WALTZ: A Reminder Of Why We Love It

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Keith Waltz
Keith Waltz

HARRISBURG, N.C. — It was about 20 minutes after the final checkered flag of the evening had been waved on the Knight Before the Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, and a portion of the huge crowd was flowing through a small gate at the start/finish line.

Fans were heading to the pit area to shake hands with or get an autograph from their sprint car racing heroes. After clearing the gate, they continued in an orderly, almost parade-like formation as they crossed the track. Once the procession reached pit road, the fans turned either left or right, depending on which drivers they wanted to visit first.

As we stood back interestingly watching this migration of humanity, a blond-haired little boy suddenly darted out of the pack, leaving behind the security of his parents. Probably 4 or 5 years old, the boy sprinted as fast as his little legs would carry him toward the track’s massive infield building. On the front of that building are giant metal letters that spell out Eldora.

That little boy ran directly to the end of those letters, turned around with a huge smile on his face and stood there like a statue while his mother used her cell phone to capture the moment. Once the image was recorded, the little boy began jumping for joy, pumping his fists into the air in pure, genuine excitement.

And remember, this was after a full night of racing and at an hour when most of the little guy’s peers were sound asleep.

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After 35 years of making a living in this sport, there are plenty of days when the politics, deadlines, frustrations and the aches and pains of an aging body become overwhelming. Those are the days when we look back and ponder how life would be different had we declined Chris Economaki’s job offer and taken our career in a different direction.

Then, occasionally, there’s an incident like this one at Eldora when we are reminded of the excitement and joy that first attracted us to this crazy sport. Ironically, we were about the same age as this blond-haired little boy when we caught the racing bug.

We’ll probably never know his name or where he lives, but for a few seconds in the Eldora Speedway infield, a little boy’s expression of pure joy and excitement reminded us why we still enjoy doing what we do.

– Aaron Reutzel was impressive this summer and we expect the racer from Clute, Texas, to be among the title contenders as the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions season draws to a close.

Reutzel, the 2015 ASCS National Tour champion, would be a nice addition to the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series if Baughman-Reutzel Motorsports could secure the necessary funding to run the full schedule in 2019.

– Besides the annual Bank of America ROVAL 400 NASCAR weekend in the fall, should we expect additional spectator events on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course?

“We don’t have any plans right now, but I would say we are absolutely open to other events,” said Marcus Smith, president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. “We are going to focus on the inaugural event in September and make it fantastic, and then we’ll look to 2019 and 2020 for other things we might add to the schedule.”

– With the 58th running of the Knoxville Nationals now in the rearview mirror, here’s a bit of trivia about dirt-track racing’s premier event.

The half-mile fairgrounds track in Knoxville, Iowa, wasn’t promoter Marion Robinson’s first choice at which to host the marquee supermodified event when the concept debuted in 1961.

Robinson originally presented the idea to the Hamilton County Fair Board in hopes of running the race at Iowa’s Webster City Fairgrounds. The fair board members deemed his idea too risky and denied his request.

Undaunted, Robinson presented the concept to the Marion County Fair Board. Despite some reservations, fair board members eventually approved his plan and one of the nation’s premier racing events was born.