On The Road Again !!

Welcome to the blog site of 6 time super-fan Ed Esser. The question people ask me isn't when is the next race, it's when is the next time I'll be home. Over 68,000 miles were logged on the '04 Dodge Caravan in 2011 in search of over 130 auto races. My blog site helps race fans know where and when to go to some of the best auto races around the country. I've got schedules for series all around the U.S.and results from the tracks and races I've attended. I'll tell you where I've been, where I'm heading and as always what races and tracks are worth going back to. See you at the races!!!

2011 In Review

"The 6 time super-fan winner went to 120 tracks this year in 26 different states. The '04 Caravan logged over 68,000 miles in search of 130 races. Over $1,750.00 was spent on race admissions and 78"new" tracks were visited this year in search of great auto racing. To say Ed Esser is a dedicated fan is an understatement, he's a Super-Fan!"

Now first overall in the USA trackchaser standings, Ed has over 1,423 tracks that he has visited. Check out the reviews and schedules of where he has been and where he is heading.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2012 Race Report 8

North to More Ice Racing February 25 & 26, 2012

Friday I was ready to start the weekend so after the granddaughter’s basketball game it was time to jump in the car and head north to Lake Superior. This week I was complaining to my manager Mr. Erdmann to find more new tracks or his retainer would be cut in half again. He suggested that I look back to some of the old associations that have websites. “But I have already seen racing on those lakes” I said. “They may have moved” Jack countered. So it was as I looked at the Hardwater Ice-Racing Association site in Minnesota they had moved to a new lake! (Good thing I still employ Jack.) The issue was that this week they scheduled a road trip to Garrison where I have already been. (Post race note: I heard the ice was bad so they raced in Merrifield Minnesota after all.) While searching for a Minnesota race I came across a new ice racing organization: Superior Ice Racing Association. This group started this year and had only run 3 races so far this season. Thanks to the hard work and good organizational skills of Darin Meierotto the club seems to be off and running on Saturday noon on Allouez Bay in Superior Wisconsin. Saturday morning about 11:30AM as I drove onto Superior I spotted the big new sign out for the Superior Ice racing Association.  I followed the directional signs out on Allouez Bay where several cars were already on the ice. There were signs up marking the pits and spectator parking but as I pulled into the front row another clown pulled right up behind me instead of taking an open parking spot. I looked and saw Randy Lewis behind the camera in the rental car so I tagged along behind Randy for the afternoon. He had been in contact with Darin and I got the low down on the new Club. The track was a half-mile oval on the ice with orange cones and old tires marking the inside and outside of the track. They drew 11 rear wheel drive cars for the races today and run with studded tires on the front only. The cars were divided into two 7-lap heats by the luck of the draw and then went through a series of 10 heats total with the field arranged by draws and points earned in earlier heats. The 11th race of the day was the feature for all 11 cars and started the top point earners in the front. All races were started three abreast. The track had some light snow from the week so there was good traction for the first races but the track got slicker as they threw the snow off during the heats. The 15-lap feature went non-stop with front row starters Meierotto and Rick Przybylski exchanging the lead a couple of times as they lapped some of the slower cars with Meierotto taking the close win. After the races Randy offered me a ride out of the Country if I wanted so off I went. Sunday morning I was the passenger as Randy Lewis took me on my first racing adventure into Canada. We were up early and started driving as a bad winter storm was approaching the arrowhead of Minnesota and being intensified by strong easterly winds off Lake Superior. The swells and white caps were huge as the open water slammed the shoreline and we drove north into the intensifying snowfall. We crossed the boarder quickly and arrived in Thunder Bay Ontario just before noon as the drivers meeting was being completed after some practice sessions. Visibility was a great issue for the drivers and spectators. The locals explained that this is Lake Superior but because it is protected by a large breakwater and only a small opening goes out to the lake and the water is not too deep it has frozen well in spite of the mild winter. The races are very well organized and the spectators have a long viewing area many feet above the lake surface where they can watch from their cars or use some picnic tables for seating. They have an announcer and you can listen on your car radio. There is a concession stand on the spectator hill too. Randy had been in contact with some club members and we were one of the two cars allowed on the ice for the #38 team as monitored by the Harbor Patrol who control the area. The course had to be rebuilt ( moved slightly) from last week as the ice was too rough but it was a road course outlined with snow banks and marked with some orange cones and orange flags. At the driver’s meeting it was decided that visibility was too poor so they would start the races single file today. There were two front-wheel drive classes racing with rubber to ice (12 cars) and studded (10 cars) appearing today. The program would normally be three heats and a feature for each class but they wanted to cut out some heats and try and finish before the weather got worse. Glen Brown won the non-stop rubber division race from the pole with Brook Mado taking second from 4th. The Shawn Allen/ Jon Nelson car took the studded race from the pole with second starter Don Hupe finishing second in a race with three cautions and another driver’s meeting was called. They decided visibility was too poor for safe racing and ended the day at this point. Randy had a plane to catch in Minneapolis so we needed to leave quickly but all exiting of the ice was delayed when one of the trailers taking a race car up the ramp got stuck and slid back and jackknifed. We got back on the road after a slight delay and then encountered another delay of about half an hour when the U.S. Boarder Patrol said all rental cars were being inspected so we could take a seat in the station while they checked us out. The roads were snow covered and slippery back to Duluth but then the heavy snow ended.

