Friday, July 31st, 2009
FASTRAK series back at Eldora
By Mike Ernst
The FASTRAK Crate Late Model Series rolls into Eldora Speedway this weekend for their only appearance of the 2009 racing season. While 2009 marks only the third year the series has appeared at the high-banked, half-mile, it is quickly becoming an important stop on the Crate Late Model schedule.
The $5,000 top prize is more than double the normal payout and while FASTRAK sanctions events regionally throughout the country with different regional events on the same weekend in different states, the event at the historical Darke County facility is the only FASTRAK event scheduled this weekend in the entire country.
As it did last year, the series and Eldora are offering the "Chassis Challenge" to the competing car manufacturers. The winning chassis builder will receive the huge "Chassis Challenge Cup" traveling trophy, $1,000 and maybe most importantly, bragging rights for the next year.
"After last year's "Chassis Challenge", we gained some credibility in a lot of areas," stated FASTRAK Founder, Stan Lester. "To be associated with such marquee names like 'Tony Stewart and Eldora Speedway' has been wonderful for the series. The teams and the chassis builders that take part have supported us all year and seem to really enjoy this format to recognize the chassis builders."
Veterans Steve Barnett and Ed Dixon have won the two previous Crate races at Eldora. Dixon, of Washington, Mo., won the race at Eldora in 2008 for car builder C. J. Rayburn but did not win the "Chassis Challenge" Cup, because Rayburn failed to enter the competition.
Second place finisher, Royce Bray, brought home the "Chassis Challenge" Cup and its first-place prize to Warrior Racing Chassis owner Sanford Goddard.
"I almost didn't enter, but it was a lot of fun," said Goddard, the son of dirt late model legend and Warrior founder Herman Goddard. "It's an attention getter," he said of the enormous trophy, "lots of visitors ask about it when they see it. Now I'm glad FASTRAK talked me into entering last year. Royce did a great job driving and I'm looking forward to being there this year as well."
Nearly every major dirt late model chassis manufacturer is expected to have at least one entry this weekend. Warrior, Rayburn, Rocket, GTR, TNT, Victory Circle and if the latest rumors are correct, the new Bloomquist Chassis, manufactured by dirt late model superstar Scott Bloomquist will even have an entrant. Shannon Buckingham, who won last Saturday's FASTRAK event at Wythe Raceway in Virginia, is rumored to be entering the race this weekend in his Bloomquist Chassis.
"I think this is one of the greatest things I have seen in dirt racing for chassis companies," said Goddard. "It gives all of the chassis companies something to race against each other for. The $1,000 prize is a big deal but having that Cup in your shop all year for 'bragging rights' is even better. FASTRAK has very unique marketing and this event is certainly no different. I just appreciate the opportunity they have given us to have a little fun racing against each other. Warrior intends to bring that trophy back home again."
The inaugural FASTRAK event at Eldora in 2007 drew only 16 cars, but last year Dixon got the best of 49 competitors. Series officials are optimistic they will surpass that number this year. Bray, who tuned up with a win last Friday night at Friendship Speedway in North Carolina, will return this year and is hopeful, to not only return the 'Chassis Challenge Cup' to Warrior chassis, but to move to the front of the pack and pick up a win at the legendary speedway.
"I had been to Eldora one time before in an old late model, but was not very competitive," stated Royce Bray. "I enjoyed the chassis challenge, because it gave me a chance to talk to the chassis builder while we were setting the car up for the event. Not just a phone conversation from across country on Monday after the race is over."
FASTRAK Crate Late Models use the GM crate engine program, using both the 602 and 604 engine types, which have less horsepower than the UMP dirt late models fans usually see at Eldora. All FASTRAK teams are required to use Goodyear Racing Tires which are the "spec tire" for the series. These two rules are designed to save the race teams in both engine and tire expense.
The weekend at Eldora will kick off the third annual Tony Stewart Cruise-In tonight from 6 to 9 p.m.. A "Test and Tune" session, with free grandstand admission, for the FASTRAK late models and non-wing sprint cars will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The night will be capped off with Nostalgia - a 60's rock band in the Eldora Ballroom from 9 p.m. to midnight. Saturday night hot laps begin at 6 p.m. with the first race scheduled to take the green flag at 7:30 p.m.