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.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Race Report 21

Ohio and Indiana October 22 & 23, 2011

Friday after another week of helping Aunt Mary I got to see granddaughter Haley play in her 6th grade basketball game where she scored 2 points and Monona Grove beat Sun Prairie. Saturday I was on the road to visit a new location in Ohio at the Hocking County Fairgrounds. They have constructed a 1/5-mile dirt track in the infield of the old horse track at the fairgrounds and have some Jersey barriers for outer walls in the turns and plowed up some dirt walls for the remainder of the rectangular track. The track has two long straights and two short chutes with four 90 degree turns and each of the four straights have a small jump built across to make the autocross track. They did announce that this was the third race of the year. It is unusual that they race clockwise around the track. There is a nice 16-row concrete grandstand with aluminum bench seats and some good temporary speakers and they have added some lights to make adequate lighting on the oval. The grounds are nice with paved drives and a big new restroom building complete with several showers. I arrived at 4PM and was told there would be a lawnmower demo derby at 5PM before the races at 6PM.  The 13 mowers were divided into two heats with the last 4 running transferring to the feature. I saw a bob-tail semi enter the grounds and spotted Brian Hickey and we joined the small crowd in the grandstands. At about 6:15 they had a drivers meeting for the 8 big cars and 4 small cars that came out for the autocross races. Then at 6:30PM they qualified the 12 cars to set the lineups for the races. The big cars ran 20 laps with Dustin Hatfield winning from the pole but it was not easy as midway through the race a lapped car spun him dropping him to third. Hatfield worked back to the lead and won the race. Tom McDaniel won the small car 15-lap race from a 3rd starting spot. Then after a short intermission 7 of the 12 cars entered the mad dash for cash for 10 laps. McDaniel took off from 4th and stayed ahead of the big cars and won this race to close out the night at the Hocking County Fairgrounds. Sunday I took a drive across Indiana in some light rain as I headed toward Vincennes. The rain had ended as I arrived just north of Vincennes on Highway 41 at the Fast Track Raceway in rural Bruceville Indiana. The track is a banked 1/5-mile asphalt oval with long straight-aways and grass runoff areas before the hay and plastic barrels and some chain link fencing. The inside of the oval is not marked just a small drop from the asphalt to the grass. The bright lights are off several poles in the infield and there are several stop lights around the track as well as good speakers. They have a wooden 8-row bleacher in the first turn and viewing along the front straight-away fence. The facility was well maintained with the grass cut and paved driveways and paved pit roads. There is a big permanent building for a cafĂ© and restrooms. I arrived there just after noon but the qualifying did not start until 4:30PM and racing at 6:45PM in spite of some postings that said they would race earlier. They drew 61 karts over the 9 classes including 13 senior champs. The big race today was the 200 lap feature for the 360 clones. The racing started with the 100-lap feature for the ten 330 clones and Cody Johnson took off from the pole and built up a huge lead until a light sprinkle stopped the event past the half-way point. After about 15 minutes to let the track dry they completed the race with just one yellow for a spin and Johnson the winner over Kevin Phelps and Lisa Raines. The other classes all ran 25-lap features over the fast track with the (3) junior 2 flatheads, the (4) junior 2 sportsmen champs and the (4) junior 2 clone blue plate champs all completing non-stop features. The senior champs took to the track for the feature with a spin on the 4th lap and then a red on the 8th lap when Mike McGill tipped over in the 4th turn. There was one more spin on the 14th lap then they raced to the checkers. Jason Petelle started third but led most of the race and on the last lap pole sitter Brian Martin was in second and touched the leader enough to cause Petelle to spin but the checkers flew with Martin first over Cody Johnson and Chris Harder. However the results show Johnson the winner and Martin in last presumably being disqualified for rough driving. There were 4 more features including the 13 karts in the 200-lap feature but it was 9PM already and I was showing my age and ready to call it a night. I left for the trip home during the senior flathead feature very happy to have finally seen my 100th different track in Indiana.