Monday, February 20, 2012

2012 Race Report 7

More Wisconsin Ice Racing February 18 & 19, 2012

Saturday I was off to check on Park Lake in Pardeeville but the warm weather had caused cancellation of the races again for this year. I then drove over to the south side of Fox Lake off Wedges Bay where they raced last week behind the Boat House. It was a warm and sunny day but there were 7 front wheel drive and 13 rear wheel drive cars on the ice for today’s races. (16 of these cars would also run in the open class.) The track was the same from last week with only one light snow during the entire week so the only change was they added a few tires along the inside to better mark the turns. However the outside walls where there was plowed snow last week were pretty much hard ice this week. After some dragging with the special ice digger that the club has made the track was roughed up a little and ready for some races. They had two heats in RWD and two open heats with one FWD heat before a short intermission to set the feature lineups. Dan Roedl was running fast slamming against the outside berm in the final heat when the right rear axle broke and he needed to be pulled to the pits. He had a spare at home and sent someone to get it as we had our intermission entertainment watching Dan with help from other crews take apart the rear end and remove the piece of broken axle and install the new one in time for the feature races. During this time they did some track maintenance as some water was coming up some holes along the outside “wall”. They plowed snow from beyond the track onto the wet area thus putting the hole outside the track but making the track a bit narrower. The RWD feature was first and Roedl with few points from the heat started 4th. The yellow flew on the 5th lap for another car losing the wheel and axle on the track as the rough ice was taking its toll. There was one more yellow for a stall as Roedl held the lead and got a good jump on the restarts. There was some 4 wide racing through the turns as they raced to chase down the leader but Roedl won with Jeff Rechek and John Schantz finishing right behind. Rechek took over the wheel of the yellow 88 for the FWD feature and took the win in a non-stop race. David Hillman took off from the front of the open feature and had a big lead when the only yellow appeared with just a couple of laps left in the race. Hillman kept the top spot on the restart and took the checkers to end the racing for the day. The water was also coming up a hole in the ice in the pit area and some cars had to move as the ice started to sink but with the weight off that spot the water retracted through the hole and the ice was floating again. Sunday I headed for another visit to Hustisford Wisconsin for the ice races on Lake Sinissippi. The ice was in good shape with a little slush on top in a few places and a good field of 19 rear wheel drive cars, 5 front wheel drive cars, 20 entries in the open class and a modified with studded tires all ready for some exhibition laps. The program here is for a first set of heats by draw then a second set of heats with the front runners together and the slower cars together. After the 10 heats they set up semis and features to finish the day on the ice. (With only 5 FWD they ran two heats and a feature with all in each race.) Carey Leemon dominated the FWD class and won all three races. Scotty Tiedt came from 7th to take the RWD semi and John Schantz came from 4th to win the feature over Jeremy Klewer. In the open feature Schantz started 7th and quickly moved to the front using the outside and held off Travis Ottesen from 10th for the win with Leemon bringing the FWD car home in third from 9th.  There were some spins but no one stalled on the track so that the whole day ran without any restarts. The races were over by 3PM and the ice held up well on a bright sunny day that was so warm I watched from the pits without even putting on my gloves.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

