Before I start talking about Sunday at the Race & Performance Expo, I was remiss in not relating a conversation I had with Dave and Maria Kocher. I just happened to run into them as I was leaving the Expo on Saturday. The last time I had seen them was on September 23, 2016 at the last Race Your Ride of the season at Route 66 Raceway. Maria was driving their car, the "Plane Insane", when at the 1000 foot mark she lost control swerving to the right , careening off the wall going across the track and hitting the opposite wall nearly head-on. The car came back across the track and came to rest against the right side wall. Maria was transported to the hospital with some significant injuries. It was good to see her fully recovered and anxious to get back to the track in their new car, a green Mercury Cougar, aptly name "Plane Insane II". Dave who used to be an aircraft crash investigator estimated that a force of 60 g's caused the cracking of Maria's carbon fiber helmet. They both credit her head and neck restraint system with saving her life. Safety was a priority for Dave and Maria. Below is the last launch of the "Plane Insane". Because of the severity of the crash I purposely did not photograph the car, but chose a shot of the tire laying on the track.
Back to Sunday. I only had a short time in the morning due to a family tradition of watching the Daytona 500. My son cooked all day on Saturday in preparation of our annual family day of watching racing. After the 500 (congratulations to Kurt Busch), we watched the NHRA Arizona Nationals. I want to give my congratulations to Leah Pritchett, Matt Hagan and Greg Anderson in their wins in the top classes. To see the rest of the winners please click here.
After talking with a lot drivers and teams on Saturday, I decided to focus on some of the race tracks that attended the show. First up was the Great Lakes Dragaway in Union Grove, Wi. I spoke with Randy Henning and Marcel Kuper, owners of the track for the last 24 years. I used to go Union Grove with my cousin, who raced his Malibu there back in the 60's. They tout Great Lakes as the Biggest Little Track and being the friendliest to fans and drivers. They are open 200 days a year and are an IHRA sanctioned track.
Next up, is Cordova International Raceway in Cordova, Il. Cordova is the oldest continuous operating independent drag racing track in the world (1954). They are the oldest purpose built drag racing track east of the Mississippi River. Cordova was the long time home of the World Series of Drag Racing. In 2016 the parent company of Cordova, moved the World Series to Memphis, Tn. The event did not have the anticipated support and draw in Memphis, so, the event has been brought back to Cordova for 2017.
Next was Byron Dragway, "The Playground of Power". Byron prides itself with the widest variety of drag racing in the Midwest. The Meltdown Drags is not only a race with period correct cars, but fans and participants dress accordingly in period correct clothes. In October, they have the World Power Wheel Standing Championships, an event that shouldn't be missed. The pride themselves in their friendliness and bringing fun back to drag racing.
Grundy County Speedway in Morris, Il. is another track where I have photographed racing. It's a 1/3 mile high banked paved oval. This year they will be introducing a new class called the 6 Shooters which are the six-cylinder stock cars. The Illini Racing Series Midgets will be running also. On July 15th the ARCA Midwest Tour along with the Mid Am Series and Illini Midgets will be running. Grundy County prides itself for its great racing with great car counts at a great entertainment value.
Speaking of the Illini Racing Series, on Saturday I spoke with Jon Fenske. I had photographed the series at Rockford Speedway last season, but I didn't remember their car. He stated his daughter is the driver and they didn't run Rockford last season, however, this season, their intention is to run the entire schedule. On Sunday, I met Taylor and she was kind enough to pose with her car. Good luck this season to Taylor.
The last track(s) to discuss are my home tracks, the Chicagoland Speedway, Route 66 Raceway and The Dirt Oval @ 66.
Our race complex is a world class racing venue. The Chicagoland Speedway in September hosts the first race in the playoffs for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards. During the rest of the year, the Speedway hosts driving schools, special events and fan events.
In July, the Route 66 Raceway hosts the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. In June its the NHRA Lucas Oil Series Division 5 racing. In conjunction with the Lucas Oil Series, Route 66 holds the Burndown at Sundown with specialty racers and jet cars. In August, the Route 66 Classic is held, bringing back the Classic racers and cars of yesteryear for a blast down memory lane. Late July brings the NMRA/NMCA World Series of Street Legal Drag Racing. It's four days of the world's fastest street cars going head to head. In addition, the Rockett Brand Racing Fuel ET Bracket Series runs 8 races during the Spring and Summer. The Midwest Top Sportsman Series and the Midwest Super Comp Series also visit during the season. The future of drag racing is the NHRA Junior Drag Racing League and will be running five races this season. It will be a very busy race season at Route 66.
The Dirt Oval @ 66 is undergoing a makeover. The Dirt Oval Promoter Sherri Heckenast is reconfiguring and rebuilding the dirt track from 1/2 dirt oval to a 3/8 mile oval. In addition to the Team Demolition Association races, the World of Outlaws will have four dates, along with the Monster Truck Mayhem event and other racing.
The racing complex will be a very busy place this season.
I want to thank the Race and Performance staff for their assistance in covering another successful Expo. This is an event that is always on my schedule and I would recommend it be on yours.
I attended the 10th Annual Race & Performance Expo at the Schaumburg Convention Center. As I wandered around the show I spoke with many friends to get updates on their off season and upcoming 2017 season. Here are some of the bits of information:
Joe Malfeo will again be driving his orange Chevrolet Nova.
Joe built and installed new exhaust headers for the Nova along with a few other upgrades. He is also in discussions about possibly driving a Nostalgic Funny Car for part or all of the season.
Mark and Nick Cryer took off most of the 2016 season to completely go through Nick's dragster and do some repairs/upgrades to Mark's 2009 Smart Car.
Both cars will be back on the track this year. If you haven't seen the Smart Car, I would suggest that either come to the show and/or come out Route 66 Raceway when its running. It boasts a 555 cu. in. engine with750 hp. Its a treat to see it run.
I spoke with Tom Motry, owner of the World Record Holder "Drastic Plastic" fuel altered car.
This year Tim Cullinan returns to the seat of the Drastic Plastic.
Joe Zolper, with his wife Jenny and daughter Ruby were in attendance. Joe is the lead mechanic on the Velocity Network's "Garage Squad". Joe is also the owner of Prison City Choppers in Minooka. He was at the show to partake in an autograph session. Joe is allegedly building a car to try to beat Jenny, however she says, "No way will he beat her!"
Along with Joe at the autograph session was NHRA Top Fuel driver TJ Zizzo. I didn't get a chance to talk with TJ, but I did learn he will be back on the track for a few races this season including Route 66 Raceway.
I spent some time with Rocky Ausec and his "Solid Rock" Nostalgic Funny Car team. The car is ready to go for another season. Rocky also participated in the autograph session.
Another participant in the session was John Lawson. John will run both his Nostalgic Funny Cars, Runaway and Quick Draw. Joe Haas will again this season drive Quick Draw with John in the seat of the Runaway.
The Car Chix folks are at the show. They are doing live streaming, a marketing seminar and an autograph session. Participating in the autograph session is Ms. August, Morgan Hixon. Morgan is negotiating with her dad, John, to get some passes in his Buick.
Also at the show was the Beat the Heat dragsters. I spoke with Romeoville Police Officer Jim Luckett and they are trying to fill out their season schedule.
Here are a few more images from Saturday's show.
I am looking forward to a quick trip back to the show Sunday morning to visit with some more friends at the Race & Performance Expo.