Turn 2 Blog: Volunteer Speedway events lived up to the hype

*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.

The latest edition of the Turn 2 Blog is presented by the American All-Star Pro Late Models Presented by PPM Racing Products

There have been three major races over the course of 10 days at the Volunteer Speedway. Your overall thoughts?

Richard Allen: First, I offer my sincere thanks to the organizers of the Kyle Larson Late Model Challenge(FloRacing.com) and the XR Super Series for not only having these shows but also for the efficient manner in which each was conducted. And more, to those at the track itself for all the work behind the scenes that went into these events. We in this area were blessed to have such major races play out here on our own home turf.

Second, the fans turned out in full force both last Thursday for the Kyle Larson Challenge and on Saturday night for the Spring Thaw 100. The atmosphere was as amped up as I have ever been a part of in east Tennessee. It rivaled the feel of events such as the North-South 100 which you and I have been fortunate enough to attend on several occasions. And the star power involved on all nights was something many fans no doubt appreciated.

I would also commend the track prep as the racing surface was smooth and created multi-groove racing for each feature, And of course, the condition of the track made it possible for drivers to throw many slide jobs, with some working out and some going a bit astray.

Overall, I enjoyed covering each of the races and was glad to be a part of these events.

Michael Moats: It’s been tough to get this race season going with all the rain outs and other issues. To really get things going with those two events was really something else. All I can say is wow.

We commented last week on the FloRacing race how the size of the crowd and the racing was phenomenal. Well, the XR Super Series managed to take it a notch above. Literally every seat in the grandstand was taken 30 minutes prior to hot laps. Barry Braun, who heads XR, posted on social media they had to stop selling grandstand tickets. There had to be as many people in the pit area.

I’ve seen some huge crowds at Volunteer Speedway with the early years of The Scorcher, some of the Hav-A-Tampa races, and even the first year of the Spring Thaw. All those crowds can’t stand up to Saturday’s crowd in size and the atmosphere. As you said, it rivaled the crowds we’ve seen at the North/South 100. By the way, the racing was pretty good too.

Volunteer Speedway had a capacity crowd on Saturday

What did you think of the idea of a single-class, midweek show such as the one held at Volunteer Speedway this past Tuesday?

Richard Allen: It’s no secret that the proliferation of midweek events for the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series, the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series and the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series as well as the Castrol FloRacing Night in America Series and the XR Super Series are largely done for the purpose of providing content for the various streaming services. DirtVision.com, FloRacing.com and raceXR.plus have to offer enough programming to make it worth the asking price for their customers and midweek racing is a way to do that.

As far as the single-class show sanctioned by the XR Working Man Series at Volunteer Speedway on Tuesday night, I thought everything went very well. Knowing there were not likely to be many fans in the grandstands, the event was obviously run as a made-for-TV special show.

As someone who covers racing but also has a teaching job, I liked the idea of only one class running because it allowed the program to move along quickly and efficiently. I would imagine that viewers at home likely appreciated the early ending time of the racing action so they could watch the entire broadcast but not have such a late bedtime hour.

I have no way of knowing what financial arrangements the tracks have with the streaming services for the midweek races but if promoters are depending on ticket sales for income, a single-class show is not ideal. Running other divisions along with the featured class provides for more pit gate revenue. But if revenue from either leasing the track out entirely or getting a cut of the streaming money can make up for lost pit income, I’m sure promoters are willing to make that deal.

Again, from the vantage point of someone who has no financial interest in the matter, it seemed to work well.

Michael Moats: If they can get the financials to work, that format is a win-win situation. We’ve discussed many times the issues with a lot of tracks across the country wanting to run too many classes for these special events. I’m here to tell the promoters, fans don’t like that. You can get more fans supporting the mid-week, as well as the weekend races, by not running so many classes.

The Winternationals at Florida’s East Bay Raceway Park has always been a late model-only event as far as I can remember. Those races have been successful. It’s amazing it has taken until now for other promoters to realize this. I hope there will be more of these in our area.

Do you think the trend of each national series having more condensed two or three-day events with larger purses will continue? And, is that business model sustainable?

Richard Allen: I do believe that, going forward, we will see more multi-day events at the same track with one of the features paying a large amount such as $40,000 or more rather that the two and three-day race weeks with teams having to travel hours between tracks to race for $10,000 or $12,000 per race. The crowds we are seeing, such as the ones in Bulls Gap, demonstrate that such events can work financially. And again, the streaming services most likely can sell more subscriptions by offering a few big shows rather than many smaller ones.

The two primary national tours have been trending in this direction over the last couple of years. Sometimes, they will do as the World of Outlaws Late Model Series will do this weekend and tack on an additional race on a Thursday(411 Motor Speedway) to lead into a bigger two-day weekend happening(Talladega Short Track).

Like I have said many times, I am not privy to the financial records of any track but it seems to me that opening the gate fewer times for bigger shows would be more feasible than opening the gates more times for smaller shows. Employees are not needed as often, there isn’t as much track prep to do, and there isn’t as much maintenance required on the facility when not being used on a weekly basis.

Michael Moats: I think we have already seen that. It’s getting to the point where a one-day show for any of these series has become ho-hum among many of the fans. We are seeing two-night and three-night programs at the same track. As long as those make money for the tracks, we will continue to see those. The difference is the payouts on the final night are becoming more and more.

I need to investigate this, but I’m curious to see what the drivers and team owners think about these races. It does help with travel expenses. But there is a lot of down time at places that are nowhere near a resort.

It was 20 years ago many in the sport voiced their displeasure for the two-night race programs. In those days, the first night would be qualifying and heat races, the second night would be consolation races and a 100-lap feature. No money was made the first night and only the first handful of finishers were making money from the weekend. The UDTRA series began scheduling back-to-back $10,000 to win races at two different tracks on a weekend. That’s been the norm until recently. Things come and go in this sport. When it becomes financially difficult for these shows, they will go away. As long as they are successful, they will be here.

Please consider also reading:

Photos from the XR Super Series race at Volunteer

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