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.