WALTZ: Bacon Eyes Little 500

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HARRISBURG, N.C. — During an interview for a feature story that appears elsewhere in these pages, we learned about three-time USAC sprint car champion Brady Bacon’s plan to race in this year’s Little 500 at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway.

Bacon has spent the majority of his time competing on dirt, but the native of Broken Arrow, Okla., dabbled in pavement racing when it was part of the USAC sprint car and midget schedules early in his career.

“I won a pavement sprint car race at Winchester — and I actually met my wife at that race,” Bacon recalled. “Pavement racing is really expensive and it doesn’t pay that well, so when you are trying to race for a living that’s pretty low on the list of things to do.”

Bacon has been checking things off his to-do list on a regular basis and pavement racing is among the remaining items.

“I am going to run the Little 500 this year for Rob Hoffman,” Bacon said. “We’re building a new car, so we’ll probably run the Little 500 and the big sprint car race at Lucas Oil Raceway.”

Bacon believes his experience will pay dividends as he ventures into unfamiliar territory.

“I think I’ll be a little better equipped than I was when I was younger — knowledge-wise,” he said. “I think I’ll be able to communicate what I’m feeling a little better, so I look forward to the challenge of getting back to it and seeing what I can do on pavement again.”

– It’s been more than 20 years since The Dirt Track at Charlotte hosted its first event and the track’s dirt-racing surface has never matched the quality of the multi-million-dollar facility that surrounds the four-tenths-mile oval.

The latest attempt to improve the racing surface looked good on paper after the content of the new dirt was tested and evaluated, but the real-world result was an absolute disaster as racing during the Last Call in early November generated dust clouds similar to those often spotted during storms in the Arizona desert.

It’s time to bring in a track-prep expert and task him with finding the needed clay to remedy the situation. The ticket-buying fans definitely deserve better.

– We can’t even begin to count how many times we saw Bob Kinser wheel Jerry Shields’ No. 56 sprint car to victory as the duo from Bloomington, Ind., dominated open-wheel racing in southern Indiana during the early 1970s.

Shields, a construction company owner who was involved in the sport for more than four decades, passed away prior to Thanksgiving. He was 80 years old.

– “Tony’s Christmas at the Crump,” a dinner-and-auction fundraiser to benefit the Tony Stewart Foundation and the Crump Theatre in Stewart’s hometown of Columbus, Ind., fell victim to the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers hope to host the rescheduled — and renamed — event in the spring with proceeds split between the Tony Stewart Foundation, which benefits critically ill or disabled children, abused animals and injured race car drivers, and the effort to save and refurbish the 131-year-old art deco Crump Theatre.

– We hate to spoil the party, but simply because it’s a new year and vaccines are being rolled out doesn’t mean the battle with COVID-19 is behind us.

It’s going to be several more months before motorsports finds its new normal and we expect many early season races, such as the Daytona 500, will be run with a limited number of fans while other traditional events will be postponed or canceled.

Hopefully, conditions will improve to the point that the Indy 500 can be run in front of a full house on Memorial Day weekend.

– Longtime friend and colleague Dave Argabright wrapped up his “The Best of Times” series in the December issue of our sister publication, Sprint Car & Midget.

For more than 15 years — 188 chapters — Argabright poured his heart, soul and a considerable amount of time into creating the fictional racing story of Jimmy Wilson and his supporting cast of memorable characters.

Take a bow for a job well done.