Turn 2 Blog: Has a line been drawn between national and regional tours?

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*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: It seems as if there are always rivalries among the different forms of dirt racing. Sprint Cars vs Late Models. Weekly Shows vs Special Events. Sportsman vs. Steelheads. The list could go on and on.

But this off-season, I have noticed what seems to be another type of rivalry developing within the world of dirt. It appears as if there is a clear line being drawn between the national touring series and the regional touring series.

The national tours have offered some incentives to encourage drivers and teams to join them, or at least start off the season with them. Whether it be in the form of additional tow money to help racers make it to the track or greater amounts of purse money paid out after the feature events, it has become a little more economically feasible to follow either the World of Outlaws Late Model Series or the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. And seemingly scores of drivers who competed regionally last year have made the decision to begin the year on one of the two national tours in 2018.

Ray Cook

Also, rules have been put into place that seem to be further helping to divide nationals from regionals. Ray Cook’s various series have adopted the so-called “Droop Rule” which is designed prevent rollover crashes while at the same time, there have been safety requirements such as mandated seats put in place on the national tours that some teams claim are too expensive for those who only race with one of those series on occasion.

Am I just imaging things or is there a clear line being drawn?

Droop Rules Explained Here

Michael: I don’t think the line is drawn to distinguish one group from the other as much as it is each group is trying to do more of its own thing. For example, I think the World of Outlaws are offering more money in an attempt to draw more drivers and compete with the star power of LOLMDS.

Then, you look at Cook’s “droop rule”. I believe he really feels this is some sort of issue with Dirt Late Models. Typically, the national series set major rules changes and that trickles down to the regional series. For Cook, to do this first makes for something interesting to watch the first few months of the season.

Richard: I don’t necessarily think either the regional or national tours are intentionally trying to separate themselves from each other because they both need each other to make car counts. However, there are coming to be some distinct differences. That said, there is no doubt that at least as far as the beginning of the season is concerned, the regional tour races could be affected as the drivers who often fill those fields will be racing somewhere else.

Along the lines of the increased interest in running national tours, it seems that every season there are at least some drivers who declare to run one of the two who eventually don’t make it to the end of the year on that tour. The interesting thing is to try and guess which will actually make it all the way as a national touring regular and who will not. Each series tends to end up with about 10 or 12 guys who go to the end.

With the extra incentives and the differing rules, will there be more who stick with it in 2018?

Michael: That’s an interesting question. There are a few drivers intending to run a whole series that have never done so and a couple more have started in past years only to drop out after a few months into it. I’m curious to see which ones stick it out.

I’m interested to see how some of the regional series do this year. The purses aren’t really going up in those races, yet the cost to race has drastically increased over the last few years. And in this area (east Tennessee), the landscape has become a bit crowded with the differing regional series.

Will there be as many battles in 2018 between regional racers like Shanon Buckingham(50) and national stars such as Darrell Lanigan as in the past?

Richard: There is no doubt that the regional series and the tracks that run them face a great deal of competition. As we have discussed before, there is a “special event” within relatively easy driving distance of the Knoxville area on pretty much of a weekly basis. That said, however, the fan support for these races has been pretty good and fairly consistent overall.

Obviously, the risk in having so many great tracks that offer so many great shows is having something occur that might cause fans to stay away on a particular Saturday night. For example, a bad weather forecast for a one race weekend could cause fans to decide not to risk the trip to a track if there is going to be a similar show at another track the very next weekend.

But getting back to the point of so many regional regulars from last year suddenly deciding to go national racing in 2018 makes your question of how well the regional tours will do a valid one.

Are we running the risk of having fewer drivers and teams entering races, at least early in the season, or will others simply step up and seize the opportunity?

Michael: That seems to be the big question that will only be answered in time. Not every driver wants to, or can afford to, race in a bunch of the national tour races. The regional series may be the way to go for many of them.

I think most of the regional series will be fine. East Tennessee seems to be a popular spot for many of these regional series to hold races because of the car counts and fan interest. We have seen a couple of them no longer hosting races in this area, usually by choice by the track promoters of the area. That seems to have helped those series put emphasis on other areas of the region and appears to be good for everyone involved.

Richard: One thing that is for sure is that there will be no shortage of racing news throughout 2018 around our area. As busy as the so-called off season has been, I can only imagine what will take place when the racing action takes off on a full-time basis.

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