End of the Year Reflection: NASCAR, IndyCar, ARCA, Monster Jam and More

Ashley McCubbinAnalyst IOctober 15, 2010

End of the Year Reflection: NASCAR, IndyCar, ARCA, Monster Jam and More

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    Me snapping a picture from the infield at Sunset Speedway / (C)Mike Keier, http://www.cableguyphotos.com
    Me snapping a picture from the infield at Sunset Speedway / (C)Mike Keier, http://www.cableguyphotos.com

    I know that the NASCAR season is not done yet; however, this is the time that I feel the end of the year reflection should come out from my perspective.

    This year has to be the best year of racing for me yet, as I got to do a lot of things that I haven’t had the opportunity to do before. It’s definitely a year to remember, and one that I know will be hard to top, even though I’ll try, down the road.

    So here are some of my personal thoughts as I try to put into words what 2010 means to me.

Short Track Racing: Sunset Speedway

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    The New Sunset Speedway / (C)Ashley McCubbin, http://www.sunsetinformative.webs.com
    The New Sunset Speedway / (C)Ashley McCubbin, http://www.sunsetinformative.webs.com

    Going into this year, I was a little worried yet at the same time excited as to how things would go.

    During the offseason, the local short track up my way, Sunset Speedway, underwent a face-lift under the watchful eyes of NASCAR Canadian Tire Series veteran Mark Dilley. Everything looked to be headed toward having the perfect racing year ahead—brand new pavement with a brand new track design.

    The perfect year, well okay nothing can be perfect, but the almost perfect year is what it turned out to be, as the racing was competitive. Everybody had a fun time with each other, and overall, it turned out to be a success. Car counts were up in the range where they’d be called good compared to other tracks and with how things had been around the short tracks lately. For once in the longest time, I felt proud to call Sunset Speedway my home track, as everybody there made it the experience that you’d expect to feel.

    If there’s any event to call a judge on, the season finale event, which was an invitational that welcomed cars from all over, had 130 cars competiting in four different classes.

    With more changes expected in the future, I expect things to just continue to get better.

Short Track Racing: Kawartha Speedway

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    Kawartha Speedway, shot from turns 1 & 2 / (C)Ashley McCubbin
    Kawartha Speedway, shot from turns 1 & 2 / (C)Ashley McCubbin

    This year, I also got the chance to go back to two other tracks that had provided fun experiences for me in the past—Kawartha Speedway and Peterborough Speedway.

    Kawartha Speedway is a unique track that has always held a special spot for me since my first time there in 2007. The track layout provides an awesome show that makes any time there enjoyable. Both times I went this past year in August, it was definitely a fun experience as I got to see people who I hadn’t seen in awhile and got to experience two fine nights of racing.

Short Track Racing: Peterborough Speedway

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    Autumn Colors 2010 OSCAAR Feature winner Brandon Watson / (C)Ashley McCubbin
    Autumn Colors 2010 OSCAAR Feature winner Brandon Watson / (C)Ashley McCubbin

    Peterborough Speedway is also unique in its own way for its end of the year event. This year, it was time for the 18th Annual Autumn Colors Classic Show. Autumn Colors, for those who don’t know Canadian motorsports, is basically a weekend that combines racing and partying. It’s an end of the year party for all the racers to come together and experience. Every year it is a big success, as everybody is always talking about it all winter long, whether it be the partying or the racing.

    This past year was no exception, as it had the drama and competition that you like to see, the storylines that shock the masses, emotion and it showed that racing is well in Ontario, as 170 cars showed up ready to compete in six different classes. It definitely, as always, turned out to be a real fun weekend for me, and hopefully, it continues to hold its prestige.

Short Track Racing: Ohsweken Speedway

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    Sprint Cars lined up and ready to go at Ohsweken / (C)Ashley McCubbin
    Sprint Cars lined up and ready to go at Ohsweken / (C)Ashley McCubbin

    This year, I also was treated to something different, as I got to attend my first dirt race ever at Ohsweken Speedway. Dirt racing is something that every asphalt fan has to go see live, as it’s a totally different experience. The racing and how they slide the cars through the corners is something else; the talent that you can see these drivers have to be able to control their vehicles. Add in the fact that you feel a part of the show with the dirt flying in your face during the Sprint feature, it makes for an awesome experience. I’d watch dirt races on TV and thought they were neat. However, after going to my first official one, it’s totally gained much more respect from me.

