Greetings once again, race fans! I know it has been a while since I have blogged but there has been much happening in my little world.
Anyway, I thought this time I would try a “photo blog”. I should preface this by saying I am in no way, shape or form a photographer. I do not profess to be, nor do I intend to journey down that path, so let us not be picking apart my pics. These are intended as merely a glimpse behind the scenes and were shot with a tiny digital camera set on “smart”, which I assumed was for the camera and not the photographer.
Well, that does it for this blog. Thanks for playing along and I look forward to seeing you at the track!
Fans know drivers by their car numbers and in many cases only by their car number. For instance, I know that during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race here in Vegas I had a heck of a time remembering that Brad Keselowski was in the “blue deuce” and not Kurt Busch.
That was a tough transition for me because the No. 2 had been Kurt’s number for so long. Speaking of two, just two blogs ago I wrote about getting to know your Bullring drivers and in the course of conversations that followed I came to realize that many fans don’t understand the significance of the car numbers being run at the Bullring, so I thought I’d share some of that info here.
Superstition plays some part. Drivers may tell you they’re not superstitious, but they’re probably lying. James Wingard tells it like it is when asked why he runs the number 98 on his NASCAR Charger division car. “I bought the car from Travis Boyle, and he ran the number 98. The car ran well when he had it so I thought I’d better not screw it up by changing the number.” It makes perfect sense to a racer, the same way Mario Opipari is playing with his facial hair trying to get his car to run better… but I digress. Along the same vein as Wingard’s number 98, Vinny Raucci Jr. was looking for a Bandolero when he found the 911 car for sale. At that time, the 911 was in honor of the 9/11 victims, but since Vincent Jr.’s birthday is also on 9/11, he felt the car had actually found him and the number had to stay.
Speaking of Vinny, Vinny Sr. runs the number 69 on his NASCAR Charger car. Vinny Sr. was born in 1969, however the story doesn’t end there. His wife was also born in 69 and as a matter of fact, she was born on 6/9/69. But wait, there’s more! Her house number as a child was 69 and if you can believe Vinny Jr., she and Vinny Sr. also met on 6/9. Superstition or not, that’s fate right there! His only choice was to run the number 69 on his car as it’s obviously his lucky number.
Which brings up the birthday/anniversary selection process. Gerri Pearson drives the number 83 Bomber because she met her husband Wade on 8/3 and they were eventually married on 8/3. Scott Gafforini drives the number 38 NASCAR SuperLate because his Father’s birthday was on 3/8. As a side note, when Scott was but a wee lad he came home on his birthday and found a go-kart waiting for him in his back yard, and it already had the number 38 on it. So in addition to it being his Father’s birthday, the number 38 was also passed down to him.
And that, my friends, leads us into tradition. Bandolero driver Kayli Barker has quite possibly the oddest number on the Bullring, with the “34-plus-2” Bando. She wanted to run the number 34 because that was her father’s number (he chose it because it was Walter Payton’s number) and she also wanted to run the number 36 because that had been her sponsor’s car number. Hence, 34 plus 2, honoring them both. Robert Ewing’s number 16 actually has a longer lineage. In fact, he marks the third generation of Ewing to run the number 16. If you were around back in the days of the Silver Slipper dirt track you probably remember a Ewing driven number 16, which then passed to Robert’s uncle and now to the 16x NASCAR Super Late Model driven by Robert. Patrick O’Hanley’s number 60 was given to him by his Dad, but it actually honors one of his Dad’s heroes, Mark Martin, who ran the number 60 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
On the random side of things; Frank McCourt drives the h2o Legend car because he’s a plumber and clever like that. Brett Empey, also clever, drives the 54x Bomber. Being an officer of the law, Brett liked the whole “Car 54, Where Are You?” reference. The x on the end, however, is a result of being the second number 54 car to show up. It was cheaper to put the x on the car than to change the number, thus Sarge’s 54x. The “From Hell” Bomber racing team are all big fans of horror movies and such, thus Harold Sherard runs the 666 (and as a side note, will be attending a hearse convention with his hearse very shortly), his brother Jim the number 13 and Scott Castle the s810. The added benefit of these numbers, Harold points out, is that they also “creep out” the other drivers. It’s that whole superstition thing again. See that? Came full circle on the blog, just like we’ll be dong at the Bullring this Saturday night! Come on out and join us! That way, during the autograph session, you can ask your favorite driver “How did you pick your number?”
