This past weekend we at Speed51.com, the 100% Short Track news source, were doing some thinking; there are a lot of things in short track racing that go unnoticed, unmentioned or under appreciated. So to honor some of those things, the following is a first of a new series on Speed51.com… The Top 10 List.
THE TOP TEN LIST – Victory Lane Traditions
10. The Gator Trophy – The DIRTcar Nationals trophy from Volusia Motorsports Park used to be an eagle, but did that make sense? It is Florida Speedweeks, right? So the World Racing Group changed the trophy for each winner during the February series to a miniature gator. The nightly winners pick up the smaller resin-based hardware from a trophy shop in Gainesville, FL. In fact, the sanctioning body told us they pick up all of the gold-platted trophies the Saturday before the DIRTcar Nationals begin. What they didn’t tells us is where the three-foot series championship gator trophy comes from, because, as they put it, that’s “top secret.” Nevertheless, an appropriate trophy indeed, and it was made even more famous this year when WoO Dirt Late Model winner Scott Bloomquist tried to take a bite of it.
9. Rifle at Winchester – So even though it seemed kind of obvious why Winchester Speedway presents a Winchester rifle to the winner of the Winchester 400, we had to ask, why? The response from the guys that sanction the race… “What’s more symbolic of a city named Winchester than the Winchester Rifle. That’s pretty much it.” That’s what we figured. But, there has to be more, right? Nope. We googled the Winchester Rifle Company hoping for some sort of connection to the famed Indiana high-banked track and, there was none. But who needs one? After all, it’s a gun being awarded in victory lane, a Winchester at Winchester. Doesn’t get much better than that.
8. The Igloo – We had to reach out to our Canadian Editor Spencer Lewis for the explanation on this one and what we got was a highly-researched, well-thought-out, and well-written we might add, explanation.
“When London Recreational Racing founder Mike Schmidt decided to start promoting ‘Frost Fest’ at Flamboro Speedway each October as an annual farewell to the Ontario racing season, he wanted to make sure the event was unique in every aspect. From the generous payout structure to the unique twin and triple feature format, the race has become a ‘must win’ for Thunder Car and Mini Stock drivers across the province. In 2013, Schmidt sweetened the pot, introducing one-of-a-kind soapstone carved igloo trophy for each division winner. The trophies are handmade by London Recreational Racing Snowcross competitor Hop Issaluk in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut and shipped 2,342 kms to the speedway in Hamilton, Ontario just in time for the event. The near 10-pound trophies are some of the most unique in Canada.
We just thought it was a cool-looking trophy.
7. The Bow – Most people think Kyle Busch was the first person to do the bow to the crowd after winning a race, but that’s not true at all. The first person, as far as we can tell, was the late Charlie Bradberry. In fact, it began after Charlie took a challenge at Birmingham Int’l Raceway back in the early 2000’s. That night the Chelsea, Alabama driver had set fast time. The promoter told him if he were to go to the rear of the field and win the 100-lap race he would gain a couple thousand dollars extra in his wallet. Bradberry accepted. When he passed Gary Helton on the final turn of the final lap to cross the checkers first, the crowd went nuts. To honor that applause, when he climbed out of his race car, Bradberry took a bow. It’s something that stuck with the popular driver until his tragic death in 2006.
6. The Golden Driller – According to Wikipedia, The Golden Driller is a 76-foot-tall 43,500-pound statue of an oil worker, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It is the fifth-tallest statue in the United States. It was originally built in 1953 and displayed in Fort Work, but in 1966 it was moved to the Tulsa County Fairgrounds for the International Petroleum Exposition. The statue’s right hand rests on an oil derrick which had been moved from a depleted oil field in Seminole, Oklahoma. To racing fans, however, it is the miniature replica that is awarded to the winner of the annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals (Indoor Midget race) at the same location that means the most.
5. Nashville Guitar – Nashville is “Music City, USA.” It’s the home of country music and the Grand Ole Opry. To honor the city’s heritage, each year the Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville awards the winner of the historic All American 400 Late Model race a guitar as the trophy in victory lane. But the history of it is almost as difficult as finding Jimmy Hoffa’s body. We were told the tradition began in the early 1970’s. Originally the guitar was built by Grammar Guitar Company in Nashville, TN. We know that at some point it switched to a Gibson Guitar and that is it now a Copley Guitar. We were also informed that it was created, although we don’t know whether that means the current guitar or the original one, by Joe Carver Sr. I think we are going to have to stick Timmy Q from 51’s The Third Turn on this one. Nevertheless, it’s tradition for each winner of the All American 400 to strum a few cords on the guitar when its awarded. Sometimes we’d just rather see them play air guitar.