2012 Race Report 6

Wisconsin Ice Racing February 11 & 12, 2012

Saturday I was off to hunt down some ice races. The Southern Wisconsin weather has been mild and ice racing has been called off at the last minute several times during the first six weeks of what should be the ice racing season here in Wisconsin. This week the zero degree weather should have helped the ice thickness considerably. My first trip was to Pardeeville where they were supposed to have a race last year but the ice was too thin and they have the city permission to try again this year. Today was to have been the event but the birds had kept the water open at the ramp where they wanted to enter the lake so they will try again next week. I headed east to Fox Lake where there was no one around the Fish N Fun where the races were in the past. I later found out the ice is thin on the north side of the lake so they are racing on Wedges Bay off the Boat House on the south side of the lake. Saturday’s races were already underway as I arrived about 1PM and I found out the program has been changed from the two separate shows of last year to three classes: Front wheel drive (7 cars), Rear wheel drive (18 cars) and Open class (20 entries). All the cars in the open class also raced in one of the other classes today so there were actually 25 race cars at the meet. The track is about 1/3-mile ice oval and the plowed snow (not much this year) forms a small bank to mark the inside and outside of the track. They also have some old Christmas trees along the inside to help mark the turns. They ran two sets of heats then the three feature races. The day was bright and sunny but very windy and cold but the ice was good and thick and during intermission they drilled some holes and brought up some water to make some slush and better traction for the features. Tim Sheppard started from the front row of the FWD feature and won the race that was slowed by one yellow for a stalled car. The RWD feature had 17 starters and 4 yellows as the non-studded cars went to the very outside of the course looking for grip along the snow bank that forms the “outside wall”. John Schantz started 16th and used the “cushion” to find the fast way around the oval and take the win over Jeff Rechek with Lisa Leckman coming in third. The open feature started 19 cars and only had one yellow for a stall to wrap up the day with Sheppard starting 8th and holding off the big power plants for another win. Sunday it was a short drive over to Hustisford Wisconsin for a visit to the Lake Sinissippi ice races that start about 11AM on the lake made just above the dam on the Rock River. They have been doing work on the dam and apparently drawing down the lake and with this movement and mild weather the ice was not forming well enough to race on. In fact today for their first race of the year there was open water just a half mile down from Karen’s Lone Pine Tap where the racers meet to start and end the day on the lake. The track was set up to the west of where they usually run more toward the island as apparently the ice was still thin just in front of the Tap. I parked on shore where I could see the track and watched from my car as the heats were already started. They run two sets of heats and then semis and features for the 3 classes of: front wheel drive (6 cars), rear wheel drive cars (22 cars) and the open class (about 20 cars). The track was marked with big orange cones and plastic barrels and was very wide with the cars going very wide into the fresh snow outside the backstretch looking for traction. Travis Ottesen scored a big win in the RWD semi and John Schantz taking the feature from 8th starting spot. The number 90 started 3rd and won the FWD feature of just 3 cars. He then came from 8th to claim the open semi. Jesse Kanas won the open class feature from last (9th) over Ottesen and Schantz to wrap up caution free feature racing just before 4PM on a sunny and pleasant afternoon.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