The last time the Baby Grand Nationals visited the Bullring the top five qualifiers were separated by five tenths of one second and the margin of victory in the feature was a mere three tenths of one second.
At the last event the top 10 qualifying times in the NASCAR Super Late Model class were separated by four tenths of one second. In the Legend Cars feature event, C.J. Hulsey won over Justin Irwin by two tenths of one second. In fact, of the nine features held during the last race, six of them had a margin of victory measured in tenths of a second.
Racers and race fans alike talk in tenths of a second all the time. Statistically, it seems like a huge number. If someone is turning laps that are consistently .438 slower than the race leader I might refer to them being "well off the pace," but what exactly is four tenths of one second? Literally, it is the blink of an eye. While you are reading this you naturally are blinking your eyes. You didn't think about it a moment ago and to be quite honest you never even noticed you were blinking. Now that I’ve pointed it out to you you’re trying not to blink but just give up, it’s going to happen. In fact, try and see just how fast you can blink your eye. I can tell you that it takes the average person anywhere from three to four tenths of one second for a single blink. Or in other words, the same amount of time that would place you “well off the pace” of the race leader. Amazing, isn’t it?
Now, stay with me here. In qualifying the last time out, the top three Bandoleros were separated by twenty-four thousandths, the top four Legend Cars were within eighty-five thousandths and in the Charger feature event the top four finishers all had their best lap times within ninety-two thousandths. That’s right, one-hundred thousandths equals one tenth of a second, or to put it in perspective, three times faster than you can blink. And that says it all right there. Come on out to the Bullring this weekend, race fans, and see just how much really can happen in the blink of an eye.
I was updating some info in my database (you read my last blog, right?) and I started thinking about some of the cool things I’ve found out about the drivers.
I know that prior to becoming an announcer, drivers to me were the cars. I really had little idea about who they were, they were simply faceless warriors in brightly painted chariots and to some extent I feel the big leagues of racing are still like that for me, but not so at the Bullring. Today, let’s take a peek behind the curtain.
Mario Opipari, who incidentally has one of the coolest names for rolling off the tongue, rips around the Bullring in the white and green number 53 Charger car. He has been a fixture at the Bullring for a number of years, picking up a championship back in ’07, but did you also know he was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1996? Maybe you did, because John Bisci wrote about it here http://www.lvms.com/bullring/media/news/576250.html but let’s see if you’ve been paying attention at the races, as I’ve shared most of this information at some point.
Erika Thigpen, driver of the 01e Bandolero, finished 4th in points during the 2010 season, but did you know that she is also a barrel racer? When I first heard this I thought it wasn’t possible because she was about as big as a tick. It’s true though, and you can find a link to some pics of her in action at ThigpenFamilyRacing.com.
Harold “Buckshot” Sherard is a pilot in the Bomber division, having grown up around racing in Gillette, WY, but did you also know he used to tour with David Copperfield? How in the world do you go from Gillette, WY (pop. 30,000 give or take) to touring the world with one of the greatest magicians ever? On the showbiz side of things, we’ve also had one of the soundmen from Ka racing with us, a Frank Sinatra impersonator, an Elvis impersonator and 3-time Legends Masters Champ Frank McCourt had hair like an 80’s rock star so we’ll throw him in here too. Yeah, I know. At least he had hair.
One of our racers is on the design team for the 2k Sports video games and one racer was on the original design team of the Honda Element. As a side note, he won’t tell me what they’re working on now because it’s a secret. I promised not to tell, but he still won’t share that information to the talkative guy with the microphone for some reason. Go figure.
There’s more, so much more, I could write here. In fact, I’ll be honest and tell you that I actually just came back and deleted a huge chunk of it. Why? Because I want you to come out and find out more for yourself. The next time there’s an autograph session, or after the race when you can head into the pits, walk up to your favorite driver and introduce yourself. Ask them some questions, let them know you’re a fan and the next time you’re sitting in the stands you’ll be cheering for the person behind the wheel, not just the number on the car.
Greetings! I was asked to start blogging for the LVMS website (my old Mustang used to blog, but I found some carb cleaner straightened it right out), giving a behind-the-scenes look at our circle track racing. This, I suppose, sets the tone for my blog. Behind the scenes as a circle track announcer.
