Turn 2 Blog: What did we learn from this weekend’s Lucas Oil races?

*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

Nothing can replace actually being at the race track, can it?

Richard: It’s very easy to just stay home and watch a stream from the comfort of one’s living room. Even though I go to a lot of races, I watch many others sitting on my couch. That said, nothing can replace the sights, sounds, and smells that can only be experienced at the track. Racing provides some of the most unique sensory experiences in all of sports.

Over the weekend, I talked to a lifelong fan who told me it was his first race of the year because he mostly just stays home and watches the streams. That said, I revert back to my original statement to point out that being there is always best.

Even the broadcasters on the streams will often encourage those viewing to make sure they make their way to a track.

I obviously did not see the broadcast for Saturday’s Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series race at Florence Speedway being that I was there but there is no way that a broadcast could have shown all that was going on in the same way that a person who was there could take in. That type of scenario is commonly true for any race.

I guess it’s up to the fan to decide what is the best option. But for me, I prefer to be there when it is reasonable to do so.

Michael: I had to sit out this weekend because of a death in the family. I was able to catch a good bit of the racing online. While I was entertained by most of what I saw, I sure missed the sounds and the smells of being at the track.

I understand the people that can’t get out and go to races because of health reasons, schedule conflicts, or something else. I think if a person is an able-bodied race fan and has the means to get to a race, they should get to the track. I don’t think the racing business can sustain a long future where the grandstands are mostly empty.

I want to say kudos to the fans at Atomic, Ponderosa, and Florence that came out and helped these promoters keep their races going.

Drivers such as Tim McCreadie(39) and Jonathan Davenport(49) battling makes for a great race

What makes a race “great”?

Richard: My son went to Saturday’s Ralph Latham Memorial at Florence Speedway with me. On the way home we both concluded that we had seen a great race. That got me to thinking what characteristics make a great race.

There has to be passing. A train race can’t be a good race. And at least some of that passing has to be for the lead. The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event held on Friday night at Ponderosa Speedway featured some passing for position behind the leader but Mike Marlar led all the way. It was a good race but not necessarily a great race.

On the other hand, there were passes for the lead at Florence along with a beehive of activity behind the leader which made it a great race. And more, the drivers were all over the track which made it very exciting to watch.

Another thing that makes a race great is that the combatants involved are those who stir emotions. Saturday’s race had big stars battling within the top-5. Thornton, Overton, O’Neal, Davenport, and for a while, Pierce had the crowd on its feet. But that can also be true in a Street Stock race or a Modified race if those in competition are drivers who fans feel attached to.

Passing, multiple-grooves, and the “who” aspect of it all play into a great race as far as I’m concerned.

Michael: I have debated this myself for some time. I know it’s subjective to each person watching. But here are my criteria.

I think a good race qualifies as something where there is a fair amount of passing throughout the field, even if there is no change for the lead. I’ve seen races where the leader led the whole race but the rest of the field raced each other hard where a good amount of passing took place.

A great race is where you may see more than one change of the lead. Many people felt the Kyle Larson Challenge at Volunteer Speedway was a great race. Larson and Davenport kept swapping the lead for a good number of laps. Something like that isn’t common. The race at Florence certainly qualifies as a great race as several drivers took turns leading the race.

Drivers such as Brandon Overton(76) and Ricky Thornton Jr.(20RT) are in the middle of the points battle

What did the three Lucas Oil races from this weekend teach us about how the season might play out?

Richard: One thing I picked up on was that Hudson O’Neal and Brandon Overton are amazingly consistent. Both of those drivers were on the podium on all three nights. And Ricky Thornton Jr. isn’t very far behind those two. Obviously, those teams got the most out of the unplanned break the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series just concluded.

Obviously, it’s early in the season and much can happen. But with the quality of those drivers and their teams, there is little reason to believe that they won’t continue to be as good all year as they are right now.

Drivers are already talking about what they will have to do in order to make it into that final four with a chance to win the championship at the Dirt Track World Championship at Eldora Speedway at the end of the season. Every point earned now is providing insurance toward achieving that goal.

Tim McCreadie has certainly won races over the last two seasons but he earned two championships by being incredibly consistent. Of course, he will be in the mix along with Jonathan Davenport and perhaps Devin Moran and others could get themselves in position.

It ought to be a really interesting summer.

Michael: I believe you and I picked O’Neal and Thornton Jr. respectively to win the Lucas Oil title this year. Those two are certainly the two to beat at this point.

Davenport isn’t having the same type of season he had last year, but there was no way to repeat that level of success. Still, there are some races that looked like typical Davenport races and he managed to lose the lead in some way. I but I would never count him out.

McCreadie has been hit and miss. I don’t know if that will hurt him when it comes to progressing through the Lucas Oil points format as the season moves along. None of these drivers have done this before. It will be interesting to see if a team figures it out early and uses that to advance.

Please consider also reading:

Ricky Thornton Jr. outduels fierce challengers for Lucas Oil win at Florence

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