Short Track Roundup (01/14/98)
14 January 1998
Mobile, Ala - Its the middle of January and the 1998 racing season is heading into high gear. Already there have been two big races and this coming weekend there will be more action from one side of the country to the other. There is a lot of news breaking out there as teams sort themselves out in preparation to go racing.
The first series race of the season took place at Tucson Raceway Park, AZ where Butch Gilliland captured the NASCAR Winston West Series opener by passing Ken Schrader with two laps to go in a maneuver that had the two leaders and a lapped car three wide at one point. Schrader held on to finish second and Gary Collins finished in third. This weekend it is the turn of the NASCAR Southwest Tour cars to try out the fast 3/8 mile oval at TRP.
It appears that the future of one of the oldest and best short track races of the year, the Snowball Derby, is in serious danger. Track Promoter at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL where the race has been run for 30 years, did not renew his option to run the track in 1998. This move is brought on by the failure of track owners and Spears to agree on a long term lease which would allow the needed improvements at the historic track. It also leaves the future of racing in the Pensacola area in jeopardy. The track is located in an area that is prime real estate and the chance of the owner deciding to sell the property to non-racing interests is one that looms large. This also leaves the ASA race scheduled for May 2 in limbo and the word is that that sanctioning body is looking for another Florida track to fill that date. Look for Joe Nott to be behind the wheel of the #1 LaFavre Racing Pontiac in 1998 and for there to be no Nott Racing entry this year. The All Star Racing team is selling off its equipment leaving Mike Garvey out of an ASA ride for now.
The first race of the Florida Race of Champions Triple Crown took place at Charlotte County Speedway in Punta Gorda, FL and Joe Winchell was the winner with Shane Sawyer and Johnny Kay the next two across the line.
On the sprint car scene Stanton Racing has finally found its driver for 1998, and its back to the old as they re-hire Australian Garry Brazier. Garry’s father Steve will turn the wrenches on the #75 MOPAR sprinter. Jack Cornett will build the Ford powerplants that power the Two Winners Racing sprinter driven by Jeff Swindell. The sponsor will also change to 104+ Octane Boost, a subsidiary of Gold Eagle Brands. Sammy Swindell will change to Stealth chassis this year as he chases another WoO Championship. Jac Haudenschild will run two USAC Silver Crown races but will concentrate on the WoO trail and the run for the Championship.
On the dirt Late Model scene, Rodney Combs will return to the dirt tracks full time in 1998 in a team car to Clint Smith. Combs will make a run at the Hav-A-Tampa Championship in a Ford sponsored by Lance Snacks and Riverside Sheet Metal. The car will be owned by Carlton Lamm. This coming weekend the dirt tracks get busy with the Ice Bowl at Talladega Short Track and the Mid-Winter 200 at JAX Raceways. The National Late Model Sportsman Series have announced that their opening race will be at Thunderbowl Speedway in Valdosta, GA on February 14th, but the schedule has not yet been released. Thunderbowl will operate as normal with track owner Louis Radney at the helm. Dead Lakes Speedway in Wewahitchka, FL has named William Clark, better known as ‘The Captain’, its General Manger/Promoter for 1998. Golden Isles Speedway in Brunswick, GA is reportedly for sale. The track is a 5/8 mile oil treated oval that is fast!
Speedweeks is fast approaching and Volusia County Speedway will be the place to be with racing every night featuring Sprints, UMP Late Models and those wild Supermodifieds. The Northern All Stars will run their first two races at Lake City Speedway the weekend prior to Speedweeks. STARS and Hav-A-Tampa will be at East Bay Speedway the same weekend making the western half of Florida a Late Model heaven for fans.
Finally the rumor is that Earl Baltes will announce the first $1,000,000 purse for a race at Eldora Speedway very soon. If that is true it should draw every late Model driver in the country to Rossburg, Ohio.
That about wraps it up for this week, but if you are in the Tucson, Jacksonville or Talladega areas, or anywhere else that the local track is racing, head on out and watch the best action to be found anywhere and for a bargain price. Have a ball, Ya’ll!
John Kaiser -- The Auto Channel