By: Kevin Ramsell
STOUGHTON, WI – In case you haven’t noticed, the Midwest is currently wrapping up its 2008 season with end of year multi-day specials. The one that started it all happens this weekend with the 43rd Annual National Short Track Championships at Rockford Speedway.
Started in 1966, the idea was to get the drivers from central Wisconsin to take on the Chicagoland drivers in an end of year special event. Dick Trickle was the inaugural winner of that event. In fact, if you ask Trickle what he got paid, he can give you the exact number because Rockford Speedway Promoter Hugh Deery paid him in $5 bills. Trickle would also pick up NSTC championships in 1978, 79.
Since that first event, some of the most famous drivers in racing (some who are running in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series today) have competed at NSTC.
In 1977, a young driver from Batesville, Arkansas came up and won. Today, Mark Martin is one of the most well respected drivers in NASCAR. A few years ago, I was able to catch up to the 1977 champ and asked him about his NSTC win. A huge smile came upon him and he talked about how he remembered that as it was yesterday. He considers his NSTC win in the same context of a driver winning the Daytona 500.
The NSTC is a great example of what “tradition” means in auto racing. It’s always held at the same time of the year. When a driver comes to compete in an event like this, it’s not because of the purse that moved them to come and race, it’s because it’s an opportunity to get their name included on a list of great drivers from the past and present. That driver name will, forever, be on the list of a famous event. And if that famous event ever goes away, racing historians will document what that event was like and will always include a list of champions.
That list will be passed on from generation to generation just like famous stats and records in baseball, football, etc. Racing has either an equal or longer history than other major sports in the United States. Whether it’s on the local, regional or national level, when you get your name on a champions list of a famous event, its worth more in the long run than the check they take home the day they won the event.
Martin is just one of many names to be on the list of NSTC champions. Others include: Marlin Walbeck (1967), Whitey Gerkin (1968), Ramo Stott (1969), Wayne Stallsworth (1970), Bill Retallick (1971), Joe Shear (1972, 74, 75, 82, 83, 85, 87, 97), Mike Miller (1973), Dave Watson (1976), Jim Sauter (1980), Junior Hanley (1981), Al Schill (1984), Mike Alexander (1986), Johnny Ziegler (1988), Tim Fedewa (1989), Rich Bickle Jr. (1990), Butch Miller (1991), Steve Carlson (1992, 93, 95, 96, 98, 99, 2000), Scott Hansen (1994), Eddie Hoffman (2001, 04, 05), Ron Breese Jr. (2003), and Jeremy Lepak (2006, 07).
The 43rd edition will take place over three days. On Friday, September 26th the racing action will get underway at 7:07 pm with the American Short Trackers, All-American Sportsman, Weekly Warrior Late Models, RoadRunners, and Hornet Bandit Challenge having feature events.
Saturday will be a busy day as the Super Late Models will have their qualifying races and the Big 8 Series will compete in a 108-lap feature event. The USST Super Trucks, Area Sportsman, Hobby Stox, and Illinois Vintage Racing will also have feature events with the racing action getting underway at 5:05 pm.
Sunday will be the day where the 2008 NSTC champion will be crowned as the Super Late Models will take to the high-banked quarter-mile oval in a 200-lap feature event. Last year’s event saw a lot of action in the final 50-laps; one has to wonder what will happen this season. Plus, Jeremy Lepak will also attempt to become the first driver since Steve Carlson did it in 2000 to win the event three years in a row.
The Mid-American Series will also be competing in a 75-lap feature event.
If you are a fan of short track racing, this is one event you need to see. The competition level is high, its classic short track racing, and it’s at one of the more famous racetracks in the country. For more information, please visit www.rockfordspeedway.com.
This article was posted to the website on September 23rd, 2008
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