The Midwestern United States, primarily the state of Michigan as well as Indiana and Ohio, can also be know in short track racing as "Outlaw Country."
Only in the Great Lakes region can fans find something rarely seen anywhere else in the country anymore on a regular basis, the wedge-bodied, aerodynamically sound, fire breathing creations known as Outlaw Super Late Models on asphalt.
The 14th annual Intimidator, in years past a 100-lap event, is now a 75-lap sprint and will jump start the 2014 racing season at the fast 3/8s mile high-banks of Michigan's Kalamazoo Speedway on Saturday, April 19th. Traditionally the first Outlaw Super Late Model race of the new season and widely considered the first 'major' in the asphalt Outlaw world, the Intimidator is the first true test of the new season for Outlaw teams.
"After an over powering winter, action returns Opening Night. It's everyone's first sights, sounds and smells of the upcoming summer racing action, and you can guarantee that action will be red hot." Kalamazoo Speedway Promoter, Gary Howe excitedly stated. "We are all looking forward to see who ends up with the elusive victory, with an impressive rookie field and a preview of some of the driver changes that occurred over the off season, it's going to be a great way to kick off the new year."
The only NASCAR Whelen All-American Series-sanctioned facility in the Great Lakes State conducted two test and tunes over the past two weekends in preparation for the 75-lap main. Plymouth, Indiana standout Tyler Roahrig, the 2013 runner-up in the Intimidator, was the quickest of the teams who took advantage of the extra track time. The recently-turned 24-year-old, who won the 2013 Summer Sizzler at near-by New Paris Speedway (IN), has set the tone for the rest of the teams to follow leading into the season opener.
In last year's Intimidator, Steve Needles bested a 29-car field in the 2013 version of the race. Pole sitter John Chapman led the first 15 circuits before Mark Shook grabbed the lead away only to spin six laps later. This gave the lead to veteran J.R. Roahrig who held off Steve Needles until lap 28 when the Berrien Springs, Michigan driver took the point away. Fom there, Needles walked away from the rest of the field en route to his second consecutive Intimidator trophy. Tyler Roahrig, J.R.'s son was second in the rundown with Jeff Ganus, Phil Bozell and Andy Bozell the top five.
Needles will be back, but with a new car and new car owner with a familiar number. The 2013 Berlin Raceway (MI) Outlaw Super Late Model Series Champion will climb behind the wheel of Bobby Blount's potent black #16 for the 2014 racing season. After his previous car owner, Terry Gentry, retired at the end of 2013, the 29-year-old was left without a ride at the end of his championship-winning year. In stepped Blount who had Jeff Ganus and later Brian Ross wheel his Outlaw machine last year.
"We're going to run about 15 races this season, just concentrating on the bigger, more high-profile races with the Outlaw Super Late," Needles stated as he and the Bobby Blount Motorsports Team prepare for the Intimidator. "We're very excited about the Intimidator and about the entire year. We expect to be competitive everywhere we go and what a way to start the season and the new relationship with Bobby then to win the Intimidator."
Defending Track Champion, Mike "Bubba" Brooks, ended the 2013 season with the win in the track's traditional door closer, the Super Shoe Nationals. Brooks will look to start off his defense of the title with a win in the Intimidator.
"I can't wait to take to the track and race with the best Late Model drivers in the area," the Texas Corners, Michigan driver stated.
He will have to battle with the likes of Needles as well as 2012 track champion, Brian Bergakker, and the Bozells. Staples of Kalamazoo Speedway, father Andy is a 12-time track champion while his son, Phil is the 2011 track titlist.
Also on the card on opening night, joining the Outlaw Super Late Models will be the tracks NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions of Super Stocks, Pro Stocks, Mini Stocks and Cyber Stocks for an action packed five-in-one show.
The Intimidator began in 1999 as the "Are All The Nuts And Bolts Tight 100" before changing its name to the current Intimidator in 2001 after the passing of Dale Earnhardt. Kalamazoo Speedway Promoter, Gary Howe, a huge fan of Earnhardt, decided to rename the race in his honor. Kalamazoo native Randy Sweet was the winner of the original event in 1999 while Fred Campbell took the victory in 2000, the last year before the name change of the event.
Steve Needles is the reigning two-time winner of the event. With his second consecutive win in 2013, he joined Terry Senneker Jr. (2010 and 2009) and Tom Thomas (2005 and 2004) as the only two-time winners of the event. Fred Campbell is also, technically a two-time winner (2006 and 2000) as he is the only driver to win the race under both monikers of the event. Phil Bozell (2011), Andy Bozell (2008), Brandon Lyons (2007), Rich Sexton (2003), Tim DeVos (2002) and Todd Currier (2001) are the other winners of the traditional season opener for the Outlaws.
The Outlaw Super Late Models still hold a special place in the hearts and minds of those who grew up watching them as a kid and are still amongst the most popular division in this region of the country. Speed51.com recognizes this and will be in Kalamazoo, Michigan with live Trackside Now Coverage starting at 2:00p.m. (ET) with live Trackside Now coverage from the 14th Annual Intimidator event.
2013: Steve Needles
2012: Steve Needles
2011: Phil Bozell
2010: Terry Senneker Jr.
2009: Terry Senneker Jr.
2008: Andy Bozell
2007: Brandon Lyons
2006: Fred Campbell
2005: Tom Thomas
2004: Tom Thomas
2003: Rich Sexton
2002: Tim DeVos
2001: Todd Currier
2000: Fred Campbell
1999: Randy Sweet
(NOTE: For the 1999 and 2000 seasons, this event was known as the 'Are All The Nuts and Bolts Tight' 100.)