Saturday October 29, 2011 – No Race – Aunt Mary Passes

Saturday I was all set to head out to meet Roger Ferrell in Indiana for another fair race but I got the call about 3AM that Aunt Mary had passed away. Mary Elizabeth Esser, age 91, a lifelong Madison resident died peacefully in her sleep early Saturday morning. Mary had not even attended her first race yet so she will not be on the list of track chasers but she had completed hundreds of crossword puzzles in her retirement years. She does have a record that is quite unusual in that she had never driven a car and walked to work all 50 years of her employment. She held each of her two jobs for 25 years apiece as a secretary for Gisholt Machine Corp. and then a secretary for Doctors Tormey and Benish. The family thanks Karmenta Center for the loving care over the last five months. While her passing was not a shock it came a little faster than expected and left the family with some loose ends to tie up in the next few weeks. She leaves us with lots of good memories and a wealth of funny stories to tell over and over in her memory. Rest in peace, Aunt Mary.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Race Report 20

Lincoln Trail Motorsports October 8, 2011

Thursday and Friday were beautiful fall days with near record highs and would have been great race trip days but I had to help Aunt Mary out with some nursing decisions at Saint Mary’s Hospital. The USAC midgets were running in Granite City Illinois or Oktoberfest was running at LaCrosse Wisconsin but time was not sufficient for me to make either of these on Thursday or Friday. Saturday morning I was on the road for a quick trip to southeastern Illinois and another stop at Lincoln Trail Motorsports in Casey Illinois. I had seen the enduro racing on the long 4 mile course in 2004 but today would be racing on the short course that is about ¾-mile long and has lots of elevation changes and Sunday would be the long course race. The race is put on by the Mid American Off Road Association (MAORA) and consists of three 10-lap races for each of the three classes. Today they drew good fields of 12 entries in the small buggy class, 5 trucks and 15 in the big buggy class. The short course is a dirt road course with some left and right hand turns and some natural jumps as they head down hill and a few smaller man-made jumps along the course. I arrived right at noon as the first of the 9 races was lining up and paid my $10 single day admission. I found a spot where they had a 5-row bleacher set up under the high power line that goes through the property and is the highest point on the premises. They start the races in a land rush start from behind the woods that lines the pit area so you don’t see the start. They run downhill from the starting area and after a sharp right hand turn they head into a high-banked left turn that is right below this viewing area. They run down a short straight with a small jump and head left with another jump as they start back uphill. There are some turns on the upper level by the starting area before they come back down and those turns were the only part of the track not visible from my first viewing spot. I moved to the other side of the short straight and from that hilltop you could see about 90 percent of the short course. This is where they have a nice new building that has restrooms and showers. There are no lights and no speaker system. The track was well watered with a big tractor pulling the water wagon and a water truck both in use. Terry Fitzgerald won all three races for the small buggy class and Timmy Shear with co-pilot Adam Shear won all three in the truck class. Dustin Pittman, Mike Geiser and John Frana won the big buggy races. There were two lost wheels in the buggy races and one roll over in the trucks but most of the day was good close racing. I had a good relaxing day of off road racing and they were done at 3:30PM and I headed home. No racing for me on Sunday as I was back with Aunt Mary.

