Grading On The Curve: Jeff Zuidema Excited For Return As Racing Director At Thompson Speedway In 2014

The grading is done for 2013 and Thompson Speedway racing director Jeff Zuidema has some improving to do on his report card.

Thompson Speedway Long Narrow LogoAnd he’s glad he has 2014 to improve upon the grade he gave himself for his first year in 2013 as the racing director at Thompson Speedway.

“It was an extreme learning experience,” said Zuidema, a longtime racer who moved to the management side of the sport after back injuries forced him out of the driver’s seat. “I think I originally thought I knew more than I did, and every week was a constant learning curve. I give myself maybe a C for the year. I know there’s a lot of areas I can improve in. But the one thing I always wanted to do was keep the lines of communication open with the competitors and everybody and I think that was one thing that I was able to accomplish.”

Thompson Speedway management announced Wednesday that Zuidema will return in 2014 in the same capacity as racing director.

“Thompson has always been where my heart has been,” said Zuidema, a four-time champion at the track. “It’s where I grew up. I thank the Hoenig family for the opportunity to continue to do what I want to do there.”

Though it will be a much different world he will be working in in 2014. A new 1.7-mile road course will be up and running as part of the new Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park facility. It will mean a drastic reduction in events on the .625-mile oval track for next season. General manager Josh Vanada said last week that the track will have 6-8 events on the oval next year.

“I think it’s important to come back and try to put something exciting together for the competitors that have supported the place for such a long time,” Zuidema said. “With such a short schedule, I want to see what me an Josh can come up with to make it exciting and fun.

“The weekly oval track program as we know it in most of the area is changing. We need to dig and go to work and give these competitors something fun to keep doing.”

Zuidema said track management is on schedule to announce a 2014 schedule for the oval track at some point during the World Series of Speedway Racing weekend, which takes place Oct. 18-20 at Thompson. Thompson management saw 10 of the 16 events on the original 2013 schedule rained out.

“Racers want to race,” Zuidema said. “That’s all they want to do. They want to race. With us only having a limited amount of race dates we need to be able to give them as much racing in that short season as we can. Yes we only have 6-8 race dates, but we can do a lot of things with those as you’ll see when we announce our schedule. Some things are multiple races for divisions in one night. We’ve talked about maybe segment type racing and some other things that gives competitors more than one race per night. It’s an addiction and with all the rain-outs [in 2013] we didn’t give enough racing. We didn’t fill their need enough and we need to make sure we do that, even more so with that shortened schedule.”

Zuidema said he has a good handle on what he thinks he needs to improve upon as race director for 2014.

“I think I could have been more consistent with some of the on track race calls this year,” Zuidema said. “That’s kind of a double edged sword there I know. I think I made a mistake early in the year and I would have liked to have had a do-over on that deal.

“Plus the other thing I really noticed is that you’ve really got to be careful with the words you choose to use. Sometimes I spoke from the heart when I should have thought before I spoke. I’m learning constantly though.”

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  1. Rick Raducha says

    Jeff and Thompson would be smart to create a motor package that is finally in-line with Stafford Motor Speedway and Waterford Speedbowl. Racers don’t have the ability to build two unique engines…one for Stafford and Waterford and one a Thompson Motor. Maybe there are a few who have those programs, but I feel, this off-season would be the time to end that package. I would hope this would provide teams and owners ample time to change over or re-fresh to the motor that is know competitive at Stafford. Though it has had some difficult times it seems to me the success is there.

  2. Rick… What in the world are you talking about? You need to be a little more specific… What division are you speaking of?

    As it currently stands, Thompson, Stafford and Waterford all have pretty similar engine rules for the SK division including the ability to run the Spec engine at all three tracks. The Limited Sportsman division cars from Thompson are allowed to run at Waterford as Street Stocks with a restrictor plate. Mini Stocks are fairly interchangeable between Waterford and Thompson, Late Models at Thompson, Waterford and Seekonk can all switch tracks easily, SK Lights are the same for the most part at Waterford, Stafford and Thompson…

    I think if you were to thoroughly examine the rules, you will find Waterford and Thompson are actually pretty close in every division. The odd-track out would be Stafford… Their Dare Stocks can run Waterford alright, but are tough to bring up to Thompson and keep the engine together and the transmission (which is automatic) from letting go… Their Limited Late Models are a unique division to the area as are the Stafford Late Models… If any track needs to align, it would be Stafford.

  3. As it stands rick Stafford has three divisions that are Stafford specific so Phil is correct. The late models, limited late models, and dare stocks are all pretty much specific to one track. You can do some stuff to make the late models, work else where I believe. But Thompson states right in there rule book for all most all divisions that cars running at other tracks are welcome there. Maybe a weight break or having to add some but you can run an sk at all three without any issues. Aka Keith rocco, he has run all three tracks this year at one point with the same car.

  4. Will any of this matter when Thompson cuts it back to 6 races per season? The writing is on the wall. Looks like to me Thompson wants to move out the beer and pizza crowd and move in the cheese and wine crowd. Nothing wrong with cheese and wine but lets not beat around the bush here. And I’m wondering about the rules for camping on world series weekend. I don’t believe I’ve seen all these rules posted in past years although some are common sense. Some have not been enforced in the past. Will this year be different?

  5. Rich, the track stated multiple times now that the Road Course will be club events only. No spectator events.

    As much as I think it sucks to lose a full season at Thompson, it may be a good move for them especially if they are able to move to Sundays. The town would not allow the track to run a full season of Sundays from what I have been told and has been really struggling to pull in crowds on Thursday nights… I think if they do it right, 6-8 races could be better than 10-15 races. We will know what the schedule is like by the World Series… We all need to stop jumping down their throat and support them… I keep saying it, we could be dealing with them leveling the entire place and expanding to 72 holes… Be glad we still have the race track.

  6. Rick Raducha says

    Phil I was speaking of the SK Modified Division only. I have been under the impression that each track requires a differant motor package. Sure they are able to race at each track but can they win against the top 5 guys? I do understand the Stafford motor that nearly every team runs is competitive at Thompson. But can you tell me why very few teams use that motor at Waterford or Thompson? I feel this would be a good time to mandate ONE package since a Thompson Speedway specific motor would be wacky to build especially if it can only be used for 6-8 shows.

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