The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

June 6, 2014

Shawn Wood on The Inside Track: Mother Nature not being kind to race fans

SELINSGROVE — I’m beginning to understand how the late, great comedian Rodney Dangerfield used to feel.

“I walk on the sunny side of the street and it still rains. I tell ya, I get no respect all at — not even from Mother Nature!”

Rain made another appearance on the first two nights of the five-race United States Auto Club’s Eastern Storm Series on Tuesday and Wednesday. After two nights of racing at Grandview and Lincoln Speedways, the scorecard read USAC 1, Mother Nature 1.

Two showers and an electrical issue caused minor stoppages in the racing action at Grandview on Tuesday as the Thunder on the Hill racing series is celebrating its 25th season.

I had the honor of being the first-ever pit reporter for the series in 1989 thanks to series promoter and longtime publicist for the United Racing Company sprint cars, Bob Miller.

I remember the day Bob told me that he was going to bring the Southern California Racing Association non-wing sprint cars to the track. It was a novel idea to bring traditional, non-wing sprints back east to the area which saw the best-ever drivers race sprint cars with USAC starting in the 1950s.

Wednesday’s promotion at Lincoln Speedway brought together the oldest touring sprint car series, URC, and one of the most famous names in racing with USAC.

Bob’s vision over the last 25 years has kept fans entertained despite having only five or six races a year at Grandview, along with the Eastern Storm which is now in its eighth year.

A quarter-century of racing grew from one driver asking about a 410 sprint car race at Grandview. Bob truly seized the moment and ran with it.

The Eastern Storm dates are now a routine “must-see” on USAC’s calendar. The dates are only a few weeks before Indiana Sprint Week which is another testament that a championship can be won or lost in Pennsylvania.

For the first time in a while, there were thankfully no flips during the USAC portion of Tuesday’s show, although Billy Pauch Jr. came as close as you can to getting over but made a great save.

Pauch is a third-generation driver who can drive the wheels off any car — dirt or asphalt — and he proved how good of a midget driver he is as he came from deep in the field to finish second in the feature.

Midget racing at Grandview is a sight to be seen. At one point there was a five-car battle for second!

Had the feature been 30 and not 25 laps, Pauch might have caught eventual winner Tim Buckwalter.

Buckwalter, a former series champion with the American Racing Drivers Club midgets, is running in the 358-modified division, Grandview’s headline division, on a regular basis.

There is something about the name Buckwalter that goes hand-in-hand with midget racing at Grandview. Tim’s cousin Steve is very tough to beat in a midget at the track.

The race was your typical non-wing show at Grandview with plenty of side-by-side action which is just one of the reasons fans keep coming back each year for this show.

Wednesday’s sprint car doubleheader drew 26 non-wing cars and 32 URC/358 winged sprint cars.

Former Selinsgrove regular Davie Franek looked very fast in winning his heat race and he may have had the car to beat had the rain not come before the USAC feature.

Lincoln Speedway has been long known for doing everything possible to get the show in, even if that means waiting out the rain. They waited two hours to see what would happen, but unfortunately, the rain did not stop.

The USAC and URC/358 feature will be made up as part of the show next year.

Dave Darland, of Lincoln, Ind., set the track record in qualifying with a lap of 15.174 seconds. He was one of nine drivers who bettered the previous track mark.

One can only hope there is no rain in the forecast in 2015. Then again, this is the week NASCAR rules Long Pond. It always rains when NASCAR comes to town.

No respect at all!

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