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FightForTheRail

Sunday hurt worse than I thought it would

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For the past several months on here, I have voiced the opinion that DIRT Week isn't the same race I grew up with in the 1980s, and it is time to let the mile die. I guess that is probably still how I feel deep down inside. All along, I knew that the desperate petitions and public meetings were only forestalling the inevitable. Over the past several decades, I have seen so many tracks in Pennsylvania and New Jersey disappear that I knew there was no saving the mile.

 

I just just didn't really expect to feel emotional at the end of the race on Sunday and for several hours afterward. I didn't really have any sense of dread or overwhelming sadness as I drove to Syracuse on Sunday morning. But I guess the end really hit me with about 25 laps to go. Stewart Friesen made the winning pass and the race was largely over at that point.

 

I love history; nearly all of my college electives were history courses. As the race ended on Sunday, I silently thought of Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Upon seeing the mortally wounded President draw his last breath and fall silent for eternity, an emotional Stanton has been recorded by history as saying "Now, he belongs to the ages." The fact that Stanton most likely said "Now, he belongs to the angels." has mattered little over the past 150 years. As Sunday's race ended, I silently told myself, "Now, it belongs to the ages."

 

I knew exiting the Fairgrounds would be a nightmare, given the large crowd, so I was in no hurry to leave. I first attended Syracuse in 1987, and have seen every Sunday of DIRT Week since then with the exception of 2005's November raindate and 2012's rain-shortened event. In all the years I went to Syracuse, I had never walked the track at any point. I don't really know why I did Sunday evening, either, other than hundreds of people were doing the same thing. I bent over and tried to break off a piece of the rock-hard surface to take along, but had no success. I then walked toward the wall in the first turn and grabbed a small piece of loose dirt to take along. I also grabbed several small pieces of crumbling concrete wall and stuffed them in my pocket.

 

When Flemington had its final days dirt weekend in 1990, the track handed fans baby food jars of Flemington dirt. I kept that jar of dirt for nearly 20 years. I finally got rid of the tiny momento while doing some closet cleaning. I had not thought about that jar of dirt in many years, and I no longer needed it to make me feel better. I had moved on. Same thing with several of the food stand signs that I grabbed as souvenirs on the last day of the Nazareth Half-Mile. They also went in the trash a few years ago.

 

In time, I suspect the small items I picked up from the track at Syracuse on Sunday evening will also find their way into a landfill. But it felt comforting to at least grab something tangible to hold on to Sunday night.

 

It's weird how indelible certain memories can remain, even decades later. The last race in the history of the Nazareth Half-Mile was an enduro on Labor Day 1988. To this day, that remains the only time I have ever attended a track solely for an Enduro. As the dust settled for the final time at Nazareth in 1988, the loudspeakers played a song from the day -- Richard Marx's "Hold on to the Nights." Nearly thirty years later, I remember struggling to hold back tears as I considered the lyrics of the day:

 

"Hold on to the nights

Hold on to the memories
I wish that I could give you something more"

 

Like Syracuse, the Nazareth Half-Mile was worn out and had seen better days. But I thought about that Richard Marx song on Sunday evening. The lyrics still read like the opus of worn-out, closing racetracks everywhere.

 

As I drove home Sunday night, I didn't really think much about the Syracuse races of decades past. I thought about how I lived and died for that race when i was in high school and all through my 20s.. I thought about all the different friends and acquaintances I went to Syracuse with over the past 28 years. A couple of them are dead, several moved on with life and no longer have room for racing in that life. Several others attend races only sporadically these days, and there are still others who I have not seen or heard from in enough years to constitute a couple decades.

 

In some weird way, I almost wish I would not have went to Syracuse on Sunday. The crowd was the best I have seen there in many years -- it's just a shame that it took the closing of the track to bring out such a crowd. The race I grew up with in the 1980s has been gone for a while. I just didn't expect Sunday to rekindle old memories of people I had not thought about in a long time and racetracks that a Secretary of War could eulogize.

