Saturday, February 9, 2019

Tige Jensen

The common way to get into sprint car racing today is to start out in go-karts, move up to micro or mini-sprints and after a few years to jump into a full-sized sprinter. Well, that’s not how 35-year-old Tige Jensen from Lincoln, Nebraska got into our favorite sport.

"I believe that I was 21 when I first started racing. I jumped right into a 360 sprint car; although looking back, knowing that I wanted to race I probably would have gone down the road of go-karts, then mini-sprints and that whole deal". 

Tige's racing roots go back a LONG time, as his father Lonnie was a fixture on lots of racetracks around the area. The midwest’s own "Black Bandit" not only ran all over but won wherever he went. "I think that Dad raced for 41 or 42 years altogether. I think that they called them super-modifieds back when he started”. Lonnie’s career included championships in the BCRA twice and NMRA three times as well as track points wins at Beatrice Speedway, Midwest Speedway (2), Eagle Raceway (4) and Knoxville Raceway (3). Victories at the 1/3 Mile Nationals, the Nebraska Triple Crown and the Modified Sprint National Championship also were captured by him.

It would seem to be a no-brainer as to where Tige got the racing bug. ”Ever since I was born the weekends were spent at the race track. Dad raced full time from 1960 to1976. Then again from 1981 thru 2000. Even racing in as late as 2008 in the Knoxville Raceway Masters Classic in my car. Driving never really crossed my mind until the 2002 season when Toby Chapman approached me asking if I wanted to split driving duties with him”. That all came about because of a wrecked race car. "In the winter of 2001 Toby Chapman approached me because he had used one of my Dad's cars back in the late 90's and that car ended up getting bent up pretty good. So, he felt like he owed my Dad a car. He approached me at the time and said 'Hey! Do you want to drive at Eagle Raceway and I'll run the car at the shows away from Eagle?'. That first year Toby and I split the driving duties. I believe I ran 12 shows at Eagle and he ran another 12 shows out on the road. Same car and everything. And, that’s how I got my start in sprint car racing. After the 2002 season he gave me the car and my full-time racing began. With the help of Gary and Adam Grossenbacher and Brian Bailey we were able to put together a decent operation to run regional races (Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Kansas and Missouri). Gary and Adam were supplying the engines and Brian and myself were getting the cars ready to go".

Unfortunately, in August of 2004, tragedy struck Jensen. While racing at Junction Motor Speedway he made very hard contact with the opening in the back-stretch wall that led to the pits. “That crash at McCool junction almost took my life. During the accident it cut the car in half. My feet were hanging out of the motor plate. The Engine flew about 30 yards down the track. I broke both legs, crushed my left ankle, and broke my right arm. I was in the hospital for 4 weeks and did physical therapy for over 2 years on my ankle.   I don’t remember much about the crash. The last thing I remember was buckling up for the heat race that night. Next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital in Lincoln”.

When he finally recovered he hopped right back into the race car. He remained a fixture at 'America's Home Track' for quite a while. "I was pretty loyal to Eagle Raceway until they switched over to the Racesaver sprints. We had to make a decision whether to sell the 360's or keep what we had and travel a little bit more. We ended up keeping the 360 stuff and travelling. We continued this arrangement until 2011 when Gary passed away. We did run a couple more seasons but ended up selling off our components after the 2013 season. After the season the 3 of us sat down and discussed future plans. The time sacrificed away from our families was a big part of our decision to get out of it”.

But, being a racer at heart, he couldn’t resist the temptation to compete again. When I asked why, after 4 years, he decided to start racing a sprinter again, he said "It was kind of opportunity, I guess. I had always told my wife that I would like to drive again. I didn't want to have to spend as much time working on the car, have the expense involved of putting cars together and things like that. Getting back involved with racing just kind of happened with Ivan Tracy. I had heard he had put a new car together and was possibly looking at selling it. After a couple exchanged phone calls between him and I we came to an agreement that I would drive his car for the IMCA Racesaver series in 2018. It will be a lot less time commitment with driving for someone else. Ivan has had some successful drivers in the past. I'm hoping we can keep the winning tradition that his team and my team will bring to the table. Brian Bailey has agreed to help during the season, which puts my mind at ease. He has helped me from day one and I trust him with everything. I'm sure Ivan and I will get to a point like that, but in the meantime I'm excited to race for him and learn his tendencies with set ups”.

