DirtOnDirt Blog: The Scariness of Uncertainty

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

I’ll be the first to admit that I need to start watching more movies like Mary Poppins. I need happy in my life right now.

I’ve probably watched too many shows like the Walking Dead, Into the Badlands or the short-lived NBC show Revolution. Post-apocalyptic science fiction television is always a great escape from the mundane weekly grind. While it’s always kinda neat to fantasize about what life would be like if we were one of the characters on a show like that — you know, just nomadically roaming the planet in search of food, electricity or another normal human — most of those TV shows skip over the chaos that likely ensued leading up to the pilot episode.

That’s what I thought about this week as I watched the events surrounding the coronavirus outbreak unfold. I wondered, were we smack in the middle of that chaos without realizing it? Could we soon be destined for black leather outfits with matching masks, driving around in an old Ford Falcon XB GT coupe, searching for fuel like Max Rockatansky in the Road Warrior? One trip down the toiletry aisle of any major supermarket would certainly suggest so. It was madness indeed.

I likened searching for a pack of toilet paper to actually hunting. I went out, didn’t see anything, but managed to nab a couple small critters like frozen chicken strips and Buffalo chicken bites. I planned to try again in a day or two, hoping to bag that elusive four-pack of TP. I even considered setting up trail cams along the entrances to local Dollar General Stores so I’d know when a supply truck comes by. It’s laughable. Sort of.

I’m not sure where we’re headed with the coronavirus. I’m not sure anyone knows and that’s the biggest problem, the uncertainty itself. We’ve spoken to dozens of racing industry insiders over the last 10 days, from drivers and crew members to track promoters and parts dealers. For the most part, they all shared the same concern: What’s gonna happen four, five or six weeks down the road?

A common theme that kept coming up in the conversations with the people I talked to was simply that “It’s scary.” I’ve heard that time and time again. The last week or so has served as a somber reminder that while we live in a free country, we’re not always free to do what we want. And it reminds me a little of 2001.

It amazes me when I mention 9/11 to my children and they barely bat an eye. The terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., that took place on Sept. 11, 2001 — and the political policies and the war that followed — helped shape the way we live today. I was born in 1970, near the end of the Vietnam War. Though I was only 5 when it ended, I was fully aware of what it meant to our country by the time I was 20. I’m not sure I can say the same for the generations that have come since 9/11.

Like most everyone that day, I remember where I was when I heard about the terrorist attacks. I was working at National Dirt Digest in Murphy, N.C., and heard about the attacks on the radio on my short drive into the office. It was a Tuesday morning and we were preparing to finish up the paper, put an edit on it and get it set for Wednesday’s printing.

As the news of the events began to filter through, it was still unclear how the tragedy would affect Dirt Late Model racing. I was scheduled to go to Texas Motor Speedway’s dirt track in Fort Worth for a UDTRA race that coming weekend. I was driving from North Carolina, so I was leaving early on Thursday to be there in time for Friday’s on-track action. The UDTRA race was being held in conjunction with a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and Indy Racing League doubleheader at TMS.

As more and more professional sports organizations began to cancel their events, I made a number of calls — along with the rare email — to Texas Motor Speedway officials to see what the word was, and each time they assured me that the event was on go. We all pretty much knew that if the plug was pulled on the IRL and truck series races that there was no way the UDTRA tour would make the trip to Texas. When my deadline for hitting the road arrived, they still hadn’t cancelled any events, so I headed out.

I was about 11 hours from home — still three hours from Texas Motor Speedway — just across the Texas state line near a little place called Marshall, Texas, when I started meeting NASCAR haulers. I immediately pulled off at the next exit, called the office and had someone call TMS to verify that the event was indeed cancelled. Of course it was. I definitely wasn’t surprised. According to reports later, they made the call to cancel the events at 1 p.m. Thursday, more than 48 hours after the terrorist attack.

