*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: It certainly looks as if new series director Matt Curl is putting his stamp on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series. Literally just weeks after his taking the helm, the series has announced some significant changes to the way they conduct their business.
During the PRI Show in Indianapolis it was revealed that the WoO Late Model Series is revamping its payout structure by adding a “gold tier” level to reward all teams that have perfect attendance at series races with $300 in tow money. This is in addition to the $500 each team within the top-12 of the series standings receives for making the effort to attend their races.
Further, the series will allow drivers to only count their two best finishes of the four races held at Volusia Speedway Park during the Georgia-Florida Speed Weeks section of the schedule toward the season-long point standings. That Florida track has often been noted for being rough at times and for causing significant attrition. This could potentially help drivers not to come out of the season’s early events already in a significant hole.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the series has announced a major change in the way its redraw for feature starting positions will work. Previously a certain number of cars(usually the top-2 from the heat races) would go to a redraw that would set the first few rows on the starting grid. Now, heat race winners will go into one redraw for positions 1-4(or whatever number of heats there are) while second place finishers will go into another redraw that will establish starting spots 5-8(or whatever number of heat races there are).
What at your thoughts on each of these changes?
Michael: The additional money should be a big help regarding car counts and offer incentives for drivers to stick with the series for as long as possible. With as much money as these teams spend, any extra money they can earn goes a long way to help them out throughout the season.
I like the idea of only counting the two best finishes coming out of Volusia. Lucas has a few non-point races at East Bay. This idea isn’t quite the same, but it’s the same premise where not all races count.
The redraw has needed a change for some time. Ever since the NDRL came out with that idea a few years ago, I was thinking WoO needs to do the same. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a driver set fast time, win his heat race in dominating fashion, and draw an 8 and never be a factor in the feature. I like mixing up the field a bit. But taking a driver from 1st to 8th was too drastic.
Richard: It’s essential that the national tours have as many cars as possible follow them because it helps with car counts on tracks that might not otherwise draw large numbers of Super Late Models. Obviously it’s not going to be an issue for the races that pay $20,000 or more to win but for those $10,000-to-win shows that might struggle to even make up a full field, any idea that will bring and keep more cars on the circuit full-time is going to be beneficial.
Like you, I like the idea of mixing the starting lineup around a little bit but the potential of having a driver who had set fast time and won his heat starting from the fourth row on a track that by feature time had had a lot of laps turned on it was too harsh. I also think this may help add to car counts as drivers who may not run the series full-time might have avoided pulling to a race for fear of that very scenario playing out.
Already we’re seeing drivers commit to the WoO Late Models as Mike Marlar, Brent Larson and David Breazeale have indicated they will become regulars on that circuit. Brian Shirley will return to the series in the G.R. Smith car as WoO adds significant depth.
So apparently the added tow money combined with other factors seems to be working as a number of drivers and teams have announced their intentions to run the WoO Late Models circuit. Along with veterans such as Mike Marlar and Brian Shirley who have committed to running the full series, an interesting list of young up-and-comers have declared themselves in the mix.
It’s an interesting contrast between the veteran-heavy Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the younger WoO Late Models tour, isn’t it?
Michael: it is an interesting contrast. I’m not sure why that is. One theory I have is the amount of travel required for WoO seems to be better suited for the younger drivers. With stints out west and the upper Midwest, I suppose drivers looking to tour, but not log so many miles, would switch over to Lucas. But Lucas is slowly expanding its footprint with multiple trips to Nebraska. I’m sure drivers such as Rick Eckert and Shane Clanton like the notion of being called “younger drivers.”
Another theory is with so many veteran drivers that typically run Lucas, younger drivers may feel there’s more opportunity for success with WoO.
Richard: And speaking of those national tours, fans who enjoy watching them will have more opportunities than in recent years here in east Tennessee. With Volunteer Speedway getting back in the mix with both the WoO Late Models and LOLMDS as well as 411 Motor Speedway joining the party with a WoO Late Models race. Further, Smoky Mountain Speedway’s big early spring event has now become a two-day WoO show.
And the Lucas Oil tour will hit Boyd’s Speedway and Tazewell Speedway in the coming season as well.
There will be no shortage of big stars in our area throughout 2018.
Michael: There is no doubt about that. I’m glad to see both Lucas and WoO returning to Volunteer Speedway. While the Scorcher still will not be a Lucas race, having one there on a non-Bristol weekend should be beneficial as long as the weather cooperates.
Another good thing is most of these races are spread out enough where it shouldn’t be a hardship on the fans. We saw that in 2017 with most of these races packed into a 6-week period where some of those suffered. I’m already looking forward to March.