Ivan Tracy from Waco, Nebraska has been around the sport of auto racing for quite a while now. "I raced for a couple of years in high school. I raced a '55 Ford Hobby Stock. Back in those days the gear heads always hung together. I went to school in Sutton, and Delmar Friesen was racing, and it just kind of happened that I started too". After a short stint racing himself, he decided to be a car owner. “I found out at an early age that I wasn't cut out to be a driver. I was a good driver, but I just felt like I was on the interstate and every time somebody bumped me I felt like 'OH! I gotta get that guy!!!'. So, I just kind of got out of driving”. Over the years Tracy fielded cars for several local legends including Joe Wade, Regan Kitchen and Ray Lee Goodwin Jr. “I more or less put everything away and stayed away from everything until last year. I put an Eagle together with a Racesaver engine that I built”.

While I was in Arizona last winter I got to thinking about Tige, or he must have been thinking about me. So, I called him and asked if he'd ever thought about driving a sprint again and he said, 'I'd love to, if I had good equipment'. I said, 'What about driving my black 12?', to which he replied 'Well, YEAH! That would be great'. When I got back to Nebraska we got together, got his seat put in and got the cockpit all set up for him”.

His expectations for the year after having sat out for a few years? "Actually, we're not even going to race a full season. If my son has something going on a Saturday night, or if Ivan's grandkids have something, we just won't race. We're not chasing points or anything, so it's a laid-back schedule. In fact, we don't even have all of the dates written down yet. As far as goals wise, I know I'll be rusty getting back into it. Realistically, if I make the feature on the second night in, I'll be happy”. He's been making sure that people know about his return though. "We've put it out there on Facebook and everything. We've had a lot of support with people who have helped me out in the past reaching out to us again. It will be great getting back out there; seeing our old friends again. It will be fun taking my son out there. Hopefully he'll be into it. I've never really completely gotten away from racing; we've gone out there probably half of the season to watch the races at Eagle. I'm still a fan!". Now he's a fan and a racer again. 

Here's wishing this new team-up a fun and successful year! I for one will be looking forward to seeing this second-generation Jensen flying around the high banks of Eagle Raceway in a black sprinter, much like his father did all those years ago. 

Sunday, February 3, 2019

2018 Racesaver Champion

They say that a champion is defined by their competition. In both Major League Baseball and the NBA you have to overcome 29 other teams, the NFL has 32 other entities that you must beat and in the NHL you must be better than 30 other groups of players. In the RaceSaver sprint cars for 2018, you had to beat out a total of 700 drivers who competed in 344 races at 61 different tracks and ran in 9 different Racesaver series in 17 states!!

Now; although sprint car racers are a part of a team, the final and deciding factor in winning in the sport is the driver. When you strap into the cockpit there aren’t 4, 5, or 10 others to pick up your slack. There are no backups sitting on the bench ready to take over for you if need be. There is just one driver in that cockpit, and at the end of the season only one of those drivers can claim the title of champion. The Racesaver IMCA Sprint Car champion for 2018 was Kevin Ramey from Kennedale, Texas.

The first driver to win both the National points and RaceSaver Nationals titles, Ramey scored 18 feature wins this year. He also topped the point standings at Devil’s Bowl Speedway and RPM Speedway and snagged his first Texas State championship.

Ramey is a bit of a throw-back to the way sprint car racers used to be. He runs hard, parties hard, races clean and wins wherever he races. A better champion and representative of the Racesaver IMCA Sprint Cars could not be found!!!

Ramey, 49, originally started out in an economy late model class in 1985 before switching to a sprint car in 1993. He won the NCRA championship in 1994; just his second year in a sprinter. He switched to the Racesaver class in 2013 and has been running the class ever since. “We didn’t really want to travel a long way or spend a lot of time on the road looking for places to race the 360. I’d had a lot of fun, but it was time to scale back. I promoted a little bit at Kennedale Speedway Park. I’d like to get into the promoting side again because I really enjoy that. Eventually I think that’s where I want to end up when I’m done racing, to see if I can give back to the sport that way. I ended up selling all of my 360 equipment and we run the Racesaver stuff exclusively”.

Ramey’s season was a busy one, running at numerous tracks. “We raced at RPM Speedway, at Devils Bowl and Mesquite weekly. We went up to Meeker and over to Ardmore a couple of times. We ran the race at Belleville, went to Thayer County right before Belleville and of course we were at the Racesaver Nationals at Eagle Raceway”.

