Emo Speedway season has me all fired up

With apologies and much respect to all of the Muskie teams, the Fort Frances Lakers, and all of the other great sports I’ve had a chance to cover, as well as the people I’ve had a chance to interview during my nearly four months in Fort Frances, this Saturday night is what I’ve been looking forward to most since I got the sports reporter job here at the paper back in January: the start of the 2011 season at the Emo Speedway.
Before I arrived here, one of the things I knew about the town was that it was the home of soon-to-be Camping World Truck Series driver Steve Arpin, and that there was a 3/8-mile dirt oval nearby which operated during the summer months.
Having been a race fan since the age of two (according to my parents, I watched the 1990 Daytona 500 with them, although I have no recollection of that whatsoever), my interest already was piqued when I made my way to town to start work—and increased even more after attending the open practice session at the Emo Speedway this past Saturday evening.
What can I say? I’m a racing junkie with an addiction that needs to be filled weekly.
Sure, the local short track may not have the star power that series such as NASCAR and Formula One bring to the table, but those such as Emo represent the sport in its purest form.
The short time frame a driver has to work through the field before the checkered flag flies in the heat and feature events means that none of the competitors hold anything back, as opposed to what you see sometimes in the Sprint Cup series, where drivers ride around for the first half of the race before turning up the wick in the final stages (leading to the inevitable crashfest at the end).
Plus, unlike almost all of the big racing series except for the NHRA drag racing tour, you can have a chance, once the night is over, to check out the cars that were just on the track, possible even sit in one, and meet and talk to the drivers you watched race throughout the evening.
Having been around the sport for nearly two decades now, I easily can say the racing community is an extreme close and tightly-knit group—and also is a great bunch to be around.
Another thing I’m excited about in covering Emo is that it will mark the first time I’ll be visiting a dirt track on a regular basis, as both facilities near my hometown (the Laird International Raceway on the Ontario side and the Kinross Speedpark over in Michigan) are both paved ovals.
Needless to say, I’m looking forward to using the terms “hopping the cushion” and “slide-job” in my future articles.
It’s going to be a long, hot summer of racing—and I can’t wait for it to get started.
• • •
On a bigger stage, this weekend also will see something that pretty much blows my mind, with former Formula One champion Kimi Raikkonen running in the Camping World Truck Series event in Charlotte, N.C. on Friday night.
To say I was shocked at this news when it came out a couple of months ago would be an enormous understatement, as on the surface it’s a massive fish-out-of-water style.
Raikkonen, who is from Finland and captured the Formula One crown back in 2007, left the world of open wheel racing and began competing in rally full-time in 2010, where he usually ends up writing off his Citroen on more than one occasion.
Besides the fact this driving background is extremely rare for someone debuting in one of NASCAR’s three top divisions, Kimi’s personality also should make for some extremely awkward moments.
Known for being extremely calculating on the track, hence his nickname the “Iceman,” Raikkonen was known for being a bit of a character away from the races during his time in Formula One.
In fact, he once entered a powerboat race in Finland wearing a gorilla costume and going by he name “James Hunt,” who was a Formula One champion back in the 1970s and whose off-track lifestyle has been compared to Kimi’s.
Although you wouldn’t tell that Raikkonen is outgoing by any of his interviews, where he sounds like he’s mumbling incoherently and shows an absolute lack of any emotion, which should lead to some hilarious situations during press conferences over in the States.
I mean, he’s going to be sponsored by a company called Perky Jerky. The jokes just write themselves.
Despite all that, however, I have a feeling Raikkonen might do better than some are anticipating, especially since he’s been doing testing with NASCAR star Kyle Busch in recent weeks.
Now I’m not going to go completely off my rocker and say Raikkonen is going to win in his first time out, but I do think he might sneak away with a top 10 showing.
Either way, it’s going to be fun to watch, especially if he goes up against Steve Arpin in a race later this season.
• • •
Two players with ties to this area will be continuing their hockey careers next season in the collegiate and university ranks after both made commitments recently.
Devlin’s Jordan Davis, who just finished up his junior career with the NAHL’s Topeka Roadunners, will be plying his trade in the CIS with the Manitoba Bisons next season.
Meanwhile, former Lakers’ forward Garrett Nystedt, who was acquired by the team earlier this season from the NOJHL’s Blind River Beavers, is headed to Northland College in Ashland, Wis., where the native of Sault Ste. Marie will be playing both baseball and hockey.

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