    This year, I am also getting another treat too, as I’ll get to experience my first ever race at Flamboro Speedway, in the form of Oktoberfest 2010. I’ve heard negative and positive comments about the track, however, for me, whenever I’m heading into a new experience, I always stay open-minded and let the experience be the judge. To be able to add a ninth track to the list of tracks I’ve been to will hopefully be a fun time.

Monster Jam (Roger’s Center)

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    Grave Digger during driver intros / (C)Ashley McCubbin
    Grave Digger during driver intros / (C)Ashley McCubbin

    Some people would say that a bunch of Monster trucks jumping over cars and doing donuts isn’t considering a form of motorsports. However, it's done with a vehicle that has a motor and is a competition so I’d say it fits. Besides that, they do host races before they go into the freestyle competition.

    Past the argument that some get into, I got to attend my first ever Monster Jam event this year at the Roger’s Center in Toronto. Like most, I make sure to tune into Speed TV each week that it’s on and watch my favorites do something that most of wish we could do—destroy stuff.

    Seeing that in person, like the other experiences discussed, is totally different. Feeling the rumble of the engines just pushes your adrenaline to another level, as it brings you into feeling what is going on and engages your other senses. It also gives you an idea of what type of talent that it actually takes to do some of the things they do via the throttle control that you clearly hear thundering through the stadium.

    Seeing the height they manage in front of you really gives you a different image of it than it does on TV. The first couple jumps may actually make you step back and say, “Woah!” just from type of shock that your body goes through. But once you get over that initial shock, it turns into an awesome experience.

    If you enjoy this destruction on Speed, trust me, you’ll enjoy it more live.

ARCA Re/Max Series: Toledo Speedway

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    Chris Buescher along with David Ragan and crew chief in victory lane / (C)Ashley McCubbin
    Chris Buescher along with David Ragan and crew chief in victory lane / (C)Ashley McCubbin

    ARCA Re/Max Series

    The ARCA Re/Max Series is a smaller division of stock car racing that not a lot of people know about. However, once you check it out, you won’t want to look away.

    I checked it out a couple years ago and discovered certain personalities and haven’t looked back since. The series has defiantly continued to grow and this year had to be the best year yet. Over 14 different winners, with approximately 10 of those being first-time winners, shows what type of up-and-coming talent there is out there. Then you add in the championship going down to the final race of the year, right down to the last lap, it had everybody on the edge of their seat.

    Though besides the obvious points seen on the surface, it got sweeter than that from my perspective. When it came down to a family vacation to Toledo for a bowling tournament in May, it just so happened to be the same weekend as the ARCA race at Toledo Speedway.

    First impressions on Toledo Speedway are absolutely still embedded in my mind as that track definitely has an amazing layout. The way the banking of the corner connects to the straightaway configuration, it is no surprise that this is the track the ARCA Series claims as their own. The race was a good race overall and to be able to see Chris Buescher score his first ever ARCA race really gave me a good taste of the future of auto racing. Buescher is definitely going to go far, as he knows how to drive.

ARCA Re/Max Series: Pre-Race Autograph Session

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    Me sitting in Matt Crafton's truck. Thanks to the total stranger who offered to take the photo for me
    Me sitting in Matt Crafton's truck. Thanks to the total stranger who offered to take the photo for me

    Another part of the weekend that I have to applaud the ARCA officials on is the pre-race autograph session. It allows the fans to be able to be right up close to all the drivers before the race, which adds an extra level for any fan, as it’s sort of surreal at first as these drivers are considered heroes. Therefore some would consider to be blessed to have this experience. It was also nice to see NASCAR drivers Ken Schrader, David Ragan and Matt Crafton come and attend the ARCA race that weekend and get back to the roots.

    Also, another thing I have to applaud the ARCA officials on doing is allowing the fans to go on the track afterwards to be able to get nice shots of the winners and those who finished in the top five.

    By the way, side-tracking on experience and speaking of Matt Crafton, I also got the neat experience of getting the chance to sit in Matt Crafton's truck that he ran the previous year. The guy who was loading the truck needed somebody to sit in it and turn the wheel while others pushed and I opted right at the chance, knowing it'd be something to remember.

