Merry Xmas! 
I want to take a few quick seconds to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year!

With my travel plans for next year still up in the air, I hope to attend a few more races and also another trip to Pullman (to WSU, my alma mater) whenever I have some time off from my busy schedule at work.

Safe travels out there!

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My bucket list 
As an avid racefan, there are many tracks I haven’t visited yet and I want to really bad. Here are a few places and races I’d love to go to before too long...

Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, Iowa): The 360 Nationals in August, then the 410 Nationals the following week. This is “The Sprint Car Capital of the World”, boys and girls. ’Nuff said. Sandwiched between those two races are some races at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa. Whether it’s winged or non-winged, I’m there regardless. Early August in Southern Iowa is hopping, as people come from all around the globe and they waste no time to make their reservations for next year already. Five-time World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz won the Knoxville Nationals six times in the last seven years and he barely held off Brian Brown in the last one.

Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, Ohio): The Kings Royal in July. Add in the 360 NRA Sprint Invaders and you have a full two-show program at Tony Stewart‘s high-banked half-mile. Sammy Swindell won the last Kings Royal, his third for that event. He’s tied for second all-time with Jac Haudenschild. Steve Kinser leads with seven, including the first ever Kings Royal in 1984.

The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, North Carolina): The World Finals in November. The World of Outlaws sprint cars, late models, and Super DIRTcar big block modifieds end their seasons as they pack the pits for a three-day show. Just like Knoxville, fans from around the world come to cheer their favorite drivers on.

Lernerville Speedway (Sarver, Pennsylvania): The Firecracker 100 in late June. Wait a minute, a late model race?! Why not? It’s a little change of scenery, but it’s another exciting three-day event. After two preliminary shows, the final night has a busy schedule with heats and main events. For the drivers that didn’t make the A-Main, they race in the $3,000-to-win “Uncle Sam 30”. Scott Bloomquist led 99 of the 100 laps to pick up a $30,000 winner’s check earlier this year.

Ohsweken Speedway (Ohsweken, Ontario, Canada): The Canadian Sprint Car Nationals in September. It’s time to go international. The best 360 drivers in the U.S. take on the drivers from “The Great White North” at Glenn Styres’ facility. From what I heard, it’s absolutely beautiful. The car counts from the last eight years have ranged from the low 60’s to the high 70’s. Steve Poirier won in 2012, and he’s the first driver to win the CSCN three times.

Premier Speedway (Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia): The Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic in January. This is Australia’s answer to the Knoxville Nationals and the competition “Down Under” is just as fierce as it is here in the States. Last year’s event was the 40th running and it paid $40,000 to win. Ian Loudoun is the defending champion. Australian legend Garry Rush leads all drivers with seven wins, and is still in racing today by being a car owner for Ben Atkinson. In a close second with six Classic wins is Chillicothe, Ohio veteran Danny Smith.

Also in the works is a second trip to the Chili Bowl and Williams Grove Speedway, plus a third trek down to Trophy Cup. It’s a real drag that they’re far away. So many places, so little time...

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The December issue of Flat Out Magazine 
If you or someone you know has a copy of this, a person who wrote one of the articles is from the NW. That person is...well, it's me.

That's story is in the "Weekend Warrior" section and it's about Travis Jacobson's win over the WoO. T-Jac was a blast to interview and it was my first ever shot of writing a story for a magazine. I'm bad, I'm nationwide!

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A quick thank you 
I just want to thank everybody for visiting my blog and pushing the view count to over 1,000! Now, it's on to 2,000 and beyond...

I probably won't post as much in the next few months, as it's all quiet on the western front in my neck of the woods. Other than the crummy weather, it's quiet. We'll wait and see what everyone's race schedules are like for next year and we'll go from there. Catch ya later and thanks again!

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National Open photos are posted... 
Sorry for the delay, everyone. I've been super busy at work and I'm also getting over a cold. Now that I'm better, my pictures from my PA trip (plus other places I've visited) are up. I hope to see y'all next year! ... er%202012/

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Some other thoughts on my trip... 
Here are some other things that I want to share with everybody…

Wednesday: An elderly couple that sat in front of me on the plane from Portland to Atlanta were on their way to Rome. They were also going to visit Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt along the way.

