Turn 2 Blog: A Recap of the 2013 Racing Season Around East Tennessee

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*Turn 2 Blog is the newest addition to InsideDirtRacing.com. In this regular feature, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen will take turns offering their thoughts on the east Tennessee dirt racing topics of the day.

The 2013 racing season around east Tennessee was one filled with newsworthy events. In this inaugural edition of ‘Turn Two’, Michael Moats and Richard Allen discuss the notable events of the season that was.

      Richard: The 2013 dirt racing season provided plenty to talk about and remember. Ray Cook brought a new series in the Spring Nationals to the area, Smoky Mountain Speedway hosted its first World of Outlaws Late  Models event in almost a decade and our own Jimmy Owens earned his third consecutive Lucas Oil Late Models title. And those are just a few of the things to take place. Each area track offered up some great weekly racing and crowds were good at most of the races I attended.

Let’s start off by talking about the racing. There was plenty of great competition in 2013, but I was lucky enough to witness one of the best races I’ve ever seen in my life in the Shamrock at the Cleveland Speedway back in March.  Randy Weaver, Billy Ogle, Jr., Mike Marlar and Dale McDowell put on an incredible show as they swapped positions over the course of the entire 50 lap event before Weaver emerged as the victor. There were also stand out races at the Volunteer Speedway when Ogle beat out Vic Hill in a thrilling Southern All Stars race and when Jason Welshan won the big $6,000 ‘Clash at The Gap’ Steel  Head event on that track.

     What stood out for you in terms of the  racing during 2013?
     Michael: One of the things that stood out to me was the competition in some of the bigger events. Seems like in recent years the more money a race paid, the less passing there was for the lead. That wasn’t the case this year. Starting with the Shamrock you mentioned to the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series race at Tazewell to the Deep Fried 75 at Duck River, there were some  good battles for the lead in many races this season.
      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.

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