Calling an audible, I wheeled my Honda Accord back eastbound and with the help of National Dirt Digest editor Todd Turner plotted a new plan for the weekend. I headed to Chatham’s Louisiana Motor Speedway on Friday night for a $3,000-to-win Southern United Professional Racers race, then rolled nine hours north on Saturday to I-55 Speedway in Pevely, Mo., for the 19th annual I-55 Pepsi Nationals.

The mood was understandably somber at each track. And amid the uncertainty, both events were almost cancelled. At Chatham, SUPR founder Donald Watson had considered cancelling the show, but ultimately left the decision up to the track promoter, telling me at the time, “if it was up to us, we probably would have canceled.” But Watson himself was among the 38 entries in an event won by Rob Litton of Alexandria, La.

“I’ve been so depressed watching and seeing this that I actually turned the TV off; my mind needs to be somewhere else,” Watson said of the countless news reports following the attack.

At I-55 the following day, a packed grandstands watched Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., slip by Bob Pierce of Danville, Ill., to win his fifth Pepsi Nationals. Pevely co-promoter Kenny Schrader didn’t want to talk about the terrorist attack specifically, but did tell me they “did consider” canceling the Pepsi Nationals. “We had a lot of people call ... and none of them were complaining; they were all thanking us for not rescheduling,” Schrader told me.

Those were hardly the only races that weekend.

There were a dozen that paid $3,000-to-win or more, along with a bevy of weekly shows around the nation. Among the biggest events that weekend, Chub Frank won $21,000 in a STARS-sanctioned race at Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway; Denny Eckrich won the $15,000 Yankee Dirt Track Classic at Farley (Iowa) Speedway; Shannon Babb pocketed $12,000 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield; Rex McCroskey earned $6,600 at Joplin (Mo.) 66 Speedway; and $5,000 winners included Kevin Claycomb at Barren County Speedway in Glasgow, Ky.; Audie McWilliams at Brushcreek Motorsports Complex in Peebles, Ohio; and Pierce at Paducah (Ky.) International Raceway.

The Southern All Stars, Deery Brothers, SUPR, Northern Allstars, Rick’s Racing Series, ALMS and WDRA were among the regional tours that kept plugging along, though they all did so with a heavy heart. At I-55’s UMP-sanctioned Pepsi Nationals, $6,328 was raised for a New York City-Washington D.C. disaster relief fund through donations and a raffle.

Thinking back about the events of that weekend and the weeks that followed, it’s so easy to make comparisons to what is happening in America right now. That’s until you factor out the unknown, which, unfortunately is the part that primarily drives fear. Immediately post-9/11, we had no idea what would happen next. Government officials were still gathering information and trying to formulate a response. This week, government officials are still gathering information about Covid-19 and the responses seem to change by the hour. But that’s really where the similarities end.

I can’t tell you if races should’ve been held this weekend or held next weekend or the next. That’s the unknown and it could be months down the road before we can factor that part out of this equation. In the hours after the 9/11 attack, officials grounded all commercial flights in an effort to keep people safe while trying to get a grip on what had just happened. That’s kind of what they’re doing at the moment as many states have issued bans on public gatherings over a certain number of people. I really think they’re just trying to protect as many people as possible until they can get a grip on the situation.

I know that I didn’t take a commercial airline flight for about a year or so following 9/11. And that was my choice. I believe if patrons do not feel safe attending events right now, whether it’s a movie, a church service or an automobile race, then they shouldn’t. That’s their choice. When it’s the right time to return, then return. If that means attending a weekly show at some off-the-beaten-path track this weekend, then have at it. If that means waiting until the all-clear horn has been blown, then by all means wait.

Another word kept popping up when talking about the recent events this week also: resilient.

Racers are a resilient bunch and I believe they’ll weather this storm and hopefully the fans will stream through the gates in support just like post-9/11. For now, we’re all likely to have some free time to get reacquainted with our families. While I’m waiting, I wonder if I can find Mary Poppins on Blu-Ray?

USAC iRacing Drivers Get Set-Up for Thursday's Opener

Tyler Courtney, Buddy Kofoid and Cannon McIntosh are among USAC’s most established and upcoming stars on the track.

