Turn 2 Blog: Lucky Dogs and increased WoO points fund money

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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.

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

Richard: This past weekend there was a bit of an odd situation to occur in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned Pittsburgher 100 at the Pittsburgh PA Motor Speedway. Hudson O’Neal was lapped by then leader Earl Pearson Jr. just before a planned fuel stop on lap 50. When the caution came out, he was awarded the ‘Lucky Dog’ and given his lap back due to the fact that he was the first car scored one lap down. O’Neal ultimately recovered and went on to win the race and collect the $20,000 first prize.

However, there was a degree of confusion surrounding O’Neal’s receivership. Pearson crossed the finish line to complete his 50th lap but LOLMDS officials did not call for the caution until the last car on the lead lap had also completed its 50th circuit. In the meantime, Pearson passed Ricky Thornton Jr., seemingly lapping him also. The confusion occurred because it seemed as if Thornton, not O’Neal, should receive the lucky dog. But in reality, Thornton had not been lapped because Pearson had completed his 50th lap and was no longer being scored so his passing of Thornton was inconsequential.

As far as anyone can remember, O’Neal is the first driver to go on and win after receiving a lucky dog.

I say all of that to get to this, the idea of the lucky dog is very much a NASCAR thing that has spread to other forms of racing. But in my opinion, it has its merits. It can keep drivers from taking unnecessary risks when racing around the leaders and it can give a driver who may have simply had one bad corner where he jumped the cushion to get back into contention.

I am not opposed to the practice at all, particularly because it may help to keep a good car in contention that just had a bad break. If a car isn’t competitive, it won’t matter but for one such as O’Neal at PPMS, it can be the difference between winning and losing. The way I see it, the more cars that can remain on the lead lap, the better it is for the racing.

What are your thoughts on the use of the lucky dog?

Hudson O’Neal won the Pittsburgher 100

Michael: I’m not a big fan of the lucky dog in dirt racing. I understand the thought process in a NASCAR race where races are typically 3 hours or longer, where they started giving those when they eliminated racing back to the line when a caution came out.  A 100-lapper in dirt racing might go an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. The 50-lap series races can be over in 20-40 minutes depending on the number of cautions.

From what I have read, a number of fans were complaining as much about O’Neal bringing out the next caution to make an adjustment on his car as they were about the lucky dog itself. I’m not sure if there is a rule that could be created to prevent that as long as they continue to use the lucky dog. But I look at it this way, they used the rules the way they were written to their advantage and won the race.

Richard: That’s a good point about bringing out a caution for the purpose of pitting for an adjustment. Some series(Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series in particular) do have rules to prevent a driver from stopping on track to bring out a caution for the purpose of changing a tire that isn’t flat. Perhaps that rule should be adjusted to state that any driver who stops on track to bring out a caution is not allowed to make any sort of suspension adjustment.

Michael: Something should be done about that. But like any other rule, anything they come up with should be enforced. I’m not seeing a lot of that from either series.

Brandon Sheppard(1) and Chris Madden(44) can probably be considered WoO’s biggest stars

Richard: Something else I wanted to bring up is the recent announcement that the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series plans a significant increase in the tour’s points fund. The 2022 series champion will receive a payout of $125,000($100,000 in 2021) with increases seen throughout the top-12. The series has lost one of its major events in the Firecracker 100 as that race will be sanctioned by the LOLMDS next year. However, there will still be major races on the tour with the USA Nationals and the Prairie Dirt Classic remaining on the schedule which will each offer $50,000-to-win payouts with a number of other features handing out winner’s paychecks in the $20,000-$30,000 range.

While the WoO Late Models have two established stars in Brandon Sheppard and Chris Madden, there is not as much depth in terms of star power as the Lucas Oil tour. Obviously, this increase in the points fund is a move to not only reward their current teams but to lure more top drivers to the series. I had one driver to tell me that he thinks it will indeed make a difference.

I am looking forward to the off-season to see if any drivers who were not already racing regularly with the World of Outlaws will announce their intentions to do so in 2022.

Will this move add more star power to the WoO roster?

Michael: I don’t know that it will. I keep hearing a number of traveling teams are considering not even following a series next year. When you look at the big paying races that take place every year, a driver can make some good money just doing what Brandon Overton has done this year. And there was a recent announcement where the XR promotional group is now doing 8 races at Bristol in the spring for $25,000-to-win each night and a $100,000 points champion. I don’t see either series having breaks in their schedules to accommodate those races, which could mean a few teams may entertain the idea of running those instead of a series schedule. It’s going to be an interesting off season to see who plans to race where next season.

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