2022 02 12 Volusia Dirtcar Ump Modifieds Buzzie Reutimann Paul Arch Photo Dsc 9062 (245) Dsc 9219a
Buzzie Reutimann is well beyond retirement age, but is still a competitive racer. (Paul Arch photo)

Impressive Performances

Whether they admit it or not, it’s common for drivers to be impressed by others who are really hooked up and fly past them.

Impressing themselves is a bit harder, but when pressed, most can come up with a race or a moment that will live forever in their memories.

Two rare exceptions are Kenny Schrader and Buzzie Reutimann, both well beyond retirement age but still competitive racers.

“They’re just races,” says Schrader.  “When they’re over, there’s nothing you can do about how you ran. I don’t dwell on them.”

“Even when I won Syracuse twice, I wasn’t impressed,” added Reutimann. “That was my job, I raced. I always did the best I could with what I had. The first time I had a little luck but the second year I was a little better prepared with a stronger motor. And I guess I had an advantage over the New York guys because I raced at Orange County and Nazareth, which were hard and slick. The upstate guys were used to heavier tracks.”

Other drivers from a wide swath of the sport surprised us, as what they recalled as their finest moments rarely occurred in signature events.

STEVE KINSER: We were at Williams Grove and we had a really fast race car. They had a red flag and somebody from our hometown walked out on the track. He wasn’t part of our crew but he came out to our car when nobody was supposed to. The officials saw him and put me to the rear, but I came back to win the race. I was more than a little mad, but I felt better when we won. I didn’t say anything to the guy, because he had his camera and had no idea what was going on but I did see red for a while.

RICK ECKERT: We were at a World of Outlaws Late Model show at Attica, Ohio. I set fast time, then blew up on the first lap of my heat. I changed cars for the B and got into the feature. I started way in the back and drove to fifth before they had a red flag. My crew guy noticed a puddle under the car as we sat there, so we went in and changed the radiator. I came back out, went to the tail and passed Josh Richards on the last lap to win it. That was the lowest of lows and the highest of highs all in one night.

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Steve Kinser recalls one of his finest moments at Williams Grove. (Ken Simon photo)

FRED RAHMER: At Susquehanna one night, I pitted so I had to go to the tail. Kenny Adams and I were friends and when I came back out of the pits, he motioned that I had to go last. That pissed me off and I waved back at him when I went by for the lead. That’s one of my cooler memories!

KERRY MADSEN: It was at Paramatta, probably in 2016, one of the international races when everyone was down there. I didn’t qualify very well and ended up in the C main. Long story short, we came through the alphabet and won the A. I felt like Doug Wolfgang at Knoxville. From the C to win the race was unbelievable.

SEAN MICHAEL:  In 2007, the first Dream race at Port Royal paid $30,000 to win. I started ninth and got to second behind Greg Hodnett around the 20th lap. It was a 50-lapper, so I chased him for the whole second half of the race on a rubbered down race track. I finally passed him with a lap and a half to go. It paid 12 grand for second, so that was an $18,000 pass. I’ll never forget that.

DAVID REUTIMANN: I haven’t done it very often but one time I thought I did a good job was when I was a rookie in the Cup Series and I was running the Busch Series as well. I had somebody else practice my Busch car, then I flew into Memphis after Cup practice. With no laps, we sat on the outside pole and won the race, so I thought I did a good job.

STEVE BEITLER:  There’s been a lot of races, but I still remember the year at the Knoxville Nationals where we ran third on our preliminary night. That was a really good run for us. There was a bunch of good racers there and we were a really low-dollar team.

BOBBY ALLEN: I don’t remember the name of the track but I know we were in Georgia. Joe Gaerte, Steve Kinser, somebody else and I were fighting for the lead. On the last lap, Kinser went low to get under Gaerte and shoot up in front of him, so I went high, dove down under both of them and won the race.

A lot of people would think winning Knoxville was my best win, but I did start third. To me, it was just another race. I still treasure my Nationals win but that win in Georgia really stands out, even though it was just a regular Outlaws show.

