The “Lost Speedways” of American motorsports history

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matthew Dillner sit along a banked portion of the Texas World Speedway,

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matthew Dillner sit along a banked portion of the Texas World Speedway in “Lonely Star”  (Allie Fredericks/Dirty Mo Media)

BY MARK MAYNARD

I was shuffling through TV channels recently and landed upon an episode of “Lost Speedways. The docuseries on Peacock was created and hosted by Earnhardt and co-host Matthew Dillner. Together they explore historically significant and visually stunning racetracks that are now abandoned, dormant, or in decay.

Dale Jr. and his team explore deserted tracks, search for artifacts and solve unanswered questions at venues all across the country.

I immediately connected with the show because of my interest in history and cars. And the show’s focus on automotive history and motorsports made the discovery even better. I had tuned into “Danger Zone,” which was episode seven from the first season. It told the history of the Jungle Park Speedway, an hour west of Indianapolis.

The half-mile dirt track opened in 1926 and closed in 1960. It closed after one more in a long line of horrific accidents, according to a 2016 report by Will Higgins of the Indianapolis Star.

Reclaimed by nature

Nature has been reclaiming the grounds ever since it closed. But remnants remain, such as the grandstand.

“Sycamore trees stand 40 feet tall in the middle of the first turn. Honeysuckle grows thick in what once was the pits.

“The grandstand is the most obvious remnant. It was built in 1947.

“Jungle Park Speedway, a half-mile oval with a quarter-mile oval in its infield, was one of the premier speedways in the Midwest in the early 20th century,” Higgins wrote. “It was a proving ground for some of the top American race drivers. Eight Jungle Park veterans went on to win the Indianapolis 500, including one of Indy’s all-time greats, Wilbur Shaw, who won the 500 in 1937, 1939, and 1940.”

Jungle Park on Facebook

“It’s been over fifty years since the big cars roared around the Parke County racing bowl, wrote author Tom W. Williams in the intro to the Jungle Park Speedway Facebook page.

“It was a track where a driver could hardly tell how many curves there were or where the next one started. It was a place where engine noises echoed off the trees and hills like voices in a cave. If you go there, you may experience the presence of ghosts as well. Perhaps you will encounter a spier darting off the track into the trees or flitting from seat to seat in the old grandstand, empty for so many years. The ghosts are most certainly there.”

Williams is the author of “The Ghosts of Jungle Park, History, Myth, and Legend, the Story of a Place Like No Other.”

Stream for free

Eight episodes of “Lost Speedways” were produced for the first season that debuted on July 15, 2020. The eight-episode second season debuted on July 1, 2021.

Season 2 of “Lost Speedways” is available to stream for free on Peacock now.

Speedways featured in Season 2 include Arundel Speedway (Arundel, ME), Pennsboro Speedway (Pennsboro, WV), and Columbia Speedway (Cayse, SC).

Racing legends, such as seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty, join as guests throughout the series.

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Top driver confessions behind the wheel

Hankook Tire survey reveals drivers’ best and worst habits during National Tire Safety Week, June 28 to July 1, 2021

A young woman struggles to change a spare tire

28 percent of drivers admit they can’t change a tire or never rotate their vehicle’s tires, according to the Hankook survey. (NewsUSA)

BY MARK MAYNARD

Americans are hitting the road again as traffic returns to pre-pandemic levels, Hankook Tire found in its latest Gauge Index Survey. As National Tire Safety Week rolls in on busier roads, Hankook’s survey revealed the top habits that impact daily driving. It is one way to better understand potential safety hazards as Americans gear up for summer travel.

For National Tire Safety Week runs from June 28 through July 4, 2021.

Here are Hankook’s best and worst drivers’ habits behind the wheel.

Maintenance impacts tire safety

Consistent maintenance is among the best ways to uphold the safety and performance of tires and vehicles, but 28 percent of drivers admit they either can’t change a tire or never rotate their vehicle’s tires. Regular rotation helps ensure even wear, which in turn impacts a car’s ride quality, cabin noise level and the tire’s longevity.

