Spartan Speedway - Newsletter March 2009

Spartan Speedway sandy at
Sat Mar 28 09:31:58 EDT 2009

It's March and do you know what time it is?  I know, it's NCAA March Madness and I'm sure that a lot of  fans who can run twice as fast, make three times the baskets and out jump the tallest defender can also drive a race car twice as fast and pass three times as many cars.on the first lap.  Here's a hint. The 2009 Spartan Speedway racing season is just around the corner!   It's time for me to sharpen my pencils, scrounge for a fresh pad of paper, plunk myself down eight rows up from the start/finish line, try out the new stadium seat I got for Christmas, and let Big Ed look at the back of my head for another season.  My name is Michelle Sprague, and I am the track reporter.

Being a race fan from way back, I never dreamed that one day I'd be watching the races as the track reporter, no less holding my breath as my youngest son cut his teeth behind the wheel of a race car, while Big Ed took my oldest son under his wing and showed him the ropes in the tower.  

I guess it was only natural that I ended up involved in the racing scene.  My dad was a crew chief back when Gordon Johncock, Benny Parsons and the like would race at Jackson Speedway.  The story goes that I could've been born at Owosso or Capital City Speedway.  

I went through a phase in my early childhood when I absolutely hated the races, especially when I got dragged to the Figure-8 shows.  Even at an early age, I couldn't understand why racers would want to drive through an intersection to narrowly avoid a crash (maybe that's some of the appeal?)  I'm sorry to say, I'm still the one who covers her eyes when the action gets too close for comfort.

After years of attending the races solo, I met my future husband at the end of the 1983 racing season.  We married the following June and I couldn't wait to get him to the races.  Money was tight, but we managed to scrape together the $20 for a Friday night out, each and every week.  

One racer in particular, Mert Thompson, caught our attention.  We met Mert and his wife Carol through church and his racing.  A great friendship was forged and when children came into the picture, Mert and Carol graciously accepted the honor of being godparents.  My oldest son attended his first race at six months, with Mert coming up into the stands after his heat race to hold him high in the air and explain what the green, yellow and checkered flag meant. Along came son number two, and Sunday afternoons he'd be parked in front of the TV watching his favorite driver, Mock Mahtin (translated Mark Martin).  This child, for as much as he loved the races, could never stay awake past 9 P.M. and could be found strapped to a bleacher at Spartan, while Carol worried that he would surely roll off.   

A job change in 1996 reunited me with a high school classmate who happened to be a racer.  Soon, my husband and I were helping him out in his race shop and at the age of twelve, our youngest son joined the crew.  My husband and I still help him to this day.  

One day, after checking out the point standings on the Spartan Speedway website, there was a posting that the speedway was looking for a writer.  On a whim, I stopped by the speedway office and told Jim I'd give it a whirl.  Five years later, I'm still plugging away, doing my best to bring the racing action to life through words, maybe piquing the interest of those who don't regularly attend the races, and giving the drivers the recognition they deserve.  

Many fans (and drivers) don't know who I am.  I sit very inconspicuously amongst the other fans, jotting notes and essentially "keeping stats" that I translate into an article.  One night, I had a friend ask me how in the world I made sense of the chicken scratch on my paper.  I responded that I had a "system."  I prefer to keep my position low profile because there's nothing like getting cornered in the restroom by someone who wants to know why so and so wasn't mentioned more in my article.  I try to give equal billing and if someone is running away with the win, often times, the race back in the pack is the one to watch.  

There was a time when I would read articles in some of the racing publications and think to myself, "I could write an article like that!"  Remember those folks at the beginning of this piece?  I'll bet those same folks think they can write articles too!  Well, guess what?  I can, and I will for as long as the track will have me.                    

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