For the second year in a row, race fans flocked to Shawano Speedway to take in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series show. Not only did fans come out to the Speedway, but the Late Model car count was also up when compared to last year. There were 37 Late Models on hand this year, compared to 32 in 2010.
The fan turnout in 2010 for the World of Outlaws event at Shawano Speedway was so great that I was a little concerned about the turnout this year. Because 2010 was the first time a national touring series came to the area in several years, I’m sure some people came to the event just because of the uniqueness of it, which helped the crowd size last year. After the World of Outlaws event last week, I was pleased to see that the crowd was comparable to last year’s.
The track wasn’t in tip-top shape as the Shawano area received two inches of rain the day before the event. Dale Hodkiewicz, race director for Shawano Speedway, said the rain prevented the track prep crew from doing all the things it normally does to prepare the track for racing.
Despite that, Hodkiewicz said things went smoothly during the event and he was pleased with the size of the crowd. Tim Christman, series director for the World of Outlaws Late Model Series, was also pleased with the crowd.
“We’ve been here twice and we’ve had two really good crowds,” Christmas said. “We had nice days of weather. Obviously weather dictates a lot. … We enjoy coming here. The town of Shawano treats us great.”
Even though the track wasn’t in tip-top shape, during qualifying, 12 drivers broke the track record of 19.630 seconds set last year by Billy Moyer, of Batesville, Ark. Steve Francis, of Ashalnd, Ky., now holds the track record for a Late Model with a time of 19.284 seconds.
Of the nine local drivers present, Doug Blashe had the best qualifying effort. He was 25th fastest with a time of 20.180 seconds. Both Blashe and A.J. Diemel qualified for the feature by finishing second in their B-Main events. Diemel finished 21st in the feature, while Blashe finished 15th.
Darrell Lanigan, of Union, Ky., was the big winner, winning the 50-lap feature and the $10,000 that went with it. For the first part of the race it was looking like Chad Simpson, from Mount Vernon, Iowa, was going to be take the win as he led the first 25 laps. Even after he relinquished the lead to Lanigan, Simpson was running a strong second until he retired from the race with two laps remaining due to mechanical problems.
It was good to see Simpson lead so many laps, especially since he was one of the Shawano Fans Fund drivers. During the afternoon I spoke with all four Shawano Fans Fund drivers – Simpson, Jason Feger (Bloomington, Ill.), Kent Robinson (Bloomington, Ind.) and Frank Heckenast, Jr. (Orland Park, Ill.) – about what they thought of the Shawano Fans Fund and what their first impressions of Shawano Speedway were. All four drivers were very thankful to the fans who voted for them.
“For fans out there, in an area you’re not in, voting for you to come up there, it makes you real honored to want to race in front of people like that,” Simpson said.
“It helps us get down the road with diesel prices the way they are,” Feger said. “I’m pretty excited because I’ve always heard it’s a really nice place. I’m glad to be a part of it and I’m glad to be here.”
“Anytime we get somebody to vote for you, think about you, or look up your team, it’s a positive thing,” Heckenast Jr. said.
All four drivers were also impressed with Shawano Speedway and the facilities.
“We come from an area where we run a lot of half-miles, a lot of bigger race tracks, so anytime we pull in and see a big race track it makes me happy,” Simpson said.
“The track is bigger than I thought it was going to be,” Feger said. “We don’t race on a lot of tracks this big. It looks like it’s going to be really fun. The bleachers are really nice and it’s a really nice place. Hopefully we can come back up here again.”
“I like fairground tracks like this,” Heckenast Jr. said. “I like big race tracks like this too. It’s kind of like a local track by me in Hartford, Michigan. It looks just like it actually, so I like it a lot. It has a good fan base here and it looks like they support racing pretty good.”
With Simpson’s performance in the feature, he wasn’t kidding that he likes big race tracks.
Feger didn’t have a fun night. His highlight was qualifying second overall. Then, while in second place in his heat race, he spun by himself. He was later involved in an accident during his B-Main, so he didn’t qualify for the feature.
Heckenast Jr. did have a good night. He qualified third overall and finished third in his heat race. He finished 13th in the feature.
Robinson didn’t qualify for the feature.
Rod Snellenberger started on the front row and took home $1,000 for winning the IMCA Stock Car feature that night.
All in all, it was a very good show. Hopefully the World of Outlaws Late Model Series will return to Shawano Speedway in 2012.
The Shawano Fans Fund helped bring four drivers to the World of Outlaws Late Model Series race at Shawano Speedway. The drivers had a meet and greet with fans who donated to the fund. (left to right) Josh Effenberger, founder of the Shawano Fans Fund, with Kent Robinson, Jason Feger, Frank Heckenast Jr. and Chad Simpson.
(Bert Lehman photo)