Once again, there is little to “predict” again this week after back-to-back rainouts, so this we’ll look at the 10 biggest surprises of this abbreviated season to date:
1. The emergence of Bobby Anders in hobby stocks: Anders had proven in recent years he had the ability to run up front, but mechanical issues — and dare we say temper? — seemed to get the best of him and regularly knock him out of contention. This year he has quality equipment and a much-improved on-track demeanor. If not for the DQ for illegal something or others he’d be the points leader. At worst, he should finish second in points, and with a little luck he might be able to deny incumbent Steve Carlin a fourth championship.
2. MIA: Two of the track’s biggest attractions, late model drivers Mark Burgtorf and Jason Frankel, have been on hand a combined six Sunday nights. This is totally selfish, but I miss watching those guys race.
3. Lack of stock cars: I’m not here to beat a dead horse, but I scratch my rather large head each week, wondering why this class hasn’t matured like expected. I’ve heard and read all of the reasons and excuses, but I’m still surprised the numbers are not comparable to at least the hobby stocks.
4. Jake Griffin: What fun it is watching this 11-year-old develop as a both a modified and late model driver. Take a trip back to the pits after the races some Sunday night and talk to this young man. He’s a pleasure to get to know, and in case you have never seen him he’s about the size of large Mountain Dew. I cannot believe he wheels those cars around the Bullring.
5. Rainouts: Nobody saw this wet of a spring and summer coming, and an offshoot of the lack of races is the apathy it is creating in some corners. I had one race team tell me this week after the two most-recent washouts that they have discovered other things to do on Sunday nights. “You know, with no mid-week shows or makeups and missing so many Sunday nights, we have discovered we really haven’t missed it that much,” was a direct quote. And that is not good. It’s probably too late this season, but I’m convinced there is a need for at least a handful of mid-week events and some sort of system to run a few (mid-week?) makeups if the need arises.
6. Comeback: It will be interesting to see where Jim Brown stands in second-half poitns at the end of the season. The veteran’s unexpected comeback in the hobby stock series has been one of the true positives of 2010.
7. Unexpected Rookie of the Year: Trophy girl Hope Cernea. There’s not even a close second.
8. Modifieds: For all of the grief they take, only two of nine features have been cut short by the time limit.
9. D.W.: It’s been a pleasant surprise to see Denny Woodworth run a full points schedule so far, which, I feel, was unexpected by most. The past three years had seen him do quite a bit of traveling to run in some different series. No. 45′s decision to “stay home” could not have come at a better time with Burgtorf and Frankel having been absent most of the season.
10. No brats at the concession stand: This has probably cost me three or four pounds.