While working the Route 66 Classic, Brandon Brown and Sam Martin broached the idea of going to Road America for this race. I had been thinking about it, but it never got passed the idea stage, so I was excited. Many are stunned to learn that with my lifelong fandom and working in the business over the past twenty or so years, I have never attended a road race. Second, it may surprise some that in all my years working at NASCAR racetracks, I have never been to Victory Lane. Its not so strange when you realize, I've always worked in the Media Center and post-race is the busiest time for us during an event.
This is not going to be a normal race report, stating statistics, ie, laps lead, leader changes, etc. However, it will be my impressions of my first attendance at a road course race.
The first thing I want to do is say thank you to John Ewert and the staff at Road America. The hospitality extended by everyone was top-notch. As we drove around the facility, I was surprised by how spread out the track was. I really didn't know what to expect, maybe, the track would wind around and be somewhat more compact than the four mile distance it actually is. Like almost all road courses, you can only see part of the racing surface at any one time. The track is laid out in a forest similar to a forest preserve. When walking around it's like a walk in a park.
I was very impressed with the infrastructure. Road America has two Media Centers. One is for photographers and is located in what could be called the infield, directly behind Victory Lane. The Deadline Room is in a large building on the main straightaway centered on the start/finish line. While both are not overly large, they are capable of handling what they were designed to do. Speaking of Victory Lane, their's boasts something I had not seen before. The VL backdrop was a large television screen where the fans can watch the race and is visible from several areas. At the conclusion of the race, the screen switches to be the race backdrop for the VL photo-ops.
After getting set-up, I thought I would scout the track to look for good shooting positions. Primarily, I was looking for angles, action spots and lighting. I try to do this at tracks I have not visited before. The thought was to use the Trans Am, Xfinity qualifying and Stadium Super Trucks Series as practice for the Xfinity race. That was very much a rookie mistake! Trying to walk around Road America with the length and elevation changes was not my smartest move. While I did get some shots I liked, it did take its physical toll!
I got so engrossed with the what I was seeing that I kept walking to find the good shooting positions. Before I realized it, I was no longer in a position for the Stadium Super Truck race. They were using a shortened track. By the time, I could get back to an area to view the SST race, it was over.
It was time to formulate a new plan. The three of us, Brandon, Sam and I, decided we would roam pit road during pre-race and then jump in the car and drive to the spots we had identified or looked good on the map.
And the flyover...
After pre-race, we were off to the roof of the building to shoot the start...
Off to the car to head to the Carousel...
This was as the cars were coming under the Johnsville Bridge coming into Turn 9.
I'm not quite sure which turn these next shots were taken, however, after a restart, there was some great racing!
We started to drive over to Turn 1 when we spotted a photo-op at the Sargento Bridge looking back at Turn 3. As Sam and I were shooting, Brandon took a shot of us. Below is that shot, along with the shot I was taking at that moment.
As we were at the Sargento Bridge, I saw a car slide off the track surface into the gravel pit! Then another and another!! It became obvious there was some fluid on the track.
While the clean-up was ongoing, we headed over to Turn 1. It was here that I personally think Justin Allgaier won the race. At the restart, Christopher Bell was behind him and coming out of Turn 1, he got under Justin and to his quarter panel. They came together and Justin's car turned sideways! He kept control and motored to the win. I'm not sure if Christopher backed off which allowed him to catch it. It was an exciting moment!
It was off to Pit Road for the finish...
After Victory Lane, Justin heads to the Media Center for his post-race interviews. He was there with his crew chief Jason Burdette.
There is a backstory to this trip to Road America. Everyone who knows Janet (my wife), also knows she adores Justin. They met when he was just starting in ARCA and have remained friends. When the thought of going to this race came up, obviously I cleared it with her to go. What I didn't realize, she didn't know this was an Xfinity only race. She thought this was a Cup race. When she realized the mistake, she was upset she wasn't able to go. Being the dutiful husband, I did poke her during the race to remind her I was here. After Justin's media obligations he was kind enough to record this message to her.
Thank you Justin!
To put a cap on our trip to Road America, I can only sing its praises. It is a beautiful facility, staffed with great people and provides great racing. If the NASCAR Cup Series could ever find its way to Road America, it would be worth their while. Again, I want to thank John Ewert and all the Road America staff for a great racing experience.