2012 Race Report 5

Eastern Trip February 4 & 5, 2012

Thursday night I left home before the predicted fog set in and drove through Chicago before stopping. Friday morning there was still some limited visibility but no heavy fog as I headed east and eventually ran into sunny weather by the time I got to Ohio. I have wanted to see races in Atlantic City for many years but this year the weather was clear and roads were dry so it seemed like a perfect year to make the trip. Then Bruce and Pat Eckel offered me a bed for Saturday night and a ride with them from Easton Pennsylvania to Atlantic City New Jersey and that cemented the deal. I drove through most of Pennsylvania Friday night and pulled into the Eckel’s driveway at noon on Saturday. Saturday afternoon I rode along with the Eckels to Atlantic City New Jersey for a visit to Boardwalk Hall, no not to see the Miss America pageant or basketball but rather races on the concrete floor of the auditorium. Some steady light rain made walking outside uncomfortable but after a quick dinner we settled into the comfortable seats of the Hall for the 7PM start of racing for 4 classes of cars tonight. The track is about 1/10-mile concrete oval with Jersey barriers outside and few big tractor tires to mark the inside of the turns and some Coke syrup to make the track good and sticky. I was very pleased with the many good side by side battles on the track tonight with lots of passing in every class. We chose seats in the fourth turn (opposite the stage area) where the view was very good except when a car would go out to the wall right below us which was not very often. Racing started with 4 heats for the TQ midgets (55 cars) transferring the top 4 finishers of each heat to the feature. Jon Gambuti, Pat Bealer, Erick Rudolph and Stewart Friesen won the heats and then joined the top 4 from Friday’s preliminary feature to draw for the first 8 positions in tonight’s 40-lap feature. The next race was the micro feature with 24 cars going 20 laps and front row starters Matt Janisch and Lou Cicconi going side by side most of the way. There were 6 yellows and Janisch tangled with a lapped car putting him to the rear but Erick Rudolph took up the chase of Cicconi and on the last lap snuck by the leader taking the trophy. Ryan Greth and Billy Pauch won the two TQ semis with the top 2 finishers transferring to the feature. Next up was a 25-lap feature for the 24 slingshots and this turned out to be another good race but with some aggressive driving sending several front runners to the back. There were 4 early yellows then 3 more on each try to complete the last lap. Simon Egan came from 6th on the last restart and captured the lead in the last few yards of the race in a photo finish over Matt Carman who started the race in 14th position. The 25-lap champ kart feature was next with 27 starters and 7 yellows before Chris Daley who started 14th took home the checkers with Justin Bonsignore second. The 40-lap TQ feature rounded out the night with 26 starters going for the big prize. Friesen and Rudolph started from the front and waged a torrid battle with several restarts (there were 10 yellows) getting the two side by side again and again. Rudolph got by and pulled away but a Friesen spin gave Ryan Smith a chance to try for the lead. Rudolph held off Smith and Gambuti at the end and we were on our way home before 11PM. Sunday I was on the road early for a drive north to see some ice racing that Guy Smith had alerted me to. This would be my first adventure to see some eastern ice racing as I left Pennsylvania and headed to the Adirondack region of New York to watch the AMEC (Adirondack Motor Enthusiast Club) race on Caroga Lake. I saw no snow and little if any ice on any body of water as I drove north until less than half an hour from Caroga Lake when I was climbing in elevation and now there was snow in the woods and on the roadsides. I arrived at noon and found some spectator cars along the lakeshore road where they could see the races but elected to drive down the access ramp onto the lake and park close to the course. The course is a road course on the ice of about one mile in length and outlined with many orange cones. There appears to be a stop and go penalty for hitting the cones during a race. The races were timed events of 20 minutes each and moved quickly today to get everyone (except me) home for the Super Bowl. The event drew a decent field of cars with 21 racing in the first group of street legal cars that were divided into two classes: SL (2 wheel drive) 13 cars and SL4 (4 wheel drive) 8 cars. These cars ran on studless Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires and raced in three heats of 20 minutes each. Michael Waterhouse won the SL first heat and ran second in the next two races while Jon Bronk and Ivan Hinkle picked up wins. Alan Bellavance won all 3 races for the SL4 class. The second group to race ran Menard studded tires and had 4 classes racing. There was one (SLM) stock sportsmen, 9 (MM) modified stocks, 3 (SMC) heavily modified closed wheel cars and 6 (SMO) exotic tube frame super modifieds. They ran two 20-minute heats and a 20-minute feature. The super modifieds were very creative with wings and sail panels some with a sprint car body and some home made super modifieds. They were very fast and threw up a fine ice mist that the wind carried over the pits. Dave Burnham won the first SMO heat and Matt DeLorenzo was leading the second but dropped out giving the win to Dan Schultz with DeLorenzo coming back to win the finale. Joe Lyons won the MM class with fourth in the feature after Pat Stringer had won the first heat and come from 7th to win the second heat. Ed Tucker took the SMC class win. The races were done before 3PM and I was off on the long trip home all done on dry highways again.      

