Inside Dirt Late Model Racing
Column: Swartz mourns the tenderhearted Boggs
Monday was an absolutely excruciating ordeal for Audie Swartz. The veteran racer and chassis builder tried to go about his business in his Minford, Ohio, shop, but all he could think about was the heartbreaking fact that he wasn’t going to pick up his phone and hear his best buddy Jackie Boggs’s voice. | Slideshow
Boggs — Swartz’s dear friend, a Dirt Late Model driver he considers “closer to me than my own brother” — had died two days earlier, on Oct. 24, of an apparent heart attack at the age of 51. The tragic news that was hard enough for Swartz to grasp on Saturday became even more real when he didn’t begin the new week by conversing with Boggs.
“It’s rough,” Swartz said, his voice cracking and tears welling up in his eyes as he spoke on Wednesday morning. “That phone call … I told my wife, I said, ‘This Monday was one of the first Mondays that I never got a call (from Boggs).’ I talked to him every week, sometimes every day. And sometimes the call wasn’t about racing. A lot of times it wasn’t at all. Sometimes he’d just have to unload about family or other stuff, but he didn’t have anybody else to talk to and he wasn’t a people person. He had his own little circle more or less, and you were invited into it if you’d accept it.”
Swartz, 56, was one of those select people Boggs included in his circle of trust. They first became acquainted some 35 years ago, in the mid-‘80s when they were fresh-faced youngsters who had famous fathers — dirt-track legends Charlie Swartz and Jack Boggs — and similar upbringings. Their fathers were bitter rivals on the track but they became fast friends, and for the better part of the last three decades they’ve been virtually inseparable with Boggs almost exclusively driving race cars built by Swartz and Swartz guiding his pal from Grayson, Ky., to a successful career filled with victories big and small.
Their special bond meant that Swartz was one of the first to receive word of his friend's passing Saturday. Answering his phone to hear the circumstances surrounding Boggs’s death knocked him down with the force of a head-on trip into a concrete wall.
“He actually had a car in his trailer — not his, just a customer car — and I think they were going to take (the client) down to this little racetrack in Kentucky,” Swartz said. “He got down around Winchester, Ky., and I guess just got to feeling really bad — I’m not 100 percent because I didn’t want to bother Andy (Boggs’s longtime girlfriend Andrea Kelley) and them this week (for more details) — so he let Ashley drive, his girl who takes care of the video footage for him, and he said, ‘I’m gonna go back there and lay down.’ ”
Boggs’s condition prompted those accompanying him to stop at Clark Regional Medical Center in Winchester, Ky., where he was pronounced dead.
“They were headed to a racetrack,” Swartz said with no small bit of irony. “I always said to him, ‘You’re late for everything,’ and I was just thinking about it — he actually passed on race day, and he was always last to get there, and he passed on the last day of the week. And he was going to help somebody. He wasn’t racing his own car. He took his own rig and put somebody else’s car in it.”
As Swartz noted, “That was Jackie — always helping everybody.” It’s also why his loss will hit the local racing community so hard.
“Everybody is gonna miss him,” Swartz said. “Everybody at the racetrack, if they’ve met him before, or borrowed something from him, they’re gonna miss him.”
Swartz will certainly think of Boggs every day. It’s impossible for him to feel any other way after all they’ve been through together.
Their connection transformed from racetrack friends to something much more in 1991. With Boggs attempting to find his own way in racing — his Hall of Fame father applied the tough-love approach to his son’s aspirations — he looked to Swartz and his fledgling chassis shop for assistance.
