TERRE HAUTE — Over the years the term rookie in motorsports has been as loosely defined as the role it represents.
World driving champions have on more than one occasion been classified in the lowly rookie status at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Most recently past Indianapolis 500 winners and Champ Car champions have been tagged with the label in NASCAR’s lower tier divisions.
No matter your lofty credentials, one is expected to carry the traditional yellow stripes during a rookie campaign.
Chris Novotney knows all about the initiation process. Novotney, the Action Track’s Managing Partner in charge of Track Preparation, wore his stripes a few years back in the Championship Auto Racing Series circuit when he raced late models.
He’s wearing a new set of stripes these days in his new role at the Action Track. A title he accepts as a member of the newly formed DHK promotions at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds.
When it was announced back in the spring that DHK was taking over the reigns at the track, it was thought that former Action Track great Bubby Jones would being doing the track prep. It soon became evident that wasn’t going to happen.
Novotney and his assistant Tim Wolf’s job description in the new venture appeared lost in all the excitement surrounding the track’s revival.
What started out as a mission to reconstruct the contour of the track suddenly shifted to track prep as the May 5 opening night date approached.
They were called upon to put their expertise and experience with earth-moving equipment to good use.
Although their graders did not sport yellow stripes, both were, for the most part, pure rookies as they went about reshaping a racing surface that had been neglected for years.
While some consider dirt track preparation an art, Novotney modestly downplays such thoughts.
“It’s all about moving dirt from one place to another. It’s balancing quantity to where it needs to be. If you can build it right and keep it that way then I guess you could say its a miracle,” Novotney said.
Their skills at molding out a raceable surface were tested early. Rains forced a one-day delay for their season opener. When race day did arrive, they were greeted by a dirt-track preparer’s nightmare.
Bright sunny skies and all day wind. A sure ingredient for dirt track racing biggest headache … dust.
Despite a brief delay to blinding sun due to the timing of the event, the pair received passing marks for their debut. And even better reviews for their efforts in preparing the track for the Tony Hulman Classic several weeks later.
Tired and weary, the pair accepted compliments for their work after the USAC event. They had received passing marks from the drivers, officials and fans alike.
As for their rookie status they both take it in stride. By their own admission they both have bigger and more pressing goals on their agenda. That of keeping the racing alive at the Fairgrounds.
Novotney does not hold back his feelings about racing at the Fairgrounds and what it has meant to the community over the years and potential moves that may bring it all to an end.
“Yes I am a rookie. But one that just wants this place to look nice. I want it to be clean. A place with an appearance where a guy would want to take his family to see a race. A place where the racers want to race,” he said.
“If we do all these things then I think we will have done our part. I just want the Action Track here. I’m not buying into the idea that the place would be better suited for development,” Novotney added.
“Everybody has an agenda. We don’t live in New York City. We live in Terre Haute, Indiana. You can go 10 minutes in any direction and find a place to put a shopping center. To say the community would be better off to take the Fairgrounds and turn it into a shopping center and say that we would get something as good as we have just isn’t right.
“Nine million dollars isn’t going to do it. That’s not enough to replace what we have here. This place belongs to the people. Nobody has the right to sell it,” Novotney said.
Joe Buckles can be reached at email@example.com
TERRE HAUTE — Over the years the term rookie in motorsports has been as loosely defined as the role it represents.
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