I asked if they had intended to run for the championship and he said “No, not really. When we started out the season we were just going to do some hit and miss stuff. I had built a stock car for my son and another guy and I was just going to see how it worked out. If we were high enough in the points at that point we would do the points, but we ended up getting rained out so much early in the season that we didn’t really get to race a whole lot. Once we finally got started we were having a lot of success, so it just took off from there”. To say that they had success is an understatement as his 18 wins came in just 31 starts!

I then inquired about his plans for the future. “Just to get to this banquet (The IMCA Championship banquet on November 23rd) first and get that done. We’ve got a couple of cars that we’re dragging to the Chili Bowl and putting a couple of good little drivers in those. We haven’t even discussed next year yet to be honest, but as soon as we get this year over with, we’ll go from there. I’m sure we’ll still race. I don’t know if we’ll chase the points or not. I will need to talk with both car owners and see what they want to do. We’ve got some stuff going on at the local tracks down there in Texas; there’s talk about them selling RPM Speedway, so I don’t know where our sprint car division stands there. But, as of right now, we’ll be back running the Racesavers”.

Your 2018 Racesaver IMCA Sprint Car Rookie of the Year was 17-year old Casey Burkham from Crandall, Texas. “I like running the Racesaver series a lot! I started out in a mini-sprint and ran those for a little bit and then we ran a 360 sprint for a guy in a couple of races. Then I jumped into the Racesaver”. He got his first taste of the Racesaver sprints in 6 races last year and liked it so much that he went full-time in 2018.

He competed at several tracks this past season including RPM Speedway, Devils Bowl, Greenville and of course the Racesaver IMCA Sprint Nationals. “It’s been a lot of fun. We had a few ups and downs, but it’s been a good year, with 1 victory. The Racesaver Nationals was definitely the favorite race I’ve ever been in by far though”.

Next year’s plans include running a Racesaver Sprint car with the Sprint Bandit series. “We’ll run with them a little bit to see how that goes”.

The State and Series Champions for the 2018 Racesaver season were as follows:

Brandon Allen         Minnesota State and Arlington Raceway Champion

Elliot Amdahl           South Dakota State Champion

Ethan Barrow          Indiana Racesaver Sprint Series and Indiana State Champion

Zach Blurton            United Rebel Sprint Series Champion

Tyler Drueke            Eagle Raceway and Nebraska State Champion

Grant Duinkerken  Western Racesaver Sprint Series and California State Champion

Jeff Emerson            Texas Sprint Series Champion

Anthony Harris       Virginia Sprint Series and Virginia State Champion

Mike Houseman     Iowa State Champion

Tommy Johnson     Sabine Motor Speedway and Louisiana State Champion

Jake Martens           Kansas State Champion

Zach Newlin             Pennsylvania Sprint Series and Pennsylvania State Champion

Coby Pearce             Colorado State Champion

Craig Pellegrini Jr.  North Carolina State Champion

Matt Richards         US 36 Raceway and Missouri State Champion

Trey Schmidt           Southern United Sprint Champion

Steven Shebester   Lawton Speedway and Oklahoma State Champion

Andy Shouse            Sprint Series of Oklahoma

Stephen Surniak     Carolina Sprint Tour and South Carolina State Champion

Tim S. Tanner Jr.     Mid-Atlantic Sprint Series and New Jersey State Champion

Friday, December 21, 2018

Cancer blog 12/21/2018

Well, I finally finished my radiation treatments for my prostate cancer! Yesterday was my 44th and final one.

I have to be honest here and say that when I first found out that I had stage 3 prostate cancer I was scared! I was scared for myself of course, but I think that I was more scared for Linda. We’ve always been there for each other; through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, in the good times and the bad times. Just like the marriage vows say, we were there. All of a sudden, the thought crept into my mind that I might not be there when she needed me.

Also, I was afraid that I might not be able to see my granddaughters grow up. It was possible that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to spend time with my 2 sons and my daughter-in-laws from time to time.

Hell; I didn’t know what I was scared of, but I WAS scared.

My final visit with the oncologist was heartening, thankfully. He said that he considered me in remission and that all I would have to do is keep getting the shots to kill my testosterone every 3 months and get my PSA checked at the same time just so that they could be sure that the cancer didn’t come back.

