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: Typically, we try not to post multiple articles about the same topic on this site. But even though we have to some degree already discussed Chris Madden within this forum, more than two weeks have passed and quite a lot has happened since then.
The Gray Court, SC driver has been on a remarkable tear over the past month. A racer who had had an excellent career up to that point but had never won a crown jewel event has suddenly reeled off three consecutive wins in some of Dirt Late Model racing’s biggest events. Madden has won the $50,000 USA Nationals at Wisconsin’s Cedar Lake Speedway, the $50,000 North-South 100 at Florence(KY) Speedway, and most recently, the $40,000 Topless 100 at Batesville(AR) Motor Speedway.
That’s $140,000 in just three features for a guy who a few weeks ago looked as if he would be having an extended summer vacation.
At the beginning of the 2019 season it looked as if the 44-year-old veteran driver appeared to have found a good situation as he was brought in to drive a Capital Race Car for Iowa businessman Greg Bruening as a teammate for young Tyler Bruening. And more, Madden would be closely allied with driver Shane Clanton on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series in the same type of chassis.
For whatever reason, that situation didn’t work out. Madden and Bruening parted ways in June which left the driver without a ride.
But in steps Scott Bloomquist, who has battled injuries from a March motorcycle accident throughout most of the season, along with business manager Cody Sommer to provide Madden with a ride in a Sweet-Bloomquist team car with the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame member. The results of the reunification between Bloomquist and Madden has been the stuff of fantasy.
In the competitive world of racing these days, no one is supposed to go on a streak like this. I do not have the historical knowledge of dirt racing that you do. Has there ever been a driver to just step into a ride and immediately have such amazing success?
Michael: Not that I’m aware of, especially when you consider the races and what they paid to win. Madden had a shot at winning the Silver Dollar Nationals before this streak began or that would be another $53,000 in the bank. We saw Josh Richards start the 2017 on a tear, but those were smaller paying races. Not to diminish that feat, but winning three straight big money races and almost winning a fourth pales any other comparisons that I can think of without looking it up.
Not to be overlooked, but Bloomquist himself has really turned things around since Madden came on board. Madden is really hands on when it comes to the cars, something I have been told that could have soured the relationship with the Bruening operation. Whatever Madden has brought to the team as a driver, he has brought something from a technical aspect that has benefited both teams.
Richard: That’s a good point regarding Madden’s work on the cars as I’m sure it only improves things when you consider that guys like Bloomquist himself along with Madden, Shane McDowell and Ricky Weiss and his crew are all working on the Sweet-Bloomquist cars.
Something I am going to be interested in seeing this weekend will be whether or not Madden can keep this streak going in Mansfield, OH when the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series contests the second Dirt Million. The World of Outlaws Late Model Series will not be in action which means the also red hot Brandon Sheppard will be on hand to vie for a winner’s purse that is reaching toward $100,000.
If Madden should win the Dirt Late Model world would be looking at another Jonathan Davenport in 2015 type of run.
Since you mentioned Bloomquist running better, I have noticed that he seems to be making strides health wise. When he first came back it was somewhat obvious that his body was not prepared for the beating that takes place in 100-lap races. Over the last few weeks, however, he has gone deeper and deeper into each of these longer races before it looks as if wears down. This could be the weekend in which he goes the full distance, and if that’s the case, he will contend for the win.
What are your thoughts regarding Madden vs. Sheppard and/or Bloomquist’s recovery?
Michael: I am looking forward to a Madden-Sheppard showdown if it materializes. The first go-round was at Cedar Lake and Madden got the best of that battle.
I have been told by someone close to the Bloomquist camp that he still has a certain amount of pain, especially getting in and out of the car. A heavy track doesn’t do him any good either. Luckily for him, the last several races have been on dry, slick tracks that make it a bit easier on him behind the wheel.
Richard: To steer us in a slightly different direction, I am looking forward to how this year’s Dirt Million plays out in terms of the reaction it gets. The 2018 version of the race came with a great deal of fanfare as drivers essentially worked for the promoter by getting fans to purchase tickets and other merchandise through the race’s website. Some of the proceeds from those purchases, in turn, went into the purse for the eventual payout.
As we saw, Earl Pearson, Jr. ultimately came away from the Mansfield Motor Speedway with just over $200,000 following his win. That was the biggest first prize ever offered to a Dirt Late Model winner apart from the $1,000,000 earned by Donnie Moran at Eldora Speedway back in 2000.
While drivers are again pushing fans in the direction of buying tickets and goods, there doesn’t seem to be the same amount of anticipation for this event as was the case in 2018. It’s still going to be a huge payout for the winner as right now the value of the winner’s check is hovering just over $90,000 which is a major payday in this form of racing. The final amount to be doled out to the winner will no doubt rise until it is announced just before the race.
So my question is, can this event continue to grow or even sustain itself as it is currently set up for years to come?
Michael: I don’t know if it can. I think the name alone had some of the fans a bit confused last year thinking it was going to be a million dollars to win. It was never advertised as such, still some fans thought it was. Now that nearly every fan knows the format and what the payout will be, I think it loses some of its luster from last year. Also, the curiosity factor is gone.
The whole concept of the purse for the weekend of racing is one of the most unique ideas I have seen in a long time. Most race purses are paid through tickets and concessions. It was a great idea to partner up with some of the merchandise vendors to sell merchandise and add that to the purse. It’s a good gimmick…for now. But I really don’t know how long fans will continue to buy merchandise through the track’s plan. I would think there will be some sort of drop off from year to year. But I could be totally wrong.
Richard: As you say, there is bound to be some degree of drop off from the inaugural running to the second time around. I’m sure the planners of this event as well as the drivers and teams took that into account when this deal was first introduced. I guess the real question now is whether or not there will be a leveling off or will it drop off more each year.
I tend to believe there will mostly be a leveling off with some years seeing a bump while other years may see a decline. But all in all, I think Cody Sommer came up with a brilliant idea here. I love it when people are willing to think outside the box and I enjoy seeing them have success when they do.
I wondered if someone would attempt to copy this format, which would diminish this event as well as the one attempting to copy. To date, I don’t know of another race in which the idea of using ticket and merchandise sales to boost a purse has been used, at least not to this scale.
I will be watching, not only this year but in years to come to see how this format plays out.
Michael: Racing is a copycat sport. I won’t be surprised if someone else tries to copy this idea at some point. As you said, the effect is both events would be diminished. That would be a shame.