Speedway regulars discuss 2017 expectations

By: 

Brad Luepke, Special to the Leader

I sat down with some workers and fans to get their thoughts on this upcoming season at the Shawano Speedway. We discussed numerous topics from on the track stuff to weekly events.

Q: Last season, Kyle Raddant and Brett Swedberg were a few breakout drivers. Who is your breakout driver for 2017?

Josh Effenberger: Breakout drivers in 2017 — Jordan Bartz in Sport Mods and Art Siefert in Late Models.

Scott Owen: After a bit of a down year a season ago, I think Trent Nolan breaks out this summer and becomes a consistent front runner in the ultra-tough IMCA Stock Car class. I also think Kevin Feck will get that first Shawano Speedway feature this year, and I’m also looking forward to watching Bryce Clements continuing to improve.

Morgan Vandenlangenberg: Karah Taycher and/or Konnor Wilinski

Mike Hammond: Stock Car driver Tom Riehl

Mike Thorne: Keep an eye on Trent Nolan in 2017

Q: With a lot of new faces on the World of Outlaw tour in 2017, does World of Outlaw regular Shane Clanton three-peat at the Sun Drop Shootout, or who wins the $10,000 on Aug. 2?

JE: World of Outlaw winner this year, Chris Madden

SO: I’m gonna say Chris Madden. This guy has proved his mettle in many big-time races before. It will be great to see him at the historic half-mile.

MV: Rick Eckert all the way!

MH: From Chatom, Illinois, “The Squirrel,” Brian Shirley

MT: I do not think Shane Clanton will three-peat. Jimmy Mars will end that streak this year.

Q: Call your shot, the winner if the $5,000 to win Fury at the Fairgrounds is …

JE: “Bone” Larsen will be a repeat winner with the Fury race.

SO: Always hard to call because you never know who will show up, but based on last season, I’m going with Konnor Wilinski. The kid has been so quick out of the box and ran well at last year’s event, even winning his heat race.

MV: Marcus Yarie, got to keep it local!

MT: Mighty Mike Mullen takes home the win.

Q: Opening night is upon us, and the feeling never gets old. What is your favorite part of opening night?

JE: Walking around and hearing guys play with the carb when they first start the engine. Nothing beats hearing the engines revving and the alluring smell of the burning alcohol.

SO: My favorite part as a kid was always seeing the new look of everyone’s car, but the internet has kind of ruined that. What I look forward to the most now is seeing what traveling drivers are on hand and how they do. It is always a treat to see new faces at the track, especially when opening night may be the only time you see them.

MV: Seeing all the cars with the fresh new wraps and catching up with the racing family!

MH: Smelling that first scent of racing fuel never gets old.

MT: Seeing the new wraps the drivers have. It’s sometimes the only time you get to see the cars in perfect shape. Hearing Scott Owen call the first race, and of course, the great race food. It’s always great seeing all of the fans that you haven’t seen all winter.

Q: Tacky track on the cushion or dry, slick?

JE: Tacky track separates the men from the boys, so to speak. However, the dry, slick shows the talent of the driver more than the tacky track.

SO: Dry slick and smooth may slow the overall pace a bit, but it puts a premium on driver ability and setup talent. Watching a driver work like a skilled surgeon knifing through the field on a dry, slick track is awesome.

MV: Tacky track on the cushion.

MH: Either, as long as its multi-grooved.

MT: I’ll take tacky! It seems when it’s tacky, drivers tend to go a lot faster. The action picks up because no matter if your car is set up wrong, you still stick with the pack and everyone remains close together. Hard on engines though.

Q: Technology has taken over the racing world, from shocks, to chassis, to Facebook delivering instant results. What do you miss about the past?

JE: I miss the driver factor the most. A good driver could overcome an ill-handling car and charge through the field and put on a show and reveal who had that something extra to give them an edge behind the wheel. Now, it’s usually subtle differences in performance, even with a good driver. The technology now takes the edge away from a good driver in my opinion.