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2012 Race Report 4

Indoor Kart Racing January 28, 2012

Saturday was the second annual Indoor Thunder Race at the Circle M Ranch in Pelzer South Carolina. After driving all day Friday I pulled into the Circle M Ranch at 11:30AM on Saturday and practice was already under way. The track is constructed in the large indoor rodeo arena as they brought in good red clay and slightly banked then well watered the track. The track is only about 1/10-mile and is a paper clip shape and not too wide. They put boards in front of the rodeo metal fencing and then hay and tires to form the outside walls then placed the steel discs and some cones to mark the inside. The straightaway stands are 11 rows of comfortable cloth padded folding chairs with some additional seating in wooden folding seats above the third and fourth turn. The view from the straightaway seats was hampered some by the support beams for the ceiling and the wooden flag stand. Qualifying started at 1PM for 187 karts in 19 classes with 15-lap features starting at 4PM. The two big money races were extended to 25-laps and all races started straight up by time in single file formation. At the driver’s meeting it was explained that lapped karts would get the black flag and should exit the track as traffic could get heavy on the short track. Clone medium (23 karts) and pro clone (23 karts) were the biggest classes and 12 champ heavy and 13 pro champs were the two countable classes for track chasing. The first 5 races were won by the fast qualifier and the clone medium race was the only one to have a yellow (5). The final yellow was on the last lap and Jason Scruggs lost the lead to Disco Donnie Nall but the scoring reverted to the white flag giving Scruggs the win. The blue lite had only 4 karts but they exchanged the lead 4 times with Colby Horner winning over Cruise Caudell. The yellows became more frequent with some bump and run passing and a 3 wide finish in the gold heavy with Nick Long taking his second win of the day. Colby Horner won the junior sportsmen champs then the 12 senior champ heavy karts took to the track for 15 laps. After a spin on the first lap they ran all green with second fastest timer Disco Donnie first to the checkers followed by Donnie Bryant and Shay Chavous. Nall also won the stock heavy feature from the pole in a non-stop race. The competitive edge class started 12 karts and failed to complete a lap in 5 attempts so a red was thrown and all drivers went to a special meeting with the flagman.  They then restated and went all green with third starter Wes Suddeth the winner. The pro champ race was the 17th feature of the day with $1000 going to the winner and Bryant again on the pole with fast time. There were two spins in the first three laps then they settled down to some fast racing. Nall started second and got by Bryant with seventh starter Jason Moates coming home third at the finish. However an illegal carburetor screw had Nall disqualified for the two champ kart races so Donnie Bryant was a double winner. The last race of the day was the $2000 to win pro clone race and Nall started in front and led until Justin McDonald took over on the 4th lap. Nall got back under McDonald about the 18th lap and held the lead to take the big money with Scruggs coming home third. Racing was done at 7:50PM and I got a good start on the drive home before getting some sleep.