Bryant Speedway Sunday October 16, 2011

Last week was spent caring for Aunt Mary and making some more plans as she was moved back to Karmenta Nursing Home. Then I needed some time to prepare the year end reports for the old fraternity that still has some assets but no longer an active chapter to serve. Saturday morning was the homecoming game at Wisconsin as they played Indiana and I stopped by the former fraternity house to see who might be around. Only about 6 of the old alumni were there and most told of how many old faces were at the last game against the nationally rated Nebraska Cornhuskers. I guess the Indiana game was not a big enough game to draw them back so we just talked informally and did not conduct any fraternity business although I had the report and did give out our profit numbers. Saturday afternoon was another visit to the nursing home and some yard care at home before I left for a racing trip. Saturday night I was going to stop at the Farmer City Raceway in Illinois but they had posted that the races were canceled. Rockford was having the heat races for the Bahama Brackets that would have the six features on Sunday but no feature and I needed to get part way to Indiana so I passed on that and headed south. Sunday Afternoon I pulled into the Bryant Speedway in Bryant Indiana at 1PM to see what the go-kart races would be like today. The track is a 1/10-mile banked dirt oval with some wooden walls on the outside as well as the inside and has just opened under new ownership. They had a couple of senior champs listed a couple of weeks ago but today they had about 50 flat karts and 3 junior champs racing in 8 classes. I met Roger Ferrell just as they started the first round of heats and we walked through the pits and saw 3 senior champ karts but two were on stands and not running today and one was still in the trailer. So we just spent the afternoon bench racing while they quickly went through the two sets of heats and moved into the features. It was a windy day but there were some clouds so the sun did not bake the track. There were some light sprinkles off and on during the day but never enough to stop the races. The last of the money features started 15 karts and had three tries to get a lap completed and then had several yellows but the rest of the day’s races went very fast. They are making improvements and have some lights and will have some speakers shortly. Roger and I took a last swing at each other and went on our separate way home vowing to continue our fighting another day. With no countable class for track chasing or race chasing it was just a nice day to practice driving another 400 miles as I headed home.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Race Report 19

