ECONOMAKI: ‘Sammy, Sammy’

FAMILIAR FOES: Sammy Swindell (left) and Doug Wolfgang catch up prior to Saturday night's 50th annual Knoxville Nationals. (Action Photo)

FAMILIAR FOES: Sammy Swindell (left) and Doug Wolfgang catch up prior to Saturday night’s 50th annual Knoxville Nationals. (Action Photo)

Knoxville Crowd Appreciates Legend’s Nationals Effort

Tim Shaffer scored a surprising and popular victory in Saturday night’s 50th annual Goodyear Knoxville Nationals at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway. But the Pennsylvania native was not the most popular performer in the historic event. Hall of Fame sprint-car racer Sammy Swindell led much of the race after winning his preliminary feature earlier in the week. While his popularity with racing fans during his lengthy career has been minimal at best, Swindell was the crowd favorite the entire week. Swindell, whose only Nationals victory came way back in 1983, entertained the crowd of 23,500 by holding off charge after charge from four-time defending event champion and crowd villain Donny Schatz, who was heartily booed throughout the weekend, only to have Sammy’s “traditional” Knoxville bad luck bite him when he cut a tire and crashed with three laps remaining. As a down-in-the-dumps Swindell walked back to his pits, the crowd repeatedly chanted “Sammy, Sammy,” at which, point the 54-year-old Tennessee native bowed to his legions. Not to be outdone, fans visited the Swindell pits after the race and the “Sammy” chants again resonated throughout the pit area. Swindell may not have won the Nationals, but his rocky relationship with sprint-car racing’s fan base no doubt turned the corner.

By all accounts Saturday night’s Knoxville Nationals feature was one of the best in the 50-year history of the event. Taped by Lucas Oil Productions, the 50th annual Knoxville Nationals is scheduled to air on Speed at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 28. Don’t miss it!

Fourteen-time Knoxville Nationals winning crew chief/car owner Karl Kinser was among the many legends who returned for the 50th running of the event. Kinser, who has been out of racing for five years, said he was “missing having my car here” while taking in Thursday’s action.

Among the promoters on hand at Knoxville Raceway were Interstate Racing Ass’n President Steve Sinclair, ASCS Founder Emmett Hahn, Danny Schatz, Eldora Speedway’s Larry Boos and World Racing Group head honchos Tom Deery and Brian Carter.

One of the treats for fans attending the Nationals was the nightly appearance of the Budweiser Clydesdales, which took a full lap of the half-mile oval. The Clydesdales were housed in one of the barns on the Marion County Fairgrounds, where fans could visit.

Longtime Knoxville Raceway historian and reporter Bob Wilson retired following the 50th annual Knoxville Nationals.

On Aug. 11, the Hampton Hotels Save-A-Landmark program paid a visit to Riverside Int’l Speedway in West Memphis, Ark., donating $10,000 worth of service for the day’s projects and refurbishment projects, which included work to prevent erosion along the interior track wall and the remodeling of the track scoreboards at the quarter-mile dirt track, which is celebrating its 60th season of racing. Riverside Int’l Speedway is the 54th landmark selected for refurbishment by the Save-A-Landmark program.

While competitors at Indianapolis Motor Speedway cross the Yard of Bricks at the historic 2.5-mile superspeedway’s start/finish line, racers at New Hampshire Motor Speedway will soon complete laps at The Granite Stripe. Located at the start/finish line at the 1.058-mile oval in Loudon, N.H., a six-inch thick, two-foot wide by 65-foot strip of Concord gray granite will be mounted across the frontstretch at the track in time for the Sept. 16-19 NASCAR events at the track.

Tommy Ellis, who won the championship in what is now known as the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 1988, is headed to prison. Ellis and his wife, Brenda, were guilty of defrauding the Internal Revenue Service of more than $133,000 by not reporting all proceeds from their car-wash business. Ellis received an 18-month sentence, with Brenda Ellis sentenced to 12 months.

Jeremy Mayfield was in court again last week and didn’t have any better luck as U.S. District Court Judge Graham Mullen, who dismissed Mayfield’s claims against NASCAR over his May 2009 positive drug test, denied Mayfield’s request to vacate the decision.

According to a report in the Charlotte Observer, the NASCAR Hall of Fame has not been the hit that NASCAR and the Charlotte community had hoped for. Through its first 90 days, the Hall of Fame drew 102,731 visitors, which would project out to approximately 410,000 for the first 12 months. Prior to the Hall’s opening, officials estimated it would attract 800,000 visitors during the first 14 months of operation. Attendance projections were used to help determine the Hall of Fame’s operating budget for 2011. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority operates the Hall of Fame.
Bobby Hamilton, Jr. is looking to add a second race track to his portfolio. The second-generation driver already owns Highland Rim Speedway in Ridgetop, Tenn., and is negotiating to purchase the quarter-mile Riverview Speedway in Carthage.

Records tell us that the 22 crew members who service Scott Speed’s No. 82 Red Bull Toyota and Reed Sorenson’s No. 83 Red Bull Toyota on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup circuit hail from 21 different towns and Canadian provinces, Kannapolis, N.C., being the only community which two crewmen call home.

Our sympathies to driver Sam Posey and kin over the recent death of his mother, Mary Moore, in her hometown of Sharon, Conn. The jovial Mrs. Moore was a devoted fan of sports-car racing and of her son’s successes at the wheel of competition sports cars. RIP, Mary.

A quick visit to The Dirt Track @ Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Monster Trucks last Saturday saw a crowded grandstand full of families. Parents were smiling, and the kids were enthralled with the big rigs, which put on quite a show. A fun night was capped by an autograph session, which lasted until every single autograph was signed. Every single one! The giant vehicles fit two to a semi tractor-trailer, the drivers doubling up to save on costs. A single giant tire costs $1,800, hence the cost-cutting measures.

Vanity Fair magazine’s 71st annual best-dressed list for 2010 includes Jay Penske in the men’s category. Wonder if other motorsports fellows were considered?