Sunday, September 21, 2008

A conversation with Kyle Pruitt

Perseverance - steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., esp. in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. See also Kyle Pruitt.

The above definition of perseverance describes the gentlemen that i interviewed the past few week's. If there has ever been a driver who has tried to do more with as little as he has it would be Kyle. Kyle the driver of the number 29 358 sprint car here in central pa, started he career in 2003 driving 410's. his path has taken him to the 358 class this past season with races at Williams Grove Speedway and Lincoln Speedway.

CPRS - How did you get started racing sprint cars ?

Kyle - I got started in racing in 2003. I was born and raised around sprint car racing and had been going since a couple months old, my dad used to race till the late 80s and my brother raced for a couple years also. We had planned on starting in 1998 but due to financial situations we had to save and got started in 2003. No prior racing experience straight to the 410s.

CPRS - So you start racing 410's right of the bat. Why not start out running a different class instead of jumping right into a full size sprint car?

Kyle - My dad had raced 410s for a lot of years and some of my friends had raced go karts, micros, etc, but when i was growing up dad was racing and we couldn't afford for me to also, and when i got to be out of school dad and i both wanted to race 410s because you could usually go to different tracks and make features and get a lot of valuable seat time learning from the best in the business.

CPRS - So how did the start of your racing career go?

Kyle -Well..... I had done 2 of the Dave Blaneys schools for 50 laps each, and had grown up around this sport and thought just like a lot of others do "That doesn't look that hard" well i learned real quick during hot laps it wasn't easy! I would say the beginning of my career which i would consider the first 2 years because i only raced 35 races in the two combined, went ok. With no experience in anything, and what i call a NO Budget team, meaning (week to week) i think we did ok, we gained experience learned a lot of what to do and definitely what not to do, and i think gained some respect along the way too.

CPRS -How important is it to get the respect from the other driver's, and what did it mean to you when you did start to get that respect ?

Kyle -I think having a mutual respect is always a good thing. The other racers usually race you how you race them, They will race you hard and give you just enough room to race if you do the same. When i started to get some respect from the higher ups in the sport it was awesome because those guys have worked their tails off and raced a lot to get to where they are and to get that from them is a honor.

CPRS -Talking to other drivers you are known as one of the most helpful drivers in the pits. How important is that to you to help the younger drivers like the older guys helped you out?

Kyle -I like helping people out and being able to teach them about the cars and the things i have learned, especially the don't do's or the things that don't work. I like it because i feel when i am not racing it keeps me sharp on what is going on, and keeps me learning about the cars and i just plain love the sport so it keeps me around it. But most of all i just want to help guys go as best they can with what they may or may not have, and be able to enjoy themselves and learn. People helped me out a lot and pointed me in the right direction so i like to give back.

CPRS - You took some time off last year to regroup , how hard is it to be away from the sport?

Kyle - Yeah we were down for a while, i missed driving a ton but i was still around the sport. I helped out Billy Kimmel and raced myself about six races in the 358s. So like i said it keeps me around the sport, but driving is the ultimate rush, i always describe it to people like a drug, it just kinda consumes you and its all you want and think about.

CPRS- You mentioned Billy Kimmel. You where their the night he was killed in a tragic accident at the grove. How much do you think about something like that when you are getting into the car? Even more, how much does you wife think about it know that you are racing again?

Kyle -Yes unfortunately i was there, and had spoke with him about his car and setup about 10 min. prior
I don't think of it at all in the car, at the shop when working on the car or whatever i do, but when you strap in you need to be focused. And He knew just like we all do the dangers of this sport, but then again life is dangerous and everything will kill you in some way, but its just when your time is up its up. Unfortunately we lost a great person and someone i thought would have been an excellent racer too.My Wife she actually pushes me harder, we both do now. She was friends with him too and we both look at life different now and try to live everyday like its our last.

CPRS -You paced the field at the national open at Williams Grove last year.What kind of emotion's where going on in your mind as you took the Billy's number 47 out on the track a month after he died?

Kyle -That was one of the hardest things i have ever had to do. I mean before i got in the car i was sitting there looking at it and we were pitted in the same spot Billy always had and that i had helped him in, and just remembering him at the races and shop i am not gonna lie, i cried.
Strapping into his car was tough also, then when the motor fired and i could hear all the fans, yes over the engine and i don't know it was weird, i wanted to stand on it and gasser up but it was just very emotional. I feel honored the Kimmels let me drive it and pay tribute to billy, he was a great person, and i will always miss him.

CPRS -You said you started racing 410's in your family car. Who else have you driven for?

Kyle -I have also driven a 410 for Steve Miller in the 22z, and a 358 for Chris Weiss.

CPRS -when you drove the 22z for Steve Miller you won the award for most heat wins during speed week. what happened between you and Steve that led to you not driving for him any more?

Kyle- Yes we had a good week and gained some valuable experience, and really it was an ok year too.I appreciated Steve giving me the opportunity to race more and with better equipment than i could afford. It was nothing personal, we actually still talk now and then on the phone and always talk at the track. This is a very tough deal, and to do it right everyone has to be on the same page and have the same goals, and if your goals or expectations are higher than what circumstances will allow you need to realize that and make realistic goals. That is in my opinion, and its just an opinion.

CPRS - You stepped away from the 22z and went back to racing 358's. Why did you decide to go back to running 358's instead of concentrating on 410's?

Kyle - Well i didn't really have any options at the time, Its tough to find rides, especially in the 410s and i had helped Chris Weiss out some also and when i decided to quit the 22z he gave me a car to drive. I would still love to be back in the 410s but financially to do it correctly its just too much to handle, the 358s aren't far behind though.

CPRS -So what is the financial difference between the 358's and a 410?

Kyle - To be honest not as much as people think. The cars, tires, fuel, towing to track expenses, pit fees, everything is virtually the same.The drive train and tires last a little longer sometimes The top wings are like 40 bucks cheaper and the motors can be cheaper depending on what you want, but even then if you want to win and challenge every night your looking at a motor in the 20-28k range. So i would say its a little cheaper how much i don't really know because i just do what i can.

CPRS -What are the major difference's set up wise for a 358 vs. a 410 and how different are they to drive?

Kyle -Every driver is different so setups vary, for me in the 358s i can run the car a lot softer in the rear due to the small wing and slower wing speeds, also you run the front higher. But all in all its actually pretty close, you just have to make the 358 react quicker, due to the weight and horsepower ratio.
Driving wise the 410s are a totally different beast. And i say beast because they are. The 410s are very responsive to the drivers steering, braking, accelerating, etc. And are more sensitive and difficult to get the setup exactly right. All in all they both have 4 tires and 4 shocks and 4 bars but the 410s are just faster and more sensitive. Both are a blast though.

CPRS - With the local tracks talking last year about changing the wing rule on the 358's to make them run a 410 wing, what effect would that have on a 358 ?

Kyle - I can see where it might save some money because then you could buy used ones from the 410 teams, however i think it would severely hurt the racing. It would be hard on the motor and entire drive train due to the amount of down force, and would also hurt the racing in general because it might hook them up so hard it would be full throttle racing follow the leader.

CPRS -How hard is it to attract sponsors to help on you or any other race team?

Kyle -It is very tough to attract sponsors. Sponsors and getting rides is tough because you need their help to improve and get more track time, but a lot of them want someone who already has the experience and is able to win right away. Which is understandable for the amount of money it takes to do this, but the only way to get that is to get some help. So its a tough deal but i think if you keep trying and keep your face in front of people and do the best you can with what you got it will eventually pay off.

CPRS -So what is more important to owners, a driver who has some good runs in a family owned car, or a driver who is a PR persons dream? It seems that their are drivers out there that are in a dream situation with one or two good runs, while their are drivers who out there that with the right help would be great additions to a race team.

Kyle -Well that can go both ways it just depends on what the owners are looking for i guess. Some owners want a winner right away because they are spending so much, but i have talked to a lot and they want a driver to be consistent, win some races, and also be personable to their friends, sponsors,fans, etc.

CPRS -Know for a very sore subject, but it's something that needs to be asked. This past winter you got involved in a scam that was to involve a major sponsorship deal through Tyvek the DuPont materials company. What is your side of the story of exactly what went down and how he coned you ?

Kyle -Well i can tell you i think for someone who was struggling to get to where i want to go in my career, and just plain loving sprint car racing. He knew exactly what to say and what to put in front of you. Except for realistic things. It was supposed to be a 3 year deal for over 100k a year for me to drive at least 90 races and be able to run Outlaws and All stars, and everything in between. So for me it was a no brainer, i had to try it and some people called me stupid but he actually got a shop, started painting it so i thought hey this is happening. Then we started getting list together of parts, trucks ,trailers, motors, everything you would need and some stuff was supposedly on its way. So I was busy painting a HUGE shop, waiting on cars and equipment all day, and was going to get paid 100k? Wouldn't you do it? Anyway none of it ever materialized and i don't know exactly what the plan was, or if he was a middle man but it wasn't good. Maybe one day we will know but basically i feel like someone used my dream, and my passion for that dream against me.

EDITORS NOTE-I talked to the driver of the 56 358 Mark Zellers about this subject and this was the email i recieved form him.
I found out about this the same way you and everyone else did. I saw the post on the message board. I didn't reply being that I felt it seemed odd to look for a driver over the internet. Dad actually replied and I didn't think much about it till Jt sent dad several emails then a few phone calls. I spoke to him on the phone and he seemed to be on the level but didn't know much about any details. He told us he had 8 XXX cars comming from NC. and they were gonna trucked up to Pa. He had a meeting @ Selingsgrove Speed with Mark Smith and Mike Walters along with a bunch of crew guys. That night he met with Kyle, Nick Schlaugh(sp) and me. He told us that Hendrick Motorsports was buying Hamiltons garage and we were keeping the cars there. Two weeks later on Jan 11th we were to all meet at Hamiltons shop and at that time Mr. Hendricks was going to meet with all the drivers. I took off work and then got a call that morning that they had to cancel and would do it at a later time.I was really skepitcal at this point and called a good friend that is basicly Als son. Al knew that some one came and looked at his shop but no offer was made, and the person never responded to the real estate companys calls. At that point I told dad this guy was full of crap but lets just see if there maybe something to it. He promised so much to all of us involved I know I'd forget something. He went as far as Having another meeting and then taking us all to the "shop" a empty warehouse in Lebanon. He had Kyle and Shawn there to paint the floor and get it ready fot the stuff he was buying from Busby (he got involved also) wich he never showed up to pay for, and the 4 J&J rollers now that the xxx cars dissapeared? He also has everyone call Gary Stanton about 8 mopars we were getting. We really wanted to bust this guys balls but didn't cause we still had a lil bit of hope that something would come out of this deal. Looking back on it we should have and I wish that there is some way to keep this guy from smashing someone elses dreams. I feel so bad for the people at Midway I know what they have gone through. Personally, It hasn't changed me but for now on its $ first. I'm not bitter because next to my daughter racing is my life. Thats all I have ever known and all I wanna do. It really killed me last year no racing.
Thanks Mark

CPRS -Does stuff like this happen very often? How hard is it when you have someone come up to you and say they have xxx amount of money and they would like to give it to you, for you not to jump every time when all you are doing is trying to keep your dream alive ?

