Eleven Days Of Dirt Trackin’


(Knoxville photo courtesy Leon Hammack)

Well gang, I just returned from my annual summer trek to dirt track’s finest racing in these old United States.  This summer I was fortunate to add to my annual trip to Knoxville, Iowa for the 50th Knoxville Nationals, a side junket for my second trip to Belleville, Kansas for the 32nd Midget Nationals.

For those of you who are not familiar to either of these events I will try to explain the significance of these two events.

The Midget Nationals are held at The High Banks at Belleville Kansas.  This track is celebrating its centennial year hosting racing!  This racing facility is a high banked half-mile race track in this “sleepy” little farming town of approximately 3,000 people max!  But every year in late summer this little hallow comes alive with the sound emanating from an 850lb, 400hp screaming race machine!

Competitors travel to Belleville,Kansas from far and wide, North and South, East and West, just  to be crowned the victor of the USAC sanctioned Belleville Midget Nationals.  It is a two day event that is a crown jewel for all who race midgets throughout the USA.  The quality of racing at this event is ultimately the best in the US.  Race drivers that have claimed victory in the event reads like who’s who in open wheel racing over the last 32 years.  The past winners include the likes of the late Stan Fox in 1979 &80, Johnny Parsons,Jr. in 1983, Ron “Sleepy” Tripp in 1985, Jeff Gordon in 1994, Page Jones (Parnelli’s youngest son) in 1993, Kasey Kahne in 2000 & 2001, and Bryan Clauson in 2009 & 2010.

From Belleville, KS I traveled northeast 335 miles to Knoxville, Iowa for the 50th Knoxville Nationals.   The Knoxville Nationals is a four day racing event with competitors from all over the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as well!  During the middle of August this little town of Knoxville may only have 8,000 inhabitants, but prides itself on filling all the seats of the race track at the Marion County Fairgrounds to the capacity of 25,000 for the four nights of racing that is The Knoxville Nationals.  This little hamlet is the world center of sprint car racing!

The list of winners of The Knoxville Nationals reads like the elite of the sprint car world.  “The King” Steve Kinser has won this event 12 times in its 50 year history!  Donny Schatz has won it four years in a row, 2006-2009.  Mark Kinser, Steve’s cousin won it three times, Kraig Kinser, Steve’s son, has one victory, for a Kinser family total of 16 out of 50 years!  Doug Wollfgang has logged four victories, Danny “The Dude” Lasoski has four wins in this event as well.

To give you an idea of the grandness of this event, the winner of the A main event on the last night of this four day racing crescendo pockets a cool $150,000.00!  So now you can see why these two events generate a large following.

So if there was any doubt, I was really working on my redneck this summer!


Fun at The Knoxville Nationals


(Photo by Jim Hammack)

I have returned from six days of hard charging, dirt slinging, alcohol burning, sprint car racing!  For anyone who has been to the Knoxville Nationals, you can fully understand my feelings after returning!  Not only did I get to watch five days of the Knoxville Nationals (normally four days but we had a partial rain out), but I also went to Oskaloosa Tuesday evening for the 410 Wingless sprint car races.  What a great night of wingless sprint car races we witnessed!  That track is really conducive that style of racing.  You know what I am talking about, don’t you?  That’s the kinda of racing where they toss it into the turn, what I call backing it in and standing on the GAS!!!  COOL STUFF!

This was my sixth time to make the Knoxville Nationals.  For a sprint car race fan, these four nights at Knoxville are undoubtedly the absolute best sprint car races in the USA!  From the sprint car drivers and teams point of view, this is the single biggest payday in the entire year!  The winner of the Saturday night A Main won, are you ready—– a cool $150,000.00!!!!!!!!!  I don’t car how you cut it, that is a nice chunk of change to cart back home with the race car and the hauler!

The Knoxville weather was the typical summertime mid-western, humid, sticky, hot atmosphere.  On the first night of the Nat’ls, just as the cars to start their hot laps at 7:15 pm in preparation for the evenings racing, the heavens opened up and really poured!  The program of racing finally got started at 12:15am and ended at 3:00am!  That turned out to be a long night at the race track, but if you are a REDNECK at heart ( AND I WAS WORKING ON MY REDNECK!) it wasn’t bad!!!  After all, it was my first dose of dirt for this racing season!

