Win It or Wear It
– All-time Great
Sprint Car Tales,

by Joyce Standridge






































Racing Commentary

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(Spaulding Collection)

March 18, 2009



It’s a word you don’t hear too much through the din of doom and gloom these days. But, if you want to hear more of it, try hanging around the pit area of a race track. Not a superspeedway. That kind of racing needs to lighten up a bit with the inflated cost and its presumptuous political correctness. Go to a back-roads short track. That’s where you’ll find folks with unbridled passion. The heart of the week for thousands of racers is Saturday night.

Among them are a few incredibly special characters who simply emanate their joy in life and their desire to experience every bit of it. Who could ever forget the engaging spirit and infectious humor of any conversation with dirt modified driver Rex Merritt or open-wheeler Johnny Heydenreich or supermodified master Bentley Warren?

By any measure, however, a USMTS modified driver named Mike Spaulding from up in northern Minnesota leads the pack of merrymakers, living life to the max. No matter where or when it might be, with Mike there’s always an action story lurking in the background. Take the photo at the top of this Tearoff.

That’s Mike in 1991, and he had just won at Bemidji Speedway, his home-town track. Look at the darkness around his eyes, a little above that smile. Something doesn’t appear right. And it wasn’t.

The day before, the Buffington Rodeo had come to town. Mike, who’s taut as a tiger, quick as a cat, decided to sign up for bull riding. “When I drew Rooster,” he recalls with a grin, “all the cowboys oohed and awed. The clown came up to me and said, ‘When you get tossed off, just look for the nearest gate and I’ll take care of the rest.’” Remarkably, Mike did pretty well, hanging tough on the monster for four seconds.

The next day he woke up, shook himself all over, and felt so good he decided to give it another shot. His wife Sue was seriously unimpressed.

This time Mike wasn’t even out of the gate before he was skyward. After crash-landing with a thunderous thud, he stood up – shakily – and, wham, he was airborne again. “That bull kicked me in the back and popped me about ten feet.”

Mike couldn’t linger longer at the rodeo. The race car was back at home, all loaded up for the Sunday evening show at Bemidji Speedway. Mike copped the heat and the A Main.

Right after that picture was taken, he turned to greet the crowd and toppled over unconscious onto the clay. He was rushed to the hospital, his lungs dangerously filled with fluid from the bull’s backfire.

The injuries were serious, but come Friday, Mike looked out of the hospital window, and there in the parking lot was his crew and his #17 all loaded up again. After all, they were leading in points at Buffalo City, and it was running that night. There was living to do, so Mike pulled out those IVs and they were down the road. He won the feature that night. “All I can remember is sitting in the truck afterwards and people coming by, tapping on the window, saying ‘good race.’ I was so sore and so medicated I could hardly move my hand to acknowledge them.”

Today, 14 years after leaving a $100,000 job to go racing, Mike is the high-energy social director of a loose-fit, tight-fit band of road warrior racers who call themselves the Barnyard Nation. Al Hejna, John Tesch, Scott Green, and Tommy Meyer are members, along with Mike’s teammate for 2009, Corey Dripps. All season long this motley assemblage will crisscross the Midwest by day, racing furiously in USMTS events under the lights. As soon as the races are over, out comes the beer, the laughter, and that megaphone Mike uses to charge up the fans who know to flock to the Barnyard pit area.

And the night shall be filled with music.

© 2009 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

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.: Previous Tearoffs :.

5/20/09 - Big Boys in The Attic  - rare photos of legends

5/6/09 - Back Up In The Attic - more rare photos

4/22/09 - The Son of Hard Luck - accessible racing
experience for the handicapped

4/3/09 - Racin' In The Attic - Gordon Ross photo collection

3/18/09 - About That Mike Spaulding

3/3/09 - Dick Berggren's First Win - (you had to be there!)

2/11/09 - Peter at the Park - Peter Fiandaca at Riverside Park

1/30/09 - Steve - Steve Arpin

1/4/09 - Racer Speak -cool quotations

12/16/08 - Wimble Power, Will Power - Bill Wimble

11/24/08 - Remembering Chuck Amati - by Joyce Standridge

11/11/08 - That Rick Ferkel

10/24/08 - Beyond Bionic - Bentley Warren

10/6/08 - Fifty Second Classic - Skip and Lois Matczak

9/20/08 - Joey's Dad - Tom Logano

9/1/08 - One Night at The Park - the death of Les Ley

8/20/08 - Transitional Technology - early supermodifieds

8/6/08 - Wallace on Wednesdays - dirt trackin’ Kenny

7/19/08 - Star(ter) of the Show - importance of good flaggers

7/7/08 - McUnderdog - Eddie MacDonald

6/18/08 - The Night Buzz Was Worried - Buzz Rose

6/5/08 - John Richards - Boomer Role Model

5/20/08 - The Spirit of a Racer - the late Al Powell

5/1/08 - Bobby's Blues - Bobby Santos III

4/15/08 - Thinking About Rene Charland

3/26/08 - Carl and Corey - Carl Edwards and Corey Dripps

3/4/08 - A Cool Track with Cool Racers - West Liberty, Iowa

2/14/08 - Doug Wolfgang

1/25/08 - Frankie Schneider

1/7/08 - When Drivers Can't See - cockpit vision

12/21/07 - When Starters Couldn't See - flagstand vision

12/1/07 - Ride Along with Erica Santos - in-car camera midget win

11/15/07 - Tough Drivers

11/1/07 - Cockpit Safety

10/15/07 - That First Race

10/1/07 - Racing Nicknames

9/15/07 - Too Many Officials

9/1/07 - The Look of a Real Driver

8/15/07 - Being Dale Junior

8/1/07 - Armond Holley

7/15/07  -  Red Farmer

© 2009 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181