“I had been building cars since ’87, but in ’91 he called me and he said, ‘What do you got over there for a car? I just need something to get racing with,’ ” Swartz recalled. “I said, ‘Jackie, I’m not in a position to do anything. I don’t have that kind of money.’ He said, ‘I didn’t ask you to give me something. Just … what do you got?’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t have any new ones. I’m backlogged right at the minute.’ And he said, ‘Son’ — we’re like brothers and he’s about five years younger than me, but he’d always call me son — ‘Listen, it don’t got to be a new one. You got something wrecked that you can fix for me?’ I said, ‘Well, I got a car sitting here out of Mansfield that Jim Cushing drove and it needs a front clip on it.’ And I didn’t say a word, and he just said, ‘Well, if you just put a front clip on it, I’ll give you 20 percent of my winnings (earned with the car).’ I thought there for just a second, and I said, ‘I’ll tell you what … I’ll get it done.’ I got this thing done, and that 20 percent at the end of that year … I never put an amount to it, but it was a lot.
“And from that point … I told him when that year was done, I said, ‘Jackie, here’s your deal — as long as you’re with me, as long as you’re alive, the only thing that will change it is if you die on me. I’m gonna take care of your chassis from here on, and anything else I can do, I’ll do if I can. And that was his deal, and we just took off. I never took another dime (from Boggs). I thought, I’m just gonna try to help this guy.
“He was just so persistent about wanting to go race,” he continued. “He knew he could do it, he felt like he could do it, and he was gonna do it. So I got him that car, and the very next year we won a bunch of races.”
Boggs even began to “go in Jack’s back door on a local weekend and wear Jack out,” Swartz said of Jackie, whose success racing against his father on the home front prompted the elder Boggs to put Jackie in one of his cars for short stretches. “Jackie left me like twice there (during the ‘90s),” Swartz said. “Well, he didn’t leave me, but he had to because I knew his situation (racing for his father).”
Come the winter of 1999, Jackie placed another call to Swartz that would effectively lead them to racing together for the rest of Boggs’s life.
“He said, ‘What do you got?’” Swartz recalled. “I said, ‘I can tell you what I got,’ and he said, ‘Well, I’m pretty good. I got the MasterSbilt going pretty good. We ain’t been beat where we’ve been going to.’ I said, ‘Well, hang on a minute. What do you mean you ain’t been beat? Oh, you’ve been beat.’ He says, ‘Where?’ I said, ‘Well, how about Bardstown, Ky.? When you seen me and yelled at me and we sat down there to eat breakfast and you asked me where I started in the feature? I said I started 18th and you said you started eighth.’ Then I said, ‘Well, try to be easy when you come around me,’ and then you jokingly said, ‘Hey, you never know. You could come forward.’ And if you remember right, I passed you about halfway through that thing and I think I ran fifth or sixth that night and you finished about 17th or something.’
“He was like, ‘Well, yeah, yeah, just that time,’ and I said, ‘Nah, there’s another time, too, but anyway …’ ” Swartz continued, laughing at the memory. “I told him what I had, and then we got together and we stayed together pretty much the whole way, other than when (late sponsor) Bob Miller got involved (in the 2000s) and Bob bought him a Warrior and he was carrying that for a spare car for awhile.”
The first half of the 2000s was especially productive for the Boggs-Swartz combination. It was, in many respects, the best stretch of Boggs’s career, a span filled with high-profile checkered flags: $10,000 wins in 2001 at Florida’s East Bay Winternationals and a UDTRA event at Thunder Ridge Raceway in Prestonsburg, Ky.; a $25,000 score in ’02 at Brushcreek Motorsports Complex in Peebles, Ohio; an ’04 season that included a $5,000 win in the DIRTcar Nationals finale at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., and a $22,000 World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series doubleheader sweep at West Virginia Motor Speedway in Mineral Wells; and ’05 triumphs with both the WoO ($20,000 at Atomic Speedway in Alma, Ohio) and Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series ($10,000 at The Dirt Track at Charlotte in Concord, N.C.). And Swartz remembers Boggs putting together a five-race streak of strong performances in crown jewels at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, including Boggs leading laps in the 2004 and ’05 World 100 and the ’05 Dream — though “we always broke,” Swartz said of Boggs’s Eldora luck, “and it usually was the engine.”
Swartz has some indelible memories from that period, most notably two stories from their trips to the East Bay Winternationals, starting with the February event’s 2000 edition that occurred just over one month before Jack Boggs was shot to death at the age of 49.