ARCA Re/Max Series: Frank Kimmel

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    Frank Kimmel and I before the race
    Frank Kimmel and I before the race

    From a journalistic experience, the ARCA Series offered me a treat this year, as it marked my first official interview and the start of many. Getting to speak to Frank Kimmel before the race was a definite treat, as Kimmel is a series veteran who will always hold my respect for the type of driver he is. Anybody who knows anything of the ARCA Series knows of Kimmel due to the success and what he brings to the series as the spokesperson. For a first interview, I will say it went well, as yes I was nervous, though overall, it was pretty good. Special thanks to Tracy for help getting that set up basically the day before.

    The interview led to more interviews with a variety of ARCA stars, from the kids to the veterans, in which each was a unique experience. Given the chance, each driver has something unique to say, and it's always fun to listen and hear things from their perspective. On the surface, everybody says every driver is the same, though once you get the chance to talk to them and let them say their side, you learn that it's totally different.

    My thank you's for the year are long, but to each of the people on list, thank you for allowing me to do the interview and learn more about you. It was definitely an honor for me, as I felt special to be able to do the interview. Thank you to the following: Emily Teeter (Steve Arpin and Mikey Kile), Joey Coulter, Chris Knight (Patrick Sheltra)  and to whoever else I forgot. It made for a fun experience this year for me.

NASCAR Nationwide Series:

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    Steve Arpin and I at Toledo before the race
    Steve Arpin and I at Toledo before the race

    In connecting to the previous, I got to say that the biggest honor of those listed above is Steve Arpin. Since he started in the ARCA Series, I’ve been following his career and learned more about who he is and how he got started. Arpin proved he’s a talented guy and someone who’ll work hard to do what’s needed to be done. Getting the chance to talk to him about both his ARCA and Nationwide Series races was definitely a fun experience. It was probably the funnest interview that I’ve got to do, in my opinion, not taking away anything from the other interviews. I mean, they were all fun in their own right, but this one meant the most to me, personally. Special thanks once again to Emily Teeter for setting this up.

    Also, special thanks to Heath White at JR Motorsports for allowing me to get Tony Eury Jr.’s thoughts on Steve Arpin for the article. It definitely added the icing on the cake for one of my most favourite articles to ever write.

    As far as reflecting back on the competitive side of the NASCAR Nationwide Series this year, it’s been fun to watch. There’s definitely been a lot of drama and emotion displayed to go with the competitive racing. Though changes are definitely needed, espically considering a driver with Justin Allgaier’s talent will be without a ride due to the dynamics of the series.

    I also believe the Nationwide Series this year has been interesting with the addition of Danica Patrick. A lot of people weren’t open to giving her a chance right off the top, as they believed that she was just Ms. Pretty Princess that didn’t deserve the chance. However, throughout the year, she’s proven that she’s dedicatd to this and wants to do well.

    As a whole, this year for NASCAR Nationwide Series will be one to be remembered for two reasons— the COT and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win at Daytona. The addition of the COT this year is one that was needed from a safety standpoint, and the fact that the car will be there to make the series cheaper down the road will definitely help with the issues that are currently being experienced. As far as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win, that stands by itself as an awesome moment for the emotional dynamic of what that win meant and everything connected with it. It’ll definitely go down as one of the top 10 coolest win moments, in my opinion.

NASCAR Nationwide Series/Canadian Tire Series

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    J.R. Fitzpatrick and I at Sunset Speedway on September 5th / (C)Jillian Archer
    J.R. Fitzpatrick and I at Sunset Speedway on September 5th / (C)Jillian Archer

    Lastly when talking of the NASCAR Nationwide Series, this is one addition that I’ve got to make to the list if I want to conclude this correctly. Special thanks to J.R. Fitzpatrick for the interview at Autumn Colors at Peterborough Speedway. To be able to talk to him about his Nationwide Series and Canadian Tire Series races was cool, as that was an interview that I’ve been waiting awhile to do.

    In connecting to Fitzpatrick, I got to say that the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series was entertaining to watch this year. The competitive level of the series and how it went down to the final race at Kawartha Speedway goes to show the type of racing that’s possible if all the pieces of the puzzle are in place. The addition of NASCAR backing the series has been a debated since 2006, when they entered the picture. There are definitely positives and negatives to do it, but overall, I believe that the positives outplayed the negatives this year.

    This year also marked my first year getting to see a NCTS race live down in Toronto, the same weekend as the IndyCar Series. The race lived up to the series’ ability to be competitive this year as the racing between Fitzpatrick and Andrew Ranger was one of the highlight reels. It also marked the first time that the IndyCar Series and a NASCAR sanctioned series was at the same track on the same weekend, which turned out to be an awesome idea. By race officials aligning to have both in Toronto the same weekend, it allowed more fans to be exposed to both sides of the racing spectrum.

