Turn 2 Blog: Rule Changes Must Be Carefully Considered


*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 rumor mill has been churning since the PRI Trade Show in Indianapolis just over a week ago. Speculation has held that the two national touring series are considering possibly significant rule changes for the upcoming season. Specifically, it sounds as if the focus of any potential new regulations will be focused on the left rear suspension of the car. Almost certainly, any new rule changes by the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and/or the World of Outlaws Late Models Series will be announced in the very near future in order to give teams time to make necessary changes before the the upcoming Georgia/Florida Speedweeks events launch the respective tours.

It certainly appears as if the potential changes will be aimed at slowing the pace of engineering development in the sport of Dirt Late Model racing, especially following the record breaking season just turned in by driver Jonathan Davenport and his engineer/crew chief Kevin Rumley. Whether any new mandates are specifically meant to hamper the efforts of Davenport and Rumley or not is somewhat inconsequential. Instead, the true purpose, if there are indeed changes coming, would seem to be much deeper. Engineering costs money, and increased costs at a time of vulnerability for many teams in the sport could be devastating.

Having followed and written about NASCAR for several years, I feel as if I can say something about rules meant to reduce the role of engineering in racing. Whenever rules are made to more tightly govern one particular area of a race car, engineers simply start working on another area. For example, if a rule regarding the left rear suspension is adopted by the two series, then teams will simply move to the right front or the right rear.

Racers are not good at standing still, are they?

Jonathan Davenport and crew chief Kevin Rumley made waves in 2015

Jonathan Davenport and crew chief Kevin Rumley made waves in 2015

Michael: Oh, certainly not. It’s all about trying to find that edge over ther others. Always has been that way, always will be.

There was a lot made of the change before the 2015 season regarding adjustable shocks that could be controlled from outside of the car. I liked that change because one, the costs involved were too high, and two, there should not be anything controlled from outside the car while the car is on the track.

I have heard conflicting things about the cost involved concerning Rumley’s breakthrough. If the cost isn’t considerably high and there isn’t a safety issue, I see no reason to make a rules change. Advancements are part of the sport.

I have said many times the old saying around Dirt Late Model racing. The cost of it goes up, but the purses stay the same. With teams already spending big bucks on tires and the high costs of engines, things should be put in place to keep costs down for the teams.

Richard: While attempting to keep costs low is admirable, it is important for the sport to reward ingenuity and creativity. As you say, if safety is not an issue and current rules aren’t being broken, then there seems to be something fundamentally wrong with essentially clamping down on the creativity of one team that has figured something out to get ahead of the pack.

One of my biggest qualms with modern-day NASCAR is that there are so many rules in place that everyone is basically driving the same car. And teams, in turn, spend far more money trying to find that very slight edge within the tight box they have been placed inside of. While the initial aim of instituting more rules may be to reduce costs, often times they have the reverse effect.

At the same time, should that one team get to the point that they are far ahead of the others every time they hit the track, some might fall off of a touring series due to being beaten so often by the same guy.

One of the fears I have is that both touring series could lose full-time drivers and teams from either scenario mentioned above. Too many rules could ultimately drive costs up and put teams out of business and/or not acting to bring about greater equality could cause some to give up out of frustration.

It’s quite a predicament for the sanctioning bodies, isn’t it?

Michael: It certainly is. That is why it is hard for me to take one side or the other. I see both sides of this issue.

The one thing that makes Dirt Late Model racing so unique is both national and regional series are somewhat dependent on local racers participating to have full fields, or close to it. If costs are too high for the local racers and they have to skip these events, then we’re faced with races that only have 12-14 cars. That scenario is carefully considered by the national series when they make their rules.

Richard: That was exactly where I was heading next.

Before either the Lucas Oil or World of Outlaws make any changes they have to consider how those amendments might impact the fields in their races. Neither series wants to be too drastically different from the other due to the fact that drivers migrate from one to the other when one has an off weekend. Both series rely on picking up the stars from the other on occasion. The WoO races in our area at Smoky Mountain and Tazewell have benefited from Lucas Oil open dates in the recent past and picked up drivers such as Scott Bloomquist and Jimmy Owens for those races.

And as you just mentioned, neither series has enough drivers travelling with them to fill a field. As a result, local and regional stars are needed to complete the lineups. Complicating the rules or driving up costs could force those competitors to sit on the sidelines when the national tours come to town.

Striking a perfect balance will be the key, but it won’t be easy.

Michael: I am glad I’m not the one that has to make these decisions. On a side note, I am glad both national series are in communications with each other to come up with something that both series can use.

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