Experts recommend rotating tires every 5,000 to 8,000 miles driven, though it is important to check the requirements for each specific tire model.

Millennials are most likely to know how to change a tire (only 12 percent claim they can’t), according to the Gauge. And almost two-thirds (61 percent) own the required tire jack to do it. In fact, two out of every three drivers (64 percent), no matter their age, say they own a tire jack. That makes the jack one of the top three car maintenance tools drivers own. That is in addition to a tire pressure gauge (65 percent) and a set of jumper cables (67 percent).

Driver distractions

More than half (64 percent) of American drivers admit they multitask while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts attentions from driving.” NHTSA strongly advises against doing anything besides focusing on the road ahead.

Sources of distraction behind the wheel include:

Singing at the top of their lungs: 24%

Eating while driving: 21%

Texting: 11%

Applying makeup or shaving: 3%

Texting is considered among the most concerning distractions by the NHTSA. Sending or reading a text can take one’s eyes off the road for up to five seconds, which is roughly the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with eyes closed.

It’s time for a trip back to driving school

The survey revealed that one in 10 drivers failed his or her first driving test. Several others still have habits that might not earn them passing marks. Parallel parking is the most stressful and practiced part of the driving test for many, but 13 percent of drivers today say they can’t parallel park.

Gen Z-aged drivers are more than twice as likely to admit they turn too fast compared to older generations. And 14 percent say they brake too harshly or turn too fast.

Many of these habits are dangerous and can add stress to a vehicle’s tires. That type of stress can reduce traction or wear a flat spot on the tread of the tire.

Check tread depth regularly

Drivers are encouraged to regularly check the tread depth of their vehicle’s tires.

The recommended tread depth is more than 2/32 of an inch deep. An easy and quick way to tell if your vehicle’s tires meet the minimum depth is to stick a penny into the tread with Lincoln’s head facing down. If the tread covers the top of his head, you’re good to go. If not, it’s time to replace the tire.

A driver uses a tire pressure gauge

A majority of drivers own a tire pressure gauge (65 percent). (NewsUSA)

For National Tire Safety Week, Hankook is calling on drivers to recommit to safety, on the road and in the garage, said JJ Park, Director of Marketing Strategy, Hankook Tire America Corp.

“Our latest Gauge Survey indicated drivers are eager to hit the road again, and as we do, it is increasingly important to ensure that vehicles are maintained for top performance and safety,” said Park in the Gauge release.

To help avoid any unforeseen bumps in the road, drivers should check their vehicle’s tires before heading out. Exerts also recommend a full mechanical inspection of any vehicle that has been parked for an extended period of time.

About the Hankook Tire survey

The Hankook Tire Gauge Index is a survey of Americans’ attitudes and opinions about driving. The latest survey was conducted April 19-22, 2021. It polled 1,021 randomly selected Americans age 18 and older who have a valid U.S. driver’s license.

View the latest data from the Hankook Tire Gauge Index at TechAndTread.com

Mark Maynard

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Ford Maverick Pickup Pricing Dilemma

2 Maverick pickups

The 2022 Ford Maverick has good small-truck styling and stance. (Photos courtesy of Ford)

BY MARK MAYNARD

I grew up with a 1969 F100 on the farm and I still like pickups no matter how ugly or bad they smell. But they have gotten just too damn big, cumbersome and expensive.

Writing my story about the 2022 Ford Maverick, a possible return to pickup sanity, I considered how this good-looking compact might fit in my city life.

I don’t like the Ford Ranger. It’s too expensive and too cheaply outfitted, which is Ford’s plan to keep its F-150 the top-selling nameplate. And, to me, the Ranger felt to be an Americanized convert from another country, which it is.

Maybe the Maverick could be a truck for me.

I considered the midrange hybrid XLT 4WD, which starts at $23,775, including the freight charge from Mexico. But in spec’ing out “my” truck at Ford.com, I learned that 4WD is only available with the turbocharged 2.0 four-cylinder. That preference would add $3,305 for the engine and AWD and it pushed the starting price to $27,080.

