Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Juice: The Waiting is the Hardest Part

-by Justin St. Louis

I'm totally stealing this timeline idea from Shawn Courchesne, but they say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, right? This is how last Saturday went...

3:04am -- Get home from work.

6:52am -- (eyes closed) Why so loud? What is pounding? I know I didn't go out last night, but why do I feel hung ov... Wait, what is this thing on me? For the love of humanity, what is on my head this early in the morni... Oh, it's a child. My child. Right. "Hi, Daddy," says Landon. "Buddy.... goooo... plaaa ova derrrr..." I reply.

6:58am -- (eyes still closed) Okay, okay, I'm up. And the kid rodeo begins.

7:22am -- Donuts. For everyone.

7:31am -- That couch looks awful good right now.

7:31:30am -- No, no, no, got lots to do today. Let's go check the radar, it's been raining since 1981, maybe it'll let up in time for the races tonight.

7:35am -- Not a chance. Who wants to watch 'Pinocchio'?

7:38am -- That did the trick. (pats self on back)

7:52am -- Pretty sure I'm gonna doze off here, thanks in no small part to the dulcet tones of one Jiminy Cricket.

9:02am -- (re-opening eyes) Movie must be over, because I hear pounding, running, falling, and crashing again.

9:07am -- Weather looks worse. How is that even possible? And the Bear Ridge Speedway website has no updates yet.

9:08am -- Rodeo II.

9:31am -- We interrupt the madness to bring you 'Imagination Movers'.

9:42am -- That Uncle Knit Knots is so boring.

9:56am -- Before this is over, I'm checking the weather.

9:57am -- Why do I torture myself this way?

10:00:02am -- And we're back. Round 3.

10:45am -- Daddy's gotta get in the shower and get ready for a funeral. Enter Papa, Neenie, and a trip to pick up some cousins.

11:27am -- More weather. More disappointment. And no updates from the track yet.

11:29am -- On the road to the gathering.

2:15pm -- That was actually the most fun I've ever had at a funeral. Pretty sure I'd never heard 400 people simultaneously quoting Groucho Marx before: "Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas. What he was doing in my pajamas, I'll never know."

2:17pm -- Some friends and I decide to meet for some lunch.

2:18pm -- Where is my computer? Why don't I have a Blackberry? Oh, right, it's Vermont. That's it, I'm calling the track.

2:21pm -- "What do you mean it's been raining in Burlington all day?"

2:34pm -- Welcome to Moe's!

2:36pm -- Have to inform my friends that, no, I'm sorry, but I can't go out tonight. I've got a rainout to attend on the other side of the state.

2:55pm -- What they say is true, the Homewrecker really is 20 ounces of pure love.

2:57pm -- And pure heartburn.

3:20pm -- After the hugs and the making of future plans, I'm off to the car.

3:24pm -- "Nope, the sun is still out here in Bradford." You've got to be freaking kidding me.

3:52pm -- I arrive home to find not one, not two, but four kids eight years old or under playing outside. And of course, mine is the one with no shoes, running in the gravel driveway. With my tie on.

3:56pm -- Flip flops with the straps in the back now firmly secured to feet of said yard ape.

4:00pm -- Watching toddlers play basketball is, surprisingly, not much different than watching my adult friends and I doing the same thing. AAAIIIRRRRBAAALLLL.

4:02pm -- Well, I've got to figure out if I'm headed east for this washout or not. Weather looks the same. So... yes?

4:09pm -- Back to the running around.

4:14pm -- You know... are flip flops such a good idea?

4:14:07pm -- And down he goes! Like father, like son, I guess.

4:14:30pm -- This is actually quite the dinger. Caution on the speedway. The cleanup is going to take a minute. Safety crew attending to crash scene.

4:18pm -- Awful hard to clean the dirt out of a knee scrape when you're kicking me in the face and screaming, Landon. Pfff... two year olds. Such whiners.

4:26pm -- A tube of neosporin and two giant Band-Aids later, we've still got one unhappy kid.

4:26:30pm -- Wow, I should have left a half hour ago.

5:00pm -- After lots of hugging, tear-wiping, tickling, story-reading, and you're-okaying, Daddy checks the weather again.

5:02pm -- This is friggin killing me. It's now raining at Vermont Motorsports Magazine headquarters. Hard. Raindrops the size of Chihuahuas. But Bear Ridge Speedway is still racing tonight.

5:06pm -- One last hug for Junior, and I'm headed out.

5:20pm -- (at 45mph on I-89 in Middlesex/Montpelier because the rain is so bad my windshield wipers can't keep up) "Really. You're still racing tonight. Okay."

5:31pm -- Quick stop at the ATM in Barre, and I'm soaked from walking from my car to the bank. It's literally on the other side of the street, maybe 100 feet from where I parked.

