In Defense of the “Cherry Pickers”

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A label that is often thrown around in dirt track racing is the term “cherry picker”. If you’re new to the sport, the term cherry picker is often used in a derogatory way to refer to a driver who chooses to race in events that are perceived to have less competition than those that are perceived to have tougher competitors on hand.

I am going to state that I do not care for the term cherry picker because I believe those who use the phrase are throwing around accusations against drivers who have bills to pay and are trying to make the best decisions they can for their team rather than worry about the opinions of fans who post on message boards or social media but do not pay to keep a race car on the track. It’s always easy to tell others what they should be doing when the people offering advice have nothing on the line.

Here is an example of a driver who some might label as a cherry picker. Driver X is a very good regional racer based in an area that will have a $10,000-to-win race sanctioned by one of the national tours racing on a track two hours to his north. On that same night, there will be an unsanctioned $4,000-to-win event on a track located two hours to his south. If Driver X chooses to go to the race to his south and wins it, someone will no doubt say he dodged the stiffer competition to pick up an easy paycheck in a race everyone knew he could win.

Something to consider is that not only are those who use that label insulting Driver X but they are also insulting every driver and team who was entered in the race that was won by the so-called cherry picker. And, of course, there is no guarantee that Driver X will win the race in question. His decision is still a gamble, no matter what the level of competition.

On the other hand, if Driver X did indeed decide to go to the nationally sanctioned race he will not only have to go against more heavily funded teams but those drivers also have guaranteed provisional starting positions and often get additional money just for showing up. Driver X will likely also have to pay a higher amount for his crew member pit passes at the bigger race.

Obviously, if Driver X wins that race it will be great for him and his team in terms of the money earned and the amount of attention garnered. However, a little bad luck in qualifying or a heat race could result in making no money.

Granted, a driver and team who have had success at the regional level will probably want to test themselves against the best competition at some point. But trying to do so every weekend might very well run the bank account dry quickly, despite what some might think.

My point here is really that each racer has to make his/her own decisions regarding where and when to race. If they choose to go to bigger events with what is perceived to be better competition then good for them. But if Driver X deems it better to race in a smaller event because it make more economic sense for his team, then so be it. And he/she shouldn’t be labeled in a negative way for it.

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