TRACKSIDE with RICK MINTER - July 7, 2017

TRACKSIDE with RICK MINTER – July 7, 2017

Senoia Raceway fans, drivers, crew members and family can look forward to this weekly blog from journalist Rick Minter.  Rick has been reporting on motorsports at Senoia Raceway and elsewhere since 1976.




I’ve been fascinated by race cars for as long as I can remember.


Years ago, on Sunday mornings, I used to ride my bicycle by Butch McElwaney’s house to check out his dirt-track car after a Saturday night of racing.  I loved seeing the red mud caked on the sides of that blue car, and the occasional battle scars.


I remember watching people build Late Models from passenger cars.  I especially enjoyed the treasure hunts in junkyards looking for double-hump cylinder heads, a-frames and other parts to be used on those race cars.


Roscoe Smith used to be one of the main builders of race cars in our part of the world, and there’s no telling how many 1955 Chevrolet frames and early model Camaro front clips were used at his shop, as well as whole bodies from stock cars.


Even in my early years following the NASCAR circuit, you could look at Cup cars on the jig at Banjo Matthews’ shop in Arden , N.C. , and see the stock parts used to build those cars.


Now, most everything’s made especially for racing, and expensive too.  It’s true for everything from Formula One to the top levels of dirt racing.  The old phrase “Speed Cost Money.  How fast do you want to go?” often comes to mind.


The runaway cost of racing is an issue at every level of the sport.  And for me, it’s taken a lot of the fun out of it.


But in the last few weeks, it’s been refreshing to watch as Dave McWilliams, with a lot of help from Glenn Morris, built a Hot Shot car to run at Senoia.


Dave’s No. 72 is a 1993 Honda Prelude with the factory H22a engine.  That engine measures 131.6 cubic inches and is supposed to generate about 200 horsepower.  It sounds tiny by V-8 standard, but it’s well regarded in the four-cylinder world.


Dave paid $700 for the car, and gutted the interior, just like Butch McElwaney and his peers did back in the day.


He bought a roll-cage kit for about $400.  Glenn gave him a racing seat and welded the bars in.


I suggested a loud horn and boombox sound system, but Dave declined.


I’ve enjoyed hearing him talk about his car, and how he believes the Prelude is the ticket for the Hot Shot class.  He enters this weekend third in the point standings for his class with 571 points to class leader Morgan Pittman’s 618.


A total of 29 drivers have earned points in the division, and I’ll bet most of them are having as much fun as Dave.


There have been times in the past that I’ve been tempted to skip the Hot Shots if they were last on the program and beat the traffic out of the track.  Now I wait around to watch.


That class may not have the general appeal of the Late Models and other “upper” classes, but it is grassroots racing at its best.  And it’s about as close as it gets these days to racing back when Senoia Raceway was built and the vehicles on the track could be accurately described as “Stock Cars.”


I don’t get to look at the books at Senoia, but I’d be willing to bet that it’s probably the most profitable class for the promoters other than the occasional waterless boat race.


Racing needs its big shots, but it also needs some Hot Shots.




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