World of Outlaws Notebook
Notes: Hartzell trades March Madness for racing
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
Just as Saturday night's World of Outlaws Late Model Series program at Screven Motor Speedway was getting ready to begin, Rick Hartzell was sitting in a lawn chair in the Sylvania, Ga., pit area feeling some mixed emotions.
The husband of 2010 WoO Rookie of the Year candidate Jill George of Cedar Falls, Iowa, Hartzell had learned that the University of Northern Iowa — his alma mater and the school where he served as athletic director from 1999-2008 — defeated top-seeded Kansas in the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament. Hartzell, 56, hired Northern Iowa's head coach, Ben Jacobsen, in 2007, and obviously still knows many people working at the Cedar Falls institution, but not being there for one of the great moments in the school's athletic history left him at least a bit blue.
"A lot of my friends are celebrating tonight back home tonight," said Hartzell, who resigned from his position at Northern Iowa two years ago.
Hartzell now makes his living as a referee of men's college basketball games. An official for more than 25 years, Hartzell worked 105 games during the 2009-2010 season, including the recent Big 10 Tournament. He's also worked games during 22 NCAA Tournaments and was selected as a referee for this year's tourney, but he declined the opportunity at least partially because he wanted to attend last weekend's WoO events with George, who finished 19th at Ocala, Fla., but failed to qualify at Screven.
Other notes from WoO's Ocala-Screven doubleheader March 19-20:
McCREADIE RETURNS TO ROLLED CAR: Tim McCreadie ran both events in a Sweeteners Plus car that had not seen action since he flipped it last June during qualifying for the Firecracker 100 at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa. The car's rollcage and frame was completely overhauled by Rocket Chassis and McCreadie immediately felt comfortable racing it, registering finishes of second (Ocala) and fourth (Screven) to keep him a perfect 4-for-4 in the top-five-finish category on the 2010 WoO.
FAMILY AFFAIR FOR FRANCIS: With two aunts and an uncle living near Ocala, Steve Francis was supported on Friday night by a healthy contingent of perhaps three-dozen family members and friends who came out to watch him race. He didn't give them much to cheer about, struggling to a 12th-place finish with an ill-handling car that he later discovered was hampered by a bent birdcage.
SPINOUT COSTS SMITH AT SCREVEN: Brady Smith, who entered the weekend as the WoO points leader, debuted a new Bloomquist Race Car – complete with a graphics scheme showing more orange color – on Saturday at Screven. He looked supersonic in winning his heat race and advancing from the eighth starting spot in the feature to third in just four laps, but he climbed no higher and ultimately spun out of fourth place on lap 31. "I left my car too free and just spun out," said Smith, who settled for a 10th-place finish after restarting at the rear of the field. "The car was great in qualifying, but we made the wrong decisions for the feature. I knew we were in trouble when we were too good early."
KING CAUGHT UP IN PROVISIONAL WHIRLWIND: Russ King, the 2009 WoO Rookie of the Year who entered the new season with high hopes for improved performance, finds himself mired in a full-fledged sophomore slump. After a heat-race tangle at Ocala forced him to pull out his backup car and then struggling at Screven, King has used a provisional spot to start all four WoO races this season — two emergency provisionals last month at Volusia Speedway Park, and two WoO points provisionals last weekend.
CLANTON'S THUMB HEALING ...: Shane Clanton was back in competitive action last weekend after a serious thumb infection forced him to merely start-and-park his car in last month's season-opening WoO events. The Locust Grove, Ga., driver's left thumb is healing well (he had only a small bandage covering it) and gave him no problems behind the wheel – even after a flying rock struck his injured finger shortly after he took to the track at Ocala.
... WHILE BLAND'S THUMB NEEDS TREATMENT: Jordan Bland visited a local hospital following Friday's program at Ocala for treatment of a cut on his right thumb, an injury he suffered when he angrily grabbed his car's crumpled, jagged hood following a tangle on lap 32. The Campbellsville, Ky., driver, who needed two stitches to close the wound, slid sideways between turns three and four because of a flat tire and was hit hard in his car's nosepiece by Christian Augspurger's passing machine.
ODDS AND ENDS: Rick Eckert's chief mechanic, Zach Frields, made his first racing trip since his wife April gave birth to the couple's son, Brinson, on Feb. 20. ... Christian Augspurger of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., became the third 14-year-old driver to qualify for a WoO feature in the past year, joining Tyler Reddick of Corning, Calif., and Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, in the tour's record books. He finished 22nd at Ocala. ... Making his debut as the WoO pit steward was former Lucas Oil Series official Marc Hoegerl, who lives in western Pennsylvania. He replaces Kris Underwood, who had worked for the tour since 2005.