The Knoxville race normally attracts “the best of the best” sprint car drivers and their teams.  It is the premiere sprint car race of the summer. Cars from all four corners of the USA, as well as some from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand participate in this event.  It is truly an international event for sprint cars!  The event is run as a four day event and drivers gather points each night.  Saturday’s event is a series of races culminating in the huge A Main event payday.

This year I think that the Sprint Car world witnessed a changing of the Guard.  Steve Kinser has long been “The King” of the Sprint Car world.  However, Donny Schotz claimed his 4th Knoxville Nationals in a row Sunday night!  Schotz has been a dominating force in that series now for the last four years.  Last year that domination just got a whole lot stronger!  In 2008 Tony Stewart bought Schotz’s race team and brought it  into his racing empire.  Now more than ever, Donny Schotz has been showing the rest of the boys the “fast way around the dirt”!

Once again I was very fortunate to have a brother and sister-in-law (Jim and Edie) bring their motorhome to Knoxville, and invite me to join them for the week. They made it possible for me to hit  Knoxville and enjoy two things that are an integral part of my life, family and good, good racing!!


Danger Zone??

Well folks I survived working 15 out of 17 days in row!  My employer is really trying to testing my physical stamina!  But I do have one thing to look forward to now…..four days in Knoxville, Iowa!! I am meeting one of my brothers and sister-in-law, Jim and Edie.  They have been there enjoying the  360 Sprint Car Nationals and going to Oscaloosa for more sprint Car races.

I am leaving Tuesday morning after I have some tests done to determine if I have carpel tunnel in both hands. YUCK!!! ( I hate needles and tests!!)

To describe Knoxville, IA during the four days of the Knoxville Nationals is very simple.  They are truly the nicest people around.  The whole community bands together to produce this great event.  The civic organizations like the Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs put on “all you can eat’ breakfasts each morning for a very reasonable price.  Thursday evening the Catholic Church puts on a spaghetti feed.  There are all kinds of “good food’ to purchase from various other civic organizations as well.

But the true attraction, this time of the year in Knoxville, is that all the best Sprint Car teams from throughout the USA will descend upon this town to try to claim the $150,000.00 prize money for the winner of the Saturday Night Knoxville Nationals feature race!  It is a dirt track race fan’s dream come true!

So folks, for the next week this good ol boy is going to be sitting down just past the start/finish line, towards turn one at Marion County Fairgrounds, better known as The Knoxville Nationals!!!! I am going to get me a snoot full of Marion County clay and burned alcohol from the headers of those 1150 lb., 850 horsepower, mud slinging, alcohol burning, winged racing machines!!

They are driving on the very edge, the danger zone!! God, you gotta just love it!!



The 2009 Knoxville Nationals

(photo by Dave Hill)

On August 12th the 2009 Knoxville Nationals, the single largest Sprint Car races in the U. S. begins.  For four days this little sleepy ruraltown of 8,000 people southeast of Des Moines, Iowa evolves into the mecca of sprint car racing!  At this time Knoxville transforms into a population of 25,000, the capacity of the race track , plus the population of the citizens of the town!

The atmosphere of this tiny hamlet is that of a country, county fair.  The citizens of this community join together and produce this fun, fan friendly, “Woodstock” type event for Sprint Car racing!  The people of Knoxville, IA all come together and produce this great “community affair”!  They make this such a memorable extravaganza.   It is the single largest revenue event in this city each year.  Fans come from all over the U.S. to enjoy the absolute best Sprint Car racing for four nights in August.

This year celebrates the 49th annual staging of this racing classic.  The winners of this event reflect the Who is Who in Sprint Car racing history.  With the names  like Steve Kinser  (12 time winner), Doug Wolfgang ( 3 time winner), Danny Lasoski (3 time winner), Sammy Swindell, Jan Operman, and Kenny Weld reflect the history of this event.  It also reflects the importance of The Knoxville Nationals.  The winner of the four day event will pocket a cool $150,000.00!!! Nor a bad paycheck for four days of work!

This will be my sixth trip to Knoxville, and I might add, I am extremely excited and waiting with great anticipation for the event to get rolling!  There is just something about the smell of alcohol in the air when those big 410 cubic inch, fuel injected, dirt slinging racing machines fire up and get running 2, 3, and 4 wide sliding into the turns!