Kyle -To be honest i have had it happen a few times, but not to that extent. Usually its just people saying they will sponsor you or help out, and when it comes time for the money to exchange hands it doesnt. Its very hard for me, i know to not get excited because you start thinking of all the things you could do with the sponsorship, or the races you could race, or equipment you been needing you could buy. Its tough but in everything in life that happens to people so you just kinda keep going even though its a let down and never judge the next guy or gal on previous experience because they could be serious and propel me to the outlaws.

CPRS -So what would be your dream as far as racing goes? Would you like to run with the WOO, or would you be satisfied to run locally every week ?

Kyle -I would be completely satisfied to race in Central pa. weekly and have a long career and maybe end up with a tenth of the wins Rahmer has, but i would also love to go on the Outlaw tour. I really enjoy the atmosphere of their races and i love time trials, i would just like it cause you see something new all the time and go different places, meet new people I think it would be awesome.

CPRS -You like time trials ? Do you think the local tracks should run TT shows every week, or should they keep it the way it is? With as many cars as we have racing every week in the 358's it would seem like that would help out some teams and make it a little bit easier for them.

Kyle -Yes i like time trials, i know fans think they are boring but i think they give everyone an even chance at qualifying or starting in a invert spot. If your racing 410s i think you would want to see more TT shows, because when you race the outlaws and allstars and other money shows you need to be a good time trialer to be competitive.With the 358s that would be a good idea and maybe have some good paying shows for them also, and maybe a points series where they race at different tracks , and maybe a 358 speedweek?

CPRS -So who all helps on the car?

Kyle -My help at the shop during the week is my dad for all motor maintence, and i do all the car and trailer needs, my wife does all the cleaning and organizing. Then at the races we have a variation of crews depending on the night but mostly Scott Ginter, John Wickard, Andy Rucker, and sometimes Todd Zinn, and Pat Cooper.

CPRS -Who all helps out as far as sponsors?

Kyle -My parents and my wife and i are my biggest sponsor Rucker computer solutions, and Trailer trash chili are also sponsors on the car.

CPRS -How can fans or future sponsors get in tough with you?

Kyle -Fans and sponsors can call me direct at 301-676-8456, and can also visit my website at www. kylepruitt. com

CPRS -Is there anything else you would like to say to the fans in central pa?

Kyle -I would like to say thank you to all the fans and friends i have met along the way in my career so far there are so many that make this sport enjoyable and we appreciate you supporting the sport every week with your hard earned dollar.

Last question for ya?
I was told from a fan that they call you "the social butterfly". Would you like to explain how you got that nickname?

Kyle -Ha,Ha Yeah i know who that was! Chuck and Dixie are great friends that have helped me out and supported me for the last couple of years, dont know if that nickname would stick in racing but maybe we should try it?
They gave it to me because i guess i am always talking and floating around from trailer to trailer either helping out or talking to someone, so Dixie said i was a social butterfly.

CPRS - Ok here are a few word association questions for you. Tell me which one you like better.

Lincoln Speedway - Williams Grove Speedway
Kyle- Williams Grove: SPEED

358 sprint's - 410 sprint's
Kyle -410s: SPEED

Fred Rhamer - The rest of the field :)
Kyle -The Rest of The field: Its always nice to root for the underdogs.

Pa Posse - Woo
Kyle -Pa Posse: Because they are just as good as the Outlaws but dont get the same respect.

Kyle Pruitt - your father
Kyle -My Father: He is my Hero cause he always kept going no matter what and has loved racing in spite of all the ups and downs.

A big thank you to Kyle for taking the time to sit down with me and do this interview. Good luck to Kyle in 2009.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A conversation with Nathan Berwager

Today Central PA Racing Scene has the pleasure of sharing a conversation we had with Nathan Berwager. The second generation driver from York Springs, PA who drives the number 4u 358 sprint car at both Lincoln Speedway and at Trail Ways this season, has become one of the consistent young guns looking for his chance to park his car in victory lane.
Nathan who is in his first season of being a driver/owner sat down the past few weeks and shared his thought's on his career so far, and what he thinks the local rules should look like to help the 358 division continue to grow. Please take a few minutes and check out our conversation with Nathan Berwager

Central PA Racing Scene - Nathan
how did you get introduced to the sport?
Nathan Berwager - I was introduced to auto sports through my dad. After watching him for a couple of years I knew that I wanted to race. So I bought my first go kart when I was 18 years old and raced ever since.

How long did you race Go Karts before deciding to take the step to the next level?
Nathan Berwager - I raced go karts for 2 years. In October 2004 my dad asked me to run his sprint car to see if it was something I wanted to do. So he took me over to Lincoln for the last 410 race of the season. I thought I was fast as hell, even though I got lapped twice in the heat race and blacked flagged in the feature. From that point it took until July of 2005 until I started running 358s at Williams Grove.

How much help was your father when you started racing 358's at Williams Grove?
Nathan Berwager - My father was a motivator. He would always find a way to make me angry with his constructive criticism, even if nothing was wrong. He was hard to deal with, but his racing analogize and lucrative tactics helped support me in the beginning.

So how did the first year at the Grove go?
Nathan Berwager - It went good for my first year in a sprint car. The fourth race I was there I won a heat race and finished 11th in the feature, after leading the first 8 laps against Adrien Shaffer and Kevin Nouse. In the future I plan to run a full season at the Grove, but financially it will be a year or two.

How hard is it to run a 358 race team?
Nathan Berwager - Sell your house, dog, wife, and lawn mower about mid July cause the bills start to get tight. Thats what most people say, but its not that bad after you get past the start up costs. This is my first year on my own. The biggest thing that is hard, isn't the money, but trying to separate the garage from the drivers seat. I cant afford to pay someone to maintain my car and that gets a little overwhelming. I have a Job that the time is set from 7:30-5:30 everyday, so that doesn't leave much time through the week to get the car ready. With the right help and the good people I have backing me, I will race as long as I can to afford it.

How hard is it then to keep the 2 sides from crossing over on the track? It can't be easy to run full tilt on a race track and worry about what it might cost to fix something if you get into an accident?
Nathan Berwager - When I first built the car I just wanted to stay away from others on the track, but now that the paint's scratched, and the new parts are used, I feel like I am getting a lot more aggressive on the track, and forget about what happens. It is a lot of stress if you worry about your car on the track. Sometimes if your focus isn't on racing hard and winning, and your thinking about the car thats when shit happens. Right now I just forget about the car and just want to drive as fast as I possibly can to win. I want to win bad even if it takes a bent up wing or two.

With 2 hard charger awards this year so far at Trail Ways, how close do you think you are to being able to put your team in victory lane?
Nathan Berwager -
I think at any given time I could win there. I haven't started better than 12th place since the first race. If I start in the first couple rows in front of the elite 5 or 6 top dogs there I should have a good chance.

Speaking of Trail Ways, why do you think it is that most of the teams that run Williams Grove don't run at TW on the nights they have off?
Nathan Berwager - Before I ever raced Trail-ways, I thought that it was to tight, not enough room to pass, dry and dusty. I also thought there were alot of wrecks. But after racing the track I liked it. There is room to race and this season so far there hasn't been many wrecks. Anyway maybe those teams just want a night off or are judging the track like I did before I raced it.

What rule changes would you like to see made to help with the cost of racing?
Nathan Berwager - The right rear tire rule is the only rule that I would have changed, but that has been changed. The reason for that change is so I could run two good used tires in one night instead of running one used tire threw heat and feature. It gives me a better chance in the feature. I also wish we would run the bigger dimension wing like the 410 and 360 class. I don't think that would be cheaper, but they would be a lot easier to buy used from a 410 team.

I can see your thought process with the bigger wing, but wouldn't that hurt you in the long run? Running a bigger wing would slow the cars down by bogging the motor down, not to mention that it would hook the cars to the track to much and then you would have no passing like the 410's. Am i correct in thinking this way?
Nathan Berwager - Well I am looking at the fact with more similarities then the change of the performance. It just seems smarter to have the same kind of wing a 360 sprinter would have and a 410. The fact of changing the outcome of the performance, I disagree due to the fact of handicapping and more in experience drivers like myself in the 358 class. I just wish we could take our cars and race in Florida if we wanted to, kinda like the ASCS....just a thought.

I have always thought that we where not thinking correctly with running 358's instead of 360's. Should we switch to a 360 class so the teams could run anywhere, or is that why the tracks don't switch, so that the teams have to run here and only here?
Nathan Berwager - That is a very good point that the tracks want to keep us local. Anyway I think it was a dumb idea not to run a class that gets more publication and is more than just local, I would love to race in a class where I know at any given weekend I could race a bigger event if I wanted to travel.

How much money does it take though to travel compared to just running local every week? With the price of fuel just to get to the track every week going up and up, it would make more sense to just stay local would it not?
Nathan Berwager - If 360s were local we would not have to travel, but it would be costly to travel and race. When I said about having the opportunity to race wherever would be nice whether our team would travel 2 or 3 times or not. Sometimes its just nice to get out and compete at a different track if you have have to spend more on fuel and board or not.

What has been your favorite track that you have raced so far, and is there a track somewhere that you would love to race at at some point in your career?
Nathan Berwager - My favorite track is Williams Grove. I love it there the speed is great you have time to think and it is smooth racing. If I had an engine to compete there Id be there. Also I would like to try Eagle raceway, on the game its a fun track. Obvious Knoxville and Eldora would be right there. Anyway I love the big tracks, if I had the engine I would run Selinsgrove and Williams Grove.