“In 2000 when we got there, Billy Moyer was standing by his dad Jack — Jack made it to Florida that year — and when we unloaded Billy looked at Jack and said, ‘My God, where did he get that thing at?’ ” Swartz said, recalling Moyer’s reaction to the machine Jackie debuted for that year’s Winternationals. “Jack looked at him and said, ‘That’s something that Swartz built him.’
“And man, we were fast. It was just awesome. We had to come in after hot laps and start tuning the car down for him because he was used to driving that car that Jack had and it drove good, but it wasn’t fast. I kept tuning the car down, and finally about four days into East Bay we had slowed our car down a second and Jackie said, ‘What are we gonna do?’ I said, ‘Well, if you’ll man up and get up on the steering wheel’ — or should I say, in his old saying to me, ‘You gotta be tough to be a cowboy.’ I told him, ‘If you claim to be a cowboy and you’re so tough, if you’ll let me put ‘er back like I had ‘er and get up on the steering wheel … it’s gonna be tough for you, it’s gonna be hard to steer, but it’ll be good. ‘He said, ‘Ask Garland (Flaugher, a longtime crewman). He’ll tell you I’ll rip the rubber off the steering wheel if I have to.’ And Garland looked at me and said, ‘Yep, he sure can.’
“Well, we stood over in turn two as he made his way forward, and I told Garland, ‘When this race is over, he’s lying if he says he’s not tired.’ Then I walked over after the race where we were parked off turn two, and Jackie pulled his helmet off and the steam rolled straight up off his head. He looked like he had fought a bull. I looked in there at him and grinned like he’d do me, with that little sheepish grin he had, and I said, ‘Was it easy to drive, son?’ He looked up at me and Garland and went, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m wore plum out. I’m beat. I can’t even get out.’ But we were quick.”
One year later, Swartz and Boggs engaged in one of their periodic blowouts in East Bay’s pit area.
“The whole week I’m calling back reporting to dad how we were doing and Jackie kept putting his two cents in,” Swartz said. “I’d call back and say, ‘I can’t do it, I just can’t get him to do it.’ Dad said, ‘Why don’t you just come home and quit wasting your time? You can’t deal with somebody if he can’t listen to you.’
“I said, ‘Well, I’m gonna hang it out with him another day, and another day went to the whole week, and finally we got to the (end of the week). I thought, You know what? I’m gonna teach the guy a lesson. I’m not even gonna show up in the morning. I’ll just show up about 3 o’clock, so that’s when I ended up getting there. I walked in the back of the trailer and Jackie’s up there at the front bench and he was working on a shock and spring. He glanced around to see who it was and he seen it was me, so he just turned his face back forward and continued on with his work and he said, ‘I bet (Rocket Chassis house car owner) Mark Richards wouldn’t have shown up this late.’ It just struck me wrong, and I said, ‘I don’t think Mark Richards got to deal with an idiot who won’t listen.’ And my gosh, he threw that shock cone against the wall, threw the shock in the air, said a few choice words that I can’t even tell you, turned around, didn’t even look at me, passes me, and says, ‘Well if you think you’re so smart, you fix the thing then.’ He didn’t come back until it was time to qualify. I told the boys what to do, and we come home with the (Winternationals win) and the plastic check.
“I think right then, probably in 2004, he probably had more confidence in me from that point forward than ever,” he continued. “When him and I were racing together, it gave him a whole other confidence level and he just felt like I could do it, whether I could or couldn’t. He felt like if I was tuning it, he could get ‘er done. He could drive with anyone. And I still feel like today that he could. But, probably after a few years went by, he started losing his confidence in me because I couldn’t go with him. Then he tried doing some of his own things …”
Swartz’s voice trailed off. He paused for a moment, considering Boggs’s results over the past 15 years. There’s no doubt that Boggs still won plenty of races — including Lucas Oil events at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park in 2012 and ’14 and a 16-victory campaign in ’16 — but he experienced many “skips and little spots through there,” Swartz remarked, and Boggs’s last four seasons have been especially frustrating.
