BARBERVILLE, Fla. – As Joey Saldana’s crew put the finishing touches on a new car they readied to replace the No. 17s he’d trashed when he vaulted the backstretch fence and clipped the pit bleachers Wednesday night, we had a chance to discuss the scary incident with the “Brownsburg Bullet.”
“I thought I had something for Donny Schatz,” said Saldana, who had lined up sixth. “I got to second just past halfway and was working on getting a good run on him for the lead.”
But all that came to a bad end when Jason Johnson got a run on Saldana.
“The slider deal has gotten so respect isn’t there anymore,” declared Saldana emphatically. “You can’t trust a lot of guys anymore. You have to know who you’re racing with at all times. It’s really fast here and you can get hurt or hurt someone else very easily.
“You never anticipate a bad outcome but it can happen instantly. They were really lucky last night. Fans think it’s safe for us to race when they sit there. If I’d killed somebody, I don’t know if I could have lived with that. When I got out of the car, I thought I’d killed somebody for sure.
“Safety equipment has come a long way, plus I work out a lot. That paid off last night. My neck doesn’t even hurt today. The car didn’t come out of it as well. They can fix it but it has to go back to the manufacturer for some fabrication work.”
Ironically, the crash came one race after we had an infield discussion about safety with Paul McMahan at Bubba Raceway Park. Looking up at the grandstand outside the extra sharp turn four, McMahan offered that he would never sit there. Then he added that he wasn’t sure about the frontstretch stands either, saying “most of the tracks we visit now aren’t built for cars this fast. You never know what could happen.”
– Dale Blaney made his first appearance in his new ride, the Pennsylvania based No. 1z, Wednesday night. The Zemco team was encouraged by his seventh place finish, but Thursday night saw the engine expire as Blaney was pushed off for his time trial.
– With 60 UMP modifieds on hand for the DIRTcar Nationals, hot laps and qualifying are a major operation. But the DIRTcar crew runs off the heats and consi’s like a machine gun spewing bullets and the overall show is much more efficient than the Ocala opener, where events seemed to go on forever with just the All Star Circuit of Champions sprints and a few mini-sprints.
More than one observer opined that the difference in organization is because northerners run the DIRTcar show while southerners, who have a much more laid back attitude, organized the Ocala events.
Needless to say, it’s very difficult for the local modifieds to qualify against the travelers from the mid-south and mid-west, with many ecstatic just to make the show.
– Many pitsiders were impressed by the lights on the back of Lucas Wolfe’s Allebach No. 5W trailer. Built by 358 sprint competitor Chris Arnold, an electrician by trade, the LED lights are inside two poles that extend from the trailer to the rear of the car, providing good illumination everywhere, including inside the car.
Team members tipped that they used them for the first time at the World Finals in Charlotte last fall and drew many inquiries for Arnold’s fledgling business.
“It’s nice to be first when something new comes out,” offered team owner Jim Allebach. “We got them free because Chris is a friend of Lucas. I think he’ll sell a lot of them.”
Wolfe added that the price is in the $1,600 range for the current units, which require users to insert the poles into brackets at the rear of the trailer. But Arnold is currently working on retractable units to make their use even easier.
– Friday night marks the opening of the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series season, with many new teams who bypassed the All Star Circuit of Champions action expected to further raise the level of competition. The crowd grew the second night when it was cold but calm after Wednesday’s brisk winds, with a big increase anticipated for the Outlaws.