Knoxville Nationals Week Part 1

Welcome back, I know it has been a while since I last posted a blog entry, but it was a very long 12 days since my last entry. Right now I’m camped at Deer Creek Speedway in Spring Valley, MN watching it pour down rain since 1:30pm. The races for tonight have been postponed until September 19th. Now I am just waiting for the rain to stop and the roads to dry off before I start heading to Grand Forks, ND for Friday night’s races. I hope you enjoy this blog, it might get long winded, but I do have 12 days of stuff to write about, and I do not type that fast.

Going back to the “Ironman 55” weekend at I-55 Raceway, crap was it blistering hot, the heat index was well over 105 each day. Friday night’s race was a great one, Craig Dollansky drove his ass off, especially after Schatz passed him, and ended up winning the 30 lap feature. Ray Marler did a great job of managing the track surface and the track was perfect for the A-Main. My friend Todd Rogers (an old Navy Buddy I was stationed with in Guam), came over for the weekend and had a good time. I know we definitely drank way too much beer, but that is what we also did in Guam and on the ship when we were on deployment. Todd also helped me troubleshoot my refrigerator in my trailer, we figured out I had a bad battery in the trailer and I was loosing voltage to the frig.

Saturday, it was again hotter than hell (I’m sure I will find out how hot hell is when my time is up) my generator ran for over 40 hours during the 2 days I was there. I didn’t want to leave the A/C, but I had to. The “Ironman 55” was an event, not just a WoO race, and it had that event feeling. The racers were excited and the fans were pumped up. While the track was being worked on, all the drivers in the A-Main were introduced to the crowd as they walked through the crowd, I think the crowd really liked that. I met the guy who named the event (I think it was Dave, but I can’t remember right now) and gave him a ride on Woody after the B-Main and he helped wave to the crowd during my wave lap, I think he enjoyed his ride. The race was a good one, even with the fuel stop (I hate fuel stops), the Kasey Kahne cars dominated the race and Joey was the best in traffic and pulled off the win.

After it stopped raining here at Deer Creek, I took off towards Rogers, MN to spend the night. I made it to the Lowes their and spent the night. However, while drive I noticed that I was a little down on power and I could hear a new noise in the engine compartment. This morning Thursday August 20th, I drove to a Cummins shop in St Cloud, MN to have them look at my problem, well it looks like my turbo is going bad and I have an exhaust leak at the manifold. It is still drivable, so I made an appointment at the Cummins Dealer in Grand Forks, ND for Friday morning to get my turbo replaced and the manifold fixed, awesome, just another $2,000 to get the RV fixed. I made it to the Wal-Mart here in Grand Forks with no further problems, except for the rain. I don’t know who pissed off Mother Nature, but she is not being very kind to us right now. Now back to my blog that I started yesterday.

Sunday, August 9th, was a long travel day, I drove to Oskaloosa, IA from Pevely, MO. I took I-55 to I-270 around St Louis to I-70, and then I got on HWY 61 all the way to Wayland, MO. We stopped at the Flying J and put the satellite up to watch the SPEED broadcast of the Kings Royal. I was pleased with the coverage for this race, plus Bobby Gerould mentioned Woody and me by name (thanks Bobby). After watching the race, it was time to Dump the tanks and fill up with water & diesel, it was off to Oskaloosa, IA. We took HWY 136 to US 63, and stayed on that to Osky, however, when we got to Ottumwa, IA, my easy drive turned for the worst, I knew a huge storm was coming, but I was hoping to beat it to Osky. Nope, I hit the storm in Ottumwa and it went from sprinkles to total blinding washout in seconds, I continued to push on and when I left Ottumwa, the storm never let up, I was driving 40 mph, couldn’t see more than 100ft in front of me and the wind was around 40-50mph. I white knuckled it all the way to Osky and luckily I made it without getting washed off the road. If you’ve ever driven in Iowa, you know they have the worst roads on earth, I hate driving in Iowa, especially in the rain. We made it to the Wal-Mart in Osky in one piece and then the rain slowed down and finally quit about an hour later.

