NAPA Auto Parts ‘Gopher 50’ Charity Late Model Race Breaks New Ground This Saturday Night (July 7) At Deer Creek Speedway
First-Ever Saturday Date Adds Excitement To Unique World of Outlaws Late Model Series Event
By Kevin Kovac, WoO LMS P.R. Director
SPRING VALLEY, MN – July 5, 2012 – The 33rd annual NAPA Auto Parts Gopher 50 Charity Late Model Race will break new ground this Saturday night (July 7) at Deer Creek Speedway.
A dirt-track tradition for three decades in the state of Minnesota, the unique World of Outlaws Late Model Series event co-promoted by the Blooming Prairie (Minn.) Lions Club and Deer Creek’s Queensland family is set to run on a Saturday-night date for the first time in its illustrious history.
“There’s a real good buzz going around about the race because of the change to Saturday night,” said Deer Creek Speedway marketing director/event coordinator Ryan Queensland. “From talking to fans and racers, in my opinion, there’s a buzz about the Gopher similar to the first year that we moved it here (in 2005). Deer Creek Speedway is definitely going to be the place to be on July 7.”
The Gopher 50 has been a mid-week staple on the WoO LMS schedule since the three-eighths-mile Deer Creek oval became the event’s host facility. It has regularly drawn big crowds and produced memorable racing, but Deer Creek management and Blooming Prairie Lions Club member Jerry Ingvalson, who has overseen the race since its inception, believe that a weekend date can take it to another level.
“For the last few years we’ve met with our sponsors (NAPA and Miner’s Outdoor & Rec) and talked with the fans,” said Queensland, “and we’ve asked them, ‘Hey, what can we do to make the Gopher better – you know, make it a little more fan-friendly and kick up the atmosphere a little bit?’ What we heard back was, ‘If you ever could get that thing on a weekend, it would be awesome.’
“Well, working with (WoO LMS director) Tim (Christman), we were actually able to make that happen this year. We told NAPA and Miner’s that we had an opportunity to do the Gopher on a Saturday and they said, ‘Take that date.'”
According to Queensland, with both NAPA and Miner’s having “really grabbed the bull by the horns to help promote the Gopher through their avenues,” advance ticket sales for this year’s event are up nearly 25 percent over 2011. In addition, from a sponsor’s standpoint, NAPA and Miner’s expect to host a record number of customers and clients at the race; NAPA alone will entertain 150-200 people in a hospitality tent.
“Our big goal is to make this year’s Gopher 50 more of an event,” commented Queensland. “We have a lot of stuff planned for before and after the event – and hopefully a real good race breaks out during the show as well.”
Saturday’s pre-race festivities will begin at 11:30 a.m. with the extremely popular pork-chop ‘feed’ for all participating Late Model and USMTS Modified teams. There will also be a competitive Cornhole beanbag-tossing tournament at 12 noon ($20 entry fee per two-person team with a cash payback) to enhance the tailgating experience, and NAPA is putting on a post-race bonfire in the pit area to keep the good times rolling after the evening’s final checkered flag.
What’s more, fireworks and driver introductions will spice up the racing program itself, and NAPA has posted cash bonuses of $100 to all heat winners and $1,000 to Saturday’s feature winners in both divisions contingent upon the display of a NAPA decal on both sides of the victors’ cars. With the additional money, the WoO LMS Gopher 50 winner will receive $11,000.
“We’re real excited for the Gopher,” said Queensland. “We’re just want to have a fun atmosphere so that the fans and race teams enjoy the event even more.”
The WoO LMS regulars are certainly looking forward to their annual visit to Deer Creek. Every Outlaw who has raced at the well-manicured track has nothing but praise for it.
In fact, after the WoO LMS contested its 300th A-Main since 2004 last summer, the tour travelers who had entered all of those races – including defending champion Rick Eckert of York, Pa., current points leader Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., and Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga. – were asked to rank their 10 favorite tracks. Deer Creek made each driver’s top 10 list.
Consider the comments the WoO LMS stars made about Deer Creek:
* Eckert (’06 Gopher 50 winner): “They have a heck of a track crew. They work on that place all night long and keep it really racy. Anytime you go some place where they put that much effort into the surface and keep the place looking as beautiful as they do, you love that. And they feed us too (the pre-race pork-chop luncheon).”
* Lanigan (’05 and ’09 Gopher 50 winner): “Track-prep is definitely the big thing there – those guys go out and work on the track hard every night. I haven’t seen anywhere else in the country where they work as hard on the track as they do there.”
