Silly season isn’t supposed to take place in April

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Former Big Frog driver Ross Bailes(58) doing battle with current Big Frog driver Mike Marlar(157)

I was under the impression that this thing we call silly season is supposed to happen near the end of the year or even during the off-season. Of course, since racing no longer actually has an off-season, it would seem logical to surmise that the silly season can occur whenever it wants now. And by all appearances, it looks as if it wants to appear in April this year.

Silly season is the term given to the time of year in which drivers, teams, sponsors, series, and tracks make big announcements regarding any changes that will be taking place in the future. It just makes sense that these announcements would be issued at the time when those entities are preparing for a new season rather than during midseason. However, the past couple of weeks in the racing world have brought somewhat of a flood of news despite the fact that the 2021 racing campaign is well underway. 

A good place to start when it comes to looking at recent announcements could be in the area of drivers and the series they plan to run… or not run.

Again, these are pieces of information that are usually released either before a season begins or immediately following Georgia-Florida SpeedWeeks. In 2021, however, recent events have warranted a change in that protocol. Typically if news is going to be released that a driver has dropped from one national touring series or the other it will come from someone who has never run a full season before and only entered the early races to test the waters. But this year, news has come from much bigger and more established stars. 

With several high paying races being contested apart from the national tours this season, some drivers have opted to run what used to be called an “outlaw schedule” by entering the events that make the most financial sense rather than sticking with a series that might call for more travel, and thus, more expense. While there may not be guaranteed money for showing up at a particular track, the reduced time on the road can make up for that. Further, drivers who have enough star power may be able to command a certain number of pit passes or other perks to offset the lack of “show up” money offered by a series.

Scott Bloomquist has recently announced that he has dropped off the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series in favor of a big events-based schedule. After years of following national tours, the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame member will pick and choose those races that provide the best opportunity for success and higher payouts. The Mooresburg, TN driver has been crowned as both the World of Outlaws Late Model Series and Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion over the course of his career so the lure of earning a title may not be a strong as it once was.

The Bloomquist announcement came on the heels of drivers Brandon Overton and Jonathan Davenport picking up lucrative wins while not necessarily sticking to either of the national touring schedules. Of course, there have always been drivers who have had success while running a so-called “outlaw” schedule but not typically of this caliber although it must be noted that Davenport has not officially separated from the LOLMDS.

Another piece of news to come out during this revamped silly season surrounded Skyline Motorsports drivers Shane Clanton and Tyler Bruening. With the schedules of the two tours not having any conflicts up to this point, both drivers had competed in all events up until this past weekend. And in doing so, they each performed better on a different series.

As a result, it has recently been made known that the teammates will go their separate ways once the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series compete on the same dates at different locations with former WoO champion Clanton taking on the LOLMDS schedule while Bruening will stick with the WoO Late Models. 

Big stars making touring series announcements at this time of year may be at least a little unusual, but at the same time, changing rides in April can also be considered a little outside the norm.

Initial plans were for Ross Bailes to run the full World of Outlaws schedule with Big Frog Motorsports in 2021. However, those plans have changed in recent days with Bailes parting ways with the Florida-based team to drive a regional schedule for veteran car owner Billy Hicks. As a result of that move, Big Frog has brought in former WoO Late Models champion Mike Marlar to compete in select races for their organization.

And perhaps the biggest driver move of this impromptu silly season was that of multiple-time WoO Late Models champion Darrell Lanigan and the Viper Motorsports team he began the season with cutting ties with each other at this early stage in the campaign. Viper has picked Max Blair to fill their seat.

Lanigan raced this past weekend at Richmond(KY) Raceway driving a second car out of the Boom Briggs but his more permanent plans are not yet known.

As stated earlier in this piece, there are always announcements coming about a change here and there. However, the amount news being released during April seems to be unusually high. It will be interesting to see if these changes set off a snowball type effect that will lead to more news throughout the summer of 2021.

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