So who all helps out on the race car ?
Nathan Berwager - Matt Mentzer, and his dad Sam Mentzer are the biggest help I have. Scott Smith and Swift help when they can. George Clouser is starting to help set-up the race car. My Girlfriend Tasha helps with my helmet and mental support.

How about the business that help out with sponsorships?
Nathan Berwager - Matt Mentzer, on my crew, is Upper Bermudian Nursery and Excavating which is on the hood. He helped out alot with getting things started, and also hauls the car to the track every week. Sam Mentzer, on my crew, Is David Menzter Builders which is on the right side. We work on the car at his garage for the advertisement. Outback Imagery, and Anstine's lawn care are sponsors I carried over when I raced with my dad. WhyKnott Advertising is my brother which he put together my complete website for nothing which it turned out awesome, www. berwager. com. The biggest sponsor I have is CaddWorks that is on the wing. Greg, the owner, has a really cool business, and is a awesome person that really helped keep things going at the beginning of the year through where we are now.

How can people get in touch with you?
Nathan Berwager - You can email me through my website www. berwager. com. Also in person, you could catch me at the track.

Is there anything else you would like to say to the fans in central pa?
Nathan Berwager -
First I would like to say thanks to the fans and supporters of dirt track racing, without them we wouldn't have a chance to race towards our dreams. Second the 4u team is excited to end the season on a good note and come back next year to race harder then ever and win, win, win, and just take this year as a good learning experience as a new team and well learning curve to race without my dads support. Also like to thank Central PA Racing Scene to give me the opportunity to express some thoughts and answers questions. Thank you.

Good luck to Nathan the rest of the season. with the big money races coming up in the 358 division at Lincoln,TrailWays,Selinsgrove,and even Hagerstown with their $3,000 to win even on September 13th, Nathan just might be making some headlines with a big win. If you get the opportunity please stop by Nathan's hauler and say hi as you could not meet a more humble young man.

photo courtesy of Chad Warner. Chad can be reached at

Sunday, August 03, 2008

An open letter from a 358 crew member

Last night at Lincoln the officials made the decision to cancel the 358 and thunder car feature's because the show was running late. With this decision the decided to run 2 358 sprint features next week. Central PA Racing Scene received this email today from a crew member of a 358 team.

This deal on making up the 358 race from tonight, next week is just a not good for the majority of the 358 teams. The Grove runs us next week as well and you both know as well as I do that we never get out of that place till long after midnight. Were not professional sprint car teams like the 410 and have very very limited amount of help to turn a car around for the next night of racing at Lincoln. There is a lot more teams that support Lincoln that run the Grove then Trail ways, as well as Trail ways is usually over before 9:30 or 10:00pm giving those teams a lot more sleep time and shop time to turn a car around. It would be better for the majority of the 358 teams to make up this race in 3 weeks when we are back at Lincoln on a weekend that the Grove doesn't run us, or even in 2 weeks when the 358s are off the entire weekend other then Selinsgrove. It's just too much to ask of us to race 3 races in 2 nights on a 3 weekend back to back stint between the Grove and Lincoln. If we should get torn up at the Grove on Friday night, we loose out on the feature we have already made and possibly the second one as well at Lincoln. Most of the 358 guys don't have the budget to have 2 complete cars setting to do this sort of thing. Please pass this on to the Lincoln officials and ask them to take a poll from the guys who made this feature to see if they want to do it like that. I know there was many, many, owners down at the pit shack voicing their displeasure with this call because of the facts I've stated and also because of a lot of teams have guys who are going to Knoxville to help 410 teams or just to watch, so that will leave teams short handed as well. I can't see adding us to the weekend we were not scheduled there or wait till the next weekend that we are would be that big of deal for the track. I thought it was an insult tonight to have to watch the 410s take an hour and 45min to run a feature, then postpone the 358s because of the stupid driving on the 410s part. I know keeping the neighbors around the track happy is important also, but don't make this injustice worse by making us run 3 shows in 2 nights. I know we don't have the $$$ to do all that in one weekend with the cost of fuel and tires for the car. Sorry to ramble on, but feel strongly against this deal, as well as do a lot of other 358 teams.

Thank you, Todd Smith

Monday, July 28, 2008

Press release from Danny Dietrich

I have been contacted by Danny Dietrich in regards to the situations that happened at Lincoln Speedway this past weekend. Here is what the driver of the Racer's Used Auto Parts 88 has to say on what happened this past weekend.

Lincoln Speedway issues of July 26, 2008

As far as I’m concerned Saturday night was totally officiated wrong. Now I know things aren’t always perfect nor can they be in the world of racing, but Saturday was out of hand. There were some calls that were horrible, not just mine but the one in 410 features that may have cost the leader of that race a win also.

Many of you may not have been there or remember but Mr. Kohler cost me a win back in my rookie year at Lincoln speedway in this same manner. He is trying to get the leader past the line to score the lap. Regardless of what the rules state, if the leader goes past the line he will count that lap. I was coming out of turn four and someone had spun in 2, he waited until I entered turn 2 to throw the caution. The same instance happened to the leader Saturday night in the 410’s.

When there is a person in the racing groove, off the pace and a possible hazard that caution needs to come out ASAP! There is no excuse for either of those cars to have been torn up! And it happens EVERY week. I was trying to help the car that was the leader of that race back in the pit area and even though it was the flagman’s fault they never gave him anytime to fix it (it was a matter of changing a few radius rods and a header.) This call by the officiating was down right WRONG. This is a safety issue and also the reason we have these radios is for safety(Mr. Kohler was the one who made us all spend the hundred dollars for them and pushed for us to have them.)... makes me wonder why we have them now….

As per my incident, there was no jump according to the rule that is discussed every year, at the opening day drivers meeting on the starts and restarts. A car must stay in line (nose to tail) until the leaders are given the green flag. It was questioned, when the front row is given the green it don’t matter if your in the 12th row going into turn three or 6th row in the middle of the turn, when the green is flown you are allowed to pass high or low, regardless of where you are on the track. When the green is displayed the race is on. In this case when the green flew I pulled out of line (never pulled beside until the chalk line), and passed until the end of the straight away. That is legal. When the lap 18 caution came out they came across the radio saying I was to be behind the 25, and then changed to be behind the 16, and was told I was penalized for passing a row. This is completely wrong! If it was anything it should have been that I was penalized 2 spots for being out of line. Not 4! End of discussion.

As for the ordeal on the front stretch, if I offended anyone for the actions or words used, I apologize. I also want to say congrats to Aaron on his win. He may not have been the fastest car but he did what he had to do on the restart, to win the race.
I hope this clears some things up, but Lincoln has had issues for years with incidents like these. Until Lincoln takes actions with the 2 head flagmen we will continue with these issues, as we have been for years.
I hope everyone was happy with the racing Saturday night. That’s all I can ask for, and I’ll see everyone this Saturday. If all goes well I will be signing autographs for kids.

Thank You!
Danny Dietrich

Monday, July 14, 2008

A fans perspective

This past weekend i went to the races and decide to seek out 5 random fans and ask them their opinions on the racing scene here in Central PA. They where very forthright with their answers as they pertained to their feelings on everything from the driver of the 1/2 year, to what they would change if they ran a local short track.

With the economy the way it is, should local race tracks shortening the the racing schedule to help the race teams save a little money to make sure that we have full fields at all local race tracks ?

CRAIG - I don't think shortening the entire season would be all that heplful. The thing that hurts is the Keystone Cup, and Speedweek within a month of each other. I think if they want to keep the Keystone Cup they should spread it out over the course of the season. I would say one Keystone Cup race a month. One month Williams Grove host a race the following Month Lincoln and so forth. It would be more fan and Race team friendly that way. It gives the teams that bent stuff up more time to recoupe their losses.

MIKE - No...They are not forced to show up in the first place...

Mark - Rather than attempt to sue the Arabs for not drilling enough oil, we need to address the lack of domestic drilling to take step one toward solving the supply issue with our own supply. When fuel prices stabilize the overall economy will improve. The national economy is growing, albeit it slowly (1% revised numbers for Q1 -08). the local economy still has low unemployment compared to other regions of the country.

Johnny - I think there are too many races. The season should not start until April 1st. It would be nice if the tracks would work together and spread the 410's around. It would mean that all 3 would have to sacrifice some races and to stop running head to head as much.

Dave - Yes, If things stay the way of rising costs outside of racing, id shorten the season, cut out some midweek shows.

This year we have seen quite a few young drivers stepping up their game and win races and lead the points. Who do you think is the next 410 or 358 driver to step up to that next level ?

CRAIG - That's a tough one to answer because there are quite a few Young Guys out there that have the potentail of becoming the next Fred, Lance, Donnie or Kauffman. Cody Darrah, Arron Ott, Pat Cannon, Alan Krimes,and Brian Leppo just to name a few.

MIKE - Pat Cannon...

Mark - Darrah and Cannon are the 2008 standouts thus far.

Johnny - I unfortunately don't follow the 358/305/sportsman scene very closely... years ago i could answer this better. Obviously Pat Cannon had caught every one's eye ... but he is running very good equipment at every race.

Dave - Pat Cannon I'm sure is a safe bet for the 410's, John Westbrook once he settles down could be a good one.

What are your thought's on the whole track photographer vs. press photographer mess that is happening right now in local racing ?

CRAIG -Don't have a thought on that seeing how it was all a Bunch of Hog Wash.

MIKE - I don't have enough information on the subject to formulate an opinion....Sorry...

Mark - Pissing around with who has the "exclusive" right to push a button on a digital capture device only shows how backward thinking the old guard is. If hobbyists have better equipment than the "pros" - how can they claim with a straight face that they are protecting their investment? I have a recording studio in my basement with thousands of $ in equipment - used for fun and recreation only and it makes me laugh when a guy with a G4, a disc of pirated software and a $200 microphone starts talking about charging $ for their services!
track management should focus on:
A- prepare a quality racing surface
B- keep the grounds and facilities clean and presentable
C- eliminate down time, start time / end time
D- promotion in the local press
E- remember that they can't afford to pay for cool photos all over the internet but others will put them there free of charge.

Johnny - I have no clue what is going on. I know many years ago that the "track guys" didn't like people snapping victory lane shots.

Dave - Any picture taken and posted on a board, could possibly attract new fans, which is A good thing.