“I think ’16 would be what I would call his last really good (season),” Swartz said. “Then all this shock-smashing and spring machines and all this stuff was starting to really take a snowball run at it, and I think I made a mistake and told him he needs to get one. Then when he got one, things got worse. Everybody started telling him their two cents: ‘You need to do this, you need to do that.’ He started falling into the rut, that hole.
“Now, if I could’ve stayed with him and went with him like Mark (Richards) does with Brandon (Sheppard), it’s no telling what that guy could’ve really done. Not to say that I’m special — I’m definitely no Mark Richards — but I gave him the confidence that I could get it done. If I said it was good, it’s good, and the rest, he’d drive it out of it.
“I look back and I wish that that could’ve been, that we could’ve done that, but the cards that the Lord dealt me just didn’t turn out that way. I had a family to take care of as well and I couldn’t be on the road and trying to operate a business. I didn’t have that Steve Baker (Richards’s partner at Rocket Chassis who handles the shop’s operation while Richards travels) to fall back on or whatever, and it is what it is.
“Now don’t get me wrong, he’s mentioned through the years, ‘Son, if you can just figure out how to keep your business going and just go with me … I know if you just go with me, we’ll do good.’ That was his big hope, but it just never happened. But if I told him, ‘Just do this, this, and this and I promise you it’ll be fine,’ it seemed like he’d run better.”
Most recently, Swartz feels Boggs’s struggles resulted from alterations he agreed to make to the chassis he provided Boggs. Swartz thought Boggs lost his way with the changes, but he felt primed that 2021 was shaping up to be a year in which he and Boggs got back on the same page.
“Last Thursday he called me at 7:30 in the morning and we talked for over an hour-and-a-half, and he said, ‘What are we gonna do?’ ” Swartz recalled. “I said, ‘Jackie, the last five weeks you’ve called me and asked me that question, and I told what we’re doing. Our whole program right now is changing — what I mean is, it’s getting even better yet.’ He was telling me, ‘Well, the car just ain’t consistent,’ and I was just trying to get through to him, ‘Your cars are not consistent, meaning the ones that I build you. My chassis, the stuff that I do to mine, is all the same.’ You buy one Oreo cookie, the next one you grab is gonna be the same, and his deal wasn’t that way. I built him a ’19 and it still wasn’t my way, it was still a little bit of his way, and I never got to do that for him.
“I kept trying to preach to him, but as Andy said in her little note to him sitting in his seat there on Sunday, she said that he hard-headed. Even down there at the World Dirt (the Oct. 16-17 Dirt Track World Championship at Portsmouth where Boggs made what would be his last start), I didn’t want him to go down there. He wasn’t ready. He wanted to go just for his fans, but I told him, ‘We need to build you a race car. I’ve got a race car right now that’s just phenomenal, but it’s not like yours.’
“We were getting ready to get back on track. We got a new car that was gonna go to 411 (Motor Speedway in Seymour, Tenn., on Nov. 28). I told him, ‘I’m gonna build you this new one like Cory Dumpert got out there in Nebraska.’ I got another boy, Andrew Yoder, in Pennsylvania there, and I got Dave Hornikel in Ohio, and Hornikel called me and said, ‘Wow, we got a race car!’ My ’20 piece is really good, but it’s getting ready to be even better yet.
“I told Jackie, ‘I promise you, any questions you had on consistency … you can’t be consistent when you keep changing the meat in the hamburger, so I’m gonna build what I’m building and it’s just gonna be better and more consistent than anything we’ve ever built. I’m gonna take care of you.’
“I told him on Thursday, ‘Just listen to me. I promise you, you’re gonna have a different race car than you’ve ever had. You’re gonna get back like you were, and your question of consistency is gonna be gone because they can’t be built more consistent than the way I’m gonna do it.’ And we hung up, and in his mind he was all calm.”