Sunday was the final Route 66 Bracket Race of the 2018 season and the Track Championships were decided. In addition, the King of the Track was finalized and the Indy Bracket Finals Team was formulated. More on the King of the Track later. The weather was beautiful and the racing spectacular!
As is customary, the day started with two rounds of Time Trials to decide the pairings for the start of the Eliminations.
After the Time Trials were completed, Eliminations started. It was the High School class that ran their Final first. It was Tori Trench against points leader Connor Lawson. Tori left first with the slower Dial-in, but Connor had the better reaction time (.138/.164). At the stripe Connor broke out by .022. This gave the win to Tori. All was not lost for Connor, as he clinched the High School Track Championship.
The next final to be completed was Pro Bike. This race pitted Frank Linders against Bruce Damewood. I noticed that Bruce was riding his new bike and not his "Old Reliable" Suzuki. He stated this was the bike he wanted to bring to Indy so he wanted to get some passes in. As they came to the tree, Frank had the slower Dial-in, so would leave first. Unfortunately, he left -.007 early causing a red light. This gave the win to Bruce and confirmed his Track Championship.
Next up after Bike, it was Roman Sakas up against the championshiop point leader Paul O'keefe in the Sportsman class. This was a heads up race with both having a 12.28 dial-in. Paul had a faster reaction time (.048/.092) however at the stripe Paul broke out by .053 giving Roman the win. This was Roman's second ever final and first win. It wasn't a total loss for Paul as he won the Sportsman Track Championship.
Next was Super Pro to showcase its Final. In this match-up it was Al Kuefler, in the dragster, against Bill Stevenson in the Modified. Al had a .009 reaction time and an ET of 7.337 on a 7.33 dial. Bill could not match that and Al took the win light.
For the season, it was Dave Ancel wrapping up the Super Pro Track Championship.
The final class to be contested was Pro. This matched Tony Lyons versus Don Swanson. Tony had the slower dial-in and left first. Don crushed the light with a .007 reaction, however Tony ran closer to his dial-in and took the win light.
The Championship for Pro was a nail biter when Herman Zehnder went out in the second round. When John Coyle went out in the fourth round it gave the Track Championship to Herman. This is Herman's fifth championship at Route 66. He was tied for the most Route 66 Championships with Troy Bogner at four until this day. Herman is the only five time Champion in Route 66 history.
As you recall, the semi-final and finals for last week's King of the Track had to be postoned due to rain. It was decided to contest the finish of the event this day. Unfortunately, Terry Heller was racing elsewhere and could not finish this event. In the semi-finals it was Megan Hurley in her Mustang against the motorcyle of Bruce Damewood with Bill Chase getting the bye. In their race, Meghan had the slower car so she left first. Bruce beat her on the tree (.017/.083) and ran closer to his dial-in to take the win.
In the final, it would be Bill Chase vs Bruce Damewood. At the line, Bruce left a little early (-.006) but ran a perfect dial. Bill Chase broke out, however Bruce's redlight foul gave him the win and King of the track Championship.
During the event, there was at least three perfect lights in competition. The Hollywood Casino Lucky Light Award was given to Kevin Hamelin, Norm Lupescu and Tony Lyons. There may have been a fourth. I am trying to obtain clarification. If there was I will update this.
After the event, Autumn (Audi) Larson posted on Facebook she will be vacating the seat of the family's '67' Blue Nova with her dad Mike campaigning the car in 2019. She hopes to get a few passes next season, just not full time in the car. We will miss you behind the wheel, Audi!
I want to congratulate all our winners today and the Champions. Without you, I couldn't do what I do. You gave us all an exciting season. See you at the Championship Banquet and I am looking forward to a great 2019 season!
To see all the photos from this bracket race, please click here.
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Saturday was a trip down memory lane and a blast from the past as Route 66 celebrated the car culture of the 50's, 60's and 70's with the Route 66 Classic. Besides a day of drag racing, there were numerous activities throughout the entire complex including the crowning of the new Miss Classic. At the Opening Ceremonies for the night racing and after two rounds of judging, the announcement was that Carolyn Ann Rose is the new Miss Classic. In addition, Carolyn raised the most money for Pits for Patriots, among the contestants, to win the Queen of Hearts!
Earlier in the day, all the classic cars rolled in for the Cruise-in.
