A lot of us make claims we may not able to justify. Of the 250,000 that were at the Ice Bowl and the 25,000 that were at Capitol Speedway to see Mark Martin’s big wreck, my claim to fame is seeing the Slinger Nationals for the 30th year in a row. Like many in life who make these claims I do not have the proof outside of a few fuzzy memories from my youth and a few more in adulthood. I can tell you my first memory of Slinger Speedway that I can recall is arriving late into the day and being forced to sit very low in the turn 1 grandstand because our normal seats were taken. I assume that must have been the Nationals. The rest remain quite blurred until I am standing at an autograph line with Alan Kulwicki, Ernie Irvan, Ken Schader, and a few of other my local heros. During the years where the Nationals were a 2 or 3 race series I have no doubt that I may have missed 1 or 2. There may have been a oops during my hope to forget teenage years as well, but even during those forgettable times I always made it to at least a show or 2 each season and the Nationals were first in line.
Why the Nationals?
Slinger Speedway is my 2nd home. Growing up my pre-teen Sunday nights were spent in Section B. It is my local watering hole where I get to sit at the same bar stool every night, forget about life, and live in that moment for just a few hours. The Nationals are our New Years Eve or 4th of July party. We get to enjoy the company of friends new and old in the stands and on the track. Past stories are told and new ones created. The best part? When I return home to my chair in the darkened living room at 1am and reflect for a few minutes or hours on the memories just made and the memories from our past. As they are extracted one last time before the eyes get too heavy and it’s time to return to the rest of life I find peace in that I was exactly where I needed to be to take on the rest of life for the next 365 days.
The Slinger Nationals is the perfect storm of talent, history, luck, speed, and consistency all rolled into one amazing event. The best of the best have tried and failed. Speed is the key but you have to run consistent with a little luck. A quick look at the history shows us it is that the talented will always rise to the top. The best car doesn’t always win. You need all 5. And with that each year the stories play out. The drama is second to none. The Slinger Nationals like no other event is the race of all races run.
We’ll see you #atthetrack!
Rich Zimpel has been attending local race tracks for the past 30 years.