*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
Give the 2022 Dirt Late Model racing season an overall grade
Richard: In many aspects, the 2022 season was a great one. We entered the year with many doubts in regard to whether or not all of the scheduled races would even be contested because of shortages of tires and other equipment along with the prices for fuel and all of the other things race teams need. But instead of cancellations, we saw more races run than ever before that paid $25,000-to-win or more, and because of that, drivers and teams made lots of money.
With the money came added exposure for this form of motorsports. Anytime there is one single race that offers a $1,000,000 payout, it is going to draw attention and that’s what came with the Eldora Million. There are more people in the world today who the names of drivers such as Jonathan Davenport, Brandon Overton and Scott Bloomquist than there ever have been.
Without all of the exposure gained from this past season there would have never been an opportunity for a Dirt Late Model racer to appear on the Dale Jr. Download podcast with Dale Earnhardt Jr. And if that had not happened, we might not know to stay away from the cigar-shaped alien ships.
There were times when the competition left a little to be desired as we went through a string of races at one point in which the leader never got passed on the track. At the same time, there were some great races as well along the way. Overall, I would say that I enjoyed this past season quite a bit.
My overall grade for the 2022 Dirt Late Model season is a solid A with the stretch of races mentioned above being the only thing that prevented it from being an A+.
Michael: I’m not as generous when it comes to rating this season. As you said, the money being offered this year was something we have not seen. For better or worse, it gave the sport more notoriety and offered more money for teams that race all over the country.
The competition on the track was, at times, lackluster. Most of the bigger paying races were not competitive at all. Maybe that has to do with those winners just being that dialed in. It’s not good when most fans know who is going to win either going into an event or the night of the main event. I will say many of the regional series races had some good racing this year. The most I can give it is a B-.
Pick one moment that stands out as THE moment of 2022
Richard: I know this is a cop-out type of an answer but I am actually pick two different moments.
First, I was glad to see Dennis Erb Jr. finally be rewarded for all the years of time and hard work that he has put into racing with a national touring series championship. The Illinois veteran exemplifies the ‘old school’ type of racer who just keeps his head down and grinds his way through the season doing the best he can with what he has. There aren’t many of his kind left in any form of racing so it was good to see one of the old guard come out on top.
And on the opposite end of the spectrum, Garrett Smith’s win in the crown jewel Dirt Track World Championship showed that there is young talent in the pipeline. Often times, we wonder where the next big stars will come from and the 19-year-old rising star from Georgia exemplified the fact that there are drivers who will be able to fill the void when the veteran stars wrap up their careers.
Michael: My choice is Jonathan Davenport’s dominance at Eldora in June. Davenport is usually the favorite at Eldora. But that win set the stage for his dominance throughout the summer. Up to that point, it was Davenport and Madden trading big wins. Other than Madden’s win at Smoky Mountain Speedway the following week, it was the summer of Davenport.
Will 2023 be as good or better than 2022 was?
Richard: Simply based on the fact that we are not facing quite as many concerns as we were this time last year, I would say that I don’t see any reason why 2023 won’t be as good or better than 2022. While there isn’t a $1,000,000 race on next season’s schedule, there are plenty of big money shows in the works. And the points fund money along with various new programs that are out there from each of the series will keep things interesting throughout the year.
And from a competition standpoint, I believe some of the ‘silly season’ moves we have seen might very well create even better racing. It seems to me that there will be more highly competitive teams than ever before at the national level.
One area where I am cautious about predicting a better season in 2023 is at the local level. I believe the streaming of the bigger series and races may very well start to take its toll on the lower divisions that race at the same tracks on a weekly basis. Further, the shortages and inflation that did not seem to have the devastating impact on the national events that many expected might still be an area of concern on the local front.
Michael: I’m not sure about next season. As you said, there isn’t a million dollar race and no races at Bristol paying $50k each. Some people contend the droop rule has taken something away from the racing and that rule is still in place. The big “X” factor I believe will be the new tires and tire rules. There are only several compounds to chose from and no grooving or sipping allowed. If anything, it will make things more interesting. I’m not sure if the racing will be better. There are a lot of driver/team and chassis changes. I tend to think it will be better.
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