But then came last Saturday, and with Boggs’s passing came the reality that he would never drive the car that Swartz was so eagerly building for him. In an instant, Swartz found himself switching gears from thinking about a renewed future racing with Boggs to mourning the loss of his friend. And with Boggs, there was so much for Swartz to remember beyond racing.
For instance, there was their common, modest backgrounds.
“Both him and I were raised on the poor side,” Swartz said. “His dad took off racing and so did mine. My dad divorced my mother in ’72 and his dad had divorced his mother somewhere back there, too, and we were kind of left behind for a little bit. My dad always made sure we knew that he loved us and that sort of thing, but still, I lived in a couple houses that we had an outhouse to go to. I don’t know if Jackie did, but we just lived rough, and if it wasn’t for welfare I honestly don’t know what we would’ve done.
“Jackie was raised the same way — try to take care of your toys and appreciate each thing you get, and try to get the most out of it. If it was a pair of shoes, you’re trying to get the most life you can get out of it because you didn’t get shoes very often.
“Ever since I known him, this dude was very frugal, because he always had to build his own stuff. I always told him, ‘The reason God never made you tree bark was because you’d kill every tree in this country because you are so tight (with money), it’s unreal.’ Of course, we’d joke back and forth. He’d say, ‘You’re tighter than I am,’ and I said, ‘There ain’t no way. If you could figure out how to use toilet paper over, you’d do that too.’ And I told him, ‘The reason the country made a dollar bill out of paper and not rubber is because you’d stretch it so far till you couldn’t stretch it no more.’
“Sometimes I’d go to his shop and he’d have this big pot on (his stove),” he continued. “He’d have macaroni down in it and he’d have his hammer and he’d pour this big can of tomato juice down it. He’d look at me and say, ‘Son, I can feed 18 people right here with this,’ and it was X amount of dollars (he spent on the food) that he knew right down to the T. He’d been working on that race car, but at the same time, you’d walk in there and he’d be making a pot of macaroni, goulash type of thing, a cheap way of doing it."
There was the one primary personal deviation between the two.
“He’s a rough-necker, and I didn’t agree with his ethics of around 6 o’clock or so when he’d drink the cans,” Swartz said with a chuckle, comparing his straight-laced manner to Boggs’s hardscrabble, beer-drinking ways. “I’d been raised where my dad never did drink so I stayed away from it. So when that would come out I’d just kind of … if he ever stopped to think about it, when I wasn’t around, it always typically when the evening started.
“Now, if I had to be (with him into the evening), like when we were getting ready to go to Florida, there’s times we’d work 38, 48 hours straight through, and he’d keep on drinking. But there’s only one time I actually saw him stumble (from drinking), and I actually commented about it. It was about 6:30 (in the morning) and we’d been up for like 40-some hours and I said, ‘Jackie, I’ve got to get to the house. I gotta get my shop open at 7:30. But I want to comment on something — that’s the first time I’ve ever seen you or felt like you had one too many.’ He said, ‘What are you talking about, son?’ I said, ‘I just seen you take one little misstep.’ He’s like, ‘Well, after 52 beers you’d think you would, wouldn’t you?’ ”
And of course, there was the essence of Jackie Boggs: he was an intimidating guy with his brawny frame, bald head and goatee, but he was an absolute teddy bear around children. On countless occasions Swartz witnessed Boggs’s easy way with kids — both his own (sons Cole, Cale and Seth and daughter Kileigh) and others — and he attributed it to the tough-love that Boggs’s late father gave him.
“I think Jackie’s whole life, I think he wanted Jack just to put his arm around him and hug him and say, ‘I’m proud of you, son, I love you,’ ” Swartz said. “My dad always did, but I don’t think Jackie ever got that acceptance, and I think when Jack had passed, I don’t think he’d ever got it at that point. But he gave it to his kids.”
According to Swartz, those Father of the Year shirts are made for Jackie Boggs.
