Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ageless Kenny Schrader Schools ARCA Kids at Salem Speedway

Kenny Schrader wins at Salem again
Everyone in racing knows the name Kenny Schrader. He is a true racer - a throwback to the days when drivers would criss-cross the country and race anything on wheels. This past weekend, this ageless wonder brought his Federated Auto Parts sponsored stock car to Salem Speedway in southern Indiana and proceeded to spank the field of youngsters in the ARCA Racing Series Federated 200. I was working as ARCA's photographer again at what was originally supposed to be a two day show, but was condensed into Sunday after Saturday's activities were washed out. It turned out to be quite a show, which is not surprising if you have ever seen an ARCA race at short tracks like Salem Speedway. I will be back with the series again starting with Pocono in June so I am looking forward to a busy summer!

Rain took care of Saturday's schedule
I made two round trip commutes from Indy to Salem to work the event and added more interesting travel experiences to my vita. I passed a lot of cars both days and I would really like to see all the slow driving, brake tapping, scaredy-cats get out of the way and move over. If you don't, I will just fly by at the first opportunity. I don't know what was going on with I-65 northbound on the way home Sunday, but I managed to avoid two long backups by getting off the interstate (twice) and taking a much more scenic route through southern Indiana.

If you drive enough, you will inevitably encounter delays like I did Sunday, but that doesn't tell the story of my weekend. The most interesting thing that happened was having Kenny Schrader come into the ARCA marketing trailer where I was working before the race. I had just finished shooting the driver autograph session and I asked him if he wanted to sit down. He said no thanks, he'd be sitting the rest of the day. I asked if he needed to see anyone and his response was he was just looking for a place to hide out before the race. I completely understood that as the trailer is normally pretty quiet and he seemed happy just checking his phone. I asked him one more question and figured I should leave him alone:  did he feel that Salem owed him one after last year? His response was pure racer: no track owes a driver anything; you have to take it. And that's exactly what he did Sunday afternoon, despite being involved in an early incident that damaged his left front fender. At last year's spring Salem race, he tangled with a backmarker while leading with only a handful of laps remaining, cut a tire and hit the wall. There would not be a repeat of that situation this year as he controlled the race tempo after taking the lead on lap 63 which he never relinquished. He was clearly peddling it through the corners late in the day, comfortable with his advantage and ability to rack up the laps. In the process, he got his first win at Salem since 1999. It was really special to be there and be a part of it.

Schrader held off Haley, Ursetta and Kyle Weatherman on a late restart
Hopefully the youngsters he raced this weekend at Salem learned a thing or two from Schrader. It was the 97th ARCA race at Salem and the man to beat going into the weekend was Grant Enfinger who had won the first three races of the season. Grant found the wall late in the race which dropped him to 13th which opened the door for the youth brigade to charge into the top 10. Kyle Waetherman took second and his 15 year old little brother Clayton took 8th. Dominic Ursetta took third in only his second ARCA start followed by JJ Haley, who barely looks old enough to shave, let alone drive these big, heavy stock cars. Last season's rookie of the year Austin Wayne Self grabbed fifth and was followed by Brandon Jones in sixth. For Jones, it was his lowest ever finish in an ARCA race! Veteran Tom Hessert in seventh must have felt like a graybeard with all these kids around him as current rookie points leader David Levine followed the younger Weatherman home in 9th. Another veteran James Swanson did a very nice job to finish in 10th with perhaps one of the lowest budget teams in ARCA, so that was really good to see.

This week ARCA heads to Talladega Superspeedway and I had originally intended to work this weekend for Associated Press but I just couldn't make it work. So I will be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday instead for opening day and rookie orientation for the Indy 500. I am excited to be shooting again this May for motorsport.com and am grateful for the opportunities to travel and shoot so many excellent events. Indy is home, however, and it is nice to sleep in my own bed every night after long days at the Speedway, so stay tuned for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. See you at the track!

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