sunday was pleasant but windy. Mom’s brothers, one from California and one from Arizona, were able to come. Dad’s brother Francis & sister Janice were both able to be there. Dad’s cousin Donald, who was Dad’s best man, was able to make it from Omaha. Janice had been Mom’s bridesmaid.

I never really looked at the guestbook, so I’m not sure of what the final count for the afternoon was, but there were still people coming in while we were packing things up getting ready to go. I think that in itself says a lot about the last 60 years that Dad & Mom have shared, not only with each other, but with family, friends and even the surrounding community. Even though they have both been long retired, they stay active by helping with the community Food Net and the Maples, which is a local historical society.


The 2011 racing season is supposed to start at Beatrice Speedway this Friday, April 22nd. However, looking at the forecast, I’m not so sure that will happen. We had a lot of rain last night, and the forecast shows that it will more than likely rain on Friday. If the opener does not happen on Friday, it will be pushed back to May 6th.

The practice at Beatrice Speedway was cancelled because of rain earlier in the week. Practices at Junction Motor Speedway and US 30 Speedway as well as Jefferson County were all cancelled because of rain. The season openers at Thunderhill at Mayetta, Kansas was also cancelled because of wet weather. Heartland Park at Topeka was able to get their opener in on Saturday, April 16th.

The rules for the factory stock class at Beatrice Speedway have FINALLY been posted! There is really no excuse for waiting until the last minute, but the rules were not released until the week of practice. I know the webmaster can’t post the rules until they are released, so it’s not her fault. In past years, we always had a meeting in November outlining the upcoming season and everybody knew the plans in advance.

The rules this year will allow the pro-am type cars to race with us, which is what some of us were hoping would happen. However, it looks like in 2012 we will once again be IMCA sanctioned and the pro-am cars won’t be allowed to race with us.

I like standardized rules such as IMCA provides, but I don’t especially like having to buy the license. My experience with IMCA is that when you race at one track, the money paid back from IMCA at the end of the season may cover the cost of the license. However, with IMCA sanctioning, teams will have to make a decision as to what engine package they will run in 2012. If they continue to run their current engine, they will have to buy a smaller carburetor. If they want to run their current carburetor, they will have to spend money to change their engines. Seems like every time there is a rule change to save us money, it ends up costing us money.

Before a final decision is made on IMCA sanctioning for factory stock/stock cars, I would hope the people making that decision would look at the past history of the IMCA stock car class at Beatrice Speedway. The last year that Beatrice Speedway had IMCA sanctioned stock cars, by the end of the season there were only 9 cars that raced week in and week out. In 2010, the factory stock class averaged 14 cars a night. I think that with pro-am type cars being allowed in 2011, the car count may increase a little. Of course, with the cost of fuel for the haulers, there are teams that will probably stay closer to home no matter what class they race, so it’s a toss-up as far as car count goes.

I know if drivers have to purchase a license in 2012, our car will not be able to be there every week. We have been splitting driving time between Jason, Jeremy and I, and I don’t think either of them will want to buy a license.

I know that the changing economy hurts our sport. There are other reasons that car counts decline - loss of interest, expenses, family, etc. We need to do everything possible to make it more attractive to fans as well as current and future racers. Maybe we could even attract some of the old racers to come back. Making the sport more expensive for the participants will not accomplish this.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Stolen Valor;" AKA lying about your military service, is "protected speech," Racing at I-80 Speedway

I receive an online publication called Last week, an article in dealt with a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concerning “Stolen Valor.”

The concept of “Stolen Valor” goes back as far as I can remember. I know of people who now claim they served in the military in Viet Nam. However, if they had, they would have been 12 years old, and I know they were discharged before ever graduating from basic combat training!

In a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Stolen Valor Act, under which former water board member Xavier Alvarez was fined and ordered to perform community service in 2007, was upheld as being unconstitutional. The Court upheld an earlier ruling determining that a law barring people from lying about their military heroics was a violation of free speech.

The earlier ruling, which was made by three of the court's members in August, invalidated the 2006 act by Congress.

Alvarez, a Pomona resident and then a member of the Three Valleys Municipal Water District board, pleaded guilty in July 2008 to falsely saying he had won the Medal of Honor. He was fined $5,000 and sentenced to three years of probation, which required community service.

Alvarez is currently at Centinela State Prison in Imperial County for defrauding the water district after being convicted of registering an ex-wife for health benefits with the district in 2007. It seems that he follows a pattern of being less than truthful.