Is the racing as bad at Williams Grove Speedway this year as it seems on paper, or are the lower budget teams getting that much better ?

CRAIG - The lower budget teams are getting faster. With the implemented tire rule and the handicapping the playing field is leveled.

MIKE - The racing has been less than stellar but, the atmosphere is second to none...

Mark - Not sure how it looks on paper ($?), but it sure is tough to get to the front from 12th these days.

Johnny - I think it is a combination of teams evening out and the tire deal.The track surface is lending to some front row winning results too. It is probably good for racing.... but it is bad if your favorite is victimized a lot.

Dave - NO, the racing is fine, too many people only look at the feature for good or bad racing. The heats last couple of weeks in both 358' & 410's have been pretty wild, lots of passing and wild slide jobs just to get handicapped. However the heavy hitters have to race hard only to consistently start 10th 11th etc, while some teams good or bad play the game well to get a good starting position and pretty much winning from the first 2 rows.

There is a rumbling in the pits again about some teams complaining about the handicapping system. Should the local tracks change the format to suite those teams, or should they keep it the way it is so that lower budget teams still have a shot at making some good money with a win ?

CRAIG - If is isn't broke don't fix it.

Unhook the tractors and keep the handicapping the way it is...

Mark - I would have no problem with an extra TT show once a month at the tracks, but the regular format does provide for some hard racing in the heats which would otherwise be boring for the fans.

Johnny - I agree with handicapping with regard to money won. Again, I think the tire rule inhibits the starters in the rear. Some of the heats are also loaded with good cars and some are cakewalks for the back starters.... it varies .

Dave - I think #5 was answered in question #4, but what do I know. When you look at the point standings, you always scream the #2 point man starts in front of the #5. Makes you crazy trying to figure it out certain evenings.

What rule change do you think needs to happen to keep the sport moving forward?

CRAIG - Keep the one tire rule, but teams should be able to run whatever tire manufacture they choose as long as they fit Size and compounds set fourth in the rules.

MIKE - Remove the wings...They don't run in the rain so why have a roof on the Tractors?...

Mark - Get rid of the unspoken rule that our local rules must line up with the failing traveling series just because they need to race here 6 nights a year. They need 410 tracks to race on and our 410 scene is in better shape than parts unknown. If the health of 410 racing is to be judged from the "top" down - we could expect the local tracks to spend themselves into penny stock status right along side these fools.

Johnny - Bring back the big blocks.

Dave - Engine rules to lower the cost. Base our rules for our drivers, not a series that runs only runs 2-3 times a year.

If you where a promoter what would you do to make the experience better for the family that works all week and still wants to come to the races every week ?

CRAIG - I would add some Fan appreciation nights. I would also not charge admission to anyone under 16.

MIKE - Children under 12 and Dogs of all ages would be FREE!...

Mark - This will not please some folks, but the screwing around / wrecking associated with support divisions is not good for the image of 410 racing when you bring new folks to the track. Rough riding is also a concern. When i was a kid, the black flag was used several times a month to remind drivers that the "sport" needs sportsmanship to keep it a cut above a high speed demo derby. Get out the black flag and use it when a car is taken out. This is not a court of law...other sport officials call fouls and penalties all the time.

Johnny - I still think they have to do something to lure the younger fans into the tracks... solution.... I don't know. It is the same story in many other things right now!

Dave - Think of some family discounts to attract more family's to the races. Don't drag out shows all evening. Easier said then done I know.

Do you think the promoters in this area should join the rest of the country and switch from 358's to running 360's ?

CRAIG - Hell NO.... Again if it isn't broke don't fix it. Here in Pa we have a Very strong field of 358's 30 to 40 cars in the pits at two different tracks on the same night. I've heard that it costs almost as much to run a 360 as it does to run a 410 power plant wise. So no keep the 358's.

MIKE - No...Beer, Friends and 360's doesn't sound right...Not at all...

Mark - As a fan, a limited engine is a limited engine - pick a number and it is still a limited engine. Please get rid of those idiotic offset wings. If the rule is a smaller wing than the 410, you can at least line up the Damn side panels.

Johnny - 358's are just fine it seems.... There are plenty to go around.

Dave - I think we are just fine with 358's, the cost to buy new equipment would drive some out of racing id imagine.

With many of the top drivers not getting any younger, how long do do you think guys like Fred,Kieth ,Donnie, or Todd can keep going and winning at this level?

CRAIG - For awhile yet. Look at Jim Kennedy and Smokey Snellbaker those guys are older than dirt, but can still win races. They will be winning race as long as Body, and mind stay sharp.

MIKE - For as long as the desire is there, they will continue to win...

Mark - We have a fine group of active veterans these days..I am glad they are still interested in racing. In 5 years we may be saying the same things about 4 other guys.

Johnny - This is a good question. When i was a kid.... a 40 year old was an ancient driver. I think Johnny Grum,Mitch Smith, and Ed Spencer broke this myth. Smokey hes definitely showed that old boys can still compete at some level. I think KK is about done. Rahmer isn't far behind. The other two should be OK for a few more years. It all depends upon their success.

Dave - Experience will keep those drivers winning. When we start seeing some younger drivers win from rows 5 & 6 on a weekly bases, then we will have a changing of the guard. It hasn't happened yet.

Please pick your driver of the 1/2 year and why did you pick him?

CRAIG - Fred Rahmer, and not because I am a Die- Hard Rahmer fan. What can you say he is on a roll. He has 11 wins on the season. He's time trialling better than he ever has, has a lot of determination to win, and seems to be the only guy who can win from somewhere other than the First 3 rows.

MIKE - Fred "Freakin" Rahmer...I picked Him because He's Fred "Freakin" Rahmer!... Nuff said!...

Mark - Cannon - Park the 358 and prepare for the future of 410 racing.

Johnny - I have to stay with my driver .... I think Mark Smith is still one of the best out there. He needs a deal where he can relax and drive ....Zemco wasn't it.

Dave - My 358 driver, real easy Pat Cannon. 410 driver gotta go with Brian Leppo, he seems to be getting more consistent on driving from the back to get to the front.... See number

I would like to say once again thank you to CRAIG, Mike,Mark,Johnny,and Dave for taking the time to speak with me this past week and sharing their thought's on the local racing scene.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Interview with Ron Aurand

Today Central PA Racing Scene has the privilege of interviewing 21 year old driver Ron Aurand. Ron drives in the 305 division here in Central PA. Ron is a full time collage student from Lewistown PA who drives a family owned sprint car for his girlfriend's father. As you will read in the interview, Ron and family are what racing is all about, having fun with the family when they are at the race track.

Central pa racing scene - How did you get your start in sprint car racing?

Ron Aurand - I have always been a huge sprint car fan. Actually my very first day out of the hospital, when i was born my dad had me at Williamsgrove Speedway. So its always been my passion my entire life to be around sprint car racing. My girlfriend became a huge sprint car fan when a few of my friends and I took her to a speedweek race. So she told her dad to come with us one night to Williamsgrove and he fell in love with it. Next thing i knew he bought a micro for me to race. After about a 1.5 years of micro racing we decided it was time to step up to a full size sprint car. We barely can afford to put fuel in the car every week, however we have made sure its a family team and strictly for fun. So we felt that a 305 would be best for us. Its a series for a working mans budget. So last season i ran 2 races in the 305's and this season that is all I am running. We are running a limited schedule due to our financial budget.

CPRS - So how did you do running micro sprints ?

Ron -
My first year was very frustrating because we were so new to micro's and had to idea what to really do when it came to jetting and gearing things. My second year we had a lot of fun running at clinton county with the Interstate Micro Sprints. We had to run a limited schedule however almost every race we ran was a top 5.

CPRS - Who all helped the most with the learning curve? Were the other drivers helpful when it came to a rookie in the pits?

Ron -I would have to say Nathan Gramley was a huge help since he has a racing past in micro's and is now running 305's. Ron Utt and David Utt also were there to help us as much as they could when it came to the micro. As far as being a rookie in the 305's...Nathan Gramley, Daryl Stimeling, Tim Kline,Kyle Pruitt, and Andy Haus are always willing to lend a helping hand when it comes to help with set ups and other learning curves.

CPRS - So after a year and a half in micro's why the decision to move up to the 305's instead of getting more experience in the micro's ?

Ron - We felt that the micro was a good step in the door but the best way for me to gain experience was to be behind the wheel of a full size sprint car. A micro is a great learning experience however they dont handle like a full size sprint car and we felt the best way to learn was to just get in one and give it a try. Most race teams can get an entire season or more out of a 305 motor without really doing to much rebuilding. They also pay a lot more to take the green flag and we thought it would be more cost effective for us. It has always been a dream of mine to race a full size sprint and Rob Grassmyer (car owner/girlfriends dad) gave me that chance.

CPRS - So how much of a learning curve was there?

Ron - They are definitely different feelings and experiences. I love that i don't have to shift anymore lol that makes it really nice. In the micro i had to drive with one hand and shift with the other pretty much. In the sprint car i have both hands on the wheel at all times so its a lot easier to steer but the horsepower is totally different. Sprint cars flex and do so many different things that a micro doesn't.

CPRS - You said you run on a tight budget. How hard is it running a car on such a tight budget? With the economy the way it is, it can't be getting any easier to race?

Ron - Its extremely hard. Sometimes i get a little hesitant when it comes to making a risky pass on a car at first for fear of breaking something. We actually don't have any spares at all. Everything we own is on our car. It makes it really enjoyable and i get a huge sense of pride when it comes to riding in the truck hauling our open trailer to the races because everyone can see the car when we are hauling it. It also gives a little more exposure for the sponsors that we do have. With the rising costs of fuel right now and gas we are doing everything we can to scrape together enough money to just buy fuel.

This kinda makes me laugh but last Saturday we got enough money to buy our very first brand new tire and i was so excited that we had a new tire on our car that no one else ever used lol.

CPRS - You mentioned your sponsors. Who all helps sponsor the race team ?

Ron - My car owner Rob Grassmyer (Grassmyers Excavating), Scott Baylor (STB Performance), Jim Mack(a close friend of mine),
Andrew Simonetti (Close Friend, volunteers his time when he is not away for army training)
Health @ Hand and i take care of our website (Ron Aurand Web Design)

CPRS - Who all helps on the car?

