SHAMPINE: West Coast Supermodified Racing Is Struggling

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CORNELIUS, N.C. — It’s no secret that supermodified racing on the West Coast has struggled mightily over the last decade. Car counts have dwindled, interest has suffered and the economy has hurt. Lately, it’s not unheard of to see only a handful of 410 supers at Madera (Calif.) Speedway and other tracks the open-wheel machines travel to west of the Rocky Mountains.

But the hard times haven’t deterred officials of the Supermodified Racing Ass’n from an attempt to revitalize supers in America’s western states — several thousand miles from the Northeast and Ohio, where that form of racing isn’t exactly thriving but is certainly respectable.

SMRA officials hope a deeper carving of the supermodified niche in the West gains some much-needed momentum with Speedfest 2010, an Oct. 30 event at The Bullring @ Las Vegas Motor Speedway featuring late models, supers and several other racing divisions. The show flanks NHRA’s Las Vegas Nationals weekend in Sin City.

Speedfest marks only the third SMRA-sanctioned race of the season. The first two — in July at the Vegas Bullring and Rocky Mountains Raceway in Utah — each saw fewer than 10 supers take the green with Utah’s Lonnie Adamson winning both shows.

This fall’s Vegas show appears to be different. SMRA has stated around 20 supers will be in attendance. The organization has been hitting the message boards and social-networking websites hard in recent weeks, attempting to build excitement and anticipation. Phone calls, e-mails and face-to-face talks between officials and car owners continue around the country with the goal of securing as many entrants as possible.

Bobby Gangwer, an SMRA board member among several other responsibilities he holds in the sport, is one of those making several contacts every day. As the full-time announcer for ISMA, MSA and SMRA, and the host of a weekly Internet radio show devoted to supers, Gangwer is perhaps the county’s leading advocate of supermodified racing. His positive attitude and tireless efforts are central in the SMRA getting back on track.

“We need this bad,” Gangwer said about Speedfest 2010. “We’re doing everything we can to make it a success. We’ve got to start somewhere and we’re hoping this show moves things forward with the SMRA and supermodified racing out west.”

A strong entry list should have fans intrigued.

Shown on the SMRA website, the list shows racers from seven states: California, Nevada, Utah, Washington, Idaho, Ohio and Massachusetts.

From the East, Ohio veteran Gene Lee Gibson is confirmed, as is fellow Buckeye Rich Reid. Massachusetts small-block super racer Dan Bowes is said to be driving west to pick up a brand-new East Coast-style mount from SMRA President and chassis builder Jim Belfiore. Bowes will be shaking the car down at the Bullring.

The field will feature a who’s who of West Coast super racing. Nine-time supermodified champion Troy Regier will run a Tom Joyce-owned No. 56. Adamson will wheel the car Regier has won his most recent championships in, the S&S Motorsports No. 98.

Clovis, Calif.’s A.J. Russell, winner of the 2007 East-West Shootout at Concord (N.C.) Speedway, will be behind the wheel of his familiar black No. 7, while Russell’s rival and fellow Golden State shoe Jim Birges has entered his sleek Belfiore-built No. 32. Boise, Idaho, standout Jeff Russell and Nevada’s Dale Lamborn should be factors as well.

“We have a lot of exciting things going on with this race,” Gangwer added. “Depending on how many cars show up, it’s going to be $500 to start and hopefully more. But above everything else, we want to treat people right. We need the racers and the teams. People will be treated well and we’ll do anything we can make sure this is a good experience for all the racers and fans.”

We hope the age-old business tactics of hard work, a good product and treating your customers right earn the SMRA a strong boost and some momentum. It needs it…and bad.

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