latemodelamerica.com - May 18, 2010
LateModelAmerica.com by Sam Holbrooks

 
 

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Good Bye Old Friend

 

I was just finishing up mowing the grass last Friday night when the barrage of inquisitions came my way. "When are you leaving?", "Where are you going?", "Don't you have a race to go to"?

 

Normally the answer is "soon", "somewhere", and "yes I have a race to go to"!

 

But, this weekend was one of those that kept me home, and everyone in my neighborhood and family seemed shocked. Honestly, I just wanted to enjoy being home for a change and relax, knowing that my racing obsession would call me out so very soon.

 

As I sat in front of my garage, listening to the stereo that was set just a notch above silent, I could hear the rumble and growing roar of the weekly racing at Davenport Speedway. It's one of those sounds of summer that I enjoy, even when I sit a few miles away. With the sound of racing and clicks of beer cans being opened, I enjoyed my night. My memory of growing up and watching racing at Davenport Speedway was the catalyst for who I have become today, and it feels like only yesterday.

 

The grim part of the past is the reality of all the years that have gone by. My boyhood memory of the glory days at Davenport are 30-plus years ago, and of a bygone era. That era is sadly gone, and everywhere I turn I see similar

 

Davenport Grandstands - sign

 

trends. Oh how I wish I could go back just one night in time and sit in that packed mega-grand grandstand and watch racing on the Big Davenport half mile track. It would be a dream come true now, just as it was when I was young, hearing the racing from my bedroom window. The fairgrounds and the half-mile track made west Davenport come alive on Friday nights, and me too.

 

The camera that I pack now has somewhat diminished my thrill to write as I once did. I can honestly say I love to take pictures, but when I get hit with the arrow of inspiration, my fingers can't stop typing. This weekend that arrow came in the small package that my Mom gave me. She was cleaning as she always does and came across a box of old newspaper clips from High School days. As I reviewed the old frail paper of football highlights, one clip on the front page for Friday, September 26, 1975 caught me by surprise. It was a

 

WDRL - 2008

The starting field for the 2008 WDRL "Governor's Cup" on Davenport Speedway's big half-mile.Mike Ruefer

 

picture of Promoter Homer Melton holding a large homemade check for One Thousand dollars. It was big money back in those days, and it was for the winner of Annual National Dirt Track Championship. Back in those days, racing made the front page in the sports section.

 

How times have changed for many big tracks in the Midwest. Many fight to survive against smaller rivals. Some tracks fade away and others become short bullrings of action. At Davenport, there is still racing, and the excitement is thrilling on the quarter-mile track, but it's not same for me. The speed and power of a half-mile show cannot be replaced by shorter venues. I like all size tracks and the racing that they can give us, but in my heart, I'm a half-mile guy. These where the tracks that surrounded me and made the drivers turn into stars before my youthful eyes, and my star track was the Davenport half- mile.

 

During the past 10 years, with the Davenport track opting out for the smaller version, the half-mile surrounds the ground with an eerie presence. It sits there growing weeds and churning dust, acting as a staging lane of inglorious proportion. The track that NASCAR raced on in Iowa before Newton, the track

 

Chad Simpson at Davenport

 

 that made Hav-A-Tampa victories, The track that fueled the Busch ALL Star Tour, the track that born the WDRL and the track that helped make Iowa Dirt Late Model Hall of Famers, is dying.

 

With no CPR in sight for my half-mile soul in 2010, I'm getting my mind set for race track mortality. The history and heritage of the big track appears worthless to many today, outside of those of us old enough to remember the glory days of the past. Goodbye old friend. I hope you may be reborn someday before the parking lot paver seals your fate.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Mike Ruefer

 

mike@latemodelamerica.com

 

 

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