Turn 2 Blog: Track prep is a darned if you do and darned if you don’t proposition


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: This past weekend’s Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals highlighted one of the biggest issues in dirt racing when it comes to creating complaints among fans, competitors, and media types. With the event being broadcast on MavTV and Lucas Oil Racing TV, the A-main did not hit the track until well after midnight in the Eastern Time Zone. And it was track prep that was cited as the primary reason for the lengthy evening as numerous shots of Tony Stewart on his tractor were shown during the telecast.

Of all of the no-win situations that racing promoters are faced with on a weekly basis, that of track preparation prior to and during an event has to be among the biggest causes for headaches.

In a race such as the Chili Bowl where there are so many cars on hand and so many laps being run on the racing surface, track prep/maintenance is certainly going to be an issue throughout the night. That can still be the same at a weekly dirt track even without the mass number of racers on the grounds as weather related issues and any number of other occurrences can bring about the need to massage the racing surface.

The problem is, of course, that if track work is done during the event, there is going to be time in which fans will just be sitting there with nothing to do other than watch a tractor or a road grader make very slow laps around the track. This could mean that, as was the case for the Chili Bowl, the feature race those fans came to see won’t roll off until a very late hour. As a result, there will be complaints about the delays and the time at which everything concluded.

On the other hand, if the promoter opts not to tend to the clay, the racing may become a one-groove train race that will see little passing, and thus, little excitement. And naturally, that will bring about complaints that the racing wasn’t good. It’s darned if you do and darned if you don’t.

We discussed this to some degree following the Hangover held last month at 411 Motor Speedway, but it’s an issue that never goes away in dirt racing, isn’t it?

Michael: No, it will never go away. That is the biggest difference in promoting a dirt track versus an asphalt track. With asphalt, as long as the track is dry and there are no problems with the surface (potholes), they can race and only weather conditions dictate setups for the racers.

There is so much that goes into prepping a dirt track. And every track can be a little different depending on type of clay to size and banking. You take a track like Tazewell Speedway with the banking around 35 degrees and it’s different to prep than say Boyd’s Speedway which is much flatter.

I will say in defense of the Chili Bowl track prep, I think the bigger issue with time was with the changing of the format. They moved the pole challenge match races to Saturday night. Those have been held of Friday nights in the past. By moving those to Saturday and starting when MavTV went live, they pushed the program back at least 30 minutes. But like you said, people will typically point the fingers are track prep in between the action as the main problem.

Richard: Sometimes it seems as if race fans aren’t happy unless they are complaining, whether it be about the track surface or the time spent running the show. That said, however, I agree with you that the bigger issue was the usage of time.

Dirt racing does not particularly lend itself to live television except in the Pay-Per-View realm because of all the factors that are beyond anyone’s control. Track prep, a heat race or a support class race that has an excessive number of cautions, and odd circumstances like a problem with a catch fence can all cause unforeseen delays. Like you said, some of the issue with the Chili Bowl revolved around them tinkering with the format.

But with all that taken into consideration, the amount of media coverage the Chili Bowl receives has to, in the long run, serve dirt racing well. NASCAR reporter Jeff Gluck was on hand along with his nearly 200,000 Twitter followers in tow. Also, NASCAR and pavement racing reporter Matt Weaver(who helped us with a Turn 2 Blog on our sister website), Steve Post of the MRN Racing Network, and Kaitlyn Vincie of NASCAR on Fox were luring eyes and ears to this form of racing that might not normally follow along with anything related to dirt.

Now it’s up to dirt racing in all its forms to capitalize, right?

Michael: That’s right. Most of the attention dirt racing gets from the NASCAR media folks is typically Sprint Car racing or Midgets. The current NASCAR drivers that have dirt backgrounds came from one or both of these forms of racing. There are currently no former Dirt Late Model drivers running any level of NASCAR’s top 3 series. Though Clint Bowyer owns a dirt late model team, very little attention is paid to it from the NASCAR media crews. Dirt Late Model racing needs to find a way to tap into that.

Richard: All that said, if I were to make a list of “bucket list” races I would like to attend someday that are outside the Dirt Late Model realm, the Chili Bowl would certainly be on the list. I would love to just be a part of that atmosphere. I would also include the Snowball Derby race for Pavement Late Models at the Five Flags Speedway in Florida on that list. And while I have seen the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars race at The Dirt Track in Charlotte, I would also love to attend the Knoxville Nationals at some point. I’m sure I could think of numerous others.

What are some non Dirt Late Model events on your bucket list?

Michael: This Chili Bowl would also be on my list. Not only the Knoxville Nationals, but also the King’s Royal at Eldora. Even though I’ve followed NASCAR since 1975, I have never been to the Daytona 500. I hope to make it to that sometime soon.

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