The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 3, 2014

Shawn Wood's Inside Track: It's racing season again

Daily Item

---- — It's racing season again

There was a time during the long, cold winter, that even the most diehard race fan had to wonder if the season might start by June.

Following sub-zero temperatures, snowstorms, and a Polar Vortex, along comes the groundhog and declares six more weeks of winter on Feb. 2.

And Mother Nature was more than happy to oblige to his prediction.

Thanks, Phil!

But, alas, while the racing season did get a late start, birds are signing, the Phillies won on Opening Day and Selinsgrove Speedway opens a new era on Saturday.

All is right with the world again.

Last year was a tough year for the racing community with three on-track deaths.

Then, just when it seemed as though we had gotten to a point of healing, 15-year-old Niokoa Johnson was killed in a single-car accident in her very first race at Bubba's Raceway Park in Florida a few weeks ago.

A stark reminder that our sport has a very cruel side to it.

There was plenty of racing broadcast on the Internet from Australia and New Zealand during the sub-zero winter nights to hold over even the most diehard fan.

For the first time in its history, the Australian 410 Sprint Car Title was streamed live from Tasmania. It was great to sit back and watch 410 sprint cars fire up in the dead of winter on back-to-back nights.

The time zone difference meant the feature was usually getting over by 7 the next morning. But seeing the sun rise was not a bad payoff to hear the sounds of engines. Now if someone could create an application that would allow the smell of methanol to permeate the room while watching the race, that would have made the experience that much better.

Last December, the Performance Industry Racing trade show returned to Indianapolis after a stint in Florida and wouldn't you know it, a snowstorm hit the city during the weekend of the show.

The show floor was so crowded on Friday that it reminded me of walking through the pits on Carb Day at Indy.

It was at the show that Steve Kinser, the 20-time World of Outlaws champion, made the announcement that 2014 would be his last year to run for a points championship.

Kinser, 59, got a bit sentimental during the press conference while watching a video tribute to him.

His final points race in Pennsylvania is Oct., 25, at Port Royal, one week before the season ends with the World Finals in Charlotte.

At the annual kick-off breakfast on Thursday, Kenny Schrader and Richard Petty were interviewed by talk show host Dave Despain.

While Schrader can tell some really good stories, it was the King who brought the house down.

Petty, in his trademark cowboy hat and sunglasses, reminded the overflow crowd that today's race car used by NASCAR is so much easier to drive than when he started, they even let a girl do it.

Spontaneous laughter and applause erupted as the crowd knew that Petty was speaking of Danica Patrick.

There was one part of the conversation that hit home on some columns we have written in the past.

Petty remarked that the fans were his sponsors back in the day and he owed it to them to sit and talk with them and sign autographs. For they were the ones who helped put food on the table for his family.

Sadly, three months after the show, his wife of 54 years, passed away on March 25 at 72, after a four-year battle with central nervous system lymphoma cancer.

The 2014 season has already seen a number of dates lost to weather. While April showers will bring May flowers, some nice weather would be a welcome sight for race fans after the long, cold winter they endured.

n Shawn Wood covers motorsports for The Daily Item.