Success can be measured in many ways. I for one would have deemed Airport Speedway’s first practice day, which kicked off the 53rd consecutive season of our club’s existence, a success. I would have also deemed it a success even if only one car was able to practice during yesterday’s session, and after speaking with several club officials and track supporters, many of them would have felt the same way.
However, to the surprise of many, yesterday’s practice brought in several familiar and unfamiliar faces, and the practice that almost never was, turned out to be a practice that has left us all excited and ready for more.
As of 10am on Saturday March 21st, 3 inches of snow sat on the near frozen racetrack, and the first practice of 2015 at Airport Speedway was close to being cancelled. A cancellation due to weather would not have been questioned, as almost all of the tracks in the tri-state area were forced to cancel races and practices this weekend. I mean heck up until 10pm on Saturday night it was still looking as if Airport Speedway was about to end up another victim of Mother Nature’s March madness, which has altered early season race plans for plenty of local area teams, affecting everyone from micro sprints to late models.
Luckily, earlier in the week, the call was made to push practice from Saturday to Sunday, in order to give head of track prep Chris Turner an extra day to work with the track and judge its capabilities.
That extra day was exactly what was needed.
At 10am on Sunday morning, teams started filing in to have their cars be the first inspection line; it was like the DMV but with more smiles. There were several new faces, as mentioned before, and many of them were first timers at the track, as well as first time micro sprint drivers; and due to their participation in Sunday’s practice, they all earned a new, albeit temporary nickname, “rookie”.
These rookies were starting their journey in form of racing that has a rich history, but also a form of racing many do not respect, or even know about. A form of racing often mislabeled as just a feeder division, a form of racing that at times can be so competitive that tenths of a second can separate first and last place. And not to say this is uncommon in other forms of racing, but on the bullrings most micro sprinters race at, the intensity is magnified, and the competition and our competitive nature is unmatched.
At rookie school we try to explain that to the new drivers, and we ask them to respect not only their equipment, but also their opponents. We try to push the idea that yes you run your own race, but the outcome of your race almost always depends on the outcome of your opponent’s race, and their misfortune could also end up being your misfortune. It is also stressed to these new competitors that their on-the-track intelligence will ultimately influence their on-the-track success.
The rookies were the first to take on the track at 130pm, which turned everyone in attendance, from racers to track workers, into spectators. It was a promising sight to not only see the wide range of cars in attendance, which included winged & wingless 600s, winged & wingless 270s, 250 stocks, 125s and even a couple of slingshots preparing for their regional and national tour events, which are scheduled at Airport this year, but to also see several drivers in attendance who were simply there to scout, or to lend a hand to the new rookies, or those who were just there to b.s. about the upcoming season and to have a good time soaking in the sun and the sport which they love… needless-to-say, the atmosphere was stellar.
Once the rookies finished up their first couple of solo sessions, the veterans were able to get their laps in. The track was holding up nicely, but due to the start time it did begin to dust off, which was attributed to the glaring sun, the wind, and the fact that cars were only being let on the track in groups of 4 or less. Regardless, the track layout showed both the high and low grooves of the speedway and also made many of us think ahead to the start of the season, and at times our imaginations began to run wild with thoughts of the potential action which could unfold on the speedway this year.
There were several multi-car teams in attendance, with a few being multi-driver teams. One of those teams was the Billy Murphy Racing Team, which features two wingless 600 cars, driven by Tyler Brehm and Billy Murphy respectively, and also a 270 car which is scheduled to be piloted by several drivers this year, though on this day was driven by one of Murphy’s old roommates, a rookie to micro sprints who will also be competing in karts this year. The Murphy team is one that the micro sprint world needs more of, a team not afraid to travel, not afraid to show their support, and not afraid to give people a chance.
Another multi-car team was there as well, though this team has only one driver, Brett Michalski. Brett, who captured last season’s Wingless Championship, plans to field a car in both the winged and wingless 600cc micro sprint classes at Airport this year and he intends, at this time, to claim the championship in both. That will be a first at Airport, though that is mainly the case because we have never previously attempted to run a full schedule for both the winged and wingless 600s. With that said, Brett and the JR Michalski Heating & AC racing team plan to have their name in the Airport Speedway records books as the first to accomplish this feat and regardless of the outcome of this season’s wars, we all know Brett will be a contender-to-claim-the-checkers in every weekly battle, just as he was last year, except now we’ll get to see him go for it twice a night.
With the addition of these multi-car teams, the car count in the 600 and even the 2 stroke classes is surely to rise, which was initially a concern because there are a few 2 stroke racers, notably last year’s champion from the 250 stock division, Brett Estep, who will be making the leap and running a full time wingless 600 schedule at the track.
Now, as I sit here at work, I am recalling my last view of the track after Sunday’s practice. It was worn out, it was dry, a little lumpy, and the top had just been cut, yet it sat there patiently, quiet, still, awaiting the arrival of additional clay which is scheduled to take place on Tuesday of this week.
In closing I must say, yesterday was just about perfect …aside from the sunburn.
Alex Swift – Airport Speedway Track Relations