|Date: 2/17/2010 10:19:00 PM|
RICK @ the RACES ( 9 to 14 Feb)
10 Feb Volusia Speedway (FL)
11 Feb Daytona Speedway (FL)
13 Feb Orlando Speedworld (FL)
13 Feb Volusia Speedway (FL)
This past week the DIRTCAR NATIONALS were taking place at the Volusia Speedway in Florida, which conveniently coincided with Daytona 500 week. Although Volusia was the prime target for me, the abundance of other racing activities made it a good time to take a road trip.
My original plan went something like this,
Wed 10 Feb Volusia Speedway.
Thur 11 Feb Daytona Speedway (day) New Smyrna Speedway (night)
Fri 12 Feb Orlando Speedworld (day) Volusia Speedway (night)
Sat 13 Feb North Florida Speedway
A combination of family commitments and dear old 'Mother Nature' altered my agenda.
On Tuesday 9 Feb , I worked until 2-30 pm, but was back at home at my place ten minutes later. After a quick shower, I was ready to go when my buddy Roger Aubin arrived in his Ford Escape to start our winter road trip.
We left Cornwall , Ontario at 3-00 pm and our plan, like last year, was to share the driving , and travel non stop through the night to Volusia. The weather forecast wasn't good and we knew we'd be encountering a big snow storm on the way down. We got a little bit of snow around Binghamton NY, but nothing serious until Harrisburg PA. Roger's Escape has snow tires so we were able to cruise along at a decent pace.
By the time we got to Baltimore MD conditions were pretty bad.
We'd arranged to make brief stop in Baltimore to pick up some things for my daughter Carla. She's recently relocated to Fort Lauderdale (Florida) and needed a few of her belongings taking down there. These were at her mother's place ( my ex wife Pat) which is less than a mile from the Baltimore Beltway.
We arrived at Pat's at 1-00 am where the snow was already over a foot deep. We quickly loaded up Carla's stuff and were on our way . By 3-30 am we were just north of Richmond. VA where we pulled into a truck stop for a couple of hours 'shut eye'.
It was still snowing as we headed south from Richmond and it didn't stop until we crossed the State line into North Carolina. Wednesday was spent traveling through the Carolinas and Georgia before rolling into Florida by mid afternoon. The sun was now shining when we pulled off at the Ormond Beach / Barberville exit of the I 95 at 5-00 pm .
We stopped at a gas station and it was at this point that Roger noticed we had a problem. There was a screw sticking out of the side of one of our rear tires. The tire was still well inflated so I gently started to take the screw out. As I did this, a hissing noise could be heard, so I quickly screwed it back in. We then took it slowly for the last 15 miles to the track. We decided to watch the nights racing and keep our fingers crossed the tire would stay inflated until we could get it fixed.
The racing turned out to be first class, with a pits crammed full with BIG BLOCK Modifieds and DIRTCAR UMP Late Models.
My preference is for the Modifieds and there were over 40 of them. Canada was represented by Quebec's Mario Clair, Michel Chacoine , Wallace and Dexter Stacey with Stewart Friesen and Tim Kerr flying the flag for Ontario. The 30 lap feature turned out to be sweet and sour luck for the Ontario duo. In the opening laps , Kerr was involved in a huge wreck on the start stretch that also claimed Brett Hearn (NJ ) , Andy Bachetti (MA), and Dan Vauter (PA).
Meanwhile Friesen went on to grab a flag to flag victory and become the first Canadian to win a Big Block Modified tour race in Florida. Shannon Babb of Illinois took the Late Model feature.
The racing was over by 11-00 pm and on our return to the parking lot were pleased to see the rear tire was still inflated. We then took a slow ride towards Orlando where a hotel was booked.
Our first priority on Thursday morning was to get the tire fixed, so a visit was made to the nearest Walmart . Unfortunately the screw we'd picked up was on part of the side wall and a repair could not be made. A new one had to be purchased and was quickly put on by the tire fitter. While he was doing this I wandered around the store and bought a small step ladder. Why did I do this you may ask ? Well, if you want a chance of taking decent photos at Volusia, a ladder is a must. The infield is surrounded by a six foot fence and other obstacles to hinder the camera men.
Following our early morning diversion to Walmart, we set off for the Daytona Speedway. Our schedule for the day included the Gatorade Duels. We arrived around midday and parked at our usual spot about a half a mile away. The closer you get to the track, the more you pay for parking. We preferred to pay ten bucks and walk a little further instead of getting ripped off with 30 bucks for parking nearer to the entrance. We were there early enough to catch some of the practice for Saturdays Nationwide Series race. We managed to see former Indy Car pilot Danica Patrick in action.
Both of the duels were excellent races with about three inches separating Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick in the first race and about ten inches between Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart in the second. The show was over by 5-00 pm with Johnson and Kahne as the two winners.
Our original plans for Thursday evening were to attend the nearby New Smyrna Speedway, but Carla and her boyfriend Alex had driven up from Fort Lauderdale, so we decided to give it a miss. Instead we all went out for a meal at the 'George and Dragon' an English pub on Orlando's International Drive. It was in here, I made the mistake of betting that Carla wouldn't have the courage to get up and sing for the Karioki . To my surprise, she did, and my part of the bargain was to do like wise with a rendition of 'Pretty Woman' ! The late Roy Orison would not of been impressed !
