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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

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Lake-effect snow leads to slipping, sliding on track

While the sun was shining in the metro Toledo area on New Year’s Day, lake-effect snow was causing problems at Sandusky Speedway’s 33rd Annual Hangover Race.

The snow caused races, which are run in any kind of weather, to be challenging for stock car drivers and entertaining for just under 1,000 fans.

Hangover1a
In the Moonshine Stocks division, a stock car slides into Mark Reser (No. 69) at the
New Years Day Hangover Races. (Press photo by Russ Lytle)

“They had plowed it, but it kept coming down,” said Oregon driver Mark Pollock. “What happened once they plowed it, it was still wet, and then it froze. I was sideways more than straight. It’s an asphalt track and it was like racing dirt. There were a lot of spin-outs.”

The hardcore racing fans that braved the cold weather were treated to three divisions, the Champagne Stocks, the Moonshine Stocks, and the Whiskey Stocks. As is the customary tradition, there was an endless barrage of snowballs flying from the grandstands all afternoon as the cars raced by.

Pollock said there was up to a half inch of snow on the track, but “that was enough” to cause problems. Track promoter Kevin Jaycox said that was on top of 8 to 10 inches that fell the previous week and said up to another inch fell on New Year’s Day that had to be cleared.

“It was slippery,” Jaycox said. “It was definitely different. It was probably the worst track conditions I have ever seen. Honestly, we didn’t have a lot of badly wrecked cars. We had a lot of spin-outs with the snow and stuff, but it wasn’t that bad.”

Pollock added, “Race tires and moisture are not a good combination. Plus, the trouble was it kept coming down.  They cleared it between each race and it kept coming down, plus I don’t think they want to put salt down on a race track.”

Track promoter Kevin Jaycox said the Hangover Race, which has garnered national attention, drew fans from as far away as Canada.

“They had a pretty good crowd, considering of course we had two warm years the last two years, and this is just a typical January,” Pollock said.

The speedway does everything it can to make the racing fans comfortable. Under the grandstands, a bar is open so fans can stay warm while watching football on a big screen television. Drivers set up heated trailers in the infield, too.

Lambertville, Michigan resident Ron Miller would begin his 50th year of racing by winning the 20-lap Champagne Stocks feature. Miller has won eight of the last nine Hangover races, and possibly even more from previous years once he checks his trophy case.

Miller, who also finished first in the second Champagne heat, said that this was the most fun racing of the year. Miller took the lead on lap two and was never challenged.

Pollock finished second behind Tim Murphy in the Champagne Stocks first heat, and then fourth behind Miller, Murphy, and Mark Kachenmeister in the Champagne feature. Gary Hensel finished fifth in the feature.

“The track wasn’t very good,” Pollock said. “I should have done better in both races but it was so hard to pass because there was one groove and everybody ran that one groove, and if you dropped out of that groove to pass somebody you were immediately sideways and the tires were spinning. It was a very frustrating experience.

“I did pretty well, but the main thing is I brought the car back in one piece, which is a victory in itself,” Pollock continued. “But it was frustrating because I had such a fast car, and I know I could have done better, but I just couldn’t pass anybody. It would take five to six laps just to get around one car.

“We kept having cautions — the feature is 20 laps of green flag racing but we probably ran 30 laps of cautions because people kept wrecking. They’d throw the green flag, and they’d wreck, and they’d throw the green flag, and they’d wreck. I’m sure a race that should have taken a half hour took an hour-and-a-half. But you know, all in all, I had fun.”

Ryan Tamburro won the 15-lap Whiskey Stocks feature. Howard Kelly was the early race leader before Kevin McCall took the point. Tamburro would take the lead from Joey Wyckoff and hold on to take the checkered flag.

The Moonshine Stocks 20-lap feature was won by Pauly Hess, who started fifth in the lineup. Hess would have his pace slowed by numerous cautions as the racing surface became increasingly icy as the sun came out late in the afternoon and melted some of the snow on the track.

While it may have been the worst conditions drivers have seen, it may not have been the worst snowfall that the drivers have had to deal with. Jaycox recalls a year when even more snow fell.

“The worst I’ve seen is, we just got the heat races done, and it started snowing and it kept snowing harder and harder and by the time we were done we had five inches of snow,” Jaycox said. “It was funny. We went to the green and it was kind of at the speed we were at when we were on the yellow. I mean, it got so bad the officials couldn’t even see the cars on the backstretch.”

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