Monday, January 23, 2012

2012 Race Report 3

Ice Racing January 22, 2012

Sunday turned out to be a good day for some ice racing in southern Wisconsin. I was going to head over to Lake Sinissippi but saw a post that due to the construction being done in the river in town the dam is being opened and closed thus affecting the lake level.  Water is pushing up through the cracks causing slush that is not freezing even in the recent temperatures. I had seen some posts about Buffalo Lake racing today and I had not been there for several years so today would be a good time to revisit The Call of The Wild Campground where you can view the races from your car along the shore or even from the restaurant & bar at the campground. The track is about a quarter mile oval on the ice of Buffalo Lake that is marked with some tires placed around the inside of the turns. Only a flagman and an assistant were on the ice the pits and spectating were done from the shore along the front straightaway. We have not had much snow so only about three inches are on the ground but they plowed the grass along the shore so you could park and watch from the comfort of your car. The races started at 12:30 with heats for the 10 rear wheel drive cars, 16 front wheel drive cars and the 5 lady racers that use the front wheel drive cars. After the heats they took an intermission and set the lineups for the semi in the FWD class and the features in all 3 classes. The semi transferred the top 4 to the back of the FWD feature. Jeni Paul started third and won the 10-lap run for the women over Amy Richards. Kenny Richards started 4th and won the FWD feature over Nick Rahn. The RWD cars rounded out the day with Marky Mark coming from 7th to capture the feature race over Jim Rhode who tried the last few laps using the snow “cushion” on the outside where he was faster but fell a few car lengths short at the finish line. All the features went non-stop and the races were done about 3PM.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

