You can throw away the rulebook this weekend at Kalamazoo Speedway, as the track prepares for one of the most anticipated events on the calendar this Saturday night. The 12thAnnual Call of the Wild is a classic “run what ya brung” event that showcases some of the most unique and crazy race cars you will see all year, with teams taking the tops off their machines and adding plexiglass billboards to gain extra speed.
While other tracks have similar races, the Call of the Wild features an event unlike any other. The five fastest cars on the property compete in the RACEceiver Showdown, where they go out and try to break the 3/8-mile world speed record, which currently stands at a blistering 9.465 seconds (142.631 MPH) by 12-time Outlaw Super Late Model track champion Andy Bozell in 2016. To compare, the Winged Sprint Car track record stands at a 10.114 (133.478) by Aaron Pierce in 2015.
We talked to former Kalamazoo Klash champion and 2008 Call of the Wild A-Main winner Jeff Ganus about what the event is all about. The Constantine, Michigan driver will be in the No. 8 Greg Parr-owned car that has made multiple appearances with Parr, AJ Foote, and Phil Bozell, who went on win the A-Main in 2013. He says billboard racing is a lot of fun, but doesn’t take much preparation on his end.
“This car I was racing was pretty much already done, it was built just for that,” Ganus told Speed51.com. “Fred Krieger pun an engine in it last year. I’m not putting much effort into it. This kind of racing is a lot of fun. I don’t really have the time to prepare for it, I’m just taking what it had for last year and going with it. It’s not like an Outlaw we would take to Kalamazoo for a race.”
The first “run what ya brung” type event in Southwest Michigan was held at M40 Speedway in 2006 in what was known as the Last Call. Ganus, then a local competitor at M40, took a billboard car that was measured at nearly 19 feet long to victory lane after a late-race battle with Andy Bozell in the No. 70 he would later make famous in the Call of the Wild.
Open comp shows have since become big in the region, with Michigan’s Galesburg and Springport Mid-Michigan Speedways and Indiana’s Angola Motorsport Speedway also having Open Comp shows scheduled.
With speeds comparable and at times even faster than a Winged Sprint Car, the speeds from a Billboard Late Model are something that can’t be missed. Ganus ran a 10.484 (128.768 MPH) in his last appearance at the Call of the Wild in 2017. He says the speeds are unlike anything he has ever experienced.
“The speeds are crazy, it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “You’re going so fast. We were going to try to do a record deal one year and we ran a 10.4 and the motor blew up on old tires. Even at 10.4, my hats are off to the Sprint Car guys because you’re flying. You don’t even have time to breathe it’s so fast.”
Gates will open at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, with racing set to begin at 7:00. The five fastest drivers from group qualifying will take part in the RACEceiver Showdown, where they get 30 minutes to set down the fastest lap possible. The driver with the fastest lap will receive $500, with an extra $1,000 given if the track record is broken. AJ Foote was fastest in last year’s Showdown with an 11.188, while former Winchester 400 winner Brian Ross went on to win the A-Main.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN/MI) – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Kalamazoo Speedway