*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.
Richard: There are several things worthy of note to have taken place early on in this 2018 racing season. But one of those things that has caught my attention is the resurgence of Barry Wright Race Cars. As we have mentioned on this site several times throughout February and early March, Longhorn Chassis and Rocket Chassis virtually owned the Georgia-Florida SpeedWeeks portion of the Dirt Late Model schedule as they won numerous features during that time period. And what races those two brands didn’t win were won by Sweet-Bloomquist Race Cars.
However, BWRC flew just a bit under the radar as they did not have a strong presence until the final week of SpeedWeeks when Chris Madden brought that brand’s house car to the World of Outlaws Late Model Series races at Volusia Speedway Park. Although the No. 44 did not win any of the features it entered, Madden’s consistency was such that his team collected the big gator trophy in recognition of scoring the most points during the Late Model portion of the DIRTcar Nationals.
BWRC’s resurgence further continued this past Sunday afternoon when Madden scored a $12,000 victory in the Southern All Star Dirt Racing Series sanctioned March Madness event at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC.
Many believe that success in racing is directly related to the relationship between the driver and crew. That said, for whatever reason, BWRC has struggled in recent years with talented driver such as Jimmy Owens and Jonathan Davenport behind the wheel. However, Ross Bailes took that seat and had some success in the second half of 2017. And now, Madden seems to be taking that even further.
Could it be that Madden and Wright are clicking together in a way that those others drivers did not, or have the builders of this type of car hit upon something that could spread beyond just the house car?
Michael: I say we need to wait and see if any other drivers have success in Barry Wright cars to really tell. I’m leaning toward saying it could be a good bond between Wright and Madden the others didn’t have with the veteran car builder.
I have long said a driver like Owens could drive anything and win races in it. But he certainly struggled in the BWRC house car. But that was also a couple of years ago. As we have seen, it doesn’t take much to get behind in this sport and a long while to get caught up.
At the same time, I put Madden in the category of Owens as a driver that can win in anything. It was certainly surprising to see him switch from Longhorn to Barry Wright. The combination looks good so far.
Again, I’ll see if any other BWRC drivers have success to say if it’s better communication or BWRC has found something to make their program better.
Richard: I agree that we need to see more from other drivers to say that the success is a company-wide deal. That said, however, this sport is one in which people are very quick to jump on and off of bandwagons. Madden’s success could ignite a move by others to BWRC. And of course, the more talented people there are driving those cars, the more likely they are to win.
Now to change the topic, we are suddenly seeing a significant increase in the number of drivers, including Scott Bloomquist, who are on social media or have suddenly decided to revive their social media accounts over the past couple of weeks. Further, I have noticed some upgrades in websites by both teams and drivers during that same time period.
Without a doubt, much of this revolves around this summer’s Dirt Million race in Mansfield, Ohio. Promoter Cody Sommer, who has been the person responsible for the Gateway Nationals in St. Louis over the past couple of Decembers, has added a new element to his race. Fans can go on the website set up for that race to order tickets, apparel, camping spaces and other items and dedicate the money they spend toward a particular driver. Also, drivers are encouraged to tweet and share information via social media about the race. The four drivers who generate the most revenue and site traffic will be guaranteed starting spots in what will likely be the most lucrative race in Dirt Late Model history.
As a result of that opportunity provided by Sommer, racers are interacting with fans seemingly more than ever. We have discussed on this site numerous times the value of the internet to drivers, teams, tracks and series. It looks like that is being demonstrated in a very tangible way now, isn’t it?
Michael: It is a very unique idea and lots of people will be watching. Like you said, drivers have paid attention to the parameters and are doing what they can to take advantage. I didn’t think I’d ever see the day that Scott Bloomquist would be on Twitter. Got to give Sommer credit for that.
There still seems to be some confusion by the fans as to how all of this is exactly going to work. Once people start peeling back the layers involved, they will see it’s simpler than it appears. I think some fans think the race will eventually be $1 million to win. But the goal is to get the total purse to $1 million. A possible $500,000 to win race is going to get lots of attention.
Racing is such a copycat business that it’s beyond interesting to see someone come up with a unique idea such as this. I’m sure someone else will try to do something similar once they see how this event unfolds in August. Aside from any attempts to copy this idea, tracks and other sanctioning bodies should look at this to see how to take advantage of the positives of social media.
Richard: I expect that there will only be more activity on social media over the next few months.
I wonder if some of those who have not been terribly active on social media before will realize the advantages of the added exposure for themselves, their teams, and their sponsors will continue to be active beyond the running of the Dirt Million. If so, the benefits of this race could go well beyond the attention derived from this one event.
I’m definitely looking forward to seeing just how big this thing gets.
Michael: It’s going to be an interesting 5 months as far as that goes. As the race gets closer, I would expect a blitz of social media interaction by those that are pretty well versed in how all of this is going to work.
As you said, I’m curious to see how if the ones that have taken to social media just for this event will continue to use it or abandon their efforts. I have lost track of how many drivers I have followed and they have not used their accounts in years.
Richard: Yeah, I’m guessing the “Forgot Username” and “Forgot Password” options are being used on a number of driver social media accounts.
To again change the topic, once more Smoky Mountain Speedway found itself in a tough spot regarding weather and the timing of a big event. With a three-night World of Outlaws Late Model Series sanctioned race weekend on tap, weather forecasters all but assured us that the weekend would be a cold and miserable couple of days. That turned out to not really be the case but there was no way to know that going in.
With drivers and teams pulling from places such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, it would have been a bad deal had those guys come only to sit in the rain for two days. Over the past two years, this date has not done Smoky Mountain any favors has it?
Michael: The last two years have been bad news for that particular weekend, but years prior were pretty good.
Once the forecast became what it was and drivers started withdrawing their names from possibly coming, the track really had no choice but to postpone the event. Like you said, the forecast was wrong for both days. No one is going to act like they know more than the weather people and race. It was not a gamble worth taking. It’s just amazing all the weather people could miss it so badly.