*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: Now that the Easter holiday has come and gone, it’s time for weekly racing to get going on a regular basis around east Tennessee. Pretty much every track that plans to offer up weekly shows is up and running by now. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I am encouraged for the upcoming local racing scene in 2017.
Granted, pretty much all of the races I have attended so far have been special events as the main draw but I have seen signs that the overall health of the sport in this area is good. Car counts for the weekly classes that have accompanied those specials I have seen have had good car counts for the most part. And better still, the racing has been noteworthy overall.
I commend the promoters of the area in that there seems to be some variety among the classes from track to track. And further, the efficiency of the shows I have seen has been has been good. Tracks are doing an excellent job to improve the timing of shows by instituting qualifying within hot laps for some or all divisions.
And more, it seems as if there is a greater spirit of cooperation among the tracks this year than in the past(Yes, I know it’s early). But there have been instances of idle tracks tweeting or posting on Facebook for fans to visit other active tracks.
I believe we could be poised for an outstanding season in 2017 for the tracks that host weekly racing.
Michael: I love the cooperation aspect. For years, many owners have adopted the philosophy that if they run the same rules as everyone else, their drivers may go elsewhere to race. My counter to that has always been the owners should not give drivers a reason to leave. Meaning, if a track has a good purse, enforces the rules, and has a good surface to race on, drivers won’t look to leave in most cases.
Another positive I have seen, so far, is there have been no owners/promoters trying to make some sort of power play to put the others in a bad spot. In other words, no scheduling races on top of each other and no huge increase in purses to put the others in a bad spot. It seems to me many of them have seen what is working for them and are not looking to rock the boat.
I also think most owners have realized they do need each other. If a track or two were to close down, many regular drivers usually opt to quit racing instead of go somewhere else. We saw this 10 years ago with Atomic. Many people thought the regulars there would come race at their track. Instead, many of them quit racing.
Richard: From a fan’s standpoint, I want to see more variety on the track. I believe this is also being addressed. Modifieds have raced at some of the area tracks both last year and into this season as well. And I have seen some Street Stock cars this year that actually look like what I picture a Street Stock should look like rather than just a slightly different looking fabricated Late Model.
And you mentioned tracks not scheduling on top of each other. So far, I haven’t noticed over-scheduling of the Limited Late Models which in years past has resulted in features for that class being run with single-digit numbers of cars taking the green flag.
I still believe dirt racing is trending toward most(if not all) tracks becoming special event only facilities, but I am encouraged by what I have seen on the weekly front so far this year.
Michael: I agree on the point about tracks becoming special events only. Unfortunately, that may trend toward more drivers toward quitting or fewer drivers getting into the sport. If it basically becomes a traveling road show every week, it’s the same people competing against each other and probably the same few drivers winning each week. As we have seen in Sportsman, drivers are willing to go somewhere else or even “step down” in class if it means a greater chance of winning. The same theory could be applied to every class if the same group of people are racing each other at a different track each week. We do need weekly tracks for the future of the sport.
To your other point on variety on the track. I agree with you there needs to be less Late Model-looking cars. Any time I have a novice fan with me at a track and they’re running 2-3 late model classes, the first question I get asked is what is the difference between them. Once that is answered, the next question is why have so many classes where the cars look the same.
I like the body rules the NeSmith Street Stock division uses. Since most tracks in this area are running the same rules, I would like to see them get together and adopt some similar body standards for the street stocks. They need to look more “stock” or take the word stock out of their name.
Richard: And not only are the local classes about to begin full-time racing for the 2017 season, but there is about to be a major influx of touring series visitations into this area. The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, the World of Outlaws Late Models, Spring Nationals, Southern All-Stars, NeSmith Dirt Late Model Series and Ultimate Super Late Model Series are among those that will be hitting various parts of east Tennessee between now and the Memorial Day weekend at the end of May.
While I look forward to all of the upcoming races, May 4th and 5th dates in which the Spring Nationals will make up the $15,000-to-win feature at Smoky Mountain that was postponed from March and the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series visit to Tazewell promises to make this area the center of the Dirt Late Model world for a couple of days.
If you haven’t seen very much racing to date, there will be plenty of opportunities in the near future.
Michael: I think a lot of people, like myself, have been waiting on some nice weather to really get going with their attendance. As you mentioned, the caliber of these upcoming events doesn’t hurt matters any. As the old saying goes, business is about to pick up.
One race I’m interested in seeing, both from an attendance standpoint and from the quality of the program, is the Spring Nationals race at Volunteer Speedway this Saturday. Since the McCarters have taken over management of the Bulls Gap track, the flow of the show and the track prep have been outstanding. I’m not surprised by either of those pointa with their years of experience dealing with a curfew at 411 Motor Speedway. But this will be their first foray into a big $10,000 to win race with some pretty big names expected to be on hand. I don’t doubt the show will go smoothly but attendance will be the big key. Any time a promoter takes on a bigger purse, there has to be a little bit of nervousness the crowd will not be good enough to pay that purse. As we have seen in the past, these Bristol race weekends typically make for well-attended races.
Richard: Absolutely. This weekend will be a good measuring stick for a number of things. As you mentioned, the race at Bulls Gap will be one to watch in terms of attendance and quality of the show. And like you, I am confident that both will be good.
I am also interested to see how the first leg of this weekend’s Spring Nationals double header will go. Last year, Crossville Raceway built some momentum after several years of struggles. This will be that facility’s first big show of 2017 and will serve to lay the groundwork for what could be a good follow up season after last year.
And more, this weekend will be interesting in that we will get to see if Brandon Overton can maintain the hot streak he has been on of late after winning two Spring Nationals races last weekend in Kentucky. As you say, there is much to look forward to in the near future.