Thursday: Shortly after I took a picture of the entrance of Hershey’s Chocolate World, four girls from Thailand asked me to take a group photo of them and I graciously accepted. There was another girl at the cocoa and coffee counter that was working her next-to-last day there, but she had some huge plans in her life. She was going to get married. The frozen mocha and the chocolate chip cookies hit the spot! I also purchased a T-shirt for my dad, a couple of shot glasses for my mom, and some keychains for a couple of my co-workers.

Friday: I bumped into Shawn Miller and Brandon Bere (Live_Updates on Twitter) at the kickball game. If you haven’t visited Brandon’s page yet, please do so. He does an incredible job on updating everyone at the races he goes to. Before the races started up, I talked to three guys that lived near the park where the kickball game was held. I was given a crash course on the atmosphere of Williams Grove, Lincoln, and Port Royal. I gave Greg Hodnett a diecast model of the #11H car he drove back in the late 1990’s. His first words were, “I had more hair back then!” He thanked me and I wonder if he used it as his good luck charm on his way to a second-place finish. When I was turning for my hotel in Dillsburg, Greg’s hauler passed by me.

Saturday: At the funnel cake stand at the track, I was behind a guy wearing a Zimbardi Electric jacket. I asked him, “As in sprint car racer Jared Zimbardi?” It turned out to be his father, Tim.

Sunday: Before my flight from Harrisburg to Detroit, I was talking to a man who was going to Taipei, Taiwan. Since he goes there so much on business, Taipei has been his place of residence for a year!

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Time to Review: National Open notes 
Four-time World of Outlaws champion and current points leader Donny Schatz made history at Williams Grove Speedway Saturday night, as he became the first ever five-time champion of the Morgan Hughes National Open. He inherited the lead on lap 24 when Craig Dollansky crashed into Alan Krimes in turn three. On the restart, Brian Leppo took the lead from Schatz on the backstretch before Donny powered back by out of turn four to complete the 25th lap. The crowd was on their feet, as Leppo stayed close behind Schatz. Last year’s World of Outlaws “Rookie of the Year” Cody Darrah wanted to be a part of the action when he tried a slide job on Leppo for second out of turn four on the next-to-last lap, but Leppo got back by at the stripe. No one could catch Schatz as he scored his 11th WoO win of ‘12 and a $50,000 payday. Leppo, Darrah, Daryn Pittman, and Paul McMahan finished in positions two through five.

Kerry Madsen led the first 16 laps in Friday’s main event before the yellow lights flashed for Doug Esh, who stopped in turn three. McMahan took the lead from Madsen on the backstretch on the 17th lap on his way to his second WoO win of the season. Greg Hodnett made the pass stick on Madsen at the line on lap number 19 to advance to second, while “The Madman” settled for third.

My first trip to Williams Grove and the state of Pennsylvania was nothing but amazing. The entire field was filled with talent. 55 cars were in attendance Friday and 54 showed up Saturday. I met a lot of friendly fans, drivers, and pit crew members. Everyone was very surprised on how far I’ve come to an Outlaws race. I had some thunder and lightning late Thursday night, and the forecast for Friday was iffy at best. Luckily, the sun was out for the kickball game and everything would be all right for the races. Was it a huge gamble to go nearly coast-to-coast for a race? Sure. Was it rewarding? You bet!

