Turn 2 Blog: Late Model Haves vs Have Nots?

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The latest edition of the Turn 2 Blog is presented by the American Crate All-Star Series.

*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: Well, we only thought the off-season was one of the busiest ever in terms of major moves among teams, drivers, series, and equipment providers but we have seen evidence over the past few days that there really is no such thing as “silly season” anymore. But rather, the moves among all the entities I just mentioned are no longer limited to the off-season. As we have seen over the past few years, there can be major changes made at any given time as was the case last year with drivers such as Brandon Overton and Donald McIntosh.

Casey Roberts

Within the last week, the news has come out that what looked to be a promising pairing of car owners and builders Chip Stone and Randy Weaver with driver Tanner English has dissipated due to a sponsorship issue. And more, Casey Roberts has landed in the Wynn Motorsports car previously driven by Ray Cook as Cook has had to scale back due to his many other commitments.

With the expense of racing being what it is and with the amount full-time commitment required, there are no guarantees that arrangements are going to remain in place whether it be on the national, regional, or local level.

Racing is truly a fickle beast, isn’t it?

Michael: It’s not just that racing is a fickle business, but dirt racing is the ficklest of them all. There is so much money tied up into these teams that owners are expecting results. Drivers usually race with no contract, so they can be let go at any moment.

I can’t speak for the Wynn situation. But from the outside, it looks as though the car owner wants to race more than what Cook was going to be able to. They spent big money on getting a new Longhorn in the fall and I suppose they want it on the track.

As for the Weaver-English situation, the Stone-Weaver team was having sponsor and money trouble last year. Again, looking from the outside, I didn’t see anything that had changed much with that team since Overton left until they tabbed English to be their driver. I don’t know if English was supposed to bring some money to the table and that didn’t happen or the team thought they had something lined up and that didn’t come about. Either way, it was a tough deal for English to only race for them for one month and then be let go.

Richard: Right now it looks as if there is a situation in this form of racing in which there are more good drivers out there than there are quality rides. And with the current business model being what it is, that probably isn’t going to change anytime soon as expenses rise higher and higher while purses remain, in large part, unchanged. Obviously, sponsorship is the key and those who have it will continue to race and those who don’t will have to scale back or stop all together.

With engineering now being fully a part of Dirt Late Model racing, the price for playing in this sport isn’t going to go down. As other forms of racing have discovered, technology can not be legislated out because those who come up with new ideas are always a step ahead of those who attempt to regulate those ideas.

And this is true on every level, whether it be for a national touring series team or a Street Stock team that only races at one or two tracks. If a racer wants to remain competitive, he/she has to keep up with the latest innovations.

With all that being said, it seems as if we are trending toward a situation of the haves vs. the have nots. Do you see it that way?

National touring star Brandon Sheppard(1) and regional star Michael Chilton(97) racing each other

Michael: I think the sport has always been that way. But I will say the gap has widened some. Going back 15-20 years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see a top local or regional racer knock off the big dogs in a national touring race. It’s a lot more rare these days.

Not only is technology driving up costs, so is everything else. Engines are much more expensive and even the chassis themselves are really up there in price. I have seen what some builders are charging for a bare frame and I’m just amazed at the prices. Add it all up and the overall costs have dramatically increased just over the last 5-7 years.

Richard: And since you brought up regional racers, let’s change the subject a bit. Beginning this weekend the regional series will fire up as the Southern All Stars, Ultimate Super Late Model Series and the Iron-Man/MARS Late Model Series will get underway at various locations outlined here in this piece.

To me, one of the things that is always interesting is seeing who will race where once the various regional tours get rolling. At the end of last season we ran two posts on this site in which championship winning drivers Ross Bailes(Carolina Clash) and Zack Mitchell(Ultimate SLM) both said that it was not initially their intention to stick with a particular series but it just worked out that way.

I think these regional tours provide great opportunities for racers who can’t afford to get out and run on the national stage. And it’s always fun to see some of these guys enjoy success along the way.

What are your thoughts?

Michael: I have always felt any driver should take one step up from where they are and not two more steps up. Instead of running Lucas or World of Outlaws, the regional series provide younger drivers a chance to get used to being on the road without competing against the big money teams. I’m always amazed when a driver that can’t win on his local track suddenly wants to run a national series. They’re not ready for that.

By the looks of things, several of the regional series are going to have some interesting names following them as things get started. It should be interesting.

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