Twenty of the best cars were selected to be parked on the "Red Carpet".
Throughout the day, five judges looked at the cars with each judge selecting their favorite. The winners were presented a unique trophy created by our own Larry Ament. Each trophy was made using car parts. Here are four of the five winners.
As you can tell by the below picture, the judges had quite a few beautiful cars to look at!
While this going on, there was music, displays, food and vendors in the "Culture District" (the big tent)! Here are samples of the activities:
Oh, and did I forget to mention there was a full slate of racing happening! One event that is my favorite, was the final race of the Route 66 Junior Drag Racing League season. This day would crown the JDRL Track Champions. The sponsors for this raceday are:
Route 66 Food N Fuel
Ingalls Park Practice Tree Nationals
Stony Tire Inc.
Fab Rite Sheet Metal
Northwest Mechanical Insulation
Bob and Wendy Churchill
Bob and Becky Churchill
I want to thank all the sponsors who not only sponsored this race, but all season.
As is customary at a bracket race, there are two time trials for each class, Modified and Sportsman, followed by round robin eliminations. As part of the Time Trials, Bobby Churchill and Jake Lucky made a Memorial pass. Bobby for his Great, Great Grandpa Art Lake and Jake for his Dad, Dave Lucky. They were followed by Samantha and Sydney Senko. The Senko family was very close to the Lucky family. Both men will be missed by family and friends!
Bobby and Jake.
Samantha and Sydney
Here are some images from the Staging, Time Trials and Eliminations.
The Junior Sportsman were the first to run its final. It was Haley Becker against the reigning Champion Cooper Hamelen with Cooper taking the win light and his second Championship in a row. The #1 Qualifier was Cole Campbell. Cole wasn't available for a photo.
In the Junior Modified final it was Allie Furman against Brandon Loeschen. Brandon wasn't driving his normal car as it had been sold and was driving the former Anarchy Racing Team car. Allie took the win light.
Winning the Championship was Ryan Elberts. Ryan wasn't available for a photo tonight but here is a photo of Ryan racing earlier in the day in the blue and white car.
The #1 Qualifier was Tori Trench. This was Tori's last Junior race at Route 66 as she is moving up to race Super Pro in 2019. Tori's car was in the trailer, so we did a little photo magic.
Another staple of the Classic is the Will County vs Grundy County Officials Grudge Match. This is the third and rubber match, as each County has won once. The Combatants:
The Grudge Matches are head to head, in equally prepared GMC trucks provided by event sponsor D'Arcy GMC Buick.
And the 2018 Champions are...Grundy County winning 4-1!
Grundy County States Attorney (and candidate for Secretary of State) Jason Helland was especially proud of his reaction... .013!
After the pomp and circumstances including the Grudge Matches it was time to bring on the Nitro Cars and the rest of the purpose built race cars. Included is the Finals of the Run Tuff Eliminator Bracket Race. First up, was the Tom Motry Fuel Altered, Drastic Plastic driven by Troy Martin vs the Nostalgia Funny Car Quickdraw driven by John Lawson. John was supposed to have driven his other car, Runaway, however he was involved in a scary looking wreck when the throttle stuck while doing a burnout. The car was a write-off, but using a backup chassis and body, Runaway is nearly rebuilt. Here are photos from both of there heads up runs.
The Great Lakes Funny Car Circuit was present with four cars:
Rocky Ausec-Solid Rock Mach 1
Ronald Ooms-Streaker's Ride
Mark Horvath-Kay's Mopar Missile
Chris Schneider-Brutus Mustang
Marina Anderson made a pass in her "A" Family Dragster.
And then there was Tony Zizzo driving his streamliner Top Fuel Dragster.
Dana Kleinhoffer in "Tremor".
We also had the Nostalgia Super Stock and the Midwest Nostalgia Pro Stock Association running along with Gassers and bracket racers. Here is a sample of all the cars running Saturday.
In the midst of all of this we also had "Run Tuff Eliminator". In the Final it was Mark Marusak vs Troy Bogner. The two are good friends, however only one can win and it was Mark taking the win light. They wanted a picture of both cars in the Winner's Circle.
The last run of the night was Barry Richter's Jet Funny Car, "Hypersonic".
And my personal favorite. Check out Brandon Brown's cell phone as he was video recording the run.
