After a great weekend of racing at Route 66 Raceway, beginning with the Saturday Test & Tune and ending with Sunday's bracket race, there were so many stories. I thought I would throw out a few more tidbits of my observations and conversations.
First, on Sunday, the Raceway unveiled the new Winner's Circle banner as displayed by Michael Blaszczyk and Brandon Brown. This is a great improvement over the smaller banners used in past seasons. On a personal note; this banner is non-reflective and makes for a better Winner's Circle photo! The first to use the Winner's Circle, High School winner Julie Nettles.
Next, on Saturday, Gary Biela, in the green "Frogie" Camaro, had a problem on his launch when the engine bypassed the rev limiter, causing the car to go nearly vertical. When the car came down, it dug in and broke the radiator. Gary and his son Randy scrambled to find a replacement so they could race on Sunday. They were successful!
On Sunday during one of the Time Trial breaks, I had a conversation with 2016 Super Pro Champion Mike Rozin while he was sitting in the Staging Lanes. Over the off-season, they completely went through the car with a complete engine refresh. The car was running great, however Mike went a little too fast and broke out.
A feel good story was when Mike and Emilee Ballard loaned Miranda Lawson their truck to run Sportsman. This year Miranda vacated her seat in the family's Blue Nova for her sister, Audi (Autumn), to run. Audi is quickly coming up to speed in the faster car. It was good to see Miranda behind the wheel. Thanks Mike and Emilee!
During the event Troy Bogner and Mark Cryer asked for help for their launches. I was able to provide pictures for them to see how they looked. Both stated it is nearly impossible to gauge from inside the car. I hoped it helped. Also Mark's son, Nick who drives a Super Pro dragster, was not present for this race because he was at the hospital with his wife who was having a baby! Unfortunately, I didn't hear about the results yet, But am hoping everything worked out well!
While walking through the pits, I was approached by Gary Swearingen. Gary is a long time drag racer and he was at the track with his brother. They didn't have any pictures of the two of them by the car at the track. I took some photos for them by the car.
And then there was this motley crew!
All told, this was a great weekend at Route 66!
To see all the photos from this weekend, please click here.
Today was the first race of the 2017 Rockett Brand Racing Fuel ET Bracket Series. Like most bracket series races, the day begins with two rounds of time trials. That was where the similarity stopped! There was stoppage after stoppage. The first was at approximately 10:15 when Raylo Riley impacted the wall at the top end of the track.
After this auspicious beginning, there began a string of incidents in no particular order:
1) At least three oil downs
2) Power failure in Race Control
3) Golf cart crash
Everyone was in disbelief of this set of events. All this made for an uneven Time Trial session. As soon the time trials were completed, the racing started in earnest. The actual racing went off without barely a hitch. There was some great close racing all day. Here are some images from the day's action:
In the end, it was Julie Nettles getting the win light over Julia Hooten in High School.
In the Sportsman Division it was Jack Larsen defeating last year's Sportsman Champion Paul O'Keefe when Paul redlighted.
In Pro ET it was Tim Flynn taking the win light over John Haut.
In Pro Bike, it was 2009 Track Champion Tom Ewig defeating Frank Linder.
In Super Pro, it was Kenny King defeating Brian Stevenson. Kenny has several wins at Route 66. A side note was that four of his engines were in cars that made it to the semi-finals.
Congratulations to all our winners! Next up for Route 66 is Saturday's O'Reilly Auto Parts Test & Tune #3 followed by Sunday's Rockett Brand Racing Fuel ET Bracket Race #2.
To see all the images from today's action, please click here.
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The day started a little cool, but turned hot as soon as the first cars hit the track for the second O'Reilly Auto Parts Test & Tune of the season. The day just got better as it went on. First things first, staff worked all week with ISC, engineers and the asphalt company to fix the top end of the track. There were no water issues today!
There was a good mixture of cars from street cars to junior dragsters to bracket racing cars to super comp cars to nostalgic nitro funny cars!
There were stories galore starting with the Junior Dragsters. Ruby Zolper and Ryan Brockman completed their runs to earn their NHRA licenses. Danny Ellis, age 11 from Burbank, started the process. Cooper Hamelen and Bobby Chase practiced today.
Another story was Audi Lawson running in the Lawson Nova, previously driver by her sister, Miranda. Audi was attempting to enhance her license to be able to run a 9-second car. She made several runs just missing the 9 second mark, but on the last one she made it. She will still need one more run to secure her license.
To see what a ride down Route 66 is like, Audi was kind enough to allow Social Media Coordinator Brandon Brown to mount a Go Pro camera in her car, Enjoy!
Another story was Joe Malfeo and his Orange Nova. Over the off-season, he made some engine upgrades. He was having some issues getting the car down the track. Garage Squad to the rescue! Joe Zolper, lead mechanic on the Velocity TV show Garage Squad, jumped in, tuned the engine and the Nova was back in business.