2012 Race Report 2

Chili Bowl Nationals January 10 – 15, 2012

Monday was time to start the trip to Tulsa Oklahoma to see the 26th annual Chili Bowl Nationals. This year there was not a spec of snow the entire trip down to Oklahoma as evidence of our unusual mild start to winter in the Midwest. Monday night we arrived at Lee’s house in Leavenworth Kansas to meet grandson number two as Wesley was born the last week of December. Tuesday finished the trip to Tulsa and was the first day of the 5-day Nationals at the Tulsa Expo Center where the midgets are the attraction – the only attraction. No club sanctions or co-sanctions as the event is an open race on a date when most areas of our country are not even racing especially not racing midgets. The cars and drivers come from all over – this year 32 different states, Australia, Canada, Finland and New Zealand were represented. The drivers come with different kinds of experience both currently and in the past – there were NASCAR champions, late model and modified champions, winged and non winged sprint car champs, micro champs and of course many midget champions. Mix these with drivers starting out and those who just want to race at The Chili Bowl and you have a formula for a week of fun and excitement. The indoor track is a quarter mile dirt oval with seating for 10,000 plus and pits for over 250 cars all under one roof. The event is sold out months in advance (but you can always get a pit pass). Tuesday night 66 cars raced in 8 heats where points are accumulated and then the top 40 race in four 10-lap qualifiers to earn more points. The balance, (26 cars) were divided into 2 “C” mains where the top 4 finishers earn the last 4 spots in the “B” main. After the qualifiers the points are again tallied and the top 16 earn feature positions with the remainder (24) divided into two “B” mains where they will race for the top 4 spots that will transfer them to the feature. This format will be repeated each of the preliminary nights (Tuesday through Friday) for a different field of cars and drivers. The Tuesday night racing started with a nice wet track (I got mud on my shoes walking up to my seat after warm ups) that was fast and tacky for the heats but that meant wins from the front. Jody Rosenboom winning the 7th heat from the second row was the only non-front row heat winner. Racing got more intense in the “C” mains with Jonathan Beason who did not start for the 6th heat starting last and winning the second “C”. The racing in the qualifiers was hard with Kevin Ramey winning the 4th qualifier from 5th to earn the pole of the feature. Tuesday night is special in that there is also a race of champions and 14 cars were entered to race 20 laps. Sammy Swindell won from the pole over son Kevin Swindell from 5th after a side by side last lap. Jerry Coons JR from 3rd and Beason from 13th won the “B” mains. Kyle Larson started 4th in the 25-lap feature and worked around early leader Ramey then held off Ricky Stenhouse JR from 3rd and Michael Pickens from 7th as these three would move on to the Saturday night “A” main from tonight’s races. Coons worked for a 9th place finish and Beason got up to 12th after transferring from the “B” mains. Wednesday night at 6PM sharp it was time to start all over with the same format as Tuesday which means each position in all the races is important in determining how far forward you will start later this night as well as where you will start Saturday. The track was in great shape again and 67 different cars took to the track tonight. Sammy Swindell showed he has this place figured out as he won the first heat from 6th to be the only heat winner not from the front row. We had the first issue with the air quality inside the building after the last heat. Tyler Reddick was smoking badly when he restarted after flipping (he finished third) and then Ned Fry had a big engine fire at the checkers that required several fire extinguishers and sent more smoke in the air. The ventilating worked well and the air cleared after a few minutes and well before the “C” mains were ready to take to the track. The second “C” main included several good drivers who had bad luck in the heats as Gavin Galbraith won over Gary Taylor, Brad Kuhn and Donnie Ray Crawford as the 4 that would go to the back of the second “B” main later. The four qualifiers saw Swindell and Danny Stratton both take second place in their races from 6th starting spot (they have a 6-car invert in each qualifier) to be the top point earners of the night and therefore start the feature in the front row. Tony Stewart got by Jason Leffler to win the third qualifier and Zach Daum won the 4th qualifier to set the second row of the feature lineup. Jon Stanbrough won the first “B” from 5th and Caleb Armstrong won from the pole in the second “B” that had Kuhn finish second from the back with Taylor also transferring to the “A” after running in the “C”. The feature starting 24 cars on the quarter mile dirt track went green for 21 of the 25 laps before Chris Ennis flipped bringing out the yellow flag. Swindell and Stratton had exchanged the lead for about 5 laps before Swindell pulled away and had 5 lapped cars between himself and Stratton on the restart. Swindell took another win at the Expo Center and Stratton held on to second with Stewart third and Tyler Edwards taking fourth in the “A” feature. Armstrong came through the field to finish 6th and Kuhn worked up to a 9th place finish from the “B” main transfer cars in the back. The races went fast tonight and were done at 9:30PM and that is when we got a big surprise as we found a half inch of snow on our cars and the grass (pavement was still warm enough that it all melted) after the races. Thursday was the third night of preliminary action and a new batch of 66 cars raced in the same format to earn their way to the feature. The track was not as wet to start tonight and the heat races saw a lot more spins and crashes but also that meant not all winners were from the front row as 3 heats were won from a second row starting spot. After the heats J J Yeley had earned the most points (finished second from 9th) but Kevin Swindell (second from 8th), Steve Buckwalter (second from 7th) and Brad Sweet (second from 7th) were right behind.  