Okay, now that we're all at the round table, a very nice table to be sure, let us begin! The Silly Season (some folks sure do hate it when we call it that), is upon us. More will be revealed in the coming weeks. However, it is clear to us all, that things are as unclear as ever, thank god, or else we'd have nothing to talk about with the notable exception of who's getting the next TDN Bet punishment. So with that said here is a list of current issues to chew on and graciously spit out all over the page! Let's get down to it!
|Pat Miller Photo|
Unless you've been held prisoner in a Turkish prison, which Peter Graves would have been very happy about actually, you've heard by now that Josh Richards will no longer be the Rocket house car driver in 2017. The World of Outlaw Late Model Champion will be moving on to Best Motorsports to occupy the seat that Brandon Sheppard once occupied. The move appears to have the full support of Mark Richards who will serve as a consultant for the team, but it does leave the seat of the Rocket house car wide open for now. Two questions here. First, who do you think will get that seat? And secondly, who would you like to see get that seat?
Kyle Symons - I may be in the minority on this, but I believe that there will be a big splash with whoever takes over the seat of the Rocket house car. I just can't believe that Mark Richards would allow his son Josh Richards to go drive for Best Performance Motorsports unless they had a big named lined up to run his car. If I had to guess I would say Jimmy Owens takes the seat. He's been running XR1 chassis for part of this past season and he just seems like the logical choice. Secondly, my sentimental pick would be Jared Hawkins. He leaves very close to the Rocket shop and he's a guy I always thought could get the job done in the right situation, and the Rocket house car is most definitely a good situation.
Trever Steele- I also think it'll be a big name that was lined up already but the whole situation seems rather odd. Rick Eckert drove it while Richards was out a few years ago but I don't think it'll be him. I would definitely like to see a more regional driver get the chance to drive full time with the Outlaws i.e. Gregg Satterlee, Jared Miley, Michael Norris, Chris Ferguson.
Jerin Steele -I have no idea who will get the seat of the Rocket house car, but I'll just give an uneducated guess that Rick Eckert finds his way into the seat. I'd like to see someone like Jared Miley get a shot on the national tour. He's shown an ability to run well in big races locally like the Firecracker 100. Another driver I'd like to see run on the national stage is Chris Ferguson.
Dobie Compton - Cmon Mark, get a young kid in there on the up and up that would benefit from the best equipment. That's what i would like to see. But if a big money sponsor calls, they could dictate the driver in a New York minute. Depending on who gets the ride, it could start a domino effect. I think a series regular will get it, but shucks, i would like to see Gregg Satterlee drive the Rocket house car.
Josh Bayko - Okay, guys, I have it on good authority that the new driver for the Rocket house car will be... Davey Johnson. Taking it all back to where it started. Should work out well, until Davey gets bored with racing in April. Then he'll come back in June, pretty much just to run the Firecracker, then he'll go away again until it's time for the Pittsburgher.
I kid. Honestly, Mark isn't going to put a slouch in the car, he's going to want a top level driver, and it's going to be a driver who currently runs Rockets. So, thinking about top drivers in Rockets, I come up with Shannon Babb. He's easy on equipment, and has the elite level racing pedigree that makes him an attractive choice. Plus, Shannon comes with sponsorship. That's always a giant plus.
Aaron Clay - I feel like I'm coming way out of left field with this, but I think Bobby Pierce has to be mentioned, in this discussion. I know he drives Bob Pierce Race Cars chassis, but could you imagine the possibilities of him driving the Rocket house car? The sky would be the limit! While extremely unlikely, it's tough to ignore the fact that Bobby is one of the best young Late Model drivers in the Country. Personally, I would like to see Ryan Gustin land on his feet with a big-time ride! Gustin has driven (and won) many races in a Rocket chassis, so he already has experience with the brand. Gustin is certainly a young talent that could have an extremely bright future, if given the right opportunity.
|Pat Miller Photo|
We were just looking at the current free agent list in sprint car world, and it's a buyers market to say the least. Swindell, Dale Blaney, Zomer, Dollansky, Saldana and Dollansky all looking for rides. Lots of other high quality guys looking for a ride in 2017 too. It's early, but if you're an owner it's never too early in all honesty, to start putting plans together. Imagine you are an owner, who do you put in your car from the list, and what series or schedule do you run?
Kyle Symons - After just reading this morning that Joey Saldana is going to be in the Matt Wood 17w most likely, I would have to go with Dale Blaney if I was an owner. I also wouldn't change his schedule up a bit other than venturing into Pennsylvania a little more on off nights with the All Stars. Blaney is one of the best wheel men in the business and on a slick track is as good as any sprint car driver in the country minus Donny Schatz. Blaney will end up in a good ride for sure, but if I'm a car owner that's who I'm calling first.
Jerin Steele -I would've hired Dale Blaney the moment after he put out his tweet about being a free agent. But I don't have the money to run a sprint car team. Sorry Dale. He'll find a ride I'm confident of that. Hopefully some rides open up for these guys because I'd be a shame if anyone of the mentioned drivers was left with out a seat in 2017.
|Pat Miller Photo|
Trever Steele- Dale Blaney is the clear choice and it won't be long before he lands a top ride again. But I'd like to see him tackle the Outlaws instead of the All Stars assuming I'd have an unlimited budget otherwise I'd keep him on the All Stars.
Rachel Wynkoop- I'd hire Dale Blaney so quick his head would spin. Hands down one of the best besides Donny Schatz like Kyle said. I'd love to keep him running with the All Stars to give him the chance for one, if not more, championship chances. And if that lotto I hit is big enough I'd scoop up Sammy Swindell. He's more than proven that he's got a lot of like left behind the wheel of a sprint car. I'd had Sammy the reigns and let him run whatever his little heart desires. After the career he has had I'd love to just give him the kind of schedule he'd want to run.