“If I didn’t have my dad, and you would call me up and say, ‘I’m gonna let you pick a dad for you, I’ll let you choose,’ it would be Jackie Boggs,” Swartz said. “I mean, that guy, when it comes to kids … you and I, if Jackie didn’t know us, we could walk by and he might not speak a word to us. But if our kids were with us, and Jackie made eye contact with them or they looked over at him, he would bring the kid to him. We’d have to walk over to his car because he wanted to take care of that kid, say hi.
“He was very persistent about taking care of the kids. Kids are No. 1 to him. If the (10-minute) horn goes off for a Lucas Oil race to get in line (for the feature) and a kid comes up at the last minute, he might be late (to the staging area), but he’s gonna take care and sign an autograph for that kid before he goes in line.
“And around his neighborhood, if there’s somebody mistreating a kid, you’re gonna have Jackie Boggs on your porch and you may get your lights punched out. If a kid had no shoes, that kid got shoes — and that don’t have to be Jackie’s kid.
“I called him one time a few years back — it wasn’t very long ago, three or four years ago — and just asked him, ‘What are you doing?’ He was like, ‘I’m down here at the courthouse. Somebody told me this boy is getting sent up to a boys’ house or whatever and I just come down here to try and get him and take him under my own wing.’ He was that kind of a guy. He is, as far as I know, the most hard-headed individual that I’ve ever met, but he had a soft heart when you got right down to it.”
Boggs was almost like a Pied Piper or a Santa Claus of his neighborhood. Kids flocked to him because he treated them so well.
“I mean, when you go to his house and you’re there at night time — and this particular time was before Seth, his youngest boy, come along — and Cole and Cale would be in their bedroom,” Swartz said. “Well, they wouldn’t be the only two in the bedroom. There might be eight to nine people in the bedroom laying on the floor, and they were not relatives. They would be kids that he’s raising on his own, other people’s kids he’s taking in for the night.
“And his shop was just total chaos. I mean, kids running everywhere. There was toys of all sorts. I drove over to his shop one time, it was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and I go to pull in and there’s got to be 30 to 35 kids, just a huge amount of kids coming out of his yard and across the street. I slowed down, the kids are going everywhere, and I said, ‘What happened?’ He thought I’d seen something, so he’s like, ‘What are you talking about?’ I said, ‘What’s with all the kids?’ He said, ‘Oh, they’re just neighborhood kids that come over to play. We fixed ‘em up some stuff over here to play.’
“There’s probably nine to 12 go-karts in his shop too. He’d get these go-karts fixed up and he would go out, get on his mower and drag the little racetrack that he built, he’d water it, he’d get the go-karts out and fired up, and then he’d get these kids on these karts. He’d get them all going and he’d go work on his race car, and then they might tear up six of ‘em and the next day he’s fixing them six go-karts to get ‘em ready for when they do it again. He’d call me and say, ‘I just got back from Harbor Freight. I had to get 15 of them Clone engines so we could keep these karts going.’ And then he’d be late to the racetrack … well, I know why.
“Just unbelievable. I couldn’t deal with it, but just unbelievable what he was mainly for the kids in the community. Just an unbelievable individual.”
Tearing up again, Swartz added: “What I probably say in my mind that I like the most is his heart, and his eyes. He seen kids as more-or-less a checkered flag, and I’m talking a checkered flag with many colors, not just black-and-white. All my grandkids are mixed (race), and it didn’t matter. He didn’t care. Everybody was the same, and that’s how it oughta be.”
Boggs’s death will leave a void that can’t be filled for so many people in his life. Swartz is one of them.
“The only thing I know is the Lord only knows his last thoughts and breath, but it was like three weeks ago I said, just trying to get the stress off him, ‘Jackie, you’re 50-some years old and I’m right there with you, but we don’t have a guarantee we’re gonna be here tomorrow. Just meet the Lord or at least try to get your heart where it needs to be,’ ” Swartz whispered. “He said, ‘Son, I’m good to people and I try to treat people right,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m not in doubt of that at all, no doubts at all with that, especially with kids, you’re No. 1 in my book. But there’s only one way to get to heaven. I don’t care how much money you’ve got, you can’t buy it. You can’t good your way and you can’t work your way.’ He just went, ‘Ah, I’m good’ — that’s Jackie — but I just pray and hope that that his last thoughts and breath were, ‘You know, Audie might be right, and I better ask for that now because I think I may be leaving.’ ”
Gathering himself, a tearful Swartz said, “I just wish he knew how much I loved him. I wanted to hug him and kiss him sometimes, and I wanted to choke him out sometimes, but that’s how brothers do it.”
