Turn 2 Blog: Looking Back and Looking Ahead at the National Tours


*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: The racing season is basically over so it’s now the time to take a look back at the year that was in dirt racing. There were surprises, there were things that went as expected, and most of all, there was lots to talk about.

There was much going on nationally, regionally and locally so let’s take some time to discuss some of the bigger happenings of 2015. In this edition of the Turn 2 Blog, we will focus on the national news from the world of dirt racing.

Davenport and Bloomquist won big races in 2015

Davenport and Bloomquist won big races in 2015

To begin, the national scene in Dirt Late Model racing was dominated like it had never been dominated before. Jonathan Davenport turned in a season for the ages as he won 21 races, including five crown jewel events. And when all the checks were cashed, his K&L Rumley team collected over $600,000 in earnings. It would be hard to imagine anyone ever having such a campaign again. It truly does seem as if it will go down as a once-in-a-lifetime happening.

Davenport’s season was so good that other drivers such as Scott Bloomquist, Shane Clanton and Josh Richards, who had excellent seasons with double-digit numbers of wins, were almost completely overshadowed by the mastery of the No. 6 Longhorn machine.

Michael: No doubt that Davenport’s season was one for the ages. Dirt Late Model drivers are never considered for any kind of national driver of the year awards but I think Davenport should be seriously considered. What crew chief Kevin Rumley has discovered for his car is something that has the rest of the Dirt Late Model community scrambling to play catch-up.

I think Bloomquist did quite a bit of catching up the last couple of months of the season. I will be interested to see how both of these drivers start off their 2016 seasons.

Richard: And for every upside, there is a downside.

With just a couple or three drivers winning virtually all of the big races, there were some names noticeably absent from the list of major winners in 2015. While the season Jimmy Owens had could not really be labeled as bad by most standards, it was not up to par by his standards. After parting ways with longtime owner Mike Reece to drive for Rowland Racing, ‘The Newport Nightmare’ only picked up one Lucas Oil victory on the season and did not tally in any of the crown jewel events. And it certainly appears as if those results are going to prompt some sort of change for next season for the No. 20 in terms of chassis selection.

Jimmy Owens may be making some changes in 2016

Jimmy Owens may be making some changes in 2016

Also notably missing from the top of the leader board during much of the past season were the Clint Bowyer Racing entries of Don O’Neal and Steve Francis. Fresh off a LOLMDS title for O’Neal, the team owned by the NASCAR star managed only one win in their defense of the championship. And like Owens, changes will be made at CBR. Former World of Outlaws Late Models champion Darrell Lanigan has been brought in along with his Club 29 Race Cars to replace Francis and their Barry Wright Race Cars.

The pressure is on to win at the highest levels of the sport. And not doing so comes with its consequences, doesn’t it?

Michael: I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned so few drivers winning a majority of the races this year. That makes for more antsy drivers looking for answers as to why they aren’t one of the few doing the winning. Add to that a guy like Clint Bowyer from NASCAR, where everything is results driven, and you have car owners putting pressure on their drivers as well. I can’t remember an off-season where more drivers/teams are searching for answers to improve their programs.

Clint Bowyer shook up his two car team

Clint Bowyer shook up his two car team

I think the same can be said on the local level with Randy Weaver winning so many races in this area. I’m sure a number of drivers went into some of these races thinking they were running for second. I’m of the opinion that is why some of the late-season races saw some lower car counts.

Richard: Another interesting aspect of the changes taking place on the national touring series level is the realignment of drivers on the two major tours. The Bowyer move of bringing Lanigan to their team will impact the balance of top tier drivers in each series as that former WoO Late Models champion moves to the LOLMDS.

Previously, WoO could tout the likes of Richards, Clanton and Lanigan as their top drawing cards while Lucas could offer up Bloomquist, Owens and O’Neal. This year’s emergence of Davenport on the Lucas tour and now the addition of Lanigan as well makes the driver lineup on that series a very strong one.

It will be interesting to see if any driver from the LOLMDS makes a move to WoO or if that series can lure another driver such as a Weaver, Chris Madden, Billy Moyer, Jr. or Bobby Pierce to race with them.

What are your thoughts on the dynamics of the two tours after the recent changes?

Michael: If Davenport runs Lucas again, combined with the addition of Lanigan and Francis appearing to be staying, that will make for a stout tour provided there are no other major defections.

I do think there is a good opportunity for some drivers to run WoO now that Lanigan has left. Typically, drivers from the Midwest or northeast run that series because of where most of the races are scheduled. They certainly could use some added punch to their lineup.

Richard: Running a national series is not something to be taken lightly. Sponsors have to be in place and scores of preparations have to be made to be on the road that much. So if any driver is planning to step up to the top level of the sport, the decision has to be made sooner rather than later.

No doubt, everything will become more clear during the weekend of the PRI Show in Indianapolis as plans for 2016 by series, sponsors and drivers will be announced.

And turning our attention to local matters involving the national tours, east Tennessee lost a major race when the LOLMDS schedule was released and it was revealed that the series would not be coming to the Volunteer Speedway for its annual ‘Scorcher’ event. While the Ultimate Super Late Model Series will replace Lucas as the sanctioning body for that race and will no doubt put on a great show, some will likely be disappointed that the biggest stars in the sport won’t be on hand that night.

But on the bright side regarding national races to be staged here, there will still be plenty of opportunities for fans within this region to see both tours in action as Tazewell, Smoky Mountain and Boyd’s will host one or both in 2016.

This area has always been well represented when it comes to big races and hopefully will remain that way.

Michael: Fans will have plenty to look forward to with some major events in the area in 2016. Of course, all of those are weather permitting.

The Scorcher not being a Lucas Oil race is disappointing especially given the fact this year’s race was rained out. The hope is if Bristol race returns to its normal weekend on the calendar, the Scorcher will return to being a Lucas Oil race. But it’s a big coup for the Ultimate series to get that race given they lost a race at Ponderosa to the Lucas Oil series. Nothing is guaranteed in this sport.

Richard: Well, one thing is guaranteed. InsideDirtRacing.com will be there to provide coverage of those big events in east Tennessee throughout 2016.

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