This is part two of a special feature on Ron Shuman’s Non-Wing World Championship from the August issue of Sprint Car & Midget Magazine. To read part one, click here.
With most feeling that the 1999 tour had been a success, the series was set to increase the number of events in June, while devoting November to races at Manzanita and Perris.
Rain prevented appearances at Hales Corner, Wis., and Sedalia, Mo., but new dates were held at 81 Speedway and Lakeside Speedway in Kansas.
Over the course of the 2000 campaign, everything Jay Drake touched seemingly turned to gold, and it didn’t hurt that he was paired with Keith Kunz. Jay would snare five NWWS events, including two of the three races during the Terre Haute Open.
Drake also won on successive dates at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway and Eagle Raceway, and one round at Manzanita. Always-steady Richard Griffin won his first USAC-sanctioned race at Terre Haute and secured the title by winning the final race of the tour at Manzanita.
With no co-sanction with USAC for 2001, the farthest east the tour travelled was Granite City, Ill. The entire first half of the schedule was contested over an eight-day period, and in the end the lack of USAC participation made the swing an extension of the SCRA season.
Richard Griffin would sweep the two nights at Eagle and was well on his way to his second title. Meanwhile, Lakeside Speedway was slowly becoming one of the centerpieces of the tour and, with a scheduled Media Day event and by naming a race in honor of Ron Shuman, the track pulled out all the stops.
Danny Sheridan won the Media Day race, with Steve Ostling and Troy Rutherford victorious as the Midwest portion of the tour ended.
When action resumed, the Western World was swept by Jeremy Sherman, while Bud Keading took the big money at the Perris Oval Nationals.
In 2002, Ron Shuman booked his most ambitious schedule. It would begin with participation in the Ultimate Challenge at Oskaloosa, Iowa, moved to Fremont, Ohio, and then headed even further east to the Keystone State with stops at Williams Grove, Lincoln and Grandview.
On the way back home, the teams would stop at Godfrey, Ill., and then put in three nights’ work at Lakeside.
It was a bold move. When some of the west coast teams participated in Sprint Week, they discovered it was a different pace. Many of the Indiana teams were used to running three times a week or more, often supplementing their USAC participation with appearances at the local bullrings. This tour was now prepared to truly traverse the nation.
Shuman was also hopeful that a few teams outside the SCRA ranks would swell his pit area.
Rickie Gaunt was all in on the idea.
“I was 100 percent for it,” Gaunt says. “We would go back to run Sprint Week and we would have to cobble together a deal. You would sit in a car you had never seen before, and people in Indiana set up the car different than guys in California. So, you could never feel all that great. So, when Ronnie said, ‘Hey, instead of going back to Sprint Week, I’m thinking about doing our own deal,’ it sounded like genius to me.
“I think people get confused and think Ronnie wanted to make this a travelling organization. I don’t think that was Ronnie’s goal. Ronnie had spent his life on the road, and I think he was over it. But he had to sell a brand. If you are going to sell a brand nationwide, you had to go on the road and show it to a couple of people.”
The early part of the schedule was marked by parity. Following a Travis Rilat upset win in Oskaloosa, J.J. Yeley took Fremont, while a young Damion Gardner scored at Williams Grove, with Richard Griffin the best at Lincoln.
When the tour hit Grandview, modified legend Billy Pauch was ready to meet them and thrilled the locals when he emerged victorious.