And Swartz concluded by offering a final thought on what Boggs would be telling him to do after his passing.
“I gotta keep working because that’s what he did and that’s all he’d expect,” Swartz said. “The time he took for his own self, or a human who’s older than 19, wasn’t much. The only time he took was for the kids, so I better stay busy or he’d be mad.”
Ten things worth mentioning
1. After last Saturday night’s 60-lap Keystone Cup finale at Bedford (Pa.) Speedway, winner Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., and runner-up Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., noted that their regional-focused schedules this season have pitted them against each other quite often. On Sept. 5 at Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway, in fact, the two drivers split a pair of ULMS-sanctioned features. “It’s like a friendly rivalry,” Zeigler said. “I think me and Gregg are a pretty good comparison of one another. On his best night and my best night, we’re pretty close.” Zeigler would have liked to get the upper hand on Satterlee again at Bedford — in the 25 times they’ve entered the same race this year, Zeigler has finished better on 15 occasions and Satterlee nine times (they scored identical B-main results once) — but he was happy to see a fellow Pennsylvanian claim the $20,000 top prize. “I’m just happy that whoever won it, it was another local,” Zeigler said. “That was cool.”
2. The 2020 season has brought Dan Stone of Thompson, Pa., a fair share of frustration, but he was smiling after finishing sixth in Bedford’s Keystone Cup. “It was great,” Stone said after climbing out of his Super Deuce Racing Longhorn car. “We’re happy. We lost spots (after starting ninth) and I suck here anyway, so this is like a miracle. I feel like we have a good car. I want to race more now!” Alas, Stone hasn’t changed his plans to end his campaign with Bedford’s event. With a few inches of snow forecast for his home in northeast Pennsylvania, he decided to winterize his truck and trailer after returning to his shop rather than make a trip to Georgetown (Del.) Speedway this weekend or the Nov. 4-5 WoO Last Call at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
3. Two months after his nearly year-long stint driving for Billy Hicks of Mount Airy, N.C., came to an end, Kyle Hardy of Stephens City, Va., is back driving a Super Late Model. Bedford’s Keystone Cup marked his third start in October behind the wheel of a Clements-powered XR1 Rocket fielded by Sommey Lacey of Clements, Md., who brought on the 28-year-old Hardy two weeks ago after racing this season with Jamie Lathroum of Mechanicsville, Md. (Hardy’s previous outings came at Lacey’s home track, Potomac Speedway in Budds Creek, Md.) “I’ve been in this situation (looking for a ride) before and I just try to keep digging,” Hardy said before finishing 15th in Saturday’s 60-lap feature. “Doors always open, and they have. I’m just thankful to be still racing because of Sommey Lacey Racing. We’re really excited, and we’re looking forward to next year.” Hardy, who plans to enter Lacey’s No. 45 in this weekend’s Mid-Atlantic Championship event at Georgetown Speedway, is hopeful of continuing his pairing with Lacey into 2021 and also has picked up an XR1 Rocket of his own that he is assembling for his use next season with assistance from several backers.
4. Tim McCreadie’s Donald and Gena Bradsher-owned Paylor Motorsports team pulled into Bedford Speedway in style, making their first racetrack appearance with sparkling new white hauler and trailer. McCreadie didn’t sleep in the new toterhome — he stayed at a nearby hotel with two New York buddies, big-block modified racer Justin Haers and occasional sportsman driver Mike Amell, who accompanied him on the trip — but, with the hauler problems he experienced a couple years ago still not gone from his mind, he was awed by the transporter now carrying his equipment. While sitting at the back door of the trailer before Friday’s action, McCreadie saw a smudge in the doorway and quipped, “Lanigan would have to wipe this down immediately,” in reference to the well-known neat freak Darrell Lanigan parked alongside him.