Monday it was time for the Front Row Challenge in Oskaloosa, I arrived at the fairgrounds (nice time to completely dig up the main entrance road to the pits) around 11:00am and parked in my normal spot I’ve camped at for the past 3 years. The weather was beautiful all day and up through the heat races, then Terry’s luck with Mother Nature came a calling, after a 30 minute downpour, it took over 3.5 hours to get the track and pit area barely usable. After a lot of patience from the fans and teams, we were able to get the race finished. Woody didn’t see the checkers, after using him up trying to work in the push lane and pit area to get them usable and pushing the big tires in the corners out on the track to keep the drivers from driving into standing water, and then having to be the pace truck. Woody had enough, with his tranny smoking, I called it a night on lap 7 and hoped that I didn’t hurt him too bad. Sammy ended up winning the race, and then it was time to watch all the haulers get out of the pits, about 15% made it by themselves, the others had to be pulled out by tractor. What a long night, my head it the pillow around 5:00am.

Tuesday, next up was the Ultimate Challenge, again the weather was beautiful, and it stayed that way all night. I rolled out of bed around 8:30am, just couldn’t sleep, I was stressing over the fact that I might have hurt Woody’s tranny right before the Nationals. I inspected Woody and didn’t see anything unusual, I smelled the tranny oil on the dip stick, it didn’t smell burnt and it was still bright red (Red Line Oil High Temp Tranny Oil is the best) did its job, no damage to the tranny, so now it was time to clean Woody up. After 3 ½ hours of cleaning Woody up (you wouldn’t believe how many nooks & cranny’s there are on Woody for mud to stick to) and drive him around town for a little bit to make sure the tranny was good. I made it the gas station and filled up with 8.9 gallons (Woody only holds 10gal) of gas. With no noticeable problems with the tranny, I took a quick nap and then headed in to the pits to work with USAC to make the Ultimate Challenge a good night of racing. Well, with no pace vehicle (come on Terry, with your talent to attract sponsors, you can’t get a pace vehicle), Woody was put into action as the Pace Vehicle. I find it ironic that the pace vehicle for a USAC race was Woody with his Wing on. I hope somebody got a picture of me pacing the field during the 4 Abreast lap. The race was a good one with an exciting finish, Jesse Hockett pulled it off.

Wednesday, I was up by 7:30am to dump the tanks and fill up with water and head to Knoxville. I arrived in Knoxville at the track around 9:45am and my camping site was roped off with caution tape (thanks Knoxville for saving my camp site) after I got Tommy Estes to move the Jeep that was being used to save my spot, I got settled in at Knoxville. On my drive from Osky, of course I had to drive through a downpour, so my RV & trailer looked horrible, oh well. The weather was great all day, after getting into the pits and seeing 50 cars and their crews all excited for the Nationals to start. At the drivers meeting, two new rules were placed in effect, first it was the change in the format, they only were going to invert the fastest 8 in each heat instead of the entire 10 car heats. The second change was the best thing I heard in the past 3 years, when a red flag comes out, if any driver rolls through the accident scene and was deemed by an official that he could have stopped, that driver would be disqualified. I love it, not a little slap on the wrist, just take it to your trailer, your done. It is about time a rule like this was implemented. After the drivers meeting and engine warm ups, here comes Mother Nature and her fury again, after about an hour rain storm and a 4 hour delay to get the track and pit area worked in, we finally got to see cars going fast on the track. Cody Darrah was fast time, close to the track record along with around 9-11 other cars under 15 seconds. The heats were kinda boring, but after the rain, the track just never widened up which made for a one groove track. The B-Main was stacked, and the A-Main had some cars in that would never have made it if it weren’t for the track conditions. Dollansky made a great charge, but it came to an end when some yahoo who didn’t belong in the race spun in front of the leaders and Craig nailed him and tumbled over. Tim Shaffer won the race, nice job Tim. After the last checker flag and spending some time with the fans, my head hit the pillow around 5:00am again.

