The word “Flip Flop” takes on a whole new meaning when the Team Demolition Association (TDA) barrels into the third and pivotal night of its 2013 season. No fou fou footwear for these fellows. Because “Flip Flop Night” means that all eight teams will be kicking off the evening by doing battle in behemoths from the 60s and 70s—cars usually reserved for the final championship round.
While “big iron” is the main attraction at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet on July 27, there are many other reasons to scoot over for a full slate of Saturday night action. The theme for the evening is “Red, White and Blues” that includes fireworks, monster trucks and an expanded pit party with “stars of the cars.”
Of course, some of those parading around the pit party are the antithesis of slick, publicity-savvy celebrities. Still, the fans that fill the stadium will be lining up to meet their favorite demo drivers and see the vehicles that serve as their weapons of destruction.
Last month’s champions—Real Steel—would probably rather concentrate on fine-tuning their fleet instead of preening before the public. They’re a lunch bucket sort of team that eschews publicity, Facebook feuds and “demo drama.” Real Steel might be new on the scene this year but they behave like grizzled veterans—which is not surprising since team owner Wally Hartung has five championships under his belt, dating back to Santa Fe Speedway.
Back in those days, Hartung was known for his detailed checklists to keep everything running smoothly. This practice continues with Real Steel as Hartung’s son, Nick noted that “we take this thing very seriously,” and the team can “look back on the checklist to see what went wrong or right.”
Obviously, things went very right for Real Steel in June when they beat perennial powerhouse Orange Crush in an extremely competitive race. Hartung said that the purse was a huge motivator when he noted, “we can’t keep losing in the first run and need to keep the money flowing in.”
The cash winnings pretty much stay in the family, too. In addition to Nick and Wally Hartung, the team is comprised of Nick’s brother Anthony, along with close family friends Shaun Elder and Mark Warner. Dave Hauschild, an old buddy of Wally’s from Sudden Impact will be filling in for Anthony who was injured in the June race but should be good-to-go in August.
It was these family ties that made the Hartungs turn to team ownership when the Noble family opted to relinquish their longtime hold on team 5. When Anthony expressed a desire to race, they decided to take the plunge and forge the team known as Real Steel.
It also helped that the Hartungs had plenty of racing equipment stockpiled following their 2012 run with Reckoning. Hartung said that, “ I was happy and privileged to have raced with Brian Anderson.” He added that Anderson had high expectations for his team and while there were some “squabbles” over car building, it was great that they all came together to claim the championship during a hard-fought season.
Hartung was also appreciative that Anderson saw his potential after a few lean years with other teams. Now that he has tenure and championship experience, he hopes to mentor drivers like Shaun Elder who was recently lauded as “Driver of the Month.” Hartung said, “ I am very proud of him “ but was quick to remind Elder that “not to let the award go your head” and to “concentrate on what you did wrong and learn from your mistakes.”
Despite Real Steel’s methodical approach to racing, Hartung conceded that it’s a crapshoot when it comes to predicting who will win the night—let alone the championship. Noting the many variables involved in the sport, he said, “team demos is the worse gamble ever!”
See what’s in the cards at Route 66 on Saturday night as the TDA pulls out all stops at its “Red, White and Blues” night. Visit www.teamdemos.com for more details and ticket information.