We're all excited that local short track season is finally hitting it's stride. Sometimes I get a little too excited. You probably can't tell by looking at me, but it's there. Late last week, the entry list for ARCA Midwest Tour Joe Shear Classic came out and I was pumped. Returning stars, drivers who obviously have half a shoe in the NASCAR world, and one in particular that I thought was done for good. Thirty-some super late models on the entry list for ANY paved oval race in 2017 is a big deal, no matter where it is. There were also some surprises, including a couple locals and some fella named Bubba. "WHOA", indeed.
Plans came together to meet some friends, and to experience race day in some new ways for me. My excitement level was through the roof! A couple pre-race brews and brats helped calm me a bit (Thanks Rich!) and we went in for qualifying. It was fun to see a great early crowd and feel the buzz. Qualifying ended, and the top 16 made their way to the new turn 4 pavilion at MIS. The Midwest Tour Stars were certainly popular and the autograph line was lengthy. This is really a hit with fans, and I'm glad they do it, even though I think it's a little creepy to wait in line for an autograph from someone that was born nearly a decade after I left high school. I'll mostly stick to taking a few pictures, because I've convinced myself that that's somehow less creepy.
Supporting class race time came and went with little trouble. I don't want to make light of their events, because they were top notch. Sometimes people take a negative approach on certain supporting classes and it ruins their race experience. Not the case here. It's especially fun for me to see the resurgence in the numbers for the truck races, and the Sportsman racing was very entertaining. But SHOWTIME was about to hit us! Intros began, engines fired, and I thought that might be my last "WHOA" for the day.
Boy, was I wrong.
200 laps of spectacular racing followed, the likes which I haven't seen in person in probably a decade. Pit strategy was extremely important. It went from "this guy could win" to "pfft this guy always wins" to "holy crap, this is a shootout"! It's been quite a long time since I've attended a race that continued to build and build as it went on. A little paint was traded. The lead was swapped several times. Certain cars were obviously moving forward and backward, if you were really watching. "WHOA" again came out of my mouth when a couple heavy hitters swapped the lead late. This wasn't a race. It was a show, and the crowd was all over it. The energy in the stands over the last 20 laps was incredible.
After the checkered flag flew, the stands were in a frenzy. The winner came to victory lane and was choked up, talking about how his team had won, and they had carried the ashes of a recently deceased fan in the car. It was then that it all came back around. It became about a fan. It became about a tiny part of me. "WHOA"