View from the Stands (8/27/2013)
by Eric Arnold, Knoxville Raceway Blogger & Twitter Commentator
Danny Lasoski got his 100th career win at Knoxville. Unbelievable. I was ten years old in 1984 when he won his first race in the Derry 22 car, and I think I’ve seen all but one or two of his 100 wins in person. I used to hate it in the middle 90’s when he would win four, five, and six weeks in a row on a couple of occasions. But I look back now and have to respect and appreciate The Dude as one the best that I have seen drive a sprint car. He is a WoO champion, won the 2006 NST title, and four Knoxville Nationals. 100 wins is the cherry on top, and a record that will never be touched.
Bronson Maeschen did it! I’m so happy for Bronson and his crew Glenn Freeland and Jeremy Rankin for winning the track championship. It’s always nice to see someone new win, especially local guys. To be known forever in history and track folklore as a champion has to feel good. And the $20,000 check that will come with it at the banquet in November won’t be all bad either.
Maeschen is only 29 years old and he has a lot of good years left in him. It will be interesting to see where his career takes off from here, because this is just the beginning for him. I see more wins and possibly another championship in him. Danny Lasoski was 27 when he won his first track championship. Terry McCarl was 35 before he won his first. Brian Brown was 28, and Billy Alley was only 23. 29 is the prime age in racing.
A few years ago I read Darrell Waltrip’s biography and he talked about his days of driving for NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson, and Junior always said he liked his driver in their 29’s. The reasoning was that they were young enough to still take risks, but experienced enough to know which risks were the right ones. There is something to be said for that logic, although a kid like Kyle Larson defies that logic.
Ian Madsen is also 29 years old and has a bright future ahead of him. For a first year team to finish second in points is quite the accomplishment. I look for them to be back and even better next season at Knoxville as they build on the foundation they have. Twin features night cost the 18 team with finishes of 19th and 13th, that’s their only flaw all season, besides not winning a feature.
Terry McCarl didn’t have the season he hoped for. T-Mac got one win, finished third in points, but in my opinion is still the best “driver” on the track in our weekly series. Terry is still trying to rebuild his team to where it was ten years ago, but I don’t know if he will get it done. I hope he can, but he will be 49 years old come Thanksgiving.
Davey Heskin snuck by Mark Dobmeier for the runner up spot on the last lap of the feature this past week, which helped him claim fourth in points in the season over Dobmeier. I look for both of these guys to be contenders again next season. Heskin was the only driver who finished in the top ten in points that had a better average feature finish the second half of the season compared to the first half (9.3 to 9.1). Dobmeier won three features this year, a season best of all competitors, but consistency in qualifying was the issue for the 13 team.
I think all the Knoxville weekly teams should be grateful Brian Brown didn’t race every week at Knoxville. He was here 11 of the 15 events, which is 73% of the races. One more race at Knoxville and he is eligible for the end of the season points, and if he made 13 of the 15 races he might have won the championship at the pace he was going. With only 11 races he accumulated 3468 points, which would be good enough for eighth at the end of the season.
Justin Henderson set quick time this week and then crashed hard in his heat race. On the replay you can see the front axle broke as he went hard into the turn one fence. It was a scary crash, head on into the fence.
On YouTube you can see the crash Donny Schatz had this past week in hot laps at Edmonton. Very scary, and when I read what Donny wrote on Facebook about it I had chills. I’m not sure what is up with these right front torsion stop parts breaking, but it needs solved very soon. Schatz had one break last week in hot laps in Edmonton causing his crash, and that is what failed on Jason Leffler’s car it sounds like. The aluminum ones will break, and the titanium ones don’t always torque correctly from what John McCoy tells me. It’s a serious issue everyone is looking into.
John McCoy told me last week that tethers for front axles will be mandated in 2014 by Knoxville Raceway and all other sanctioning bodies across the board have agreed to use them as well. This is a huge advancement in safety, not just for the driver, but for the safety workers who have been hit by axles, and it will keep them from flying over fences in the future. Thank you to Brian Butler and the Butlerbuilt engineers and designers for coming up with this. With McCoy leading the way on safety, and let’s face it he made the decision about Hoosier tires last year that created the domino effect for everyone else to go that way, if he isn’t given the “most influential” award by the National Sprint Car Poll this year something is wrong.
Jon Agan was impressive in his win this past week, leading the entire distance. Had to be redeeming after some bad luck for Agan in prior weeks. Congratulations to Clint Garner on his record fifth 360 track championship. Five wins, 12 top five finishes in 14 races this season is impressive. Garner is clearly the best in this class, he is a good driver, with the best car, but I hope they move back to the 410 class next season, where he has two career wins already.
Only 13 cars were eligible for the point fund at the end of the season. Sign of the times as the costs of racing in the 360 class is just as much (if not more) than a 410 car. In the middle of the season we only had car counts of 16 and 14 cars. Without the ASCS teams dropping in on their off weeks, teams racing double duty, or some teams getting in laps before the 360 Nationals, the cars just aren’t coming in, and it’s due to costs. The 360 class was once an entry level class, lower costs, and 30 years since its creation it has since defeated its purpose. The future of 360 racing is bleak in my opinion. It will be interesting to see if the lower car counts continue in 2014.
It was great to see Matthew Stelzer back this week and get the win. Larry Ball Jr. had an excellent season winning six of their ten races. Ball is moving back to the 410 class in 2014. 12 drivers are eligible for end of the season points, and we saw 42 different drivers show up to race in the 305 class this season. The 305 is growing, but hopefully we get a handle on rules and costs now before they get even more out of hand.
Hard to believe the season is over already. I will follow up with my end of the season blog and preview the Late Model Nationals in the coming weeks.
*Eric can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @_EricArnold.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Knoxville Raceway.