 

Like Abraham Lincoln and the Nazareth Half-Mile, the Syracuse mile now belongs to the ages. And that hurt more on Sunday than I ever thought it would.

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Pretty much sums up what everyone feels.  That was a touching piece... The race itself was anticlimactic for me, I didn't really care who won. But as the laps wound down, I felt sadder and sadder.  

 

I hope their grand plans for the place are an epic failure. 

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Well said.

There was a nice story on syracuse.com that I was reading around the time they were introducing the former winners. That combination got to me a little. Even though the weather was near perfect, the halfway point was when it started to really feel over to me.

Afterwards we grabbed some souvenirs, walked the track, visited with everyone we crossed paths with, the kids got to ride a lap in a race car (thanks Joe), and we even went back to drive a lap before leaving for good. After spending over 40 Sundays at the same place, I was in no hurry to end it.
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I originally had plans of attending  SDW this year, being it was the last one at Syracuse. Real life took over for me, having a young family and a wife who is on call at work every other weekend and I have a couple weddings to attend in the coming weeks that are going to require time off, and it became pretty apparent things weren't going to work out for me and SDW.

 

I had made my peace with it. I had some really fun times at the mile over the years. I had some pretty shitty times at the mile other years. I could remember all of that going into the future, and look back to a happier time, and a healthier SDW. Certainly seemed like a better plan than moping about or getting angry about the mile going away. I started getting pretty excited to see what comes next. It has the potential to be pretty cool, and could be the shot in the arm SDW desperately needs.

 

Then, earlier this week, I started looking at pictures for SDW. I followed along on the live feed Mallet and crew had on the front page (which was unbelievably cool guys). The sadness crept in. I wasn't going to see "Syracuse cars" ever again. I wasn't going to have beers with people from all over modified country in the infield anymore. My stomach wasn't going to have the butterflies it used to get as soon as I walked out of the infield side of the tunnel ever again. The mad dash from Syracuse to the Wheels on Saturday night (sometimes with randoms who asked for a ride over) won't be necessary anymore. That's just scratching the surface. There's a lot more never going to happen again.

 

I'm going to miss the mile, a bunch, even though I haven't been there in over a decade. I was going to make a return trip one of these years (probably when my daughter is a teenager and hates my guts for no apparent reason) . I can't now. That's bothering me way more than it should.

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I still haven't taken my pit pass bracelet off. I only made it to Syracuse twice, but I know how much it means to some people. Walking in you can just feel the history. It feels more like a NASCAR event than a modified race. It's seldom that I get goosebumps and chills down my back at any event, but yesterday when they fired the engines for the last time at Syracuse, I did. The drive home seemed three times as long as it normally is. The whole time it was just sinking in more and more that I'd never be back at the state fairgrounds for a Syracuse 200. And for that reason, I'll never be back again for anything else either. What a tragedy to lose such history to the almighty dollar.
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My dad and i where working together on our catapault for an event next weekend, wishing we could be there again. It sucks that time keeps putting more crap between me and racing. I will miss dirt week at the fairgrounds.
I hope they move the race shows somewhere else so i can go. Because i will never attend another event there.

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It's nice everyone had a chance to experience it one more time. It's also nice the crowd seemed to be way up this year and the car counts were good.

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Personally for me I'm excited for a New home for SDW.. dont get me wrong I go every year for the weekend and have a great time, hanging with friends and partying but the racing is nothing to talk about.. I did think yesterday's racing was good but boy was Saturdays a snooze fest..

So for me it's out with the old and in with the new. The fairgrounds will be missed, lets start a new tradition but this time with a real race track...

On to ESW!!!
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I know this wasn't unexpected, but once the race ended, there were dozens of people that stood on the track and simply looked toward the grandstand and snapped photos of the nearly empty grandstands. 

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I couldn't be happier it's moving. Now WRG can actually promote a race instead of just a party. I love tradition and have been going to the fairgrounds for a better part of 20 years but am excited to see a new venue and an actual race. Hopefully Glenn can deal with the feces thrown all over his new bathroom walls and the smashed beer bottles all over and all of the damage that is done yearly to the fairgrounds.

