There are a few events every year that we all look forward to. We’re especially lucky to have a variety of different special events here in Ohio.
We have the whole spectrum covered.
In the course of one year, we have high paying and prestigious events in almost every popular dirt class. But somewhere in the middle of all those big paying events falls one of the most challenging and legendary stretches Ohio has to offer.
The Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions Ohio Sprint Speedweek.
The Ohio Sprint Speedweek may not host the largest paying event, but it certainly attracts some of the largest car counts and biggest names in 410-Winged Sprint Car racing. In 2016 the winner’s list included names like Larson, Clauson, Abreu and Haudenschild.
The car count for most events hovered right around the 50 mark with those big names included. The 34th annual Speedweek had everything from NASCAR drivers to Australian drivers tackling the grueling schedule of eight races in nine days. Even though all races during the Speedweek happen in the same state, the nearly 90-degree weather, mixed in with the variety of different track surfaces can make or break a team’s year.
Multiple-time All Star champion, Dale Blaney has had his ups and downs with Ohio Sprint Speedweek. His early start to the week in 2016 had his team searching for boost.
“You can get behind in a hurry or you can be ahead all week,” Blaney notes. It’s easy to get behind. You can’t let one night effect you all that much because you’re always racing the next night so you got another chance at it. But it’s just another race, I mean you go into every race wanting to win and that’s what we do. It’s a momentum week. Hopefully we can get the momentum for the rest of the week.”
When it comes to preparing for Speedweek Dale expressed that it isn’t for just anybody.
“If someone is coming to race Speedweek they’ve usually raced for a while, so they’re going to understand what they need to do. It’s a grind for the people that first come to run it. It all depends if you’ve seen these tracks before. If you’ve never seen any of the race tracks here, it could be a long week. Really just being prepared is all you can do, but if you tear apart two front ends and two top wings the first two nights it’s easy to get unprepared. You can literally become unprepared in one night.”
Current Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions driver Caleb Helms described Speedweek in his own special way.
“Speedweek is kind of a beautiful beast. You really love to do it, but at the same time it can really be taxing. You can have some late nights, and if you have anything extra to do on the car if a night goes wrong it can be a lot of work. I remember we’ve been there where we’ve been putting cars together over night. Sometimes you can come out the next night and the car is awesome, so it can be a roller coaster too. But I mean it’s great, it’s usually a hot one too. The All Stars have done a great job, and the tracks in Ohio have done a good job putting a schedule together.
For the All Star regulars the week can be quite the challenge. But for others the week offers a get-away from their day job.
Kyle Larson was one of the daily competitors for Ohio Sprint Speedweek in 2016 until his NASCAR obligations interfered. But Larson did more than just race, he won and he carried the week’s point lead until his departure for the NASCAR race in Sonoma.
Larson expressed that his NASCAR schedule and attraction to race Sprint Cars as much as possible brought him to the Buckeye State for most of the week.
“It’s mainly, you get to race a lot of nights, and it worked perfect for my schedule being our off weekend. I’m just glad I can compete in most of these races. I wish I could stay for all of them. I have to leave on Thursday to go to California. It just worked out good for my schedule and Paul’s [Silva].”
Larson also expressed what he enjoyed most about racing in the 2016 Speedweek.
“I enjoy racing Sprint Cars as often as I can, and with the Ohio Speedweek you get to run night after night. That makes it fun, if you’re running good,” Larson said with a laugh. “You also get to go to some cool race tracks against some tough competition; it’s just a really fun week.”
Coming into its 35th year, the Arctic Cat All Star Ohio Sprint Speedweek is definitely now a staple in Ohio. The week-long journey has been thrilling fans year after year. I happened to find a person who has been involved with Ohio Speedweek to some extent for every year of its existence. Local motorsports radio personality, Duane Hancock explains what the week means to Sprint Car racing in Ohio.
“Well it’s a tradition. It’s been going for 34 years, and I’ve been a part of all of them. I grew up, and it was the kind of family vacation people did. It also brings in a lot of people to the state of Ohio – it’s just great for the whole state. What you’re guaranteed is great racing and a great car count every night with surprise drivers. Look at this past year, you had Kahne and Larson for the first six races and you had Rico and Clauson for the next four. I think its Ohio’s showcase week for dirt racing. I mean, yeah you have the Kings Royal, which is huge, but this is grueling. I think Chad Kemenah said it best the other night. He said by day four or five, if you don’t want to stab each other, then you’re having a good week. I’ve followed it with teams before, and you’re up until four or five in the morning sometimes getting ready for the next day. It’s the ultimate race week if you’re a race fan. It’s the week to be here.
No matter what division you may or may not be a fan of watching race on dirt, there are always those events you would consider a crown jewel or maybe a spectacle. While the 35th running of the Ohio Sprint Speedweek may not necessarily be considered a crown jewel event, it certainly fits into the spectacle category. It has tracks ranging from quarter-mile bullrings to high-banked half miles.
So if you only get so much time allotted for vacation, or you may need to pick a certain race a year, I would recommend making your way to the Buckeye State towards the end of June. There’s a nice 10-day window for you to catch at least one race that won’t leave you disappointed.
The 35th All Star Circuit of Champions Ohio Sprint Speedweek kicks off on Friday June 16 at Attica Raceway Park (Attica, Ohio). Be sure to visit www.allstarsprint.com for more details.