Now that Williams Grove is crossed off my bucket list, what’s next for me? Could it be Eldora, Knoxville, the World Finals at Charlotte, or the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals at Ohsweken Speedway up in Ontario? Even I don’t know the answer. I’m sure that some other places will be added on down the road. For now, it’s time again to open up my notebook…

Ride Hopping: Leppo has been driving for numerous different car owners in 2012. He has been racing for the late Jesse Keen, Scott and Chris Dietz, John Zemaitis (won the O’Reilly Auto Parts All-Star Circuit of Champions race at Williams Grove on June 2 in a one-race deal), Kathy and Pat Palladino (made his first ever 360 start at Selinsgrove Speedway on September 1), and Chad and Jenn Clemens. Brian was driving a second Clemens #51 car in the National Open and ran as a teammate to McMahan. Leppo qualified sixth on Friday and went on to an 11th-place run in the A-Main. He was the first driver to qualify on Saturday and his time stayed on top until the very last car (which happened to be McMahan). Brian briefly led lap number 25 of the feature before Schatz passed him back out of turn four and held on for second just ahead of Darrah. That finish netted Leppo a well-deserved $12,000.

Paulie’s the Man: Staying with Chad and Jenn Clemens, McMahan has been an asset for them in the #51 car. For the first race with them at Williams Grove on September 21, he turned in the fastest time in qualifying and a fifth-place finish in the A. The only bad finish for Paul was on the following night at the WoO race at Lernerville Speedway, where he was 17th in the finishing order after going to the pits late in the race with mechanical problems while running second. Along with Friday’s wins in heat five and the A-Main, he won an extra $300 from Fast Tees for setting quick time on Saturday before moving up eight spots to fifth in the A. With the success Paul already has had driving the #51 sprinter in a short amount of time, it’s already lining up to be very promising.

Serious Passing: Jac Haudenschild was definitely the driver to watch in the National Open. He qualified a so-so 30th out of 55 drivers on Friday and was very exciting in the fifth and final heat. He started sixth and passed Lucas Wolfe for third out of turn four on the second lap before performing a slide job on Steve Kinser in turns one and two on the next lap for second. “The Wild Child” nearly passed McMahan for the win at the finish line, and came just a car length short! Jac would finish tenth in the A. He didn’t do very well in Saturday’s qualifying either, where he was 43rd out of 54 competitors and ended up in the C-Main. That didn’t keep the 54-year-old from being his usual, as he soared from sixth to second on a lap four restart and he was looking to do more. He took the lead from Tim Shaffer in turn three with two laps to go and earned a transfer spot to the B. Jac started the Last Chance Showdown in the 17th spot and even though he didn’t advance to the A, he provided more excitement when he did a slider on Steve Buckwalter on the final lap out of turn four to wind up seventh.

Crazy for Kickball: The first ever National Open Kick-It For Kids Cancer Kickball Tournament took place at Upper Allen Township Community Park on Friday, just north of the speedway. It was a huge success and $16,900 was raised. The fields were packed with people and a total of twelve teams participated in an elimination-style game. The NSCBBA Brew Crew (one of the players was McMahan) was the winning team and didn’t allow any runs in the tournament.

Racking Up the Points: Schatz continues to pour it on as the WoO’s season winds down. Since his victory at Cornwall Motor Speedway in Ontario on July 29, Donny has been very consistent and went from fifth to first in points in that period of time. He has won seven times (including the Knoxville Nationals for the sixth time in the last seven years) and has finished outside of the top ten just once (11th at Skagit Speedway on August 31). Schatz extends his point lead to 158 over Dollansky and well on his way to his fifth championship.

Time Trial Trouble: If you look at Saturday’s time trials results, you’ll find 20-time WoO champion Steve Kinser towards the bottom of the order at 51st out of 53 drivers who qualified. “The King” started and finished last in heat one and only got up to sixth in the C-Main! He got into the A by using a provisional and finished 19th, one spot ahead of his son Kraig (who also took a provisional). It’s rare to see Steve in a lower main event and seeing him in a C-Main is almost unheard of.

Hello Again, Nicole: Nicole Bower raced for the first time at Williams Grove last weekend since her nasty crash there on July 27 in the B-Main. The crash and her practice laps at Susquehanna Speedway Park were featured in the news on Harrisburg’s CBS affiliate WHP-TV. You can check it out at ... yQ5Mg.cspx. Nicole was in the C both nights, as she was eighth Friday and ninth Saturday. She plans to race at Williams Grove again this Friday, which happens to be her 22nd birthday.