Wyoming Trip September 23-25, 2011

Thursday after watching granddaughter Sidney’s second volleyball match of the week I was ready to turn my attention to some races. My first thought was to stay in the Midwest but the weather looked like showers and there was only one new track to visit so I thought about a longer trip. Texas could have given me three tracks but I was already behind schedule for that long of a trip. I found two tracks in Wyoming and a stop on the way so I planned an early morning start for Friday. Friday I drove to Nebraska and stopped at the I-80 Speedway in Greenwood for the first night of the three day Cornhusker Classic with late models co-sanctioned from MLRA and CBC (Corn Belt Clash). There were quite a few campers in the lot and some people in the stands already at 6PM and the pits were overflowing. The track is a high banked half-mile dirt oval and they use the infield for most of the pits. They put the big enclosed haulers in the center section so even if you were up only 8 rows in the grandstand you could see the entire track. The grandstand is raised so the first row is already 10 feet over the paved walkways and it has 32 rows of seating with fiberglass seats that have a small back. There are also bleachers on each side of the big grandstand. The track has a Jersey barrier outside concrete wall and the inside is mostly Armco. The lights were very good and the speakers were loud but kept cutting out. They also had a scoreboard outside the first turn. The overflow pits were outside the backstretch and were needed tonight with a field of 48 late models, 30 crate late models, 26 B-mods, 22 modifieds, 16 hornets, 17 pro-am stocks and 12 hobby stocks. The late models ran a complete show with 5 heats and 2 semis before the feature. The other classes ran heats and then the top 10 in points ran a 10-lap dash to set the starting lineup for the inside row of the feature on Sunday. The late model heats were good with Charlie McKenna and Kelly Boen winning from the third row of their heats. The fifth heat had to be stopped when Jason O’Brien hit the first turn wall nearly head on and flipped back down the track. He was uninjured but needed a double wrecker tow back to the pits. Kyle Berck beat John Saathoff in the modified dash and Brad Derry got a close win in the Pro-am dash before the late model feature. Boen was on the front row of the 25-lap late model feature but spun on the first lap. That moved McKenna up to a front row start with Al Humphrey based on points earned in the heats. There was only one more spin in the feature as the 26 cars were using the wide track with multiple grooves and slide jobs for the entire race. Kyle Berck started 5th and took command on the outside with Denny Eckrich from 8th following in the same groove. Berck won over Eckrich and John Anderson from 10th.  The 4 other dashes followed the feature and then the Pro-am stocks had a king of the hill race where they raced one on one until a winner was determined. The show was done at 11:15PM and I headed west. Saturday I drove through the desolate Sand Hills of Nebraska and through the Black Hills of South Dakota before arriving in Newcastle Wyoming. The Black Hills Mini-Sprints were the headline class at the Newcastle Raceway which is located at the Weston County Fairgrounds in Newcastle. The fairgrounds has a big rodeo arena and a huge covered grandstand but just next to that is a nice 1/5 mile semi-banked dirt oval with a small 10-row bleacher and a set of shorter bleachers next to it. I arrived at 6PM and there were already pickup trucks backed into the trackside parking stalls and a few people in the stands for the 7PM races that drew 15 mini sprints, 2 slingshots, 3 mini-quads, 3 125cc motorcycles and 8 50cc mini cycles. The track was well watered and had an Armco fence along the front straightaway but the rest of the track had a run-off area before any fencing. The inside was marked with some tires and they had adequate lights. The speakers were good for the nice size crowd that filled the small stands and all the trackside parking. They warmed up at 7PM and then had an autograph session before the racing started at 8PM with heats for all classes. Larry Reub won the first mini sprint heat from the front and then Anthony Farnsworth and Robert Bandy took the next two heats from the back (5th starting spot). The heats went fast and were followed quickly by the features as long as they already had intermission for the autograph session. Troy Colter beat dad Dale in a close slingshot feature. The mini sprints started with a big crash on the first lap with 5 cars leaving the track on the backstretch and Dallas McCormack and Farnsworth flipping. After a short delay to clear the runoff area the race went green for 10 laps until Troy Corneliuson hit the wall. John Garrigan started 7th and was leading over pole sitter Jim Paisley when third running Reub went up in smoke on the 16th lap causing another yellow. There was one more yellow with two laps to go when Logan Hershey who was now up to third from 13th ran over the wheel of the second place car and went over the bank into the runoff area. Garrigan held on to win over Paisley and the races were done at 9:30PM giving me a chance to catch up on my much needed sleep. Sunday was another beautiful fall day in Wyoming with bright sun and temperatures in the 80’s as I drove to Cheyenne for another stop at Big Country Speedway. This time I stopped on a race day as it was the first annual Showdown in Cheyenne and Miss Frontier was even here handing out some door prizes. (She had a ride but it was a 1HP mount and better suited for a dirt track.) The track is a banked quarter mile asphalt oval with concrete outside walls and the inside marked with a yellow line and a concrete strip before a width of flat asphalt drops down to the sandy infield. There are some newer buildings for the concessions (where I had a very good race track spud and they offered a wide selection of toppings for the baked potato) and the cement block bathrooms were clean and modern. They have paved walkways and a big 14-row wooden grandstand (facing east) all along the straightaway. The grandstand is showing its age and it looked like minimal lighting (not used today) but there is a nice scoreboard on the backstretch. The speakers were weak and cut out some. I arrived at 1:45PM and a small crowd was waiting for a few final qualifiers to time in. Racing started a half hour late at 2:30PM for a slim field of 6 late models, 6 modifieds, 5 warriors, 5 mod four’s and 14 super stocks. They ran dashes, heats and then features for each class. The features got under way after 5PM with the modifieds running 19 of their 25 laps before a spin. Mark Sopr started 4th and claimed the win. The junkyard warriors (mini stocks) ran a non-stop 25-lap feature with Tyler Drew taking a close win over Breann Adkison. Nick Tabor hit the wall on the start of the mod 4 feature then they ran all green with Dino Charron coming from 5th to take the win. The late model 30-lap feature went all green with 6th starter Gary Hobbs picking up the win over Lance Lewis. The big money race of the day was the $1000 to win super stocks that rounded out the racing day. The 40-lap feature was restarted when Mark Kelly spun in the first turn. There were two early spins then the race went to lap 18 when leader Kelly spun again after contact with Kent Stubbe. Kelly restarted first and Stubbe was sent to the rear. This scenario happened two more times with Kelly spinning on the 22nd lap and the 34th lap with contact from the second place car. Stubbe made it back to second place and tried an outside pass that fell half a car length short on the last lap and Kelly won the feature. It was 7PM and time for me to start the long trip home.    