* Frank (’07 Gopher 50 winner): “For a racer, there’s no better place we go to. They have real good equipment and they take such good care of the racetrack. You never have to worry about whether the racetrack is gonna be racy.”
* Clint Smith (WoO LMS winner at Deer Creek in ’06): “One of the raciest tracks on the circuit. Over all the years we’ve gone there with the series, I don’t think there’s ever been a bad race there. It’s been the most consistent, most equal track we’ve been to.”
Other former Gopher 50 winners expected to enter Saturday’s event include red-hot WoO LMS regular Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y. (2010) and Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa (’04 and ’08).
The Gopher 50 field will also include WoO LMS regulars Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y., Pat Doar of New Richmond, Wis., Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., and Rookie of the Year candidates Bub McCool of Vicksburg, Miss., Kent Robinson of Bloomington, Ind., and Jack Sullivan of Greenbrier, Ark., plus top challengers such as Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., and Chad Simpson of Mt. Vernon, Iowa.
A healthy contingent of Deer Creek regulars is also expected with sponsorship providing the top 20 drivers in the track points standings a free entry for the event.
Prior to settling at Deer Creek in ’05, the NAPA Auto Parts Gopher 50 was run at Chateau Speedway in Austin, Minn. (1980-1981) and the Steele County Fairgrounds in Owatanna, Minn. (1982-2004). The race has raised over $300,000 for Jaycee and Lions projects since its birth.
Deer Creek’s gates are scheduled to open at 3 p.m. CT on Saturday with on-track action set to begin at 6:30 p.m.
General admission on race-day is $30 for adults and $15 for kids 12-and-under.
Reserved seats can be purchased on-line through Fri., July 6, at 5 p.m. CT at www.deercreekspeedway.com or by calling 1-877-DCS-RACE.
Deer Creek Speedway is located 15 miles south of Rochester, Minn., on Highway 63.
Additional info on the Gopher 50 can be obtained by logging on to www.deercreekspeedway.com or calling 1-877-DCS-RACE.
Alltime ‘Gopher 50’ Event Winners (1980-81 at Chateau Speedway in Austin, Minn.; 1982-2004 at Steele County Fairgrounds in Owatanna, Minn.; 2005-present at Deer Creek Speedway in Spring Valley, Minn.):
1980 – Leon Plank
1981 – Steve Kosiski
1982 – Steve Kosiski
1983 – Joe Kosiski
1984 – Willy Kraft
1985 – Leon Plank
1986 – Tom Steuding
1987 – Willy Kraft
1988 – Steve Kosiski
1989 – Billy Moyer
1990 – Scott Bloomquist
1991 – Rick Egersdorf
1992 – Bob Hill
1993 – Billy Moyer
1994 – Willy Kraft
1995 – Bill Frye
1996 – Billy Moyer
1997 – Rick Aukland
1998 – Jay Johnson
1999 – Scott Bloomquist
2000 – Billy Moyer
2001 – Billy Moyer
2002 – Shannon Babb
2003 – Scott Bloomquist
2004 – Brian Birkhofer
2005 – Darrell Lanigan (WoO LMS)
2006 – Rick Eckert (WoO LMS)
2007 – Chub Frank (WoO LMS)
2008 – Brian Birkhofer (WoO LMS)
2009 – Darrell Lanigan (WoO LMS)
2010 – Tim McCreadie (WoO LMS)
2011 – Josh Richards (WoO LMS)
The World of Outlaws Late Model Series is brought to fans across the country by many important sponsors and partners, including Arizona Sport Shirts (Official Apparel Company), Armor All (Official Car Care Products), Gravely Tractors (Official Lawn Equipment), Hoosier Racing Tires (Official Racing Tires), STP (Official Fuel Treatment), Vicci (Official Uniform), VP Racing Fuel (Official Racing Fuel), DirtonDirt.com (Hard Charger Award) and McCarthy’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning (Raye Vest Memorial Pill Draw Award); in addition to contingency sponsors Butlerbuilt, Cometic Gaskets, Comp Cams, Dominator Race Products, Eibach Springs, JE Pistons, Klotz Synthetic Lubricants, MSD Ignition, Ohlins Shocks, QuarterMaster, Roush Yates Performance Parts, Superflow Dynos, Wix Filter, Wrisco Aluminum and XS Power Racing Batteries; along with manufacturer sponsors Integra Shocks, GRT Chassis, Jake’s Carts, Longacre, Racing Electronics, Rocket Chassis, TNT Rescue, and Warrior Chassis.