Of all the forms of auto racing, I believe non-wing sprint car racing is the most aesthetic.
Perhaps that’s because we can still see forearms and elbows flying in the absence of a wing or roof to cover the drivers. They battle the elements, man and machine against the race track. It’s a fine line they ride between grace and disaster.
It’s really the beauty and the beast. It’s beautiful until that line is crossed, and the beast appears and things can go from bad to worse.
That’s the form of motorsports that got me hooked on auto racing nearly 60 years ago at the Nebraska State Fair, where non-wing sprint cars played before sellout crowds of 15,000 or so.
I decided to ask an expert to describe this form of motorsports, and here is his description of non-wing sprint car racing:
“They will go into the corners faster backwards, than most guys want to go forwards. (‘Backing it in’ is a term used to describe a non-wing sprint car’s entry into a corner. The car enters the turn in a slide with the rear end of the car leading the front end of the car). They go through the ruts on nothin’ but guts. They’re the only ones flyin’ without using wings. The cars have four wheels, but rarely use more than three.”
That description comes from Lincoln’s Bob Mays, who probably can tell you more about open-wheel racing than anybody in the Midwest. He’s raced them, and he’s traveled the country photographing them.
Foyt, Andretti, Rutherford and the Unsers all came out of this form of racing. It’s where Gordon, Stewart and Kahne (all winners in Midgets at Eagle) came from. It was the stepping stone to the Indianapolis 500 until that event became one of ground effects and deep pockets.
It’s also one of the most dangerous forms of motorsports. Many an aspiring driver has had his career or even his life cut short by a tragic ride in one of these beasts.
Locally, we remember Jack Dover’s spectacular crash at I-80 Speedway a couple of years ago, when he incredibly suffered nothing more than bumps, bruises and black eyes that hung around for several weeks. Jack is back and winning. Many have not been so lucky.
“It’s indescribable,” said Dover of his nasty flip at I-80, where he barrel-rolled the car at least 10 times. “I would love to race non-wing sprints again, but I don’t want to experience something like that again.”
If you want to experience the beauty and the beast, head to Eagle Raceway on Saturday as the Thunder and Lightning Division of the United States Auto Club (USAC) returns to do some non-wing sprint car racing.
Also, Hunter Schuerenberg and Chase Stockton are tied with 343 points atop the USAC Sprint Car championship standings. Bryan Clauson, last year’s winner at Eagle, is only three points back, and Brady Bacon is four points off the lead.
The rumble in the bull ring happens at Eagle on Saturday with an all open-wheel show featuring the USAC 410 Sprints, IMCA Sprints and IMCA Sport Mods.
For more information, call (402)-238-2595 or visit www.eagleraceway.com.
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