Saturday, August 26, 2000

Low gear, lowdown gritty fun


'This is the Super Bowl of dirt racing'

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        With names like Sand Hawg, Thunder Struck and others less innocuous, they chew through gravel and muck like a rotor tiller gone bad.

        From the security of campers, the drivers ignore nearby six-packs and coolly assess the mud drag strip and 175-foot hill with its 75 percent grade.

[photo] John Havermale (left) puts air in the tires of a dirt racer while Cameron Shinn plays with a squirt gun. The two are from Monroe City, Mo.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        They exchange wordless glances with crew chiefs.

        This is Gravelrama, and it is serious business.

        “This is the Super Bowl of dirt racing,” said Toni Bealmear of Mexico, Mo., who is here with her husband and their souped-up Jeep, Freedom. “We've been coming here six years and he's taken a first in the hill drag and he's got two or three second (places).” This is the 30th year for the gathering.

        Ken Boggs of Mason says the gravel pit in Cleves is a key trophy on the four-wheel-drive racing circuit — and he'll party only when it's over.

        “For a lot of racers, it's like total focus,” he said. “Especially when you get to the bigger-class events, it's like total concentration.”

        Some members of the pit crew might like to throw tent parties, “but not the drivers,” said Mr. Boggs, who drives a 1948 Fiat.

IF YOU GO
  • What: 4x4 Obstacle competitions, drag races, obstacle course.
  • When: Beginning 9 a.m. today; 8 a.m. Sunday, 10 a.m. Monday.
  • Where: U.S. 50 and Ohio 128.
  • Cost: $10 adults; $4 ages 6-12.
  • Information: 941-1479
        The race, which runs through the weekend near the intersection of U.S. 50 and Valley Junction Road, involves several events. But the one that has everyone's attention is a climb up a massive dirt tower.

        The prize isn't money, just a trophy and bragging rights.

        That's what 12-year-old Kyle “The Man” Wiedermayer of Gobles, Mich., is after.

        “I'm the best in the business,” he said, trying to get his mouth around the top of an ice cream cone.

        Entered in the junior dragster competition, Kyle will be driving a dragster powered by a snowmobile engine. While he was standing in the middle of a carnival-like midway, surrounded by the greasy treats of summer, Kyle was concerned only about winning.

        Wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words “Gone Postal,” Kyle's mother, Mindy Wiedermayer, smiled. She says this is her first time back to Gravelrama since 1986, and it is as much fun as she remembers it.

        “It's a good way to leave your frustrations behind,” she said. “Any time you're away from work, you're going to leave your frustrations. I'm a postal worker.”
       



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