Route 66 did itself proud on Saturday staging an event with so much content it was really beyond description. It was a fabulous event and I'm already looking forward to next year.
To see all images from the event please click on following links. The photos are categorized into four albums.
Everything Race Cars
Classic Grudge Match
People and Activities
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What a day of bracket racing at Route 66. The weather was spectacular, a little warm, none the less a fun day. In addition to the bracket race, the NHRA Summit King of the Track Championship was scheduled. The King of the Track is an annual one-time event that matches the winners of Super Pro, Pro ET, Pro Bike and Sportsman in a heads, up with dial, race. The winner receives the coveted golden Wally. More on this later.
To get to the King of the Track, you first have to win your class. This started with the usual two rounds of Time Trials.
After the completion of the Time Trial runs, first round Eliminations started. The first class to run it's final was High School. It was Jon Lankford versus Tori Trench. Tori's dial-in was a little slower (15.20/15.06) so she launched a first and had a slightly better reaction time (.252/.259). Jon caught Tori at the top end and passed her to take the win light. (15.130/89.98 to 15.352/89.87). It was a good race. This was Jon's very first race. A cool way to start racing!
After High School, it was the Sportsman Class' turn to run its final. It was Meghan Hurley up against the reigning Sportsman Track Champion Steve Flounders Jr. This was almost a heads up race and at the stripe it was Meghan illuminating the win light. Steve broke out by .014. Meghan was going to be hard to beat because she ran a 12.191 on a 12.91 dial-in. This was Meghan's very first win!
Next up was Pro Bike. In this final, it was Bruce Damewood against Bob Foster Jr. Bruce had the slower dial-in (8.80/7.53) to Bob so he launched first. Bob was quicker on the tree (.018/.029), but immediately after launching he started experiencing some problems. Bruce took the win light. This was Bruce's second win of the season and Bob's second runner-up in a row. Bruce was not able to stay for the Winner's Circle pictures, so the picture on the right is from his first win in April.
Pro was the next class to run its final. It was Terry Heller up against Bill Macke. Bill launched first with the slower dial-in and better on the tree than Terry (.044/.061), however at the stripe Terry ran closer to his dial-in (10.57/10.610) to take the win. This is the first time Terry has raced at Route 66 since 2011.
The last class final of the day was Super Pro. This matched Bill Chase against Eddie Banderowicz Jr. Bill launched first with the slower dial-in. Eddie launched second, but left .006 too early causing the red light to illuminate giving the win to Bill. At the stripe both broke out.
As the last of the finals started, some ominous clouds started rolling in. As we got the four King of the Track competitors back to the staging lanes and as they were being directed to the tunnel, it started to rain. An attempt was made to save the track but it was lost to the rain and lightning. After discussions between the drivers and staff, it was decided to run the King of the Track races in conjunction with the next bracket race on Sunday, August 19th.
It was an interesting weekend for Dave Ancel! On Friday, at the Race Your Ride, he was breaking in new tires for Saturday's bracket race. I believe it was his third pass of the night, when he suddenly backed out of the water box. Apparently there was a problem with the dry sump system. Dave took the car home and overnight change the motor, went to work at 5 A.M and then came to the track to race. Dave made it to the Semi-Finals of Super Pro! All this on no sleep!!
The Trench family was supposed to be at two places this weekend. Tori was going to race at Byron in the Midwest Junior Super Series, however last weekend she broke the motor. TJ was scheduled to race in this bracket race. Tori jumped in her Aunt's car and drove in the semi-finals of High School and TJ went four rounds in Super Pro losing to eventual Super Pro winner Bill Chase.
Pro winner, Terry Heller, normally doesn't race at Route 66. In talking to him in the Winner's Circle we learned that his car was on the cover of Car Craft magazine in 1976. He purchased the car in the 80's and has been running it successfully. He jokes about the wiring and people have asked him why doesn't he change or update the car. His reply? "Why, I'm winning with it!"
If it wasn't for that bit of a thunderstorm, it would have been a near perfect day. Congratulations to all our Class Winners and good luck next Sunday in the races for King of the Track.
To see all the images of the event, please click here.
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Friday was the 10th Race Your Ride of the season. The Race Your Ride's are a combination of Test and Tune and the opportunity for fans to race their personal cars on a professional drag strip. Like so many Race Your Rides, you never know who or what is going to show up. Friday night was no exception. We had a good mix of race cars and street cars.
