The toughest job for car owner Jake Spraker this season is going to be schedule-making.
With all the point funds and touring series for sportsman that exist, picking the right stops is almost as important as having a top-notch race car.
Spraker and his sportsman driver, Rocky Warner, are ready to hit the road for a busy summer, which Spraker hopes ends up with some major payoffs in the fall.
The two teamed up to win track championships at both Glen Ridge Motorsports Park and Fonda Speedway last season, and Spraker has changed his strategy somewhat this year, switching to Albany-Saratoga Speedway on Friday nights and also keeping what he hopes is a full schedule on Sundays at Utica-Rome.
“We’re definitely going to do Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and then see what happens during the week,” said Spraker Thursday. “When we first started out, he was just going to drive my car at Utica, but then he left the other guy he was driving for and it turned into three to five days a week.”
Which means another schedule of about 90 races this season,
In addition, Spraker, who also fields a big block modified for Ronnie Johnson, is looking at the eight-race Sportsman Shootout Series at Weedsport Speedway, as well as Rob Hazer’s KOD/DIRTCar East Region Sportsman Series.
The series at Weedsport, with $1,000 going to the winner of each race and a $2,000 payout to the series champion, kicks off with a two-day show on May 21-22, while the KOD series starts this Sunday at Utica-Rome.
“The smart promoters know that this is the class to get because they’ll draw a lot of cars,” said Spraker. “They don’t always treat us good, but if they pay us $1,000 to win, they’ll get a lot of cars. It’s not like that with the modifieds.
“I can’t imagine how many cars they’ll get at Utica-Rome when they pay $5,000 to win [on July 23].”
There will be some scheduling conflicts, but Spraker will deal with those when they come.
“More into the year, there are a couple of weeks where Utica-Rome and Weedsport are both running, but we’ll have to see how we’re doing in the points,” he said. “Weedsport’s point fund is more than Utica-Rome’s.”
Spraker has become a big proponent of the sportsman series because of engine cost.
“I’ve got four of these engines, and the total cost isn’t even close to what it costs me for one big block,” he said. “With everything I’ve got in these, they’re probably 8 grand a piece. And when I’m done with them, I can usually get about $6,000 for them, so it’s worth it.”
Spraker, who owns and operates both Jake’s Used Cars and Glove Cities Transportation in Gloversville, talks about one of the first crate motors he bought. After running the motor for what he estimates was 70 races, he was ready to drop a new motor into the car. Instead, he did some tests on both motors, and found that the older motor was only about 2 percent worse than the new one that had yet to be raced.
“We kept the old motor in the car, raced eight more times, and won six of the eight races, and they were all good-paying races at the end of the year,” he said
Warner won’t be worried about cars this season, as Spraker has two TEOs and two Troyers in his garage. Maintenance can sometimes be an issue, but Spraker operates under his own philosophy there.
“It’s easier to keep new stuff on the car,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong. I don’t waste anything, but if something is used up, I’d rather just replace it.”
Spraker is hoping for another season like 2015, when Warner won about 33 percent of his races.
“We won 30 races that year, and got cheated out of a couple of others,” Spraker said with a laugh.
AROUND THE TRACKS
With all the wet weather last weekend, Lebanon Valley was the only track that got in any racing, and that card had to be cut short when the track experienced a power failure, and one bank of lights didn’t come back on. That incident postponed the modified feature, so double features will be run this Saturday.
My condolences go out to the family of “Jim Bob” Kollar, who died last weekend at the age of 63. “Jim Bob” was part of the Kollar clan of Johnstown who created “The Ghetto,” an annual attraction of Super DIRT Week in Syracuse. There’s probably not a race fan alive who doesn’t have some kind of story relating the music, alcohol and debauchery at “The Ghetto.”
Because of last weekend’s rainout at Fonda, both Dick Schoonover and Rene Charland will be honored Saturday as part of the track’s weekly tribute nights.
The KOD/DIRTCar East Region Series picked up a new sponsor this weekend. Mike Romano, operator of Andy’s Speed Shop in Johnstown, will be kicking in $250 per race this season, pushing the winner’s takeout of the series races to a minimum of $1,250.
Reach Gazette Sports Editor Tom Boggie at 395-3160 or [email protected].