The dust basically has settled on another racing season, with the exception of Fall Nationals VI at RPM Speedway in Hays.
And it was another memorable year, to say the least.
Dry conditions and high temperatures took their toll on racing surfaces throughout the Midwest, and drivers had to battle the elements to reach the finish line.
There definitely was some great action this year at many venues throughout the region.
NASCAR drivers Clint Bowyer and Kenny Schrader made a special stop in Hays for a Tuesday night show in August, and RPM Speedway saw its largest crowd in the track's history pass through the gates.
Later that month, Brian Brown -- the runner-up at the prestigious Knoxville Nationals in Iowa -- won an NCRA 360 sprint car feature at the track, holding off a challenge from Jeff Swindell and others.
The Hays track hosted some big names this season, and fans showed their support for them.
Salina Speedway had big names show up for an August ASCS National Tour event for the 360 sprint cars, too. Kevin Swindell beat the likes of Jason Johnson, Don Droud Jr., Johnny Herrera and a host of others for the win.
WaKeeney Speedway didn't have any special shows this season, but the fast track didn't suffer a bit from an action standpoint.
My second trip to the IMCA Super Nationals in Boone, Iowa, was a blast once again, and I can't wait to make a return trip to the event. Nowhere else will you be able to find the quality and quantity of drivers in multiple classes like at Boone.
To make that trip even better, Brandon Blochlinger -- who competes regularly at Salina and sometimes at Hays -- finished second in the big show.
But much of the racing season was centered on the "regulars" who frequent area tracks. The likes of the Tubbs brothers -- Jeff and Nick -- provided constant excitement in the stock car class this year, battling each other for wins. Then you throw in Terry Cunningham, Josh Hudson, B.J. Wagoner and Wheat Lippelman, and the stock car class was a treat to watch all year.
It wasn't the only class, though. Each division provided door-to-door action any given night. A few feathers were ruffled at times, but that's just a part of racing.
The area drivers might not have the big-name appeal as others throughout the U.S., but the drivers who frequent area tracks are big-names just the same. Hundreds of fans each night wear the shirt or hat of their favorite racer. There are no small names in these dirt circles.
As the checkered flag closes on the racing season, I say a big thanks to all the drivers, track officials and sponsors of what we do here at The Hays Daily News to help promote the sport. Without each of you, this fun journey I've been on the last several years wouldn't be possible.
* NICK SCHWIEN, Hays Daily News