It's the biggest of all sprint car races tonight at Port Royal Speedway.
The 41st annual Tuscarora 50 will run, weather permitting. Should tonight's action be lost to rain, it will be made up Sunday night at 5 p.m. Let's hope we get lucky and the storm passes quickly. As this column was being prepared, weather models indicate there could be an eight- to 10-hour window today that won't contain rain. Most of us would like to run the race today.
Doug Esh is the defending champion. You have to keep Todd Shaffer in mind as a possibility to win also - Shaffer dominated Monday's Labor Day Classic and won the race for a record sixth time. He is now the King of Labor Day.
Shaffer won the Tuscarora 50 in 1990, 1991 and 1995. He also won the Labor Day race those years, so luck could be on his side. Other multiple winners in the field include Fred Rahmer (1996, 1997, 2000 and 2005), Greg Hodnett (1998 and 2004), and Keith Kauffman (1978 and 2003).
Donnie Kreitz Jr. won the race in 1993 and 1999. It's uncertain if Kreitz will attempt to compete. Lance Dewease also is a four time winner (1994, 2001, 2002 and 2006). Dewease is scheduled to run with the All Stars due to a race in Ohio. Should the Tuscarora 50 wash out, Dewease might be back home Sunday.
There's plenty of preliminary activities to see and enjoy today at the Tuscarora 50. First, it's the final day of the 154th annual Juniata County Fair. This morning is the chili cook off and judging starts at 12:30 p.m. You can buy a bowl of chili and batches will be auctioned off after judging. All proceeds benefit charity through the Tuscarora 50 Foundation. The nonprofit group splits proceeds between the Support Our Troops Fund, Make a Wish Foundation and the injured drivers fund. All proceeds benefit the groups.
The group also hosted a charity golf tournament Friday at Lost Creek Golf Club in Oakland Mills. They also run a bean bag tournament at 2 p.m. today. These activities go on in the parking lot by the campgrounds.
At 3:30, John Garloff and Steve Ramsey host a drivers autograph session by the horse ring. Many of the top sprint car drivers will sign autographs prior to the races. The pair also have been the driving forces behind the Challenge at the Port series, which concludes tonight. The year-long event has been a great success and a driver will win a new sprint car chassis. Jack Elam, chassis builder, will be flying in from Tennessee to present the award. Mike Cleck and John Regester also are helping make tonight's race possible.
Lance Dewease trails Dale Blaney by 58 points with just three races remaining in All Star sprint car action. Sources tell me Dewease will likely be back home racing next season. However, I have not heard that directly from Dewease.
Tyler Walker finds himself again in sprint car racing. Walker tried to move to NASCAR and that didn't work out. He returned to sprint cars and ran a few limited sprint shows. He is now filling in with the All Stars and Outlaws driving a Kasey Kahne-owned No. 91 sprint car. Walker again is doing his back flip, which he started doing long before Carl Edwards ever thought about it. Walker finished second at Lernerville and won at Hill Top Speedway in Ohio last week end. The Hill Top race was the Jeff Shepard benefit event.
Speaking of benefits, racers will be raising funds for Shepard tonight at Port Royal Speedway. Also, Ellen Wagner has two T-shirts which will be given to Shepard. Fans may sign the shirt and leave a message by giving a donation.
Lucas Wolfe is back racing with the World of Outlaws. Wolfe finished sixth Tuesday in Oregon which is his best finish with the Outlaws since returning from a back injury.
Smokey Snellbaker raced a super sportsman car Aug. 30 at Lincoln Speedway. Snellbaker didn't make the feature. Dylan Cisney of Port Royal finished sixth is sportsman action.
The Central PA Speedway hosts the steel block/crate late models in a $4,008 to win show on Sept. 13, along with a $3008 to win, $300 to start street stock shootout. The rain date is Sept. 14.
Hesston Speedway will run tonight and the following two weeks with limited late models, street stocks, 305 sprint cars and hobby stocks.
NASCAR makes some decisions that I think are dumb. The latest are the changes to the Bud Shoot Out race, which starts the season at Daytona. Next year's event will have the final segment 50 laps, which I think is too long. I say that because part of the excitement was knowing that drivers would have to run just like on a Saturday night short track in the former 10-lap segment.
There was no need for tire or pit stop strategy - they went out and raced. Now the final segment is equivalent to a quarter of the distance of the Daytona 500.
They also have decided to change how people qualify to get in the race, and now are going to start six cars from each manufacturer. Ryan Newman, who won the Daytona 500, and Tony Stewart who is changing teams, will not qualify to run the race. Seldom-heard names like David Stremme and Joey Logano, who has never driven one lap of Cup racing, are guaranteed starters next year.
To me it's another NASCAR blunder. And they wonder why they have slipped.
Bruton Smith and his Speedway Motorsports Corporation have entered into agreement to purchase the Kentucky Motor Speedway. Smith seems to think he will get a Cup race for his track. I wonder who will lose a second date to accomplish that. NASCAR should do the right thing and give Darlington a second date back as it sells out their events. Instead, they raced last week in California where they had a bunch of empty seats. That was Darlington's original date.
Between the car of tomorrow and Fontana Speedway, NASCAR found a great way to bore a bunch of race fans Labor Day week end. There are a lot of folks I talk with that say they have quit or cut back their TV time watching NASCAR racing. That's too bad because NASCAR had the world of racing in the palm of their hands. It has presented an opportunity, though, for local racing to regain some fans.
I have to congratulate Daryl Stimeling and the Bolger Racing Team on their fine second place finish Monday afternoon at Port Royal. Good job guys. Also I hope Cliff Brian isn't too sore after flipping wildly down the front stretch. Brian's car came to rest near turn one. He was not injured.
Congratulations also go out to Bill and Jen Powell. Bill won the Enduro 100 last Saturday at Port Royal. Jen, the 2007 and 2008 powder puff champion, was third. She completed 98 laps.
And hats off to Sentinel photographer Tim Shumaker for his awesome shot of the sprint cars going five wide on the start of the Labor Day Classic. That picture should be sent in to a competition.
Until next time, please drive safely!
Craig Rutherford writes about motorsports for The Sentinel. He is affiliated with Port Royal Speedway.