Ron - My Dad "Duff" Aurand and Rob Grassmyer are the set up guys and my girlfriend Ashley takes care of scraping mud and anything anyone else needs. Her mom Pam helps with whatever Ashley needs help with. My friend Andrew "Simo" Simonetti helps me with weekly upkeep when he is not defending our country and my friend Sean Fluke helps with weekly upkeep when he is not working. Matt Carter helps out with anything needed when he is not working.

CPRS - What are your goals in the sport? Would you like to run a bigger schedule or maybe try your hand at 410 or 358 racing, or are you content to race 305's with your family?

Ron -I would love to run a 410 or 358. I would have to say tho my biggest goal is to run USAC but i would really like to have my family and everyone that has helped me with my racing career be part of it. As far as my goals right now in the 305, I would really like to be able to run more races to get more experience so i have a better chance to drive a 358 or 410.

CPRS- How can fans or potential sponsors contact you?

Ron -You can drop by my trailer at the races. I am always happy to talk racing with anyone. My cell number is 717-348-9202 and my email is You can also stay updated on our team at . I would also like to thank you Bill for giving me the opportunity to speak with you tonight. Make sure to stop by our trailer anytime you are at the races.

Good luck to Ron the rest of this racing season. Ron and his family are just what this sport is all about, and that is trying to live a dream by becoming a sprint car driver. With more family's like this in racing across the country not just in Central PA, the sport of short track racing is safe for future generations. photo courtesy of Gregg Obst.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Interview with Todd Zinn

Today i have the pleasure of interviewing Todd Zinn. Todd is a driver in the very competitive 410 division in central PA. Besides being a driver at Lncoln Speedway and Williams Grove Speedway, he is also a 4th grade teacher at Lewistown Elementary School. Todd took a moment out of his very hectic schedule to sit down with Central PA Racing Scene and discuss his racing carrier from how he got into the sport, his thoughts on running wingless with USAC for the first time, and what it is like for a driver to compete on a small budget with the top dollar teams here in central pa.

When did you start going to the races as a child ?

Todd - I’ve been going to the races as long as I can remember.

What are your earliest memories of the races ?

Todd - My earliest and greatest memories are going with my grandfather and father to watch my favorite, Bobby Allen.

When did you decide to get into the sport,and how did you go about
it ?

Todd - I remember mentioning that I would someday have a sprint car to my dad. He never believed it would happen which simply increased my determination to do it. I started saving money and working on cars whenever possible to learn. After 2 years I saved enough to buy a rolling chassis. This car sat in our garage for 2 years until I saved enough to buy a motor to go with it.

You helped Todd Allen for a few years as a crew member, what was that like?

Todd - Todd Allen is an engineer and the nephew of Bobby Allen. Those 2 facts make it almost impossible to not learn something about racing. The experience of being around that famous garage and that racing family was unbelievably fun and educational.

Did you enjoy the crew member side of racing ?

Todd - t was enjoyable. While I prefer working on my own car it gave me some sort of knowledge and experience to build on.

What year and where did you make your debut ?

Todd - 2001? I believe it was at Susquehanna. It went fine. I stayed out of trouble and finished 12th.

You finished in the top 10 in points at Susquehanna speedway. How much of a learning experience was it racing with the top teams week every week?

Todd - It was fun trying to race every week but also has some negatives. On my budget I could only afford to run 1 time a week so was often forced to only run there instead of having the option of going to other tracks. It was also inconvenient during possible rain situations when you feel you need to go “just in case”. Extra money was spent in gas and car washes during eventual rain outs when I may have otherwise chosen to stay home and race elsewhere another day. I will not try to run anywhere on a weekly basis again unless there is a financial ability or benefit to doing so.

You made a trip to western Ohio and western pa that first season. How did the trip go ?

Todd - My dad referred to it as the “most fun” he’s ever had. We went with Todd Allen. It was a blast racing at 3 different places in 3 straight nights and working on the car in parking lots. The tracks treated us great and were very supportive of us.

In 2005 you took a big step and ran the Knoxville nationals. How was the trip?

Todd - Tremendous fun. Just to roll by the Hall of Fame is a dream come true. Unfortunately a drive line problem made it a short week so I did not get to run on the final night but I hope to someday go back.

How important are sponsors to a team like yourself ?

Todd - While I still foot 90% of the bill myself I appreciate every little bit of help that I receive. It is wonderful to have the support of friends and fans.

How hard is being an owner/driver ?

Todd - Unfortunately, it is difficult. When you have such a tight budget you cannot take the chances that you need to in this sport. There are many times I know I can pass a car but a slight bobble or swerve by the other vehicle makes me hesitate. The top guys don’t have that hesitation. They just go. But that is hard to do when you know an incident could sideline you for quite a while.

You also cannot race every week. The learning curve for running 40-90 races over a season is way steeper than only racing 15-20 times over that time period. This smaller amount of races also makes it more difficult to get sponsors. It’s really a catch 22 situation. Not enough money to race weekly, not enough exposure to attract sponsorship.

In 2007 you debuted a new paint scheme. who designed it and how did it come about ?

Todd - It was designed by Martin Designs in conjunction with Rucker Computer Solutions in order to show off their work at the Atlantic City Motorsports Show.

You won best appearing car at Dirt Trackin show at the 2007 Dirt Trackin’ Show. What did that mean to the team ?

Todd - It was another neat experience to be able to reward Martin Designs for their help.

This past season you ran your first wingless race. how was that experience running with USAC ?

Todd - It was the most fun I’ve had in the car. Without the wing the motor was so much less important. It really equalized the cars and made the car’s set-up and the driver much more important.

What is the major difference running without the wing ?

Todd - The car just reacts completely different in every way.

Do you plan on running any USAC races in 2008 ?

Todd - Williams Grove and Hagerstown.

Why do you think more local teams choose not to run with USAC when they come to our area ?

Todd - I don’t know. In many cases it’s because of a conflict with their usual track. Those races that didn’t conflict were through the week which also makes it difficult on people and crews that work at other jobs.

Who all helps out on the car ?

Todd - My main help is from Ryan Wolf (a friend of mine) and my father when needed.

How about your sponsors ?

Todd - My main sponsor is Andrew Rucker of Rucker Computer Solutions. I also have support from Sea Bass Chilli and R&B Wooden Treasures.

Wow can fans and potential sponsors contact you ?

Todd - Through my web-site (, Myspace account( ) , the Williams Grove Message Board, or just stopping me at the races.

What are your hobbies out side of racing ?

Todd - Lifting weights, watching other sports, and playing with my dogs.

What are your thoughts on the tire rule that you had in 2007 ?

Todd - As a lower budget team that never has new tires the rules don’t help me that much. The 1 tire a week rule makes it more difficult to get quality used tires from other teams that aren’t already completely used up. The Hoosier rule is also detrimental. I used to be able to occasionally get new tires from other manufacturers for a discounted price because they were a “track tire” or for some other reason. Now I am unable to do so and forced to pay what Hoosier wants for a tire without the ability to do some “comparative shopping”.

How do you feel about passing points being used in the heat races instead of the regular points handicapping ?

Todd - As a fan and competitor I like the handicapping. It’s fun watching the best in the business have to come from the back and see new faces get their shot in the front.

This past season we lost Billy Kimmel in a racing accident at Williams Grove. How do you as a driver put that out of your mind when you are strapping into the car ?

Todd - To be honest you don’t think about it in the car. At the garage you make everything as safe as possible and go out and do your best.

How hard is it for a driver to see some thing like that happen to a fellow competitor and friend, then strap into the car and race ?

Todd - It makes you wonder what your friends and relatives think when you’re out on the track and the effect it has on them. I want to do this more than anything so the risk is an afterthought. But for those close to you…it’s hard to say.

How did you get your nickname "The Amish Outlaw"

Todd - A sponsor pictured an Amish driver when he first heard my last name. Somehow this misconception evolved.

word association
(first thing that pops into your head)
1. Fred Rhamer- RESPECT
2. your father- My hero
3. your wife- Very patient
4. Susquhanna Speedway- Great idea that somehow turned bad
5. Lincoln Speedway- Great close quarters racing
6. Williams Grove Speedway- speed
7. message boards- the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly depending on the poster
8. the fans- fun to be around
9. Bobby Allen- Racing idol
11. Billy Kimmel- passed on while living his dream
13. chili cook off- Great fans supporting this great sport
14. Knoxville- until next time…
15. Todd Zinn- determined

A big thank you to Todd Zinn for sitting down for this interview. Good luck to Todd this year and if you ever see Todd at the track make sure to stop him and say hi, as i don't think you will find a nicer guy in the pits.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Message Boards

We'll it seems like once again someone has to write an article about the message boards that most race tracks have on their web sites. A gentleman who writes for AARN wrote an article the other week criticizing people who post on message boards. He wrote that most people "With star-trek screen names who spend hrs. online in their moms basement, because we have nothing better to do." are a detriment to the sport. I do agree with some of what he said, and here is why.

Some of the people who come onto message boards know that they can post anonymously by creating a screen name. Know that they can say anything they wish because no one will ever know who they are, they feel they are free to bash any driver they wish because they will never come face to face with that driver. We even have people who will have an agenda with a certain track and will do nothing but put down that track knowing that know one will ever know who they are. To put a stop to this all we would have to do is enforce a rule that says if you decide to sign up and post on a message board, you will use your real name. I for one have never had a problem telling anyone what my name was on a message board and have gone out of my way to meet as many people who run the sites as well as other people who post on these sites. There is a quote from someone who said that once you put a face with a screen name, that person always seems to watch what he says. he might be on to something there. makes you think don't it?

Know Mr. Elliot's main problem was that the message board is a place where any person is able to talk trash about another driver and how that driver is doing during the season. That does seem like i problem for the drivers, but i personally don't have a problem with it. I believe you can talk about the troubles a team is having at the track in a productive way. The problem arises when people take the opportunity to bash a driver for no reason what so ever. Most of these type of people would never have the guts to say it to the drivers face, so they come on a public forum and post it because once again, no one knows who they are. Most of what is discussed on a message board is an extension of what most fans talk about in the stands. "Bench racing" has been around for ever and more than likely will never go away. The problem that people have with it is some people can't just say something , they have to bash the team for no reason. There is no need for personal attacks any where on a public forum. It only makes the fans of the area look bad for the things that you are saying. Why would you want to make our whole area look bad because you have what you think is a personal issue with a driver or team?