Last week’s weather was still warm one day and cool the next. It warmed up long enough to be able to go to I-80 Speedway at Greenwood, Nebraska to raced on Friday night. Of course, before I left that day, the price of gas at the pump went up another 3 cents from 2 ½ hours earlier in the day. The manager told me, “Sinclair called and said we have to raise the price, so it got raised.” I still can’t figure out how that works. When I got to the interchange where the race track is, the price at the pump at SINCLAIR was 14 cents less than at Beatrice! Years ago, the price of gas on the interstate was always more than in town. I guess that doesn’t hold true any more!

Having never raced at I-80 before, I had no idea what to expect. On Thursday, I changed the rear end gear to the “tallest” gear I have. I even thought that may be too “deep” but in the end, I think I was about right.

I pulled into the pit area and got a pit stall right next to Al Humphrey’s late model. I figured that would at least be a good spot to park and if I needed any help all I would have to do is ask. Once the car was off the trailer, I had to register and draw for starting position. I NEVER draw a good number…. If there are 300 numbers, I’ll draw 299! This time - I drew #4, which would put me at the front of my heat race!

From there I hunted down a track official with some questions as to what I might have to change on my car. I also mentioned not having ever raced at I-80 before and made a decision to forego my draw and start at the back of the pack in my heat race. The only change I had to make to the car was to remove the rear spoiler. There were a couple of other things pointed out to me that need changing if I were to race there on a regular basis. Until I find a major sponsor who will fill the hauler with fuel every week, that will not happen!

At least the stock cars/pro-ams weren’t the first cars to race. We were the first ones to take hot laps, and the track was still “greasy.” Coming out of turn 2 there was still water in the middle of the track, and going into the turns at the bottom of the track got me into the slippery stuff and the car wanted to slide to the top. Thankfully, the late model heat races were first, so by the time we got onto the track it was in good shape.

Having given up my starting spot, I started 8th in the heat race instead of 1st. Once we pull onto the track, we’re lined up and get a full lap before going green. The track was a little rutted coming out of turn 4, but other than that, it was in pretty good shape. At the drop of the green there was a huge shuffle ahead of me and a couple of the cars got together, but everybody kept control. There was a black #50 Camaro just ahead of me and on the 2nd lap I was able to pass him. I was able to stay close to the next car, but not close enough to be able to make a pass on him, and finished 7th. By the end of the heat race I was feeling more comfortable with the track, but since everybody was going into the A Feature I did not want to push myself too hard and make any mistakes.

When the line-ups came out, I found myself starting on the inside of the 10th row. There were 24 cars scheduled to start the A Feature. At least the leaders would have to lap me before they ran me over!

I’d been told that the first few laps could be wild, with the cars up front jockeying for position. At the drop of the green, it was hammer down from the front to the back of the pack! The track was in good shape and the racing was great. I could actually stay with the cars directly in front of me, even though we just ran the first 3 laps before a yellow came out. Once the problem was alleviated, we were green again. There were multiple racing grooves with cars going to the bottom, middle and top of the track. The car that finished just ahead of me in the heat race was now just ahead of me, and I was having a great time racing with him. He was staying on a higher line, and I would try to go below him in the corners, but never could make the pass on him. With 11 to go, there was a yellow, and as we took the green, the leader blew up his engine, causing another yellow. Once the track was cleared, we were green once more. Another lap and another engine blew up in a HUGE cloud of smoke, engulfing the track from turn 3 all the way to turn 2. Everybody was on the brake to avoid hitting anybody. The car in front of me disappeared and I could not even see the end of my hood!

Once the smoke cleared and we were lined up again, it looked like I was in about 15th place. The green came out with 7 to go and there were 4 or 5 of us all racing for position together. I passed first one, then another car. At the same time, I was passed by other cars coming from behind me. During the final laps, Brent Schlake and I were side by side with me being able to pass him on the chute, but he passed me back in the corners. When the checkers fell we were still battling for position, with him coming across the line just ahead of me. I finished 14th with no major problems.

Having never raced at I-80 before, I had no idea if I was even in the ballpark as far as gear selection. I like to run my engines close to the 6,000 RPM range, and that’s right where I was. The car felt good except for a couple of laps from the end when I drove a little over my head and almost took Brent and I both out. He was driving pretty heads up and was able to keep me from wrecking both of us out.

I’d love to race there on a regular basis, but by the time I get the NASCAR license, register the car, and put gas in the hauler, it can’t be done. Being able to go to a race like this is fun because there are no points on the line. It was a kind of practice run for me, shaking more of the bugs out before we get down to regular season racing at Beatrice.