SO: Without a doubt, it’s open trailers. As I kid, I often mowed my grandparents’ lawn on Saturday afternoons. They lived on highway M, and I got so excited about seeing Kevin Tober and Bob Schmidt roll by on the way to the track. If they had been in plain, enclosed trailers, I would not have even noticed them. People, kids especially, get excited about race cars on trailers, not aluminum boxes.

MV: If you missed a race, you missed it. Now, you can watch it on Facebook or YouTube. It’s different from being there at the track.

MH: I’m with Scott here. I really miss seeing the open trailers.

MT: Drivers rarely complained about track conditions. It didn’t matter if they rubbed each other a little. Tempers would fly after the races and fans were passionate about their driver. It was a lot more about the driver back then than the car. Tacky or slick didn’t matter. They raced what was put out there and raced hard.

Q: What is your favorite weekly class and why?

JE: Favorite weekly class will always be the Late Models. Those guys take it closest to the edge of out of control than I could ever do myself.

SO: I’ve always been partial to the IMCA Stock Cars. For many years you never knew who would win, and the cars still look like street vehicles.

MV: Sport Mods because you never know who is going to win. In majority of the other classes, there’s almost always the same winner. Not in the Sport Mods. They have like three or four top competitors like Jordan Barkholtz, Wyatt Block, Lucas Lamberies and Kyle Raddant.

MH: The Late Models because of the flat out speed they generate.

MT: The IMCA Stock Cars. They always put on a good show! I love the speed and power of the Late Models, but wish there would be more side-by-side racing. The 4-cylinders on those skinny tires scare me, but they have put on some really great racing on the big track. Sport Mods are a great class. The Mods also bring big power. I guess it doesn’t matter what class, they all have their own niche — something for every fan.

Q: Besides the specials, what is your favorite night on the schedule??

JE: My favorite night, aside from any specials, is the final night of the year. It’s a time to think back and reflect on what the racing season brought and ponder if I will get to see another season. Basically being thankful for another year of fun in the dirt and sun, and knowing I enjoyed every minute of it just in case it’s my last.

SO: Racing for a Reason night has always been a favorite, but this year I’m really looking forward to Halloween Night. I think it is going to be legendary.

MV: Racing for a Reason night. I would never miss it.

MH: Opening night is the top of my list.

MT: Racing for a Reason night. I have had family members close to me that have battled cancer and it’s great to see the racing community get behind such a great cause! It shows that there is a lot more to racing than just racing itself!

Q: Tell us your 2017 Track Champions in every division??

JE: It’s anyone’s to win in 2017.

SO: Always tough because you never know who is going to run the full season, but here goes: Troy Springborn will win the Late Model title. He has been bad fast the past few years but has been a victim of bad luck. Mark Weisnicht will win the IMCA Modified title. He has a fresh mount with a fast past. 2017 is his year. Travis Van Straten wins a fourth consecutive title in the IMCA Stock Car class. I think he will face a tough challenge from Dan Michonski, but I think in the end Van Straten wins again. Jordan Bartz will win her first track championship in the IMCA Sport Mod class. She struggled through the first half of last year but was a lot faster down the stretch. This may be the most competitive title chase, though. Finally, “The Gambler,” Lucas Hacker, wins the Mighty Four title. He has gotten faster each year he has raced. Look for him to win a number of features and win the title, but he may need to bring back the power of the mullet to pull it off.

MV: Late Models: Tom Naeyaert. Stock Cars: Travis Van Straten. Mods: Marcus Yarie. Sport Mods: Kyle Raddant. 4-Cylinders: Hollie Welch.

MH: Late Model: Tom Naeyeart. Mods: Hard to bet against Marcus Yarie. Sport Mod: Kyle Raddant. Stock Cars: Mike Schmidt. Mighty 4s: Calvin Stueck.

MT: Mighty 4s is wide open. Sport Mods: Wyatt Block. Late Models: Brett Swedberg repeats. Stock Cars: Travis Van Straten. Mods: Matt Oreskovich breaks out in the Banshee.

Thanks, guys and girl, for taking time out to chat. While all our answers varied, the one thing we all agree on is there is nothing like Saturday nights at the Shawano Speedway.