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
Will the car counts for the Dirt Track World Championship be higher or lower than recent years because the race is at Eldora?
Richard: The Dirt Track World Championship has been contested at multiple venues throughout its history with Ohio’s Portsmouth Raceway Park serving as the most recent host from to 2012 to 2022. The location change to Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio will coincide with the adaptation of the ‘Chase for the Championship’ format just instituted this season by the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.
My feeling is that, just because it’s Eldora, the car counts for this race will be good but last year’s number at Portsmouth was quite strong with 68(60 two years ago). As a matter of fact, that was the highest total of machines signed in for the DTWC in five years. So matching that number at this time in the season could be tough, even at Eldora.
This race won’t draw the triple-digit numbers of cars the Dirt Late Model Dream and the World 100 attract to the famed half-mile facility. Those events are entrenched at this track where the DTWC doesn’t have that kind of tradition on this particular venue.
All that said, I have never really been one to worry that much about car counts. Who is there has always been more important to me than how many are there. And it looks like the ‘who is there’ is going to be pretty impressive. Obviously, all of the LOLMDS regulars will be on hand including the four contenders for the championship.
Based on research of driver websites I have done, it appears as if those series stalwarts will be joined by Bobby Pierce, Brandon Sheppard, Dale McDowell, Jimmy Owens, Chris Ferguson and Dennis Erb Jr. among numerous others.
Answering the question, car counts won’t match the two traditional Eldora races. I think it will be close to if not above the numbers of the past two years for this event.
Michael: I think the format will keep the numbers down. Sure, it is Eldora. But the format of qualifying and heats on the first night with B-mains and the feature the second night might keep some away because there isn’t the opportunities to make the show like the formats of The Dream and the World 100 produce.
If the ‘Chase for the Championship’ remains as a thing, should it always be held at Eldora or rotated to other tracks?
Richard: In an interview I did with championship contender Devin Moran, which will be posted on this site later this week, he expressed his hope that this will become a rotating event if it is to remain as a ‘Chase for the Championship’ series-deciding race. It’s an interesting idea but I’m not sure I agree with it.
Obviously, there is a lot riding on the success or failure of this race. Sponsors are paying much of the bill in terms of the championship money available to competitors. Also, the FloRacing.com streaming service is no doubt happy about getting to promote another race at the sport’s most well known venue. Needless to say, there will be a lot of voices who will have influence over the future of this event along with DTWC owner Carl Short.
We don’t know how many people will show up next weekend nor do we know what the streaming viewership numbers will look like. But one thing that I believe to be likely is that many are going to try to compare this race to the World 100 and the Dirt Late Model Dream because it will be held at the same track. Those are tough comparisons.
Ultimately, I believe the crowd will be better than it would have been at Portsmouth. But because of the sheer number of seats at Eldora, it may not look as if that is true. And no matter what, the event needs time to grow into its new home and its new title-deciding significance so it should stay at Eldora in my opinion.
Michael: I think the location of the DTWC will depend of the success of the race at Eldora this year and next year. I talked to Carl Short earlier in the year about the race being moved to Eldora. The race has been successful at Portsmouth considering attendance, number of campers, and car counts. Short knew what he had at Portsmouth and moving to a new location provides a bit of an unknown, even to Eldora.
I like the idea of moving the race around whether there is a “Chase” or not. Short’s roots are in the West Virginia area as far as the DTWC goes. He always leans to keep that race in that part of the country. But it would be neat for other drivers and fans to experience the event if it was somewhere in the Southeast or the Illinois/Iowa area. If the race is successful in all areas at Eldora, I can’t see the race going anywhere unless someone other than Short promotes that race. That is another story we will have some time soon.
Who will win the Dirt Track World Championship and who will win the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series title?
Richard: There are several drivers who are both capable and would love nothing better than to steal some of the spotlight away from championship contenders Hudson O’Neal, Jonathan Davenport, Devin Moran and Ricky Thornton Jr. by scoring a $100,000 payday and having the talk be about them just as much as the series champion. And certainly, Bobby Pierce, Dale McDowell, Brandon Sheppard and a host of others will be among the front runners on Saturday night.
But in terms of winning the race and the championship, it is hard for me to pick against Ricky Thornton Jr. He has had such an amazing season by building up a 500+ points lead and feature wins measured in the dozens. The ability to do what he and crew chief Anthony Burroughs have done this year hasn’t gone away.
If this were a regular Eldora race with the inverts that are a part of those heat races, I might be more willing to pick Davenport or O’Neal considering they worked through that process this season when Davenport won the Dream and O’Neal won the World 100. But this race will be run under Lucas Oil sanction.
Devin Moran will be my dark horse pick considering that he has had some very good runs lately that pulled him into the top-4 at the end. Still, though, I can’t pick against Thornton to win both race and championship after the season he has had in 2023.
Michael: It’s hard for me to pick against Davenport to win the race and the championship. But, I like the way O’Neal is running and I look for him to win both on Saturday.
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