Besides street cars, we had purpose built race cars. Here's Bob Buckley pulling a wheelie with his nostalgia front engine dragster "Rock 'n' Roll Express".
Rocky Ausec was out testing the "Solid Rock" nostalgia Mach 1 for next weekend's Route 66 Classic. Rocky had recently broken a transmission shaft which in turn damaged some motor components.
I spoke with him after his run and asked if was going to make another pass. He said,"No, I have been breaking too many things lately so I just parked it until next weekend!"
Speaking of breaking things, at last weekend's Race Your Ride, Randy Adler broke some parts in the rear end of his '57' Chevrolet Bel Air Pro Mod. This night he was testing the repairs. Everything looked good!
Dana Kleinhoffer was running his Nostalgia Funny Car "Tremor" to complete his licensing in the car.
There was a contingent of Bracket racers testing and practicing for Saturday's race at Route 66.
Joe, Jenny and Ruby Zolper brought Jenny's Pro Mod out to test. They brought the car to the track in the motorhome that Joe built and a stacker trailer. The unit is affectionately called the "Kraken".
Last but not least, Greg King brought his Nostalgia Funny Car "Deuces on the Loose" to the track to test with Greg Nickleski driving. This car was built by the crew from the Velocity Channel's Garage Squad. Since the last time the car was at the track, the transmission was replaced.
The last pass was straight as an arrow and Greg let off before the finish. He said there was still plenty of speed left in the car.
All told, it was a good night for racing. To see all the images from the night, please click here.
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After a very busy June and July (NHRA Nationals, NASCAR, NHRA Div. 3 w/Burndown and NMRA/NMCA), we got back to some local racing with the Race Your Ride "Bike Night". The fastest bike in a heads up competition wins a ticket package to upcoming events.
And the winner was...Larry Sargis with a speed over 150 mph. Larry with his entourage!
The one great thing about the Race Your Ride nights, you never know what is going to show up. Friday night was no exception! We had 'A' Fuel dragsters...
The one bad thing about the Race Your Ride, sometimes you never know who is driving. Dave Kovar drove this car at the recent NHRA Lucas Oil Division 3 race and when I asked who was driving tonight, it wasn't going to be Dave. Then as the car came to the line, I thought I heard Dave was in the car! I don't know who was driving, but they did a good job!
That was also the case with several other cars. I saw John Woolwine's car and then I learned it was John's brother, Bob, licensing in his car. They are in the final stages of a building Bob's car.
Another familiar car at Route 66 is the 1960 Chevrolet Impala Pro Mod driven by Pat Powers. What I learned tonight was the car is actually owned by his brother Bernie, who was also licensing this night.
Also, we had eight year old Mia Rybarski of Tinley Park licensing her Junior car. Welcome to the drag racing family, Mia!
And then there was Tori Trench.
I have watched Tori race Juniors since she was 9 years old. Friday night she was licensing in a full size dragster. Her parents, Todd and Sandy, recently purchased her a dragster. Her brother, TJ, has been driving the family dragster and recently had a motor issue (you can ask TJ what happened!). The motor from Tori's new car was placed in TJ's car and that is what Tori was licensing in.
As can be witnessed by the image of the last pass posted ET/Speed, the Super Pro boys better watch out next year! Not to say that Tori is competitive, however it has been fun to watch her race against TJ all these years and will again in the 2019 season.
In addition to the drivers licensing, there were several teams out testing. Bob Malloy's team with the nostalgia front end dragster, Beedy and Malloy was here.
As was Bob Buckley in the Rock 'n' Roll Express.
Kleinhoffer racing was out with Dana driving the nostalgia funny car Tremor.
I don't think I'm supposed to have favorites, however ever since I saw the new 1957 Chevrolet on the showroom floor as a kid, it has been one of my all time favorites. Randy Adler's '57 Pro Mod has been a favorite from the first time I laid eyes on it. Randy was out testing new carbon fiber wheely bars. He gave me my favorite pic of the night.
Unfortunately, in the run right after this burnout, something broke in the drivetrain ending their night. Originally they thought it was the drive shaft, but it appears the pinion gear let loose. The good thing is, that is why they test. Better now than in competition!
It was a great night to be at Route 66! Great weather, a good crowd and super racing. Here are some more of my favorites from the night.