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I know this wasn't unexpected, but once the race ended, there were dozens of people that stood on the track and simply looked toward the grandstand and snapped photos of the nearly empty grandstands.


I was one of em. Going to miss that place

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Josh like you I had planned on going this year but with having a child on the way and other family things going on so I had to make the hard decision to not go. I loved the pictures and followed the live updates which were definitely amazing. I couldn't bring myself to even order the dirtvision feed for Sunday though because I was struggling enough knowing that I will never make it to dirt week at the mile. I had been to several of the 4th of July races and Labor Day races but never dirt week, and that bugs me a lot. Hopefully the new venue will be able to create its own atmosphere and history.

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I'm a little to young to remember if everyone knew the last race at Langhorne was the last race. But if they did I imagine those fans felt the same way.

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I thought I wouldn't, but I felt bad about it too. Even though I have little ties to SDW (we always did labor day), I am sad to see the track go. It has way outlived it's usefulness. But loosing over 100 years of history sucks.

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Yes...we knew Langhorne was done before the last race, (won by Dog Treichler) Had to make the long drive from Lockport twice that year as it was rained out the first time. I was sad in 71, but today I am dying inside about the Moody Mile.

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I went Saturday, and drove back out Sunday morning . Got caught in the 690 mess.  Made it to the steel plant, pulled out of line and headed home. I just couldn't do it.  I didn't want to see the end.    

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Anyone who knows me knows the love I have for Syracuse. I remember as kid saying goodbye to my father as he left for the Mile on Wednesday morning. I couldn't wait for him to call at night and give me all the news and updates. The best was Monday, when he returned with my t-shirt and program and I'd read about the previous year's stories and heroes right away. As I got a little older the internet helped give me a feeling of being there and I'd spend hours looking at pictures, reading updates and following the action.
'05 was my first visit to Syracuse and I remember first laying eyes on the majestic facility. I could finally see and feel the history. The giant grandstand with the amber lights illuminating the night, the walls lined with guardrail, the outlying buildings with the green roofs, the endless rows of campers with the smell of burning wood in the air.. I could feel just how special the place was. It was unlike anything else in the world of modifieds. It was Syracuse.
My first visit to the Mile was my first year racing open wheel cars and just being there as a spectator felt like a privilege. In '07 we decided to go and race. All the feelings I felt as a visitor were now multiplied tenfold as a competitor. Knowing I was going to be out there and how quickly things could go wrong made me respect the Mile. Given our operation and budget, we acheived success there that week and took home the first ever 358 Futures Race. Standing on the cinder track with the bronze eagle talking to Joe Marotta was incredible. I felt like the luckiest 19 year old in the world. We had so much fun that week that none of us wanted to leave on Monday. I remember pausing dozens of times that week just taking in the moment. It was purely magic.
I could ramble on for hours and even discuss how the Mile can beat you down in an instant like it did to us in '09 and how badly she can disappoint but coming to the realization that it's over is sad enough. As I made plans to go this year I joked with people that it would be like going to a funeral and it was true for me in very sense. The people reliving their memories and searching for even the tiniest of mementos gave you the harsh reality that it was all ending before our eyes. It seemed like nobody around me wanted that race to end, despite the dust and impending darkness.
No matter what you thought about the actual racing, Syracuse and Super Dirt Week meant so much more. May we always appreciate and ever forget.

Brett Graham
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As I pulled out after hanging around and watching the madhouse.......I was motioned to go across the track and ; with my RV and trailer in tow, made one last lap around the old girl....the memories of Drivers coming to take the green hit me, and I shed an actual tear as I went down the backstretch, remembering my buddy Craig Estelle sliding into 3 on a Harley XR-750. Call me a baby....but a little part of me was left at that facility as I went up on 690.   And you can bet I will be the last time I ever step foot on them fairgrounds again.

 

On a side note........man was it rough......

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