My final visit was a relief, but at the same time kind of sad. I grew to know all the technicians, the woman who checked me in and several of the other patients. Now I wouldn’t be seeing them anymore. I gave the technicians a card to pass around to everyone there; thanking them for everything they did for me. And, in return they gave me a diploma that they all signed with well wishes. So, all in all, it was a great but sad day,

Also, this week, we got another 4-figure bill for treatments. I do believe that we will be able to meet our insurance deductible!! The bad part is that it’s a week and a half from year end. Oh well; such is life.

I am hoping against hope that now that the treatments are over that I can get back to whatever passes as normal for this old man. I’m struggling to stay awake as I write this in fact. I still am feeling rather weak also. Another bout of the runs the past few days hasn’t helped my attitude either.

I just want to be able to start making some money to help pay the bills!!! I have every hope that at least by the end of the year, or the beginning of next year that can happen.

As always, I thank all of you who are reading this for your well wishes and for keeping both Linda and I in your thoughts and prayers!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Cancer update 12/11/18

Those of you who are my friends on Facebook may have noticed that I’ve been doing a countdown on there. Well, no countdown today because I got bad news from my radiologist. I had thought that I was down to 4 more treatments to go, but he informed me that I was going to have to go through 44 treatments, not 40!

Originally, he had said I would be having 25 treatments, then a few weeks in he switched it to 40 because I was a ‘Big Guy’ and the treatment he had originally intended to use wasn’t feasible. Now, he informed me that it was going to take 44, not 40. I am upset to say the least, a little disheartened and slightly confused. How can a doctor not keep their patient fully informed?? I just don’t understand it.

Anyway, I feel okay. Still very tired, somewhat weak and am concerned because my blood sugar has been running high. I spoke to the radiologist about the blood sugars, and he said it shouldn’t be due to the radiation treatments. He did say that it may be due to the injection that they give me to kill my testosterone. I have a call into my regular doctor and am waiting on an answer.

Tomorrow I will update my countdown to reflect the correct amount of treatments left. Until then, hold a good thought for me please. And, thank all of you for your good wishes!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Cancer update 11/30/18

Well, today marked 6 weeks down and 2 weeks (10 treatments) to go!! The end is in sight, and I have to say that I’m looking forward to getting off this merry-go-round. They have begun to concentrate solely on the prostate.

I’m still experiencing the same problems; occasional runs and being extremely tired. I slept 9 hours last night and fell asleep in the recliner today for over an hour. Even so, I’m yawning up a storm as I write this. I think that is the thing that bothers me the most. I just have no motivation, am super tired constantly and still am feeling rather weak. All these things add up to my being unable to do my part-time job, wreaking havoc with our funds.

We got our first bill from the cancer center and paid it. Having done so we have decided to have a family treasure hunt of our attic tomorrow afternoon, hopefully finding some items that we can turn into cash to replenish the old bank account.

It will be a family thing because they know that if they don’t help, their huge inheritance will end up being enough to grab a burger and fries…..MAYBE!!! I’m kidding of course, but it does need to be done. Linda said she’s been wanting to do this anyway because neither of us remembers any more what the HECK is up there. I’m positive that there are remnants of my childhood and other items from then until now that we put up there for ‘safekeeping’ or to make room for the new stuff that we bought along the way.

So, anyway, if you don’t hear from me for awhile it’s because we found a missing Rembrandt or Gaugin or other priceless art treasure and have moved to some exotic location! It might be Las Vegas, or New York, or maybe the huge metropolis of Denton, Nebraska.

Keep a good thought for us; we appreciate it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Cancer update 11/21/18

Well, today was day 25 of 40 (that means that I’m 5/8’s of the way through my treatment schedule for those of you who are mathematically inclined). There’s good news and also some bad news.

First, the good news. My doctor told me that as soon as I finish my treatments, he will consider me to be in remission. Also, there will be no follow-up CT scans unless the periodic PSA tests show something abnormal, which he has no reason to expect will happen. I will have the PSA tests every few months.

He also informed me that we have begun the second phase of my radiation treatment. The first phase, which we just completed, was a broad treatment of the entire pelvis. It was to ensure that any cancer which had spread to the lymph nodes (which he didn’t think had happened) was taken care of first. Now, the second phase is more focused on the prostate itself. We’ve gone from a shotgun to a sniper rifle, as it were.

