Vodafone Speedway Western Springs … was this event the best event that I have ever been associated with?
Coming from the Deep South sometimes has its disadvantages as we tend to not know to much about what goes on in the North. Yes we read things on certain web sites and skim over the many people linked to Facebook, but that’s be honest, we all really only focus on the class or the tracks around us we come from.
One thing I have learnt about Western Springs Speedway over my short time in the commentary box is how passionate people are about Western Springs. I’m not just talking about the drivers and crews involved, but every single person that comes through that gate. The promoter, the drivers or the little old lady sitting in the stands watching proceedings. I could never understand why it was this way until everything became just that wee bit clearer in the Bryan Clauson Memorial 39 lapper on Sunday night. Western Springs and all its people adopted this young American, who became one of them with the numerous seasons he had raced there and the massive success he had achieved. The venue had a buzz like no other I have ever experienced and was made even more special with the presence of Bryan’s fiancé, Lauren Stewart. Lauren was brave and with the deep pain in her eyes evident, she fronted up to not only be in the crowd, but to have a role in interviewing and presenting. It was her and Bryan’s night and Western Springs embraced it.
The pre race tribute was special with a minutes silence coinciding with a moving visual tribute from the Volt TV team. I was moved as was my cocommentator who spent the meeting telling us how amazing this man was, sharing his massive amount of successes and his commitment to his chosen charity. For a man I had never meet, he certainly inspired me. The Western Springs Posse of drivers stood and watched the big screen reminiscing there moments and there memories of Bryan.
Interviews were conducted with some of the midget drivers that had been close to Bryan. There were tears in their eyes and hurt in their hearts speaking of a man that clearly had meant so much to them. Not something we see in speedway motor sport. I could not take my eyes off the screen that was in front of me as we watched this raw emotion and dedication to a man that would be watching over us this night.
Racing was racing and it was good, but you could just see that those midget drivers upped their game. Everyone wanted to win this one. It didn’t matter how, they just knew they wanted it bad. Some of the favourites crashed out in heat racing, with the Midget Semi Main being the who’s who of Midget Car Racing. Pickens, Bright, Clarke had to race their hearts off just to get into the A-Main off the rear of the field. They all made it and took their place in what was to be one of the most important features of the season….. game on!!!
The 4 wide salute was like not other when the Western Springs crowd lit up their cell phone lights in honour of their fallen hero. Motivated by Macau Johnson in the commentary box, there were wouldn’t of been many people who didn’t have their cell phones lit lighting up not only Western Springs, but lighting up the sky so Bryan could see from the heavens above. Leading the drivers around in the salute was Shaun Insley in the 39usa Midget which in itself drew some raw emotion from some.
It was time, it was time for 39 laps with pole position empty for Bryan Clauson who many had wished he was here to fill in.
Personally, I was moved and inspired and wanted to deliver the best commentary that I could and to be fair, it was made easy by a bunch of drivers that put their hearts on the line. Hayden Williams was a class act from the start and drove the wheels of the Century Batteries 27a and was pushed hard for most of the race by Spencer Bayston in the United Truck Parts 97usa machine. A part of me wanted Spencer to win as this was Bryan’s team and his countryman. But coming through the field was the Midget maestro, 1aus Michael Pickens. He started towards the rear of the field and was making his way through just nicely, but Williams and Bayston were just to far away and with 23 laps to go, it looked like Michael would just simply run it of laps. But then a game changer…. a yellow for a spun out 4a car of Taylor Clarke. This is exactly what Pickens needed and it reset the race to be an epic battle to the finish. After the restart, Pickens looked like he had used his tyres as he just couldn’t get passed Bayston or Williams. Another yellow and a better start and Pickens made his way into second. Bayston had made good time and had opened a good lead off the restart and just when it looked like Pickens car had run out of tyres and set ups, towards the closing stages of the race he got closer and closer to Bayston. 97a Bayston Had cooked his tyres and Pickens went round the outside of him. The crowd rose to their feet for their local hero and never had a I seen such a cheer from a crowd in speedway. He had done it and was something that meant so much to him…almost more than anything else. Michael was good mates with Bryan and if 97usa had not won it, it was surely the right person to do it.
The interview showed raw emotion as Nik Brown struggled to get a word out of the emotional Pickens and had to comfort him with an arm round the shoulder.
Spencer Bayston interview for second was one of disappointment and what could of been. You could tell this meant a lot to him and made the comment that he was “sick of this guy winning”. I can assure you that the statement was not made in spite, but one of disappointment and what does he need to do to beat Michael Pickens.
Westerns Springs, I thank you for allowing me to be a part of one of the best events I have ever been a part of in my 20 year involvement in speedway. It is only one season at the Springs for me at, but for me, it is the best ever season to be involved.
The 50 lapper is going to be an epic event with Bayston determined that Pickens will not get the sweep … but there is a twist in all this story…. Kyle Larson …will he do it?….you best get yourself a seat there to find out!!!