I’ve lived with a front-drive 2008 Ford Escape since 2012 (and have had no major problems with it), so I figured I can let go of my wish for 4WD. And maybe there would be fewer electronic issues with the higher-tech features on the Lariat.

After noting the many compromises in “building” my Maverick, I pushed ahead.

I checked the box for a Maverick XLT SuperCrew hybrid in the no-cost color of Velocity Blue. Among the 10 color choices, Cyber Orange has a $495 premium and Alto Blue and Hot Pepper Red are $390 upgrades. Standard no-charge colors are black, silver, white, Area 51 (a medium gray), Cactus Gray (more the hue of caulking putty) and Carbonized Gray (a darker gray).

The hybrid powertrain was more important to me than 4WD. And I preferred the XLT’s two-tone Navy Pier fabric upholstery because Ford Leather is just ‘meh’ in appearance after a few months of use.

Prickly Price Points

I then added my picks for option packages and accessory items that were permitted for that trim level:

•Ford Co-Pilot360 driver-assist systems $540;

•XLT luxury package ($2,345), which included such features as eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, 400-watt inverter, bed tiedown locking rails, spray-in bedliner, full-size spare, heated side mirrors with body-color skull caps, heated seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED bed lighting and trailer hitch.

•Manual rear sliding window $155;

•Dual bed lights $200;

•Cargo bed net $70;

•All-weather floor liners (including carpeted mats) $175;

•Console vault $390

The options came to $3,310 toward the total of $27,085, not including other fees.

The two-tone fabric interior in the Maverick XLT hybrid

The two-tone fabric interior in the Maverick XLT.

Going through Ford Finance with a 5 percent APR and 10 percent down, the monthly would be a painful $461 for 60 months. A 3-year term would be $731. And pushing out to a 6-year term would be $393.

Before putting money down, I’d need to test drive this teacup pickup to be certain this Maverick is the disruptor Ford hopes it is.

Otherwise, I’ll wait a couple of years and buy used. Or whatever compact pickup comes along next.

What are your thoughts about compact pickups?

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A screwdriver hunt — and other tools I cannot throw away

I went looking for a Phillips head screwdriver for a DIY task and was shocked at what I found

A kitchen sink with a loose faucet handle

The culprit kitchen sink hot-water handle.

 

BY MARK MAYNARD

I had set out on a simple DIY fix to snug up the handles on the kitchen faucet.

At the time, the girlfriend-wife was zeroing in on the task with a steak knife. It was a good steak knife with a wooden handle and part of a six-piece set I’d bought at Home Depot for $10.

“Noooo! I screamed” — in my head. “Let me handle that, puh-leeze,” I said. And then I might I also have said something aloud like, “A knife is not a good screwdriver.” But those words and breath were quite wasted. A resourceful, non-tool-respecting person will use whatever is handy — without having to rummage through toolboxes, wherever they might be.

A steak knife, or any knife blade, whether it be butter or putty, should not be used to turn a screw. Unless, of course, the do-it-yourselfer is stranded at the side of the road, and then I’ve even tried a fingernail.

Junk and stuff

So, I then turned to the kitchen junk drawer, just to the right of the sink.

A respectable home cook and do-it-yourselfer will have a kitchen junk drawer. And in it should be a small pair of needle-nose pliers (to pull fish bones), a standard pair of pliers (for just in case), a slotted-blade screwdriver, and a Phillip’s head.

Is that so peculiar?

The kitchen junk drawer.

The kitchen junk drawer.

