29 June 2009

Last Saturday in June: Lima, Ohio

The Allen County Fairgrounds on the east side of Lima, Ohio, are host to the longest continuously running event on the AMA Pro Flat Track schedule. I know this because the PA announcer said so and I was there to hear it--my first trip to the half-mile cushion.

This guy had been there before, however.

As had this guy, last year's winner, Slammin' Sammy Halbert. Think he's wide open?

Classic high-low, over-under cushion track racing: Nichole Cheza was robbed of a trip to the Main by a flat tire two laps from the end of the Semi.

Many, including me, miss the single-cylinder framers, but the racing doesn't seem to suffer in their absence.

Next up: Laguna!

01 June 2009

Memories are made of this

The last two weekends sent me back in time a bit. First was a couple days at Summit Point Raceway for the annual Memorial Day weekend Summit Point Cyclefest, featuring CCS and ASRA club racing. And this past weekend offered a chance to take my 4.5-year-old son Jack to 75-80 Dragway in Monrovia, MD, for an evening of (very) amateur drag racing. Both venues were the setting for some of my earliest gearhead memories.

Although Jack wasn't with me this Memorial Day weekend, he has been to Summit Point before and every time I'm there reminds me of my first visits with my dad. I vividly remember a Roush Trans-Am Mustang on jackstands, engine lit and rear wheels spinning--it seemed alive, and powerful. I also recall a Trans-Am car flipping over backwards as it crested the rise out of Turn 4 and flying into the trees. That was exciting (for the driver too!). As was the chaos brought on by a surprise downpour and slick-shod racecars slithering around searching for suddenly unavailable traction. These things leave an impression in a budding gearhead's mind.

These days Summit doesn't host professional racing series like Trans-Am, but it's still a popular stop for a number of car and motorcycle club racing organizations. Jeff Wood (leading, above) is a consummate club racer--get out front early, maintain a gap, don't take too many risks. Watching a fast guy like Wood amongst average weekend racers is eye-opening. Every movement broadcasts his talent, skill, and commitment.

* * *

Recently there was an article in the Washington Post about local racetracks. In a photo that ran with the story I thought I recognized 75-80 Dragway, but it couldn't be, I thought--it had been closed since '05, the owner intent on a housing development. A building ordinance change put paid to his plans however and the land wasn't developed, so this spring they've put the dragstrip back into operation. Jack and I visited Saturday evening.

Looking at the racecars--sorry, Jack, hot rods--as we walked through the staging lanes was like a case of deja vu, only now I was the Dad with the reassuring hand around the apprehensively offered hand of the boy. The noise was what had made him nervous, just as it did for me years ago. Hot rods are loud!

75-80 is an unassuming place. The grounds are modest in size and scope. We were free to wander freely and we did. The racing was strictly amateur, with many of the competing bikes and cars driven or ridden to the racetrack.

Jack had a blast. I figured he'd enjoy it but for how long would it stoke his preschooler attention span? Sometime after 10pm I decided enough was enough and we had to go home . . . I promised we'd go again. A good day out.