By Joe Buckles
When he volunteered to take over the chores of serving as track superintendent at the Action Track last season, Chris Novotney knew he was in for an eye-opening experience.
With experience as a short track racer while making a living in earth-moving equipment, his racing resume did not list track preparation. Especially a half-mile clay oval with the reputation like that of the Action Track.
Although 2008 had its anxious moments, Novotney and his crew made it through the racing season with passing marks.
His fellow partners at DHK Promotion thought high enough of his efforts that they made him a full partner in what is now Action Promotions, LLC.
By his own addmission his role of preparing the track has been a steep learning curve — one that hasn’t got any easier even with a year of experience under his belt.
He learned quickly that the task involved more than shaping racing surfaces.
Such are the ways of dirt track racing.
The spring time weather in Indiana can test the patience of all involved with dirt-track racing.
With the track’s season opener already a casuality to the elements this spring, Novotney was optimistic that the bad weather is behind them as he prepared for tonight’s Tony Hulman Classic.
“Its been a tough year already we really haven’t had the opportunity to get out on the track yet because of all the rain,” Novotney said prior to his first attempt at grading the surface earlier this week.
Two days of much welcomed sunshine have already made Novotney’s job easier as of Tuesday. He wasn’t for sure what he was going to find once he got out on the track.
“The race track is actually measured 15 foot off the inside guard rail but theres a lot of places that need work, both in the pits and outside parking areas,” he said.
“We really have graded the surface only once. We’ve been reluctant to cut it [the racing surface], what with all the rain and threats of rain. At the same time I’m sure we’ll do our share of watering before going racing in the Classic.”
As part of his learning curve Novotney said that his team will attempt a different approach this season in the way in which they use their equipment, one he hopes will make his team’s job easier and more efficient.
“There’s a lot of trial and error in this business and you only get six times of year to try something out. Using this equipment can be very expensive,” he noted.
Novotney received complaints that the May 2 opener was prematurely postponed.
“When you have conditions like we had and forecasts for more rain you have to take in consideration all those teams that were traveling from long distances,” Novotney said. “We actually got praise from a lot of the teams for calling it as quickly as we did.
“We’re looking forward to a great season. We have our concerns. Thats only natural in this business. Everything seems to be coming together at the right time. We’ll be ready by race time.”
A track issue that affected fans last year was the flooded tunnel used as a passageway to the infield.
Although there was water in the tunnell earlier in the week, Novotney said it will be ready for use by tonight.
• • •
• Familiar faces — When the USAC sprint car contingent rolls into Terre Haute for the Hulman Classic look for many of the same car-driver combinations that were here a year ago.
Many of the same teams that dominated the circuit year ago have already displayed they will be the powers to deal with in 2009.
Defending champ Jerry Coons is back in the No. 69 Hoffman Sprinter and has visited victory circle aready this having won at Eldora.
Levi Jones is back with teammate Tracy Hines in the Tony Stewart Racing Teams cars.
Brad Sweet is driving for Kasey Kahne Racing in the No. 9 car while Dave Darland won at Gas City last month in the familiar No. 2B RWB Motorsports entry.
Cole Whitt is in the always front running No.67 Kieth Kunz sprinter and Josh Wise has taken the checkered flag in the No.37 car.
Joe Buckles can be reached at email@example.com.