IZOD IndyCar Series: Honda Indy Toronto

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    Roger Penske and I
    Roger Penske and I

    In speaking of the IZOD IndyCar Series down in Toronto, it marked the first time that I was exposed to the open-wheel style of racing live. I had watched it on TV before and heard everybody’s opinions of that type of racing and for me, at that time, it wasn’t the type of series that I wanted to follow.

    However, to see it live, it changed that perspective for me instantly. Watching the cars roar down Lakeshore Blvd. and then come through the Ss in front of me was defiantly a neat experience. It basically took on a whole new meaning, as the speed and precision proved that you needed to have talent to drive these cars;they gained my respect.

    Then while hanging down around the paddock, I got to see some of the personalities of not only the drivers, but their crewman. Personality is something that draws me into liking a certain driver by learning their back story along with the type of driver they are. Well, that all mixed well together here, as by the end of the weekend, I was cheering on drivers to win the race and wrapped up in all the emotions.

    Another thing that amazed me was the technology that goes into the cars and how the teams work on them, taking them apart and working on them. It definitely showed a whole new mechanical side that I never knew and it amazed me.

    In concluding my weekend in Toronto at the Honda Indy, I have to say big thanks to the Penske Racing team for each coming out and spending time with the fans afterwards to sign autographs. To be able to have the chance to meet Ryan Briscoe, Will Power, Helio Castroneves, Rick Mears and the Captain, Roger Penske, is something I will always remember.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Darlington Raceway

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    Kenny Wallace and I
    Kenny Wallace and I

    I know in part my reflection is not in proper order; however I purposely saved this for last. I grew up watching NASCAR Cup Series racing with my family and it’s something that really has never left me. Yes, most of my love for racing did start on the short tracks, though it’s also those guys on TV that amaze me.

    This year with the Sprint Cup Series, we could say it’s been an interesting year. From Silly Season (Kasey Kahne) to Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski to the dramatics of the Daytona 500 to the competitive racing all year and other emotional aspects. It’s a year to remember in many ways, and it’s one that’ll probably stick out in my mind in other ways.

    Another way that I’ll definitely be remembering the year is via the series of interviews I did with a variety of spotters. Getting the chance to talk to a group of spotters and get their take on some of the obvious things with racing was definitely interesting. I have always respected the spotters for their job and how they do it, as they deserve our respect for how they are able to help their driver on track and keep them safe. To hear each spotter’s take on issues surrounding their job and how they got started helped me open my ears and eyes up to more about the whole principal of spotting. In no particular order, special thanks to the following spotters for their time: Jon Bell, Joey Meier, Brett Griffin, Mike Calinoff, Lorin Ranier and the others whose names aren’t coming to my mind right now.

    However, the coolest experience following the Sprint Cup Series has to be my trip to Darlington Raceway. Finding out two days before that I’d be getting to go to what I call one of the coolest tracks on the circuit, the egg, was definitely a shocking experience. The shock running through me, along with the excitement, was beyond anything else this year and actually, ended up with me not being able to sleep at all Friday night during the drive down.

    Once at the track, the experience was beyond anything I thought it’d be. The roar of the cars on the front stretch below my feet below me at the speeds they’re able to feel is a total different feeling than what you see on TV and one that I’d call absolutely spectacular. The adrenaline rush that I felt was beyond any that I’d felt at any prior event that I’d been to. Instantly, I was caught up in the moment and nothing else could change that surrounding.

    I also have to say the pre-race activities that were available totally changed the experience for me, as they peaked my interest and helped in pushing that adrenaline rush up. Kudos to NASCAR and the sponsor reps who set all this up.

    And lastly, who can forget the moment that I got to meet Kenny Wallace? That was absolutely the tip of the iceberg for me as it was a special added bonus that I was proud to take in.

Concluding

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    Picture of me standing in the flag stand at Sunset Speedway / (C)Kristina Blinova
    Picture of me standing in the flag stand at Sunset Speedway / (C)Kristina Blinova

    To conclude, this year has definitely been a year to remember, with regards to the racing aspect. Thanks to everybody who I didn’t mention who helped me in making all this happen, whether it be getting to where I needed to be for the opportunities, editing my articles or your advice. Hopefully 2011 turns out to be just as wonderful and the fun doesn’t end here.

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