For the most part throughout my life I’ve had decent neighbors and lived in decent neighborhoods. There’s been very little complaining or animosity and it always seemed as though everyone tried to get along in a ‘neighborly’ spirit.
Of course there’s been a couple that played the music too loud, had more than the normal amount of domestic disputes, and failed to respect my personal space when there wasn’t a fence. After a while, those neighbors moved away or just before moving, were visited by the cops after an anonymous call.
It’s not always easy to get along with bad neighbors. Sleepless nights, repaired flower beds, and a constant concern what property damage you’d come home to next can really wear on a persons psyche. Even so, sometimes based upon where you choose to live, you have to do so with a grin and bear it attitude and a couple stiff shots of bourbon.
Kalamazoo Speedway was built a long time ago, (over 60 years ago in fact), when there weren’t many neighbors around. The church across the road, and The Alamo general store up the at the corner were just about the only other buildings in the area other than a few farms. The story is not unlike many other aging race tracks built at a time when there wasn’t much else to do but go the movies on Friday, the race track on Saturday and church on Sunday.
Now it seems that there’s some fresh faces in the neighborhood and apparently they like to keep things down to a dull roar. While the real reason seems obvious, it may be wrong to state that these people feel as though Kalamazoo Speedway is a bad neighbor. You can draw your own conclusions when you read the full story about how Alamo Township, (which Kalamazoo Speedway is a part of), wants to enact a new ordinance limiting noise pollution on local station WWMT’s website HERE.
Here’s just a few of the shots taken by me at Kalamazoo Speedway over the years:
My ties to “Kazoo”, as most of us in the area call the track, go back a long ways and it was at this track that my love of supermodified racing was truly cemented in the late 70s and early 80s. Without a doubt, it’s not where I saw my first supermodified race, but it’s where I saw the best ones. I remember many afternoon drives up US 131 from our home in Goshen, IN to D Ave where we’d exit the freeway to head to the track. Often times we’d be following open trailers with a couple of South Bend and New Paris Speedway regulars. My dad would turn the radio off and we’d roll the windows down as we hoped to hear the sounds of supermodifieds that had already pulled in and started to practice. Seems odd now that what got me smiling ear to ear as a kid, (and still does), some other people would consider a nuisance.
If you read the about section on this site you will soon realize that Kalamazoo Speedway and it’s cast of characters shaped me into the person that I am today. From flagman Larry Hotram standing guard over the action on the track in his pink sequined shirt, to “The Chubby Little Pronouncer” Mick Schuler turning ordinary men into my heroes with his unique way of making each one seem like a legend regardless of how many races they had won, to first meeting Jim Shirey and having him sign my autograph book in the grandstands during a break in the action, those memories are many of my most cherished and it all came from that race track.
It’s the place that I learned about Sammy Sessions and his amazing talent, where I got to see drivers like Ricky Otts, Jon McClaren, Page Reynolds, Leroy Halfin, and Chet Fillip compete after driving in all the way from Texas. It’s the first place that I saw Dean Best, Bob Seelman, Wayne Landon, Ron Semelka, and Todd Gibson race. It’s where I got to see Marvin and Jerry Carmen, Butch and Gary Fedewa, Roger Bible, Gary Allbritain go wheel to wheel. Once I even got to see Bentley Warren-“The King of the Supermodifieds” but of course at that time, not even Ben was as cool as Ozzie (local legend Jerry Osbourne) or my “Good Friend and Neighbor” Willie Stutzman.
That race track and all the Tri-SAC races that were contested there helped make me inquisitive about where these drivers came from to compete against the locals. It made me want to learn more and I would scour my dad’s copies of MARC Times Racing News and National Speed Sport News to the point that dad would be asking where they went so he could finish reading them. I learned that these racers spent a lot of time at some place called Oswego, in some far away place that was almost in Canada. I found out that they raced a lot in Sandusky, OH and once in a while we could catch them a little closer by at Hartford Speedway or Baer Field Raceway.
It never failed though, the best place to see them, to me and a lot of other people it seemed then and still does, was Kalamazoo Speedway. Eventually the International Supermodified Association started racing there then would go to Berlin Raceway the next night. It was a wonderful time in the 90s because supers were hot and we got to see the best that NY, New England, and OH had to offer go up against the MI and IN boys.
In time, after I started writing about supermodifieds for Dick Beebe, and I suppose because of that, as much as my constant attendance through the years at Kalamazoo, Mick Schuler would often call me up to the tower when he’d see me. He always made me feel a lot more important than I was, or am, when he’d put me on the mic and ask me questions about Oswego or ISMA or make me talk about a particular racer. I don’t know that, like now, I always gave the best answer or the correct one, but Mick never failed to encourage me.
I loved shooting at Kalamazoo Speedway, especially before it had the backstretch wall, (something that I’ve been told was put up to help cut down on the noise), getting pointers from Tom DeVette and standing on those old tractor tires in the backstretch to get a better view of the supers going away from me with the right rear tire kicking up bits of sand and dust as the drivers used up every inch of track.
Kalamazoo Speedway, through God’s choice, took the life of one of my most dear friends, Dion Parish. Kalamazoo Speedway brought Dion into my life after he posted a note in MARC Times Racing News about wanting to start the supers back up again like the old Tri-SAC days. I picked up the phone and called him and we talked for hours without even knowing each other and he shared stories like mine about his days watching supers as a kid at Kalamazoo.
I miss those days with Mick and often wish he were still here along with Dick Beebe to help me along and teach me even more. I miss seeing the supermodifieds at Kalamazoo, Tri-SAC, the Crumpton Nationals, and Open Wheel spectacular. I miss talking to Dion about how we could bring the supers back to Kalamazoo. I know many fans and racers miss going there too for the supers. A lot of time has come and gone since my first visit to Kazoo, but I have never lost my love for that race track though and I always felt that for the most part, it was a beloved member of Alamo Township. I hope that it will be around for years to come so that other kids, young and old will be able to create life long memories like mine.
Leave your memories of supermodified racing at Kalamazoo Speedway and a positive solution to this problem below. Watch for another post as a follow-up with those comments.
- Sound Ordinance Changes Could Impact Kalamazoo Speedway (fox17online.com)