The weather forecast for Friday wasn't good, with rain predicted for most of Florida. We said goodbye to Carla and Alex after a good breakfast at 'Sizzlers' then took off in the direction of Orlando Speedworld to see the Legends. The morning had been overcast with the occasional light shower, but heavier rain was imminent. At the track I bumped into a few friends from Ottawa's Capital City Speedway . Capital City's new boss, Jeremy Coulter was there along with three of my local drivers, Kevin Foisy, Bob Sugrue and Mike Madore. After chatting with Jeremy we found out that due to the wet weather , the days events had been canceled and the program would resume early on Saturday morning.
We guessed this would be the same scenario at all of Friday's scheduled events, but as we had nothing else to do, we decided to drive round to each track anyway. Volusia, New Smyrna and Daytona were all scrubbed. Friday evening was spent dining out which was followed by a few beers.
Back at the hotel we watched the live TV transmission of the opening of the Winter Olympics from Vancouver. I'm not a big fan of the Olympics but the opening ceremony was compelling viewing. The special effects showing Canada's heritage were awesome with hockey legend Wayne Gretsky lighting the Olympic flame.
Saturday morning it was breakfast at 'Sizzlers' again before making our way to the Orlando Speedworld at Bithlo once again. They were still drying the track when we arrived, but the sun was shining and it wasn't long before I was out on the middle taking pictures of the Capital City guys competing in the qualifiers. We also spent a short time watching bike action at a MotoCross event that was taking place at the facility.
By 2-00 pm it was time for us to move on to our evening event. Friday's rain outs meant we missed out on a second trip to Volusia, so decided to change our plans for Saturday night. In preference to making a first time visit to the North Florida Speedway in Lake City , we decided to end our 'Florida road trip' at Volusia. After all, the DIRTCAR NATIONALS were the main reason for the trip.
We arrived at about 5-00 pm in good time to wander round and chat to other race fans. Roger has been a fan of New Jersey's Billy Pauch for many years and he got the chance to chat to him in the pits. I placed my newly acquired ladder against the fence in the middle and was ready for the action.
Joining the Big Block Modifieds tonight were the World of Outlaw Late Models. Brady Smith of Wisconsin took their feature after holding off Earl Pearson (FL) and Tim McCreadie (NY). Josh Richards was victorious in the Series Championship.
In the 50 lap Modified feature Pauch led for the first 39 laps until Matt Sheppard (NY) took over to grab the lead. Sheppard was then challenged by Dale Planck , Rick Laubach and Billy Decker who'd all moved into contention. It was an exciting race to the flag where anyone of the first five could have clinched the win. At the checkers it was Sheppard at the front to take the victory along with the 2010 DIRTCAR NATIONALS championship.
The racing finished around 11-00 pm and it was time to head for home. By 1-00 am we'd got as far as Jacksonville, where we booked into a cheap motel for a few hours sleep. We were on the road again by 6-00 am and making good progress up I 95 . By taking it in turns to do the driving, the miles seemed to go by quicker.
To avoid the busy daytime traffic around Baltimore and Washington DC we cut across country on Hwy 17 to join the I 81 at Winchester VA . This was a route I used many times in my early trucking days in North America. Along the way we had been listening to the Daytona 500 on the radio and we reached the Flying J Truck Stop at Carlisle PA , in time to watch the finish on TV . It was good to see a different winner with Jamie McMurray fending off a late challenge by Earnhardt JR to take the checkers.
We'd been looking forward to one of Flying J's great buffet suppers but were in for a big disappointment ! The restaurant had been turned into a Denny's . ( I have nothing against Denny's but I hope this isn't going to happen to all the Flying J's ! ) We'd set our hearts on a good buffet so made our exit and frequented the Petro Truckstop located just down the road. Their buffet was first class, so this will be our choice on future road trips.
By 8-30 pm we were back on the road again and around midnight we encountered a minor snow storm near Binghamton NY. We crossed back in to Canada at the 1000 Islands border at around 2-30 am and were back in Cornwall before 4-00 am. So ended another successful road trip.
PIC 1 The unusual front end on the Mod of Eric Acquaro
PIC 2 Quebec's Michel Chicoine
PIC 3 Quebec's Mario Clair in combat with Brett Hearn
PIC 4 Brett Hearn and Ontario's Tim Kerr come together
PIC 5 The wrecked car of Brett Hearn
PIC 6 The wrecked car of Tim Kerr
PIC 7 Ontario's Stewart Friesen wins the opening night Modified Feature at Volusia
PIC 8 Shannon Babb wins the opening night Late Model Feature at Volusia
PIC 9 Volusia advertising at Daytona
PIC 10 Danica Patrick in practice at Daytona
PIC 11 Yours Truly at Daytona
PIC 12 Jimmie Johnson winner of one of the Daytona duels
PIC 13 Alex, Carla and myself at the George & Dragon in Orlando
PIC 14 Kevin Foisy works on his Legend Car at Orlando Speedworld
PIC 15 Kevin Foisy and Bob Sugrue in action at Orlando Speedworld
PIC 16 Mike Madore lines up at the Orlando Speedworld
PIC 17 Motocross at the Orlando Speedworld
PIC 18 Billy Pauch and Roger Aubin at Volusia
PIC 19 World Of Outlaw Late Model action
PIC 20 World of Outlaw Late Model action
PIC 21 Brady Smith wins the WoO Late Model race at Volusia
PIC 22 Josh Richards wins the Late Model 2010 DIRTCAR NATIONALS
PIC 23 Modified action at Volusia
PIC 24 Matt Sheppard wins the final night feature and the 2010 Modified DIRTCAR NATIONALS
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