Know that is not to say that the message boards are all bad. On the contrary we have quite a few people who have done a lot for our sport. Ron Judd is a member of the message boards and he is the brains behind the National Open Chili Cook off at Williams Grove. Because of his idea (which was started on a message board) the fans of central Pennsylvania racing fans have been able to raise over $16.000 for the teams that entertain us every week. Mike Root is a member of the message boards. He is the brains behind the Beer hill Gang. A group of fans (who are all members of a messgae board) who help sponsor a number of race teams that race at williams grove. Mike Crittenden is a member of message boards. He sponsors numerous late model teams in the area, not to mention he donates money to different causes in the area to help raise money for the race team's.

The thing that most people just don't seem to realize (or just don't care about) is that most of the drivers family's read what we post. How would you feel if your son or daughter was on the computer and read that some one thinks you are the "biggest piece of shit that ever strapped into a car" you might not be so happy would you? These drivers and teams spend a lot of money to entertain us every week. They put their lives on the line every night at the track, just so you can go on a message board after the race and " tell it like it is". Now i know it is always said that we should not criticize a person unless you have done what they do, and i have always used the excuse that i have never thrown a pass in the NFL, but i know i can see a bad pass when i see one. But the difference is those people are not one of us.The drivers who run at our local race tracks across the country, are just like me and you, except that they are willing to spend a lot of money to do what most of us could not, or will not ever have the balls to do. And that is go 100 mph down a straightaway and throw it sideways into a tight corner with another car right beside them. Trust me when i tell you they do not wreck each other on purpose, and most of the time the drivers make up with each other way before you can come onto a message board and complain about it.

We'll that's about it for this time.Just remember to use your head when posting on a message board. Yes we have fun and bust on each other. We might even be a little cruel to each other at times, but most of us are all there for one thing, and that is because we all love the sport of short track racing.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A weekend at the races

On the weekend of April 11th and 12th i had the opportunity to follow the 358 race team of Tim Wagaman II. Tim Wagaman Racing has ben racing 358's for the past 2 years at Trail Ways and Lincoln Speedway. The 2008 racing season has the team really excited for the possibility of their best season yet. The team is starting strong with 2 fully prepared cars with 2 race ready motors, which the team hopes will bring that first ever win for the team. And with a little luck, maybe even a points title at the end of the season.

Friday April 11th sees the team heading to Trail Ways Speedway for the season opener for the 358's. the team is excited about their chances of running good this year at TW and have already run 2 shows with the car, and they feel they are ready for the bullring that sits just outside of Mcsherrystown PA. I got to the shop at 4:45pm and found team members Justin Reese and Brent Lawrence there already with the car parked and strapped into the hauler. Justin was mixing up the spray that they use to coat the car to help keep the mud from sticking to the car. As Justin is mixing it, they joke that he has the mixture down pat, as he likes to use it the baby oil on the Chinese prostitutes that he loves so much. (the first thing you learn hanging out with the team is they have a wicked sense of humor, and love to have fun at the track.)

Tim shown up to the shop at at 5:05 and it's off to the track. It takes us about 20 minutes to get from the race shop to the track. They sign in and the night could not have started off any better for the team as Timmy pulls the number 2 pill, which should give him a front row starting spot for his heat, which should make their chances to make the feature invert that much better. The team is ready for that first win, especially now for the teams new car owner Timmy's new born son Timmy Wagaman III. As the rest of the crew shows up at the track, they start checking and rechecking the car to make sure everything is right with the car.

As the race grows closer everybody is keeping an eye on the clouds that are seen in the distance. The team starts to discuss how they should set up the car for the start of the night, as TW has added more banking to the back straightaways and the 3rd and 4th turn. At 6:35 there is the first sign of rain at the track. At 6:45 the officials call the drivers for the drivers meeting. At the end of the meeting the officials ask the teams to load up the cars for now and wait to see what the rain is going to do. No sooner does the team get back to the hauler the clouds let loose with a heavy down pour that gives TW no choice but cancel the races for the night. As the team loads the car into the hauler the feeling of dejection hits as they had a great starting spot in the heat wasted because of the rain. The team heads home at 7:00 hopping the the good luck they started with on friday night carries over to saturday night at Lincoln Speedway.

Saturday April 12th sees the team at Lincoln Speedway for the second 358 race of the season. The team shows up at the track at 3:20 and are signed in and in the pits by 3:35 pm. As the crew files into the track Tim Sr. shows up with supper and the team devours it. As they eat and talk with other teams making their way into the pits, Tim Sr. is hard at work mounting tire for the race night.

Timmy goes out for warm ups and when he gets back to the pits, tells the team that the car feels great. Timmy starts his heat race from the 5th starting spot. he makes his way up to 4th during the race but on lap 6 Tim and Kevin Nouse make contact coming out of turn 2. With the track surface making it a one grove track, passing is difficult. Kevin had a run on Timmy on the outside as they came out of turn 2, and Timmy pushed up the track and his left front made contact with the Kevin's right front causing Kevin to spin and then flip. When the racing resumes Timmy restarts 4th, but Chad Criswell got by him for 4th and Timmy settled for 5th, on spot out of a qualifying spot.

The team decides to change just about everything on the car for the consi. Timmy started 2nd and finished 2nd to Nate Berwager to make the feature.

The feature saw Timmy starting 19th . The car was feeling perfect at the start of the 20 lap race and Timmy was able to pass quite a few cars during the race. As the laps where winding down the car started to get tight on Tim but was still able to make a bold pass with 2 laps to go and get by 2 more cars at the end of the feature and finish in 9th place. The team was ecstatic with how the car and driver did in the race tonight, passing 10 cars in 20 laps on a one grove race track. It gave the team hope for what the rest of the season has in store.

After the race the team breaks open the cooler, and have a much deserved beer or 2. All in all a great weekend spent with friends and family (which is what this sport is truly about) and Tim Wagaman Racing is looking forward to a great season at the races. The team finally leaves the track at 1:30 am. They head home to get the car ready for another assault at the track next weekend.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A conversation with Chad Criswell

Today i have the pleasure of having a conversation with 358 driver Chad Criswell. Chad races locally here in central pa in the 358 division at Williams Grove and Lincoln speedway. Chad was gracious enough to sit down with me and we discussed his racing carrier starting in go carts and going all the way to his first win at Williams Grove this past season. here is the very informative and very candid conversation i had with Chad.

Your father drove sprint cars in the 70's and early 80's here in central pa. What are you earliest and fondest memories of his racing career?
Chad -I remember the smell of methanol. I read a study that showed our first memories are attributed to a smell, (i.e. Mom’s cooking, Ocean Air), for whatever reasons, my first memories are the smell of Burning Methanol. I have a bunch of random memories, I remember cheering for my Dad at the Grove and Port Royal, and I remember getting very upset after watching him flip one night. When I was little, I would sit in the stands, and watch from there…I never made it into the pits..or the racing shop for that matter. He was worried I’d drop bolts into his injectors. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure I played football once with Billy Dietrich while at the races, if I remember right, he was a lot bigger than me. The one thing that still stands out the most after all of these years, was standing in turns 1 and 2 at the Grove, and seeing the bright colorful cars, the drivers with the vibrant helmets… to this day it’s a pretty awesome sight. I remember being 15 and telling my Dad that someday, I’d be out there doing that.

When did you decide to get into racing, and how did your father react to the news?
Chad- When I was young, I wanted to race. My mom still has the drawing I brought home from Kindergarten that said, 'When I grow up, I want to race sprint cars' Dad stopped racing sprints when I was 6 years, and they kind of kept me away from racing. I wasn’t allowed to start racing until I was 16 (1996), because they wanted me to be able to sign myself in. The thought was, if I got hurt, I wouldn’t be able to say it was their fault because I was old enough to know the dangers, and I signed myself in. My Dad has been a firm believer that there is a certain maturity that goes with Racing. It was a late start compared to a lot of guys, but, it made a lot of sense. Also, Racing is expensive…and I had to get a job and make money to put into the Kart. My Dad wanted me to realize at an early age that you don’t just wreck and forget it…so he paid the majority of the bills, but I still had to help out where I could. My Dad was fine with me wanting to race, and his Rules were simple: 1. we raced if we could, 2. if I wrecked a lot (stupid stuff), the car would sit till it was repaired, 3. He would work in the shop as long as I was out there working, 4. There would be no arguments between us, 5. I had to be dedicated. (All 5 of those rules still apply to this day!) At first, My mom was not too crazy about me racing. I think she and my Dad had some discussions, but I don’t know… However, one of the things he told me before we started was… 'Don’t get hurt racing.. if you break your leg, you walk in the house, walk up the stairs, kiss your Mother and tell her you’re fine… and then, the next morning.. you can say you fell out of bed… just DON’T get hurt racing… or we’ll both be in the Hospital'

You started in go karts in 1996 racing them for 2 years. What type of carts did you run?
Chad- I ran the Mediums and Heavy’s at Hunterstown, PA; Shippensburg, PA; and Augusta located in Hampshire, WV. The first kart we had came from Mr. Clyde Little, the same man that my Dad got his first go-kart from way back when. Over the years, Mr. Little has helped a lot of the drivers out there today, at one time or another...the Gobrecht’s, Leppo, and a bunch of others.

How big was winning the motorama show for you as a youngster?
Chad - That was a pretty neat deal. We actually almost won two of the races, but I lost my brakes while in 2nd during the Heavy’s feature, and ended up getting caught up in a lapped traffic wreck. But, winning the mediums was pretty cool. I kept that trophy… it’s big. I know it’s not the size of the trophy that matters…, but I did keep that one.

While you went to college you ran 270cc micro sprints. what was a typical week for you as a student/driver?
Chad - First off, there is a pretty long off season, So, needless to say, I had a lot of fun up at WVU… I don’t remember a lot of it, but it was a good time. Although, I keep hearing there are some pictures floating around that I’ve never seen.. I’ll probably never be able to run for Political office in Morgantown if they exist.. but, oh well. Regardless, during the fall and spring, I would get pretty serious, and get all my work done during the week. I’m not that Smart of a person, so I probably had to study a little harder than the other Engineering Students… but, I passed ( 'a D+ is not a grade they like to give out, I can tell you that much') No, Honestly, I did pretty well in school, had a couple of academic scholarships, and the deal was simple, I kept my grades up, and my scholarships, I could keep racing.. otherwise, racing funds went to college tuition. The weeks I was at school and still racing, my Dad would take care of all of the maintenance on the car, and I would leave Friday after class, and meet him at the track. My younger brother Derek actually went to WVU too. He isn’t big into racing, so he doesn’t come around the races a whole lot .. but between the two of us, he’s got more 'natural' talent than I’ve ever had. Honestly though, he just never really got the racing bug. I will state for the record, that he could 'hang' with the TOP 10% of the guys on Beerhill… no question. He’s a Criswell…so he’s competitive… just in a different type of sport.