Create a free account to unlock this article!

Get Started

Already a subscriber?  Log In

7 Wild Scott Bloomquist Moments from the Dream

Scott Bloomquist and the Dirt Late Model Dream have their storied histories intertwined. Bloomer has 8 (!!) Dream victories to his credit and has been a mainstay at Eldora since the first Dream edition in 1994. DirtonDirt's Todd Turner takes us on a look back at the best (and worst) Scott Bloomquist moments from Dream history.

Create a free account to unlock this article!

Get Started

Already a subscriber?  Log In

2018 Dream Binge Watch

Scott Bloomquist won an unprecedented 8th Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora Speedway in 2018. Here's a binge guide of the full weekend!

Create a free account to unlock this article!

Get Started

Already a subscriber?  Log In

Eldora "Dirt Late Model Dream Week" Watch Guide

Miss racing? Miss the Big "E"? So do we. This week, with DirtonDirt.com's help, we dive into the heartbreaks and triumphs of one of Eldora Speedway's crown jewels, the annual Dirt Late Model Dream, held every June at the historic 1/2 mile. Enjoy our "Dream Week" theme offering on FloRacing!

FloRacing 24/7 Watch Guide (Mar 30 - Apr 5)

Another full slate of USAC programming this week! Here is what's playing on FloRacing 24/7.

FloRacing Weekly Watch Guide (3/30 - 4/5)

null

Create a free account to unlock this video!

Get Started

Already a subscriber?  Log In

Quarantine life got you feeling like a living nightmare? We've got the cure: FloRacing Late Model Dream Week! All week long, we'll be bringing you the most memorable, the most controversial and the most exciting moments from every year of the Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora Speedway, including all the moments from the inaugural running in 1994 to the epic photo finish in 2019, all in collaboration with DirtonDirt.com.

Binge Watch: Indiana Sprint Week 2010

Create a free account to unlock this article!