Illinois Weekend September 30 – October 2, 2011

Friday I finished up my hospital visits with Aunt Mary and still had time to make it to a race. This weekend could help me get closer to the 100 mark for different tracks seen in Illinois and still give me an opportunity to see some good racing in between. I started the weekend with a visit to the familiar confines of the Rockford Speedway in Rockford Illinois where the 46th Annual National Short Track Championships were being held. The cool night would have racing in six divisions on the high banked quarter-mile asphalt oval. I arrived just before the 7:07PM starting time and ran into Bob Schafer so we sat together for some good conversation between the races tonight. They had already qualified and would run some dashes and qualifying heats before the feature races. The only class that needed a semi was the Road Runners as they had 36 entries tonight. There were also 26 late models, 26 short trackers, 21 sportsmen, 12 figure eight cars and 22 entries in the bandit vs. hornet challenge. The track has good lights and excellent speakers for the light crowd spread out in the large aluminum grandstand along the straightaway and a few more spectators in the old bleachers along the backstretch. The high banks have a concrete wall around the outside and just a white line to mark the inside where the pavement flattens off before the grass infield. There was not a full moon tonight but it was one of those nights where everything crazy and wrong just happened.  There were also more than the usual numbers of yellows in the preliminary races tonight. The features started with the 40-lap All-American Sportsmen race that was stopped on the 4th lap with a fire after Bob Wilberg had an oil leak in the old ‘Cuda. On the 29th lap Josh Thiering blew and oiled the track and caught fire. There was a spin on the attempted restart then the second and third place cars of Matt Lundberg and Matt Berger got into the wall. Rich Hinerichsen started 4th and won the race over Chris Gantz from 9th. The short trackers were on their third restart when a car went off the end of the backstretch and down the pit entrance road at full speed. He apparently crashed into the pits and that brought out an immediate red flag as someone was injured and needed an ambulance transport. After this delay they announced that they would only race for 30 laps not the 40 scheduled. There were only two more yellows as George Sparkman came from 11th to win the race over Scotty Hoeft from 4th and Kyle Stark from 10th. The late model feature was cut from 46 laps to 36 (a number made famous here by Joe Shear) but it took three tries to complete a lap without a spin. They raced for 4 laps and had another spin. Then the late models settled into a good race with no more cautions as Bobby Wilberg led from the front to take the win but had to hold off repeated attempts to pass by John Reynolds JR who started 8th. Ryan Carlson was third from 10th and Jerry Gille from 11th was fourth at the finish. The Road Runners were next and on the 8th lap of their 30-lap feature the red was displayed when Howie Ware got upside down. Ware and Alex Papini were moving toward the front when they ran out of patience and drove one another into the second turn wall. They continued pushing each other to the third turn where Ware rolled on his top. He exited the car and had to be restrained as he went to the Papini car for a talk and eventually the sheriff came out on the track to settle things down. After the restart they ran well with 7th starter Bob Frisch the apparent winner over Dana Czach from 14th. However both were disqualified and Kris Nilson from 10th got the trophy. The bandit vs. hornet challenge had only one yellow as Bryce Bailey came from 11th to claim the win over Tyler Whalen from 7th. The figure eight race was last with most of the cars coming from the road runner class and after 1 yellow for a stall they raced to the checkers with Dennis Smith JR a close winner over Josh Thiering and Tom Schneider. There was a spin by Dan Carlson at the “X” as the checkers were waiving and Thiering racing for the win drove into the rear of the nearly stopped car as the race ended with a big crash. The races were done just before midnight and I headed south. Saturday afternoon I headed to the southern part of Illinois for a look at the Perry County Fairgrounds in Pinckneyville Illinois. I arrived about 4PM two hours before the start of the demo program for tonight. There were a few cars here already and several more arrived as they were packing and watering the small track for tonight. It appears the arena is set up for tractor pulls with a long narrow dirt area with tall concrete walls on both sides that is in front of a covered wood grandstand of 13 rows with several bleacher sections on the other side of the arena that the pit personnel could use. They have good lights and the speakers were adequate. After the 5:45PM drivers meeting they took concrete slabs and placed them between the concrete walls to form a small square in front of the grandstand that was well watered. Then they placed two of the concrete slabs toward each end of the area within