With a nickname like “Crandon” Carl, you can bet that Carl Renezeder knows his way around the “Big House” in Crandon, Wisconsin. 100 miles north of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Crandon is the birthplace of short course racing, and the birthplace of Carl’s short course racing career. In addition to many race wins, Carl won the prestigious Borg Warner trophy in 2003, and the Forest County Potawatomi Chairman’s Cup Challenge twice; once in 2004 and again in 2007. His cup race victory in 2007 was the last time he raced at the Big House. It was only fitting that Carl would return to Crandon for one last time during his final season of racing.
Crandon personifies “Americana” with its Labor Day parade. The race vehicles are parked on both sides of Lake Avenue and the whole town mingles with the cars and the race teams. Once the parade starts, the home-made floats, high school band, and other participants make their way down the route. After the last float goes by, the quaint little town of Crandon is filled with the rumble of many race engines. The racers file out, one by one, and make their way back to Crandon International Raceway for the first heats of the weekend.
“The first thing I noticed when I drove through town was that it hasn’t changed very much, it brought back a lot of great memories,” said Carl, “On Friday there was a big parade, bigger than ever, the fans were fantastic. The fans in Crandon are very welcoming and really make you feel like you are part of something that is pretty cool, the tradition of Labor Day in Crandon. Everyone told me how much they missed me and really made me feel great. They told me stories of how I made an impact on them and short course racing; that was really neat. Everyone you talk to, no matter how old they are, talks about how special Crandon is, and how they have been coming to the race every year since they were young.”
Carl chose to forego the gold body panels he has been running this season to clad the #17 Pro-4 Lucas Oil Products / RC10.com Ford in its traditional Lucas Oil red, white, and blue color scheme. He wanted the truck to look just as it did when Carl was building a name for himself in the Midwest. The TR17 crew is always looking to win, but this race was more about seeing the fans and taking in the Crandon experience. They had a tough race in Reno, hurting an engine on Sunday. They pushed the wounded truck onto the trailer and drove directly to Crandon. When the team arrived in Crandon on Wednesday, they went to work changing the engine and doing what little race prep they could.
Crandon is a super high-speed track with many big sweeping turns. Surrounded by forest, the track follows the rolling terrain as it goes through its legendary features; the barn turn, gravel pit, argyle corner, and the infamous turn one. Trucks have to be set-up to run flat out on the track.
One of the most incredible features of a Crandon race is the land-rush start. Instead of lining up two-wide and doing a rolling start, the trucks line up in one or more rows with the entire field sitting side by side. When the green flag drops, the trucks take off down the long front strait into turn one. Hitting turn one at full speed, they have to funnel down into some type of running order. It’s a terrifying, amazing, and adrenaline pumping experience for the drivers, and the fans.
During the practice sessions on Thursday, the engine was running strong, but truck was still suffering from a lack of proper preparation. Carl would only get about three laps at full speed on the track. Even Crandon Carl needs more than three laps after ten years to get his truck set up for the race.
“Practice didn’t go so well because we kept having little issues with the truck,” said Carl, “I had my work cut out for me; especially with the land rush start. The first race on Sunday was for the Pro-4 World Championship. On lap three, I was making a move to the inside when I went off the jump after the barn turn; in front of the sky boxes. I was going about 90 miles per hour under full power so the truck went up in the air at an angle. The right front came up and I landed on the left rear tire first. It snapped the truck hard, we call it a tank slapper on a motorcycle, and I hit my head on the roll cage. It really stunned me; I was dazed for a second and didn’t wake up until I was in the gravel pit turn. I should have pulled off because my vision was still blurry but I wanted to finish the race.”
After the Pro-4 race, the team decided that Carl should not race the Cup race because he was still a little fuzzy. They were also having nagging issues with the truck that were due to the lack of tuning they were able to accomplish. “With all things added up, I was a little disappointed with not being able to do well there at Crandon, but it was outweighed by the welcome we received from the fans and being able to see people I haven’t seen in a long time,” Carl Continued, “It brought back a lot of really great memories about why I love short course racing. It was great to see Scott Taylor, and Dan Vanden Heuvel. Walker Evans was there, and a lot of the people I’ve had great races with over the years.”
Carl and the TR17 crew are not out of the woods yet, (pun intended) they will have only a few days to get ready for the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Glen Helen night race on September 15 and 16. They are very familiar with the Glen Helen track, and will be ready to put on a great show for the legion of Southern California fans that will be in attendance.
Photography By: Bink Designs