Get Started

Already a subscriber?  Log In

All-Star Circuit of Champions Taking 'Week-to-Week' Approach to 2020

Eric Walls, the director of the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions, is as anxious to go racing as his 410 Sprint Car tour’s drivers, team members and fans. He understands, however, that he’s unlikely to hear the roar of race car engines as soon as he, and everyone else, would like due to the coronavirus pandemic that has overtaken the country.While the 410 Sprint Car series owned by former NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart hasn’t yet announced any event cancelations or postponements due to the crisis, Walls admitted this week that decisions will soon have to be made on upcoming races starting with the April 10-11 Spring Nationals doubleheader at Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park. He certainly wants to remain as positive about racing as he can be, but he knows the opposite will likely be the case with the series, which in 2020 has all of its events slated for live broadcast to FloRacing subscribers.“Yeah, we’d love to race,” Walls said. “But when reality sets in, let’s be honest, we’re not gonna race till May probably.”Walls is monitoring the ever-developing landscape on a “week-to-week basis,” keeping open a sliver of hope for competition to happen if the spread of the coronavirus were to slow enough for government and health officials to relax existing stay-at-home and mass-gathering orders that are keeping racetracks shuttered. But reports of positive coronavirus cases have been escalating in recent days — including in the states of Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania that are slated to host the All Star events scheduled for April — so a quick return to normalcy seems unlikely.“We love to race, and if we get the ‘all clear’ (from government officials), we’ll go racing,” Walls said. “But just for the safety of the fans and the drivers and everybody involved (in the running of a race), we’re gonna take this one week at a time and make sure everybody’s safe and ready to go back to action here.”Walls has been in contact with the promoters of the tour’s April events that begin with Attica and go on to Virginia Motor Speedway in Jamaica (scheduled for April 16), Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. (April 17), Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway (April 18), Bedford (Pa.) Speedway (April 19) and Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, Ohio (April 25). All the track operators have their facilities ready for what would be an attractive and lucrative stretch of racing for the ASCoC, but the crisis supersedes all the best-laid plans.According to Walls, the response he’s giving to All Star drivers who call looking for information on upcoming races basically tells the story of the circuit’s current status.“I’ve had a few drivers reach out to me, just for their travel plans,” Walls said. “A couple of our drivers fly to different places so they wanted to book their travel.“Not that I knew what was gonna go on as far as what the government is gonna do, but it was just my opinion to them that I certainly hope that April 10 we’re racing, but I’m a realist. I can’t see the government from state-to-state lifting this ban until later on in the season.“It’s just giving them my opinion on it and they can book their travel if they want to, but at the end of the day we’ve got to use some common sense when we’re looking at this too.”Walls is already scouring the 2020 calendar to consider makeup dates for races that might fall to the coronavirus situation. That includes the April 16 stop at Virginia Motor Speedway, a $12,000-to-win special that VMS and All Star officials worked together to schedule during the NASCAR weekend at nearby Richmond International Raceway — a weekend that NASCAR has already postponed to an undermined date.“It’s just going through the schedule to where we’re thinking racing is potentially not going to happen and trying to look down through our schedule and reschedule races,” Walls said.With the kickoff of the 2020 ASCoC season in February at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., and East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla. (both tracks ran two races), Walls started his second year as the tour’s director on an uplifting note. He never could have imagined having to deal with the unprecedented crisis that has presented itself, but he remarked that some trying stretches during his rookie campaign at the helm helped prepare him for curveballs thrown at him.“If you could look into the future, I guess (Ohio Sprint) Speedweek last year really groomed me into this position this year,” said Walls, a native of Chambersburg, Pa., who now lives in Brownsburg, Ind., near the Tony Stewart Racing shop that houses the ASCoC office. “With Speedweek, it was just rain every day. We got to the point where we knew we needed to race and Speedweek was a unique opportunity (with teams in one general area), so we started reaching out to racetracks and saying, ‘Hey, it’s not gonna rain there … do you want to race?’ We just took the schedule and moved it all around and got as many races in as we could.”Calling what has come up this year “a challenging time for sure,” Walls anticipates that he will have to do some creative scheduling once again this season. Adding races at tracks that are already bringing the series back later in the season? Extending the season past the planned finale on Sept. 26 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio? Everything might have to be on the table.“It will certainly be a unique year,” Walls said. “I think from not only our series but other series as well, including USAC and the (World of) Outlaws, you’re gonna see something different that no one’s ever seen before.“Our schedule’s a little bit unique. We go to a lot of the same racetracks at different times of the year, and we can certainly throw in an extra date here or there. But just looking down through our schedule late in the season, there’s not very many open weekends. And the open weekends we have built in, they’re for bigger races so our guys can go travel to race with different series. That’s something we built in there this year for our guys to go race for some bigger money in between during the season.“To lose some big money races this early on, it’s gonna make the season rough,” he added. “But I think we’re gonna motor through it and hopefully we can get to racing by the end of April or the first of June and everything goes smooth from there on. It certainly will not just be a flip of the switch (to return to normalcy for the country), that’s for sure. If I had to guess, it’ll be a slow process of going back to full time, but we’ll be ready when it happens.”

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

6 Favorite Duels From Indiana Sprint Week

The biggest stage for the AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series deserves a top list of the biggest showdowns. There are no shortage of thrilling moments during the yearly Indiana journey. Sit back and enjoy the ranking of our favorite Indiana Sprint Week duels of all time!

Create a free account to unlock this article!

Get Started

Already a subscriber?  Log In

5 Of The Strangest Moments From Indiana Sprint Week

Most moments in racing proceed in orderly fashion the majority of the time.  However, those unpredictable moments in racing are what keeps us coming back.  But even better, and more rarer, are the moments that make us crane our necks, send our mouths agape and make the ordinary moments not so ordinary in the end.  That’s the category where these particular moments fall - the ones we will always remember, but still make us scratch our heads then and now.

Create a free account to unlock this article!

Get Started

Already a subscriber?  Log In