Monday, July 16, 2007

More racing to come


Recently, I've been covering motorsports for The News-Sentinel. Up to now, all of my experience has been gained providing the paper with photo coverage of the Indy 500 for the last few years. This year, however, I am writing about racing as well, and it started with a story I did about Baer Field Speedway a few weeks ago.

It was my first time at the speedway, and I was a little surprised at the speeds those cars can get to on such a short track. I can also say with certainty, those race drivers don't do it for the money. The payouts were somewhat less than I expected they might be. In some case, I bet the payout for winning doesn't cover the team's cost of the fuel used during a weekend. Baer Field pictures can be found here.

Last week, I travelled to Rossburg, Ohio, to cover a race at Eldora Speedway. NASCAR's Tony Stewart owns the half-mile dirt track that sits out in the middle of nowhere but boasts tremendous history providing a starting point for several hall of fame drivers careers, including A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. NASCAR drivers Kasey Kahne, Dave Blaney and Stewart entered Tuesday's race in the winged sprint car division.

Although the NASCAR drivers said they were there to compete, the best finish of the group was Kahne's fourth place. Afterward, thought, the placingg didn't really matter to those guys. They were there to have some fun without all the pressure that the Nextel Cup Series brings. I had heard that Stewart was hard on the media, but aside from having to wait a long time for a short interview, I found him to be relaxed, quite personable and easy to talk to. Although it made a long night for me, I didn't mind too much. Stewart and the others signed hundreds, if not thousands, of autographs so I took the opportunity to talk to some fans to try to get some inside information about the NASCAR fanatacism. I talk to some nice folks who waited all day for a chance to meet one of the drivers.

During Stewart's endless line of autograph signing, he talked to one fan who asked when he was going to get it done again. Stewart told the guy he hoped to be back in Victory Lane soon. Well, Stewart made that happen Sunday with a win in the USG Sheetrock 400 in Chicago. Maybe the fun he had on the dirt track Tuesday was enough to help deal with the pressure. Maybe not, but it must have been nice to get away from the big time to take a step back. I plan to ask Stewart about that when I meet up with the crowd down in Indy for the Brickyard weekend. Until then, I plan to spend some time learning a little more about the racing world.

More Eldora Photos can be see on The News-Sentinel's new community photo sharing website named CU: here.

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