How hard was it to get off school and make the trip to pa to race every weekend, and still keep up with your studies?
Chad - It was pretty tough, and I’d leave after the Saturday night race at Shippensburg, and get to Morgantown at about 4 in the morning on Sunday. Normally, there were still some parties going on. But, I’d wake up around 10 on Sunday, and then get started on school stuff. It was worth it though. A few people know this story but during 1998 National Open, I came home from WVU to go and watch it. That was the year that the Outlaws got rained out, and they rescheduled the Open as a true National Open. Billy Pauch won running a Zemco car, with a Davey Brown motor ( I can still remember the way it sounded). Any ways, after the race was over, we walked the track, and I found a quarter in the race track surface off of turn 4, that was bent at a 90 degree angle. I handed to Dad, and never really thought much more than, it was cool that a racecar did that to it. That Christmas, when I came home from College, my Mom and Dad had the Quarter polished, and put on to a pendant. As it turned out, the date on the Quarter was 1980, the same year I was born. He told me to wear it up at school, as a reminder of what my ultimate goal was, and hopefully to deter me from doing anything to take me away from that. (Ignore my answer to question 5 … and remember that it’s not polite to judge!) Honestly though, he told me that if I ever got to race in the National Open, during the pace lap, I’d have to drop the Quarter in turn 4, and give it back to the track. Obviously, I’ve still got the Quarter… not really a good luck charm, but definitely a reminder. By the time I was in College, I should probably mention that my Mom had turned the corner, and was fully on board with me racing. She saw a lot of my friends out on the weekends, but she knew I was hanging out with my Dad, at the race track. A lot of people don’t know this, but we would have never gotten a micro sprint had my Mom not suggested it. The same person I was going to have to hide my broken leg from, was suggesting that we get a micro… that was pretty cool. In all fairness, I still to this day would have to hide a broken leg from her, and my wife as well…so, I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. Darn Bed’s, so easy to fall out of!

What was your favorite track to run micros on?
Chad - In the 270’s, Shippensburg… I learned a lot from Cory Haas actually while racing there. He was the class of the field, and he helped me out some when I was first learning. He taught me that you could move the inside tires with your left rear, under caution, and make another lane to pass on. That actually changed how I started looking at the actual driving part of racing. I later got pretty good there, and really learned how to run lapped traffic. In the 600’s, Path Valley. There was a stretch of 6 weeks where we finished First or Second and Jimmy Brookens would finish in the other spot. Jimmy taught me a lot about intensity, and when to turn it on, and when to lay back.

In 2003 you stepped up to the 600cc micros. How steep was the learning curve going from the 270's to the 600's?
Chad - The learning curve wasn’t too bad. We had always run a Probe Chassis, which is a great car built by Barry Livelsberger out of New Oxford. He pretty much got us competitive right off the bat, and other than engine problems, we did really well. Barry is probably one of the greatest 'unknown' mechanics / builders in the area. I believe he was turning wrenches on Leppo’s car when he won his first race at Susky. He’s helped Kevin Gobrecht way back when he first started, Steve Owings, Jim Siegel in the micros. A lot of people don’t know how sharp he is with Sprint Cars.. The fact that he built and set up our 600, made the learning curve pretty short though. Speaking of Barry, while in college, I would always spend a few days of WVU’s Winter and Spring break at my friends Frat house at Gettysburg College. I’d work at Barry’s shop during the day, and then , well party at the Frat house at night. I worked for free, normally hung over, but I gained a lot of experience and had a lot of fun during those days working for him. He still picks on me to this day about some of those stories from the night before, though.

How trying for you as an owner/driver was the 2003 season?
Chad - It wasn’t too bad actually, I had a job, was living at home, and basically, other than a $10,000 loan for two engines, I had things under control. My parents and grandparents still helped me out, but that was the first time I really paid for the majority of the car. I actually finally paid the loan off during my second season of 358’s in 2006! Talk about being annoyed at a Note.

Is it difficult to keep the two different sides of you separate while racing?
Chad - Honestly, I don’t keep them separate … they are very much the same. Normally, I won’t make a move if I think it would wreck the car. Or, if I’m not comfortable, or it doesn’t feel right, I probably won’t run the cushion. But, to answer you question, even if I was driving for someone else, I’d probably race the same. Some guys just don’t care, and they probably learn quicker than I do, but it seems like every time you wreck, it puts you behind for the rest of the year. That, and then instead of maintaining the car, you’ve got to rebuild it. Unfortunately, I’ve learned how to rebuild them a few times. But, when the car is good, it’s working, then it’s all about racing, and you tend to make a few more riskier moves. But if something is wrong, or something sounds weird, or is breaking, I’m probably going to pull in and save the car. Now, two weeks ago, I lost power steering at the Grove.. it made the car impossible to control on the cushion, but it wasn’t too bad on the bottom groove, so, I stayed out and kept running. Obviously, it wasn’t going to hurt anything, I was in 5th… why pull in, but say the engine started overheating or something like that, yeah, I’d probably shut her down, and hopefully live to fight another night .

How much do you think about money when you are on the track?
Chad- Never while on the track… unless I wreck, then… it’s like a calculator going off …$200 front axle, $ 300 in wheels, and on down the line. But never while racing, just in the aftermath! Normally, those nights are a pretty long ride home!

In 2005 you made the jump to the ultra competitive 358's. what was your rookie season like from and owners perspective?
Chad- I’ve always wanted to race a full size sprint car, and we were looking into the 305’s.. and the opportunity arose for a 358 in mid, with help from my family (both Parents and Grandparents), we got a 358, and got ready for the 05 season. 2005 was a wake up call on how much these things cost. Everyone kept saying they were close to a 600.. Well, Everyone was wrong! I mean REALLY wrong! But, we ran where and when we could. Ran a lot of used tires, and had a lot of fun.

How bout from a driver's perspective?
Chad- I actually ran 3 races in 2004 right after we bought the car… basically just to see what we would need in 2005. In fact, I timed 24th at Lincoln’s 04 358 championship, and was supposed to start on the pole in the heat race… but, ultimately started last after talking it over with my Dad… I later found out that Mr. Wayne Harper announced to everyone at the track that 'I’d been sent to the rear by my father'.. it was kind of funny, but it was the smart thing for me to do, and I wasn’t ready to haul in to that first turn with all of the other guys behind me… I’d have probably torn up the car, and a bunch of others for no good reason…maybe not, but we opted for the rear. The speed wasn’t hard to get use to, but the power steering was… I had to put in about 16 degrees of caster just to feel the front end. We even put a piece of white tape on the wheel so I could figure out when the wheels were straight! Seriously, I couldn’t feel the front end.. I’d be going down the straightaway looking for the tape to make sure the wheels were straight! But, as I got more races, I got use to it. These things move around a lot too, the way the slam into the ground in the corners.. it takes a little bit to get used to that. When I first started in the 358’s , Steve Siegel told me that it takes 3 years to really learn how to drive a sprint car.. not that you couldn’t win within the first 3 years, but to really learn how to drive one, it takes about 3 years. I can’t say that he was wrong.

Explain what winning the rookie of the year award at Lincoln speedway meant to you?
Chad- That was cool, and actually I finished 10th in points that year…so that was pretty neat deal as well. I knew I had a lot to learn, but it was nice to get recognized. I kind of figured going into the year that Carber and Owings were going to be tough in that category… and Carber left to do the 410 deal. So, we ran pretty decent and it worked out. It was definitely a goal, and nice to achieve it.

How difficult is it running against 40 to 45 cars every week?
Chad- It’s tough. I mean, we use to do it in the micros, but, it was different… I had a lot more confidence there. In the 358’s, there are a lot of good cars, and when we’re on the track during the course of the night (the first heats) with a green track, it makes passing difficult. But, it is what it is, every one’s got to deal with it, and you can complain about it or just keep trying to get better at it. I probably do a little of both, but mainly I just try and get better.

What kind of a mind set does it take to start 12th in a heat and try to finish in the top 3 so you can make the invert for the feature?
Chad- Confidence.. easily mistaken for stupidity. According to my crew, I’ve been prone to both! Honestly though, Confidence in knowing when to push it, and when to back off, and knowing what the car is going to do. A disciplined Controlled aggression.. I’m still kind of figuring it out. But, I basically know who’s in the heat, and normally have an idea of what I want to do before we even line up. Back to the time I opted to start in the back of the heat, if a pretty green driver is in front of me, I’m probably going to scare him, or move by him quickly.. cause the chances are good he’s not in tune with what the other 11 guys behind him are, and he’s going to cause a wreck.

What goes through your mind as you are strapping into your car for the feature? how do you prepare mentally for a race?
Chad- I have pretty much the same routine getting into the car. I’m listening to my crew.. and they know me well enough by now to know that if I say I’m probably going to run low, I’ll end up on the cushion…of if I’ll probably run the cushion, I end up running low. I don’t do anything real special I guess.. just focus on what is at hand. I’ll tell you though, it’s an awesome feeling to know that you’re getting ready to run the thing hard.. I’m grateful every time I buckle in to a sprint car… there’s a ton of people that will never get the chance.. and that is something I don’t take for granted. While riding around before we line up, I’m normally looking over the track, seeing if there is anything special I should note. I probably don’t start getting mean until we’re getting lined up… then it’s go time.. NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING else matters just before we hit the green flag… leave the women and children at home, and lets go looking for some supper, cause no one out there is going to give anything to you.. .The best quote I’ve ever heard to describe the situation ' Hammer down gentlemen… Hammer down'.

