Makin’ Tracks – Race Writing & More CNY Mod Racing – DTD Exclusive

By BILL FOLEY

When I retired I didn’t exactly have a plan on keeping active. Sure I had visions of traveling (which I’ve done some), but nothing was firmed up to keep my mind occupied.

Well, I was adopted by Dirt Track Digest and the guys have provided me with a wonderful retirement opportunity….writing.

However, one thing I have rapidly learned is that there aren’t many younger writers covering the sport. There are photographers galore, but writers that’s another issue all together.

I have been a fan since I was a teenager and between announcing and writing I have had the opportunity to do some things I would never have had if I sat in the grandstand.




My wife had scheduled me to spend three months in the Sunshine State. I was not so sure this was for me, but thus far it has worked out.

My buddy Dave MacDonald and I hit Auburndale and 4-17 Southern Speedway. I hit DeSoto by myself and it was off to Bubba Raceway Park and New Smyrna with Charlie Uplinger.

In each case I simply couldn’t be a fan and had to write when I walked out. Hopefully, sharing my experience with readers of Paved Track Digest and DTD is something that was enjoyed.

Well, after that plans sort of fell apart. I had planned on being at Volusia for nearly every night to cover the DIRTCar Nationals. Made it through all the Sprint shows for five consecutive nights, but between company visiting, two rain outs, covering Stewart Friesen Daytona Truck debut and being sick I didn’t get to see the Mods down here.

It’s Monday, the day after the Daytona 500 and I still have never seen the Super Bowl of NASCAR.

However, reflecting on being able to write I had some tremendous experiences. In the past month I’ve interviewed the legendary Jack Hewitt and Danny Lasoski, Kenny Wallace, Brian Brown, Paul McMahan, Brent Marks, near 500 winner Kyle Larson, saw the excitement in Stewart Friesen as he prepped for Daytona, discussed rebuilding Joey Saldana’s Sprint Car in six hours with crew chief Tyler Swank, and met a variety of crew chiefs, drivers as well as sponsors while picking up many tidbits for columns.

I even had to step out of the racing fun zone a couple of times due to two horrendous Sprint Car accidents and deal with them the way I would have in a daily or weekly newspaper newsroom.

I am not writing this to brag, but to show the excitement and experiences you can gain by deciding to write. Photos are neat and yes, I carry a camera sometimes. But my passion is writing.

Racing is in need of young writers or even middle age writers.

If you want to write for a free credential then don’t do it. To me racing is getting behind the scenes and providing fans with something that they might not be aware of or to help them gain a better sense of what is going on. Seldom do I use PR pieces as I want to do things that others aren’t.

Don’t confuse writing with public relations. I’ve done both and they are complete opposites. I write what I see and if there is a controversy I won’t ignore it, but I also talk to all sides. I don’t and won’t insert my opinion in a racing story…that’s what columns are for.

Many times folks say “must be nice to get in for free”. Well, I only seek credentials for races I am covering and when I simply go to watch a race I stop and purchase a tickets just like everyone else. However, you know that I am going to write something when I get home. Bad habit is that once a reporter always a reporter. I guess you could say I live to write.

I’m getting old for this as evidenced by the 7.5 miles George Smith and I walked at Daytona or the five straight Volusia nights that eventually saw me get to bed by 2:30 a.m. However, I’ll do it as long as the DTD management team and my wife let me do it.

This is a younger persons sport. If you have writing skills there is always an opportunity to write for DTD. You can’t play favorites and should treat all as equals whether Big-Block Mod star or a four cylinder driver. There are all kinds of stories all over the pits.

If you have writing skills and like to meet people in your favorite sport sign up. If you are looking to get rich or make money well don’t do it.

To me racing isn’t exactly about racing it is about the people.

One thing I’ve discovered working with the DTD group is that they aren’t in it for the money. They are passionate individuals who came together for the common cause of providing race fans with a site where they could go for up to date racing information.

Once again if you are a writer or are willing to take direction let me know and I will see what we can do.

Modifieds Not In Florida

Mods sure appeared healthy at Volusia with 40 plus in the pits, but folks are asking about others so I reached out and a few drivers and teams got back to me.

Beth and Robbie Bellinger are back in the Big-Blocks this coming season.

Beth said, “I have switched to Bicknell this year and so that Rob could give me a little more support as he will be running the same car he ran last year.”

Continuing she explained, “Rob plans on running Brewerton and Utica-Rome. Me just Utica. We are going to try to get to Fulton when Utica is off on Sunday nights. Also we plan on hitting series shows that are close by. I’ll try to go to those tour shows and give it my best shot to qualify. I still have a lot to learn in the Big-Blocks. They are just so much different than crates.”…

Mitch Gibbs announced on Sunday he would be at the April 2 Utica-Rome opener.