Thursday, I was up around 9:00am again, this time I was woken up by Mike washing all the track 4 wheelers right outside my bedroom window (I knew this would happen, it just happens to be where my campsite is). So, I got up and started washing Woody, again 3-4 hours later I finally got Woody cleaned up and looking good. I took my daughter Selena downtown to get some Ice Cream at the Corner Cone. The weather was beautiful and a little warm & humid, I made it into the pits and looked forward to a great night of racing. The track was almost perfect, the last 15 cars to qualify were handicapped, but not out to lunch (if they would go to one lap qualifying, all the cars would have had a fair chance at fast time). The heat races were fantastic and it seemed like all the fast guys made it to transfer spots to the A-Main. What a fantastic A-Main, made better by the fact that my favorite driver (since I started working for the Outdoor Channel in 2004) Tim Kaeding won the race and made it to the A Scramble. I was stoked for Tim, Ray Brooks, Sonny Kratzer, Todd Ventura, and Dennis & Teresa Roth. After a few beers behind turn 4 at the chicken feed, I put my head on the pillow around 2:30am.

Friday I finally was able to sleep in to about 11:00am, I cleaned Woody up (only took me about the normal 45 min) and started removing the batteries out of the trailer to find out which ones were bad. I took the batteries down to Raceway Tire on HWY 14 and asked them if they could charge them up and load test them to see if any of them were bad. After making the rounds around town, I made it over to the Corner Cone for my daily chocolate shake and back to the track to get ready to go to work. There was some good racing in the qualifiers, watching Jason Sides & Sammy Swindell charge from the back to make it into Friday’s A-Main, and then watching them charge from the back to finish in the top 10 to make it into Saturday’s C-Main lineup. Prior the A-Main, I changed my only engine at this years Nationals, I helped Randy Hannegan and his crew change their engine after they blew one up on the last lap of their qualifier. The scrambles pretty much were anticlimactic, but there was some good racing. Stevie Smith and Joey Saldana locked themselves on the front row for Saturday’s A-Main. The World Challenge race was a good one, it was good to see Lynton Jeffery win the $10,000. Another good night of racing with great weather.

Saturday I woke up around 10:00am to blue skies and a feeling in the air that tonight’s race was going to be a classic. I went and picked up my batteries, they found 2 of the three were bad, now hopefully my frig in the trailer will last more than 2 days on battery power, since I got rid of the bad batteries. With around 100 cars in the pits, it was time to get Saturday nights racing underway. With rain looming, but an advertised start time of 8:00pm, the opening ceremonies started at 7:30pm with the E-Main rolling at 8:00pm. We almost got the E-Main done before the rain, but a red flag waved for the 33 car who hit really hard in turn 2, the hoop that keeps the driveline from flying around in the cockpit during a crash, well the hoop broke and when the drive line broke, it took out one of his legs causing 2 compound fractures. While the medical team was working on the driver to get him out of the car safely, here came the first round of rain, just a light shower this time. It took about 1 ½ hours to get the track ready again, and we finished the E-Main. The D-Main went off without much happening, then it was time for the C-Main, at any other track or race, this C-Main was stacked (Sammy, Sides, Johnson, Hannegan, Alley, Madsen, Jackson, and many more), with the track still one groovish, Alley and Johnson made the transfers to the B-Main. As they pushed off the A-Main cars for hot laps, here came the rain, and rain and rain it did. After it rained for over an hour, they called off the races and rescheduled the B & A-Mains for Sunday night. Then the rain really came down, with everyone in the pits and the pits quickly becoming a quagmire, it made it nearly impossible for teams to get their trailers in the pits. With 6-7 push trucks staying to help get teams gear and cars out of the pits, we were able to get everyone who wanted out of the pits with a lot of patience, no got hurt or their feelings hurt. So, once again Woody was a filthy mess and I put my head on the pillow around 4:00am. Not the night of excitement that I was looking forward to.

Its time to go to bed, I’ve got to get up at 7:00am to make it to the Cummins Service Center by 7:45am. I’m going to post this blog tonight and I finish off part two later this weekend. I hope you enjoy reading this blog and I will write more later.

Again, I want to thank all the fans for supporting me and Work 'N Woody and the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series. So, until my next blog, stay safe and keep all four wheels on the ground.
Work 'N Woody,
"Just Push'n Off"