You won your first race at the grove in 2007. how big was that for you and the team?
Chad- That was a pretty big deal. I was happy I had won, and not that it matters, cause a win is a win, but I started 6th and came forward. So, at least I passed some cars, ya know. Now, I’ll take every Pole Start I can get… That was the first time my Grandpa got to go to victory lane at the Grove, that was probably the most emotional thing for me.. he got to see me win at the Grove, and stand in Victory lane. My dad won pretty much everywhere but there…so, he and my Mom were excited, and seemed proud. Van Thorpe of American Ceramic tile owned the engine in the car, and it was his first win at the Grove.. so he was happy. Todd Smith, the new crew chief on the car had a bunch of wins there before…but, I think he was pretty happy with the progress he was making, and seeing some of the results of his work! The rest of the crew was happy.. I still remember seeing Chris Rudloff running towards the scales, arms in the air, jumping up and down… something I’ll never forget. Honestly though, my wife stayed home that night… and I was thinking, she’s going to kill me for winning when she’s not here! But, she was excited.. although, in all fairness, she did get teased pretty good about 'staying home' from more races… Driving home though, once we hit Chambersburg, it was on to thinking about the next night at Lincoln. (the last thing I wanted to do at Lincoln was wreck…cause, how many times does a guy win on Friday, and then wad it up the next night… well, lucky me, I am now part of this Cliché, Of no fault but my own, I stepped on something in the cockpit, and flipped at Lincoln the following night… to this day, I’m still a little irritated by it)

You led the 1st part of that race only to be passed by Gerard McIntyre jr. walk us through what you thought as he passed you and how you kept your composure to not only catch him, but pass him back as you came past the flag stand for the white flag?
Chad- After a red flag, our car got real tight… I actually almost went for a ride when he passed me, cause I jumped the cushion pretty good coming off… He was gone…well up in front of me, and doing a really good job on the restarts, but.. it’s racing, you never give up. Dale Hammaker showed me his nose on the bottom in ¾..and my crew had signaled me to head to the bottom, and I just moved down the track. I had been wrestling the car on the cushion, and it worked a lot better on the bottom. After a couple laps, it kept getting better and better, and then it was a matter of slowing down to go fast. It wasn’t easy, but he did a good job, and only messed up in one spot. He kept me low going into 3 the lap before, and stayed in front… the next lap, he did the same thing, but instead of trying to race him into the corner, I lifted, let him slide up a little bit, and then drove under him. He did the same thing I would have done, and it just happened to not work the second time on that night. It could have gone either way, and I’m definitely glad it worked out for me, but he’ll get his first one soon. I did tell him it’ll eat on him forever. I finished 2nd to Jake Radabaugh one night in 2006 at the Grove, and I had one shot at passing him, and didn't try it… that one still eats on me. As far as giving up, I’m normally pretty aggressive in the car, almost mean ya know?.. And you just never give up. You can’t give up… why do it if your not going to give it your all? I love racing, I’ll race you through a car wash… I don’t care, I just want to beat you… and if I can’t beat you, I want to beat everyone else.. that’s it.

Besides the obvious answer of Williams Grove, what has been your favorite track to race at and why?
Chad- Port Royal… For some reason, in 2005, I just really was comfortable at that track… I like it there… But, my favorite track has always, and will always be 'where ever we are running the best' Speedway. They are all unique..

You had a bad flip at selinsgrove speedway what goes through you mind as the wreck is happening?
Chad- I don’t remember the actual impact… I was racing for a final transfer spot, and 07 of Bill Schoffstal broke a radius rod, and came across the track and hit me. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, just a victim of circumstance. He was on the bottom, I was on the top, and that night, I was the bug… instead of the windshield. I came to about mid flight, 'luckily', before the first impact on the ground. It hurt. I broke a bone in my hand (the next morning while brushing my teeth, of Course), but the funniest two things happened after the wreck. While getting out of the car, and coming out of La La land (it was nice there that time of year), I hear this heavy breathing, I see the track crew is running towards me , and of course my first thought is… 'I landed on someone'.. well, here, my 5’-4' wife, ran past the corner man, scaled the wall I just flew over, and was the first person beside me. To this day, I swear she was speaking a different language, or maybe I was still in la la land, I don’t know…but I did pick up a 'don’t ever do that again', and some other obscurities, that I later had to look up in a dictionary. In all fairness, a lot of husbands age their wives over the years..and I’m proud to say I aged Amy about 10 years that night. Like I said, I’ll race you in Anything! The other story is pretty funny, I’m back in the trailer, and talking to the crew, and my one crew guy is wearing safety glasses (cause it’s Selinsgrove, and never dusty up there) Any ways, we were talking after the wreck and I see my image reflecting in his glasses, and I notice this brown ring around my neck… so I ask him, what the heck is that brown ring around my neck… He looks at me and goes, 'that’s your @$$ hole… remember when you were inverted, and hit the ground… yeah, that’s what happens'. Needless to say, my face went blank… and I began a new respect for the amount of G forces under gone in a wreck. All joking aside, it wasn’t fun, I don’t recommend it.. but, we’ll be back to Selinsgrove . All in all, it was just one of those unlucky deals. It happens, we all move on.

What changes would you as a driver like to see changed for the 358's?
Chad- Maybe a little more structure for the division to control some of the rules/schedules. The purse is close, could be a little more, but if we could reduce the operating costs, even that would be fine. I really like the 358 division, and don’t have major aspirations of doing anything bigger on my own. One of these years, I would like to try a 410 just in the National Open… just to say that I did it, and kind of close the book on that goal. I could go on about my thoughts on how the 358’s are viewed, but I’ll keep them to myself, cause we all know that opinions are a lot like that brown ring that was around my neck after the Selinsgrove wreck. But I will say this, at the end of the day, it’s Pennsylvania, from Karts , micros, thundercars, late models through ‘410’s’ this state has some of most competitive racing in the Country and by far the best and most dedicated fans… everyone should be proud of that.

From an owners perspective, what rules do you think could be changed to help the division maintain the car counts they have, and help bring even more teams into the sport?
Chad- Rules are tough, because regardless, they will always cost you money up front..Always. But, if in the long run they’ll help, then it’s worth it. Karl Kinser said the most important thing about a racecar is motors and tires… they’re also the two most expensive things. There are a lot of things that could be done, but again, unless all the tracks do it, we split the division, and that would hurt everyone including the fans. I think without a governing body though, we are at the mercy of tracks, which.. is not always a good thing. But, brown ring again.. I’ll shut up.

With the economy the way it is right now with gas being so expensive, how do you continue to make the tow from West Virgina all the way up to pa?
Chad- It will definitely effect us…and could reduce our proposed schedule, but I’m fortunate in the help I get. I’m not the only car owner… it says Criswell Racing, and that is what it is. Everyone on our team puts in money at some place, and we all have a vested interest. From my Wife and myself, to my Parents to my Grandparents, to my mother and father-in-law, all of my Sponsors and even my crew. Somewhere, we all spend money on the car. That’s how we do it. I’m very fortunate to have the people around me that I have…

How does it effect the team as a whole?
Chad- Right now, it hasn’t hurt a whole lot, but if it keeps getting worse, it will effect everyone…from fans, to the teams. But hey, none of us make a living doing this… we’re happy to do it when we can, and fortunate at that. Hopefully, it will get better before it gets worse.

On weekends when you run 2 nights here in a weekend, what does the team do? where do you stay and sleep as well as work on the car?
Chad- In the past, we’ve always come home. Chris Rudloff would come back to WV with us on the 2 night weekends last year, and that was a huge help. We are looking at possibly changing that around this year due to the fuel and time issue. We’re only 1.5 hrs from the Grove / or Lincoln… but, we are still working on how we are going to approach this season.

Who are all the sponsors who help pay the bills on the car?
Chad- Van Thorpe of American Ceramic tile, Bill Gawler of Quality Collision Repair, Jason Walls of WRT web designs, Scott Shaffer of Keizer wheels, Brian of Wings Unlimited, Pro Shocks, Simpson, and a slew of other individuals and companies that help keep us on track. I have to include Bob and Clint Kriner for there help over the past two seasons… giving us strong engines, and willing to go the extra mile to keep everything in tip top shape. Like everyone else, we are always looking for some additional help. The whole living in WV thing definitely does not help the sponsorship thing.. If I ran a late’d probably be a lot easier.. Really though, everyone involved with our team works hard, and again, puts in money somewhere… I’m just the guy that gets to drive it.

How about the guys and gals who help get the car on the track every week?
Chad- My Dad, Amy (my Wife), and I do most of the work here in WV. My Mom takes care of most of the race track specialties (food, etc). Todd Smith, who came on at the beginning of last year as crew chief, and made a big difference. Chris Rudloff, who’s been with me since 2006… we’re both the same age, learning together, and having a good time. Lester Spidle, who came on board with us this season..and brings many years of experience. Spencer Putney, (Fred’s son), who has been with us since 2005, and is finally graduating from college, and will be able to help out a little more with the team in the coming seasons, and last but certainly not least, Patty and Don, who were crew members of my dad’s original team (bringing years of experience and opinions). Finally, they are part Sponsor/Crew/Motivators, but Deb and Dar for some reason or another, liked me, and have supported and helped me in my career as much as anyone. Couldn’t have asked for two nicer people to join along for the ride. Back to my wife working on the car… her Dad stopped over one evening, and saw her packing the rear birdcage bearings… he flipped out. Here she had never changed her own oil once while living at home. She then (showed a major lapse in judgement and ) married me, and here she was working on a racecar. He was an Extra proud Dad that day, for his little girl was working on a racecar. For some reason though, he keeps begging me to teach my Mother-in-law.

How can people get in tough with you?
Chad- Either at the track, by email, or through our website

Last question.... last lap you come out of turn 2 side by side with your father. who wins and how does it happen?
Chad- Hands down, he wins. No one intimidates me on a racetrack, I don’t care who it is, but my Dad would. If I can be half as good as what he was, I’ll be happy, and consider my career successful. I’ve had opportunities that he couldn’t have dreamed of when he was racing… and without a single doubt, had he had a few more breaks, the record books would have been different, a Lot Different. That’s not a brown ring either, that’s a fact. He’s an extremely competitive person, but he has such a control over his aggression and emotions, and then he concentrates it into something productive on the track.. that is intimidating. He wouldn’t wreck me, because that’s not his style… but he’d push me to within a half inch of it…no more / no less… and while doing that, he’d already be setting me up for the next corner. There’s no friends or families on the racetrack… just helmets and other objects you want to beat to the finish line.

i would like to thank chad for taking the time to speak with me. he was vary honest about his history in the sport and i hope that you all will take the time if you see him at the track to say hi and say thanks for making you night just that much more fun. i hope you all had as much fun reading it as i did hearing it. see you all at the track very soon.