*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideDirtRacing.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the dirt racing topics of the day from east Tennessee and beyond.
Richard: There has definitely been a lot to talk about on the national Dirt Late Model scene over the past week or so. The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series had a very busy weekend that was, for the most part, not bothered by weather. Three of the scheduled four races were contested, and as has been the case during the early part of the season, there were three different winners in those three events.
But to me, the most significant win of those three was the one last Thursday night by Darrell Lanigan. When the ‘Bluegrass Bandit’ brought his Club 29 Race Cars and joined forces with Clint Bowyer Racing, it seemed like a pairing that would be destined for certain success. And while there were wins in 2016, there weren’t as many trips to victory lane as some might have thought.
Further, Lanigan’s CBR teammate, Don O’Neal, has already won two national touring series features in 2017(WoO Late Models at Volusia and the LOLMDS race at Duck River). Those two drivers currently sit 4th(O’Neal) and 8th(Lanigan) in the Lucas standings.
Is CBR poised to make the type of run that many thought they would when Lanigan moved into their shop?
Michael: I think O’Neal is in position to do that, but I’m not as sure about Lanigan. The thinking was Lanigan would have more time to focus on the business side of his chassis company with a full-time race team to worry about maintaining the cars.
It just seems like whoever has been in that ride has not lived up to potential. Jonathan Davenport was in it and seemed kind of lost. Steve Francis saw some success here and there, but nothing sustained over a long period of time. Maybe it’s like the No. 5 car for Hendrick in NASCAR – just doomed to fail. But Lanigan is running better now than this time last year. Maybe things are starting to click.
O’Neal seems to be back on track and could be in the mix if none of the other drivers like Bloomquist or Richards get on a tear.
Richard: That’s an interesting comparison between that CBR ride and the No. 5 of Hendrick Motorsports. As with any race team, it seems to always be about the meshing of the personalities involved. Maybe Lanigan and the CBR team have finally meshed, or maybe not. Time will tell.
Another interesting point I have noticed early on in this season is the crossover success of drivers who race on one particular tour as they step over into the other major series. Rick Eckert, a World of Outlaws Late Models regular, won on Sunday night in the Lucas Oil race held at Port Royal Speedway in Pennsylvania. WoO campaigner Brandon Sheppard has also scored Lucas feature wins in 2017.
Further, Lucas mainstay Don O’Neal won a WoO event at Volusia Raceway Park in Florida earlier this season.
While on paper it may appear as if the Lucas Oil tour is a bit more star-studded, the results show that regulars on either series can win when they step into the other. That has made for some interesting chatter on Twitter as the WoO Late Models account has definitely done a little trolling in the wake of those Sheppard and Eckert wins.
A little rivalry among both the competitors and the series themselves is not a bad thing at all, is it?
Michael: I think one series trolling another is a bit unprofessional. But ramping up a rivalry in other ways can be a good thing.
It’s funny that each series has basically ignored the other in certain settings. Now, we are seeing less of that. No sense in ignoring the elephant in the room.
Both series need each other. If one were to fold, some of those drivers would jump to the other series while some would probably scale back their racing. If there’s one thing that’s special about dirt late model racing it’s seeing regional and local stars mixing it up with the best in the business. If there was only one national series, it would become too much like NASCAR in a way there would only be a few spots available for non-touring drivers to make those races. It would be a case of the rich getting richer.
Richard: I agree that both series need each other and should hope for the success of the other. Still I enjoy a good rivalry.
On another note, Josh Richards and his Best Performance Motorsports team have been the target of recent penalties levied by DIRTcar, which is part of World Racing Group. WRG is the parent company of the World of Outlaws Late Models, among other sanctioning bodies. Both Richards and Best Performance were fined for filing a deceptive entry form and for participating in a race from which they were supposed to banned.
That suspension related back to a failed tire test from earlier in the season.
Further, La Salle Speedway had their UMP sanction taken away and races in the highly touted Summer Nationals Series removed from their schedule for allowing Richards and Best Performance to participate, knowing that they were banned.
WRG also handed down a suspension to driver Justin Ratliff after he refused to take a drug test. Refusal to take the test equates to failing the test.
While some have argued on social media and message boards that these penalties are excessive, the fact is that there have to be rules and there has to be enforcement of those rules, right?
Michael: Yes, there have to be rules and rules have to be enforced. There’s a lot of double-talk out of people these days and racing is no exception. When their driver is the one getting beat, we hear there needs to be more rules or the rules need to be enforced. But when their driver is the one getting the penalty, we hear rules are too strict, or they’re becoming too much like NASCAR, yada, yada.
I don’t know all the details about the La Salle/Best/Richards situation. But it looks like Best Performance tried to pull a fast one and got caught. Not sure how they thought they wouldn’t get caught. But that seems pretty blatant. I’d still like to hear what part La Salle Speedway in all of this to get their penalty.
There are some people out there that don’t like submitting to a drug test. It’s not because they’re on any kind of drugs, but they feel it’s an invasion of privacy. Having said that, when someone conducts a drug test and they inform the participant failing to submit a test is the same thing as failing a drug test, that’s either not smart or they have something to hide. If Ratliff isn’t taking any drugs, then failing to submit to one is just as bad because he knows he will have the reputation of being a drug user because most people feel like he has something to hide.
When this policy came out, you and I discussed some of the pitfalls of random drug testing in racing. Maybe Ratliff was taking some kind of medication he either didn’t want to disclose to others or was taking something that would give a false-positive, thus flagging him as a drug user. Either way, it would have been smart on his part to talk to the series and even his doctor beforehand.