Saturday, June 13, 2009
When I paid a Thursday morning visit to Slinger Speedway last week, I didn’t expect to see any racers. I was really interested in seeing the ¼ mile oval track, billed as “The World’s Fastest ¼ Mile Oval!”
But from the parking lot near the office I could see across the bowl, and there was indeed a race car, with a small group of men around it. The brilliant spring sky could not compete for my eye with the metallic blue paint on this car. The fluorescent green trim practically seared my eyes, but they refused to turn away. Yeah. That burns so good.
Stepping into the dark paneled office of Wayne Erickson, the track owner, I introduced myself and asked for permission to make some photos. I asked Wayne about the team. (Wayne is a story unto himself, and I will be going back up to Slinger to shadow him for a post soon.)
“That’s Brad Mueller’s team,” he told me. “He’s one of the hot-shots around here.”
Brad Mueller, as you can see from these photos, is serious about racing. He’s been at it a long time, but the edge is clearly still there.
Brad was busy working, and respecting his need to concentrate, I didn’t get a chance to talk to him too much. But I did relay Wayne’s “hot shot” comment, which brought a faint smile to Brad’s lips. “I used to be. I’m gettin’ too old now”, he said to the gentle bemusement of his crew.
I can tell you that Brad has a substantial record of victories and top finishes at Slinger and at other short tracks around the region going back to 1987, and has broken into the hallowed ranks of NASCAR, competing in the Craftsman Truck Series. Brad is the 2003, 2004 and 2005 Slinger Speedway Champion.
This morning, the team was making adjustments to the suspension of the car which, although it carries the markings of a Pontiac, is powered by a Chevrolet engine. After the set-up work, Brad took off down the ramp and dove into the ¼ mile bowl. He did a series of laps weaving back and forth across the racing line, feeling the car out – did it want to dive down or pull up the steeply raked track, or be would it now be happy to ride in the groove?
Apparently Brad was satisfied with the work, as he then put his foot in it and cracked off a couple of hot laps. (A good lap time at Slinger is a mere 11 eleven seconds.) With only the one car on the track, you could hear Brad feathering the throttle, finessing the big car into what amounts to two 180 degree corners connected by two short blasts of full throttle.
Most of the fans who will watch Brad race on Sunday night probably have no idea of the intensity of the work that goes into building and preparing his car, but will gladly soak up the adrenaline rush of watching him blast around the little oval like he was some crazy man.