Ohio natives return to their roots for this week's UAW/GM Ohio 250 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 12, 2004) -- No question, Ohio is a racing hotbed with more than 50 active tracks of varying sizes and shapes graduating a multitude of drivers and crew...
Ohio natives return to their roots for this week's UAW/GM Ohio 250
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 12, 2004) -- No question, Ohio is a racing hotbed with more than 50 active tracks of varying sizes and shapes graduating a multitude of drivers and crew members into the upper echelons of NASCAR competition.
The pipeline, however, hasn't flowed equally in both directions.
Weekly and regional racing has produced talent that has gone elsewhere -- particularly in the case of NASCAR -- while the Buckeye state hasn't hosted a NASCAR national touring series event since Lee Petty's May 1954 victory at Sharon Speedway in Hartford.
As far as the state's talent is concerned, the late Tim Richmond of Ashland won 13 NASCAR premier series races and was voted one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers.
The 50-year drought, however, ends this week when the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series journeys to Mansfield Motorsports Speedway for the UAW/GM Ohio 250.
It also will be a homecoming for many Ohioans who, until now, have raced elsewhere in NASCAR while fondly recalling their roots. More than a dozen of the teams participating in Mansfield's inaugural event boast members -- drivers, owners, crew chiefs and other personnel - who grew up and honed their skills in the state.
It's quite likely that one or more of them will celebrate in victory circle when the 250-lap, 125-mile race is complete late Sunday afternoon.
One could be Terry Cook (No. 10 Power Stroke Diesel Ford), who grew up in Sylvania near Toledo. Or Cook's brother Jerry, crew chief for Tracy Hines (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet), whose owner Duke Thorson hails from Huron and bases his two ThorSport Racing teams in Sandusky. Father and son crew chiefs Gary Showalter (Kevin Love's No. 67 Fiddle Back Racing Ford) and Chris Showalter (Jack Sprague's No. 16 Chevy Trucks Chevrolet) call Amherst home.
"I think there is such a large number of people working in NASCAR from Ohio because of the many short tracks around the state," says the younger Showalter, last year's championship crew chief for Travis Kvapil (No. 24 Line-X Toyota). "You can truly race six nights a week if you want to so there are deep racing roots all around the state.
"The same goes for the fan base. There is such a variety of tracks and series for every taste in racing."
Cook, the driver, cites Ohio's role in developing technology that has advanced racing in all parts of the nation.
"A lot of the late models were built and designed in race shops and the big-name manufacturers are based there," he said. "It's a natural fit."
IWX Racing's Showalter admits that he and other Ohioans will be under the microscope before the home-state fans.
"I am beginning to feel some pressure about racing in my own backyard," he said. "You always want to go home and do your job in front of your friends and family. I obviously want to do well, both for our team and the run for the championship, [as well as] have the opportunity to perform well and have all the hometown people be able to share in the excitement."