5:45pm -- I nearly miss my turn off Route 302 to Route 25 because... oh, I probably don't need to tell you... it's raining.

5:47pm -- What, am I in the Twilight Zone here? There's no rain. But... it was just... what?

6:01pm -- Well, I missed post time, but at least I'm in Bradford.

6:05pm -- What is this line of traffic? I don't remember Bear Ridge being this popular.

6:07pm -- Drive-up ticket booth? Really? I better get a sundae, too. Extra sprinkles, please.

6:16pm -- Still waiting.

6:20pm -- Finally I'm in. No ice cream, but they gave me a free 50/50 ticket with my admission. And hey... where is everyone? What was the line I just waited in?

6:21pm -- Turns out, everyone was running late, and I haven't missed a lap of racing yet.

6:23pm -- I wonder how my little knee scraper is.

6:23:10pm -- Never mind, no cell service out here. Guess I forgot where I was.

6:24pm -- I'm still amazed at the sparse crowd versus the line of traffic I was in. Must be I wasn't the only one that rode alone.

6:25pm -- First race comes out. Ten pace laps later, we're under green at Bear Ridge Speedway.

6:26pm -- These Hornet racers are insane.

6:36pm -- In a car that looks way too nice to race on dirt, Tom Placey wins ahead of Karl Sheldon, whose car, um, doesn't.

6:36:30pm -- I totally dig the fact that I'm at a dirt track in the most ruralestest...est? area of rural Vermont, but the track's official radio station partner has a booth set up 20 feet behind me and they're playing a Death Cab For Cutie song. Just a total clashing of worlds right there. Love it.

6:37pm -- Late Models return to Bear Ridge. Five of them. And hey, that sky is looking awfully dark.

6:45pm -- Dan Eastman, a guy I recognize from not only his dirt success, but his respectable Tiger season at Thunder Road last year, spanks 'em. Oddly, I find myself having a good time watching five cars -- none of which are competitive equals -- go around this little race track.

6:46pm -- Eight Sportsman Coupes come out, and I already know that Josh Harrington is going to win.

6:54pm -- Twenty laps later, I was right. Bryan King, who has been driving car #X since I was a kid, finishes fourth. In my one and only dirt race, I won a three-car 'celebrity' race (LOL) at Canaan in King's car. Proudest moment of my life. Or at least, of that week.

6:55pm -- Another five-car race. These are the Fast Fours, I guess. And I'm starting get a couple little raindrops on my notepad.

7:05pm -- I don't care how many cars there were out there, or that they're four-cylinder cars (looking at you, TB), that was entertaining. The guy that won, Andy Johnson (another name I recognize from Thunder Road in the '90s), kinda buried 'em, but the battle for second was a two- or three-wide deal through the whole race, and it wasn't over until they hit the finish line. If this division had ten more cars, we'd really be in for something. Or maybe they got lucky this one time.

7:06pm -- A dozen Modifieds come out onto the track, which is a pretty good number considering the fact that there were only six of them last year.

7:07pm -- Uh-oh. It's started. But, actually, what's the deal here? Do dirt tracks rain out? You can't dry mud, right?

7:10pm -- I guess they do. The Mods go back to the pits.

7:15pm -- Hey, there's Alan Ward, whose photography work you've enjoyed on this site.

7:35pm -- Good talk, but Al's been missing his wife for the last half hour, so he's off to find her. I'm sure she's in the car, dry, like a rational person would be.

7:36pm -- Speaking of irrational, there's Dale Buddy, my favorite Warrior racer at Thunder Road. It's still raining, but we're already wet so let's stay outside and talk until they pull the plug on this thing.

7:45pm -- Dude, they're pulling 50/50 tickets... TEN of them.

7:48pm -- "...and for prize number ten, ticket number 023986." Yahtzee!

7:49pm -- Upon redeeming my ticket, I receive a sa-weet NAPA t-shirt and hat, thanks to the night's sponsors. And the ladies in the prize booth are selling copies of the Bear Ridge 35th Anniversary book for a buck apiece, so I pick one up.

7:49:30pm -- Wait... 35th Anniversary? Isn't this the track's 42nd season? Must have been hot sellers.

7:50pm -- While headed to the car to drop off my swag, I decide I've had enough of the rain, so I park myself inside and open this book. It's pretty awesome, actually, especially for a racing history nerd like me.

8:01pm -- I head back inside the gate to see what's up, and just as I get there, here comes another T-Road buddy, T.J. Ingerson, who informs me that the plug has indeed been pulled. Not sure how I missed that one... oh, right, I was in the car. With the windows up. Idiot.

8:05pm -- I'm back on the road, headed home.