Tim Crawley won the first “C” then Chris Windom got by Tracy Hines at the end to take the second “C”. Shane Cottle came from 8th to win the fourth qualifier but Sweet finished second from 6th to be high point earner from all preliminary races and earn the pole of the feature. Shane Cockrum won the first “B” from the pole and Matt Sherrell came from the back as a “C” transfer car to take fourth and make the “A” feature. Mario Clauser won the second “B” also from the pole with Hines the big mover to finish third from the “C” transfer spots and move on to the feature too. Yeley started the feature from the front with Sweet but after 6 laps it was Kevin Swindell from 4th who went around Sweet to take command and pull away. Swindell held on through some late race cautions to score another win with Cottle from 6th taking second from Sweet at the end as these 3 moved on to Saturday’s “A” main. Hines was the hard charger with a sixth place finish from the 22nd starting spot. The track was a little dusty and the evening lasted an hour longer than last night as we headed to the pits about 10:30PM. Friday finished out the preliminary nights with another 60 cars taking to the track for 8 heats. Jac Haudenschild won the 6th heat from 4th to be the top point earner in the heats. Kevin Bayer and Levi Roberts also won their heats from third starting spot. Tonight had a few hard flips with Brandon Hahn bringing out a red flag when he flipped the entire length of the backstretch in the 8th heat. They repaired the car and he started the first “C” main only to flip again ending his night. Brad Loyet had started the “C” from the back and won. Rick Eckert won the second “C” over Billy Balog. Ryan Smith, Bud Kaeding, Levi Jones and Bryan Clauson won the qualifier races. Clauson’s win from 6th earned the highest point total and the pole of the feature with Haudenschild outside after finishing third from his 6th place start. The fourth qualifier was red flagged on the 8th lap when Joey Moughan flipped into fencing and was caught in the cables and landed upside down on wall. He was taken to the hospital for evaluation of head injuries. Joey Saldana won the first “B” from the front over Brad Mosen from 7th and Loyet from 13th. Pole sitter Brent Beauchamp won the second “B” over Bayer from 4th, Shane Hollingsworth from 9th and Balog from 14th. Clauson jumped to the lead of the feature with third starter Kruseman right behind when the only yellow appeared on the 6th lap. Kruseman used the outside and went around Clauson on the 9th lap but Clauson kept close to the race leader until he slipped and Levi Jones got around into second. They finished that way with these three cars transferring to the “A” main on Saturday night. Saturday is a day of 20 features with 241 cars racing starting at noon with a 10-lap “K” feature that advances 6 cars to the back of the “J” mains. There are then two “J” mains that advance the top 4 to the back of the two “I” mains and on and on through the alphabet until the two “B” mains send 6 each to join the 12 qualified cars from the preliminary nights in the “A” feature. Most of the features are 10 laps each with 15 laps in the “D” and “C” and 20 in “B” all with the top few positions advancing to the next letter so that in theory any one can make the “A” feature on Saturday night. Tonight’s “A” feature will be extended to 55 laps to honor Donnie Ray Crawford who tragically lost his life in a domestic dispute this morning. Most of the better driver/car combinations had already qualified for the later features so there were not very many drivers that moved through feature after feature like sometimes happens when a good driver has a very bad preliminary night. Matt Johnson from the pole and Mike Spencer from 5th and won the “J” mains. Johnson advanced to the “H” with a 3rd place finish in the “J” but Tanner Berryhill took second in the “J” then moved to 4th in the “I” and 4th in the “H” before ending his night in the “G”. Ryan Beechler took an “I” from the pole and 4th in an “H” before ending the day in a “G”. Matt Westfall won in the “H” came up to third in the “G” but didn’t transfer in the “F”. Alex Schutte took third in an “H”, second in a “G”, fourth in an “F” and ended his day in the “E”. As the track dried out during the afternoon the passing and moving on in features became more difficult too. Dalton Armstrong ran second in an “E, 6th in a “D” but only 16th in a “C”. Some big names were winning preliminaries to show the strength of the field. Johnny Herrera and Chris Windom won the “E” mains and Brad Mosen and David Gravel took the “D” mains. The track was reworked for the evening races and after a break for the opening ceremonies and parade of states Jon Stanbrough and Hunter Schuerenberg captured the “C” mains. Pole sitter Richard VanderWeerd held off third row cars of Caleb Armstrong and Tracy Hines to win the first “B”. Rico Abreu came from 7th to win the second “B” over Casey Shuman and Zach Daum. The “A” feature started with a roll over by Levi Jones then went 14 green laps before the only other yellow for a spin. The Swindell family of Sammy and son Kevin continued domination at the Chili Bowl with Kevin scoring a record setting three wins in a row over a stellar field of drivers. Pole sitter Kevin jumped out to the lead and never looked back. Sammy kept the pressure on Kevin but never got close enough to make a serious pass attempt and Kyle Larson settled in the third spot. Bryan Clauson started 11th and was up to 4th but Danny Stratton took back 4th at the finish with Brad Sweet in 6th. Corey Kruseman was 7th with Jerry Coons JR the best passing performance in 8th after starting 23rd. NASCAR stars Ricky Stenhouse JR and Tony Stewart rounded out the top 10. The building got quite dusty at the end with about 20 cars still running in the very quick feature and it was time to make one last walk through the pits.