Saturday, June 16, 2012

Howie Lettow Memorial 150 at the Milwaukee Mile

I spent Tuesday June 12th at the famed Milwaukee Mile attending the American Speed Association Midwest's Howie Lettow Memorial 150.  Lettow was a long time incubator and brought along many drivers, many of whom returned to run this inaugural event. 

Being the fan boy I am, I got a pit pass to attend the event so that I could roam amongst all the teams as they prepared for the event.  How cool its that!!!!!

There are four divisions running on this day:  a late model event with the stars of all the Wisconsin short tracks, a vintage car event, the ASA Midwest Trucks and then the big event:  the 150 mile ASA Midwest event.  The 150 has drawn many NASCAR stars including Wisconsin's own Matt Kenseth and well as Denice's favorite all time driver:  Rusty Wallace.  Rusty is retired and has not driven in six years but he came out of retirement to run in this event to honor the memory of Lettow.  David Stremme, Aric Almarola and David Ragan are also roaming around as well as every Sauter who has ever held a wheel for Johnny and Tim down to the many sons and cousins from this Wisconsin racing clan. 

The day always begins with inspection.  Each car needs to visit the inspectors to be weighed, to have heights checked and all sorts of other equipment requirements.  Once you have your sticker, you can go out an qualify. 

The pits are always a very busy place yet also a place where the old cliche "hurry up and wait" plays out.  While the ASA Midwest cars are qualifying, a task that takes almost three hours to complete, the pits stay a busy place for this division and the other three to get ready for qualifying races and tonight's main event. 

Turning my attention to the actual qualifying led me to pit exit.  At that location, the cars are marshalled and allowed on the track one at a time to take two laps to set their qualifying speed.

After awhile, I wandered up pit road to see what was happening there. 

Drivers are really accessible and fun to watch as they try to stay out of the way while the real work is being done. The very first driver I see is Rusty Wallace.  Rusty is a former NASCAR champion and is now a TV broadcaster.  He drew the most attention from everyone all day, including all the fan boys like me who were roaming pit lane. 

Another NASCAR star on hand was Wisconsin's own Matt Kenseth who also brought his son Ross.  Matt began as a Wisconsin short track ace and also became a NASCAR champion. 

This is Matt with retired short track ace and NASCAR Truck diver Butch Miller. 

This is Matt's son Ross who unfortunately did not qualify for the race. 

Another WI veteran who went to NASCAR was Kelly Bires. 

And then there are cute young women who are trying to break into the big time like this young woman from Oklahoma named Kenzie. 

Crew members stay busy preparing the cars.

Eventually after all this horsing around the cars have to go out on the track for two laps of qualification.  For qualification, I moved right out onto pit lane and sat on the wall along side the track.  This let me peer right into the right side car windows as the drivers came up to qualify. 

Rusty came up to qualify and I was right there to see it all.

Rusty could still smile when he got out of the car.  Rusty was second quick on practice day but today his engine had to be replaced and he could only qualify 27th.  In the race, he ran in the back and eventually got caught up in an accident that forced him to park the car.  Too bad for the only effort since his retirement. 

Today the fastest qualifier was John Hunter Nemechek, the son of NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek.  John is 14.  Yes, the fastest qualifier was 14!!!!!

After ASA Midwest qualifying, the crews kept working on the cars, an endless tinkering that goes on right up until the car pulls out to take its warm up laps.

One of the divisions running on this day were the vintage cars.  They are replicas of classic vehicles that the owners are willing to run around the track at excessive speeds in a kindlier gentler version of the racing to come. 

One of the other division running was the late models.

The late models had a number of last chance qualifying races.

The fourth division running was the ASA Trucks.

Prior to the race, I went out on the mall and took a look at the vintage cars. 

The rest of the night was taken up by the ASA Midwest 150 and I just sat back and enjoyed the racing. 

You can see all my photos from this day @

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ukulele Rex: A Little Boy Was Wild

A few weeks ago I created the Violinosaurus Rex and shipped that down to the Wustum Museum in Racine (WI) for a show called Creature Comforts:  a RAM Community Art Exhibition. 

I guess I miss the little dude because I decided to start another dinosaur from a musical instrument and this time up it is the ukulele. 

Having been through the process once before, the engineering of this should have gone smoothly but it appears that each project will create its own challenges based on the size of the instrument, the angle of the body and the base I choose to use. 

This time around I measured everything up very carefully for the legs, drilled the holes in the base and clayed in the rods.  Then I discovered they were too far apart.  So I had to splay the legs differently on this project and ultimately I think it gives this creature a squatter, lower look that I kind of like. 

In order to balance these things, each project needs a tail and this one needed a big time tail to hide the bolt that is holding the weight to counterbalance the porcelain head that I decided was going to stick a foot out in front of the uke. 

Eventually with enough bolts and clay, the whole things sticks together pretty well.  Of course, the real question was what would happen when I needed my drill to actually drill. 

Then it is the fun of using caulk to texture up the body and make a uniform surface for all the components.  Once that dries overnight, it is on to painting.

When I had this little guy done, I still thought something is missing so I decided to add the spine like ukulele strings on his back. 

I also hunted through my sheet music to find a piece that would be appropriate and I think I found a winner when I found the line, "A little boy was wild." 

So, $23 worth of supplies and 8 hours of work later, we have Ukulele Rex:  A Little Boy Was Wild. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Bind

I went to the Cedarburg Maxwell Street Days recently and scored a big haul.  Denice found the most unique items:  she spotted a pair of cleat attachments for walking on ice in a pair of shoes.  Not only is the metal cool but the old worn straps really add something to the atmosphere.  They are sitting on the left in front of the vintage doll I also bought.

Despite having a basement full of stuff to make assemblage from, I decided to work on this new stuff right away.  By playing around with the doll and the ice skids, the project came together immediately.  Ice cleats on the baby and that is that. 

I decided to first try stiffening the doll up with dap but that did not get me to where I wanted to be although hanging the doll in the basement rafters was pretty cool.

Next up was the tricky burnt flesh trick taught by Michael de Meng.  I decided to see what would happen if I combined that with the burnt shellac texturing technique also taught by Michael.  So essentially, it was a lot of fire on the poor little dolly.

Before trying to work on the cleats, I came to realization that sometimes it is just best to leave well enough alone and that is what I did.

A little wire around the neck so it can hang on the wall, and I was done.  So, $9 worth of stuff and 5 hours of work later and we have, A BIND.