All-Stars in Town: Six drivers in the top ten in points for the O’Reilly Auto Parts All-Star Circuit of Champions (Shaffer, Dale Blaney, David Gravel, McMahan, Stevie Smith, and Pittman) came to the National Open. McMahan, Smith, and Pittman made the A-Main both nights. Shaffer was the top-finishing All-Star on Friday, as he wound up fourth. Saturday’s honor went to Pittman, as he crossed the line fourth as well and also won the KSE Hard Charger Award after starting 17th.

Number for the Weekend: 5,262. That’s how many airline miles this weary traveler racked up on this long, long trip. I went to five airports: Portland, Atlanta, Harrisburg, Detroit, and Salt Lake City.

Consistency Award: Smith, Lucas Wolfe, and Hodnett (tie). New Oxford native Smith had back-to-back sixth-place finishes, plus a $300 Fast Tees bonus for being the top qualifier on Friday and also won Saturday’s first heat. WoO regular Wolfe was very strong in front of his hometown fans, as he had a fifth and a seventh. Hodnett was second to McMahan on Friday, and had a shaky start in Saturday’s feature when he flipped in turn three on the opening lap. In fact, it took six tries to get just one lap in. Fortunately for Greg, there was only minor damage and he would bounce back to end up tenth.

Hard Luck Award: Kyle Larson. After finishing fifth in Friday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Dover International Raceway, Kyle flew to Williams Grove in time for his heat race. He didn’t make it to the green flag, as he spun in turn three and broke his front end in warm-ups. He had to go to the C-Main, where he was fourth. Kyle timed in a disappointing 46th in Saturday’s qualifying session, was ninth in the first heat, and was a DNS in the C.

“Never Say Die” Award: Hodnett. His car wasn’t badly damaged after his rollover in Saturday’s A-Main. All the crew did was change the top wing and Greg was good to go. He motored to a top ten finish and has clinched the track championship at Williams Grove. He’s looking to add on to his 15 wins this year with only a few dates left on his schedule.

Next race: ???



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Jumping the Start: Morgan Hughes National Open 
The 50th annual Morgan Hughes National Open is next for the World of Outlaws, as they take on the Pennsylvania Posse Friday and Saturday at the famed half-mile known as Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg.

The first ever National Open was held in 1963 and the winner was Gordon Johncock. That’s right, the same Gordon Johncock who won the Indianapolis 500 in 1973 and 1982. Two-time Outlaws champion Jason Meyers won both nights last year (with the finale being rained out and rescheduled on the following Friday) to collect the $50,000 check.

The top five drivers in points look like this:
1. Donny Schatz 8,944
2. Craig Dollansky 8,830
3. Sammy Swindell 8,817
4. Joey Saldana 8,789
5. Steve Kinser 8,701

After a rain delay that lasted for almost three hours at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pennsylvania last night, the Commonwealth Clash (or the Midnight Bash) did get in and the 35-lap A-Main had a few twists and turns. In just his second night driving Chad and Jenn Clemens’ #51 car, Paul McMahan was running in second before pulling into the pits with five laps to go. It was a real shame, because McMahan was the top qualifier and he had a great car all night long. He was right behind Dollansky when he went pitside. Dollansky had engine problems after leading the first 32 laps, and dropped to 11th. That gave the win to Dale Blaney. Schatz finished second and was followed by Jason Sides, Saldana, and 15th-starting Jac Haudenschild. Swindell was sixth, with Kinser finishing 13th.

Will an Outlaw or a Posse driver take home the 50 grand? Schatz is looking for his fifth National Open win, and also trying to lock up his fifth WoO title. For the Posse, will it be a veteran like Fred Rahmer, Greg Hodnett, Lance Dewease, or Don Kreitz, Jr.? Or will it be someone younger like Brian Montieth, Chad Layton, Danny Dietrich, or Daryn Pittman?

The Posse has the toughest group of drivers in the nation, and the National Open has had car counts between the low 50’s and the low 60’s over the past few years. With a strong combination of veterans and up and coming racers in Central PA this season, the 50th running of the National Open is going to be star-studded.

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