Dobie Compton - Slammin Sammy Swindell! just kidding, i am a homer and would let Blaney drive the thing. He is smooth, fast and the opposite of Swindle in many ways. For the series, let's run the outlaws and see if we can stay top 6 for the first 1/4 of the season.....
Josh Bayko - If I'm a big sprint car owner, I don't think I'd run the full WoO schedule. I'd run a pick and choose type schedule, but I'd make sure to hit all the real WoO races. The perfect driver for that scenario is Sammy Swindell. He isn't interested in running full schedules anymore, but still likes to hit the high dollar shows. Put the right car under him, and he can absolutely get the job done still.
Aaron Clay - Assuming I have endless money, which of course I will assume, then I'm definitely running the WoO schedule in 2017! As for my driver, it's impossible to ignore "The Lower Rider's" talent and likeable persona. Dale Blaney is always great with the fans and entertains on social media. Not to mention, he is arguably one of the best 410 Winged Sprint Car drivers in the Country, currently. Maybe it would take "The Low Rider" to unseat Donny Schatz's strangle-hold on the WoO Series..
|Daylon Barr Photo|
Matt Sheppard, he'll be back of course. Stew Friesen, who knows what path he chooses in 2017, more Nascar and sprint car work perhaps? It's kind of quiet in North East Modified land at the moment aside from Tim Fuller in new surroundings. Give us one name, that emerges in a new ride after this weekend's Parts Peddler trade show, and secondly, which driver that was not a platinum SDS member in 2016 would you like to see give it a shot in 2017?
Josh Bayko - I don't know any new rides or anything, but I'd love to see Rex King Jr. give the full SDS a shot. He certainly doesn't embarrass himself on the rare occasions he does run against the Platinum drivers. I think it'd be really cool to see how he does over the course of a full season. And for the King family, they let Russ do the whole WoO lm tour, it's only fair that the give Cooter a shot on the SDS.
Gary Heeman- Agree with Josh here, Cooter would make a good candidate. We kind of throw work and family obligations out the window when we do these things, it is our fantasy as they say. I think he could hit the top 10 more than once. I'd like to see Rudolph do the entire thing as a platinum driver with a high quality ride. Not saying anything against his owner or owners currently, all great people. But resources can be tight, I'd like to see Rudy in a situation where resources were there on demand so to speak. Not saying for a minute he'd be better than Sheppard or Friesen...that would take more time and a lot of resources. But I'm not sure he wouldn't finish in the top five should the luck go his way too. I'm going to have to go for Ryan Watt. It's a stretch. He runs in AR places and well out of the geography...but since it is our fantasy. I'd love to see him in the mix, I think he could do well, and maybe even come away with a win or two.
Donny Schatz, Joey Saldana, and WoO PR guru Ross Wece have thrown their hat into the Chili Bowl ring! Tell us all what main they start Saturday in and why! Yes...even Ross!
Kyle Symons - I'm going to say A-Main for both Schatz and Saldana. Saldana has been there before and he's been in the A-Main, and I wouldn't bet against Schatz in any type of car. As for Ross Wece, does he have any experience driving? haha. I would say whatever the first main is on Saturday will be the one Ross is knocked out of.
Jerin Steele --I'm with Kyle...don't bet against Donny. Saldana could make the A too. Ross Wece has a chance to win the whole thing...or finish last in the N main. I'd probably bet on the latter.
Rachel Wynkoop- Donny is obviously a beast in anything he climbs into and I'm willing to bet beast mode kicks in hard core come Chili Bowl. There is a little part of me that wants him to start in the back of the C and make his way through to the A. I'm a sucker for watching him come from the back and prove his doubters wrong! Saldana is another easy A main starter for me. He's done it before and not that making the A main at Chili Bowl is easy by any means but Joey will probably make it LOOK easy! And then there's Ross...well I'll cross my fingers that he makes it out of the first main he races that night!
Dobie Compton - Schatz =B main, Saldana = B main, Wece = H main,
Aaron Clay - I'll start with "The Brownsburg Bullet", Joey Saldana, since I think he will do the best of the three. While Saldana may not have an extensive history racing Midgets, he is still one of the best open wheel Dirt racers in the world. I think Joey will come up just short, settling for the B-main in the 2017 Chili Bowl. Donny Schatz is arguably the best Winged Sprint Car driver that has ever gotten behind the wheel. However, not in a Midget. I think Schatz will be above average, compared to the field, but settles for the D-main in the 2017 Chili Bowl. I think it's awesome that Ross Wece is racing in the 2017 Chili Bowl. It's a cool story and maybe will show that "average joes" can strap-in and go racing sometimes! Realistically though, I don't think Ross will be competitive. How many letters are we running in the 2017 Chili Bowl? I'll give him a couple better than the minimum, but we're probably looking at an I-main (sorry Ross).
Gary Heeman- Schatz- A Main, yeah I said it!, Saldana- C Main, and look for him to get to the A! Ross- I'm gonna give him the L main. And I bet he has a blast!
Our upcoming "TDN Night at The Races" Social Event looks so far like it's going three different directions with regard to the lineup. With some a mix of TDN staffers, area drivers and fans. This could be a tougher battle that anybody could imagine. What are some things you are doing to prepare yourself to attain supremacy on the track come December 8th?
Josh Bayko - I sit on my couch and make race car noises while I watch F1 reruns using the remote as a steering wheel. I got Silverstone on lock, a go kart track should be cake.
Dobie Compton - I plan to bring some tire treatment, turn off my governor, and run that sucker like a man half my size would.
Gary Heeman- Boys, we're gonna need a practice day.......