the temporary walls as if they were preparing to run a figure eight but instead they started the program with an autocross. This was an oval race around the two concrete barriers. Four cars came out for the 25-lap race on a very wet surface and there was very little contact as they ran non-stop with Ben Eisenhower taking the checkers in front of Randy Lawhorn. It was only 6:40PM so I skipped the demo and headed out to catch the midgets at Belleville just about an hour away. Saturday night was a race at the Belle-Clair Speedway for the POWRi midgets (45 cars) and the micros (49 cars). I arrived at 7:30PM and they were already on the third heat race for the midgets in front of a big crowd. The program was set up with 6 heats for each class then two semis for each and the two feature races. The track is a high banked 1/5-mile dirt oval with concrete outside walls and concrete Jersey barriers on the inside. I started by sitting in the first turn and was pelted with soft dirt during the heats. I moved to the 4th turn for the rest of the races while they did some “farming” of the track. They dug up the inside and then dug up the cushion and repacked it. This made for some dust but left a loose track and the cars ran three wide with dirt reaching the 10th row of the old wooden 12-row grandstands during the midget semis and the feature. The track is well lit and the speakers are very good. After all the preliminaries the micro feature took to the track with 23 starters for 20 laps. Dereck King started from the front and looked like a winner until the third yellow of the race appeared with only two laps left. Joe B Miller took the high line on the restart and blasted around King for the win with Jacob Patton in third. The midgets started 23 cars in the 30-lap Charlene Meents Memorial feature and had trouble getting the race going with 4 yellows in the first 10 laps. After the 10th lap restart the 3 leaders (pole sitter Brett Anderson, Mario Clouser from 6th and Brad Kuhn from 11th) started trading big slide jobs on the little track. On each turn they would slide and bang more often than not as the third place car tried for a shot at the lead. On the 12th lap Kuhn tried to move way low and slide in the third turn but hit the Jersey inside barrier and did a big wheelie and spun. There were two more yellows on the 19th lap and Anderson and Clouser were still fighting for the lead. Clouser was in the lead with two laps to go but Anderson made the slider work to grab the lead with Bubba Altig now up to third from 9th and Donnie Lehman holding fourth using the very inside of the track. On the last turn of the race Anderson moved down to the middle to slow the slide job that was coming and Clouser lost momentum as the two touched. Altig got underneath both but climbed the wheels of Clouser as they came out of the fourth turn. Anderson won with Altig bouncing over Clouser for second at the line and no one flipped! It was only 10:20PM when the show was complete so I had time to drive a few miles north before getting some shut eye. Sunday morning I continued north to the Autobahn Country Club in Elwood Illinois arriving just before noon to see the North Suburban Sports Car Club races this afternoon. They drew good car counts with 110 cars among the six groups that were racing today. There were 24 big production cars, 22 improved touring cars, 12 big formula cars, 21 vintage cars, 8 small formula cars and 23 small production cars. Each group ran a half-hour race with the first race starting at 1:20PM. The facility is very new with 3 major race circuits for the sports cars and today they would race on the south course (2.061 miles in length) while club members were using the north course. They also have the ability to combine the north and south courses in to a big course. I saw racing on the south course last year but before the track chasing rule changes this year only one course was countable. The facility is immaculate and the viewing is better on the south course so I just settled down for a relaxing race day on a bright cool autumn day. The big production cars ran first with Ron Rashinski in a Porsche pulling away from the pole to a big lead and lapping up to 6th place as he completed 19 laps in the half hour. There was a good battle for second with 3 cars swapping the spot during the race but Bryan Duncan taking second at the finish with Jeff Cheleis in third and John Jung fourth. Jack Murphy started on the pole and completed 18 laps as he won the improved touring group race over Michael Brinati as the first 7 finishers came across in the same order as they started. The big formula start produced a local yellow when the pole car did not come up to speed and stopped on the course on the first lap. The scramble at the start saw John Gyann come from the 9th grid spot to the lead in one lap. John completed 20 laps and won over Greg Gyann and Frank Riemann. Pole sitter Geoff Pile won the vintage race by a big margin in his Ford Escort over the Datsun of Mark Atkinson. The small formula race was on the track when I decided to start home and listen to the end of the NASCAR race and then the Packer game as I fought the Chicago area traffic.