The end of the season has come for Alabama’s Mobile International Speedway. Saturday night, September 5, marks the end of the campaign, and the end of Junior Niedecken’s 11th championship season.
When the Pro Late Model season began at Mobile way back in May, Niedecken wasn’t thinking about running for a track championship. The plan was to travel around, and not stay committed to just one race track. That plan changed when Niedecken took the checkered flag in the opening race.
“Before the season even started we went through all the schedules and wrote down dates and we were looking to do a lot of travelling,” Niedecken told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Then we won opening night and ran fifth at Pensacola. With the good finishes that we were having we decided that it was in our best interest to stay at home and see how this would go. Who would have ever thought that we’d win six straight features?”
All Niedecken has to do on Saturday night is start the race and the championship is his. But that doesn’t mean he plans to play it safe in the final race of the year.
“You always want to win, but I just want to have a good run and bring the car home in one piece,” said Niedecken. “Hopefully we can do that and win the race at the end of the night.”
Niedecken now has seven feature wins on the year as he heads into Saturday night’s finale. He said he’s still amazed by that, mostly because of high tight racing budget and the tough competition he sees every week at Mobile.
“I’m 40 years into racing and running against the type of equipment that we are competing against,” he said. “We race on a shoe-string budget. We skimp on every corner we can. We recycle parts. When we have to buy new we will do that, but we cut every corner we can just to make this work.”
The 58-year-old from Pensacola, Florida said that even though his competitors are a lot younger than him, his age is actually a big reason behind his success this year, especially when getting ready for a longer distance race like Saturday night’s 100-lap event.
“You can’t buy experience,” said Niedecken. “They are, but on the car side. And they have experienced drivers spotting for them, but you can’t buy experience in the car. It’s earned. I’ve been doing this a long time. You learn how to run a long-distance race in your early years. In my early years it was just me. You have your father to lean on, but in the car there were no spotters in those days. I don’t think I ran with radios until probably 1983 or 1984.”
That’s why Saturday night will be so meaningful to Niedecken. He can still get it done, and he proved that this season.
“Another championship would mean a lot to us,” he said. “Especially in the twilight of my career. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to drive, but as long as I’m still competitive I’ll be behind the wheel.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com photo