Kokomo - Carlson memories

Fond Memories: Brian Carlson Recalls First Visit to Kokomo Speedway Kokomo, Ind.--Sept. 20, 2006 -- Though it wasn't the first time that Brian Carlson attended a World of Outlaws event, the night of July 29, 1984 is one that will always stick...

Fond Memories: Brian Carlson Recalls First Visit to Kokomo Speedway

Kokomo, Ind.--Sept. 20, 2006 -- Though it wasn't the first time that Brian Carlson attended a World of Outlaws event, the night of July 29, 1984 is one that will always stick out in his mind. He made his maiden voyage to Kokomo Speedway on that warm summer night and vividly remembers what he saw while sitting in the stands as the Outlaws were in town to do battle.

A native of the sprint car hotbed of Pennsylvania, Carlson was calling Indiana home at that time, as he was studying engineering at Purdue University. Over 20 years later he still calls Indiana home, and will return with fond memories to the track that is only 60 miles from his shop. This time it will be as a competitor with the World of Outlaws Sprint Series on Sunday night.

"It's kind of hard to forget anytime you go to a World of Outlaws show," said Carlson, who calls Linden, Ind. home. "It is always very special. I was going to Purdue University in West Lafayette, and Kokomo was the closest track to us. I saw that they were on the schedule, with the World of Outlaws, so I went over and checked it out."

While in college, Carlson never really gave much thought to the idea that one day he would be on the same track racing against the Outlaws. He had a full plate as he was taking very demanding classes, and also was heavily involved in another form of racing. In the back of his mind though, in the years to follow, it became his goal to one day race with the best drivers in sprint car racing.

"It's always been my dream," said Carlson, driver of the Lincoln Electric Maxim. "At that time though, I was pretty focused on going to college, with the engineering, math, and physics. I wasn't as concerned about racing full-time. I was still racing karts at that time, and won a lot of races with them. That kept me pretty busy."

Though some of the surroundings on the grounds of the track have changed over the years, the quarter-mile at Kokomo still provides some of the most exciting racing on a weekly basis. Carlson has raced at the track in the past with the All Star Circuit of Champions, and knows what it takes to turn a good lap around the bullring.

"It's an exciting little race track," he said. "It hasn't changed a whole lot in all the years. It's still a real competitive, 'bump and run' kind of race track. We haven't been there for a few years, but I know they have made a lot of improvements to the facility. I'm anxious and looking forward to going back there."

The race this year will be on a Sunday night, but Carlson recalls when it used to be a midweek event, with a stout field of cars. This year will be no different, as the All Star Circuit of Champions will join the World of Outlaws and will jam the pit area for the 40-lap event.

While Carlson is focused on what it will take to be fast at the quarter-mile, he also puts on his car owner's hat, and realizes that there will plenty of close racing and some paint will be traded as well.

"I remember it was always like a Wednesday night before the Kings Royal when they would come into Kokomo," he said. "Like I said, it's a 'bump and run' race track. Guys won't pull out new cars to run there. They might bring their older wings or older cars, because you know you will use them up. It's a very racy little quarter-mile, where you know you will get your elbows up and race hard."

Carlson expects both the high and low side of the track to be worked in very well and provide thrilling racing all night long. He always enjoys racing on tighter tracks, and knows that some luck will come into play as well.

"The biggest thing is that you have to be smooth in the corners," Carlson said. "A guy like (Brooke) Tatnell will probably be pretty exciting right up against the wall. Usually the bottom will get really good as well. You will see a guy that is really smooth, wheelie it off the corner. You can get a lot of traction on the bottom to squirt around the race track."

After racing at the spacious half-mile at Jackson (Minn.) Speedway last weekend, Carlson is ready to return to a bullring. He knows for the fans, the tight track will put on an exciting show, and will be a place where the drivers will certainly keep their elbows up all night long.

"Anytime we get to a small quarter-mile track, it lessens the importance of a big motor," he said. "You still have to have a strong motor to qualify, but it certainly puts it back in the driver's hands after that."

Prior to returning to the Midwest last weekend, Carlson along with his wife/crew chief Sarah and sons A.J. and Seth make the trek to the West Coast for the Gold Rush Tour. While they took in many sights along the way during the three-plus weeks away from home, the close-knit family was excited to get back to the Hoosier state and catch-up with their friends and neighbors.

"It's always nice to get back home," said Carlson. "I've been fortunate enough to get back and get my grass cut, and talk to my neighbors, to make sure everything is still here. To be able to sleep in your own bed is rare when you race with the Outlaws. We are probably more fortunate that we get through Indiana so often. Even so, it was a long trip out west and were anxious to get back home. We hurt one motor out west and we had to get it back to the engine builder right away. We'll have another motor in the car for Wilmot and Kokomo this weekend."

Just as when he was in college, Carlson still has a lot on his plate, and has very little time to sit back and relax. Not only does he race with the World of Outlaws Sprint Series, but he also has a business that builds kart engines. With only nine race dates left on the World of Outlaws calendar, Carlson has the chance to get caught up on some of the work that has been waiting for him while he and his family have been on the road racing all summer.

"We all want to race as many races as we can," he said. "When we run like we were back in June and July four or five times a week that probably makes it a little better on the drivers and teams. With all the time off, the teams that are far from home will probably feel like a fish out of water, because they just have to hang out for the week in between races. It's nice for us because we get back home every week. I can run my business and keep things rocking here."

For ticket information about the Kokomo Race on Sunday September 24 visit www.slspromotions.com or call 815-344-2023. Adult reserved tickets for the upper rows will be $35, while adult general admission tickets for the bottom 9 rows is $28. Reserved seats for children ages 12-under will be just $15, with children general admission tickets only $12. Pit pass combos will also be available for $38.

-credit: woo

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Series World of Outlaws
Drivers Brian Carlson