I’m pretty sure everyone thinks you just show up, grab the microphone and have at it. That’s not necessarily true, at least in my experience. You need to prep with statistics (numerical data) and information (everything else). What may surprise many readers is the amount of prep required actually decreases as you move up in event status. In other words, my weekend working the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race requires much less prep than when I work the Bullring. How is that possible you ask? Let me explain.
When I enter the infield media center on the first day of the NASCAR “weekend” (it’s almost a week for me, as I work the Dirt Track events prior) NASCAR has a Sprint Cup media guide (506 pages), a Nationwide media guide (374 pages), a Kobalt Tools 400/Sams Town 300 media guide (umm… no page numbers, but maybe 75 or so) waiting for me. Not to mention updates put out by the teams and drivers. I literally have, at my finger tips, statistics an information on every driver, every track and everything associated with NASCAR. I’m talking statistics like:
Closest margin of victory- March 16, 2003 in Darlington: Ricky Craven over Kurt Busch by .002.
Driver Ken Wagner finished 50th in points back in 1949, making 3 starts and taking one pole. Oh yeah, and he had 3 DNF’s too.
Jeff Gordon had, prior to 2011, completed 3,292 laps of a possible 3,443 at Las Vegas in Sprint Cup competition.
The best part is, it’s gets more obscure from there. Who in the world references the “Fastest Speed in Traffic” (highest in 2010 was Jeff Burton) or the “Positions Improved in the Last 10 Percent of Laps” (highest in 2010 was Kevin Harvick, with an average spots gained of 2.0) statistics? (Oh wait. I’ll probably work that in now that I’ve read it.) Anyway, all this is provided, plus daily updates by NASCAR. The key is being able to find what you’re looking for quickly, but more on that later. Here’s another little bit of insider info… I got this guy on the radio who talks to me. I can’t see him, but he talks to me. His name is Eric and he works for Sprint Vision. He is a massive, and I do mean massive, wealth of information and statistics on NASCAR. He feeds me info on the fly and I have to try and seamlessly work it in because it coordinates with the Sprint Vision screens on the infield, as well as the other broadcasts taking place. Opening ceremonies for the Kobalt Tools 400, for example, is scheduled down to the second. Yep, you read that right… the second.
Anyway, as you can see, for NASCAR the stats and info is there and that’s more than half of the battle. Now let’s take a look at the Bullring.
My weekend at the Bullring starts, well… it actually never ends. I am constantly online checking driver’s web pages, Facebook, MyLaps.com and race results from other tracks. That’s where I get my statistics. Friday nights I hit the practice session just to talk to drivers, crews and officials, and this is where I get my information. I try to speak with everyone, or as many as I can, and those that I miss on Friday night I try to catch during practice on Saturday. And yes, sometimes I miss them altogether. Focus midgets look amazingly alike when the fuel cell is covered or off, and it’s crazy how hard it is to find a Bandolero that is pitted with a full size car. Regardless, it is during these talks that I pick up much of the info I pass on to you. While I’m wandering the pits, I also try to keep an eye on the practice sessions. Who is running well, who is having problems, so on and so forth. Much of this information I can just remember, but the statistics all go into the database on my computer. My database holds the information on every car/driver I’ve ever encountered at LVMS (I have info on over 700 dirt Modifieds alone) and I try to keep things current. Same concept as the media guides of NASCAR, but I’m the one generating the data, so you see how prep time increases at the lower levels of racing. On that same note, USAC and the SRL Southwest Tour send me all their stats/info ahead of time, so my prep time is reduced for those touring series.
During any race I have the loop data (that’s the information produced by the transponders on the cars passing over the timing loop at the start finish line) and my database or media guides in front of me. One of the somewhat questionable talents I have is the ability to talk and at the same time find info/statistics in my database, or media guide. Try it sometime. Attempt to describe a scene from the television in front of you while looking up the current driver points for the Bullring on the LVMS website. Now do that for about 3 straight hours.
Here is the best part: I love it. I love all of it. I love the statistics, I love doing the research, I love walking the pits, I love announcing the race and I really love seeing you having a good time. It doesn’t feel like work, it feels like being the luckiest fan alive. Everyone has something they love doing, and everyone knows how good it makes them feel when others enjoy it with them, so come on out to the Bullring this weekend, grab the edge of a seat and let’s be fans together.