But in the drawer, I found:

  • 10  paper-wrapped packs of carry-out wooden chopsticks;
  • A plastic melon baller;
  • Two or three meat thermometers, but one might be a candy thermometer;
  • My mom’s 1950s twist-off jar-lid remover plus a newer black plastic model;
  • Birthday-cake candles (several varieties, some used briefly) in a tattered Baggie, with a couple of packs of book matches;
  • A gaggle of the thick rubber bands from bunches of broccoli or asparagus;
  • Restaurant to-go menus;
  • My collection of grocery coupons and store list (also avoided by the girlfriend-wife);
  • Another Baggie with several pairs of nutcrackers and picks (which we use for the twice-annual lobster feasts);
  • Heart-shaped metal tin with all sorts of weird flotsam, such as a rolled-up seamstresses’ tape measure, an antique faucet handle, two little plastic babies from New Orleans-style King cakes, a packet of screws and anchors;
  • Assorted chip clips in another old Baggie;
  • Plastic cake decorating tips, new and unopened;
  • Cheesecloth, unused in a slim pack;
  • A turkey baster with no squeeze bulb.
A metal tin of odds and ends in the kitchen junk drawer.

The heart-shaped tin of stuff.

But no screwdriver — or any of the other tools I was sure I had stashed there.

So out to the garage, I trod, on a mission.

My trusty Sears tool cart will have the right tool, somewhere. Pulling open the top drawer, so smooth with its track gliders. The first-level drawer (of four) is where I have aligned my screwdrivers for quick access.

Over time, however, some of my so-called “quick access” tools have migrated there. Finger-sorting among the items, there was a utility knife and a pencil sharpened with the utility knife, a pair of desk scissors, a handy-dandy blade- and tool-sharpener and a couple of pair of vice-grips.

There were two water-pump pliers, two pairs of diagonal cutters, steel nail nippers, and a small roll of black electrician’s tape. My grandad’s claw hammer (the style with the stacked leather handle) is top-center and along the right side is a vintage sleeve of pipe cleaners and a roll of small-gauge brass wire.

Dismay set in as I stood back to look at the collection of mismatched tools. Of the 18 flat-blade screwdrivers I found, there were four Phillips’. And those were tiny or the star-blades were rounded off.

How could this be? My honorary do-it-yourselfer’s badge was in jeopardy?

A graveyard of tired tools

Eyeing the jumbled drawer it was more of a graveyard for tired tools.

There was one Phillips’ head that would do the job. But was I just an undiagnosed tool hoarder?

Some of the screwdrivers in my collection I’d been carting around since I left the Ohio farm in 1976. A couple of them came from my first Sears toolbox bought for me as a Christmas gift by my first father-in-law. That was in about 1980.

A Craftsman tool cart displaying tools and screwdrivers.

Top drawer of my trusty Sears tool cart.

Should I just scoop up the lot and drop them in the dumpster?

Harbor Freight sells plenty-packs of screwdrivers starting at $3 for six, a 22-piece set for $11, a 70-piece set, with a four-leg storage rack, for $28, or a pro mechanic’s set of eight for $50. It might be helpful to own a few long-reach screwdrivers, precision screwdrivers, magnetic screwdrivers, and bit sets.

Like most do-it-yourselfers, I do have two, maybe three, screwdriver bit sets. But digging through those takes more time than opening a drawer and finding a blade that’d be good enough.

My children, sort of

On some level, my tools — like my microfiber car-care towels — are like my children. I just can’t off-load them. There’s even a slender antique sewing machine screwdriver, slotted, with a nifty bulb-like wooden handle. And there’s my dad’s stainless-steel, right-angle screwdriver. Gotta keep that one, even it is seldom used.

Throwing away a tool is like throwing away a partial bottle of good booze. Just because I haven’t poured a drink in years is no reason to just give it the heave.

Buying new screwdrivers just seems like cheating or betrayal of those old soldiers I’ve been carting around. To be gifted new screwdrivers is a whole other thing and that’s OK.

As I turned to head back to the kitchen with the good-enough Phillips’ head, I pulled open drawer No. 3. And oh my, I was faced with another category of psychiatric care: sockets. How do I have so many?

But that’s another do-it-yourself column and after that one, there are the random wrenches, kitchen cutting boards, and doormats. So many deserving of a decent burial.

 

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