The other thing that stood out in 2013 was the lower car counts. It certainly was an odd sight to see some $5,000 to win races not draw full fields of cars. Not counting the Lucas race at Tazewell, that is a different animal, there were some $10,000 to win races that either drew just enough for a full field or came up a few cars short. It certainly speaks to where super late model racing is right now.
Richard: I couldn’t agree more about the level of competition in the bigger races. And that extended into the limited and crate late model races I attended this year as well. I do believe the car counts are a matter of concern going forward, especially as the super late model touring series seem to be pulling in different directions.
Another thing that stood out to me about this season was attendance. Even during a summer in which the weather gods seemed to do all they could to discourage race fans, I saw some great crowds at a number of races this year. Many said the WoO race at Smoky Mountain was the best attended event they had ever seen for that track. The national touring series races at Tazewell and Volunteer also had near standing room only crowds.
Many of the weekly shows I saw at 411 also had good numbers of fans. Of course, there were some exceptions to that as weather and other factors hampered fan turnout for some races. But overall, I think it bodes well for the racing in this area for fan support to be so strong during a time in which the economy is sluggish.
Michael: I was also impressed with the attendance figures at many of the races this year. Some of the standard races such as the Shamrock at Cleveland and the Lucas races at Tazewell and Volunteer always draw huge crowds and did so again in 2013.
The race that impressed me the most, regarding attendance, was the Southern Nationals race at Smoky Mountain. The attendance was almost the size of their World of Outlaws race. I’m sure a big part of that was getting a bump from the controversy the night before at Duck River between Chris Madden and Billy Ogle, Jr. While Madden and Ogle didn’t really race each other, Madden’s post-race comments really got the crowd going. It’s been a long time since I have seen a driver call out another driver like that in victory lane in front of his home crowd. And the crowd fired back.
Richard: The Madden vs. Ogle feud along with Don O’Neal suffering a broken vertebrae in his back after his roll over wreck at Bulls Gap were probably the two biggest pieces of driver news to come out of this area on the national front. But on more of a local front, there were some drivers who made names for themselves in 2013. Several guys impressed me this season. Jason Trammel and Steve Smith put on a great battle for the track championship at the Tazewell Speedway in the Late Model class. And the new Sportsman class at that track allowed the likes of Keith Chapman and Heath Alvey to experience success. Also, Mark Martin and Jason Welshan got to earn some big money for their Steel Head victories at Volunteer Speedway.
Cory Hedgecock had a real breakout season at 411 and other tracks around the area by posting double digit numbers in the win column. He was dominant by the end of the season in the Seymour track’s Limited Late Model division, winning some races by wide margins.
On the Super Late Model side of things, Ogle and Vic Hill continued to prove they can run well when the big tours come to town. Also, it was impressive to see Mike Marlar win at Smoky Mountain in what was his first time out driving for car owner Ronnie Delk after his previous car owner decided to scale back.
Michael: Let’s not forget some drivers who had great years in other divisions. There was Chuck McMahan with all his four cylinder wins at Tazewell, Phillip Thompson’s wins at 411 and Tazewell in the Classics, and Adam Beeler in the Crate Late Models at Smoky Mountain.
Richard: With that mention of the support class drivers, look for a new feature coming soon that will put the spotlight on those drivers who compete outside of the Late Model class.