KENNEDY: California Coast


LOS ANGELES — What “bucket list” items did you accomplish during 2012?

This winter I recalled my major 2012 bucket list accomplishment. Fellow racing writer Norm Bogan and I for years had a similar bucket list goal — drive through the New England states and visit as many auto racing speedways as possible.

With the month of June wide open for both of us, we did just that. During our trip we saw auto racing at three speedways in Wisconsin, New York and Iowa. Along the way we visited some of the legendary speedways we had read about for many decades in the pages of NSSN and other motorsports publications.

We departed on June 4 in Norm’s 2011 Ford Escape SUV. We spent 28 days on the road and visited 23 states. One has to appreciate New Hampshire’s state motto, “Live Free or Die,” and how that state shuns taxes. Norm now has visited 48 of the 50 USA states, missing only Alaska and Hawaii. I added 10 states to my list that now has risen to 30 states visited. We even used our passports to travel into Ontario, Canada.

We left my house at 23,872 miles on the odometer and arrived home July 1 at 33,806 (9,934 miles). Norm did a total of 10,006 miles round-trip from his house. Day by day miles driven varied from lows of 104, 123 and 146 to highs of 500, 571 and 593. We averaged 355 miles a day. We stayed three consecutive nights each in Hartford, Conn., and Nashua, N.H. Norm did 100 percent of the driving by his choice. I was the navigator/map reader and Sirius Satellite radio DJ.

I also recorded a day-by-day trip journal in media note pads. The hottest temperature eastbound was 103 (Las Vegas) and westbound 107 (Las Vegas). The average temp during our trip was in the 80s.

At a New York rest stop we chatted with the crew of driver Marty Wolfe’s U-93 Renegade, an APBA hydroplane boat, en route to Syracuse. It is powered by a big-block 468 c. i. Chevy (and competes nationally, including on Mission Bay in San Diego. We used the 32nd edition National Speedway Directory paperback book ($10) edited for decades by Allan and Nancy Brown.

It contains accurate directions to every race track in the USA and Canada and is arrayed alphabetically by states. It was invaluable and 100 percent accurate. We saw 41 speedways (25 dirt and 16 paved) in 15 states. Speedways we visited that host major NASCAR series and IZOD Indy Car races were Watkins Glen Int’l, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway and Iowa Speedway.

Legendary dirt short tracks we visited included Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway, Belleville (Kan.) High Banks, Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City, S.D., Eagle (Neb.) Raceway, Huset’s Speedway in Brandon, S.D., plus Wisonsin’s Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie and Beaver Dam (Wis.) Raceway.

Famous paved tracks we checked out were Oswego (N.Y.) Speedway, Thompson (Conn.) Speedway, Stafford Motor Speedway, Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl, Chemung (N.Y.) Speedbowl, Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway and Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre, Vt.

And those were just a sampling of the many race tracks where we made stops.

On Sunday, June 10 it was 89 degrees and we saw our first race at Wisconsin’s Angell Park Speedway. The site was Angell Park (Wis.) for the usual Badger Midget Auto Racing Ass’n Sunday night midget races. It is the site where BMARA drivers Dean Erfurth and Kevin Doty had lost their lives.

BMARA is the oldest midget racing sanctioning body (1936). Angell Park has hosted midget racing since 1946. There were 16 midgets present with two support classes — Badger winged 600cc micro midgets and Wisconsin dirt legend cars — also racing. Midgets raced a trophy dash, two heats and a 30-lap feature from 6:45 to 9:09 p.m. Curfew was 10 p.m. Admission was $10 for seniors and included free admission to the National Midget Hall of Fame in a pavilion near the first turn.

Announcer Bryan Gapinski and timing/scoring were located in the infield near the start/finish line. The midget’s one-lap track record is 14.179 by Jerry Coons Jr. on Aug. 1, 1999. We saw Davey Ray (No. 33 Spike/Toyota) set fast time of 14.948. Seating on wooden rows accommodates about 5,000 and all seats offer excellent sight lines. The speedway is in a park setting in mid city and is a great place to watch racing.

The crowd June 10 seemed knowledgeable and appreciated the close racing action as we did. Past BMARA champion Kevin Olson is third in all-time Angell Park feature wins. “KO” filled in for Casey Shuman in a second Hans Lein-owned midget after Casey did not arrive at the track. Dan Boorse leads with 66 Angell Park feature wins, followed by Billy Wood (51), “KO” (46), K. Doty (37) and Scott Hatton (34).

The 16-car main event ran 30 all-green laps in 8-plus minutes. Tulsa Chili Bowl veteran Gary “Bubba” Altig, a 25-year-old Mechanicsburg, Ill., driver, started fourth and led the first 18 laps in the No. 19 Rick Imhoff Spike/Fontana. Then pole starter Brandon Waelti made an inside pass leaving turn two and his No. 51 Stealth/Mopar led laps 19-25 and 27-30. Ray’s No. 33 led on lap 26.

Hometowner Waelti won by a few lengths over Scott Hatton’s No. 15 Stealth-Fontana. Ray, Altig and Mike Hess completed the top five.

Our second track visit to see racing was June 24 at Utica-Rome (N.Y.) Speedway, about 30-miles east of Syracuse. The half-mile, semi-banked clay track hosted its 10th of 25 scheduled events. Sportsman stocks, modifieds, pro stocks and pure stocks participated.

Car counts were in the mid-20s for the two featured classes. Senior admission was $10. We saw all divisions hot lap from 5:30-5:50 p.m. Racing was to start at 6 p.m. After the national anthem, the first heat race was ready to roll when predicted rain started. At 6:30 management said the track was too wet and refunded money to fans and racers.

Our third race was the regular Wednesday night competition at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa, June 27. The half-mile semi-banked clay track in mid-town has a covered grandstand with about 700 persons that night. The clay surface was racy all night despite the 100-degree day that was still in the mid-90s when racing started after 7 p.m. It was 89 degrees when racing concluded at 10:17 p.m.

Five IMCA racing divisions — modifieds, sport modifieds, stock cars, hobby stocks and sport compacts — raced heats and 15-lap main events. What impressed us most was how fast, clean, and competitive all the divisions were. They raced wheel-to-wheel with little or no contact and at speeds in the area of 70-80 mph. There were few caution flags. It was a very enjoyable night of racing. Admission was $9 for seniors.

The track had no printed race programs, but fans present received a printed point standings sheet containing all five IMCA divisions current points. The colorful ticket stub was the best I’ve seen at a short track and it was not torn in half at the front gate.

Two pace vehicles for each race were unique. Sikes Machine supplied two huge $150,000 tractors on tank-like treads to pace each race two abreast for a lap or so. It was farmland USA.

I definitely recommend accomplishing some of your bucket list items during 2013. You will have a lifetime of pleasant memories and photos to remember them.