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 McKinley 200 Race Preview

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Join date : 2009-05-30
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PostSubject: McKinley 200 Race Preview    Thu Jul 22, 2010 9:39 pm

McKinley Speedway. It was just like any other regional short track in its glory days, with entry lists and grandstands both being jammed to the rafters. Ever since 1960, many drivers braved the Pennsylvania speedway's flat corners, which were notoriously full of grip and able to send cars whirling out like bullets at a previously unthinkable speeds, without a single serious injury...

until that fateful day in 2008 when a late model flipped through a worn section of the catchfence, struck a pillar, and killed dozens of spectators. The tragedy led some longtime McKinley attendees to abandon the venue entirely. Some thought it was poorly maintained. Others believed it was cursed by death itself. But regardless, the track proceeded to go on a year-long hiatus after hosting a memorial service for the victims of the crash. But during that hiatus, the track owners remained strong. They rebuilt and revitalized the old bullring, and sometime during the construction, a group of fellow racing enthusiasts heard their story and decided to revitalize the track once and for all.

It didn't hurt that these enthusiasts were board members of the American Automobile Racing Organization.

Negotiations with the sanctioning body were made in early 2009, and soon it was announced that the McKinley Speedway would slot in as the seventh race of the 2009 AARO Amp Energy Racing Series season. Dates on the Yung Guns and Short Track Trucks calendars were also added for the speedway.

When race weekend came, those who said the track was indeed cursed may have added more fuel to their fire. In each race, over half the field was taken out of the running in some sort of accident, usually featuring at least one airborne car. The AERS finish was especially memorable, as rookie Herb Cilantro, heading to the checkered flag, was spun by a lapped car and crossed the line backwards -- but still in the lead.

Tonight, Cilantro looks to defend his title as the second running of the McKinley 200 follows in the tire tracks of that historic finish. But to do that, he'll have to climb 10 spots and battle his current points rival, series veteran Jalen Scransen, who starts on the pole alongside Mikeal Carter. Starting third is Justin Pisani, who arguably had the best car in last year's running of this event until a late-race crash sent his car -- like those of many others -- onto its top, and reduced his hopes of victory -- like those of many others -- to shambles, as he was relegated to a 17th-place finish. With a great car behind him and a starting spot to boot, the defending Amp Energy Racing Series champion is hungry for redemption.

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the field, some equally recognizable names have a long quest ahead of them as they attempt to surge to the front. Bringing up the rear in 42nd position is Jacob Eichholtz, future rookie and boyfriend of Disney TV star Selena Gomez, driving his self-owned #35 car. There's also current hotshot Josh Mertz in 41st. Starting in front of him is CJ Long, a driver that undoubtedly pleased many fans by qualifying 40th on the grid since his #23 Dodge carries the colors of BP – yes, BP – on the quarter panels.

Greg Sauer will be making his first start of 2010 in the #24 Gatorade Toyota when the green flag falls on this event. It is easy to see that there’s a lot on the line for this driver, since, as previously stated, he’s never before started a race this year. This may be one of his only opportunities this season to redeem himself and burn a bright spot into a season that was nothing but darkness until McKinley came along. Sauer will take the green from the 22nd position.

Rolling off 28th and 31st, respectively, are the Bandsma brothers, R.J. and Justin, in the #80 and #79 Fords owned by the former. Last week, R.J. was suspended from competition in the after highly illegal engine and chassis parts were found in the R.J. Bandsma Motorsports race shop. These two racers are already not the most popular team on the track, and the incident has led many to question coming into this weekend…Will they try to charge to the front legally, or is it the AARO rules they look to break this time?

No matter which drivers claim the top spots when the checkered flag falls, however, the finishing order is sure to feature at least some diversity. Eight of the top 15 finishers from the 2009 race – among them Todd Kinsin, Jeff Lautenschlager, Frank Hackson, Darrien Maneren, Kyle McCartnol, and Tim Broudhead -- did not even attempt this year's running.

But perhaps the biggest story of all this weekend is the unexpectedly outstanding performance of low-budget AERS teams, some of which are attempting this race and this race alone. The action-packed qualifying heats were won by a pair of unsponsored drivers, those being Brandon Wares (Jason Miller, Rian Anderson, Jorge Hernandez and Jen Smith rounded out the top 5) and Jack Jefferson, who will roll off 19th in the only Lincoln in the field not campaigned by Powerhouse Motorsports. Also notable are Mary Mertz and Bruce Wilkinson, who will share the fourth row when the engines are fired. Mertz is running as an independent with – you guessed it – no sponsorship, while Wilkinson’s team, Contey Motorsports, ran his #45 as a white, logo-free car in the qualifying race. After he raced his way in, Sprite agreed to adorn his Dodge with their colors for the main event and slap their company logo on the quarter panels. The car is still being decaled as we speak.

Also in question is the validity of the new tire compound Goodyear has brought to the track in response to last year’s wreckfest at this event one year ago. Their reactionary strategy appears to have worked, as there was only one major incident in both qualifying races combined. Another positive effect of the compound: many drivers cited that making passes was generally easier…but not by much. However, in the many practice sessions for the AERS drivers, cars were occasionally spotted going three-wide, which was unheard of at last year’s event, as many drivers reported that the venerable asphalt only had two real grooves while taking their very first laps of it. Every time this occurred, however, one fan in the grandstands was quoted as saying that “all three of ‘em were damn near wreckin’.”

With this and so many other variables in mind, anyone looking to bet on the results of this race must truly be puzzled. After all, this is only the second time Amp Energy Racing Series cars have ever graced the track here at McKinley. Whatever predictability may have been drawn from that historic first event – and anyone will tell you there wasn’t much – may very well have been erased. So will AARO fans at the track witness another crapshoot, with spins, smoke, and accidental stunts at practically every turn? Probably not.

But at a track like McKinley Speedway, no one ever knows anything for sure.


Last edited by AAROdynamic426 on Sat Feb 12, 2011 1:28 am; edited 10 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: McKinley 200 Race Preview    Thu Jul 22, 2010 9:46 pm

Wow Vinny, I really didn't expect so much! This is awesome!

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PostSubject: Re: McKinley 200 Race Preview    Thu Jul 22, 2010 9:53 pm

O_O? Viiny, this must have taken you since 8:00. Good job!
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PostSubject: Re: McKinley 200 Race Preview    Thu Jul 22, 2010 9:56 pm

crosby87amp wrote:
Wow Vinny, I really didn't expect so much!

Neither did I. Razz

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