DAMION GARDNER: One I feel the best about was when I ran for Bruce Bromme in the 50 car. We built a new car and crashed right away in our heat at Perris. Then we blew a tire in the B main and had to go to the back. 

He’d made his mom a promise he was going to win the race for her because she was very ill. He didn’t tell me this until after the race but luckily, I got in through the B and went from 24th or 25th to win the race. The look on Bruce’s face made it all worthwhile because he could go home and tell his mom they won.

2022 02 12 Volusia Woo Kerry Madsen Paul Arch Photo Dsc 9062 (190) Dsc 9219a
Kerry Madsen looks to 2016 at Parametta to recall one of his finest career moments. (Paul Arch photo)

JOE GAERTE: We were behind in the points when we ran the All Star deal in ’88. We went to Eldora for the last race and won the race and the title after starting 12th. I’ve been fortunate to win three there but that last race of the season to get the championship was the best.

DANNY LASOSKI: I don’t get impressed easily but there was one race back in the mid-’90’s, the Valvoline Classic at Knoxville. What they did was run twin features with the lineup for the second one inverted from the finish in the first one. The King (Steve Kinser) and I swapped the lead back and forth and he won the first one. That put us 23rd and 24th for the second one. I came up through and won it and he was second. When you come from that far back in an Outlaws race, that’s a career highlight right there.

ERIN CROCKER: We were at the Thunderbowl in Tulare, Calif. I started sixth and on the original I got to third and ran there for a long time. I knew Steve Kinser was trying to pass me because I was running the high line and I kept seeing that green nose wing. All of a sudden, I didn’t see it anymore and I thought, “I must be doing something right.” We got down to five or six laps with Paul McMahon and Jac Haudenschild a straight ahead of me. I was gaining on them, then they got to traffic and got caught up in it and I blew around them. 

It was almost shocking. That’s such a hard tour and you get beat down. Then I almost won the next night, battling Kinser for the lead until we both had flats and Terry McCarl won.

JAY DRAKE: The end result was unimpressive but as I look back, it was impressive right up to the last 100 feet. We got tangled up on the first lap of the 2003 Chili Bowl and went to dead last. I passed every car and had the lead at the white flag. I was still leading down the backstretch but Dan Boorse passed Tony Stewart and then got me off turn four to win it. I was almost suicidal then but looking back, passing the whole Saturday night field at the Chili Bowl any year is pretty impressive.

CURT MICHAEL: I broke my back in 2002 and came back 11 weeks later and ran Delaware, the same place I got hurt. I ran the heat race and dropped back, so I told myself, “If you’re going to race again, you have to get on the gas.” I ran fifth or sixth that night, but the next URC race was in Canada and I won from tenth. I decided I was on my way back to being a normal racer again.

GRADY WADE: I impressed myself when Chet Wilson called and asked me to drive his “Offy Killer,” one of the top cars in IMCA. His Chevy wiped the Offys out most nights and at one time or another we won all the State Fair races from Colorado to Illinois.

JACK HEWITT: My most impressive feat is that I’m still here to talk about it after breaking my neck at North Vernon. But the time that I impressed myself the most was when I won the 4-Crown at Eldora.  We won everything but the lottery. I started 12th in the midgets, 10th in sprints, fourth in the modifieds and then second for the Silver Crown race. I got more pumped up with every race. Eldora was my place and if you can win there, every place else gets easier.

SHANE CARSON: I impressed myself at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City in 1978. I’d driven for Bob Trostle in Florida and was going to his place in Des Moines, where I ended up living for a couple of years.

The race was open competition, where you could run a wing with a small engine or go wingless with a bigger engine. We had a 377 with no wing and the track was heavy and fast. I got to second behind Fred Linder, kept cutting into his lead and finally passed him to win it.

I felt good until Linder came over and said he didn’t think I’d have gotten him if his wing hadn’t fallen off. The track was so rough his wing shook off and laid up against the wall. But that was the first of many wins with Bob and we were both impressed.

Every racer has a story. Ask them sometime.

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