When the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series returns to Smoky Mountain Speedway this Saturday, a familiar face will be roaming the pit area. It will not be a driver. Instead, it will be a Knoxville resident serving as a series official.
Royce Fout has served as an official with the LOLMDS since 2013. It is not his full time job as some would think. He works at the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Fout has been around racing nearly all his life. His family owned a race car that competed at Atomic Speedway. It was the place he spent most of his Saturday nights growing up.
After serving in the military, he went to a race at Atomic Speedway in the summer of 2002. That was his first opportunity at becoming an offical.
“I went to Atomic one night and noticed they didn’t have enough help,” Fout recalled. “I knew Terry Gouge and I told him I’d like to help. I talked to Carson (Branum) and he told me to come down. I spent the rest of the year there.”
When the Branums sold Atomic, Fout jumped over to Smoky Mountain Speedway, then moved to Murphy Speedway when the track opened.
Fout got his first taste of officiating with a series when he joined the Tennessee Thunder DirtCar Series in 2005. When that series folded, he served a brief stint with the Volunteer Racing Series. He later rejoined Brad Byrd with the Southern All-Stars.
After Byrd left SAS, Fout was looking for an opportunity with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.
“I knew Jeremy Shields, who was friends with Chris Tilley, who already worked for them,” Fout said. “I talked to Jeremy and I said ‘you got to get me on there.’ They needed somebody to help out and I rode down with Charles Roberts of Hoosier to Magnolia. I’ve been with them since then.”
Fout doesn’t work at every race because of work obligations, though he says he has a boss that is very accomodating with his racing schedule. He does approximately 45 races a year, skips the races in the far Midwest because of the amount of time need to travel to and from those races.
Fout says his time with the LOLMDS has been enjoyable because of the commrodiary with the other teams members and drivers.
“We have a good group of people with the series,” Fout stated. “Everyone is professional. We have a good group of drivers that follow our series. Seeing all the different tracks around the country and meeting other drivers makes it enjoyable.”
Like any other job, there are negatives with following a national series. Being an official with LOLMDS is no different, particularly the windshield time according to Fout.
Fout gets asked by people about becoming an official. He is quick to tell them it is not about just getting in to watch a race.
“A lot of people think it’s a cushy thing, just show up,” Fout said. There’s a lot of set up before the drivers and the fans even get to the track, The gates may open at 5:00 and we’re there at noon putting up signs, setting up our tech area, and more. And we’re the last ones to leave. It’s not all fun and games.”
Skeptical fans claim the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series plays favorites because some of their series regulars have been caught with illegal tires at other sanctioned events and over drug testing. Fout says there is no favoritism with the series.
“People think we play favorites,” Fout said. “As a series, we don’t care who wins the races. A lot of people seem to think that way. But the Lucas deal is the best I’ve seen on tire tests. We come in with a new blade, a gun, and collect a clean sample. It goes into a sample bag with no name on it. There is no driver info on it. The lab has no idea whose sample it is.”
Fout also addressed their tire testing policy when tests are not conducted in certain situations.
“We were at Hagerstown and they were running a street stock heat race,” Fout recalled. “A guy busted a transmission line and got fluid everywhere in the pits. Our guys drove through that fluid to get onto the track. I got on the radio and said ‘guys, we can’t do a sample tonight because there’s transmission fluid all over the place.’ We didn’t take any samples because we’d have a bad sample just from that.”
With the recent talk around Scott Bloomquist’s refusal in taking a couple of drug tests, Fout said he would like to see something universal for all series to use.
“To me, I’d like to see something like what tracks do around here about fighting – if you’re caught one place, you shouldn’t be allowed to race anywhere else,” Fout stated.” There’s been talk about the two main series working together on this, but they could never see eye-to-eye on it. After this, maybe they can come up with something.”