Another story was former JDRL driver, TJ Trench Jr., converting from his Super Pro Camaro to his Dad's, Todd, dragster. TJ is fast in the car and looking good. Over the off-season the car was repainted and is looking great!! Dad has a restrictor plate on the car, but TJ hustles the car pretty darn good.
Today was also the return to the track of Mark and Nick Cryer, Mark in the "Nu Big Thing" Smart Car and Nick in his dragster. For some reason I didn't get a shot of the dragster. I will make sure to get one tomorrow.
These were just some of the stories from a great day of racing. Here some images from all the day's action.
It was a beautiful day to start the 2017 season at Route 66 Raceway. Unfortunately, the day was cut short by an unforeseen force of nature. Let's get the bad out of the way before we can discuss the great racing that occurred. The racing started around 9:45 a.m. and just after 1:00 p.m. it came to a screeching halt when water was discovered in the shut down area at the top of the track. It was determined that with all the rain the past week, combined with the warm weather, it caused water to percolate up through the track. The Track Staff worked for over an hour to stem the flow of water, however all attempts failed. So, for safety reasons, the event had to be stopped. In the nineteen previous years the track has been in operation, this had never happened. Track President Scott Paddock advised all tickets from today's event will be honored at any future 2017 Test & Tune or Race Your Ride. He also ordered Staff to put on a full court press to fix the issue ASAP so this type of thing would not happen again.
Now onto the racing. The first cars down the track were two Ford Mustang GT's driven by
Pete Buzane and Joe Cesario.
Early on, Joe Zehnder was helping his brother Herman with his car. Over the off-season, Herman upgraded the motor from a 406 c.i. to a 427 c.i. engine.
That is Joe in the Blackhawks jersey! Herman wasn't sure where the car would run. In two runs it was a very consistent 10.01. Soon thereafter, Joe jumped in his car and cut the first perfect .000 light of the season.
It didn't seem like anyone was holding back because wheelies were in abundance.
Also racing today, was two-time NHRA Competition Eliminator Champion Bruno Massel. Bruno is also a NHRA TV commentator and stars on the Velocity Channel's Garage Squad.
Speaking of Garage Squad, Joe Zolper, wife Jennifer and daughter Ruby were also present. Ruby along with Ryan Brockman started the process of obtaining their NHRA Jr. Licenses.
Along with the the Jr. licensing, there were some other Jr's testing. Here is Bobby Churchill and Cooper Hamelen.
Like all first testing days, there will be car glitches and once in a while a crash caused by a mechanical problem. Mike Brauer driving his 1948 Austin had a motor problem at the 1000 foot mark. As he attempted to slow, he lost control and hit the wall. The car was damaged, but Mike was okay.
For the time we had racing today, it was exciting. It was good to get the 20th season underway. Here are some more images of the action.
Today, I paid a visit to the Dirt Oval 66 on the Chicagoland Speedway/Route 66 Raceway complex. Beginning with the 2015 season, Sherri Heckenast became the promoter of the Dirt Oval.
Sherri had purchased the Team Demolition Association in 2008 and that series had been calling the Dirt Oval its home. The Dirt Oval was originally designed as a 1/2 mile dirt track and in its early years was the home to some exciting open wheel racing put on by USAC and the World of Outlaws. The last time the WOO ran was in 2005 and since then, other than a few specialty events, the TDA was the only tenant.
This brings us to 2017, Sherri has initiated a complete revamp of the racing surface and shrinking it to a 3/8 mile oval. Beginning on April 27th, the POWRI Sprint Cars, POWRI Midget’s, POWRI DII Midgets, and UMP Modifieds race on opening night. The 2017 schedule includes a total of four days of WOO racing (both Sprints and Late Models) in June and October, The TORC series (off-road trucks) in May, in August its Monster Truck Mayhem and in September prior to the arrival of NASCAR, the Chicagoland’s Dirty 30 Late Models, Modifieds, Winged Sprints racing will be held. These are all in addition to Team Demolition Derby. To see the full schedule please click here.
In conversation with Sherri, I learned the biggest hurdle to bringing dirt racing back to the complex was the racing surface itself. It had been reported that the cause of WOO not returning to the Chicagoland complex was that debris from the demolition derby racing cars had caused numerous tire failures. As they started to recondition the track, it was discovered that the track had become imbedded with rocks and stones. It took a massive cleanup to clear the dirt racing surface of the rocks and stones. Sherri believes this was the cause of the WOO tire failures. I took a photo tour of the track and here are some photos:
Tomorrow, there was to be an open practice, however the track is still a little soft, so that was cancelled. The first practice is scheduled for April 20th. By then it is hoped all the exterior walls would be replaced. I am really looking forward to racing coming back to the dirt oval and encourage everyone to come out and support the efforts of Sherri and her staff!