9:15pm -- I'm home, and I'm wet, cold, hungry, and tired, but somehow thoroughly satisfied with my first trip to Bear Ridge Speedway in five years. I'll be back.



Time to take a look at the top Vermonters from the past weekend...

ACT Late Model Tour: John Donahue of Graniteville posted a season-best runner-up finish behind winner Joey Polewarczyk in the New England Dodge Dealers 150 at Oxford Plains (Me.) Speedway on Sunday. Eric Williams of Hyde Park finished fifth, with Milton's Scott Dragon seventh in his first start of the season.

Airborne Speedway (Plattsburgh, N.Y.): Airborne Speedway's Saturday night program was rained out.

Albany-Saratoga Speedway (Malta, N.Y.): Dave Camara of Fair Haven finished fifth in the Modified division on Friday night, with Middlebury's Todd Stone eighth. Londonderry's Rob Langevin was seventh in the Sportsman feature. Cullen Howe of South Londonderry was the runner-up in the regularly-scheduled Budget Sportsman race, while Manchester's Frank Hoard, III finished sixth in the make-up feature from May 8. In the Pro Street Stocks, Fair Haven driver Ed Thompson was the runner-up in the regular event with Benson's Jeff Washburn fourth in the make-up feature.

Bear Ridge Speedway (Bradford): Rains washed six of the ten features out at Bear Ridge Speedway's season opener on Saturday. Prior to the weather, Josh Harrington of Topsham beat Melvin Pierson of East Corinth in the Sportsman Coupes, while Dan Eastman of Thetford Center won the Limited Late Model race. Andy Johnson of Wilder won the Fast Four event, with Bradford's Tom Placey winning the Hornet race.

Canaan Dirt Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Thetford Center driver Wayne Stearns finished second in the Modified feature behind winner Randy Howe on Friday. Dan Eastman won the Street Stock event over East Montpelier's Will Hull. Josh Sunn of White River Junction was third in the Mini Stock race. Si Allen of West Windsor finished fourth in the SCONE 360 Sprint Car feature.

Devil's Bowl Speedway (Fair Haven): The season opener at Devil's Bowl Speedway was cancelled due to cold weather on Sunday.

Monadnock Speedway (Winchester, N.H.): Putney's Dana Shepard finished 12th in the Super Stock race on Satruday night, while Whitingham's Ricky Bernard matched that result in the Mini Stocks.

Riverside Speedway (Groveton, N.H.): At the season opener on Sunday, Dwayne Lanphear of Morrisville finished third in the Late Model feature ahead of St. Johnsbury's Bob Ailes, Sr. Concord's Denny Degreenia was the runner-up in the Super Stock feature with St. Johnsbury's Michael Smith fifth. Jesse Swister of West Burke won the Street Stock race with Brendan Hunt of Derby Line second and Lyndonville's Tyler Therrien third. Ernie Laplant of Lyndonville was fourth in the Dwarf Car race. Anthony Mason of Orleans and Dale Bickford of Lyndonville finished 2-3 in the Cyclones.

Série ACT-Castrol: South Burlington's Trampas Demers finished sixth in the Série ACT-Castrol season opener at Autodrome St-Eustache near Montréal on Sunday. Patrick Laperle was the winner after a long battle with arch rival Donald Theetge.

Twin State Speedway (Claremont, N.H.): Guy Caron finally lost in the Late Models, finishing second to Aaron Fellows on Friday; Ascutney's Chris Riendeau finished fifth. Double-dippers Caron and Fellows swapped their finishing spots in the Modified race, though, as Caron took his first win in the division this year; rookie Joey Jarvis of Ascutney was fourth. Mendon's Chris Wilk was back in form in the Super Streets, taking the win, while Tara Tarbell of Springfield finished third in the Strictly Stock feature. Cavendish driver Robert Leitch won the Wildcat race over North Springfield's Jeremiah Losee and Cody Small of Hartland.

This weekend, Thunder Road in Barre hosts the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic, with 100-lap features for both the ACT Late Model Tour and the True Value Modified Racing Series. Local division qualifying is on Saturday, with features on Sunday. Bradford's Bear Ridge Speedway presents a regular card of racing on Saturday night, plus make-up features from last weekend's abbreviated program. Devil's Bowl Speedway in Fair Haven will try again with its season opener on Sunday, with the Chittenden Bank C.J. Twin 50s for Modifieds and Budget Sportsmen.

(Photos: 1. The line to get at Bear Ridge; 2. "Humor is reason gone mad,"; 3. Good times; 4. Ridiculous times; 5. A fantasticly entertaining race; 6. A nice piece of memorabilia. Photos 1, 3, 6 by Justin St. Louis/VMM; Photo 4 by; Photo 5 by Alan Ward.)

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