Turn 2 Blog: Too Much Dust and Too Much Time

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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: Over the weekend there were a couple of issues in dirt racing that were given significant amounts of attention in social media, message boards, and otherwise.

First, the Last Call at The Dirt Track at Charlotte was designed, out of the requirements placed by the state of North Carolina, to essentially replace the event that has been known for years as the World Finals. In this case, the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series and the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series each contested their final two races of the season at the facility located in close proximity to NASCAR’s Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Unlike previous years, the Late Models and the Sprint Cars did not race on the same nights due to restrictions regarding the number of people allowed in the pit area of the track. The WoO Late Models competed on Wednesday and Thursday while the Sprint Cars raced on Friday and Saturday.

But the thing that drew the most attention was not the timing nor even the racing. Rather, it was the fact that the track was overwhelmed by dust, particularly during the features. At times, it was difficult to distinguish one car from another with so many dirt particles in the air. Even the announcers who were covering the event for DirtVision.com mentioned just how dusty it was.

Anyone who has been to any number of dirt races at all has experienced a situation similar to this. After all, it is called DIRT RACING, and as a result, the fact that there is dirt in the air should not come as a surprise. However, this was excessive.

As I see it, however, the problem isn’t as much that this one event had an issue because, as I said, it’s going to happen from time to time. The bigger problem would be for it to happen over and over again at the same place. If next year the same thing occurs, then it becomes worthy of criticism. If it is addressed so that such a thing does not reoccur, then the track has done all it can do.

What are your thoughts?

Michael: It’s one thing to have dust. As you said, it is dirt racing. But excessive dust is something fans and competitors will not tolerate. I’ve been to enough events over the years where the dust was so bad I felt like I was shooting photos in a sand storm. Sometimes it can he helped, sometimes it cannot.

From everything I’ve read, Charlotte put down fresh dirt and that caused the issue. I don’t know if that was the case. Like you said, we will find out next year when they hold races again. Having said that, I don’t know if they got dirt from a different place than what used to be on there or something unusual happened. I have pointed out in my Quick Six blog how tracks need to do a better job of keeping down the dust, whether it’s from the track or from the infield or access roads. Fans will be leery of coming back if they go home and feel like they need to take two showers before going to bed.

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Richard: I do believe the new dirt played a role in what happened at Charlotte. Also, I’m not so sure that the fact that there was only one class racing due to the coronavirus restrictions and the event was streamed live didn’t also play a significant role.

I heard drivers mention the fact that there were constantly being told to hurry from qualifying to heat races to the feature. The rush was no doubt due to the broadcasters wanting the event to run as seamlessly as possible. As a result, there was little time for track prep which might have led to more dust.

I, for one, have been extremely thankful for all the live racing coverage we have had the opportunity to watch during this crazy year. That said, however, when live broadcasting gets involved, they are going to demand that things be done a certain way so they can maximize their viewing audience. That means some things may have to be given up, such as track prep.

Again, that is just a theory of mine, but whether it had anything to do with the dust in Charlotte is not known for certain. Conversely, it could be easily argued that the increased exposure is worth a few concessions.

Your thoughts?

Michael: The paying fan that comes through the gate should be the top priority. Ticket sales are what pays the purse, the bills, etc. What tracks get from streaming is a drop in the bucket compared to what’s brought in through the gate.

I appreciate a promoter that will take the time to get the track just right even if that means the TV audience has to sit there a few extra minutes. You and I were at Richmond a couple of months ago when the track was really rough on both ends. The race was being broadcast on another service. But the race benefited from it and I would think some of the viewers thought they might need to check out a race at that track at a later date. I think most fans are savvy enough to realize taking an extra half hour or so to work on the track is to their benefit.

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Richard: On a similar note in terms of keeping the show moving along, there can be instances when events run too long. This past weekend’s National 100 event at East Alabama Motor Speedway proved to be somewhat of a test of will as it went on for almost eight hours on Sunday, and that was for features only.

Years ago, I was opposed to time limits for features and/or track curfews, but I have come to believe those are not necessarily bad things. When a particular class has had numerous cautions for spin after spin with long stretches of not even completing a single lap during multiple restarts, something needs to change whether it be single-file restarts, a rule that eliminates drivers who have brought out multiple cautions, or time limits.

Further, I am now a fan of making sure the primary feature of the program is run earlier in the night so those who have travelled longer distances can leave for home while the local fans can stay to enjoy the remainder of the show. This is especially true when many different classes are included in the program.

As we have discussed on here several times, efficiency of the show is very important in this world of so many entertainment options being available. Even when there is no mandated curfew in place, I know of some promoters who impose one on themselves. I don’t think this is a bad idea at all.

The show can go on too long, can’t it?

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Michael: It definitely can. I noticed some of the die hard fans were complaining Sunday night as to how slow things were going at EAMS. When the die-hards are complaining, you know there is a problem.

I’m not singling out EAMS by saying this. I really don’t see how these marathon events can draw fans or drivers in this day and time. But they keep doing them year after year. But I see tracks with curfews doing this, too, when they have a day race. They start much earlier, but end about the same time as one of their evening race programs. I guess concession sales must be good to keep these events afloat.

Richard: I will echo that this is not meant to single any one track out for dust or length of the show because those things happen at other places. As I said earlier, it becomes a problem, in my opinion, if it is not addressed after it does happen.

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