(Today continues a week-long look at different aspects of competition at Quincy Raceways as we head toward opening night on Sunday.)
Steve Blickhan, the longtime flagman at the Bullring who retired at the end of last season, was conspicuous by his presence Wednesday at 8000 Broadway during the first night of practice.
“Couldn’t stay away, could you?” a friend asked.
“Nope,” Blickhan said, shaking a his head with a smile.
Ironically, the T-shirt he wore more or less summed up a lot of things: “Guilty Pleasure.”
I knew how “Blick” felt. It was only a warm Wednesday night in March, and it was only practice, but there they were. Late models, modifieds, stock cars and hobby stocks. It was time for racing season.
About 300 fans filtered in and out of the grandstands watching little more than a test and tune session, but each and every one had a smile on his or her face. There was a recognized sense of anticipation, a feeling the offseason was almost over.
In the pits, about 35 drivers and their crews turned wrenches, checked air pressures and compared notes. There were familiar local names and some long-distance visitors. Some of the regulars on hand included Dave Wietholder, Steven DeLonjay, Terry Gallaher, Denny Woodworth, Ron Elbe, Ben Huff and Nick Ingalls. Making the trek from outside the area were Iowa hotshoes Tommy Elston of Keokuk and Greg Kastli of Waterloo. Donovan Lodge of Moline also made the haul.
The only downside of the night — besides no concession stand! — was the dust. Track official Jack Walbring said there were problems with the water truck and some of the pumps, but when he started getting technical I lost him. Bottom line was little or no water and a lot of dust, but I’m sure things will be fixed before Sunday night when the season begins in earnest.
I left practice in time to get home in time to watch American Idol, but I was smiling the entire ride back to Midlan Drive. Racing season is almost here.