There has always been somewhat of an underlying rivalry between Dirt Late Model drivers who compete on one of the two national tours versus those racers who compete at the regional level. And there are numerous instances that can be pointed to where the regional competitors have stepped up and beaten the national stars in their own touring events.
Recently, regional driver Ross Bailes won the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series feature at Cherokee Speedway after scoring wins in national touring races on two occasions in 2019. Fellow South Carolinian and regional standout Zack Mitchell grabbed the checkered flag in a World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series event at Volunteer Speedway in late June.
Kyle Strickler scored the biggest Late Model win of his career earlier this year when he won a $10,000 feature that served as one of the preliminaries for the three-day Dirt Late Model Stream pay-per-view event at the historic Eldora Speedway. That race was populated with numerous national touring series drivers.
Fans, media, and even the racers themselves have spent time discussing the topic of regional racers occasionally “stealing” wins away from their national rivals.
“I’ve heard a lot of people tell me stuff like this and I’ve asked (Tim)McCreadie the same thing, and Ross Bailes and I have talked about it too,” Strickler pointed out in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “It’s very team dependent and if you can have a good group of guys that can help you with a really good car and you go to the race track prepared and have your stuff together. We can all drive race cars. You don’t get to this level without being able to drive a race car, so nowadays with the teams sharing information and working together, you’ll see a guy like Zack who goes to Bulls Gap in our region, or myself at Eldora, or Ross with all the success he’s had last year and even this year.”
While the national regulars may possess some advantages over their regional counterparts, the local racers also have some aspects of individual races in their favor. And Strickler believes that the occasional upset benefits the sport as a whole.
“Those are places where those guys have a lot of laps on and they enjoy going to so when everything goes your way it’s just another race,” he explained. “It’s cool to see that, maybe because of the position I’m in being one of those regional guys, I always like to see my fellow regional guys outrun the national touring guys because it’s a good story and I think it’s good for short track racing.”
In many cases, regional competitors may have the same equipment as the national teams in terms of chassis brands and types of engines. But Strickler points out that the national racers have greater depth of equipment and help available to them in most cases.
“There’s a huge difference in what it takes to go run an entire tour and what it does to go run week-to-week,” the former Modified ace declared. “We have top notch stuff but we only have one of them, but with those guys, it takes two or three cars and four or five guys to go on the road with you full-time and three or four motors to go run the whole tour.”
Strickler points to his own No. 8 Longhorn Chassis team to illustrate the differences.
“Right now, we’ve got one car and one Cornett motor and one Mullins LS motor,” he said. “The regional guys do have the same stuff that the big guys have but we just don’t have as much of it. There’s a lot of these guys that are capable of coming out here tonight or any night in their part of the country and putting on a show and winning big races.”
The Lucas Oil Series was racing at 411 Motor Speedway for only the second time this past Friday night. After Bailes scored the win in that first ever tour stop back in 2019, red hot national star Jimmy Owens took home the trophy this time. But Strickler believes that the number of laps regional racers have turned at particular tracks can help to even out other advantages those who travel the country might have.
“When you’re a touring series and you go all over the country and you have these guys that have hundreds or thousands of laps around their race track and they it better than the national guys,” he stated. “I think it’s great for short track racing and Dirt Late Model racing for the fans to get to see somebody that they don’t get to see on DirtonDirt all the time to get media attention. It’s always good to get media attention for the guys that don’t do it on a national level. It brings their name out there.”
Eventually, however, many of the regional racers hope to land where their national rivals already are. And Strickler is among them.
“I love anything we can do to get our name out there to hopefully get to where we’re running a national tour and can have the sponsors and the help that it takes to run. That’s what it’s all about. You’ve got to start somewhere and we’re easing into it and I’m really proud of my guys and all the sponsors that we do have now that have helped me get to this point.”
Listen to the entire interview in which Kyle Strickler also discusses his recent Eldora Speedway win and leading the WoO Late Models feature at Volunteer Speedway with a flat tire by clicking on the play button below:
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