HEDGER: 2017 SuperFans, Part 2

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Ron Hedger

THE VILLAGES, Fla. — With order restored to victory lane following our rundown of the top finishers in the 2017 SuperFans contest, we’re ready to take a look at the second five finishers.

New Yorker Harold Brossman, who helped get us started with the SuperFans contest many years ago, finished sixth with 113 races despite “a lack of midweek races and a bunch of rainouts.”  Brossman’s lifetime total is now in the 6,400-event range since he started attending races at Fonda (N.Y.) Speedway in the early 1960s.

Brossman observed: “Both car owners and fans are on a downhill slide. I see very few young fans joining the mostly older people I see at the races. In 10 years, I wonder if there will even be auto racing as we know it.”

On the positive side, Brossman loves the remodeled Weedsport (N.Y.) Speedway and how events are run there. He also raves about sprint car racing in Pennsylvania, saying, “racing is much better down there and definitely worth the long ride.”

Along with a tie for third between Ron Rodda and Dwight Bucks, there was a dead heat for seventh involving SuperFan regulars Kevin Babcock, an amateur or “ticket buyer,” and pro Bruce Eckel.

Babcock, who resides in Des Moines, saw 106 races at 43 speedways in nine states, six of them new to him. In the process, he set a personal record of 33 rainouts, the low point of his 42nd year as a race fan.

He spent $1,645 on admission and $1,570 on hotel rooms as he traveled just over 22,000 miles in a season that started at North Florida Speedway in February and ended at the Dome of the Americas in St. Louis in December. His four top events included a stock car special at Kossuth County Speedway, a USMTS show at Hamilton County Speedway, the Bones Memorial Sport Mod Special at Stuart Speedway and the Saturday night portion of the Gateway Nationals at the Dome of the Americas.

By far the low point of Babcock’s season was “when the fair board at Southern Iowa Speedway decided to discontinue weekly racing. I have been to 290 shows at that race track since 1994, which ranked it first on my list of tracks visited.”

Eckel enjoyed his 106 races at 53 different speedways in 10 states, with roughly half the tracks, 26, new to him. The Hoseheads.com writer calls Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway his home track (14 visits) and “the best track in the country.” He says this is especially noticeable when friends visit and are wide-eyed at watching racing he and his wife take for granted.

Eckel’s race of the season was the first visit of the USAC midgets in 10 years to Macon (Ill.) Speedway. He called the racing on the fifth-mile black-clay surface both “fierce” and “amazing” with so much happening that he couldn’t keep up with it all. In the end, Christopher Bell passed Tyler Courtney with five to go and held off Spencer Bayston for the win.

Second on Eckel’s hit parade was Justin Grant’s last-lap pass for the lead at the USAC midget show at Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna Speedway, followed by Friday night at the Smackdown at Kokomo Speedway, with Courtney coming back from a time-trial flip to best Brady Bacon by inches.

Eighth in the standings, one race off her husband’s pace, was blogger Pat Eckel, who says their move to Indiana from Pennsylvania paid off with even better racing than they saw in the Keystone state.

Along with Bruce’s top three, Pat lauds the Midget Week show at Lincoln Park Speedway with Michael Pickens besting Bayston after five laps of “hand-to-hand” combat, two USAC sprint shows at Bubba Raceway Park in Florida won by Grant and Hunter Schuerenberg and a July Lucas Oil LM show at Macon that saw Josh Richards prevail.

She notes that the best doubleheader of the year was the Midget Week show at Gas City (Ind.) Speedway, with Pickens winning from 11th and Kevin Thomas Jr. passing Bacon on the last lap for the sprint car win.

On the other side of the coin, the Eckels rated the August open wheel tripleheader at Mansfield Motor Speedway as their worst show of the season, saying “What started with great potential with 61 winged 41’s, 40 305 sprints and 36 BOSS non-winged sprints turned into a marathon with the final feature ending at 4 a.m. due to a lack of logistics and preparation.”

Ninth in the standings and the final entrant over the century mark was Pennsylvanian Ed Ackerman with 102 races at 39 speedways in 14 states. Along with driving some 17, 472 miles and flying to Shreveport, La.; Jackson, Miss.; and Fargo, N.D.; he spent $1,541 on tickets and missed another 31 shows due to bad weather.

Ackerman gives high marks to the promoters at Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway, Susquehanna Speedway and Bridgeport Speedway for their “professionally run tracks” while noting that many other speedways suffer from “shows with way too much wasted downtime,” while a number of others “employ terrible announcers.”

Rounding out the top 10 was another Des Moines resident, Jack Miles III, who hit 53 races starting with Golden Isles Speedway’s Super Bowl of Racing in February and ending in September at the SLMR LM finale at I-80 in Nebraska.

Miles calls East Bay Raceway Park his favorite track in the deep south, noting that “with turns three and four cut down a bit, it has allowed for more racing grooves and a much better racing program.” Once he returned from Florida, Miles spent most of the season crewing for a friend who runs the SLMR tour. Highlights there included a trip to Rock Rapids (Iowa) Speedway and Off-Road Speedway in Norfolk, Neb.

But just like past seasons, Miles said his No. 1 show of the season was the final night of the LM Nationals at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway, observing that “Mike Marlar won it once again on a very wide, smooth and competitive track that shows just how great Knoxville is for that show.”

And on the food front, Miles puts Knoxville at the top of his culinary rankings as well for their chicken bites.

That’s it for 2017!  We thank all who entered as well as our ongoing SuperFans sponsor, Tim Frost and his National Speedway Directory, who recognizes each year’s Pro and Amateur champion with a nice plaque.