Midweek races? Races without fans? Made-for-TV special events? Races with only invited drivers allowed to participate? Events with few or no support classes?
Welcome to the new norm in dirt track racing. Or are the conditions listed above actually new norms?
Over the next few weeks we may very well be seeing this sort of racing taking place on a somewhat regular basis. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are having to rethink virtually every aspect of our lives, and racing will be no different.
Just two short months ago very few would have even remotely considered the possibility of having a dirt track racing show with fans locked out of the grandstands. And not many would have thought promoters would ever consider holding an event with few or even no support classes running along with the headline attraction. But these very things are about to happen.
On Thursday night the first Dirt Late Model race held on U.S. soil in weeks will take place at Ray Cook’s Tri-County Race Track in Brasstown, NC. The Schaeffer’s Oil Tarheel Invitational will be a made-for-PPV special event that will be broadcast live by DirtonDirt.com. Invited drivers will contest a 40-lap feature that will pay out $4,000 to the eventual winner.
The Tri-County event will offer qualifying along with dash and heat races prior to the main event. There will be no support classes within the show.
And now, Lancaster(SC) Speedway has joined with the racing weekend by setting a $5,000-to-win Carolina Clash race on Friday night while Boyd’s Speedway will play host to an unsanctioned $5,000-to-win Super Late Model affair on Saturday evening. Both of those events will have a limited number of support classes in action.
Boyd’s Speedway will allow spectators in the grandstands but will enforce social distancing criteria. Lancaster Speedway will not open its grandstands. Both will also be shown live by DirtonDirt.com.
Saturday night will see a similar scenario play out at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC. The Palmetto Invitational will dole out $10,000 to its eventual victor. And like the Tri-County and Lancaster races, there will be no fans permitted in the grandstands to prevent the further spread of the cornoavirus. The racing activities will be broadcast on a pay-per-view basis by Speed51.com.
The invitation-only Cherokee show will feature a 60-lap main event preceded by qualifying, heat races, and $1,000-to-win Last Chance Race.
While these types of events do offer some changes, perhaps even what might by some to be considered radical changes, there are some aspects of these affairs that are not necessarily new. For example, the early season races held each February at East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa, Fla. that help to usher in each new Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series season typically run all throughout the week and without any support classes. Those shows are essentially made-for-PPV events as the number of spectators who have the ability to attend during the midweek offerings is limited.
With changes to formats for some of the crown jewel races by the incorporation of new qualifying and heat race procedures, the number of support classes for those shows have been dwindling in recent years. And tours such as the Summer Nationals and the Southern Nationals have relied on midweek racing for years.
And there have even been some instances of invitation-only events to become part of the racing landscape prior to this pandemic. The Gateway Nationals held in the Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis has used an invitational format in recent years.
While some of the things mentioned at the beginning of this piece may seem like radical changes, they are not necessarily. Some of these “changes” have been creeping into the sport of dirt racing for some time now. The cornoavirus outbreak and subsequent shutdowns may have simply accelerated the process.
As was said in a piece we recently posted on our sister site, InsideCircleTrack.com, “We Are in the Process of Redefining Everything We Know“.
That redefinition is going to apply to everyday things like going shopping, work, movies, and using public facilities. There is no reason to believe dirt racing won’t also be a part of that redefinition.
Also, NASCAR and pavement racing fans can check out InsideCircleTrack.