In contacting him about running there weekly he said, “It’s going to be a week to week deal depending on how competitive we are. All we have is a Small-Block so we really don’t know if we’ll have enough power to keep up with the Big-Blocks. We’re gonna give it our best shot though.”…

Chad Phelps is rarin’ to go again as he said, “We are putting a new Troyer together. We are also putting the car we ran last year back together.”

Looking at where he is racing he said, “We should do the same schedule as last year (Brewerton and Fulton) for the most part with a possibility of running the Small-Block series with another team. However, as always we are in need of sponsors and marketing partners.”…

While on Modifieds in talking with Stewart Friesen at Daytona I asked him what he would consider his biggest obstacle this year on the truck tour. He said, “Travel and logistics as I want to run as many Modified and Sprint Car races that I can.” He indicated he has commitments to race outside of the trucks and wants to compete regularly.

Pit Stops

Interesting, but the last crew working in the Daytona garage on Friday night long after the sun had set was the Kurt Busch crew as I stood and watched them. Man racing fuel sure doesn’t smell like it use to…

The UNOH Fanfare at Daytona is pretty decent. There are windows where fans can look in the garage and possibly drivers will come over and sign autographs…

One thing about Florida this time of year is fog. It seems to hit late in the show and makes the ride back interesting…

There is plenty of racing within 2 hours of Daytona. East Bay had a tremendous field of 360’s which Mark Smith was the big winner over numerous big names. Smyrna had a week of asphalt racing which I was told was actually pretty good. Heard mods put on solid shows…

It hadn’t rained here in over a month and then two shows get cancelled last week due to rain…

Sprint Car driver Jacob Wilson came to Florida to decide if he was running with the All Stars or Outlaws. He decided to run a Midwest based organization at this time. The former pavement driver still has a large learning curve to overcome…

Many folks I talked to said the UMP Mods would be a pretty good show in New York. They aren’t the IMCA mods that we are use to seeing. I tried to catch as many of main events at I could at Volusia…

Interesting to see the names of David Stremme, A.J. Fike, Kenny Schrader, Justin Algaier, Matt Crafton and Kenny Wallace in the UMP pits. Fike didn’t make all shows as he was in his ARCA car at the Big Track…

For some of the Florida based Mods just getting into the features was a win….

World of Outlaw driver David Gravel lost four motors during the action at Volusia…

Love him or hate him Donny Schatz is one hell of a driver. He just overcomes adversity and finds a way to get the most out of his car…

Chad Kemenah ran with the All Stars and is right up there in WoO points. There was some thought of heading west to see if he could maintain it. He is defending All Star Champ and has been committed to it…

Shawn Donnath, Steve Poirier and a few other ESS and Patriots were at East Bay. That might be a stop next year…

Car counts solid for all classes at Volusia. Well, worth the time and a very efficient show on the nights I attended….

Rain gave the Mods a heavy wet track on Friday and on Saturday it was slick and hard…

If you want to see a local paper covering racing the Daytona News Journal is classic. They had several special sections throughout the week and massive daily coverage, not only the Big Track, but the satellite shows. One day both special sections were full page color poster type pages of the drivers with a bio alongside. Great collector item…

Had a chance to see a few drivers I only read about in the Sprint division such as Justin Henderson, Mark Dobmeier, Rico Abreu and special guest appearances in the Tony Stewart car with Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell…

I thought it was interesting when Brent Marks, a rookie on the Outlaw Tour, said he has four complete cars and four engines. He noted that just about all of the regular Outlaws have at least that…

I tried to do a story on the UNOH UMP four car team. Couldn’t find their “coach” so I talked to one of the students who gave me all sorts of information only to say you can’t run a story until it is approved by the college. First thing he should have done when he talked to me (as I identified who I was writing for) is that he couldn’t be quoted. I will probably use my notes later on to do a follow up story. All student team, purchase chassis, but everything from body panels, to motor building to building parts are done by the students. It was interesting to stand and watch the students as they prepped. They were there for the entire eight nights and students even earned the privilege of driving. Hopefully, I can figure out a way to do a UNOH (University of Northwestern Ohio) 101 story sooner than later…

Nearly 100 pages of notes forced me to buy another notebook before heading to Daytona for the truck race….

This past few weeks was time well spent and I’m looking forward to doing many more pieces and columns during the 2017 season. There is still a lot of news to break.

Once again comments, tips, gossip, team and driver news are welcome at foley395@hotmail.com.