4. Rattlesnake in Victory Lane – Eastern Diamondback rattlesnakes have been rattling since the dawn of time, but they have been a main attraction in Opp, Alabama for the past 54 years with the annual Rattlesnake Rodeo event. The hometown track in that area is South Alabama Speedway and its biggest race of the year is “The Rattler.” The race used to coincide with the timing of the Rattlesnake Rodeo and that’s where the tradition began. In each of the event’s 39-year history a rattlesnake is brought to victory lane and the winner take a picture with it. Of course, the snake is held by a Rattlesnake Wrangler, but it’s a tradition that nearly scares drivers away from wanting to visit victory lane. In fact, the look on the face of Christopher Bell, who won the race this year, is priceless when he meets the snake for the first time.
3. The Martinsville Clock – Are you ready for a history lesson? On Sept. 27, 1964 Fred Lorenzen won at Martinsville Speedway. His prize for crossing the finish line first – a grandfather clock. The trophy was built just three miles down the road from the historic speedway at Ridgeway Clocks. The famous seven-foot clocks were made there until 2004, when the Howard Miller Company bought out the company and moved the operations to Michigan. The 50-plus year tradition continues to this day with winners from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to the NASCAR Late Model Stock Cars, which compete at the southern Virginia track each October, receiving the famous grandfather clock. Richard Petty owns the most Martinsville Clocks with 12.
2. A Snowball Kiss – The Snowball Derby is the race stepped with most history and tradition in pavement short track racing. The event, held annually at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL, has been held for 47 years. Yet, a tradition that began just more than four years ago is number-2 on our list. In 2010, Johanna Long had the short track world take notice by winning the Snowball Derby. In victory lane a simple kiss of the snowball on top of the Tom Dawson trophy triggered the beginning of a tradition. Since then, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones and John Hunter Nemechek have all placed their lips on that snowball trophy.
1. Kissing the Cow – The only thing more unique than kissing a snowball that we could find is kissing a cow… literally. That’s the tradition a driver covets to continue as the victor of the annual Milk Bowl at Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre, VT.
According to Thunder Road co-owner Tom Curley, the tradition of kissing the cow began around 1964, a few years after the event was created by track co-owner and legendary motorsports broadcaster Ken Squier. During a time when Squier was witnessing blonde beauty queens on the NASCAR stage, he decided to put his own tounge-in-cheek twist on victory lane by bringing in a bovine beauty queen to the Milk Bowl.
Each year, the cow brought to the Milk Bowl is a blue ribbon cow from the local Tunbridge Fair in Tunbridge, Vermont. Over the last four or five years, the same cow by the name of Miss Daisy Dalton has taken the blue ribbon at the fair and later been taken to Thunder Road for the annual kiss.
Curley recalls his favorite memory from Milk Bowl victory lane being local farmer Dwayne Lanphear’s french kiss with the cow following his win at the 2001 Milk Bowl
Best of the Rest
Boxing Gloves – The winner of the Fall Brawl at Lucas Oil Raceway (IN) is awarded boxing gloves. We get it.
Clyde Hart Memorial – The winner of the annual race at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) received the same-style cowboy hat that the track’s innovator Clyde Hart once wore.
The Bell – The Minnesota State Fairgrounds is now a “Lost Speedway (you can see pictures on the Lost Speedway Facebook page). However, it used to host one of the most prestigious races on the old ASA National Tour. The winner of the event would always “Ring the Bell.”
The Belt – The winner of the Lee Fields Memorial (big Pro Late Models race) at Mobile Int’l Speedway (AL) receives a title belt. If you’ve ever been to Mobile, you now racing against that competition is like going 10-rounds with Mike Tyson in a boxing match.
The Eagle Has Landed – But why it has landed in the hands of the winner of the Kalamazoo Klash each year is a mystery to us. The winner each year of the prestigious event at Michigan’s Kalamazoo Speedway takes home an eagle trophy. We need to learn more.
The Free-For-All – Anyone can go to victory lane at Bowman Gray Stadium (NC). If you are a fan of that driver, you can go on the frontstretch and celebrate with the winner after the race.
The Tall Trophy – At the Knoxville Nationals World of Outlaws classic (IA) and the Easter Bunny 150 PASS springtime classic at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC), the trophy is sometimes as tall, if not taller than the winner.
The Whip – The winner of the Cracker 200 at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) used to, or still does receive a handmade, authentic, cow whip. It’s near the end of our story to do any more research. We save that for smart people, like Timmy Q.
The Wreath – At Oswego Speedway’s (NY) Bud Classic, the Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) and the National Short Track Championships at Rockford Speedway (IL), the winner is wrapped in a floral wreath. While classic, you’ve got to wonder who ever came up with that idea. Stafford’s drape of flowers around the Spring Sizzler’s neck is accentuated with a guzzle of cold milk, Indianapolis 500-style, for the winner in victory lane.
We hope you enjoyed our first edition of The Top Ten List. If you have more ideas please email us at [email protected] or hit us up on twitter @speed51dotcom.
By Bob Dillner – Executive Editor, Speed51.com – Twitter: @bobdillner
Speed51.com (Photos 9, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 51 File photo 7)
Chris Dolack (Photo 10)
Spencer Lewis (Photo 8)
ChiliBowl.com (Photo 6)