The not-so-good news begins with the fact that I have begun to feel a bad effect from the treatments. I have started to suffer bouts of the ‘Tijuana 2-Step’. When I informed them of this, they said that was perfectly normal and to try Immodium. They also said if that didn’t cure the problem that they can prescribe something stronger. So far, it has worked so I’m hoping we don’t have to go to prescription drugs.

Secondly, we had an unexpected large expense this week. The 65 foot tall pin oak in front of the house and beside the driveway had to be removed. We were experiencing large branches and even limbs falling constantly any time that we had even a decently strong wind. I called a tree service to come and trim up all 3 of the trees that we have left (the fourth one was badly damaged in that October snow storm we had several years ago and came crashing down into the back yard a few years ago. Luckily it missed the house). They informed me that this tree needed to be removed because it was dying. I hadn’t noticed it before, but the tree had begun to lean and the upper parts were becoming sparse; very few healthy limbs and branches and VERY few leaves. After lengthy deliberation I figured that the tree was approximately70’ish years old, since our house was built in 1947. So, Monday the tree service crew came out and cut it down and also trimmed the dead and low-hanging branches and limbs from the other 2. They returned Tuesday and ground out the stump, which I was surprised to see was probably 5 feet across. Anyone need some mulch for free (our youngest son took the firewood)??? So, $3700 later we have a lot more sunlight and don’t have to worry about limbs (or even the entire tree) falling on the car or the house.

We did experience a little good fortune this past week when my sister-in-law brought over a nice big lasagna for us to enjoy last Wednesday. It was delicious!!! Those of you who know my taste in food will not be surprised to hear that I added some red pepper flakes to mine, as I tend to the spicy side of all meals whenever possible.

The last part of the bad news this week came shortly after our lasagna was delivered. Unfortunately my wife suffered a severe set-back to one of her many health problems and I had to take her to the ER. After some testing, they kept her. She didn’t get out until Saturday after a LOT of tests. She’s home now and on the mend, so that’s a great thing. She’s very worn out, but that is to be expected.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I’m thankful that she is home with me where she belongs. Also, I am feeling fairly good, all things considered. We are planning on going over to our oldest son’s house for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow as long as she is feeling up to it. Please keep all of those who aren't able to have Thanksgiving with their loved ones in your thoughts and prayers.

To all our friends, we cannot thank you enough for your thoughts and prayers. We do ask that you keep them coming, especially for my wife.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Cancer update 11/13/18

So, today I had the 19th radiation treatment for my prostate cancer. Yesterday after my treatment I visited with the doctor. I asked him about a couple of symptoms that I am experiencing, more fatigue and a new problem; weakness. He said that both are normal. The weakness, which he correctly mentioned were in my hips and shoulders are most likely due to the shot that I get to kill my testosterone. He said that if the problem continues that they may have to cut back to continuing the shots for only 18 months, rather than the 24 to 36 months that were originally planned.

I also got another surprise change in my treatment plan. I told him that I only had 7 more treatments to go, and he corrected me; telling me that I was going to have to go through the complete 40 treatment course. Evidently, since I’m a “big guy” in his words, the higher dosage of radiation tends to burn the skin and does not penetrate sufficiently as it would on a smaller person. He had thought that someone had told me and apologized. Needless to say, the apology did not make me feel any better. Instead of just a little over a week before being through, I now have to wait until December 14th for my last treatment. At least, I HOPE that will be the last day! I will have to have a new CT scan and more tests to ensure that it is gone or cured.

I’m sleeping 9 or 10 hours a night, interrupted by a couple of trips to the bathroom each night, then I tend to doze in my recliner off and on the rest of the day. My trip to get my treatment daily is pretty much my only excursion from the house, other than our Saturday errands or to get prescriptions from the pharmacy. Obviously, this has killed my part-time job; and that worries me greatly. While I was at the doctor’s office, I asked why I hadn’t received a bill for my treatments or visits with the doctor yet and was told that they send out one after I finish up. I suppose that it doesn’t matter much whether I get one BIG bill or a bunch of little ones, so we’ll see about that when the time comes.

All in all, I feel fairly good all things considered. I’m 65, so I don’t expect too much anyway. The aches and pains that go along with my age just serve to remind me that I’ve been lots of places and done lots of things. I’ve got a fantastic family and lots of people rooting for me, so I know that I can and will beat this thing!

Thank you for visiting my blog, and again I can’t thank everyone enough for the kind words and well wishes. Your support means more to me than I can ever repay.