Turn 2 Blog: The off-season is getting shorter and expanding “Super Late Model” fields


*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’re now off and running into another racing season as ‘The Hangover’ event at 411 Motor Speedway and the Ice Bowl at Talladega Short Track have come and gone. It seems like no time at all that we were wrapping up the 2014 dirt racing campaign at Cleveland Speedway and Boyd’s Speedway.

Oh wait, it was no time at all since we were shutting down the last racing season. The final events of 2014 were barely six weeks ago and we’re already back racing.

That leads me to ask ‘What off season?’ In dirt racing, there is no longer an off-season, but rather a brief pause to reset and then back to work. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. More racing is good for business and it’s enjoyable just to get back out to the track and meet up with friends while taking in some mud slinging action.

Michael: My one complaint about NASCAR is the season is just too long. But with those races, they usually involve at three-day weekend whereas dirt racing is typically a Friday night or a Saturday night unless there is some type of doubleheader.

The weather the last few years has allowed the schedules to be expanded a bit before and after the normal race schedules. Golden Isles, East Bay, and Volusia were the typical starts to the season. But now, we’re seeing more and more races happen before those.

More races is good for lots of people. It’s good for the racers because it gives them more chances to race. It’s good for the racing businesses because they get to sell more parts, tires, etc. And it must be good for the promoters because they continue to hold these events. My guess is it’s also good for the divorce lawyers as more time is spent at the shop or the racetrack.

Richard: Ha! Good point, and that might even offer an opportunity to get in a shameless plug for our sponsoring attorney over on the sidebar of the site.

One thing that should make it more possible to put on successful race events this year will be fuel prices. Analysts expect the cost of gas and diesel to remain low for some time to come, which ought to benefit racers as they haul to the track and it could even allow fans to make longer treks to venues further away from home.

Speaking of ‘The Hangover’, the car count was astounding. I was more than a little surprised that 47 Late Models signed in for competition in a $4,000-to-win race. And those drivers came from eight different states to get there. I’m sure some of it had to do with drivers just wanting to race and being willing to travel a little bit further with lower fuel prices to do so.

However, I believe the rules package in place for the New Year’s Day race also contributed to the high car count. There were true Super Late Models in the show on January 1st as well as 525 engines, steelhead engines and even 604 crate engines. Aside from the rules package, the track and promoters also offered bonus money for the highest finishers with non super power plants.

Other than races sanctioned by the two national touring series’, it may be time for all who intend to promote “Super Late Models” to encourage more participation by other types of engines packages in order to increase the numbers of competitors.

Michael: From what I have noticed over the years, the races with these types of rules seem to draw really good car counts. Like you said, it draws from a bigger pool of racers. With the cost of open motors still on the rise and true “super late models” being on the decline, I think series directors and promoters of unsanctioned races need to think more outside the box with their rules to get the car counts up as long as the racing is good. It does no good to have 40 late models and only two or three have a legitimate shot at winning.

Richard: I absolutely agree with that. The incentive of offering extra money for each motor type will fail to bring extra cars to the track if drivers with one or two of those engine types believe they have no chance to win. And ultimately, that would hurt fan counts as well.

Another thing promoters have be vigilant about in unsanctioned races is keeping close tabs on whatever rules they decide upon. 411 Motor Speedway had CT Promotions, who used and enforced the Southern Nationals form of rules, officiating their race. Being too lax and/or allowing the perception of not being fair to pervade will ultimately kill whatever events a track might hope to put on.

But one thing was absolutely reaffirmed on January 1st, and that is people love special events. Attendance by both drivers and fans at ‘The Hangover’ was outstanding. And when it is considered that the race was up against the much promoted college football playoff, it may be even more impressive that so many of each turned out on a cold and dreary looking day.

Since fans seem to be showing more and more that they favor special events. What does this say, if anything, about the future of weekly racing?

Michael: Weekly racing still has its place and can actually do well if a track has a good set of rules they are willing to enforce and a good purse. Some racers don’t want to chase the added money at the special events and would rather race at one place each week. It is important for the development of young racers too. I have long said a young driver needing seat time needs to be at the same track each week so they can concentrate on improving their driving.

Back to the Hangover, I was more concerned about the weather affecting the attendance than I was going against the college playoff games. The forecast was for some sun and warmer temperatures instead of the clouds and cold temps that were present that day. To me, that made the crowd even more impressive.

Richard: Well, one thing is for sure. It’s racing season and I’m glad for that.

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