Back surgery, recovery will sideline UMP's Korte
Increasing back pain has bothered driver Randy Korte in recent months, but he soldiered on through the winter, piloting his familiar No. 00 at the Wild West Shootout in Tucson, Ariz., and Florida Speedweeks at Volusia Speedway Park despite the pain.
"I've had back problems," the two-time UMP DIRTcar champion said. "I had 'em in Arizona and Florida, and I was just thinking I was a big wuss."
But after the 45-year-old Korte began getting numbness in his legs, bloodwork revealed a likely explanation of his back pain. Not only did doctors find a broken bone, they discovered a tumor that has severely weakened the L-3 vertebra in his lower back.
"I've been dealing with this back pain for a long, long time, but we just thought it was back pain," the Highland, Ill., driver said in a phone interview Tuesday. "It just got progressively worse and worse, and now we know why."
Korte expects to undergo surgery this week — possibly as early as Wednesday — at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Mo. Doctors will repair the bone with an innovative procedure by inserting a tiny balloon filled with quick-drying cement. They also plan to biopsy the tumor to determine if Korte is suffering from multiple myeloma, a treatable cancer that frequently causes bone pain.
"The doctor sounded positive about it," said Korte, who would likely undergo radiation treatment if doctors discovered the tumors (he has another in his pelvis) are cancerous.
He's encouraged by the progress after "getting the runaround from different doctors" the past few months. "I'm just happy we're finally getting something done," said Korte, who is now being treated by a Washington University physical in St. Louis. "I wanted to go to the best of the best, and I know they are."
Billy Faust, Korte's teammate on the Kehrer Bros. Roofing team, has been piloting Korte's car this spring, and racing is obviously on the back burner for Korte, who finished a close second in UMP DIRTcar Summernationals points last summer.
"As long as I can get healthy and get back, that's my concern," said Korte, who said the length of his recovery depends on what doctors discover this week. "Hopefully they can get it all fixed. My goal — I don't know how quick this stuff works — if I can just get healthy and get back to racing again over the winter or next year, I'll be happy with that. Maybe I'll be lucky and I can get back sooner than that." — Todd Turner
Tennessee National Raceway closes
Tennessee National Raceway, a quarter-mile oval in Hohenwald, Tenn., undergoing revitalization since new ownership took over last May, is for sale after owner and track promoter Nathan Ottensmeyer announced the track's closing Monday.
Ottensmeyer, a Pennsylvania transplant, said the decision to close the 20-year-old track and move to Baltimore, Md., developed because of personal reasons mostly unrelated to his ownership of the racetrack. "We've had a good time," he said in a phone interview. "It's bittersweet for us, but it's just one of those deals."
Ottensmeyer, 34, an entrepreneur who got his start with his family's telephone answering service and later owned Subway restaurants and a pizza shops, spent a year and a half and 30,000 highway miles trying to find a dirt track to purchase before he and wife Jessica decided on the central Tennessee oval.
The track had its financial ups and downs over a series of special events under Ottensmeyer, including the Shannon Hickerson Memorial that drew 142 race teams. Word-of-mouth was good and Tennessee National "had a pretty good head of steam going" before the closure, he said. "My hope would be somebody could come in and take that momentum and keep it going."
Ottensmeyer hasn't set a price for the racetrack and doesn't have any potential buyers, he said. Race teams that paid for pit spaces will be issued a full refund. Call the track at (931) 933-8138. — Todd Turner
Retired Kentucky racer dies
Throttle-stomping Kentucky driver Ned "Bro" Lucas, who began his Dirt Late Model career in eastern Kentucky in the late 1960s and wrapped it up in western Kentucky in the late '90s, died Saturday at his home in Beaver Dam, Ky. He was 67.
The likable driver with the penchant for greeting everyone with "hey, bro" drove a No. 7L famed for gas-mashing laps throughout his career in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Indiana. Lucas finished second in All-Star Circuit of Champions points in 1985, winning his only series race that season at Muskingum County Speedway in Zanesville, Ohio.
After retiring from racing in '99, Lucas helped younger drivers with shock programs and ministered at local jails and prisons.
Among survivors are his wife Gloria Millette Lucas, and four adult children. Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at William L. Danks Funeral Home in Beaver Dam. Burial will be in Render Memorial Cemetery in McHenry. — From staff and other reports
Odds and ends
Driver J.R. Moseley of Columbus, Ga., is recuperating for a serious accident April 17 at East Alabama Motor Speedway in Phenix City. After an apparent mechanical problem, Moseley's car flipped over the turn-one banking and he suffered a broken vertebra and severe concussion, EAMS promoter Beverly Thompson wrote in an email. Moseley was released from the hospital April 20 and was expected to be wearing a brace for 12 weeks. ... Elkins (W.Va.) Speedway and Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex in Markleysburg, Pa., have joined for a six-race shootout between the tracks with a modest points fund for drivers who compete in each event. The Super Late Model champ gets $500 and Fastrak Crate Late Model champ gets $300. Dates for Elkins are May 14, July 9 and Aug. 13 while Roaring Knob dates are May 1, July 24 and Aug. 21. ... Swainsboro (Ga.) Raceway has scheduled the $20,000-to-win Southern Dream for Sept. 3-4, an unsanctioned race for Crate Late Models that ranks among the divisions richest events. ... Modoc (S.C.) Speedway has added the $10,000-to-win Summer Sizzler 100, a June 4-5 race for Fastrak-sanctioned Crates. ... The Fastrak Southeastern event originally scheduled for May 1 at Toccoa (Ga.) Speedway has been postponed indefinitely.