5. Andy Haus of Hamburg, Pa., had plans to enter last weekend’s Keystone Cup to top off a 2020 season highlighted by his Port Royal Speedway points championship. Instead, he was at home with his new wife Caitlyn — the couple was married Oct. 3 — quarantining due to the coronavirus. Andy and Caitlyn enjoyed a wonderful honeymoon trip to Wyoming's Great Teton National Park, but upon their return Caitlyn developed a fever and tested positive for Covid-19. Andy didn’t get tested because as of late last week he hadn’t experienced any symptoms and he remained isolated at home for two weeks with his wife anyway.
6. I enjoyed the two-day Bedford format that included a pair of 16-lap semifeatures on Friday and an early start time for Saturday’s 60-lap finale, which took the green flag at 7:45 p.m. and ended just before 8:30 p.m. With so many three-day events featuring three complete racing programs these days, I liked attending back-to-back old-school, two-day affairs at Portsmouth Raceway Park (the Oct. 16-17 DTWC) and Bedford.
7. And speaking of the Keystone Cup, Bedford promoter Joe Padula Jr., announced that the event’s fourth annual edition in 2021 will move back earlier on the calendar, to Sept. 24-25, and increase to $21,000-to-win. The payoff moves it $1,000 above Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway’s Pittsburgher 100, which boasts a $20,000 top prize, on the list of Pennsylvania Dirt Late Model specials. In addition, with both national tours scheduled to be in action next year on Sept. 24-25 — the WoO at Revolution Park Speedway in Monroe, La., and the Lucas Oil Series at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway — the Keystone Cup figures to be a red-circle race for regional teams eyeing a big-money victory.
8. Talk about a super team: Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., and Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill. — this year’s Lucas Oil Series and WoO champions — are spending Oct. 29-Nov. 1 racing open-wheel modifieds as teammates in the four-race USRA Modster Mash at tracks in Oklahoma and Kansas. Woodward, Okla.-based Ramirez Motorsports, which fields Owens’s Dirt Late Model operation, has prepared mods for the two full-fender stars to run alongside the team’s primary driver, owner Leon Ramirez’s son Dereck, in events at Tri-State Speedway in Pocola, Okla. ($10,050-to-win), Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. ($10,002), 81 Speedway in Park City, Kan. ($10,031) and Humboldt (Kan.) Speedway ($5,000). Their rides will carry Owens’s familiar No. 20 and Sheppard’s No. B5.
9. It wasn’t a big surprise, but World Racing Group officials confirmed several days ago that the organization has canceled all its awards banquets for the 2020 season, including the WoO affair that annually follows the World Finals weekend in Concord, N.C., and January’s DIRTcar Racing ceremony in Springfield, Ill. A press release stated that “with the health and safety of everyone in mind during the Covid-19 pandemic, officials decided cancelling the banquets this year would be in the best interest of teams, drivers and staff.” All points fund and posted awards for each series will, of course, still be paid to the drivers and teams, albeit without the formality of a banquet. (Sheppard will be honored publicly for his WoO championship during the Nov. 4-5 Last Call doubleheader at The Dirt Track at Charlotte that is replacing the World Finals due to Covid-19-related crowd restrictions at the 4/10-mile oval.)
10. There’s been a baby boom this month among, oddly enough, Dirt Late Model drivers with last names starting in H. Three racers — Jared Hawkins of Fairmont, W.Va., Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., and Dale Hollidge of Mechanicsville, Md. — welcomed new additions to their families over the past two weeks. Hawkins’s wife, Megan, gave birth to son Callum on Oct. 15; Hubbard’s wife, Kelsie, delivered daughter Rawlins, on Oct. 17; and Hollidge’s wife, Taylor, delivered daughter Kensley Raye on Oct. 27. Hawkins and Hubbard became fathers for the first time while the Hollidges now have two children.