Turn 2 Blog: How will rainouts impact the Lucas Oil Chase?

*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

How much impact will these rainouts have on the Lucas Oil Chase?

Richard: During this past off-season the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series announced a radical change in the way it will crown its season-long champion. Following the Show-me 100 at the Lucas Oil Speedway on May 27th, a total of 15 drivers will be locked into what will be known as the Big River Steel Chase for the Championship presented by ARP. Over the second half of the 2023 season there will be bonuses paid out at various intervals with cuts being made along the way until four drivers enter the Dirt Track World Championship with a chance to win the title.

The first bonuses will be doled out to those in the top-15 in the standings who have perfect attendance at Lucas Oil races up to that point at the conclusion of the Show-me 100.

Because of so many rainouts, the series has not raced since February 10th at East Bay Raceway Park. Not a single feature was contested in March or April. What that means is that there are currently drivers who only intended to race with the tour during Georgia-Florida SpeedWeeks who now have perfect attendance. With only seven races on the schedule before teams roll through the pit gate at Lucas Oil Speedway, it would make sense to run those events whether originally intended or not to see if any bonus money can be obtained.

Crazy as it sounds, the rainouts might have actually helped the series keep a few extra drivers on tour.

Where it could be hurtful is if a particular team that had planned to run the series but got off to a poor start in Florida. That team might decide to go elsewhere instead thinking there are not enough races left before those held in Wheatland, Missouri to get back in the hunt.

Also, those considered early favorites may find difficulty in getting to the top of the standings now to earn the $2,500 bonus to be paid out to the points leader after the Show-me 100. All of the missed races have certainly added some previously unthought of elements to the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series season.

Michael: It has been so long since they raced that their “playoff” format has totally left my mind. Had races been held, there would have been constant reminders of that.

You make interesting points about whether the rain out will help or hurt the drivers that participate in upcoming races. If any driver decided to drop out at this point, they cannot run for World of Outlaws points because those that declared early in the season were awarded extra points for doing so. Any late comers are just out of luck. Then again, anyone bailing now would have to run a Brandon Overton-style schedule: run where you want to.

The bigger picture is the series needs to get in races. It’s going on three months since their last race. With three races scheduled this weekend, hopefully they can get in some of them if not all of them.

Ricky Thornton Jr. leads the Lucas Oil points but the series hasn’t raced since February

Have the rainouts been the cause for the lack of domination or is it something else?

Richard: It doesn’t seem as if we have seen a single dominate player to emerge so far in 2023 as Jonathan Davenport did last year of Brandon Overton did a couple of seasons ago. Lucrative races have been won by Dale McDowell, Brandon Overton, Kyle Larson, Mike Marlar, Ricky Thornton Jr. and Chris Ferguson. Unlike previous seasons, we are not seeing drivers earn multiple $20,000 or more paychecks.

The disjointed nature of the season due to the rainouts may have something to do with that but I think there are other factors. Remember early in the season when we thought Longhorns were going to win every race. Then Rocket with Hudson O’Neal and others got on a roll and picked up several victories.

Essentially, when you look at the lists of top drivers and teams, those two chassis brands completely dominate. Of those drivers mentioned above, only McDowell(Team Zero Race Cars) isn’t in one of the two. My theory has always been that everyone is essentially driving the same car. Either a Rocket or a Longhorn powered by one of about three or four major engine suppliers.

In previous seasons, one or two teams have found something that provided an edge but even in those dominating campaigns, others caught up by the end of the year. Maybe the rainouts have prevented domination from showing itself so far or maybe this is just the year in which no one could find that slight edge so parity will rule.

Michael: I think the rainouts have had to do a little bit with that. It’s hard to get into any type of rhythm when you’re not racing every week.

I think a lot of it is because Rocket and Longhorn both have done their homework and are really challenging each other. I also think a lot of drivers have switched over to Longhorn. Maybe a lot of them are running similar things, making it more balanced. When the World of Outlaws was at 411 Motor Speedway a couple of weeks ago, it was interesting there were only two Rockets in the starting grid. People used to joke WoO was the Rocket series since so many series regulars actually ran Rockets. Those days are gone.

The Fairbury Speedway seems to never disappoint, does it?

Richard: The MARS Late Model Championship Series raced at the famed Fairbury(IL) Speedway this past Saturday night and, like every race there seems to be, it was a classic #FALS event with Shannon Babb taking the win. Lots of passing on what is often a multi-groove surface around the quarter-mile track seems to be the norm.

And it isn’t just the racing. The atmosphere always seems to be over the top in terms of excitement and enthusiasm.

I am excited that you and I are planning a trip to the track’s premier event later this year when we head to the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series-sanctioned Prairie Dirt Classic. Personally, I am really looking forward to it.

Michael: When people ask for opinions on the best track in the country as far as the quality of racing is concerned, Fairbury is usually the first or second track mentioned.

It seems like no matter the series, the format, or the drivers that are racing, the racing there is usually top-notch. I’m looking forward to more races there this season including the PDC.

Please consider also reading:

Shannon Babb fights off challengers to score MARS win at FALS

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